Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Revisiting John Kuzma's fusion garden in Portland, OR: agaves, bananas, and much more

I spent a fantastic weekend in Portland, OR hanging out with friends and doing all kinds of plant-related things. Fellow blogger Loree "Danger Garden" Bohl had arranged a visit to the garden of John Kuzma. His garden, created in collaboration with Sean Hogan of Cistus Nursery, was one of my favorite destinations on the 2014 Garden Bloggers Fling, and I was excited to see it again three years later.

The Yucca rostrata in the front garden have definitely grown!


Check out my post from 2014 to see the difference.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Succulents and more at the Ruth Bancroft Garden

Last Saturday, after I had safely stowed my haul from the Ruth Bancroft Garden plant sale in my car, my camera and I took a leisurely stroll through the garden.

I didn't have to go far for my first photo stop. These beauties caught my eye right at the garden entrance:

Backlit cactus always make for great photos

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Big plant sale at Ruth Bancroft Garden before the nursery moves

The Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, CA is about to undergo what might be the biggest change since Ruth Brancroft first started it in 1972. In just a few days, construction will begin on the $4.6 million Visitor and Education Center. This will give the Garden much-needed indoor space for events, classes, and offices. And there will finally be indoor restrooms--no more porta potties!

To make room for the construction, the existing nursery will move to the north side of the garden. It will occupy one half of Ruth's Folly and one of the greenhouses next to it. Before the move, the nursery is holding its biggest sale ever. On Friday, plants were 20% off, yesterday 35%, and today (Sunday, September 10) 50%. If you're in Northern California, you still have time to head on over; the sale runs until 4pm today. Click here for more details.

Agave montana at the entrance to the garden. It's pushing a massive flower stalk and will die after flowering.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

ASU Mesa, AZ: university campus that embraces the desert

After reading my recent posts about the Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden and Cavalliere Park, both in Scottsdale, Arizona, you might be reaching Corten and gabion overload. But the place I will show you in this post is so well-designed that I hope you'll stick with me. It's Arizona State University's Polytechnic Campus in Mesa.

The main campus of Arizona State University (ASU) is in Tempe. It's a sprawling site the size of a small town (642 acres). According to Wikipedia, "76,844 students [were] enrolled in at least one class on campus in fall 2016." That's a staggering number!

In addition to the main campus, there are four other campuses in the Phoenix metro area. One of them is the Polytechnic Campus in Mesa. It opened in the fall of 1996 on the grounds of the former William Air Force Base. In 2009, Ten Eyck Landscape Architects helped turn 21 acres in the heart of the campus from a concrete wasteland into what it is today: a lush desert oasis.

Mass plantings of palo verde (Parkinsonia sp.). To see them in flower, read this post by Pam Penick

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Blazing scorching sweltering torrid HOT

It's hot. Somewhere near 103°F here in Davis. Temperature records tumbled all over Northern California in the last few days. San Francisco smashed the all-time record on Friday with 106°F (41°C). That's the city about which Mark Twain once said: "The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco."

Hot summer weather is par for the course for us, but this summer has been particularly brutal. And it's not over yet.  Cool fall weather won't start in earnest until sometime in the second half of October. If then.

Blazing [Death Star]

I continue to hide in the house most of the time. I did a bit of yard work this morning but it was simply too hot in the sun. So back inside I went.

But I did brave the heat again a little while ago to take these pictures. Many plants continue to thrive, while others have decided to go dormant permanently. So it goes.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Pinnacle Peak Park, Scottsdale, AZ

Work has kept me busy in recent weeks and now it's too hot outside to do much gardening. The forecast for the weekend is even more dismal: 110° on Friday, 111° on Saturday, and 105° on Sunday. Even on Monday (Labor Day) it's still supposed to be 103°. I doubt I'll get much yard work done!

So instead of going outside to take photos of the garden, let me show you another awesome place I visited on my Arizona trip last December.

On my way to Cavalliere Park in north Scottsdale, I drove right by 3,169 ft Pinnacle Peak. Rising almost 600 ft. from the desert floor, it's impossible to miss!

Pinnacle Peak shrouded in mist

After I was done at Cavalliere Park I decided to stop at Pinnacle Peak Park (managed by the City of Scottsdale) even though the sky was getting ever gloomier. I was expecting to have the park to myself, considering the weather and the fact that it was New Year's Eve. Not so. The parking lot was more than half full, and the trail up the mountain was quite busy. I quickly found out why: This is a fantastic place to be out in the desert, and the views are incredible!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Cavalliere Park, Scottsdale, AZ: Corten, gabions, and towering saguaros

The Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden wasn't the only remarkable public space I visited in Scottsdale, AZ last December. Located in north Scottsdale, George "Doc" Cavalliere Park is a 34-acre gem seamlessly integrated into the rugged desert terrain. Corten steel and gabions are liberally used to create architectural features that are both sustainable and attractive. While a public project like this encompasses a much larger scale and has a significantly higher budget than a residential landscape, it can be a valuable source of inspiration.


Completed in February 2012 with a budget of $4.3 million, Cavalliere Park was a national pilot project for the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES) program and the first SITES-certified project in Arizona.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Twisted barrel cactus has more flowers than ever

The barrel cactus in this post is particularly special to me. Not because it's rare (it isn't), but because it's been with us for quite a while and because it has good memories attached to it. This summer it's giving us more flowers than ever before. What more could I ask!

Ferocactus herrerae, with Agave vilmoriniana 'Stained Glass' behind it

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden: gabions, shade sails, and desert plants

Scottsdale, AZ is Phoenix's wealthy neighbor to the east. The city is known for its upscale resorts and golf courses; the New York Times called it "a desert version of Miami's South Beach." As a result, the City of Scottsdale has more resources at its disposal than other cities of comparable size.

Case in point: the Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden. This may be the most surprising public garden I've ever visited. I say surprising because instead of cookie-cutter hardscaping and the run-of-the-mill greenery you typically find in a public park, the City of Scottsdale created an outdoor lab showcasing water-saving landscaping techniques for Arizona homeowners as well as plants that are adapted to the harsh desert climate (the garden has over 7,000 plants from 200 species).

The 5.5 acre Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden is part of Chaparral Park and seamlessly incorporates the adjacent Chaparral Water Treatment Plant in its layout. In fact, the garden partially sits on top of a buried 5.5 million reservoir of treated water.

Three architectural features are very prominent: gabion walls, massive shade sails attached to rusted steel pillars, and steel panels with intricate geometric forms.

Entrance to the water treatment plant to the east of the garden

Close-up of the entrance. The parking lot here is for employees only, but it was New Year's Eve and nobody was around so I quickly parked here to take these photos.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Interview with Debra Lee Baldwin, Queen of Succulents

On August 23, 2017, Timber Press will release the completely revised second edition of Designing with Succulents by Debra Lee Baldwin. The first edition sold over 180,000 copies and has become a classic. The second edition is even bigger and better. In addition to delighting fans of the first edition, it will appeal to a whole new audience interested in incorporating succulents into their own landscaping. Click here to read my review of the new edition.

Debra Lee Balwin holding her "new baby" (photo © Debra Lee Baldwin; used with permission)

As I was reading Designing with Succulents I started to compile a list of random questions that popped into my head. Being the good sport that she is, Debra Lee Baldwin graciously agreed to answer them. Read on to find out more about the second edition of Designing with Succulents, new succulent trends, and what Debra's favorite succulents are.