Aspens in SF

Thomas J. Story
Quaking aspens thrive in a raised bed in San Francisco. In fall, their leaves turn buttery yellow before dropping.
Mountains inspired this raised bed in the city

When they were searching for trees to create a corner grove in their small San Francisco garden, architect Jerry Veverka and his wife, Claudia, took their inspiration from the mountains.

Jerry wanted a tree with a light-colored trunk so it would stand out against a dark brown fence that surrounds the planting area. Initially, he thought of birch. Then, on a trip to the Sierra, he fell in love with quaking aspen, a tree that books say won't grow in mild climates.

Eventually the couple discovered a grove of aspens while walking through San Francisco Botanical Garden at Strybing Arboretum. It had been planted in the 1950s. "I figured if aspens grew there, they would do fine in my Bernal Heights garden," Jerry says. So he planted 30-inch-tall saplings. Now 10 years old, the trees are 20 feet tall ― proving that with marginally adapted plants, sometimes it pays to take a risk.

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