One of the first plants we noticed when we were looking to buy in Coachella Valley, especially in the Cathedral City Cove area, and most prolifically in the dry washes, was the Smoke Tree. The name derives from the smoky look of the tree with its wispy blue-gray leaflets.
But, while this tree looks feathery, it has more than adequate self-defense measures as you will discover if you venture too near. We fell in love with the look of the smoke tree, especially when it is full bloom in the late spring and early summer. The masses of purple blossoms completely cover the tree such that is disappears into a cloud of lavender “smoke.”
Since we so loved this native tree, we decided to build a color palette around it and name our house after the tree as well.
Smoke Tree manor was built from July 2017 to January 2018 with a move in date of about January 15, 2018. Smoke Tree Manor was intentionally built to meet and mostly exceed the 2016 California energy standards. With a large solar installation the house is intended to be net zero and as of February 2018 we have a credit with Southern California Edison totaling more than $300, meaning that we are succeeding brilliantly with our net zero planning.
Smoke Tree Manor is nestled in the foothills of the Santa Rosa Mountains and provides a clear line of sight across Coachella Valley to the Little San Bernardino Mountains to the north.
We chose silver and blue gray as exterior colors with a cool gray interior. But the signature feature of our home, well, one of many, but probably the most noticeable from the street, are the deep purple exterior gates. Some people ask why purple since they don’t think of purple as being a color “of the desert.” The smoke tree blooms prove this impression false. And other desert plants, including certain paddle cacti, are also purple, but none are as resplendent as the Smoke Tree.
We deeply wish that we had a Smoke Tree on the property but, alas, we do not. We have considered digging an existing small tree up and transplanting it, but we have been warned that Smoke Tree seedlings send down a tap root until it finds water and then it starts to grow above ground. And disturbance this tap root will spell instant death to the tree, making it very difficult, if not impossible, to transplant.
A kind neighbor, knowing of our wish, found two smoke tree seedlings in the yard of the house he shares with his husband and he offered to let us try to dig it up and transplant it. We tried but it appears to have failed, most likely due to damage to the tap root in the extraction process.
However, I have read that Smoke Trees are easy to grow from seeds and I found Smoke Tree seeds for sale from the Theodore Payne Foundation.