Focal Tree for Front Yard

inkneedeepMarch 31, 2008

Well, Thanks to various postings I have been able to do some research on CA Native trees in trying to make a decision, but am still having a hard time deciding on a tree. The area I am planting in is surrounded on all sides by concrete driveway / walkways. It is about 20' x 15'.

Our house is 2 story and I am looking for something that will provide summer shade. (at least through 2nd story windows


Visual Interest(Front Yard)

Not suckering, invasive or too Messy (Driveway / concrete surrounding)

Drought Tollerant once established

Deciduous OK. Fruiting OK

Full Hot sun!

25-35' in height...spreading canopy OK

The trees I am considering (not all natives):

California Bay

An Oak of some sort (Maybe too large?)

Australian Willow

Persimmon or Loquat

Pistacio or Chinese Pistache

Hong Kong Orchid

Golden Trumpet

Peppermint Willow

African Sumac

Please let me know your thoughts..negative and Positive.

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You're on the right track with the Loquat especially ( not decidous, excellent fruit with a named variety like Big Jim or Gold Nugget), and the persimmon (best eating varieties like Jiro, Fuyu, etc. don't get much above 12-14'). My top recommendation would be a fig like Black Mission. Fig trees have beautiful exotic looking folliage, can be pruned to any configuration including tall enough to shade a second story window, are disease pest and drought resistant, and bear two crops a year. Perhaps you could consider a fruiting mulberry like Pakistan or Illinois Everbearing- same qualifications as a fig but messier and tastier fruit.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 3:30PM
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I actually have a fig, that is dropping fruit...I have figured it might have to do with the fact that we don't water it! Duhhh!!!

I have heard figs roots can be invasive and then I read they aren't. What do you think???

We also have a fruitless Mulberry in the back yard, but the roots are lifting our concrete Patio back wondering if that might be a problem in the front too.

From what I have seen the Loquat is a nice looking tree. I have another spot in the front for a second tree..Maybe I could put the smaller Persimmon there???

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 3:37PM
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I'm usually all about native trees. A black oak is nice, Quercus kellogii (doesn't get too big). Valley white oak (Quercus lobata) is a beautiful tree but gets too big. California sycamore is beautiful but too big. Hmmm, I much prefer a flowering tree instead of fruit in the front yard. I have a flowering Japanese cherry that in the spring is stuffing. It is a double petaled var. and the tree doesn't get huge. It's just about to break buds now. In a few weeks it will be covered in blossoms. Plus the foliage isn't too thick, but it does help with shade (my big picture windo faces west so it gets hot in the summer without the shade of the cherry). A flowring plum is also a beutiful tree that flowers earlier than cherry. Persmissons have no real flowers (little tiny green bell-shaped flowers and of course the female fruit. I have two trees in my backyard. I don't even eat the fruit, though it's the type with the dark sweet middle. If I had the room out front, I'd plant a Pinus sabiniana (digger pine) because it has such airy folliage, but the tree gets monsterous.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 4:42PM
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While i don't like Loquat fruit,i do like the trees and use the leaves in flower arrangements.We let the birds and the neighbors eat the fruit when we had that tree.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 4:49PM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

I have Peppermint Willow Agonis flexuosa 'Jervis Bay After Dark'. It's a beautiful and graceful little tree and clean as can be.

    Bookmark   March 31, 2008 at 11:39PM
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How about Western Redbud?

Kellogg Oak would be lovely too.

I'm partial to natives.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 1:30AM
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All good suggestions...Love the Western Redbud and have one, but not a large tree. I will look more into the Peppermint Willow and the Oaks, as well as Persimmon and Loquat.
I would like to plant a native, as neighbors on all sides have Queen Palms. I am having a hard time finding a suitable native, so my next alternative is a Cal Friendly Tree. Of course trees that produce fruit or interesting foliage for arrangements is a plus!
I have been trying to get to the Native Plant Nursery..Maybe today?

Thanks.. All your input is really helpful and even if one of your tree suggestions won't work for this particular area..I have other areas I want to plant trees and they might work there!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 9:04AM
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In my experience mulberries do have more agressive roots than figs, and any large tree is going to have a large root system. Asian persimmons offer the highest return per input with the lowest risk of any edible plant I know of and can be kept even smaller with a little pruning. Loquats should be ripe in June if you want to sample some in your area. Most loquats are about 75 percent "pit", so be sure to get a named variety. You also might want to consider vitus labrusca grapes like Jupiter or Glenora, both seedless and disease resistant with excellent flavor. Both are vigorous growers, Jupiter being more productive, Glenora being the most delicious grape I have ever eaten, with beautiful red folliage in the fall. Grapes are easy to train and prune to any configuration you can imagine, like full sun, and are drought resistant. Edible landscaping is one of the "greenest" things you can do, with potentially zero increased input (other than harvesting) over non-edible landscaping- not to mention the superior quality of tree ripe organic fruit.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 9:18AM
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davissue_zone9(z9 Sunset 14)

Loquats are prone to fireblight, a bacterial disease spread by insects that kills whole limbs and even the tree if you're unlucky. I would go with a persimmon, lovely trees (but slow growing) or a chinese pistache, again, not fast growing but trouble free. If you choose a fruiting type of any tree, you may want to think about having to deal with messy fruit drop.

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 11:17AM
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jkom51(Z9 CA/Sunset 17)

Persimmons (my neighbor has one in her backyard) turn an absolutely gorgeous bright yellow in fall. OTOH, the fruit drop is messy and unavoidable (the fruits all seem to ripen at once, which is hard to deal with) and the tree grows slowly. It has maybe gotten 8' taller in the 20 years I've been looking at it, although since it's an established tree she doesn't need to water it in the summer - it lives on runoff only.

I'm glad davissue mentioned fireblight - it's endemic here, both my neighbor and I had to take our loquats out because of it.

The Chinese pistache is a beautiful tree, and the colors are spectacular in fall. The leaves are small and break down quickly, which is good mulch.

What about Podocarpus gracilior or its cousin podocarpus macrophyllus? Easily available, and grows up into a graceful, beautiful tree. The only trouble is that it can grow bigger than you want, but that's a common issue I find with plants in CA - if they do well, they get bigger than you think. Except of course, for the ones you wanted to get really big, those never grow quite to the height you want - the gardening Peter Principle, I guess!

    Bookmark   April 1, 2008 at 11:57AM
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The Podocarpus Gracilor is a Fern Pine??? I thought of planting one of those in another area where I need a tall tree that has a narrow growth.

I thought of the Chinese Pistache...alos wondering if I could do a Pistachio, which is of the same Family, but produces the nuts.

I am not worried about the dropping fruit on the Persimmon... I think there is enough bedding space, that it would not drop on the driveway. It sounds like a pretty tree. I too like to grow edible landscape.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 7:30AM
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davissue_zone9(z9 Sunset 14)

The actual fruiting pistachio tree will grow here, is smaller than it's Chinese cousin, you need both a male and a female tree if you want nuts, and is prone to verticillium wilt. But they are quite attractive, the leaves are larger and rounder than the Chinese pistache, giving them a totally different look. One caveat, if you have squirrels, I doubt you'll see many nuts.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 11:55AM
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I have a different experience with loquats and fire blight. I have never seen a loquat with an appreciable case of fire blight, and I've been looking a long time, including completely neglected trees. That doesn't mean it never happens. Any tree is susceptible to some diseases, but in my experience, loquats look like an extremely low risk tree, even compared to the toughest of non-fruiting trees.

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 4:58PM
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mmm... Decisions...decisions. We don't have squirrels.. Just Rabbits!

So..Chinese Pistache, Pistachio, Loquat, Persimmon??? I will have to compare the height and spread..Thank you all soo much.. love the input! I am defintely narrowing down my choices here!

    Bookmark   April 2, 2008 at 10:13PM
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godsdog(z10 LA ss22)

how about Macadamia ? depending on frost in your area. In LA area I have a 5 year old (from a three gallon size) which is a little taller than my one story house and still growing. Last year got over a bushel of nuts. It is blooming now. Flowers very small. Smell very sweet. Attracts a lot of bees. Almost no litter except for nuts, leaves spiny like holly. superficial roots.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 11:14AM
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Forgot to mention variable choices in fruiting mulberry sizes. There's dwarf like Geraldi and Weeping(available at, mids like Persian (extremely desireable fruit, available at, and of course plenty of fullsize standards.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 11:27AM
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Although not a native and some people might not like it much, I suggest a Chinese Elm (Drake). The Drake Chinese Elm does not get as big as a regular chinese elm, and it is resistant to Dutch Elm Disease. It can get about 30 feet high, grows pretty quickly, and has a more weeping style to it. I was in the same situation about 3 years ago, and I went with the Chinese Elm (Drake variety). I planted it when it was about 7 feet high and it is now over 12 feet. It looks so beautiful right now in spring. It does have some leaf drop (it's deciduous) but the lawn mower picks it right up. It lets the warmth through in the winter. You can prune it however you want (I pruned mine high), just make sure you get the 'Drake' type.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 11:37AM
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Do you have any problem with seedlings with the Chinese Elm "Drake"? It looks like a beautiful tree. My husband is partial to weeping type trees...but since I am the one that is going to buy and plant it and take care of it..guess I get the final say!

As for Macadamia...We sometimes get frost, but rarely. I am inland from LA, but just South of me is Fallbrook, where they grow alot of Advocados. I was reading the the Macadamia has sim. requirements...Is anyone growing a Macadmaia Inland So Cal? Seems they like reg. water... but sounds like it is a pos. Sure would like to have I getting greedy?

I also looked up the Persian Mulberry..sure would like one of those too, but then my husband would probably demand pie! It is a bit smaller tree than I want for that area, but I am goiung to find a place for one in my yard, if I can determine that it will be OK with our HOT, DRY summers.

Still undecided..I think I need a bigger property! I REALLY am trying to focus (HONESTLY!)... but so many many choices! What to do???

    Bookmark   April 3, 2008 at 6:45PM
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godsdog(z10 LA ss22)

try "gold crown macadamia association" web site in Escondido. they have some information on the site and offer a field day to visit their orchard in escondido. they would probably be able to answer all your questions about local climate.

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 11:27AM
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Thanks Godsdog...Have to go to Escondido very soon to the Native Plant Nursery...will check that Website.

It sure is a beautiful day today!

    Bookmark   April 4, 2008 at 4:30PM
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zeuspaul(9b SoCal)

I am a little south of Fallbrook and north of Escondido. Several of my neighbors have Macademia trees. I have seen temps as low as 27 degrees.;


    Bookmark   April 5, 2008 at 11:18AM
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The very first comment to this persons request for a focal tree is so wrong it has to be a prank. The Loquat is NOT a good choice. She specifically said she doesn't want a messy tree. Well, this is one of the messiest trees imaginable. Sure it is an evergreen, but it still sheds a million huge leaves a few times a year not to mention a BILLION pounds of seed and fruit. If not maintained regularly you will have a stained driveway in no time at all, and every rodent in your area having a nightly feast. And if you have lots of crevices in your hard-scape you are really in for some fun trying to get the bag after bag worth of debris this tree drops out of every crack.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2014 at 10:41PM
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I have purple hopseed as focal trees in my front garden. They are burgundy foliage trees in the background of the photo. And I also have a smoke tree. Both are darker punches of color. We have old oaks and bay trees in the woods here. The oaks are incredibly messy and ticks love to nest under the fallen leaves, the bays smell fantastic but need pruning. Iochroma cyanea is a nice specimen too and has fantastic blooms. Mexican bamboo is not a tree but a nice focal planting. For something different maybe. It's clumping and not a rambler.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 2:38AM
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California boxelder (Acer negundo californicum)
Douglas' maple (Acer glabrum)

    Bookmark   April 12, 2014 at 10:39PM
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