July 22, 2008

Gardening > Made in the Shade With These Trees


I would like some advice on what kind of tree I should plant in my front yard for shade. I live in Mira Loma (Riverside County), where it is very hot in the summer and cold and windy in the winter months. I would like something fast-growing and preferably evergreen that would not hurt my plumbing. One last thing: My yard is small, so the tree should not be too large.

>Rachelle Romero, Mira Loma

Most evergreen trees are not known for producing shade. Exceptions would be evergreen or live oaks, and they eventually get quite large.

One medium-size evergreen you might consider is carrot wood (Cupaniopsis anacardioides), so-called because of its orange wood, which matures to a height of 40 feet. It is a dependable, if not terribly glamorous, tree with nondescript flowers.

Bailey acacia (Acacia baileyana), which grows to 30 feet tall, has finely cut blue leaves and fragrant yellow flowers. Evergreen pear (Pyrus kawakamii) also grows to 30 feet, producing a cloud of white flowers in late winter or early spring. The only problem is its susceptibility to fireblight, a disease that results in an annual crop of burnt leaves.

Lastly, lemon bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus) actually is a large shrub that is frequently trained as a tree.Its scarlet flowers are abundantly displayed and it reaches a height of 25 feet.

If wind is a problem in your area, I would plant a 5-gallon tree and keep lower shoots intact for the first few years to thicken the trunk and stabilize the root system. If you plant a 15-gallon standard or single-trunk tree, it may develop a permanent bend in the direction of the prevailing wind even if it is staked.

In windy areas, the only 15-gallon trees worth planting would be multitrunked specimens since they are more capable of building wind resistance.

Incidentally, the rule for planting trees in windy areas also holds true for slope planting: Always opt for multitrunked specimens to maximize stability. Trees with a strong vertical orientation on slopes, as they mature, either fall over or always seem to be on the verge of doing so.

People with an average or slightly above-average yard, from 900 to 1,200 square feet, might consider planting an evergreen oak.

The highly drought-tolerant cork oak (Quercus suber) is native to the Mediterranean, where its spongy bark is used for making corks used in wine bottles. Southern live oak (Quercus virginiana) is tolerant of a wide variety of soil and climate conditions.

Either tree eventually would take over an average-size yard but, with water prices going up, that might not be a bad thing -- once established, evergreen oaks require little irrigation other than winter rain.

Widely adaptable California native oaks include coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia), canyon live oak (Quercus chrysolepis), holly oak (Quercus ilex) and the blue-green Engelmann oak (Quercus engelmanii).

There are many drought-tolerant species to plant under oaks that would need nothing more than occasional watering with a hose.

According to the Theodore Payne Foundation in Sun Valley, perennials to plant under oaks would include yarrow (Achillea millefolium) with pink, yellow or white flowers; creeping mahonia (Berberis aquifolium repens) with holly-like leaves; coral bells (Heuchera) with foliage in green, red or purple; monkey flower (Mimulus) with orange blooms; meadow rue (Thalictrum) with fern- like foliage; hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea); both edible and ornamental currant species (Ribes); and iris.

Grapevine pruning

I have Syrah grapevines in my backyard. They are five years old and loaded with fruit. Some shoots exceed 20 feet in length and they interfere with the gardener's work. Is it OK to trim the long shoots?

>Ken Buttke, Woodland Hills

Grapevines are tough plants and will not be damaged by summer pruning. You can cut the long shoots back to the fruit clusters without ill effect.

You probably know that grapes generally are pruned in late winter, just before bud break. Summer pruning generally is done only to thin out foliage that may become mildewy or cause fruit to get mildewy due to lack of sunlight or air circulation.

Syrah, sometimes called Shiraz, is a classic grape variety used for making red wine and it is an arresting deep purple. Syrah vines are extremely vigorousand may invite summer pruning for out of control shoots.

If you do prune at this time of year and want to propagate your vines, take 4- to 8-inch slightly hardened shoot pieces, dip the bases in root hormone powder (available in most nurseries), and place cuttings in fast- draining soil in 1-gallon containers.

Make sure containers are in partial shade and water sparingly. Roots should begin to grow in about a month.

Tip of the Week

The Los Angeles Department of Water & Power is giving away free trees to its customers. Individual resident homeowners who complete an online workshop and submit a site-specific plan are eligible for up to seven trees. Homeowner associations and apartment owners, as well as renters with landlord approval, also may participate in the program.

Among those trees currently available are crape myrtle, coast live oak, holly oak, white alder, Chinese pistachio, 'Raywood' ash, chitalpa, Australian willow, paperbark, camphor, southern Magnolia, 'Purple Robe' black locust, lemon and weeping bottlebrushes, tipu, ginkgo and fern pine. For more information, go to www.ladwp.com/ trees, or call (800) 473-3652.

(c) 2008 Daily News; Los Angeles, Calif.. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.