A Southwest garden experience in Sacramento, California

With very few occasions to visit other gardens this year, I jump at every opportunity I get. And I really struck gold a couple of weeks ago when I finally got to see the property of a friend in the greater Sacramento area. I was there in the early evening so the photos in this post have a warm cast.

I knew her place was large—about two acres, which is somewhere between gigantic and enormous by local standards—so I expected to be wowed. But I was not prepared for this level of wow:

Had I fallen asleep behind the wheel and woken up a few days later in New Mexico?

No, I was still in Sacramento County. This was “just” one of those exceptional places that are tucked away in quiet neighborhoods far from my regular routes.

My friend Theresa and her husband built their Southwest-inspired home 25+ years ago. As I was walking around, I briefly let myself imagine living and gardening there, but then I yanked myself back to reality and focused on taking photos.

But I will gush just a little. 

I love Southwest architecture, and I love everything about this house: from the overall design to the paint colors to the decorative elements found here and there. Walking around and looking at the house from every angle gave me a much-needed Southwest fix—the next best thing to being there. Given the ongoing uncertainties, who knows when I'll get to go back to Arizona, let alone New Mexico.

Here are some of the plants and decorations on the enclosed patio you see in the photos above:

Love the built-in bench

This vase is a real standout!

Great pairing between pot and Tephrocactus articulatus var. papyracanthus

If it weren't for the modern window, this could be a vignette from the 19th century

It was the little details, like the hollow bricks painted the same color as the wall, that made me even more excited

Opuntia macrocentra and Echinocactus grusonii

Grevillea 'King's Rainbow' in the foreground. It wouldn't survive in New Mexico, but it thrives here.

Yucca 'Blue Boy'

Yucca 'Blue Boy'

Kalanchoe luciae

Wabi-style Japanese stone lantern

Doesn't this ×Mangave 'Desert Dragon' look like a giant spider about to attack the Bouteloua gracilis grass?

×Mangave 'Desert Dragon'

A flowering clump of what I believe is ×Mangave 'Pineapple Express'

This agave (one of three) is a bit of a mystery. It was labeled Agave vilmoriniana, but to me it looks like it's something else or a vilmoriniana hybrid. Plus, it offsets, which vilmoriniana typically doesn't do. Any guesses what it might be?

Día de los Muertos (celebrated from October 31 to November 2) is just around the corner. The female skeleton on the right, La Catrina, has become a much-loved symbol of this Mexican holiday. The famous rendition of the skeleton wearing a hat with feathers is based on a zinc etching from 1913, “La Calavera Catrina,” by Mexican illustrator José Guadalupe Posada.

La Catrina's gentleman companion in front of a hairy prickly pear variably sold as Opuntia 'Snow' or 'Wooly Jacket'

Wider view of the back garden

The rocks in the foreground are the beginnings of a Dudleya wall

The dudleyas will be tucked into the spaces between the rocks on the northeast-facing side. (Note to myself: think about using a tall standalone urn somewhere in the garden.)

Aeoniums are just now starting to come out of their summer dormancy. The spiky thing in the foreground is an ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens).

Aeoniums tucked away under a shrub—it looks like they crawled under there to hide from the hot summer sun

Aloe burgersfortensis, one of the more attractive maculate (spotted) aloes

There's a lot more house to see:

Pool and covered patio outside the kitchen

Looking in the other direction, with Theresa's small greenhouse reflecting in the pool

Koi pond under the covered patio

Mexican weeping bamboo (Otatea acuminata ssp. aztecorum) in the garden adjacent to the covered area of the patio

Another cool wall...

...hiding the pool filtration system (a covered well that look very Hänsel and Gretel to me)

More empty urns for decoration—I'm warming up to the idea that not every pot has to be filled with plants

I forgot to ask about the story of this old metal car, but I bet there is one!

Finally, the front garden—at least the area around the front of the house:

In a place with so many interesting features, this might have been my favorite: an open door in the walkway from the garage (left) to the front door

The garage is on the left

Yet another open door in front of the house, leading to a small sitting area

Wider view

A wonderfully twisted manzanita (Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Howard McMinn') next to the path up to the front door

Front entrance, decorated for Halloween

Wider view of the front entrance

But that's not all! In the back garden, there are three greenhouses: a smaller one for Therera's succulents, and two much larger ones for her son. He's a serious collector who is actively propagating and selling rare succulents. 

I took a lot of photos inside the greenhouses. Check out their seriously impressive collection in this post.

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  1. I think you can be forgiven for imagining all this to be yours. So many great plants and well appointed art-like pieces. It evokes a real sense of place. Love the Yucca 'Blue Boy'. Look forward to part 2

    1. A lot of people seem to like Yucca 'Blue Boy'. I have one, but it's disappeared under a thuggish cuphea--time to uncover it!

  2. Wow! I loved everything about the house and garden, even the Halloween decorations The best thing about it was that the garden stayed true to that southwestern look throughout. The door frames were an inspired touch - I've though of doing something similar in a transition area of my front garden.

    1. Those door frames! You have the room to pull it off--in quite a few places, actually. I'd love to copy the idea, but I think our garden is too small.

  3. That is a "wow!" place. Many choice plants, too. The "standout" vase, the solar patio cover, the freestanding doors, 'Howard McMinn', so much to see and enjoy.

    They were selling cars like that at Armstrong's a few years ago, made in Mexico from cut up oil drums and old cars--recycling old metal into garden art.

    The vilmoriniana looked like it was in the process of blooming. Might that account for the unusual form?

    1. It's the kind of garden where you miss a lot of things on your first visit.

      The vimoriniana should have slender arching leaves. These don't look quite right to me. Plus, there's the pupping issue. I've never known a vilmoriniana to pup...

  4. Lovely variety of Yucca.That vase is so stunning.It would be my pleasure if you join my link up party related to gardening here at http://jaipurgardening.blogspot.com/2020/10/garden-affair-succulents-world.html

  5. There's a lot of plants to love here, but I think the Yucca 'Blue Boy' planting is my favorite.

    1. The Yucca 'Blue Boy' colony started with one plant, I believe!

  6. The built-in bench, the potted hollowed brick, the empty urns, the indigo blue trim on the house: I love all those unique details in this amazing property. The twisted manzanita is a show stopper!

  7. Oh, I can not wait for the next post of the greenhouses! Love the Manzanita which we have up at our Pine place. It is native to that area of Arizona. This house and gardens are my dream!


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