Lush and Lean part 4: Selecting the best trees for LC’s climate

Lush and Lean part 4: Selecting the best trees for LC’s climate

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Editor’s note: This is the third of an 11-part series detailing Las Cruces Utilities’ 11-week Lush and Lean workshops educating citizens how to maintain a garden while being conscientious of water usage.

John M. White will be presenting at the free Thursday, March 1 Lush and Lean Workshop at the Branigan Library. The presentation is sponsored by the LCU Water Conservation Program. Courtesy photo.
John M. White will be presenting at the free Thursday, March 1 Lush and Lean Workshop at the Branigan Library. The presentation is sponsored by the LCU Water Conservation Program. Courtesy photo.

By SUZANNE MICHAELS

For the Bulletin

John White knows trees. He’s the curator of the UTEP Chihuahuan Desert Gardens, and before that he was the extension horticulture agent for Doña Ana and El Paso Counties. So, if you are trying to figure out what new tree to add to your yard in Las Cruces, he’s the man to ask.

White will be the presenter at the free Lush and Lean Workshop sponsored by Las Cruces Utilities (LCU) on Thursday, March 16. You’re invited to bring all your tree questions straight to this expert.

When asked about his favorite trees for our climate, White notes there is no perfect plant and stresses diversity.

“We need a wide assortment in our tree selections to create a healthy canopy, and avoid a decimation of trees when a disease or insect pops up,” he said. “And it’s important to choose a site-appropriate tree. Right now, I like oak varieties. They are a strong, valuable tree, with dense wood, don’t use as much water as you would think, and will probably outlive all of us.”

His second-favorite tree is the Chinese pistache, which does well in a residential irrigation setting. (This is not the tree that produces pistachio nuts.) He also likes mesquite trees, which are native plants, and notes you can get the thornless variety but all varieties produce seed pods.

White does not recommend ash trees anymore because of the emerald ash borer, a beetle that has wiped out millions of trees across the northeast and has now spread to Texas and Colorado.

“That destructive beetle could arrive here at any time in a load of infected firewood or infected live trees,” he said.

He’s also not fond of mulberry trees, since they were overplanted in our region and have proven to be problematic, causing horrific allergy problems (the City of El Paso has banned planting them). It’s the same with Mondale (Afghan) pines.

“They’ve been overused and overplanted here,” said White. “Yes, they are fast growing, but you know that saying about ‘live fast and die young’.”

Be sure to ask White about tree roots; you’ll be amazed to learn they don’t grow straight down. White says most roots (85-90 percent) are found in the top two feet of soil surrounding the tree, and expand out to 1.5 to two times the height of the tree. Which means: are you watering your trees in the right place?

All Lush and Lean workshops are free and open to the public; they are held Thursday evenings at the Branigan Library (200 E. Picacho) in the Roadrunner Room from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. See the complete list of speakers and Lush and Lean dates at www.las-cruces.org/WaterConservation or www.facebook.com/cityoflascruces (you don’t need a Facebook account to view this page).

You can reach Las Cruces Utilities at 528-3500 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Las Cruces Utilities provides GAS – WATER – WASTEWATER – SOLID WASTE services to approximately 100,000 Las Cruces residents and businesses.

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