Weekly Express-News Article
“San Antonio Life”
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
Saturday, June 2, 2007
“Small Trees Improve the Landscape”
There are many reasons for selecting a small tree for the landscape.
Some of our lots are small and a large tree will not fit. Some
of us have enough large trees and we want to fill the gap to make
the landscape more complete or we want to attract birds. A landscape
with a continuum of plants is more attractive to birds. There
are a large number of small trees from which to select. Some require
full sun and others are shade tolerant.
One of the favorite small trees in my landscape is a vitex. It
is desirable because of the lilac colored blooms, its drought
tolerance and the fact that deer do not seem to eat the foliage.
Vitex grows to about 25 feet tall and can be trained to be upright,
but seems more inclined to grow in a horizontal configuration.
There is a new vitex selection on the market called ‘Texas
Lilac’. The bloom is larger and it is more floriferous.
Use vitex in full sun.
Loquats reach about the same size as vitex, but that is where
the resemblance ends. Loquats have large hairy leaves and vitex
has small thin leaflets arranged like a hand. The loquat has a
tropical rain forest look and vitex makes you think of an arid
climate. Loquat is also called Japanese plum because is produces
a fruit in early spring after a mild winter. Some winters the
blooms freeze. Use loquat in sun or shade.
Ornamental pears are very regular in growth habit. The blooms
in early spring are very showy. The tree has a classic round,
dense crown on a straight trunk. It is very formal in appearance
and is used in full sun in manicured landscapes as a blooming
specimen tree or in straight rows bordering a path or road.
Yaupon hollies are drought tolerant and have some shade tolerance.
The berries that are produced on female plants are decorative
and a favorite of birds. Standard yaupons are not fast growers,
but will reach 30 feet on good soil. They can be pruned to fit
any shape including a tall squared hedge. Yaupons are the plant
of choice for the large plant sculptures you see in arboretums
or amusement parks. Yaupon hollies are evergreen with small leaves
(dime size). Deer do not eat yaupon holly.
Crepe myrtles come in every size, including small tree size.
The deciduous blooming plant grows in full sun. Bloom color includes
red, pink, white and lavender. Some of the selections have attractive
bark. Most nurseries have a posted list of bloom color and size.
A popular white crepe myrtle is Natchez. It grows to 25 feet.
Basham’s Party Pink grows to 30 feet on some sites. Tuscarora
is also pink, but only grows to 20 feet. For a red consider Arapaho.
It grows to 20 feet tall. Dynamite is also a good red selection.
Pass up the older selections of crepe myrtle such as watermelon
red or pink in favor of Indian named hybrids that have more powdery
Desert willow is native in West Texas and parts south and west
of Texas. As the name depicts it is very drought tolerant. The
leaves are willow like. The tree reaches 25 feet tall on some
sites. It is always open and airy. Grow desert willow in full
sun on unirrigated sites. It does not do well in the middle of
a lawn that is watered every week. Desert willows claim to fame
is that it produces orchid like blooms in the hottest temperatures.