Looking for an appropriate plant or shrub? Norrie's Gifts at the Arboretum always has a large selection!

Plant the right plant in the right place

aka Plant the appropriate plant in the correct place

Siting the proper place for a large tree on a small suburban lot is often difficult, sometimes impossible. It is good to avoid planting a large tree in the following places.

  • too close to the house so that it becomes a fire hazard, safety hazard, or pushes against the foundation
  • under power lines where it will grow to be a fire hazard and possibly affect the power supply
  • too close to a fence where the neighbors might heavily prune what grows onto their property and make the tree unbalanced physically and aesthetically
  • too close to a septic system or water line

How about a small tree or large shrub instead?

If you are trying to make your life greener (in more ways than one) by planting trees, remember that if you plant one where you will annually have to use a gas powered chain saw to prune it, maybe that’s not a planting that is helping the environment in the way you would like.


In the photo above, the tree on the right has already died and the one on the left may only have a few years left. A lot of carbon will be released when chainsaws are used to prune or cut them down. So choose wisely before planting near power lines.


In this case the tree might have predated the power lines, but at this point the aesthetics are starting to suffer. And there is chain saw use every year or two to maintain space away from the lines.

In addition to carbon emitted from chain saws, there is carbon emitted during the delivery of water to plants and lawns in California. Energy is used to pump and purify water.

There are 50,000 sq. miles of lawn in U.S., which is about the same area as 1/3 the size of California.  

“As much as 70% or the water flowing to California’s cities and suburbs is used to support our gardens and other outdoor features, such as hot tubs and swimming pools.”

“About 20% of all the electricity and more than 30% of the natural gas consumed in California are used to pump, convey, and treat our water” from Reimagining the California Lawn: Water-conserving Plants, Practices, and Designs by Bornstein, Fross and O’Brien.

A thirsty garden may not be the best for California houses. So, where you can, replace a water-loving border or lawn with a more drought tolerant alternative to reduce your carbon emissions. Norrie’s offers a wide-range of colorful, drought tolerant plants for sale all year. The “Reimagining the California Lawn” book is often available in the store too. If you do use some water-loving plants, group them together for more efficient watering and group the more drought tolerant ones together, where you can let them go longer between waterings.

(This page presented in collaboration with the UCSC Carbon Fund.)