Best fast-growing tall rhodo (was thinking Arbutus)?

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by Justine M, Dec 27, 2009.

  1. Justine M

    Justine M Active Member

    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Mt. Tolmie, Victoria BC
    Hi,

    Long preamble to my quandary...

    This fall I determined that I had to cut down a closely spaced fir and 2 cedars along my small city lot's western boundary. They had been maintained for 30 years as a hedge (probably a soft fence) but then let to grow wildly for the past 10 years before I bought the property. Instead of being a hedge, they were now quite tall (30'), multi-trunked (above the 4' mark), and too close to each other to be selectively logged... most concerning was that a lateral root of the now free- and fast-growing fir was causing our retaining wall to pitch forward and threatening to uplift our stamped concrete patio. Although I LOVED the privacy, beauty and fresh air these three trees gave to my backyard, I thought it better to be proactive by cutting them down and choosing new trees better suited to the size of my 33 foot wide lot... I hope I can live here for the next 25 years so the plan was I would create something special designed by me.

    {The first photo shows what the trees looked like. To give you an orientation to the site, the fence is running along the western edge of the property, with the right side of the photo being north and the left side south. Any replacements with receive sunlight from the east and south. There is a Norway spruce still standing in the middle of the lot that will block some early morning sunlight.}

    What I didn't realize was that these 30 foot trees were covering up my neighbour's ramshackle garage and more upsetting, unsightly overhead wires behind their lot and running along the alley. Without the shelter of the monochromatic green backdrop of the tall trees, we now see an ugly collage of wires, multi-shaped and -coloured buildings, and now we hear all the sounds of our gravel alley. We are also visible to the views of our neighbours: I can now see the windows of five houses that I didn't realize even existed prior to the cutting down of these trees. I had a private oasis I enjoyed for the first 2 years of living here and it is now gone for quite some time.

    {The second photo shows the views I hope to block with new plantings}.

    Our hard fence is 6 feet tall and the lot has a slight downward slope from north to south. I have so far planted some bamboo (semiarundinaria fastuosa) in the lower garden to recreate the privacy bowers of the fir; a 3 foot tall chocolate silk (albizia) tree near the retaining wall edge to offer an umbrella effect over the stamped concrete patio and now the question is what to plant on the upper boundary to quickly cover up the wires and view of the neighbours. {It's hard to see the tiny albizia in the photo, as this deciduous tree loses its leaves in the fall. I positioned it right in line with the retaining wall.}

    I am especially attracted to the form and colour of arbutus and tree-like rhodos (evergreen magnolias could be nice too however different plant family!), but I really need something that will fill the air space as quickly as possible. I've spent the morning reading all the threads related to Arbutus and one contributor said to expect 20-30 cms growth each year. That's a lot of years before I get the privacy I'm after... and with their vulnerabilities, as much as I love them, probably not the best if I'm after a reliable screen.

    I haven't personally seen the white rhodos that bloom in July-August, but they sound like a possibility due to their tree-like nature, but I wonder if big ones can be bought for transplant and then how much growth can I expect each year?

    I would be most appreciative to you Ericaceae enthusiasts if you could suggest some options. I'm becoming obsessed with fixing the sad blight I visited upon my former oasis. The sooner I do it the quicker the place will return to being an true retreat for me and the birds!

    Thanks and happy new year to you all.
    jm
     

    Attached Files:

  2. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    629
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Victoria [Saanich, actually, northeast of Victoria
    Comment from a non-expert observer: I suppose I should like arbutus, but I find them awfully messy. Don't they shed those dry wasted-looking leaves all summer and early fall? One does around me, and it makes an awful mess. [They are evergreen, though...] It will merely add to the general messiness out in that alley... I'm not fond of them, but I know they have their appreciators. Maybe they grow fast, though, the experts on this forum will know that. Too bad you didn't look into what was behind the trees now gone, but I won't go into that. There are some lovely small maples the gardening books are always mentioning, "vine maples" and the like, which don't grow too tall, and have fall colour, plus the larger Japanese maples [but they aren't generally so thick and view-screening] and deciduous trees don't screen the winter blahs, do they... plus some other shrubs which can grow treelike, I believe, like "smoke tree" which has a soft puffy bloom resembling puffs of smoke and I believe dark purplish leaves... There are weeping willows and suchlike, too... The literature is full of moderate-sized conifers which might do the trick, and as soon as the holidays are over I am sure you will hear from regulars on this site who will suggest just the thing... the fast-growing trees are probably deciduous ones though. Good luck. It should be fixable.
     
  3. Justine M

    Justine M Active Member

    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Mt. Tolmie, Victoria BC
    Dear Janet,
    Great suggestions! Previous to your post I didn't know anything about Vine Maple, but now that I searched for more info I think it's a terrific suggestion! Yours was the first posting I've read about Arbutus that really hit home the fact that they are messy, too. In my small yard that would be a problem. I am especially impressed by the fact that VMs are a native plant (so valued by local birds and insects), that they can have multi stems allowing for broader canopy and winter interest, and that they have such beautiful fall colour. I have a potted yellow variety (instead of purple) of smoke bush that I need to plant... Maybe you helped me find my solution. I do hope nevertheless that vacationing experts will still offer their thoughts once the holidays are over. I'm still curious about evergreen options.
    Thanks again.
    Justine
     
  4. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    629
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Victoria [Saanich, actually, northeast of Victoria
    Hollies are beautiful, I think, and do well here. I am not sure they are fast-growing, but I think some are. Here is a website on Hollies: http://www.finegardening.com/plants/articles/evergreen-hollies.aspx
    in a reputable gardening magazine. The berries are lovely and I think the birds like them too... and I think pruning will develop them in any shape you desire... The tall rhododendrons I would think would require a lot of space sideways as they want to bush out... hollies might be trainable upright more, and one could keep the sideways development in check.
     
  5. Charles Richard

    Charles Richard Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    190
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada
    We have planted many rhodo's over the last 20yrs. We do not have to be concerned about how big they can get.
    There are so many to choose from and not just for flower. The leaf shapes and sizes.
    The color and in indumentum (underside of leaves can be rusty-orange color).
    If you can get access to Greer's Book of Rhododendrons, it would give an idea of how big the different forms will be in optimum conditions in first 10yrs. Generally, if you look at a tag and it states a size. This usually for growth in 10yrs. There might be a web-site for Harold Greer's Rhodo's (in Oregon).
    I am reluctant to list a bunch of different Rhodo's as there are so many to choose from for flower color, time of flowering etc. I found over the years that I preferred to see them in flower, rather than go by a photo (colors are not always true).
    I went on some garden tours, especially if there are some put on by a Rhodo Society.
    These where always helpful and they do not just have Rhodo's. Most have ideas for underplantings (companion plants) for Rhodo's.
    They can be pruned, either by bud pinching to maintain size and shape. Just do no want to pinch out to much or you will loose branches for flower production.
    Enough rambling, they are beautiful and low maintenance and give color and green all year round.
    If you do not have any luck with the web-site, I am more than willing to let you know what would be some of my favorites and what has worked for us. Give me some ideas as to what colors etc.
    I hope that this has been some help.
    Happy New Year to all.
     
  6. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

    Messages:
    20,895
    Likes Received:
    631
    Location:
    WA USA (Z8)
    Ilex aquifolium is a weed species in this region, birds certainly do like it - and spread it all over. Can also be prone to a leaf disease here, one year at the Van Dusen holly collection I saw that all the English hollies had experienced spotting and premature dropping of the leaves on their lowest branches - while the Highclere hollies growing in the same area had not.
     
  7. Justine M

    Justine M Active Member

    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Mt. Tolmie, Victoria BC
    Ya, I think holly is out. Would you folks know what kind of tree this is? Is it an arbutus? I really like its look. It is the plant that inspired my first desire for the plant. It doesn't seem to have a lot of "mess" underneath it...
     

    Attached Files:

  8. Justine M

    Justine M Active Member

    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Mt. Tolmie, Victoria BC
    BTW, thank you Charles for your comments. It's perhaps funny that I am not as concerned about the colour as I am about the size of the tree the rhodo will be in five or ten years, and the overall shape of the tree and its leaves. I say tree because I would like a larger one. I like long skinny leaves as opposed to roundish ones or the more usual (?) ellipsoidal ones. I am attracted to any flower that gives off a lovely scent... not very common in rhodos as I understand them. Since the plant spends 10+ months of the year without flowers, I am not so fussy about that aspect. I have a collection of rhodos in my front yard. I bought this place in 2007 with the plants already in the ground (my neighbours said the previous owners installed an "insta-garden", for curb appeal I suppose). They are all low to medium in size. Each May I'm shocked to see that they also have colour! I think of them as just being green!! With time I will no doubt become a little obsessed with their flowering aspect. Right now with regard to my back-yard I am trying to decide on the bones (green structure) of my garden and I know I like evergreen and I am hoping for a screen of sorts. Thanks again to all of you that are offering ideas. Really appreciated by me!
     
  9. Charles Richard

    Charles Richard Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    190
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada
    JustineM,
    There are a couple of Rhodo,s that have particular interest to me as they flower, green all year and have a beautiful indumentum.
    There is one called 'Teddy Bear' (white/cream flower, lanceshaped leaves and a beautiful rusty/brown fuzzy underside to the leaves. This will get a good size, ours is about 5' tall now and it has been in for 6yrs. This all depends also as to how large they are when you purchase them.
    Another which is a species (tree form) is 'arboreum'. Can be slow to flower as most do not flower for the first 8-10 yrs.
    I mention these, because of all of the attributes I mentioned earlier as well as when the sunlight shines through the plant in the early morning or evening the rusty/red indumentum glows against the deep green leaves. Quite beautiful.
    The Rhodo's 'Point Defiiance', 'Lem's Monarch', 'Pink Walloper' all sister plants. Their flower/leaf are almost identical. The flower truss on these forms is absolutely gorgeous. Huge trusses, deep pink with white centers and probably a good 8 -10" around. They put on alot of growth and have a large leaf (olive green).

    The other thing that I just though of is a 'Photinia' which has dark green leaves and the new growth comes out burgundy color. I train one into a tree form (used alot for hedging). I purchased it in a 2 gal. pot and pruned it and it is now 10' high and clear underneath, so that I could underplant with other materials. They can get black spots on the leaves, but I have never had a problem with the one that we have.
    The other trees that are cool with the light coming through (not evergreen) are
    the Robinia 'frissia' and the Gleditsia (?), the latter being smaller. Both have a chartreuse color leaves.
    Hope you are having a good time planning your garden.
     
  10. janetdoyle

    janetdoyle Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    629
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Victoria [Saanich, actually, northeast of Victoria
    It is interesting to see how the understanding evolves of someone's "design wish-list", JustineM, it is always rather difficult to make suggestions at first when one does not know enough about that! Yes, I think that is an arbutus but perhaps the owner picks up after it. I find July and August and maybe September pretty heavy shedding months for the arbutus near me, which is located on strata land that the landscaper doesn't always religiously rake up, and it is not even a very big tree. The dry brown leaves end up in my patio and on the surrounding lawns, not that that is a huge problem, a tree must do what it must... but since I have to clean up needles and cones from my patio from the surrounding tall firs and cedars too, it is a bit of a nuisance and I'd rather it didn't shed! I can sit on my patio and watch the dry arbutus leaves drifting down! This time of year there is no mess from it...
     
  11. Chris Klapwijk

    Chris Klapwijk Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    272
    Likes Received:
    7
    Location:
    Black Ceek, B.C., Canada
    Charles, for what it's worth, R. 'Lem's Monarch' and R. 'Pink Walloper' are synonymous, they're not sister seedlings.
     
  12. Charles Richard

    Charles Richard Active Member 10 Years

    Messages:
    190
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Vancouver Island, B.C. Canada
    I stand corrected. Thank You.
    I was going off of information left with me from years ago.
    When we moved here many years ago now, I was given quite a few rhodo's (very large) that we moved onto our site. When these specimens where originally planted and purchased the 'Lem's Monarch' was not a synonym of 'Pink Walloper'. I am going from information left with me from the fella that had them previous to us. He had catalogued most info.
    Although they have suffered many setbacks over the years from moving and snow loads breaking them, they are surviving.
    I like the history behind them.
     

Share This Page