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Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Posted by rickd 10 (My Page) on
Mon, Dec 14, 09 at 17:36

Hello everyone. Does anyone have advice or opinions on selecting large deciduous trees for this situation?

= planting strip next to street 3 feet wide (see photo below)
= I plan to remove existing lawn, replace with organic mulch or DG
= drip irrigation
= street is on west side of lot (western exposure)Northern California, Zone 8B, Sunset zone 14

These are recommended for this area:

Calif sycamore (Platanus racemosa)
Red maple (Acer rubrum)
American sweetgum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
Valley Oak (Quercus lobata)
Chinese Hackberry (Celtis sinensis)
Red oak (Quercus rubra)
Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis)

Photo: front planting strip


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Mon, Dec 14, 09 at 18:03

Large trees such as some of those in your list will eventually overwhelm this position, lifting the sidewalk etc.

What are the requirements of your municipality? Some cities require permits to plant street trees, produce lists of acceptable kinds.


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

I'm usually not very concerned with possible "concrete upheaval" but the narrowness of your available planting strip has me concerned. Not that I haven't scene 60 foot Sycamores growing in them strips right up into power lines around town though.

Any of the smaller Redbud or Crab Apple size trees do well in your area? Being zone 8 am I correct in assuming tolerance to road salt isn't an issue?


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Thanks for your ideas. I don't think permits are required in this area, but I'll check.

Overhead utilities are not an issue in this location. Road salt is also not an issue.

It gets quite hot in the summer so providing the maximum amount of shade is the main concern, that's why I want LARGE trees, if possible. Not weedy trees, but large trees, eventually.

I know intuitively that a larger tree will have a larger root system, but I thought that as long as I selected a species that wasn't prone to surface roots, I could mitigate some of the other potential problems by, e.g., using a root barrier and watering deeply. Agree?


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Mon, Dec 14, 09 at 20:49

Have a look at the plant selection guide near the front of the Sunset Western Garden Book. More tame trees are singled out there.


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

This is my area of expertise and I speak on this sort of infrastructure issue often.

None of those trees in the OP are acceptable.

3 feet is too narrow for anything deciduous other than a small-statured tree. The chance for breakage for any tree with a caliper of over 18" in a 3' strip approaches 100%.

It is too bad that something so narrow was approved and permitted there, but it is too late now and I doubt you can get a variance for a narrower sidewalk or a neckdown-bulbout to get more room.

If you choose small deciduous, you will then have the issue of branches impinging upon garbage trucks, automobiles, mail truck, etc. You may want to think about Italian cypress, as those things are cast iron in that zone (I used to practice in SS Z 8 in Sacto) and rarely lift concrete. You may need to look at whether your irrigation is sufficient for drip and ensure that valve is only for drip and no spray upstream.

Alternatives are a xeric planting of perennials and low grasses, High Country Gardens specializes in these things and even have some canned plantings for treelawns.

Good luck,

Dan


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Maybe one of the tree type crape myrtles like 'Natchez' or 'Muskogee'? I they grow well here in my zone 8, but then again CA is completely different.


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

probably wasnt 3 feet before they widened the road ... i suspect ...

is that your lawn on the other side of the sidewalk [unless you are living in that mailbox] ... why not plant there .. rather than out in the easement... which most likely is not theoretically yours to plant in ...

good luck

ken


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

  • Posted by kimcoco Zone 5, Wisconsin (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 15, 09 at 16:29

Interesting. Can you plant your own tree on the easement? We can plant perennials that don't block the view of traffic as we exit/enter our driveway, but we aren't permitted to plant trees. City decides what gets planted there, and on our street it's maples and elms.

Good luck. Please send some warmer weather our way.


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Thanks again everyone.

I'm not sure why the street was laid out this way. It's outside the city limits so that may explain part of it.

I'm checking on any rules re: planting in this strip. It has not been maintained by anyone other than the owner.

I'll try to post more photos this weekend on what other neighbors have done.

Dan - what would you consider the minimum median width for a tree like Calif Sycamore?


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

  • Posted by bboy USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 15, 09 at 20:18

If successful on that site California sycamore would grow a trunk more than 3' in diameter in time. So, the strip is not wide enough just to house the root crown of such a tree, in addition to other considerations.

If you are not within a municipality perhaps there are no street tree rules in effect. Look for information from whatever agency is in charge of your street.


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

  • Posted by jean001 z8aPortland, OR (My Page) on
    Tue, Dec 15, 09 at 20:46

Many northern CA municipalities have a list of trees approved for use according to the width of the parking strip. All those trees you mention may be suited to your climate but not to a 3-foot wide strip.

Suggest you call your city hall to determine which department has the info you need.


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

But how long would it take to grow 3' in diameter? I'm not opposed to planting a tree that would do the job and be a beautiful part of the landscape for 20 years and then would have to be removed and replaced.


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

the problem is that in 20 years ... you might not be there to pay for the removal of the mistake you made ...

where i grew up ... there are 5 foot easements.. sycamores planted in the 60's are 4 feet wide at the crown .... most houses have had heaved sidewalks replaced at cost to the home owners .... and god knows what they are doing to the old sewers ...

ken


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Ken - I know streets like you're describing, older neighborhoods with huge street trees and uneven sidewalks. Some of those neighborhoods are the nicest ones in the city (for example, Sacramento) and a lot of it has to do with those trees. Those streets would be very different if everyone had planted 20 foot trees or perennials and grasses in those medians. Shade is invaluable in the west.

Landscapes get changed all the time. The first homeowner landscapes their yard, some plants thrive and some fail. A new homeowner moves in and keeps the plants they like and replaces the ones he doesn't like. Why shouldn't trees be treated the same way? Maybe the cost of removing a potentially overgrowing tree is part of the cost of enjoying it for all those years before it became a problem.


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Agreed, rickd! How many millions of gorgeous street trees throughout the continent would not be casting shade and otherwise improving the urban environment today if people had been too concerned about planting a tree that might lift sidewalks someday?


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Dan - what would you consider the minimum median width for a tree like Calif Sycamore?

6 feet. 8 is better. You'll get breakage in at least 50% of cases with 6 feet.

Crape myrtles do well in many parts of interior CA, and they and other small vase-shaped trees will have branch spread that is too low for vehicle clearance.

Maybe the cost of removing a potentially overgrowing tree is part of the cost of enjoying it for all those years before it became a problem.

Then you are foregoing the benefits accrued. This is appropriate for flowers and some shrubs, but not trees.

Dan


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

That's a predicament indeed.

I'm the last person on earth to care about sidewalk breakage but you have some other big problems. If you plant that close to the road, tall vehicles like UPS trucks and school busses are going to make mincemeat out of your branches if there isn't enough room to go around the canopy while the tree is still young.

You can't plant on the other side of the sidewalk because of the retaining wall.

Here's an idea. Why don't you plant shrubs there. A hedge or mixed hedge? Maybe some ornamental grasses. That way you can still get rid of that grass.
On the other side of the fence, about 15' away that's where you plant the sycamores.


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

I see shadow on the turf behind the cyclone fence. Hard to tell what's going on, but in land-use patterns of that age, I'd expect deciduous canopy trees already exist there. I suspect with that situation (if true), the location in turf would be suboptimal.

2

Dan


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Odds are that whatever you plant is going to be removed in 30 years, unless you can manipulate something small like a Crape Myrtle.

But if you want a tree of substance, maybe look into a birch with a single stem. Reason being, several come pretty tall for their stem size. You can get a 1.5" tree for like $100, and it may be upwards of 16' tall sometimes. I've bought 1" that were up to 13' tall.

What this means, if you are willing to do it, is to prune limbs off near head level at the sidewalk, and pull the the tree back from the street with an elevated tie. Just bend it over the walk, leaving the usual 8' clearance. In a few years, the upper stem will self-straighten. That way you shift the canopy center over the walk.

Many times, the smaller trees are even worse in narrow area, because they tend to go broad, and you need them to go up.

M. D. Vaden of Oregon


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

  • Posted by whaas 5a Milwaukee (My Page) on
    Thu, Dec 17, 09 at 17:31

to iforgot's point my only concern (beside cultural requirements) is that the tree can easily be limbed up.


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

There's only so much limbing up you can do with a 3-4' street lawn.


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

I gotta agree with iforgotsomething... It takes many years to limb trees up so I don't see how that is possible unlike you are growing tall columnar trees but won't get huge to mess up the sidewalks. There's a house not far from me that has 8-10 Bradford pear growing in the strips (corner lot) and you can see that UPS and others have driven through them. A lot of shade for sure but not safe for UPS trucks...


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Thanks for your comments. I still haven't heard what I wanted to hear - plant xxx (med-large deciduous tree), use root barriers to help protect the street and sidewalk, and limb them up as they grow.

Several people mentioned shrubs, perennials, etc. for this site, but what I need is SHADE, and lots of it.

There are mulberry trees growing in the lawn above the short retaining wall. They've been pollarded. I plan to remove them and replace half the lawn with native plants.


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Check out the 'Tuscarora' crape myrtle, they grow somewhat upright and they could eventually provide some shade to the sidewalk area. I see them used all the time in narrow strips like that.

Check out this pic...

Here is a link that might be useful: Tuscarora Crape Myrtle


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

My guess is root barriers would be to difficult to install. Imagine the pain of digging a 40 foot trench 4 feet deep along the sidewalk and street.

Then, IF the barrier works you'll have a tree which has no root structure under the sidewalk. (remember roots of big trees spread out way further than they go deep).

I'm less concerned about the sidewalk than most folks though. More concerned about a sycamore blowing over on my "new to me" MarkVIII


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

And if you did have root barriers in a 3' street lawn, you're essentially working with a tree pit and you'll have to plan on replacing the trees every so often.


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Thanks for your comments. I still haven't heard what I wanted to hear - plant xxx (med-large deciduous tree), use root barriers to help protect the street and sidewalk, and limb them up as they grow.

The reason you haven't heard it is because it is a bad idea.

I respect MD Vaden's judgment, and birch in that spot is asking for the tree to live in a hot dry environment when that's not what it is adapted to.

Dan


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

In fairness to him, it'd probably work in Oregon. Everything grows there.

So rick why do you so desperately need shade on your mailbox and sidewalk?


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Perhaps climate influences how well trees survive in a small strip like that. In my neighborhood in MN, certain trees do fine in strips of similar size. Next door is a 50+ year old American Elm in a similar sized strip.


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Some of you really need to get out more and observe. While a 3 ft planting strip is by no means optimum for a large tree, I could take photos of literally hundreds of trees around the Greater Boston area planted in the exact same situation and thriving. These are not small trees either. We're talking Northern Red, Pin, White, and Scarlet Oak, Red and Silver Maples, Sycamores, London Planetrees, Green and White Ash, Zelkovas, Locusts, etc. I would be far less concerned about the tree surviving than the sidewalk and road. A large tree with aggressive routes is going to find water. In the process, it's going to rip the sidewalk and road to pieces. However, this is considered quaint be some people and isn't always an issue.

I think a large Crape Myrtle would be ideal for this spot. I've seen plenty of those in similar situations down South that are thriving.

Here are some links to pics with large trees in this approximate situation:


Link 1

Link 2

Link 3


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

I think that's what people are mostly concerned with... the road and sidewalk. I mentioned ups trucks hitting the tree but that doesn't kill it, just gives it a distinctive shape.

Those trees in your pics were probably there before the road and sidewalk were put in UPS and garbage trucks were in the form of horse-drawn carriages.


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Some of you really need to get out more and observe. While a 3 ft planting strip is by no means optimum for a large tree...

Yes, exactly!

In my travels for my presentations, I go around to different neighborhoods in each city and I take pictures of treelawns for future research-presentations-policy work.

I am always successful at finding pavement and road repairs with trees such as ash, elm, oaks and maples planted in too-narrow planting strips; I usually show pictures of purported 'smart growth' new development with narrow treelawns and then show what they will look like 35-50 years in the future and ask the audience what their city cost is for sidewalk or street repair, and the mortality rate of trees after root pruning to do the repair. This is early in the presentation and that is the door opener to get them to listen to my solutions.

The last city I practiced in in WA State, my Public Works guys were asking me to prune hard or to cut down the small trees in the treelawn, as their branches were damaging the mirrors on the street sweepers and garbage trucks.

So in the situation in the OP, one can wish for a beautiful parkway with bunnies, contented children in strollers and singing birds sheltered by the benevolent branches of an alle of 100-foot trees, but you have to work with what you are given, not with what you wish you had. And you aren't given the infrastructure in the OP to make that happen with any decent likelihood of success. That's just the way it is. There is no stopping anyone from trying but I wouldn't put too much emotion or money or hopes into a positive outcome. If small-statured trees are planted, I'd invest in a good pruning saw and loppers, as you'll be standing in the street looking at broken branches several times a year, I'll wager.

Dan


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip? ii

Oh, and DG will make the growing conditions that much harsher for young tree establishment. Gravel is suitable, however, for a xeric bed, in which case there are numerous perennials and some shrubs that won't mind that sort of harsh treatment with DG/gravel/cobble.

Dan


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

I'm not that concerned about the sidewalk and road, to be honest. As I mentioned, I would try to mitigate some of the damage with root barriers and deep watering, but if the sidewalk heaves in 25 years when the trees are 40 feet tall, I won't lose any sleep.

I looked around the neighborhood to see what others are doing with this strip and it seems this house is the only one with a curb and gutter. In general, there are sidewalks, an unpaved area, then the asphalt street.

Dan - in downtown Sacramento (aka City of Trees), the city routinely spreads DG around the base of new and established street trees. I'll probably do something like wood chips in the drip line and DG further out, assuming the trees are spaced 20' or so apart.

For all the crape myrtle fans, sorry, but I'm not fond of those trees . The pink ones are on my list of most-hated plants. The flowers fall everywhere and blow around, then the seeds (which stain pavement). I'll admit they have a nice shape and the bark is attractive in the winter.


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Sacramento makes a tradeoff by laying down the DG. As I used to live and practice there, I can attest that following their practices to the letter is problematic in many instances. Young bark is often damaged by reflected heat in the SJV.

And 20' spacing for large trees is waaaay too close. But as you said, you don't care about the effects of your planting, so good luck to the next owner and the taxpayers paying the bill for street and sidewalk repair!

Dan


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

What about the heat reflected from the sidewalk - that has to be at least as bad as the DG.

I think the point is that urban streets are not the ideal environment for most trees, and the streets and sidewalks could do without the trees. But the health benefits of an urban forest far outweigh the compromises that are required, IMO. I'd say that you tend to compromise toward the protection of the infrastructure while I'm willing to let the infrastructure suffer a little in order to have a ceiling of leaves over my head.


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Dan,

You should see my brother's neighborhood... 4 live oak trees on 1/5-1/5 acre lot in the front yard including 2 in the strip which seemed to be only 3 ft wide... It seemed like every single house on that street has 4 Live oak trees. Last time I went there, they were sad looking trees. My brother wanted to get rid of trees but HOA rules says you gotta have 10 ft to replace them. Problem is finding healthy trees with good root system. Bradford is one of 4 recommended trees on the list that he showed me. Old list but hasn't updated in 20 years. That's crazy...


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Rent a jackhammer, you could probably have that sidewalk gone in a day or two. ;)

j/k


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Rent a jackhammer, you could probably have that sidewalk gone in a day or two.

You probably meant that as a joke, but as I think about it, I may be able to replace the concrete sidewalk with a more permeable paving material that would be better for tree root development. It would be an expensive solution though.


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Found this image of permeable paving used on a street in Berkeley. Looks like the sidewalks are conventional concrete.

Are those large deciduous tree planted in a 2-3" planting strip? Under utility lines?

Here is a link that might be useful: Photo


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Are they your sidewalks to tear up?


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RE: Street tree for narrow planting strip?

Depends upon the city, but usu they won't let you tear up a public sidewalk unless you replace to standard, and even then they usu won't let the homeowner tear up a sidewalk. Speaking of that,

Note the birch heaving the sidewalk likely beyond code and thus a trip and fall hazard. And note the very high cost of the retrofit to site utilities and give some gas exchange for the root volume.

Dan


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