A blog about the restoration, remodel and renovation of a 1929 Chicago-style brick bungalow

Our Little Oak is Growing Up

Almost six years ago to the day, I bought a Chinquapin Oak (Quercus muehlenbergii) sapling for our side yard at the annual Native Plant Sale in north suburban Libertyville. It wasn’t more than 2-1/2 or 3 feet tall with two leaders.


May 2009

Shortly after that we started our attic renovation and “protected it” with our little fencing. (We knew this really wasn’t protection, but it was just something that we hoped the workers would be cognizant of and not trample over it.) Luckily it survived.


June 2009

I wasn’t sure what to do about the two leaders, whether one should be pruned or if both would grow above ground on one trunk, so I called the nursery and they suggested that I prune the weaker/smaller of the two, so that’s what we did.


October 2010

After over a year of growth, it’s still a youngster.


May 2011

In the spring of 2011 it seemed to have a growth spurt.


April 2012

2012 is the year of our big hardscaping project. The bluestone path is routed around the oak.


August 2012

By later that summer it was starting to get a lot bushier. Now that it was stronger, we staked the now-single trunk so that it would grow fairly straight. You can kind of see the aluminum pole and rope (which we cushioned on the trunk and moved from time-to-time so the trunk wouldn’t get damaged).



August 2013

A mere kindergartner as of 2014, the trunk is starting to get that characteristic oak texture.


May 2014

Its leaves start out yellowish in spring, but quickly become dark green and lush a month later.


June 2014

Branching out a little more each year, I researched whether or not we should prune it. I read somewhere (can’t remember where) that a roughly 5-year-old tree should be pruned, but to be careful not to trim too much off the bottom third of the tree. Earlier this spring we trimmed off only the lowest branches.

And finally, as she stands today. It’s the warmest day of the year to date, so I think the leaves will be opening and growing quickly in the next few days.


This weekend, May 9-10 is the annual Native Plant Sale at Independence Grove in Libertyville. I won’t be buying trees or shrubs this time, but it looks like there are a variety of Milkweeds that I don’t currently have and there might be a few other things that catch my eye.

While I’ve eased up on my adherence to only planting native species in our landscape , the great majority of our yard consists of Illinois natives (many of which are also native to the Midwest, Eastern U.S. or even most of North America).

As you’ve probably already heard or read, native trees, shrubs and plants are beneficial for insects and wildlife. Native species are also already adapted to our climate and soil conditions, which reduces the need for watering in dry conditions or fertilizing. All-in-all there’s a lot of plusses in growing native, Chicagoland. See you at the sale!


  1. Jan on May 8, 2015 at 10:34 pm

    I’ve had good luck with all of our oak saplings, too. Once they are established they grow at a pretty good rate. I have four types but not your variety.

    Has it started dropping acorns?

    I no longer buy ornamental trees and just keep to indigenous trees because they were the only ones to survive the ice and snow that we have had the past two years.

    Have you seen the tulip tree ( Liriodendron tulipifera)? I’ve planted several of those but they have yet to get the huge green flowers that are good for the bees.

    • denise on May 12, 2015 at 10:15 am

      I love oaks! I don’t recall seeing acorns yet and I’m not familiar with the tulip tree. I’ll have to check that one out (although I don’t think there’s any room left on our property!).

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