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Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.


Thanksgiving has passed and preparation for Christmas is in full swing. This means that much will be written and spoken about care and culture of poinsettias and Christmas trees. I have logged numerous articles about taking care of poinsettias and cut Christmas trees on at: and The latter URL contains the famous Parsons' Ice Cube Watering technique for poinsettias as perfected by Jeremy Parsons. All of that will be re-invented and restated in the weeks to come.

You may have noticed I have never written a column about the best living Christmas trees for this area. The reason is my embarrassment over a terrible recommendation which I helped promote 16 years ago on March 11, 1989. I, along with the county Extension horticulturist at that time, recommended the planting of Eldarica (Afghan) pines as living Christmas trees for this area's alkaline soils. Even the publications from Texas A&M such as: suggested we should plant Eldaricas in alkaline soils and Virginia pines in the sand. Time has proven this to be a horrible recommendation because only after 10 years when the tree is large and expensive to remove does it begin to deteriorate and eventually dies. Mark Peterson, Texas Forest Service Regional Urban Forester writes: "In Central Texas, the major problem with Afghan pines is that people over water and over fertilize. Because Afghans grow in approximately 20 inches of annual rainfall, or approximately two-thirds of this area's rainfall, they never need to be watered here. Therefore, I tell people who want to grow Afghan pines to find the hottest, driest place, water twice after planting, and then never water again, especially by a sprinkler. The quickest way to kill an Afghan is to irrigate and grow grass next to them. If your Afghan pine is dying from the base up and inside out on the branches, then it probably has Diplodia pinea and it is a "goner". "

Some nurseries are providing a public service by not selling Afghan (Eldarica) pines-they are to be commended. Let's encourage ALL nurseries in this area to follow this one nursery's example. If you want to purchase a living container-grown Christmas tree for your landscape, choose from Italian Stone Pine, Cedrus Deodora, Aleppo Pine, and Blue Point Juniper ONLY!!

For your reading enjoyment of the worst plant recommendation I ever made, I have posted the original column which was published in the San Antonio Light newspaper on March 11, 1989. Since making this blunder, I have stayed away from recommending trees and shrubs without at least 100 years of testing. That list which have done well in this area for over a century can be found at: If you decide to try something which is not on this list----all I can say is "May God have Mercy on your soul!" The 1989 column read:


So you want to grow a pine tree in Texas--be careful or you may end up with a dead tree instead! There seems to be only one pine species adapted to San Antonio.

Pinus eldarica is the scientific name of this extraordinary pine. Common names for this tree include Mondell pine, Afghan pine and Lone Star Christmas tree, but the most widely accepted is simply Eldarica pine.

The Eldarica pine was first observed some 2500 years ago in the desert regions of the Middle East. This desert-loving conifer developed its hardiness through an unusual history in a desolate corner of southern Russia near the Caspian Sea. Its tough nature is a legacy molded by relentless heat and drought. About 500 B.C., Persian nobility used the Eldarica pine to create forested gardens where few other plants could even survive. It was so prized that commoners were forbidden ownership of the tree - from which comes its name - "The Tree of Royalty." The Eldarica pine was first introduced to the Southwestern United States from Asia in the fall of 1961. The United State Department of Agriculture brought five pounds of Pinus Eldarica seed from Afghanistan and distributed it to several universities to research as to the plant's adaptability. The Eldarica now thrives in landscapes throughout California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

The Eldarica looks much like a Scotch pine. It grows in a natural Christmas tree shape without pruning. The Eldarica has symmetrical branching and needles 4 to 5 inches long both of which contribute to the fullness of the tree.

These pine trees are available as container grown trees and can be planted now. So if you have the urge for piney woods, at least give yourself a chance by planting one which is adapted--the Eldarica.


Now that my confession is out of the way, let us discuss Christmas gifts which keep on giving. I have listed 7 gifts which are perfect for most people-of-the-soil at: All of these gifts are not plant related. The plant related items include: a listing of recommended horticulture books; a listing of the best two horticultural magazines (Neil Sperry's Gardens Magazine and Texas' Gardener Magazine) in the state; and beautiful wildflower and nature photos taken by one of Texas' most talented photographers, Joe Lowery. The non-horticulture gift ideas include old-fashioned salt-cured ham; venison for urbanites who want to know what they are missingby not harvesting the deer populations in their neighborhood; and DVD's of the world's greatest exhibition shooters-one of which was Adolph Toepperwein who was a San Antonio native, worked as a cartoonist for the San Antonio Daily Express (Express-News), and was the greatest shot of all time. See:

So let's enjoy Christmas this year and for years to come by buying living Christmas trees which will actually live and giving Christmas presents which will truly be enjoyed.