Uptown’s lavender delight

Jacaranda map for May & June in San Diego’s Park West/Bankers Hill

Jacaranda trees along Third Avenue in Bankers Hil just north of Redwood

There are jacarandas throughout Bankers Hill, like these on Third between Spruce & Redwood.

Each spring as San Diegans face another dreary “May Gray” or “June gloom” the normally subdued jacaranda breaks into vibrant blooms, which create ethereal violet corridors along wide streets throughout our neighborhood. The trees were first introduced here, then popularized, by famed horticulturist Kate Sessions (HQ5 and HQ8) and advanced by Sylvia Simpson Coleman who dreamed of San Diego becoming the jacaranda capitol of the nation, and by Donna Derrick whose tireless efforts culminated in 2000 with the purple beauty becoming the city’s official tree. Both activists were members of the Village Garden Club of La Jolla, which has a jacaranda tree project responsible for more than 1,200 new plantings throughout the county.

Visitors to our fair city are amazed with the colorful jacaranda, perhaps because they are simply are not found in most of the United States. Perhaps that’s also the reason that so many locals treasure the lavender tree and its gracefully spread branches draped with iris-colored flowers. The fallen purple petals in the shape of tiny trumpets leave a carpet reminiscent of a lilac snowfall, which irritate some because of the mess, but how many other cities can boast that their pot hole-covered streets are decorated with silky blue flowers?

Kate Sessions’ statue in Balboa Park (yellow asterisk west of the Cabrillo Bridge) is the perfect place to start a Bankers Hill walking tour to maximize a personal experience the spring beauties. View a print-out of this jacaranda walk on the fold-out map in the 2011-12 edition of HillQuest Urban Guide.

Yet for all its showiness, the jacaranda is truly a humble tree. When its ostentatious blooms have disappeared by July, it returns to the obscurity that marks its existence until the following spring. Its magical magnificent moment on the seasonal stage is brief, yet appreciated all the more because of the wonderful way it counterbalances those dismal days with little or no sunshine. Celebrate jacarandas!