I was raised in the desert, in a landscape with more cactus than trees. So I especially appreciate the many trees that thrive in Napa Valley. On a hot summer day, it's a joy to be able to hang out under a tree in the shade. Several varieties are particularly suited for local home and patios.
One of my favorite patio-suitable trees is the Japanese maple (Acer palmatum). With a maximum 30-foot height and 30-foot spread, it's a yard-friendly tree. The leaves turn bright orange in autumn, another feature I love. I don't need to do much decorating at Thanksgiving because we usually have a tree or two ablaze with color. And because maples are deciduous, our trees let lots of light into our home during the dreary winter months.
Another attractive tree for the home landscape is the summer-blooming crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica). With an average height of 30 feet and average 20-foot spread, it's a good choice for patios. You can see crape myrtles in bloom around Napa in shades of lavender, pink, red and white. They are a popular street tree because their roots don't break up sidewalks. The median islands along California Street in Napa are planted with red-blooming crape myrtles.
Once established, this lovely tree is drought tolerant, a key consideration these days. Crape myrtles also put on a show in autumn when their leaves turn orange, red and yellow before dropping. Fortunately, the leaves are small and don't clog storm drains. The mottled bark on the trunk adds to the tree's beauty as the older gray bark peels back to reveal new reddish-brown bark underneath.
According to John Hoffman's Trees to Know in the Napa Valley, the Ginkgo biloba is a “gardener's dream, requiring little pruning and resisting most insects and diseases . . . thriving under adverse growing conditions.” Reaching 70 feet in height and 40 feet in width, this large tree tolerates just about anything urban life can throw at it, including polluted air and cramped space.
This resilience is pretty amazing because the ginkgo is literally a living fossil. Also known as maidenhair tree, it has a history of survival. The leaf looks the same today as in fossils found in China from 270 million years ago.
Six ginkgo trees near the center of the blast survived the bombing of Hiroshima. After that, the ginkgo tree became known as the “bearer of hope,” its leaf used as a symbol of hope and peace. Its unique fan-shaped leaf turns bright yellow in the fall.
One note of caution: If you decide to plant one of these distinctive trees, make sure it is a male. While the fruit of the female is valued in Chinese cooking, it makes a mess when it drops and it smells horrible.
These three trees and twelve others are considered by Napa County Master Gardeners to be star performers in the Napa Valley. In addition to thriving in our Mediterranean climate and clay soil, these trees have attractive qualities that make them great choices for home gardens, public streets and parks.
Workshop: U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County will conduct a workshop on “Landscape Tree Appreciation and Care” on Wednesday, July 20, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., in the Napa County Library Community Room. Learn how landscape trees enhance our lives, how to choose the best trees for your site and how to keep your trees healthy.
The talk will be followed by an optional guided tree walk at Fuller Park in Napa from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. The walk will be repeated on Saturday, July 23, from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. There is no fee for the workshop or tree walk. For more information, call the Napa County Library at 707-299-1481 or U.C. Master Gardeners at 707-253-4140.
Guided Tree Walk: Join U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County for a free guided tree walk through Napa's Fuller Park on Monday, July 11, from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. There is no charge for the walk but registration is recommended as space is limited. Meet at the corner of Jefferson and Oak Streets. Online registration or call 707-253-4221. Trees to Know in Napa Valleywill be available to purchase for $15 each. Cash or check payable to UC Regents. Sorry, we are unable to process credit cards.
Master Gardeners are volunteers who help the University of California reach the gardening public with home gardening information. U. C. Master Gardeners of Napa County ( http://ucanr.edu/ucmgnapa/) are available to answer gardening questions in person or by phone, Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to Noon, at the U. C. Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Avenue, Suite 4, Napa, 707-253-4143, or from outside City of Napa toll-free at 877-279-3065. Or e-mail your garden questions by following the guidelines on our web site. Click on Napa, then on Have Garden Questions? Find us on Facebook under UC Master Gardeners of Napa County.