En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - June 10, 2012

From: Fairhope, AL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Pruning, Privacy Screening, Shade Tolerant, Trees
Title: Decorative Trees for Scenic Bench in Fairhope IL
Answered by: Leslie Uppinghouse

QUESTION:

I am looking for a recommendation for a pair of small trees (does not grow taller than 18-20 feet) that can provide shade on either side of a stone bench. The site is in full sun, western exposure and is on a flat plateau half way down a bluff overlooking Mobile Bay. Because of the proximity to the Bay the trees would be subject to salt air (no splash) and strong winds, especially during the winter. We are in zone 8b. Ideally the tree branches can spread or intertwine together, providing a good shade canopy just above the bench. The area is a visual focal point, so the more attractive, the better. Many thanks. PS: Your site is VERY helpful!

ANSWER:

There are many small native trees in your area. However your combined list of requirements: full sun, possible salt air and having it be showy enough for a focal point for your bench, narrows it down to fewer options. 

Ilex vomiter (Yaupon) is probably your best choice for exactly what you are looking for. Yaupon is a smaller tree not reaching a height over 25'. It is evergreen, which is nice, in terms of creating a shade canopy that you can enjoy all year long. It also can be shaped and pruned to your hearts content. 

There are many varieties commercially available now, some are dwarf, some are weeping. They all will have bright red berries in the winter if you are careful to make sure you buy both male and female trees. Your local nursery should be able to help you out with that.

A second option would be a Cercis canadensis (Eastern redbud). Redbud is a darling tree when it is in bloom. As it is deciduous, you will have to decide if it is worth not having leaves in the winter for the spectacular blooms in the spring. The other issue is the wind you mention. The trees would be fine. The blooms however are light and papery so they may blow off faster than they normally would in the conditions you mention.

Lastly Cornus florida (Flowering dogwood) might also me a great option. If you read about the dogwood you will see that is it listed as a partial shade tree. However dogwood is a tough-as-nails tree, and can handle sun. Occasionally the tips of the leaves might turn a bit brown with sunburn but over all the tree should do well. Dogwood is a classical flowering tree for your bench. The branches of the dogwood grow almost horizontally so you can prune this one to be a rooftop canopy over your bench. It also would be a good choice for handing the wind and the salty air.

So the choice is going to come down to what it is that you are envisioning as a look. Read all about he trees by clicking on the links and take a look at the photos provided in their records. These should give you some idea of what they trees will look like once matured.

 

 

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Yaupon
Ilex vomitoria

Yaupon
Ilex vomitoria

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

Flowering dogwood
Cornus florida

Flowering dogwood
Cornus florida

More Trees Questions

Plants for soil with basalt outcroppings in Idaho
March 30, 2008 - We have basalt (lava) outcropping in part of our back yard and know we'll have to search for pockets of soil in which to plant. Any suggestions about what trees or shrubs would have a chance in thes...
view the full question and answer

Mediterranean Pines indigenous to Verde Valley AZ
January 01, 2012 - Are the tall, thin Mediterranean/Pencil Pines growing in the Verde Valley in Arizona indigenous to the area? They are so plentiful, but are not identified as an indigenous evergreen. If not, how did...
view the full question and answer

Live Oak Suckers Reprise, Austin TX
July 06, 2014 - Referring to an entry dated March 11, 2011 about Live Oak suckers - what happened to the suckers covered with newspaper and cardboard?
view the full question and answer

Viability of Desert Willow in clay soil in Fredericksburg, TX
November 25, 2005 - I have recently purchased a house in a new subdivision in Fredericksburg, TX. The lot was not landscaped. I have a small lot (85 X 135), my back yard is about 50 X 85. The soil is a heavy clay. I am c...
view the full question and answer

Need trees & shrubs for a 2.5x45 ft. planter box in Chatsworth. CA.
August 07, 2012 - We recently built a pool in our backyard and need to redo all the landscaping. We have a planter that is 45 feet long and about 2.5 feet wide. We'd like to put some trees in this planter that are n...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center