Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Sunday stroll through UC Davis Arboretum (part 1)

One of my resolutions for 2016 was to visit the UC Davis Arboretum more often. I did spend more time there but still not enough, considering all there is to explore (17 gardens/collections on 100 acres) and how close it is to my house.

To make up for lost time, I went for a walk in the Arboretum on two of the four Sundays in November. I ended up taking so many photos that I will split this post into three parts. This part is a little bit of everything; part 2 has photos from the East Asian Collection, the Desert Collection, and the Southwest USA and Mexican Collection; part 3 is all about the Australian Collection.

Here is a handy interactive map to the Arboretum. Some collections have better labeling than others, but in general, most plants aren’t labeled. That’s why the Living Plant Collection Database is invaluable for identifying plants. 

The Arboretum is open 24/7. I usually go on the weekends because parking is free then; during the week it’s $9.00 whether you park for one minute or all day. This downloadable map shows all the parking lots. Depending on which part of the Arboretum you’re most interested in, I suggest you park at the new Putah Creek Lodge lot off Garrod Drive off La Rue Road (look for the A on the downloadable map) or at the Davis Commons in downtown off 1st Street. (Davis Commons is the shopping center where Whole Foods is located; parking is free there.) Or, if you’re local, ride your bike there!


Pearl acacia (Acacia podalyriifolia)

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Superior California mountain magic

Superior California is the northernmost part of California. Its fiercely proud residents claim they’re superior in many ways to their fellow Californians further south. I won’t get involved in that particular dogfight. But as far as scenic beauty is concerned, a good argument could be made about this region’s superiority.


Spending Thanksgiving at my mother-in-law’s in Mount Shasta, I was reminded again how magical this region is. We didn’t have the white Thanksgiving the weather people had forecast but I found snow at the higher elevations. And the day we left, it did start to snow but we had to hurry to get out of the mountains before the roads got too treacherous for our minivan, which is ill-equipped for winter driving conditions.


Friday, November 25, 2016

Listen to the trees

“Listen to the trees as they sway in the wind.
Their leaves are telling secrets. Their bark sings songs of olden days as it grows around the trunks. And their roots give names to all things.
Their language has been lost.
But not the gestures.”

Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Rainy Saturday trip to Annie’s Annuals

Last Saturday started out gray and drizzly but I felt so stir-crazy I simply had to get away for a few hours. A trip to Annie’s Annuals was just what I needed. The forecast for Richmond, a little under an hour away, called for “only” a 20% chance of rain of rain so I decided to take the gamble. As it turned out, it was drizzling in Richmond, too.


When I first arrived at Annie’s, I only saw two other customers. A few more showed up later as the rain let up. What a difference from the hordes of shoppers you see on a spring weekend!

Note: I did bring my “real” camera but since it was raining I opted to use my cell phone camera instead. It’s much easier to tuck a cell phone away between shots than a bulky DSLR.

Monday, November 21, 2016

What is this agave up to?

Take a look at this dwarf cowhorn agave (Agave cupreata) near the front door. I’ve had it for just a little over a year, which isn’t much in the life of an agave. But something curious is happening. It’s getting flatter. You can’t really see it looking down at it…


…but it’s quite visible from the side:

Saturday, November 19, 2016

A little grevillea action to brighten your pre-Thanksgiving weekend

I love fall in Davis. The days are still warm, and many plants come into their own again after slowing down in the summer. Case in point: grevilleas. These Australian shrubs, members of the Proteaceae family, are right at home in California’s Mediterranean climate. As is the case with so many plants (and people!), they’re at their happiest on the coast, but we can grow quite a few of them here in the Sacramento Valley, about 60 miles inland from San Francisco Bay. In fact, the UC Davis Arboretum has a nice collection of Australian natives that thrive here.

Today I want to show you two grevilleas in our own garden that are flowering right now.


Grevillea ‘Superb’

Grevillea ‘Superb’ has been with us for 4 1/2 years. I bought it in February 2012 at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and first planted it in the backyard. Unfortunately it didn’t receive enough sun there so I moved it into the front yard circa 2014. I’m sure it lost a good chunk of its roots in the process—grevilleas don’t like to be transplanted anyway—and it’s taken a long time to get going again. But this year it’s finally turned the corner. And now it’s blooming.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

More R&R in the front yard

Not rest & relaxation. The other R&R: removal & replacement.

Before, there were two sprawling salvias: Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ and Salvia canariensis. I love both of them, and I wouldn’t have taken them out if they’d been half as big and half as vigorous. But they were clearly in the wrong place here so I finally made the hard decision to say goodbye.


Sorry, hummingbirds, I know the ‘Limelight’ was a popular hangout.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

×Mangave ‘Macho Mocha’ living the single life again

Two years ago I planted a ×Mangave ‘Macho Mocha’ I had gotten from a friend. It was solitary (and beautiful) until this spring when it bloomed. I had expected the mother to die, like most agaves do, but it didn’t. Instead, it multiplied. And while I don’t mind more plants, I didn’t think this clump was all that attractive:


Monday, November 14, 2016

Ruth Bancroft Garden in early November (2 of 2)

Moving right along, here is part two about my recent Sunday outing to the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek. If you missed part 1, click here to start at the beginning.


Another favorite garden vista


More fall color

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Ruth Bancroft Garden in early November (1 of 2)

In a typical year, I make it to the Ruth Bancroft Garden (RBG) three or four times if I’m lucky. This year has been anything but typical. Just since July, I’ve been to the RBG six times already!

A couple of times I met up with friends from out of town, including Hoover Boo of Piece of Eden. And last Sunday I went with my friend Ursula from Davis. In fact, she was the one who suggested it since I’ve talked so much about the RBG over the years.


Agave parrasana and Senna artemisioides

Ursula and I spent almost three hours wandering around the garden. Fellow succulent aficionado Stephen Lysaght, the RBG’s garden host, gave us a tour of the shade house where smaller, more sensitive succulents live. You’ll see some of them below.Thanks to a thin cloud layer, the light was nicely diffused, which made for softer photographs than I’m usually able to take at the RBG.

Let me share with you the wonderful sights I saw on Sunday. As many times as I’ve been to the RBG, I still find new plants to photograph—or new ways to photograph familiar ones. That makes me happy,


Trees planted on the outside of the wall along Bancroft Road provide a beautiful wall of color at this time of year

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Wednesday Vignette: Life will go on

Shock. Disbelief. Anger. Frustration.

There’s no panacea, but one thing I do know: Life will go on. Always has, always will.

Right now, I’m choosing to focus on things that make me feel better. Like this vignette I photographed last Saturday at the Ruth Bancroft Garden.

Succulents and fall color, not something I see often.



The Wednesday Vignette meme is hosted by Anna Kullgren over at Flutter and Hum. You can read her current Wednesday Vignette post here. Be sure to check out the links to other blogs that are also participating.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Starting on backyard makeover

In the last few years we’ve focused on the front yard, largely ignoring the backyard. This is about to change. The first project is underway: removal of the bamboos outside the dining room. I didn’t take a current “before” photo because I thought I had one in my photo library. Unfortunately, the “newest” one is from April 2014:


Since then, the chocolate bamboo (Borinda fungosa) had outgrown its space and needed frequent whacking back just to be able to walk to the sliding door. The Borinda angustissima to the right of it (which you never really saw) had flopped over so much that the compost tumbler was inaccessible. As much as I liked these bamboos—and they did remarkably well with what little water they got—the situation couldn’t go on. With very mixed feelings I took them out last weekend. Look how much space has been freed up:


Thursday, November 3, 2016

Succulents and more outside the front yard fence

In my last post I showed you the progress and recent changes happening in the front yard inside the fence. Now let’s venture outside the fence. The planting strip that runs along the sidewalk bakes in the sun. I’ve had some failures here over the years (remember this beautiful Leucospermum ‘Scarlet Ribbon’?) but they’ve taught me to rely more heavily on heat-loving—or at least heat-tolerant—succulents as well as perennials from other Mediterranean climates.

I feel good heading into winter (and, beyond that, into the next summer) but there are always unexpected surprises. But that’s what makes gardening so fascinating. Let’s face it, we need at least some plants to die here and there to justify our ongoing plant purchases!


Agave weberi ‘Arizona Star’ and Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’. Both will be much bigger a year from now.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Meanwhile, on the homefront…

From my recent posts, sparse as they have been, you might have gotten the impression that I haven’t been home much. Actually, I have been, but work has been unexpectedly busy, exacerbated by the forced absence of my business partner who has had to take PTO to be with an ailing parent overseas.

Gardening has been sporadic, but I have been taking photos. I’ve even started on a couple of projects in the backyard, relegated to also-ran status in recent years. All that is about to change, as you will see in a separate post later this week.

For now, let’s take a look at the front yard, specifically what used to be the front lawn. This is what you see as you approach from the driveway (literally steps behind the spot from which I took this photo). I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of this view. It’s everything I had hoped for.