Slender Silhouette Sweetgum

cantelopejoe(7)September 18, 2013

I am in a slight design dilemma. I have a narrow stretch of property between my driveway and a neighbor's property line on the North West side of my home. I was thinking of planning some slender silhouette sweetgum trees along the property line but I only have about 9-10 feet between my driveway and the property line. I have been reading that sweetgum trees should not be planted near sidewalks or driveways. Can someone please give me some advice?

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Doubt this stays less than 10' wide anyway.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 3:07AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Doubt this stays less than 10' wide anyway.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 3:08AM
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The tree itself is supposed to get no wider than 3-6 ft in diameter. Do you think the root system will spread multiple times farther than that?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 7:19AM
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"Do you think the root system will spread multiple times farther than that?"

Since the tree is most likely grafted on regular old sweetgum rootstock, the roots will spread out typical of the species and heave concrete within your distance. Sweetgums are terrible about this IME. Can't tell you how many golf cart paths I have seen over the years heaved/cracked/destroyed from sweetgum roots.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 7:57AM
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Thanks everyone for your help! Does anyone have a recommendation for a good alternative?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 9:28AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Whats your soil type and location/zone?

Lots of choices out there. I tend to collect narrow cultivars because of the all the conifers I have.

Please note that the roots sytems of narrower, more dwarf cultivars (which would be on species rootstock) typically aren't as agreesive. Something to consider.

I wouldn't even think twice about Slender Silhouette creating issues with the driveway 9 to 10' away for a very very long time...that is if the plant lives that long. HOWEVER, that doesn't mean its not going to agressive vigorous, shallow roots.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 10:07AM
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I am in East Tennessee Zone 7b. Soil type is mostly clay but mixed with small amounts of topsoil. The area is the bottom of a slight slope (hence the tall slender choice) and is full sun on the North West side of the house. Basically, where the sun sets in the evening. I have also uploaded a picture. The yellow line shows the general area of the property line. Also, I want a deciduous tree because there are tons of cypress trees dividing the neighborhood and I would also like the evening sun in the winter. :-) Also, any experience with these trees? I know the spiky fruit balls will not sit well with my children playing basketball. Do they fruit often?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 10:20AM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

The species fruits yearly.

Here I have a love / hate relationship with sweetgums. The have good form, a reasonable root system for a large tree and complex and natural looking fall color. But them spike balls! St Louis is made up of mini cities that must have planted tens of thousands of these in the mid seventies. All in tight suburban lots and frequently between the sidewalk and the street. Thus their reputation for bad manored roots.

Really I would try something else if the spike balls are going to bother you five to ten years from now when the tree will be large enough to produce a troublesome amount.

Guys, any narrow forms of nyssa sylvatica?

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 11:18AM
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Ahhhh -- so the line of "harmless" sweetgums our neighbors planted along our property line must be Slender Silhouette!

They said these don't produce the terminally aggravating and much hated spikey gumballs. I hope they're right, because a good north wind over winter will blow them all onto our place.

I think this is an unattractive tree where they planted them -- in a wide open space between acreage properties that really could use something with horizontal branching. They also put them about 30-ft apart.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 3:35PM
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My understanding is that they do produce the gumballs but they are supposed to only produce a small amount.

I am in a similar situation with the wide open space but I am limited because of where our property line is. If I put a horizontal branching tree in, it will cover my driveway. After reading the responses, I did start looking at the Princeton Sentryî Ginkgo and the Golden Colonnadeî Ginkgo as options, however I really want something that will serve as a good screen because you can see everything that goes on in our driveway from the main street in our neighborhood. Based on what I am reading, Ginkgo's tend to be slow growers.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 3:54PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

If you want to stick with the formal, repeating planting be sure to at least stagger/offset the planting. A straight row will look terrible.

Based on your needs for screening, I'd remove Ginkgo and stick with the columnar oaks like Crimsonspire (Streetspire is the same tree but the foilage doesn't tend to stay on for the winter) or Regal Prince since the are typically branched low.

Here is my Regal Prince. The fall color can be anywhere from ok to spectacular in "my" zone.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 4:10PM
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A columnar hornbeam or two might be the ticket for you. Faster than gingko without the shallow rooted proclivity of sweetgum. There are really a TON of choices here. Fringetree and musclewood would be other options. You could also go the tall shrub route with some viburnums (TOO MANY TO LIST) and there's crape myrtles and heptacodium and serviceberry and witchhazel and...

Maybe you could tell us what is important to you. Fall color? Flowers? showey bark? So much foliage you can't see the bark (which would make for a better screening situation)? Colored foliage like yellow or purple? Loropetalum is a fantastic shrub for screening. Purple foliage, beautiful pink flowers in spring, only gets as big as you let it, but is probably evergreen in your zone. I love mine!

Whaas has some pics of columner oaks that would fit the bill and one he has had eyes burning orange fall color last year. I think it was chimneyfire but it may have been something else.

Edit: whaas just posted that oak above me haha

This post was edited by j0nd03 on Thu, Sep 19, 13 at 16:53

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 4:20PM
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Thanks! That is a very nice tree. I would definitely stagger the trees. I am also open to mixing different types to get texture changes so it doesn't look as formal. My landscape is more of an English country style with wide curves and I try to let the plants grow natural without too much hedge trimming (just necessary pruning). I personally think it looks better and it is WAY less maintenance. I also thought about something like a large bush but I am not sure how that would look.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 4:25PM
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Here is a rundown of exactly what I am trying to do. My house sits on the main street of our neighborhood. The back of the neighborhood is on the top of a small slope. If you look at the picture in my previous post, it is from the viewpoint of the top of my neighborhood. I am looking for something that will first block the view of oncoming traffic so that my family can have some privacy but I want it to be more than just some cypress trees like every other house. If I were standing inside my garage, I will have the evening sun in my face (basically to my back in that photo) and when they kids play basketball, they are blinded so I would love to fix that problem as well. I would need about 20 feet of height to hide the basketball goal from view at the viewpoint of the photo.

To the right of the photo I have a royal frost birch sitting at the corner of my driveway and the sidewalk. To the left and the mid to back of my lot, I have a very nice Katsura tree that has awesome yellow fall color and is backed up to a line of green giant and cypress trees. In front of the small leftmost lower window I have a new river birch started (hard to see in the fog).

I love unique plants that nobody else in the neighborhood doesnâÂÂt have or canâÂÂt find (minus the birch trees). Fall color is definitely a preference because it is my favorite time of the year. I would prefer small leaves because they donâÂÂt require as much maintenance (hence the Ginkgo). I am ok with not have a year round screen because I would like to have the sunlight in the winter to help on utilities but having interesting bark is definitely a plus. A tree is nice because the kids use the large open area between the driveway and the house with the for sale sign as a soccer field so being able to walk under the trees would be convenient.

I hope this makes sense and I REALLY appreciate your feedback.

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 5:08PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Here is the Chimney Fire Jon was talking about. Photo is property of Starhill Nursery. Holy cow, is that a single dominant trunk?

My baby didn't let me down though!

    Bookmark   September 19, 2013 at 6:01PM
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Wow! Ok. I think I have some great alternatives. I appreciate everyone's help.

    Bookmark   September 20, 2013 at 8:14AM
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I understand the concern for the sweetgum trees. Ive personally never had driveway/foundation damage from them. I've been around large specimens while growing up and hated the gum balls. I've had several 'Slender Silhouette' and never seen a gum ball. My largest is about 18ft and hasn't ever produced a gum ball. My friends specimen is at least 25ft tall and hasn't produced gum balls. At what age do these produce gum balls or do they produce few if any? Also, if they did produce bumper crops, they would fall within a small diameter versus littering your whole yard. I agree that there are plenty of other choices of fastigiate trees. I personally think 'Slender Silhouette' is a beautiful tree for the correct location.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 9:35PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Ab, is that your friend's plant? Very nice specimen!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 9:41PM
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Hmm... I don't remember that one, Patrick. I'll have to check it out when I come down :-)

One would think since the original plant is quite old it should produce seed when fairly young if it is going to, right?

This post was edited by j0nd03 on Sat, Sep 21, 13 at 21:58

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 9:52PM
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That's my 18ft specimen whaas. Thanks!

Im sure ill have a magical year of gum ball production. Ive expected it every year.....just hasnt happened. The fall color is great!

Eager for you to visit John!

    Bookmark   September 21, 2013 at 10:56PM
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treeguy123(AL 7b)

Don Shadow discovered the original tree growing along the side of a lake in Tennessee. Struck by the unusual form of this 70 foot tall by 6 feet wide tree he took cuttings. This variety almost was never to be, because when Don returned to the lake a few months later, he had found that someone had cut the tree down with a chainsaw to create a cover for fish.

Here is the original tree before it was cut, I outlined it in red to see the width of it better. Note the people I outlined in blue at the base:

I have a Slender Silhouette that is over 6 foot tall, It's a neat tree. Supposedly it makes very few seed balls, or none at all. The ones that do fall, fall in a small area since the tree is so narrow. Roots of Sweetgum are shallow, especially in shallow harder type soils. It's more evident on larger mature sized trees however.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2013 at 2:02AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

The extreme shape drew the knucklehead's attention to it, hence its demise. Maybe it reminded him of a fishing pole.

Garden center sign put up for some here indicates a broader habit. The stock is maybe 7' tall in the containers. One of them is circa 2'+ wide already. If this is like upright forms of other kinds of trees the habit varies with climate specimens are growing in, position on stock plants propagation material was taken from etc.

The narrow branch angles shown by ones here concern me - during those occasional years when we have a substantial snow in December here any sweetgums still in leaf at that time - as many often are - break up like that was all there is.

This post was edited by bboy on Mon, Sep 23, 13 at 14:40

    Bookmark   September 22, 2013 at 8:32PM
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Came across this topic today and wanted to add Patrick did finally have 1(!) gumball on his SS sweet gum this past year. He did get a couple seeds that were hopefully mature and viable for germination so we can see what SS progeny might look like =)

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 11:50AM
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salicaceae(z8b FL)

There were quite a few fruits on a the one at Juniper Level Botanical Garden in Raleigh and also Cox Arb. I didn't see any on the ground to look for seeds. Even for Tony's, the biggest one I've ever seen, the number of fruits was low. It is such a shame that the original tree was cut - what was the landwoner thinking?! Are there any better photos of it out there? This one is pretty blurry. It would be nice to see in winter too.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 12:22PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Recently I saw surface roots of non-columnar sweet-gums in a narrow parking strip in my town are already wreaking havoc at maybe 20 ft. tall. And it looks like it's been going on for years.

It's a generally applicable rule that big trees don't fit in small spaces. If nothing else they come to overwhelm nearby features visually (create a conflict of scale). A landmark tree near a building makes it look smaller, usually not a desired combination except in possible particular instances where an attempt is being made to produce an illusion that the structure is part of a larger property (on which there are other big trees that are in scale with the main buildings).

Fastigiate trees with their inherently stiff and formal aspect can often look wrong planted in asymmetric patterns. One way to overcome this can be to plant specimens of different sizes of the same kind together, so that the symmetry of the trees is broken up - and it looks like a wild population that is reproducing itself. Otherwise it is probably better to in fact plant trees of this appearance in straight lines etc. When doing so you probably would want them all to be the same size, otherwise the planting looks uneven and out of balance.

One common influencing factor is what style any structures to be seen as backdrops or companions to the planting have. If these have the more predominant asymmetric facades, without all the windows and other features all the same size and evenly spaced, on a rectilinear or otherwise geometrically symmetric facade, then the planting will not match the building if it is a straight line of the same trees all of the same size.

This post was edited by bboy on Fri, Jan 10, 14 at 14:41

    Bookmark   January 10, 2014 at 2:24PM
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alameda/zone 8

Where can Slender Silhouette be purchased? Have looked everywhere, cant find a source. Thank you!

    Bookmark   September 23, 2014 at 3:05PM
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I have seen them at Stuart Nursery in Weatherford. That might be a bit of a drive for you since you're in east TX, though.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2014 at 6:35PM
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