By Sally Mesarosh

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Celebrating Mother Nature with a heavenly outreach Contributor Sally Mesarosh takes leafy, leisurely stroll at ASU Research Park.

Trees are with us our whole lives, sometimes as the background of a favorite memory or perhaps even more important, a resource impacting the future of our planet. Arbor Day, which we observed on April 26, celebrates the planting, upkeep and preservation of trees.

But in our Tempe and nearby Chandler neighborhoods, we shouldn’t need a special day to appreciate the way Mother Nature raises her leafy arms skyward in a joyous outreach to the heavens above us. So what superpowers do trees have? Studies have shown that green spaces can lower levels of stress, reduce depression and anxiety, and improve general well-being. Not only can a simple walk in nature boost your mood; it also improves cognitive function and memory.

We can also rely on trees to act as natural purifiers, removing the kind of air pollution that is most dangerous to our lungs: particulate matter. This pollution arises from the burning of fossil fuels and can reach dangerous concentrations in cities. But leave it to the leaves. Trees take in harmful pollutants and release clean oxygen. Branching out, there’s more. Trees’ food-making process, photosynthesis, involves absorbing carbon dioxide from the air and storing it in its wood. Trees store this carbon dioxide, which helps slow the greenhouse gas buildup in our atmosphere that rapidly warms our planet.

Does this information make you want to plant a tree? If so, what kind of tree? We asked Carey Sigler of Moon Valley Nurseries in Chandler his top recommendations for trees in our area. “Our top selling tree is Ficus Indian Laurel,” Sigler said. “It’s good for hedge walls, good for yards and it grows fairly big—big enough to block out upper windows in a house.”

He said it’s a fast-growing tree, handles heat well and thrives in desert environments. Sigler’s second recommendation is Shamel Ash.

“This is the No.1-selling ash variety that we carry,” he said. “It’s a large tree that loves the sun and provides a big shade area.”

Tips for tree-planting success

Sigler’s top tip for planting a new tree is to keep up with a proper watering and fertilizing schedule.

“Make sure you provide proper soil amendments to ensure the tree grows,” he said. “Use water and soil conditioner to keep the tree healthy.” Countless other trees native to Arizona in Tempe and Chandler neighborhoods, below 4,500 elevation, will also thrive. These include Velvet Mesquite, Cat Claw Acacia, White Thorn Acacia, Palo Verde, Ironwood and Desert Willow. You might want to go out on a limb and try a Red Push Pistache tree. This deciduous tree is a remarkable hybrid known for its red fall color, with dark green foliage and a generous canopy that provides ample shade in the summer and allows the warmth of the sun to shine through during winter.

Additionally, citrus and palm trees are both popular choices in our area, often creating a backyard oasis by a pool or patio. So, grab your gardening gloves and plant a tree in your yard, or join your neighbors as they do so. At this time of year, you’re doing more than planting trees in the ground. You’re saying yes to a healthier world.

Note: If you’re stumped about how to celebrate trees because you can’t plant one, the Arbor Day Foundation has a few suggestions, including organizing a tree identification hike, reading a book about trees, or holding a spontaneous block party.


Additionally, Salt River Project has desert-adapted shade tree information at home/shade-tree-workshop#1. 




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