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Right Plant Right Place
by Leonard Cicerello UCCE Master Gardener
How do I know what to plant and where to plant it? Henry, Cayucos
The satisfaction and rewards of proper plant placement is like getting an A in a difficult subject.
Before shopping for plants, browse through a garden book and look at neighboring yards. Visit local nurseries and read the labels on the plants that interest you. If it does not have one, ask a nursery employee about the plant.
Find out how tall and how wide the plant can grow, if it requires full sun, or shade, or morning sun and afternoon shade. If it blooms, what time of year does it bloom? Usually, your local nursery sells only plants that do well in its surrounding area. In SLO County, it can be confusing because you may buy a plant in Cambria to be planted in Paso Robles. However, obviously, those two regions have very different climates.
Avoid planting a tree next to or too close to your home and use caution if planting a tree next to a common fence to avoid future conflicts with neighbors. Provide sufficient space for plants and allow them to grow into their natural shape to minimize pruning.
If you are shopping for a fruit or nut tree, the label should tell you how many chill hours the tree requires to bear fruit or nuts. Every bearing tree has a minimum chill hour requirement which allows the tree to go into dormancy when fruit buds form. Also, fruit and nut trees can be grafted onto three different root stocks---dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standard. Determine the potential size of the one you want.
Another problem is so-called “weed trees”, like Albizia, Ailanthus, and Privet. Their seeds propagate profusely, especially after very wet seasons. Many are allowed to grow and become a nuisance. Acorns, from oaks, and pecans also propagate easily, and can grow into large trees that require a lot of space.
Be judicious when you plant. Plant the right plant in the right place.
Advice for the Home Gardener from the Help Desk of the
UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County
Client's Request: Do you have a list of evergreen shrubs that can grow quickly to about four feet? We need a shrub that can take full sun until early afternoon, lower water, and the summer heat in Concord. Many thanks!
MGCC Help Desk Response: Thank you for contacting the UC Master Gardener Program Help Desk with your question about fast growing evergreen shrubs for your garden in Concord. There are many resources that can help you select shrubs that fit your criteria, and we've outlined some of them below.
One resource that we particularly like is a plant selection tool from the UC Davis Arboretum which allows you to search their “UC Davis All-Stars” plant lists. The UC Davis All-Stars are 100 plants selected by the UC Davis horticultural staff for their toughness, reliability, and ease of growth, low water requirements, and few problems with pests or diseases. You can search by plant name or plant characteristic including, at a minimum, type of plant, size (small, medium, large), exposure (full sun, part sun, shade), and whether you want California natives only. Clicking on “show/hide more criteria” allows you to narrow your search further according to water needs, flower season, flower color, and wildlife value.
Here is the link to the "UC Davic All-Star" website: http://arboretum.ucdavis.edu/plant_search.aspx.
The Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) website provides access to an extensive database of native and non-native plants for their area. Like the UC Davis site, their website allows you to select plants based on type (trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, ground covers, etc.) and within type by various characteristics including size, sun requirements, soil-type (sandy, loam, clay), color, blooming season. Note that you will need to check the Culture data for water usage. This database includes some medium water users, and you probably want to limit your selections to low and very low water users.
Here is the link to the CCWD website. Their site includes links to additional sites to aid your research for plants: http://www.ccwater.com/299/Water-Wise-Plant-Lists
If you are interested in California natives, Calscape, which is a collaboration between the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) and the UC Berkeley Jepsom Herbarium, may be of help. Calscape emphasizes the selection of natives local to your specific area. To begin your search, enter your location: Concord, CA. From there you can search by plant type (tree, shrub, perennial, etc.), exposure (sun, part shade, shade), or by special category (bird and butterfly). You can also search by plant name. Note that you need to check the water needs in the description; not all California natives for Contra Costa County are drought-tolerant.
Here is the link to the Calscape website: http://calscape.cnps.org/
There are also some excellent books that can assist with your research. A few are listed below and are often available from the local libraries.
The New Sunset Western Garden Book
The Ultimate Gardening Guide: Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry Climates of the San Francisco Bay Region, by Nora Harlow
Landscape Plants for California Gardens: An Illustrated Reference of Plants for California Landscapes, by Bob Perry.
And finally, here are a few shrubs that fit your criteria. This list includes some of the newer, less common shrubs, but there are many, many more to choose from:
Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Golf Ball' Plant
Elaeagnus x ebbingei 'Gilt Edge'
Rhaphiolepis indica 'Conor'
Callistemon citrinus 'Little John'
You can also check with your local nursery for ideas and suggestions for shrubs that do well in this area.
We hope you find this information helpful! Please let us know if you have additional questions.
Help Desk of the UC Master Gardener Program of Contra Costa County (SLH)
Note: The UC Master Gardeners Program of Contra Costa's Help Desk is available year-round to answer your gardening questions. Except for a few holidays, we're open every week, Monday through Thursday for walk-ins from 9:00 am to Noon at 75 Santa Barbara Road, 2d Floor, Pleasant Hill, CA 94523. We can also be reached via telephone: (925)646-6586, email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the web at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/Ask_Us/ MGCC Blogs can be found at http://ccmg.ucanr.edu/HortCoCo/ You can also subscribe to the Blog (http://ucanr.edu/blogs/CCMGBlog/)
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