another rainy day at the Huntington

In a bizarre bit of repetition, two recent visits to the Huntington Botanical Garden have coincided with that rarest of occurrences, a rainy day in Los Angeles during our mega drought. April especially is late in the season for a rainstorm, even in a normal rainfall year, but nevertheless the Huntington’s annual spring plant sale 2015 was a rainy affair. Traditionally held in the parking lot, the sale was held this year inside the Huntington, adjacent to the Children’s Garden, which means you have to buy a ticket to attend the plant sale now. I didn’t buy much, just a couple aloes, but researched lots of unfamiliar plants on my phone, like a buddleia from Texas with felty grey leaves and orange bobbly flowers. (See David’s photo of the Wooly Butterfly Bush, Buddleia marrubifolia.)

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The new Education and Visitor Center empty on a stormy late April day. On arrival barely an hour previous, the Huntington’s enormous parking lot was so crowded that I had to make several loops to find a parking space. But all those visitors scattered when the clouds opened.

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Newly planted pots, many of them filled with acacias and leucadendrons. There was what looked to be a Melaleuca thymifolia in the pot on the right. Acacia ‘Cousin Itt’ in the pot on the left is approaching classic status as an evergreen for containers.

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Aloe camperii. After the sale, I headed straight for the desert garden to see it in the light, drizzly rain.

It really knows how to rain in the foothills. The drizzle quickly turned into a proper downpour. Very little of this storm made it home here in Long Beach, about 30 miles south of Pasadena. But once again, and in the space of two months, I found myself in the Huntington’s desert garden unprepared for a deluge. As happy as I am to see, hear, and feel rain, the novelty of wet clothes wears off pretty quickly, and taking photos becomes impossible. Rather than let the rain chase me home, I bought an umbrella from the gift shop. (And this being the Huntington’s gift shop, my umbrella twirls a William Morris print.)

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I quickly gave up on juggling the camera and the umbrella. Besides, where better to spend a rainy day at the Huntington than in the Desert Garden Conservatory? I left my umbrella folded under a plant bench at the door, but amazingly other rain-dodging visitors entered with their umbrellas fully deployed. With umbrella ribs threatening to knock over rare specimens, the docents somehow managed to remain calm but firmly instructed to close all brollies. Only in Los Angeles does rainy day/umbrella etiquette have to be spelled out. Chatting with the docents, I learned that the Desert Garden Conservatory is to be closed for renovations within the year, to be rebuilt on site as a two-story conservatory. They also revealed their trick for dislodging cactus spines and glochids: Spread white glue over the area in a thin film, let dry, and peel. That or electrical tape.

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Echeveria bench, ‘Afterglow’ in the middle

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Stenocereus beneckii

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Melocactus matanzanus. Of all the melos, this one forms the “Turk’s cap” at the youngest age.

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Aloe peglerae

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ghostly pale furcraea

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There’s always something in the glasshouse I hadn’t noticed before, like this collection of orthophytums, Brazilian bromeliads.

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I’m always hoping to find this elusive, variegated form of Agave attenuata at a plant sale. Maybe next year.

Plant sale haul: A NOID aloe believed to be a cross by David Verity, Aloe cryptoflora, and one umbrella.

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7 Responses to another rainy day at the Huntington

  1. The Huntington in the rain, I can’t even begin to imagine what that would be like. Kudos to you for proper umbrella etiquette.

  2. I can almost smell the rain! We didn’t get any of it up here in Davis. The last two storms bypassed us completely.

    I love Aloe ‘David Verity’. Is that the one you bought, or a different David Verity hybrid?

    A Huntington umbrella is a nice souvenir. I’m actually surprised they had any for sale!

  3. Kris P says:

    I’m still laughing over the umbrella etiquette issue! I love that little Melocactus.

  4. Hoov says:

    Maybe you need to go to the Huntington frequently–apparently your visits cause rain to fall. The gift shop does have pretty umbrellas.

    The E. gibbiflora x laui is quite thrilling. A new desert conservatory! Oooh-la-la. The budget must have increased mightily–perhaps there is a link between that and having to buying a ticket to get to the plant sale?

  5. Pam/Digging says:

    Cool plants, and yay for rain! Funny how people there get so discombobulated by rain though.

  6. Denise says:

    @Loree, it was exactly as cool as it sounds. The paved road to the desert garden was running with water, which my pants wicked up nicely!
    @Gerhard, it’s a hybrid by Verity that the Huntington lost the tag to. I’ll get a photo up one of these days.
    @Kris, I’ve got that melo and love it.
    @Hoov, yeah, maybe I’m a water diviner. The sale was exactly where the aloe sale was. I’ve never seen the Hunt. so mobbed as that day, not even able to find a place to park!
    @Pam, I’m keeping track of Austin weather too, and it looks like a banner year for you. And congrats again on your recent publications.

  7. Looks fun, including the unseasonal rain! That’s what people here do with cactus spines / glochids – except me, I still use tweezers – I’m slow to learn!

    Rain etiquitte here is to stand out in it like a giddy person, though not with thunderstorms, which we had Thursday.

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