As a lifelong horticulturist and serious plant lover and collector, I have traveled to many countries in search of expanding my knowledge. In addition to enjoying the normal sights and wonders to be found, we always included trips into nature and botanic gardens. After many trips to Hawaii, and once to New Zealand, Fiji, Australia and Tasmania, I learned a new fondness to the wonders and beauty of palm trees.

In fact, after returning home from New Zealand, I decided to design an area in my garden, reminiscent of an area I saw that was a meeting place geographically of tropical and temperate – one of the few places in the world where that occurs. Meeting at the ocean side were a mixture of palms so diverse and beautiful, with amazing rock formations that we stopped and explored for hours.

Horticulturists only wish they could grow exotic tropical palms found in jungles and rain forests but, alas, there is hope for the near future as many palms are now being cross pollinated, making new varieties. We now need not be limited to the box store row of Queens, Windmills, Sagos and Washington.

And luckily, if you’re looking to expand your plant palette or desire to create a tropical garden, you are in luck.

I recently found a great local resource for palms – for both common and extremely hard to find ones. Located between Elk Grove and Galt, just off Highway 99, is Palm Trees & Plants, also known as Perez Palms.

Plant collectors eventually find what they are looking for, and I was extremely surprised to find some beautiful Mule Palms (a cross between Butia and Queen Palms) and a triple crossed variety that also includes the aforementioned with a Wine Palm. These are extremely rare.

If you’re thinking of how to landscape your garden, you may want to think temperate tropical – meaning cold hardy plants that look tropical.

My Aussie garden is a combination of common palms, such as the Windmills, Queens and Sagos, but I have integrated the Mule Palms, Butia, Macrozamia (a rare cycad related to the common Sago, but more fern like foliage), Blue Hesper Palm (Mexican Blue Palm), Grass Trees (not a palm but wonderful accent foliage with palms), Chilean Wine Palm, and soon will include a grove of Chamaedorea Radicalis. These varieties all grow at different speeds and sizes, so when planted together the grove effect is simply amazing. I would avoid the Mexican Fan Palm and the Canary Island – they get massive and are dirty.

A palm environment has many advantages.

Palms offer a non-destructive root system and rarely ever break concrete. They are native to hurricane zones so they rarely blow down. Mine just made it through the recent wind gusts of 60 mph unscathed.

A palm grove is relaxing. Gently swaying fronds in the breeze are calming and create a resort like atmosphere. The Butia Capitata is an amazing palm and produces edible sweet fruit that makes wonderful jelly (known as the Jelly Palm), and I know because we make it, and it’s amazing. And I’ve learned to cut the fruit off my Queens and Windmills before they ripen with my tree saw pole, which keeps the cleanup to a minimum

Palm Trees & Plants owner Octavio Perez has been selling palms since 2005 and offers the basic and the more unusual varieties. You’ll see thousands of plants at the nursery, which looks much like a wholesale operation because he has many large boxed specimens. If you’re looking for the generic Queen Palm, he has 15 gallon size that are huge, and one of his biggest sellers.

He has a vast inventory of every variety needed to turn your backyard into an oasis. There are more than 2,500 species in the world, so why should we be limited to the generic five normally offered?

If you do plant a temperate tropical garden, blend many varieties together using the Queen Palm as your theme tree. Don’t plant three, plant 20 and live in Hawaii every day.

Palm Trees & Plants (Perez Palms) has two locations: one in Galt at 12351 East Stockton Boulevard and one in Pleasant Grove at 7975 Locust Road.

You can reach Perez for questions at 916-730-5969.

On another note, Pow Nursery in Wilton has 20 varieties of bare root fruit trees in (now potted in 5 gallon pots, which can still be bare rooted and planted until leaves emerge) for $18.95; and Fuju persimmon and Jujubes are $29.95 – these are the popular Dave Wilson trees. Call Bill at 916-385-3972 or 916 687-7176 for more details.

Rod Whitlow is a local ISA Certified Arborist, California Certified Nurseryman, and Plant science editor to the Sunset Western Garden Book.