Friday, February 28, 2014

Front yard desert garden index

hedgetrimmerIn February 2014 we decided to remove an overgrown Japanese mock orange hedge (Pittosporum tobira) along the street side of our property and replace it with a variety of desert natives and suitable companion plants. Even though the hedge was technically along the narrow side of the back yard, I’ll refer to this project as the “front yard desert garden” because it is an extension of the planting strip that wraps around the front yard.

This index lists all the posts pertaining to this project.


February 17, 2014: Big changes coming to the front yard

March 4, 2014: The plants are here!

March 6, 2014: The pittosporum hedge is gone

March 10, 2014: The soil has arrived

March 16, 2014: First look at planted desert garden

April 9, 2014: Quick update on our new desert garden bed

May 16, 2014: Rock mulch for desert garden bed

June 24, 2014: Front yard desert bed—June 2014 update

September 30, 2014: Front yard desert bed—September 2014 update

April 6, 2015: Front yard desert bed at age 1

October 23, 2015: Front yard desert bed at 1½ (October 2015 update)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Weeds Find a Way book review and raffle

Like most gardeners and garden bloggers I typically don’t lavish words of praise on weeds. But today I will. Well, not on weeds per se, but rather on Weeds Find a Way, a children’s book for 4- to 8-year olds written by Cindy Jenson-Elliott and illustrated by Carolyn Fisher.

I received a complementary copy from the author’s publicist but I was under no obligation to review the book, or say anything nice. But the book had me right from the cover.



The illustrations are superb and pull you in immediately. Kids who can’t read yet will be able to follow along just by looking at the pictures.

Monday, February 24, 2014

I love me some kumquats!

A couple of years ago I bought a kumquat variety called ‘Fukushu’ (Citrus japonica ‘Obovata’). It lives in the backyard in a glazed pot under the bay trees where it gets no more than 2-3 hours of direct sun. It gets by with drip irrigation, and even the cold snap we had in early December didn’t faze it. It’s my kind of plant!


At this time of year, I love looking out the kitchen window and seeing it dotted with bright orange fruit about 1½” long.

1,000 likes on Facebook

I’m very excited: Succulents and More just received its 1000th like on Facebook!


My Facebook page updates automatically when I add a new blog post so you can access my latest blog posts from there. In addition, I post a Photo of the Day five days a week, and I preview new photos before they appear on this blog.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Making hypertufa pots—day 2 update

Here is a quick update to yesterday’s post on making hypertufa pots. I didn’t think I’d have something to show so soon but I do.

I checked the pots yesterday afternoon, about 7 hours after I’d make them. They had set enough to make drain holes. I used an apple corer like this one. This gadget had proven itself very handy when we made pots at the Sacramento Cactus & Succulent Society.


After punching out the holes I re-covered the pots with plastic to prevent them from drying too quickly.

This morning, about 24 hours later, I decided to check whether the cardboard boxes that I used as molds would come off. It couldn’t have been easier. The cardboard was moist and soft, and the boxes peeled apart with virtually no effort.


Outside dimensions (width x height x depth)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Making hypertufa pots for the first time

I’ve been wanting to making hypertufa pots for years. As is the case with so many things, however, I never got around to it. Until today. I finally had everything I needed—including spare time—so there was no more excuse.

There are many different recipes for hypertufa but typically it is made of Portland cement, perlite and peat moss. I used 2 gallons of Portland cement, 2 gallons of perlite, and 4 gallons of peat moss.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

What I saw on the way to the Wave Garden

When we visited the Wave Garden in Point Richmond on Presidents Day, we ended up parking a few blocks away because we didn’t know where entrance was (it’s at the end of Grandview Court). I enjoyed the short walk because we saw quite a few interesting sights on the way.

Point Richmond is right on San Francisco Bay and hence virtually never experiences frost. Their zone 10 climate is ideal for tender succulents like Agave attenuata and Crassula ovata. Here in Davis, just an hour away (zone 9b), they would struggle to survive outside during the winter even though our winters are anything but harsh.


Foxtail agave (Agave attenuata)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Wave Garden, Point Richmond, CA

In the spring of 2013 I heard about a mysterious garden overlooking San Francisco Bay that features stunning concrete work and the most amazing array of plants. Called the Wave Garden, it isn’t a public garden, yet it’s open to the public. I never got around to visiting at the time but the Wave Garden had been on my mind since then.

This past Monday was President’s Day here in the U.S., one of the few public holidays we have. Nudged by a post on Loree Bohl’s fantastic site Danger Garden, I decided to take this opportunity and finally make the 1-hour drive to Point Richmond.


The owners of the Wave Garden, Jeanne and Vern Doellstedt, bought the property adjacent to their home to prevent it from being developed (and presumably from blocking their view of San Pablo Bay, the northern extension of San Francisco Bay). They decided to turn it into a collaborative space combining concrete walls and paths, metal gates and fences, and lush yet drought-tolerant plantings that provide visual interest and color year round. To top it all off, they elected to open the garden up to the public to enjoy. The result is utterly stunning and unique, as you will see in this post.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Big changes coming to the front yard

There is one side of the front yard I rarely show:


It is dominated by a Japanese mock orange hedge (Pittosporum tobira). This hedge might look decent elsewhere but here it is crammed into a 6-foot 48-foot planting strip and needs constant maintenance to keep the branches away from the sidewalk (a city requirement). The constant pruning has exposed the trunks—and ugly sight I try to ignore as much as possible.


On a positive note, the hedge does well with no supplemental water (its roots must tap into the irrigated planting beds inside the fence) and it does make our backyard very private.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Daphne for Valentine’s Day

Instead of cut flowers, this is what I gave my wife for Valentine’s Day:


Daphne odora ‘Maejima’

A wonderfully fragrant daphne with particularly striking variegation. This relatively recent introduction is called ‘Maejima’. The cream-colored leaf margins are wider than in the more common Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’, and it supposedly is a bit easier to grow as well.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Entrance plantings at Ruth Bancroft Garden

When I visit the Ruth Bancroft Garden (RBG) in Walnut Creek, I typically focus on what’s inside the walls. Last Saturday, after the Lover’s Day Aloe Tour was over, I decided to photograph what’s outside the gate at 1552 Bancroft Road: the entrance garden. It’s not a big area, but it’s packed with succulent goodies. This is the first thing you see as you approach the garden, and it’s a nice preview of the treasures waiting for you inside. Granted, these plantings are not as mature as the ones in the actual garden, but they represent a nice cross section of xeric plants that thrive in our area.

Note about parking: When visiting the RBG during regular hours, park in the small lot next to the office at 1552 Bancroft Road. This is where the entrance garden you see in this post is located. For special events (including plant sales), you take the north entrance at 1500 Bancroft Road and park behind the garden.


Plantings along Bancroft Road


Plantings along Bancroft Road

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Lover’s Day Aloe Tour at Ruth Bancroft Garden

In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, last Saturday, February 8, 2014, was Lover’s Day at the Ruth Bancroft Garden (RBG) in Walnut Creek. Under the motto “Aloes Are for Lovers – Bring Your Valentine to the Garden” RBG offered three guided tours showcasing the aloes in the garden, many of which were in bloom.

Saturday also marked the peak of the Pineapple Express storms that were sweeping across Northern California last week, bringing much needed rain. Judging from the way the rain was coming down while I was on the freeway, I feared the worst, but when I got to Walnut Creek the rain had stopped. Perfect timing for the 10 a.m. member’s only tour with RBG curator Brian Kemble! Brian is a leading aloe expert and has been creating hybrids for 30 years.


Covered bed of coral aloe (Aloe striata)


Covered bed of Aloe striata

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Aloes at UC Botanical Garden, Berkeley

Last Thursday, I went to the first public sale of the year at UC Botanical Garden’s Landscape Cacti and Succulents Nursery. I used this opportunity for a quick walk through the South African Collection. As expected, quite a few aloes were in bloom.

To me, flowers are the icing on the cake when it come to aloes. Most aloes have such beautiful leaves that they are attractive year round, especially the species whose leaves take on pink, purple or red hues in the full sun.


Southern African Collection


The beautiful aloe in the foreground was labeled “Aloe sp.” Most likely it’s a hybrid whose lineage cannot be traced accurately.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Finally getting some rain!

What a difference a week makes. Last week rain was as elusive as Justin Bieber’s shirt, but now the storm door is open, as the weather folks on TV love to say. Here in Davis we received 0.4” yesterday and likely a similar amount today. Tomorrow it might be as much as an inch. That’s not bad at all, but we’re starting out way in the hole at about 1/6th of normal. Still, this is a welcome break in our recent weather pattern, and many people are breathing a sigh of relief. Whether that is warranted or not remains to be seen.


Another storm moving in


A welcome sight!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Plant sale at UC Botanical Garden Landscape Cacti and Succulents Nursery

Few people seem to know that the Landscape Cacti and Succulents Nursery (LCSN) at the UC Botanical Garden in Berkeley is open for public sales the first Thursday of the month from 10:30 to 1:30. Yesterday, February 6, was the first public sale of 2014 and I happened to be there. I want to add more agaves to the planting strip outside our front yard fence, and I was looking for larger specimens (at least 1 gallon, preferably larger). Several species on the LCSN availability list had caught my eye.

The entrance to the LCSN is right across the street from the garden entrance.


Entrance to UC Botanical Garden

Look for the black gate you see in the next photo and walk right through to the back. That’s where the plants are. If the gate is locked, ask the employee at the garden entrance to page the LCSN volunteer on duty.


Entrance to LCSN

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Blooming aloes on the UC Davis campus

Last week a friend told me that the aloes on the UC Davis campus were in bloom. I couldn’t wait to go to see for myself. I went on Saturday but the photos I took were too contrasty because it was a clear and sunny day. That’s why I was very happy to wake up to an overcast sky on Sunday, and I ended up retaking most of my photos from the day before. (Photography tip: Overcast conditions are much better for plant photography than bright sun.)

I started at the Botanical Conservatory greenhouses on Kleiber Hall Drive.


Aloe arborescens


Aloe arborescens and Aloe littoralis (the tree-like specimens) outside the Botanical Conservatory greenhouses

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Desert Botanical Garden (Phoenix, AZ)—Part 2

To read part 1 of this post, please click here

Part 1 of this post left off at Edible/Herb Garden. The plantings in front of the adjacent office buildings, called Weisz Family Plaza on the map, feature a predominantly blue color scheme. I was going to reserve photos of agaves for a separate post, but I want to show this stunning combination:


Agave nickelsiae (left), Santolina chamaecyparissus (middle), and Agave parryi var. truncata (right)

In addition, this area has several whale-tongue agaves (Agave ovatifolia), which happens to be one of my favorite agave species. Agave ovatifolia has the potential to grow to 5 ft. in width.


Agave ovatifolia