Trees for planting strip in sidewalk

sarah_calAugust 9, 2011

Hi -

I'm new to this forum but love gardening so will soon be an avid reader. I am interested in planting a tree (or having the city plant a tree!) in the strip of land between our sidewalk and street (about 5 feet wide). The city gives us a limited number of choices, which makes it easier in many regards. Our priorities:

a) shade

b) fast growing

c) ideally not a TON of litter (ie. berries bad, leaves fine, flowers ok)

We love the sycamores because they grow so amazingly fast but all of the sycamores in this area seem to get some sort of fungus and the leaves turn white and curl. Yuk. So we're leaning toward the following two trees:

-- Chinese pistache

-- Chinese elm

I've searched through the archives and see some mention of these trees but would love it if someone more knowledgeable than I weighed in. What would you choose? I've seen different things about the rate of growth of the pistache. Ideas??



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I should note that I'm in Redwood City, northern california, bay are.


    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 1:34PM
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wcgypsy(10 / Sunset 23)

I'd go for the pistache..beautiful Fall color and a more manageable tree. The Chinese Elm always needs a lot of selective pruning to keep it in shape...either a lot of work or a lot of money to pay to have it done. I would also buy the tree in the Fall so that you can select one with good coloring.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 1:59PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Hi Sarah, and welcome to Gardenweb.

Too bad about the sycamores.

Do you park your car on the street where this tree will be? That can be a consideration. Some trees are favorites of aphids, which poop sticky honeydew on your car.

I don't know anything about the pistache, but I would avoid the elm. They get root suckers. They also get huge. If you don't have a big front yard, your whole yard will be shaded and filled with roots. Not much will grow. Since you are an avid gardener, that would not be nice!
They are beautiful, though, if you have a large front yard of sixty ft. depth or more, and you have grass planted so that you can mow down the root suckers. And as wcgypsy pointed out, they require maintenance.


    Bookmark   August 9, 2011 at 4:04PM
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Thanks for the input. Does anyone know about the relative growth rate for pistashe? Sounds like that might be the way to go...

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 12:48AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

I would also stick with the Chinese pistache, as the least problematic choice. It is medium fast in growth rate compared to the sycamore or Chinese pistache, is much slower if it isn't irrigated. Chinese elms can also be quite elegant and beautiful trees, but they can also be ungainly without early and consistent pruning, and does often get too big for where it is planted. If you like the more evergreen and lacey foliage and attractive patchy bark of the elm, dedicate a yearly shaping the first 5 years to get a well formed tree.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 1:22AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

First you should check with your city public works department. Many cities have an approved list for planting in that location. If your tree damages the sidewalk you will usually be responsible for the sidewalk replacement. In my experience not only did I pay for the concrete work, the city charged me $95 for the permit to make the repair. Al

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 9:24AM
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I wouldn't put any tree in that narrow of an area.
I walk at lunch near my office and sidewalks are uprooted really bad like 8-9 inches in some areas. The trees are some sort of maple I believe. Nice looking trees...just too big now. There are roots all over in the grass and starting to damage the street. It is so bad there is no way any handicapped person can even walk or use a wheelchair.
This is in the city of LA and they have no funds to repair, replace, remove etc. Sure glad I don't live in the city! They also require the homeowner to get a permit and pay licensed contractor/tree trimmer if they want it trimmed since the city can't afford it.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2011 at 8:50PM
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slogal(CA z10a/Sunset 16)

We have a Chinese Pistache in our 3' wide median that the city planted. It's been there about 15 yrs and is only ~15' tall so I would say it's a slow grower. Some of the pistache trees (females) on our street have tiny fruit; not messy, they stay on the trees and look rather decorative. Lovely fall color as others mentioned. Chinese Pistache trees can look ungainly in their youth but don't be discouraged; ours and the others on the street have a lovely shape now.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 1:03AM
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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

I walk at lunch near my office and sidewalks are uprooted really bad like 8-9 inches in some areas. The trees are some sort of maple I believe.

Sounds like Liquidambar. Lovely trees, but they wreck havoc on pavement and lawn.

If you like Sycamore what about same genus, different species, perhaps London Plane. They don't get the same level of disease that the natives fall victim to (at least here they are clean).

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 12:53PM
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I agree with the people who suggested that you avoid the Chinese elm. There's one in my front yard that is gigantic. My husband and I have talked about removing it, but we're afraid to find out what it would cost, so we haven't even asked. We do have to get it pruned every couple of years, though--our tree guy says not to prune it too much because that would spur it on to put out even more unsightly shoots. As far as a pistache goes, I wanted to plant one, but our landscape designer said that it can also get huge. We planted several arbutus instead and they are beautiful all year round and need very little pruning and no summer water. Not sure how they'd do in a planting strip though. Checking with city public works sounds like a very good idea.

    Bookmark   August 11, 2011 at 8:03PM
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Thanks for all the suggestions. I should have mentioned that the list of possible trees actually came from the public works department of our city! So I assume they know what they're talking about.

We're leaning toward the pistache - even something slow growing would do a bit to shade the sun as it sets and burns a slow hole in our front door every night, assuming we place it in the right location!

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 12:24AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Pistache tree can actually be fairly fast to get size quickly if you irrigate frequently. They are fairly slow growing if you don't water at least weekly the first two years, after that a good slow soak once a month will help with more rapid growth.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 2:32AM
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For more ideas, have you seen the gallery of urban trees put out by Friends of the Urban Forest in SF? Great list of trees for situations like yours.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2011 at 7:30AM
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I would also look to my neighbors on the street. What is planted in the parkway. I love the look and feeling of driving down the street and all of the trees in the parkway are the same! Whether it be the summer or the fall, I just like it - it's a very good feeling!

    Bookmark   August 18, 2011 at 12:25AM
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