Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
June, 2004
Regional Report

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Chaste tree has varieties with white, lavender, and pink flowers.

Add Color with Desert-Adapted Trees

I met a fellow the other day whose landscape plan involved adding enough trees to "create a forest" in his yard. I liked the sentiment. My yard doesn't offer enough space for all of the trees I covet, but I have a wish list for whenever I move to a vast acreage, as opposed to a suburban lot. There are many beautiful, desert-adapted trees that perhaps aren't as well-known as mesquite or palo verde but that add color and unusual features to the landscape.

On My Wish List
Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus). If you are homesick for lilacs, perhaps this tree will help. It blooms with long, lavender spikes in summer. There are also white (alba) and pink (rosea) varieties. The tree grows in a shrublike shape, and can be trained as a large shrub or small tree, reaching 20 feet tall and wide. It's deciduous in winter.

Indian rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo). The first time I saw this tree, I did a double-take to make sure I wasn't looking at quaking aspen, a heavy water-user found at high elevations. Also called sissoo, this tree's foliage is a shimmering green that adds a lush look to the landscape. It grows fast, providing a shady canopy 40 feet high and 30 feet wide. It's frost tender at 25 degrees.

Silk floss (Chorisia speciosa). Native to Brazil and Argentina, this tree blooms in autumn with spectacular oversized, rosy-pink flowers that scream "look-at-me." If that doesn't pique your interest, perhaps the green trunk studded with fearsome-looking thorns will. Thorns are wide at the base where they attach to the trunk and taper to a stabbing point. Probably not the best tree if you have children or pets who race around the yard like unrestrained banshees. It's deciduous in winter.

Chinese pistache (Pisacia chinensis). This tree provides a vivid splash of red autumn foliage to the landscape. Since colors vary, purchase the young tree in fall so you know what you are getting. You'll also be able to experience the joys of fall raking, as this tree is deciduous. A good shade provider, it reaches 40 feet high and 35 wide.

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