Sunday stroll through UC Davis Arboretum (part 3)

Time to wrap up last Sunday’s stroll through the UC Davis Arboretum before it’s Sunday again. The Australian Collection at the downtown end of the Arboretum is the section most people see when they visit, and it happens to be my favorite. Something is in bloom there whenever you go, even in the dead of winter.

Someday I’ll do a post on the gum (eucalyptus) trees growing on either side of Putah Creek, but today let’s focus on flowering shrubs.

The regular crimson bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus) is a common sight all over in Davis and Sacramento. It grows easily in our hot-summer climate and is tough as nails. Much rarer—and much nicer, in my opinion—is weeping bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis). Check out this old specimen at the Arboretum:


Weeping bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis), with my friend Ursula for scale


Weeping bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis)

Incidentally, the popular dwarf bottlebrush variety ‘Little John’ is a selection of Callistemon viminalis.


Weeping bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis)

According to the Living Plant Collection Database, the Arboretum has seven different types of banksias. That may not sound like a lot (it isn’t) but it’s more than you’d expect, given the fact that many banksias don’t like our soil, water, heat and/or occasional frost.

Here are two banksias I saw in bloom:


Coast banksia (Banksia integrifolia)


Coast banksia (Banksia integrifolia)


Coast banksia (Banksia integrifolia)


Coast banksia (Banksia integrifolia)


Cut-leaf banksia (Banksia praemorsa), new leaves on the right


Cut-leaf banksia (Banksia praemorsa), flowers

Grevilleas are far easier to grow in Davis than banksias. Area nurseries such as Green Acres in Sacramento routinely carry a dozen or more different varieties. That may only be the tip of the iceberg. I have a feeling many others not commonly available would do well here, too.

Here are a few that have proven reliable in the Arboretum:


‘Magic Lantern’ grevillea (Grevillea ‘Magic Lantern’), aka ‘Gilded Dragon’. See San Marco Growers for the confused taxonomy of this cultivar.


‘Magic Lantern’ grevillea (Grevillea ‘Magic Lantern’)


Spider-net grevillea (Grevillea thelemanniana)


Grevillea ‘Mason’s Hybrid’, also sold as ‘Ned Kelly’. It has the same lineage as ‘Robyn Gordon’ and ‘Superb’. They do look virtually identical except for subtle color variations.


Grevillea ‘Mason’s Hybrid’


Grevillea ‘Mason’s Hybrid’

But flowers aren’t everything. I think both banksias and grevilleas are beautiful even when not in bloom. That is doubly true for these two shrubs that are grown first and foremost for their foliage:


Pearl bluebush (Maireana sedifolia). This shrub with its otherworldly grayish-blue leaves has been planted in several other spots as well.


Coastal woollybush (Adenanthos sericeus), with Ursula for scale

I’ll leave you with a truly inspired combination that was installed not long ago:

161127_UCDA_Maireana-sedifolia- -Lomandra-hystrix- -Eucalyptus-cordata_001

Pearl bluebush (Maireana sedifolia), Lomandra ‘Lime Tuff’, heart-leafed silver gum (Eucalyptus cordata), and Grevillea ‘Magic Lantern’


Grevillea ‘Magic Lantern’

161127_UCDA_Maireana-sedifolia- -Lomandra-hystrix_002

Pearl bluebush (Maireana sedifolia) and Lomandra ‘Lime Tuff’

The combination of maireana and lomandra is fantastic. I’m trying to find a spot in our front yard where I can replicate it…



  1. I wish I could grow any of these. Such incredibly beautiful plants. That Callistemon viminalis is unbelievable. The Grevillea 'Magic Lantern' and pearl bluebush are pretty fantastic, as well. I'd be tempted to try one of the hardy selections of Banksia integrifolia that Cistus sells, but my soil has too much clay and not building a sandy berm just for one plant.

    1. Banksias seem to be more picky about soil than grevilleas, that's for sure. And they're typically much larger as well. If only I had acreage...

  2. I usually don't care for red-flowered bottlebrush (probably due to excessive exposure as a child when everyone in our neighborhood had at least one) but that tall weeping form is attractive. I really hope Grevillea 'Magic Lantern' turns up here (even if I have no idea where I'd put it). Thanks for sharing your tour of the Davis Arboretum!

    1. I'm with you about the regular bottlebrush. I don't hate it, but it's so pedestrian (aargh, that sound very elitist).

      Grevillea 'Magic Lantern' is also sold as 'Gilded Dragon'. San Marcos Growers carries it.

  3. Enjoyed all three of these posts, such an amazing place open to any and all.

  4. I just removed all my roses in my courtyard that gets very hot and now very dry from the drought. I'm finding the Grevillea and other's in it's Proteas family offer the greatest color and textural interest. Their care is minimal but be sure to plan on full growth size before planting! Thanks for featuring these great plants.

  5. The Lomandra does seem to a great companion to M. sedifolia. Had the Lomandra in my hand at the garden center yesterday but didn't buy it. Seems like grasses and grass-likes need to be in groups, not solitary.

    That is a magnificent vilimnalis. There are some big ones around here, but none of them look that good.

    Miss my Adenanthos, wish it had not died. I thought they needed summers cooler than Davis, but apparently not.


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