YOUR HOMETOWN GARDENER

Paul and Nila Dowlearn-Owners of Wichita Valley Nursery. Paul’s recent books, “The Lazy Man’s Garden” and “Touch the Earth” are available at the Nursery, 5314 S.W. Pkwy, Wichita Fall, Texas.

Many years ago, I was shopping at the Berend Bros. located on Seymour Hwy. here in The Falls. I was young and single so not yet in the market for a Christmas tree. However, I do remember seeing among the cut trees that were common in those days, a Scotch pine with root crown intact and wrapped in stretched burlap. Now, I thought, that is a very good idea.

Going back to when I was still in school. One year a half dozen or so of my neighbors had tried using some of the new “miracle” root stimulators to dust the trunk and stuck their old Christmas trees in the ground. Although this showed good intent, none of those trees actually rooted. As soon as the weather warmed, they all eventually dried out and died. This happened only once, to my recollection.

In those days the local kids would gather up the used trees as folks set them out for trash. We would build “forts” and fashion some pretty evil looking spears, clubs, plus try to make bow and arrows using our pocket knives. You could donate trees to someone who had a lake cabin so they could weigh them down and sink them to make some good fish habitat. Otherwise, all cut trees were destined to go into the local landfill.

When it came my turn as a retailer to think on the Christmas tree options, I thought back to that Scotch pine with the root ball. That was my answer. This would give me a niche that would not compete with all the cut tree lots run by nonprofits. It would not compete with the various fake trees sold by the Megamarts. Our trees would not have to wind up in a landfill or turned into mulch. They would not have to be stored in boxes to be hauled out and reassembled next year. In fact, these living trees that did not sell for Christmas could be kept alive and sold later as good-looking landscape specimens. This fit my penchant for practicality and sustainability to a tee. Perfect!!

Nila and I searched around and eventually found a tree farm located in New Mexico that specialized in Afghan pines (pinus eldarica). Afghans are true desert pines that are well suited to the western two thirds of Texas through the drier lowlands of the Southwestern U.S. The wholesaler we have dealt with is arguably the best if not most experienced source for these trees. They are pruned and pampered to be fully branched trees that can compete with the looks of your common cut trees. After Christmas you have what has come to be the better adapted pine tree for Texoma. We are seeing these now being used around town and especially out in the country for windbreaks and visual screening.

The Parks & Rec folks in Wichita Falls have planted all sorts of pine trees around town on our medians, parks, and municipal properties. The two that have proven to be the better survivors are Japanese black pine (pinus thunbergia) and Afghan pine. Basically, the Japanese black pines tend to grow crooked with open branching while the Afghans grow straight and full. Two of the oldest and largest Afghans I know of are right out front of Rider High on their median. I reckon those are near thirty years old and now huge. Fastest growing pines that can survive here for certain.

We do sell Japanese black pines, red cedars, and a few others that can be decorated then planted outside in your landscape. If you are a creative individual, then you are limited only by your own imagination. I think one of the prettier trees my family used was a painted and decorated tumbleweed. Not to be outdone, my Nila and son PJ decorated a gnarly mesquite branch one year. They were so proud we left the thing decorated in our living room and put presents under it again the next season. Reduce, reuse, recycle… I loved it!

If any of you are intrigued by this then come on out and browse. Some folks like to decorate during Thanksgiving while the family is present. Some decorate on Christmas Eve. No matter. You know the better looking specimens are gonna get picked first. We will tag your choice and hold it until you are ready. We will be happy to arrange delivery or planting after Christmas if needed.

On the other hand, if you just like the looks of a Douglas fir or blue spruce then please patronize your local lots and support your local nonprofits. Fake trees are getting pretty expensive, but you may get many years of use with proper storage. If you need a bunch of trees for a windbreak, we do have smaller, more affordable trees.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving Holiday and all that goes with it. Remember the elderly and honor them. Don’t forget those that may be homeless or visitors that must stay here and cannot make it home. It was not unusual to have strangers at our Thanksgiving dinner table. My folks were just that way and we all enjoyed and benefited from those visitors.

It is a near perfect day again this Sunday, so I am headed outside to begin my commune with Nature. Hope you do as well… Happy Thanksgiving!

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