The Gospel According to San Marcos

The devoted gathered to hear Mr. Baldwin of the premiere West Coast nursery San Marcos Growers give a talk at Roger’s Gardens last Saturday on new plant introductions. Be warned that this post will be plant-wonkish in the extreme.


SMG is a wholesale operation and, with few exceptions, unfortunately open to the trade only, which is why I pounced at the chance to hear Mr. Baldwin speak. Their website is an incredible resource, one that I refer to frequently on my blog. Many of the following plant introductions are from Australia. The Mediterranean climate of parts of Australia offers the perfect hunting ground for plants suitable for growing in Southern California’s own Mediterranean, winter/wet, summer/dry climate.

This may be a little clumsy, but I’m going to try to use the above photograph to point to a few of the plants he discussed.
I have zero tech chops for adding labels, arrows, or any other useful bells and whistles. Much of the description is straight off the handout that Roger’s Gardens prepared from SMG’s website.

First row, the three shaggy plants on the left. (Just in front of the burgundy Cordyline ‘Design-a-line Burgundy’):
Acacia cognata ‘Cousin Itt,’ Little River Wattle. Tight growth to 2 to 3 feet tall by 3 to 6 feet wide.
Light green, sometimes red-tinged new growth that matures to a rich emerald green.
Not yet noted in bloom but likely to have the pale yellow flowers of the species.
Full sun/part shade, well-drained soil. Occasional irrigation after established.
Literature lists as hardy to 15F, but SMG feels tips will freeze at 20-25F, which will not be damaging to this shrub form and only serve as a light pruning.
(The tree Acacia cognata is directly behind Mr. Baldwin, tallest of the plants pictured.)

Norfolk Island Pine-looking tree behind Mr. Baldwin, to his left.
Wollemia nobilis (Wollemi Pine). One of the world’s oldest and rarest plants, this conifer discovered in 1994 in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, Australia, elicited much discussion from the audience. Previously only known in the fossil record, discovered by David Noble, a National Parks & Wildlife Services Officer in the Wollemi National Park. A member of the Araucariaceae (as is the Monkey Puzzle Tree). “A fast-growing conifer that sprouts multiple trunks to 130 feet tall with bubbly brown bark and bearing new growth of flat sprays of oppositely ranked soft needles that are at first apple green but age to blue-green much like a coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) or Chinese plum yet (Cephalotaxus fortunei). As trees age, the mature foliage is distinctly different, looking more like that of the related Araucaria, with leaves more yellow green, stiffer and held upright in 4 ranks. It is at the tips of these mature branches that cones, both a male and a female, would form.”
Light shade to full sun, well-drained soil, preferably acidic, allow to dry between irrigation. To 23F but trials in other parts of the world indicate it can tolerate as low as 10.4F.

First row on the left, last plant on the end after the three ‘Cousin Itt.’ Adenanthos cuneatus ‘Coral Drift’ (Flame Bush)
I managed to grab a quick photo of this one.


2007 University of California at Santa Cruz “Koala Blooms” Australian plant introduction. (According to Mr. Baldwin, a great source for Australian plants is Australian Native Plants in Ventura, California.)

This adenanthos is a low-growing shrub to 2 to 4 feet tall by 3 to 5 feet wide. A common coastal plant along the south coast of Western Australia, this selection was made for its bright pink new growth and compact, spreading habit. Full sun, well-drained soil, drought tolerant when established. Speculated to be hardy to 15-20F.

Other plants discussed by Mr. Baldwin can all be found on the San Marcos Growers website, links provided:
Agave ‘Mateo’ (bracteosa X lophantha hybrid). Mr. Baldwin says SMG is scaling back on agaves in response to less demand (say it isn’t so!) and pushing aloes instead.
Agonis flexuosa ‘Jedda’s Dream’ (Dwarf Red Peppermint Tree)
Agonis flexuosa ‘Nana’ (Dwarf Peppermint Tree)
Beaucarnea ‘Gold Star’ (Variegated Bottle Palm) – extremely sexy.
Berzelia lanuginose (Buttonbush)
Cordyline ‘Design-a-line Burgundy’ – (Cultivar naming rules: No more than three separate names, so must hyphenate!)
Lomandra hystrix ‘Tropic Belle’
Lomandra longifolia ‘Nyalla.’ (Very tough. Grown under eucalypts at Lotusland.)
Phylica arborea (Island Cape Myrtle)
Phylica plumosa (Cape Myrtle) – good specimens at Sherman Library & Gardens.
Thomasia solanacea ‘Velvet Star’ (Solanum-Leafed Thomasia) – leaf much more chartreuse than website photo.
Bouteloua gracilis, the species, and also the cultivar ‘Blonde Ambition.’ This grass may not flower well without winter chill /vernalization.
Lygeum spartum
Westringia fruticosa ‘Mundi,’ Australian Rosemary. A dwarf selection.
Dianella caerulea ‘King Alfred.’ Favorite dianella of Jo O’Connell of Australian Native Plants Nursery.
Solanum xanti, a California native nightshade.

Mr. Baldwin’s succinct planting instructions: Don’t overamend. Make the planting hole wider but the same depth. Plant high. Mulch.

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11 Responses to The Gospel According to San Marcos

  1. I was so reading in rapt attention hanging on your every word until that part about “cutting back” WHAT! It was like a slap in the face! That is insanity! My heart is sad.

    And I am still lusting for a Cousin Itt.

  2. Denise says:

    Loree, Baldwin said it’s the danger/spiky factor with agaves that’s lowering demand, where aloes are friendlier and bloom without dying. And after seeing Pam’s post yesterday, it does boggle the mind that there’s decreased demand. Not that I have anything against aloes, mind you…

  3. Oh of course not…Aloes are swell too! I some how seem to have bought 3 in the last 4 days. I guess that just proves how trendy I am! (haha and triple ha).

  4. Great post as always but this one was extra cool. Gosh I wish I had gone.

    I have a Agonis flex. ‘Nana’ for you if you would like it.

  5. Randy says:

    Thanks for this very nice post about my talk at Roger’s – glad someone was listening and took such good notes. I had a great time speaking and seeing their fantastic nursery and plantings – must have taken 100 pictures of the plantings around the parking area – Wow! Since I was already in Corona del Mar I also took the opportunity to visit the nearby Sherman Library & Gardens. The entire garden is wonderfully designed and well maintained and the new succulent garden exquisite.

    About scaling back on agaves – Yikes, this is how rumors start and I only have myself to blame. I did indeed mention cutting back on agave but only because we had determined we were getting a little carried away by adding many new agave each year. We are currently working on producing 107 different agave species or cultivars and hoping to whittle that down to the best 50 or so. We will still be adding new good ones as they come along but we needed to let some go so we would have room for other great plants. I still love my agave!

  6. Denise says:

    Randy, so glad you cleared up the agave rumor! I really enjoyed your talk and hope you make a habit of giving us a peek at what’s cooking with SMG.

  7. hb says:

    I’m sorry I missed that. I was planning to go but just could not get there. I’m grateful you blogged it!

  8. Denise says:

    Hoov, the next time I attend a local plant event, I’m going to shout “Hoover!” and see whose head whips around.

  9. hb says:

    I’ll be wearing red glasses. 🙂

  10. Sharon Deals says:

    Great article as always!

  11. I wish we had these types of meets in our place to discuss more about greenhouses, plants and conservatories.

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