Someone must have used the expression "as common as palm trees in Southern California" at least once to describe something so ubiquitous that it is unworthy of notice or prolonged contemplation.
But architect Lynn Muir of Dana Point hopes to see even more palm trees in Southern California, with as many varieties represented as possible. Muir has spent 40 years studying and collecting palms and plans to devote his attention to them full time after retiring soon.
Muir has established Palms of the World Nursery in a small courtyard just outside his architectural office on Coast Highway in Dana Point. It is home to more than 500 varieties of palm trees, including many rare varieties grown from seed.
Muir and his wife, Juanita, know them all, perhaps because some of them have been a part of the family as long as their daughter Patty, 36, and have sprouted numerous seedlings of their own.
The nursery represents the tip of the iceberg in relation to the rest of Muir's collection. It became a necessary outlet for an overflow of palms after the area around Muir's house became a jungle in spite of the recent acquisition of a vacant lot next door and a full-sized greenhouse leased on a nearby bluff above Dana Point Harbor. He recently donated several plants to help establish a Palm House in the San Antonio Botanical Garden in Texas and donated trees for Lake Park in Huntington Beach.
It all started when Muir planted a Mexican fan palm outside
his house 40 years ago. "I just wanted something to put out in front," he said. "But then I noticed the beautiful stands of palm trees in Balboa Park in San Diego, and I've been fascinated by them ever since."
The tall, slender Mexican fan palm is the most common palm in Southern California, which is something Muir hopes to
change. "There are so many beautiful varieties to enjoy, and I want people to see them," he said. "There is only one palm
native to California, and they grow in Palm Canyon in Borrego Springs. The others have been introduced from other areas."
"Palms are the most inexpensive and low-maintenance plant that you can buy," he said. "The root systems are non-invasive. They don't tear up sidewalks or patios. They are relatively pest-free and require very little water compared to other trees. They can be selected for about any size space, since some grow unmercifully slow and others so fast that you have to stand back.
"You can design a landscape with them that will stay in human-scale for years and then you can enjoy the beauty of the
full tree instead of just looking at a forest of trunks. This one is five years old and in 50 years will probably only be around four feet tall," he said, pointing out a small seedling.
Species from Muir's nursery vary in price from $50 to $2,500 for rare items kept from extinction through seed banks established by the International Palm Society.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday
Address: 34167 Coast Highway, Dana Point
Telephone: (714) 240-1134