Soule Garden: You can plant on Arbor Day, but best wait - Tucson Local Media: El Sol

Soule Garden: You can plant on Arbor Day, but best wait

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Posted: Tuesday, April 20, 2010 11:00 pm | Updated: 8:12 am, Thu Mar 24, 2011.

Arbor Day is celebrated in Arizona on the last Friday in April.

Arbor Day is not a national holiday, but was decided on a state by state basis. Around the USA, Arbor Day is celebrated as early as the third Friday in January (in Florida and Louisiana), to "the last full week in February" (Alabama), to March 7-14 (California). April is popular, celebrated from the second Wednesday (Washington), to the second Friday (Virginia), to the last Monday (Wyoming) and the last Friday (Wisconsin, Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia).

Some cooler states celebrate later. North Dakota and Vermont celebrate the first Friday in May, and Alaska and Maine on the third Monday in May. Latest in the year are Hawaii, with the first Friday in November, and South Carolina, with the first Friday in December.

One western state did it sensibly, dividing their large state geographically. Southern Nevada celebrates Arbor Day Feb. 28, while northern Nevada celebrates April 23.

In most of Arizona, ideally plant trees in autumn or in January, so they can become well established with a healthy widespread root system before the searing summer heat (Ice Break is usually three or four weeks from today). So why is Arbor Day so late in Arizona? Blame the politicians! No. Really.

The Arbor Day Foundation was trying to get every state to have an Arbor Day, and pressed the governor to select a day. Thus the decision was made, apparently without consulting anybody who knew anything about trees and growing them in our climate.

Personally, I think we should petition to change the celebration to Oct. 1 statewide. That date would work for all our growing regions, be easy to remember, plus make us the only state to celebrate in that month, highlighting our uniqueness.

Be that as it may, you could plant a tree on Arbor Day, as long as you are prepared to pamper it through the summer to help it get established. And, if you have followed my columns for a while, you know I have mostly covered the trees starting with "A." So let's look at some that start with "B."

Bauhinias have leaves shaped like butterflies. Some large species come China and are high-water users. Chihuahuan Desert species such as anacacho (Bauhinia lunarioides, was B. congesta) and the Mexican orchid tree (B. mexicana) use less water and fit well in smaller spaces. Both flower intermittently through the warm months with orchid-like flowers. Both species reach around 15 feet tall, and confusingly both come in white and pink varieties. The main difference is in the degree of shrubbiness, with anacacho needing a great deal of attention when young to be trained into tree form.

The hard-to-find retuma (Bulnesia retuma) comes to us from South America. It is a fast grower, quickly reaching mature size of around 15 feet tall and wide, then it grows only a little each year. This thornless single-trunked tree is adorned with very pretty hops-like papery fruits in fall.

Most people are familiar with the red bird of paradise that generally freezes to the ground in winter. It's from the West Indies, so can you blame it for finding our winters cold? In the same genus are two species from Mexico that don't freeze back in our area and can be trained into lovely multi-trunked trees. Cascalote (Caesalpinia cacalaco) reaching 15 feet, has bright green leaves, bright yellow blooms, and thorns. Mexican bird of paradise (Caesalpinia mexicana) reaches around 12 feet with similar bright green leaves and glorious yellow blooms that appear intermittently throughout the warm months. Less common, but worth the search are the copper caesalpinia (C. pumila) also to around 15 feet, and the taller palo colorado (C. platyloba), reaching 20 to 25 feet.

Often overlooked when selecting trees is a native ideally adapted to live here. Foothills palo verde (Cercidium microphyllum) has a attractive multi-trunked form that reaches around 20 tall and wide. The lovely yellow blooms are often falsely blamed for allergies since they appear in the same season as a desert ragweed, whose pollen blows for miles.

My only problem with any of these trees is that there is not enough room in my yard for all of them.

Got plants but not sure how to care for them? Want to start a vegetable garden but need some tips? I will be your "Garden Coach" and help you move forward with your landscape or gardening plans. Give me a call at 292-0504. Please leave a voice message.

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