HG: Homegrown Column February 07, 2009

When we lived in Parker, our neighbor had mogul pine bushes in her front yard. Would that grow here? Can it tolerate a lot of sun? Hers was shaded in morning but got afternoon sun. Please let me know if you think it will grow here.
Thanks for all your help.
— Priscilla

I think what you’re talking about is called a mugho pine.

Mugho pines are an excellent choice for any sunny location in your yard. They’re tough and hardy, tolerating lots of heat, sun and some drought.

Though the size and shape can vary from variety to variety, these are usually smaller (3 to 5 feet tall) shrub pines with dark green needles and a rounded to slightly spreading growth habit.

Now the size of the plant will vary depending on which type of mugho pine you get.

You basically have two choices.

The first is what’s called a “dwarf mugho pine” or a “pumilio mugho pine.” The problem with this plant is that it’s grown from seed and though they’re smaller than the species (which can get 15 or 20 feet tall), they’re variable in size and often get bigger than what most people expect.

I field lots of calls from folks who want to trim their 8 foot tall “dwarf mugho” back because it’s gotten much bigger than they expected. Though it can be done, the timing of the pruning is important, and it’s just one more thing to do out in the yard.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not looking to add chores out in the garden.

Your second choice is a named variety of mugho pine. These named varieties are reliable and predictable in size and growth habit.

There are several varieties of truly dwarf mugho pines available. Some of the more common ones are Slowmound, Mops, Whitebud and Teeny.

Most of these will grow 3 to 5 feet tall with an equal or slightly greater spread while some stay even smaller than that. They have very dark green needles that form a dense, compact mound.

One thing to keep in mind about these truly dwarf mughos is that they’re pretty slow growing, so prepare to be patient.

And though they cost just a bit more than the seed grown plants, I think it’s worth the cost to know what you’re getting.

I enjoy reading your column each week and have a question. We live in the Redlands and are surrounded by Russian olives. I trimmed many of them back so they resemble trees rather than overgrown bushes, but I’ve noticed that the trees seem to weaken, and even die, after they’ve been trimmed. Our idea is to supplant any dead Russian olives with cottonwoods as it’s wet here and the cottonwoods seem to thrive.
However, I’d like to build a tree house in the next 10 years for any grandchildren who may be around, and I’m not sure what kind of tree(s) might be best suited for that — strength, height, growth, etc. The 10-year plan may limit the selection.
What recommendations do you have for a tree that would grow sufficiently tall and strong in that time period, and be well-suited for the high water table we have here?
Thank you.

As you’ve guessed, the biggest limitation you have is the 10 year time frame.

They’re loads of quality shade trees out there that are moderately fast growing, but I don’t think they’d be big enough to build a tree house in 10 years from now.

I think that your idea of putting in more cottonwoods should do the job for you. They’re fast growing and they should be big enough in 10 years, plus they’ll take the wetter conditions you have.

Yes, they do have their drawbacks, such as messiness, disease, insect susceptibilities and shallow, aggressive roots, but they should be plenty strong to hold a tree house and size up for you when you’re ready.


I have a giant grass that I want to move. I thought it was OK to move in spring, but I just read fall is best to move grass. Can I still do it in the spring if I do it very early?
— Laura

Actually, I think the best time to transplant is early spring — usually sometime in March.

You want to do it while the plant is still dormant but right before it’s due to wake up and start growing so it can settle into its new home and heal up the damage transplanting has done.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, online at http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).



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