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DryGardener
05-11-2005, 09:27 PM
Having had varying results with trees I have planted in the arid desert, I wanted to know if I'm missing something that should be obvious in terms of tree selection. Property is essentially dry prairie, and thus far I have had good luck with Aspen, Red Maple, Green Ash although the leaves get destroyed by grasshoppers every year, despite continuing efforts to eradicate or at least control, Elm until the bunnies stripped the first 8 inches of bark from the bottom, and Chokecherry. Planted 10 Blue Spruce seedlings last year and so far they are doing well (I watered all trees monthly all winter). Planted 10 baby Lilacs last fall, and they have surprised me, as two snapped off at ground over winter but all 10 have leaves now! Just purchased a small Nanking Cherry at the Denver Botanic Gardens annual plant sale and I am praying it does well. Hybrid Willow is doing pretty well, and I just got another dozen rooted cuttings from a neighbor that I am hoping for. What I have planted is all we have, as the only naturally occurring growth here is buffalo grass, yucca, choya and cactus, we are on a rise partially protected from wind by a Western slope but the wind is brutal nonetheless, and we get precious little rain and snow. Anything we can plant to get shade on the South (intense sun, 5000' elevation) and windbreak to the North and West that will, at least after the first few years, do okay with little water is the goal. I am in the third year of planting the property and now have approximately 50 trees and 30 shrubs as well as many perennials. I am hoping for some natural muliplication from the Aspens and Chokecherries, but would appreciate any advice on other trees or shrubs I should be looking at. Shrub that has done best is Blue Mist Spirea, and I planted a Neomexicana last fall that has leafed out beautifully this spring, hopefully it will continue to do well. "Soil" is mainly wretched clay/shale, so I have amended anywhere I have planted, but drainage will always be an issue at some depth. Oh, and we have these adorable but destructive ground squirrels that burrow into my strawberries mercilessly!

Thanks for all advice.

cnyoak
05-13-2005, 08:18 AM
Arid, intense sun, 5,000 foot elevation. Hmmm.... I wonder why its mainly cactus and yuccas?

A couple of plants that you can try (no guarantees though becasue you have really tough conditions). All of these would likely need water for at least the first couple of years.

Bur oak - the major oak tree out in the windswept prairies.
Serviceberry - tough plant but the elevation may be too high and it may be too hot and arid.
Mountain ashes
Mesquite
Honey locust
Black locust

DryGardener
05-13-2005, 06:32 PM
LOL Yes, I agree, there is a reason for the proliferation of yucca and cactus :)

Thanks for the suggestions. I had forgotten completely about mesquite, and serviceberry to be honest I never even thought of. Have one honey locust seedling in, this is its second year, and it is leafing out, so we shall see. Thank you so much for taking the time to reply!

saccharum
05-13-2005, 08:19 PM
Have you checked out the Colorado Springs city website on tree species selection? It actually looks pretty good. Here's the page on drought-tolerant species:
http://www.springsgov.com/Page.asp?NavID=4194

You might also want to check out this xeriscape demonstration garden for ideas:
http://www.csu.org/xeri/

DryGardener
05-13-2005, 09:18 PM
Excellent websites, thanks! I have actually been to the demonstration garden, although it's been a few years and I should probably go again. I was a little disappointed in the plant-specific information at the time I went, but did bring a few ideas home. The Colorado Springs website I had never seen, and they certainly provide good lists to start research with.

It probably sounds a little twisted, but the challenge of getting things to flourish here has really excited me. I moved here from upstate NY where water is never a problem, and even full sun there doesn't hold a candle to what that means at this elevation. The wind adds an element I've never had to deal with, as it will dry things out faster than I imagined possible - not too much trouble for plants established, but for new plantings it can be devastating.

Since we try to remain wildlife friendly (I have a picture of a cottontail napping under our propane tank that is as relaxed as any house cat I've ever had) I don't like to chase the critters off, so instead try to plant things they won't kill, although they have asserted a direct challenge to the elms and phlox. We have blue scale quail that nest nearby, and one of the joys of the environment is watching 4 clutches of youngsters with their parents touring through the property twice a day, so we have left a lot of the natural cover they rely on for protection from the predators (eagles, owls, hawks, peregrine falcons, coyotes). Last year we got pictures of a dozen quail in the birdbath we put outside the kitchen window, with our indoor-only kitty racing from one window to the next for a better view! :)

With almost 6 acres of varying terrain to work with, I've barely begun, with only about 50 feet pf the perimeter of the house planted. As I move further from the house, I have to exercise ever more care (the further from the house, the harder to water), but would ultimately like to stretch the boundaries far enough that it feels like a sanctuary to both the people and the animals that share the land.

Ellyssian
05-14-2005, 08:23 AM
Sounds like it will be a lot of fun!

I remember being incredibly surprised at the variety of flowering plants in the painted desert - I had expected a barren landscape, and found quite the opposite.

One of the things I noted is that most plants are very low growing... however, I did see a picture of canyon live oak growing in very arid conditions. It was a fairly large and beautiful tree.