By Jane Gates
Signal Staff Writer
Autumn is not only a good time to plant California natives and many drought-
tolerant flowers, but it is the best time to plant and do major pruning on trees and woody shrubs.
Sap (tree blood) slows as plants go into winter dormancy or semi-dormancy. This means there will be less bleeding at this time of year, and the tree will go through less shock when roots are moved around or limbs are cut.
Why plant trees?
Trees are important investments in the landscape. Shading your home in the summer can save you 10 percent or more on cooling costs.
With the increasing heat of our lengthening inland chaparral summers, we can use all the help we can get. On cooler days of the year, a shady canopy invites you outdoors to enjoy good weather, play with the kids or pets, or lounge in a comfy chair. The sound of rustling leaves in the breeze offers a calming psychological effect, a welcome gift to our all-too-stressed-out days. Leaves clean our air, attract birds and butterflies and increase the value of our property.
Trees can define your landscape. Because they make a bold statement in the overall design and many can live for a century or more, you need to choose the right one(s). But which trees are best for your garden?
Whatever tree you choose, remember this: Plant a tree — no matter how cute and small it may be when young — as if it’s full grown. The most common mistake people make is to choose a tree according to how it looks when purchased. But all trees grow large, need head room and root space, and will look different in five years — and very different in eight to 10.
Here is a good, partial selection of evergreen trees that tend to grow well in our area. I’ve noted some trees that are a bit frost shy since cold would have made them risky a half dozen years ago. But with the radical increase in nighttime winter temperatures they are probably safe now. The warmer areas of Newhall, Saugus and Valencia should carry little risk. Higher elevations and further east in Canyon Country, some spots can still be exposed to more frosty nights.
Small/Medium trees (under 35’)
Acacia baileyana (Baily’s Acacia)—dependable in our area
Acacia cultriformis (Knife Acacia)—dependable
Acacia longifolia (Sydney Golden Wattle)—frost shy
Acacia pendula (Weeping Acacia)—frost shy
Agonis flexuosa (Peppermint tree)—frost shy
Arbutus unedo (Strawberry tree)—another dependable choice
Callistemon citrinus (Lemon Bottlebrush)—dependable
Ceratonia siliqua (Carob tree)—frost shy
Citrus (Lemon, kumquat, tangerine, orange, lime, grapefruit and more)—listed in order of cold tolerance
Eriobotrya japonica (Loquat)—dependable
Feijoa sellowiana (Pineapple Guava)—dependable (Strawberry Guava is frost shy)
Geijera parviflora (Australian Willow)—dependable
Hakea suaveolens (Sweet Hakea)—dependable but hard to find
Heteromeles arbutifolia (Toyon)—dependable native
Melaleuca nesophila (Pink Melaleuca)—can be a little frost shy
Melaleuca quinquinerva (Cajeput tree)—can be a little frost shy
Metrosideros excelsus (New Zealand Christmas tree)—frost shy
Myoporum laetum (Sandalwood)—variable
Rhus lancea (African Sumac)—dependable
Xylosma congestum (Shiny Xylosma)—usually dependable
Medium-tall trees (under 55’)
Brachychiton populneus (Bottle tree)—dependable
Eucalyptus nicholii (Willow Leaved Peppermint)—usually dependable
Eucalyptus polyanthermos (Silver Dollar)—variable
Eucalyptus sideroxylon (Red Ironbark) height variable—usually dependable
Grevillea robusta (Silk Oak)—dependable with light frost only
Olea europaea (Olive tree)—dependable
Podocarpus gracilior (Fern or Weeping Podocarpus)—can be a little frost shy
Schinus molle (California Pepper)—very dependable but on the forestry commission’s do-not-plant list
Schinus terebinthifolius (Brazilian Pepper)—very dependable but on the forestry commission’s do-not-plant list
Tall/very tall trees
Cinnamomum camphora (Camphor tree)—dependable
Eucalyptus citrodora (Lemon Gum)—dependable
Quercus agrifolia (Coast Live Oak)—dependable but slow-growing
Quercus ilex (Holly Oak)—dependable but slow-growing
Tristiania conferta (Brisbane Box)—frost shy
Ulmus parvifolia (Chinese Elm)—dependable but very root invasive
You may notice I have not included pine trees or palms in the list, even though they are evergreens. Both these tree types have so many varieties that they would require separate articles. Many fir trees, including pines have very flammable sap so I don’t recommend planting them anywhere near structures in our wildfire prone environment.
There are plenty more trees to choose from if you are interested in deciduous trees (trees that shed their leaves for the winter). These include fruit trees, many decorative trees like Crape Myrtle and some of our most colorful bloomers like the Jacaranda.
Research which trees will look good and do well in your garden now and in future years. Plant the right tree in the right place and you will love it forever. The wrong tree can crack cement walkways and house foundations, litter your yard, and make you spend thousands of dollars to remove it.
Do your homework: You won’t regret it!