Hopefully I will be back to a semi-regular blog regimen soon, as I have finally started to put roots down so to speak. I have been on the move for the past few months, but I will be settling down (to a degree) in the lovely little community of Kenwood. Needless to say (but I’ll say it anyway), I’m excited, and will be posting all about the plants that made the cut and moved with me and why they’re so awesome and why everyone should grow them. But for now, a small offering in the form of a photo collage. These were all taken on my first neighborhood walk. The Gingkoes are located in a small park a block away from where I live, and the concrete pipes are at a local market, really clever and definitely something to replicate.
After leaving Casitas Springs, my much anticipated next stop was the Taft Garden in Ojai. Not much information on this garden can be found, as it is not open to the general public. For more information (and better pictures) on this incredible garden, check out A Growing Obsession’s post. There was no signage guiding visitors to the garden, and my GPS proved unreliable on this particular journey. Verbal directions given earlier were a bit murky to my plant-addled brain, having just experienced some of the most incredible gems Australia has to offer at Australian Native Plants Nursery. After a couple of wrong turns, I finally ended up in the parking lot of one of the most incredible gardens I have ever been to.
The huts are where visitors are supposed to sign in. Though there were no other visitors to this 265 acre garden during my visit, I noticed many other people had visited the garden earlier in the week. Still, the feeling of being the only person in this massively-proportioned garden was a bit unnerving.
The garden is incredibly well maintained. The sound of a distant chainsaw hummed in the background, providing proof of life in this deserted garden. These Veltheimia bracteata bloomed cheerily away in spite of the dearth of admirers visiting the garden.
One of the plants I most looked forward to seeing during my trip down south was Furcraea macdougalii, and the Taft Garden had a few jaw-dropping specimens.
The aloes had mostly finished blooming by this time, but they hardly need blooms. These tree-like aloes formed a massive grove in the South African area of the garden. All kinds of massive specimens like this trio of Aloe marlothii.
The Leucadendron discolor was going at it full tilt during my visit, however.
The smoldering flowers and bracts seemed to have a light of their own.
At almost any vantage in the garden, the backdrop of mountains loom, adding to the monumental atmosphere of the garden.
It was starting to get pretty toasty, and lack of water had me seeking shelter, but not before I snapped hundreds more photos of the aloes.
Aloe dichotoma and friends.
These massive silvery Cussonia paniculata mark the end of the South African area.
The banksia were my favorite plants that day, and seeing this Banksia repens blooming away in the ground contented me with my purchase of the very same plant earlier in the day.
It was quite breezy the day I visited, and the wind made a plaintive whistling through the grove of casuarina as I wandered underneath. The magnificent boulders like the ones under the acacia were strewn throughout the garden, as though a glacier had placed them. They were much too strategically placed for that though, in my opinion. Maybe some artful rearranging?
Never in my life had I seen so many lust-worthy plants in one place. This garden left me a bit befuddled. The scale was that of a world-class botanical garden, but it felt so devoid of human life, almost post-apocalyptic.
My recent road trip to Southern California yielded, among other things, a fruitful trip to an amazing nursery in Casitas Spings, a small community between Ventura and Ojai. The day I visited was extremely windy and bright, making photography challenging. Still, there were quite a few things that caught my lens. Jo O’Connell, who runs this nursery, is an extremely knowledgable and friendly nurserywoman. I emailed her in advance of my visit and she was happy to let me wander her primarily mail order/wholesale nursery. She explained to me that she was brought out to Ventura County from her native Australia to help create a botanical garden in Ojai, a garden that I was hoping to visit after stopping by Australian Native Plants.
Eye-poppingly cobalt blue Lechenaultia biloba blooms away in one of the hoop houses. A short lived sub-shrub in the Goodeniaceae family. Other members include Scaevola and Brunonia.
Some of the most incredible leaf and flower shapes come from the Australian Proteaceae. Grevillea petrophiloides, colloquially known as pink pokers. Supposedly quite hardy, one of the more unusual flower color combinations.
Jo had an incredible display of Banksia cones in the shop, showcasing the diversity of this incredible genus.
Many species of Banksia are pollinated by birds, but the ones with higher fertilization rates (the ones in the back with more seeds) are more likely pollinated by mammals, such as sugar gliders. The stiff, brush-like styles work as combs on fur, collecting pollen as the critter works over the flower. Banksia ericifolia above.
Another shot showing the incredible symmetry of the flower.
This Grevillea ‘Bonfire’ was loaded with flowers. Every single branch was weighed down with hundreds of engine-red blooms.
Not all of Jo’s plants are from Australia. This Protea comes from South Africa, parts of which also have a mediterranean climate and depleted soils. Jo explained to me that there were trials currently being conducted at the Taft Botanical Garden in Ojai on the drought tolerance of Australian plants compared with those of native Californians. If I remember correctly, the Australian plants were much more economical with water usage. I’ll have to delve deeper into this at some point.
The day was flying by, and I still wanted to visit the Taft Garden in Ojai. With my purchase safely tucked into the back of my car, I got directions to the garden. Leucospermum above. Not what I left with, but a gorgeous plant all the same.
Every month on the 15th, garden bloggers across the country post pictures of what is currently blooming. This is my first bloom day, and as is my usual style, I’m pushing it in just under the wire. It’s midterm week, what can I say? Here are some blooms from my old and new gardens. A visit to my former garden yielded some surprise bloomers, but more importantly, some succulent cuttings for an upcoming project.
Lupinus albifrons blooms away near the front sidewalk. Mostly grown for the gorgeous silver foliage, the blooms are a welcome bonus.
Silver and gold. With Anemanthele lessoniana in the background. The Pheasant’s tail grass, should be replaced every few years, the ones in the front are nearing their end.
This lovely evergreen perennial can be smelled before it is seen. Blooms sporadically throughout the year, most prolifically in late spring. The enchanting Verbena lilicina ‘De la Mina’
My camera seems to have been drawn to the California natives today. Dendromecon rigid hartfordii, the channel island bush poppy.
Coreopsis gigantea leans close to the sidewalk. A succulent member of the daisy family, this tickseed grows an ever taller trunk with a poof of foliage at the top. It can tend toward rattiness in the summer if the dying foliage isn’t cleaned up.
From a dirty kitchen window last spring, pre-lean.
Ceanothus ‘Yankee Point’ with buds of Leptospermum ‘Helen Strybing’. Plants should mingle.
One of the easiest tulips for the dry garden, Tulipa saxitilis almost glows. I’m not a big fan of pink, but this shade is luminescent.
Shown here in two stages, bud and senescence.
I’m a big fan of simple magnolia flowers. There is something calming about their cleanliness and scent. These miniature versions come from Michelia crassipes, possibly now lumped into Magnolia. Grown for reddish fuzz on the undersides of leaves and buds.
This tulip has come back astonishingly well for a hybrid tulip. No special care. Also not from my garden. An orgy of petals.
In tighter bud form.
Note to self: More flowers.
Last Wednesday, I found myself in dire need of a break from work and school. After having been stuck inside for a few days (a minor head cold turned into extreme light sensitivity), I opted to not spend the first day I was feeling almost human again stuck inside an office. With no solid plans in mind, I slowly sipped my first cup of morning coffee and admired the plants basking in the first rays of spring light.
Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’ extends its first hand-like flush of new foliage for the new year, almost in supplication. The foliage strangely develops variegation only after fully developing. Seeing the plants embracing the spring-like weather spurred me into action. I couldn’t possibly let this glorious day go by without exploring one of my favorite gardens.
With that in mind, I hopped into the car and headed down to the East Bay, where I made a brief stop at Annie’s Annuals in Richmond. Recently, possibly induced by spring cleaning efforts elsewhere, I’ve been burning up unused gift cards, and I just happened to have an Annie’s gift card with a small balance on it. Not that I ever seem to need an excuse to visit a nursery. No photos from that visit. It really was brief. I came away with a gorgeous Echeveria ‘Lola’, absolutely smothered in blooms and pristine. With no more time to waste, I jumped back into the car and made my way to Berkeley.
I never get tired of visiting this garden, there always seems to be something new and exciting being developed in the garden. Recently, a Julia Morgan building was transplanted from elsewhere on campus into the garden. Native plantings around most of the building have been implemented, and I’ve enjoyed watching them fill in (though I guess not enough to actually photograph them).
I seem to have made it for the very first blooms of the Ferraria, a splendid South African bulb with an incredible bloom and dessert-ey smell. This one was labeled only Ferraria sp.
A view down the hill from the South African section. Wednesday was very warm. The South African garden basks in southern exposure nearly all day, and the heat is amplified by the boulders placed to hold the soil in. I was nearly winded and sweating by the time I made my way back down the hill.
Looking down into the New Desert garden.
Bomarea caldasii blooms in the South American section. This delicate vine is related to Alstroemeria, the Peruvian lilies. I’ve long tried to get one of these established in my garden, with no luck.
Banksia spinulosa in the Australian section. Banksia are definitely some of my favorite plants, for their fantastic blooms and foliage. In their homeland, cartoonish depictions of Banksia are used to terrify children in the book series about the adventures of the Banksia men, Snugglepot and Cuddlepie.
That yellow blob in the middle is a particularly impressive specimen of Leucadendron eucalyptifolium in the South African garden. The glary conditions in the garden made for poor photo taking conditions.
Can’t remember which Dendrobium this is. I do remember being impressed by the long racemes of tiny flowers.
The orchid house was becoming uncomfortably hot, and I still had some lingering fatigue from being sick, so I wandered out for some fresh air.
This magnificent clump of Agave stricta looks like a hedgehog parade. It has a frenetic energy, looking like it’s in constant motion.
Always a cool customer, Agave celsii albicans ‘UCB’ is one of the more sought after agaves, yet very hard to find in cultivation. Luckily, one was given to me as a gift, and is resting its heels in a container in my garden.
Stenecereus eruca has found an interesting way to combat gravity: it doesn’t. Seen in the cactus house. I was starting to feel a bit gravity weary myself, so I decided to move on to my next adventure, where I of course only took one photo.
My last stop was at a nursery I had not been to in quite a while: The Dry Garden, in Oakland. This nursery has quite a few hard to find plants, especially succulents, in small affordable sizes. Also in large never-in-a-million-years prices, such as this gorgeous Agave attenuata ‘Ray of Light’. Fortunately one was available in a small pot and accompanied me home. By this time I was quite tired, so I headed back home.
Last year I left my garden. It was my first garden, and I shoehorned as many plants as I possibly could into it. They weren’t random plants: each one was carefully selected for foliage or bloom. My garden had no cohesive design, I simply placed plants in a way that pleased me. This garden taught me quite a few lessons that I hope to apply to future gardens.
My garden was in a constant state of upheaval. No project ever truly completed, the garden always had something to keep me occupied. A surprise success was this Banksia baxteri. It grew quickly from its four inch pot and bloomed. Banksias are hard to come by in our area, due to their general frost sensitivity. This one sailed through cold spells possibly due to its proximity to the house.
Passiflora actinia is a sweet little rambler, and one of the more delicate passion vines. Sadly it has been removed. This hanging terra-cotta pot of aloes and Rhipsalis still lives with me.
Passiflora x exoniensis and ‘Oaklandia’
Passiflora ‘Oaklandia’ sent out lanky bowers covered with dozens of these coral blooms. Once it got established, I never saw it out of bloom. Like many of my other plants, this was procured from Annie’s Annuals, an incredible nursery located just on the outskirts of Richmond’s Iron Triangle.
One of the many uses for agricultural tanks. People are catching on to their versatility in the garden. There is quite a demand for them. I took both of the tanks I had from the old garden. Hopefully I will be posting about their current state soon.
Red blooms catch my attention like no other color. I could never have enough red in the garden. These flowers of Calothamnus villosus appear a bit washed out in this photo, but they are a rich red in reality. This interesting Australian shrub is closely related to Callistemon, the bottlebrushes, but they have fused stamens rather than separate.
Pelargonium ionidiflorum, the celery scented geranium. Despite repeated sniffings, I never got so much as a hint of celery. A misnomer, perhaps? Celery scent or no, this small statured Pelargonium sent out blooms in mass quantities most of the year.
I’m always lured to the siren call of the “death rack” at any of the Big Box stores whenever I went in. I rarely adopted any of the plants there, but I took pity on this bougainvillea, which had been underwatered during a heatwave. With minimal care, it rebounded and rewarded me with these beautiful flowers.
Common as it may be, Calandrinia spectabilis knows how to cover ground in style. A succulent, all it requires is the occasional splash of water and an annual cut back to ensure fresh basal growth.
Bricks were my hardscaping element of choice. I love their versatility. They can be pulled up and rearranged fairly easily, perfect for the indecisive garden. Even better, they can often be found on Craigslist for free or almost free, like the ones in my circular patio above.
I was never good at positioning fussy hybrid tulips for maximum effect. They were often lost in the jumble of plants, fading away, never to be seen again. The purchase of a bag of species tulips proved to be a worthwhile investment, however. They came back better every year. Tulipa saxitilis is pictured here.
Gladiolus carneus was one of the South African bulbs I grew. One of my favorites for the cheerful profusion of flowers in spring. Never fussy, it quietly exits stage left once it’s done with its show, returning reliably with the first rains of fall.
Passiflora sanguinolenta delicate though it may look, was quite a trooper. Undaunted by its baking southwest facing position, it sent out a seemingly never ending stream of dainty pink flowers and fuzzy green wing-like foliage. Behind is Monopsis lutea, a member of the pea family that died suddenly and inexplicably while in full bloom.
I rarely met a grevillea I didn’t like. Their shrimpish blooms attract hummingbirds in droves and some are blessed with incredibly textured foliage as well, such as this Grevillea ‘Long John’.
Going through my old photos, I noticed that my lens tended to gravitate towards flowers. When acquiring a new plant, however, I was (and am) inevitably drawn to the foliage. After all, flowers are often fleeting.
The thing that I miss the most about the old garden is puttering around with my noble assistant. Lucy loved nothing more than to bask in the sun near the house, not batting an eye while I stumbled over her with a watering can, a bag of soil, or a shovel.
I’ve finally admitted to myself that I’ve come down with the cold. The runny nose and sore throat can no longer be blamed on allergies. Denial won’t make it go away, so I’m stuck indoors. Luckily, the wintry weather we were promised has been delivered. Perfect conditions for reminiscing over photos from previous years’ botanical garden visits. Spring will be here soon, and I’m excited to start the garden visiting season! (Okay, I admit I never really stopped visiting botanical gardens, but the best time is spring, summer, and fall.)
The entrance garden at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden is one of my favorite sections of the garden, design wise. Unlike the rest of the garden, which is divided by region, plants from many continents are represented here. Always a ham, Otatea acuminata aztecorum leans over a Beschorneria and a Xanthorrhoea (Dasylirion?).
Moving on to South Africa, my favorite section as far as plants go. Okay, I admit to having multiple favorites: Australia, Canary Islands, Mediterranean. I can’t pick just one!
Protea scolymocephala. Sonoma county is just too cold for most proteas, so I enjoy them here.
One more photo for good measure.
Diminutive Pelargonium lobatum, with blooms of Aloe plicatilis (They can’t make me call it Kumara!) behind. Really like the chocolatey purple with yellow. The purple was more brown in person.
I won’t post photos in any sort of order from here on out, I think it would better reflect my own experience visiting this garden to post them like I scuttled from one end of the garden back to the other, weaving all over the place like a drunken beetle. Which is exactly what I did.
Crested Pachypodium lamerei in cactus house. This plant is very well documented on the internet.
Hibiscus schizopetalum in tropical house. I’m glad this house was empty, because I probably looked insane trying to get a good picture of this flower. They dangle on very long peduncles (I love that word!) and the slightest waft of air sends them careening about.
Moving swiftly along
Hechtia texensis, in the New World Desert garden. Nature sure knows how to combine colors. I love these terrestrial bromeliads save for the fact that whatever flesh goes into those spines doesn’t come back quite as pristine.
The magnificent Eucalyptus kybeanensis. I can’t seem to track down any info about this eucalypt on the interwebs, shocking in this age of on-demand information.
Xeronema callistemon, the Poor Knight’s lily, is endemic to a couple of islands off the coast of New Zealand. I can’t recall it blooming on any of my other visits here.
Iris like foliage with oddball flowers. Strangely appealing. I like it.
Back in South Africa, Ferraria crispa blooms its little starfish flowers. I once got into a debate at a nursery about the scent of this particular flower. Depending on the nose, this can either smell wonderfully of vanilla custard, or exactly like carrion. I smell dessert, but I often see flies on these flowers, so I guess the vagaries of our olfactory genetics can be blamed for this conundrum.
In the orchid house, these insane looking flowers lean over into the Epidendrum‘s personal space.
Sarracenia blooms look like a child’s drawing of a flower to me. That innocent depiction belies their predatory nature.
Back to the entrance garden, Leucospermum reflexum ‘Yellow’ does its best impression of a space shuttle blasting off.
Shown in another stage, a bad hair day. A good plant to wrap up our visit to this incredible garden.
Can’t wait to see you again, UCB.