2020 in review: January—March

Hindsight is 2020. A bad pun, I know, but I've been wanting to say it all year. And now that I've indulged myself, I won't say it again.

I want to take this opportunity to review what 2020 had in store for me as far as gardening and plants were concerned. Garden visits and opportunities to hang out with fellow plant nerds were few and far between, but as far as our plants were concerned, 2020 was just another year with a long dry summer and a dry fall. 

Originally, I'd planned to do one consolidated year-in-review post, but to my surprise I had more ground to cover than I'd expected. To keep the number of photos manageable, I'm going to cover one quarter per post, for a total of four installments.


January was the beginning of aloe season. Ours were just starting...

Our aloes getting ready to flower

but the aloes in John Miller's Oakland garden were in full bloom when I visited him at the end of the month:

Aloe munchii

John is the president of the Institute for Aloe Studies (a great source to buy aloes!) and has one of the largest private aloe collections in the country.

Aloe ferox collection

View from the deck at the lower end of the garden

Aloe thraskii


Aloe season heated up in February, both in our own garden...

Aloe wickensii

Aloe capitata var. quartziticola

...at the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek...

Brian Kemble, the curator of the Ruth Bancroft Garden, leading an aloe walk. This was the last public event that I attended pre-COVID.

Aloe 'Tangerine'

White-flowering Aloe ferox

...and on the UC Davis campus:

Aloe microstigma
Aloe excelsa (back), Aloe marlothii hybrid (front)

Jeff Moore, owner of Solana Succulents in San Diego County and author of four (soon five) lavishly illustrated books on succulents, was in town for a brief visit, and I took him to meet Ernesto Sandoval, director of the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory.

Jeff Moore (left) and Ernesto Sandoval (right)

Some of the special plants we saw at the Botanical Conservatory and on campus:

Welwitschia mirabilis from Namibia, one of the strangest plants on the planet

Euphorbia misera, a shrub native to San Diego County—in my opinion criminally underused in gardens

Lachenalia aloides var. quadricolor from the Cape region of South Africa

Pearl acacia (Acacia podalyriifolia)

Pacific madrone (Arbutus menziesii) flowering more exuberantly than I've ever seen in the UC Davis Arboretum

Opuntia ficus-indica trying to break out


In March, we began to realize that 2020 would be different:

Seen on Interstate 5 as we picked up daughter #2 from university in Southern California

Sheltering in place meant a renewed focus on the garden:

Aloe speciosa × barberae, a hybrid created by Nick Deinhart

Ceanothus 'Julia Phelps' and Aloe 'Moonglow' 

Thelocactus rinconensis

Renovated Echinocereus cactus bowl

Lachenalia vanzyliae

As the reality of COVID-19 began to sank in, I canceled a trip to Phoenix, Arizona literally at the last minute. I hardly ever buy travel insurance, but I had this time (intuition?), so fortunately I was reimbursed for my flight and hotel reservations.

On to April—June: getting used to, struggling with, and finally accepting the realities of the pandemic.


© Gerhard Bock, 2020. All rights reserved. No part of the materials available through www.succulentsandmore.com may be copied, photocopied, reproduced, translated or reduced to any electronic medium or machine-readable form, in whole or in part, without prior written consent of Gerhard Bock. Any other reproduction in any form without the permission of Gerhard Bock is prohibited. All materials contained on this site are protected by United States and international copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of Gerhard Bock. If you are reading this post on a website other than www.succulentsandmore.com, please be advised that that site is using my content without my permission. Any unauthorized use will be reported.


  1. Oh those early days when we thought this would quickly pass. I guess I am relieved to not have fully grasped how long this would go on, it would have made for an overwhelming first few weeks. Also I feel so lucky to have seen those Welwitschia mirabilis in person.

    1. As you said, in hindsight it's a blessing we didn't know how long this would drag out!

  2. It's great to see all those succulents again and this post underscores the value of including more Aloes in my garden for that welcome flush of winter blooms. I also fell in love with Lachenalia all over again and have recorded the shipping schedule provided by one grower in my 2021 calendar so I don't miss out on acquiring some of the bulbs yet again in the coming year.

    1. I have a bunch more aloes to plant. You're right, the winter blooms are invaluable!

      Too bad this isn't a regular year, otherwise I'd pick up some Lachenalia for you at the UC Davis Botanical Conservatory. They always have a good selection.

  3. I'm happy to have gotten so many back-burner household projects done in 2020, which would probably never have happened if I hadn't been working from home. But like you I sure missed the garden touring and horticulture related travel. I've already planned out an itinerary for a PNW road trip next summer if it actually becomes possible.Not holding my breath though ! My chunk of 'Moonglow' has sailed through what has seemed like almost nightly frost events,so fingers crossed I will get blooms someday !

    1. You got way more done in the garden than I did! Can't wait to see it someday :-)

  4. I am enjoying your roundups even though I live in a climate very different from yours. The view from the deck in John Miller’s garden is beautiful.

  5. Despite it all the plants keeping doing their thing bringing some normalcy to a crazy year.

    1. It's easy to see why nurseries did record business in 2020--so many people turning to plants, either in the garden or inside the house.


Post a Comment