Ideas for using a dead tree? Or should I cut it down?

paradisecircus(7b/8a)July 9, 2013

Our catalpa tree died over the winter (it's fully dead except for a few shoots coming up around the base). I wasn't too upset about it because it made an awful mess but I do need some kind of shade in the backyard. I thought about cutting it down but wondered if it would look cool with a vine growing all over it. I have 2 young crossvines that I've been nursing back to health, as they were scrawny/weak when I bought them. They're both blooming again and I'm assuming they would love climbing that tree since the middle of the yard gets a lot of unfiltered sun. Plus, I've read they're heavy and need a sturdy base to support their weight.

Here are some pics-- our backyard faces south. The neighbor's taller trees on the left side shade the fenceline from morning sun, so the yard gets sun starting at about 11am until about 6pm or 7pm. The crossvines are set against the back of the garage for now but I can't keep them there. And those flimsy supports will get overwhelmed very soon.

What do you guys think? Should I plant them at the base of the catalpa? Let them cover the whole thing or maybe level off the top half of the branches? I'm open to any and all suggestions.

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paradisecircus(7b/8a)

Here's a photo of the crossvines. The only idea I've tossed out is reusing the dead tree branches to line beds and whatnot. I have other plans for edging the flower beds.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 3:33PM
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bootscootengal

sounds great. go for it

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 8:55PM
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cynthianovak

I think the branches will break. We have a BIG catalpa that has green leaves about 2/3 way up the trunk and on about 1/3 of the branches. It's trunk is about 2 1/f in diameter at the bottom. I see branches starting to crack under their own weight and we are waiting for a tree guy to come sometime this month to take it down....sigh.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 10:44PM
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patty_cakes

What a great idea! I had a tree that died during the drought last summer, and think I'll steal your idea but use Wisteria instead. My son has a gazebo and has used the Wisteria, which seems to do well, even in the TX heat. It's an oak, only about 5 years old, so am wondering if it will be too much weight.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 10:53PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

If the branched are airly smooth, one could paint them a bright red, a bright purple and a bright blue and call it art.

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 10:59PM
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adellabedella_usa

I agree with painting it. I'm linking an article on an artist in Colorado who paints dead trees. I saw a couple he did a few years back. I loved them.

Here is a link that might be useful: Paint trees

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 1:53PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

There is a guy that has been painting dead trees in Austin for many , maybe 20 years. He chooses very brilliant colors that stand out from the shade and green. I have seen some hanging from tall trees upside down with a good effect. I am sure their is more than one guy doing this.

Then there is Andrew Galsworthy ( if you really want an art/nature fix). He would take some brilliant red leaves, glues with sap or colored mud, immortalize it in photos and then let the rain wash it off. He brings me such peace of mind just looking. Sorry for getting off topic. My sister showed him around Alaska where he spit welded icicles.

He built a stone wall with a dead tree snaking through a wall.

Here is a link that might be useful: Andrew Galsworthy google image search

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 2:52PM
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PKponder TX(7b)

You could use it as a trellis until it breaks and then build the crossvines a pergola :-) Painting sounds neat too! Why couldn't you do both?

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 7:49PM
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Lynn Marie

I like the vine idea. If you're not sure, just try one vine maybe?

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 8:32PM
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melvalena

Termites.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 10:17PM
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bossjim1

I would take it down. I don't like the idea of having a dead tree in the yard and leaving the decision of when it comes down to Mother Nature.
Jim

    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 7:16AM
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marti8a

Dead trees are useful to birds. Check out this link.

    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 12:28PM
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wantonamara Z8 CenTex

There is also Hugelkultur.

Here is a link that might be useful: Hugelkulture

    Bookmark   July 11, 2013 at 1:55PM
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paradisecircus(7b/8a)

Thank you all for the awesome ideas and links!!! The artists that paint the trees, WOW! Their work is beautiful and also gave me some more ideas. I'm thinking I might both paint it and plant the crossvines at the base. I'll likely trim off the top 1/3 of the tree though. The branches are pretty thin and brittle and will likely break. And then I'll probably paint the cut branches and use those somewhere. Wheeee!

I'm curious, if anyone can answer this, I certainly don't want to send out an invitation to termites. Would painting the tree deter them? Wouldn't the paint act as a seal of sorts?

    Bookmark   July 13, 2013 at 2:13PM
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PKponder TX(7b)

There are termites everywhere in this part of the US, with or without a dead tree. I don't know that painting would be a deterrent but it appears to be away from the house and fence. We have a wooden rack that hubby built to hold firewood. To prolong it's life, we spray (saturate) it with termite and carpenter ant killer every two years. It's been in the yard now for 9 years and so far, no sign of damage, although the firewood does have termite damage and we typically find sawdust from their chewing and that's just above the rack.

    Bookmark   July 13, 2013 at 6:06PM
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cynthianovak

re termites: I was surprised when a horticulture professor told me that if termites are around, it's better to have them feasting on some rotting wood than gnawing on your house. c

    Bookmark   July 13, 2013 at 8:58PM
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melvalena

We don't take any chances by inviting them to our place.
Have had to deal with them 2 times too many in the past.

Termintes won't be stopped by painting the outside of the wood.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2013 at 11:17PM
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beachplant(9b)

My cross vine covers a 6` hurricane fence, totally covers the fence running across my neighbors backyard and has covered their storage shed. I don`t think your dead tree is big enough.
Patty, think hard about wisteria, it`s a MONSTER and I`ve seen whole houses buried under it. The cemetery in Hitchcock is almost totally covered, it`s pretty in bloom but they fight it constantly.
Everyone here carved their dead trees after Ike. Then coated them with layers of varnish.
Tally HO!

    Bookmark   July 16, 2013 at 6:27PM
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paradisecircus(7b/8a)

Thanks everybody for the info! Haven't gotten around to messing with the dead tree. Been enjoying the rain! But my husband also has a wood pile outside away from the house. He keeps his mesquite wood he uses for smoking in a pile on top of pallets that sit on a slab in our backyard. I've noticed it has been chewed on by something. As cynthianovack stated, better the wood pile than our house!

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 1:31PM
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carrie751(z7/8 TX)

That is very true, but will they stop at the wood pile???
Dead wood also encourages acrobat ants, and they can kill a tree over a period of time.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2013 at 3:53PM
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lavernialadybug(8B)

I had planted a tangerine crossvine on a dead tree - it looked nice for about 2 years until it fell over.

    Bookmark   July 22, 2013 at 4:42PM
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