SHORT-LIVED CHRISTMAS TREES
LONG-LASTING CHRISTMAS GIFTS
Thanksgiving has passed and preparation for Christmas
is in full swing. This means that much will be written and spoken
about care and culture of poinsettias and Christmas trees. I
have logged numerous articles about taking care of poinsettias
and cut Christmas trees on PLANTanswers.com at: http://www.plantanswers.com/poinsettia.htm
The latter URL contains the famous Parsons' Ice Cube Watering
technique for poinsettias as perfected by Jeremy Parsons. All
of that will be re-invented and restated in the weeks to come.
You may have noticed I have never written a column
about the best living Christmas trees for this area. The reason
is my embarrassment over a terrible recommendation which I helped
promote 16 years ago on March 11, 1989. I, along with the county
Extension horticulturist at that time, recommended the planting
of Eldarica (Afghan) pines as living Christmas trees for this
area's alkaline soils. Even the publications from Texas A&M
such as: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/plantanswers/trees/christmastree.html
suggested we should plant Eldaricas in alkaline soils and Virginia
pines in the sand. Time has proven this to be a horrible recommendation
because only after 10 years when the tree is large and expensive
to remove does it begin to deteriorate and eventually dies.
Mark Peterson, Texas Forest Service Regional Urban Forester
writes: "In Central Texas, the major problem with Afghan
pines is that people over water and over fertilize. Because
Afghans grow in approximately 20 inches of annual rainfall,
or approximately two-thirds of this area's rainfall, they never
need to be watered here. Therefore, I tell people who want to
grow Afghan pines to find the hottest, driest place, water twice
after planting, and then never water again, especially by a
sprinkler. The quickest way to kill an Afghan is to irrigate
and grow grass next to them. If your Afghan pine is dying from
the base up and inside out on the branches, then it probably
has Diplodia pinea and it is a "goner". "
Some nurseries are providing a public service
by not selling Afghan (Eldarica) pines-they are to be commended.
Let's encourage ALL nurseries in this area to follow this one
nursery's example. If you want to purchase a living container-grown
Christmas tree for your landscape, choose from Italian Stone
Pine, Cedrus Deodora, Aleppo Pine, and Blue Point Juniper ONLY!!
For your reading enjoyment of the worst plant
recommendation I ever made, I have posted the original column
which was published in the San Antonio Light newspaper on March
11, 1989. Since making this blunder, I have stayed away from
recommending trees and shrubs without at least 100 years of
testing. That list which have done well in this area for over
a century can be found at: http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/plantanswers/publications/southcnt.html
If you decide to try something which is not on this list----all
I can say is "May God have Mercy on your soul!" The
1989 column read:
ELDARICA--THE PINE FOR
So you want to grow a pine tree in Texas--be
careful or you may end up with a dead tree instead! There seems
to be only one pine species adapted to San Antonio.
Pinus eldarica is the scientific name of this
extraordinary pine. Common names for this tree include Mondell
pine, Afghan pine and Lone Star Christmas tree, but the most
widely accepted is simply Eldarica pine.
The Eldarica pine was first observed some 2500
years ago in the desert regions of the Middle East. This desert-loving
conifer developed its hardiness through an unusual history in
a desolate corner of southern Russia near the Caspian Sea. Its
tough nature is a legacy molded by relentless heat and drought.
About 500 B.C., Persian nobility used the Eldarica pine to create
forested gardens where few other plants could even survive.
It was so prized that commoners were forbidden ownership of
the tree - from which comes its name - "The Tree of Royalty."
The Eldarica pine was first introduced to the Southwestern United
States from Asia in the fall of 1961. The United State Department
of Agriculture brought five pounds of Pinus Eldarica seed from
Afghanistan and distributed it to several universities to research
as to the plant's adaptability. The Eldarica now thrives in
landscapes throughout California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
The Eldarica looks much like a Scotch pine. It
grows in a natural Christmas tree shape without pruning. The
Eldarica has symmetrical branching and needles 4 to 5 inches
long both of which contribute to the fullness of the tree.
These pine trees are available as container grown
trees and can be planted now. So if you have the urge for piney
woods, at least give yourself a chance by planting one which
is adapted--the Eldarica.
Now that my confession is out of the way, let
us discuss Christmas gifts which keep on giving. I have listed
7 gifts which are perfect for most people-of-the-soil at: http://www.plantanswers.com/garden_column/120301/120301.htm
All of these gifts are not plant related. The plant related
items include: a listing of recommended horticulture books;
a listing of the best two horticultural magazines (Neil Sperry's
Gardens Magazine and Texas' Gardener Magazine) in the state;
and beautiful wildflower and nature photos taken by one of Texas'
most talented photographers, Joe Lowery. The non-horticulture
gift ideas include old-fashioned salt-cured ham; venison for
urbanites who want to know what they are missingby not harvesting
the deer populations in their neighborhood; and DVD's of the
world's greatest exhibition shooters-one of which was Adolph
Toepperwein who was a San Antonio native, worked as a cartoonist
for the San Antonio Daily Express (Express-News), and was the
greatest shot of all time. See: http://www.plantanswers.com/toepperwein.htm
So let's enjoy Christmas this year and for years to come by
buying living Christmas trees which will actually live and giving
Christmas presents which will truly be enjoyed.