It is important to remember when looking for a tree that the mature size listed in any kind of text is a general suggestion. While with ideal conditions any tree might grow larger, it’s more likely, especially in more extreme environments like ours, that the tree will not reach the maximum size except with extremely good care. Generally, I see planting ornamental trees as a long-term plan, especially considering that as they mature they are far and away considered to be the most expensive plants that will add value to your landscape and home.
So if you want a truly healthy tree for the long term you should always care for it well. As such, know that while reducing water will most likely reduce the size of the tree, over the long term trees don’t react well to this and will start experiencing stress, which invites insect and disease problems.
For someone who wants a smaller, slower growing tree but one that does very well here, there is the netleaf hackberry, Celtis reticulate. At 20 to 40 feet in height and slightly smaller in width it’s not going to produce the most shade, especially with its more open and smaller leaf structure. However, that makes it a great candidate for our climate, as any tree with a smaller leaf structure survives better because it experiences less water demands. The fruit it produces is loved by birds and was eaten by many native peoples.
Another possibility is the Chinese pistache, Pistacia chinensis, which has a medium to fast growth rate and averages 30 to 35 feet in height and 25 to 35 feet in width. Its dark green foliage can turn to orange or orange-red in the fall. It should be quite adaptable to our area and make a nice tree, although the female trees can be a bit messy.
For those who want evergreens, likely not for shade but other reasons, there are two basic types recommended for this area. The Rocky Mountain juniper, Juniperus scopulorum, can grow to 30 to 40 feet high and three to 15 feet wide, depending on the cultivated variety, or cultivar. This tree does very well in our area. There are a multitude of cultivars of this juniper, leading to different sizes and shapes and even colors from green to bluish. These are often used as screens or windbreaks. Another evergreen is the Utah juniper, Juniperus osteosperma, growing up to 15 feet in height. Both of these are slower growing but very tolerant of the conditions found here in our area.
Of course, there are other trees, small to large, that can grow well here, but remember that all of these plants benefit from good soil preparation and really good care for the first year or two, meaning don’t let them get stressed out. Afterwards, basic good care should allow them to grow well and give you lots of pleasure for years to come.
Thought for the day: “By respecting the trees, you prove that you are a person who deserves to be respected!” —Mehmet Murat ildan.
For more information about these topics call the Utah State University Extension Grand County office at 259-7558 or email Mike Johnson at firstname.lastname@example.org.