Showing posts from June, 2012

Porcupine tomato

I still remember the first time I saw a porcupine tomato ( Solanum pyracanthon or Solanum pyracanthum ). The vivid orange spines looked so vicious but at the same time irresistible. I simply had to touch them and when I did, I was surprised. As lethal as the spines looked, they were actually fairly soft.   I didn’t buy that plant because it was expensive, but this spring I found an inexpensive 4-inch seedling at Annie’s Annuals in Richmond. It’s easily tripled in size since April. Like its relative, the edible tomato ( Solanum lycopersicum ) it loves the heat.

Worth’s Paradise

Worth’s Paradise is the third garden I visited a few weeks ago as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program . It was actually the first garden I toured but since I took more photos there than at any of the others, it took me a while to go through all my pictures. Located in Mill Valley , this ½ acre property belonged to well-known fine-art photographer Don Worth who passed away in 2009. Here is the description from the official program: “When I was in the fourth grade, I saw an overhead photo of tree ferns growing in Australia. Living in the bitterly cold winters of the Midwest, it was like a small opening to paradise, and became imprinted in my mind. In Mill Valley thirty-five years ago, I planted a number of Australian tree ferns, black tree ferns, and Tasmanian tree ferns. They have grown to more than thirty feet tall. More than forty different species of palms, some grown from seed, and more than 300 specimens also inhabit the garden. I planned something naturalistic,

Desert rose in bloom

Last year I became interested in caudiciforms and pachycauls , plants with swollen stems or trunks that serve as water-storage organs. Just take a quick look at these Google image search results to get an idea of the variety of plants that fall into these categories. One of the most popular and most easily available caudiciform is Adenium obesum , commonly known as “desert rose.” Not only can this plant assume bizarre proportions, as seen here , it also has beautiful flowers. And one of my two desert roses has started to bloom.    

Manfreda gets eviction notice

Every now and then I look at a specific plant in my garden and I say, you’ve got to go. I’ve reached that point with my Manfreda ‘Spot’.   What’s a manfreda, you might ask, and why is it getting kicked out? The 20+ species of manfredas are closely related to the tuberose ( Polianthes tuberosa ) which produces one of the most exquisite fragrances in the plant kingdom. They are also related to agaves, but unlike agaves they are deciduous and bloom every year once they’re reached a certain age (most agaves bloom once, after many years, and then die).

Mediterranean Marin

Last weekend I visited three outstanding gardens in Marin County. I’ve already blogged about Under the Sea, High in the Hills . Today I’m showing you Mediterranean Marin, a garden located in Mill Valley. In the Garden Conservancy program it was described as follows: This multi-level Mediterranean-style garden is terraced down a hillside overlooking Richardson Bay and a wildlife preserve, with San Francisco in the distance. A large Canary Island palm frames these views from a curved terrace and sets the tone for the property. The visitor is led down stone stairs and along low stone walls past pear trees being espaliered over the vegetable garden arbor, and on through the length of a unique water cascade walkway recirculating captured run-off water, and then around other terraces with their own water features. All terraces have seating areas to take in the views and diverse garden treatments. Plantings include olive trees, swaths of mature aeonium, agaves, bromeliads, citrus, roses,