When August does its best to scald North Texas, one is always amazed at the cooling effect of shade. Full sun can be tolerated only to quickly check the mail or move the hose, but one can actually enjoy a shady backyard with temperatures in the nineties.
Gardeners have long done the Tree Shade Two-Step, a dance performed in early morning hours. The only rule is to follow the welcome shade for work in the garden as the sun climbs higher in the sky.
In planning the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills, we were blessed with the space to plant five demonstration trees. Trees can provide shade, of course, but when correctly chosen can enhance the aesthetics of your house and increase the value your home as well. We also wanted to pick trees that showed alternatives to the monoculture of red oaks and live oaks planted in Dallas.
Dallas County Master Gardener Eric Larner and I worked in January to pick a Chinquapin Oak, Mexican or Monterrey Oak, Lacey Oak, Cedar Elm, and an ‘Autumn Gold’ Ginkgo.
Oak wilt is a lethal fungal disease that has killed hundreds of thousands of live oaks and Texas red oaks in Texas. Red oaks and live oaks, probably the most planted trees in Dallas, are highly susceptible to oak wilt. White oaks, however are more resistant to the fungus.
Three of the new trees planted this spring fall in the white oak family: the Chinquapin, Mexican or Monterrey, and Lacey oaks.
The Chinquapin oak, sometimes spelled Chinkapin, Quercus muehlenbergii is tough enough to thrive in the neglect of a nearby post office parking lot. The Chinquapin has distinctive dark-green, saw-tooth leaves. Its narrow, rounded shape and resistance to diseases and pests endears the tree to homeowners. The Chinquapin is a Texas native and designated as a Texas Superstar by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. The tree should be planted in full sun and will grow to 50-60 feet tall and 30-50 feet wide.
The Mexican white oak or Monterrey oak Q. polymorpha is another tough, drought resistant tree. The new growth is pinky-peach color, darkening to thick, leathery blue-green leaves. If cold enough, the leaves turn bronze in the fall. (In mild winters, the tree could retain some leaves.) The Texas native grows into an open spreading shape 35-45 feet tall and 25-40 feet wide in full sun.
The Lacey oak Q. laceyi is a gem in the oak family. The tree matures into a small, rounded shape 20-30 feet tall and 20 feet wide. The leaves are peach-colored when young, maturing into a dusky bluish-gray (smoky) color above and a lighter color on the underside. Another Texas native, the tree is extremely drought resistant when established and gives yellow fall color.
With the cedar elm Ulmus crassifolia, we wanted to include a tree outside of the oak family that is a reliable beauty in the landscape. Instead of a ruler straight leader, cedar elms are known to adopt a wonderful irregular shape. The Texas native is deciduous, its small leaves showing yellow fall color. It flowers in late summer to fall, unlike most spring blooming trees. Cedar elms tolerate our heavy clay soil and grow to be 40-70 feet tall and 30-50 feet wide in full sun.
Few trees are as stunning as a ginkgo Ginkgo biloba in the fall. It shimmers with brilliant yellow leaves, then drops them all at once. We planted the aptly named ‘Autumn Gold.’ The gingko is by far the most unusual of our tree quintuplet. Its fan- shaped leaves were part of the prehistoric landscape 200 million years ago, and the tree is often referred to as a living fossil. The gingko is found only in two small areas of China, and seeds are considered a delicacy in Japan and China. Plant only male trees grown from cuttings or grafted; female trees have an offensive smell! (Named varieties are male trees.) A gingko will slowly grow into an oval shape 50 feet tall and 30 feet wide. The trees have no pest problems.
Come see our new trees at the Raincatcher’s Garden and pick a new favorite for your yard.
Pictures by Starla
Monterrey Oak and Lacey Oak pictures by http://www.wildflower.org