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Landscape Design

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Landscape Standards

Claremont has a long tradition of providing a beautifully landscaped environment. Street trees, abundant parks, and meticulously manicured private homes define much of the character of Claremont. The City's first residents began this tradition by planting thousands of street trees and the community has followed suit ever since. In order to help maintain this valuable component of the City's heritage, the Planning Division and Architectural Commission reviews the landscaping for all new development and all major changes to existing landscapes.

In making decisions, City planning staff and the Architectural Commission use the following design philosophy for guidance:

"The City of Claremont encourages diversity, creativity, quality and resource-conservation in its landscapes for residential, commercial, industrial and institutional uses. The Architectural Commission of the City of Claremont encourages clear design concepts which complement adjacent buildings and parking areas and respect the site's context within the larger community. The City advocates originality of design, well chosen plants, and the use of vibrant colors and textures, befitting the quality and ambience of the City of Claremont."


A more detailed discussion of the City's landscape design philosophy was published as a 1995 handout.

The City has more recently published two documents to help residents with landscaping during the drought, and can be found below:

Purpose of Landscaping

0471761LandscapePlantsThe presence of landscaping, particularly trees, creates an inviting and soothing atmosphere. Mature trees provide shade and scale to the built environment.

Particular species of existing trees within the City of Claremont such as Camphor, Crape Myrtle, Oak, and Eucalyptus enhance the character of the community through their inherent visual qualities of color, texture, form, and mass. Landscape plans should be designed so that trees and shrubs fit the space in which they are planted; care should be taken to ensure that the planter area is large enough to accommodate the plants at maturity.

Evergreen trees can be used to frame building or other structural elements and to provide relief from large facades. Deciduous trees can be used to veil building elevations and can be interspersed with Evergreen trees for solar control during summer and winter. They can also provide fall color, seasonal flower and other desirable accent effects. Solar controls can be accomplished through the strategic location of deciduous plants, for shading of buildings and paving areas for temperature reduction during summer months, and maximum sun penetration for structures during the winter season.

Shrubs, ground cover and mulch provide an opportunity to introduce color, fragrance, and texture to the landscape palette. These materials are easily seen as people visit the particular building or site. It is important to keep trees and other plants alive and healthy to ensure an appealing appearance of the building and/or site into the future.

Plants Which Are Encouraged

0143418LandscapeSculptureThe Architectural Commission encourages the use of plants which are compatible with Claremont's Mediterranean-like climate and periods of low rainfall. The use of native and other low water-use plants, installation of efficient irrigation systems, and appropriate maintenance practices in areas with serious water limitations like Southern California is encouraged.

The City encourages designers to limit lawn areas to a maximum of one-third the area devoted to plant material. The City encourages design in which any lawn areas have a functional purpose.

There are literally thousands of plants which a designer and/or homeowner can use in developing a plant palette. Since there are so many plants to chose from, the Architectural Commission encourages designers not to limit themselves to just a few species which are reflective of the appearance and ambience of Claremont. The Architectural Commission believes that any plant palette is possible as long as there are good reasons relating to the site behind the choice of plant materials.

In developing landscape plans in keeping with this policy, the Architectural Commission strongly recommends avoiding certain types of plants: short-lived plants and those susceptible to diseases, shrubs and ground cover that have become commonplace in Southern California, and large expanses of a single plant material due to its unchanging appearance and loss of landscaping if struck with disease. However, these plants may be used strategically in limited qualities if there are specific reasons relating to the site. For example, it is possible that a mass planting of a single plant material may be found appropriate for a very large scale building in a campus-like setting. It is typically not appropriate around smaller buildings with limited site area.

The Community Services Department of the City of Claremont has prepared two plants lists (Village Plants and Plants Used in Claremont) which are consistent with the intent of this policy. These plants have been used successfully in various medians and parkway areas throughout the City and at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens located at 1500 N. College Avenue. The City's Community Services Department is also available to provide information regarding appropriate plants.

The Community Services Department can be reached at 909-399-5431. Property owners and landscape professionals (architects and designers) are encouraged to use these lists in developing residential, commercial or institutional landscapes.


The Architectural Commission recognizes that there are various functions for hardscape. Hardscape elements of a landscape plan should be designed to be reflective of the type of use anticipated. Well-traveled areas should use a durable, smooth and even surface, where less-traveled areas could utilize other materials which are appropriate for minimal use. The commission encourages the use of new and innovative materials, colors, and patterns in creating a visually attractive and functional landscape concept. Art work and sculpture can be a very desirable and exciting part of any landscape design.


0435774LandscapeHouseThe primary goal of pruning is to preserve the health, structural integrity, beauty, and longevity of the plant. Pruning should not be regarded as a means to control nature by clipping plants into unnatural geometric shapes, but rather as a means to compliment their natural forms. When trees and plants die, they should be replaced as soon as possible to maintain the appearance of property. The City of Claremont requires that all properties be well-maintained in order to have positive effects on the adjacent area and on the community as a whole. The use of gasoline-powered leaf blowers is prohibited with the City of Claremont.


According to the International Society of Arboriculture (a highly respected organization of professional dedicated to quality tree care), the general rule is to prune trees when they are under the least amount of stress.

The ISA guidelines also indicate that slow-growing species should be pruned no more than 10% of its living branches and foliage, while faster-growing varieties can handle up to 25%. Evergreen tress can be pruned at all times of the year, if necessary. However, avoid pruning during the hot summer months to avert chance of sunburn damage. It is a good idea to prune trees before their main growing season.

Trees do not automatically need pruning. Left alone, most trees will grow and flourish without trimming. Pruning is, however, a technique that can reduce or eliminate imperfections. Valid reasons for pruning any branch over one inch in diameter include: dead, diseased, or broken branches; crossing lateral branches; sharp-angled, vertically growing branches such as water sprouts; branches that obstruct objects, utilities, or people; unusually heavy foliage in areas of high winds; and branches that detract from the tree's desired appearance.

Pruning should not be used to try and stimulate "new growth." Despite what is often accepted as common practice, the tops of trees should never be cut off! Commonly referred to as "topping," this drastic procedure is deadly. The uninformed will point to a topped tree's profuse display of dense new growth as proof that no serious damage was done. Along with the regrowth, topped trees must also battle severe health and structural problems. Topping drastically alters the natural structure of a tree, promotes weak "water sprout" growth and forever ruins its natural form.

When a tree is topped, massive amounts of live growth are violently lacerated from it. Because its source of photosynthesis has been so radically diminished, the tree must call on its reserves of stored energy to put out new growth. This dense output of greenery is weakly attached and makes the tree highly unstable, particularly in windy or stormy weather. The sprouts that result from over pruning are not as structurally sound as the original branches, and are much more likely to drop "spontaneously." These new growth sprouts are also more susceptible to diseases and insects.

The City's Guide to our Community Forest provides additional information beyond this policy regarding tree maintenance and pruning.


The goal of pruning shrubs is to help them develop their natural beauty and fulfill their purpose in the landscape. As with trees, shrubs do not need to be constantly pruned to create odd shapes or balls. Shrubs and ground covers should be allowed to develop to their natural form, with pruning used as a guide. Shrubs should be allowed to "grow into" each other so that they form a mass planting, barrier or screen. If a "hedge" is not desired, then the property owner should choose either a compact-growing shrub variety or a shrub species with finely textured leaves that will not create the appearance of a hedge at maturity. Most shrubs will thrive best if they are pruned less than two or three times a year. Shrubs should be pruned after their flowering period has finished, or immediately before their growth period starts.