Fall in a California garden of Palms

bahia(SF Bay Area)October 9, 2011

Spent a marvelous afternoon in Los Altos this Sunday afternoon soaking up the tropical vibe of over 90 distinct species of palms artfully arranged in a well known palm society member's garden, who also does a lot of high end landscaping. One of the best reasons to live and garden here in the SF Bay Area, where we have so many interesting plant geeks and gurus, a beautiful climate and plentiful sources for rare and unusual plants. I wouldn't have thought it possible to grow some of the rarer palms in this garden, and it was truly a slice of Paradise here in northern California. It was fun talking shop with some local expert growers and hybridizers, and get ideas for future designs around palms I want to try. Great to be living and gardening here in the Bay Area, where I can indulge my bent for zonal denial that nearly succeeds in the year round tropical look, even though the weather isn't!

Hope you all had as nice a weekend, probably less escapist in character and more centered around fall. I was happy to be in a garden that could also be in Hawaii...

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I must have been around 10 years old when I saw my very first palm tree. It absolutely terrified me because it looked exactly what
I imagined a triffid (from John Wyndham's novel) would look like. Then it started swaying in the wind and "clicking" its fronds -
and the connection was made forever complete. That just might partially explain why you'll never find me moving south...
But it is nice to know that you had a lovely afternoon, bahia.

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 12:21AM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

Glad to hear you enjoyed this warm autumn day in a garden full of luscious palm foliage.
Hope you didn't get caught in the Blue Angel / Fleet week traffic like I did as I was driving to Flora Grubb nursery.
I was moving at about 5 mph over the Golden Gate bridge as they were flying over the S.F. Bay spewing red white and blue smoke from their roaring engines. - great view , rotten traffic ;-/

Speaking of palms, I visited Don Worths' old garden a couple of weeks ago with the Hortisexuals. We missed you !
Here is a photo of his garden from another visit.
From S.F. bromeliad society tour 2010

PS - got any info on where I might find a Brahea armata "Clara" in a 5 gallon ?

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 1:30AM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

Michelle, it definitely looks like I missed out on the Hortsex tour to the Don Worth garden as well as the rest, but I was trying to make the mortgage payment by selling off excess plants! I also would have liked to see Mary and Davis's gardens, both of which I've never been to. Definitely will become a member of the palm society now,past time to recognize I'm already in deep. As to finding 5 gallon size Brahea 'Clara', I don't know of any growers here in northern California, but they are available down south in San Diego County. Is it Banana Express the broker/delivery company you've used, they should be able to locate sources, or pose this question/ do a search on the plant forum of the IPS(International Palm Society). I know I'd posted this question last year there and gotten a reply, but don't remember the name of the nursery off hand, and don't recall if they shipped to northern california.

I didn't get caught up in Fleetweek traffic, but did run into tail end of the SF Giants traffic crossing back over the SF Bay bridge. Had a nice conversation with Jason Dewese of Flora Grubb Nursery in Los Altos, and it was nice to hear that business has held up for them this year.

As to palms being scary, can't quite imagine this reaction. It probably is more appropriate than some of the extreme palm growing measures palm fans in Canada and far northerly climates take on to grow them outdoors, but what would mall landscapes look like without palms, and I'm willing to bet they scare no one when grown indoors in a retail environment. For me palms have an association with time spent living/working in the tropics as well as the deserts of Saudi Arabia. Coconut palms and Date palms are two of man's most useful trees; used for food, fiber and shelter around the warmer parts of the world, I've even got a few edible palm species in gardens I've designed, and there is always "hearts of palm" in your salad if you feel the only good palm is a dead palm!

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 11:15AM
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lol - "the only good palm is a dead palm".

Yup, I still see triffids when I look at d-d's picture. No way would I comfortably go down those stairs without being able to see what's around the corner. But it's not just palm trees either. Walking beside a sentinel row of hulking, ominous conifers on a dark winter's night fills me with the same trepidation...

I think that I must have read too much of the wrong thing as a kid :)

    Bookmark   October 10, 2011 at 1:01PM
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So jealous of the tropical look and the palms!!

We went to colorado for a long weekend and came back late last night only to wake up to this in the morning (I guess fall isn't that bad here )

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 12:19PM
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Heres a few more photos from today:

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 12:36PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

fabulous color and beautiful scenery.
thanks for the autumn color update. We just don't have that type of depth and breath of naturescaping here my area of N. Cal.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2011 at 10:49PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

It really does look different from northern California, where the predominant tree cover in urban areas is more evergreen broadleafs and conifers such as pines as redwoods and Cedars. We are starting to get fall color here as well, with lots of Japanese Maples, Chinese Pistache, Crape Myrtles, Liquidambars, Ginkgos, Poplars, etc already coloring up nicely.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 1:42AM
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I am sure it is a dramatic difference - I don't often think about urban landscapes since our lives are so rural. That was pretty dramatic to us in Colorado since we were in the loveland fort collins area. Its so vast and flat right up to the foothills, but the housing and commercial developments were suburban/urban - .25 acre lots or less. We were pretty surprised with the vast amount of open land that it was developed that way; although in terms of resources and urban planning its probably a much better way for the environment. Here people value views that have no other houses visible...

Fall is so pretty, but it makes me sad to think of winter coming. Although skiing will be nice.

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 1:05PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

A photo from the Jim Denz Garden on Sunday, lots more in the set but most photos are fairly crappy, I wasn't concentrating enough on the photo taking and enjoying the company and beer a bit too much.

Here is a link that might be useful: Jim Denz Garden in Los Altos

    Bookmark   October 12, 2011 at 7:13PM
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beautiful! What amazing combinations of succulents and use of color underneath the palms. How big is the front yard? Looks from the pictures that its not so large but an excellent use of space. The transition from the street and the sense of privacy around the front of the house is fabulous.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 12:49PM
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bahia(SF Bay Area)

It is fairly deep for an urban SF Bay Area garden, the front yard is actually larger by far than the back yard, and the front is probably 45 feet deep by 45 feet wide. The amazing thing about this garden is that these palms are mostly just 6 to 10 years old, and were planted out at
small sizes. It was illuminating to see how many species he was growing here, many generally thought only hardy in
southern California.
The layout in the front garden was more open with the inclusion of negative space such as lawn; the back garden was much more packed in with denser plantings. In all it is a really distinctive planting style garden for the SFBay Area, much more common to the south. It struck me as a good approximation of Hawaiian style here in northern California. My own garden has some of the same elements,(but only 1/10th the palms), and more of a high elevation tropical cloud forest focus because I'm much cooler and more summer daily fog. A swimming pool would seem kind of ridiculous in my neighborhood,as we don't get much summer heat to really enjoy them. Jim had converted his swimming pool to a join pond with planted marginals, totally changing the look.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2011 at 3:12PM
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karinl(BC Z8)

It is beautiful. I don't usually like tropical plants - I think my eye is simply not conditioned to them. But these are well chosen and well arranged.

Being of a pragmatic nature, though, I really like those mortared-in stone installations - I was just pondering a problem yesterday that such an approach just might address.

Thank you for posting those photos!

Karin L

    Bookmark   October 14, 2011 at 12:17PM
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deviant-deziner(Oh zone)

That is my kind of garden! Thanks for the photo tour.

ps- are you meeting with 'his vertical highness' + his head gardener next week ?

    Bookmark   October 14, 2011 at 12:41PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

I love Palms and tropical gardens! Been to many in California, Florida, Hawaii, and Mexico. They just look out of place here in Seattle for the most part. So do stucco houses.
Keep the pictures coming David. I need a tropical fix now and then.

    Bookmark   October 20, 2011 at 3:00AM
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