March 15, 2015

The California Cactus Center, and a plant sale at the Huntington

They changed the sign! I can totally use this photo now.

First things first: for great photos and savvy writing on this EXACT SAME TOPIC, please visit Danger Garden's post about a December visit to the California Cactus Center, and see Piece of Eden's post on the Huntington Garden Talk & Sale. Awesome posts, both of them. If A Growing Obsession (who was also there) writes a post about the sale as well, it will be a hat trick of fave blogger convergence, and I will die of happiness. 

So on Thursday I went to the Huntington Garden Talk & Sale, and on the way I stopped at the California Cactus Center

In case you visit:

You'll need to be headed north (thanks to a center divider) on Rosemead Blvd. The gray car is turning into the Starbucks driveway. See the narrow entrance to the Cactus Center? Inside the fence is a tiny parking lot. If you drive a smallish car, no problem — but if you drive a truck, oy. Next time I'll back in (or try parking at Starbucks).

(To get to the Huntington from the Cactus Center, take Del Mar west to Allen, turn south on Allen, and follow Allen to the Huntington entrance. "Takes about eight minutes," said the nice lady at the CC. Add extra time if you drive a truck and have to contort your way out of the tiny parking lot.)

At the edge of the parking area is a good-sized Calibanus hookeri. The caudex can get as big as a VW bug, or so they say. It's in the terra cotta pot on the right:

See the lizard? The place was jumping with them — made me so happy. How cool is it to see lizards chasing each other around in the middle of a big city?

"a small, [scaly] rebuke to our commonplace notion that nature exists only in places other than our own" [Paraphrase from this fine article]

I bought two big bags of potting mix:

Agave guiengola Creme Brulee! Love this agave so much. This was a perfect one, with perfect pups. 

I should mention how patient and helpful the Cactus Center staff members are, and if you buy several plants they may cut you a deal. Prices are certainly higher than they are in my area, but not crazy-high. This agave, at just over $100, was actually cheaper than a pupless, just-as-large-but-not-nearly-as-nice Creme Brulee at a big nursery in my neck of the woods. Should add that I got nice little Creme Brulee pups for $4.99, and one this size for $24.99 (at a special sale), at the Jurupa Discovery Center Nursery

Oh, boy :~) Plants and more plants. Beautiful plants. Pots everywhere. Some of these pots look familiar... There's an Aloe (Aloidendron?) ramosissima in a pot on the top shelf at upper left, and yowza, an Aloe (Aloidendron?) pillansii in the lower left hand corner. I didn't ask how much.

Aloe ferox above, Agave attenuata below:

Shared a psychic moment with Danger Garden — looking right (ocotillo fences), looking left...

Potted plants galore, in plain pots, art pots, 1930s-1940s pots... and one corner of the store has top dressing for sale, all colors and shapes. Some of the nicest plants are in special pots, and the price goes up accordingly.

I loved the jumble of plants around the edges of the property.

 Agave schidigera 'Shira ito no Ohi':

 And the one I really, really wanted. 'Snow Glow':

Of all the pots I saw, this was my favorite:

Have an agave bursting out of its container?  The Cactus Center will repot succulents for you. I saw a huge 'Kissho Kan' awaiting some badly needed TLC — the owner was on vacation, and had left several plants to be repotted.

I'm sure landscape designers love this place:

Many plants are marked with a letter instead of a price — there was a chart at the front desk that showed the corresponding prices. Some plants had price tags:  

And some had blooms.

My spoils: an Agave cupreata, a Tradescantia spathacea tricolor, and an Agave titanota that I should have left alone. I love titanotas, especially the Felipe Otero gnarly-marginal-spines variety, and I have a few of them. I tell myself that they provide a sense of continuity (as if a 20 x 50 ft garden needs something to pull it together):

Karen Zimmerman's talk on Aloes was supposed to start at 2:30, and I was on time, along with five other people. POTUS traffic slowdown, apparently. By 3:00, when the lecture began, the room was packed. Hoover Boo gives a fine rundown of the lecture over at Piece of Eden: it was a good talk [I took a heap of notes], and the sale afterwards was amazing. I sat on the left — Hoov B sat somewhere on the right:

I don't mind crowds a bit as long as the thundering herd doesn't beat me to the plants I'm after, and at the Huntington sale on Thursday I cleaned up. A big Grevillea 'Long John' for $37.50? Yes indeed. 

For those interested, the Huntington has plant sales after almost every Second Thursday Garden Talk, and I am so marking all of them on my calendar. (I also added a link in the right sidebar.) Won't get to most of them (thanks, day job), but ay caramba, what an experience. No sale like this one next month, since the Huntington's big Spring Plant Sale will be held in April. 

Here's what I brought home:

Agave titanota (Huntington clone "with especially corky and toothy leaf margins," a rocking gnarly-spined one)
Agave isthmensis 'Rum Runner' (got two, love this plant)
Manfreda brachystachys
Dudleya (brittonii or pulverulenta or anthonyi "or hybrid of these" -- anyhow, a beautiful little dudleya)

The wonderful Huntington volunteers were shuttling people and plants to the parking lot in a fleet of electric carts. When I retire, I think I'd like to volunteer at the Huntington.

It was a perfectly excellent day. I drove back to the Starbucks on Rosemead, got food and tea for the journey, enjoyed one last look at the California Cactus Center from the Starbucks drive-thru, hopped on the freeway... and spent almost. three. hours. driving home. Thank god for Puccini. View from Starbucks:

Have taken a few thousand photos of the grevillea :~)

March 3, 2015


Euphorbia antisyphilitica.

It was a terrific weekend, and a curiously busy one, given the cold and the rain. (41°F here at the moment, humidity 85% — this morning there was ice in a saucer on the potting bench. I put frost cloth over some of the plants last night.) But the weekend was a marvel.

On Saturday I drove over to Riverside to pick up some cuttings from the brilliant and extraordinarily generous Reuben Muñoz of Rancho Reubidoux. Reuben is an artist, and his garden took my breath away. I can't begin to say how wonderful it was to see the Rancho. Exactly-right quote from Denise Ginger of A Growing Obsession
What I wish I could convey is the extraordinary sense of moving through this fiercely personal landscape, because Reuben’s artistry lies in modeling space. One-dimensional photos capture the vignette compositions but in no way convey how each vignette is related to the whole, the careful planning of sight lines and attention to flow around plants and seating areas. What you can’t get from photos is the immersive sense of being in a wholly unique space that envelopes and seduces. 
Yes, perfect. Read the rest of Denise's great post on the Rancho here. I didn't have a camera: for terrific photos, visit Reuben's excellent blog.

The cuttings (the Euphorbia pictured above, and a Pedilanthus) are already on their way north to Gerhard Bock of Succulents and More. (A swap: Gerhard very generously sent me a box filled with cool plants a few weeks ago.)  I took Reuben a little Agave titanota and an Aloe suprafoliata. Had a little Euphorbia ferox for him as well, but forgot it at home, so will drop it off next time. And Reuben gave me a piece of his awesome blue cactus! He said he'd mailed another piece to Pam Penick of Digging the day before. When temps are warmer I'll pot mine up.

I can't thank Reuben enough for his time and trouble, and kindness and generosity.

Oh, and then I went to Gloria's. Whenever I visit Riverside I try to stop by my fave Gloria's Nursery, and of course I bought some plants. Here's a big new aloe, with windbreak-y boxes, before I threw some frost cloth over everything. ID, anyone?

Same plant, flower buds:

Gloria's has two of the biggest agaves I think I've ever seen, both salmianas. One is blooming:

Salmianas, from uphill:

Back home, the lemon tree is getting ready to blossom. No matter how many bags of lemons I give away, the amount of fruit on the tree never seems to change. I think I'll ask Reuben if he and Paul would like some lemons.

February 16, 2015

Our characteristic pose

Jasper on my lap, Lulu napping, Smoke, as always, holding the fort. 

Dedicated to the memory of Chess, a purebred border collie, late of the wise, wry, and excellent blog the miserable gardener. It is not often that someone comes along who is a true friend and a good writer. Chess was both. [Pace tua, E.B. White.]

Photo from this past October.

February 15, 2015

Valentine's Day Aloe Walk and Plant Sale

An old dinosaur sings to his evolved-dinosaur neighbors — birds are nesting in the euphorbia to the left of the sign. 

Back to Jurupa and Granite Hill Nursery, this time for the early-bird plant sale. From the JMDC website: 
New plants coming to Granite Hill Nursery at JMDC. We will have an early showing of our 1900+ new plants following the February 14th Aloe Walk. A $5 donation before February 12th gets you a ticket and access to the new plants, refreshments, entered in a raffle for a plant valued at $20 or greater, and any purchases that day over $50 will get you a gift certificate of $5 for your next purchase on another day at Granite Hill Nursery. 
Granite Hill Nursery at JMDC has a large variety of species of cacti and succulents in a range of sizes. Much of our stock comes from our growing fields and propagation houses. The rest is from rescue, donations or outside suppliers.
We have many varieties of Ferocactus acanthodes, barrel cactus. Size range from 12 " tall to 4 feet tall. The best price anywhere for these extraordinary plants. Buy your own piece of California Native history. Our selections are always changing, so stop by often. Granite Hill Nursery's hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm and Sunday noon to 4:30 pm.
I would love to tell you that the place was packed, especially since the parking lot had been overflowing for Buck Hemenway's Aloe Walk the week before, and the nursery was full of succulent goodness. I was gobsmacked that only a couple dozen people were there for the February 14 Sale. I know, I know, San Diego... and Valentine's Day... but I think a big part of it was that the JMDC just doesn't loom large on anyone's radar. On the other hand, it's the kind of quirky place I love, because interesting plants seem to turn up, and prices are good. There might, for example, be an Agave guiengola 'Creme Brulee' that happens to be just as big and twice as nice as the one you've seen at that popular nursery across town, only theirs is $130, and the one at Granite Hill is $24.99. You might find a nice Aloe africana. You never know. (Should add that there were some hardcore, out-of-town plant nerds present that weren't at the walk, but came for the sale. Got some good tips on cheap Desert Museum Palo Verdes, and I learned that fave local native Salvia pachyphylla is available now at Rancho Santa Ana.)

I would also love to tell you that the JMDC gardens are terrific. Sadly, no — right now some areas look quite neglected. Word is that the gardens were once much nicer. But they have lots of potential, and I'm optimistic about their future, because the new director joined us on the Aloe Walk, manned the sales tables, and showed that he knows a thing or two about outreach — UC Riverside Botanic Garden partnership? Yes! I'm keeping an eye on the JMDC and Granite Hill Nursery.

Photos from the February 14 Aloe Walk and Plant Sale:

That color.

Huge Agave victoriae-reginae.

Victoriae-reginae with an old, OLD bloom stalk — yet the plant is still green...

"Hybrid," said Buck last week.

Euphorbia tirucalli, Portulacaria afra. Mounds and mounds of Portulacaria afra. Place needs an elephant.

Agave shawii. Love them.

Return of the Cactus Pad... of Doom!

Something reminds me: visit the museum.

We passed a forest of euphorbia on our way back to the nursery for the sale. (Cactus are in pots, waiting to be moved to their own area.)

Through a shade cloth, darkly — can it be...?

It IS. OMGuiengola. (Last week I bought two smaller pups like those on the right.)

Buckled up safely for the ride home. 

Also: Aloe africana. Some Kelly Griffin hybrid aloes. And yet another titanota, the FO-076 variety that looks just like this. What an awesome morning. Did I mention the chocolate-dipped strawberries? They were delicious. Thank you, JMDC and Granite Hill Nursery! 

February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day!

In the running for cutest photo ever. Taken in Yosemite, I'm sure :~)