River Birch near corner of house

scottyjaOctober 4, 2013

We bought a house last year that had all rock around the front. We didn't like it so this summer I pulled the rock, had a drip system put in and some mulch. I now want to plant some shrubs and trees.

The nursery I went to gave me a great plan. We'll be putting some Otto Laurel in front of the porch and a sand cherry on the back side (right side of the picture). They also suggested putting a river birch near the corner.

I am hesitant putting a tree so close, and she said it should be fine. They don't grow too large in Utah and I can trim them back. What do you think? That corner on the roof doesn't have a rain gutter and in a storm water comes streaming down, hence the rocks. But big storms aren't super common, so this is an issue a couple of times in the fall and spring.

What do you think? Good place for a river birch? Are there different kinds or sizes? If not, what should go there?

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How about a Yellowhorn Tree?

It doesn't grow too big, is extremely showy and even bears edible nuts!!

"It grows like a sumach --a large shrub or small tree. It is attractive, admirably cold-hardy, drought-tolerant, and tough. But it remains undeservedly rare and little known. The main obstacle is that it has high transplant mortality. It also is sensitive to too much moisture, too much shade, too little summmer heat, and is easily hurt by coral-spot fungus. But when content, it is well content; and then it is both splendidly beautiful in bloom, and useful in fruit."

Here is a link that might be useful: Yellowhorn

This post was edited by blakrab on Fri, Oct 4, 13 at 16:01

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 4:00PM
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What sort of sun/wind exposure to you get for that 'Otto Laurel'? I'm assuming you mean cherrylaurel?

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 4:43PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

I am hesitant putting a tree so close, and she said it should be fine. They don't grow too large in Utah and I can trim them back. What do you think?


presuming the she was your LA ... plan designer .... [i doubt she was a landscape architect.. they should have a better knowledge base ...

she is an idiot ...

minimum.. 6 to 8 feet.. and ONLY IF... it is leaning away from the house ... and i would suggest 10 to 20 is better ....

what maroon [nod to bug bunny] .... plants a tree.. and then tells you to top it ...

she seriously had no clue ...

if the she is your wife... its brilliant.. go for it .... lol

i will simply google the name you use... you tell me.. if it should be planted TWO FREAKIN FEET FROM THE HOUSE ....


ps: how close did she tell you to put the other stuff??.. 3 inches ... and shear them immediately ????

pps: your gut intuition is spot on ... forgive me.. if my humor offends ....

ppps: if you have not bought the plants.. start a new post for ideas.. pic of the whole house ..... and maybe we can come up with a better plan .. than that off colored purple ditz ...

Here is a link that might be useful: YA SURE. YOU FREAK OF NATURE... THEY WILL BE ..oops .. lol.. significantly smaller because we live in UT.. yeah.. maybe.. if its the utah of planet cryton ..... crikey man.. do i even want to hear about the rest of the plan ....

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 4:48PM
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I think it's called an otto luyken laurel. In terms of sun, it's south facing, but there's a large garage that will block the mid-to-late afternoon sun.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 5:10PM
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Get rid of the gawdawful concrete curbing, extend the bed out a reasonable amount and then plant your tree. 8-10' should be fine.

Western river birch (Betula occidentalis) can be somewhat smaller than standard river birch (Betula nigra) but both get to be decent sized trees even in Utah - 20-30' or more. There are dwarf forms of the Betula nigra that would be more suitable for that siting although maybe less tree-like in appearance -- Little King ('Fox Valley') will get to be maybe 12-15' tall and about as wide.

Otherwise, comments made previously apply (and Ken, ya got it backwards - typically its the LA's, not the designers, that have limited plant knowledge!!). You never want to select a tree that you need to "trim back to keep in size". Select one that is scaled appropriately to the location you wish to plant with minimal effort on your part.

I'm thinking this is a situation where a dwarf conifer would work far better than a tall growing deciduous tree. But I'd still want to see that planting bed enlarged.

And what is it with concrete curbs?? They are the plague of the earth for landscape designers.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 5:47PM
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cyn427(z7aN. VA)

You always make me laugh Ken. I may print that out minus any identifying details and drop it in a neighbor's mailbox- their landscaper/designer planted a River Birch about three feet from their house. Looks nice now, but in a year...they get huge here. If I liked them, I would suggest they ask their landscaper what the *#%+ he is thinking. Since I don't, I will watch it grow and listen to your voice (?) in my mind and smile! Wonder how long it will take them to realize it should be moved.

Lesson: no matter what you expect, plant your trees far enough away from your house!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 5:49PM
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Thanks for the info. Replacing curbing or extending the bed isn't in the plan (or budget) right now. Are there more suitable shrubs I should look at that would provide a bit of height without being overbearing? This is all new to me, so I appreciate the help!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 6:20PM
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Just wondering. Do the Western River Birches need a lot of water? Because the Eastern ones sure do. Without lots of water, they lose their leaves in August. That said, I have zero experience with the western birch trees. Eastern birches are shallow rooted and like well draining soils that are cool and get regular waterings. Utah gets pretty hot and dry, and the birches tend to naturally grow in low areas with good drainage. Maybe there is another tree that can achieve what you need without constant worrying.


    Bookmark   October 4, 2013 at 8:36PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

Replacing curbing or extending the bed isn't in the plan (or budget) right now.


yes it is... you simply plant the tree.. WHERE IT BELONGS.. thinking out a proper planting depth ... if you think you might change that slope in the future ...

and then over the years.. rework the beds ... as budget allows ...

it costs NOTHING to plant the tree in the proper place ... and i have done such.. and taken 5 years to get the job done ....

for some reason .. i suspect ... this is a very small front yard ... if so ... of what use will the lawn ever be???? ... consider using it all.. to do something really unique ...

cyn ... ignore your neighbor ... its not worth it ... lol .. been there.. done that.. tried to help .. screw them ... lol ...


    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 9:48AM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Completely unrelated, but sandy cherry trees die in 8 to 15 years.

Its a horrible plant riddled by insects and disease. I get so annoyed when I see so many lined up at the nurser and they sell out so quickly while the quality plants sit there.

If you want purple and are thinking twice about planting it there are several alternatives depending on the space available.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 3:17PM
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fairfield8619(Zone 8 NW LA)

"Get rid of the gawdawful concrete curbing"

My god that is really rude and very subjective at that! gardengal48,I usually find everything you say pretty spot on and level headed but this really unexpected from you, you didn't even attempt to soften to blow at all. Maybe scottyja actually LIKES the curbing and you just slapped him down. Pretty harsh I say. Constructive criticism would have been nice- I'm surprised at you.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2013 at 11:39PM
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And your interpretation of my remark is just as subjective.

Concrete curbing is unnecessarily limiting in any landscape, as this situation clearly outlines. If one wants to open up to the potential plant choices available, then one surely does not want to be limited by awkward concrete curbing holding one back by artificially defining and unnecessarily restricting the available planting area. Often these concepts are not even considered until it has be pointed out, in much the same way homeowners are inclined to save all plants just because they are already there - the need to retain should be the only justification in maintaining and concrete curbing just doesn't have a justifiable place in the landscape.

As to the 'budget' involved in removal of the curbing and/or enlarging the bed, the only cost involved is elbow grease! It is far better to take the time to layout the garden correctly to begin with and prepare the proper planting areas than prematurely spend money on plants that will rapidly outgrow the area or be too large to begin with. That's just money down the drain. That area in the photograph outlined currently with the curbing is simply too small to accommodate much of anything - certainly not a tree, not even most reasonably sized shrubs.

Call me blunt or rude or whatever but I see no reason to not to call a spade a spade when it so obviously affects the outcome of the design. Pussyfooting around such glaring obstacles does not benefit anyone, the OP included.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 4:25PM
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fairfield8619(Zone 8 NW LA)

Rudeness is not subjective, social decorum is not subjective either, rationalize it however you want, but that's how things are nowadays, and you are proof of it, and you just keep pounding down. Such snarky elite attitude- carry on and have a nice day.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 4:43PM
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Good call on the sandcherry, whaas. I'm reading similar complaints online and now considering something else. I like the look of the Ninebark Diablo, so may do that instead.

    Bookmark   October 6, 2013 at 6:25PM
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We have a River Birch very close to the house. It is beautiful, but a headache. It has grown SO much, SO fast, it is really rather astounding. The amount of pruning it takes (because it is so close to the house) is rather overwhelming. Also, ours is planted in a cobblestone (150+ year old Belgian Block, actually) courtyard (in a spot where a two foot area was cleared to plant it), and the root system is now disturbing all of the cobblestones within 8 feet of the trunk. I don't think it was a good choice, despite its beauty... It is only about 10 years old, but it must be at least 45' tall.

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 8:32AM
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Speaking from personal experience, we had a Yoshino Cherry removed this year. It was planted at a similar distance from the corner and the squirrels were using the branches as a bridge to get on the roof. One also made its way into the attic and it cost us several hundred dollars to patch the entry points. Not to mention termites and other insects have a direct access to the roof. The Birch will be a similar size and you will be pruning far more often than you want. We replaced with a Daniellow Arborvitae. That gives us the vertical accent without the branches getting near the house

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 2:11PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Diablo Ninebark is a nice plant but needs full sun and sufficient moisture otherwise it really struggles with powdery mildew. Although this problem might not be as prominent in UT vs over here in the midwest.

Coppertina is slightly smaller than Diablo, although after 3 short years planted from a 3 gallon mine is 6' tall even with pruning, I think is a nicer plant as the new growth is well of course, copper looking. After a pruning in June after flowering the new flush against the dark purple is STUNNING!

    Bookmark   October 7, 2013 at 8:53PM
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