Requiem for a Crabapple

I’m feeling pretty down in the dumps. We discovered last week that our favorite tree has died. It was a ‘Bechtel Improved’ crabapple and was the focal point of our backyard.

As you can see by the photo below, it was stunning when it bloomed each spring and had a beautiful branching structure that rarely required pruning. Birds loved sitting in it, especially while preening after bathing in the birdbath underneath it. In the fall, we were always treated to a show of golden leaves.

crabapple bechtelWe planted it in 2003 and it had been growing beautifully. That is, until this spring. It had just barely started to bud out and then… it just stopped. The tiny leaves turned red and brown. The few flower buds at the center of the leaves just sat there, waiting and hoping they’d have the strength to burst into bloom.

But it wasn’t meant to be. After examining the tree, we discovered it had rotted right below the graft on the back side of the tree. No wonder the woodpeckers had been visiting it recently! Our hearts just sank.

A few days ago, we slowly cut off the branches; then Bill used a chainsaw to cut down the trunk. It was painful to watch. The roots had grown deeply over the years and didn’t want to let go of the earth surrounding themcrabapple bechtel. Maybe that was the tree’s way of telling us it hadn’t intended to die.

With the crabapple out of the way, I couldn’t get over what seemed like a huge gap in the garden. The tree wasn’t huge, of course, but it obviously filled an important role as anchor of a large island bed.

crabapple, magnolia butterfliesWe visited a nearby nursery and, after looking at all of the options, decided on a new Magnolia cultivar, ‘Butterflies’. It’s a small tree at this point but seems to look at home in its new surroundings.

The main feature of ‘Butterflies’ is its large yellow flowers. This little tree had just one flower when we bought it, but when we picked it up from the nursery the following day, it had a second blossom. Perhaps that was its way of saying, “Don’t be sad. You’ve made the right choice and I will make you happy for years to come.”

Thanks, little tree. Be strong!

crabapple, magnolia butterflies