Thursday, March 30, 2017

Vignettes from Victoria III

Our last few days in Victoria, British Columbia were dominated by visits to three local gardens: the Butchart Gardens (everybody seems to have visited it at some point in their lives); the much smaller and more intimate Abkhazi Garden ("The Garden that Love Built"); and Finnerty Gardens on the campus of the University of Victoria. I took enough photos for dedicated posts, but for now here's the teaser version.

Locals I've talked to say that this winter was the harshest in recent memory. There was snow (!), something Victoria residents aren't used to. The University of Victoria closed down for half a day in January--only the third time that's ever happened. And the cold weather lingered much longer than it usually does. As a result, plants are weeks behind where they usually are. Butchart Gardens (located 20 km north of Victoria) says they're four weeks behind; a lady I talked to earlier today said that Victoria proper, where it's warmer than at Butchart Gardens, is two, maybe three behind.

As a result, many plants are still in late winter mode, rather than early spring. This is a crucial transition time, and the lack of blooms is quite noticeable. Especially at the Butchart Gardens where thousands of bulbs, especially daffodils and tulips, are still in the bud stage. But the Butchart Gardens has an ingenious solution: an indoor display garden ("Spring Prelude").

Spring Prelude at the Butchart Gardens
Everything the Butchart Gardens does is perfectly executed, and the Spring Prelude is no exception. Look for more photos in my dedicated post later this spring.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Vignettes from Victoria II

In Vignettes from Victoria 1 I mentioned that spring is very late this year. The Butchart Gardens blog says that the "floral calendar is almost a full month behind." But there is good news, too: "[B]ecause of this we are anticipating one of the most dynamic spring seasons ever." Maybe this will be true for the entire Pacific Northwest. A bit of payback for my long-suffering friends in Portland and points north.

Meanwhile, I keep discovering pockets of color all over Victoria. Originally a hospital, the venerable St Joseph Apartment Building on Humboldt St has several cherry trees that are in full bloom now. What a spectacular sight!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Vignettes from Victoria I

It's spring break this week and we're in Victoria, British Columbia to visit daughter #1, who is a student at the University of Victoria. I'm taking plenty of photos, like I always do, and I will share them throughout the week.

Even though Victoria has one of the mildest climates in the Pacific Northwest, it, too, had a much harsher winter than usual. There are signs of spring, but people are saying that everything is three weeks behind. The difference between now now and our visit last year in the second week of April is quite dramatic. You'll see what I mean when you look at the photos below. And yet, Victoria is beautiful even when it's gray and rainy.

Plum tree leafing out every so slowly on the campus of the University of Victoria

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Sparaxis explosion in Marta's succulent garden

My friend Marta, whose beautiful succulent and rare fruit tree garden I photographed in December, emailed me late last week to let me know her aloes were flowering. Needing a break from the torture of doing our taxes, I headed over in the early afternoon on Sunday to see what's going on.

I was prepared for blooming aloes but I didn't know I'd be finding this:

An honest-to-goodness explosion of sparaxis all over Marta's front yard!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

My friend Luisa's Inland Empire succulent container garden

My friend Luisa, who blogs at Crow and Raven, is one of those people you click with right away. Talk to her for an hour, and it feels like you've known her all your life. She's as easy-going and generous a soul as you're ever going to meet. And if you're lucky, you get to visit her garden at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains

But Luisa's garden doesn't consist of stuff growing in the ground. No, virtually every plant she owns is in a pot. And all her pots are in her small backyard, arranged on a retaining wall, on tables, or on the ground. I don't know how many individual containers Luisa has, but there are many. MANY

Lest you think this results in clutter, rest in peace. It's actually quite the opposite. It's like walking into a store selling rare books. You don't know what you're going to find, but you know that it'll be an exciting journey of discovery.

The photos I took during my recent visit are proof of what I'm talking about it. Take a look at this wide shot and tell me that you're not curious to see what all there is? 

It's your lucky day, because I have many more images to show you.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Field trip to Poot's Cactus Nursery (part 2)

In part 1 of this post, I showed you the demonstration garden (including koi pond) and the propagation greenhouse of Poot's Cactus Nursery in Ripon, California.

This post focuses on the sale area. While smaller than the propagation areas, the sale area is jam-packed with goodies. There's an outside area with tables for smaller plants as well as a selection of larger specimens that just sit on the ground. And there's a retail greenhouse with more cold-sensitive and rare specimens, all waiting to be discovered and explored.

I was happy to see that Poot's provides shopping carts and wagons for those of us who take plant shopping seriously. This is Mariel, SCSS vice president and program chair, who organized this field trip and took advantage of this opportunity to buy the raffle plants for the next meeting (Monday, March 27, 7:00 pm; for more info, click here).

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Field trip to Poot's Cactus Nursery (part 1)

I joined the Sacramento Cactus & Succulent Society almost seven years ago, and the first field trip I went on was to Poot's Cactus Nursery in Ripon, a small town in the Central Valley about an hour south of Sacramento. Now, six and a half years later, we did the same field trip.

Even though I do get around, I hadn't been back to Poot's since November 2011, and I couldn't wait to see what had changed. The short answer: Nothing and everything. The demonstration garden in the front is still there, but the plants have grown tremendously. The propagation greenhouse is still full of wonders, but it seemed like there were even more plants. And the sale area is still well-stocked but the selection is even better and the prices seemed particularly attractive.

I took so many photos that I decided to split this post into two parts. This part covers the demonstration garden and the propagation greenhouse. Part 2 covers the sale area.

Entrance to the nursery right off Highway 120

Friday, March 17, 2017

Surprise flowers of the year: butterfly amaryllis

Last week, one my favorite blogs, Piece of Eden, talked about Amaryllis vs. Hippeastrum and showed a beautiful photo of Hippeastrum papilio, the butterfly amaryllis. I left a comment saying that I planted a few bulbs years ago, and while the clump had gotten bigger, there had never been flowers.

The next morning I happened to look at the mass of strappy leaves from my Hippeastrum papilio, and this is what I found:

You can imagine how surprised I was! This raised bed is tucked away off to the side of the front porch. It's been neglected for a while and I don't routinely look there for exciting plant discoveries.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hail to Erik the Red (the aloe, that is)

Erik the Red was a Norwegian Viking who established the first Norse settlement in Greenland in 982 and fathered Leif Erikson, reputed to be the first European to have discovered North America. Erik was nicknamed "the Red" because of his hair and beard. But as impressive they might have been, I'm sure they paled in comparison to this Erik the Red:

This is Aloe 'Erik the Red' in full flower. It has shown impressive growth ever since I planted it in March 2014 from a #5 can. In the winter of 2014/15 it had one flower stalk, last year two, and this year three.  

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Aloe wonderland at Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center in Southern California

I would never have known about the Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center (JMDC) on edge of Riverside if it hadn't been for my friend Luisa. She lives 45 minutes from there and loves the place. It turns out the many locals don't know about the JMDC either although they're familiar with the giant mammoth figure on the hillside off the 60 freeway. 

The mammoth may be the JMDC's calling card but it's not the only giant sculpture. There are dinosaurs aplenty. I don't know the exact story of how they came to be, but not surprisingly, they're very popular with kids. And the JMDC has a range of programs and activies that appeal to this core group, including school programs (in 2014, 9000 school children visited the JMDC on field trips). A small but excellent Earth Science Museum features fossils, Native American artifacts, minerals and dinosaur eggs, many collected in the Inland Empire.

As whimsical as the dinosaurs are, the main attraction for me were the gardens. And as you can see right at the entrance, where the first set of photos was taken, it's all about succulents.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Whirlwind trip to the Southern California desert--Palm Springs and beyond

Last week I made a whirlwind trip to Southern California to visit with friends from Portland who were renting a condo in Palm Springs. It truly was a crazy trip: drive down Thursday, drive back Sunday. But I love road trips, and I love the desert, so how could I say no? Especially when I had the opportunity to combine it with a brief visit with another friend, Luisa of Crow and Raven.

I saw wonderful gardens and plants, I took lots of photos, and I will have quite a few dedicated posts. For now, I want to tease you with a few collages.

My first stop was at Jurupa Mountains Discovery Center in Riverside. I met up with Luisa in the afternoon, and we enjoyed photographing the succulents (the aloes were in full bloom!) and shopping in the nursery.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Agave order from Plant Delights Nursery

Like many of you, I've been a big fan of Plant Delights Nursery in Raleigh, North Carolina for a number of years. Even if you've never ordered from them, you're probably familiar with their catalog—easily the most unique and entertaining plant catalog in the country.

Owner Tony Avent is one of the world's leading plantmen, a true renaissance guy. To get an idea of what he's done and where he's been, check these plant expedition logs. Among many other plant categories, he's considered an expert in agaves. Plant Delights has introduced many agave cultivars over the years, including 'Silver Surfer', 'Arizona Star' and 'Frostbite'.

The 2017 catalog is particularly rich in new Agave and ×Mangave cultivars. Take a look here. The entire range of agaves and mangaves currently available is here. I placed an order when the 2017 catalog came out a few months ago, and today my plants arrived. For a plant lover, few things are as exciting as receiving a package like this in the mail: