The typical residential landscape project in the North Bay is a smaller lot size, with neighbors’ houses very close, second story windows looking down on neighbors yards, thus requiring some degree of privacy screening. Other projects are near walkways or driveways, patios or swimming pools. All these applications require smaller trees (not over 20-30 feet tall) with shallow root systems and, preferably, not overly messy.

Golden Maple_2

Smaller trees also offer better balance in a smaller residential landscape. Installing a giant redwood or California Live Oak in a small residential back yard would dominate the landscape, encroach on the residence and neighbors’ properties, and generally seem out of place. Details Landscape Art, a premier Sonoma County landscape contractor, installs a variety of trees that meet these criteria…some are listed below. We generally prefer deciduous trees, which drop their leaves all at once in late fall, to evergreen trees which drop leaves a little bit at a time continuously throughout the year. Deciduus trees, especially near a house, also provide shade in the warmer months and let in sunlight in the cooler months when the leaves drop. There are also many screening shrubs that can be trained to act like trees, with higher branching structures.  Some examples are various species of pittosporum and feijoa sellowiana (pineapple guava).

A few of our favorite smaller patio trees:
Sapium sebiferum – a small deciduous tree, green all summer and brilliant red fall foliage
Japanese maple – there are many varieties of this deciduous tree, with maroon or green foliage and either gold, orange or red fall color. Japanese maples are the subject of another blog, but here is a list of those we regularly use:  
  • Emperor One – upright with maroon foliage
  • Bloodgood – similar to Emperor One
  • Sango kaku – upright, urn shaped, green leafed with coral bark in the winter
  • Redwood – similar to Sango kaku
  • Butterfly – the smallest of the upright maples, with a variegated leaf tinged with pink
  • Crimson Queen – low mounding umbrella or mushroom shaped, maroon foliage
  • Tamukeyama – same as Crimson Queen, tolerated the most shade
  • Red Dragon – same as Crimson Queen, tolerates the most sun
  • Viridis or Waterfall – same habit as above maroon leafed varieties, but with green foliage

Akebobo cherry – a little wider patio tree, gorgeous six week display of white (tinged with pink) flowers in spring – looks like a cloud-, green all summer and gold in autumn Chinese pistache – green leafed all spring and summer, with an incredible show of iridescent red-orange-gold in fall
Eleacarpus decipiens – a well behaved evergreen tree, with minimal leaf drop, bright green leaves all year long
Crape Myrtle – many varieties and colors (only buy Indian tribe named varieties to minimize powdery mildew). Showy flowers in August-September. One of the few plants that bloom heavily this time of year.
Cornus florida – flowering dogwood is a shade loving deciduous tree that blooms in spring, green all summer
Prunus ‘Snow Fountains’ – weeping cherry has a drooping habit. Loaded with pure white flowers for several weeks in spring, green in the summer, turns gold before the leaves drop in late fall

A well designed residential landscape includes the appropriate size tree for the situation.