Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Botanical paradise with a view: Mary and Lew Reid garden

This post continues the tour of the private gardens in Sonoma County, California I had the privilege of visiting as part of Pacific Horticulture Society’s Summit 2016. The first garden we saw was garden designer Roger Raiche’s place in Guerneville. Stop #2 was Mary and Lew Reid’s garden outside of Sebastopol. This is how it was described in the 2016 Summit program:

Mary and Lew Reid’s garden is 25 years old and ever changing. Lew, who never passes up a chance to grow a plant, and Mary, a landscape designer, have the pure pleasure of creating this beautiful garden painting high above Sonoma County’s lowlands, The zone 8 setting makes it possible to grow just about anything, and their garden is filled with plants from all over the world. What matters most to them is the juxtaposition of foliage colors and textures. Carefully considered, these carry the garden throughout the year. You’ll see it in its autumn glory.

It took quite a while to get there from the first garden. The roads were getting narrower, and the houses fewer in number and farther apart. Eventually we realized that this was not going to be your ordinary property. I didn’t know how large it was at the time, but a search of public records revealed that it’s 55 acres.


In the photo above you see the entrance to the fenced section of the property. The area where we parked, off to left, had room for a dozen or more cars, Oh, to have the luxury of so much space! (I allowed myself a brief moment of indulgence just now but stopped before I got carried away.)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

More is more: designer Roger Raiche’s personal garden

Last weekend, I attended the Pacific Horticulture Society’s Summit 2016 held at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, CA. Under the motto “Changing Times, Changing Charges: Shaping a New Environment,” the two-day event featured a series of diverse presentations exploring “how gardens are evolving in the face of climate change, with inspiration coming from our natural surroundings as well as from innovations in water conservation and land management.” The speakers ranged from landscape architects with experience in private and public projects (Thomas Rainer, Michelle Sullivan) to garden designers (Bob Hyland, Marilee Kuhlmann) to nursery owner and plantsman extraordinaire Phil Van Soelen, owner of Cal Flora Nursery in Sonoma County.


Roger Raiche’s house: subtle clues notwithstanding, it’s often difficult to know what treasures might be hiding behind fences and gates

Sunday’s program included a self-guided driving tour of Sonoma County with more than 30 stops—everything from private gardens, public gardens and spaces, nurseries, wineries, and even “on the road” attractions such as bakeries, cheese and ice cream shops. Knowing that the public places are open and accessible year round, my partner-in-crime Kathy Stoner of GardenBook and I decided to focus on the private gardens. Sonoma County is large (1,576 square miles, 4,080 km²) and driving between the gardens took time. In the end, Kathy and I managed to visit three of the five private gardens. As is so often the case, we underestimated how engaging gardens can be and how easy it is to lose track of time when you get lost in plant-related reveries.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fall plant sale excitement at UC Davis Arboretum

We may not have the best selection of nurseries here in Northern California (the Portland area is hard to beat) but we have great public gardens. And many of them have one or even multiple plant sales in the fall.

I’ve already been to the Ruth Bancroft Garden fall sale, always a personal favorite. Last Saturday I missed the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum sale (I was at the 2016 Pacific Horticulture Summit in Santa Rosa, CA). But this Saturday I will go to the second of three fall plant sales at the UC Davis Arboretum.

2016-10-18_17-43-08_1I’ve been critical of their plant selections in the past (same old plants, nothing new and exciting) but they have dramatically changed the scope of what they offer. Yes, there are still the stalwarts Davis gardeners seem to like, but the number of succulents they offer has tripled or quadrupled in the last couple of years. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

They’re now also selling newly introduced hybrids in a wide variety of genera, from Agastache to Helleborus to Westringia. They even have a bunch of intergeneric hybrids like ×Heucherella (Heuchera × Tiarella), ×Mangave (Manfreda × Agave), ×Echibeckia (Echinacea × Rudbeckia) and a newly released ×Sedoro (Sedum × Orostachys) from Chris Hansen called ‘Blue Elf’.

Lots to be excited about!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Replacing mealybug-infested aeoniums

In recent years we’ve focused almost exclusively on the front yard, from tearing out an old pittosporum hedge to replacing the front lawn. In the process, the backyard has gotten short shrift.

Last weekend I completed what I hope was the first of many backyard projects to be tackled this fall: redoing the planting strip on the north side of house.

This is what it looked like before:


October 1, 2016

Not only was this bed completely overgrown, most of the aeoniums were infested with mealybugs. I had initially considered trying to save as many of the aeoniums as I could, but in the end I decided to toss them all and go a different route.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

My best pictures from a recent photography workshop at the Ruth Bancroft Garden

Last Saturday I took my first-ever photography workshop at the Ruth Bancroft Garden. I would have missed it if Kathy Stoner of GardenBook hadn’t brought it to my attention—thank you, Kathy.

The workshop was billed for beginners, and while after 30+ years of taking photos I’m not exactly a novice, I thought it would be great to have early access to the garden (8 a.m.) in order to take advantage of the best light.

And the light was sweet indeed! The silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa) near the back fence, one of the garden’s signature trees and in full flower right now, was spectacular backlit by the morning sun.

I think this might be the most beautiful photo I’ve ever taken at the Ruth Bancroft Garden:


Agave ‘Mr Ripple’ and silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Ruth Bancroft Garden 2016 fall plant sale recap

After an unseasonal heat wave a week ago it’s finally beginning to feel like fall. And fall means plant sale time. Last weekend it was Ruth Bancroft Garden’s turn. Their spring and fall sales are always a personal highlight, especially since I use the opportunity to check out what’s new in the garden.

Last Saturday I took a photography workshop at the RBG that allowed us early access (8 a.m.). I’ll show you my best photos later in the week. Today’s post is about the plant sale, which started at 10 a.m..


New banner in the nursery

In the “old” days, the plant sales at the RBG were a big deal. The retail nursery was small and only offered a limited selection year round. For the sales, the garden staff brought in a large amount of plants that were not available otherwise.

The expansion of the retail nursery in February 2015 has taken the pressure off the twice-a-year plant sales because the nursery has such a large permanent inventory now. Fortunately, they still bring in special plants specifically for the sales so the thrill of discovering something new is still very much alive. In addition, RBG members receive a generous discount of 20% during the sale, which sweetens the deal even more.


Inside the covered nursery area

Friday, September 30, 2016

2016 Succulent Extravaganza plant porn (2 of 2)

Continuing my coverage of the 2016 Succulent Extravaganza at Succulent Gardens in Castroville, CA. If you haven’t seen part 1 yet, it’s here.

Saturday, September 24 was a hot day for Castroville. The afternoon high was 86°F, a good 10 degrees above the historical average. Inside the retail greenhouse, I’m sure it was in the low 90s. Usually people seem to focus on the plants. This year I heard a lot of complaints about the weather. California, what can I say!

By noon, I was beginning to feel hot as well but I forced myself to soldier on for the sake of my blog and you, my intrepid readers. Fortunately, that was not a difficult thing to do, considering how many stunning plants there are. No matter where you look, there’s something to ooh and aah over.


The aeonium equivalent of “Ebony and Ivory”


Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’ and Aloe cameronii

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

2016 Succulent Extravaganza plant porn (1 of 2)

The 2016 Succulent Extravaganza at Succulent Gardens in Castroville, California has come and gone. I’ve been so busy this year that I completely forgot to advertise it here on Succulents and More. I did remember to post an advance notice on my Facebook page so I’m hoping many of you knew about it and attended.

Succulent Extravaganza started in 2011 when Succulent Gardens, Northern California’s largest succulent grower, was still owned by the legendary Robin Stockwell, plantsman and surfer extraordinaire. In October 2014, just after the fourth Extravaganza, the nursery was bought by brothers John and Dennis Rodkin, and John's wife Megan. The 2016 Extravaganza was the Rodkins’ second, and even though things that used to be free (like the Friday evening BBQ, and coffee and donuts on both Friday and Saturday morning) are no longer free, the event is still compelling for its lineup of speakers and, of course, for the extraordinary plants in the demo gardens (and for sale). Personally, I think the nursery has never looked this good—and the demonstration plants this well cared for.

Even though I was there for all the previous Extravaganzas (2011 | 2012 | 2013 | 2014 | 2015) and have taken thousands of photos at Succulent Gardens, I managed to add 300 more this time. The wonderful thing about gardens and plants in general is that they are in a constant state of flux. Nothing ever stands still, and plants that you thought couldn’t look any better sometimes get even more attractive over time.

I have very little self-control when it comes to taking photos (or editing them) so I will regale you with a cornucopia of photographic treasures from this year’s event. I’m aiming to spread out the wealth over two posts but I’m not done working on my photos yet so there may be more.

Without any further ado, let’s get started.

This is one of the first sights you might see as you walk up to the nursery:


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Succulents and more in the front yard, late September 2016

This post picks up where I left off here. Let’s take a look at the succulents and other goodies growing outside the fenced-in front yard proper.

This the entrance to the fenced-in front yard:


Facing the view you see in the photo above, you would have the driveway in your back. Turn around, and this is what you see:


There are still a few flowers on the palo verde! This tree has been an impressive performer at all levels.

The strip between our house and our neighbor’s house is a another small succulent area. Two trees anchor it: the Bearss lime tree at the sidewalk end, and the ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde at the garage end.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wet stuff from the sky, and quick front yard update

Wet stuff from the sky? What could that possibly be?

While we’re not quite Arrakis, it’s been a long time since we’ve had this in Davis:


I had almost forgotten what it looks like, feels like, smells like (the smell is always my favorite element).


Alas, within five minutes the spectacle was gone. Ten minutes later, there was no trace it had ever happened.