Friday, August 31, 2018

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

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, Brian's garden was on the Ruth Bancroft Garden's 2018 Local Gardens Tour. This is how it was described in the program:
After a delivery of four tons of rock and 30 yards of Bancroft Bedding Blend (from Contra Costa Topsoil), the lawn-to-garden transformation of this residence was quite dramatic as you will see in the before-after photos.  The backyard features a very special collection of cacti and succulents in raised beds and containers.
To see before/after photos, check out my post from June 2018.

Monday, August 27, 2018

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

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.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Empty pots make me anxious

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.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

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

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:

Sunday, August 19, 2018

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

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.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Mangave musical chairs

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.

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: