I’m finally starting to settle in at my new house, and even have a kitchen table of my own like a real adult. A kitchen table makes a big difference when it comes to writing. I can’t write in bed without dozing off. I can’t write on the couch without getting distracted. Anyway, here I am, writing, reminiscing about my adventure to the Ruth Bancroft Garden a few Saturdays ago. In fact, it was the Saturday immediately following the presidential election, and I was sorely in need of some peaceful time in order to process all of the news. I lucked out that Saturday; it’s been raining off and on (!!!) for the last few weeks here in the Bay Area. The gods were smiling that day.
I love the Aechmea recurvata above, and have a couple of different varieties. They are related to Tillandsia (air plants) and can be grown epiphytically like air plants or grown in soil. From my experience, they seem to prefer soil. They are surprisingly xeric, and seem to get more foliar coloration when they’re grown a bit hard.
Here they can be seen making nice with Tanacetum haradjanii and a Dyckia hybrid, a terrestrial bromeliad like the Aechmea. The vicious spines are a bit more obvious on the Dyckia, but Aechmea does have spines along the leaves as well, and I can attest personally to their sharpness. Most bromeliads do have a way of making an impression.
Another favorite of mine is this Agave celsii albicans. It is one of those agaves that makes me think of the great white sharks that have been spotted occasionally spotted in the Pacific near the Golden Gate. While this agave can draw a few drops of blood, it probably won’t be making off with any of your limbs. I have a small start of this agave from UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, where an impressive clump can be admired.
Here’s an overall shot of the clump. Give this agave a wide berth.
Agave attenuata is one of my favorite agaves. Unfortunately it is too tender to be left out here in the North Bay, where temperatures dip below freezing during the winter. A variegate that I left out is doing a great impression of wilted lettuce. The plain species looks better but has developed an unsightly case of agave pox.
None of these photos were taken in any sort of order, because as usual, I skipped around the garden and went back and forth. It’s hard to focus when there are so many succulents.
Here’s Agave gypsophila, who may have accidentally left the curlers in too long. An old flowering stem is nudging in…
From this clump of Echeveria gibbiflora. Every plant featured so far is from south of the border. If there’s a wall built, I’d like to be on the Echeveria side of it, please.
Moving swiftly along, Grevillea petrophiloides sends out flares of blooms well above any foliage. Perhaps it’s signaling its native Australia for a rescue?
Here’s a closeup of the bloom from Jo O’Connell’s Australian Native Plants Nursery in Ojai, from my visit way back when (March). Quite a bizarre color combination.
These cacti go marching one by one. And a Dioon sneaking in.
Just to prove that it’s not all about the flowers at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, here is a shot of the rare Swainsonia formosa. It can be challenging to grow I’ve heard, but it looked spectacular here. Maybe it’s the water. Everything is pretty incredible in this magical place, including its founder, Ruth Bancroft, who lives on the property, and celebrated her 108th birthday last year. She started many of the plants in this garden from either seed or very small starts, before succulents were found at Home Cheapo. She curated the bones of the garden very carefully, selecting choice species to grow. The garden has expanded and now has a nursery, which is stocked with a very good selection of xeric plants to take home.
Here’s one more flower, because people seem to like them. Protea neriifolia, which hails from South Africa. One I would definitely grow if I had soil to plant in. Unfortunately, I only have containers. I guess I’ll just have to visit more gardens. Oh well.
A bench falling into the Petaluma River, with a view of the 101 overpass. Shollenberger Park, Petaluma.