Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Trees for the Valley

We moved to the Valley last May and are in the process of creating the landscaping for our new home. Can you recommend vendors for trees? I have been to various garden centers in Harlingen and McAllen and find very few choices. I'm looking for shade trees and ornamentals like crape myrtle, preferably nice sized. I would also be interested in looking at Texas Palo Verde. - Sandra

Wild Olive above.

Sandra - I'm sorry that we can't recommend particular vendors - but we do have some advice for you before you go out to purchase a tree.

Determine what type(s) of trees you want. Two excellent sources are available both in print and online. Valley Proud Environmental Council puts out a booklet entitled, A Guide to Growing Healthy Trees in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas. This guide includes valuable information on purchasing, planting, pruning, and other general tree care. The Native Plant Project publishes a booklet, Native Trees of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Texas, which describes 28 native species.

Everyone is familiar with Live Oak and Ashe, as they are good performers here and thus very common. A couple varieties you may want to consider are Cedar Elm, Texas Ebony, Chapote (or Texas Persimmon), and Anacua. Be advised that the Ebony is thorny and produces large, hard seedpods and the Anacua (pictured here) tends to drop small branches on windy day. Cedar Elm has a hint of color in the late fall. If you want a tropical tree, watch for the following that grow well here: Jacaranda (irridescent purple, late spring bloom), Royal Poinciana (orange & red, late spring bloom), Orchids (white, purple, pink, early spring bloomer), or Kapok (pink, late summer/early fall bloom).

The varieties pictured at the right of this blog are currently growing in our Arboretum. Feel free to drop by and check them out. You can click on each of the pictures to get additional information on each individual tree.

After you've narrowed your choices down to 2 or 3, contact area garden centers to locate the tree of your dreams. If you want a large specimen, you may want to consider hiring someone with the equipment and expertise to plant it. Don't rush this process. Tree are usually the largest investment of any plant in your landscape. They are best installed in the Rio Grande Valley between the months of October and April. Our high summer temperatures make it hard for a newly planted tree to become established in the landscape during that time.