Picking right trees critical to your landscape

Trees are the most important components in your landscape, so getting the right trees for the right places is essential. Many of us plant big trees in small spaces that eventually become long-term problems. They require extensive pruning, interrupt sidewalks, pool decks, and roof and fence lines and overrun neighboring property. The take-home message is planting small trees in smaller lots.

There is a booklet of “Proven Trees for Southern Nevada.” Find it at www.lasvegasnevada.gov/files/trees.pdf or call 257-5555 and a master gardener will send it to you. In it you’ll find the attributes, description and pictures of each tree. Here are some small trees that are easy to maintain and won’t cause frustration by becoming overgrown:

■ Sweet acacia perfumes the air with masses of fragrant yellow-orange puffball flowers. This toughie thrives in any situation. Its attractive vase-shape makes it popular in landscapes. It’s naturally a shrub, but you can train it into an upright tree. Its seedpods and thorns can be problems, so keep it away from swimming pools and traffic areas.

■ Twisted acacia is a wonderful tree with twisted, arching branches creating a unique silhouette. Yellow puffball flowers adorn the tree in spring. It has sharp thorns along its branches, so place it away from traffic areas. At first it’s ungainly, but it develops into a handsome tree. It’s excellent for areas with reflected sun.

■ Desert willow has narrow willowlike leaves. In its natural setting it’s a shrub, but it’s easily trained into a tree. Gorgeous pink orchidlike flowers decorate it from spring into fall and attract hummingbirds. The Springs Preserve has other colored varieties on display.

■ Chaste tree, or vitex, can be a large deciduous shrub or small tree. The grayish leaves are strongly aromatic. Numerous lilaclike blue or cream flowers cover the branch tips. You regulate the growth of this tree by the amount of water it gets.

■ Honey mesquite is a multitrunk, picturesque tree with wide-spreading branches with spines at the base of the leaves. If you don’t like thorns, get Maverick, a thornless variety.

■ Shiny xylosma is a multipurpose evergreen landscape shrub with new bronzy leaves changing to bright green through the summer. But it’s easy to train it into a small, single-trunk tree. It’s also well suited for large containers.

■ Desert hackberry has zigzag branches with a unique winter thorny appearance that are a bit tricky to prune. It’s an excellent bird tree, providing cover, nesting sites and edible fruits. You’ll find four nests hidden on this specimen at the Springs Preserve.

■ Texas olive is a very attractive tree at the preserve. Large leaves and long-blooming white flowers make it a stunning tree. It grows slow, eventually maturing at 15 feet. If you want more blooms, be stingy with the water. During the winter it looks a bit ragged, and its fruits can be a mess, so plant it away from traffic areas.

■ Texas ebony brings a tropical effect to your garden with its glossy dark foliage. It perfumes the air with masses of fragrant creamy flowers. It’s very thorny and difficult to maintain while small but eventually doesn’t need much pruning. It, too, is a beautiful tree at the preserve. During the winter, the exposed gray bark with zigzag branches becomes very interesting.

■ Arizona rosewood is a shrub in nature but is easily trained into a dense upright tree. Its stiff, saw-toothed evergreen leaves resemble oleander. Clusters of white flowers appear in spring. Rosewood is tough and slow growing.

■ Bay laurel grows quickly, developing into a multistemmed evergreen shrub but easily turns into a tree. The thick, leathery leaves are highly fragrant and used to flavor food as an herb in stores. Inconspicuous flowers become small dark fruit.

■ Chinese date, or jujube, is a small, deciduous tree with graceful, strong branches growing in zigzag patterns. The leaves are a shiny bright green, turning bright yellow in the fall. Small yellow flowers in late spring lead to luscious brown, datelike edible fruit in the fall.


Fall is the best time to plant radishes, lettuce, cabbages and many other vegetables in Las Vegas. Come learn the necessary skills to make gardening a pleasant experience at 8:30 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays through September at the Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd. I teach the Saturday class.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at linn.mills@ springspreserve.org or 822-7754.

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