Unattractive palm trunks

socalgal_gw Zone USDA 10b Sunset 24October 16, 2011

I have two very tall palm trees in my front yard. To me, they look like telephone poles. They are city trees in the easement so I can't remove them. 15-20 years ago I ripped out the lawn on the slope and planted one gallon size Phoenix roebellini (pygmy palm) and Cycad revoluta (Sago "palm") near them to make it look like a cluster of palms. I've been happy with that solution until the last time I pruned the smaller palms. They've grown quite well and now in addition to the original palm trunks I have a bunch of shorter unattractive palm trunks.

I would appreciate any ideas on how to make this more attractive. My initial thought is to add more plants, but I'm not sure where to locate them, or what size, form or leaf shape might look best. I'm also willing to remove plants. I've included two photos (sorry about the quality). One gives the overall layout, one shows more detail of a palm cluster. I should probably remove the Sago pups, but have left them temporarily in case they might be useful. There will be bulbs and small wildflowers blooming on the slope during the fall and winter.

Thank you in advance for any ideas.


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karinl(BC Z8)

Maybe do something on the ground like in the photos shown by D-D in the thread linked below?

Karin L

Here is a link that might be useful: Covering the ground in California

    Bookmark   October 18, 2011 at 6:50PM
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Tiffany, purpleinopp GardenWeb, Z8b Opp, AL(8B AL)

As far as trunks go, I think they're attractive and interesting. Maybe you would like some vines growing up them?

The lack of variation in heights and foliage color/form is what strikes me. For tropical, I prefer crowded with wildly varied foliage colors and shapes, like the pics from the other discussion that karin mentioned. You've got "deciduous spacing" which is just not natural-looking. Is it the same thing that you want to change? Maybe a few more of the smaller palms or something else with some height placed as to eliminate the "kum-ba-ya" circle?

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 10:38AM
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There's nothing more ubiquitous in the landscape than telephone poles - they're hardly noticed. Here, though, we have the added benefit of them largely blending in with mature yard and boulevard maples, basswoods, elms, ash...

Short of removal (the barrels with a fringe on top catch my attention more than anything else), a carefully planned/selected understory would help. There are some recent threads not too far below yours: "Help me with plant selection", "Help with creating a woodland look", and "Fall in a California garden of palms" with pictures that might spark your creative juices. There are some beautiful choices - spikey, ferny, leathery; mixes of heights and spreads and colors. I can't imagine bulbs and wildflowers would do much to mitigate the situation you have now.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 12:19PM
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socalgal_gw Zone USDA 10b Sunset 24

Thank you for the comments. I like the idea of more variation in form, size and color. I can't make the area too dense or it will be hard to see kids on the sidewalk when backing out of the driveway. Maybe it is time for some (or all) of the little palms to go. I'm not stuck on a tropical theme.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 9:43PM
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My personal belief? If you leave them long enough, triffids will wander away on their own...

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 10:17PM
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My response is not meant to be taken literally or comprehensively. It's just about a direction you might take to fix some things.

1. house needs visual separation from neighboring properties....higher level foliage mass of large shrubs/small trees.
2. upper portion of house looks exposed and unprotected...needs tree(s)overhead.
3. circle of small palms look to be without purpose and isolated from one another. Transplant into cluster at right side of front yard.
4. Cycads have strong "art" form. (They look like vases stuffed with bouquet.) Move to be front yard corner markers or to be as "gateway" at either side of walk/entrance (with LOTS of room to walk between them.)
5. small groundcover plants are spaced out spotty like a disease...consolidate into masses around other taller plants.
6. mulch looks ragged. hide bigger chunks and top dress all with finer grade mulch.
7. To me, it seems that the two palms (that we can't see top of) are troublesome because there are too many other things going wrong. If I was putting them in new, I'd probably put a cluster of 3 in one location (to the side) but I think if you fix the other things, they will not seem bothersome.
8. The front of the house has too much plain wall showing. I'm not showing it in my sketch, but I'd probably grow climbing roses (or something) on two simple, custom trellises...one at each side of the front window.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2011 at 10:55PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

I think part of the problem is that the layout is entirely too symmetrical and matchy-matchy. The palms of the various types aren't necessarily the problem, but those sago palms are too static where they are. I'd suggest moving the sago palms to frame the front window at the house, and maybe move the three Pygmy date palms on the left away from the street and closer to your entry. Adding a lush ground plane of plantings could utilize things such h as lantanas or ivy geraniums or dazzling bloomers such as Calandrinia grandiflora in combination with groupings of succulents for contrast.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 12:54AM
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socalgal_gw Zone USDA 10b Sunset 24

Yardviser, thank you so much for the picture. It really helps me to visualize how things could be different. And thank you again to everyone who commented.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 9:26PM
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