Weekend stroll through the UC Davis Arboretum

The UC Davis Arboretum is literally 10 minutes from my house, and even though I’ve blogged about it many times before, I don’t go often enough. It seems it requires an out-of-town visitor to jostle me into action. Exactly that happened last Saturday. On a glorious day, we took a leisurely stroll through the Ruth Risdon-Storer Valley-Wise Garden—a mouthful but a worthwhile destination for folks wanting to see which plants thrive in our drought-ridden Mediterranean-verging-on-Atacama-Desert climate.


If I had a complaint, I’d say that succulents aren’t represented enough. However, in all fairness I will concede that they have more succulents in the Valley-Wise Garden that than you’re likely to find at the regular UC Davis Arboretum plant sales. The Arboretum teaching nursery could (and should) do a much better job introducing the Davis gardening community to succulents suitable for in-ground landscaping. And if they want to go a step further, they could add desert-adapted trees and shrubs to their selections. I wish the powers that be would check out one of the plant sales at the Ruth Bancroft Garden. If it grows in Walnut Creek, it grows here in Davis.

Even their colleagues at the UC Botanical Garden in Berkeley are doing a better job in the succulent department.

Just sayin’!

But let’s not gripe and focus on what they Valley-Wise Garden does have. There are a lot of beautiful vignettes, with or without succulents.




Unlabeled agaves. I wish I knew what these beauties were.


Aloe striata × maculata hybrids


Dasylirion longissimum


Dasylirion longissimum


Agave polyacantha and Dasylirion longissimum


Agave bracteosa


Mexican deergrass (Muhlenbergia dubia)


Muhlenbergia dubia and variegated yucca, not sure which species


Tapestry of grasses and perennials


Tapestry of grasses and perennials


Eastern prickly pear (Opuntia compressa)


Texas ranger, or cenizo (Leucophyllum frutescens)


Calamagrostis ×acutiflora 'Karl Foerster' and Yucca pallida


Yucca recurvifolia 'Hinvargas' (aka ‘Margaritaville’) in front of the restrooms

Right next to the Valley-Wise Garden is the White Garden. As its name implies, all plants have white flowers, or white or silver foliage. I quite enjoy walking through there in the spring, but even at this time of year, there are interesting things to see.

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White-flowering crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica). I’m not the biggest fan of crepe myrtles, but I love this specimen because of its perfectly smooth bark (or lack thereof).


Japanese anemone (Anemone × hybrida). I’m amazed these are still blooming.


Farfugium japonicum. Not quite sure what’s white about farfugiums, but I love them anyway.


Sea squill (Drimia maritima), still labeled under its previous name Urginea maritima. Their flowers are white


Sea squill (Drimia maritima)

Not far from the the White Garden is the South African Collection. I will have a separate post about it in a few months when things really get going. Here’s just a teaser: a Cussonia paniculata in bloom.


Cussonia paniculata in the South African Collection. I’ve recently started my own collection of these tree aralias and currently have three species (Cussonia paniculata, Cussonia spicata and Cussonia natalensis, all bought as 4-inch plants from Annie’s Annuals)


Cussonia paniculata 


Cussonia paniculata flowers

I wish more plant lovers would come visit me so I have an excuse to explore the botanical riches waiting to be discovered at the UC Davis Arboretum!


  1. I wish we could drop by again soon so a visit to the arboretum could happen! I would really like to see it all in person.

  2. You're so lucky to have this botanical garden near you. It's reputation is known world wide and I hear it mentioned within the gardening circuit here every so often. Would love to see this in the flesh one day (will you be our guide then?).

    1. The Arboretum is a treasured resource. Whenever I go, I see lots of people walking, jogging, exercising, or just enjoying themselves. Most of them aren't even aware that the Arboretum also houses significant plant collections.

      Of course I'd love to be your guide when you come!

  3. What time of year is the best to see this arboretum? (Have to plan early)

    That 'Karl Foerster' might be the most vigorous I've ever seen -- such a beauty! I wish mine were half that good looking.

    1. That 'Karl Foerster' grass stood out to me, too. A great combination with the pale yucca.

      As for what a good time to visit might be, I'm partial to late winter/early spring when the acacias are in bloom. But really, any time of the year is nice, except for the height of summer.

  4. Looks like a decent place--at least relatively cared for. The Farfugium japonicum leaves always remind me of gigantic Dichondra.

    1. Considering that much of the work is done by volunteers--UC Davis students or regular Davis residents--it's actually quite well kept up, especially compared to other public gardens and parks.

  5. How nice to have something so beautiful nearby. I love the changing colors around the succulents this time of year. Beautiful photos.


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