July’s Bloom Where You Are Planted Edition
Photo by Paul W. Meyer
Our History at Home offerings typically sprout from history and architecture. Today, and once every month, we offer a conservation cornucopia from the Conservancy and some friends on trees, gardening, and stormwater management. We hope to help you “Bloom Where You Are Planted.”
July – Honeylocust
by Paul W. Meyer, Conservancy Board Member and
Morris Arboretum’s Retired F. Otto Haas Executive Director
Thornless Honeylocust
Gleditsia triacanthos var. inermis
The thornless honeylocust is one of the most widely planted street trees in Philadelphia and with good reason. It has good upright form, and a light, open crown. Its doubly compound leaves with small leaflets give the tree an airy feel, allowing dappled light to pass through the crown. It is also tolerant of heat, drought and deicing salts.  In short, is an ideal urban street tree, often seen thriving in inhospitable streetside tree pits. In some areas of the city, it is so widely planted that its planting should be limited to insure adequate diversity in the urban forest.
Honeylocust is a native tree, often found growing on floodplains. It occurs naturally from Pennsylvania west to Nebraska and south to the Gulf Coast. It is dioecious, bearing male and female flowers on separate plants. Female plants bear long, twisted seed pods that drop throughout the fall and winter, creating potential tripping hazards when they fall on sidewalks. Thus, male clones are preferred for landscape plantings. In the wild, honeylocusts bear long, sharp branched thorns that are hazardous in landscape plantings.
Fortunately, many clones that are both male (fruitless) and thornless have been selected. These clones also have been selected for uniform canopies, ranging from narrow upright to broad spreading forms. Some commonly planted clones are ‘Skyline’ (upright, central leader), ‘Halka’ (rounder, more spreading form) and ‘Shademaster’ (vase-shaped, ascending canopy). These are just a few of the many cultivated clones available from nurseries.
The pods of honeylocust are sweet and devoured by wild and domestic animals including cattle, pigs, deer, rabbits and squirrels. Honeylocust wood is strong, durable and rot resistant, formerly used for railroad ties, fence posts, and structural beams. It was the favored tree for bow making by the Cherokee tribe of Tennessee.
See the full gallery of images HERE.
Photos by Paul W. Meyer
Top: Honeylocust on Germantown Avenue.
Second: Honeylocust on Highland Avenue at Germantown Pike.
Third: Honeylocust line this beautiful block in Society Hill. The semi-transparent canopy gives an open, wiry feel to this neighborhood.
Fourth: honeylocust have bi-pinnately compound leaves, with small, fine-textured leaflets.
Fifth: Female honeylocust bear long, twisting pods. Though desirable wildlife food in natural areas, they are considered a nuisance and tripping hazard in landscape plantings. Many male, fruitless clones are available.
Sixth: When growing in the wild, honeylocusts have formidable thorns. For safety, many thornless clones have been selected for use in landscape plantings.
Bottom Photo: In the autumn, the leaves of honeylocust turn bright yellow. As they fall, the leaves naturally break up and disintegrate quickly, making autumn clean up easy.
See the entire gallery of images for this month’s article at our Tree of the Month page! Visit our History at Home page for more information.
Chestnut Hill Conservancy is regularly highlighting special trees in our community, both large and small, as well as common and obscure. In doing so, we hope to promote an appreciation of our arbor legacy and foster a culture of stewardship and renewal of this invaluable resource.
July – Hydrangeas
by Emilie Lapham, Conservancy Board Member, avid gardener, botanical artist, and active participant in several noted local and national garden organizations.
Hydrangeas – It’s Summer!
Hydrangeas are both anchors and show stoppers of the summer garden. Hydrangeas are shrubs, trees or vines and add lots of dimension to a garden or a building. This article is about the shrub forms. When you walk around the neighborhood you will see hydrangeas blooming in many gardens and that is partly because they are quite easy to grow and require minimal maintenance and they are fun. Let children have a few clusters for a summer snowball fight but no eating as they are somewhat toxic.
Hydrangeas are native to Asia, Europe and the US, and there are over 70 species. Hydrangea macrophylla are divided into two groups, mophead and lacecap. Mopheads are round clusters and can be very large and the lacecaps are quite flat and usually face upward. They look layered on the plant and have an interesting texture in the middle and to me they look like mosaics with orbiting flowers. There are so many colors and details in the hundreds of cultivars of this group. Hydrangea quercifolia or Oakleaf hydrangeas as the name denotes, have leaves shaped like oak leaves and the flowers are long conical sprays. They are native to this area and the flowers and foliage bloom into the fall with exceptional color.
The ideal situation is sun and a bit of shade with good drainage. This part of Pennsylvania is usually moderate and suitable, temperature wise as long there is not a long period of cold. Hydrangeas like deep watering about once a week but if it’s hot or dry they will wilt to remind the gardener to water. They perk up right away. Plan the planting space for the eventual size.
Soil & Color
Hydrangeas can act like a litmus test. Soil PH on the acidic side will produce blue flowers and alkaline soil will produce pink blooms. This is general and sometimes both colors will appear on the same plant. This only happens with some varieties. Oak leaf compost will make the soil acidic and hydrated lime will make the soil alkaline.
Old growth is usually what you cut but I recommend looking at the instructions or looking up your actual variety for this information. If you cut the wrong shoots, you might not see flowers, and that would be disappointing.
Try a few hydrangeas in your garden or add some more unusual choices to your existing collection. There are some choices that stay small and have rather delicate blossoms and some that can even be planted in containers. In my experience deer like some but not all hydrangeas so I am researching the more toxic varieties that deer have no interest in. I will plant more. A vase full of hydrangeas takes 2 minutes to arrange and lasts for days of enjoyment.
All Photos by Emilie Lapham
Top: Beautiful at every stage. Second: Very large Mopheads. Third: Lacecaps. Fourth: Oakleaf Hydrangea dancing. Fifth: Hydrangeas enjoy sea air. Sixth: Double Lacecaps. Seventh: Wonderful gradation of color. Eighth: Color! Bottom: Color change on petals and frilled edges.
See the entire gallery of images for this month’s article at our A Gardener’s World page! Visit our History at Home page for more information.
From our Partners
Chestnut Trees in Chestnut Hill
By Tracy Gardner, President, Friends of Pastorius Park
This May, Friends of Pastorius Park (FoPP) planted a small grove of wild American chestnut seedling trees in the cleared NE edge of the park’s bird sanctuary woods. Tracy Gardner, President of FoPP, has kindly described this project and its importance to much of what Conservancy members treasure:
“Our organization installed this orchard of chestnut trees in partnership with the NY chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation, to support a project to restore the American chestnut tree to the eastern US. A transgenic tree (known to botanists as “Darling 58”) is being reviewed by the USDA. When the tree is approved (it is resistant to the blight fungus that killed billions of chestnut trees 100 years ago), these transgenic trees will be made available to plots of chestnut trees like the one installed at Pastorius, in order to cross-pollinate with the wild trees.
The NE edge area where a large euonymus was removed is the perfect location for the little chestnuts: plenty of southern exposure sun, access to pond water, and it is the biggest suitable area available for this project at the park.
Not only does clearing this woods edge allow FoPP to join this important chestnut tree restoration project, but it also allows us to install new native shrubs and understory flowering trees that will greatly benefit wildlife in the park. This will be a dramatic change from the food desert that currently exists in the bird sanctuary woods.”
For more information, or to support our friends and colleagues at Friends of Pastorius Park, visit friendsofpastorius.org.
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  • August 4 – Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment public meeting
540 W. Moreland Avenue (Keewaydin) subdivision appeal
Please attend if you are interested! Zoom link to attend HERE.
  • August 5 – Historic District Advisory Committee Public Meeting 6:30pm. Register HERE for a Zoom link to attend