Have you noticed the recent change in weather patterns? Summers seem to be getting warmer. Dry periods seem to last a little longer. What is that doing to your landscaping?
You might have noticed little things. A plant dies. Brown leaves appear on your favorite shrubs. Even the flowers you loved to tuck into spaces don’t seem to thrive as well as they once did.
While it’s easy to adjust what annuals you buy and plant each year, it’s not as easy to replace your trees. These towering giants last for decades, and if you lose one, it will be sorely missed. That’s why drought-tolerant trees are your best bet.
Native or Drought Tolerant, Which Is Better?
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service recommends using native plants as much as possible for all of your gardening needs. It makes sense for a variety of reasons.
Native plants occur naturally. You’ll find them throughout the local geography, even without human intervention. And if Mother Earth knows what’s best for an area, why should we fight it?
Yet keep in mind that native plants aren’t always drought tolerant; what they can do is survive the normal conditions. And as our weather patterns continue to change, that’s what separates native from drought-tolerant trees.
There are a few reasons to look for both.
Drought tolerant trees have lower water requirements to survive and thrive. Native plants have a proven track record of growing comfortably in the environment. And for most native plants, once they are established, they will usually flourish. However, it is important to talk with a local arborist and get recommendations on the best trees to plant for a long life.
An unkempt tree is an unhealthy tree. And when a tree requires a lot of maintenance, it tends to be a chore most homeowners put off until they no longer have a choice. Native plants thrive in our area. Because they adapt more easily, they require less fertilizing, pruning, and other basic care. It means you can spend your time on other landscaping items, such as planting annuals or simply enjoying your backyard.
Drought tolerant landscapes aren’t the same as “zero-scaping”. A well-designed yard will look great all year long. That means your drought-tolerant trees are the focal point of your yard. Bushes and shrubs are planted to complement and never take over the space. And other annuals and perennials are woven in to create depth and ambiance throughout. While it’s easy to get lots of ideas on popular online home websites, be sure to focus on those that are specifically designed for our Oregon climate.
A native tree is simply more eco-friendly. Because they are accustomed to the surrounding environment, they develop root systems that give them what they need. There’s less chance of erosion. And because they are perfect for the environment, they add to the biodiversity of the landscape. They’re ideal for the wildlife that lives here.
Our Concept of Native Trees Is Changing
It’s also important to note that just because a species of tree has always thrived in the past doesn’t make it the best choice for the future.
Trees such as Douglas fir might be a common sight throughout our region. But have you ever noticed that they tend to do better in some places than others? As lower elevations continue to warm, that will continue to be the case.
Here in western Oregon, we tend to have an “all on, all off” weather pattern. You can often expect half-year of saturated soils, followed by another half-year of ground that barely sees any water. Even in these native conditions, trees that belong in this region need a little extra help when they’re new. They may need a drink during the summer months to prevent them from weakening and are then more susceptible to things like disease or insect infestation.
What Trees Do We Like?
If you want to plant drought-tolerant trees in your front or back yard, it’s important to select the right trees. And we have a few trees in mind. like the Oregon white oak. These deciduous trees are slow-growing trees that reach medium height. The characteristic leaves are long and broad. They have nondescript flowering properties that produce small acorns by the fall. While you can find different color variations throughout the species, they are unspectacular in the fall, rarely changing color.
Or the Pacific madrone. Looking to add a little beauty to your landscape? Look no further than this one, known for its distinct red/brown bark that peels away to a lighter brown in the summer. This Pacific Northwest native evergreen has beautiful, glossy green leaves and distinctive white clusters of blooms that change to small, red fruit. No two trees are ever the same, so why not plant two?
How about the ponderosa pine? This species of pine has the longest, most flexible needles. You’ll find it easy to distinguish from other species by its yellow to orange bark. They can grow quite tall—60 to 100 feet in height. The thick bark makes them the perfect choice in fire danger areas, as the bark keeps them well protected throughout the year.
Are you looking for a fast-growing tree to add color to your gardens? Why not plant a mimosa tree? This drought-tolerant tree grows 20 to 25 feet in height. It has a tropical look, but don’t let that fool you. It thrives in the sun. What you’ll love best are the fragrant, hot-pink blooms that grow in clusters. It’s the perfect addition to make your spring color pop.
Are you thinking of adding a tree to your yard this year? Why not plant a drought-tolerant tree? Not only will it be the perfect addition to your home, but the environment will thank you too.