Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Who can resist a Mexican grass tree for $10.50?

There are few things I find harder to resist than plants sold at a great price. If it's a plant I don't have yet, even better. But I won't automatically turn down a plant just because I already have one in the garden.

Here's a case in point: A few weekends ago, I ventured to Green Acres Nursery in Sacramento to buy some vegetable starts. Needless to say I checked out the non-vegetable offerings as well. And lo and behold, I found a bunch of Mexican grass trees (Dasylirion longissimum) in #1 pots for $10.50.

What's remarkable is the size of these dasylirions: They were larger than the plants in #5 pots for $30! In fact, the plastic containers were deformed by the pressure from the roots. And yet, as root bound as they were, they looked perfectly happy.

Would you be surprised if I told you that I bought one? Of course not. I already have two Dasylirion  longissimum, but seeing how it's a favorite of mine—a poor man's Xanthorrhoea if you will—I couldn't resist.

Here it is in its new home:


Wednesday, April 22, 2020

More garden beauty to help us through home confinement

I want to continue the theme I started in Monday's post, The garden is giving back when I need it the most, because we need our gardens now more than ever. Feeling stressed—or worse, overwhelmed—seems to be the new normal for many of us. The rational part of our mind knows that this, too, shall pass, but being confronted with so much uncertainty can wear down the strongest of us.

I'm not immune to any of this, but I try hard not to get swept away by the constantly changing news cycles. Focusing on work helps, and there's Tofu, our new canine family member, to take my mind off the headlines. And if all else fails, I step outside into the garden with eyes wide open. There's so much to see right now that it doesn't take long for my mind to recalibrate itself. It would be so much harder to make it through this crisis without the beauty so generously given by the plants we tend.

Bee on Grevillea 'Kings Fire'

Monday, April 20, 2020

The garden is giving back when I need it the most

We take care of our gardens year in and year out. Sometimes, especially when there's a long list of chores to do, it seems like the work never ends.

But remember that this is a two-way street: Whatever we give to the garden, the garden gives back—with interest. We invest time, effort and money, and the garden rewards us with beauty.

Beauty may be a simple six-letter word, but like most simple things, it's a powerful force.

Agave ovatifolia and Alyogyne 'Ruth Bancroft'

In times of turmoil, the garden can help us escape reality, if ever so briefly, refocus, and recharge our mental batteries. In short: It can help us stay sane.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Jeanne Meadow's San Diego County garden—back

In part 1 of this post, I showed you the front garden of Jeanne Meadow's estate in Fallbrook north of San Diego. As beautiful as the front garden is, I think the back garden is even more stunning although the landscaped square footage is much smaller.

Looking at the back of the house through the lacy foliage of Peruvian pepper trees (Schinus molle):


Turn 180° and you see an agave-studded hillside:


Sunday, April 12, 2020

Jeanne Meadow's San Diego County garden—front

While travel and garden tours are temporarily on hold because of COVID-19, that doesn't mean we can't do it virtually. Today I want to take you to Fallbrook in the northern part of San Diego County, the self-proclaimed “Avocado Capital of the World”.

Two years ago, I had the privilege of visiting the garden of Jeanne Meadow. This is a garden in the grand sense of the word—an estate, really, occupying multiple hillside acres. Jeanne and her husband Barry use the lower 2+ acres for themselves and lease out the avocado orchard which occupies the upper portion of their property.

I was invited to Jeanne's garden as part of the Succulent Fanatics, a Facebook group started by San Jose-based Laura Balaoro whose members occasionally meet up in person, typically during a public succulent event. In this case, the occasion was the 2018 Succulent Celebration organized by and held at Waterwise Botanicals Nursery in Bonsall.

Being part of a large group of like-minded gardening folks, I was trying to have a conversation or two while taking photos. At times, one (the photos) or the other (the conversations) suffered, but I did end up taking a lot of pictures.


This post is about the front garden; part two is about the back.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

My haul from Annie's Annuals (4/4/20)

As you might have read in my previous post, I went to Annie's Annuals in Richmond, CA last Saturday. Properly gloved and masked and observing social distancing protocols, I slowly wandered through the nursery, loading my cart with plants that were on my wish list as well as some others that caught my eye.

The Agave colorata in the photo below falls into the “caught my eye” category. I've had many Agave colorata over the years, but virtually all over them turned out to be rather generic-looking. The search for the perfect Agave colorata is ongoing: I'm looking for one that doesn't pup excessively, has a symmetrical rosette, and features pronounced banding. It exists; the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson had one a few years ago.

I picked out the Agave colorata seedling below from about three dozen because it has a symmetrical rosette, wide leaves, well-developed marginal teeth, and a twisted terminal spine. I'm hoping this will turn into a beautiful swan someday.

Agave colorata

Monday, April 6, 2020

Annie's Annuals mental-health outing

California continues to be under a shelter-in-place order because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since I work at home, my life during the week hasn't changed all that much. It's on the weekends that I notice the restrictions the most. It's not like public life has stopped altogether, but everything requires a lot more planning: Do I have disposable gloves, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and, most recently, my mask? Since I don't go out every day, the new routine hasn't become routine for me, and I hope it won't have to.

Strictly speaking, nursery visits aren't exactly necessary outings. However, I figure anything that improves my mental health is at least somewhat essential. Using that reasoning as an excuse, I made the one-hour drive to Annie's Annuals in Richmond on an eerily un-busy Interstate 80. I knew that Annie's had a solid social distancing protocol in place. Customers are requested to stay 3-6 ft. away from other customers (and staff) as they pass them, and the size of the nursery does allow for that. In the checkout area, belt dividers separate the customers from the employees; cash is not accepted, and you insert your credit card in a reader the employee holds out to you, so your card isn't touched by anybody else.

Another new thing: a couple of handwashing stations at the entrance where customers are requested to wash their hands as they arrive and leave

Friday, April 3, 2020

Sights in the garden that make me feel better

With everything going on in the world and no light yet at the end of the long dark tunnel that is COVID-19, it's a challenge to stay positive. Fortunately, things are a little easier for us gardeners. Sheltering in place, we can quickly step outside and find, if not comfort, then at least distraction in the environment we've created. It may not sound like much, but for me, it's huge. Within a few minutes, I'm usually able to refocus.

Here are some vignettes that caught my eye today:

Vriesea fosteriana 'Red Chestnut'