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Showing posts from 2018

John Miller's Oakland aloe garden (Institute for Aloe Studies)

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In July I blogged about the plants I'd mail-ordered from the Institute for Aloe Studies  (IAS) in Oakland. I was blown away (and still am) by their huge selection of uncommon aloe species and their very reasonable prices. Some of the IAS plants are grown in a greenhouse on the grounds of the Oakland Zoo, others at the private garden of IAS president John Miller. A few weekends ago, I finally had the opportunity to visit John's garden together with three other aloe enthusiasts, John B, Justin T and Brian P. The experience was mind-blowing and overwhelming—actually, it was very similar to way I often feel a really great museum. As it turns out, John Miller has one of the largest collections of aloes in the country. My partners-in-crime were giving him a good-natured ribbing: Where are you now in the top 3? Number 2? Haven't made it to the top yet? Plant nerds like teasing each other. Aloidendron dichotomum  dressed up for Christmas To find out more about the histor

Huntington Desert Garden eye candy for the holidays (New World 2)

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I hope the eye candy from the Huntington's Desert Garden that I've been showing you over the past couple of days has brightened the dark winter days. The first post was all about the Old World section with its aloes, euphorbias, and the like. The second post  featured many of the amazing cactus and other succulents in the New World section. That's where this post (the third and final installment) continues. The most iconic agave at the Huntington is Agave parryi var. truncata . In fact, the Huntington has its own eponymous clone, officially a named cultivar since 2012. In the  second post  you saw it growing amidst the jumble of golden barrel cactus; in the photo below, it frames a magnificent Agave mapisaga var. lisa : Agave mapisaga  var.  lisa  and  Agave parryi  var.  truncata

Huntington Desert Garden eye candy for the holidays (New World 1)

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My previous post had eye candy from the Old World section of the Huntington's Desert Garden . Click here to read it. For some reason, I took even more photos in the New World section when I visited the week after Thanksgiving; it must have been the late afternoon light that made cactus spines glow like liquid gold. I'll share 90+ images with you over the next couple of days to make your holidays succulently spiny. First, let's stop briefly at the  Yucca rostrata sentinels in the entrance garden... I read that this is a Yucca rostrata cultivar called 'Blue Velvet'

Huntington Desert Garden eye candy for the holidays (Old World)

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My last post—a review of Ron Parker's book Chasing Centuries: The Search for Ancient Agave Cultivars Across the Desert Southwest —was 1,700+ words. Since everybody is so busy around the holidays, I want to spare you another lengthy post. Instead, here's some easy-to-digest succulent eye candy from the Desert Garden at the Huntington in San Marino. I took the photos at the end of November on day 1 of my post-Thanksgiving road trip  to Southern California. In fact, I took so many photos that I have enough for several "eye candy" posts. This one focuses on the Old World section , mostly plants from Africa. Enjoy! Aloidendron barberae silhouette

Chasing Centuries: top agave book of 2018

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Considering how few books there are about agaves (I reviewed four in this post ), any new volume about my favorite plant group is a reason for celebration. When it's a truly original book—one that goes where no other book has gone before—the celebration becomes a party. And when the book combines agaves with archaeology, a field that has stirred my imagination since I was in my teens, and Arizona, one of my favorite places in the world, the party becomes a part ay where you might break out dance moves you haven't attempted since college even though your limbs might not be as limber as they once were. Chasing Centuries: The Search for Ancient Agave Cultivars Across the Desert Southwest  (Sunbelt Publications, January 2019) by Ron Parker had me doing a mental  U Can't Touch This harem pants dance routine, as cringeworthy as that may sound. A few years ago, Ron and Greg Starr took me on a  hike in the Waterman Mountains  northwest of Tucson to see  Agave deserti var. sim

Mid-December vignettes from our garden

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In my previous post  I started to take a look at what's going on in our garden right now; this is essentially a continuation. Seeing how it's mid-December, things are slowing down. But with daytime highs near 60, there's still plenty of growing going on. This is the view of the larger succulent mound from the front porch, outside the dining room: I  never get tired of it. 

Meanwhile, at home, in our own garden...

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After being gone for almost two weeks (first for Thanksgiving, then on my trip to Southern California ), it seemed like I hadn't spent any time in the garden in quite a while. We don't usually get much fall color, but the Chinese pistache in the backyard is putting on a good show this year: I still wish we had actually gotten the male tree we'd ordered (female Chinese pistache are much messier and don't have as much color in the fall), but it's 20 years too late to complain.

2018 post-Thanksgiving road trip to Southern California

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Here are all the posts from my 2018 post-Thanksgiving road trip to Southern California (November 26 to December 1, 2018): Southern California, here I am again... Southern California road trip, day 2 Southern California road trip, day 3 Southern California road trip, day 4 Southern California road trip, day 5 Southern California road trip, day 6 Detailed posts to follow about the Huntington Desert Garden, my visits with Andy Siekkinen (Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden) und Jeff Moore (Solana Succulents), my friend Deana's garden in Carpinteria/Santa Barbara, and much more.

Southern California road trip, day 6

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Day 6, the last day of my Southern California road trip, arrived all too quickly. I had spent the night in the Central California university town of San Luis Obispo, home of California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly). I've always had a soft spot for SLO and can actually see myself living there some day. Gardening in such a gentle climate has got to be dreamy! My first stop was the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden , a non-profit endeavor I'd discovered in April 2016. In my post about that visit , I mentioned their ambitious expansion plans for the future. Unfortunately, raising the funds for such a big project is a difficult and slow process, and I didn't see any visible progress on this visit. Still, the 2½-acre preview garden is a nice medley of plants from the various Mediterranean climate regions around the world. Here are some examples: Aloe ferox against California buckeye ( Aesculus californica )

Southern California road trip, day 5

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Day 5 began with breakfast at Esau's Café in Carpinteria ("World Famous since 1939"), just a couple of blocks from the beach. Joining me were my friend Deana and her husband Robert; Deana has lived in the Santa Barbara area for 30+ years and knows everything there is to know. Imagine gardening in a virtually frost-free climate where 85°F is considered a hot day! The lack of water, however, is a worry that's never far from residents' minds. That's one reason why Deana is such a fan of succulents. Most of them thrive in the mild coastal climate. The only exception are cacti native to extremely hot desert environments; Santa Barbara simply doesn't get caliente enough for them. After breakfast, I had the opportunity to check out the progress in Deana's garden. As you can see, the front yard is dominated by a massive Agave americana , one of the nicest forms I've seen: Like all Agave americana , it does offset, but Deana is diligent about r

Southern California road trip, day 4

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Day 4 of my ATSCRT (After-Thanksgiving Southern California Road Trip) started with a visit to Australian Native Plants  in Casitas Springs, less than 10 miles northeast of Ventura where I had spent the night. The nursery is owned and operated by Jo O'Connell and her husband Byron Cox. Jo is a tour de force in the plant world. Through patience, perseverance and lots of hard work, she and Byron have built a one-of-a-kind niche business that now offers the largest selection of Australian plants in the U.S. I first met Jo in 2016 at a presentation she gave at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden and had been wanting to visit her nursery ever since.  Since Australian Native Plants is not a regular retail nursery with set hours, I'd contacted Jo ahead of time to make sure she was around on Thursday. Jo and Byron own three adjacent lots so there's plenty of space for the greenhouses and growing areas. The back entrance to the nursery is right across from a church so it was

Southern California road trip, day 3

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Day 3 of my after-Thanksgiving Southern California road trip began with a visit to Rancho Vista Nursery , a large wholesale grower in Vista in northern San Diego County. They have been in operation for 40 years and grow over 500 species of succulents and cacti on 10 acres (6 acres of greenhouses and 4 acres of outdoor growing space).  Ryan Penn, the former horticulturist at the Ruth Bancroft Garden, recently started working at Rancho Vista as their new nursery manager. He showed me around and told me a little about the business. Because of its mild climate and year-round growing season, northern San Diego County has more wholesale succulent growers than any other area in the country. For example, many cacti sold in Arizona nurseries actually come from here. In addition, I was surprised to find out that common succulents like aloe vera ( Aloe barbadensis ) and the humble jade plant ( Crassula ovata ) are among the biggest sellers. Countless in-ground specimens of silver torch

Southern California road trip, day 2

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My good intentions of posting a daily update from my Southern California road trip didn't quite translate into reality. Sometimes a full day of taking in new sights, talking to fellow plant nerds, as well as driving—the one constant—can be more tiring than I initially realize. So, a day late, here are some photos and observations from Tuesday, day 2. Day 2 started with a visit to the Theodore Payne Foundation  in Sun Valley, northeast of Burbank. Los Angeles nurseryman Theodore Payne (1872-1963) is considered to be the father of the native plant movement in California. The Foundation owns 22 acres of canyon land, featuring walking trails (the wildflower trail is said to be spectacular in the spring), a couple of demonstration gardens, and arguable one of the best California native plant nurseries in the state. At the end of a long, dry summer the native vegetation wasn't at its prettiest (that's just how it is), but the nursery lived up to my expectations. I'd made

Southern California, here I am again...

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I've been overworked and overstressed for far too long, so I'm taking a much needed break. There's nothing better for me to relax than go on a 1000+ mile road trip in 6 days. Crazy, I know. I left on Monday morning with a full tank of gas and the navigation system set for Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino/Pasadena. Day 2 will be Theodore Payne Foundation , Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Gardens , and on to Oceanside in San Diego County. I'll spend day 3 visiting succulent friends in northern San Diego County, and then on to Ventura. Day 4 will be Taft Gardens in Ojai and a visit to Jo O'Connell's Australian Native Plants Nursery in nearby Casita Springs. Day 4 I'll spent in Santa Barbara visiting my friend Deana, and on day 5 I'll swing by Las Pilitas Nursery near San Luis Obispo. Throw in a predicted 1 to 1.5 inches of rain in a couple of days, and it should be quite an adventure!

A love letter to color, life, and tequila: the Austin, TX garden of Lucinda Hutson

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Love at first sight is real, folks. One look at Lucinda Hutson's little purple house was all it took, and I was a goner.  It happened in early May at the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling in Austin, Texas. Thanks to Lucinda, the color purple will forever be linked in my mind with her Casita Morada , her jewel box of a house built in the 1930s. Lucinda Hutson is not just a color picker extraordinaire, she's a passionate gardener, cookbook and lifestyle writer, and expert on spirits made from the humble agave: pulque, mescal, and above all tequila. Lucinda was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. She learned Spanish at an early age and, as a teen, frequently hung out in Juárez, El Paso's sibling on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande. 

Jacarandas, succulents and a selfie: Sepulveda Garden Center

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The smoke from the hellish Case Fire in Paradise , about 90 miles north of here, has been making our air hard to breathe all week. But that's a minor annoyance compared to what those in the middle of it are going through. The flames got to within a few hundred yards of my brother-in-law's property outside of Chico, but fortunately they were spared. So many haven't been. The loss of life in Paradise has stunned Northern California and, with many hundreds still left unaccounted for, will only go up. The destruction of virtually an entire town is simply unfathomable. My thoughts continue to be with the thousands of people affected by this catastrophic wildfire. To counteract all the ugliness, I want to show you some beauty I found in Southern California in early June. We spent the first night of our trip in in Sherman Oaks , and as I was futzing around on Facebook, I noticed that the Los Angeles Cactus and Succulent Society  was going to have its 2018 Drought Tolerant Pla

Creating a demonstration garden for the Sacramento C&SS

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The Sacramento Cactus & Succulent Society  (SCSS) meets every 4th Monday of the month at the Shepard Garden and Arts Center  (SGA&C) on McKinley Boulevard. The two are almost the same age: The SCSS was founded in 1960, and the SGA&C was built in 1958 by the City of Sacramento. If you want to see what it looks like, check out  this photo gallery . According to its website , the SGA&C is "an outstanding example of mid-twentieth century architecture:" Most notable of its exterior features is the dramatic roof line that combines an A-line form with that of a "butterfly" style appendage that extends over the patio. This in dramatic contrast to its surrounding neighbors which are noted for the popular styles of architecture from the 1920s, 30s and 40s. The Center, as was common in the late 1950s, utilizes stone and wood with flair and exuberance. One of its more notable features on the interior is the massive two-sided fireplace made of flagstone and t

Succulents and More expanding north—and bamboo-in-law update

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A trunk full of plants always makes my heart beat faster. Especially if it's our car filled with plants! These plants, however, weren't for our own garden. Instead, they went on a 3½ hour car ride into the mountains, bound for what I jokingly call our northern garden expansion, a.k.a. my mother-in-law's 2+ acre property in Mount Shasta . Of the 2+ acres, no more than ½ acre is landscaped. The rest are native trees, mostly Western redcedar ( Thuja plicata ). In other words, there's lots of room to broaden the plant palette!

Barrie Coates' tranquil Green Valley garden, complete with bonsai

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The third garden I visited a few Sundays ago with the California Horticultural Society (CalHort) is located in Green Valley outside of Fairfield, about 35 minutes west of here. Climatically speaking, Green Valley is in between San Francisco Bay with its mild winters and summers and the Sacramento Valley with its somewhat colder winters and blazing-hot summers. It's not quite Goldilocks country, but almost (and certainly closer than we are) The garden we toured belongs to Carol and Barrie Coate. Now retired, Barrie has been a leading figure in California horticultural circles for decades: as a consulting arborist, director of the Saratoga Horticultural Research Foundation (now part of UC Davis), arboricultural consultant to the Getty Center, and author of numerous articles and books. Barrie and his wife Carol moved to Green Valley in 2014. They inherited a number of mature trees and shrubs but have added everything else you see in the photos below. The soil in their area can

East Bay Wilds native plant nursery: nothing ordinary about it

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I'd heard whispers of East Bay Wilds for a while: ► “I think it's in Berkeley. Maybe Oakland. Somewhere over there.” ►“Never been there myself, but I've heard it's great.” ► “It's hardly ever open, but it has stuff you can't find anywhere else.” ► “You have to go. They have all kinds of  stuff , not just plants.” I love nothing more than a challenge so to the Interwebs I went. It turns out that East Bay Wilds is a small nursery in Oakland that specializes in California natives. It's the brainchild of Pete Veilleux, a plantsman and garden designer who maximizes the use of natives in his residential and commercial work. You can read more about the history of East Bay Wilds on their website .

More beauties from Troy McGregor's garden

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I already showed you the first East Bay garden I visited with the California Horticultural Society (CalHort) a few weekends ago: Ellen Frank's “tropical dry climate fusion” garden . The second was Troy McGregor's, also in Martinez. As you maybe remember, Troy used to be the nursery manager of the Ruth Bancroft Garden  in Walnut Creek. In that position, he put the nursery on the map as one the leading plant destinations in Northern California for dry-climate plants, especially succulents and Australian and South African natives. Troy now runs his own business, Gondwana Flora , specializing in regionally appropriate landscaping. I wrote about Troy's personal garden in April  and again in September . In this post I'm trying to focus on areas I didn't fully cover before. But this mound in the backyard is so wonderful, it's worth another photo:

Ellen Frank's “tropical dry climate fusion” garden

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Last Sunday I joined the California Horticultural Society (CalHort) on a tour of three gardens in the East Bay . One of them was the garden of Ellen Frank, a former president of CalHort. In her own words: I’ve been in my house almost eleven years and working piecemeal to its present state. It originally had Pfizer junipers all in the front with a narrow race track path around the house.  Inside the courtyard (front yard/backyard) was a lawn next to the racetrack path with a straight wood retaining wall keeping my uphill neighbor’s yard from spilling into my space.   Troy McGregor [whose garden was also on the tour] gave me a consultation early on. [...]  My lot is small, something in the neighborhood of 5,000 square feet. Today the garden is a mish-mash of plants, but mainly a tropical dry climate fusion (kind of an oxymoron and that is why I have such a problem watering). You can’t confine a plant person to one type of plant, and I’ve gone through my phases of plant collecting

Fall plant sale at UC Santa Cruz Arboretum

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The plant sale at Regional Parks Botanic Garden in Tilden Park  on October 6 was all about California natives (see this post ). In contrast, the UC Santa Cruz (UCSC) Arboretum  sale on October 13 combined California natives (offered by the Santa Cruz chapter of the California Native Plant Society ) with plants propagated from the Arboretum collection, mostly Australian and South African natives. California Native Plant Society area at the UCSC Arboretum fall sale I had never been to a UCSC sale before, but considering the plant list  was full of weird and wonderful varieties, I expected quite a crowd. And I was right. By the time the gate opened to members at 10:00, there was a long line of people waiting to get in. I had arrived 25 minutes early and I was in a great spot. The closer we got to 10:00, the more the anticipation (and impatience) was building. Arboretum director Martin Quigley  explained the rules—carts or boxes to be dropped off in the holding area; none allowed

California native plant sale at Tilden Park in Berkeley

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This fall, plants sales have been happening at a frantic pace. Or maybe I'm just noticing it more because I've been going to more of them than I usually do. In any case, you'd think I wouldn't need more plants, especially after my Portland haul . But I got those additions into the ground very quickly and I cleared more space elsewhere by removing dead, dying, and/or underperforming plants. And since gaps must be filled lest there be a disturbance in the force, I simply had to continue shopping. Just like Sarah Winchester had to continue adding on to the Winchester Mystery House  in order to the appease the spirits that were haunting her. Above is one of the many rolling hills you see as you drive to the Bay Area from Davis on Interstate 80. In late winter and early spring they are often a vibrant green. In the summer they turn golden brown (some claim California's nickname, The Golden State, was inspired by these hills). I love those hills, and they're

Return to the Danger Garden: back garden in September 2018 (part 2)

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↩ Danger Garden back (part 1) If you think of the Danger Garden  as a symphony, the front garden is the first movement, the front half of the back garden the second, and the rear is the third movement with its rousing finale. Looking back to what I showed you in my previous post : Even though it's not huge, the chartreuse Circle Pot from Potted  is like a beacon: You can see it from just about anywhere in the back garden.

Return to the Danger Garden: back garden in September 2018 (part 1)

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↩ Danger Garden front Danger Garden back (part 2) ↪   Now that you've seen what the Danger Garden's public face looks like—the front garden—let's go down the rabbit hole walk through the magic gate into the back garden. The agave gate was a birthday gift to Loree by her husband Andrew, a  mixed-media artist  who creates intricate pieces out of paper, wire and other materials. He designed the gate himself and had it manufactured locally in Portland. You can read all about it i n this Danger Garden post  from October 2015. But before we enter the back garden, I want to draw your attention to the hanging pots on the garage wall, one planted with Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire' and the other with a small Agave 'Felipe Otero'. The two pots are very different, yet perfectly balanced.

Return to the Danger Garden: front garden in September 2018

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Danger Garden back garden (part 1 )  ↪   Many of you follow Loree Bohl's blog Danger Garden . If you're not familiar with it and want to know what it's all about, the byline is a good clue: "Careful, you could poke an eye out." Loree loves spiky plants, and she's not apologetic about it. When you walk through her garden, you're wise to watch your step. Unlike plants that take abuse lying down (literally), many denizens of the Danger Garden know how to defend themselves. That's one reason why I love it. Another reason: Loree is fearless when it comes to plant selection. I'm sure she looks at USDA hardiness zones but she's just as likely to ignore them if she really wants a certain plant. After all, each garden is different, and unless you're willing to experiment—and accept the failures that come with it—you're never going to know what will really grow in your own garden. The most striking thing about the Danger Garden, though,

A trip around the world in John Kuzma's Portland fusion garden

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I first visited John Kuzma's garden in Portland, Oregon during the 2014 Garden Bloggers Fling . At that time, it was still recovering from an unusually harsh winter that had set many plants back, but that didn't make it any less impressive. Last September, three years later, I had the opportunity to see how the garden had progressed . In a nutshell: splendidly! Like fine wine, fine gardens only get better with age. In what is beginning to look like a tradition, I was back at the Kuzma garden a couple of weekends ago in the company of Loree Danger Garden Bohl, Kathy GardenBook Stoner, Sean Hogan and Preston Pew of Cistus Nursery , and UK plantsman extraordinaire  Nick Macer of Pan Global Plants . John and his wife Kathleen—the very definition of gracious hosts—had invited us over for drinks and nibbles. Nothing could dampen our spirits, not even the rain that started to fall in the early evening.  For me, this trio of Yucca rostrata in the front is one of the hallmark

Portland plant purchases and other recent additions

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As I mentioned in this post , I recently spent three fun days in Portland, Oregon. They were filled with all kinds of plant-related activities, including garden visits, the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon's Plant Fest, and— do I need to say it? —nursery hopping and plant shopping. Since I flew to Portland and back, I could only take a few plants home with me. Fortunately, fellow blogger Kathy of GardenBook , who lives in Napa, happened to be in Portland at the same time and offered to be my plant transportation service. Yesterday, I went to her house to pick up my haul. When I set everything out on our driveway, I realized that it was more than I had remembered buying: Even so, there are few plants I now wish I had bought, especially at Cistus Nursery . Oh well, there's always next time...

Not-to-miss fall plant sales (and related events) in Northern California

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Like spring, fall is prime time for plant sales. The last weekend in September seems to be particularly busy, making me wish I could be in more than one place at a time. Below are the events I'm aware of. If you know of any other sales, please let me know and I will add them. In the calendar listing, you can click on any of the events to see details. That's what it's all about! CALENDAR

Geeking out in Portland, OR

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I just got back from a long weekend in Portland, OR. The nominal reason for my visit was the Hardy Plant Society of Oregon 's Plant Fest , a half-day program featuring a special lecture (this year by Kelly Dodson and Sue Milliken of Far Reaches Farm ) and a plant sale. Fortunately, friend and fellow Northern California blogger Kathy of GardenBook  was in Portland on business. She'd taken her own car so she could buy plants, and she agreed to transport my haul back with her. This allowed to me to buy with abandon—something I wouldn't have been able to do otherwise since I flew there and back. Kathy lives only an hour from my house so picking up my plants will be easy. Loree of Danger Garden  and her husband Andrew once again gave me a home away from home; they're not only great hosts, but also the nicest people. It was wonderful being able to step outside and explore the Danger Garden as much as I wanted. I took a lot of pictures and will have a couple of long posts

Troy McGregor's backyard redesign: why rocks make all the difference

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When I visited landscape designer Troy McGregor in mid-April , he was redoing a major part of his backyard—the area that would have been the lawn in the good old days. I was there when a shipment of rocks arrived, and throughout the summer I was wondering what Troy had done with them. Last Saturday I went back to Troy's to pick up some plants, and I finally saw the finished product: a masterful multi-level rockscape that is now home to the kinds of plants I love. If I woke up one morning and saw this view from our front windows, I would have a happy smile on my face. 

Weekend Wrapup (WeWu) for 9/9/18: from billy balls to rusty saw blades

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The weekend is almost over. The only good thing about it: It's time for another Weekend Wrapup (WeWu). The calendar is relentlessly moving towards fall, but the weather here in Davis seems to be blissfully ignorant. It's 95°F right now on Sunday afternoon at 4pm! I'm looking forward to change of scenery, and temperature, this coming weekend when I'll be in Portland, Oregon. But for now, let's dive right in. Hot weather, hot plants. Billy balls ( Craspedia globosa ) is my personal "it" plant for summer 2018. The first one, planted in the spring, did so well that I've added three more. All of them are in the succulent mounds in the front yard. I'm keeping them well watered since they're still getting established but the heat doesn't seem the faze them.

Two Walnut Creek neighbors embrace water-wise landscaping

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A couple of Saturdays ago, I went to Walnut Creek for the Ruth Bancroft Garden's 2018 Local Garden Tour. I had the opportunity to visit three out of four water-wise gardens. One was Brian's garden, which I  showed you in this post . Today I'll take you to the two other. These two gardens are located right next to each other. What's more, they were designed/overhauled by Laura Hogan of Arid Accents  and, as a result, have a cohesive look you rarely see in two neighboring properties. The front yards' limited plant palette combining rocks with agaves, grasses and silver-leaved perennials is an effective foil for the streamlined architecture of the 1960s Eichler-style homes. House #1   The agaves in the front yard of garden #1 were moved from the backyard where they had outgrown their space. A great cost-effective way to create something new with what you already have!

Annie's Annuals Labor Day visit (and sale)

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Annie's Annuals in Richmond, CA is having a big Labor Day sale: 20% all plants, both in the nursery and online. If you can't make it to the nursery, you still have until midnight Pacific Time tonight (September 3) to place an order on their web site . I made the 1-hour drive to Richmond on Saturday morning, armed with my wish list and camera. As an Annie's follower on Facebook and Instagram , I knew that their display beds were bursting with color. Unfortunately, the battery pack in my camera gave out early—I'd grabbed the one that doesn't hold much of a charge anymore—but I still got a few dozen good photos so you can get an idea of how picture-perfect the plantings are right now. Always a sight for sore eyes

Around the world on 6,000 sq.ft.: Brian's miniature botanical garden

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A few months ago, I showed you my friend Brian's completely transformed front yard  in Concord, California , about an hour from where I live. Brian is a fellow plantaholic who has assembled an impressive collection of dryland plants from all over the world—his own miniature botanical garden, you might say. This is no coincidence, considering that Brian volunteers at the nearby  Ruth Bancroft Garden  (RBG) once or twice a week. The constant exposure to one of the best succulent gardens in the country—and the master plantsmen who continue Ruth's legacy, including curator Brian Kemble, assistant curator Walker Young and horticulturist Ryan Penn—has had a profound effect on Brian's own path as a gardener. As an extra benefit, he has been able to bring home discarded plants from the RBG that would otherwise have ended up on their compost pile. Add to that an outsized green thumb, and it's no surprise that Brian's garden is flourishing. Driveway bed Last weekend, B

Weekend Wrapup (WeWu) for 8/26/18: a pineappled agave and a real pineapple

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Another week has gone by in a hurry so time for another Weekend Wrapup (WeWu). Remember this is a completely random collection of vignettes—things that caught my eye or that I worked on during the week (and weekend). Everytime to go to  Woodland , I drive by a clump of Agave americana in front of one of the ranchettes along the rural road I take. I posted about it before , in February 2011. The clump is much smaller now but it's still there. Right now, this rather strange looking specimen is flowering: Not only has this Agave americana been pineappled to within an inch of its life, they also chopped off the flower stalk as it was emerging. Not that it stopped it, but it's much shorter than it would otherwise be.

Empty pots make me anxious

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If you're anything like me, you have lots of these: Mind you, what you see above is just a small quantity of the empty nursery cans in the backyard. I do reuse the square pots and the green pots regularly but the 1-gallon pots really can go. I have every intention of taking them to a local nursery that accepts used nursery containers, but I haven't quite yet made it to the "get of your ass and do it" stage. But what I want to talk about in this post are the kinds of pots you see in the next set photos: the "good" pots. They may be dusty and a bit dirty but they're perfectly serviceable and look decent when cleaned up.

Octopus agave bulbils: is there such a thing as "too many?"

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Five years ago friends of ours adopted an octopus agave ( Agave vilmoriniana ) I'd removed from the driveway bed. They planted it in the meadow garden in their front yard where it was much happier than it had been at our house. This spring it started to send up a flower stalk, signaling the beginning of the end. Here's a sequence of photos from our friend Paul showing the progress of the inflorescence:

Weekend Wrapup (WeWu) for 8/18/18: prickly superstars and more

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So many of the photos I take are snapshots of things that catch my eye, projects I'm working on, plants I just bought, etc. Often there isn't enough of a story for an entire post so they never get seen. That's why I'm starting a new feature: the Weekend Wrapup (WeWu). Every Saturday or Sunday I'll throw together a post of these snaps in hopes you'll find them interesting. Here are the succulent mounds in the front yard as seen from the front porch. I really enjoy this view, and I constantly look for ways to cram more plants in. Fortunately, many of these plants are sloooow growers so they should continue to coexist peacefully for years to come.

Mangave musical chairs

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If there's one constant in my garden, it's that nothing stays the same forever—or even for very long. There's the natural circle of life: Plants, even the toughest and most reliable ones, die at some point and need to be replaced. And then there's the Gerhard circle of life that revolves almost entirely around my ever-changing plant crushes and preferences. Variety is the spice of life, isn't that way they say? Here's my latest tweak: The Agave ocahui in the photo above never quite lived up to my expectations. It looked a bit wonky and in general didn't impress. Time for it to go.

Mealybugs win, agave loses

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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  💩💩💩 . Fast forward to August 2018:

Solana Succulents: my favorite kind of nursery

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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:

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Sip and shop at the Succulent Café

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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 Café 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 café. What makes this spot so unique, though, is that you sip your laven

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

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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

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

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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-rangin

Bodacious bromeliads at Sacramento Bromeliad Society show

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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'

Random things in the garden that make me happy

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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: