Saturday, July 27, 2019

Random snapshots from our garden, late July 2019

This post is a series of random photos taken in our garden at different times over the past few weeks. There's no real theme other than plants: some in flower, but all of them pretty even without.

This is what you see as you walk from the front door (behind us) to the driveway (over on the right):

I prefer to call it my “collection” of plants, but I won't blame you if you think it's hoarding about to veer off the rails. Just remember: My mantra is “if more is good, then more more is even more good.”

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Some projects to liven up the dog days of summer

With the exception of a few days above 100°F, we've had an unexpectedly pleasant summer. That has allowed me to get more done than I otherwise would have. No big projects—they'll have to wait until fall—but a few little ones with surprisingly big impact.

Nature abhors a vacuum, the saying goes, and that definitely applies to empty planters. The Corten container in the photo below had been sitting there for weeks, taking the place of a bloomed-out Verbascum bombyciferum 'Arctic Summer':

While the gaping maw of the Styrofoam-lined interior wasn't the most attractive sight, I wasn't in a big hurry either because I simply didn't know what to put there. Well, actually I did know: I wanted to put an Agave 'Mr Ripple' in there (I have a nice blue clone from Ron Parker). However, since the container is only 2 ft. from the public sidewalk, there was no way I could plant a massive agave so close to where people pass by. 

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Jackson Broussard: a landscape designer's personal garden

I imagine the work of a landscape designer is a constant give and take in order to find a balance between their own ideas and their clients' wishes. At best, the two parties strike a happy medium—and at worst, they end up making concessions that leave everybody dissatisfied.

That's the reason why I love seeing what garden designers do at home where they're not bound by compromise and can give their creativity free reign.

I had such an opportunity right after the 2018 Garden Bloggers Fling in Austin when Pam Penick, garden writer extraordinaire and one of the Fling organizers, took a handful of us diehards on a tour of even more gardens. The first one we visited belongs to landscape designer Jackson Broussard.

Hard to believe but these are Bradford pears

It was clear right off the bat that this is no ordinary garden. The walkway to the front door is lined with Bradford pears, shaped perfectly and giving a welcome sense of coolness in the Austin heat.

I couldn't believe these are the same trees I hate so much in Davis where, as city trees, they're neglected, misshapen, and infested with fire blight and mistletoe. I asked Jackson twice: Yes, they are Bradford pears. (Jackson created a ingenious Bradford pear arbor in another garden we visited as part of the Fling.)

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Mid-summer plant evaluations for University of California Landscape Plant Irrigation Trials

A year ago I blogged about the irrigation trials at UC Davis. As I said at the time, 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.

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.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Tanglewild Gardens: Morocco meets Thailand in Texas (#gbfling2018)

I like fusion. Fusion cooking, fusion music, and yes, fusion gardening. Why limit yourself when you have the entire world to choose from? Pick what you like, and don't worry about what others call “rules.”

We saw a particularly nice example of fusion gardening in Austin, Texas last year. Blending Moroccan and Thai influences with an extensive collection of daylilies, 1.7 acre Tanglewild Gardens proves that you can have your cake and eat it, too.

The original house was a split level built in 1971. The current owners Jeff and Skottie tore it down to the studs and foundation in 2011 and created exactly the kind of space they wanted. We didn't get to see the inside of the house last year but here are a few representative photos.

Front of the house

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Rancho Diablo: a hilltop desert paradise just 15 miles from San Francisco

The California Horticultural Society (Cal Hort) recently organized a visit to one of the most spectacular private gardens in the East Bay I've ever seen: a 5-acre hilltop property with a cactus and succulent garden that would look right at home in Phoenix or Tucson.

As always, a picture is worth a thousand words:

I'd visited once before, in 2014, on a Garden Conservancy Open Day, and I was happy to see that the gardens are as stunning as before—even more so possibly, seeing how the plants are five years older now.

For geographical context, look at the next photo. This is what the approach to the property looks like:

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

CSSA Show & Sale at the Huntington—and my plant haul

The reason I went to the Huntington a couple of weeks ago was to attend the 2019 Show and Sale of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America (CSSA)—the 54th, it turned out! The judged show is open to members of the CSSA or one of its affiliated clubs. As one of the most prestigious cactus and succulent exhibitions in the country, it draws top-tier growers and collectors, resulting in an amazing assemblage of plants.

The show and the accompanying plant sale were held at the Huntington's Brady Botanical Center. Succulents were in one building, cacti in the other. The trophy table with the top winners in each category was in the same room as the cacti; it had better natural light so it was easier to get good photos.

I photographed the plants that caught my attention for one reason or another—sometimes because of their beauty, sometimes because of their weirdness. Some plants are simply so strange that you don't know what to think. Above all, I want my photos to show the huge range of succulents, including caudiciforms (“fat plants”), which store water in their swollen roots or trunks.

Tacitus bellus by Nels Christiansen. This Graptopetalum-relative has huge flowers compared to the size of the body.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Huntington Desert Garden keeps me coming back

My previous post from the Huntington Botanical Gardens in Southern California bypassed the world-famous Desert Garden. In contrast, this post is about nothing else.

I've talked about the history of the Desert Garden in an earlier post, but here's a recap:

Established by businessman Henry Huntington in the early 1900s on what was originally a 600-acre ranch, the Huntington comprises a world-class library, art collections and 120 acres of gardens. Arguably the most famous is the 10-acre Desert Garden. It was started in 1907 when garden superintendent William Hertrich convinced Henry Huntington to plant cacti in an area where little else would grow. Huntington initially agreed to let Hertrich experiment on ½ acre. Hertrich went ahead at full steam, filling the ½ acre lot with 300 cactus. In 1908, Hertrich hauled three carloads of saguaros from Arizona, followed in 1912 by two carloads of cacti and other succulents from Mexico. Huntington was finally convinced and gave Hertrich another 4½ acres. In 1925, the Desert Garden grow by another five acres, and in 1981, long after Hertrich’s death, the final 5 acres were added. In 1985, the Desert Garden Conservatory opened to the public; it’s home to 3,000 succulents that either need some sort of protection or are simply too rare to leave outside.

Isn't this a breathtaking sight?

Today, the Desert Garden has sixty planting beds filled with more than 2,000 species of succulents and desert plants from both the Old and the New World. While impressive-sounding, these stats are fairly meaningless until you see the garden’s splendor in person. We’re not just talking a lot of plants, we’re talking old plants, masses of them. It’s easy to see why the Desert Garden is considered one of the world’s premier collection of succulents.

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Huntington Botanical Gardens: much more than succulents

Last weekend was the 2019 Show & Sale of the Cactus and Succulent Society of America (CSSA), the national umbrella organization of local clubs like the Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society (SCSS). As is tradition, it was held at the Huntington in San Marino, California, and members of local C&S societies received free admission. Considering that it's $25 per adult to get into the Huntington, that's a tangible benefit, especially if you're there for several days.

This year, the stars were aligned just right. Not only was I able to go, my wife agreed to come along. As a result, I had reason to look at more than “just” the gardens. Plant nerds sometimes forget that the Huntington has significant art collections and a library housing a wide variety of rare books. (Among other things, we saw a Gutenberg Bible printed on vellum, one of only 12 known to exist.)

Ultimately, though, I was drawn to the gardens more than anything else. I showed my wife the Desert Garden—my favorite spot at the Huntington—and then we walked through the Jungle Garden where it was wonderfully cool.

But you don't have be in one of the themed gardens (of which there are 16 spread across 120 acres) to see cool plants. The general landscaping is beautiful, even in the parking lots—definitely no boring shrubbery from big-box garden centers! Plant labeling is incomplete but decent enough, all things considered. Areas that serve a more educational purpose have better labeling; this includes the entrance garden and, surprisingly, the parking areas.

Aeoniums and Agave attenuata 'Boutin Blue'. Even more impressive in a mass planting!

Usually, I start off with a succulent-themed post. This time, I'm mixing things up and do a non-succulent post first.