Desert-Willow: The Tree That Blooms in Drought

(Chilopsis linearis)

desert willow flower

Flickr | Gailhampshire

Mother Nature doesn’t always work in our favor when it comes to nurturing our garden. Although many plants adapt to unpredictable environmental conditions, there are still a number of trees and shrubs that are too stubborn to conform. It can be especially challenging to landscape your yard if you live in an arid climate where water is scarce. The selections are limited, and planting a tree outside of your hardiness zone isn’t wise.

The Desert-Willow is quite deceiving; despite the name this tree has no relation to the willow other than its resembling appearance.  In fact, unlike willows, this tree cannot grow in wet or heavy soils. As the name implies, desert-willows prefer dry conditions and full sun. They are an extremely drought-tolerant species once established. If you’ve been struggling to find a flowering tree resilient enough to put up with the heat, then check out a few of the qualities this tree can bring to your yard.

Environmental Conditions

  • Desert-willow is a medium growing tree, growing 1-2 feet a year and reaching 15-25 feet in height.
  • This tree loves full sun, at least 6 hours of direct sunlight a day.
  • It is a versatile tree and will grow in most soils as long as it is well drained. This includes acidic, alkaline, loamy, sandy and clay. Grows in hardiness zones 7-9. 

Physical Attributes

  • Blooms fragrant, pink flowers midsummer and has 10” papery pods that hang in the winter. Note that these pods will drop seeds and attract wildlife.
  • Usually develops multiple trunks and many branches, making it useful as a wide screen or tall hedge.  Added bonus: the tree can be pruned into a bush. The more it is pruned, the more it flowers.
  • Have willow-like leaves that are long and slender.
desert willow pods

Flickr | Jason Hollinger

If you’re in the Western United States then you may not be a stranger to the desert-willow. It’s a versatile tree that can add color to your landscape. Do you have one in your yard? Share a picture below!

What you should know before planting a sycamore

Largest Sycamore

Flickr | Ted Van Pelt

Choosing the Right Tree in the Right Place can be a daunting task. Should I plant a fruit tree or flowering? Will it be fast growing or slow? Will it even grow in my zone?

There are numerous factors to consider with each tree. Here are a few more things to note if you’re flirting with the idea of adding a sycamore tree to the family.

  • There are 10 species of sycamore, most of them sharing similar characteristics.
  • Sycamore trees are majestic in nature, averaging 40-100 feet in height and spreading 40-70 feet in width.
  • They are fast growing, growing more than two feet a year.
  • With its natural inclination to establish a sturdy trunk, it tends to have an aggressive root system, so be prepared to plant your sycamore at least 15 feet from your house or sidewalk. Planting it too close to surrounding structures not only threatens the tree’s health, but you also risk spending a bunch of money repairing any damage it may do to your home’s water lines, foundation, or driveway.
  • Some sycamores develop multiple trunks.
  • These trees are nicknamed “buttonball” trees because of the 1-inch balls that hang from the tree. These dry, hairy fruits hang in groups of 2-7 and encase small seeds. Their fruits will also drop in the fall.
  • Sycamores are among the oldest species of trees on Earth, known for their longevity and hardiness.

 

Sycamore Seed Strand

Flickr| Curandera vision

Sycamore trees can add character to your landscape, with their ashy white bark and lush green foliage. They also house food and nesting sites for birds including red-tailed hawks, woodpeckers, and hummingbirds.

Do you have a Sycamore tree? Share a picture in the comments.

One tree, two trees, my trees are small trees!

Planting in small areas can be challenging, especially if you want to add some height to your landscape. Consider adding small trees that will excite your senses!

Small trees are perfect for any landscape and add color to entry ways, curbs, and long sidewalks. These small trees are sure to standout and add charm next to your home every spring and some even all year round! Continue reading to discover which small trees have caught our interest.

Smoketree_1-920The mutli-stemmed smoketree holds true to its name- growing blooms that are wispy clumps of filaments. This easy-to-grow specimen turns a smoky pink color from June through August. Growing 10’ to 15’, it is a good choice for a shrub border or other grouping.

Ann-Magnolia_1-860The ann magnolia is a member of the “Little Girl” group of hybrid magnolias developed in the mid-50s at the U.S. National Arboretum. Its profusion of deep purple-red blossoms resemble tulips and bloom in mid-to late March.  Sometimes, the tree blooms again in the summer. At maturity, the Ann magnolia grows to a height of 8’ to 10’.

Japanese-Red-Maple_1-866After 300 years of cultivation, the Japanese red maple is still a beloved tree. It offers a warm touch of red to any yard in the spring and fall, and features a green summer leaf. Red, winged seeds attract squirrels, chipmunks, quail and songbirds. This taller landscape tree matures to about 15’ to 25’.

Purpleleaf-Sand-Cherry_1-816Purpleleaf sand cherry  tree‘s year-round beauty and smaller size makes it an excellent choice for landscaping. Its fragrant white and pink flowers blossom in spring while featuring simple leaves with an intense reddish-purple color. The small yields of plump red berries are an important food source for small birds and mammals including robins and cardinals. The Purpleleaf matures to 15’ to 25’.

Downy-Serviceberry_1-919A phenomenal large shrub that can be trained into a single trunk tree is the downy serviceberry. The combination of flowers, vibrant fall foliage and wildlife value will add lots of visual enjoyment to your yard. This wonderful little tree reaches 15′ to 25′ at maturity and produces plump red berries for pies, preserves and fresh eating.

Did your favorite small tree make the list? If not, share your favorite in the comments!

Before you start planting, get helpful tips and information on tree care, and to find out which trees grow best in each hardiness zone. You can find all of these trees and more in our Tree Nursery. Get a discount on all of your trees when you become an Arbor Day Foundation member.

John Royster, Landscape Architect – Omaha, Nebraska

Enersen1bJohn Royster has demonstrated a lifelong commitment to serving his community as a tree planter, promoter and protector. One of John’s childhood memories is of his interest in the conservation projects on his grandfather’s farms. John built on this interest by helping care for trees as a Cub Scout. Later, as a college student, he served as a park ranger engaged in planting projects. John eventually earned a Master of Landscape Architecture degree at Kansas State University.

During his 30 year career as a landscape architect, John Royster has been committed to conservation.  By focusing on trees, one site at a time, John has made a profound impact on the Omaha region and beyond.  He’s made public engagement a priority, providing a platform to educate people about the importance of their actions to environmental quality.

In 1989, John worked with the Arbor Day Foundation to develop the site plan for the development of Arbor Day Farm, which served as the roadmap for this National Historic Landmark.

John has worked with several nonprofits, such as Girls Incorporated of Omaha, the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum, Omaha by Design, and the Arbor Day Foundation, among others. John has never been afraid of getting his hands dirty. If a planting project needs to be done and John is around, you’ll likely find him in the thick of it.

Omaha-DowntownFor nearly a decade, John worked with Omaha by Design — an urban design and environmental nonprofit dedicated to enhancing Omaha’s economic development potential by improving the quality of its physical environment as an avenue to a better quality-of-life. John served as a voice for trees and conservation as a way to attract people to — and keep people in – Omaha, a Tree City USA community.

Connie Spellman, Director, Omaha by Design, said, “John’s enduring respect for the natural environment is evident in every project he touches. His passion for sustainable design helped us develop the tenets to which we remain committed a decade later.”

For his lifelong commitment to tree planting and conservation leadership in greater Omaha, John Royster is the recipient of the 2015 Lawrence Enersen Award. This year’s Arbor Day Award ceremony will be held at Lied Lodge & Conference Center, located at Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City, Nebraska, on Saturday, April 25.

Do you have an Arbor Day Foundation story that you’d like to share?  Please tell us all about it in the comments section below.  We’d love to hear it!

Spring into action! Are you ready for the spring planting season?

Spring is nearly here and we couldn’t be more excited. Soon we will be enjoying the beautiful colors and fragrances of spring trees and shrubs – like the dogwood, Japanese flowering cherry and of course the lilacs.

Japanese Cherry Bloss

Japanese flowering cherry

Now is the perfect time begin your spring planting planning and ordering! The Arbor Day Foundation Online Tree Nursery has a large array of affordable trees and shrubs. You will find fast-growing trees, flowering trees, fruit trees and every tree in between. And we will send your trees to you during the optimal time to plant in your zone, ensuring their health and longevity.

Or maybe you need some landscape design inspiration? Arborday.org has free, professionally designed landscape plans that focus on trees and shrubs, available to download for free. For example, we have a plan called flowering green giant, this a design plan combining a beautifully contrasting trio of trees—the rich green of a green giant arborvitae, the sprightly, springtime yellow of forsythia, and the dazzling profusion of white blooms that grace the yoshino cherry tree. Other designs include the a bird-attracting tree/shrub combination (Bird Magnet Hedgerow), a blooming shrub plan set beneath an existing shade tree (Shrubs Under a Shade Tree) , a flowering tree/hedge plan planted along an existing wood line (Flowering Woods Edge) – just to name a few.

Bird Magnet Design

Bird Magnet Hedgerow Design

If you already have your trees and are ready to plant consider reading our 9 Tree Care Tips & Techniques, an easy-to-follow guide that takes you step by step from selecting and planting the right tree, to the care and upkeep of a mature tree. Remember, what you do to your tree in its first few years of life will affect its shape, strength, and even its life span. Planting done with care and some knowledge of trees and their needs will help your trees grow more rapidly and live at least twice as long as improperly planted trees.

Finally, before you get that hole dug and your new tree planted, make sure you’ve got “Right Tree in the Right Place.” Planting an appropriate tree in an appropriate location is vital for the health and longevity of the tree as well as your satisfaction with it—for example, a tree too close to the house could be a hazard, and a tree with “too-tall” potential will be unlikely to remain if it interferes with a power line overhead.

Right Tree Right Place

Are you gearing up for spring planting season? What do you plan to plant this year? Please let us know in the comments.

Can the Latest Advancement in Urban Infrastructure Benefit Your City?

One of the most common problems urban trees face is having sufficient soil and space to properly grow. Crowded cities make it challenging to mimic the natural environment in which trees thrive. Thanks to emerging green technology, cities are beginning to implement greener practices in construction that are saving cities tree repair costs down the road and creating a healthier setting for trees to grow.

silvaCell2[1]

Silva cells allow water and nutrients to reach tree roots through loose soil.

Ordinarily when trees are planted in metropolitan settings they are buried under hard surfaces such as sidewalks and roads. These surfaces have to be robust enough to handle heavy vehicles. Naturally, the result of such weight is soil compaction. Soil compaction constricts water, air, and nutrients from reaching the roots, stunting the growth of trees and even leading to structural failures.

In 2007 DeepRoot introduced the Silva cell —the first commercially available soil containment system to be used in construction that supports heavy asphalt surfaces without compacting soil surrounding tree roots — a breakthrough in urban infrastructure.

So how does it work?

photo 4

Silva cells being installed in Lincoln, NE

The rigid frame is designed like a modular suspended pavement by transferring above ground loads down to a compacted sub-base while the inside of the system is filled with loose soil for roots to access. In addition to the loose soil, the system also acts as a stormwater management system, absorbing runoff and storing a large amount of water, creating an underground rain garden.

While the technology is new and still evolving, there have been more than 500 installations of Silva cells in 10 different countries. The results have been outstanding with reports of healthy tree growth, including longer bud extensions and trees flourishing to full maturity.

Lincoln, Nebraska is participating in the trend with four installations of Silva Cells at construction sites, including near the Arbor Day Foundation headquarter offices.

Is your city installing Silva cells? What other approaches is your city implementing to promote healthy urban and community forests? You may also enjoy reading our How to Save Trees During Construction, a Tree City USA Bulletin.

 

Planting Trees to Attract Birds

While birds are a joy to watch and listen to all year American-Mountainash_3-872long, it is particularly during the long winter months when their bright and cheerful presence is even more appreciated. Following an especially cold and dreary winter, the coming of spring brings thoughts of planting trees and shrubs to attract these delightful feathered friends. While they certainly enrich our lives with their presence when they grace our yards and gardens, we, too, can do much for them by providing necessary food sources and habitat.

By planting certain species of trees and shrubs, you can provide year-long natural food sources for these creatures, particularly during times of year when food is scarce. Selecting several trees or shrubs that have berries during different times of the year are great choices—and most also provide beauty in the form of spring blossoms or vibrant fall foliage. Blackhaw-Viburnum_1Great choices include Dogwood, Serviceberry, Mulberry, Viburnum, Sargent Crabapple, American Mountainash, Black Tupelo, Juniper and Winterberry Holly.

The cover trees and shrubs provide is also vital for attracting birds, as they need areas of shelter and protection for breeding, nesting, sleeping, traveling, and hiding from enemies. Many trees and shrubs can be both sources of cover and food; some good choices include Canadian Hemlock, Fir, Spruce, Eastern Redcedar, Birch, and Oak.

The Arbor Day Foundation and arborday.org are great sources of information.  White-Fir_1-839Our Tree City USA Bulletin #13: Trees for Wildlife and Conservation Trees: How to Attract Songbirds and Wildlife are excellent resources.

And please remember to provide a water source. Birds, like all wildlife, need water, and by installing a bird bath or other water feature, you will attract even more birds and provide a better habitat for them. Be sure to change the water frequently and keep it free of ice in the winter.

Ready to attract birds to your yard and garden but don’t know where to start?

Among the several free landscape designs available for download is the “Hedgerow Bird Shelter” also known as the “Bird Magnet.” Bird-MagnetBird-LayoutDesigned by registered landscape architect and president of Kersey/Wike Associates, Joel T. Parker, this landscape plan is attractive to birds by way of food and shelter as well as providing visual interest for all seasons. It includes the use of Washington Hawthorne, American Cranberrybush Viburnum, Arrowwood Viburnum and Winterberry Holly. A useful addition to any bird-lover’s property, this landscape plan is a source of beauty and enjoyment. Read more about the details of this design plan on the original arborday.org blog post.

Prairifire-Flowering-Crabapple_1-820The arborday.org tree nursery also offers a Trees for Birds Collection, a bird-friendly tree package containing one of each of the following: Purpleleaf Sand Cherry, Prairiefire Crab, American Mountainash, Canadian Hemlock and Norway Spruce.

What trees attract birds to your yard? Do you have any specific types of birds that seem to love your trees and shrubs? Let us know in the comments.

 

 

Which late-blooming trees and shrubs suit your garden?

Having a garden that provides year-round interest is easy with some careful planning. For the best results, carefully choose your trees and shrubs so that some flower in early spring, others in late spring/summer, and yet others that flower in the fall or carry their blooms through the winter. This will ensure plenty of activity in your garden from birds and wildlife, as well as giving your landscape a variety of colors and shapes. Following are three late-blooming trees and shrubs that are easy to grow and will brighten up your lawn or street.

Read more…

Trees, the 800-Lb. Gorillas in the Yard

Don’t get me wrong, I love trees. I’ve never actually been caught in the act of hugging any, to be sure. But neither will you ever catch me with a yard without trees. I just couldn’t imagine warming up to a landscape without them. The importance of the vertical element they supply in landscape design is not to be underestimated.

But now that I’ve established my credentials as a lover of trees, let me state what I really set out to say when I sat down to write this blog post today. Large trees, as indispensable as they are, pose an awfully difficult challenge in landscaping — unless that’s all you wish to grow in your yard. Read more…

Adding Trees and Shrubs to your Garden

Gardening has been a hot topic around my house lately.  The past few summers my wife has been interested in creating a garden but the timing has never been right.  This summer she is determined to make it happen. 

We recently sold our house and purchased a new house, allowing her to fully commit to creating the garden.  She recently order vegetable seeds and is starting to make plans on the location of the raised planter bed in the new backyard.  I reminded her that in addition to the traditional vegetable garden crops that we could add some edible trees and shrubs.  The strong benefit of trees and shrubs besides providing a new source of “groceries” is that we only need to plant them once compared to some vegetables. 

There are many choices that we can make but was reminded by one of her magazines to plant what you will eat.  That narrows down our choices since we are both picky eaters. 

In the end we agreed that we are going to explore finding a space an apple tree

Any suggestions on other fruit trees or nut trees we should add?  We have limited space in our new backyard.