Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My Indian Cigar Tree

You wouldn’t know it’s spring by looking at my Indian Cigar tree, or the Northern Catawba/Catalpa Tree—not a bud in sight—but that’s okay, because he’s a late bloomer. He is my favorite tree on the property, and the space under his branches is the only place in my yard where you can find mid-day shade on a hot summer day.  His humungous leaves do a great job of creating dense shade, and I plan to fully capitalize on it this summer by following through with four-year-old plans to create a shady oasis under his boughs.

I attempted to start a shade garden there in 2007 with two ferns and plans for hostas and other shade-loving plants, but was overwhelmed with a giant vegetable garden, herb and perennial garden and a cut flower patch that were much more interesting (and productive) than a boring old do-nothing shade garden.  But now that I’ve given up on the big veggie garden for now and only have a kitchen garden to manage (I say only as if it’s not a lot of work—it is), I’m going to try harder to make time to tend to a new shade garden, complete with a proper sitting area for all three of us.

I hope the space under my Indian Cigar Tree is one Nathan and I will use often this summer.  I can see us having little picnics, just the two of us while my husband works outdoors seven days a week in the summertime, and maybe all three of us in the evenings if I can get my husband out of the air conditioning once in a while.  I can also see us under the tree lounging out, reading books, drinking cool cucumber water or playing games.  Nathan and I love to be outside, and the shade of my Indian Cigar Tree is our only hope to spend time outdoors between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. without overheating or getting burnt to a crisp.  So this space, which I’m seeing as a kind of outdoor room, just has to happen this year.

I don’t know what plants I’ll choose or how I’ll manage yet another, although tiny, garden bed, but I’ll figure it all out soon enough.  The good news is weeds don’t grow very fast in the shade.

Nathan next to the huge leaves of our Indian Cigar Tree last September.  He was almost 10 months old.


  1. What a great idea for the space around the tree. It has a very interesting name. Do you know where it originated? x

  2. Thanks! In late summer/fall, the tree grows these long seed pods, which it's named after. I think it's called "Indian" cigar tree because it's a native American species.

    I heard a rumor that native Americans used to smoke the pods for their halicinagenic effects, but I don't think that's true. At least, I didn't read about it in the wiki!



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