The redbud trees are showing their beautiful blooms.  Most Shawnee citizens know that the Eastern Redbud, cercis Canadensis, is the Oklahoma State Tree.  This occurred on March 30, 1937.  To help school children know and remember their state tree, in 1999 through 2001 the former Shawnee Chamber of Commerce Beautification Committee distributed small redbud trees to 3rd and 4th grade students along with a booklet “How to Plant My Baby Redbud Tree.”  The book was illustrated by Brian Borth, a Shawnee High School student. This project was funded from proceeds from the annual Gardening with the Experts program.  Many of the trees didn’t survive, however from time to time I have someone tell me that their tree that they received is growing in their parent’s yard.

If you would like a small tree for your yard, you might consider a redbud.  In 1964 another variety of redbud was discovered growing in the Arbuckle Mountains.  This tree has shiny leaves and prefers a sunny site.  It is the Oklahoma Redbud, cercis Canadensis var. texensis.  It is designated an “Oklahoman Proven Tree by Oklahoma State University and state forestry services as a tree that will thrive in Oklahoma.   These trees reach a height of 20 to 25 feet and have a spread of about 15 to 20 ft.  If you decide to plant one, plan on keeping it watered and cared for during the first three years to insure its health. 

In the last few years horticulturists have developed several other varieties that have purple or white blooms.  Check with area nurseries to see what is available and choose the shade you prefer.

When you get ready to plant your tree, dig the hole two or three times as wide as the container but no deeper so the that top of the soil around the root ball is slightly higher, perhaps ½ inch, than the surrounding ground.  This extra width will make it easier for the roots to expand.  Don’t amend the soil.  Just put the soil you dug back around the root ball.  This helps the tree  become better acclimated to its surroundings.  Water it to settle the soil and fill in the air pockets.  Forming a dirt ring around the circumference will help keep water from running off before it has time to sink into the soil.  A mulch of wood chips will help keep the soil moist.  Be sure that the mulch is about 4 inches from the tree trunk to prevent damage to the bark.  Keep your tree watered, especially during the summer and fall months of its first few years.

A drive around town, especially through older neighborhoods will provide a beautiful sight.  Be sure to include Rose Garden Park in the 2000 block of North Broadway.  It features Oklahoma Redbuds at the corner and Eastern Redbuds to the west along Franklin Street.  Shawnee Milling has a row of Oklahoma Redbuds along 7th street between Bell and Beard Streets.  For a spectacular sight, drive by St.Paul’s United Methodist Church at 10th and North Beard.  The church is bordered on two sides with beautiful redbuds.

Please mark Saturday morning, April 20 on your calendar and plan to participate in our annual “Trash Off” Day, an event celebrated state wide sponsored by Keep Oklahoma Beautiful and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.  Suggested assignments and supplies will be available at KidSpace Park , Wayne and Center Streets, between 9 am and 1 pm.