Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mission Santa Barbara

One of the highlights of our trip to Santa Barbara was visit to the mission. Founded in 1786, Mission Santa Barbara, or Misión de la Señora Bárbara, Virgen y Mártir, was the 10th of the Spanish missions built in Alta California. It’s often nicknamed “the Queen of the Missions” because of its graceful architecture. Ironically, it is the least authentic of the 21 missions because it has been restored so many times, but for me that doesn’t take away from its beauty. You have to be a real Grinch not to be awed the first time you lay eyes on it—and each time thereafter.

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360° panorama of Mission Santa Barbara. This panorama was created on my cell phone so it’s not the highest quality but it gives you a good idea of what it’s like to be standing in front of the mission.

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Capilla (chapel) at Mission Santa Barbara

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Chapel with agaves

While I could go on and on about how marvelous the buildings are, I’ll instead focus on the fantastic plantings both in front of the mission and in the garden and cemetery.

The planting beds in front of the arched corridor leading to the chapel are dominated by succulents. Agave attenuata is plentiful, as is the case just about everywhere in Santa Barbara, but there also are aloes and dasylirions, euphorbias and cacti.

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Agaves and other succulents along the arched corridor

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Dasylirion longissimum (left) with Euphorbia resinifera (right)

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Agave attenuata along the arched corridor

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Agave attenuata along the arched corridor

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Agave attenuata and unidentified cactus

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Agave attenuata and trailing lantana

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Aloe plicatilis and unidentified cactus

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Aloe plicatilis

Most people who stand in front of the chapel never turn around. If they did, they’d see a variety of agaves and other succulents:

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Agave americana (left), Agave americana ‘Mediopicta Alba’ (center), Dasylirion longissimum (right)

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Chapel with assorted succulents

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Ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) and tree stump planted with cactus

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Cactus growing in tree stump

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Agave guiengola with graffiti

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Agave guiengola with graffiti

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Agave gypsophila with emerging flower spike (left) and
Agave americana ‘Mediopicta alba’ (right)

Let’s leave the outside plantings behind for a few minutes and step into the courtyard garden inside the mission walls. The first thing you notice are these fantastic tree ferns:

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Tree ferns

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Tree fern and palm trees

But there are lush, exotic plants wherever you look:

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Palm trees and bananas

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Dragon tree (Dracaena draco)

And let’s not forget to take a look at the beautiful Spanish architecture of the mission:

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View of gardens

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View of gardens

Every nook and cranny in the garden was filled with plants, many of them succulents.

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Graptosedum (?) along church wall

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Aloe dorotheae and Aloe ciliaris

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Urn among aloes and aeoniums

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Cow’s horn euphorbia (Euphorbia grandicornis)

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Euphorbia ammak (left) and Euphorbia grandicornis (right)

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Euphorbia grandicornis with flowers and fruit

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Euphorbia grandicornis with flowers

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Euphorbia grandicornis with flowers and fruit

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Potted succulents outside the church

Even this statue had a succulent growing next to it!

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Crassula tetragona

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Ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata)

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Unidentified cactus

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Unidentified cactus

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Aloe cameronii

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Tree aloe

The centerpiece of the cemetery is the magnificent Moreton Bay fig portrayed in this post, but there are other noteworthy trees as well. These caught my eye:

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Bamboo palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii)—can anybody confirm this ID?

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Dragon trees (Dracaena draco)

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Massive palm tree trunks

Back outside, let’s walk over to what I’ve dubbed the “agave garden.” I have no idea if this area has an official name, but it’s dominated by agaves. And these are not your dime-a-dozen agaves you might find growing by the roadside, but rather premium cultivars. Some of them I have in my own collection (like ‘Blue Glow’) and was able to ID with certainty, others are educated guesses.

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Agave garden in front of mission

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Possibly Agave salmiana var. ferox ‘Green Goblet’

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Agave ‘Sharkskin’

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Agave ‘Blue Glow’ (front)

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LEFT: Agave ‘Blue Glow’ (front) and unidentified agave
RIGHT: Agave parryi ‘Truncata’ (front) and unidentified agave

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Possibly Agave salmiana with flower spike and flowers from a smaller rosette hidden underneath

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Agave salmiana flowers

All good things must come to an end, and so did our visit to Mission Santa Barbara. Heading back to the car, I was happy to see that the botanical marvels of this special place don’t end on the far side of the street. Against the wall of the parking lot I spotted a blooming bougainvillea and a clump of flowering aeoniums…

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Bougainvillea and blooming aeonium

…yet another magnificent dragon tree…

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Dragon tree (Dracaena draco)

…and the most humble yet cheery of native wildflowers, the California poppy.

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California poppy (Eschscholzia californica)

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2 comments:

  1. When we were last in SB there was a huge festival going on at/around the mission, massive amounts of people, so we didn't stop. Thanks for the look at what I missed.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Spikies, Agaves, Tree Ferns, Palms, gorgeous architecture, sun, wow!

    ReplyDelete