Saturday, August 31, 2013

Artichoke sculptures

I was at a friend’s house this morning and I immediately noticed their two artichoke plants—or rather what is left of them. They’d been beautiful earlier in the summer when they’d been in their prime, but I think they’re even more stunning now.


Dried up and with their leaves removed, they’ve become veritable sculptures.


I was so glad I had my camera along to record their singular beauty. I hope you will enjoy looking at these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, part 1

The last garden I visited during our Maui vacation was Maui Nui Botanical Gardens (MNBG)located in Kahului, Maui’s largest town.


Driving in Kahului

The previous gardens I’d explored (Garden of Eden Arboretum, Tropical Gardens of Maui, and Kula Botanical Garden) were privately owned and focused on creating idealized slices of tropical flora. In contrast, MNBG is a non-profit organization “dedicated to the protection of Maui Nui’s rich native plants and cultural heritage.” (In prehistory, Maui Nui was a larger island that 200,000 years ago split off into modern-day Maui, Molokaʻi, Lānaʻi and Kahoʻolawe.)


Maui Nui Botanical Gardens entrance on Kanaloa Avenue

As such, MNGB focuses more on ethnobotany than on ornamental horticulture. This became obvious to me as soon as I stepped through the gate. While the garden is certainly attractive in its own way, it lacks the easy wow moments the other gardens had. On the other hand, this is the place to visit if you want to learn more about plants endemic to Maui and its neighboring islands and those brought by Polynesian settlers in their canoes, many of them vital to their survival.


Maui Nui Botanical Gardens interpretive sign

Monday, August 26, 2013

Succulents in rural Chinatown

The Sacramento—San Joaquin River Delta is an estuary formed by the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers. Many locals only have a passing acquaintance with this water world and quite a few visitors don’t even know it exists.


Bridge over the Sacramento River near Locke

I took a friend wine tasting at the Old Sugar Mill in Clarksburg on Saturday (yes, there is world-class wine-growing and wine-making barely 30 minutes outside of Sacramento), and afterwards we took a leisurely drive down the Sacramento River to the historic town of Locke.


Main Street in Locke

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark District, Locke was built by Chinese immigrants in the early 20th century who had come here to work in the surrounding fields and orchards. It is the only town in the U.S. built “by the Chinese for the Chinese.”

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My pleiospilos is blooming

The other day somebody in the Succulent Fanatics Group on Facebook reported that their mimicry plant (Pleiospilos compactus) was blooming. I’d noticed buds on mine but when I went outside at lunchtime to take a photo, I saw this:


Pleiospilos compactus

I was disappointed because I thought I’d waited too long and the flowers were already dying. Imagine my surprise when I checked again in the early evening and found this waiting for me:


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My first dyckia bloom

At the Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society Show and Sale in May I bought this Dyckia sulphurea for a mere $4:


Dyckia sulphurea

To be honest, I bought it less for the plants (there are two of them) and more for the pot, a practically new 9-inch terracotta pot with a rolled rim which costs way more than $4.

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a flower stalk emerging from one of the rosettes. I’ve been waiting for the flowers to open all the way but it looks like they never do, they just wilt and fall off. The flowers aren’t all that spectacular, but I like their cheery yellow color. Plus, this is the first of my dyckias to ever bloom, so I’m actually quite excited!

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Dyckia sulphurea with flower stalk

NOTE: Some sources say that Dyckia sulphurea is the same as Dyckia brevifolia, but looking at photos on Google it seems to me that Dyckia sulphurea has much thinner leaves. The flowers, though, are virtually identical.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Random observations

I haven’t been able to spend much time in the garden in the past month so all my interactions have been brief and somewhat disjointed. Interestingly enough, this has had one upside: I’ve been paying more attention to individual plants than to the garden as a whole. After all, it takes far less time to focus on one plant during a brief 5-minute escape into the garden than to try to solve the larger issues that need to be addressed.

Here are some random photos and observations:


Leucadendron ‘Ebony’, purchased at the Ruth Bancroft Garden this summer. I still love the color of the leaves and the branches. This will be a stunning specimen in a few years.  I just need to find the right place for it.


Yellow plumeria, a souvenir from our trip to Maui. I bought this at a gift shop—just a dead-looking stick in a plastic bag—and I’m thrilled to see that there’s new growth at the top.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Maui: Kula Botanical Garden, part 2

This is part 2 of my post about Kula Botanical Garden. Click here to read part 1.


Even though Kula Botanical Garden is “only” 8 acres, I spent the better part of three hours exploring—and taking hundreds of photos. The sky was overcast and there was a slight drizzle so I ended up using my tripod for most pictures. Of course that takes longer than simply walking around but I ended up getting sharp photos. Fortunately, there were very few other people around so I wasn’t blocking anybody’s way. As I mentioned before, I don’t know how a for-profit operation like Kula Botanical Garden can stay in business with so few visitors, but maybe I was simply there at the wrong time of year.

Let’s continue our walk through the garden. Part 1 of my post covered the upper portion; part 2 is about the middle and lower portion. The vegetation here is more lush and tropical because of a stream and pond.


Queen sago (Cycas circinalis), Leucadendron ‘Safari Sunset’ and miscellaneous ferns

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Look up your house on Google Maps!

Today I had to look up an address in San Francisco on Google Maps and I was impressed with the expanded street view—the resolution seems to be significantly higher than before and the navigation options are better as well.

For the fun of it, I looked up my own address and I was floored by the seamless coverage of our neighborhood (mind you, we live in a town of 60,000, not a major city). Since Google uses cars with special panoramic cameras to capture street-level views, they get photos that have a movie set quality to them. Our house looks like a toy structure you should be able to move around with the nudge of a finger!


Monday, August 12, 2013

Maui: Kula Botanical Garden, part 1

The Kula district is located on the west-facing slope of Haleakalā at an altitude of 500 to 2,500 ft. This area is part of what locals call “upcountry.” The climate here is cooler than on the coast, the soil is fertile, and there is more precipitation than in the arid southern and western parts of Maui.

Kula is the epicenter of the flower industry on Maui. Family farms growing proteas for the cut-flower market on the mainland dot the area (unfortunately, I couldn’t find one that is open to tourists). Kula is also home to two privately owned botanical gardens: Enchanting Floral Garden (closed the day I was in Kula) and Kula Botanical Garden.


Fox-tail agave (Agave attenuata)

Established in 1968, Kula Botanical Gardens has mature plantings of exotics from all over the world showcased on 8 hilly acres at an elevation of 1,000 ft. I visited on a Monday afternoon, and as was the case at Tropical Gardens of Maui, the parking lot was almost empty. While I was glad that I had the garden almost to myself, I hope this isn’t the way it always is. Places like this need a constant stream of paying visitors to survive.

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LEFT: Norfolk Island pine (Araucaria heterophylla)
RIGHT: Candlenut tree (Aleurites moluccana) with staghorn fern (Platycerium sp.)


What would a garden in Hawaii be without tikis!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

New posts coming soon

I’m very sorry about posting so rarely in the last few weeks. Work has been very demanding and I’ve had little time for anything else. However, my work schedule is about to get better so I should be able to return to more regular posts.

Coming up next is a post about my visit to Kula Botanical Garden on Maui.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Maui: Tropical Gardens of Maui

While you see plenty of tropical vegetation in resorts and private residences all over Maui, the best places to fully immerse yourself are private botanical gardens. I already wrote about the Garden of Eden Arboretum on the Hāna Highway (1 2). This post is about Tropical Gardens of Maui, a 4-acre botanical garden in the ʻĪao Valley in Central Maui.


My wife and I stopped at Tropical Gardens of Maui after visiting ʻĪao Valley State Monument and enjoying stunning views of the ʻĪao Needle, one of Maui’s signature sights. Since Tropical Gardens of Maui is located on the one and only road going to the park, I thought it would be busy but it clearly isn’t a major destination for visiting tourists. Sadly, the parking lot was empty except for one other car.