Tree ideas to plant during your winter gardening

By Tom Dominguez, Quay County Extension

From a “new planting” perspective, the end of the year can seem to be relatively dull. With all the holiday season activity, garden activities seem less urgent. These latter months have been reserved for planting bulbs, soil preparation, and a few other garden chores. This year, why not think about taking advantage of this time to plant some trees.

When you plant a container-grown tree, there is often transplant stress as the tree acclimates to a different environment. Some species react more negatively than others to this change, but almost all trees suffer aesthetically and stop growth.

Winter is a ideal time to plant trees and shrubs because of cooler temperatures it provides a much-needed time for root development and acclimation for the new tree, thus reducing transplant stress. Winter is also often a time some deep soil moisture, resulting in even less tree stress.

Local nurseries have a good selection of trees during winter. When deciding which tree(s) to plant, you should take into account the characteristics of the proposed planting site, such as the amount of sun the site receives, the soil drainage, and the amount of room the tree will have to spread. Ask local nursery professionals about trees that are particularly well adapted for your area.

Consider these large trees:
l Live Oak has a beautifully-rounded habit, and is well-adapted to most of New Mexico which makes it a natural for planting in landscapes.
l Shumard Oak is a wonderful species of Oak for our area, and it is one of the most dependable Oaks for red fall color in North Eastern New Mexico.

For more confined spaces, consider some very attractive small trees:
l Crape Myrtles come in almost all colors and sizes, so it is a great choice for a number of different uses.
l Chinese Fringe Tree, although more rare, is a good small tree that puts on a spectacular show of refined, white flowers for two weeks in the spring. During the rest of the year, it has deep, dark, glossy green foliage and a nice shape that will certainly enhance any landscape.
l “Forest Pansy” Redbud is also a wonderful choice for New Mexico plantings. It is typical in the fact that it has pink blooms in early spring, but it differs from other Redbuds by its beautiful dark purple or even maroon foliage. This deep, lush foliage makes for an interesting specimen and along with its eclectic seed pods provides interest throughout the year.

Winter buying and planting of trees also lends itself to another use: as Christmas presents! Why not get the gardener(s) in your life something that they’ll really enjoy, and that they’ll be able to observe for a long time. Even if the people you are buying for don’t garden, you could plant the tree for them and provide enjoyment and added character to their landscape.

Brave the cool weather and plant some trees this winter. Come spring, you’ll be glad you did!