Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Mealybugs win, agave loses

Two years ago, I posted this photo of my Agave parryi var. truncata:


It showed the beginnings of what would turn into a particularly insidious infestation of mealybugs, the bane of my existence as a gardener. It also marked the start of a multi-year war against these little đź’©đź’©đź’©.

Fast forward to August 2018:

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Solana Succulents: my favorite kind of nursery

There's no doubt about it: Large nurseries that grow their own material, like Rancho Soledad Nursery in northern San Diego County, are exciting to visit. But what makes my plant-loving heart beat even faster are small independent nurseries—often mom-and-pop (or mom or pop) businesses operating out their own backyard or a tiny space in a not-so-flashy part of town and carrying an eclectic inventory of plants that combines the fairly common with the fairly rare. Solana Succulents in the northern San Diego County town of Solana Beach is one of these special nurseries, with one exception: Its location right on Highway 101 just a few blocks from the beach, is definitely not out of the way.

In fact, the sign is easy to spot:

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Important information for Succulents and More email subscribers

If you've subscribed to receive email notifications when new posts are added to Succulents and More but haven't been receiving them lately, I apologize. Because of the General Data Protection Regulation that recently went into effect in the European Union, all subscribers need to re-confirm their subscription before email notifications can be resumed.

Fortunately, this is very easy to do:

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Sip and shop at the Succulent Café

At the end of March, I spent a whirlwind 48 hours in San Diego County to attend the 2018 Super Succulent Celebration at Waterwise Botanicals. Since I'm never one to take it slow when I'm on a trip, I also squeezed in a visit to a drive-through nursery and to Rancho Soledad Nursery, a world-class destination of its own.

On my way back to the airport I stopped by the Succulent Café in the seaside community of Carlsbad. For years I'd been hearing what a special place the original Succulent Café in Oceanside was. Unfortunately, it's now closed. But the good news is that the new Succulent Café in Carlsbad Village, just a few block from the beach, is much larger than the old space had been.

As its name suggests, the Succulent CafĂ© serves a full range of hot and cold coffee and tea drinks, baked goods, as well as breakfast dishes, sandwiches and salads. All of this is par for the course for a cafĂ©. What makes this spot so unique, though, is that you sip your lavender mocha or nosh on your orange cranberry scone surrounded by succulent displays, dish gardens, ceramics, cards, and gift items made by local artists—and of course thousands of succulents for sale. Even if you aren't the most creative type, like myself, you'll find plenty of inspiration wherever you look, and you can then pick out the right plants, container and accessories to bring your idea to life.

The saying "a picture is worth a thousand words" seems to have been coined specifically for a place like the Succulent Café. So I'll let the pictures do the talking.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

More succulent Shangri-La: Rancho Soledad Nursery (part 2)

This is part 2 of my trip report about Rancho Soledad Nursery in San Diego County. If you missed part 1, click here.

Rancho Soledad may be open to the public, but it's very much a working nursery. There were signs of it everywhere even though we didn't see many employees. Plants, usually larger specimens, were in the process of being hauled from one point to another, like Aloidendron ramosissimum in this photo:

Aloidendron ramosissimum

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Succulent Shangri-La: Rancho Soledad Nursery (part 1)

When I was in San Diego in March, I finally got the chance to visit a place I had always pictured as the nursery equivalent of Shangri-La: Rancho Soledad Nursery. Founded by legendary plantsman Jerry Hunter in 1954, Rancho Soledad has been a pioneering force in the California nursery industry for decades. Rancho Soledad was one of the first nurseries in the world to establish its own in-house tissue culture lab to produce landscape-worthy plants on a large scale. Popular agave hybrids like 'Blue Glow' and 'Blue Flame' are just two of the many introductions to come out of Rancho Soledad.

Much of Rancho Soledad's groundbreaking work in the last 20 years was done by Kelly Griffin, who is now succulent plant development manager at Altman Plants, the largest grower of succulents in the U.S. Even though Griffin is no longer with Rancho Soledad, their hybridizing program is continuing strong, thanks in no small measure to curator Jeremy Spath. With his far-ranging knowledge and practical experience, Spath is considered a leading expert on agaves. Based on the glimpses I got on my visit, I have no doubt that Rancho Soledad will continue to bring us exciting new agaves in the years to come.

Rancho Soledad Nursery is located in northern San Diego County outside the small town of Rancho Santa Fe, about 10 miles inland from the coast. The sprawling 25-acre nursery is at the end of Aliso Canyon Road in a rural area increasingly dominated by multi-million-dollar houses on large lots. Hey, for a cool $18 million you can buy this 12,400 sq.ft. house with 7 bedrooms and 14 bathrooms five miles away; the estimated mortgage is only $73,000 a month! I bet this part of San Diego County looked very different when Jerry Hunter bought the property in 1960.

I visited Rancho Soledad on a Saturday morning in late March accompanied by fellow succulent fanatics Deana and Sarah from Santa Barbara. I don't think the nursery gets a lot of casual walk-in traffic, considering where it's located; most customers seem to be landscaping professionals who buy plants for their own clients. We parked at the public sales area near the main entrance (here's a map for orientation). In the panorama below, you see the landscape design and consulting office straight ahead:

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Bodacious bromeliads at Sacramento Bromeliad Society show

Yesterday I went to the 2018 Show and Sale of the Sacramento Bromeliad and Carnivorous Plant Society. As I had hoped, it was a great opportunity to see plants I only know from books and the web. I'm a rank novice when it comes to bromeliads (especially cultivation) but I'm fascinated by the wide range of forms and colors. And I came home with a box full of treasures—it's hard to resist a good sale with prices that can't be beat.

Here are some of the plants that caught my eye in the show. They're in no particular order, just like the show itself didn't seem to be in any particular order. It's easy to see why many succulent fanatics are into bromeliads as well.

Cryptanthus 'Thriller'

Friday, July 27, 2018

Random things in the garden that make me happy

All too often I'm focused on the areas that still need to be improved or redone. This mindset isn't bad in and of itself, but it makes me lose sight of the many things that are done—and, more importantly, that I'm happy with. Here are some of them.

It can be as simple as a concrete face on the backyard fence:

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Agaves, aloes, and abutilons

It seems like everything I have doing in the garden lately has been haphazard: a little bit here, a little bit there. I know that ultimately things will come together, but right now it feels like a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces are scattered all over.

The same holds true for recent plant purchases. Nothing focused, just whatever catches my eye, happens to come to my attention, or simply lands in my lap.

This post is about three genera beginning with the letter a that been front and center in the last month. Two are not surprising—agaves and aloes—but the third one is: abutilons, or flowering maples. Read on to find out more.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Rating ornamental plants as part of UC Davis irrigation trial

Last week I did something really interesting: I helped rate the appearance of landscape plants that are currently part of an irrigation trial at the University of California Davis. The objective is to determine how ornamental plants fare when they receive different amounts of water and are irrigated increasingly less frequently. The ultimate goal is to find the sweet spot where a plant still looks good with as little irrigation as possible. This is of enormous importance for gardeners in the West and Southwest—anyplace where water is scarce and precious.

On the UC Landscape Plant Irrigation Trial website, the project is described like this:
UC Davis horticulturists are evaluating landscape plants with the potential to be good performers in low-water use gardens. [...] the plants are exciting new cultivars provided by growers and breeders who want to evaluate their new plant varieties for low-water use in hot California gardens. The results of these trials are providing growers and retailers the information they need to successfully distribute and market these plants to the public.
This is how the project works:
After being grown for a full year on a regular watering regime [roughly weekly during the summer with 8.3 gallons applied during each event] to establish deep, healthy roots, plants are irrigated through the second growing season with one of three different irrigation frequencies that correspond to the Water Use Classification of Landscape Species (WUCOLS IV) categories of Low, Moderate, and High.  (These categories are based on percentages of reference evapotranspiration with local weather station data used to estimate these percentages.)
Height and width are measured monthly to calculate a growth index for each species at each irrigation level. Overall appearance, flowering time and duration, and pest or disease problems are rated monthly to provide a comprehensive assessment of performance, allowing us to make irrigation recommendations for these plants. This data allows growers to provide good information in marketing their product to the consumer.
In addition to the monthly appearance evaluations mentioned above, larger-scale evaluations are performed in the spring, summer and fall where local horticulturists, landscaping and nursery professionals, master gardeners, and garden communicators are invited to walk the growing grounds and rate the plants growing under the different irrigation schemes. This was the first time I participated in one of these Open House Ratings Events, and I can't wait to do it again in the fall.

The plants are growing in random order in rows like these:


Monday, July 16, 2018

Institute for Aloe Studies does mail order

Have you heard of the Institute for Aloe Studies? High five if you answered yes; I bet you hang out a lot in aloe-related web forums! But don't feel bad if you haven't. The Institute for Aloes Studies isn't a household name yet, although it deserves to be.

The Institute for Aloe Studies (IAS) is the brainchild of John B Miller, an elementary school teacher from Oakland, California who became hooked on aloes when he saw an Aloe sabaea on his first visit to the Ruth Bancroft Garden (RBG) in nearby Walnut Creek 20+ years ago. In the years to follow, John and his brother Jeff, equally enamored with aloes, worked as volunteers at the RBG and built up an impressive aloe collection of their own.

My first order from the Institute for Aloe Studies

Friday, July 13, 2018

Getty Center gardens, finally!

It took me 20 years to visit the Getty Center in Los Angeles for the first time, but through a fortunate combination of circumstances I've now been there twice in the last six months. Not that I'm complaining; if I lived closer, I'd be a regular!

The Getty Center is one of the most visited art museums in the U.S. I'm convinced people come as much for the location as they do for the priceless European art on display. The Getty Center sits all by itself on top of a hill next to the 405 freeway. Visitors park their cars in a 6-story underground parking structure at the base of the hill and take the tram to the museum complex—a ride of less than five minutes. Parking costs $15 ($10 after 3pm), but there is no charge to use the tram or see the museum exhibits.

Volumes have been written and said about the Getty Center, oil billionaire J. Paul Getty, his vast art collection, and of course about the trials and tribulations of his family, including the 1973 kidnapping of his grandson (the topic of the 2017 Ridley Scott movie All the Money in the World). And like virtually everything associated with the Gettys, the Getty Center, one of the two museum complexes run by the Getty Trust, is the stuff of superlatives. Built over the course of eight years at a cost of $733 million (including $115 million for the 750 acres of land), the property was valued at almost $4 billion in 2013 (not including the art).

In addition to its location, architecture, and art, the Getty Center has something else: world-famous gardens. The Central Garden with its three towering steel arbors draped with hot-pink bougainvillea, and the Cactus Garden on top of the South Promontory, are destinations in their own right, as evidenced by steady streams of visitors.

Cactus Garden with an unobstructed view of downtown Los Angeles

Sunday, July 8, 2018

Succulent perfection at the Newport Beach Civic Center Desert Garden

The first time I read about the Newport Beach Civic Center was in this October 2014 post on Piece of Eden. The $140 million complex took three years to complete and opened in April 2013. It houses Newport Beach City Hall and the Central Library and is surrounded by 16 acres of parks and gardens, including the Coastal Sage Scrub Garden, the Torrey Pine Grove and—of particular interest to me—the Desert Garden.

On our recent trip to Southern California to tour university campuses with daughter #2, I had the opportunity to visit the Newport Beach Civic Center on an early morning outing. I found a parking space right at the entrance to the parking lot and only encountered a couple of other people as I was walking around.

A mass planting of Agave attenuata against the north wall of City Hall sets the stage:

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Garden rooms and an ocean view in Mendocino

Every summer I look forward to the Garden Conservancy's Open Days. This year I finally made it to an Open Days event in Mendocino on the North Coast. I met up with fellow bloggers Kathy of GardenBook and Denise of A Growing Obsession so I not only saw two fantastic gardens, I did it in the company of like-minded friends. In addition, I finally got to visit fabled Digging Dog Nursery, located deep in the woods just south of Mendocino—more on that in separate post.

The first garden we toured was a 3-acre spread overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Since it's right next to Russian Gulch State Park, it seems even larger. As you will see in the photos below, it is a spectacular blend of colors, shapes and textures. In fact, there are several distinct gardens coexisting side by side, each one self-contained and able to stand on its own, yet connecting seamlessly to the others.

The first area you see as you approach the house is an expansive heather garden planted with a variety of Erica. The softly undulating forms of the heathers look wind-worn, as if shaped by the harsh winds off the Pacific Ocean. There was great contrast even now; I can only imagine how beautiful the heather garden must be in the fall and winter.

I believe the house you see is on the property, but it's not the main residence. Maybe it's a guest house?

Sunday, July 1, 2018

San Diego just won't stop succing

It's day 3 of our visit to San Diego. The succy trend that started on day 1 and continued on day 2 is showing no signs of letting up. Slowly but surely, it's wearing me down. It won't be long before I throw up my hands in defeat and become a convert. Maybe all this succyness isn't so bad after all!

The campus of San Diego State University is only a tenth of the size of UC San Diego, which we visited yesterday, but it has a much higher succulent ratio. The first sighting we made was in front of this newly refurbished residence hall:

Saturday, June 30, 2018

San Diego still succs

Day 2 in San Diego, and the succy sights simply won't end. Wherever we go, there are spiky plants that want to be boss.

It starts right at our hotel:

Friday, June 29, 2018

San Diego succs

I'm in San Diego for a quick family trip to tour colleges with daughter #2. Once again I'm reminded of how unlikeable this city is. The weather is awful: oppressive gray skies, not a trace of sunshine, just an annoying drizzle that never seems to end. The scenery is dull and drab; in fact, there is nothing to see, nothing to do.

You want proof?

Here's incontrovertible proof that San Diego succs!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

England meets Texas: Jenny Stocker's walled garden (#gbfling2018)

Many of you know Jenny Stocker through her blog Rock Rose and are familiar with her garden in suburban Austin. But seeing photos of a garden is one thing, even if it's hundreds, if not thousands, of photos over a number of years. Visiting it in person is something else entirely. It's a somewhat surreal experience—like a lucid dream where you find yourself in a place that's both new and familiar at the same time. When I finally had the opportunity to tour Jenny's garden during the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling, I took hundreds of photos myself. I hope that I managed to capture a few angles you haven't seen before.

If you're not familiar with the Stockers, here's a brief intro. Jenny and her husband David are transplants from England who came to the US in 1967. After gardening elsewhere in Austin, they built their dream home in 2000 and started their current garden right after the house was finished. In this post you'll see their house and garden from air as well as some photos of the early days.

Jenny describes her garden like this:
Our idea was to have space in which I could garden deer-free. So the house was built with surrounding walls. We also like to eat outdoors and have our morning coffee or afternoon tea outside, so creating areas for that became our next priority. In winter we needed a sheltered, sunny spot, and in summer a shaded spot. So we have 6 areas we use depending on the time of the year and time of day. 
You'll see all of that in the course of this post. But let's start at the street where the bus dropped us off. The first thing you notice are trees. Lots of them. It's a miniature forest!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Brian's East Bay front yard transformed into a colorful desert garden

I've seen quite a few front yard conversions in recent years, driven by the historic drought as much as turf replacement rebates from local water districts and the State of California. But few conversions have been as complete and as successful as what my friend Brian has achieved at this home in Concord.

Brian has gone from the quintessential suburban front yard—a rarely used expanse of front lawn and some shrubbery along the sidewalk and driveway—to a garden bursting with beauty and life: All the pollinators for whom the previous incarnation was a wasteland now have a smorgasbord that is as never-ending as the California sun. In addition, Brian's water consumption has dropped to a fraction of what it had been before. I don't think you could do much better than that.

Here's a before and after:


Now let's take a closer look.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Hot Color, Dry Garden

Dry garden: Many of us have that. Hot color: That's something everybody needs.

Garden writer, landscape designer and TV host Nan Sterman clearly thought so, too. Her new book Hot Color, Dry Garden (Timber Press 2018) puts an end, once and for all, to the misconception that water-wise gardens are a dull wasteland.


In fact, she busts three popular myths right out of the gate: that "low-water landscapes are brown, lifeless, and colorless," that "low-water gardens are scrubby and scrappy rather than lush and plant-filled," and that "low-water gardens are rocks and desert."

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Sizzle and pop: Southern California road trip curiosities

A busy spring has morphed into a busy summer. We just got back a from a quick 4-day road trip to Southern California to tour universities daughter #2 is interested in. Getting from Northern California to Southern California involves a goodly amount of driving on freeways which at this time of year range from merely busy to downright congested. In addition, traveling the length of the Central Valley from Sacramento to Bakersfield gets boring in no time. But every now and then you see random snippets of unassuming beauty that take your breath away:

Interstate 5, somewhere between nowhere and nowherer

Friday, June 8, 2018

Bittersweet symphony: flowering agaves

My love for agaves is no secret. They're eye candy, they have a don't-mess-with-me attitude, and no matter where you put them—in the ground or in a pot—they make a statement that cannot be denied.

Many agave species live for a long time, but when this happens, the end is near:

Agave utahensis var. nevadensis, April 7, 2018

Unlike perennials, which flower over and over again, virtually all agave species flower only once. They literally put all they've got into producing that one flower stalk. Even in a small agave like the Agave utahensis var. nevadensis above, the inflorescence is very tall in relation to the body of the agave.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Beauty can be a heavy burden—just ask this cactus

It's that time of year when the echinopsis in the front yard go into flower. We only have a few, but they're still quite a sight.

In the past, the flowers opened successively, prolonging the show (each flower lasts only a day, two at the most). This year, though, this Johnson's hybrid has six (!) flowers open at the same time:


It's a stunning spectacle!

Monday, June 4, 2018

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, Austin, TX (#gbfling2018)

The first garden we visited on the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling in Austin, TX was the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Established in 1982 as the National Wildflower Research Center under the auspices of actress Helen Hayes and Lady Bird Johnson it moved to its current 42-acre site in 1995 and was renamed Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in 1997. The Center acquired an additional 237 acres in 2002, enabling it to pursue "larger scale research on the ecology of the Central Texas region and how best to restore healthy landscapes in the region." In 2006, the non-profit organization became part of the University of Texas at Austin.

Lady Bird Johnson, the wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson, was a committed environmentalist, working to preserve public lands for future generation and to "beautify" America. She was the driving force behind 200 environmental protection laws that were passed during her husband's administration. At the entrance to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which was opened on her 70th birthday in 1982, there's a quote by Lady Bird that perfectly summarizes her objectives:
My special cause, the one that alerts my interest and quickens the pace of my life, is to preserve the wildflowers and native plants that define the regions of our land—to encourage and promote their use in appropriate areas, and thus help pass on to generation in waiting the quiet jobs and satisfactions I have known since my childhood.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Desert Gardens of Steve Martino: a must-read for xeric gardeners

There was a time when I didn't know Steve Martino's name, but his signature aesthetic—vibrantly colored walls, sculptural desert plants, dramatic interplay of light and shadow—is something I've been familiar for as long as I can remember.

Previously, the only way you could see Steve Martino's work was in magazine articles. His website has great photos, but there are never enough for my taste. And with the majority of his projects being private residences, primarily in the Southwest, it's virtually impossible to visit them in person.

That's why I was so excited when a couple of years ago Steve Martino mentioned on his Facebook page that a book was in the works. That book is now here: Desert Gardens of Steve Martino, written by Caren Yglesias and photographed by Steve Gunther, published in April 2018 by Monacelli Press.


Monday, May 28, 2018

Mirador Garden: steel and succulents in Austin, TX (#gbfling2018)

I usually approach gardens that are completely new to me the same way I do thrillers or suspense movies: I try not to find out too much in advance so I can go into the experience without any preconceived ideas. I find that to be more enjoyable than seeing everything through somebody else's lens.

At the recent Garden Bloggers Fling in Austin, Texas we were given brief descriptions of each garden. I skimmed through them the night before to get a general sense but didn't read them carefully until afterwards. I might have missed a few things mentioned in the blurbs but I was able to let each garden "speak" to me on its own terms.

However, in my posts about the gardens we visited in Austin, I'll give you as much information beforehand as I can. That should help you better understand what you see in the photos.

The Mirador Garden was designed by Curt Arnette of Sitio Design. We visited Curt's own garden after the Fling; I'll have a separate post in a few weeks.

In the homeowner's words, Mirador Garden "was designed around low-water plants, and it was inspired by my travels. The fig arbor was influenced by one I saw in New Zealand. The steel-panel retaining walls out front were inspired by the botanical gardens in Sydney, Australia." (She's referring to the Jamie Durie-designed succulent garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens.)

The Corten retaining walls was the first thing I saw as I got off the bus, and I knew this garden would be special:



Thursday, May 24, 2018

Revisiting Marta's garden: succulents, edible fruits and more

One of my favorite gardens here in Davis is less than 10 minutes from my house. It belongs to my friend Marta Matvienko, a plant geneticist whose personal interests include rare and unusual fruits (at least rare and unusual for our area). Marta documents her growing experiences and fruit tasting impressions here.

But fruit trees aren't the only thing Marta and her husband Alex grow. In fact, the first thing you see approaching their house are the flower spikes of two blooming octopus agaves (Agave vilmoriniana). They are yellow beacons visible from a block away. I have no doubt they're extremely popular with bees and possibly hummingbirds.

Agave vilmoriniana flower stalks

Monday, May 21, 2018

Redesigned Ruth Bancroft Garden nursery needs tweaking

I've probably bought more plants at the Ruth Bancroft Garden Nursery than anywhere else. In the old days, I couldn't wait for the spring and fall plant sales when tables full of exciting succulents and other plants were set up all over the garden.

In February 2015, the nursery expanded significantly, ushering in what I consider the golden age. Under the leadership of nursery manager Troy McGregor, the nursery began to offer a large variety of South African and Australian shrubs (including many proteaceas), more succulents than ever, and even water-wise trees. A consummate plantsman originally from Australia, Troy brought in plants that simply weren't available anywhere else in Northern California, always focusing on climate appropriateness and low-water use.

But nothing lasts forever. Troy left to open his own landscape design company, Gondwana Flora. The RBG broke ground to build a multi-million dollar Visitor and Education Center, and a new executive director, Carol Laughlin, took office.

While the site preparations for the new Visitor Center were under way, the nursery did business on the north side of the garden in the green metal-frame building called Ruth's Folly. Now, with the Visitor Center foundation complete, the nursery has moved back to its old spot on the south side of the garden near the main entrance. The official opening of the nursery was last Saturday, May 19. I attended the preview party on Friday, May 18 to get a sneak peek at the new space.


Saturday, May 19, 2018

Photographic proof: the garden does just fine on its own

The past month has been very busy. I spent 4½ days in Austin, TX for the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling, but that hasn't been the only thing that has kept me from doing much in the garden. Work has been consuming a big chunk of my time, leaving only parts of the weekends for puttering around outside. As a result, I haven't been able to get nearly as much done as I had hoped earlier in the year. Unfortunately, that seems to have become the new normal for me—I'm sure many of you can relate.

One thing I have been doing even at the busiest times: taking photos to chronicle the goings-on in the garden. Flowers come and go—sometimes all too quickly—so a postpone-until-tomorrow approach usually means you miss out.

This post contains 70+ photos taken over the past month. Some of the flowers are nothing but a memory now, but at least I've captured them at their peak.

What these photos prove is this: No matter how much we like to think we're indispensable, our gardens do just fine without us.

Danebrog poppy (Papaver hybridum 'Danebrog') from Annie's Annuals

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Austin, TX gardens from M to Z

In part 1 of this alphabetical round-up of garden highlights from the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling I went from Agaves to Lush. This installment covers the rest: Mexico to Zilker Botanical Gardens.


Mexico

Texas was part of Mexico until the Texas Revolution of 1836. The relationship between Texas and Mexico has always been turbulent, and in a February 2018 CBS 11/Dixie Strategies poll 57% of Texans supported Trump's border wall. But in spite of the current political animosity towards Mexico, Texas's neighbor to the south continues to be a major cultural influence: 31% of the total population of Texas is of Mexican descent and 30% of households speak Spanish at home (source). Mexican food—and Tex-Mex, a fusion between Mexican and American cuisine—are insanely popular, and even hard-core conservatives would change their tune if Trump slapped a tariff on the import of tequila.

Food writer Lucinda Hutson's garden, our first stop on Sunday, distills the essence of Mexico into a small urban space in central Austin. Walking through the backyard gate into her JardĂ­n Encantador is like stepping into a courtyard garden in the heart of Mexico. It's Lucinda's love song to Mexico, and I can still hear it loud and clear.



Sunday, May 13, 2018

Austin, TX gardens from A to L

As I mentioned in my previous post, I spent five days in Austin, Texas recently to join 90+ kindred spirits for the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling. We toured a dozen private gardens and several public gardens and visited a couple of nurseries. And on the day after the Fling, I had the opportunity to see even more gardens.

Instead of a traditional chronological overview of what we say, I'm giving you a potpourri of Austin vignettes from A to Z. This installment covers A to L, this one M to Z.


Agaves

Austin and agaves go together like hands and gloves. With maybe one exception, we saw agaves in all the gardens we visited. The whale's tongue agave, Agave ovatifolia, seems to be particularly popular—no surprise there.

Agave ovatifolia at Mirador Garden

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

My Texas plant haul

I'm sorry for not posting anything last week, but I was in Austin, TX for the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling. This was the 10-year anniversary of this annual gathering of garden enthusiasts from the US, Canada and beyond. The first Fling was held in Austin in 2008, so returning to the capital of Texas after Chicago, Buffalo, Seattle, Asheville, San Francisco, Portland, Toronto, Minneapolis, and the DC Area made perfect sense.

I took close to 2,000 photos of the 15 gardens we toured, and I hope to start posting about them next week. In the meantime, let me know show you my plant haul. It came home with me in my suitcase:


Index: 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling, Austin, TX


Cowboy boot planter at
Lucinda Hutson's
colorful Mexican-inspired garden
From May 3 to 6, I attended the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling. This annual gathering of garden bloggers from North America and the UK (and occasionally from other countries) celebrated its 10th anniversary this year in the place where it all began: Austin, TX.

This index contains all my posts relating to #gbfling2018. I'll update the list as I add new posts about the gardens we visited.


PUBLISHED:


Tuesday, May 1, 2018

RIP, rotting 'Frosty Blue'—welcome, 'Desert Love'

In early March I wrote about a mysterious case of rot that had affected three of my agaves: Agave ovatifolia 'Frosty Blue', Agave 'Snow Glow', and Agave parrasana.

Agave parrasana is healing. The rot has stopped, and there's every reason to believe this specimen will pull through.

Agave 'Snow Glow' succumbed within a week of my original post and is nothing but a memory now.

Agave ovatifolia 'Frosty Blue' was one of my favorites and I was determined to put up a fight. I sprayed it multiple times with a fungicide (Daconil), keeping my fingers crossed that would do the trick. However, 'Frosty Blue' simply couldn't be saved; the rot had progressed too far. To this day, I don't know what had caused this outbreak.

This is what the area looked like on April 20, 2018:


Sunday, April 29, 2018

Mark Delepine's Berkeley fusion garden

In April 2017,  as part of the Garden Conservancy's Open Days program, I visited a garden in Berkeley with a very intriguing name: Pseudonatural Freakshow. I took many photos and blogged about it here. The description of the garden is long but it provides valuable background information. Please scroll down beyond the jump break to read it.

Little did I know that I would become friends with the mastermind behind this garden oasis, Mark Delepine. Mark is very active in the California Horticultural Society, and I've met him on several occasions since my first visit.

Last Sunday Mark and his wife, renowned textile artist Lia Cook, had an open garden/open studio. I jumped on the opportunity to see their garden again.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Annual pilgrimage to Poot's Cactus Nursery (part 2)

In part 1 of this post about my visit to Poot's Cactus Nursery in Ripon, CA I showed you the plantings in the front of the nursery as well as the retail sales area. In part 2 we're going inside the greenhouse that is home to the Poots' personal collection of succulents. Some of the plants are also used as stock plants for propagation.

When you think of "personal collection" you may think of a few hundred plants. Not so here. While I have no idea how many individual plants there are—I'm not even sure the Poots know—there are many thousands, maybe more than 10,000. The greenhouse is absolutely packed with plants. At least half of them are cactus, the rest euphorbias, caudiciforms, and succulents like agaves, aloes and haworthias. There are some fairly common plants, too, but many are true collector's items.

Let's go poke around!

The cactus with reddish "hats" are Melocactus, often called Turk's hat cactus

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Annual pilgrimage to Poot's Cactus Nursery (part 1)

What does it take start a tradition? If visiting the same place at the same time two years in a row counts, then I have a new tradition: an annual pilgrimage to Poot's Cactus Nursery in Ripon. Many of you may have no clue where Ripon is (here's a map) but if you've ever taken Highway 120 East to Yosemite National Park, then you've driven right by Poot's. It's located in the middle of the fields between Manteca and Escalon. Just look for the signs:


The nursery was started by Bill and Roelyn Poot 30+ years ago. It's still a family business, with son Brian managing the daily operations and Bill and Roelyn playing a hands-on role in propagation and sales. We were fortunate get a private tour of the private greenhouse which is off-limits to the public. It houses the Poots' huge collection of succulents, many of which are used for propagation. I'll have photos of the greenhouse in part 2 of this post. 

Greenhouse in the back, demonstration garden in the front. The koi pond is in front of the all the cactus.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Hail the size of...

Occasionally you read about hailstones large enough to do serious damage. If they can break glass, I shudder to think what they would do to plants?!

The hail we had the other day was nothing compared to the grapefruit-sized hailstones that fell on Nebraska in 2003, but it came down fast and furious for a few minutes and made a surprisingly loud racket. Here are the three short videos I recorded from the front porch:

Monday, April 16, 2018

When a neighbor gives you free reign of her front yard

In my last post I showed you landscape designer Troy McGregor's personal garden in Martinez, CA. With permission from a neighbor across the street, Troy has planted a variety of Australian shrubs in her front yard. What an opportunity, not only to give your neighbor something attractive to look at, but also to trial plants you wouldn't have room for on your own property!

Up against the house, the existing plantings—lemons, pelargoniums, and the like—remain. They look like they've been here for decades. In fact, they give the house a fairy-tale quality, as if some 1950s version of Sleeping Beauty lives here.


Friday, April 13, 2018

Troy's garden: what does a landscape designer do with his own space?

When we remodeled our house years ago, our contractor told us that his wife always complained about the half-finished projects in their own house—he just didn't have the energy to finish them after long days at work. In a similar vein, I recently read an article about famous chefs eating fast food on their days off because they didn't have it in them to whip up fancy meals when they didn't have to.

These thoughts were on my mind as I went to visit my friend Troy McGregor a few weeks ago to pick up some plants he had for me.

For years, Troy was the nursery manager at the Ruth Bancroft Garden. Under his guidance, what used to be a small corner with a limited selection of plants became a premier destination nursery for succulents, Australian and South African natives, and other drought-tolerant plants.

Troy has since moved on to run his own landscape design and installation company, Gondwana Flora. Since he spends his days creating beautiful outdoor spaces for his clients, would his own garden be a patchwork of unfinished ideas or, worse, just a tangle of weeds?

As it turns out, there was no need for me to wonder or worry. While there was a project in progress when I visited (a redo of a section of backyard), the rest was ready for primetime.

Troy and his wife Vicki live at the end of their street, and there's no question which house is theirs: The landscaping in front is a lush and visually complex tapestry of texture and color. And like every plants(wo)man worth their salt, Troy has a dog. Heck, he has a cat, too! That guy's got all the bases covered!

Nothing gets past Patterson. Plant thieves don't stand a chance!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Rain makes succulents shine

Rain is always welcome in our garden, especially this winter when it's been quite sporadic. What I dread are violent rainstorms with howling winds because they can wreak havoc on tender plants. However, the rain we had yesterday and into today was the opposite: soft and gentle. Just what plants and I like.

Another upside of the rain: It makes succulents glisten like precious jewels. Here are some photos from last evening and this morning:

Aloe vaombe

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Waterwise Botanicals: succulent heaven (part 2 of 2)

I hope part 1 of my post about Waterwise Botanicals in San Diego's North County didn't overwhelm you. If it did, buckle up because you're about to be overwhelmed some more.

As I mentioned earlier, Waterwise Botanicals is a 20-acre nursery that specializes in succulents but also carries other drought-tolerant plants. Their selection is huge, and their prices are reasonable. I'd rate it a must-see stop on any San Diego County nursery tour, especially for people from Northern California and other corners of the world where that kind of nursery simply doesn't exist. (If you're a collector who already has all the common stuff you may have to look a little harder, but you never know you'll find.)

Part 1 focused on the retail area near the entrance. Part 2 covers the rest of the operation, including the demonstration garden and the growing grounds. It's OK to be jealous of the climate and all the plants they can grow in San Diego; I certainly went home wishing I didn't have to worry about freezes ever again.

The demonstration plantings (what they call the Desert Garden on the nursery map) aren't large but there are some nice specimens to admire.


Tree aloe (Aloidendron barberae)

Monday, April 2, 2018

Waterwise Botanicals: succulent heaven (part 1 of 2)

The main reason for my recent trip to San Diego was to attend the 2018 Super Succulent Celebration, two days jam-packed with succulent-themed talks, workshops and buying opportunities. The event was hosted by Waterwise Botanicals, a much-loved nursery in Bonsall in northern San Diego County. Founded and still run by renowned plantsman Tom Jesch, Waterwise Botanicals is now part of Altman Plants, the largest succulent grower in the U.S.

I had never been to Waterwise Botanicals before, but I'd heard and read so much about it that I thought I knew what to expect. Wrong. My frame of reference are nurseries with two or maybe three acres of growing grounds and retail space. Waterwise has 20 acres! That's a lot of plants to look at! And even though Waterwise also sells perennials, including roses, most of their inventory is succulents. Hundreds and hundreds—if not thousands—of species in everything from 2-inch pots to 24-inch boxes.


I literally spent hours walking around the nursery grounds taking pictures. I tried to edit my photo loot as much as possible, but there are so many images I want to show you that I'm breaking this post down into two parts. This part focuses on the retail area near the entrance, including the Mini Succulents Shade House. The map below will give you a better idea of how the nursery is laid out.

Friday, March 30, 2018

My first drive-through nursery experience: Evergreen Nursery in El Cajon, CA

Last weekend I spent a whirlwind 48 hours in San Diego. My first stop on Friday morning was Evergreen Nursery, a wholesale grower open to the public. The company has three locations: San Diego proper, Oceanside, and El Cajon. The El Cajon location was holding an Aloe ortholopha for me, so that's where I was headed.

Evergreen Nursery is right off Interstate 8 northeast of town. Surrounded by hillsides, green at this time of year, the rural location is beautiful.


What makes Evergreen Nursery so special is that it's a drive-through nursery. That was definitely a first for me. This is how the company explains the "Evergreen System:"
Just follow the Evergreen 3 step system: 
1. Drive through or park and shop (you may load directly into your car)
2. Ask Questions
3. Pay at the Checkout Booth
Evergreen's pricing system is designed for your ease and convenience. Plants are priced by the container size. The plants are color coded (the color code is on the map). While driving, the customer can look at a field of one gallon shrubs and easily see the least expensive (yellow card) varieties and read the plant's description. 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

48-hour San Diego succulent madness

I know I do crazy things now and then. Last weekend ranks right up there. I flew to San Diego from Sacramento early on Friday morning (flight time is only 1:20 hr), went to the Succulent Celebration at Waterwise Botanicals; toured one of the most beautiful private succulent gardens I've ever seen; explored Rancho Soledad Nursery, the source of many popular agaves like 'Blue Glow' and 'Blue Flame'; met up with some fellow succulent fanatics at the Succulent Cafe; and checked out Jeff Moore's nursery Solana Succulents. I arrived back home at midnight on Saturday. 48 hours of total succulent madness!

I took over 900 photos, so it'll take me a while to go through them all. Here are a few collages to give you an idea of what I saw.

My very first stop was at Evergreen Nursery in El Cajon, east of San Diego. They were holding a hard-to-find Aloe ortholopha for me. Evergreen Nursery is a wholesale-but-open-to-the-public nursery with three locations in the San Diego area. Their prices are extremely reasonable (my 5-gallon aloe was $24.50). But the most interesting thing about Evergreen: It's a drive-through nursery. You drive through the entire nursery (some 30 acres) in your own car, load up the plants you want, and on the way out you stop at a kiosk where they tally up your purchases. I'd never experienced anything like it before.

Evergreen Nursery, El Cajon, CA

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

2018 Super Succulent Celebration at Waterwise Botanicals in Bonsall, CA, March 23-24, 2018

Waterwise Botanicals, a 20-acre succulent nursery in northern San Diego County, is the place to be this Friday and Saturday, March 23 and 24, 2018.

Themed "A Walk on the Wild Side," Waterwise Botanicals' 2018 Super Succulent Celebration is a two-day event packed with presentations, demonstrations, and workshops for succulent lovers.

Photo © 2017 Waterwise Botanicals

The speakers include:
  • author Nan Sterman
  • author and nursery owner Jeff Moore of Solana Succulents
  • landscape designer Laura Eubanks
  • author Debra Lee Baldwin
  • author and former nursery owner Robin Stockwell
  • Waterwise Botanicals owner Tom Jesch
  • landscape designer Steve McDearmon
  • succulent hybridizer and tissue culture expert Kelly Griffin

Vendors include master potter Susan Aach whose creations complement succulents perfectly.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Mangave mystery box

A couple of weeks ago I proclaimed 2018 to be the year of the mangave. This was based on the ever increasing number of hybrids becoming available in nurseries, and the growing popularity of these harmless half-siblings of the spiky agave. If you haven't seen the variety of leaf textures and colors offered by the latest crop of mangaves, check out my earlier post. I'm sure you'll find a few that you like even if you're not fond of agaves.

A week after my mangave post, UPS delivered two mystery boxes to our doorstep. Guess what was inside?

Box 1:

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Unique Succulents DOT com illegally reproduces content from Succulents and More


WARNING: Unique Succulents DOT com is mirroring the content of Succulents and More without my permission. 


Stolen content from Succulents and More

The above is a screenshot of their homepage. All the posts you see there (images and text) are owned by Gerhard Bock, the author of Succulents and More.

Succulent and More has initiated legal action against the entity owning Unique Succulents DOT com for copyright infringement.

All content on Succulents and More is protected by US and international copyright laws and may not be reproduced in any form without prior express consent by the copyright owner, Gerhard Bock.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Bromeliads with blooms and barbs, and other oddities in my garden

Cacti, agaves, yuccas and their kinfolk may have been around the longest in our garden, but they're not the only spiky residents. More recently, they've been joined by members of a different family: bromeliads. These aren't succulents, but they're just as alluring.

While some bromeliads have armaments as fierce as those of cacti or agaves, others are very user-friendly—especially tillandsias, the much-beloved air plants that have conquered by the world by storm in recent years. My first tillandsia experience about 10 years ago didn't have a happy ending, but I learned a valuable lesson: air plants can't live off air alone; they do need water. My current crop of tillandsias, acquired in January, lives outside in metal wall planters, and I mist them once a week (or rather, I try to). Whatever I'm doing must agree with them, because to my shock and surprise, one of them is actually flowering!

Tillandsia ionantha

This may not be a big deal to people who have more experience with tillandsias than I do, but I still think it's a minor miracle.