Wednesday vignette 11/2/16

Ever wonder what Huntington Botanical Garden employees display on their file cabinets?

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Luisa Serrano (Crow & Raven) and I got a tiny glimpse when we visited the Huntington in early October.

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The rest of these photos come from that visit as well, mostly the desert conservatory and then the new entrance garden, part of my Wednesday vignette hosted by Anna at Flutter & Hum.

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Saturday clippings 7/26/14


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Melocactus matanzanus

The Orange County Cactus & Succulent Society sale is this weekend, where the buzz and gossip amongst the sales tables might very likely entice you into bringing home your first melocactus.
It’s possible that the recent visit to the Huntington’s Desert Conservatory is behind this atypical impulse buy.
(I also snagged a small Agave ‘Tradewinds,’ with lovely blue-green stripes and a couple bromeliads, much more typical of my usual succulent show purchases.)
I’m going to designate the melocactus my favorite plant in the garden this week, because if you go to Loree’s blog, the post prior to favorite plants references a great deal on the Personal Recollections of William Hertrich, the man who made the desert garden for Huntington. And here I just bought socks on Amazon for my youngest son and forgot to add Hertrich’s recollections to my basket. Damn.

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Eulophia petersii at the sale

Plant shows are so helpful in filling in gaps in understanding the life cycle of these often very slow-growing plants. I’d never heard of eulophias before this week, a desert-adapted orchid, so would normally walk right by these pleated green leaves with the bulbous bases, which I’m sure I’ve done dozens of times before at succulent shows.

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But I had just seen eulophia in a staggering full-bloom display earlier in the week at Solana Succulents, on consignment sale for hundreds of dollars.
So what those underwhelming leaves were capable of producing was still very fresh in my mind. Pots about one-sixth the size of the above container were selling for $50 at the show.

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The eulophia fit neither my wallet nor the Mini Cooper, so the only purchase I made at Solana Succulents was this smooth-leaved Dyckia ‘Naked Lady.’

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I’m compulsive about planting something as soon as I bring it home. I tend to forget to water seed trays and cuttings, but if it’s in the garden I know I’ll keep an eye on it.
I planted the new dyckia as a ringer amongst a couple Yucca aloifolia ‘Purpurea.’
Maybe I’m just kidding myself, but I’m thinking this placement kind of minimizes that rank plant show impulsivity I fall victim to, as in Nothing to see here, just a disciplined repetition of key plants..
I have an enormous clump of barbed dyckia to tackle one day, so this Dyckia nudum had instant appeal.

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Pachypodium namanquanum

This pachypodium at the show reminded me of the verbascum I once grew and can’t seen to find again.
(The verbascum was sold as V. undulatum. Furry, chartreuse leaves, it could have been Verbascum epixanthinum.)

Lastly, in case you’re in need of more bromeliads, and who isn’t, Rainforest Flora in Torrance is having a 20 percent sale this weekend and next weekend too.

notes from the CSSA plant sale at the Huntington June 28-29, 2014

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Aloe cameronii from the Cactus & Succulent Society of America show and sale at the Huntington this weekend.
An aloe famous for the deep coloring of is leaves, which requires harsh treatment to maintain, full sun and minimal water. I can do harsh no problem.
A variegated Agave leopoldii and Hechtia glauca also made the cut.

The sale is a small affair this year, possibly due to the fact that the Huntington itself is in a state of major upheaval as it works on the new Education and Visitor Center and other projects. The main entry and plaza is shrouded in construction fencing, and an ad hoc, tented entry has been fashioned. Something else new was the requirement to purchase admission to the Huntington to attend the plant sale. In the past, the parking lot plant sale could be attended free. I usually spring for the admission ticket anyway, and today I was grateful for the nudge because the desert garden conservatory was open. I unfailingly visit on the days it’s closed, which is more often than not. I think the sign said it’s only open on Saturdays now, but call to check if it’s a make-or-break reason for visiting.


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In the desert garden, there was lots of Agave bracteosa in bloom.

For the cactus lovers, join me in the steamy conservatory after the jump.

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reprising a visit to the Huntington Desert Garden

The recent storm surprisingly coaxed a bloom from my 6-inch Euphorbia atropurpurea, whose acquaintance I first made at the Huntington in 2011. That visit prompted a frustrating summer of scouring plant sales and nurseries for this rare, ruddy-bracted Canary Islander, until Annie’s Annuals & Perennials put me out of my misery by offering it at her nursery just last year. She’s still the only source that I can name at the moment. And although the euphorbia is not currently available, it’s offered intermittently. So it does pay to keep an eye on availability which updates frequently. My image hosting site isn’t cooperating this morning, which is just as well, because now I have to rely on MB Maher’s images of the original object of my affection from May 2011. I couldn’t resist adding a few other photos from that visit too.


First, Euphorbia atropurpurea.

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The wine-colored bracts are such a surprising twist on the typical chartreuse, which are fabulous enough in their own right.
After all, it’s those blowsy chartreuse mopheads, like a hydrangea for dry soil and full sun, that first turn an ordinary, respectable person into a helpless euphorbophile.

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It’ll be a while before mine grows into a sight like this, but at least it blooms at a young age.

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Other scenes from the Huntington in May. Dyckia, golden barrel cactus, with palo verdes in bloom.

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Dyckias in bloom

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Nolina interrata

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Shimmering golden warmth.

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Quite the contrast to a grey, rainy weekend, another rarity I’m thoroughly enjoying today.


the colors of Bilbergia nutans



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The first bloom of the common Queen’s Tears bromeliad, Bilbergia nutans, is just so very startling when it arrives, especially if you’ve only seen it in photos before. Like drop-your-coffee-cup startling. As though David Hockney was in the garden overnight manically touching up the blooms. This bilbergia’s constituent colors are impressively shocking on a small scale, but seeing them together made me realize I’ve been actively pursuing these colors elsewhere in the garden.

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The deep pink on the bilbergia just about matches the last of the nerines to bloom

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The lime green of the bilbergia can be found in Tanacetum vulgare ‘Isla Gold.’ Planted again this fall at a pathway’s edge, it’s growing well. Better air circulation and a little more moisture might be the answer. I won’t know if it gets thin and patchy again until next summer. Everything seems so much more promising in fall.

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The bilbergia’s deep blue can be found in salvias like Salvia guaranitica or ‘Indigo Spires,’ or this fern-leaf lavender, Lavandula pinnata var. buchii

I found a couple fern-leaf lavender locally, when I was out searching for some more blue agastache to plant this fall. This lavender was once a really big deal, big enough to drive all the way up to Western Hills (written about here) to fetch when it arrived on U.S. shores in the ’80s. Tender and lacking the eponymous scent, but with those amazingly deep navy blue blooms and finely cut, jade green-grey foliage. Not very long-lived, it grows woody at the base and has to be renewed frequently with cuttings, which is possibly why I stopped growing it. And then it became easily available and I moved on to other plants less easily available, as is my way. I remembered it as Lavandula multifida, but the tag indicated Lavandula pinnata var. buchii. Whatever. Somewhere along the way, its name changed, or so I thought.

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After watching it fill out and increase in bloom for a week or so, and realizing this was just the small, shrubby, blue-flowering answer I was looking for, I went back to the nurseries to find more. This time the label said Lavandula multifida. Now I was confused. At the hort.net site I found this remarkably pertinent discussion from 2002 by John MacGregor:

Not surprising that you are confused. You are not the only one. The
nursery industry in California doesn’t have a clue on this one.

First, Lavandula multifida, L. pinnata, and L. buchii are three different
species. In recent years, I have bought about everything offered in the
trade in this state under these names, trying to sort it out, and have
received the same species from the same nursery under different names as
well as different species under the same name.

Twenty-five years ago we had all three species at the Huntington Botanical
Gardens (at the time, L. buchii was classified as a variety of L. pinnata).
I shared cuttings of all three with various wholesale nurseries and
collectors, and authentic plants of each were sold at Huntington plant
sales. Apparently, along the way some of the cuttings must have been lost
or the name tags of some of the survivors were mixed up (L. pinnata and L.
buchii–both from the Canary Islands–are much more frost-tender than L.
multifida–which is from southern Europe and North Africa). Lately,
everything I have seen labeled “L. pinnata var. buchii” in nurseries
is L. multifida. L. multifida is also sold occasionally as “Lavandula
‘California'” or “California Lavender” as well as under its own name. For
instance, the lavender offered by Monterey Bay Nursery as “Lavandula pinnata
buchii” and illustrated on their web site is actually Lavandula multifida…
” and so on.

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I wish I could get the fern-leaf lavender closer to Euphorbia rigida, but without some demolition, there’s just no room. Photo from last spring.

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The lavender would be equally wonderful with Euphorbia mauritanica in the front gravel garden, which is building up good structure for spring bloom. But no room at the inn there either.

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Until I saw the bilbergia bloom, I wasn’t aware that I’d been orchestrating these colors elsewhere: deep pink, chartreuse and dark blue.

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Gomprehna ‘Fireworks,’ fern-leaf lavender, Pelargonium crispum.
(This gomphrena has almost cured me of my allium envy.)

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After some fall planting, for a brief moment the garden has taken on the colors of Bilbergia nutans. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of these colors next spring too.


consider the leaves

We have Pam at Digging to thank for hosting this monthly celebration of foliage. This month I’m focusing on some of the leaves that impressed me during recent garden travels as well as examples from the back pages of AGO. If July is exposing bare earth in the garden, that’s a pretty good sign to give some enduring foliage a little more consideration.

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Hostas and perilla in a Long Island, NY garden

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Boxwood and Japanese forest grass, hakonechloa, enclose an empty pot in a Long Island, NY garden

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Sasa veitchii against a low fence of rough-cut logs at Longhouse Reserve, Long Island, NY

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The golden creeping jenny, Lysimachia nummularia, in a container contest at Longhouse Reserve

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Bromeliads in the conservatory at Planting Fields Arboretum

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Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

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Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

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The parterre at the home garden of the owners of Landcraft Environments, Long Island, NY

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A row of succulent-filled urns at Landcraft, Long Island, NY

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Containers filled with Oxalis vulcanicola and succulents, garden designer Rebecca Sweet’s Bay Area garden

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Dudleyas in a container in the Bay Area Testa-Vought garden designed by Bernard Trainor

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Aloe striatula, reddish trunks of Arbutus ‘Marina’ behind a low wall in the Testa-Vought garden.

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Dark-leaved ginger, Zingiber malaysianum, garden designer Dustin Gimbel’s home, Long Beach, California

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Weeping Acacia pendula, Dustin Gimbel’s garden

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Palms underplanted with mounds of mattress vine, Muehlenbeckia axillaris, Huntington Botanical Garden

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Los Gatos, California garden designed by Jarrod Baumann

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Los Gatos, California garden designed by Jarrod Baumann


Upcoming CSSA show at the Huntington

I won’t be able to attend the Cactus and Succulent Society of America show to be held at the Huntington Botanical Gardens June 28-30, 2013. But you should definitely go, for reasons photographed below. You will very likely find many of the same vendors I pestered with questions and be able to ogle the same plants I did last weekend at the Los Angeles Cactus and Succulent Society’s Drought Tolerant Plant Festival in Encino. If you can’t make it to the Huntington in June, don’t despair. There’s still the InterCity show and sale held at the Los Angeles Arboretum August 17th and 18th.

Reasons to attend:

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The scrolled leaves on this bromeliad drew lots of attention.

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But attention swiftly gets snagged on something else, such as the jagged leaves of a deep burgundy dyckia. And so it goes at a plant show.
Attention ricochets around the show room like protons in a Hadron collider.

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Chartreuse leaves, burgundy thorns = love

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From the bromeliad table

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The aloe tables

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A Stonehenge of lithops

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Yes, even in the plant world there are winners and losers. Well, actually, the caretakers of the plants are the winners/losers.
Plants don’t care much about contests (except in the big, Darwinian sense).

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The signage and information at this show was incredible.

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A section of the show was devoted to engaging kids, and it was beautifully done

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Kelly Griffin’s Agave ‘Snow Glow’

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I should know this agave…(fingers drumming desk). Is it a cross of ferdinand-regis with scabra like ‘Sharkskin’?

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Cactus and succulent shows have a unique pottery vernacular

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There were a couple of these agaves for sale. ‘Blue Flame’ is one of my favorite agaves, so I lingered over this one.
It is beautiful, but I think I prefer a cleaner variegation. So nice to occasionally walk away from temptation.

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A show with succulents and pelargoniums — what’s not to love?

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Here is where I got into trouble, a display in the plant sales area of dyckias and hechtias

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First off, I always mispronounce dyckia, like “dike” when it should be “dick.” You can probably imagine an easy mnemonic device for that one.

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Second, I seriously coveted a plant that was off limits, display purposes only.

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Hechtias, Mexican terrestrial bromeliads, are new to me, foreign and intriguing.

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Bromeliad of desire, Hechtia glomerata.

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Plant people understand such infatuation all too well and are more than willing to work something out.
A pup of the display-only Hechtia glomerata was removed, tagged, and bagged for a very reasonable price.

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Last look at the one that got away, Agave ‘Streaker.’ I don’t think I’d have the strength to pass this one up again.


monday clippings 4/29/13

I was living large with orange marmalade on my bagel this morning, after trying it on some excellent shortbread Sunday afternoon. I first tasted then bought the marmalade from the Arlington Garden in Pasadena yesterday, where it’s made from their Washington Navel orange trees. (The shortbread was said to be Ina Garten’s recipe.) The Arlington Garden was on the Pasadena Open Days Garden Conservancy Tour, the same day as the Huntington Botanical Gardens plant sale, where I spent a very warm morning. (Does Pasadena do any other temperature?) When plant sales and garden tours collide on the same day, tough choices must be made. I skipped the Pasadena Open Days. The tour of the Arlington was free, so I stopped in briefly on the way out of town to make the first of what I know will be many visits. It’s very close to the south 110 freeway onramp on the Arroyo Seco Parkway, California’s first freeway, always an exciting ride when drivers insist on taking its narrow, lazy curves at 85 mph. Like the Arroyo Seco, the Arlington is also a first, “Pasadena‚Äôs only dedicated public garden.” The wildflowers were mostly finished, but the air was heavy and pungent with all the mediterranean scrubby stuff I love so much. Three acres is enough to build up a heady concentration of layered scent that envelopes you from the moment you step off the sidewalk onto the garden’s meandering paths.


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Just behind the stone labyrinth, plein air painters set up their easels at the Arlington Garden under the shade of a California pepper tree

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Although the California poppies were over, there were stands of red corn poppies, Papaver rhoes.

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Some details from earlier in the day at the Huntington’s desert garden. Echeveria aff. potosina, Mexico (San Luis Potosi)

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So many small relevations in the desert garden, like the mass effect of Haworthia cuspidata in bloom

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Haworthia greenii

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Bromeliads in the cloud forest conservatory

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The Huntington still gets me as overexcited as a kid at Disneyland, though my brain continually sheds plant names like my corgi sheds fur. I didn’t forget the name of this conehead in the rain forest conservatory. It was tagless. The leaves reminded me of hedychium.

Oh, before I forget, from the plant sale I brought home a manfreda and a small Yucca rostrata.

Aloes in Southern California

It’s that time of year again to catch the displays of these spectacular South African succulents in bloom around town.
These photos were taken mid-day at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden 2/7/13.

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Aloe vryheidensis.

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Many were of hybrid origin, no name given.

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En masse, the hot-blooded, scorched-earth effect of an aloe in bloom gets seriously ramped up.

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Another good bet to see a glorious display is at the Huntington Botanical Gardens.


2012’s end

What a beautiful, tragic, maddening, saddening, intoxicating, infuriating, sublime and silly year 2012 was.
While I indulge a bittersweet mood with Picasa’s collage editor, I’m wishing you the very, very best for 2013 — heavy on the sublime, light on the saddening.


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Photos taken at the Huntington Botanical Gardens, the Desert Garden Conservatory, on June 30, 2012.