Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What’s blooming at UC Botanical Garden?

After I was done at the UC Botanical spring plant sale, I walked over to my favorite areas in the garden, the New World Desert and the Southern African Collection.

Somebody had told me that the puyas were in bloom. “In bloom” turned out to be a bit of an exaggeration but they are definitely starting. Unfortunately, the most impressive puya of them all, Puya berteroniana, wasn’t flowering yet, but the massive clump of Puya venusta on the edge of the New World Desert had quite a few flower spikes.

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Puya venusta

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Puya venusta

The stems of the inflorescences are a shade of pink I can only describe as “flamingo.” Combined with the dark purple of the actual flowers, they are an arresting sight.

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Puya venusta

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Puya venusta

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Puya venusta

The cacti in the New World Desert Collection are beginning to flower. Here are some of the early bloomers.

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Lobivia species

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Echinopsis bruchii

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Echinopsis maximiliana

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Echinopsis aff. obrepanda

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Echinopsis korethroides

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Echinopsis korethroides

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Echinopsis korethroides

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Opuntia polyacantha var. erinacea

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Opuntia polyacantha var. erinacea

The books of Tucson-based garden designer Scott Calhoun have shown me that companion plants play a big role in a desert landscape. I found one of Scott’s favorites blooming right next to the “New "World Desert” sign, Penstemon parryi. I wish UCBG planted more companion plants in this area; they would add welcome splashes of color.

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Looking from the New World Desert towards the Southern African Collection

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Yucca thompsoniana with blooming Penstemon parryi

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Yucca thompsoniana, a dead ringer for Yucca rostrata

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LEFT: Cleistocactus hyalacanthus
RIGHT: Cleistocactus candelilla

While none of the prickly pears (Opuntia) were in bloom, I found several that still sported colorful accents:

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Opuntia stenopetala—no idea if the vibrant red growth will turn out to be more pads or flowers

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Opuntia elatior—colorful fruit

The Southern African Collection right across the road was a riot of color. This area is basically a steep hillside covered with a large variety of plants—from succulents to bulbs, perennials, cycads, grasses, shrubs and trees.

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Southern African Collection

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Southern African Collection

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I couldn’t find a label for this beautiful bloomer

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Unidentified flowering plant

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The lighter blue flower spikes towards the top and on the right are from Merwilla plumbea, a South African bulb

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I couldn’t find a label for this mound-shaped yellow bloomer either

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Euphorbia lambii

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LEFT: Euphorbia horrida
RIGHT: Euphorbia lambii

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Euphorbia horrida

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TOP: Euphorbia horrida
BOTTOM: Euphorbia coerulescens

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Euphorbia coerulescens and Euphorbia horrida

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Euphorbia coerulescens

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LEFT: Melianthus major
RIGHT: Watsonia sp.

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Watsonia species (a South African bulb)

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Aloe plicatilis (the woman gives you an idea of large this clump is)

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Protea cynaroides (flower left over from the winter blooming season)

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Flowering hillside

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Aloe mitriformis

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Pelargonium cordatum

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Pelargonium cordatum (“cordatum” means “heart-shaped,” and you can definitely see where the species name comes from)

If I lived in the East Bay, I’d be at the UC Botanical Garden all the time. Of course then it might not be the special place for me that it is now. Davis is an hour and twenty minutes away; close enough to go on the spur of the moment, but far enough so I never get tired of it.

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6 comments:

  1. Puya blooms have the most incredible colours don't they? Easier to flower than agave, and more vicious too. I tell myself i'll get mine to flower someday. Just planted my baby P. berteroniana out yesterday for the summer.

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    1. I love puya flowers. I have four puyas now (alpestris, coeruluea, mirabilis, venusta), but they're all in pots so I'm not sure they'll ever flower. I'm scared of planting them out considering how massive they get. And removing a puya clump does NOT look like fun.

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  2. Another wonderful garden Gerhard! And love the striking and rich colour of the Puya venusta blooms. They may not be as big as Puya berteroniana but it does hold its own right when it comes to colour.

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    1. Do you guys have any puyas? Or are they too tender for your climate?

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  3. "Flamingo" is the perfect description!

    Every time I see Euphorbia horrida I wish I gardened in a warmer climate. Love that one!

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    1. That clump of Euphorbia horrida is spectacular! I make a point of visiting it everytime I'm there. I think horrida is a misnomer. It's anything but horrid.

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