Gardens come in flavors. Details Landscape Art, a premier Sonoma County’s landscape design-build contractor, creates many different style gardens according to the style of the home, the tastes of the homeowner, and the nature of the property’s setting. Almost all gardens, however, have some basic requirements: privacy needs, an evergreen background for more colorful foreground plantings, and areas of both sun and shade. Enter pittosporum. Pittosporum varieties are valued mostly for their evergreen foliage and upright form. The flowers are generally insignificant, though they bear clusters of small flowers, followed by more conspicuous fruit. They tolerate full sun or partial shade and require regular watering. Pittosporum are not deer resistant, however, and are susceptible to aphids and scale insects. We at Details Landscape Art usually refrain from plants that require shearing – if a plant grows too large, then we feel it is not the correct plant for the location. Occasional light pruning to shape is acceptable, as well as thinning dead interior branches.

Since land is at such a premium in the North Bay, many homes in Sonoma and Napa Counties are built on small lots, with adjacent homes very close. Frequently a neighbor’s second story windows are looking directly into the homeowner’s garden creating a privacy concern. And since trees will grow too wide for a small residential lot, a tall relatively narrow screening shrub is called for.

There are three common species of Pittosporum in our climate zone, with several varieties within each species:

Pittosporum eugenoides – one of our favorite screening hedges, P. eugenoides usually grows 20-25 feet tall, and with annual light pruning can be kept to 6-8 feet wide. It has a light green, crinkly leaf, with fragrant yellow flowers in spring. There is a variegated variety that stays shorter.

Pittosporum tenuifolium – also a useful screening shrub, similar in height and width as P. eugenoides, but with dark stems, and a shorter, deeper green leaf. There are many varieties of P. tenuifolium. One of our favorites is ‘Marjorie Channing’, which ghrows to 10-12 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide, and features green leaves edged in creamy white. It is an excellent lower hedge, and is effective as a background for reddish or purple leafed or even darker green foliaged plants. P. tenuifolium ‘Golf Ball’ is a dense compact variety that grows in a rounded shape to about three feet, but can be kept shorter with pruning. ‘Silver Sheen’ is an upright variety growing to about fifteen feet tall with small silver-green leaves on black stems. P. tenuifolium ‘Gold Star’ is a medium growing compact foundation shrub to about six feet tall and wide.

Pittosporum tobira – dense plant that can be grown anywhere from six to fifteen feet tall and wide. Does not respond well to shearing, but size and shape can be controlled by selective thinning and pruning. Shiny dark green leaves with fragrant (orange blossom) flowers. There is a lovely variegated variety, and P. tobira ‘Wheelers Dwarf’ is a compact two to three foot evergreen shrub, useful as a foreground plant or a low informal hedge. ‘Cream de Mint’ is even smaller than ‘Wheelers Dwarf’, with a variegated appearance.

There are so many varieties, shapes and sizes of Pittosporum available, that, as a landscape design-build contractor, we seldom install a garden without using some of them. They are truly a workhorse in the garden !