Sunday, November 1, 2015

Huntington Desert Garden: agaves, cacti and other New World succulents

In my previous post I covered the Old World section of the Huntington Desert Garden. It’s located near the top of a rise, adjacent to the Desert Garden Conservatory. From here the land gently slopes downward towards the New World section. On a cold night, the temperature difference between the top of the rise and the bottom can be as much as five degrees (source: The Botanical Gardens at the Huntington, see below). This greatly benefits the aloes, many of which are quite tender. Clearly, the cacti and other New World succulents planted further down the slope are better able to handle the colder temperatures—not that it ever gets truly cold in Pasadena (zone 10a).

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While the plants in the Desert Garden are roughly separated by location (Old World, New World) and some beds are dedicated to regional flora (Sonoran and Chihuahuan Desert; California desert; Madagascar; etc.), there is some overlap. According to The Botanical Gardens at the Huntington (see below) the overarching principle is to plant specimens where they will grow best. So you will see ponytail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata) from Central America underplanted with aeoniums from the Canary Islands and, in one spot, agaves next to aloes.

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If you’re interested in finding about more about the Desert Garden, and the many other gardens at the Huntington, I can highly recommend The Botanical Gardens at the Huntington written by the Huntington Botanical Staff (2nd ed. San Marino: Huntington Library, 2006). For a historical perspective, check out The Huntington Botanical Gardens, 1905-1949: Personal Recollections of William Hertrich (San Marino: Huntington Library, 1988).

Speaking of ponytail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata), there are lots of them in the Desert Garden, and their size is impressive. They don’t tolerate much frost, but here in Pasadena they don’t have to.

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A variegated octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana 'Stained Glass') peeking through two ponytail palms

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Agave murpheyi 'Engard'

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Agave 'Blue Flame'
 
Now we're in one of the most impressive parts of the lower Desert Garden. The masses of golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) is truly astounding. I've never seen anything like this before.
 
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It's hard NOT to touch!

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The agaves are Agave parryi var. truncata 'Huntington', a particularly attractive clone

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Agave aff. marmorata ("aff." stands for "affinis" and means that this agave closely resembles Agave marmorata but that it cannot be 100% identified)
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Aloe 'Pink Perfection' and Agave attenuata 'Boutin Blue'

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Variegated Agave sisalana

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Variegated Agave sisalana

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Ponytail palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) and Agave attenuata 'Boutin Blue'
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Agave parryi

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Agave parryi and Echinocactus grusonii

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Agave parryi var. huachucensis

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Agave parryi var. huachucensis

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Agave applanata and Yucca rostrata

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Agave parryi var. truncata 'Huntington'
 
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Agave parryi var. truncata 'Huntington'

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Agave parryi var. truncata 'Huntington'

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Check out the flowering agaves

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Agave parrasana
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Agave parrasana

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Agave parrasana

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Not sure which agave species this beauty is

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Cactus wonderland
 
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More golden barrels next to an impenetrable clump of puya

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What a nice spot to sit and take in the scenery

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Agave tequilana 'Sunrise'

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Agave americana spp. protoamericana

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Agave gentryi 'Jaws'

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This Cereus stenogonus is so old and heavy, it needs to be supported

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I really appreciated the many benches throughout the garden. They allowed me to sit for a minute to check my photos.
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The yellow-flowering aloe is a hybrid called 'Sophie'. The agave was labeled Agave aff. parryi.
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Echinopsis 'Apricot Glow', aptly named

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Agave mapisaga var. lisa, considered to be one of the largest agaves in extistence. This one is just a juvenile.

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A tale of two ponytail palms: the relatively uncommon Beaucarnea gracilis...

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...and the common Beaucarnea recurvata
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Blooming jade plant (Crassula ovata) on the left, Agave 'Blue Flame' on the right

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Agave 'Blue Flame' and Yucca rostrata

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Agave ovatifolia 'Frosty Blue'

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Agave tequilana

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Agave victoria-reginae

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One of my favorite cacti, Astrophytum ornatum 

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And the golden barrel spectacle continues...

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Agave dasyliroides

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Ponytail palms and golden barrels on one of the main paths through the lower portion of the Desert Garden (Old World). As you can see, there were quite a few people.
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I love the contrast between her hair and the golden barrels

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Agave ovatifolia against a parade of cacti

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Hechtia huamelulaensis, a stunning terrestrial bromeliad from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, first described in 2014 and hard to find in the trade
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Aeonium 'Sunburst' from the Canary Island growing between cacti
 
Finally one of most impressive trees from South America: the white silk floss tree (Ceiba insignis). Check out that bottle-shaped trunk covered with spiky prickles! Its closely related to the pink silk floss tree (Ceiba speciosa), one of which grows on the UC Davis campus 10 minutes from my house.
 
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And before I knew it, I was back at the entrance to the Desert Garden with its flowering Agave attenuata 'Boutin Blue' and towering Aloidendron barberae.

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The Huntington Desert Garden is a true treasure, and I still can't believe it took me so long to visit. I hope to go back this winter and also check out other places of interest nearby, such as the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden less than 5 miles away.


RELATED POSTS:

December 2014 Desert Trip index

16 comments:

  1. This was like a tour through fantasy land for me. I loved all the shapes, colors and textures. Thank you for sharing this dreamy place.

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  2. Great post--really enjoyed it. We were there today. The light was harsh, and it was hot.

    That Agave you wondered about is colorata--their version is particularly beautiful.

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    1. Agave colorata! What a beauty. The coloration is striking, as is the form. My colorata are much bluer and have far fewer leaves.

      Thank you for the ID!

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  3. Great post. I've never been, but it feels like the best tour I could have had. Now it's moved up my bucket list.

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    1. Brian, thank you for your kind words. Means a lot! It was on my bucket list, too, until I finally had a chance to go.

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  4. No matter how many times I've been (I think it's three now?) I will always jump at the chance to return. It's one of my very favorite places! Thanks for the book recommendations. I really enjoyed William Hertrich's book...I'll look for the other one.

    I was going to say colorata for that unknown agave, but then figured - ha! What do I know.

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    1. Colorata, who would have thunk. I'll try to make it to a Huntington plant sale (2nd Thursday of every month in conjunction with their garden talks) so I can see what other goodies I've been missing out on.

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  5. Colorata was my ID too. You are so up to date on names. I still think of the silk floss tree as Chorisia. That hechtia is amazing. I've just recently started picking up a few and so far am very, very impressed.

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    1. It's funny, when I encountered my first silk floss tree, it was already Ceiba xyz so I didn't have to learn the new names. Taxonomists are busy bees, aren't they? Always revising things.

      I don't have a single hechtia, believe it not. I've never seen one for sale. The only I really want is Hechtia texensis.

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  6. Your photos are astoundingly good, Gerhard. It's clear that you love your subjects.

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  7. If I ever make it out to CA again, this place is on my "must visit" list. I've seen photos before, but yours are really fantastic. The magic of the place probably helps though. :)

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    1. I don't like how that sounds: "If I ever make it out to CA again." You simply have to plan on it. Road trip time! Don't forget to visit me :-)

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  8. Glorious photos -- only thing better would be actually seeing it in person. Too many favorites to list...! Oh, and this sounds good. VERY good.

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    1. I agree, that garden talk on lush landscapes with little water sounds great. Plus, there'll be a plant sale after the talk! If only I lived a little closer.

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