Friday, July 26, 2019

Trees make the difference

I heard a report on the news yesterday that this month has been the hottest on Earth since recordkeeping began in 1880.  I know people have been suffering with the heat in Europe and much of the US this month.  Here in coastal Southern California, we had relatively mild conditions until this week.  While we still haven't had a horrific heatwave of the sort we experienced in early July last year, it's been toasty the last several days.  We used to be known for "dry heat" but we've been getting more monsoonal moisture in recent years.  Yesterday we were even spattered by rain for about half an hour, too little to register on my roof-top weather station but enough to make it uncomfortably muggy all day.  Which brings me to trees.  Earlier this month, a study published in the journal Science contended that planting masses of trees globally might be the best opportunity we have available to combat the negative impacts of climate change.

I put a high value on trees.  If you've been reading my blog for years, you may recall that, after moving here in December 2010, I was distressed to discover that my local community put a premium on views over trees.  In an effort to accommodate one neighbor, we removed 2 large trees but, when she persisted with her complaints, I threw up my hands and told her she could take it up with the city, declaring that I'd fight her every step of the way.  Luckily, she moved!  None of my other neighbors have made complaints, although I've gotten wind of conflicts among others in our neighborhood.

That's a long-winded way of saying that this post celebrates the trees and tree-sized shrubs in my garden, appreciated all the more this time of year when it gets so bloody hot.  With our remodel underway and half the house literally torn open, we're unable to run our house's air-conditioning system so we're even more dependent than usual on nature's cooling systems.

This is the view of my front garden looking from the south end toward the garage on the north end.  The Magnolia grandiflora and peppermint willow (Agonis flexuosa) trees were here when we moved in but the rest of this area was mostly grass.  (Note: I skipped my quarterly wide shots post this month due to the remodel activity that's spilled into nearly every area of the property.  I've tried to shoot around what I could for this post but, barely screened in the distance of this photo, you may be able to make out the storage pod and port-a-potty sitting in our driveway.)

Two peppermint willows form a lacy screen on the west side along the street.  One of our four strawberry trees (Arbutus 'Marina' ) peeks out on the left side of this photo's frame.

There are 2 Western redbuds (Cercis occidentalis) serving as understory trees in the front garden, one shown here to the left of Echium 'Star of Madeira'.  Another peppermint willow, as well as a Callery pear tree (Pyrus calleryana) can be seen nearer to the garage.  A hedge comprised of Xylosma congestum shrubs, about 5.5 feet tall, lines the street.

This is a closer look at the area next to the garage occupied by the peppermint willow and the Callery pear.  This area was also mostly covered in lawn when we moved in.  There's a pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana) on the inside of the area bordered by the Xylosma hedge here.

Just beyond the area shown in the last photo, along the northwest boundary of our property, there's yet another peppermint willow and another Arbutus 'Marina, offering a degree of shade to one of my succulent beds.

In the cutting garden, there are 3 citrus trees, a Mandarin orange, a navel orange and a lime bordering the fence, as well as a persimmon tree and 2 small Japanese maples (not visible in this shot)

On the northeast side of the house, in addition to a guava tree, another persimmon, and 2 large New Zealand tea trees (Leptospermum scoparium), large shrubs of Coprosma 'Plum Hussey' and Leucadendron salignum 'Chief' line up against another stretch of Xylosma hedge

Turning the corner and moving into the back garden, there are 2 more strawberry trees, currently sporting their scaling bark

Beyond those strawberry trees is Leucadendron 'Pisa', the size of a small tree, and, in the distance the largest of our peppermint willows

There was another peppermint willow in the spot now occupied by the Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid' shown here.  The willow was one of the trees we took out in a misguided effort to satisfy our neighbor.  The Callistemon will never achieve the same stature but it's now a good-sized specimen and still growing.  The pine tree in the distance sits on a neighbor's property.

There's yet another peppermint willow on the right in this photo with a huge toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) sitting at the edge of our property on the south side, atop a slope.  I planted the purple smokebush (Cotinus coggygyria) shown in the foreground a couple of years ago.  It sits roughly in the area formerly occupied by a 60 foot Eucalyptus, cut down at our neighbor's request (and arguably too close to the house for comfort).

This photo of the southwest side of our property brings us roughly full-circle of our property (with the exception of the back slope).  On this moderate slope, between the peppermint willow on the left and the strawberry tree on the right, there's another pineapple guava (positioned half-way down the slope) and, bordering the south property line, a row of cherry laurels (Pyrus caroliniana).  The latter provide additional shade to the plants in my lath house on the lower level.


I didn't capture all our trees in this post but I picked up a good many of them.  I probably can't get away with adding any more without running afoul of our community's "view conservation" ordinance but don't be surprised if you find me planting more tree-like shrubs wherever I can shoehorn them in.

Best wishes for a pleasant weekend!


All material © 2012-2019 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

16 comments:

  1. No air con? Now you've put my struggles into perspective.
    It is heating up here too now and I couldn't agree more about trees. Plenty of our English native plants do well with a bit of shade and this English gardener certainly retreats to it at this time of year. The Arbutus makes a handsome tree.

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    1. We purchased a single room AC unit, which we've set up in the master bedroom, which manages to keep the temperature down around 80F (26C) there but the rest of our usable space, particularly the temporary kitchen tacked on to the back of the house, can be unpleasant to say the least. My office feels like a sauna - and being of Finnish descent I know what those feel like (and never developed a taste for the experience).

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  2. You've managed a good many cooling trees considering all the restrictions. At least the nights there cool down enough without air conditioning. We've been having record lows and not one day of our typical triple digits so far this summer. We are surrounded by native oaks which are very helpful when it is hot.

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    1. We haven't gotten down below 70F during the last couple of nights, Shirley, but hopefully both the daytime and nighttime temperatures will come back down again soon. Our nighttime temperatures don't reliably fall down into the 60s during the peak summer months anymore - during extended heatwaves, it's not unusually to have temperatures of 90F at midnight and later.

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  3. I admire your red-barked strawberry trees and Arbutus. So lovely!
    In the 29 years we've lived here, we've planted a lot trees; most have doubled in size and much of the region has been reforested (after most of the dairy farms went out of business). What a difference it has made with all those natural air conditioners working. We run about 10 degrees cooler than the nearest cities, about 15 miles away. Interestingly, we have less damaging thunderstorms now than we did in the 90s. Trees are so important for a healthy planet.

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    1. I'd love to have some really BIG trees here, Eliza. Our city ordinance grandfathered in trees in place in 1989, although thinning could be required. Newer trees can be topped well below 20 feet if they interfere with someone's "principal view." It's a foolish and short-sighted ordinance, especially as temperatures on our side of the peninsula routinely top those of the other side (which benefits from ocean breezes to a greater extent) by 10 degrees.

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  4. Loveliness--all of it! We need to have a Fling in L.A., so we can see your garden! Great post about the value of trees. It's too bad some of your neighbors have been difficult on this topic.

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    1. There have been several discussions about a LA Fling, Beth, but I'm afraid attendees would spend more time on buses stalled in traffic than in gardens.

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  5. I really never had a grasp of how many trees you have on your property til you posted this survey. They are surely nice to have if you have the room- I've done alot more removal than planting. My neighbors on 2 sides have plenty !

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    1. One of the temptations associated with the prospect of terracing the back slope in some fashion is the idea of tucking in another tree (or 2) down there.

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  6. I'm glad that you stood firm after removing those first couple of trees. I'm surprised that, in this day and age, the city would even entertain the notion of forcing people to remove trees from their property to improve on the view had by other houses.

    Even without science to back it up, I think it's obvious to most people the cooling effect that trees have. All you have to do is stroll from full sun to the shade of a mature tree to realize that it truly is a night and day difference. The air under a tree feels altogether different...not just cooler, but almost lighter & airier, if that makes any sense.

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    1. I understood the removal of the 60-foot Eucalyptus would satisfy the neighbor but, as it turned out, that was just her opening salvo. Her own property had a single tree, just 5 feet tall, and no real landscaping of any kind even though she'd lived there over 40 years. When she pushed the issue again AFTER we removed a second tree, it was the height of our drought and I was ready to go to battle on the ordinance on environmental grounds. That must have come through on some level in our last exchange as she elected to move. I wasn't the only neighbor who was pleased...

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  7. Your Arbutus 'Marina' are really beautiful! Always enjoy seeing them. I bought one but didn't really have a place for it so ended up planting it on the HOA property where a Melaleuca quinquenervia had been removed. It's doing well--lucky we hit a rainy winter so it could establish.

    Surprised the tree-hating neighbor did not complain about that neighbor's pine tree. Guess it wasn't in her way?

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    1. Actually, I understand that she DID make an issue of the neighbor's pines but, as they were there in 1989 when the ordinance was enacted, she wasn't in a position to press for their removal. There were originally 4 pine trees but the pine bark beetles have taken out two. The trees' owners routinely have their trees thinned each year. I know the complaining neighbor also pushed regular tree trimming on our neighbors across the street, even "offering" to supervise their annual trimming exercise. I routinely have our trees pruned too, although not always the same trees every year.

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  8. Your tree collection is great. I love the bark on the Strawberry tree. So many of these trees are foreign to me except the Callery Pear. Callery Pear is an invasive species here. They pop up everywhere. In that first photo of your garden I didn't notice porta potty etc. My eyes were on the plants. Everything looks so lush. I feel sorry for you not having ac. I would melt without ac.

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    1. The Callery pear isn't invasive here but it's a very messy tree; however, I'm not taking out any more mature trees only to risk someone calling a foul if/when the replacement tree interferes with their view. As to the AC situation, I AM melting, Lisa! Our temperature highs have been running in the low-to-mid 90s most of last week. Today is a bit cooler (thus far), although also more humid.

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