Fast growing 30 ft evergreen for San Francisco Bay Area

pinarDecember 9, 2007


We have a neighbor problem, as well. The neighbors diagonal back somehow got this permit for an extension and built way into their backyard, up to the left side neighbor's fence.

We are on a hill and have some views, especially the row of houses behind ours. Now these guys blocked their neighbor's views, our sun and are looking right into our backyard.

The left side neighbors already have a tree on the far left side of their yard and agreed to plant one on our side, too to save our privacy. Since they are so nice about it, I want to make sure they get an easy tree without any problems.

I would like a fast growing evergreen that would grow up to about 30-35 ft. We are in coastal Northern California and I guess our zone is 10. Any suggestions?

Thank so much!


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If you like to look of narrow pillars of green to form a wall, look into italian cypress and arborvitae. I'm sure there's others, i'm just not all that familiar with what is commonly used out west

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 7:10PM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

One of the various Podocarpus will, as I recall, get tall enough - it's been 7 years since I moved, and had to learn a whole new plant list - the old one is fading....

I would avoid most of the eucalyptus, they have been fairly invasive in CA, and are allelopathic - nothing much will grow under them. Plus, they are messy and are fire hazards.

A selected Thuja (Arborvitae) could be nice, as could a Chamaecyparis (Hinoki False Cypress). Another possibility, but maybe too tall, would be a loquat. Lychee is also a possibiliity. Smaller and maybe too slow-growing would be a Meyer lemon, grapefruit or other citrus - they would need a relatively sheltered spot - there was one - heavily pruned and so small - in the back courtyard of the building I lived in on Jackson St.

Check out the "trees" list in a copy of the Sunset Garden Book - they have a good selection that would be suited to the Bay Area.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2007 at 9:18PM
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"Fast growing" may be a limiting factor. Very generally, fast growing trees tend to be species that a) won't stop at 30'(typically considered to be a smaller sized tree) or b) produce awkward and weak growth habits that make them problematical, especially in a smaller urban garden. While arborvitaes or Italian cypress are classical narrow screening trees, they won't quickly achieve 30' or provide meaningful screening anytime soon.

The podocarpus is a reasonable choice - very common in California landscapes with a nice feathery texture and relatively rapid growth compared to most conifers. Cryptomeria may be a good choice as well, if you can provide sufficient soil moisture. Depending on space issues, bamboo is a great alternative for screening purposes. There are many forms of clumping bamboo available that will provide rapid growth and efficient screening to that height (or close to) and without the need for containment systems required by running bamboos. But I wouldn't discount them, either - just make sure they are adequately contained.

I believe most of the Bay area is considered to be a zone 9 - you need to be in coastal southern California before you hit zone 10.

    Bookmark   December 11, 2007 at 11:08AM
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Oh, you maybe right about my zone. I think the site recommended 10, but I should be 9.

I don't think I'll do bamboo, since it is the neighbor's yard and I don't want this to be a pain for him later on. I want it to be fairly maintenance free for him. I can actually water the tree from my yard, so that shouldn't be a problem.

Do you know, if any of these trees are known to cause allerrgies?

Thank you!

    Bookmark   December 11, 2007 at 4:22PM
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Pinar, According to the arborday website and various other sites, San Francisco has microclimates. Zone 9 and 10 are located within the bay area, so you may be in a zone 10. As for trees to plant, I found a very interesting book that may help you out a lot.

Tress that I might consider would be various palms, weeping bottlebrush, norkfolk island pine, camphor tree, & citrus trees. Hope this helps.

P.S. Some of these trees do grow taller than 35'!

    Bookmark   December 12, 2007 at 3:19AM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

Flowering trees are more likely to be allergenic than non-flowering trees. I know some people dislike the scent of citrus in bloom, which I like, but I know nothing about its pollen production. Podocarpus either doesn't flower or the flowers are insignificant, as I recall. Palms don't, to my knowledge, produce a lot of pollen - the usual allergen. Bottlebrush does flower, I know nothing about allergies with it. The Norfolk Island Pine, the same..., and possibly the camphor tree, too.

I would call an allergist and ask which trees are KNOWN to cause problems - maybe one of the hospitals or the horticultural programs at one of the colleges/universities might help also. Things can cause allergies on an individual basis - and allergies can develop to things that WERE no problem, so no guarantees can be offered!

    Bookmark   December 12, 2007 at 10:37AM
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Everywhere has microclimates but it is just not a wise practice to consider a plant that is marginally hardy for your area for such a significant investment and presence as a screening tree. And I'd take most everything in the Arborday website with a large grain of salt - a technical source it is not :-)

And while it is not my intention to pick apart the previous post, it's hard to imagine a palm as any sort of effective screening tree - a grouping might work if the space is available - and I'd wonder about the appropriateness of something like a NIP - provided it doesn't succumb to a bad winter freeze before establishment - in a typical Bay area garden. Seems a bit like overkill and a similar reason something like a Leyland cypress or 'Green Giant' arborvitae was also not suggested.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2007 at 10:53AM
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Dibbit(z7b SC)

Gardengal, I lived in the city of San Francisco for over 12 years - while there would be frosts and even freezes most winters on the higher elevations, I think there were light frosts MAYBE 2 times a winter where I lived, in Pacific Heights. I knew of some 3 year old impatiens growing in a planter box, on the east side of Union St. Fuschias are normally grown in-ground as a perennial. I remember one day walking down Fillmore St. while a few snowflakes fell, with people running out on the street, caroling, "It's SNOWING, it's SNOWING" while it fell, for all of 15 minutes.

There truly are micro-climates in SF that don't freeze or only VERY light frosts of short duration, depending on what part of the city you are in. I am assuming the OP is in SF - if he is in Oakland, Marin, Burlingame, etc., etc., then frosts/freezes are much more common. I think most of the suggested trees are all possibilities. It depends on how large a palm tree the OP wants to afford, and can get into the back yard, but they can screen out a view from above, which is what was wanted, unless I misread the original question.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2007 at 12:43PM
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I live in San Bruno and we did have a freeze once I think, last winter. There are palm trees in my neighborhood, though, so they seem to be doing fine. I think the already tall ones are pretty expensive and I don't know how fast they grow. I'll check it out and also the sftrees website.

I lived in various locations around the Bay Area and I've never seen this much microclimate anywhere else. To give you an example, we could be having 80's in our backyard on a nice summer day and about 1 mile north you would need a winter coat to protect you from the cold dense fog that is drizzling over you. It's the same within San Francisco. You can have the same dense cold fog at, say Parnassus and 4th near the park and it would be 70's in Potrero Hill. It is so weird that you can often see the fog line and drive into it. The change is not even that gradual.

Thanks for all the suggestions and I am a she!:)


    Bookmark   December 12, 2007 at 1:47PM
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Depending upon how well your drainage is in the proposed area, an Arizona Cypress might be a good choice. Most of them top out around 30-35' in this area, altho some have gone as high as 40'. They are native to California and southwest to Tx. They are grown for Christmas trees across the south. They are heat and drought resistant. They smell good.
They have blue-green to gray-green color and are pretty adaptable to soil and moisture, but must be well-drained. They are adaptable to both acidic and alkaline soils. They prefer loose soils but even grow in the heavy blackland clays (where I am).

Below is a fact sheet about them.
I have both Carolina Sapphire and Blue Ice varieties, as well as wild ones grown from seed. Not sure which I like the best.

    Bookmark   December 13, 2007 at 9:48AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

You can see how local climates are laid out in Sunset Western Garden Book. It also has a plant selection section where hedging and screening plants are listed. Another resource is the Strybing Arboretum, in Golden Gate Park, where you could hoof around a bit and see if anything planted there appeals. (The collections there do contain some rare stuff that you probably won't find in commerce, but many other things displayed there will be ones you can find offered). The Arboretum also has a good library where you can look in publications for ideas or look up plants that have caught your interest.

    Bookmark   December 18, 2007 at 2:06PM
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Ya,i agree with the above comments but frequent forest fires are an alarming issue that needs to be focussed on.No matter how tall these trees grow but important thing how effectively these trees are protected and ensure environmental balance................
james blake

    Bookmark   September 23, 2008 at 7:05PM
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