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Planting as Easy as One Two Tree

* First of Two Parts. * Next week: How to choose plant a tree.

November 25, 2000|U.C. MASTER GARDENERS

Question: I'd like to plant a tree in my yard. When is a good time to plant trees, and how do I go about choosing trees for my landscape?

J.M., Aliso Viejo

Answer: Autumn is the best time to plant trees because the extreme heat has abated, but the soil remains warm enough to encourage new roots to take hold. These new roots will take advantage of the beneficial winter rains to come.

There are many trees that will grow here. Before planting, consider the following:

* Why do you want a tree? To create shade? Screen a view? Bear fruit?

* What kinds of trees do you like? Evergreens or deciduous trees that lose their leaves in fall and winter? Do you prefer leaves to needles? Do you want color such as flowers or leaves that change color in the fall? What shape tree do you want?

* How much room is there in the yard? This will help you determine how big of a tree you can consider. Many trees grow too large for the average yard, especially when improperly placed.

Large trees need a lot of clearance. Keep in mind that it is important not to plant too close to a building or concrete surface such as a house, sidewalk, patio or pool, as tree roots can be invasive and destructive.

How tall can you allow the tree to grow? Are there wires overhead? How wide can the canopy get? Will you be planting on a slope?

A good way to see a particular type of tree at maturity is to visit an arboretum.

* Does the area you're considering have drainage and can it be adequately watered?

* Can you handle a high-maintenance tree that requires pruning, thinning and training to achieve a desired look? Or are you partial to low-maintenance trees? Is the tree fussy about soil conditions or will it grow just about anywhere?

Trees for O.C.

Here is a list of woody trees that generally grow well in Orange County and are usually readily available at local nurseries. Each type may have several varieties, so check with a certified nursery professional before making a purchase.

(Listed are woody trees, rather than palms, which are part of a large plant family that has distinct requirements.)

* Australian willow: An evergreen tree with graceful, fine-textured leaves that give a weeping willow effect. Generally grows 25 to 30 feet high and 20 feet wide. Produces clusters of small, creamy white flowers in spring. Requires well-draining soil and is fairly drought-tolerant.

* Avocado: Evergreen trees that generally grow to 30 feet tall and often as wide. It drops leaves all year but provides good shade. Grows best out of direct wind. Requires good, fast drainage. Haas and fuerte are popular varieties that do well here. Avocado crops run in cycles--heavy one year and light the next.

* California pepper: Evergreen with bright green leaves that are divided into 1 1/2 to 2-inch long leaflets. Tiny yellow flowers followed by clusters of red berries in the fall. Often disliked for messy droppings year-round, but treasured for its lacy, graceful look. Grows in any soil and will tolerate drought once established. Fast growing to 25 to 40 feet high and wide.

* Carrot wood: Slow to moderate growth to 30 feet high and 20 feet wide. Clean-growing tree that is good for patios and lawns. Tolerates poorly drained soil and withstands everything from salty air to hot, dry inland winds.

* Crape myrtle: Produces showy blossoms in conical clusters that are 6 to 12 inches long at branch ends. Appearing July through September, blooms come in shades of red, pink, orchid, purple and white. Likes full sun and infrequent but deep watering. Can reach 30 feet high. This tree is not a good choice along the coast because it is susceptible to powdery mildew. If you live on the coast and want one, consult a certified nursery professional regarding resistant varieties.

* European white birch: Popular tree with delicate, lacy, upright sweeping side branches. Reaches 30 to 40 feet tall and 15 to 20 feet wide. Requires ample water and regular feeding.

* Edible fig: Deciduous, fast growing tree that reaches 15 to 30 feet. Tropical looking leaves are deeply lobed. Not fussy about soil and drought-tolerant once established. 'Kadota' variety bears best in hot areas, while 'Mission' grows everywhere except the coast.

* Liquidambar (also called Sweet Gum): Deciduous tree with maple-shaped leaves that turn various colors in fall, depending on the variety. These trees drop leaves and spiny balls in the fall. Prefer a neutral or slightly acid soil and grow at a moderate rate.

The Chinese Sweet Gum grows 25 feet wide and 40 to 60 feet high, while the Oriental variety grows 20 to 30 feet high and wide, and the American grows 60 feet tall with a spread of 20 to 25 feet.

* Magnolia grandiflora: Slow-growing evergreen tree with glossy, leathery 4- to 8-inch-long leaves. Can grow to 80 feet tall with a 40-foot spread. Sometimes takes 15 years to produce big, fragrant flowers. Does well in heat, if protected from wind. Usually needs good drainage, neutral or slightly acid soil and frequent, heavy watering.

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