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I need a small tree

Posted by Jstn254 WA 8 (My Page) on
Sat, Jul 20, 13 at 15:31

Looking for two nice small trees to plant in my backyard in the Puget sound area, about 15 to 25 feet tall, used as kind of a privacy screen. I have a six food wooden fence, I would like the canopy and screening effect perhaps start above the fence. Would like something small and neat in appearance and shape. Anyone have any suggestions?

I was thinking about getting a Lipan Myrtle, but hear they are hard to grow around here. Now my choices might be Autumn brilliance apple serviceberry, Red Buckeye, Downy Serviceberry or a Pacific Dogwood. Anybody got any dirt on these trees or know of any others I might purchase?


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: I need a small tree

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Sat, Jul 20, 13 at 20:23

Vine maple.


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RE: I need a small tree

So you don't care about privacy in the winter when the deciduous trees have no leaves on them?


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RE: I need a small tree

Well honestly I dont go out too much in the backyard in the winter. But if I could find a small evergreen maybe that too.


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RE: I need a small tree

Pacific dogwoods not great under cultivation and highly prone to anthracnose. Also have the potential to get a whole lot larger than 15-25'.

If you are interested in a dogwood, one of the kousa cultivars would fit the bill - most are quite disease resistant. Otherwise, a bunch of flowering crabapples would work. For an evergreen possibility, you could consider a strawberry tree, Arbutus unedo.


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RE: I need a small tree

Western Redbud grows pretty quickly and will eventually top out at 15' tall x 10' wide. If you want an evergreen, you may want to consider Pacific Wax-myrtle. It's technically a shrub, but grows to 15-20' and takes shearing well. Austin Griffiths manzanita and Ceanothus 'Ray Hartman' may also be worth looking into, but they need to be in a spot that has full sun, no soil amendments, and very little summer water.


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RE: I need a small tree

paperbark maples are pretty nice small trees. amazing fall color and winter bark. great shape, so look good in the summer as well. need some water just the first few years.

cornelian cherry is another nice one. early flowers. edible fruit. need very little water after the first year.


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RE: I need a small tree

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Thu, Jul 25, 13 at 23:04

Neither of those last two is inherently drought tolerant so how well they will do without watering here will depend a lot on the soil texture and other conditions of each individual planting site.

My long-established paperbark maple here has been having a pretty bad time since I had a tall hemlock that was overtaking it cut down. Instead of rebounding it has been limping badly, despite occasional sprinklings of many hours - I am not sure it is going to persist.

Where there are still a few of these left in the wild it is often in the woods, under other trees - and this in a climate that rains buckets in summer.

Some Seattle height records (~2005) for trees mentioned in these last two posts:

Acer griseum ... 41'
Cercis occidentalis ... 23 1/2'
Cornus mas ... 32 1/2'
Myrica californica ... 30'

'Ray Hartman' is hardy to 15 degrees F. One I planted on Camano Island froze out almost immediately. While many ceanothus have great visual appeal, here in the north care in variety (and site) selection is critical where a lasting specimen is desired. Multiple commercially prevalent cultivars are only hardy to 10-20 degrees F. - while this may seem pretty hardy to some a lot of local sites actually drop down into this range (and below) rather often - especially when any distance from salt water is involved.


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RE: I need a small tree

cornelian cherry is inherently drought tolerant. native to iran and central asia. it does need some help for the first year or two, but in NW gardens they survive quite well with no supplemental water in the harsh conditions of the sidewalk strip. many examples of them surviving there with no supplemental watering.

paperbark maple is indeed not inherently drought tolerant, it will need help for the first few years. but like many maples, it is tough and can survive our summers without irrigation once established. it is also common in the extreme conditions of sidewalk strips here.


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RE: I need a small tree

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Fri, Jul 26, 13 at 12:49

Mountains in Iran and vicinity are rainy. Like Parrotia persica cornelian cherry shows summer drought effects on many Seattle sites. People plant many other kinds of trees in parking strips etc. here that stop growing or even wilt during the annual summer drought; most forested parts of the world do not have our combination of seasons. Basically if it is not locally native or from California, Chile or the Mediterranean it is not adapted to our precipitation regime in particular. There are notable exceptions of course, such as all the species of Cotoneaster that are reseeding here. And most of our prevalent weeds are Eurasian in origin.

Here is a link that might be useful: 25 Trees that thrive in the maritime Northwest's Dry Summers

This post was edited by bboy on Fri, Jul 26, 13 at 12:53


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RE: I need a small tree

Define "rainy mountains"?

Looking at a precipitation map, mountains in Iran see about 20 to 30 inches of rain a year. They also experience "summer dry" conditions similar to the Pacific NW. Peak rain in winter, least amount of rain in August.

Perhaps the trees you are observing were not well established-- not taken out of their burlap bag. Not well watered in the first year or two etc. I have observed some minor drought effects on many Cornelian Cherry specimens, but I have seen similar effects on native species like vine maple.

There are lots of plants that are widely adaptable outside of their native range. No reason to assume that a climate has to be identical for a plant to adapt. For example, on your list of 25 trees how many are native to California, Chile or the Mediterranean? I see a lot of central Asian plants on that list. Going down the list, 2 out of the first 3 are from that region.


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RE: I need a small tree

"'Ray Hartman' is hardy to 15 degrees F. One I planted on Camano Island froze out almost immediately."

I'm sure you're aware that younger, unestablished plants tend to be less hardy than older, established ones. I've heard of mature Ray Hartman being hardy to 10 (but taking some damage). How often does it get colder than that around Puget Sound? Once every 20 years?

Given that Ray Hartman can grow to 10 feet (!) in a few years and is widely available in the trade, I disagree that it's not worthy of consideration. If I'm looking for a fast-growing evergreen screen, it'd be up pretty high on my list. (Though Myrica californica is probably a better choice, IMO, for several reasons.)

This post was edited by OregonGrape on Fri, Jul 26, 13 at 22:35


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RE: I need a small tree

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Sat, Jul 27, 13 at 18:27

I've been observing garden plant performance here since the 1960s. I wouldn't be commenting based on a scattering of recent plantings struggling due to lack of establishment. As far as the Parrotia specifically, I would be commenting based on an article describing the tree's natural environment that I read many years ago - in which the writer took pains to point out that it grew in a moist climate along with hornbeams etc. and not in a dry area - in addition to what I am seeing the tree do here.

The 15 degrees F. for the 'Ray Hartman' is from the 2006 Timber Press ceanothus book. 10 degrees F. is only an improvement of 5 degrees. Anyone not in a banana belt neighborhood can be getting down there more often than many might be aware of, and it only takes a few hours below a plant's minimum temperature. When I planted the 'Ray Hartman' on my friend's Camano Island property I likewise thought it would be good for some years. She soon was reporting temperatures in the teens inside her covered porch, and the complete set of the hardiest eucalypts that I had planted there had all frozen down, with most of them actually dying completely. Nandina domestica, which seems to be pretty consistent about being hardy to around 10 degrees F, had also frozen to the roots. Leycesteria formosa died completely. And so on.

You can waste a lot of time and money on plants that really aren't hardy here - or you can instead plant ones that are.


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RE: I need a small tree

You can also waste several years waiting for a more hardy hedge to grow to 15'. The poster wants a hedge, most likely sooner rather than later. Given that most people only live in a home for 10-20 years, taking a chance on a handfull of relatively inexpensive one-gallon plants that are hardy in the vast majority of winters in this region, grow explosively fast, and look really nice isn't that outrageous of an idea.

You have no idea where this poster lives, what his/her microclimate may be, and you're focusing heavily on weather conditions that may only come into play once every 10-15 years. While your point about hardiness is a good one and will factor heavily into this person's decision, it does not automatically trump other points of view.

This post was edited by OregonGrape on Sun, Jul 28, 13 at 18:00


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