Misty January morning at UC Davis Arboretum

The UC Davis Arboretum is a 100-acre treasure on the 5,300-acre University of California, Davis campus. Unlike botanical gardens with fences, gates, and fixed opening hours, the UC Davis Arboretum is accessible to the public around the clock. It's without doubt the most beloved place in town—on any given morning, you'll see people bicycling, running, walking their dogs, pushing strollers, bird-watching, you name it. Since the UC Davis campus is in the heart of town, the Arboretum is no more than 15 minutes away for most Davis residents.

Kniphofia 'Christmas Cheer' in the Ruth Risdon Storer Valley-Wise Garden

On Sunday morning, I took our dog for a walk at the western edge of the Arboretum: the Shields Oak Grove, the Storer Valley-Wise Garden, the White Garden, and perimeter of the Teaching Nursery where in the BCE—the before-Covid era—the Arboretum plant sales were held.

The area inside the magenta rectangle is what is covered in this post. Map © UC Davis.

It was a misty morning, which paradoxically made some colors pop and others appear muted. It's been a cool December and early January with relatively little sunshine, so many plants are in a holding pattern until warmer days finally arrive. But there's always something interesting to see, even at the slowest time of year.

Agave weberi

Agave ovatifolia

Giant sea squill (Drimia maritima) leaves in the Carolee Shields White Flower Garden and Gazebo

Drimia maritima leaves in a sea of snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum)

Hesperoyucca whipplei (front), Cerastium tomentosum (in between) and Drimia maritima (back)

White-flowering Brugmansia

White-flowering Brugmansia

Dasylirion wheeleri

Cabbage tree (Cussonia paniculata) and honey bush (Melianthus major) at the edge of the Mediterranean Collection

Aloe ferox and Kniphofia 'Christmas Cheer' overlooking the lagoon in the Mediterranean Collection

Aloe microstigma

Trio of Agave sisalana just outside the Teaching Nursery

View of the lagoon in the Mediterranean Collection

Stella takes advantage of any extra height she can find to get a better view of the world

A surprising find in the bioswale near the Teaching Nursery: ×Mangave 'Red Wing'. I saw a few other mangaves as well.

Deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens) is planted by the thousands in the Arboretum

Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) and deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens

Agave americana ssp. protoamericana 'Lemon Lime', one of several in this area

Agave americana ssp. protoamericana 'Lemon Lime'

Several Agave americana ssp. protoamericana 'Lemon Lime' rotted out after the massive rainfall in December

Agave colorata and rosemary across the street from the Teaching Nursery

Agave americana 'Mediopicta Alba' and Kniphofia 'Christmas Cheer' outside the Teaching Nursery

A database of all Arboretum plants! That's huge for an ID-obsessed person like me!


© Gerhard Bock, 2022. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. Hmmm... Agave americana ssp. protoamericana 'Lemon Lime' in a pile of rotted ugliness. I'd been considering planting mine out in the ground but I guess that will wait. I have two small pups, perhaps one of them will grow up and be planted out. Thanks for the visit!

    1. It's odd, three large 'Lemon Lime' were perfectly fine, and two right nearby had collapsed. It wasn't the cold as much as the persistent moisture.

  2. Regrettably, I only saw a small portion of the Davis Arboretum as my husband and I whizzed through Davis on our way to a wedding years ago, missing out on seeing your garden as well, but I was impressed by what I saw and hope I'll get up that way again, maybe in the ACE. I love the massed Drimia in your photos, which make me wish I'd planted mine more closely together, but I understand that the plants continue to produce new bulbs indefinitely so maybe I'll have multiple masses someday.

    1. I bet the Drimias at the Arboretum were spaced quite a few feet apart initially...

  3. You are so lucky to have such a beautiful place within walking distance. Lovely photos, particularly the first Agave americana ssp. protoamericana ‘Lemon Lime’ image. The ‘lemon’ colouring in the leaves picks up on little hints of sunlight behind the clouds. Agave colorata is lovely also, peeking out from under the oak leaves.
    Stella looks to be enjoying her outing too. Do you still have Tofu?

    1. Stella loves the Arboretum. So many new smells every time we go!

      Tofu was only with us for a few weeks. He wasn't a good fit for us because of behavioral issues the shelter hadn't been up front about. But he's found a forever home since then.

    2. Sorry it didn’t work out with Tofu, but glad to hear he’s found a suitable forever home. Pets are as awesome as plants in my book!

    3. I couldn't agree more! Tofu was a sweetheart and a goofball, and it was hard saying goodbye.

  4. I really should stroll Davis Arb more often. Even though it's an hour drive it's an easy one on weekends. I haven't lingered as long as I used to pre-pandemic ! I particularly love the A. ' Lemon-Lime' image with the foggy background and the sun trying to break through. From the weather reports I follow it seems like you have been having a much more normal fog year. The tule fog rises again !

    1. We've had a lot of fog this year. Almost like in the "old days" 20+ years ago. But January has been dry so who knows what will happen.

  5. That's a lovely treasure of planted space for the community to have. Not inundated with the "unhoused", though?

    Stella sure is a cutie.

    1. Davis has quite a few resources for the unhoused so we don't really have the encampments you see in Sacramento, Oakland, Berkeley, etc.

      Stella is a character. She's super aware of her surroundings, and interested in everything and everyone.

  6. What a wonderful space to have in town. Every town/ city should have these. Question: have always wondered if you are able to identify all the different plants on your own or do you have a little help? Have always been impressed by your ability to name so many that are very similar to each other.

    1. I try hard to identify the plants I photograph so I always look for labels or tags. If I can't find them, I often do research or ask people who might know. Over the years, I've become familiar with a lot of plants that way. But for every plant I *am* able to identify, there's a dozen that stump me :-).


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