Cool shade trees for Sacramento’s hot summers

Jeff vonKaenel

Imagine my amazement when I learned that the beautiful blue oak tree at the edge of our parking lot is 300 years old.

We are finally landscaping around our new building. We’ve decided to plant 21 trees, but figuring out what kind of trees to plant has been a challenge. So we asked the Sacramento Tree Foundation for help, and they came to the rescue.

Tree Foundation staffers Shawn Colvin and Lauren Altdoerffer showed up right away to give us advice. They explained that the decision about what tree to plant involves considering the planting space, the environment, how much water each tree needs, and of course, how the tree will look, not just tomorrow or five years from now, but maybe 100 years into the future, or more. While surveying the grounds, Shawn and Lauren stopped to admire the large oak tree on our property. It was then that Shawn told us the beautiful blue oak tree we were looking at was probably 300 years old.

Three hundred years old. When that acorn first fell to the ground and started to sprout roots, the soil was claimed by Spain. Then, as the roots spread and grew, Mexico took over the land, followed by the United States. And now, this property is owned by my wife and me. We may think we own this tree, but it was here long before us and will be here long after we are gone.

That’s the important thing to remember when planting trees. Our trees may outlive us. What a great legacy to leave for our children and grandchildren: an urban forest. That’s one reason we consulted with the tree experts at the Sacramento Tree Foundation.

This great organization is planning to plant 5 million trees in the greater Sacramento area, and they are making it easy for us to help them reach this goal. If you are a SMUD customer, you are eligible for up to 10 free trees through the Sacramento Shade tree program, a partnership of the Tree Foundation and SMUD. Even businesses within SMUD’s service area can qualify for free trees. A Sacramento Tree Foundation forester could drop by your home or business to help you select the best trees for your site.

One of the cool things about trees is that they will continue to improve our property and the environment, year after year. It gives me goose bumps to think how cool these trees will look in 30 years.

It is a thrill. I am proud we will be making our little spot more beautiful. But the blue oak humbles me. It’s awesome to consider the beauty, the strength and the longevity of this oak tree that started from a single acorn 300 years ago.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.