UC Santa Cruz Arboretum: bamboos and succulents

In my earlier posts about the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum I covered the South African Garden and the Australian Garden. After we left the Australian Garden, we found ourselves next to a series of greenhouses. They’re not open to the public, but I took a peek through a fence and saw a whole slew of succulents. I have no idea what kind of research they do there; maybe they just propagate more plants for their succulent garden (see below)?

New and old world succulents
Lots of echeverias on the tables, and columnar cacti on the ground

Since these greenhouses are off limits to the public, there was nothing we could do beyond taking a quick peek.

Right on the other side of the parking lot for the administrative offices and conference room, I spotted a couple of curiously shaped dome greenhouses and several stands of clumping bamboo. As bad as my eyesight might be getting in real life, my “bamboo eye” is as acute as ever!

Clumping bamboo next to one of the domed greenhouses (this one contained cacti). Since this area isn’t technically part of the Arboretum, the bamboo wasn’t labeled, but it’s definitely a clumping mountain bamboo from the Himalayas.
Fargesia or Borinda?
Another large clump right next to the one shown in the two photos above.
Anybody venture a guess what this is?

Across the way was another impressive stand of bamboos in front of the 2nd domed greenhouse. This one was much easier to identity; it’s a Chusquea from South America.

Chusquea species, possibly Chusquea gigantea.
Another view of the same Chusquea
…and a couple of closeups…
…of older culms
Older Chusquea culm (left) and new culm (right). The contrast in color is striking.

Near the stand of Chusquea was another large clumper, possibly Fargesia nitida, commonly called “blue fountain bamboo.” On closer inspection, it turned out that these are actually two plants.

Fargesia nitida? (left) and Chusquea (right, behind tree)
What looked like one large stand are actually two plants
Fargesia nitida?

Up the hill behind the domed greenhouses and bamboos is the succulent garden. I didn’t expect much, considering that Santa Cruz is right on the ocean and has a lot of fog and very moderate summer temperatures.

View of terraced succulent garden
Clearly, the succulent garden is not irrigated in the summer…
…as is evidenced by this aloe. Yes, it’s not an attractive specimen, but this is what they often look like in the wild after a long dry spell.
This is Ferocactus peninsulae, a Mexican native. It’s barely alive and a far cry from the Ferocactus peninsulae I photographed at Succulent Gardens in Castroville just a few weeks earlier.
On contrast, this unlabeled agave (possibly Agave montana) looks healthy
Emerging flower spike on another agave

Adjacent to the succulent garden is a beautiful path through a jasmine arbor. While there weren’t many blossoms left, the air still carried the rich scent of jasmine. My favorite feature, however, was the potted Festival Grass™ (Cordyline x 'JURred' P.P. #14,224; a Monrovia introduction). The color was so intense, it looked almost fake. While cordylines grow well in the Sacramento area, our hot sun usually bleaches their color to much duller shades.

Path with jasmine arbor…
…and brilliantly colored Festival Grass™
(thank you, Mark and Gaz of Alternative Eden, for the ID)

Our last stop was at Norrie’s, the Arboretum gift shop. Their plant selection was impressive, especially the many South African and Australian shrubs (proteas, banksias, grevilleas, etc.). They also had some nicely locally made jewelry and crafts. If money were no object, I could go crazy in a place like that. But

prevailed, so my 10-year old daughter was the big spender, buying an eraser for 75 cents.

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  1. I really wonder why they wouldn't water the succulents to keep them in better shape. It must have been a test of some kind, but I don't understand the logic of it.

  2. ALan, maybe that want to simulate their native environment? I didn't get it either.

  3. The first bamboo looks like a Fargesia, the second one looks like a Borinda (possibly papyrifera?). Those agaves look stunning! As for the succulent bed, it could do with a bit of irrigation despite aloes normally looking like that in the wild, but in a public garden could do with a bit more to drink :)

    The red plant is Festival Grass, not a grass as such but rather a non trunking type of Cordyline (a coloured variety of C. pumilio). Lovely plant, should be fine in your location but not hardy enough on ours :(

  4. M&G, great guess about Borinda papyrifera. It does have hairy culm sheaths like that.

    Thanks also for identifying the red "grass." I'll change the ID in the post above. I have actually seen it in local nurseries before, but the small pots they sell only give a glimmer of the brilliance these large specimens had.

  5. You are the bamboo man! LOL It is so sad how they neglected the succulents. I would like to take it over and make it healthy. I don't think it's a test I just think they don't realize they really do need water and there gardener needs some education.

  6. Thanks for the tour of those gardens. I love that 'Festival Grass'. It gets delicate stalks of tiny white flowers in summer, and is very happy in a large pot, as your photos show. I'm puzzled why it is not more popular.


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