Southern California road trip, day 5

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 removing the pups. She wants a solitary specimen, not an impenetrable tangle.

Virtually every plant was grown to perfection. Here are just a few examples. I'll have more photos in a dedicated post.

In the backyard, Deana has her very own she shed:

She shed, he shed: I think everybody deserves a shed like that!

Succulents in all kinds of pots, quirky and otherwise, are lined up on racks and tables. Here's just one example:

Deana would have sent me home with a trunk full of succulent offspring but I only had room for a cactoid euphorbia and a particularly cool begonia (Begonia × ricinifolia 'Immense').

After I had toured her garden, Deana took me to Seaside Gardens, a local nursery with an impressive demonstration garden. We took the long route and stopped at Deana's favorite viewpoint along the way:

View of Carpinteria, with Santa Barbara in the distance (∼10 miles to the northwest)

Seaside Gardens is a full-service nursery with a large selection of plants that thrive in the Central Coast climate. I was happy to see a special display of Australian plants from Jo O'Connell's Australian Native Plants nursery (see day 4). It's small growers like Jo who still make nurseries exciting places of discovery.

What sets Seaside Garden apart is their demonstration garden, a "3+ acre botanical wonderland:"
Eleven garden vignettes provide an around-the-world sampling of plants that thrive in our coastal environment. The gardens were designed by local landscape designers and include Asian, Australian, California Native, Central/South American, Grassland, Mediterranean, Native Wetland Bioswale, Perennial/Cottage, South African, Succulent, and Tropical themes. (source)
I'm sure each vignette shines at a particular time of year, the South African and Succulent areas look great year round. After 10+ years in the ground, many plants have grown into spectacular specimens:

Old World and New World succulents in perfect harmony

Agave attenuata 'Boutin Blue'

Deana surrounded by aeoniums; winter and spring are their peak growing seasons

Ponytail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata) would be right at home in a Dr Seuss book

One final image from Seaside Gardens especially for my bamboo friend Alan in St Louis:

By the time we left Seaside Gardens, it was past 1:00 pm—a fact that triggered a mild panic on my part. I had several other Santa Barbara destinations on my list but I realized that I had been too aggressive in my planning and wouldn't be able to visit them all now, especially considering I still had to drive to San Luis Obispo (two hours on the route I wanted to take) and it gets dark so early at this time of year. 

Rhetorical question to the universe: Why must time fly when you're having fun? Why can't it go by more slowly so you can enjoy yourself longer? 

My third and final major stop of the day was the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden (SBBG). In all my visits to Santa Barbara, I'd never made it there before. This is a large garden—78 acres—dedicated entirely to plants native to California; more than 1,000 taxa are represented. In addition, there's the Blaksley Library with 15,000+ titles and the SBBG Herbarium with 150,000+ preserved specimens. I'm sure it takes more than a full day to do the SBBG justice, and all I had was an hour and a half.

Instead of running all over the place like a madman, I decided to limit myself to the areas close to the entrance/nursery. This included the small Desert Section:

Agave shawii, one of just a handful of agave species native to California (not counting Baja)

Patio in the Water Wise Home Garden, designed by Ron Lutsko:

Dudleya brittonii

I spent most of my time in the Manzanita Section. It contains 60 of the 90 Arctostaphylos taxa that occur in California. I've recently become quite enamored with manzanitas, and it was great making personal acquaintance with many species and cultivars I only knew from the Internet.

Canyon Blush manzanita (Arctostaphylos glauca 'Canyon Blush'), a chance hybrid found as a seedling at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and now available on a limited commercial basis

Arctostaphylos franciscana

It was reluctant to leave, but I still had a 2-hour drive ahead of me. Potential consolation: Daughter #2 just applied to UC Santa Barbara, as well as a handful of other universities in Central and Southern California, so there is a chance I might get to spend more time in Santa Barbara in the years to come.

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  1. I'm glad you got a chance to stop in at Seaside Gardens - it was in top form when I was there in early November. Your daughter should definitely consider UCSB! My husband and I both spent our undergrad years there.

    1. I would NOT be unhappy if daughter #2 picked UCSB - or really any of the schools she applied to with possibly one exception I won't mention.

  2. I was at Seaside in March, but my photos were crapola.However I have not visited SBBG for probably 3 years-I need to correct that !

    1. I didn't have the best light either (noon) but backlit shots worked.

      I need to get myself back to SBBG pronto to see the rest.

  3. As a SLO grad, I'll just point out that it's a great central location to visiting all these places... In case Daughter #2 applied there! And gorgeous pictures, thank you for sharing!

    1. She DID apply to Cal Poly but their environmental science program is more science-oriented than she wants; she's more interested in environmental policy.

      I've loved SLO for as long as I can remember, and I sometimes wish we'd considered it more seriously as a place to live...

  4. How nice! Give her my love! I want a she shed!

  5. and I thought my 'Boutin Blue' had grown big over the last year... those guys are huge.

    1. I agree! Agave attenuata thrives in the coastal climate, possibly more than any other agave species.

  6. Oh my, the picture of Deanna and her Agave americana is spectacular. What a marvelous climate in which to garden.

    1. Can you imagine the fun you could have dressing up that massive agave for Christmas!

  7. What a lust filled post! (on my part I mean) Beautiful photos all around Gerhard.

  8. Those Boutin Blues look great -- this has been a tricky agave to please for me, and I've recently moved a scale-weakened pup to a northern exposure, where it looks to be regaining strength. You are an ambitious man! So many destinations, so little time! Hope you had a restorative trip.

  9. You are supposed to show me flawless bamboo groves -- like most other things in these gardens you've been visiting. If I wanted to see dead culms that need to be removed I would just look out my window. ;) Oh, and thanks for at least showing your friends wearing jackets. We're barely into winter (are we?) and I'm envious of the sunny warmth already!

  10. Deana and Robert's garden is fabulous, so beautifully maintained! I admire your energy for being able to cram so many different places in so little time. I can't even keep up with your posts, let alone see so much in so few days.


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