Friday, June 5, 2015

Palo verde messiness update

Contrary to what some people have said, I maintained as recently as four weeks ago that palo verde trees (Parkinsonia sp.), specifically the ‘Desert Museum’ hybrid, are not messy. The leaves are so tiny that even if they were to fall en masse—not likely to happy since palo verdes are evergreen except in very cold winters—they would amount only to a fraction of the leaf litter you get from a larger-leafed street tree.

The biggest source of debris is from the flowers. Below is our most floriferous ‘Desert Museum’. The first flowers opened toward the end of April. Now, at the beginning of June, the tree is still a solid mass of flowers. If this continues for another two weeks, as I expect it will, we’ll have had a good seven weeks of flowers. That’s pretty impressive in my book.

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The yellow flowers look striking by themselves and in combination with the red blooms of Penstemon ‘Firebird’ and the bluish-green leaves of Yucca rostrata.

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Since we haven’t had a good windstorm in a while, the fallen petals do aggregate on the driveway, inside rosette-forming plants like agaves, and in pots.

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Personally, I love this sea of gold but I can no longer claim that ‘Desert Museum’ is completely litter-free. No tree is, except the plastic kind. Whether you find this amount of debris acceptable depends on personal tolerance. For me, it’s not a big deal because the dried up flowers at least look good. And a strong gust of wind—or a leaf blower—would take care them in no time.

Bottom line: I still think that palo verde ‘Desert Museum’ is a top-notch choice for a small tree in a water-wise landscaping scheme since it combines so beautifully with succulents and California, Mediterranean and southern hemisphere natives. Hardy to the mid teens, ‘Desert Museum’ is suitable for zones 8b and up. ‘Desert Museum’ easy to find in Arizona and Southern California but still somewhat of a rarity in Northern California. I hope that will change as more and more homeowners are removing their lawn and switching to more climate-appropriate landscaping.

(If you live in the greater Bay Area or the Sacramento Valley and have a pickup truck, the Ruth Bancroft Garden nursery has ‘Desert Museum’ in 24-inch boxes. I spotted two just yesterday.)

16 comments:

  1. Dealing with mess is just part and parcel of maintaining a garden. Gathering all those yellow 'confetti' could be fun Gerhard!

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    1. The neighborhood kids could have a lot of fun with it--except nobody wants to go near the tree because there are hundreds of bees feasting on the nectar. I'm glad we're able to do something good for the resident bee population.

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  2. The flowers aren't sticky, are they? Jacarandas flowers are sticky and therefore hard to clean up, although, if I find a place to plant Jacaranda where the flowers don't land on pavement or vehicles, I'll surely plant one. My mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) doesn't have sticky flowers but its litter is relentless - right now, it's just leaf foliage (falling even as the tree is still leafing out) but, as soon as the flowers appear, they begin to fall - not as pretty pink petals but as brown blobs - which are followed by a never-ending deluge of seedpods, which take root everywhere. That's a messy tree. I'd be happy to swap it with a palo verde.

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    1. Kris, the flowers aren't sticky at all. And they do dry to a nice dark yellow.

      I think Albizia julibrissin is a beautiful tree, but for the reasons you listed I wouldn't want one. We have quite a few of them all over town, and some are clearly volunteers.

      As for jacarandas, a recent post of yours prompted me to look for Monrovia's dwarf jacaranda, 'Blue Bonsai'. And I found one. Look for a post on this very subject later today :-).

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  3. Beautiful tree--it must love your Davis heat--and so wonderful that you are helping the bees.

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    1. Palo verdes love the heat. Davis is nothing compared to Phoenix :-).

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  4. I tolerate litter from my Rosa banksia lutea , which falls directly into my succulent container area. Once she is bloomed out I use a Shop-Vac with a crevice tool to suck up the debris. I would have no problem at all with your Palo Verde debris..it's prettier than mine !

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    1. You have a palo verde as well? How is it doing in Napa?

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  5. Seven weeks of blooming is quite impressive, and it's so pretty! Will the petals stick to the spiderwebs that you seem to get so many of, or do those appear later in the summer?

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    1. Oh, the spider webs are here. They're everywhere, especially near the house. I have an agave that's almost completely covered. I should post a photo!

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  6. That's my kind of litter...those who don't want litter should live in apartments with balconies, or not. You would enjoy seeing outlying areas in Phoenix and Tucson in spring, after their palo verdes drop the flowers...gold dust, and exquisite.

    Your tree looks great...a woman who blogs on modern homes from coastal Orange County told me how desert museum palo verdes never take there and decline. I found some links to that issue online; they need much more heat and less marine layer influence, so my guess is inland San Diego up to deeper interior northern Cal. There's probably a wet limit to that tree, too, especially combined with heat. Your area sounds quite ideal!

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    1. David, I love how blunt you are. Couldn't agree more!

      Yes, palo verdes love the inland heat here in the Sacramento Valley. I wouldn't plant one in a native clay, though. Most likely it wouldn't survive a wet winter in those conditions. But if planted on a mound, like I did, and/or in looser soil, I see no reason why it wouldn't survive long-term. There are several on the campus of UC Davis that have been there for a long time.

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  7. Did you ever consider a Cassia leptophylla (Golden Medallion Tree?) tbuell@calstrs.com

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    1. No, I hadn't. It's a beautiful tree for sure but again I would worry about cold hardiness. San Marcos Growers lists its hardiness as 25-30°F. The 'Desert Museum' palo verde is generally considered to be hardy to 15°F.

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  8. How are the roots? If i plant this, it would be in the hell strip in front of my house between the sidewalk and the curb.

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    1. I've seen them planted in extremely hot spots (like hell strips) in Arizona. I don't think you need to worry about that particularly aspect. These trees thrive on heat.

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