2020 in review: October—December

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Continuing the year in review...


I finally had the opportunity to visit the garden of my Sacramento-area plant friend Theresa. I was blown away by the size of her property (2 acres), the Southwest architecture of her house, and the many creative touches in her garden.

New Mexico or Sacramento?

Open door in the front garden, just because


Back garden

Opuntia macrocentra and Echinocactus grusonii

Three greenhouses, too. She and her son are serious collectors.

Easily one of the largest private greenhouses I've seen

Copiapoa cinerea

No clue what this fuzzy beauty is

Crested Myrtillocactus geometrizans

On the home front, it was finally time to remove the bloomed-out carcass of my Agave 'Mad Cow':

RIP, Agave 'Mad Cow'

A spur-of-the-moment outing took me back to Annie's Annuals:

The Annie's Annuals cow has no care in the world. I wish I were an Annie's Annuals cow.

The Annie's Annuals catalog come to life, right inside the nursery gate

Agave ovatifolia, Dyckia 'Cherry Cola' and Cosmos sulphureus 'Klondike', among many others

I caught Annie Hayes getting photographed for the spring 2021 catalog and ended up having a nice chat with her. She is every bit as sweet as she looks.

The highlight of October was an invitation to the Oakland garden of Casper Curto and Daryl Durcharme. It's a mature garden, decades in the making, and it really is special: a multi-level ¾-acre exotic paradise with more bromeliads than I'd ever seen in Northern California.

Deck right behind the house

Half way to the “real” bromeliad garden at the top of the hillside property

A particularly striking combination: Plumeria, Graptopetalum, and Encephalartos

Bamboo and foxtail fern (Asparagus densiflorus 'Myers')

Bromeliad-studded pergola—going up is the way to go when you have so many plants

Towering cordylines, bromeliads, cycads, and one of five greenhouses

My camera was running hot!

Black tree fern (Sphaeropteris medullaris) endemic to New Zealand (where it's called “mamaku”) and across the southwest Pacific

Back to the steps that lead to the upper garden

After visiting Casper's garden, I also got to see the garden of plant friends Max and Justin who live 10 minutes away. In just two years, Max and Justin have created a lush oasis that is as inviting to birds and bees as it is to humans.

Ricinus communis 'Carmencita' is invasive and has poisonous seeds, but it's oh-so-alluring

×Mangave 'Crazy Cowlick' and Lomandra confertifolia 'Seascape'

Aloidendron 'Hercules', Yucca rostrata, and Agave desmettiana 'Joe Hoak' next to the house, with Justin inspecting something in the ground

Peruvian feather grass (Stipa ichu)

Acacia cognata provides visual screening for the “hidden” room behind it

Repurposed galvanized containers (including a trash can on the right) from Urban Ore in Berkeley

Quesnelia marmorata 'Tim Plowman'

Back home, our Yucca queretaroensis got a haircut that made a big difference:


The biggest development in November was the removal of the Asian lemon bamboo (Bambusa eutuldoides 'Viridivittata') in the front yard. It had been a big presence for many years, but it was shading too many plants nearby. Now seemed like a good time for a change.

What's left behind—a headache I'm ignoring for the moment

More sun for the plants inside the fence

Garden vignettes taken just before Thanksgiving:

Top: Yucca 'Bright Star'
Middle: Hechtia argentea
Bottom: ×Mangave 'Red Wing' 

Top: Aloe capitata var. quartziticola
Bottom: ×Mangave 'Kaleidoscope'

NOID ×Sincoregelia, Deuterocohnia sp. nova (from Tucumán, Argentina), Hechtia lanata

Entrance to the front garden

Redone bed next to the front door


November segued seamlessly into December. With the introduction of two effective COVID-19 vaccines, there seems to be a glimmer of light at the end of the very long tunnel that has been 2020. However, the train to get us to the other side isn't moving very fast—certainly not fast enough for my liking. There's nothing I can do to speed things up. Be patient, they say, as if patience has ever been a strong suit of mine. But the garden continues to keep me grounded.

A bit of fall color from the Chinese pistache in the backyard

×Mangave 'Lavender Lady' in the front yard

×Mangave 'Crazy Cowlick', Ferocactus herrerae, and Agave vilmoriniana 'Stained Glass'

Getting rid of the leaves from our neighbor's London plane tree kept me busy

Bottle tree in the backyard

Cardón (Pachycereus pringlei) in front of Agave 'Bluebells Giants'

After a dry summer and dry fall, finally some rain. Colors popping, leaves glistening, humans ecstatic. It doesn't take much.

Vibrant red Hechtia 'Oaxaca Sunset' and perennially silver Hechtia 'Silver Star'

Aloe petricola, emerging inflorescences contrasting beautifully against the purple and grayish hues of the leaves

Aloe bulbillifera

I received a new shipment of mangaves and got stuck in right away—the last plantings of 2020:

 Three newly planted mangaves: ×Mangave 'Life on Mars' (top left), ×Mangave 'Black Magic' (below it), ×Mangave 'Sponge Paint' (bottom center). I also planted a Delosperma 'Granita Orange' between 'Black Magic' and 'Sponge Paint'. The agave at top center is Agave zebra, the aloe in the lower right Aloe conifera.

×Mangave 'Aztec King' (#1), ×Mangave 'Pineapple Punch' (#2), and ×Mangave 'Night Owl' (#3)

Aloe 'AJR' (front) finally going in the ground, Aloe beetsilensis (back) has been in the ground for a few years

New from Rancho Soledad Nursery, Aloe ferox × capitata (right)

Santa brought us a white Christmas at my mother-in-law's place in Mount Shasta. Maybe things are beginning to turn around?

Barn in my mother-in-law's backyard

I expected December—and hence 2020—to end quietly since I had canceled my traditional post-Christmas Arizona pilgrimage. But there was a consolation prize: an unexpected road trip to Southern California to take daughter #2 back to college. More about that soon!

Here's wishing you Happy New Year and at least a partial return to what we once considered “normal.”


© 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. Ah... I wondered why I was seeing SoCal pics from you on Instagram, now I know. Happy New Year!

  2. Another set of wonderful private gardens however, I think Casper and Daryl's was the favourite for me. So many levels and wonderful plantings. A real gem. I look forward to reading about your SoCal trip. Happy New Year and hope 2021 is a great gardening year.

  3. As sucky as this year was, much still happened plant wise, so much so that you had to split it into a 4-parts series. If nothing else, 2020 pushed us to make the most out of each and every opportunity that came our way, and to find pleasure in the so called "smaller" things around us. This year in review is awesome and fulfilling, it could have belonged to any other 'normal' year.

  4. What a beautiful year of gardens! I keep looking at that beautiful first property. What a background for all those plants. I am new to your blog, so I am thrilled and enjoying the recaps of your year.

  5. What a year in so many ways. You did manage to squeeze in quite a few gardens despite it all. So lucky to have a beautiful garden of your own to enjoy. Must say your site's new format is going to take some getting used to. Lots of white space!


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