Tuesday, March 29, 2016

More succulent sights in Morro Bay

My last post ended at the bottom of a set of stairs that climb from the Embarcadero, Morro’s waterfront, to Market Avenue a block up and east. Right where you come out, next to DiStasio’s Restaurant, is yet another beautifully maintained public succulent planting.


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Succulent sights along Morro Bay Embarcadero

As much as I like where I live, I always find it hard to go home after a vacation, even if it’s just a short one. So while I’m back in Davis physically, I’m still in Morro Bay mentally. It’s a good thing I took over 700 photos. I’ll have enough material for quite a few blog posts in the weeks and months to come.

Let’s start today with a walk along the Morro Bay Embarcadero, the street that runs along the waterfront. It’s lined with shops, restaurants and hotels. Our motel was conveniently located at the southern end of the Embarcadero so all the sights along the water were within easy walking distance, Even downtown, up the hill a few blocks, was less than a 10 minute walk away. I loved how we were able to do a lot of things without having to drive.

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LEFT: Central Coast    RIGHT: Detailed map, with places we visited highlighted

The Central Coast of California is not only breathtakingly beautiful, it also has one of the best climates on the West Coast. Winters are mild, with virtually no frost, and summers are sunny and relatively cool (at least compared to the Central Valley), with temperatures rarely climbing above the mid-80s. However, the Central Coast is also one of the more arid parts of the state. Water is always in short supply, even in the best of years, so it makes perfect sense for succulents to be used both in private and public landscaping.


Carpobrotus edulis, with Morro Rock in the background (right)

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

3/23/2016: Morro Bay, all day

We spent all day in Morro Bay today. I used the car to get to the first spot (below) but we were able to walk to everywhere else. Really refreshing!

My first destination today was a private garden that sets new standards, at least in my mind, for what residential landscaping can be. It was created by Morro Bay designer Gabriel Frank for homeowners Vince and Janet Marino and has received quite a bit of attention.


I was hoping to run into the homeowners, but unfortunately Lady Luck wasn’t on my side.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

3/22/2016: Grow, Cambria Shores Inn, Hearst Castle

Another busy day today, proving just how much there is to see on this stretch of the Central California Coast. I took over 200 photos—more than enough for a handful of posts. Just when I thought I was done, there was something else wanting to be photographed.

Our first stop was the small town of Cambria, about 20 miles north of Morro Bay. I wanted to check out two places. The first was Grow, a small nursery that has an almost mythical reputation among succulent aficionados. Owner Nick Wilkinson is known for rare and usual plants, and Grow didn’t disappoint. But the plants weren’t the only thing that was cool. Grow is one of several complementary stores in this location, and the courtyard behind the Garden Shed showcases what each store does best. I could have spent another hour exploring but I knew my family was waiting for me with pastries at the nearby French Corner Bakery.


Monday, March 21, 2016

3/21/2016: Morro Bay, Pismo Beach, SLO Botanical Garden

Day 2 of our spring break vacation on the Central Coast. My wife and I spent a few hours walking around Morro Bay this morning. Succulents EVERYWHERE. On Main Street there are succulent planters sponsored by local businesses. What a great idea!


Sunday, March 20, 2016

3/20/2016: Morro Bay Embarcadero

We’re spending spring break in Morro Bay on California’s Central Coast. I don’t know this part of the coast all that well. Typically we just drive through on the way to somewhere else. I’m hoping the next four days will change this.

Morro Bay has what few places on the coast have: a landmark that is instantly recognizable. Morro Rock, a 576 foot high volcanic plug, guards the entrance to the harbor. It’s this feature that gives the town of 10,000 its nickname, “the Gibraltar of the Pacific.”

We’re staying in a motel right on the Embarcadero. I love being able to walk to sights, eateries and (coffee) shops without needing to drive!

Here is a collage of photos I took this afternoon:


Spring break 2016 index

Below are all the posts from our spring break trip to California’s Central Coast:

Posts from the road:


Saturday, March 19, 2016

What caught my eye at Green Acres Nursery in Sacramento

I’ve been cooped up at work all week but yesterday I was able to slip out for an hour to see what’s going on at Green Acres Nursery.

Green Acres has five locations now; the one closest to my house is the one in Sacramento on the corner of Jackson and Florin Perkins Rd. We drove by their brand-new location in Rocklin last Sunday but it was pouring down so we didn’t stop. I suspect it looks much like their other newish location in Elk Grove (read my blog post) but I’ll find out for myself one of these months.

While the first thing you see when you walk into the nursery are still rows of brightly-colored annuals, these on-sale succulents from Altman Plants were right there next them:


There’s nothing rare or exotic on these shelves, but the price is very good: $2.50 per plant instead of $4.29. I bought a couple of ×Sedeveria (intergeneric hybrids between Sedum and Echeveria species) for the succulent mounds that replaced the front lawn.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Mid-March potpourri

March continues to be very busy at work so gardening has taken a bit of a backseat. Hopefully things will calm down soon and I will have mustered enough energy to tackle our tax return—yet another unpleasant task I keep postponing.

This post is a potpourri of photos I’ve taken in the last week: some in the rain, some during breaks between storms. For now the rain seems to be over. We need more, of course, but our succulents are just as happy to have a sunny spell.


×Mangave ‘Macho Mocha’ and Arctotis ‘Wine’. Planted 11 months ago from a 4-inch pot, this arctotis has quadrupled in size. It’s been in bloom almost the entire time, no doubt because of my wife’s diligent deadheading.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

One final aloe bloom post for spring 2016

The aloes along the street started to bloom almost a month ago. While they’re not quite done yet, it’s just a matter of time. Usually the bloom only last four or five weeks.

This year was the best display yet. That’s why I want to share these photos with you. I took them last week during a break in the rain. Since then it’s rained every day—something I’m sure these winter-growing aloes are enjoying.


Friday, March 11, 2016

Let’s talk about the rain

The current California drought is the one for the record books. In December 2014, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution declared it the worst drought in 1,200 year—and that was over a year ago. 2015, year four of the drought, did little to change the situation. Water Deeply has an interactive timeline that shows 1011 consecutive days of severe drought as of today (March 11, 2016).

Everybody’s hopes have been on El Niño, the unusually warm weather pattern in the Pacific Ocean that typically brings us warmer and wetter winters than usual. But Mother Nature has not been playing by the book (when does she ever?). December did bring some rain, as did January, but nowhere near enough to even get us to normal. February, usually our wettest month of the year, was much drier (and warmer) than expected. Only 0.42” of rain here in Davis. Thing did not look good. Year five of the drought seemed inevitable.

But then came March and what I’m sure the weather folks on TV will soon start calling the “March Miracle,” at least here in Northern California. We’re only 11 days into March, but in Davis we’ve already had six days of precipitation (2.84” so far). That may not seem like much, and other areas in Northern California have certainly gotten much more than we did (up to 6” in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada), but it does bring us close to 100% of normal.

The fact of the matter is that it’s been raining on and off all week—something we haven’t had in a long, long time. I will admit that I’m a bit concerned about my succulents, especially in the newly planted succulent mounds in the front yard, but they should be fine, considering the soil is very well draining.

Photographing rain is hard, but here are some photos I took recently. I finally was able to put my water-resistant Olympus Tough TG-4 point & shoot to good use. The image quality isn’t the same as what I get from my Canon DSLR, but it’s fun walking around in the pouring rain with a camera that is impervious to the elements.


Tuesday, March 8, 2016

12/31/15: Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Superior, AZ (part 2)

In part 1 of this post I showed you about half of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. I should mention that you could easily spend an entire day there and not see everything. Most people I observed seem to treat it as a glorified outdoor gym: logging a few thousand steps in a brisk hour without paying much attention to all the wonderful things there are to see.

I’m just the opposite. It sometimes takes me 30 minutes to walk a few hundred feet. Call me a desert tortoise. I’m not claiming my way is superior, but sometimes it pays off to stop and smell the roses—even if the roses are prickly cactus. You know what I’m sayin’.

Anyway, let’s continue now at the edge of the Cactus and Succulent Garden. According to the BTA web site, it’s home to 300 species. My first reaction was, that’s not that much, but once you begin to list them (dare you!), it’s actually quite a lot.

But before we look at some of the spectacular specimens, let’s talk about the backdrop. It’s jaw-droppingly gorgeous. What you see there just an arm’s reach away is Picketpost Mountain, a wonderland of rocks and saguaros. Some day I’ll have enough time to explore it. For now, I have to make do with these photos.


Monday, March 7, 2016

12/31/15: Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Superior, AZ (part 1)

Time to take a break from aloe spotting and our front yard lawn conversion and go back to Arizona. I still have quite a few things to show you from my December 2015 desert trip.

On New Year’s Eve, I left Tucson early and took State Route 177 north. My first destination: Boyce Thompson Arboretum State Park outside of Superior.

The interstate is great when you’re in a hurry, but otherwise I prefer country highways. There’s almost always a place to pull over when you see something worth photographing. Case in point: this hillside covered with saguaros near the town of Kearny, pop. 1950.


Saguaro-studded hillside near Kearny, AZ

Friday, March 4, 2016

UC Davis aloes at peak bloom

The Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek and the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley have impressive aloe plantings, the best in Northern California. While the University of Davis campus isn’t quite in the same league, it’s still worth a visit at this time of year to see its aloes in bloom.

It took the photos for this post last weekend (February 27). If anything, the flowers should be even better this weekend (March 5).

Let’s start in front of the Sciences Lab Building along Hutchison Drive. It’s here on the interactive campus map.


Look at what’s waiting!


Getting closer…

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Wednesday Vignette: More cape cowslip (cow’s lip?)

Last week I wrote about four Lachenalia aloides I recently bought at the monthly meeting of the Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society (SCSS). Two are the straight species and two are variety quadricolor, which has petals in four colors: red, yellow, orange and green.

The common name of this South African bulb is “cape cowslip.” I assume that means cow’s lip. Or is it cow slip? Personally, I haven’t seen too many cows wearing undergarments.

Anyway, Dave Vitolo who follows my Facebook page told me that the South African section at the UC Davis Arboretum, small as it is, has a large clump of Lachenalia aloides var. quadricolor that is in full bloom right now. I headed over there on Friday and took the photos you see in this post.

Cape cowslips may not be large in size, but in full bloom, their impact is undeniable—especially en masse. I can’t wait for my small plants to multiply. I wonder if each bulb splits into two or whether it produces multiples?

The aloe behind the cape cowslip is Aloe microstigma. It also was in full bloom.

Now is a great time to visit UC Davis. Many of the aloes are spectacular at the moment. I’ll have another post later in the week.

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