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 :~)

February 13, 2015

Flickr Friday: East Bay Wilds Native Plant Nursery

Photo by pete veilleux on Flickr.

This beautiful garden is so not mine. I love native plants and do try to use California natives in the yard, though, agave and succulent love notwithstanding. I have a little native oak; ceanothus; yucca and opuntias native to the foothills where I live; salvias, sage, a toyon... (Doesn't hurt that the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is just 45 minutes away.)  This article does an excellent job of describing just how important natives are
Landscape ecologists estimate that only 3 to 5 percent of the lower 48 states is undisturbed habitat for plants and animals. Farmland now covers more than half of the country. Most of the rest is taken up by suburban sprawl and about 40 million acres of lawns (“eight New Jerseys,” as Mr. Tallamy put it), along with highways, malls and growing cities. A world with half those lawns, he said, might have 20 million acres of habitat, or more than 13 national parks, including Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Adirondacks, if you added up the acreage.
Instead, thanks to vanishing habitats, Mr. Tallamy said, “We have 50 percent fewer birds than 40 years ago,” referring to results of yearly bird-banding studies that track those numbers. And some 230 species of North American birds are at risk of extinction, he added, citing the 2014 State of the Birds Report.
“But we can do something about this,” he said. “We can bring nature back to our yards.”

Amen, brother. And it's an easy call when native plants are this beautiful.

February 12, 2015

Clouds at Sunset

Wish it weren't so shaky, but ay caramba, the clouds were beautiful.  Took the video back on February 1st — I was at the Crafton Hills trailhead off Oak Glen Road, on the way home.

Aloe Walk Weekend: Sunday

Cannot. remember. its name [weeps]. Camperi...? 

Aloe Walk Saturday was terrific, and the next day was even better, if such a thing can be imagined. I'd talked to a fellow member of the Gates Cactus & Succulent Society earlier in the week and arranged to meet him on Sunday to pick up an Aloe marlothii. His garden was a marvel. I was too busy gaping at the aloes in the front and the drop-dead gorgeous Agave bovicornuta and the titanotas and ocotillos and greenhouses in the back to take many photos, but I had a great time.

And I made a trade — always a delight, especially when it happens out of the blue. We were looking at the ocotillos and I said that I had a hybrid (this one) in a pot at home and he said, "You do?!" Turned out he'd been looking for that hybrid, and I was happy to trade it away. Between the trade and the purchases, I wound up with a little Aloe ramosissima, my marlothii, a variegated Agave shawii, a little titanota 'Black and Blue,' an Aloe karasbergensis, and a lovely (no, seriously) Calibanus hookeri. Some cuttings as well. Note to self: your yard is not getting any bigger. I imagine there are people with dining room tables bigger than my backyard. (In related news, I look forward to the day when "How am I going to arrange all these plants?" is the biggest problem anyone on earth has to deal with :~/ )

This coming Saturday is the second Aloe Walk, with special Granite Hill Nursery goodness, so I'll be back. (Giving the San Diego Show and Sale a miss, this time around.) Then home for a flinty-eyed look at the backyard.

February 11, 2015

Sunrise in Arctic Bay

Sunrise from Clare Kines on Vimeo"Three months after it set, the Sun reappears in Arctic Bay. Time lapse from about 10am to 2pm"

In addition to being the best birder in Baffin County, Nunavut, Clare Kines is a great photographer. Check out his Flickr photostream here.

February 9, 2015

Aloe Walk Weekend: Saturday

At the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center. Mood: real darn happy. 

Just an excellent SoCal winter weekend. The weather was fine, there were lots of birds and beautiful aloes and agaves everywhere I looked, and I found cool plants at at the Discovery Center's Granite Hill Nursery. Even made a cool plant trade, yay. 

Saturday morning was the annual Aloe Walk at the JMDC, led by succulent master Buck Hemenway. (We actually spent more time with cactus and agaves than with aloes. A good group — Riverside Master Gardeners were there in force, taking lots of notes.) Buck and Yvonne Hemenway are in the process of moving to South Africa, and both were impressively bright-eyed on Saturday morning given the fact that they'd flown back from Africa on Friday. They've been very active (read "irreplaceable") in the local cactus and succulent societies for years, and it's a huge understatement to say they'll be missed. 

Some photos from the walk:

Aloe wickensii, now high on the want list.

Horrida? Lophantha? Tons of lophanthas nearby.


The grail...! Aloe marlothii. I have one of my own now, yay.

Looking northeast. 

Cylindropuntia City. 

There were agaves blooming everywhere.

Cochineal. You could do a total Lady Macbeth with this stuff, as Buck demonstrated.

Marah fabaceus, the California Manroot. Vine grows from a single taproot "as big as a man," or so they say.

This variegated Agave shawii just knocked me out. Traded for one the next day — a nice surprise.

Nutritious and delicious.

California's own: Agave shawii.

So beautiful. I got a little one at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden last year — still tiny.

My spoils. (Not shown: Mangave 'Bloodspot.' Such a wonderful day.) The lophantha and the titanota are for actual landscaping in my tiny yard, since I know they won't get too huge. The guiengolas are for the kitchen window. Kidding! They'll stay in containers and get humongous and need all kinds of protection from frost, not to mention snow, but I've always wanted a guiengola and when I saw the two of them sitting in the nursery, it felt like fate. $4.95...! 

February 8, 2015

Marlothii on my mind

OMG, they're everywhere. Good video, by the way. (Aloes, agaves start at 5:23.) I wonder where this was filmed...