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(New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

Posted by tracydr12 San Francisco Bay (My Page) on
Tue, Apr 12, 11 at 1:17

Hi!

I'm desperate for some help here! I'm open to ALL suggestions!

we just moved into this house about a month ago and have jumped right in to fixing up the yard. The property is lined with 16 Redwood tree's in the back/corner. While I love the tree's, I feel that it's lacking because of the bare space in between. The space between each tree is about 6 feet.

Does anyone have any advice for some type of TALL (anything) that would offset the height of the redwoods and be seen over the rather large deck? I'm sure it's a long shot, but ideally I would like to find out if there is ANY plant/shrub/small tree out there that is shade loving/tall/with color for contrast.

Thanks so much!

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Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

  • Posted by KraB none (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 12, 11 at 9:01

I think something climbing on the fence or even up the trunks of the trees would look nice. Climbing hydrangea, but I don't know if it works in your zone.


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

It usually takes a while for them to get large and they only bloom once a year, but rhododendrons live naturally in redwood forests and are very beautiful. I'm not sure how high your deck is but tree rhododendrons can grow over 10' tall. I see that you are in the Bay Area, there are several nurseries around here that specialize in rhododendrons and even if you don't end up buying one they are spectacular to visit when the rhodies are in bloom.


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

Two words: Dream on! Not to be too negative or anything :-) but those trees are not planning on welcoming any company. I'd be surprised if they tolerated the presence of the house for long.

That tree planting was intended to be temporary at best and they have way outgrown the space. The trees take all the moisture and nutrients that the soil there has to offer and I'd be amazed if you could get anything to grow vigorously between them. If you did it would be something low like Hellebores, but even those, I'd bet on them being anemic and mostly buried in tree debris. Ferns and hellebores, at best. It's dry and acidic in addition to being shady, and very few plants that grow in those conditions are showy. At least, in my climate.

What you need here is a long term treescape plan. Do you need this screening? If so, at what height is it really important? Must it be redwoods? What you can do is be on a perpetual tree replacement plan -remove every second tree now and replace with smaller ones, then replace the others in ten years, and basically, repeat every ten years. But I'm hoping you can make do with smaller plants than redwoods, and if you need height, a smaller-growing species of tree. THEN you can have a nice little flower garden accompanying them while they are small.

Look into what tree roots can do to your foundation and check whether it is a likelihood for you.

KarinL


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

I like the look of the tall, straight trunks on their own. It must feel like you're in a tree house when you're on the upper balcony in particular, but even on the deck...

It looks like the area between the trunks and the deck railing is a path to somewhere?

All I'd do in your situation would be to neaten up the trees by removing the brown bits you can see in the first picture (limb up a bit?) Then I'd maybe make a clear path between the trunks and the deck railing by putting down a thin layer of some contrasting material (concrete sand or crushed stone of some sort - something that would give a color contrast, pack down nicely, but still allow air and water to move into the soil.) I think you need to learn to appreciate the lines of the trees and the feel of living in a tree house :-)


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Tue, Apr 12, 11 at 11:50

It is possible to get taller growing shrubs to fill in between the redwoods, but you can't just plant something there and think they will successfully compete with the tree roots. I've found that planting larger sized shrubs, digging out an extra wide and deep planting pit to remove existing tree roots, and adding an irrigation line with bubblers or drip to the new plantings, (but not the redwoods), will allow some tougher plants to compete successfully, as long as you also feed the new plants regularly to get them growing. I can guarantee that the Redwood tree roots will be right back and try to suck up all the additional water, so you need to stick to plants that can handle intense root competition, and feed and water more frequently to compensate.(Speaking from actual experience here).

You were probably hoping to do something cheap and simple, but give up that idea if you aren't prepared to do the work. Shrubs I've used in such situations include Mahonia lomariifolia, Heteromeles arbutifolia, Myrica californica, Pittosporum eugenioides, Fatsia japonica, Schefflera calyptratus, Nandina domestica.

You might also consider placing large containers between the trees and planting bamboo. Rectangular galvanized cattle troughs(approximately 5 foot long by 2.5 foot wide and 2.5 foot tall, and planted with Black Stem Bamboo would also work here, and give you faster height. These would also need to be hooked up to their own irrigation valve for best growth, and you might want to line drain holes punched into the bottom of the cattle troughs with copper mesh screening to keep the redwood tree roots out.


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

David I love the bamboo idea - that would be a gorgeous contrast with the redwoods.


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

You all are SOO great ;-)) Thanks so much!

We're making a trip to Annie's Annuals in Richmond today, to get some idea's. I'm also taking some pics. I did the same with a nursery in Napa but didn't really get many idea's, other than sweet pea shrub. I will check out the rhododendrons today.

My original plan was to create a serene type pathway under the redwoods/between the deck. The pathway would lead from the yard on one side of the deck (closest in the photo) to the other yard on the other side of the deck. We're built on the bottom of a hill so the other side yard leads DOWN at the end of the deck into a little "gully" that is surrounded by redwoods. EVENTUALLY I have informed my husband I would like a small gazebo made down in that little gully (not this year of course!). I originally thought of using stone, with rock as centerpieces and ferns/foliage to create a sort of "untouched" wilderness feel....someplace you might stumble upon while hiking in the forest. I also originally asked my husband if we could install some sort of trellis runners on top of the fence (on other side of redwoods) and eventually put some sort of vines/climbers through the trellis. I then thought if I can get some ferns to grow down there, could I put some other shade lovers in some pots incorporated in to make it look "natural"?

The only problem I have now is that I think ferns/foliage will grow there, but I have no clue about any type of vines/climbers that would grow on a fence top trellis if I go this way with it. Obviously we have only lived here during the rainy season, but it stays very moist down there so far because we get the night time moisture blowing down the hill.

The tree's ARE necessary for screening. We have 2 family rooms, one off the lower deck and one off the upper deck. I am sitting here in the family room right now off the upper deck watching the hummingbirds and finches eat and play in the tree's, like I am in a tree house. Why do hummingbirds like redwoods? We have a ton of hummingbirds living in the redwoods? More than I've seen in my life? This backyard needs help ;-). On the back of our property (on the other side of the tree's) is a condo complex which is blocked thanks to these redwoods.

The house was built in 1986, and the tree's were original to the build. We had an arborist from Northern California that specializes in redwoods come in before we purchased and we were informed that the foundation and tree's were all in spectacular shape and good to go for another 40-50 years (with regular maintenance).

So long story short, any potted plants, natural shade plants, any idea's of things to look at today that enjoy shade/under tree's, and worst case can even be potted if soil won't allow them to grow. Anything to plant between the tree's and on the side of a pathway.


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

I like the look of the tall, straight trunks on their own. It must feel like you're in a tree house when you're on the upper balcony in particular, but even on the deck...

It looks like the area between the trunks and the deck railing is a path to somewhere?

All I'd do in your situation would be to neaten up the trees by removing the brown bits you can see in the first picture (limb up a bit?) Then I'd maybe make a clear path between the trunks and the deck railing by putting down a thin layer of some contrasting material (concrete sand or crushed stone of some sort - something that would give a color contrast, pack down nicely, but still allow air and water to move into the soil.) I think you need to learn to appreciate the lines of the trees and the feel of living in a tree house :-)


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RE: oops!

AARRGH! sorry for the double post - you'd think I'd know by now not to automatically hit 'refresh' when I return to the computer after and absence....!!


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

what about using large stately planters in between the trees? That way they won't have to compete with the roots.


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Wed, Apr 13, 11 at 12:54

Some other natural Redwood tree associate plants as understory/ground cover would include Oxalis oregana and Polystichum munitum, and Woodwardia fimbriata. Other plants that would withstand the root competition might include Bergenia crassifolia, Crassula multicava, Melinoselinum decipiens and Musschia wollastonii(Annie's Annuals), Aucuba japonica variegata, Dicksonia antarctica tree ferns. All would greatly appreciate new top soil brought in and raising the grade with perhaps another 6 to 8 inches of fresh new soil, and a really good irrigation system to keep them well watered in the dry season, and fertilize, fertilize and fertilize to keep them happy. Redwood trees do not mind having the soil raised against there trunks in the slightest, and will soon push new roots into the new soil, so you will have to water more often if you expect any growth on understory plants. As well, Redwood tree roots are notorious for pushing their roots into any container plants that are directly sitting on soil, you'll need to protect the drain holes with copper wire screen or saucers to keep them out.

You'll also have to be vigilant about removing debris from the Redwoods, as it can be so heavy as to simply smother slower growing plants. If you have deer problems, not everything on the above list will work. Also, I wouldn't recommend using crushed rock or dg as pathway paving under a Redwood, as they are more difficult to sweep/rake. Flagstone pavers or concrete stepping pads work better.


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

One thing you should probably be prepared for is that the trees (no apostrophe by the way :-)) will likely progressively shed their lower branches as they grow. As such, they and the foundation may indeed happily co-exist for 40-50 years, but they may not do their screening for that long (and perhaps the birds will be up higher where you can't see them as well). That is one reason I suggested you consider a staggered replacement schedule, so you have new tips growing in as the canopy of the remaining trees goes up. But it may be as hard to establish new trees as it will be to establish understory plants.

Bahia has given you a very good manual for underplanting, and the bottom line is that it requires a lot of preparation, forethought, and work. In particular, I'm glad he mentioned tree debris. One of the disadvantages of plants is that it makes it hard to clear the debris, and in a way the debris is nice as it makes that forest floor feeling. When it buries your plants you are inclined to want to remove it. Ferns with rhizomes that ascend are therefore good companion plants, or annuals where you don't care if they get buried each year.

I'm not anti-tree but am a pragmatist about both living with them and about them doing the job you expect of them. It's not as romantic a proposition as it appears from a distance!

KarinL
PS you may also have more spiders due to the trees?


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

Thank you all so much!!

We spent the weekend going around to numerous nurseries in our area with photos in hand. Because of this board and advice from local nurseries, I THINK (always subject to change, lol) we have an "idea" of what we want to do!

American soil in Richmond, CA recommended flagstone for the path. They told me to just "lay it on the ground". I'm not sure how well this will work, but the local nursery recommended planting a small moss like ground cover between the flagstone to give it a more natural look. Our nursery in Napa recommended rhododendrons in large pots, as not much will compete with the root system of the redwoods. Thank you VERY MUCH BAHIA! for the advice about the copper wire, I never would have thought of that. You are brilliant, and none of the nurseries recommended this to me. The Napa nursery recommended potting the rhodo's in half wine barrels surrounded by some ferns, with a cute little native ground cover around the ferns. They also recommended the sweet pea shrubs here and there, but I'm not sure about that. They also recommended a few other shade loving flowering plants to go along the flagstone pathway. I have the list in my purse so I'm not sure of exactly what plants these are right now.

The Redwoods drop needles horribly, so it will be a chore to keep it all clean throughout certain seasons. We're going to get started on it in the next few weeks, so I'll have to post some photos while we are working!!

Spiders - I don't notice more spiders, but I'm scared of them, lol. I don't normally FEAR little critters, but before we put an offer on the house we were checking things out and there was a brown widow down on the lower deck. It scared me to death so now I'm always on watch. I haven't seen one since, but I keep waiting to see another.


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

  • Posted by jkom51 Z9 CA/Sunset 17 (My Page) on
    Thu, Apr 21, 11 at 20:12

If you plant in the ground instead of in containers, take the recommendation of water/fertilizer seriously. We were told during a tour up in Humboldt County that a redwood tree can suck up 300+ gallons of water per day, a rather staggering statistic. They're one of the fastest growing trees.


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

It would be a surprise if those redwoods remain more than maybe 30 more years.

Last autumn, one couple called for some consultation here in Beaverton about their redwood and it's encroachment on the neighbor's air space. The tree was about 60 years old, with a trunk about 5 feet diameter.

If you can find enough earth in between them, Western Hemlock would probably grow. But I think you would need to shift the planting, with the hemlocks between the row of redwoods and the deck. And the limbs would need to overhang the deck a little. The Western Hemlock do not grow very broad the first 20 years.

Western Hemlock grow in Coast Redwood Forests.

M. D. Vaden


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Tue, May 17, 11 at 12:02

There is no way a Coast Redwood would have a 5 foot diameter trunk at 60 years of age, even in prime habitat.


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

Quote bahia "There is no way a Coast Redwood would have a 5 foot diameter trunk at 60 years of age, even in prime habitat."

Maybe schedule for a tree care presentation sometime.

I just measured the DBH of a Deodar Cedar in Sherwood, Oregon, at near 7 feet. 256 inch circumference. Dr. Robert Van Pelt sent a note, that he measured the same identical tree in 1996, for 192 inches of circumference (with an exclamatory about soil conditions).

That's a 1.7 foot increase of diameter in 14 to 15 years. That growth rate, if constant, would be 5.2 feet of diameter in 45 years. And Coast Redwoods typically grow faster than Deodar Cedar up this way.

A redwood would merely need a growth ring slightly over 1/2" per year to gain 5 feet diameter in 50 years, 10 years less than 60. 1/2" ring means a half inch on both sides, or 1 inch girth gain per year. That's not much of a stretch at all for a Coast Redwood in good soil, light with moisture.

M. D. Vaden


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

Update:

Was on the phone with a redwood expert from California day before yesterday. He said that there are some Coast Redwood tree in California in the 60 year age range, up to 8 feet diameter.

Certainly not the average, but the actual potential for the most vigorous of the species in the right conditions.

M. D. Vaden


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

Walk through one of the local state parks full of redwoods....see what grows under them. That is what will grow under your trees.


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

  • Posted by jkom51 Z9 CA/Sunset 17 (My Page) on
    Sun, May 22, 11 at 12:03

In a recent trip through Humboldt County's redwoods, we saw mostly ferns and oxalis under the trees. A few shrubs, not many.


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

  • Posted by bahia SF Bay Area (My Page) on
    Sun, May 22, 11 at 13:08

No point getting into a debate, because there may always be exceptions, but I really doubt a Coast Redwood at only 60 years would have a five foot diameter, especially in Oregon. The growing season is shorter in Oregon, and while you potentially get more precipitation,(I don't know how many inches per year Beaverton gets), that sort of growth rate in diameter is highly unusual around here in their prime habitat. Typically Coast Redwoods in coastal rain forest here in Marin County or San Mateo County might get up to 50 to 60 inches of accumulated precipitation a year if you factor in additional fog drip. In habitat, even redwoods that are growing right next to creeks in deeper alluvial soils will not add that sort of girth in the first 60 years, they typically grow up rather than out, as they are competing for light, height is more important for their success than girth. When Redwoods are grown in the open rather than a closed canopy, they typically do grow a larger sized trunk relative to their height, but will exhibit much more taper to the trunk if they don't get as much ground water as they prefer. There are a lot of 100 year old second growth redwoods here in the San Francisco Bay Area, and at this age they do generally have about 5 foot diameter trunks.

Redwoods when stressed by lack of water or too much wind typically will have a fat base and lower height, and not have the more uniform caliper trunk that they achieve under better growing conditions. The Coast Redwood grove at the Strybing Botanic Garden in San Francisco is a good example of fatter trunked at the base yet stunted height Redwoods, with none of the gracefulness that happier Redwoods exhibit.

The comment about doubting whether those redwoods would be around in another 30 years has little to do with the health of the trees. There is no reason they wouldn't continue to grow unless they were removed, or we enter into another serious multi-year drought. Coast Redwood trees used as highway landscaping along Hwy 101 between Novato and Santa Rosa illustrate how they can suffer if they receive no irrigation, and are exposed to multi-year drought stress, but even so, most recover with normal rainfall after several years of drought. The photo certainly didn't illustrate that they looked to be under environmental stress, as they have the typical tall uniform trunk caliper that redwoods exhibit when they get adequate ground water, and no evidence of wholesale branch dieback.

It would seem to me that adding Western Hemlock trees would be compounding or trading one problem for another, and they are not as well adapted to SF Bay Area growing conditions as the Coast Redwoods.


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

Hi, i am curious as to what you chose to do / plant? I too was infiltrated with existing redwoods - 30 of them between 40 and 100 ft. tall! I chose to rip them all out and plant citrus for privacy. Unfortunately, i was too late, the redwoods had already found my sprinkler pipe, pool pipes, foundation - and therefore wallet.
I learned the hard way that redwoods are not compatible in a residential landscape - period.
George K.


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RE: (New House!) What to plant under row of 16 redwoods?

edit of duplicate post - sorry - browser error

This post was edited by Becauseican on Fri, Sep 27, 13 at 17:13


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