Help Me Decide What Trees To Put In Front Yard

killyourlawnAugust 31, 2009

Hi, I am a new member (I've been a lurker for a while!) and have lived in my house in LA for a year now. The previous owners had cut down a huge tree due to it getting sick and dying, so now we have no shade at all. (and we can't replant where that tree was- the roots are underground, etc.)

I am going to remove the front lawn and plant a couple of trees and then try to do as many CA native plants and bushes in the front garden as possible and avoid planting any more lawn there. The front yard is 30 ft deep (from front step to sidewalk) and 23 ft wide and faces west (and slightly south). I am thinking of planting a Desert Willow towards the front and maybe a Western Redbud closer to the house. The front tree should be the "big" tree- and I am trying to decide between the Desert Willow and an African Sumac. I want a fast-growing tree that is pest resistant. Or I could just do 3-4 water birches closer to the house.

Any ideas would be very appreciated. Also a nursery where I can get a 10-15 ft specimen tree.

Thanks, Brooke

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Watch the attached video (click on the June date) to view LOTS of plants that would do well for you (even though the seminar was in Arroyo Grande, CA).

"Water birches"?????


Here is a link that might be useful: Suystainable Landscape seminar videos

    Bookmark   August 31, 2009 at 3:50PM
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Thanks Joe- I'll watch it now. I saw the Water birches down at the Tree Of Life nursery in San Juan Capistrano the other day. Went and took their seminar on replacing your lawn with a CA Native garden...

What about a CA Pepper Tree? I just saw a large specimen tree at my local nursery. (in a 36" box)


    Bookmark   August 31, 2009 at 5:59PM
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"Water birch" is a native to our northeast mountain ranges, growing in riparian (= wet) habitats. Likes water.

I'm not a fan of California Pepper. they're not native, by the way.


    Bookmark   August 31, 2009 at 6:07PM
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Yeah, I can't get the pepper tree... I just want to find a specimen tree that is in at least a 24" container. I'm over any birch tree too... just need to find a good source for a desert willow.
What about the Crepe Myrtle's?
Not sure if they're native but what do you think of them?...

    Bookmark   August 31, 2009 at 6:27PM
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purpleclover(CA Sunset 18)


Crepe Myrtles are shrubs -- not trees. Some of them may grow to tree-sized, but they don't have the same life span as a tree. (I say this even though a neighbor of mine has a crepe myrtle that is taller than his house.)

There was actually an LA Times article a couple of years ago about the city encouraging crepe myrtles as street trees when they aren't trees at all. Trees are supposed to get big. Think about the CO2 that a 50 ft shade tree with large leaves uses vs. the amount taken in by a deciduous crepe myrtle bush.

Have you checked out the DWP shade tree program? They're at no cost, and they have specific selections for So Cal. Just looking at the tree descriptions will give you some ideas for considerations (amount of shade, size, rate of growth, leaf litter, etc.) You won't get a specimen sized tree, but it could help you make a decision.

For a specimen tree, I just got a floss silk tree off of CL for $20. Its not native, but it is fast growing when young and will slow down once it reaches about 30 feet tall. Gorgeous green trunk and fall flowers.

If you want to go native, then check out the Theodore Payne Foundation website.


    Bookmark   September 1, 2009 at 1:14AM
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Might want to find out where your sewer lines are before you plant any trees. Friends have had a real mess last few weeks & huge cost!! Gas is underground in most areas also. If you have any allergies pepper tree might give you problems. Crepe Myrtle's grow in Valley a lot. Never have seen 1 as a shrub always a tree, most of time on blvd. Messy & covered with bees but beautiful from a distance. Anyway check out where the lines are as sewer bills are running $20 to $30 thousand dollars these days!! Oh, my DS ran into a Crepe Myrtle about 20 yrs ago & cost to replace the tree was $230 for 1 that was 6 ft tall when planted so they are expensive unless they have dropped the price.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2009 at 1:34AM
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I love Desert Willow! They're so beautiful and they grow fast too.

Theodore Payne is nearby. You should check out their site; And they have classes too!

    Bookmark   September 1, 2009 at 5:51AM
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Thanks everyone. I have checked into LA's shade tree program but the trees are in 5 gallon containers. We will probably get a couple of smaller trees from them. Yes, I have already taken a class at Theodore Payne as well. Just wondering now if anyone has a source nursery in southern CA (closer than las pilitas and tree of life in san juan cap.) that may have specimen trees.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2009 at 11:41AM
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catkim(San Diego 10/24)

"Trees are supposed to get big." True, but keep scale in mind. killyourlawn has a front yard that is 23' x 30' and a 50' tree would be overkill.

Take your time, do your research and choose *very* carefully. It's easy to put a tree in, but years later if you find you have the wrong tree, they aren't so easy or cheap to remove, and you've lost years of garden maturity to an impulsive choice. "Money lost can be regained; it is time that defeats us." -Seneca

    Bookmark   September 1, 2009 at 1:00PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

Hi Brooke,

I go to Green Arrow/Thumb on Sepulveda in Van Nuys for trees. You may also want to go out to Sperling Nursery in Calabasas. Sorry I don't know any nurseries in LA.

Have you considered a Chitalpa? I have heard they may be susceptible to a disease, but I haven't checked that claim out. I have included a link on them.


Here is a link that might be useful: Discussion on Chitalpas

    Bookmark   September 2, 2009 at 12:53AM
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My favorite tree, at the moment, is the selection of Arbutus (strawberry tree) known as "Marina". It's evergreen, drought tolerant, moderate growing, has beautiful red bark which changes through the year, pink flower racemes and orange to red fuzzy "fruits". It fits in well with CA natives and always looks good.

    Bookmark   September 2, 2009 at 12:51PM
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Crapemyrtles are actually fairly long lived and some cultivars can get 20-30 feet tall. It's a very well behaved tree and a safe choice for your front yard. Crapes are prettiest when allowed to make several trunks.

Shade trees make a big difference: At the beginning of this summer I had my Mulberry tree cut down. It has been hotter than H E double toothpicks. The difference between tree and no tree has been dramatic. I don't remember being this miserable in a long time.

So it was damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead: I did what I was not supposed to and planted not one, but two London Planes in my 30 foot deep front yard (It's 80' wide). They are situated fairly close to the fenceline and will shade my yard and a good part of the road. There are no powerlines or sewer over there for them to interfere with. Also being on a corner lot, they're not going to droop over into anyone else's yard. I was going for maximum overkill for shade and aircooling. Shading part of the street will also combat the hot pavement effect. They're growing quickly but they can't grow fast enough for me.

    Bookmark   September 3, 2009 at 2:59AM
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I love the London Planes! Where did you get them?

Well, to follow up, we went to Boething Tree Nursery in Woodland Hills (which I found out about on Garden Web) and they were GREAT! I ended up buying a 14 foot Rhus Lancea (African Sumac) which although not native was very much on sale so I went for it. I really recommend this nursery- family run and very cool and great selection and prices.

We are also going to get 2 smaller tree seedlings for free from the City of LA's shade tree program.


    Bookmark   September 4, 2009 at 9:18PM
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Get the redbud. I have both the CA and the Eastern varieties, and I like them. I'd also go with the Desert Willow... I am thinking of getting one myself (but am running out of space and want a Hachiya persimmon!).

    Bookmark   September 4, 2009 at 10:47PM
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surfcityhb(10, Sunset 24)

If you're interested in natives, try a lyonothamnus (Catalina ironwood), a lovely evergreen native tree with interesting red bark and branches. They are great for narrow areas. I have three of them. They get along very well with other plants, too. They used to be endemic to California, but are now mostly on Catalina, although more and more gardeners on the mainland are planting them in their gardens in an effort to reestablish the tree.

I also have a Western redbud, a great native deciduous tree. The hummingbirds will love you. However, be advised, that if you live close to the ocean like I do (2 miles) the moderating influence of the ocean may cause this tree to not bloom as much as they tend to do inland where temperatures vary more widely. And once it's established, don't water it. You'll kill it with too much water. You'll know you're overwatering it if it starts to yellow and it's not fall yet.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2009 at 3:40AM
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I have desert willow tree seeds (check my exchange page). These seeds came from a volunteer that is about 3 years old and 15 feet high. The trees grow naturally as a bush but are easily trained into tree forms. They are nice and well behaved and fast growing.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2009 at 10:52AM
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Hi stompoutbermuda, wow, I didn't realize the desert willow grew so fast. I'd love to get some seeds, if you want to trade. Check my trade list, it's all '09. I have even more seeds now... just haven't updated the online list yet. I've collected recently from some of my salvias, that the hummingbirds love. Let me know if you are looking for specific things; I may have them.

    Bookmark   September 8, 2009 at 7:42PM
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I found one of my London Planes at Home Depot. They were having a shade tree promotion. I got a 15 gallon Columbia for $16. Of all my trees that one is the fastest growing. It literally has the weeds outpaced.

I ordered my other from a local nursery.

    Bookmark   September 10, 2009 at 11:11AM
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