Steve Super's super plants

The three and a half days I spent in Santa Barbara last month were packed with visits to private gardens and nurseries. One of them was Steve Super’s nursery in Los Osos on the Central Coast. I’ve known Steve virtually for a number of years and have several of his plants growing in my garden, but I’d never met him in person. This trip was the perfect opportunity to remedy that.

Steve Super sells his plants at local plant events as well as online. He has both an ecommerce website, Stevesupergardens.com, and a store on Etsy. He sells a wide variety of weird and wonderful plants, ranging from bromeliads and epiphytic cacti to aloes and agaves, including his own hybrids. He’s also been making his own mangaves and is now selling the first one on his site, Mangave ‘Watercolor’. I have another one of his mangaves in my garden, Mangave Black Widow; it will be available for purchase in the near future.

Steve shares two growing spaces with Nick Wilkinson, owner of Grow Nursery in Cambria and landscape design firm Botanica Nova. I visited the location in downtown Los Osos where Steve meets with customers by appointment. I knew I’d arrived at the right place when I saw the rows of Aloidendron ‘Hercules’ planted outside the fence:

Row of Aloidendron ‘Hercules’ and other aloes

The nursery itself isn’t large, but there was plenty to discover. Steve let me poke around by myself while he was taking a phone call.







Oxalis palmifrons

I’ve never seen dudleyas displayed like this before

The largest specimen of Agave marmorata ‘Papilio Platanoides’ I’ve ever seen. This is a rarely seen dwarf mutation of a very large agave.

I did a double-take when I saw this green stuff. Moss in pots? It turns out it’s a spongy, mat-forming perennial called Scleranthus biflorus. It’s native to Australia and New Zealand where it goes by the common name cushion-bush.

I was tempted to buy one to replicate this staging, but I doubt it would have lived very long in my climate

Bright green cushions (soft) butting up against gray-green cushions (anything but soft)

The gray-green cushions are Deuterocohnia brevifolia, a terrestrial bromeliad from Argentina and Bolivia

Aeonium tabuliforme is almost flat

Competing in the flatness category, Haemanthus deformis

If cushiony or flat isn’t your thing, how about zig-zaggy? Wire-netting bush (Corokia cotoneaster) from New Zealand.

I’ve lusted after this Cotyledon undulata for years, but it has a reputation as being very finicky, which under my care would spell speedy death

Ruffled echeveria, pretty but too fragile for our hot-summer climate

I don’t know which aloe this is, but the leaves were RED

Agave parryi ‘Excelsior’ and other agaves

Sport of ×Mangave ‘Mission to Mars’ which Steve discovered in a batch of tissue culture plugs. One of a kind and not for sale.

Cool rocks, too (and a bicycle)

Steve and Nick are great guys, and I spent a fair amount of time yakking with them:

Nick Wilkinson (left) and Steve Super (right)

Nick has been a vendor at the Sacramento Cactus & Succulent Society Show & Sale for a number of years, and he said he’d participate this year as well (May 3-5, 2024). That’ll be a great opportunity for people in Northern California to get their hands on his plants. My much loved sand lily (Veltheimia capensis), for example, originally came from Nick. Maybe Nick can talk Steve into accompanying him to Sacramento, or at least bring some of his plants.

Here’s my haul from Steve Super (some for a local friend, some for me):

Aloe ‘Nessie’
Aloe nobilis variegated
Dyckia ‘Mega Tooth’
Dyckia ‘Solar Corona’
Echeveria ‘Cherry Jubilee’
Echeveria ‘Ebony’
Mangave ‘Black Widow’
Orthophytum magalhaesii

After I’d taken my plant haul to my car, I walked across the street to photograph the landscaping in front of what I believe is (or was) a thrift store:


I don’t know if Nick or Steve had a hand in this, but I wouldn’t be surprised, seeing how succulent-heavy it is.


Aloe thraskii in the back, Aloe cameronii in the front

It was great to see such beautiful landscaping in front of a small business instead of cheap shrubs or a sea of bark mulch. Well done!


© Gerhard Bock, 2024. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.

Comments

  1. The garden display in front of the thrift store is outstanding. I do need more aloes. Thanks for the link to Steve's Etsy store too - I've been looking for a source for Pelargonium 'Crocodile' since mine perished years ago.

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    1. Your garden would be the perfect place for more (and larger) aloes!

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    2. That landscape was actually installed by Botanica Nova. We always run across the street to collect Aloe pollen for hybrids. 😀

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    3. That's what I thought!! What's the aloe in the front? The tall one in the back is thraskii, I assume.

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  2. I love to see landscaping like that by a store, restaurant, etc., draws me right in. The Agave marmorata ‘Papilio Platanoides’ is AMAZING. That red RED aloe is cool, I wonder if it's stressed from being a cutting maybe? The bold stripe of maroon on that mangave is great. Lots of good stuff, I'm off to look at his online store.

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    1. Steve's nursery is my favorite kind of place: You never know what you might find if you only look close enough (and in every corner).

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  3. I believe the plant you thought was Operculicarya decaryi, is actually Corokia cotoneaster-Wire Netting Bush. Operculicarya decaryi has a definitive trunk giving it a tree like appearance, rather than the steel wool look of the Corokia. Corokia cotoneaster gets tiny yellow flowers, but the attraction for me are the convoluted twists and turns of the branches. Both do very well for me in my hot and dry Concord garden.

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    1. Neal, I'm sure you're correct. Thank you for providing the proper ID. I've updated the caption above.

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  4. I don't know how I've missed this on all my stays in Los Osos. I always visit Los Osos Valley Nursery and there was another one across the road from Ralphs market-it wasn't there anymore the last time I went. I'm going down in April so I'll put this on the list !

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    1. You should! I'm sure you'll find good stuff. Be sure to contact Steve ahead of time to make an appointment.

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  5. The more I read about your Santa Barbara adventure, the more it feels like a personalized FLING tour. Plus the added bonus of plant shopping without the hassle of packing your purchases for the flight home.
    The 'spongy' looking bit on the rock is fun. Although its not moss in the photo, it definitely would be moss in my Seattle garden. Now I just need to find the perfect rock.
    The front bed of that small business is gorgeous: color texture and shape... perfect.
    Chavli

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    1. That cushion-bush would be perfect for Seattle gardens, I think!!

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  6. I was also thrilled to meet and visit with Steve when visiting Los Osos/Morro Bay two years ago. His plants are wonderful.

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  7. I found him on Etsy a while ago, one of my favorite sellers. Great plants! Cool to see his setup.

    Btw, seeing your photos of full grown plants has given me a wake up call. I have to overwinter everything and buy tiny little plants online. I forget how big they want to be, have stopped collecting while I think about how I will manage them when they're much bigger (but still smaller than the ones in the ground). I'm afraid the only answer is that I will have to have fewer of them or build more greenhouses. 😟😱

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    1. That's not an easy dilemma to solve. If it were me, I suppose I'd focus on smaller plants, as hard as that would be. Plant people want to have it all :-)

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