Sunday, September 30, 2012

2012 Succulent Extravaganza wrap-up

Held for the first time in 2011, Succulent Extravaganza is an annual two-day event organized by Succulent Gardens, Northern California’s premier succulent grower and wholesaler. In the months leading up to the 2012 Extravaganza held this past Friday and Saturday, the online succulent forums I frequent, such as the Succulent Fanatics group on Facebook, had been abuzz with anticipation.


Entrance to Succulent Gardens

But as is the case with all things we look forward to for a long time, the 2012 Extravaganza came and went in the blink of an eye. I had a fantastic time meeting old friends and making new ones, listening to awesome presentations and looking at thousands of succulents.

In today’s post I’ll take you on a tour of the nursery. Tomorrow’s post will be straight succulent porn—my favorite plant photos taken during my visit.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Succulent Gardens Extravaganza teaser

I’m writing this post at 7:45am from my motel in Marina, CA. I’m about to head out to Succulent Gardens up the road in Castroville for the excitement that is Succulent Extravaganza 2012. I expect to post a full report on Sunday but here are some teaser photos I took yesterday afternoon after the BBQ put on by the nursery. It was a cool day with high fog—perfect for photography.


Friday, September 28, 2012

Give some, get some

Last Monday the Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society had their Country Store event. This is an annual fundraiser where members donate plants, pots, accessories, even fruit, jam and baked goods. These are then raffled off in a high-energy, loud and fun event. Raffle tickets are only 50 cents, and with the hundreds of items available, your chances of winning something are very good.

Even yours truly, who usually doesn’t have much luck in these sorts of things, scored big. I brought in a few plants and came home with even more than I had donated:


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Succulent Gardens Extravaganza 9/28—9/29

In just 48 hours—on Friday, September 28, 2012—Succulent Gardens’ 2nd annual Succulent Extravaganza will be under way. This two-day event is jam-packed with seminars, demonstrations, nursery walks, a BBQ on Friday, and of course thousands upon thousands of the most perfect succulents you’ll find anywhere.


I attended last year’s Extravaganza and I took so many photos, I ended up writing two blog posts:

Part 1: public plantings, agaves, aloes, etc.

Part 2: echeverias and aeoniums

The seminars and presentations alone make this a must-go event but the public plantings and the greenhouses filled with plants are just as spectacular.


Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Changes ahead

In other parts of the country and the world, fall has arrived. Here we’re expecting 94°F today and fall is just a word on the calendar. While I love early summer when heat-loving plants really get going, late summer is one of my least favorite times of year. The garden looks tired and I’m ready for the change that autumn brings. Not only a change in temperature and weather but also a change in motivation—from the can’t-be-bothered doldrums of late summer to the can’t-wait-to-get-started eagerness I typically feel in October.

I should add that late September and October are actually great gardening months for us. I love to put new plants in the ground then because they have a six months to get acclimated before the heat returns. And this year I plan on doing quite a bit of planting and renovating because many areas in the front and back yard need an overhaul.

Let’s take a look at a few of these spots.

The first is this bed in the back yard. It’s what we see when we look out the kitchen window. It was once dominated by perennials such as echinaceas, coreopsis and salvias but in the last few years a rogue Salvia guaranitica ‘Black and Blue’ has taken over and crowded out many of the other perennials.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Summer sleepers waking up

As the days are getting shorter, many plants are beginning to wind down for the year. However, there are others who spent the summer in dormancy and are now waking up. I have four of these summer sleepers sitting on the front porch and I’ve been watching for signs of activity. My patience has been rewarded as all four them are now showing new growth. It’s great seeing plants leaf out now when most others are doing the opposite.

Let’s take a look at these four unusual plants. All four of them are from the southern hemisphere (South Africa in this case).

The first one is Tylecodon dinteri, a succulent from South Africa. I bought it last fall at the Ruth Bancroft Garden when it was in full leaf.


Tylecodon dinteri

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Variegated pink Eureka lemon

One of my favorite foliage plants in the front yard is actually a citrus tree: a variegated pink Eureka lemon. This variety was first discovered in 1931 in a Southern California home garden as a sport of the conventional Eureka lemon and is now widely available in local nurseries. Sometimes it is sold as “Pink Lemonade” because the flesh of the fruit has a pink cast (see photos after the jump).


For me, the main attraction is the beautiful foliage. It looks great against the baby blue bamboo (Bambusa chungii ‘Barbellata’) behind it.


Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Agave Royal Spine vs. Little Shark

Here’s a little mystery that agave fans might find interesting—and that might put everybody else to sleep (that’s OK, don’t feel bad).

A few years ago, Allen Repashy of Xeric Growers introduced a new agave hybrid that had people drooling. Called ‘Royal Spine’, it was said to be a cross between Agave macroacantha and Agave victorae-reginae ‘Compacta’. It had a colorful story (read it here), which contributed to its mystique. Availability was very limited at first and prices were high, but thanks to tissue culturing, ‘Royal Spine’ is now available more widely through independent nurseries. I just received my very own specimen from Yucca Do and it’s a beauty:


Agave ‘Royal Spine’


Agave ‘Royal Spine’

Monday, September 17, 2012

Clumping bamboos hitting their stride

This is the time of year when the subtropical clumping bamboos in our front yard hit their stride. All are in the genus Bambusa and all are in the midst of pushing new culms. Looking at the photos below, it’s hard to believe these bamboos have been in the ground less than four years.

This is what you see as you walk out through the front door:


LEFT: Bambusa chungii ‘Barbellata’
RIGHT: Bambusa multiplex ‘Alphonse Karr’

Friday, September 14, 2012

Yucca Doodle Do!

Friday is one of my favorite days of the week, seeing how the weekend is just around the corner. But Friday gets even better when a big box of plants arrives on my doorstep, like it did this morning.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Not your grandma’s cast-iron plant

I’ve always liked the name “cast-iron plant.” It’s perfect for a plant that has the reputation of growing even in dismally dark corners and in general being well nigh indestructible.

Aspidistra elatior has been in cultivation for a very long time, most often as a house plant. In Victorian England it was a parlor main stay and later became a symbol of the middle class. George Orwell of 1984 fame even wrote a novel called Keep the Aspidistra Flying in which the protagonist, after years of espousing the noble virtues of poverty, finally gives up, gets a job, marries a woman he doesn’t really love and resigns himself to a life of mediocrity, symbolized by a cast-iron plant he puts in their new flat.

I remember finding the book quite dull when I read it in college and that’s what my impression of aspidistras has been as well.

Imagine my surprise when I came across this sexy variegated beauty at a local nursery and, after glancing at the label, realized that it was a variegated cast-iron plant!


Aspidistra elatior ‘Variegata’

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

More treasures at Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

After showing you some of the many agaves and cacti growing at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (ASDM) outside of Tucson, I’m going to wrap up my trip report with this post on some of the many other wonderful plants found there. As you will see, the variety is staggering. I only took photos of the plants I found interesting; there were many others, especially foliage shrubs, that I skipped.

As impressive as the naturalistic areas are, I found the landscape plantings outside the buildings just as interesting. Just take a look at the masterful combination of shapes, hues and textures in this photo:


Saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea), ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens), Spanish bayonet (Hesperoyucca whipplei) and senna (Senna polyantha)

Saturday, September 8, 2012


No, this post isn’t about a sequel to Inception. Instead it’s about separating three plants growing in the same container: a beaked yucca (Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’), the original inhabitant of this clay pot, and two tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii) seedlings. They germinated from seed that had dropped from the tower of jewels that bloomed in our front yard in the spring of 2011.

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I didn’t want to remove the seedlings while they were small for fear of destroying their tender roots so they’ve been in this container for over a year now.

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However, this summer they’ve doubled in size and it became obvious that I needed to do something NOW.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Cacti at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

Continuing my series of posts from our Southwest trip this summer, I’d like to take you back to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (ASDM) outside of Tucson and show you some of many cacti growing there.

The most famous plant of the Sonora desert is the saguaro cactus (Carnegiea gigantea) and they are everywhere on the west side of Tucson. This is what you see as you crest Gates Pass:


Gates Pass, Tucson, AZ

Inside the ASDM, there are plenty of opportunities to see saguaros as well:


Saguaros reaching into the sky

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Juvenile saguaros in front of ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Thinning bamboos, with itchy consequences

In the backyard we have a small shaded garden bed that is dominated by a chocolate bamboo (Borinda fungosa), a clumping mountain bamboo with culms that turn dark brown in the sun and leaves that are the very definition of elegance. In front of this bamboo is a 3-foot tall granite lantern that adds to the Asian feel of this space.

Like most bamboos, Borinda fungosa is a vigorous grower when happy—and ours clearly is happy. The culms grew so heavy with new leaves this summer that they were drooping forward, almost completely obscuring the lantern. That was my cue to do some trimming.


Chocolate bamboo (Borinda fungosa) before its haircut


Chocolate bamboo (Borinda fungosa) after its haircut


Monday, September 3, 2012

RIP, Panama Pottery

Labor Day weekend was great. Who doesn’t enjoy an extra day off, especially since here in the U.S. we get so few holidays compared to other countries? However, the weekend was also filled with a bit of sadness. On Sunday, I made one final visit to Panama Pottery on 24th Street in Sacramento to say goodbye.


Panama Pottery was established in 1913. It would have celebrated its 100th anniversary next year. I don’t know what caused them to close their doors so shortly before reaching this major milestone, but blame it on the economy. The Sacramento housing market crashed when the real estate bubble burst and has been very slow to recover.


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Goodbye, cardoon!

Last year a cardoon (Cynara cardunculus) came up in the back yard near the vegetable beds. I still don’t know how it ended up there, but thistle seeds—cardoons and artichokes are in the thistle family—are light and fluffy and can drift on the wind for long distances. It had over a dozen flower heads this summer and was the focal point of that corner of the yard.


Cardoon at its peak this summer

Fast forward a few months, and our cardoon has lost all its former glory. Now it’s nothing but a desiccated skeleton:


Cardoon on September 1, 2012