February is Arbor Month in the Lower Rio Grande Valley and that means it's time to talk about my favorite subject - TREES! I think trees are the single most important aspect of a landscape. The home we raised our family in backed up to the Arroyo Colorado. This gave us a wonderful natural border of native trees - anacua on the sides, a huge ebony in the back, and then mesquite, tepeguaye, huisache and more all down the steep bank to the Arroyo. Needless to say, our yard was teeming with wildlife. When we moved, we planted a native tree thicket. Although it's new, the additional nesting and food sources have helped attract a larger variety of wildlife to this yard.
Did you know that you can change the climate in your yard by planting a few trees! Asphalt, concrete and buildings raise the air temperature by several degrees. (Just step out of your car at the mall in August and you'll see what I mean!) The shade from trees, along with leaf transpiration, will lower that temperature for you. Frankly, tree lined streets just make me smile!
Valley Proud Environment Countil has an excellent Tree Guide that can be downloaded from their website. It lists their favorites for our area along with planting, pruning, and general care tips. It's quite a large PDF file so be patient. It's chocked full of good information and well worth the wait!
My favorite shade trees for deep south Texas include Live Oaks, Cedar Elm, Anacua, Mesquite, and Ebony. For seasonal color, I love Texas Mountain Laurel, Wild Olive, and Royal Poinciana.
The Texas Mountain Laurels, Sophora Secundaflora, are just beginning to bloom. This deep purple is typical of their flowers. Its fragrance will take you back to drinking grape koolaid on the back porch. Occasionally, you will come across a rare white blooming mountain laurel. They produce a pod of dark red seeds, which happen to be toxic. Texas Mountain Laurel is a slow growing accent tree - rarely getting over 12 feet tall. When purchasing one, look for a container grown tree. If your nurseryman is carrying balled and burlapped ones, make sure yours has been cured for three weeks.
If you are wanting to add a tree to your landscape this year, do it now! Valley Proud has a goal of planting 3,000,000 trees in the Rio Grande Valley by 2015. Plant a memory; plant a tree.