British Columbia: betula Jacquemontii or white birch

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by jadetree, Jul 28, 2010.

  1. jadetree

    jadetree Member

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    My landscape architect has specified mutli-stemmed white or silver birch for my front garden. I am trying to find three specimens that are still small enough for me to manage on my own (12 feet tall or smaller) but when I find them I want to be sure they will survive. Are multi-stemmed birch simply birch that have been "teased" into this shape or are they a hybrid? Do they do well in Vancouver's climate? I have been told that birch do not do well on the coast. Are there special care tactics that can promote their success other than the usual instructions on planting? I should also ask what the maximum height might be for this variety and how close to the house is it safe to plant? Do these trees have root system that can damage foundations or heave sidewalks? I have very limited space so if this is not a good tree to plant in a small front garden can anyone suggest an alternative? I also like Laburnum and Mountain Ash but hope for something around 30 ft high at most. I appreciate any advice or information.
     
  2. Charles Richard

    Charles Richard Active Member

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    Hi Jadetree,
    We have a White Birch (jacquemontii) and it has been in for 5yrs. now and is about 14ft high. The is a condo complex on the water on the Island which has had multiple plantings of these trees for many years now and are not overly large for the number of years planted. They have them planted in groupings of three, but not multi-stemmed. I have never seen one offered.
    We have a Robinia 'frisia' which is very large (grows quickly), but may be too big for your site. We saw a Robinia 'twisted baby' (sorry cannot remember the specie), but it had contorted branches and the leaves looked like someone had curley them. Not unattractive, very unusual and different.
    The other tree that is beautiful is the Cornus 'Eddie's white wonder' and the Japanese snowbell tree (Stewartia, I believe).
    Have no idea as for the root structure of the White Birch.
    The birch trees at the condo site get full sun all day and this may be the difference in the growth habit of yours in comparison.
    Have fun design your yard.
     
  3. jadetree

    jadetree Member

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    Thank you for the reply. I am glad to know that birch can do well in our climate.

    Cheers,
     
  4. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Silver birch is customarily Betula pendula. It grows large and is an aphid magnet in my area. Betula utilis jacquemontii does not produce the same elegant weeping habit. But the clone commonly sold here displays stark white bark. Mine became infested with what looked to be the same leaf miner that can be quite abundant on native stands of B. papyrifera north of here. Finding the effects of the miners tiresome and this not being a rare tree here, I cut it down. Since native paper birch trees are abundant around Vancouver I would wonder if you might end up with the same problem.

    Himalayan white birch is not a small-growing tree either*, although the grafted clone seen here does develop at a comparatively leisurely pace in many plantings.

    *79' tall several years ago in the Seattle arboretum.
     
  5. jadetree

    jadetree Member

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    Wow! 79' is huge. Thank you, this is all good information.
     
  6. Lysichiton

    Lysichiton Active Member

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    The birches I see in the Fraser Valley are lovely as small trees. Yes, they look good planted in groups, rather than pinched to branch-out. Yes, they get big & diseased. Generally not long-lived in the gardens I have seen. I don't think that is a problem really. When they get too big & sick after 10-20 years - haul 'em out & put in something new. BC ministry of Agriculture site that I just checked says the lifespan of birches is 30-40 years.

    How about one of the smaller maples with interesting bark instead? Don't get huge & are easy to prune to keep to a reasonable size in a smaller area.

    gb
     
  7. jadetree

    jadetree Member

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    Thanks for the feedback. I will consider maples instead.

    cheers,
     
  8. eloharein

    eloharein Active Member

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    I have three white birch, about four years old and over 15 feet high. They are planted in a large bed in the front yard, and looked great for the first two years. In the fall of the third year a rutting buck ripped up the trunks of two. This year the undamaged birch got tent caterpillars and the other birches suffered from something (leaf miner?) where a tiny black caterpillar resided in an airy pocket on each leaf. I'm not sure how to deal with this problem.
    I love the bark, but would not choose birch again if I could start over. I live on Vancouver Island.
     
  9. jadetree

    jadetree Member

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    Thanks for replying. As much as I love birch trees it seems I should consider an alternative. Japanese maples seem to do very well here so I may go that route.

    Cheers,
     
  10. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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  11. jadetree

    jadetree Member

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    Thank you for this information and the list of trees. Several of them are very intriguing and I will explore these options further.

    Cheers,
     
  12. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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  13. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    I am surprised the LA would spec Birch, many nurseries don't grow them anymore due to issues with bronze birch borer in the lower mainland. Consider Styrax obassia or Stewartia mondelpha and perhaps Acer griseum
     
  14. jadetree

    jadetree Member

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    Thank you. I will consider these alternatives.
     
  15. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    The last two would give you colored bark. If you go walk around Van Dusen you can see many different kinds of interesting trees. You might also see something to get jazzed about at UBCBG. My favorite trees there are in the Lam Asian Garden.
     
  16. jadetree

    jadetree Member

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    Hi Ron B. Choosing a tree has become a major research project and I am very interested in the Stewartia Mondelpha so am going to UBCBG to have a look at theirs. I appreciate the suggestions.

    Jadetree
     
  17. Ron B

    Ron B Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    A bit northwest of where the tunnel under Marine Drive comes out in the Lam Garden, if the grouping is still intact you can see the related SS. monadelpha, serrata and sinensis together in a row. Of the three I would choose S. sinensis, in addition to other attributes its flowers are even scented. Not too long ago the importer Piroche Plants was distributing stock under the synonym S. gemmata so it may be possible a local outlet still has some of it. You would not, of course want one that was still sitting in the same pot and soil from several years ago, but rather a specimen that had been kept up with. By now one such might be head high or taller.

    Have a look at this excellent article from last year.

    http://www.dendrology.org/Documents/Tree_Information/IDS_09_Stewartia.pdf

    I have been to Trewithen myself and seen the big S. sinensis the above document shows. It is right off the main lawn. Note also the photo near the end showing a "cookie" (stem section) from a 200-year-old S. monadelpha.

    All members of this genus are wet summer climate plants that must be situated in soil that remains moist during dry periods.
     

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