In my intro to this blog I mentioned an old blog that had gone feral, or weedy, or what have you. There are some good articles on there I will be bringing over here. For the first, I want to edit an old post about my mimosa tree, and then update the condition of the tree. This is because when I decided to grow a mimosa in Pennsylvania, everyone told me it was too difficult. Yet I had seen them around, here and there.
So I did some research and drew together information, mostly hints and tips, that formed my hypothesis on how to successfully grow a mimosa. So this will be a two part post. This part is the old post. Part 2 will be the update. It’s my hope that folks may stumble across this in their own pursuit of knowledge. It might apply to mimosa trees, or other out-of-habitat growing. Because while we tend to think of such an action as detrimental to the natural ecosystem of a locale, the fact is, sometimes it is practical information. For instance, I accidentally bought tomato seeds that are meant for desert climates. I’ve decided to take a whack at that challenge. We’ve had some hot dry summers and some cool wet ones. The very land itself is capable of major changes, and we need to be aware and be adaptable. So, without further rambling, here is the initial ramble:
(originally posted Septmeber 2011)
I have a mimosa tree in my back yard. It is nearly due east of the house. I planted it there to be protected from the fierce winds that come from the west. The west side is the colder, more exposed side of the house, where even small rocks have been blown against our west windows during some storms. This summer the tree has come into its own. It is about twenty feet tall now and spreads out overhead like an umbrella from a single willowy trunk. Most of the branches tend to grow away from the house, towards the woods- towards the east. The mimosa has an uneven canopy as a result, but it more than makes up for this with shade, flowers, and now pods. The flowers of the mimosa are difficult to describe. If a person is familiar with fiber optic strands, I tell them that is what the flower looks like. The pods are only one way this rampantly fertile plant spreads its genes. It also seems to send little trees up from its roots when the weather is warm enough. Between the pods and the root sprouts, this plant is banned in many southern states as an invasive species. Here in Pennsylvania, the cold seasons keep them under control. In fact, they can be very difficult to grow here. Using the house as a shield has worked, as well as mulching the roots the first few years against the winter cold. It also helps that this tree grows near some water. Ours has a kind of vernal pool directly behind it to sink its roots into. Every time it rains that pool forms, a temporary watering hole that actually appears more often than just in the Spring.
The mimosa opens its frond like leaves during the day, and closes them at night or when there is a strong storm. If a child breaks off a frond and leaves it on the porch, the frond will continue to open and close for a few days before it finally wilts. The flowers get pretty ugly when it rains, all sodden and flat and sticky as heck. Many mimosa owners complain about the mess these things make: dropping sticky fronds, flowers, and pods, over cars, benches, or houses. My tree is far enough from all of those that I only need to place a chair there, enjoy myself, and then take the chair away again. It has a heady perfume, as well, a cloying scent that comes off the tree in waves and which I can only take so long before I have to move farther away.
With the tree in the east I have had the most wonderful effect in my own yard. Not only does this tree bring a splash of the exotic to my yard, but at dawn it re-enacts the Garden of Eden for me as well. In the morning the tree is literally dripping with dew. The entire yard is fog grey as if a roving caravan of water fairies came during the night and made themselves at home. The fronds of the tree shimmer at every feather and edge. The sun breaks through the surrounding woods and shines directly through the uppermost leaves of the mimosa, lighting every dew drop on every open frond and making the tree dazzle and shimmer. It is a spectacular light show. Sometimes when I admire this, I can hear in my head Cat Stevens singing “…Morning has broken, like the first morning…” Other times I recall scriptural accounts of Eden and the Creation, the verses about that trouble making tree, dontcha know. We all know which one that was!
As simple as the act is, stepping outside to enjoy this fleeting light show brings me out of the world of chores and school and into the world of nature and beauty. I think many of us have realized this opportunity as we squeeze a garden into one corner of our world, or spread it across the yard. I may have to live in the suburbs, but I can make my back yard feel wild and woodsy. Not that it’s hard to do- there are woods up behind the house. It is packed with animals that have been displaced by construction in other areas around our neighborhood. They like my garden.
The critters like my mimosa, as well. When it is in bloom with hundreds of pink flowers, both butterflies and hummingbirds crowd around it. I like to sit outside and watch the mimosa sustain life. All the trees do that, of course. The Trident Maple is best preferred by those who desire well hidden and solid nesting. The gnarly old pine tree drops cones that the squirrels carry away. The Pin Oak feeds deer, turkeys, rodents, and my daughter’s acorn collection. The peach tree actually gives a couple peaches once in awhile. I love my trees. But none can compare with my sentimental attachment to my mimosa. When I was a child living in Virginia, we had one. I often stood under it, waiting to catch a glimpse of fairies. I didn’t believe in fairies, of course, but at the same time I was so sure they lived in those magical flowers. How can such a contradiction exist in one’s head? In my experience, how can it not? People seem quite comfortable living with contradictions in their heads; this one just seems so obvious. I know now that the flowers float down like feathers, and any breeze will spin them as they fall. The tree is teeming with hummingbirds and butterflies, each with its unique way of flying and hovering among the fruitful branches. Out of the corner of a child’s eye, this could easily look like very busy, very magical, Fairy Traffic Central.
My mimosa is not a practical tree. I haven’t learned yet of any edible parts. It does keep the stink bugs away from the house while it is in flower. Mostly I just enjoy it.
As the weather turns colder, the tree will suddenly drop all its fronds in one day. It will stand bare like most of the other trees, only a little more scraggly. Next Spring it will send out fronds again, and grow at an amazing speed if the heat and moisture are enough for it. It did that inside the house, when it was a baby. For its first year it was a stick in a pot beside the kitchen table. It grew in that year from three feet to about seven or eight or more, and brushed against the ceiling with its fronds, a fun bit of jungle in the house while it lasted. That is one part of mimosa-keeping that I miss: the fronds above my head at the breakfast table. It turns out that I am not the only one. My daughter is angling for a banana tree.
My mimosa tree in the morning, 2011
I wish I had some pictures of the mimosa in bloom for you to see, but those pictures were on my old computer which died. And in part 2 of this post we will see that flowers are not in this tree’s near future, even though we are already in August. I recommend that all two of my readers go do a search for images of the mimosa, or silk tree, in bloom. Very exotic.