Redbud — Tree or Shrub?

When life gives you a hundred reasons to cry, show life that you have a thousand reasons to smile.  ~Author Unknown

What’s a homeowner to do when landscaping doesn’t go the way it’s supposed to?

When trees that are supposed to grow tall, don’t? When things planted as trees become shrubs instead?

Two years ago, my sis and I gifted our mom an Eastern Redbud for Mother’s Day.

Since Sis lives far away, I was in charge of picking it out, getting it home, having it planted, and caring for it.

Thus, it became my tree, and I’ll admit I tackled the responsibility with diligence.

May 2018

At first, it was more of a stick than anything else. I got it in February when it was devoid of leaves, but I had hopes it would live and thrive.

We chose a spot in the backyard, where Mom could enjoy it and I could tend it. Which I did: watering it, staking it so it would grow straight and tall, and making sure pests didn’t bother it.

That Spring, it produced a few flowers, but it seemed to come into its own in the Summer, when its leaves became a lovely shade of heart-shaped green.

July 2018

The next Spring, I was rewarded with a profusion of tiny, lavender-colored flowers encircling my tree’s trunk and branches like a lacy garnish:

April 2019

Summer came, and I was able to remove the stake, delighted my tree could ride without training wheels. Its trunk grew chunky (nearly 3 inches in diameter), and healthy leaves enveloped its crown:

October 2019

Then 2020 showed up.

We all know it’s been a challenging year on many fronts, and extra time on my hands meant I could devote more attention to my tree.

April 2020

But when a scorching summer sun and scanty rainfall caused its leaves to shrivel and turn brown, I consulted a tree expert.

I pointed out that numerous branches had sprung up at the ground near my tree’s trunk, and those looked fine. It was the “parent tree” that looked sickly.

‘We’ll just chop it down,’ he said, and before I could blink, two years of nurturing vanished!

When I finally found my voice, I asked if the tree would survive — even as a shrub.

‘Probably,’ he said. ‘If not, we’ll cut the rest down.’

Over my cold, dead body, I thought, deciding then and there to guard my shrub to new life.

I’ve been watching and hoping since then, and so far, so good.

Its leaves are HUGE — nearly the size of a dinner plate! — and it’s growing wild and free, thanks to cooler temperatures and some much-needed rain.

Mom regularly asks me when I’m going to shape it into a tree again, but I’m holding off.

Why mess with a good thing?

October 2020

32 thoughts on “Redbud — Tree or Shrub?

  1. BRAVO, Debbbie! Happy to read that you followed your own instincts and did not listen to the “tree expert” and cut the tree down. I always view trees as “people having souls”, therefore I treat them with respect. It makes me so sad to see trees being cut down to make room for construction because it’s like cutting down a life.

    Love your series of photos. I especially love the one of the tree with tiny, lavender-colored flowers. It almost looks like a cherry blossom tree.

    Sounds to me that your tree is very special. And I’m sure it deeply appreciates your loyalty, care, and love.

    Have a super Sunday, my friend! X

    P.S. It finally feels like Autumn here. We got some really great cold weather yesterday. Yipeeee!

    • Oh, Ron, did I mislead you? I’m afraid the tree pro DID cut down the mother tree, leaving a profusion of shoots springing up next to it that looked just fine (and still do!). At first, I was crushed, but then I looked up Redbud online and learned that they can be trees or shrubs. I thought the tag when I bought it said “tree,” but maybe they’re interchangeable?!?

      I feel as you do about trees, my friend. They’re like very tall people, clothed in bark and leaves! And yes, I believe that if you take care of trees, they’ll take care of you in return.

      I’m so glad you finally got the cool spell you’ve been looking for — enjoy the week ahead, and don’t forget to scuff your feet through LOTS of leaves before the snow covers them! xx

  2. That’s sad. I’d wait and see what it looks like in bloom. Your mom might like the shrub look. I never had suckers come up from the root of a redbud, but I do have many many little redbuds coming up in my gardens from my one big redbud tree seeds.

    • I’m inclined to do just that, Dawn. I really like the look of a shrub, and this one’s “baby” shoots are leafy and strong. We’ll see when Spring arrives, but I’m thinking it might be a lovely profusion of blooms — hope so, anyway! By the way, I didn’t realize Redbuds would propagate from seeds — thanks for the tip!

  3. I agree with you, the redbud looks lovely as a bush. Trees have good years and bad years like the rest of us. And it may be that this one has decided what works best for itself and you are so wise to let it follow its own path to vitality.

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Barbara! I’m liking its look as a bush, too — not that the tree wasn’t gorgeous, but as you said, it just didn’t have a good year. Perhaps if I’d stopped the tree guy from leveling the mama-tree, it might have come out next spring, but in the meantime, its “babies” are lush and lovely!

  4. Debbie, I love your Redbud tree/ shrub! So sorry it had to be chopped a bit, but the leaves look gorgeous now. As a tree groupie I feel your “over my dead body” grooves, especially with all the TLC you lavished upon the growth process. Hope it continues to thrive!

    • Thanks for understanding, Virginia! Perhaps to some, “over my dead body” might sound too harsh, but to me, that tree is special. And I’ve worked with it for two years, so I’m protective of it. Whether it wants to be a tree or a shrub is immaterial to me, as long as it flourishes!

  5. I’ve had plenty of 2020 surprises in my gardens this year, Debbie, not of the good kind. I’m proud of you that you nurtured this redbud. I have gotten to the point in my gardens, when things begin to fade or die, I do my best to help them but if they decide to go, I let them go with grace. I’ve had my gardens for a LONG time and believe me, things do change over the years. Your redbud looks promising! You stuck to your guns and look what you created along with Mother, of course. YAY!! xo

    • Letting them go with grace — such a thoughtful expression. Thank you! I’m hanging onto my hope this Redbud will survive and thrive. Of course, I don’t control the weather, and that’s a huge part of what makes trees and flowers healthy!

      • During our dry season, I’m out there watering my gardens for hours. A lot of work!! I have in-ground watering hoses in some of my gardens which takes a lot of work off from my watering by hand. I also have sprinklers I set up. There is a lot of dedication that goes into maintaining a beautiful garden. And trees. (smile) xo

        • I imagine your gardens look way prettier than mine, Amy. After all, you’re spending lots more time and dedicated love on them — me? Not so much. Usually, Mother Nature cooperates better, providing rain and sunshine that plants need. Nothing has gelled this year, ha!

        • Um, with age, I’ve slowed down not wanting to spend as much time in my gardens. I’m learning to let things go. I do what I can but I’m must no longer willing to “kill” myself over my extensive gardens. I have too many other aspects of my life to enjoy as well. SMILE!

  6. I think it looks just fine! Sometimes things don’t turn out the way we had planned, but that doesn’t necessarily make them bad. If you’re happy with the way it looks, then just keep it more like shrub?

    • Thanks for your encouragement, Ann! Right now, I’m kind of liking the shrub look. I liked the tree look, too, but all those shriveled leaves didn’t bode well. And I’m a bit afraid that pruning it might make things worse. Perhaps only Time will tell?

    • Wouldn’t that be wonderful?! We had a Redbud many years ago, but it never looked healthy. This one looks so pretty, whether it’s a tree or a shrub. Thanks for your encouragement, Natalie!

  7. Tree or bush? It sounds like the Universe wants it to be a bush. Each having unique gifts and challenges… I love how much you have loved this little guy.

    • I really have, Kathy. Why I get so attached to trees puzzles me, but I almost see them as people wearing bark and leaves! One thing’s for sure — they don’t argue with me or criticize me or treat me with meanness, so they’re really pleasant to spend time with!

  8. Suckers at the base of a tree are a sign of stress, so it could have been that lack of rainfall you mentioned that caused the problem. In any event, it looks fine now, and I suspect you’ll be rewarded with more flowers next spring. I can’t believe your tree ‘expert’ cut it down — I would have taken a different approach — but it looks like the tree/shrub is going to beat the odds, anyway!

    • I sure hope so, Linda. Its flowers are breath-taking, and I’ve never seen leaves this huge! Thanks for letting me know about the suckers. It will be a waiting game until Spring to see how it comes out from our winter months. Perhaps having a gas-powered saw in one’s hands provides impetus to slice down everything in sight??

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