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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Monday - September 24, 2012

From: LAS CRUCES, NM
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Need a shade tree for an enclosed courtyard in Las Cruces, NM
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

I HAVE A WEST FACING COURTYARD ENCLOSED WITH A 6' STUCCO WALL AND I WANT TO ADD A SHADE TREE. CURRENTLY HAVE SEVERAL MESQUITE TREES, DESERT WILLOW, CHINESE PISTACHE & VITEX TREES IN THE FRONT AREA OUTSIDE THE COURTYARD. COURTYARD CURRENTLY HAS A CREPE MYRTLE, 3 HEAVENLY BAMBO AND A COUPLE OF SMALL SHRUBS.

ANSWER:

You didn’t mention the size of your courtyard, and based on the inventory of existing plants that you gave, I think that I should mention that the mission of the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center is to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes. Both of these factors would influence Mr. Smarty Plants’  recommendations.

Let’s address tree placement and spacing first. The Texas Tree Planting Guide that is produced by the Texas Forest Service is just full of information about planting trees. A particularly useful feature  is the Tree Planting Tools . The  articles “How Big Your Tree Will Grow”, and “Planning Your Available Space” should be useful. This link to City of Houston Parks and Recreation Dept. also deals with spacing problems (scroll down to WHERE TO PLANT.

As for tree selection, I’m including two links to two guides from the New Mexico State University Cooperative Extension Service: “Shade Trees for New Mexico”  has tips about tree selection and planting, and tree care. It contains a list of trees with both scientific name and common names. It also has information about water use, allergy potential, growing zone selection and planting criteria, potential problems, and height. The other guide, “Selecting Ornamental Trees for New Mexico” has a similar format, but the list of trees is longer.

Another tool to use for tree selection is our NPIN Database . Scroll down to the Combination Search Box and make the following selections; select New Mexico under State,  tree under Habit, and perennial under Duration. Check sun under Light requirement and dry under Soil moisture. Click on the Submit Combination Search button, and you will get a  list of 48 native trees for New Mexico landscapes. Clicking  on the scientific name of each plant will bring up its NPIN page which contains a description of the plant, its growth characteristics and requirements, and in most cases images.

Another way you can use the database is to get more descriptive information and images of plants that you find in the NMSU guides. Type the name of a plant from the guides in the appropriate space in the green box labeled Search Native Plant Database and click the go button. This will bring up the NPIN page for that plant.

With a perseverance, you should be able to come up with the perfect plant for your court yard. For some help closer to home, you might contact the folks at the Dona Ana County office of NMSU Cooperative Extension.

 

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