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Design

This Stunning Small Tree Creates a Garden All by Itself

Photo: courtesy of Flora Grubb

Name: ‘Clara’ blue hesper palm (Brahea armata ‘Clara’)

Zones: 8b–11

Size: 30 feet tall and 15 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil

Native Range: Sonora, Mexico

My son and I had been shopping for houses in Berkeley, California, for a few months when we first laid eyes on a perfect, tiny, one-story house with a giant picture window facing the not-so-perfect front yard (comprised entirely of concrete with a small scruffy lawn). As soon as we moved in, we set to work on the front landscape, removing all of the concrete. We soon had a blank slate—and a big picture window gazing right onto the street.

The situation called for a big splurge, so we installed a large ‘Clara’ blue hesper palm between the house and the street. It was a splurge not only because of the cost of this fairly uncommon tree but also because of the cost of the installation, which required heavy equipment and half a day of work. When it was done, however, and before we did any additional work, we had a garden! The tree provided a “ceiling” and immediately created privacy from the street and the neighbor’s windows. We adore the unique blue-silvery foliage, especially when it rustles in the wind. Our splurge tree is growing quickly, but it will be the perfect scale for the small garden as everything grows up around it.

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Flora Grubb
Photo: courtesy of Flora Grubb

The Expert: Flora Grubb is a garden designer and the owner of Flora Grubb Gardens, a specialty nursery in San Francisco.

From Fine Gardening #193

 

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