As the holiday season fast approaches, its time plan and discuss if you might want a living holiday tree – be it a “Chanukah bush” or Christmas tree. Pines are found throughout the Holy Land (a climate much like ours), including some that produce nuts – so if you are moving towards an edible landscape, this might be the time to add a pine!
Pines make lovely low-water landscape plants. They provide housing for wildlife, especially hawks and owls, plus shade your home helping reduce energy consumption for cooling. The needles can be used as a wonderful, soil building mulch for other plants around your yard or garden. Once established, most pines will need water once a month in the hot dry months.
Any living holiday tree can become the basis for wonderful memories. Here in Tucson, we had three pines in succession, one per year – one for each kid. Within a few years in the ground these three pines in the corner of the yard made a lovely small grove of climbable trees – and our own secret play spot under their boughs.
Choose Your Pine
Southwestern nurseries commonly offer Afghan or eldarica pine (Pinus eldarica) from Afghanistan or the Aleppo pine (Pinus halepensis) from the area around Aleppo in the Middle East. But as mentioned earlier – if you are going to plant it, water it, and take care of it – how about some food from it? Pine nuts are tasty. Four species of Southwestern pinyon pines do well here, as well as two species of nut pine, the source of most commercial pine nuts.
Pine Species to Select From
Southwest species that can currently be found in the nursery trade and are known to survive in our region.
Mexican pinyon – Pinus cembroides
Texas pinyon or papershell pinyon – Pinus remota
Two-needle pinyon or Colorado pinyon – Pinus edulis
Single-leaf pinyon – Pinus monophylla
Old World nut pines that will survive in our alkaline soils:
Pinus pinea – Italian stone pine, grown in the Holy Land for over 2000 years.
Pinus koraiensis – Korean pine
Pine nuts are a tasty addition to a number of dishes. Plus how fun to get them from your own tree!
I created an online class “Living Holiday Trees & Shrubs.” It discusses which ones are best for the Southwest, complete with a handout. You can go to the website that hosts it (Thinkific), and once you opt in ($9.99) the course is yours to watch over and over. Fun and easy.
Living Holiday Tree Care
Enjoy your living holiday tree, what ever the species.
Avoid over-watering your tree while it is in its winter dormancy. Let the soil dry somewhat between watering.
Avoid taking your pine from a toasty warm house directly out into a freezing yard. Some time in a transition zone, like on a sheltered patio, will help increase it’s survival chances.
Plant your tree in the ground in late February or March.
There are some house plants, like this Norfolk Island pine, you could use a living trees, but that will have to be another post.
If you live in Southeastern Arizona, please come to one of my free lectures that I mention on my Facebook page. After each event I will be signing copies of my books, including “Month by Month Gardening for Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico” (Cool Springs Press). This link is to Amazon and if you buy the book there I will get a few pennies.
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