Under Trees

Should any part of your garden extend under a tree canopy, be joyful, for you will never lack for tasks to keep you busy. (Ha!)
But if your garden is home to spiky plants, no amount of sweeping and raking will help. The tree litter will be stuck, impaled, draped like dirty laundry for weeks until a strong wind arrives to liberate the garden of its vegetative equivalent of Irish pennants. Or failing a stiff gale, you may be driven to reach in desperation for a vacuum cleaner to suck debris from plant crevices and thorns, exposing your plant-geek tendencies to the ridicule of the entire neighborhood. (As if such tendencies have been well hidden up to this point.) While trees rain down bounteous spring bloom, remember that despite being a teeth-gnashing annoyance, it’s really a small price to pay for all the good that trees do. And if you’re not paying a price, reaping the inevitable downside of something glorious and good, check your pulse quick.

In our case, our particular bete noire is the jacaranda. The subtropical South American Jacaranda mimosifolia, two of them planted by the city in the parkway, overhanging the front garden. We’re just now digging out from under two months of incessant rain of violet-blue, stick-to-your shoes petals. Let’s not even get into “My tree creates more havoc than your tree,” for I know many of us have our patience tested each and every spring and fall by diverse species of trees. In our case, we get about a two months’ respite a year from the jacarandas, July and August, when they are not unleashing some kind of debris. As far as petals, by late June the end is in sight, and the bulk of the flowers will have fallen.

Strong blasts from the hose unearthed my Agave guadalajarana this morning.


Fortunately, I don’t really mind sweeping and have worn out many a broom on these bricks.
But when the sticky petal grime builds up to critical mass, only a strong jet of water from the hose can remove it.


From the opposite direction, Stipa gigantea caressing a furcraea, with dried flowers from the ‘Kiwi’ aeonium, Agave ‘Jaws’ in the distance on the right.
Lots of nooks and crannies for tree litter.


Senecio decaryi from Madagascar (formerly Senecio amaniensis) is almost 6 feet tall this year. Since I bought it as an unnamed succulent, I had no idea it’d reach such proportions. There’s so much in the front garden I truly enjoy… if only I wasn’t so pissed off at the jacarandas every spring.


But by July we’re in love with our trees again, fully leafed out for the heat of summer, appreciating all they do to cool our home and clean our dirty, port-town air.

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8 Responses to Under Trees

  1. I feel your pain (third 5 gallon bucket of blooms swept today), and understand the payback…just wish there was an easy way to clean the blooms from the gravel. Well and that passers by could do so unscathed.

    Love your garden images…beautiful!

  2. hb says:

    Magnificent Senecio there. The Jax in this neighborhood are just peaking now. I’m lucky I can see them around without being deluged by their goo.

  3. James Golden says:

    Reading about your garden is like looking into another world (for me). I wonder if you know William Martin’s Wigandia in Australia. If not, you might be interested:


  4. Yikes..its a small world James Golden..me like this blog a lot!

  5. Les says:

    Leaf litter is one thing, but water grabbing roots make it difficult for my other plants to get their fair share.

  6. Denise says:

    Loree, I know up in Portland this must be a huge pain in the neck.
    Hoov, that’s odd how their bloom times vary so much locally.
    James, the same world, we just get different parts of it to plant our gardens.
    Wm, yes, small world! Thanks for commenting — can’t wait to check out your blog.
    Les, that’s getting to be a problem in the back garden. Trees are a big part of gardens that get little attention.

  7. Pam/Digging says:

    Here in Austin it’s the live oaks that create the biggest mess, with a big leaf drop in early March, followed by a big pollen drop, followed by caterpillars dropping out of the trees, followed by oak galls, followed by sticky sap, followed by…well, you get the picture. Those of us who like to grow agaves under these trees or have gravel paths or beds feel your pain.

    That said, the live oaks are hugely beneficial in terms of much-needed shade, and their sinuous shapes are iconic in our region. Jacarandas may not be native for you, but, man, are they gorgeous in bloom. I’ve seen them in Phoenix and in central Mexico and fell in love. As you say, certain trees can be a love/hate issue in the garden.

  8. Megan says:

    That Senecio is insane! We get the constant drop of crappy little flowers and leaves from our neighbor’s Myoporum laetum tree (I have another not so nice name for it). I feel your pain.

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