I am faced with a wonderful dilemma……
My last post dealt with the loss of one of our beautiful ‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde trees. So now we are faced with the question of which type of tree should we choose to replace the one that I lost? We worked hard the past couple of days to remove the fallen tree and now have a bare space to fill.
I have lived in my home (and garden) for over ten years. As our home was being built, we designed the surrounding garden. I enjoyed deciding which trees I would choose to grace our desert garden with not only beauty but shade in the summer months. *I honestly do not understand people who do not plant trees in the garden – especially in desert climates. They not only provide wonderful shade in the summer months but also add a lot of value to your property. Okay, I am getting off of my high horse now 😉
Although found in other areas of the United States, it is also native to the southwestern areas of the US. The mature size is approximately 25 feet high and wide. In areas with mild winters, the leaves will remain on the tree. Dark brown seedpods are produced once flowering has finished.
Believe it or not, Oak trees do very well in our desert climate. Southern live oak, cork oak and holly oak are all found in the suburban landscape. Southern live oak is the most prevalent however.
Some of you may be surprised to know that many of our trees and shrubs are grown in our arid climate are native to Australia. The Bottle tree is one of them. First of all, I love the shape of the leaves and how the sun reflects off of them in a gentle breeze. I also like the slightly pendulous way that the branches hang down. Evergreen in areas with mild winters and a smooth trunk make it an asset in the garden. It’s mature size of 30 – 45 feet high and 30 feet wide, makes it suitable for narrower spaces.
The pods themselves are quite cool looking, and my mother would use them in making wreaths out of seedpods. But what I most remember about the seedpods is getting some of the ‘fuzz’ from the inside stuck on my bare feet, and it hurt. I think that is maybe why I do not have this tree in my garden. But, many people I know who have a bottle tree love them.
If you have not already noticed already, I am somewhat biased about certain types of trees. This one is one of my favorite smaller trees. The word “Palo Blanco” means “white stick” in Spanish and refers to the white trunk of this tree – considered to be one of it’s most attractive assets.
Tiny flowers grace the tree in spring, followed by decorative seed pods.
I like these trees so much that I have three of them. They are growing against my west-facing garden wall and do great in the reflected sun. But, I will probably choose something else for my bare area since I would like a tree that is a little larger for that area.
It is hard to beat the sissoo tree for fast growth and shade. The photo of the tree above was taken four years after it was planted from a 15-gallon container. This tree made it’s debut in the Phoenix area about 15 years ago and has rapidly become quite popular. Very easy to grow, semi-evergreen in winter, thornless, non-descript flowers and seedpods are all features of this beautiful, lush tree. **It makes a great alternative for the Indian fig tree (Ficus microcarpa nitida), which is susceptible to frost damage in our area.
*The roots of sissoo trees can be a problem if not given enough room to grow. Trees can grow up to 50 feet tall and wide, so be sure that wherever they are planted that they have room to spread out.
Also, shallow watering will cause shallow rooting. However, those that are watered deeply via drip irrigation seldom have a problem. Trees should be watered to a depth of 3 feet. Click here for information on how to water your trees.
Olive trees are also an option. Most are multi-trunk with beautiful olive green leaves. They are evergreen and thornless. Regular fruiting olives are no longer sold in many cities due to their highly allergenic pollen. Thankfully, there is a non-fruiting cultivar called ‘Swan Hill,’ which is available.
Reaching a mature size of 20 – 30 feet high and wide, olive trees make great shade trees and are slow-growing. Some olive trees have fallen prey to some creative pruning.
Not quite my taste and I would like a tree that will not take too long to grow, so let’s press on to other trees.
Texas ebony are a good choice for those who like a dense, dark green canopy of leaves. Native to both Texas and Mexico, this tree does very well in the Arizona desert. Everything about this tree is dark – the green leaves the dark brown trunk.
This is an evergreen tree, has thorns and large brown seedpods. Texas ebony grows slowly to about 15 – 30 feet high and 15 – 20 feet wide.
This is a favorite tree with my clients, but again, I am looking for at tree that grows more quickly.
A great tree for those who like lush, green trees that lose their leaves in winter. Chinese Pistache grows to 25 – 25 feet high and wide and has some welcome surprises.
It is one of the few trees in our area that produces rich fall color. Female trees produce clusters of little berries in the fall.
The first flowers of the season begin to open. I bought my first one on a field trip with my Plant Identification college class to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. I brought it home and planted it in a container because we were renting a house at the time, waiting for our new home to be built. Later, I planted it in our front garden, and I look forward to the beautiful yellow flowers in the fall.
That is probably why I have four currently growing in my garden.
As part of my search for the perfect tree, I will read through my favorite gardening book, Arizona Gardener’s Guide, which lists not only trees but also shrubs and perennials that thrive in our hot, arid climate. It also has helpful growing tips as well.
I need to continue looking at possible tree choices. (You can check out my second post of possible tree selections, here 🙂