Palm controversy.

In case you think garden aesthetics would never be a political issue look no further than Placerville (known in the old days as “Old Hangtown”). This is the county seat of El Dorado County and our nearest large town. According to The Sacramento Bee the city council has decided to have In ‘n Out Burger remove the two palms that we talked about earlier. If you remember the two palms took the project over the requirement that 50% of the landscape be El Dorado County natives.

The palms have become one of the main campaign issue in the upcoming city council elections. The local paper The Mountain Democrat recently posted an editorial on the issue. They, like my self think it’s silly to have to remove the palms now that they have been planted.

What’s most important here is the city government is trying to come up with a foothill aesthetic. The editorial says, “Instead of suggesting the business add some native plants such as blue flowering ceonothus shrubs or redbud trees to bring the native plant ratio into compliance, the city Planning Commission ventured into that elusive regime of what's proper and what's not proper aesthetics. The majority pooh-poohed palms trees as some Southern California alien life force. Unfortunately, these commissioners are not familiar with their own town. There are quite a few palm trees around town and they are old enough that they probably predate paving and cement sidewalks on Main Street. There is no ‘mountain town’ aesthetic that we should be forced to live with, otherwise every new commercial building would be required to be built of sheet metal or brick or stone.”

In Placerville the city council wants to promote a foothill aesthetic in its commercial landscapes. So what’s the foothill aesthetic? Our region lives off vacationers who visit the area for its natural beauty as well as the gold rush history. We are just 5 miles from Sutter’s Mill and Marshall Gold Discovery Park. One of the first things the new settlers did was plant non-native species they remembered from home. The giant black locusts that line the streets of Coloma are non-native, as well as Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) which has spread all over. Soon as the settlers realized they would grow here they planted Palms. If you drive through Newcastle or Loomis you will see rows of palms well over 100 years old that line some of the streets.

It would seem that the City Council wants to come up with an aesthetic that was the foothills before the settlers arrived. How reasonable is that considering the history of the last 150 years here is about man changing the environment? You cannot go anywhere in the foothills and not see the results of gold mining on the land. Osage orange, old fashioned lilacs, rambling roses, and palms are growing in Marshall Gold Discovery Park. There are two 100 year old palms planted in front of one of the historic homes right in town.

This argument may show up at a town near you soon. What are the towns aesthetic and who decides. Should we turn our backs on 150 years of gardening history to try and create some type of aesthetic that existed before the settlers came?


So it’s about more than a couple of palms. It’s about elected officials deciding what is “proper” landscaping for the rest of us. Since this is one of the main issues for this election well see who get elected. Pro-palm or anti-palm, its your vote.