The Q&A Archives: silver dollar tree in small backyard

Question: Hi, I'm planning my backyard garden. It is L-shaped, 14 ft from home to back wall. The back wall runs 40 ft, and yard wraps around, again with 14 ft from home to side wall. It is a townhome, with neighbor directly behind us, but no side neighbors. Can/Should we grow a Silver Dollar Gum tree? Will it get too big for our yard, and interfere with neighbors? Can we keep it at below 20 ft high/wide? How fast (per year) does it grow in SoCal?

Answer: Silver Dollar Gum tree is a very fast growing tree (24-36" per year) and requires constant pruning to remove misplaced and wind damaged branches. As lovely as these trees are, they have the potential to reach 50' in height and width, which will overpower your yard. I'd lean towards planting a cleaner tree in the landscape; one that is broad enough to provide privacy and one with broader leaves to provide at least filtered sunlight during the summer months. Some good candidates for small yards include Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis), which is available in either single or multi-stem form. It flowers early, and by June its breathtaking pink mantle is transformed into waxy heart-shaped leaves -- sure to evoke romantic evenings. In your climate, this tree probably won't grow taller than 25 feet, but its spread can be as broad as it is tall?perfect.

Another intriguing feature is the random branching of its rounded umbrella-shaped canopy. If you choose the multi-stem form, select one with no more that three leads (stems). Or select one with four and cut the weakest out.

Or, Japanese Tree Lilac, (Syringa reticulata). Its creamy white June flowers sit like old-fashioned candles on a Christmas tree. And the Japanese Tree Lilac adds an aroma to your landscape so delicate as to be the envy of chemists the world over. Its globe-shaped branching pattern is quite formal. It's not a tree with a broad canopy, but it certainly will be a focal point of any landscape.

A final suggestion is Washington Hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum). It has a sterling reputation, spring, summer and fall. In anticipation of an occasional dilatory spring storm, it doesn't leaf out until later in the season, a "smart" tree. By June, delicious pink-centered white flowers appear, and in the fall the glistening red fruit hangs on long after the brightly colorful leaves have dropped.

The Washington Hawthorn also can be purchased in either single or multi-stem form. Again the random branching pattern makes it easy to encourage directional growth. It does have one prickly problem. Pruning, without a hefty pair of thorn-proof gloves, can be disquieting. Aside from that, it's a beautiful tree.

Hope one of these trees is just right for your landscape!

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