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    « How do you market imperfection? | Main | Gee, do you think I overplanted? »


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    A tree that goes completely dormant in August? Sounds like our tulip poplars. Not so cool. But sure is lovely in bloom and I bet a good wildlife tree.


    I've read this goes dormant early, but haven't had a chance to see it (or at least notice it) in the wilds or planted around town. Is it slow to leaf out as well? Or does it start up with the rains? No matter, though, I'm sure there's a use for it. Maybe something vine-like could be trained up in the branches to provide some green?

    It's also a great didactic plant that points out that summer is the dormant season for a lot of California plants. Terrific for a public interpretive garden. But do people want to live in a natural history exhibit? When people change their expectations for green green green everything they might.

    Last summer I was enjoying Chinese flame trees around town, but have been noticing that some of the plants are only now starting to leaf out. (Other, adjacent trees, have been green for six weeks or more. Weird.) So these guys also spend a lot of their lives in dormancy. But that hasn't stopped people from planting them.


    I don't know if I've ever seen one, but a tree that looses its leaves in August would probably never live in my yard.
    Definitely a right place, right tree.

    Julie Orr

    I love our Cal Buckeye. I fell in love with them in Capitola where there is a beautiful specimen on Capitola Ave. It doesn't go deciduous until late fall/winter I like to specify when there are coastal influences.


    The Aesculus used in Western Washington (I believe mostly A. hippocastanum)spawn a similar love/hate dialogue up here. Not because they go dormant so early, but because only weeks after blooming gloriously they inevitably succumb to leaf blotch and other disfiguring diseases such that every year I become convinced I am finally witnessing their long-delayed demise. I would almost prefer they just drop their leaves and get it over with. Is there an Aesculus out there that does not inspire such ambivalence?


    Dormant in August in CALIFORNIA - state of the endless growing season? That is strange. I wouldn't pick it for my yard!

    Susan (garden chick)

    Tina - Julie makes a good point in her comment. In milder California climates this doesn't necessarily happen, but it gets pretty scorching where I am (and only about 25 miles from the coast, can you believe it?)

    James, my point exactly. Botanical garden, etc. great, but a let-down in an ornamental residential garden.

    Catherine, having recently looked at photos of your garden on your blog, how is there room for any trees with all those gorgeous flowers you've got going on?

    Maranta, doesn't all the rain make Washington the depression capital of America or something? You are wise not to tip someone over the edge by planting a disappointing tree in any of your clients' gardens. A. pavia - Red Buckeye - is native to the East Coast and beautiful. It would probably love your more humid climate.

    VW, my favorite transplanted-Palo-Altoian-now-living-in-Spokane, another reason besides lilacs, roses and unlimited water to be smug about your new home!


    Ask not what the Aesculus can do for you but what you could do for the Aesculus! Let’s forget about the wildlife benefit and the drought resistance and address the issue of design worthiness.

    This plant is an all season performer and those who say it isn't should be spanked with the Western Garden Book.

    Winter: Aesculus is the first to leaf out when all other show ponies are tucked under the comforter waiting for the rain to stop. It’s the first sign that spring is on it way and brings green back to the skyline.

    Spring: The tree is covered with blooms which upon closer inspection are incredibly intricate. Wait for the bees to move and get your nose into one. The fragrance is worth bottling.

    Summer: Correct, leaf drop but who wears a coat to the beach on a hot day? Finally, one brave plant that is willing to go skinny dipping in the horticultural pool. In place of the leaves, Aesculus proudly showcases it's deeply polished fruits which emerge from thick fleshy cases. These decorate the trees on mass and are easily cleaned up when they finally drop.

    Mid summer through winter: Now you have the stunning silver bark which when contrasted against a plain dark colored wall offers contrast suitable for any contemporary garden space. With silhouette lighting the effect is incredible.

    Having an Aesculus growing within a traditional garden won't work but combining it with Nassella cernua (Nodding Needlegrass) in a grove or allée will have both native plants enthusiasts and Garden Design magazine beating down your door.

    Now who’s first for the Western Garden Book?

    Susan (garden chick)

    Troy, I'm speechless. Never have I been disagreed with so poetically.

    I concede defeat and will happily notify Garden Design Magazine when my Aesculus allee is designed and installed.


    I like them, plant them occasionally for clients. Really nice form, nice bark, amazing early leaf out, drought tolerant green leaf, decent bloom, great for landscape lighting as you said, sometimes get beautiful yellow lichen on the bark. I feel like they help demonstrate to people the drought deciduous nature of California plants, kind of the way non-native ornamental grasses has helped people appreciate native grasslands.
    Usually we have so much going on in our gardens in summer that no one minds the early leaf drop. Our clients seem to be more frustrated with things that leaf out late, like vine maples or chaste trees.


    Susan, Washington is indeed a haven for depression, probably because it gets dark at 3:30 pm in the winter (and all the Seattle rain and Spokane snow must contribute, too). But the sun sets around 10 pm in June!
    I laughed out loud about the book spanking. Good thing my copy is paperback :-)
    And I shouldn't sound so negative about the early leaf drop. I just planted 5 honey locusts in my yard, which both leaf out late (they're still in process) and drop leaves early (end of September). I'm having planter's remorse over their short season of leaves. But that means I can plant spring bulbs underneath amongst the hostas that will someday live there. And honey locusts have spectacular branches. One down the street reminds me of a twirling ballerina. It's good to be reminded that there are many reasons to enjoy a tree.
    And I lived in Santa Clara. AS IF I could ever afford rent in lovely Palo Alto!


    I've just read Troy's comment.

    It sounds like an absolute cracker.


    So Susan, there is a tree I need to show you near my house. It is the sole survivor of the great Point Richmond Canopy Slaughter of 2008, and it is such a gorgeous buckeye, so gnarly, so wondrously hobbity, so obviously full of woodland sprites, you will never consider kicking a buckeye off the island again. In fact, this is the only one that survived on this particular hillside after all of the other oaks and pines were removed. I think this tree just scared the hell out of the cheapo arborists that were hired to clear this lot. Like it would come back and haunt the grandchildren of whomever dared to cut its limbs.

    I see that you have been converted, but I wish to make you a worshiper of this particular buckeye, as all who have laid eyes upon it have become. Call us a cult if you will, but we are devoted.

    And hell, we all want to take off our clothes come August, so why should we get all jealous and uppity about it if the Aesculus has the nerve to up and do it?

    Town Mouse

    Ah, well, I do think it depends just a little bit on the size of the garden. If I had an acre, I would love this tree. And it's true, it really does look great year round. But it's one big tree, nothing for your usual 6000 - 10000 square foot lot.
    I do think redwoods are much more problematic, though, water hogs and grow huge in both directions. Still everyone plants them in the oddest spots.
    So, it all depends. But if one has to go, the redwood goes first, at least where I live.

    Susan (garden chick)

    Ryan, I blame magazines filled with garden porn, they give clients unrealistic expectations that a garden will be perfect year round.

    Rob, as always I delight in your British slang! I think cracker is a compliment??

    Plantanista, you saucy minx! I'll have to slap your comment with a PG-13 rating.

    Town Mouse, I thought you'd be first in line to put me in my place! I so agree about redwoods. People do not seem to grasp that they do not belong in every part of California.


    They may be beautiful and native, but their pollen is poisonous to European honey bees, so while I love the trees' shape, I loathe what they do to my bees.

    I know the bees are an import, but I like what they do around here a lot, and I really like my honey.


    When we lived in Larkspur there were huge buckeyes lining a street near us, and i loved their scent and flowers. Don't recall them losing their leaves in summer, though. Do all the varieties do that?

    Susan (garden chick)

    I was just in Larkspur yesterday! I think A. Californica is the ony one that drops so early, but this would probably not be the case in Larkspur where the temperature is cooler. It's mostly a coping mechanism in hotter climates where no supplemental irrigation is provided.


    I love the CA Buckeye for its beautiful twisty spreading branch structure - which shows itself when all the leaves drop!

    Sarah Jane

    There are two types of deciduous trees: ones that are winter deciduous like most people are used to, and ones that are summer deciduous.

    The reason some trees lose their leaves in summer is an adaptation to conserve water. There is a reason behind their madness.

    Maureen Mitchell

    I write in defense of the Buckeye which I like and have suggested to clients for planting in their gardens if they have the room, they are not for everyone. The flower scent is wonderful.
    The buckeye is a necter plant for yellow swallowtail butterflies, I've seen Buckeyes out in one of my local county parks with close to a hundred swallowtails fluttering around one tree in full flower, it literally takes your breath away. Might also be a good reason to not spray the trees if they have catapiller damage. In case people don't know most CA native plants are necter and habitat for various beneficial insects.


    ySuwWQ I am always excited to visit this blog in the evenings.Please churning hold the contents. It is very entertaining.

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