Lawn and Garden

Tree Protection: An Experiment

Potato Tree

Any Utahns out there know that Utah has some psycho weather, especially in the fall and spring. It is 80 degrees one weekend and snowing the next. Because of this, I began contemplating how I could protect my favorite new plant, a potato tree.

I felt the first chilly breeze of the season back in August, but didn’t do anything. And then this happened…

Sad Potato Tree

I decided it was now or never if I was going to even attempt a rescue mission for the potato tree.

That's is on the ground with its support pole doing nothing to support the plant!

But I have started in the middle of the story. Let me go back to the beginning. As I have mentioned before, I love a deal! Because of this, during the spring and summer you can often find me browsing the clearance plants in the garden section at the local home improvement stores or Costco. I find plant nurseries to be a little on the expensive side and usually only end up at a nursery when I need to find something specific.

This is my flower bed at the beginning of October. The Rose of Sharon, Potato Tree, Mums and Petunias are all thriving. Little do these plants know, in the next weeks disaster will strike.

The potato tree was my favorite cheap plant find this last summer. I had never heard of a potato tree, but it had great star-shaped purple flowers with yellow centers and I thought it would work perfectly in my large front flower bed to give me some height.

It was also on sale for $9.99 at Lowe’s. The only problem is that it is not a zone 5 plant so it was labeled as an annual. This was to keep me or other purchasers from having any expectations that it would survive the harsh Utah winters. Despite this warning, I decided that that it did not matter and bought it with the thought that it was only $10 and I would find something else to replace it next year. The problem is that I grew very, very, fond of the potato tree and I was determined to try to save it.

But I did not want to spend too much money since I didn’t know if any of my efforts would work and it seemed silly to spend too much on a tree, labeled as an annual, that only cost me $10 in the first place.

With these things in mind, I went to Home Depot and found the following:

1) Pipe insulation – $2 for 4 pipe insulation tubes

2) Canvas painting tarp – $9 for a 6 foot x 9 foot tarp

I am missing a picture of the tarp, but imagine a standard canvas tarp. Please forgive my lack of picture accuracy. This may have been taken after the fact...I blasphemy, but it was cold and really this is just filler anyway. :)

Although it seemed more traditional to wrap a plant in burlap, the only burlap I found cost $22. I tried to find a proper plant cover, but the tarp was all I could find. I spent more on trying to protect the tree than I paid for the tree, but it was all in the name of science, so I feel somewhat  justified.

(Please note that when I say “I”, you should really read “Catherine and I”.) I put the pipe insulation around the trunk and I secured it with plastic zip ties. These are designed to organize all the unruly and excessive cords that come out of the back of tvs and computers, but I thought they would work well for the size of the potato tree trunk. I also happened to have a large bag of them on hand with no idea what I would use them all for. There are only so many cords in my life.

My potato tree that is masquerading as a ghost.

Next, I wrapped the paint tarp over the branches of the potato tree and secured the tarp around the trunk with…that’s right…more zip ties…they were on hand…etc…

I am hoping this attempt to save the potato tree does not actually do the opposite and kill the potato tree because of some sort of lack of oxygen. Yikes! I really should have paid more attention to Ms. Spring and her biology class in 9th grade…but I didn’t and I have to try anyway! I guess next spring we will see if this experiment worked or if I go down in history as a potato tree killer. Even so, I will hopefully learn my lesson and leave trees I find in the “annual” section to the southerners.