UC Berkeley Botanical Garden winter sale

Last week I received notice that the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley (UCBG) is having a “winter overstock sale” until February 5, 2012. Considering that plant sales are to plant aficionados what a red cape is to a bull, I had no choice but to go.

The weather was perfect on Saturday and the views from the top of the UC Berkeley campus just stunning. The Botanical Garden is located a little lower than the spot where the photo below was taken and it doesn’t offer the same sweeping views, but you are able to catch glimpses of the Bay and San Francisco beyond from a few higher areas.

View from the top of the UC Berkeley campus

Before swooping down on the plant tables, I decided to take a few photos to give you an idea of what was available. I was mainly interested in succulents, and two tables were dedicated to succulents. The other tables were perennials and shrubs. I’m sure there are some unique plants to be found there, but I’m not enough of an expert to know for sure. There were lots of California natives, reflecting a rising trend to landscape with plants from our very own state.

Winter clearance sale tables
Winter clearance sale tables

Prices were excellent, ranging from $2 for 4” plants to $8+ for 1 gallons and $15+ for 3-5 gallons. The octopus agaves (Agave vilmoriniana) in the lower right, for example, were $5. That’s a phenomenal price. The Agave americana ‘Mediopicta alba’ on the right were $8 for a 1-gallon plant. UCBG members receive the regular 10% discount off these sale prices.

Aloes and yuccas

In addition to the sale tables, the plant deck had the usual selection of plants: larger succulents prominently displayed on the steps to the gift shop…

Regularly priced succulents on steps of plant deck

…and smaller succulents, perennials, shrubs and trees from all over the world outside and behind the gift shop. Where else can you find three araucaria species (including the monkey puzzle tree), rare South African bulbs (like Haemanthus), carnivorous plants and other curiosities in one place? Sure, a retail nursery has many more plants, but the selection here is quirky and interesting.

More plant tables just outside the gift shop

After initially grabbing a whole bunch of stuff, I decided to err on the side of reason and limit myself to the plants I really wanted. After all, it’s getting more and more difficult to figure out what to do with the plants I buy.

Here’s what I ended up getting. Perhaps not the most exciting selection at first glance, but each plant “spoke” to me on some level.

The first is Crassula lycopodioides. It’s now considered synonymous with Crassula muscosa although it does not have that species’ tight “watch chain” pattern. I was attracted to this plant because I’m looking for interesting groundcover plants capable of filling spaces between larger plants in our various succulent beds.


Crassula lycopodioides


Crassula lycopodioides and Cycas revoluta

The second plant was the ‘Gollum’ cultivar of Crassula ovata. It is easy to recognize by its almost tubular leaves, some ending in what looks like a suction cup. It’s much smaller than the regular jade plant (Crassula ovata) but its overall habit is very similar. ‘Gollum’ is not particularly rare, but I didn’t have one in my collection yet.

Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’

Crassula ovata ‘Gollum’

Speaking of jade plants, my biggest purchase actually was a jade plant. Unlike our specimens, this one has much smaller and rounder leaves, with a much more yellow coloration and a pronounced red margin. It’s clearly different from the species, although the tag didn’t specify a particular cultivar. I’m thinking it might be ‘Hummel’s Sunset’ but I can’t be sure. If anybody has any insight, please leave a comment.

Jade plant (Crassula ovata) with small, round leaves

Crassula ovata stems

Crassula ovata stems

The final plant I bought is a unique hybrid of Agave ornithobroma with—well, that is the question. Some agaves are notoriously promiscuous, and an Agave ornithobroma blooming at UCBG got pollinated by another blooming agave nearby. This is one of the offspring of this botanical one-night stand. Closely related to Agave geminiflora, Agave ornithobroma usually has many thin, cylindrical leaves (see here). This hybrid has somewhat wider, keeled leaves. Hopefully over time it will become easier to figure out who the dad might have been.

Agave aff. ornithobroma

After paying for my plant purchases, I did some exploring in the Mexico section of the garden. I found a treasure trove of agaves, yuccas, beschornerias, and dioons growing in naturalistic conditions. Click here to read that post.


  1. Love the coloring on that Jade plant leaves!

    You're erring on the side of reason now because spring isn't quite in the air yet. Another month maybe, and we'll see how restrained you are. :-)

    1. I know! I made a point of NOT checking the sale tables again before we left.

  2. "err on the side of reason" huh? Where is the fun in that?

    1. Loree, I'm definitely running out of room. I need to create another planting bed somewhere so I can put a bunch of plants in the ground. Otherwise our house is going to look like a nursery this year!

  3. So jealous of the weather you had last Saturday, wish we had that much sunshine! Great haul but I suspect you'll be buying loads more come spring!

    1. Beautiful weather indeed! And it's continuing. The downside is that everything is drying out again. I almost lost one of the plants I bought at Annie's Annuals a couple of weeks ago because it hadn't been watered since our last rain.

  4. Yes best to show some restraint... Where will all these plants go indeed... Another package in the mail today, I hope it's the pseudolithos I ordered from thailand... Tis a tough life being a plant hoarder...

    1. Nat, Thailand? Man, I envy you! The U.S. authorities are so anal about plant material, they won't allow anything through. Don't even get me started on California-specific requirements--many mail-order nurseries won't ship to California because of our f**** import regulations.

  5. Hey, thanks for the heads-up on this sale. If it's not for members only, I'm gonna toddle over and grab a Crassula lycopodioides and... some other stuff.

    I don't think the beautiful jade is a Hummel's -- the growth pattern looks more like a Crosby's compact jade, which also gets some gorgeous color. See here: http://www.cactuscenter.com/crassula4.html

  6. The sale is open to the public. You don't need to pay admission to the Garden to visit the plant deck.

    Thank you for the lead on my jade plant. I will take a look. I can't get over how colorful it is compared to our other jade plants, which are all green.

  7. Wow! I wish my wife would allow me to go plant chasing in the US. So many plants I would love to bring home. -- Bom

  8. I've ID'ed my jade plant based on a photo Candy Suter took at the Huntington Botanical Gardens. It's a Crassula ovata cultivar called 'Crosby's Red'.


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