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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.

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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.

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Tuesday - August 07, 2012

From: Chatsworth, CA
Region: California
Topic: Shrubs, Trees
Title: Need trees & shrubs for a 2.5x45 ft. planter box in Chatsworth. CA.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

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 non-evasive with regard to the roots. We'd also like the trees (or shrubs) to be evergreen and not a make a large mess with leaves dropping. We live in Southern California and get a lot of sun year around.

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants is having trouble visualizing such a long narrow planter. Is it more like a flower bed with a hard border? He doesn’t think that trees would do well in this situation, but shrubs are definitely a possibility.

Lets start by looking at our Native Plant Database which has  7272 species of plants to look at. Go to the Recommended Species Lists box, and click on View  Recommended Species page. Clicking on Southern California on the map  will bring up a list of 208 commercially available native plant species suitable for planned landscapes in Southern California. This list is too large, so lets go to the Narrow Your Search box on the right side of the page and make the following selections; select California under State, shrub under General Appearance, perennial under Lifespan. Check sun under Light Requirement and dry under Soil Moisture. Click the Narrow you Search button and you will get a list of 37 species for your consideration. If you click on the scientific name of each species, you will get the NPIN page for the plant that contains a description of the plant, its growth characteristics and requirements, and in most cases images. As you check out each plant, you can note its size and whether it is evergreen and produces fruit, and thus determine its level of messiness.

I did the search and found these five plants that look interesting to me.

Arctostaphylos hookeri (Hooker's manzanita)

Ceanothus megacarpus (Big-pod buckbrush)

Heteromeles arbutifolia (Toyon)

Quercus dumosa (Coastal sage scrub oak)

Rhus ovata (Sugar sumac)

For help closer to home, you might want to contact the folks at the Los Angeles County office of University of California Extension.

 

From the Image Gallery


Hooker's manzanita
Arctostaphylos hookeri

Big-pod buckbrush
Ceanothus megacarpus

Toyon
Heteromeles arbutifolia

Coastal sage scrub oak
Quercus dumosa

Sugar sumac
Rhus ovata

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