How to Pick The Perfect Tree – Part I

May 16 is National Hug a Tree Day! So in honor of this very special day, I am starting this series of articles on how to pick the perfect tree.

Perfect Tree for … ? … Factor This:

If you want to watch a nursery person cringe, ask them: “What tree should I plant in my yard?”    There is simply no way to correctly answer this question without a great deal of time and effort.  This article starts exploring some of the many factors to consider.

Nursery people hate the question because the selection of the right tree for your yard depends on the soils where you live, the heat/cold load where you live, and on your own aesthetic preferences, just to mention a few top factors.   Trees aren’t picky exactly, but when it comes to where they will thrive – trees have some very specific needs.


Soil Issues

Southwest cities are all sited where there was once easy access to water. This means that within a single city you may have a sandy yard where the river once ran, or almost pure rock of the ancient mountain slopes.    Not to mention caliche on valley floors, patches of degraded agricultural lands, or who knows what fill dirt dumped by the builder to level your lot. Tree species care about soil.  Some like sand, some don’t.

Do you want an evergreen or a deciduous trees that will shed its leaves? Also – just a note – the tree wells need to get bigger when the trees get bigger.

Weather Issues

The Southwest has climate, and even USDA zones, but each city has some specific micro-climates as well.  If you live on the outskirts of town, you will be cooler than the center of town with many buildings and asphalt heating your surroundings.  If you live at the base of tall mountains, you will tend to get more rains than the center of a desert valley.

Your Yard

There are micro-climates in your own yard.  Reflected light off a picture window or pool makes life harder on a plant than the east side of a house that gets only morning sun.  There are cold corners on the north side.  Sun-baked south facing walls.  Wet sites below rain scuppers.

Living holiday trees are one option.

Purpose of the Tree

Consider the purpose of the tree in your landscape.    It can be various; shade, background, block an unsightly view, frame a nice view, provide sound abatement, offer aesthetic appeal, provide fruit, or simply increase home value.    Then there is this reason – “The HOA told me to.”

Size Matters

With trees it sure does! In a guest post a few months ago, Carianne Sienna Funicelli, owner of Strategic Habitat Enhancements, shared some tree size considerations.

In landscape design terms we call leaves by their overall texture – fine, medium or coarse. Each type gives a different overall feel to the space where they are placed.

What Tree Do You Like

Over 8000 trees can be grown in the Southwest.    Trees in many vastly differing shapes, sizes, forms, leaf textures, flowering habit, leafing habit, fruiting characters, thorniness, allergenicity, aesthetic appeal, and litter creating ability.

All characteristics of any tree selection must be considered.    A tree that sheds leaves and bark constantly should not be placed in a landscape with a pool.    Yet if the homeowner asked for a “nice shade tree,” neglecting to mention the pool, mesquite might have been the answer. (And the homeowner would hate that poor unsuspecting nursery person forever.)

We will continue this topic in Part II.    Be sure to read How to Pick The Perfect Tree – Part II (next week).

How about trees for yummy fruit?

May I recommend my book?  The Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Guide offers not just growing guides but some of the latest varieties – including ones specifically for raised bed and container growing. Price is what you would pay on Amazon – only when you buy from me you get a signed copy!soule-books-buy

From the review:

In this updated 2nd edition of Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening, you’ll find much-needed advice and practical tips on growing an edible garden, no matter which part of the southwestern US you call home.

Growing in the Southwest isn’t easy. It’s either too hot or too cold and often very dry. The region hosts a range of soils and climate conditions that can be difficult for a gardener to navigate. That’s why this region-specific garden guide is a must-have for every Southwestern gardener!

Botanist Dr. Jacqueline Soule simplifies the ins and outs of gardening in the Southwest and serves as your guide to success. Regardless of whether you’re tending an in-ground plot, a small container garden, or a series of raised beds, Southwest Fruit & Vegetable Gardening is an invaluable resource.”

Profits from the sale of this book go to the Arizona-based Horticulture Therapy non-profit Tierra del Sol Institute.

© Article copyright Jacqueline A. Soule. All rights reserved. You must ask permission to republish an entire blog post or article. Okay to use a short excerpt but you must give proper credit. You must include a link to the original post on our site. No stealing photos.

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