ornamental tree for front yard in East Bay?

berkeleyredMarch 2, 2012


I am looking for a flowering tree to be planted in my front yard, near the entranceway pavement, and about 10 feet from the steps to my house. The tree will be west of my house and will receive sun for most of the day. We have clay soils, but the tree will be on top of a bank and will have good drainage. Currently, there is a Japanese black pine in the location (we are having it removed because it is constantly shedding needles, and it seems too heavy/dark for the front of the house). The tree does not need to fulfill any particular shading/screening purposes.

I am considering magnolias, but I worry about the branches being too low and spreading (as the tree will be very close to the entranceway). I'm ok with the cleanup required post-blooming. Also considering dogwoods and pear trees. The house is painted a dark green; so it would be nice to have a tree who's flowering and branching pattern will create some nice contrast/visual interest.

I would love to hear of any suggestions! It's my first house, and I am new to gardening.

I will be testing the pH of the soil (kit is in the mail). Preferably, the tree will be fairly drought tolerant. I understand that I will need to keep the soil moist via deep waterings while it is getting established.

Thank you for your help!

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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

If flowering is your main goal, and you don't care whether it is evergreen or deciduous I would suggest the Chitalpa "Pink Dawn". It has the longest flowering season of any tree in my experience. It will grow to 20 feet and can be maintained there with annual pruning. It is deciduous so will be bare in the winter and of course those leaves will need raking. Roots disturbing the sidewalk is usually not a problem. Al

    Bookmark   March 3, 2012 at 8:59AM
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lisascenic Urban Gardener, Oakland CA

What about a kumquat?

    Bookmark   April 18, 2012 at 10:58AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Check out the newer Magnolia soulangeana cultivar 'Black Tulip', it has gorgeous deep purple-black flowers on a more narrow growing tree. It could be perfect. Magnolia stellata would also fit the spot.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 12:36AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

'Black Tulip' is not a saucer magnolia. That's why it has a different habit. It won't be particularly drought tolerant, nor would a star magnolia. But how either would hold up through the summers would depend greatly on now retentive the soil was.

I'd visit some local public collections for tree ideas. San Francisco Botanic Garden, University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley, University of California Botanic Garden, Davis, and so on.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 3:15AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Is a great place to see a collection of various small evergreen magnolias (former Michelia and Manglietia species) in pretty far along sizes. They also sell multiple kinds right there, so if a body sees one they like on the grounds they have the possibility of coming home with their own starter plant at the same time.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 3:19AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

The various Magnolia's do pretty well here in Berkeley clay soils with only moderate irrigation in summer, but they can't be considered drought tolerant in the sense that they don't need any supplemental irrigation at all. A slope with full afternoon sun will be dryer than an eastern or northern exposure, where they would need less water.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2012 at 11:06PM
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you may want to take a look at the Cornus Koussa dogwoods. Fruit bearing pear trees can have a not-so-pretty branching structure.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2012 at 1:25PM
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manifest(USDA 11a, Sunset 24, CA)

If the tree will be in a western location, a jacaranda might do very well there. The tree is utterly breathtaking when the purple blooms are open.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2012 at 2:48AM
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