by Lisa Watters-Lain, Arizona’s garden gal
As summer comes around again, homeowners envision trees lining their drives, enjoying cool breezes under mature shade, and those same trees blocking harsh winds. In the blinding heat of summer, trees make life outdoors pleasant and calm.
A beautiful shade tree also has benefits as the seasons change. The autumn colors can be magnificent. Bare branches allow the winter sun to penetrate and warm your home. Landscape trees more than pay for themselves; even one beautiful tree increases the value of a property.
Here is a list of trees that are proven winners. They block wind with ease, live long, have low-care requirements, suffer no bug and disease problems, and provide generous canopies for cooling shade.
Timeless Beauty Desert Willow — This willow enjoys twice the bloom time than its native relative, and it does so without bean pods dangling from its limbs. Clusters of sizeable tubular burgundy flowers appear at the ends of its branches that attract relentless hummingbirds. Its fragrance is welcome in borders, containers and firewise landscapes. The ideal tree for water-challenged yards, it works well at hiding hot tubs and chain-link fences. Grows up to 20 feet.
Chocolate Mimosa — A beanless mimosa, this beauty shows off in summer with scented clusters of pink, powder-puff blooms that attract butterflies without the bean pods others have. A fast-growing tree with an umbrella-shaped canopy, it erupts in spring with beautiful bronze-green foliage resembling fern fronds. The leaves then turn to a vibrant chocolate color that remains through summer and autumn. Grows 20 feet with a cooling 15-foot spread.
Pink Dawn Chitalpa — A striking specimen with bright green foliage, it bears large clusters of trumpeted purple flowers. A stunning accent tree that easily fits raised garden beds and is used as a visual screen down property lines. It’s an appropriate choice for augmenting xeriscapes and a prolific grower to 25 feet, even under duress.
Prescott Blaze Maple — The autumn colors glow like embers in a blazing hot ﬁre, thus the name. It can have extreme growth of 3 feet or more each year. There is just no other maple to consider at this altitude. It loves mountain soils, extreme conditions and takes our wind better than any other shade tree. Perfect for patios, hot sunny walls, streets and driveways, or any place shaded relief is needed through summer. These trees are showing off their stuff at the garden center now, with large maple leaves the size of your hand.
Purple Robe Locust — In spring, this stunner infuses the yard with dangling wisteria-like clusters of fragrant flowers. Its young metallic leaves mature to beautiful blue-green foliage that provides abundant cooling shade all summer. This variety likes cold winters and harsh, dry summers. At 35 feet tall by 25 feet wide, it’s ideally shaped for shading a patio.
Sunburst Locust — With an open canopy that glows in spring with shiny gold leaves that mature to shady green in summer, this locust turns gold again in autumn. It is a superior color companion to contrasting purple leaf plums. The foliage is pleasantly soft without the thorns or beans common to other locusts. Prized for its low water consumption, it easily adapts to harsh windy landscapes and quickly grows to 30 feet.
Autumn Gold Ginkgo — If you are looking for an indestructible tree, this deep-rooted variety is impervious to drought, poor soils, and damage from wind and snow. The leaves are an exciting fan shape that flutters in the slightest breeze. Dark green summer foliage changes to brilliant saturated yellows through autumn; some fans suggest its colors surpass that of the aspen. This prehistoric tree has been around since the dinosaur era and has been known to live 1,000 years. Grows up to 30 feet.
Quaking Aspen — Dancing leaves glow in shades of gold in autumn that has been a source of inspiration to many writers and poets. Very fast growth shoots up several feet each year until reaching its maximum height of 50 feet. It adapts well in landscapes above 4,000 feet. The pillar shape with the classic paper-white bark is attractive in rows along a driveway or in pairs to highlight vistas from a deck. Every backyard needs at least one aspen in it.
Tips for Planting Summer Trees
A tree planted in summer requires a good start, and that means administering water wisely. First, keep water usage to a minimum by sprinkling Aqua Boost Crystals at the base of each planting hole. Then put top dressing over the root ball with a 3-inch layer of shredded cedar bark. The crystals encourage deep roots, while the bark slows water evaporation. These two simple steps cut summer water usage by half while supplying a newly planted tree with the water it needs.
Until the next issue, I’ll be helping locals choose the shadiest trees here at Watters Garden Center.
Lisa Watters-Lain can be found throughout the week at Watters Garden Center, 1815 W. Iron Springs Road in Prescott, or contacted through her website at WattersGardenCenter.com or FB.com/WattersGardenCenter.