I have a day-off tomorrow, so I took a more leisurely than normal walk tonight. Walking through the neighborhoods skirting the park I took note of two trees adding color this time of year: the jacaranda, with its purple blooms, and the palo verde, in gold. Both are stand-outs, and can be seen from blocks away. The jacaranda is far more common in town, its purple gorgeousness edging streets, as well as jazzing up private yards and Fairmount Park. Not as prevalent, the drought-friendly palo verde is being seen more frequently, but mostly in the yards of adherents of low-water and desert landscaping. At the Rancho we’ve got several varieties of palo verde, some flowering currently and some not, and we love them all. Having a large tree to provide shade on the west-face of homes during this time of year is crucial. Having a large tree that provides necessary shade, and a punch of striking color, is even better!
Originally from South America, the jacaranda is now a world-wide favorite because of its cool-hued flowers. Sometimes called the blue jacaranda, it’s not frost-friendly, but loves Mediterranean climates. Needless to say, it loves California. Its flowers are long-lasting and beautiful, and I really enjoy seeing them both on the tree and when they fall around the base of the trunk. But, while a purple carpet of fallen blooms is lovely, it does have a drawback: as the flowers sit on the ground they take on a certain eau de catbox that can be unpleasant. Pruned, the tree’s branches can have a nice zig-zag look, and their dark color contrasts well against the purple and green of flowers and foliage. I like jacarandas but purple’s not a color I like much for my own landscape scheme …
Definitely more to my liking, the palo verde meets all my aesthetic and practical criteria. Palo verde literally means green wood in Spanish, and refers to the color of the trunk of this desert dweller. This variety, the Mexican palo verde, has interesting foliage in the form of long, jagged leaves, up to 18″ long. It’s also got some pretty prickly thorns, and I have the scars on my hands and arms from pruning my own, to prove it. The flower of this type of tree really makes me happy: a deep butter yellow, it has what’s known as a banner petal in red/orange/brown in the center that sets off all the surrounding gold, and adds just a touch of spice. Both the jacaranda and palo verde are drought-tolerant and would work well in a low-water garden. And, each would provide much-needed shade on a blazing Summer afternoon, as well as add major color during the blooming season. But, if I had to pick one from paint swatches based on their flowers, my money would go for the palo verde. When it comes to color, I like it caliente.