When the Glass Fire ripped through Napa Valley in 2020, acres of the more than 60-year-old Meadowood resort were lost. While the southern part of the property, including about 35 guestrooms, the spa, and pool areas remains open and untouched, the Meadowood team estimates it will take years to fully restore and rebuild the rest of the property. During that time, they’ve offered their members and guests the opportunity to plant trees and become part of the estate’s future legacy. Each participant will receive a certificate of planting and exact location of their tree, which will be enjoyed and provide environmental benefit for generations to come—and a participation fee will be donated to the Napa Valley Community Forest.
What Meadowood’s team—and so many of us—understand is that something about trees speaks to our hearts and affirms a kind of lasting permanence, akin to a family heirloom. Not only do they provide oxygen, greenery, and homes to animals, but they also have a connection to us that surpasses flowers and other kinds of plants.
Here’s a look at how to plant trees to enjoy on your own property.
What to Know
When selecting a tree, it’s important to consider the available sunlight, soil moisture and drainage, mature height, canopy width, and root spread—which will be two to three times the width of the canopy—so as not to cause damage to foundations, sidewalks, or driveways. If you need shade during summer but sun for winter warmth, then deciduous might be ideal. Other considerations might be for privacy or a focal interest using color, an unusual leaf shape, or a flower. With limited space, slow-growing trees can be functional in containers. For tips, use the helpful database selectree.calpoly.edu.
A Few Favorites
To start, here are a few versatile flowering specimens to consider that aren’t fussy, will enhance your landscaping, and may strike up some conversations.
Crepe Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
I discovered the beauty of crepe myrtle when we purchased our home in 1985. It was already well established at 35 years, commanding a height of 25 feet. Spending time beneath the expansive canopy was our respite from the summer heat. Each August, it blooms hot-pink flowers, just before our daughter’s birthday. The color is so vibrant, we still remain in awe of its beauty when it’s in bloom. In the fall, the leaves quickly drop and require little effort to clean up. It’s the perfect tree for all seasons.
Details: Up to 30 feet in height; single and multi-trunk; white, pink, lavender, or red blooms; full sun; drought tolerant; deciduous.
Little Gem Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora “Little Gem”)
This dwarf southern magnolia has a gorgeous, sweet aroma and lotus-like blooms in late spring through summer that do well as cut flowers. The smaller, two-tone, dark-green and brown foliage can be shaped for privacy and is truly captivating when trained as espalier against a wall or fence.
Details: Slow growing, reaching 20–25 feet; full sun; moderate watering; evergreen.
Bonsai Blue Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifolia “Sakai01”)
Bonsai Blue is an ideal specimen tree for smaller gardens and equally useful as a large border accent, while the dwarf variety is perfect for decorative pots on a terrace or patio. The large, deep-purple, tubular flowers with bright-green, fern-like foliage take well to pruning.
Details: Quickly reaches up to 12 feet tall and up to 8 feet wide in ground; dwarf species grows to 30 inches; full sun; low water needs; semi-evergreen.
Desert Museum Palo Verde (Cercidium x “Desert Museum”)
This gorgeous, thornless California native hybrid makes a fine, upright light-shade tree. Showy large yellow blossoms give a dazzling display of color in the spring. After the foliage falls, the trunk and stems remain chartreuse green, providing year-round interest.
Details: Fast growing; up to 30 feet tall and 25 feet wide; full sun; drought tolerant; deciduous.
Interpreting Tree Descriptions
Descriptions should be used as general guidelines. The specific planting location will determine the performance.
USDA assigns a plant hardiness zone based on zip code. Pasadena is 9b and 10a (Mediterranean, hardy).
Many trees requiring full sun (minimum six hours) can take light/partial shade (minimum four hours of sun), but produce fewer flowers and less density with taller branches. Full shade (minimum two hours of sun) requires wetter soil.
Consult your local nursery.
Water newly planted trees once every five to seven days.
Trees drink water at the feeder roots located at the drip line, which is the edge of the tree’s canopy (leaves), not at the trunk, and can extend two to three times the width of the canopy.
Mulch 1–2 inches away from the trunk.
Avoid digging under the canopy, which can kill small roots.
Remove rocks and vegetation within 3–5 feet of the trunk.
See tips on tree care, Pasadena tree ordinances, at the city’s Master Street Tree Plan.