front yard shade tree - help please

Camano Island, WA(Zone 8a)

I have been looking at trees to figure out what to put in the front yard as a shade tree. We have a one story house in a small neighborhood of one story houses. Pistil and I drove around Seattle and scoped out a bunch of trees to find likely candidates.

The final 3 candidates were (drum roll)...

Fraxinus oxycarpa 'Raywood' - BEAUTIFUL to look at, great fall color, BUT there are concerns about surface roots (we have septic) and it might be brittle (we are on a windy site),

Aesculus x carnea 'Briotii' - awesome for shade, beautiful flowers, not as much crud dropping as other Aesculus varieties, good for clay (we have clay), BUT no fall color,

Sorbus alnifolia - good for clay, fast growing (I'm old), great fall color, attractive tree.

I decided on the Sorbus alnifolia. It doesn't seem to have any drawbacks.

However, the Sorbus alnifolia has an unsurmountable downside! I can't find it for sale anywhere. Local nurseries don't have it, mail order companies don't have it.

Does anybody know where I can get one? Otherwise, I might go with the Aesculus x carnea 'Briotii'. After all, I'm from Ohio, aka "the buckeye state."

You all know trees better than I do. If you know something, good or bad, about my candidates, all information is welcome. If you know of a better candidate, I'd love to hear your ideas, too.

The pictures are Aesculus x carnea, Sorbus alnifolia, and Fraxinus oxycarpa 'Raywood'.

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Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

None of the Asian maples catch your fancy? Or, are they too common already around your neck of the woods - or too slow growing in your estimation?

It seems like zone 8a could grow an awful lot of really interesting things beyond the three perfectly good choices you've mentioned. You started out asking about a shade tree, so flowering and fruiting characteristics are typically secondary considerations. In your notes, you seem to highlight those "other" features besides shade and/or fall color.

Acer triflorum is a great plant.

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Camano Island, WA(Zone 8a)

That's an awesome tree, VV! I think it will have a place in our yard! Thank you very much for your input. We had knocked it off the short list because it often does not get tall enough for shade in our yard in the specific spot we need to fill, and is slower-growing. However, I can visualize a place in the yard where this tree belongs and will be gorgeous!

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I heartily agree. The smaller maples are less common, but available. And so many of them are stunning trees with nice branch structure. You get distinction without problems.

Springfield, OR(Zone 8a)

Have you thought about a Fraxinus latifolia? I can't speak to how fast-growing they are, since I've had mine for one week, but they are PNW native.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Loved the drumroll, by the way...

Camano Island, WA(Zone 8a)

Hee hee, we gardeners have to get our thrills wherever we can. :-)

13Turtle, the Fraxinus latifolia we considered (since it's a beautiful native), but it does seem to want more water than we will provide. We are in a rain shadow and only get 25 inches of rain per year. There is a soggy place in our back yard but it is in a shaded area. What is the rainfall in your area? What is your soil like? Where did you site yours?

DonnaMack, my sister is going to give me a volunteer Japanese maple that popped up in her yard. She has nowhere to put it but we have a big area to fill. Maples and oaks always speak to me because there were some nearby when I was growing up. I always loved the helicopters. I remember walking to school and picking them off the sidewalk to play with en route.

VV, You mentioned, "You started out asking about a shade tree, so flowering and fruiting characteristics are typically secondary considerations. In your notes, you seem to highlight those "other" features besides shade and/or fall color."
I want it ALL!!

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Yeah! I want it all too!

Just put a cotinus 'Grace' on my parkway. It balances the 14 foot miscanthus giganteous on the other end. When people grow smokebushes here, and I have seen a few, they put them in inconspicuous place. One person has three on their alley, and the other by the back of their yard near the garbage cans. I don't get it. This is a show horse! Prance that baby out!

First two pics in November, the third and fourth in June.

It's a cross between a European smokebush and an American smoke tree. A Brit names Peter Dummer hybridized it and named it after his wife Grace. What a tribute!

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Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

All is fine - don't the rest of us?

But we need the same information you used when you filled out your brackets. Does your team have a big center (height)? Favorite team colors? Etc.?

I would put none of your three choices in the shade tree category - that is usually reserved for trees expected to minimally meet the 50' threshold, if not 75'. You may not require that level to shade a one-story home, I understand that.

Without being able to parallel your judgment, this becomes a "favorite" tree discussion - which isn't bad, but often not helpful.

What the heck made you leave out perennial Final Four favorite Yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea)? Got something against the Big Blue?

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Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Oh, VV, I hear you. If I could plant ANYTHING, it would be a Yellowwood, a Katsura, and a Shamrock linden (japanese beetle resistant). Now, if you're talking small, an acer griseum, a cornus alternifolia, and a few President Lincoln lilacs (a gorgeous, big old fashioned lilac that is completely mildew resistant).

Beautiful pictures!!!

Camano Island, WA(Zone 8a)

So, the Big Blue must be a sports team in Kentucky...see, I can figure things out! But not everything. What is the Final Four?

The Cladrastis kentukea looks like a great tree. I love those panicles hanging down. I didn't know of this tree. Thank you for telling me about it.

So, when I say I want it all, here are the characteristics of the perfect tree for this site:
* likes full sun
* grows 50 feet tall
* grows moderately fast
* shades the one story house in the afternoon (tree will be on the west side of the house near the south end, 20'+ from the house)
* blows your socks off with fall color
* has an interesting branch structure
* does not need a wet location
* has no tree litter, aphids, sap, etc.
* lives in clay
* has beautiful bark (peeling or white or speckled or striped or furrowed or corky, etc.)
* has awesome flowers that last a long time (color doesn't matter very much. pink is fine if the bloom is in the spring but not later.)
* has "interesting," non-variegated leaves (examples of "interesting": willow, oak, maple, huge, tiny, shiny, bright, fluttery, lobed... example of non-fascinating: alder, cascara)
* is totally uninterested in a septic field
* doesn't break in a windy location
* doesn't hang on to dead leaves extra long in the fall
* isn't the last plant on the block to leaf out in the spring, looking like it croaked while everything else is beautiful
* is completely healthy and never gets diseases

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

I always drool over Yellowwood photos. I guess I didn't include them on the list because 1) they are so uncommon here in Seattle. My Seattle Tree book shows the very biggest to be 60', most are much less, 20-40'. That could be because they are all young, but maybe they don't grow well here? Also the Seattle Tree-watcher Arthur Lee Jacobson (who wrote the book) says the flowers are "absent or weak in most years". Maybe not enough summer heat here? Or not enough summer rainfall? Anyway with so many other options it didn't seem a reliable choice.
We also considered Katsura. However, these have been planted extensively around here. The autumn show is spectacular, but they are considered thirsty (Seattle gets more rain than momlady) and are all growing to be enormous trees, I see many that are probably 100' and still look young-middle aged.

Camano Island, WA(Zone 8a)

Aargh, this regional differences thing might get in the way.

We had an Acer griseum at our previous house. They are described as slow growing and 20-30 feet high. Well, this one likes our old yard and grows 1 1/2 feet per year. After just a few years it was 15 feet high (started at 5 feet) and it is still growing like crazy. It is a beautiful tree, though. That bark is just awesome.

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

I had a similar experience. Mine grew from about my height to 25 feet in less than ten years. I also read about the growth rate, but found another article that with care they could grow faster. I always put my trees on the therapy couch and ask them what they REALLY want. Preferably, regular water (soaker hose at the base), a little acidifying of the soil (done twice a year with Ironite and pine bark mulch), compost each spring and possible tree wrap against thin skinness (Done every year). I think growth estimates are put together for what appears to be typical behavior, which is to slap it in the ground and not bothering with water.

The difference is that I have a multistem now. I loved the old one, and I love this one.

It might help that I grow perennials around my trees and fertilize them, albeit minimally. Things like arabis and woodland strawberries as well as camassia and muscari.

Pistil, I am in awe of the sophistication of your neighbors. What taste. I mean, they do have choices, and here people go with red maples, the standard ones, that are everywhere. Katsuras are rare here. I've seen weeping ones and upright ones, but never in any place locally other than arboretums.

I spent some time in Seattle and I was blown away by the sophistication of the gardens I saw. Taste, and clearly money, but money does not buy taste. The lots were not large but a lot of thought seemed to have been given to the choices. Walking around the city was incredibly pleasant from the prospective of a gardener.

This message was edited May 15, 2016 2:23 PM

Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

By the way, I am enormously enjoying every single contribution to this thread. People argue about competing sites, but I have to tell you, the quality and enthusiasm on some of the threads here is wonderful.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Oh, and Hi to 13turtles haven't "seen" you in a while. Good to know you are still with us!

Northumberland, United Kingdom(Zone 9a)

I'd avoid Aesculus x carnea, it gets hideous cankers on the trunk all too readily. Oh, and rather muddy pink flowers. Ugly tree.


Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

Ah, Resin, you cut me to the quick!
My Aesculus x carnea Ft McNair has lovely pink flowers with no canker in sight.
Methinks you slight my fair Ft McNair!

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Saint Louis, MO(Zone 6a)

As for the yellowwood, I had a nice bloom last year, but this year needed a telephoto to find a single bloom. Totally disappointing. My pink one ('Perkins Pink') didn't bother to bloom at all. Sigh...

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Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Here is the Aesculus x carnea 'Briotii' at the Locks in Seattle, just about done blooming but I didn't think the pink was too muddy. The trunk is not smooth, but did not seem deformed or with ugly bulges at graft or anything. We thought it was beautiful. Horse Chestnuts grow great around here.
Oh, how is "Aesculus" pronounced?

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Elgin, IL(Zone 5a)

Oh my goodness, I think it's lovely. There are a couple of the more traditional red horse chestnuts a few blocks away. I stop to gape. They are beautiful, and I don't quite know why they seem rare, except that one in a preserves area of my old community suckered like mad.

Scott County, KY(Zone 5b)

S - Q - LUS.

Accent on first syllable...

Camano Island, WA(Zone 8a)

That is what I used to say until I thought of "Aesop's Fables," which I was raised to pronounce E - SOP. Then I became all discombobulated.

Thanks for the info!

(Robin) Blissfield, MI(Zone 6a)

Momlady, I was thinking of Acer ginnala (Amur Maple), fast growing, glorious fall color, samaras look like blooms, drought tolerant but alas, it only reaches about 20'.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

I had spent an hour or so looking at all the little maples. A. ginnala was one I drooled over. But alas, most maples seem to either get too big, or not big enough. Although, the listed sizes of plants are often wrong, especially in the Pacific Northwest where things GROW. That is where the Seattle tree book was so completely helpful- this guy told you where to see them, in parks, street trees, and in ordinary yards. And he had measured them! So I looked up a lot of these small maples, and if the biggest one he reported was only 25 feet, I crossed it off the list. Every city should have such a plant nut doing this, it felt like a huge public service.

Camano Island, WA(Zone 8a)

I might have room for a smaller tree or two in another place in the yard. The Acer ginnala might be another tree I can't live without.

I took out some existing bad trees (damaged, leaning, double-trunked, branches only on one side, poised to fall in the next storm). So maybe these other suggested trees can replace what was removed.

I will take a better picture of where the shade tree will go and will post it later.

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(Robin) Blissfield, MI(Zone 6a)

Momlady, your house is many colors did you use for the exterior? How much fun is that to work with a blank slate (unless you're overwhelmed of course)? I sure hope you're enjoying the experience, I'd love to help, lol, it looks like fun to me.

Camano Island, WA(Zone 8a)

Thank you, Mipii!

The house color is called "Brassy." I mentioned in another thread that I think that's because the manufacturer didn't think "Split Pea Soup" sounded sexy enough. :-)
Then the places with the shingles on the sides (above garage and spare room) are a lighter shade of that same color. The trim is white and the door is brick red.

It's a lot of fun but also overwhelming. It is a spec home that we bought before it was completed, so we could pick a few things out like the floor and counters. Thank heavens they showed us just a few choices for most of the items. Talk about overload!!

The yard will be awesome (I can only hope) but it will take years. I do want to get the major trees/shrubs in right away.

It'd be a ton of fun to have you come visit and share your ideas. My sister is Pistil and we three could have a ball playing Yard Design and showing you the sights. But I doubt we can all tempt you to come across the country, and I'd LOVE your help from afar. Let's see, I was going to start a thread about the yard but never did. I will put it in Garden Design. Then, any time you feel like helping or checking progress, it'll be there.

(Robin) Blissfield, MI(Zone 6a)

Oh man, you two are blessed to share this hobby. Green is my favorite color and I like your color combo...a lot! I noticed the lighter color near the gables but take a look at the color variation from what's in the light compared to the shade. Good choice.

It doesn't ever matter what the color is, it matters how it appears and how it appears in different light. I'm sure Pistil is having a blast helping you too. I'll check out the design thread for your posts and offer help when I can there.

Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

It's odd about the house photos, the green on the siding by the garage is the same green as the other siding, it sure looks more yellow in the pictures.
I have been buying little things for her from sale racks since last fall-her home is in an even milder climate than mine, since it is in the Olympic Mountains rain shadow and nearer the saltwater. So I am being "zone pushy" and giving her things I think might be OK there. She has now in pots a Chilean Fire Tree and Eucryphia glutinosa.
It should help, right now the yard looks like the open pit mines of Butte, Montana if anyone has been there!

Northumberland, United Kingdom(Zone 9a)

Quote from Pistil :
Oh, how is "Aesculus" pronounced?

"Ice - queue - luss"


Lake Stevens, WA(Zone 8a)

Do you suppose this is a U.S. vs British English difference? Resin how do you pronounce Aesop's Fables?

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