Hi there, Im a new subscriber whos lurked around the search engine of
this group for a while. This morning, new neighbors just cut down a
beautiful tree that was the corner tree for 4 house lots. This is the
second time in a couple years that neighbors have hacked away at their
backyards, replacing trees with other beautiful items, such as storage
sheds. I figure it's time for me to reverse this trend, and I have no
idea how, so I have subscribed. :)
I now have some ugly views of neighbors' windows and backyards. I
think it's time for me to plant some trees myself. However I have no
idea what to plant. Hoping to get some advice... Not sure what my
climate zone is, but it's San Jose, California--dry, summers get to
90-100 on hot days, winters have occasional freezes but usually only
once or twice a season. Lots of sun. My house is positioned in a way
that I have a back fence that gets directly hit by the morning sun.
The corner of the fence that is now treeless gets mid-day sun...about
4 hours direct. For comparison, citrus trees grow well here (but i
need something faster and taller). I'd like something that grows fast
but doesn't drop it's leaves, and doesnt grow too big... enough to
obscure a second-story bedroom window, and there's pools in the
backyards, so roots can't be a problem. The ground space I have to
work with is about 5 feet deep held by a retaining wall.
Im also looking at planting more (my neighbors are going to hate me)
but this is the current priority.
Looking forward to angering my neighbors with some arbor pollution,
can anyone help?
Thanks in advance,
Fast growing trees are typically quite weak-wooded and short lived... so you
might want to consider the "so now I have to take it out" factor in your
decisions. You might want to grow something fast now, as well as something
that grows more slowly -- then take out the fast growing tree as soon as
the others have a bit of growth. You've also got city forestry laws to
keep in mind... I think there are penalties in San Jose for cutting trees
You're in USDA zone 9, which means the coolest temperature you see in
10 years, on average, is not below 20o, probably Sunset zone 15. Do you
have a copy of the Sunset Western Gardens book?
Revisiting your idea of an evergreen tree... is this because you want
a green crown all year, or do you just not want to rake leaves? Some of
the leguminous trees -- mimosa for one example -- have such fine leaflets
that when they fall, they virtually disappear.
Where and how high are any power or phone lines? How big a canopy spread can
your yard accomodate? What easements are on your property?
Thanks for the tip. Seems a trellis is going to go there for as a few
nice ones here brought up that idea
Yes i have a copy, but its intimidating :)
There's a pool nearby, so I have to keep things as clean as
No phone lines in the way, This particular area isnt that wide for
canopy maybe 10-12 feet total (assuming neighbors will chop off
branches if it gets wider), I want a wider tree for the front yard,
but I better save that for a different post. Easements are pretty
lax, as mentioned, neighbors get chop-happy if anything intrudes that
they don't approve of, but this time, at least they wont own the
Well, yes, it probably should be <g> -- picking a good tree for the location
should be a matter of great thought, so you don't have to do it over again
at great expense. We've lived on our property about 4 years now, and I'm
just now starting to decide what trees go and what stay (and for how long)
and what new trees I want where and how I'm going to source them. I'm still
shaking my head over the irrigated weeping willows the previous owners had
planted. Those did go right away. Totally inappropriate species for the
climate and totally inappropriate planting locations on the property lines.
And the arborvitae that were planted three feet out from the house are
interesting... the living room window was half-blocked, the siding rotted
in spots because the tree held moisture against the wood in one area...
I've given them a hard pruning on the house side, but they're just in a
holding pattern till some shrubs grow in.
One of my favorite tips for planting trees: find out how big the tree
should get. Lay out that crown dimension on the ground, using a stick and
string to draw the circumference and flour to mark the edges of the crown.
Then think again about your choice before actually buying the tree.
You do know that most evergreen trees shed a little all year around,
right? As opposed to "do it and get it over with once a year"?
And where is the pool, and who owns it? How many feet from the
Unfortunately, a tree with a spreading canopy that's getting half of
the crown whacked off can get pretty unstable in bad weather, just
because of the structural imbalance.
No, easements like underground utilities, cable, sewer lines, all the
stuff that goes into supporting a city are what I wanted to know about.
Should be on your deed.
What I'm hearing right now is that you're going to need a fastigiate
(columnar) tree for the back yard, or a trellis or pergola with interesting
plants in such tight spaces. Me, I'd go for a pergola/loggia in that amount
We've lived on our property about 4 years now, and I'm
yes it appears that a previous owner cut down what appeared to be
about a half dozen pine trees (stumps have been left behind). My
neighbor told me that the property was overrun with them a few years
before I moved in. there is one left out front, and it's 1/2 dead
anyways so it has to go. What sucks is that its about the only tree
left amongst 4 houses!
I have been scoping out the trees that have been planted by developers
when new houses get built, and they seem to be a pretty common tree
for the whole area, so I'm thinking of clipping a piece and bringing
it into a tree nursery to find out the name. The trees seem to be
picked for their hardiness and non-damaging nature. They grow at a
decent rate too (about 12 feet in 3 years) but stop at a certain
height of 20 or so feet.
San Jose seems to be getting famous for infestations of strange
foreign bugs as well, and I dont like chemicals, so i'll need to find
something hardy. (Willows seem to grow well here, we even have a
neighborhood close by called Willow Glen :)
thanks. I'll also see how it will look if neighbors cut half of it
It's my pool, it's about 12 feet from the location the tree would be
planted. I also would like to keep cleanup for neighbors at a
minimum. Im guessing the small shedding over time would not catch
their attention as much, thus not blaming me.
Eventually for the front yard i'd like to plant a nice blossoming
tree, but my neighbor, a nice old lady, would be stuck with the
leaves, based on how the wind blows. (offering cleanup i suppose would
be a nice gesture, and she does make great oatmeal cookies...)
fastigate! A word i have been searching for to describe this.
Thanks! i feel oner word smarter and farther down the path of finding
the right tree, or other space-filling idea. I was planning to build
a roof over my deck next spring, so maybe i can extend it and have a
matching pergola over there. I'll get back at them with a wisteria fed
on miracle-gro. (kidding!) Thanks for the advice!
Try looking in the pages at the front of Sunset re: plants to use
near swimming pools. In my book its on page130 'Treelike Plants
Here are a couple of ideas to look up in Sunset or your nursery:
both are evergreen, moderate growth, small leaves when they drop
are not a big mess, and both are grown as hedges so they don't
mind pruning. Both grow well here in Butte County which has a similar
Pittosporum tobira (has very fragrant flowers... better for front than
around a pool, attracts bees during bloom)
I strongly suggest you have your property surveyed by a reputable
local plant nursery. They probably won't charge you more than $100
and could even be free if you give them the planting job, which I also
strongly recommend... since you don't want to wait half a lifetime for
a sapling to become a tree it would behoove you to have more sizable
specimens professionally planted... many arid clime evergreens are
very slow growing. As angry as you sound you'll probably be very
happy with instant eyesore blockage. The nursery may also recommend
other appropriate screening besides trees... vines work well on a
trellis, especially grape vines. But just planting whatever strikes
your fancy without professional intervention will very likely turn out
to be a big mistake, a huge waste of time, energy, and money. Without
actually seeing your property with my own eyes all the specific advice
I could offer would be wild speculation, even photos don't offer real
help. Have a professional come to your property. And don't rush
headlong into any plan thrust upon you, take some weeks to mull things
over, mistakes can be very costly and you may have to live with the
wrong trees for a very long time, if you're not already too old, trees
just don't grow very rapidly, not even the fastest growers... a newly
planted tree typically needs five years to completely recover from
transplant shock before it actually shows measurable growth. One
specific piece of advice I will offer, make sure that whatever you
decide, that it won't grow so it hangs over on your neighbor's side of
the property line... if laws are still as they were when I lived in So
Cal neighbors can lop off whatever hangs on their side, I can still
remember the fig tree wars.
Right, and less rain than other nearby areas (the usual climate zones
are just about the coldest winter temperature - they don't express how
hot and dry San Jose summers are, even compared with San Francisco,
Santa Cruz, etc). So forget about coastal redwood for example (well,
it is probably too big as well, but the point is that it won't be
particularly happy about the San Jose dry climate).
Maybe California Buckthron (
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhamnus_californica )? Maybe too short.
That page says "2-5 m tall" (6-15 feet) and I don't know if 15 feet is
as big as you want even if your plant did get that tall.
Madrone has beautiful bark (
I don't know, I didn't have a garden when I lived in California. So I
don't really know these plants from a gardener's point of view. I'm
mostly just browsing sites like:
I would spend some time researching what to plant. Even a
fast-growing tree will probably take a while (and the fast-growing
ones may have other problems like short life). Picking the right tree
will increase the chances that it survives, lasts a while and does
what you hope it will.
You might think about trying out a few non-trees (maybe just while you
are waiting for the tree to grow up). Something like a vine on a
trellis/cage, or some taller flower like a goldenrod, might partially
block your view of that neighbor's shed while you wait for the tree to
The trellis idea seems like a good one for now. I'll look these
plants and trees up. Thanks for the tips!
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