Weekend in Santa Cruz

I spent last weekend in Santa Cruz with my two daughters. We had a blast on the world-famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, California’s oldest seaside amusement park dating back to 1907. We also visited the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum and did a boat tour of the Elkhorn Slough where we saw scores of sea lions, otters, seals, and birds.

Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk as seen from the Municipal Wharf

Today’s post is a somewhat random collection of snapshots taken all over Santa Cruz. Every time I visit, I’m struck by how beautiful this city’s location is, how colorful its population (in large part due to UC Santa Cruz and a thriving counter culture whose roots goes back to the heyday of the 1960s and 1970s), and how perfect its climate. I've often said that I want to live where tree ferns thrive (mild summers and mild winters), and Santa Cruz is such as place, as you will see below.

Cocoanut Grove Conference Center (left) and Boardwalk on the right
Palm trees—and eucalptus trees—are ubiquitous

I saw tree ferns planted in front of many few houses. The Boardwalk has an entire row, and they all seem to be thriving—no wonder, considering the average high in September (hottest month of the year) is 76.5° and the average low in January (coldest month) is 39°F.

Tasmania tree fern (Dicksonia antarctica) at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk
And here are three more
Five palm trees as seen from under a tree fern

The nicest landscape I saw was at the Dream Inn just up the hill from the Boardwalk. This upscale boutique hotel sports a contemporary landscaping scheme encompassing some of my favorite plants: bamboo, succulents, restios, and palm trees.

What’s not to love? Bamboo, palm trees, birds of paradise, and even foxtail agave!
(Photo by Laura Bock)
Cape rush (Chondropetalum tectorum) and foxtail agave (Agave attenuata)
Close up
Bamboo in tall urns, flanked by horsetail rush (Equisetum hyemale)
Palm trees, bamboo, and horsetail rush
(Photo by Laura Bock)

In downtown, I saw bamboo in many places. I wonder if it’s because Bamboo Giant is only a few miles away, or whether the populace of Santa Cruz is particularly enlightened. No matter what the reason, I sure enjoyed the lushness provided by bamboo.

The following three photos were all taken at the Tea House Spa built around a 50-year old grove of timber bamboo. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to walk around the grove because it’s inside the actual spa.

A tantalizing glimpse of the grove of timber bamboo at the Tea House Spa
View from the other side of the building
Bamboo growing at the entrance to Tea House Spa. The planting strip is maybe a foot deep, and the light level is very low (it was actually darker than the photo above). Amazing that this bamboo is doing as well as it appears to be.

Succulents, and especially shrub-sized aloes and jade plants, seem to be popular as well. Here’s a particularly beautiful combination in front of a Victorian house in downtown.

Jade plant (Crassula ovata) and torch aloe (Aloe arborescens)
Jade plant (Crassula ovata) and torch aloe (Aloe arborescens)

The biggest and most pleasant surprise I came across was this planter of variegated farfugium (Farfugium japonicum ‘Argenteum’). This is my favorite foliage plant, and the size of the leaves was simply amazing. While our all-green specimen has leaves that size, I’d never seen a variegated one that large. This is a rare plant, and I’d love to know who decided to plant it in front of Bookshop Santa Cruz (a great bookstore, by the way)?

Farfugium japonicum ‘Argenteum’
Enormous leaves (the hand belong to my 10-year old daughter)…
….with beautiful variegation…
…and the occasional all-white leaf. This one was protected by other leaves on top of it, and it’s as perfect as can be.

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  1. What fabulous public area plantings they have, gorgeous specimens! And I'm also surprised by the random presence of a variegated Farfugium, especially it's not a common plant. Quite a mystery! There's a plantsman lurking somewhere there...

  2. M&G, I think so too. Maybe one of the people working at the bookstore? Gardening seems to be a popular hobby in Santa Cruz, judging from the many interesting front yards I saw. Much less lawn (yawn!) than elsewhere.

  3. Sounds like such a wonderful trip. I meant to tell you earlier that your daughters are really beautiful. And I love the fern trees too. I have never been to the Santa Cruz beach boardwalk. Sounds like a fun place.

  4. hi papa! i took the 6th picture down, remember??
    love you! oh, and Candy, thank you!! I'm Gerhard's daughter, Laura!

  5. Laura, you are absolutely right. In fact, two of the photos in this post were taken by you. I gave you credit above (I should have done that in the first place).

  6. with a foot of space for the bamboo how will this ever be sufficient space to obtain full height and density?


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