Wednesday, January 29, 2020

John Miller's aloe wonderland in Oakland

John Miller is the president of the Institute for Aloe Studies (IAS), a non-profit organization dedicated to the study and conservation of the genus Aloe. The IAS propagates a large variety of aloe species, many of them hard to find, and sells them through their web site. The plants are grown in a greenhouse at the Oakland Zoo and in John's personal garden.

I saw John's garden for the first time in December 2018, and this January I was lucky enough to visit on two different occasions. This post combines photos I took two weeks apart.

Bi-colored Aloe ferox [South Africa], a real beauty

John has a ½ acre hillside lot with panoramic vistas of Oakland and San Francisco Bay. His aloe collection is one of the largest in the country and includes many rare species from areas other than South Africa (Zimbabwe, Uganda, Ethiopia, Madagascar). John has seen many species in habitat, most recently on a trip to Eritrea and Ethiopia.

Oakland has the ideal climate for growing aloes since winter lows rarely fall below freezing and summer highs rarely climb beyond the 90s. In contrast, Davis, just a little over an hour away, is colder in the winter and hotter in the summer, making gardening just a bit more challenging.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Visiting Jeff Moore's Arid Adaptations Nursery in Tucson, Arizona

My first Tucson stop on my recent Arizona trip was at Arid Adaptions Nursery at the foot of the Tucson Mountains. Owner Jeff Moore grows a wide variety of succulents on his 3-acre property—far more species than I'd realized. He sells them at farmers markets in the Tucson area, to private collectors, and to wholesalers in Tucson and Phoenix. (To clear up potential confusion, Arid Adaptation's Jeff Moore and Jeff Moore of Solana Succulents Nursery in north San Diego County are two different people and not related.)

As I was driving to Jeff's place, the sky was filled with the big puffy clouds I so love:

Getting closer:

Saturday, January 18, 2020

All our aloes want is some ☀️

The first two weeks of January have been unpleasantly damp and chilly here in the Sacramento Valley. Today, the sun has been making a valiant effort to warm things up, but a thin layer of clouds is keeping temperatures in check.

All I want is a few days of unadulterated sunshine. I'm not alo(n)e in this: Our aloes have been in a holding pattern for weeks now. They need a good spell of afternoon highs in the 60s to kick the flowering action into high gear. On the positive side—at least as far as aloe flowers are concerned—we haven't had enough rain to cause the ends of the immature inflorescences to rot. In fact, our rainfall has been modest since the official start of winter.

Here are the aloes in our garden that are waiting for warmer weather. Without it, they'll continue to sulk. And so will I.

Aloe 'Tangerine'

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Tohono Chul Park: one of Tucson's must-see destinations for succulent lovers

One of the places I visit regularly when I'm in Tucson, Arizona is Tohono Chul Park. It doesn't have the name recognition of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum and because of that it's far less overrun. In fact, every time I've been there, I've been one of only a handful of visitors (the fact that I usually go right when they open at 8 a.m. might have something to do with it).

There are many reasons I like Tohono Chul. It's in Tucson, one of my favorite places in the world, and it combines both the natural desert environment and man-made elements, such as a series of compact demo gardens showcasing desert-appropriate landscaping in residential settings. And it has a small but well-stocked nursery which offers everything from travel-sized souvenir cacti for tourists to unusual succulents for collectors to perennials, shrubs and trees for local homeowners.

I've taken so many photos of Tohono Chul over the years that I'm afraid I might begin to repeat myself—not that that's an issue unless you look at my old posts side by side. But it's very easy for me to get swept away by the beauty of the place. When that happens and I'm in the “zone,” I let myself go with the flow and respond to what I see before me. Getting lost like that is the thing I look forward to the most when I visit the desert.

Speaking of the desert, this quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the author of The Little Prince, perfectly expresses how I feel. Saint-Exupéry was referring to the Sahara, not the Sonoran Desert, but the magnetic pull is the same.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Plant haul from my December 2019 Arizona trip

One of my great passions in life is traveling. Don't get me wrong—I love being at home, too, but the pull to see other places never quite goes away. In German, there's a great word for this: Fernweh. It literally means “far-ache.” The “ache” part is the same as in “toothache:” a pain that is persistent and all-encompassing. The German language definitely has a knack for coining simple words that express complex emotions!

While I enjoy travel no matter what form it takes, I do prefer driving over flying. When you look at the photos below, you'll understand why. Other people bring home coffee mugs or tea towels as souvenirs, I come back with plants and rocks.

Trunk of our Toyota Prius after my recent Arizona trip. The bare spot on the left was where my clothes bag had been.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Succulents and More on Instagram

Some of you may be following Succulents and More on Instagram already. If you aren't, below are some examples of what you're missing. These are images I posted on Instagram during and after my recent Arizona trip. Some of them may eventually make it into regular blog posts, but most will only appear on Instagram.

My Instagram user name is succulentsandmore.

See you there!

Friday, January 3, 2020

Highlights from my 2019 after-Christmas Arizona trip

I just got back from another awesome after-Christmas desert road trip with a couple of thousand photos—memories that will sustain me until next Christmas when I'll do it all over again.

OK, in the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that a few plants and rocks came home with me, too. And another metal mariachi musician, a younger brother to the two that have taken up residence in our front yard.

I'll have many posts in the weeks and months to come. For now, here's a random jumble of snapshots that capture the highlights of my trip. Consider it an appetizer.

Highway 247, western San Bernardino County, California; my trusty steed on the right

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year!

Regardless of whether this is the last year of the old decade or the first year of the new one, here's wishing all of you a Happy New Year!

There's no better way to kick off the new year than with a photo that celebrates the beauty of nature. I took this panorama just this afternoon (January 1, 2020) at Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) in the snow

2020 has quite a ring to it. May it deliver on the promise it holds!