|I am in zone 10 and looking for a specimen tree that will work for our small, urban backyard landscape. I'm considering Magnolia Grandiflora
|'Little Gem' is a dwarf magnolia, growing slowly to about 15-20' high with a spread of 8-10'. It's perfect for small spaces. Magnolias typically have some shallow surface roots but you should be able to plant annuals and perennials under it, especially if you water deeply when it's young, so it can develop a deep root system. If you water frequently and lightly, the roots will remain close to the surface and you may have problems later on with sidewalks and concrete patios. I'd plant the tree 6-8' away from the fence so the canopy won't encroach too far into your neighbor's property. Enjoy your new magnolia!