This will be an homage to the Oaks of California. I love ’em.
Thank you to The Cultural Landscape Foundation for inspiring me to showcase Oaks, a vital part of the cultural landscape of California.
There are more than 30 towns and cities in California that begin with Oak, and while too many Oaks have been cut down to make way for houses, there are nevertheless many, many places where oak woodlands are preserved, and landscape architects need little inspiration but to go to the edge of town.
Oaks (Quercus species) are native across the entire Northern Hemisphere but in California they are icons of the most habitable landscapes, especially here in the rolling Coastal hills where all these photos were taken, near my home in Northern California. They grow all across the state and entire habitats are described by their presence: from Coastal Oak Woodland, Valley Oak Woodland, to Montane Hardwood Forest.
The oaks are noble, tough, quietly superior to every other plant in the many varied woodland plant communities where they are found. They are perfectly adapted to our summer-dry climate and given some space can be adapted to every garden type. I have 10 is a one acre garden around my house.
Yes, they do get large and will never be recommended as street trees, but I would argue every suburban lot could handle one tree. And what a great benefit that would be, to restore habitats, promote sustainable gardening, and reaffirm our connection to the native landscape.
They are quite obviously adapted to our summer-dry landscape, where dry summers are not drought, it’s normal. The deep-rooted trees get a long drink in the wet winters and march right through summer basking in sun, happy in the heat.
I must say I particularly like the deciduous Oaks and the fall color.
The autumn color of our California Oaks does not match the deciduous forests of New England but in the landscape with a few other deciduous trees they can easily dominate the photographer’s eye. I particularly like walking the hills in autumn where I can look up a slope and see them silhouetted against the sky.
In the springtime some of our most spectacular wildflower displays are in the oak woodlands before they leaf out, and sometimes wild mustard turns the understory yellow.
And when the grasses begin to tun emerald green from winter rains the Oaks make patterns on the green canvas, their great trunks and branches are dancing sculptures in the landscape.
There are times in the spring, just as the Oaks have leafed out and back light makes them glow, that anyone lucky enough to be hiking among them will l feel they are in a magical landscape. And in truth, the kingdom of oaks is a magical place.