Ideas for unique but tough smallish specimen tree?

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by artnerd, Jan 6, 2012.

  1. artnerd

    artnerd Active Member

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    I'm looking for suggestions for a small-ish (max. 20' tall) specimen tree that is durable, unique, and has multi-season interest. (I don't ask for much)... probably deciduous but am open to ideas. We inherited an established but struggling front garden that's getting a major make-over this spring. The site has it's challenges:

    - There's a 40' tall cedar growing within 15' of planting area.
    - Hard pan clay, although the existing poor soil will be seriously amended, & drainage improved before planting in this area.
    - W-NW exposure, gets early morning shade, almost full sun for rest of day
    - Drought prone in summer, soggy & swampy in winter.
    - haven't tested for ph yet, likely more neutral side of acidic judging by existing plant picks & their condition.

    Nothing high-maintenance, must be tough. I don't use any chemical controls other than dormant oil/sulphur on the fruit trees.

    Considerations:
    - Within 8' of driveway, can't be a sap-spitter, pod/seed/fruit/sticky-mess-leaver. No musky-stinky plants either, as it's near main entrance of house.
    - Near sewer & house drain tile so no water seeking roots.
    Hoping for something original, nothing you'd see in a "typical" suburban landscape.
    *Hoping* to find something that attracts beneficials, bees, birds, and if it has any edible parts or herbal applications, bonus!

    Have considered many different options with varying degrees of suitability but would love any input you all may have. Thanks!
     
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    >the existing poor soil will be seriously amended<

    Don't. This is suitable for annual bedding and vegetable gardens, but not for trees.

    >can't be a sap-spitter, pod/seed/fruit/sticky-mess-leaver<

    Everything drops something. How much would be too much?

    >if it has any edible parts or herbal applications, bonus!<

    Most of the time, although not always, this translates into a fruit tree - and the mess it can make. If you choose instead something where you are eating the leaves, for instance, then different story possible.

    You might find a tree described on the web site of Arthur Lee Jacobson that clicks with you.
     
  3. artnerd

    artnerd Active Member

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    Thanks Ron B. I'll check that website out. I do expect some tree litter just trying to avoid particularly sticky/chronic tree-spit on the cars as the tree gets to full size & overhangs the drive a bit, that is the primary consideration... if it can be avoided that is.
     
  4. ryansenechal

    ryansenechal Active Member

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    Based on your list of requirement -- Have you considered an artificial tree?
     
  5. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    You are probably describing honeydew, this is excess sugars excreted by sucking pests such as aphids. So you choose a tree that never gets a large number of these on it or prevent them from building up on a susceptible type. The large amounts of honeydew and sooty mold you see beneath Norway maples and European silver birches here is not the common circumstance, these trees are among the most prone in this region. Most kinds of trees chosen will not demonstrate this phenomenon.

    Another source of stickiness prevalent hereabouts is the resin drippings of coniferous evergreens. You can preclude this occurrence by avoiding this group entirely when choosing your tree.
     
  6. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    Why not Musa basjoo or Ensete ventricosum (or if you're super lucky, E. ventricosum 'Maurelii') Both are hardy in your zone, will be interesting year round, and are definitely unusual. The Ensetes in particular will do excellently in full sun.
     
  7. artnerd

    artnerd Active Member

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    Thanks Ron. B. Good point about the honeydew... and yes, we have a stand of mature Ponderosa Pines on the other side of the driveway spitting perpetually in contempt on anything parked there, hence the (impossible?) quest for something lovely and site appropriate for the other side.
     
  8. artnerd

    artnerd Active Member

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    Thank you for the suggestions lorax, there are a fair number of ornamental banana & other cold tolerant palms around the neighbourhood here, something to consider.
     
  9. lorax

    lorax Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    Particularly if you're worried about honeydew - the aphids that are adapted to eat bananas and their relatives don't survive even Canadian summertime conditions, so apart from a few caterpillars you're also looking at a virtually pest-free planting.
     
  10. Tree Nut

    Tree Nut Active Member

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    Try a persimmon. lotus or American. They are extremely beautiful, don't grow large or have other negative attributes, and bear fruit.
     
  11. artnerd

    artnerd Active Member

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    Thanks for the persimmon suggestion Treenut, they are lovely looking trees. Still trying to decide. The tyranny of choice!
     

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