Lemon Tree Inn in Santa Barbara

Wherever I go, I keep an eye out for interesting landscaping, residential or commercial. The odds are much higher in a place like Santa Barbara, where the weather is nice and people have extra money. When I was down there last month, I didn’t even have to go hunting for cool plants. They were waiting for me at the hotel where I stayed.

Imagine my surprise when I saw these massive Agave guiengola next to the hotel sign:

Agave guiengola has few leaves, but they can grow to massive proportions. The specimens at the Lemon Tree Inn were about 5 feet across.

Unfortunately for folks living in inland California, Agave guiengola (named after Cerro Guiengola, the mountain where the species was first found) is not very hardy. It can survive down to 25°F, but based on my experience – which, admittedly, isn’t extensive – the leaves develop ugly black spots at 30°F or so. The damage may be cosmetic, but who wants to live with a disfigured plant, especially one that’s fairly slow to push new leaves?

Check out these massive leaves!

Agave attenuata is the most widely used landscaping agave in Southern California, no doubt because it offsets so generously. Literally, all you need to do is pull off a pup and stick it in the ground. Up here, in the Sacramento Valley, A. attenuata is much more challenging – and frustrating. It gets ugly black spots at temperatures much below freezing, just like Agave guiengola does. If anything, it’s even more cold-sensitive than A. guiengola.

At the Lemon Tree Inn, though, A. attenuata looked happy and healthy. It was everywhere. At the entrance to the lobby:

And outside my room:

My room had a patio, and right beyond that patio were dozens of A. attenuata:

The tables in the background are the outside seating for the Lemon Tree Inn’s restaurant. Of course there’s A. attenuata:

A ring of pups around the stem of the mother plant:

Jade tree (Crassula ovata), too, as well as bird-of-paradise (Strelitzia reginae):

And lemon trees, of course, although they were looking a bit ratty. The Brahea armata behind the lemon tree, on the other hand, looked great:

The Lemon Tree Inn may not be particularly special for Santa Barbara landscaping standards, but it was special enough for me.

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


  1. Gerhard - nice pics of the Lemon Tree Inn. This was Eric Nagelmann's design with many of the plants coming from San Marcos Growers that was planted in 2010 and 2011. Eric is an internationally known designer who back then lived in Santa Barbara and also designed the Palm Garden and the Dunlap Cactus Garden at Ganna Walska Lotusland Botanic Garden.

    1. I knew you'd know the history of the landscaping at the Lemon Tree Inn. It must be so cool to see SMG plants out in the real world!

  2. I think it looks lovely! SB has paradise weather, that agave is glorious.

  3. Would you believe I don't particularly care for the Agave guiengola? I think it's because the arms have none of the usual grace of an agave. As for the Agave attenuata I'll never forget Andrew labeling them the "tulips" of Santa Barbara. As in they're horribly common and over used. I still like them.

    1. The agave equivalent of tulips, I love it!! Yes, Agave attenuata is horribly common, but I'm still fond of it. Probably because it's such a challenge for me.

      I'm not the biggest fan of guiengola either, but it sure is an impressive plant.

  4. You're right about Agave attenuata. It was literally the only succulent that came with my current garden. While I've obviously expanded on that selection, I've also added pups of the original clumps as "fillers" in a variety of locations.

    1. Your attenuatas are beautifully grown. If I were you, I'd plant pups all over your back slope!

  5. Nice pictures! Congrats


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