KAYSVILLE — Perhaps the biggest mistake Top of Utahns make when planting a new tree or shrub is overwatering.
New trees should be watered as minimally as possible, usually about once a week, said Horticulture Associate Professor JayDee Gunnell, with Utah State University’s Extension Office.
Living in a dry climate doesn’t automatically mean plants need extra water, he said. “Most people think plants are looking for an excuse to die, but in all reality, they want to live. Hopefully, we can show people some water-wise landscapes.”
As part of their recently developed arboretum at 875 S. 50 West in Kaysville, Gunnell and other staff at Utah State University’s Botanical Center in Kaysville hope to educate people about watering appropriately.
Britney Hunter, the USU Extension horticulture agent, points out another way this knowledge is beneficial.
“I think water conservation is important because, as our population increases, our water resources become more limited and prices on water go up, so people are going to be wondering how they can use less.”
Hunter said she has noticed a lot of people aren’t aware that many beautiful plants don’t need a lot of water.
To help educate community members, the USU Extension has created the William A. Varga Arboretum, named after the first director of the USU Botanical Center, to showcase the extensive varieties of tree species and plants that do well in the Intermountain Region.
Unbeknownst to many residents, Gunnell said, the Top of Utah is actually a mecca for gardening, with an ideal climate and rich soil.
Back in 1999, the site of the arboretum was used as a storage spot for about 60 trees transplanted from the old USU extension site in Farmington. It was largely ignored because of a lack of funding and employees to develop the 30-acre project.
When Gunnell began developing the area in 2005, he had to battle the weeds that had taken over. Today, 3 acres have been developed into a lush garden that gives visitors a good idea of the hundreds of water-wise trees and shrubs they can plant.
Thousands of people have visited the arboretum, which Gunnell figures has the largest collection of trees and shrubs in the state but is still unknown to many folks in the area.
Each year, the arboretum receives 15 to 30 donated trees from a foundation in Oregon to study and conduct research on soil types and environmental conditions that affect trees in this area.
So they know what to provide for their customers, representatives from many area nurseries also come to the garden every year to see which varieties of trees do well.
Another benefit of the garden is that it gives community members the opportunity to see mature trees, Hunter said.
“The main problem we see is that some people don’t realize how big some trees can really get and the form they take, getting too big for someone’s yard.”
She said all of the trees in the arboretum are acclimated to this climate, “so someone who doesn’t know anything about trees can come through and find one they like, take note of its name and then go to the nursery.”