notes on some spring plant sales

Is that a water pistol in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?


I’ve been hearing from friends in the retail nursery business that the new water restrictions have them very worried. Indeed, I’ve been told retail sales for April were most discouraging.
Yet botanical garden plant sales this spring, which understandably bring out the most avid plant lovers, have been mobbed.
Undaunted, unbowed, we’re still in search of a new plant love, just like every spring before this momentous one, but keeping a closer eye on our latest infatuation’s potential drinking problem.
(At Fullerton Arboretum’s outdoor Green Scene, this year’s darling was Pimelia ferruginea, helpfully in full bloom. It seemed to be in everyone’s cart.)

But since the announcement, the confusion and dismay of the lawn-and-foundation-shrub crowd is palpable. There’s even panicked talk of deploying Astroturf.
A simple, reasonably easy-to-maintain, preferably inexpensive solution to the space between the sidewalk and front door is wanted now.
Local nurseries have a huge opportunity to lead the masses into a dry garden oasis, possibly by more focus on small display gardens instead of benches and benches of summer “color.”

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Now, this is a plant sale. San Francisco Botanical Garden plant sale 5/2/15. Shopping carts!

Along with Fullerton Arboretum’s Green Scene, I’ve attended the Huntington and the San Francisco Botanical Garden sales.
These photos are all from SF, a plant sale I’d never attended before. Was it worth the 6-hour drive? Absolutely, every minute of it.
(Plus, I got to stop in and give Mitch a hug for his birthday later in the week.)

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Prices were unbelievably low, the selection much more rarified than the plant sales in SoCal.
I lingered long and hard at the proteaceae table. That’s Grevillea juniperina ‘Molonglo’ in the foreground.

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Here was the Leucadendron argenteum I’ve been waiting for, but ultimately I passed. It’s a big beast.
I took a chance instead on a Protea neriifolia, which probably won’t get very big in my garden, if you take my meaning…

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A book table was a nice touch, but I didn’t spend too much time here (any!). The variety of plants was way too distracting.

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Some desirables were sitting not on sales tables anymore but in somebody else’s cart, like this bomarea. In somebody’s unattended cart.
That moral dilemma might be too much for some attendees. Fortunately, I was forearmed with the knowledge that life in Los Angeles for bomareas is a struggle for survival.
After a couple years, mine is still alive, but just barely. Sometimes it’s so hard to distinguish that fine line between still getting established and fading away entirely.

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Oh, there was plenty of juicy looking stuff, like Mukdenia rossii. Walk away, just walk away.

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Now we’re talking. There was a huge California native section too.

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Lemony flutterby poppies.

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And a big succulent selection, of course.. I think the only area SoCal has SF beat is in agaves. Not a big selection in SF.
But then that’s what the Ruth Bancroft Garden plant sales are for. I wish there had been time to stop by this trip, but there just wasn’t.

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I’ve been thinking of lavenders a lot too. Absolutely nowhere to put them at the moment.

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Plant sale haul at home. Protea neriifolia, Leucadendron laxum, Plectranthus zuluensis. The white dierama in bloom was too cheap to pass up.
(But I do apologize in advance for moving you to my garden, the renowned graveyard of dieramas.)
The dierama was planted near Eryngium pandanifolium and Rudbeckia maxima, both of which wouldn’t mind it moist but tolerate drier conditions when established.
(Rudbeckia maxima was found at the Green Scene plant sale.
I spotted the rudbeckia’s big silvery paddle leaves at a display garden at Fullerton Arboretum and tracked it down to their store, The Potting Shed.)

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And this marvelous creature came home from SF, too, a species watsonia.

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I’ve grown the garden hybrids of this South African bulb off and on, which bulk up fast and get bigger than phormiums.
I got a bit bored with the pink and white selections of those. This one’s color reminds me of Nerine sarniensis.

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With a pronounced seductive red flush on the stems and leaves.

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Coincidentally, I bumped into a Protea neriifolia in bloom that weekend at Flora Grubb Gardens.
FGG is where I found my Mother’s Day present, a new container for my Cussonia spicata, which literally busted through the old one.

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And a happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers of invention, gardens, kids and/or animals. May you find a new pot for your growing cussonia!
The skies have turned cloudy and, believe it or not, slightly rainy, so I’ve turned my attention to getting the vegetable garden sorted out, beans planted, tomatoes tied up, etc.

Cross-Pollination July 2013

Garden designer Dustin Gimbel hosted another of those fabulous mid-summer rave-ups that he calls “Cross-Pollination” at his home and garden, where “hikers, nursery professionals, beekeepers, home brewers, crazy plant people, artists, architects and designers” gather for food and conversation, slipping away occasionally from the outdoor tables for periodic forays into the surrounding garden that nourishes as much as the food and conversation. A trifecta of sensory input. Think a slightly more design-centric Roman bacchanalia and you’ve got the basic idea. (And in case there’s any doubt, I fall into the “crazy plant people” category on the invitation.)

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photo by Dustin Gimbel


Maybe another attendee will post photos of the tables groaning under bowl after bowl of fresh, summery food and the friendly group that assembled to partake of the potlucked largesse.* This will be my typically monomaniacal plant reportage. For me one of the stars of the party was the Aristolochia gigantea vine in full, jaw-dropping bloom against the mauve wall of the garage. Various parts of the human anatomy were offered up as visual analogies for these bizarre, fleshily gorgeous flowers. (A non-profane example would be lungs.) The colors here in this corner of the back garden make up a tangily delicious concoction. The golden, feathery shrub is Coleonema pulchellum ‘Sunset Gold.’ On the left is Dodonaea viscosa. Euphorbia cotinifolia is directly behind the central variegated number, which is either a ponytail palm or a cordyline. Or something else entirely. In Dustin’s garden, always expect to be confounded and surprised.

This is Dustin’s photo and description: “Giant dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia gigantea) is reveling in heat AND humidity. Usually if it gets hot and dry these comically large blooms get seared by the heat and often don’t even open, burnt crisp by the sun.”

A horticultural event of immense drama — but then that pretty much describes Dustin’s garden any time you visit.


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Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ and Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’

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Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ with Dustin’s hand-made totem towers

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Cotyledon orbiculata var. flanaganii with mattress vine

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Peachy Russellia equisetiformis and a golden Agave attenuata, possibly ‘Raea’s Gold,” with I think Sedum rubrotinctum

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Dustin was way too busy hosting the soiree to be coralled into extended plant ID sessions like I normally do. So I’m hazarding that the shaggy beast in the far left container is Acacia cognata ‘Cousin Itt,’ with firesticks, Euphorbia tirucalli, and bowls of echeveria. A visit to Dustin’s garden always reminds one to go large. No itty-bitty gestures, please.

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The Acacia pendula arbor over the main diagonal path in the front garden, seen from the front porch, to which the path runs roughly parallel.
The golden, glowing strip in the background lining another path to the back gate is variegated St. Augustine grass. Dustin recently pulled out assorted plants here to go for a bigger impact with this grass. A wise man, that Dustin.

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Silvery ribbons of tillandsias and Spanish moss have been tied to delicately drape from the rebar arch.

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The Acacia pendula, an Agave ‘Blue Glow’ surrounded by Frankenia thymifolia, a walkable ground cover Dustin uses to such good effect in creating quiet pools of visual rest. Possibly Leucadendron argenteum and burgundy dyckias in the background. The privet hedges enclosing the front garden are maturing and filling in, screening the garden from the busy street.

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I have to admit I wasn’t too excited about the Gainey ceramic pots on pipes when I first saw them, but with the simplified planting underneath of Myer’s asparagus fern and variegated St. Augustine grass, I’ve become an enthusiastic convert.

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The Crested Ligularia, Farfugium japonicum ‘Crispatum,’ and an equally crested ivy, pairing the frilly with the frillier.

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Agave gypsophila and the Woolly Bush, Adenanthos sericeus. The silver trailer might be Lessingia filanginifolia.

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Bocconia and Frankenia thymifolia engulfing circular stepping stones

Thanks to Dustin, after such a magical evening one can’t help but leave feeling…well, pollinated and fertile with new-found energy and ideas. And just a little hung over the next morning.

*And Annette’s marvelous post can be read on Potted’s blog.