Connie Beck's Top Plant Recommendation: Favorite Trees and Large Shrubs for Southern California.
Geijera parviflora - Australian Willow
Quickly turns into a graceful willow-like tree which needs no supplemental irrigation once established. This tree makes a great backdrop for colorful plantings.
Heteromeles arbutifolia - Toyon
Toyon or California Holly. Given a sunny spot with a bit of irrigation this tree will grow quickly. Glossy dark green leaves, white small flowers in spring followed by red berries at Christmastime, and a bird favorite. Can be sheared or laced out or totally ignored and will look great no matter how you treat it.
Laurus nobilis - Bay Tree
This is the tree that gives you a supply of fresh bay leaves for cooking. Your family and all your friends will soon learn to notify you when they have run out of fresh leaves! This tree is an easily shaped and attractive addition to any cook's garden.
Malva Rosa or Island Shrub Mallow. This is a big messy shrub that is an endangered species on the Channel Islands. Here, with a little water, it grows very quickly into a great plant to camouflage something you don't want to look at. The leaves are large and soft, maplelike in shape. Flowers are hot pink, shaped like a Maltese cross. It blooms off and on spring into fall. Don't grow this plant if leaf miners bother you. Also young plants need trunk protection from rabbits. Grows readily from cuttings.