Which ornamental tree would you choose?

datura222October 6, 2012

Last question, I promise!!

We are ripping out our dying grass in the front yard and put a drought tolerant garden in.

There currently is no tree in the front of our home.

I would love to hear what you seasoned California gardeners would choose.

All I see at Home Depot is Crape Myrtles...is that a good choice?

The tree would get full sun, and because we live in San Jose if it could tolerate summer drought a bit that would work best.

It doesn't necessarily have to flower, we just want something neat and maybe a bit original :)

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hoovb zone 9 sunset 23

So many choices, might help to narrow it down a bit by asking: what style is your house? How big is the area for the tree? What are the companion plantings there now? Are there any other trees nearby? Any allergies in your family?

If you have not been, there are some fabulous botanical gardens in your area--might be fun to look around and see what you like, see how it grows. Crape Myrtles are wonderful trees, and might be an excellent choice, but they are not super rare and unusual--though sometimes rare and unusual is not the best choice. What about Metrosideros 'Spring Fire'--not quite so common, but a very interesting small tree, and easy to grow. But there are many others...

Here is a link that might be useful: Metrosideros 'Springfire'

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 12:39AM
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Metrosideros is a pretty tree which is supposed to do better near the ocean. We had a neighbor who had a beautiful one when we lived on Point Loma. Inland you might consider a bottlebrush pruned as a tree. Both trees are hummingbird magnets. Another less common favorite of mine is Arbutus -- pretty bark, pretty foliage, pretty flowers, pretty fruit and quite drought tolerant. I have a crepe myrtle which is shaded in the morning and it gets powdery mildew every year whole the neighbor's fully exposed tree does fine. What about a fig or an apricot? Both types of fruit are far tastier when picked at peak ripeness. Figs are easy, pest free and can be pruned to any size you want.

I would recommend shopping at a good garden center rather than HD for a much more interesting selection.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 5:56AM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

The Arbutus Marina is a beautiful tree. Evergreen with shiny red bark on a naturally shaped trunk with multiply branching. I have seen them lately in big box stores where they are limed up into a "lolly pop" destroying the beauty of the tree. As with all trees there will be some litter dropping but for most of us it is not a problem. The tree in 15 years or so will reach mature size at about 30 feet with a rounded crown. Al

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 10:10AM
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Crepe myrtles can be very pretty (there are mildew resistant varieties BTW) but they do remain bare a VERY long time in spring. They seem to be bare for about 6 months! Maybe it's not that long but to me they look dead long after other trees have buds and leaves.

How about a fruitless olive tree Evergreen and gorgeous, doesn't need much water.

Western redbud is a beautiful deciduous tree with good shade in summer, pretty flowers, and interesting bark.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 10:39PM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

I love my Chinese Fringe Tree. It's slow growing, but it has a pretty shape and lovely white flowers in spring.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 11:38PM
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Another vote for Chinese fringe! The cloud of white in spring is amazing! And yes, it is a bit less common than the crape myrtle.


Here is a link that might be useful: Chinese fringe tree, aka chionanthus retusus

    Bookmark   October 10, 2012 at 3:46PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

The Chinese fringe tree, like most blooming trees is lovely in bloom, but just for about 3 weeks. The peeling back is also attractive. If you want a deciduous tree with a long bloom cycle, look at the Chitalpa, Pink Dawn, which blooms from May till frost. The Arbutus Marina is evergreen and looks the same year around. Al

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 9:26AM
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I bought a very small white flowering chitalpa, finally planted it this past spring, and it has taken off. I love the bright green leaves, the masses of flowers, and the fact that hummers love it too! It did have a few aphids the first year I had it, but they washed off and haven't returned.

Not at its peak, but thought you might like to see the blossoms.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 11:27AM
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I planted a silk floss tree in my front yard as the one ornamental tree, but in Venice, I also had a giant bird of paradise, and I considered planting a jacaranda tree. If the silk floss will grow in your neighborhood, it is a great tree to have and is gorgeous when it blooms. I believe it is somewhat drought tolerant, especially once established. If you can buy it in your area, then it will probably grow there.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 8:03PM
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There is a handsome pineapple guava across the street from me. It's very old, I suspect since it is a bit taller than the one story house. It's been grown as a multiple trunk or low-branched tree and has a very attractive, rounded crown and pretty silvery leaves. It blooms for most of the summer although they are individual blooms rather than flashier racemes. It is planted in ground cover so that fruit drop is not an issue. If you haven't tried them, pineapple guavas are quite tasty, but sandy. That might be another non-deciduous choice.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 9:50PM
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jenn(SoCal 9/19)

Our 2-year-old Chitalpa has been very happy in full all-day sun. I would have preferred a multi-trunk version but a single trunk is what we got. It drops leaves (which I like, great mulch) and blooms long. Hummers love it.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2012 at 11:17PM
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calistoga_al ca 15 usda 9

Back in 1992 while volunteering for Saratoga Hort foundation,I bought a Chitalpa Pink Dawn in a 5 gallon size, and planted it here in Calistoga. After planting I cut about 3 feet of the leader out to allow it to grow as a multi-trunk. The removed leader I planted in the patio area to grow as a standard at the start of the stairway to the upper parking area. The multi trunk version I removed after a few years as it sprawled over two large an area. The patio tree I cut at about 5 feet to form two scaffolds high enough to walk under. Because of the shade in the picture it is not easy to see the scaffolds. At the top you can see the one year growth often exceeds 3 feet and requires fairly hard pruning yearly. The white flowers at the right are a star Jasmine on a two story brick wall. Al

    Bookmark   October 12, 2012 at 9:21AM
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Thank-you to everyone who answered, I really appreciate the help :)

Well, I found a great deal on a large multi trunked arbutus marina! What a beautiful focal point it will make...our front lawn is barren so I can't wait to start planting :)

I wish I had more space as I loved alot of the other trees posted too!

    Bookmark   October 15, 2012 at 11:30PM
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