The forgotten trees

Fall is the time to plant woody plants in the South. The combination of cooler temperatures and moisture triggers young trees to grow new roots, whereas spring planting does not give most woody plants enough time to establish a root system before the onslaught of hot dry weather. This is particularly relevant in our part of the world because the combination of excessive summer heat and drought induces dormancy which is not unlike cold dormancy - the result of shorter days and cooling temperatures.

Since drought is always a possibility, and in Texas it is a constant reality, we decided to promote some of our favorite rain conservative trees. Our first tree, Ulmus crassifolia, affectionately called ‘Cedar elm’ in the Texas Hill Country where I grew up, is the defiant custodian of dry river banks and open pastures. I consider it to be one of the most durable and fast growing trees for hot, dry areas. Its silhouette more closely resembles cumulous clouds on a spring day than the typical vase-shape associated with most elm species.

Also native to the Texas Hill Country and tough as nails is the Texas redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis). Everyone is familiar with the floral display of the redbud, but most do not know of the added beauty of the Texas variety. It is noteworthy because of the shiny black-green leaves whose heavy substance is a response to the drying winds that constantly march across our state. Its stouter form and richer colored flowers add to its distinction.

The droughts that have plagued our area over the years have underlined the importance of provenance. This is especially true when dealing with species that range over a wide area. For example, in the last few years many drought sensitive clones of Pinus taeda have perished. So when you buy your trees you should search out drought-tolerant strains, especially if your area is subject to climatic extremes. Otherwise in the future you will be paying an arborist to take down that tree leaning over your house. We are offering a strain of drought-resistant Loblolly pines from Central Texas as well as a limited number of grafted dwarf Loblolly pines. This dwarf form was promoted by JC Raulston about 15 years ago but was never made commercially available due to its difficulty to graft. It makes the most beautiful pine you have ever seen – dense and compact. While we grow most plants for their beauty, there are those that we love for the benefits that they offer as hosts. Help increase the dwindling spice bush swallow tail population by adding American spice bush Lindera benzoin to your woodland garden. Some plants are not only beautiful but useful too and this one meets that criterion. Make a difference – diversify!
Mexico has been a refuge for plants and animals that have fled from the glaciers. Once they receded however, the climate dried and only strategically positioned mountains and valleys remained suitable for the moisture loving plants that dominated at that time. Magnolia tamaulipana, an evergreen magnolia from northern Mexico that is closely related to Magnolia grandiflora is one of those remnant plants. We offered it 8 years ago and now have many customer accounts that can testify to its hardiness. It is differentiated by its narrow upright growth form and green-backed leaves. Check out more of these unusual trees and shrubs from Mexico, China and Texas in our  Trees and Shrubs section. A whole new world will open up just with the click of a mouse!