Thursday, January 31, 2019

Photo of the Day: Acacia baileyana starting to bloom

Photo of the Day for Thursday, January 31, 2019 (yikes, the last day of January already!!!):

Acacia baileyana 'Purpurea'

Late winter is acacia time around here. Our Cootamundra wattle (Acacia baileyana 'Purpurea') is now 20 ft. tall and covered with blossoms. This is one of the first branches with open flowers. I love the contrast between the bluish-silver leaves and the golden-yellow puffball flowers.

This is the first time this acacia has flowered.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Agave hunter Ron Parker's personal collection

I recently reviewed Chasing Centuries: The Search for Ancient Agave Cultivars Across the Desert Southwest, Ron Parker's groundbreaking book about agave species cultivated and refined by the pre-Columbian cultures of Arizona. It's a book unlike any other, and I highly recommend it if you have even a passing interesting in the prehistoric peoples of Arizona and, of course, agaves.

On my after-Christmas Arizona trip, I had the opportunity to visit Ron on his home turf in Fountain Hills, northeast of Phoenix. To say that where he lives is pretty is like saying the Grand Canyon is alright. This is the view west from his street:


And this is his front yard:

Photo of the Day: do as I say, not as I do

Photo of the Day for Monday, January 28, 2019

Seen yesterday on the University of California Davis campus:


This is the Environmental Horticulture building. You'd think that they'd use this planting bed as showcase for their department! Unless the weeds aren't weeds at all but a new kind of plant breeding breakthrough?

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Debris-collecting Agave macroacantha had to go

Once upon a time, in March 2014 to be precise, I planted a beautiful Agave macroacantha outside the front yard fence, next to the 'Black Lace' elderberry and one of three Aloe 'Moonglow'.

When I say beautiful, this is what I mean:

Agave macroacantha with backlit marginal teeth and terminal spines

It looked like this right after planting:

Agave macroacantha perfection right after planting in March 2014; look how small the Aloe 'Moonglow' was (on the left)

Friday, January 25, 2019

Photo of the Day: Hechtia fosteriana

Photo of the Day for Friday, January 25, 2019:

Hechtia fosteriana (AS439)

Hechtia fosteriana is a terrestrial bromeliad native to Oaxaca, Mexico. Like many hechtias, it changes color throughout the year in response to cold, heat, and availability of water. My specimen came from Andy Siekkinen. I'm nuts about this color!



© Gerhard Bock, 2019. All rights reserved. No part of the materials available through www.succulentsandmore.com may be copied, photocopied, reproduced, translated or reduced to any electronic medium or machine-readable form, in whole or in part, without prior written consent of Gerhard Bock. Any other reproduction in any form without the permission of Gerhard Bock is prohibited. All materials contained on this site are protected by  United States and international copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Gerhard Bock. If you are reading this post on a website other than www.succulentsandmore.com, please be advised that that site is using my content without my permission. Any unauthorized use will be reported.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Photo of the Day: Acacia merinthophora

An ongoing project at work is taking up so much of my time that it's affecting the number of posts I'm able to write for Succulents and More. Right now, I seem to be managing no more than two a week. 

That's not enough for me.

To make up for it, I've decided to give myself a challenge that won't be a big time commitment: Starting right now, I'll post one new photo a day. It could be from our garden or from anywhere I happen to be that day. That'll allow me to share a small vignette of my life with you on a more regular basis.

Here's the Photo of the Day for Thursday, January 24, 2019:

Zig-zag wattle (Acacia merinthophora)

With their lack of real leaves, acacias are an odd bunch to begin with. The zig-zag wattle (Acacia merinthophora) is even odder since it's taking the no-leaf business to an extreme. The long greenish things you might think are leaf stalks (petioles) with the actual leaves missing, are called phyllodes. That's all there is—no conventional leaves at all. These phyllodes are actually modified (often flattened) petioles that carry out photosynthesis, i.e. they do what a leaf would do on a "normal" tree.

Our Acacia merinthophora has been blooming for weeks now. Even though the pom-pom flowers are small, they are very fragrant. It's a good thing I love the smell of acacias. To me, it means spring is right around the corner. True or not, I choose to go with what this zig-zag wattle is telling me.


© Gerhard Bock, 2019. All rights reserved. No part of the materials available through www.succulentsandmore.com may be copied, photocopied, reproduced, translated or reduced to any electronic medium or machine-readable form, in whole or in part, without prior written consent of Gerhard Bock. Any other reproduction in any form without the permission of Gerhard Bock is prohibited. All materials contained on this site are protected by  United States and international copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Gerhard Bock. If you are reading this post on a website other than www.succulentsandmore.com, please be advised that that site is using my content without my permission. Any unauthorized use will be reported.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Aloes getting ready to flower in our garden

We had a couple of nights a degree or two below freezing in December, but it's been warmer than usual since then. Not that I'm complaining; I'd happily never experience frost again, at least not where I live. If this weather keeps up, it won't be long now before the aloes in the front yard will be in full bloom.

This Aloe wickensii (lumped by some in with Aloe cryptopoda) has a head start on the others. It has never looked this good before:

Aloe wickensii

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Catching up with agave wizard Greg Starr in Tucson

Over the years, I've become friends with Greg Starr, author of the Timber Press book Agaves: Living Sculptures for Landscapes and Containers and owner of Starr Nursery. I visit him and his wife Carol whenever I'm in Tucson, and this time was no exception. I always love hearing about his discoveries on agave expeditions to Mexico and seeing what he has growing in his greenhouses. And I never fail to find cool plants I simply must have.

Greg lives on the west side of Tucson, pretty close to the edge of the city. The Tucson Mountains are just a few miles away; beyond them are the western unit of Saguaro National Park, the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and the Old Tucson Studios theme park.

The properties in this part of Tucson seamlessly merge into the desert. "Borrowed scenery" is not just an abstract concept here, it's reality:


Sunday, January 13, 2019

Electric Desert: after dark at the Desert Botanical Garden

The Desert Botanical Garden (DBG) in Phoenix, AZ likes to light up the night. When I was there in December 2013, they had a large-scale exhibit of Dale Chihuly glass sculptures which attracted crowds both during the day and at night (a record-breaking 631,000 visitors). In December 2015 they hosted Bruce Munro's Sonoran Light installation (318,000 visitors). This year, it was Electric Desert, created by video artist Ricardo Rivero and Klip Collective.

Electric Desert

On each of these occasions I went in December, which allowed me to experience both the special exhibit and Las Noches de las Luminarias, a beloved holiday tradition at the DBG combining 8,000 luminaria bags (hand-lit every night by volunteers) and holiday entertainment in nine different spots throughout the garden.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Off the grid in the Arizona desert: Jan Emming's Destination:Forever Ranch

A large parcel of land away from it all, surrounded by scenery so beautiful you want to cry, with no neighbors in sight and the freedom to do exactly what you want: Who hasn't dreamed of that at some point in their lives? I certainly have. But how many people actually turn this heady fantasy into reality? Precious few.

However, there are some who do. Jan Emming is one of them. A Colorado native, he began in the late 1990s to scour the western U.S. for a site where he could create the desert garden he'd been envisioning since he was a teen. In 1998 he found what he was looking for: 40 acres in northwestern Arizona near the small town of Yucca.

This is a very special spot where the Mojave meets the Sonoran Desert. I was astounded to find Joshua trees, the signature plant of the Mojave, growing side by side with saguaros, the signature plant of the Sonoran. Add ocotillos, chollas, hedgehog and barrel cactus, California junipers and scrub oak, and you have a great start for a desert garden. When I pulled into the driveway of Jan's property on the morning of December 28, I understood immediately why he had chosen to live there.

But let me back up a little. I got off Interstate 40 at the first exit for Yucca. If you've ever driven this stretch, you've probably seen this quirky structure from the road:

Golf Ball House aka Area 66 off I-40 in Yucca, AZ

Known as the Golf Ball House, it was built in the 1970s as the restaurant and night club for an ambitious real-estate project that went belly up before it ever got off the ground—a metaphor for so many desert dreams that go poof. Later owners built a store and renamed the property Area 66, but when I stopped to take some photos, the gates were locked and there was no sign of life.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

My Arizona haul: spikes, rocks, and metal Mariachi musicians

I just got back from my after-Christmas road trip Arizona. I drove 2,223 miles in seven days, visited six public and three private gardens, took 1,800 photos, and returned with a car full of goodies. My rental plantmobile was a Chevrolet Equinox, an small SUV with plenty of room, and yet I managed to fill it with my purchases and finds: a wild assortment of plants, rocks, and other stuff that somehow ended up in the car.

In case you're wondering what my favorite trophy is:


Two totem pole cactus sections (Lophocereus schottii f. monstrosus) I found on Phoenix Craigslist for $10. Yes, ten bucks. Considering a rooted two-foot specimen can be $50 or more in a nursery, this is the steal of the year. These two will take up residence in the bed next to the front door when I redo it in the spring.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Happy New Year from Arizona

Happy New Year, everybody! May it be filled with lots of joy, laughter, and prickly plants.

Speaking of prickly plants, I've been seeing my fair share of them in the last five days. I'm on my annual after-Christmas road trip, and this time I'm back in Arizona. I'll have detailed posts about plants and places in the weeks to come: Desert Botanical Garden, Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, and Tohono Chul, just to name a few.

In the meantime, here are a few random snaps to tide you over: