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 :~)


  1. Agree about the three bloggers mentioned in the first paragraph, original and inspiring, no ads nor book sales or design services promotions. we are so lucky to have them here. Glad that you showed the parking spaces or lack thereof and explained the pricing system. That grevillea is the prettiest color I think I've seen.

  2. It's a hugely fun nursery to visit. Being next door to a Starbucks doesn't hurt, either. Isn't that grevillea lovely? I hope I can keep it alive through summer heat and winter freezes...

  3. Wow! Great post and fabulous photos. Do you have any idea how jealous I am that you and Hoov got to shop plants at the Huntington? And look at your list of purchases, way to go! At the CCC I loved that 'Snow Glow' in the red rectangle pot that you show, such an unusual shape choice for a container. I wish I'd been aware of the price/letter key. Next time!

    1. Oh, thank you so much! All credit to my brave little iPhone -- and they didn't change the sign, we just photographed different ones. [I should have checked Google 'street view' earlier.] I think I could visit the CCC every day for a week and not see everything. And I still can't get over that mind-boggling sale at the Huntington -- hope I can be there for the next one!

  4. Your post made me restless--itchy to jump in the car and hit south. I should have stopped at the CCC when I went to the Huntington last December; frankly, I didn't know at the time it was that close. Yes, their plants may be more expensive, but they all look so perfect. And the selection looks huge! Next time for sure!

    The Huntington plant sale is a dream come true. Many of the plants you bought haven't made it to to Northern California yet. Above all, I can't wait to see photos of the aloe hybrids you got since I'd never near of 'Spiney' or 'Jeff Karsner'.

    1. I can't wait to visit the Cactus Center again. When the traffic gods are in a good mood it's just an hour or so from my house. What's killing me: all the things I'm noticing now in the photos that I missed when I was there. And yes, the Huntington was exactly like a dream come true -- low prices included. The stuff dreams are made of...

  5. Luisa, were you the kind person helping me to pick out the best 'Rum Runner'? Was that you? And then I asked you to check a tag on an aeonium, because I had it at home and didn't know its identity. Pushy, aren't I? If that was you, it was a pleasure to meet you. What lovely plants you bought too.

    1. Ha! Were we both juggling boxes of plants? And was I a huge, gray-haired woman in sort of a Heisman Trophy pose over the Rum Runners? Yes, a pleasure to meet, indeed!


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