My feelings are always a little hurt when I read that the
catalpa tree is considered a pest and an unwanted “choice”
on your property.
Growing up, we had two catalpa trees at our house. One
was a tall giant of a tree, right along the driveway—mostly
a bark trunk to look at until you looked way up into the
large heart-shaped leaves above. The other tree . . .
was younger, no doubt a chip off the old block, and was on the
other side of the driveway, quite near the house, by the screened
porch. This was a tree a kid could climb and play in.
Catalpa trees have two interesting useful features. In the summer,
long pods—about 12 inches long—grow straight down, lots of
them. A kid could (and I did) snap these off and chop them up
for mealtime. In fact, my dolls just about grew up on chopped
catalpa pods, along with sprinkles of various pesky weeds and
But the nicest feature that I remember was important in June–
June 4th to be exact. That is my sister’s birthday, and when we were
growing up, my mother would make a birthday cake for her, then
frost it, and top it all over with . . .beautiful white catalpa flowers!
If anyone ever took a picture, I’ve never seen it. But I don’t need one
because I remember it like yesterday.
There was a garage down at the end of the driveway (and behind the
garage, if you looked out across the vacant lots, you could see our
large brick school building up on the hill.) The garage was wood and
painted white, with large doors that slid on heavy metal rods. Usually
you couldn’t get the doors completely closed—-they were heavy and
old and warped.
One year, in 1946, my mother decided to change the garage into
income property—to make it into a small house. And she did. Oh,
she didn’t do it all by herself, but she —-being the kind of woman
who could knock down walls, redesign counters, put up “sheetrock”,
hang wallpaper, and so on, did do a lot of the work herself.
The house was nice when it was done, too. She bought a glass lantern
for a light over the front door—it was black metal and had translucent
glass and an evergreen tree etched onto the glass. Then she planted
morning glory vines at the front of the house.
Last of all she made a sign that said “Catalpa Cottage.”