Homegrown: Russian olive trees

We have a huge Russian olive tree in our backyard. No one has ever said specifically to us that we need to get rid of it, but I have heard people talking about them being a noxious plant or something.

Are we supposed to take it out? It does provide shade, but we don’t particularly like or dislike it. What are your thoughts on Russian olive trees?

— Judy

Well, you’re asking a question that a lot of people have debated over the past several years.

From a landscaping standpoint, Russian olive serves a valuable purpose. They’re pretty fast growing, drought tolerant, salt tolerant and shelter and feed quite a number of bird species and lend a certain “Mediterranean” air to the landscape with their dark green leaves with the silvery gray underside.

Unfortunately, from an ecological standpoint, Russian olive is invasive, naturalizing throughout Colorado wherever there’s some water available and crowding out native vegetation.

Because of this trait, Russian olive is on the noxious weed list for Colorado.

That doesn’t mean you have to cut your tree down, it’s OK to leave it if you want; you just can’t buy new ones in the state to plant.

There are different levels within the noxious weed list and this plant isn’t designated for eradication. However, good stewardship might warrant removal of the tree, especially if you’re not that attached to it.

My father ordered an autumn olive that will arrive shortly. Is this considered an invasive species in the Grand Valley, and would you recommend that I plant it on the edge of my lawn in Orchard Mesa?

I’ve read mixed reviews and would value your response.

— Carol

Autumn olive is not on the noxious weed list for Colorado so it should be OK to plant.

Like its cousin, Russian olive, which is on the list, the fruit of autumn olive is loved by birds and can be spread around by them. Because of this, there is some concern about its invasiveness, but that hasn’t been shown to be a problem as of yet.

Autumn olive doesn’t form a tree like Russian olive but grows into a large shrub. It has silvery gray leaves and is quite tolerant of heat, sun and some drought.

We were told by a pest control company that the mulch next to our house was contributing to our ant problem. I’d prefer NOT to put rocks in those beds. Is there any kind of mulch that is not attractive to ants?

— Gwen

Heavy mulches against the house can sometimes provide a moist, protected environment for an ant colony.

This is a tough call: the possibility of helping the ants versus the benefits to your plants by using the mulch.

I have a bed on one side of our house that has mulch on it. The plants in the bed are getting to be a pretty good size, so I’ve let the mulch thin out and disappear there so I’m not fostering an ant invasion.

If you’re absolutely bound and determined to get rid of the ants, then you might pull the mulch away from the house for several feet. It’s not something that will make the ants go away by itself, but it does help in the fight.

I’m not aware of any mulch that deters ants. Even gravel will keep the soil moist and cool compared to bare ground.

Will a Bing cherry pollinate another Bing, or do I need something different?

— Les

A Bing won’t pollinate another Bing. Actually, Bing, Lambert and Royal Ann will not pollinate each other.

Your best choices out there are Stella, Black Tartarian, Rainier or Van.

Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, 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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