April 9, 2015

Extra strength

From strength to extra strength, California. Terra cotta pipe is from Stephen Penn.

Turns out that industrial salvage may be what transforms a ragtag collection of potted succulents into a garden. Who knew? Anyhow, what a blast I had last Friday over at Stephen Penn's Art Garden. (Huge thanks to Reuben of Rancho Reubidoux for encouraging me to visit.) Stephen, Raul and the crew were busy preparing to move the Vintage Garden-Industrial-Architectural Salvage operation to a new home, but Stephen spent over an hour showing me around and uncovering all sorts of rusty treasures. He was incredibly generous with his time and his collection, and I can't wait to go back. (The new location is closer to me, yay! I'll post more details as I get them.)

I brought home a truckload of wonderful things, including some fabulous rocks, industrial tools, some pipes, a cart, a metal box to put on the cart, some sturdy blue metal shelves, a manhole cover, a surveyor's marker (I think), and a few smaller items for DIY projects. I'm still figuring out what to do with everything. 

Stephen added this black iron pipe thing to the stack o' purchases before I left. I put it on an old plant stand, and now it makes me think of a dressmaker's form from the 1800s:

In other news, I located my old Canon point-and-shoot. Don't adjust your screens — the blurry photo below was the first non-iPhone shot I've taken in over a year :~/

(How do I work this thing again?)

OK, that's a little better. Aloe erinacea, from the UCR sale.

"Hey, you!"

"Yeah, you. You talkin' to me?" Hummingbirds are feistier than ever.

Opuntia (santa-rita?), new growth.

Agave titanota. I love titanotas, and this may be my favorite of the eight or ten here.

Aloe suprafoliata at dusk and out of focus, but oh, that blue. Plant was acquired as a rescue by my local cactus and succulent club.

Finally, I am now a member of the 35% siblinghood. Conserve every drop of water you can, people, and pray/hope/meditate/hold good thoughts for rain. I'll get by all right with my rock lawn and my backyard that is nine-tenths patio, but when I look at photos of Hoov B's garden I could weep. Read this post, and the comments, over at Piece of Eden, for more on the drought and the mandate to cut water use. I thought of Tom Stoppard's play when I read the comments. Et in Arcadia ego: "Even in Arcadia, there am I." 

April 1, 2015

Valley View

Another great photograph by Marc Crumpler. I can smell the grass, and hear the dawn chorus: birds, insects. Imagine the cattle on a thousand hills. California.

UC Riverside Botanic Gardens Spring Plant Sale, and more

Not UCR. Lowe's, in Redlands.

'Swamped' should have been the title of this post. In a good way: back to work after Spring Break, running to nurseries and plant sales, doing a little flashlight gardening in the warm inland evenings.

Note: what follows is in reverse chronological order.

Tuesday afternoon I ran over to Cherry Valley Nursery to buy some rock, and wound up with a wonderful plant. No, not the lovely Jasminum polyanthum I may spring for someday, but a wonderful hybrid calliandra that sounds perfect on paper:  "It performs best in full sun, and thrives in reflected heat exposures. The stems are hardy to about 18° F and the plant is root hardy to at least 15° F."  Wonderful pale branches. A photo from Flickr:

On Monday I stopped by Lowe's in Redlands to pick up some cleaning supplies. Apparently I arrived right after Altman Plants delivered the biggest order of succulents ever, or so it seemed. Not just agaves, but titanotas! (The titanotas are in the second row, right behind the Kissho Kans in the photo up top.) And Xerosicyos danguyi! I pounced on this one — check out Reuben's great photos of Xerosicyos at the Rancho.

On Sunday I thought deep thoughts about my garden. I love succulent collections, and I love beautiful gardens, and I want my succulent collection to be subsumed within a lovely garden. I love native plants, and want lots of them. I want birds and lizards to be happy here. I like the patio to be free of leaves, and I want to be able to move around, sweep, prune, and water, without impaling myself on spines and without knocking things over. The dogs need a bit of space. And since I spend a lot of time at the cabin each summer, and will spend even more time there when I retire, I need a water-wise garden that doesn't need constant attention. All this in the small, mostly patio, mostly pots, place that I rent. First, I need to do something with those cinder-block plant shelves. Fun project, eh.

Saturday was the UC Riverside Botanic Gardens Spring Plant Sale. If you ever go to one of the UCR sales (and they are super), keep in mind that there are always crowds. Parking is quite a ways from the garden, but there are shuttles to spare you the hike uphill, and kind volunteers at the garden entrance who will watch your plants while you take the shuttle back down to the parking lot, retrieve your vehicle, and return to the entrance to load everything up.

The only glitch on Saturday involved checkout. There are two lines (one for cash/check, and the other for credit cards). The lines always stretch to the moon, and there is always a wait, but this year the pace was really glacial. I had hoped to drive out to Claremont afterwards for the Sage Festival at Rancho Santa Ana, silly me, and so I was in line with my wheelbarrow o' plants by noon.

And there I stayed, for a blazing hot hour and a half. A volunteer — eyes narrow, mouth grim — had warned me that "new people" had devised a "better" system for checkout that was actually much slower than ever before. In any event, by the time I finally reached the front of the line, paid for my plants, fetched my truck, returned to the garden entrance and loaded everything up, it was after 2:00 — and the Sage Festival ended at 3:00. I threw in the towel and headed home.

The wheelbarrow:

Sharkskin agave in the bow, next to a Grevillea 'Canberra Gem.' On the opposite side, Distictis buccinatoria, another Ceanothus 'Concha,' and a Baja Spurge, Euphorbia xanti. In the brown box, two rosemaries, a ruby muhly, Euphorbia 'Dean's Hybrid,' and a Ludisia. (I blame Danger Garden for the Ludisia. Those leaves! It will go up to the cabin as a house plant for the summer.)

Here's the green box:

Some cacti in there. An agave 'Cream Spike' at the bottom next to a little red Adenium obesum. Two aloes: capitata var. quartziticola. Yet another Toumeyana bella, because they are tiny and tough and I love them. A really little Aloe erinacea. And almost hidden up at the top, in the middle, the find of the day: Yucca endlichiana. What a cool plant. Up close:

I should add that I'm taking boxes full of plants to donate to the local CSS at tonight's meeting: sort of a "one comes in, two must leave" kind of tough love. I'm getting a clearer picture of what works and what doesn't in my little patio. Kelly Griffin is tonight's speaker... and of course there will be interesting plants available. [Edited to add: home from work with a bug; may not make meeting. If not, will cry.]

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.