Tuff Trees

IncolaParadisi33December 24, 2013


I have just moved from my warm, moist home state of Kentucky to a cold, dry, and wind whipped part of Colorado. It�s climate is 4b and it gets about an inch of rain per month, with about a half inch per month in the winter.

A particular plot of land I am considering purchasing has little more growing on it that scrub bushes. There is a tree line of Pinions about a quarter mile away, but a neighbor says it�s hard to move them down to the neighborhood (not sure why).

A complicating factor is the fact that the property is on a well, which leaves little water for landscaping, and most neighbors do little more that move a few rocks around at the end of their driveways.

The challenge of creating a low water oasis in this harsh environment is appealing, but I am lacking experience and plant knowledge to pull it off, which is where I�m hoping to get some direction from you over the next few months.

I am particularly interested in finding some trees that can tolerate this environment. Something that I could perhaps give a water boost to help it grow, water source permitting, but could survive on their own if they were "cut off". I love pine trees, but would also like to throw "normal trees" into the mix. Aspens grow naturally here, but typically hug the mountains and grow around water sources.


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jaliranchr(z5 EC CO)

Welcome to RMG, Incola!

It would help us to know if you are Front Range or Western Slope, north or south. I've added a link to the state extension for some basic tree suggestions that you could explore for a start.

Denver Water pioneered xeriscaping and they have some wonderful resources, as do the Denver Botanical Gardens, Colorado Springs Utilities and CSU extension service. As well as lots of varying experiences on this board. Good luck and welcome!

Here is a link that might be useful: Colorado Extension tree help

    Bookmark   December 25, 2013 at 1:54PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

you might want to also check in the in the tree.. and conifer forums ...

moving large plants [i odnt understand if that is what you were suggesting from yoru story above] ... is problematic ... whereas planting smaller babes can be done with minimal effort.. and minimal aftercare .. but dont get me wrong... they will still need water for up to 2 years after transplant ... but the amount will be significantly less ...

with a camera .. and posting in various forums .... you can find and ID the things that are already in your general area.. and work from there ...

are you sure on the pinion ID ...???


    Bookmark   December 25, 2013 at 2:09PM
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treebarb Z5 Denver

Welcome, Incola and Ken, too!

Ken, I was just talking about you, a couple of postings down! What a pleasant surprise! Merry Christmas to you and yours. I hope the worst of the weather missed you!

Incola, it sounds like you are becoming aware of your new "normal". When you say normal trees, are you talking about deciduous trees, those that lose their leaves in fall?

I started 5 years ago with a windbreak planting, a double staggered row of Rocky Mountain Junipers (juniperus scopulorum). I started with 6 inch seedlings, some are over 5 feet tall now. Now that they are mostly free range I've started adding Pinon (pinus edulis), Ponderosa pine (pinus ponderosa), Austrian pine (Pinus nigra) to the interior for some variety. I'm including the latin names because if you do venture over to the conifer and tree forums, they may want that for the sake of clarity.

I've started getting adventurous with Picea (spruce) cultivars, like Picea orientalis, Picea omorika, Picea pungens and lesser known pines like Pinus bungeana, Pinus heldreichii/leucodermis, and well, a host of others.

jaliranchr is right, where you are in the state matters. Come spring, a soil test will be tremendously helpful in letting you know what you're working with. Your ph and soil type (clay or sand) will narrow down your plant selection considerably.

Now that the emerald ash borer is here, I'd avoid ash trees, which pains me because they do so well here when so many trees don't. I've picked a handful of ash to treat with Imidacloprid in hopes of saving them.

For deciduous, I like Kentucky coffee (gymnocladus dioica), Honeylocust (gleditsia triacanthos), Linden (tilia), Catalpa (speciosa) and oaks (Quercus) Scarlet (coccinea), Swamp White (bicolor), Bur (macrocarpa), Chinkapin (muehlenbergii), White (Alba) and Northern red (rubra).

I apologize for any spelling errors!

I'm including a link from the Colorado tree coalition. It's mostly for the front range and I have a feeling you're up higher at zone 4, but it'll give you some ideas.


Here is a link that might be useful: Front Range Tree Recommendation List

    Bookmark   December 25, 2013 at 3:59PM
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david52 Zone 6

In the environment you describe, you won't move established pinion or pine trees successfully. They've likely shot a tap root down for who knows how deep, twisting in and out of broken rock, and you'll never get that out intact.

You might check with the county extension agency, and the soil conservation district - they sell what you need in terms of species and the where-with-all to get the seedlings started.

    Bookmark   December 26, 2013 at 9:26AM
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I would say that starting young trees is going to be your best bet. Moving a grown tree is an expensive and risky business; not all survive the shock. We have had luck moving trees back in Iowa, but it is much more humid there, and the soil is absolutely beautiful.

I myself would focus on native plants and trees, as these usually have the easiest time of surviving. Treebarb has an excellent point of the soil test. Working with your type of soil, rather than against it, will help your plants thrive. It sounds like you live in a wilder place than the suburb, so I say go with it! A patch of wildflowers is a thing of beauty, and it helps to hold soil, and provides food to bees and birds. That and they are pretty difficult to kill. Once established, they grow for years without much care. Check out Western Native Seed. They have a ton to choose from and make mixes too. http://www.westernnativeseed.com/

Pines, junipers, and spruces are going to be your hardiest native trees. I like a good drought tolerant maple myself, I just love the fall color. I believe Bigtooth maples are native here. Sugar maples, hackberry, bur oak, catalpa also do well and are fairly drought resistant. Water and protect their trunks for a few years, and you will have healthy, strong trees in the long run.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 1:28PM
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from the Snake River Plains (Idaho):

My climate is the wind-whipped desert; sounds somewhat similar to you. Soil here is alkaline; close to pH8.

Previous posters gave you great advice. The trees that have done well for us (planted here in the last 5 years) are:

pinyon pines, both single and double-needle
bur oaks

We also planted bristlecone pines, which have really disappointed- a number of them have died or threatened to do so; they are interspersed with the pinyons and received the same care.

After 5 years, the pinyon pines only receive occasional irrigation in the hot and dry part of summer- only a couple of times last summer. All but one which was stolen by some critter (it just disappeared) are coming along well. They might be doing OK (after first 3 or so years when they needed help getting established) with no supplemental water at all; but I like to thank them with a drink when it is bone dry.

Toughness and drought-tolerance of both bur oaks and pinyon pines is really impressive ! Good luck with your plantings.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2014 at 4:07PM
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