The Price of Bringing Nature Close to Home

Deodar cedar tree too close for comfort, photo by Bonnie Jorgensen

I wondered if you could give me your opinion about our deodar cedar tree and whether it is safe to keep it.  I love the tree.  It’s beautiful, but it is very close to the house/roof so I feel like we need to be sure it’s ok.  We have never trimmed it in the time we’ve been here (20 years), except for lower branches.  It was planted by the previous owners.

Bonnie Jorgensen, Mission Viejo
My first thought is that you should immediately remove this tree since it is practically touching your house.  However, an astute arborist may find a way of carefully pruning your tree so that it does not pose a hazard to your property.  You would probably need annual arborist visits after that to make sure your tree is safe.
It is easy to find certified arborists in your area through the web site at  When you reach the site, scroll down to the picture of a tree on the left hand side with the words “Find an Arborist” below.  Click the tree and you will be taken to a page for locating an arborist in your area.  Most arborists own tree trimming companies but some are just consultants.  Make sure the arborist you hire trims trees.
Arborist guidelines counsel against planting trees within 25 feet of any structure.  Despite this admonition, I would estimate that at least 95% of the trees in our fair city are planted less than 25 feet away from homes, condos, apartments, or other buildings.  This is a wonderful situation if you are a tree trimmer since there is always work at hand.
It was only about 250 years ago that an Englishman, William Kent, widely considered to be the first landscape architect, brought nature into our backyards. Before Kent, landscapes and gardens were not integrated into domestic living space. If there was a garden spot outside your door, it was devoted to growing vegetables. Architecture was a fine art, and the thought of obscuring the contours of a building with trees was unthinkable. Before Kent, trees were confined to parks and large estates and not part of most people’s everyday experience, unless you lived on a farm.  Kent leapt over the backyard fence and found his way home with nature beside him.  The English garden, in its original formulation, was a collection of plants grown from seeds harvested from wildflowers growing in the English countryside.
In our own time, nostalgia for a rapidly vanishing rural landscape and its tree-filled expanse led to creation of the so-called urban forest. Trees seem to satisfy a deep, elemental need, at least until you have to worry about pruning them.

Geraldton waxflower (Chamelaucium uncinatum)

Tip of the Week:  Mark Jacobs, from Portland, Oregon, emailed as follows:  I have searched everywhere for a white Geraldton waxflower (Chamelaucium uncinatum) plant.  Do you have any suggestions for how I might find one?

Geraldon waxflower, native to Australia, is an ideal woody shrub for sunny gardens with well drained soil, as long as you live south of the Antelope Valley.  In the San Fernando valley,  this species blooms half of the year in a rosey cherry pink, in purple or in white, and needs little water when exposed to most, if not quite all, of the day’s summer sun.  As a bonus, you can make use of it indoors, too, since its flower-studded stems will last for a week in vase arrangements.  Its lone drawback is that, although a woody perennial, it has a short lifespan.  However, it does propagate readily from shoot tip cuttings dipped in root hormone, a powdered form of which is available at most nurseries.
The number one source for Geraldon waxflower plants in the United States is Obra Verde Growers, located in Valley Center in north San Diego County.  They specialize in growing waxflowers and their inventory numbers 39 waxflower varieties, including 10 white varieties.  For more information about the nursery, go to or call 760-749-2050.

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