Australian and Succulent Garden at UC Santa Cruz Arboretum (summer 2016 edition)

Two weeks ago I made a quick trip to the University of California Santa Cruz Arboretum. I’ve already posted about the beauties in the South African Garden. Now it’s time to take a look at what caught my eye in the Australian Garden. I’ll also show you a few photos from the small Succulent Garden, and we’ll end our visit at Norrie’s, the gift and plant shop near the parking lot. Yes, I did buy a few goodies to bring home.


In contrast to the South African Garden, which had a ton going on even in the middle of summer, the Australian Garden was a bit more subdued. Fall seems to be a better time, based on my limited experience.

Now that doesn’t mean the Australian Garden was boring. Far from it. Many grevilleas were blooming (when aren’t they?), and the gum trees are spectacular year round.

Let’s take a look.


Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’


Grevillea ‘Austraflora Fanfare’


Grevillea ‘Red Hooks’


Grevillea ‘Red Hooks’


Baeckia densifolia, a shrub in the myrtle family


Banksia marginata seed pods


In Australia, banksia seed pods are very popular in woodworking


Banksia marginata, emerging inflorescence


Banksia marginata, fully open inflorescence


Darling Range ghost gum (Eucalyptus laeliae)


Darling Range ghost gum (Eucalyptus laeliae)


Candlebark (Eucalyptus rubida)


Snow gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora)


Snow gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora)


Snow gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora)


NOID eucalyptus


Weeping snow gum (Eucalyptus lacrimans)


NOID eucalyptus


Weeping form of Oven’s wattle (Acacia pravissima ‘Golden Carpet’)


Weeping form of Oven’s wattle (Acacia pravissima ‘Golden Carpet’)


Lilly pilly or brush cherry (Syzygium australe)


Strawflower (Xerochrysum bracteatum). I had no idea strawflowers were from Australia! My mother used to grow these annuals when I was little.


Tassel cord rush (Baloskion tetraphyllum), an Australian member of the restio family


Grevillea ‘Boongala Spoonbill’


Grevillea ‘Boongala Spoonbill’


Grevillea ‘Boongala Spoonbill’


Grevillea ‘Superb’, probably my favorite grevillea hybrid


Grevillea ‘Superb’ (with strawflower)


Grevillea ‘Superb’


Grevillea ‘Superb’ with pearl bluebush (Maireana sedifolia)


I don’t remember seeing Maireana sedifolia before but now I want one. San Marcos Growers says it thrives in alkaline soils—perfect for Davis! Now I just to find one.


Kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos flavidus). This is what kangaroo paws should look like: tall and stately.


Cordyline ‘Festival Grass’. I remember this spectacular plant from my previous visits. I tried one once but it died a slow, miserable death. Clearly it prefers the mild climate of Santa Cruz where temperatures rarely climb beyond the mid 80s.


Cordyline ‘Festival Grass’

The cordyline above is on the edge of the Succulent Garden located across the road from Norrie’s, the gift and plant shop.


Compared to the UC Botanical Garden in Berkeley, and especially the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, the UCSC Succulent Garden is tiny. Essentially, it’s just a small hillside. But it’s still a good way to show Santa Cruz residents which succulents flourish in their cool-ish coastal climate.


Aloe arborescens

Five years ago I bemoaned the fact that the Succulent Garden looked neglected and poorly maintained, an unfortunate result of budget cuts. It looks much better now, especially the newly planted beds (next two photos).



In what has become a tradition, my last stop was at Norrie’s. For a gift shop, it has a nice selection of plants, especially California natives and shrubs from South Africa and Australia.


Norrie’s as seen from the Succulent Garden


South African shrubs


LEFT: Leucadendron argenteum  RIGHT: Leucadendron ‘Jester’


Norrie’s as seen from the parking lot. The Succulent Garden is right behind the building. The South African Garden is to the right.

I brought home three plants from Norrie’s:


  • Banksia grandis ‘Compact Coastal Form’. In contrast to the regular form of Banksia grandis, which can easily top 25 feet, this compact cultivar should stay below 8 feet. It’ll go in the far corner of the backyard. It’s a beautiful shrub.
  • Xanthorrhoea preissii, an Australian grass tree that grows to 20 ft. in its native habitat. That, however, takes many decades. The plant I bought is in a 1-gallon nursery pot and is about 10 inches tall. A general rule of thumb says that xanthorrhoeas grow at a rate of 1 inch per year so even under optimal conditions it’ll take another 20 years to reach 3 feet.
  • Adenanthos cuneatus ‘Coral Drift’, a UC Santa Cruz Arboretum Koala Blooms introduction. This low-growing Australian shrub (2x3 ft.) is perfect for the front of a flower bed. New growth is a pinkish purple. It has tiny red flowers reminiscent of grevilleas.

It’s still too hot for planting here in Davis so I have some time to decide where it want to put my new additions.


South African splendor at UC Santa Cruz Arboretum (summer 2016 edition)


  1. UCSC's Australian garden makes me wonder when more of these plants will make their way into general circulation. Maireana showed up in my local garden center in 1-gallon containers in late spring. Mine seems to be taking its time to settle in (i.e. there's no sign of growth yet) but it's been unfazed by the summer heatwaves.

    1. So good to know your maireana has survived the summer even if hasn't actively gotten bigger. I bet it's done a lot of growing below ground, though.

      Soon nurseries will stock up for the fall planting season so maybe I'll find one locally.

  2. One of my favorite botanic gardens to visit, and it's been too long since my last visit. Like you, it's impossible to leave without getting something from Norries.

    That Eucalyptus lacrimans, I want!

    1. I'm always surprised by how few people (relatively speaking) are aware the UCSC Arboretum even exists. What a contrast to the UC Davis Arboretum, which is heavily used all day long. But that's because it's connected to the downtown core while the USCS Arboretum is tucked away on the edge of campus (and town).

  3. I really must get there, hopefully this October.

    Don't you love some of the names Australians think up for plants? 'Boongala Spoonbill'!

    Adenanthos cuneatus has been easier here than A. sericea which I have now killed twice.

    1. Hoov, let me know what your plans are once you've nailed them down. Maybe we can meet up somewhere. Ruth Bancroft Garden?

      Good to know about A. cuneatus. I was hoping it would be a bit hardier. A. sericea doesn't like that much heat, right?

  4. Back in 2009, when Andrew and I made our epic 2 week road trip from Portland to Los Angeles and back, I wish we would have stopped here. Maybe next time...

    1. It's still a bit of an insider place--unfortunately for them, fortunately for those who do visit. When I first arrived, I was the only visitor except for a couple of bird photographers.

  5. So many different eucalyptus! That Grevillea ‘Superb’ really is nice -- even though I have no experience with any of them. :)

    1. You'd love it there. I know people who like to throw shade on Santa Cruz, but to me it's the perfect Northern California beach town. And growing all these exotic plants from the southern hemisphere is easy there!

  6. So that's what Festival Grass is supposed to look like! I saw Maireana at Hoov's garden and was immediately on the hunt. Doesn't strike well from cuttings. I finally found it in a gallon and planted it early this summer and it's managed to survive in the front gravel garden on a forgetful watering regimen. I think it would like Davis!

    1. That Festival Grass is something else. I want to touch it every time I see it just to make sure it's not fake.

      Now I *really* need to find a maireana!


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