Sunday, June 14, 2015

Perfect retirement home for succulent lovers

While walking along the oceanfront in La Jolla on our recent spring break trip to San Diego, we came upon Casa de Mañana, a retirement home where succulents clearly take center stage: The plantings in front of the Spanish-style complex were colorful and multi-textured while needing little water (small patch of lawn excepted).

The focal point on either side of the driveway was a pair of Agave weberi ‘Arizona Star’, impressive in both stature and beauty.

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Agave weberi ‘Arizona Star’

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Agave weberi ‘Arizona Star’

After seeing how majestic this variegated selection looks, I’ve decided that is what I want as the anchor plant for our upcoming front lawn removal project.

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Agave weberi ‘Arizona Star’

Another agave that left quite an impression was Agave guiengola. It’s not reliably hardy in our climate so you never see large specimens in Northern California. In contrast, the duo at Casa de Mañana was almost at full size. Very nice indeed.

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Agave guiengola

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Agave guiengola

I was also drawn to the colonies of Aloe cameronii. It’s become one of my favorite aloes in recent years, both for its octopus-like form and the tomato-red hue it takes on in full sun. The landscaping at Casa de Mañana makes liberal use of Aloe cameronii.

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Aloe striata and Aloe cameronii

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Aloe cameronii

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Aloe cameronii

But there’s more. More aloes, dragon trees (Dracaena draco), pride of Madeira (Echium candicans), and giant bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai), to name just a few.

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Dracaena draco

As you can see in the last two photos, there are some lawn areas adjacent to the sidewalk. While not large (I suspect there was much more grass in earlier years), they could easily be replaced with a more water-wise scheme. Maybe a carpet of Dymondia margaretae, ice plants (Delosperma, Drosanthemum, etc.) or even just decomposed granite or a similar material for some negative space.

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Older Agave ‘Blue Flame’ with quite a trunk

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Dracaena draco and Agave ‘Blue Flame’

As you can see from the photo above, the location of Casa de Mañana is stunning. The original structure was built in 1924 as a resort hotel. During WWII, the hotel became a rest and recuperation center for U.S. Navy soldiers, and in 1953 it was converted into an upscale assisted living community. In the mid-60s adjacent properties were acquired and more buildings (cottages and a “villa”) were added. Today the facility encompasses 5 acres, and while the interior has been renovated and upgraded multiple times, the exterior has remained largely unchanged (source).

I love the climate of La Jolla and if I ever wanted to moved into a retirement home and had the required $$$, Casa de Mañana would be a great place. Maybe they’d give me a discount if I agreed to maintain the succulents out front.

10 comments:

  1. Thankfully you still have many decades yet before you're faced with that option Gerhard :) but yes the planting is superb! The Arizona Star looks fantastic and will be a very fine choice for your front lawn makeover. Also those guiengola looks so chunky and imposing, only a shame it's winter minimums are rather high, had had them badly damaged in a heated greenhouse.

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    1. There are several A. guiegola cultivars I'd love to try (not counting Creme Brulee). I just received a small pup of 'Moto Sierra', a guiengola selection with intriguing black teeth, that I'm really excited about. But it'll be a potted plant.

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  2. Retirement living at it's best! I shudder to think what it would cost to live there...

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  3. I had no idea that 'Arizona Star' got so huge! I'm going to have to find a bigger pot I think...

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    1. Somewhere in the 6x6 ft. range, I believe. But much smaller in a pot.

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  4. And I had no idea an Agave 'Blue Flame' can get that large - yikes! (I may have a problem some years down the road.)

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    1. I've seen them in 3x3 ft. range. Much smaller than 'Arizona Star'.

      This specimen seems to offset freely. Mine has only had three offsets in its entire life.

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  5. The guiengola can easily get 6' across. Those beauties are still younglings. Really good post, thanks.

    I looked up the cost--3K (studio) to 10K (2 bedroom) per month. Gulp!

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    1. Gulp is right. Those are steep rates for the Casa de Mañana. But what a location!!!!

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