sacred geometry of the spiral aloe

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June 2015

Dave’s spiral aloe is sporting some fine sacred geometry. He sent me these photos to show the progress his aloe has made since I photographed it in July 2012:

I came across your Bloom Day July 2012 posting and saw a photo of my Aloe polyphylla at the bottom. I thought you’d like to see a recent picture of it, three years later and still getting bigger. It’s about 34″ diameter now.”

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June 2015

And a wider shot of Dave’s slice of urban horticultural heaven in the Lower Haight, San Francisco.

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The study of the recurring forms in nature, or sacred geometry, tends to attract some New Agey theories and followers, but the Vetruvian numbers don’t lie. Whether spiraling aloes or nautilus shells, these patterns repeat over and over. We crave them in our gardens and co-opt them in our buildings. There are Pinterest boards devoted to Things that Spiral, which is where I found this photo of the spiral staircase at Kew Gardens. It’s the one I should have taken when I visited but was too overwhelmed to lift a camera.

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Aloe polyphylla’s home is a high rainfall area in the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa. Do not, as I have done, treat it as a dry-garden aloe. In my opinion, causing the death of a spiral aloe under your care ranks up there as one of horticulture’s biggest heartaches. I’ve killed several. Maybe half a dozen. (I wrote about one such attempt here.) It seemed only right to pass up the aloes for sale in very affordable one-gallons at Terra Sol Nursery in Santa Barbara recently, where the above photo was taken. I’m just not ready yet to try again, which must be a great relief to the spiral aloes of the world.


In the meantime, it is a comfort to have Mitch’s portrait of the mythic Spiral Aloe.

(Thank you, Dave, for an update on your spectacular spiral aloe!)

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10 Responses to sacred geometry of the spiral aloe

  1. Lisa says:

    I love spiral aloe. I haven´t seen it for sale here in Madrid. But I bought seeds on internet and now I have little seedlings. But as I always read that they are difficult to maintain alive I´m afraid they will die…so far they look like healthy little three leaved plants. I dream with one like the one you show us from Dave! it is beautiful. And that spiral stairs with tree ferns remind me of the interior of Kew Gardens victorian greenhouses ¡Beautiful!

  2. Denise says:

    Lisa, starting them from seed makes a lot of sense, to get them used to local conditions. Good for you!

  3. Alison says:

    I’m glad to hear that this Aloe might like my tendency to overwater. I recently bought one, and I’m sure hoping I don’t kill it. Dave’s is pretty darn spectacular!

  4. Wow, Dave’s got a beauty! Thanks for the timely reminder that I really need to pot mine up a size or two. It was beginning to spiral but then lost so many leaves in an earlier heatwave that it seems to have lost the magic.

  5. Kris P says:

    This is one plant on my wish list that I’ve literally been afraid to buy because of all the stories I’ve heard about their premature deaths. My hesitancy is aided by the fact that all I’ve seen in garden centers cost a fortune; however, if I’d seen a 1-gallon, I might have caved…

  6. hb says:

    Sigh. Swoon. They grow I thought in gravel at high elevations watered by constant snow melt, so lots of air to the roots and lots of water and cool bright sun. In other words, the Bay Area, the Central Coast…not here.

  7. What a beauty there! Looks amazing, how long has it taken you to get to that size?

  8. Rebecca says:

    I’ve not yet seen it in person, but the pictures are gorgeous! Anytime I see a spiral aloe for sale, it’s usually snapped up instantly. The seeds aren’t so bad to find at least… but, so many people seem to have trouble keeping them alive-it scares me to consider buying one!
    Maybe one day after I’ve reshuffled my collection and made room. And I get a bigger greenhouse.

  9. ks says:

    I despair that mine will never look like that -but at this point I would be happy with a spiral !

  10. Denise says:

    @Alison, I bet you’ll be fine with this aloe. Not having to worry about frost/hardiness has made me a lazy gardener and probably less prone to pick up on signs of plant distress.
    @Loree, those damn heatwaves have been relentless this year. And in Seattle too! That’s just crazy.
    @Kris, I really should have grabbed a couple. Maybe a road trip again in fall when it cools down.
    @Hoov, yes, not here. It’s beginning to look that way. But I have kept one alive for a couple years…
    @Dan, I think Dave’s aloe must be at least five years old now? Dave would know…Dave, any idea how old?
    @Rebecca, yes, a bigger greenhouse is always the answer!
    @Kathy, you’ve got one going? Good for you. The lack of spiraling is a mystery to me. I can keep them alive for a while, but no spiral.

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