UC Davis Arboretum in the midday sun

It turns out it's not only Englishmen and mad dogs who go out in the midday sun. I did, too, on Sunday when it was 102°F out. It started out as a joke with my wife and daughter, but then it became a dare, and I simply couldn't back down. That's how I found myself on the UC Davis campus at 12:30pm with the sun beating down on me.

I only lasted for 45 minutes, but I managed to check on a few things, including the Arboretum Teaching Nursery where the plant sales are held: usually three in the spring and three in the fall. In a normal year, that is. In 2020, all plant sales have been canceled—just another nail in the coffin of this terrible year. In the meantime, the 50,000+ sale plants in the nursery are being cared for by a skeleton crew. They'll be extra large next year when (knock on wood!) the plant sales will resume.

Me longingly peeking through the chain-link fence into the nursery:

The water-wise landscaping outside the Teaching Nursery is thriving in the heat

A beautiful specimen of Agave colorata in a newly planted bed along the sidewalk across the road from the Teaching Nursery

Just down the road from the Teaching Nursery is the Ruth Risdon Storer Garden. It showcases perennials and shrubs which are particularly well suited to Central Valley gardens. This spot gets full sun almost all day so it's an ideal living laboratory for stress-testing plants.

Flowering Nolina nelsonii

Naked ladies (Amaryllis belladonna) are now in bloom in many spots

Agave weberi

Agave ovatifolia

Agave ovatifolia

Prickly pear (Opuntia ficus-indica)

Cenizo or Texas ranger (Leucophyllum frutescens)

Cenizo or Texas ranger (Leucophyllum frutescens)

Cenizo or Texas ranger (Leucophyllum frutescens)

Coral bean (Erythrina × bidwillii)

Coral bean (Erythrina × bidwillii)

The blue grass Leymus condensatus 'Canyon Prince', the tan-colored inflorescences are from Stipa gigantea starting to flower

The Peter J. Shields Oak Grove featuring 80+ oak taxa is adjacent to the Ruth Risdon Storer Garden

Adjoining the Ruth Risdon Storer Garden is the Carolee Shields White Flower Garden. I wanted to check on the giant sea squills (Drimia maritima) growing there, and they didn't disappoint:

Giant sea squill (Drimia maritima)

Giant sea squill (Drimia maritima)

White-flowering hibiscus, no clue which cultivar

White-flowering Amaryllis belladonna

Crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia) do exceedingly well in our summer heat

The 140 tiles in the Nature's Gallery mural show “diverse drought-tolerant plants or insects found in the Arboretum’s Ruth Risdon Storer Garden.” The tiles were made by UC Davis students, staff and faculty as well as members of the community.

There are three agaves:

My final stop was the small Ernest M. Gifford Cycad Garden at Storer Hall. In addition to the cycads from the personal collection of the late Professor Gifford, the beds in front of Storer Hall feature other interesting plants, including aloes such as this Aloidendron dichotomum:

And bananas which are doing surprisingly well, battered leaves aside:

Some of the cycads:

Huge clump of sago palms (Cycas revoluta)

New flush on one of the sago palms in the clump above

Dioon sp.

Encephalartos sp.

Encephalartos ferox

By the time I got back to the car, I needed a super-sized cold drink and a nap!

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  1. You are a little crazy, Gerhard, although I appreciate the photos you've shared here. If only humans held up to heat like that as well as the plants do! So far, our temperature readings have topped out just under 100F, although our weather station reading shows a heat index of 102. Our air quality is awful due to the fires to the northeast but at least they're not nipping at our backdoor. The Jones Fire has reached within half a mile of my sister-in-law's place in Grass Valley and she's been packed up and ready to evacuate if necessary since yesterday.

    1. Oh no, that's scary news about your sister-in-law's place. I'll keep her in my thoughts.

      The sky here looks apocalytic from the smoke, and their smells like fire.

  2. At least you had some shade to duck into occasionally. I do so miss the Davis Arb plant sales. So well organized and I always found something. My fingers are crossed for a spring plant sale. I think you are getting our smoke -I see huge plumes but the breeze is moving east.Thank god it's not too windy.

  3. 102, that's cool! Here in Phoenix it has been 110 days and 90 nights for 3.5 weeks EVERY DAY! Ugh! I love seeing the white flowers! And, oh, those special tiles! I Desert Botanical Garden here should do that, except I don't know if even those plants would be successful here! Thanks for venturing out in the heat! Yes, it is very tiring!

  4. I hung out in the sun too long the other day and got a small case of the spins, which I hate. Gotta be careful out there, Gerhard! But I have to say I'm glad you toughed it out because there are some beautiful images here of well-suited plants growing in extremely tough conditions. That drimia looks so natural with the low ground covering plants and grasses. And that chunky quiver tree! omg...

  5. It didn't look like 102! Your post brought great memories of exploring here myself, what was that, spring 2018? It's looking great.

  6. You are a brave man. We have been suffering a heat wave here (90F) which I know for you is not too bad but for us is horrible. Surprisingly plants are standing up well without irrigation. The Davis gardens look lush and healthy despite your heat waves. Thanks for the webinar tips. Enjoyed the plant hormone talk from the U Davis presenter.

  7. That kind of heat is unbearable for me, I can't image going out for a stroll. In picture #6 with the Flowering Nolina nelson, all I saw was that fantastic tree trunk on the right: I wanted to give it a hug and stay in it's blessed shade till evening fall.

  8. Nice to see what is thriving there. The agave are looking wonderful!


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