Category Archives: plant sales

chasing agaves


Last Saturday, while millions marched their way into the history books, I was driving south to San Diego to meet agave expert Greg Starr.
I had been looking forward to this 2-hour road trip for some time, as a beacon in an otherwise fairly bleak January. Family medical issues against the chaotic national backdrop were starting to take a toll.
My guilt was somewhat lessened by the knowledge that our family would be represented by a marcher. Definitely count me in for the next one and the one after that.
NPR covered the march for the drive south, and the recent back-to-back storms cleared to offer up a gorgeous, cloud-scudded and dry Saturday. Pardon my nativism, but California is so beautiful.

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My destination was this private home where the San Diego Horticultural Society was hosting the talk by Greg Starr and a plant sale. Greg was bringing agaves!

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The front garden was a life-affirming explosion of agaves and aloes.
A blooming cowhorn agave, A. bovicornuta, is still a commanding presence, even among show-stealing flowering aloes.

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Tree in the background is Euphorbia cotinifolia.

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A narrow footpath runs a few feet in front of the house for access.
I’d be guessing at aloe names, since the owner has access to some amazing hybrids.
The bright orange in the left foreground looks a lot like my Aloe ‘Jacob’s Ladder.’

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Agave ‘Jaws’ fronted by a marlothii-hybrid aloe in bud.

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Incredibly tight tapestry of succulents, with some self-sowing alyssum and California poppies managing to find a root-hold.

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Unfortunately, Mr. Starr was unable to attend, probably due to the recent spate of severe weather and heavy rain.
But the owner’s private collection of aloes and agaves was more than enough compensation. That’s Agave ‘Streaker’ above in one of his raised beds in the backyard.

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Agave pumila, at a size I didn’t know they achieved.

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Selection of Agave utahensis

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Aloe longistyla, touchy about drainage, prone to mites, but so beautiful, flaunting some of the largest flowers of any aloe in relation to clump size.

The San Diego Hort. Society members provided lots of interesting plants for sale, including a variegated agave I can’t find a reference for (‘Northern Lights’ — anyone?)
With the Mini already nearly full to capacity, I stopped at Solana Succulents on the way home, detouring west to its location directly on Highway 1 in sight of the Pacific.
Owner Jeff Moore manages to tuck in a stellar selection of rarities in a relatively small-size nursery. Here is where I finally found the long-coveted Agave weberi ‘Arizona Star’ in a gallon.

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A nice shipment from B&B Cactus Farm was on the shelves, like this Astrophytum ornatum. I also brought home a Parodia magnifica.

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And another cowhorn agave.

I don’t think I’ve had Jeff’s self-published book out of arm’s reach since I bought it last Saturday.
“Aloes & Agaves in Cultivation” is everything you’d expect from someone who knows all the growers, hybridizers, and designers in San Diego County.
He’ll be speaking closer to home, at South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes, this March.
And February’s speaker doesn’t look bad either (Panayoti Kelaidis!)

at the Inter-City CSSA Show August 2016

The funny thing about hard-core succulent shows is there’s often non-succulent treasures on the sales tables too.

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On arrival, I made a quick circuit around the tables and immediately became fixated on these decidedly non-succulent leaves.

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And the mottling on these stems. No name tag, no price.

Continue reading at the Inter-City CSSA Show August 2016

31st Annual Inter-City Cactus Show & Sale

31st Annual Inter-City Cactus and Succulent Show and Sale
The LA County Arboretum in Ayres Hall
301 North Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007
Saturday, August 13, 2016, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Sunday, August 14, 2016, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

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By a bit of trickery with angles, the stunning bloom of Urginea maritima seemingly belongs to a boophane at a past CSSA show.

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A year ago, August 2015. Within days after this photo, Opuntia microdasys was chewed into disfigurement by a worm I failed to notice in time.
Before the worm, it kinda looked like two parents herding a gaggle of opuntia kids, didn’t it? That’s dad pointing to the left.
But the gymnocalycium is in bloom again. Purple echinocereus looks exactly the same.
I think I’ll pass on the opuntias for now. But the best part of the Inter-City shows and sales is you never know what you’ll find that speaks to your plant-loving soul.
Hope to see you there.

a week in plants, continued

I so rarely document thoroughly, before and after, that I thought for once I’d push back a little against those slacker tendencies.
This small project is an easy place to start. In the last post, there were four ‘Cousin Itt’ acacias added under the fringe tree, and that was theoretically the end of it.
Where we left off, I was going to leave space open to sweep in the leaves and not plant bromeliads because it’ll be messy with the tree litter, etc., etc. I am so full of shit, it still astounds me.
No way can I leave something half-planted like that. In for a penny, in for a pound, always.
So this morning the burning question was: What other dry shade-tolerant stuff do I have lying around?

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There’s this huge potted Lomandra ‘Breeze’ that can be sawed into two big clumps. Rough treatment, but I seriously doubt one can mistreat a lomandra. We’ll see.
A potted Asparagus retrofractus to billow between the two lomandras, all kind of hitting the same shade of bright green so the mix of plants isn’t too patchwork.
A few bromeliads for big crazy colorful rosettes, tree litter be damned. As shallow growers, it’s easy to change your mind with bromeliads.
I’ll probably remove them before they get buried in leaves over winter.

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Still too bare for my taste, but if the acacias like it here they can get over 4 feet across.

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This no ID rhipsalis seems to be growing in an upright clump, so it gets to be the fifth “acacia.” Very root-infested soil in this spot.

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A ringer for the acacia, right?

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Lost the name of the foreground bromeliad I’ve had for years.

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Neoregelia ‘Dr. Oesser Big Spots’ was brought home this weekend from the sale/show at Rainforest Flora in Torrance.

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Neoregelia ‘Martin’

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One of the many gorgeous bromeliads at the weekend show that didn’t come home with me, Aechmea ‘Samurai.’
If only I’d had this planting scheme before the sale. Overplanning has never been my strong suit. It’s always been spontaneity or bust.

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I tucked a potted variegated monstera, also from Rainforest Flora, behind the asparagus against the fence, but there may be too much slanting afternoon sun for it.
If the sun isn’t too strong, I’m going to check into espaliering it against the fence.

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Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’ marks the new planting for wayward paws that have been used to digging here and kicking up leaves.
I’ll keep you posted on the fate of this little acacia experiment.

more shelves

I don’t have any travel plans this summer, so July’s rhythm has been work, work, work, decompress in garden, shower, repeat. And I don’t really mind because the garden is so absorbing this time of year. At least once a day I stand as close to the center of it as possible, on a rapidly disappearing access path, like Moses parting the Red Sea, to study the fleets of winged insects that visit. They’re the perpetual fireworks of the July garden. The air space is thrumming with the familiar bees, bumblebees, wasps, lawn skippers, hoverflies, but there’s so many that are nameless to me. Like the British research ship-naming contest, they may as well be Buggy McBug Faces. I was even convinced the other day that the tiny and rare El Segundo Blue butterfly paid a visit. Since its only known remaining habitat is under the flight path of LAX, that’s unlikely. But when your identification skills are sketchy at best, anything is possible, even rare blue butterflies.


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I did get out to the CSSA show at the Huntington last week. Here’s a splendid Gymnocalycium friedrichii as proof.

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I brought home just a couple plants, an Agave colorata and Euphorbia multifolia, but like clockwork, every summer I become convinced I need more shelves.
So Marty helped me rig a new shelving system, which gets lots of the pots up off the ground.

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Not that I have anything against pots on the ground, but I like options for closer, eye-level inspection too.

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Sturdy potted plants are fine at ground level.

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Last summer I massed lots of sturdy stuff against the east (blue) fence.

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But the little treasures have a better chance of survival if they’re right under my nose.
Little side tables and shelves, a garden needs them too, right?

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I found these shelves at Building REsources in San Francisco last spring. They reminded me of old ironing boards.

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The diamond perforations looked ideal for drainage. I saw great potential, but Marty wasn’t convinced with any of my early design proposals.
This arrangement suits everybody.

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Euphorbia multifolia is temporarily cached in that lime green swirly pot.

I’ve seen this exact pot sitting on a neighbor’s porch a couple streets away, but have never seen it anywhere else, flea markets, etc.
A collecting friend gave me this one when it became chipped. What are the odds of there being two in my neighborhood?

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The shelves are hung against the bird house/bath house. I like this corner for its morning sun/afternoon shade.
The ferny plant is a young Acacia cardiophylla. I thought the parakeets would appreciate something leafy to look at.

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Now that they’re hung, I’m wondering if they shouldn’t have been painted first.

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The shelves are rigged so that unhooking them for painting would be incredibly easy.
And the spray paint has really been flying around here lately. Someone cleaned out a garage and unloaded boxes of spray cans on us.

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Marty has done all the painting. I come home from work, and there it is, the marvel of fresh paint.
For someone who has had a lifelong tolerance for rust, I’m growing alarmingly fond of fresh paint.
I can’t seem to move beyond black though. Marty had repainted this metal jardiniere in its original orange, and it was gorgeous.
But my eye kept stuttering and tripping over it. I guess that’s called a focal point, right? I needed it black, and Marty reluctantly repainted it again. What a guy.

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And this old aquarium stand with those great hairpin legs got some fresh black paint too.
The marble top also came from Building REsources a few years ago.

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Fresh paint is great, but some old finishes are too good to cover. I found this galvanized table really cheap at a great shop in San Pedro.

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This shop is so good, with such great prices, that I’m hesitant to name it.

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Okay, that would be incredibly selfish. It’s House 1002 on Pacific Avenue.

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So the question remains, to paint or not to paint? If we do repaint, I’m leaning toward repainting the shelves their original color, not black, but I’m open to suggestions.


potted@lazybones: the start of a beautiful relationship

If you jump out of bed on weekends and race past the old, cat-clawed couch in the living room to head outside, scanning for the perfect spot for your shiny new Fermob table and chairs, then you probably already know about Potted, Los Angeles’ premiere outdoor living shop in Atwater Village, birthed by Annette Gutierrez and Mary Gray. Their design-savvy baby has grown by leaps and bounds in 12 years and is making new friends in Santa Monica, the boho clothing and housewares retailer Lazybones.

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Potted and Lazybones are so proud of their new collaboration, they’re throwing a party this weekend, with raffles, tarot readings, demos.

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The big outdoor space at Lazybones gives Potted the opportunity to really strut its stuff. Which means lots of new ideas for the garden for us.

I see it as a curated Potted West,” said co-owner Annette Gutierrez, “with unusual plants, our own products, ready-made planters and gifts for the garden.” — Los Angeles Times

Potted@Lazybones
opens this Memorial Day Weekend, May 28th and 29th, 2016
2929 Main St., Santa Monica, open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
schedule of events here

(Tip: If you get there early, you’ll be leaving with free tillandsias in your hair!)

busy, busy

It’s spring. Feeling a little pressed for time yet? Join the club. Some of what I’ve been up to the past few weeks include:


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Cutting sweet peas from my mom’s vines. Buckets and buckets. Mine planted at the community garden withered away from lack of attention/water.
Suffering a severe case of garden-neglect guilt, I pulled out all my dead vines, along with the collapsed winter peas and fava beans, and got a few tomatoes and squash planted.
There wasn’t enough winter rain to sustain my plot, and being a bad garden gnome, I hadn’t watered in a couple months. So my mom once again saved the day.
Is it rude to call your mom a good garden gnome? I keep her little raised bed planted winter and summer, and she does the rest.
I didn’t buy her flowers for Mother’s Day because her house is filled with scent and color from vases of sweet peas in every room.
I did run over for a brief visit to bring her a card and share some cake, a two-hour window during which a thief took the opportunity to steal my bike from behind a locked gate.
Nice work, thief, stealing a girl’s bike on Mother’s Day. Couldn’t you switch your reptilian brain off for one day in honor of your mom?
(Roger’s in Newport Beach brings in the best only local selection of sweet peas in fall, award-winning types, all heavily scented, long-stemmed.)

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It’s always exciting to stumble upon new plants, like this Dichondra sericea, found at Merrihew’s Sunset Garden.
At first sight I thought it must be some new brunnera cultivar. The leaves are leathery, about the size of a silver dollar.
San Marcos Growers says:
“It has been found repeatedly in a single location in San Cruz County in Arizona but is more widespread farther to the south in the Río Mayo region of southern Sonora and Chihuahua.
It is similar to Dichondra argentea, the plant commonly called Sliver Dichondra or ‘Silver Falls’, but it is evergreen in frost free climates and has much bigger leaves.

Merrihew’s, a great little neighborhood nursery, was the first stop on last weekend’s Garden Conservancy Open Day.

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As usual, plants are perpetually on the move, sometimes out of the garden and back into a pot like this Agave macroacantha ‘Blue Ribbon’
When I sentenced it to the rigors of the outpost that is the front gravel garden, it was a mess, with leaves pitted and rolling at the edges when they should be straight.
Total neglect in the front gravel garden is apparently what it needed to mature out of its ugly phase.
I moved it back into a pot because it was getting swamped by faster-growing agaves. And because it’s so pretty now. Pups freely too.
The bloomed-out poppies have been pulled and any big openings filled with grasses, mostly pennisetum like ‘Fairy Tails’ and ‘Karley Rose.’

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Might as well take ‘Cornelius’ portrait too. He’s starting to get a nice arch to his leaves.

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Behind ‘Cornelius,’ Cotyledon orbiculata deserves a portrait of those peachy bells and long, silvery stems.

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The Huntington plant sale had a couple Rosa ‘Mutabilis,’ so I fell off the no-more-roses wagon.
In its favor, it’s a single, which means it sheds its silky petals elegantly and doesn’t need deadheading.
It’s reasonably tough and healthy, for a rose, and makes a nice shrubby shape.
This unique rose of mysterious provenance is celebrated for summer-long bloom in colors that cycle through gold, orange, deep pink.
It’s been shoehorned in among the lemon cypresses at the east fence, with drip hose laid to give it a fighting chance.

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Last Wednesday was overcast, like today, and work was reasonably under control (unlike today).
First thought under those conditions is: What do I want to get done in the garden?
There’s a chronic backburner plan to fill one of my trash can planters with blowsy summer stuff.
Cheap, deep, and roomy, metal trash cans are great for seasonal extravaganzas.
I bought them a few years ago but never really got with the program, using them more for overflow odds and ends.

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A quick trip to the local nursery yielded a Buddleia ‘Cranrazz,’ Linaria ‘Licilia Peach,’ and Achillea ‘Sunrise.’
As I prepared to stuff the plants in, it was impossible to ignore what a rusted, pitted eyesore it had become. (“Hey, Marty, you got any spraypaint?“)
30 minutes later the can was a sleek matte black, filled with compost and fresh potting soil, and the plants installed.

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Buddleias drive me a bit mad in the ground. Too big, all that deadheading. I like the idea of being able to pitch it at the end of summer.
Before I’d backfilled in soil and watered it in, the butterflies had already arrived. They don’t call it the butterfly bush for nothing.

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I was so pleased with my new, deep containers that I asked Marty to paint another one for a Mother’s Day present. I’m thinking maybe orange tithonias for this one.
The ‘Hallelujah’ bilbergia was planted up over the weekend with some aeonium and Euphorbia mauritanica. I’m testing its sun tolerance.
I was told by Marina del Rey Garden Center that the more jagged the leaf, the more sun a bromeliad can take. Sun brings out the best color.

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I usually keep a chair here on the bricks over the winter, but there’s not much room….or time…for sitting in spring.

some upcoming events this weekend 4/30-5/1/16



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Tillandsias can perch just about anywhere with the right conditions, including on other plants.

This weekend brings the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden tour.
I don’t think I’ll be able to make it, so if you go, link back here maybe, so I can catch up.
(Spring has been so hectic that I actually made a dry run to one of the properties last weekend, mistaking the dates…oy!)

One of my jobs this week was located across the street from Rain Forest Flora (oh, sweet serendipity!)
I popped in just before closing and nabbed a couple tillandsias.
(T. bulbosa gigante and T. caput-medusae)

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A flier at the checkout counter of Rain Forest Flora was a handy reminder that there will be a bromeliad show this weekend
It will be presented by La Ballona Valley Bromeliad Society, held in conjunction with Sunset Cactus & Succulent Show and Sale.
Both shows and sales will be held at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 4117 Overland Avenue, Culvery City, CA. (323) 294-9839.

Happy weekend!


N.B. My Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ is producing prodigious amounts of seed this year. Let me know if you want to practice your propagation skills on some.