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Trees, Please!

by germinatrix | June 18th, 2009

The other day I was driving around Los Angeles, running errands, and I realized that the Jacarandas were in bloom. 

jacaranda lining the streets of east los angelesjacaranda lining the streets of east los angeles


What? I can’t believe I had been running around not noticing that these majestic beauties were in spectacular flower? (hey, Monrovia – have you ever thought of naming a shrub or tree ‘Majestic Beauty’? Oh – yeah … I guess you’ve done that a few dozen times)  Where is my head? I’m constantly looking at plants – in gardens, in yards, in parks, in nurseries, on meridians, on the sides of freeways… how could I miss the incredible periwinkle/violet haze that floats around the city  from mid-May to late June? And I went back into my Domino blog archive and noticed that I’ve NEVER posted about them.

Silly me!


gasp! gasp!

Jacarandas are special. They hail from the Argentina and Brazil, and you can tell … this tree looks like it would be equally at home in the jungle or on the pampas. And what a looker! No other tree blooms this color – a luminous light purple that can look almost blue in certain light. They are always in bloom for Mother’s Day. Isn’t that lovely? A giant sidewalk bouquet!


pretty flowers in the skypretty flowers in the sky


pretty flowers on the groundpretty flowers on the ground

I understand Australia has a particular love affair with Jacaranda mimosifolia – it’s said that certain cities look purple from a distance when the trees are in flower. WOW! I’d love to see that! Does anybody want to send a Germinatrix to Australia? Anyone? Hello?


this is the tree for me!this is the tree for me!

There is another foxy tree blooming like a prom queen right now – but rather than the elegant, uber-feminine style of the Jacaranda, the Palo Verde (this one looks like Cercidium ‘Desert Museum’ to me) is the super cool alternative prom queen, all angles and linear foliage, green bark and electric yellow flowers. I’m always thrilled when I see this tree, and surprised that it isn’t used more in Los Angeles, since it is the perfect choice for chic, arid plantings. This is a tree I want in my garden – if only I had room!


like a line drawing in mid-airlike a line drawing in mid-air

What am I talking about – a gorgeous tree under 40′? There is ALWAYS room for that!

10 Responses to “Trees, Please!”

  1. I absolutely adore the Palo Verde tree! It is amazing. Not that there is anything wrong with the Jacaranda, it’s pretty darn sweet but give me a Palo Verde any day.

  2. I saw a jacaranda in bloom in Phoenix once, as we drove along the highway, and almost broke my neck trying to keep it in view while I tried to figure out what it was. A few years later I saw them blooming all over San Miguel de Allende and fell in love all over again. Gorgeous! You never see them in Austin. Too cold, I expect.

  3. Hi Ivette.
    What beautiful lilac trees these Jacarandas are, and stunning when planted en-mass down a sidewalk like that! Do the blooms smell of anything? Great “gothic” purple color, I am suprised you never picked up on this!

    I am like you, when I drive around Austin, I am always critiquing sidewalks and commercial planting schemes. I am completely obsessed!

    I have had my eye on one particular local monstrosity that has been the bane of a landscaping crew for months now…what are they thinking? Mulch, mulch, and more mulch placed on top of bermuda grass in a futile attempt to hide or kill it?
    An ill-conceived plan at best.

    Good luck with that!

    As soon as it rains the grass re-emerges and once again takes over the same bed. I just scratch my head at their thought process and wonder just who keeps paying them to continue, and why? It really is comical at this point…four hired hands ripping at bermuda roots to make it look decent for yet another two months…just stop it, the time would better spent having a cold margarita.

    Bermuda grass resistance is futile.


  4. Urban Eden says:

    I grew up in San Diego, and am used to Jacarandas performing like you show in the above photos. Glorious avenues lined with purple clouds… Then I moved to San Francisco, and everyone just *loooves* them here and they are so pathetic and scraggly, blooming only on a “good year.” Sigh. Why can’t people accept their horticultural fates?? :> And I can’t even think of a healthy Palo Verde specimen up here…

  5. Loree, our brains are total twins. I LOVE it when the Jacarandas bloom, it’s beathtaking … but I want a Palo Verde for my garden. I know Palo and I would strike up a life-long friendship, and I kind of see Jaca as one of those people who come into and out of your life in a blaze of drama, leaving you happy and exhausted after they are gone.
    Okay, is it crazy that I turn every tree and plant into a person? I can’t help it! I ten to see them as characters. it’s my theatre background. I’m a Drama Geek ’till the end.

    Hi Pam! The sight of a bunch of Jacarandas in bloom is SUCH a vision! I was reading that Pretoria, South Africa has the biggest concentration of them, and every spring the entire city becomes lavender/blue! I want to see that! But I imagine that they are a wonder to behold in San Miguel as well – that city isn’t famous for it’s out of control beauty for nothing! I MUST get there while I’m doing all of this traipsing around Mexico. Everything I hear about it is so glorious … the people, the architecture, the rugged beauty, the patio gardens – all that and Jacarandas? A city after my heart!
    Thanks for stopping by, dear garden friend!

    And another Austin garden pal, ESP! Hi!
    You know you’re right … Jacarandas are totally Goth! I always saw it as more Easter-y and kind of sweet and pastel, but if it is planted in association with the deep, dark, dusky minions of the horticultural underworld : Prunus ‘Thundercloud’, Cotinus coggyria, Euphorbia cotinifolia, Cordyline ‘Dark Star’, Lorapetalum ‘Razzlberri’, Ipomea batatas ‘Blackie’, chocolate cosmos, Scabiousa ‘Ace of spades, Euphorbia ‘Blackbird, and Aeonium ‘Zwartkopf’ – well look what we have! A garden gothic enough for Edgar Allen Poe! (omigod I must plant all of these plants in my front garden RIGHT NOW!)
    Isn’t it fun to be the so garden obsessed that you pull over while driving to check out unknown plants and unusual combos? I have to reign myself in, though – I can feel that if I allow myself, I could get pretty obnoxious. Like ringing people’s doorbells to ask them questions. But I never mind when that happens to me – I guess I think it’s part of a gardener’s responsibility to talk to people who love their plantings enough to pull over and inquire. Like always giving cuttings. It is a burden we must undertake with joy. Whith awesome power also comes awesome responsibility. Didn’t Batman say that?
    And to wage a war with Bermuda grass – the fools. Don’t they know that that sort of evil is deep and ageless? It will take an exorcism!

    Eden, hello! I totally agree with you … one must deal with what your zone gives you! I get so sad when I see a wimpy, stunted plant that is just trying to do its best … innocent plant!

  6. Jean Prescott says:

    I am loving this lavendar beauty and want to recommend it to my niece for her garden, but I wonder, since it does well in arid regions, if it will perish in the extreme heat and humidity of southern Mississippi and coastal Alabama. Truth be told, some folks here, with careful commission of “crape murder,” have crafted their crape myrtle into small trees that bloom clouds of blossoms quite similar to this tree.

    No bother. We can check with a nursery here. Thanks for the lovely photos — and, AND the kind response back in the mangrove post. Psychologists have a word/term for it…the influence of someone we know only in one context and how surely he or she touches our lives. Thanks, Germi.

  7. My dear Germi, at a party recently, a rather inebriated fella (an architect, no less) began asking me about growing Jacarandas in the Bay Area. He has spent much time in Hawaii (are they common there?) and wanted me to tell him how/if to grow them here. Knowing they grow in South (way south) Texas near my brother, I told him it was doubtless a good assumption that they need more heat! than in the Bay Area. I certainly don’t recall ever seeing one around since moving here.
    Meanwhile, I’m enjoying a good swooon, looking at your beeeutiful pics. Alice aka …your tendril

  8. Suasoria says:

    I have a little Palo in a pot. I’ve kind of got it bonzai-ed, which is cool, but when they’re big and blurry they are just spectacular.

    Jacarandas, eh. Showy, but they’re kind of like agapanthus, which I cannot abide.

  9. Hi Expat! You know, I imagine that the Jacaranda will be fine with humidity – I’ve seen it in fairly humid areas of Mexico … I think it’s the chill which gets it down, so as long as you’ve got heat, it should be A-OK.
    You say such lovely things, and I am very touched that you enjoy the new blog experience! I feel just as touched by you!

    Tendril! Inebriated architects are to be avoided whenever they are encountered (unless they happen to be involved in a project in the Yucatan – where inebriation is a MUST), but if anyone asks for horticultural advice, it is incumbent upon us to oblige. You are of course, correct – the Jacarandas need more heat. And the architect was probably just trying to hit on you … in my experience, they have a hard time making conversation about anything other then Rem Koolhaas, so they get all tongue-tied when they see a beautiful woman.
    I’m happy to make you swoon! Likewise!!!

    Howdy Susa! LOOOOVVEE them Palos! I think I want to convert the small trough in front of my orang tiled wall into a container for a PV – I think it finaly has to happen. It is the only place I can plant one – and it will look so AMAZING!!!

    oh, come on – Jacarandas are fleeting and winsome! And while I tend to agree about most agapanthus, I adore my Ella Mae! A stormy blue beauty!

  10. Those Jacarandas are amazing! I think there are only a few in San Francisco, maybe in the Mission district, but I could be wrong.
    I’m not plant crazed year-round, but I sure am at this time of year!

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