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Old 01-04-2016, 12:56 PM   #31
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I sort of have a thing about looking for beauty in some of the most common, and for this reason sometimes overlooked, native plants. The box elder seems to be one of these. MoBot (the Missouri Botanical Garden site) acknowledges that it can be "invasive" in certain contexts. I had one in a woodland context that grew without producing seedlings at all. I enjoyed having it. They are dioecious. Perhaps there were none nearby enough for breeding. But, as all maples do, it really added a nice bright green to the early spring palette. (This is not to say that in some contexts it might be unwanted because of its ability to take over there.)
There are so many overlooked trees and shrubs where I live. I see them when I go hiking or along roadsides, but it's really hard to find them for sale unless you're a landscaper and can buy from wholesalers. Every time I see a Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany in someone's yard I get so excited. They have nice bright bark and the most vibrant green you could imagine in an evergreen dryland plant. In maturity they take on really dramatic, bonsai-like shapes. They produce feathery seed heads that look fantastic backlit. I walked through a large stand of them near the Idaho border, and it was like walking under a canopy of lace. In lower elevations/drier conditions they tend to be more squat, but still very dramatic. There are a couple places to buy them, but they're not yet a common sight in yards or garden centers. I put some pics below.

Also: Someday, somewhere, a grower will supply Utah Juniper -- the definitive plant of my state but pretty much impossible to find for sale. Maybe it is very hard to grow in a nursery setting, I don't know.
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Old 01-04-2016, 01:16 PM   #32
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I'm also happy to hear that planting young trees is the way to go. I've been impatiently waiting for them to mature, but over the next few years, I think I'm going to see a lot more growth. Each year I try to add more bareroot native trees and shrubs, but I'd also like to put in a couple larger ones as well (not huge, but some that have a bit of height to them already)...we'll see what I end up doing.
I definitely have had better luck with young trees here, but it’s … tricky. The native trees that are suitably drought-tolerant for the valleys (where everyone lives) tend to grow verrrry slowly. I know trees fare better if planted small, but it will be hard to sell the home-owning public on trees that may not look much like trees within the gardener's lifetime. I have a piñon sapling that, after 5 years, still is only knee-high. Of course, it is hard to expect nurseries to nurture trees for many years to get them to where they are big — at which point they would be too expensive.

Many trees will grow somewhat faster given supplemental water, which I realize isn't ideal, but it's my solution. I don't want people to see my garden and think a native plants garden will look barren, hostile and flat.
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Old 01-04-2016, 07:21 PM   #33
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Erin, The photos you've posted of the Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany are just lovely. I guess because I'm an easterner, this tree is unfamiliar to me. But it's trunk, overall habit, leaves and blooms (?) are compelling. Thanks for the introduction.

Regarding planting young trees, you have a special challenge since in your climate because they are slow growing. But I have advocated planting young trees to my brother, who lives in the suburbs of Chicago. He's been losing mature American elms to the blight. Yet, despite having been converted to planting natives, he has resisted replacing his trees (with other species of trees) for the sorts of reasons you have mentioned. I've tried to make the case that while young trees are small trees, they are nonetheless relatively large plants and so can bring some joys and pleasures, and benefits, in their own right. He's mulling it over. (E.g. most conifers have the benefit of, say, most Ilexes in so far as they provide green throughout the long Chicago winter.)
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Old 01-04-2016, 09:05 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by erinalberty View Post
There are so many overlooked trees and shrubs where I live. I see them when I go hiking or along roadsides, but it's really hard to find them for sale unless you're a landscaper and can buy from wholesalers. Every time I see a Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany in someone's yard I get so excited. They have nice bright bark and the most vibrant green you could imagine in an evergreen dryland plant. In maturity they take on really dramatic, bonsai-like shapes. They produce feathery seed heads that look fantastic backlit. I walked through a large stand of them near the Idaho border, and it was like walking under a canopy of lace. In lower elevations/drier conditions they tend to be more squat, but still very dramatic. There are a couple places to buy them, but they're not yet a common sight in yards or garden centers. I put some pics below.

Also: Someday, somewhere, a grower will supply Utah Juniper -- the definitive plant of my state but pretty much impossible to find for sale. Maybe it is very hard to grow in a nursery setting, I don't know.
That is a beautiful tree. Love the bark, the shape and the seed heads! I have never seen it before - I'm an easterner as well. I have seen Utah Juniper and it is a lovely tree.
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Old 01-04-2016, 09:09 PM   #35
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Erin, The photos you've posted of the Curl-leaf Mountain Mahogany are just lovely. I guess because I'm an easterner, this tree is unfamiliar to me. But it's trunk, overall habit, leaves and blooms (?) are compelling. Thanks for the introduction.

Regarding planting young trees, you have a special challenge since in your climate because they are slow growing. But I have advocated planting young trees to my brother, who lives in the suburbs of Chicago. He's been losing mature American elms to the blight. Yet, despite having been converted to planting natives, he has resisted replacing his trees (with other species of trees) for the sorts of reasons you have mentioned. I've tried to make the case that while young trees are small trees, they are nonetheless relatively large plants and so can bring some joys and pleasures, and benefits, in their own right. He's mulling it over. (E.g. most conifers have the benefit of, say, most Ilexes in so far as they provide green throughout the long Chicago winter.)
I'm in Michigan, so not too far from your brother in Chicago. I have started with young trees mostly for financial reasons. It really is quite amazing how quickly a young tree in the right place will grow. I enjoy watching the little ones grow! This fall I added two very small oaks and a sycamore.
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Old 01-05-2016, 08:25 AM   #36
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Yes kat, I agree. There's a great deal of pleasure in watching their progress. Oaks and sycamore are great additions. One thing I like about these small trees is that their leaves are quite accessible for close-up viewing. And for some reason, at least in my experience (perhaps someone has an explanation for this), these leaves are often larger than one sees on mature specimens. (Perhaps because their number is smaller?) Anyway, great to hear you are planting some real classical native trees, kat. (Tallamy claims that oaks support far-and-away more wildlife than any other plant in our extended region.)
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Old 01-05-2016, 11:04 AM   #37
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Yes kat, I agree. There's a great deal of pleasure in watching their progress. Oaks and sycamore are great additions. One thing I like about these small trees is that their leaves are quite accessible for close-up viewing. And for some reason, at least in my experience (perhaps someone has an explanation for this), these leaves are often larger than one sees on mature specimens. (Perhaps because their number is smaller?) Anyway, great to hear you are planting some real classical native trees, kat. (Tallamy claims that oaks support far-and-away more wildlife than any other plant in our extended region.)
I've dreamed of an American Sycamore for YEARS and was so happy to find one that wasn't a hybrid. After reading "Bringing Nature Home", I hatched the plan to remove the non-native white mulberry and replace it with an oak. Took a few years to accomplish, but it has finally happened. And waiting was a good thing as I was also able to find an oak that was native and locally grown. I brought two oaks home. The second one is getting a good start near the paper birch in the front yard that is declining due to old age. In addition to all of that, the green house where I found these gems needs volunteers in the spring/summer! Guess where I'm going to be spending my free time soon?
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Old 01-05-2016, 08:50 PM   #38
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I've dreamed of an American Sycamore for YEARS and was so happy to find one that wasn't a hybrid. After reading "Bringing Nature Home", I hatched the plan to remove the non-native white mulberry and replace it with an oak. Took a few years to accomplish, but it has finally happened. And waiting was a good thing as I was also able to find an oak that was native and locally grown. I brought two oaks home. The second one is getting a good start near the paper birch in the front yard that is declining due to old age. In addition to all of that, the green house where I found these gems needs volunteers in the spring/summer! Guess where I'm going to be spending my free time soon?
Excellent! So you willbe bringing nature home, both by means of your new trees (and the rest of your garden) and, no doubt, from your new greenhouse volunteer job. That sounds like a lot of fun.
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Old 01-06-2016, 12:49 AM   #39
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Box elders love my yard. I get lots of volunteers every year. I make use of them because I have caterpillars that like their leaves.
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Old 01-06-2016, 08:17 PM   #40
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Box elders love my yard. I get lots of volunteers every year. I make use of them because I have caterpillars that like their leaves.
Cool. What caterpillars?
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