Tooele Transcript Bulletin – News in Tooele, Utah

April 17, 2014
Tried and true tree varieties for our valley, part two

Thanks to those that came out to the dedication of the Larry Sagers Memorial Garden. If you weren’t able to participate, be sure to stop by the garden in the next few weeks. The garden will become even more beautiful as the weather warms with its wide range of trees, shrubs, bulbs and flowering plants.  It’s surrounded by an ornamental metal fence on one end, with a beautiful walk that meanders through it leading to a masonry sitting wall. The tulips are coming on, so stop by and enjoy the view, get some ideas, and see the memorial plaque that was unveiled this last weekend.

Thanks as well to Kari Scribner (current president of the Tooele County Master Gardener’s Association) for her great article last week on the “Ladies of the Master Gardeners.” Joyce, Mae, Barbara and Pat are gardening friends, and it was great to see them featured. Pat Jessie and Barbara Barlow are hosts at this year’s Spring Garden Tour scheduled for Saturday, June 14. They have both created garden spaces that you’ll not want to miss. Watch for more information on the Tour right here in the weeks to come.

Let’s continue our conversation from last week on what tree varieties work really well in our area. I’m featuring a couple of my friends in this week’s article that really know their trees and both live in our valley. Gary and Janet Fawson hail from Grantsville and have literally hundreds of varieties of trees, shrubs, plants and grasses on their grounds. Gary is the “sparkplug” behind the Tree USA program and certification in Grantsville as well as the annual Arbor Events there. Equally knowledgeable and passionate about landscaping and trees, Wade Anderson and his wife Regina are owners of Tooele Valley Nursery. Wade is a formally trained horticulturist, and he and Regina make their home in Stansbury Park. Both Wade and Gary have given me the benefit of their insights about what trees work well here, which ones are desirable and why. It’s my pleasure to pass their knowledge and observations on to you.

Wade broke down his recommendations into two categories: medium to large trees and small or flowering specimen trees. While he’s a fan of some really popular choices like Honey Locust and Londonplane, there are others that he feels should also be planted more often. A case in point is the elm. The elm tree family that has gained, in his view, an unwarranted bad reputation. Most of the available varieties for our area are excellent trees, possessing desirable traits. They are tough, drought tolerant, and disease and pest resistant.  While the Siberian elm is highly susceptible to disease and pest damage, there are many other elms that are better choices and are well adapted to our soils. These include Frontier, Emerald Sunshine and Allee.

Wade also favors are some of the less common varieties of Maple. Bigtooth, Tatarian, and some of the hybrid maples like Norwegian Sunset are excellent choices in our area and deserve more use. Their ornamental attributes, combined with drought resistance, tolerance to poor soils and wind resistance make them top options.

Oaks shouldn’t be overlooked for a great shade tree. While many people have the impression that oaks are really slow growers, Wade has seen decent growth rates with many species. Their ornamental features are, in his words, “as good as it gets.” Many species exhibit excellent environmental tolerance for Tooele County.  Wade recommends Macrocarpa (Bur), Buckleyi (Texas Red), and many of the hybrids, including Skymaster, Regal Prince, and Heritage.

As for small flowering or specimen trees Albizia or “Silk Tree” is one of Wade’s favorites. Its leaves, shape and flowers are extremely ornamental. The tree has a somewhat tropical appearance. No two will ever look the same. You should know that they often suffer from dieback, and are generally weak wooded and marginally hardy. With all these negatives why does it make Wade’s list of favorites?  Wade quips, “It is easy to grow if you just let it be what it wants. They attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and hawk moths like no other plant in the garden. They are one of the few plants that can make anyone look like a great gardener.”

Amelanchier or “Serviceberry” are also excellent small ornamental trees for our area. Well adapted to poor soils and dry conditions, they have many great attributes. They are a rather care-free grower, with few pests. A fine showing of spring flowers lead to excellent tasting berries relished both by people and birds. Nice purple, orange, and red fall colors finish off the season.

Cercis or “Redbud” is another Wade favorite.  Redbuds are prized for their early spring blooms that blanket the branches and even the trunk in some cases. ‘Eastern Redbud’ is most common, but there are some lesser known varieties you should consider. ‘Forest Pansy’ is a popular purple-leaved version of the Eastern. There are a few weeping varieties available for very small spaces. The Anderson’s favorite Redbud is the Oklahoma Redbud. It originated from the hot, dry, and windy Western Plains of Oklahoma and surrounding areas. It has similar bloom qualities to the Eastern, but has thick glossy leaves that hold up a bit better in our summers. All redbuds grow fairly quickly and will need pruning to keep them at their best. While the variety is not really strong wooded, either, the aesthetic qualities of redbuds make them well worth growing.

Trees are a big part of Gary Fawson’s life. He’s been the lead person in the Grantsville Trees USA program, which has led to the planting of over 1,200 large shade trees on the street fronts of Grantsville over the past several years.  Their goal has been simple and clear. As Gary puts it, “to bring back the beauty of Grantsville’s (wooded) past.”

Generally speaking, three trees that Gary hasn’t seen do well in Grantsville and some of the neighboring areas are maple, birch, and ornamental pear trees.  Decorative pear trees tend to suffer from iron deficiency, or more properly, iron chlorosis. This occurs when the iron in the soil is not available in a form that the tree can readily use. This leads to the tree not being able to produce sufficient levels of chlorophyll. The tree usually survives; it just doesn’t thrive. The visible result is pale green or yellow leaves instead of the dark green that most everyone finds attractive.

So, what are Gary’s “go to” trees that he would recommend for home yardscapes? First, there is the ‘Little Leaf’ Linden. With its medium size, moderate growth rate and nice shape, it has a lot going for it.

This and other Lindens are very healthy in our soils and make a good yard or street tree. These trees do have small flowers in the spring that do attract bees, although not much color in the fall. They resist bug problems, but you should be aware that they do make a mess on your car if you park under one in the spring!

Gary also is a big fan of Platanus Acerifolia — the London Plane sycamore. It grows quickly if a ready reserve of water is available to it. Even though it’s a rapid grower, it has strong branches, and very little debris drop. It’s attractive with large maple-like leaves, and it will grow into a large shade tree. It has a clean, slick trunk as the bark peels off naturally ongoing. It is deciduous, with it’s plentiful leaves dropping in the late fall and providing leaf litter that can be put to use in the compost pile or for mulching.

The crab apple is a smaller tree with many cultivar choices. It’s beautiful in the spring with many colors to choose from. It does well in a variety of soils, including ours! Most do not have messy fruit, with the small fruit remaining on the tree through the winter for decoration and the birds. It does have some suckering (shoots at the base), but otherwise it needs very little pruning. With all this going for it, Gary observes that it is one of the most planted trees in America!

The Fawsons have also made use of the Quercus bicolor — Swamp White Oak, and it has done exceptionally well in Grantsville. It has grown nearly three feet each year with a very balanced shape. Even through its leaves don’t show a lot of color in the fall, they stay attached all winter until the new leaves in the spring push them off.

Well, there you have it — insights from two seasoned tree veterans!  We are putting in some more trees, and ornamental landscaping around our home this season. You can be sure we’ll be making use of Wade’s and Gary’s experience. I hope you will too.



Monthly Gardener’s Breakfast Get-Together

This Saturday, April 19, 9-11 a.m., held at the Stockton Miners Café, 47 N. Connor (the Main Street) in Stockton. Current gardening topics, challenges, successes, and collective advice will be shared. Admission is the price of whatever you order off the menu! This month, join us for a garden tour after breakfast of the Durtschi Residence — a world-class daffodil and bulb garden in Stockton! For more information, contact or call 435-830-1447.

Pesticide License and Applicator Class

Tuesday, April 22, 6-9 p.m. Complete this free class to obtain your license ($20 fee) that allows you to purchase and apply restricted materials for various pest and weed controls.  For more information call Linden Greenhalgh, 435-277-2407, or Jerry Caldwell, Tooele County Weed Supervisor, at 435-830-7273.

Season Extension Workshop

Wednesday, April 23, learn how high and mid tunnels, row covers, green houses and small scale methods can be used so you can plant earlier and grow your garden longer. Led by Britney Hunter, Associate Professor of Horticulture at USU. The class runs from 7-8 p.m., at the USU Tooele Extension, 151 N. Main. There is no charge. 435-830-1447.

Gardening Walk and Talk

Saturday, May 10, 10 a.m. to noon, the Fawson Residence, 187 Waterhole Way, Grantsville. This beautiful oasis of ponds, bridges, trails, pastures, vegetable garden and orchard, arbors, fences, outbuildings, flowers, shrubs and shade trees is a real treat! Join Gary Fawson and Jay Cooper as we stroll the grounds and chat about plants and approaches you see. There is no charge. For more information, call Jay at 435-830-1447.


Jay Cooper can be contacted at Visit his website at for videos and articles on gardening, shop skills, culinary arts and landscaping.


Jay Cooper

Garden Spot Columnist at Tooele Transcript Bulletin
Jay Cooper is a new contributing writer for the Garden Spot column. He replaced Diane Sagers, who retired in November 2013 after writing the column for 27 years. Also known as Dirt Farmer Jay, Cooper and his wife have been residents of Erda since 2001 after moving to Utah from Tucson, AZ. A passionate gardener and avid reader of horticultural topics, for several years he has been a member of Utah State University’s Master Gardeners Program, and served as chapter president in 2013. Cooper says Tooele County has an active and vibrant gardening community, and the Garden Spot column will continue to share a wide range of gardening, landscaping, home skills and rural living themes.

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