Need help picking the right tree

southjag(8)October 19, 2011

Hi all, I've been reading the forum over the last couple of days trying to gather information on a good tree for the front yard. I've come to the conclusion that I really don't know enough, so I thought I'd give my situation and wants, and let the experts give me some good recommendations. So here goes:

- South Alabama, 30 miles inland from the Gulf.

- Our house is in a new development, faces south, sun comes across the front of the house, front yard is full sun except for last hour of the day, wedge lot on a corner. Front yard is not that large. 60 feet from house to road, and about 40 feet from driveway to far side property line. Would like to plant one tree to be a focal point, but also not overpower the house. Our house is a little more than 1500 square feet.

- Need something fairly drought tolerant. We'll get rain every day for a month, but then will only have occasional sprinkles for a few.

- Would like something relatively low maintenance, both in growth and clean up.

- Soil is not great. Hasn't been tested, but like I said, new development so it's got a mixture of sand, clay, and probably beer bottles.

- Prefer a fast grower. We need shade fast. Our summers get into the 100's regularly.

- We have a grinder pump system in our front yard, and due to the yard constraints, anything we plant will have to be fairly close to that system, if that should be taken into account (spreading roots vs downward?).

In my research, I noted that not many on this site are fond of the Cleveland Pear (glad I checked this site, as my local nursery was trying to sell me on it hard). Saw that the Royal Empress is the fastest grower, but again that most if not all on this site hate that tree in a residential setting.

Some trees that appear to meet my criteria are the River Birch, Autumn Purple Ash, and Chinese Elm. Would love to plant a huge oak in the front, but my wife isn't too keen on having anything super large in front of the house because of the constant threat of hurricanes in our area and trees going down (especially with fairly limited space to work with in the front). What do you guys think about the above mentioned trees in general? They are building a huge two story behind us, so we'll also be looking to plant in the backyard for some privacy. I already have a Sawtooth Oak, 2 Hybrid Poplars, and Eucalyptus tree in the back and side yard that I planted this past March. Could plant up to two more tress comfortably.

So with that, I'll eagerly await your responses. Looking to buy and plant now so any suggestions and info are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

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Coastal areas need special considerations. I would encourage you to research some native trees (river birch is one) instead of chinese trees. The Botanical Garden in Mobile might be able to give some good recommendations.

Looks like they have a plant sale going on for the next 3 days - they should be in the mood to talk!

Here is a link that might be useful: link to Mobile botanical gardens plant sale

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 11:23AM
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jcalhoun(8b Mobile County AL)


Thanks for posting the link. It's this weekend. They have a good selection and this is a good time to plant trees. I'll be there Friday morning.


Bald cypress and red maples do very well in our area. If you want an oak, a red oak or Shumard will work quite well. Stay away from the water oaks due to weak limbs.

Gordonia and sweet bay magnolias are also good options. Where are you located?

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 6:35PM
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Thanks for the replies. Unfortunately, we'll be out of town this weekend so we won't be able to make the botanical gardens sale. Thanks for the info though.

We live in West Mobile. My wife likes the Red Maple, but the new builder in our neighborhood has been planting a lot of those. Am looking for something a little different but not too extreme. Fast growing though is pretty much a requirement. Does anyone have any experience with the Autumn Purple Ash?

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 9:44PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

I noticed Chionanthus on the plant sale list. That's nice.

Karin L

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 10:38PM
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Scarlet oak (Quercus coccineus) is pretty fast growing, has superb fall color and probably won't get too big while you are still there.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 7:30AM
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jcalhoun(8b Mobile County AL)

Almost all of the nurseries are located in west Mobile and Semmes. You won't have to go far to get something.

Dodd & Dodd natives in Semmes always has a great selection and very smart folks.

Be aware though that anything that is fast growing will tend be either weak or short lived.

    Bookmark   October 21, 2011 at 2:13PM
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Ended up going to "A Bloom" off of Old Shell. They had a nice selection. Debated between a River Birch and a Red Maple. Decided on the Red Maple since it was already about 20 feet tall and looked good (for $175, good deal I hope). Solves the problem of needing a fast grower. Should have some shade next summer.

Think I'm going to go back and get the River Birch for the backyard, along with something else. Maybe a Tulip Poplar?

    Bookmark   October 27, 2011 at 8:07PM
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jcalhoun(8b Mobile County AL)

I have been there a few times. Good place.

Trees that large will need a long time to get established. They will be prone to blowing over and won't make much shade until they can get a good sized root system. They will also need a lot of water.

How heavy is it?

Just make sure to plant them correctly, search this forum about the subject, and they will probably be fine.

    Bookmark   October 29, 2011 at 7:21PM
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