As a lifelong horticulturist as well as a serious plant lover and collector, I traveled to many countries in order to expand my knowledge.
In addition to enjoying the normal sights and wonders to be found, I always included trips into nature and botanic gardens. After visiting Hawaii, New Zealand, Fiji, and Australia, I gained a new fondness to the wonders and beauty of palm trees.
When I came home from New Zealand, I decided to design an area in my garden that was reminiscent of a spot in that country that had both tropical and temperate plants – it was one of the world’s few places where they occur. I stopped and explored that place for hours – there was a mixture of palms that were so diverse and beautiful and there were also amazing rock formations.
A horticulturist’s only wish is that he or she could grow exotic tropical palms found in jungles and rainforests but, alas, there is hope for the near-future as many palms are now being cross-pollinated to create new varieties.
We now need not be limited to the palm varieties of Queens, Windmills, Sagos, and Washingtons. And luckily, if you’re looking to expand your plant palette or desire to create a tropical garden, you are in luck. I recently found a great local resource for palms, both common and extremely rare. Located between Elk Grove and Galt, just off Highway 99 is Palm Trees & Plants, also known as Perez Palms.
Plant collectors will eventually find what they are looking for, and I was extremely surprised to find some beautiful Mule Palms (a cross between Butia and Queen Palms) and a triple-crossed variety that also include the aforementioned with a wine palm. These are extremely rare.
If you’re thinking of how to landscape your garden, you may want to think “temperate-tropical,” meaning cold hardy plants that look tropical.
My Aussie garden is a combination of common palms such as the Windmills, Queens, and Sagos, but I have integrated the Mule palms, Butia, macrozamia (a rare cycad related to the common sago, but more fern like foliage), Blue Hesper palm (Mexican Blue Palm), grass trees (not a palm but wonderful accent foliage with palms), Chilean wine palm, and soon will include a grove of Chamaedorea radicalis. These varieties all grow at different speeds and sizes, so when planted together the grove effect is simply amazing. I would avoid the Mexican Fan Palm and the Canary Island – they can get massive and dirty.
A palm environment has many advantages. Palms offer a non-destructive root system and rarely break concrete. They are native to hurricane zones so they rarely blow down. Mine just made it through the recent wind gusts of 60 mph unscathed. A palm grove is relaxing. Gently swaying fronds in the breeze are calming and create a resort-like atmosphere.
The Butia capitata is an amazing palm and produces edible sweet fruit that makes wonderful Jelly (known as the Jelly Palm, and I know because we make it, and it’s amazing). And I’ve learned to cut the fruit off my Queens and Windmills before they ripen with my tree saw pole, which keeps the cleanup to a minimum.
Palm Trees & Plans owner, Octavio Perez has been selling palms since 2005 and offers the basic and the more unusual varieties. You’ll see thousands of plants at the nursery, which looks much like a wholesale operation because he has many large boxed specimens.
If you’re looking for the generic Queen Palm, Perez has 15-gallon size trees that are huge, and one of his biggest sellers. He has a vast inventory of every variety needed to turn your backyard into an oasis. There are more than 2,500 species in the world, so why should we be limited to the generic five normally offered?
If you do plant a temperate tropical garden, blend many varieties together using the Queen Palm as your theme tree. Don’t plant three, plant 20 and live in Hawaii every day.
Palm Trees & Plants (Perez Palms) has two locations: 12351 East Stockton Blvd, Galt; and 7975 Locust Road, Pleasant Grove. They can be contacted at (916) 730-5969.
Rod Whitlow is a local ISA Certified Arborist, California Certified Nurseryman, and Plant science editor to the Sunset Western Garden Book.