First 2012 plant sale at UC Davis Arboretum

Even in our mild winter climate, gardeners are eager for spring to arrive so they can get their hands dirty. That was evident yesterday at UC Davis Arboretum’s first plant sale of the year. The line was already many dozens long when the doors opened at 9 am, and when we checked out an hour later, each of the 12+ cashiers was busy ringing up sales.

Stunning cherry blossoms just outside of the UC Davis teaching nursery where the Arboretum plant sales are held
There were no plant tags so I don’t know what these trees are, but the blossoms were just magnificent

I go to most plant sales at UC Davis Arboretum so I have a good idea of what to expect. However, since this is the year of the Arboretum’s 75th anniversary, the number and variety of plants seems to be larger than ever before. Just take a look at the plant list for this sale: It’s 15 pages long.

Some of the many aisles of plants
Plant sizes range from 4” to 5 gallon containers

My first order of business was to check out the succulents. Sometimes their succulents are very small, such as the Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’ below.

Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’. Small plants in 4” pots.
These will take a long time to grow to a decent size.

However, the echeverias were a really nice size, especially these Echeveria ‘Afterglow’. I couldn’t leave without one.

Echeveria ‘Afterglow’
Echeveria ‘Afterglow’

They also had an aloe I’d never heard of before: Aloe ‘Estrella del Mar’. It must be a locally created hybrid because the only link I found on Google was to a UC Davis Arboretum page.

Aloe ‘Estrella del Mar

Aloe × spinosissima is a local favorite and it’s in bloom right now all over town. The Arboretum Terrace in downtown has particularly showy specimens.

Aloe × spinosissima

As always, the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory was represented with their own selection of plants. Checking out their sale tables is always a personal highlight, and I’ve bought quite a few unusual plants from them over the years. This time they had more agaves than before, including two standouts: Agave ‘Sharkskin’ (Agave ferdinandii-regis × Agave scabra) and an unnamed cross between Agave parrasana and Agave colorata.

Agave ‘Sharkskin’
Agave parrasana × colorata
Check out the beautiful bud imprints!
Lots of small cacti, most of them Echinopsis hybrids
Echinopsis ‘Johnson hybrid’
Graptopetalum amethystinum
I recently saw this fleshy succulent at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden
The offerings at the Botanical Conservatory tables go beyond succulents. These are pitcher plants, carnivorous plants hardy enough to grow outside in our climate.
120310_UCDArboretum_Veltheimia bracteata_03
I was happy to find a tray full of Veltheimia bracteata, a South African bulb with flowers that resemble small kniphofias (see further down)

Back in the main sales area, I came across this striking foliage plant called Rumex sanguineus subsp. sanguineus. I had never seen it before and knew nothing about it. Apparently it’s native to Europe, northern Africa and southwest Asia and new leaves can be eaten like spinach. It’s considered invasive in some parts of the world but I still love the leaves. The Annie’s Annuals website has a beautiful photo of an adult specimen.

Bloody dock (Rumex sanguineus subsp. sanguineus)

The teaching nursery has quite a few demonstration beds and the plants are now coming into their own (they were planted about four years ago when the new facility opened). This Arbutus ‘Marina’ is a favorite of mine. It shares its smooth red bark with its relative, the Pacific madrone (Arbutus menziesii), a tree native to the West Coast of the U.S. and Canada. The flowers and fruit are similar to the Mediterranean strawberry tree (Arbutus unedo), which is also a popular street tree in town.

Arbutus ‘Marina’
Click here to read the story behind ‘Marina’
Arbutus ‘Marina’

Deserving to be used more widely in landscaping, flowering currants are putting on quite a show at this time of year.

120310_UCDArboretum_Ribes-aureum malvaceum_02
LEFT: Golden currant (Ribes aureum)
RIGHT: Chaparral currant (Ribes malvaceum), a California native

I’m not the biggest fan of rosemary as a landscaping shrub, but the selection displayed at the teaching nursery, called ‘Mozart’, is a much deeper blue than regular Rosmarinus officialis. It offset the California white sage (Salvia apiana) very nicely.

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Mozart’ and Salvia apiana
Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Mozart’

And finally, what would spring be without California lilac (Ceanothus). There are many choices selections on the market that combine the best of bloom color and growth habit. At the one end of the spectrum are low-growing groundcovers, at the other end large shrubs or even small trees as tall as 15 ft.

Unidentified low-growing ceanothus
Unidentified low-growing ceanothus, combined with autumn sage (Salvia greggii)

While I’ve become very selective when I got to plant sales, I still find plants that interest me. Here’s what came home with me yesterday:

Clockwise from bottom left:
Aloe ramossisima
Aloe arborescens ‘Variegata’
Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Hahnii’
Veltheimia bracteata
Echeveria ‘Afterglow’
Aloe arborescens ‘Variegata’
Aloe arborescens ‘Variegata’
A particularly beautiful specimen of this shrubby aloe. I even have a spot in the ground for it!
Aloe ramossisima
A branching aloe to 6 ft in height, closely related to the quiver tree but with less of a central trunk (and smaller)
A much larger specimen of Aloe ramossisima photographed at Poot’s Cactus Nursery
120310_UCDArboretum_Veltheimia bracteata_04
Veltheimia bracteata
Veltheimia bracteata in flower
Photo source: Wikipedia

Many people all over the world have sansevierias as house plants. Their common names include snake plant and mother-in-law’s tongue. While it may seem a bit of a stretch, sansevierias are actually succulents and come from pretty inhospitable places in Africa. I had never owned a sansieviera before, and while I wasn’t exactly looking for one, I couldn’t pass up the specimen below. Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Hahnii’ is a low-growing selection that forms tight rosettes of whitish leaves with green mottling. Very attractive, I think. As an added bonus, it tolerates low light levels, which makes it ideal for a dark corner on the front porch.

Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Hahnii’
Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Hahnii’


  1. Had I been there I would have arm wrestled you for that variegated's dreamy!

    1. No arm-wrestling needed. They had about a dozen of the variegated Aloe arborescens. That Agave parrasana x colorata cross was nice, too. If they still have it on April 14th (next sale) I'll get one.

  2. These look like fantastic events! I'll have to pay attention for the Missouri Botanical Garden spring plant sale -- might be worth going! (Doubt I'll see many Aloes though.)

    1. Only a few aloes at the UC Davis Aboretum sale. 95% of the plants at these sales are non-succulents. My coverage isn't exacty unbiased :-).

  3. Some nice scores, I love a good plant sale. It's funny how a plant common in one area is new somewhere else. That particular Rumex is pretty common up here and depending on where you find it some even have it in the vegetable section. Some gardeners have warned me it's invasive but so far it's not been too aggresive. Wooo spring is here!

    1. What a spring it is! I can't remember such a dry spring. I've been out hand-watering cacti in March!!! What's next? Swarms of locusts??? LOL.

      Amazing that this rumex is common in B.C. but a complete novelty here. I still think hostas are among the most exotic plants I know, and yet they grow like weeds in place like Minnesota!

  4. Beautiful color on that sanseveria! And you went home with some beautiful plants! I can't wait for next week and then another time to go to Poots!

    1. Do you have any sansevierias? I have a hard time thinking of them as succulents. To me, they're primarily house plants, LOL.

  5. That's a great looking haul Gerhard! Variegated aloe arborescens is one of my favourite succulents and I still gravitate towards it whenever I see one. Aloe ramossisima look good too!

    Spring fever is everywhere now, not surprised that there were loads of people queueing to get in and buy plants. The plant list has got loads of goodies in it not available here.

    I wish botanical gardens here have decent plant sales too.

    1. Do you guys have Aloe arborescens in your garden? I keep finding conflicting information about their cold-hardiness.

      I can't wait for my Aloe ramossisima to form a trunk. I may have to wait 10+ years for that!

      In general, most botanical gardens in California have great plant sales. They're usually an important fundraising channel since public funds are harder and harder to come by.


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