Tree-mail is both virtual and real. This is my Dawyck Purple Beech arriving on May 6, 2006.


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Julie's Tree-Mail

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It's a great geography lesson for my children (and me).

May 2006 Letters

Wed, May 31, 2006: Pat, (didn't say where from) writes: I have 11 bradford pear trees. They were approximately 10-15 feet in height when we had them planted four years ago. Some of the leaves do not look as deep green in the spring as the others. Could they be lacking in some mineral deficiency. If so, could you please tell me how to properlytake care of them. I have quite a bit of money and time in them and do not want to lose them. Thanks so much, Pat

Well, this is a tough one. A lot of money and time invested in Bradford pear trees is probably short-lived money. You could have gotten a much better return on the investment if long-lived trees had been planted. But, that's in the past. As for the leaves, it could be that the lighter green ones are just that way genetically. I wouldn't worry about that as long as the trees seem otherwise healthy. Sure, there are fertilizers that might "green-up" your trees, but personally, I wouldn't bother with it. If you've got money to spend on fertilizers, save it and have the trees pruned regularly, every year, for structural strength. Take out any branches that aren't growing at 90 degree angles, for starters. Keep the trees thinned out. Good luck! Hope this helps.--Julie
Wed, May 31, 2006: Harry, in Whitestone, NY, writes: Hi Julie, I ran into the sad story of the Beech tree... and wanted to share with you my 120+ yr old European Beech tree which I turned into a 911 Memorial.. check it out: Harry

Hi Harry. Thanks for the link. That's a worthy project, and there's no better tree to plant! --Julie
Tue, May 30, 2006: Kevin, in Colunbus, Ohio, writes: I wanted to compliment you on having such an informative site. We planted an October Gory maple in our backyard this Spring for a shade tree. After reviewing your site, we choose the tree and have been pleased with its growth so far. It does seem a bit top heavy at this time so I have staked it to help keep it as straight as possible, hope the trunk thickens up enough so I can remove the "helper" ropes.

Hi Kevin, Congratulations on your new tree. Thanks for your kind words about my site! Remember to take the stakes away by next year. Your tree will develop a stronger trunk if it has to respond to wind as it would in nature, with no stakes. If it's top heavy, I was wondering if maybe it needs structural pruning. Make sure there's only one dominant leader. Good luck!--Julie
Mon, May 29, 2006: Lori, in Texas, writes: My husband and I purchased a fruitless plum tree in February of this year. We had never planted a tree before and are pretty inexperienced in gardening. My husband wanted the tree because one of our neighbors has one. We've started noticing holes in the leaves and aren't sure what might be causing the problem. What types of treatments have you used on your tree to protect it from insects? Thank you, Lori

Hi Lori, Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. Holes in the leaves probably means something's eating them. Do you see any bugs on the undersides of the leaves? Any webs? Any ants crawling on the trunk? I like to use environmentally safe pesticides when possible. You might try spraying your tree with a mixture of 1 tsp liquid dish detergent, a pinch of cayenne pepper, and 1 litre of water. Spray on your tree, and repeat whenever it rains. Good luck!--Julie
Sun, May 28, 2006: Rob, in Los Angeles, writes: Hi Julie, You have a great site here. I really enjoy reading about your tree experiences and viewing their photos. My personal experiment started in late November, 2004 when I planted a 7 foot Freeman "Armstrong" maple whip in my front yard. Many of the deciduous trees in my neighborhood are liquidambar, but I wanted something different, and of course I had to be different. I wasn't sure how well this maple tree would do here in urban Los Angeles. Well, so far so good. Now it's enjoying it's second spring, and it has leafed out quite nicely. Plus, it's a great conversation piece. I can't tell you how many people stop to talk to me about the tree, asking what kind it is (especially when it has no leaves) and where I got it. It's still quite a baby, so I'm looking forward to the next several years where hopefully it will grow into a mighty tree. Anyway, I just thought I'd share. Again, I really enjoy your site. Regards, Rob

Hey Rob, since I'm not absolutely 100 percent certain that my street trees are Armstong maples, if you happen to have a digital camera, would you mind sending me some pictures? Bark, leaves, overall tree shape, stuff like that would help. Thanks for the kind words about my little tree site. (Little-ha! This site is about 80 Web pages now -- Wow!!) Good luck with your hit-of-the-neighborhood tree! --Julie
Thur, May 25, 2006: Lisa, in Burlington, Ontario, writes a followup to her letter and pictures of her over-planted yard from last month: Hi Julie, I have an update and a question for you. First the update, the dead Sugar Maple is being removed and in its place we will plant a serviceberry. So problem solved and now I will have only a small forest rather than a jungle. But here is my latest dilemma. My ivory silk lilac trees were doing great than we had that cold snap and lots of rain. Now they are looking droopy and sparse. I bought one of those moisture readers as my initial thinking was they were suffering from drought. However, the meter tells me that they have enough water (I am thinking maybe too much). Do you know if they like their feet to be wet or if they can tolerate it? That area of the garden gets a lot of run off. I am not certain if they are looking "sad" due to the cold, windy snap/shock or too much water. My neighbour has a more established one and it is looking full and beautiful. As always, I look forward to your response.

P.S. I haven't forgot about sending you the plan of my yard but I am unable to find a small copy. However given that the sugar maple is going, going, gone, I'm not certain you will still need it.

Thanks, Lisa

Thanks for the update, Lisa. I think the situation will be better now, though it still seems like there's a lot of big shade trees in a small space. (I need to call an arborist to come do some major pruning in my own over-planted yard!) Send on that landscape plan if you can, cheaper to remedy the situation while you can still reach it! (Try taking a digital photo of the plan.)

Lilacs are notorious sulkers in their first year of transplant, so it doesn't surprise me that yours is looking unhappy. Plus, they do like water, but the site needs to be well-drained. You might look into redirecting that runoff somehow. Good luck! --Julie
Wed, May 24, 2006: Jean, in Neptune City, NJ, writes: I planted a purple plum about 4 years ago. It has turned into a beautiful sight EXCEPT HEAVY WINDS THIS SPRING has it listing to a 2 o'clock position in my yard. It will have to be righted and staked. My question: Is this tree as susceptable as a Bradford Pear to loss due to wind and/or storm damage? I live in a townhome community with Bradford Pear lined streets which were gorgeous in the spring until we began to lose them one by one from wind/storms. branches then split right in half. Is replacing them with the purple plum asking for the same problem? I think these trees need to be thinned out periiodically and they haven't been. Thank you for your input. --Jean.

Jean, what a GREAT topic for a question! Yes, purple leaf plums, because they are so tight-branched and form weak crotch angles, have many of the same problems as Bradford pear trees. In fact, I find in my own personal experience that the plum tree is far more of a problem in my landscape than any other tree. (Take a look at my plum journal for a long-winded story about said problems, complicated by the fact that this is Gregory's Tree, and therefore, a beloved member of the family. More like a black sheep if you ask me.)

Anyway, plum trees are notoriously short-lived. In an ice storm that might happen at the end of fall or the beginning of spring, when the tree has leaves, will almost certainly cause branches to fail because the tree has such weak wood. Plus there's the fact that this tree attracts so many pests and diseases. There are many better trees to plant, even ones with purple leaves! Your community would be making a much better investment if they researched a variety of "good" trees to plant instead of one weak-wooded, pest attracting variety. Why buy 25 of one tree cultivar, most of which will be dead within 15 years, when you can buy trees now that will last well into your children's children's generations? A tri-color beech, for example is a really nice tree with interesting leaves. I wouldn't recommend that any planting project include only one type of tree though. What if some borer comes along and destroys the entire stand in one week? That's the problem with monoculture planting. Plant a large variety of trees and enjoy the year-round variety. The one tree that's a standout tree, say, for example, a purple European beech planted at the edge of a large field, will provide food, shelter and beauty for many generations of townhome dwellers and the creatures that surround them.-- Julie

And yes, if you do have purple leaf plums, they need to be pruned regularly to eliminate branches with weak crotches, and to thin them out so that more light and air can get to the inside branches. I hope your plum doesn't get scales like mine has this year. REALLY nasty!
Tue, May 23, 2006: Arthur, in Richland, Michigan, sends us a followup letter about his newly planted Japanese Red Maple that experienced leaf damage because of several late frosts: re frost-damaged Japanese maple almost four weeks ago: thank you Julie, it has been a very cold spring here in Michigan. I have had to cover the Japanese maple several nights to protect from further frost damage. The tree dropped about 20% of its leaves, and so far none have re-appeared. The other leaves seem to be OK, and looks like the tree will make it through the season. Art

(See the original letter on the April Tree-Mail archive page) Hi Art, So glad you wrote back! I was wondering how your tree had fared. Twenty percent of the leaves doesn't seem like a deal-breaker to me. Here's praying your tree survives the summer, with your tender loving care, because it sure sounds to me like you are doing your best. And, here's to next spring being done with frosts before the leaves emerge! Keep up the good work and careful watering! -- Julie

Dear Debbie, Well, things don't sound good at all with your dogwood. But I don't have enough information to provide a very helpful answer. First of all: has anything changed recently in the area? Construction? New patio or sidewalk? Newly laid grass? Has the drainage changed, or the amount of light the tree has been getting? I would look at the tree very closely for signs of anthracnose. Have you noticed any purple or brown spots? Also look closely at the trunk. See any swelling? New knots? Mildew? Any signs of long trails in the bark, like from borers? Can you see a root flare at the bottom of the tree? See any signs of girdling roots, or, roots encircling and cutting into the trunk? If you have a digital camera, and limited funds, you could take some pictures and post them on a tree forum, like, and you might get some great answers there (as opposed to here, where all you get is questions!). You could also take a batch of those pictures, and some twig or fallen leaf samples up to your county extension agent for inspection. And finally -- your best bet, but more expensive obviously -- would be to call in a certified arborist to take a look and advise any treatments. I am sorry I haven't been much help. Good luck though. I do hope you figure out the problem and solve it. I so love the shade of my dogwood. I know how distraught you must be. --Julie
Sun, May 21, 2006: T. Weber, don't know where from, writes: This may sound stupid, but when you but stems of plants and stick them in water, they begin to grow roots and you can start a whole new plant. I was wondering if this also possible with trees. My husband would like some small pines along our fence for privacy and beauty. We really like my moms trees, is it possible to cut some of the branches and start a new tree for us? thanks t. weber

Hi T., The only stupid question is the one I never asked: "What's wrong with Bradford pear trees?" Anyway, I digress. The propagation method of which you speak is called something like "growing from cuttings," and yes, it is possible with many types of trees. It all depends on the type tree you have. Many evergreen trees can be grown from softwood cuttings, or, cuttings taken in summer from new growth. Some trees will only grow from hardwood cuttings. The first thing you need to know is what kind of tree do you have. The time of the cutting, and the technique you use to get the twig to grow, are the two most important factors. Assuming your tree type can be grown this way, you'll probably need to tend to the cuttings, misting them regularly until roots begin to grow. Hope this helps. -- Julie
Mon, May 15, 2006: Dee, in south central Iowa writes:
Julie, Belated Happy Mother's Day! My husband and I were out stomping around in the local nursery and the wind was blowing about 40mph and we rescued two lovely Japanese Maples from the elements and brought them home to rest in our patio flower garden. We were looking for and bought a Snowdrift Crabapple to add to our already full acreage of trees. While looking for information on the care of the Japanese Maple trees, I ran into your blog and realized that you also are a lover of nature.

Smoke Tree

Here is a picture of my favorite tree. Enjoy! It got hit by a storm last year and has one left wing growing at a 45 degree angle but I would not let my husband cut it down. It is a "chainsaw" thing!

Smoke Tree After Rain

I would appreciate any advise you can give on caring for the red maple trees. We live in south central Iowa. Sincerely, Dee

Good luck with those new trees, Dee, and thanks for the pictures of your smoke tree. Looks really cool after the rain. As for care of your Japanese red maples, what cultivar are they? -- Julie
Fri, May 12, 2006: Mary, in Sherrill, NY writes:
Hi Julie, I am writing from central New York State from the city of Sherrill, NY. The smallest city in New York State with 3500 residents. I loved your pictures of the Forest Pansy Redbud. I am in zone 5 so not sure I'd have much luck with it. I did just order a Weeping Redbud which should arrive on Monday. I am so excited! Thanks so much for sharing your stories and beautiful photos! Sincerely, Mary

Hi Mary, Thanks for the letter. That picture of the twisted redbud on that site you sent is amazing! I love the snow picture, and I don't even LIKE snow! So beautiful! Good luck with your weeping redbud.-- Julie
Fri, May 12, 2006: Cathi, on Whidbey Island, writes:
Hi Julie and family, My husband and I just celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this year and have planted 25 Red Sunset Maples down our 500' driveway! This is our first year as "empty nesters" with our youngest just off to college this past year. I found your fun website as I was anxious to see pictures of what our beautiful trees will someday look like. We bought them as bare root and about 10' to 12' high. Frankly they just look like very tall strong 'sticks' with small nubs and leaves at this point, so I wanted to see what they will eventually look like. I guess it's like when you find out you're pregnant and all the sudden you're infatuated with what your baby is going to look like, the growth rate, etc.!! What fun (and hard work) we're having. Well, thanks again for such beautiful pictures and oh, by the way, we live on Whidbey Island. As for the geography lesson.. 1. What state are we located in? and 2. We live in the second most northern town on Whidbey. What is the name of it? and 3. What body of water surrounds our island? and 4a. (last one, kids...sorry, I was a homeschool mom when our kids were young..couldn't pass up this chance) If we are to drive off the island ( and not use the ferry) what is the name of the bridge that we will have to cross to get to the next island? and, 4b. Name that next island. Have fun! Thanks, Cathi

Hi Cathi. Wow! Great letter! Congratulations on your anniversary, and on your tree planting project. How far apart are you planting the trees? In 10 or 15 years, that will be some canopy! And beautiful in fall.

Thanks for the quiz. Bradley and I enjoyed researching the answers. (Me more than him.) ANSWERS: 1) Washington. 2) Coupeville. 3) Puget Sound. 4a) Deception Pass Bridge -- we even found out why it's called Deception Pass! 4b) Fidalgo Island.

Now here's some questions for you: 1) How many red maple (acer rubrum) cultivars are planted in my yard? and 2) What is the only tree I have ever planted bare root? I'll give you a hint. It's a "red maple" but not an acer rubrum and it was a "stick" for a very long time! Good luck with those trees of yours! May you and your family have many many moons to enjoy them together. -- Julie

P.S. Cathi, I don't know if you're checking in to the tree-mail page or not, but when I sent you the letter, it was bounced back because your mail box is full. Hope you read my response! I need a grade from the teacher!
Thur, May 11, 2006: Adrienne, in Vancouver, British Columbia, writes:
...We are about to plant an October Glory in our front yard and what a treat to stumble upon your website. I've been researching trees for months now, and actually had my heart set on a Prunus Shirofugen - unfortunately, they're a bit hard to find right now. Anyway - love your tree diary! Cheers - Adrienne

Hi Adrienne. Thanks for the wonderful letter! Good luck with your October Glory. I was admiring mine today, and taking pictures, but forgot to bring my camera's card reader with me, so I can't dowload the pictures. Ugh! Forest Farm has that cherry tree you want. Their shipping page says they ship to Canada, but I don't know how the plants would arrive on such a long journey. I was completely satisfied with the beech I bought from them and it was in the box for nine whole days! If you ordered from them, it would be a small tree, but perhaps this would be as fun a project for you as my purple beech has so far been for me! Good luck!--Julie
Wed, May 10, 2006: Pat, in southern Michigan, writes:
You have a great site with beautiful pictures. I planted a pansy redbud last year. It is doing well, but there are a few branches with nothing on them. When would be the best time to prune them. I live in Southern Michigan. Thanks! Pat.

Hi Pat. Thanks! You can prune your redbud anytime. The *best* time to prune a redbud would be once the flowers have fallen, but when you're talking about dead wood, you can prune that whenever you notice it, sooner the better. Good luck with your new tree! --Julie
Wed, May 10, 2006: Sheila, in Peace River, Alberta, Canada, writes:
I am writing from Peace River, Alberta, Canada and would like to know the name of Gregory's tree. I have not had time to browse through your entire site but I love it. I am in the process of putting in a lawn and shrubbery at our new house and want color. I was thinking perhaps some flowering almonds or purple leaf plum/sand cherry. Is Gregory's tree a flowering almond?

Hi Sheila, Thanks for the kind words. I do love my trees, even 'Gregory's Tree,' which is a Thundercloud purple leaf plum -- Prunus cerasifera - 'Thundercloud' -- to be exact. It's a beautiful tree to add a splash of color in a landscape. Depending on your needs and where you'll be placing this tree, keep in mind that it will need full sun in order to have those stunning purple leaves. You might also consider a tricolor beech for an accent plant with interesting foliage (and fewer associated problems, which you'll find out if you get the time to read my extensive diatribes on "Miss Plum.") The interesting thing about this whole internet tree diary thing is that I've heard stories of people going into nurseries and asking to buy a 'Gregory's Tree.' Gregory the smallish person thinks this is pretty cool! Good luck with your landscape project. --Julie
Wed, May 10, 2006: Joyce, in Long Island, NY, writes:
Hi Julie, I am trying to find out some info on our purple leaf plum tree. The trunk/branches seem to be diseased, dry and weathered. The twigs break off very easily. The leaves are curled. It is the first spring that the tree looks sickly. Can you give us any insight on what we can do. Thank you, Joyce

Hi Joyce, Has anything else around the tree changed lately? New landscaping, new patiio, any construction? How long has the tree been in its current spot? Is there any sign of bugs? Look for webs, ants, look under the leaves. Are there any wounds or blisters or black spots on the trunk? Curled leaves could indicate a viral infection, bugs, overexposure to some herbicide or fertilizer. You might want to call a certified arborist as I don't think I'm being very much help! Good luck to you and your tree. -- Julie

Tue, May 9, 2006: David and Beth, in New Lenox, Illinois, write:
Julie, We love the pictures of your trees. We just planted a Red Sunset Maple in our backyard. The kids had fun playing in the hole as it was dug and looking for worms. We look forward to watching ours grow. Looks a little droopy now, but we are encouraged to see how yours is growing. David and Beth

Dear David and Beth, Thanks for the letter! Now that Bradley is 11, I really love to look back at the pictures of baby him with the baby trees. Take pictures! And good luck! (There's a picture of Bradley as a 2-year-old playing in the hole where we planted the Linden. See, I look at that hole now and think I should have made it WAAAY wider!)--Julie
Mon, May 8, 2006: Bruce, in Lombard, Illinois, writes a followup to his letter about gingko trees from Sunday:
Hi Julie, I know that seedlings can be shipped, but they are somewhat fragile. If you'll give me an address I'll ship some seed to you. I still have more than a hundred from last fall's crop and only a few more promised. There is also a website that I get all my Gingko information from. It's maintained by a school teacher in Holland. Her name is Cor Kwant. The web site is called The Gingko Pages. Can be Googled. Your obvious love of trees would make this a must visit site, as is yours. Bruce

Thanks Bruce. Can you believe I've never grown a tree from seed? So, wouldn't it be perfect to try it from seed of a gingko tree that a reader sent to me? That would be a great project for me to follow on my site. Would you mind sending me some seeds? I don't know the best time to try germinating them, but I'll read up on it at the site you mentioned, and thanks for that tip! That's a Web site with lots of resources.--Julie
Sun, May 7, 2006: Patricia, in Burkbent, Texas, writes:
Just wanted to say, what a lovely site -I shall visit it often. I am in Burkburnett Texas (halfway between Dallas and Oklahoma City on the Texas side of the state line), having grown up here then moved to New Orleans for 13 years and now am back in my hometown post-hurricane. I miss the oaks and magnolias and crepe myrtles of New Orleans. My favorite live oak was a block from my apartment (if you know the city, it was two blocks off Napoleon Avenue and two off of St. Charles Avenue, Uptown) and so huge that the dog and I had to go into the street to pass it; it touched the fence pushed all the sidewalk out of the way and was almost to the curb with trunk and roots --if a car parked next to it I could barely squeeze between them and then I still had to navigate the roots-- the branches shaded across the whole street and part of the neighbors yard. My spread arms did not even go halfway around the trunk and I would pat her every morning and night when we walked by.

Last month I helped my mom landscape a bit here in Texas, new trees in her yard -some native like the desert willows and red buds, some not like the "little gem" magnolias which we are told won't grow here but the neighbor has a beautiful one and we love them so here goes...

I am saddened at the loss of that 100+ year old beech in you photos... must have been heartbreaking to watch. Did they do anything with the wood other than chip it up? It would be nice to think some woodworker or sculptor gave a portion of it a second life.

Thanks for the great website and good luck with all your trees.

Dear Patricia, I am so sorry you don't have the old oak to pat when you pass by anymore. I do pray that your family is safe, and I pray that you will find peace in your new home, and perhaps get back to New Orleans again someday, if only to plant a new oak of hope.

I was going to get a chunk of the old purple beech's trunk -- I was supposed to go back the next day to get it, but I couldn't face the situation, I was so distraught at the time. I regret that now though, and wish I had been more proactive about everything surrounding that tree. I could have, for example, tried to get cuttings. But I was lazy and never did. Next time I will live so as to not have regrets! I wish you the best of luck with your new willows, redbuds and the little gem magnolias. Lots of TLC in the first year, if not two! Thanks for writing--Julie
Sun, May 7, 2006: Bruce, in Lombard, Illinois, writes:
Hi Julie, I'm from Lombard, Illinois, about 25 miles west of Chicago. I've been sprouting Gingko seeds for a couple of years now and giving the seedlings to whomever would promise to give them a good home. My area now has an abundance of small Gingko trees which will take 20 or more years to mature. I've recently started to sprout Kentucky Coffee trees also. I'm not sure where I'll go from here but raising my babies is great fun. When people ask about growth, I tell them the Gingko grows about a foot a year for the first hundred years and then slows down a bit. The Kentucky Coffee is also a slow grower.

Thanks for the letter, Bruce. Wondering: would you be interested in shipping me one of those Gingko seedlings? I would nurture it in a container for a couple of years, then transplant it at my church. What do you say?--Julie
Sat, May 6, 2006: Ron, in Raliegh, NC, writes:
Your tree site is wonderful. We have planted tulip trees, live oaks, redbuds, dogwoods, pines, mountain ash and blackgum here. It is a joy to see them grow and thrive. Our Kousa dogwoods are starting to bloom this week.

Thanks, Ron. Take pictures and good luck!--Julie
Fri, May 5, 2006: Mindy, in Winchester, MA, writes:
such a neat thing you've done here. what a great opportunity to see the progress of these trees. have you sent a sample page to michael dirr? i bet he would be interested to see what you've done. congratulations on your many happy, healthy, well-loved and well-documented specimens. i post on GW under arbo_retum. we have a mini arboretum here. read my member page on GW for description. thank you again, mindy

Thanks, Mindy. Your arboretum sounds great!--Julie
Thur, May 4, 2006: Betty, in Baytown, TX, writes:
Hi Y'all: Would you please advise me, When? What? and how much to feed a 6ft.11/4" bloodgood? It has just been transplanted! I enjoyed your site very much! Thank you so much for your time.
Sincerely: Betty Norris, Baytown, TX

Dear Betty, Thanks for your kind words about my site. Newly transplanted trees need no feeding other than the proper amount of water. Assuming you soaked the tree thoroughly at planting time,and planted it at the right depth, then all you need to do now is check to make sure the tree is watered once the rootball dries out. Dig down about six inches near the rootball. Is it dry? It needs a slow soak.

Good luck with your new tree!--Julie
Wed, May 3, 2006: Ben, near Grand Rapids, Mich., writes:
Hello, I planted 2 red maple 3 years ago, they were both around 5 feet tall. I planted them around June 03. I live in Michigan, near Grand Rapids.

My question is this, how come one of the trees has smaller leaves each year, it does not seem to be establishing as well has it's buddy 30 feet away. They soil is identical, they get equal amount of watering.

Right now the happy tree has all it's red sprouts off and the leaves are filling out nicely. The not so happy tree has the the red sprouts still connected, the leaves are very small. It looks like it is going to have another slow season.

Is there something that can be done for this tree? Or, should I try planting another tree in it's place?


Dear Ben,

There are many factors that could cause one tree to be not as healthy as the other. For one: genetics. One of your trees could actually be genetically superior to the other. But probably, it has something to do with an environmental factor. Question: usually the problem you describe can be attributed to the fact that the tree is planted too deep, or perhaps there is something else going on that is stressing the tree. Are there any bugs under the leaves? See any cracks in the bark? Would it be possible for you to take some photos of your trees and send them to me? Do both trees get the same amount of water?

If the stressed tree has buds and leaves, that's actually a good thing. Don't give up on it yet. It may surprise you! --Julie

P.S. My brother, who has FAR more of a natural green thumb than I, (he owned a nursery for many years) had two red maples with exactly the same situation that you describe. After 15 years in his landscape, one tree was 50 feet tall, and the other was 15 feet tall. He never figured out why. We finally decided: genetics.