Monday, August 19, 2013

South Coast Botanic Garden

This is my 100th post.  When I started this blog at the end of December 2012, I wasn't sure if I'd keep it up.  My husband was late getting home from work, it was raining, and I just started fiddling around with Google's blog application.  And here I am 100 posts later.

I'm more than a little fed up with my own garden at the moment.  While there are a few things that look really good, like the foliage plants I wrote about here, a good part of my garden is looking sad at this point, despite the relatively cool weather we've been experiencing this summer.  Therefore, I decided to take myself off to the nearest botanic garden, the South Coast Botanic Garden (SCBG), to collect material for this post.  My husband accompanied me, which is a good/bad thing as his patience for plants and photo-taking has its limits.  We had business to attend to in the morning so we also got a bit of a late start but, as it was socked in at our place, I figured that conditions would still be good for taking photos at the garden a few miles away.

Fog sitting over the LA harbor

Unfortunately, I was wrong on this count.  About a mile from home, the skies were clear and the sun was shining bright.  As a result, my photos of our excursion aren't particularly good.

When we arrived at the SCBG, I took the opportunity to buy a membership, something I've been planning to do for the past 2 years.  My husband was impressed to learn that membership earns us access to 29 other California gardens under the American Horticultural Society Reciprocal Admission Program.  Personally, I was impressed to find that I'll get preview access to the garden's annual plant sales and discounts at a few local nurseries.  The Fall Plant Sale is scheduled for September 14th so I don't even have to wait long to take advantage of my new benefits.

I've toured SCBG several times, dating back years.  It doesn't approach the caliber of the LA Arboretum, Descanso Gardens, or the Huntington Garden but it has aspirations.  Created on the site of a sanitary landfill in the 1960s, SCBG adopted a "Vision Plan" in June of this year with the intent of transforming it into a "world class garden."  A friend once suggested that the garden could bring in a lot more money if it installed a zip line on the premises but that doesn't appear to be part of the new master plan.  (Sorry MS!)  The plan has a 25-year timetable so we'll need to be patient about changes.  More immediately, I expect I can learn more about what will grow and thrive in my area by visiting there more regularly.

In August, I'm afraid that much of the garden looks as bedraggled as my own, despite the efforts of staff and 150+ volunteers; however, it does cover 87 acres so upkeep isn't a simple matter.  The garden is divided into several different areas, including areas specializing in cactus, fuchsias, edible plants, Mediterranean plants, roses, waterwise plants, and dahlias.  There's also a Japanese garden, a children's garden, a "Garden of the Senses," and a lake area.  Tech-friendly signs were available to guide the visitor.

We toured the Japanese Garden first:

Then the fuchsia collection:

We passed an area dedicated to the garden's volunteer staff:

I zipped into the small dahlia garden while my husband moved along on his own:

Dolichos lablab

Datura metel, I think

Most of the dahlia foliage was marked by mildew, which made me feel less awful about the condition of my own dahlias.  We've had a lot of foggy mornings this year so maybe there's hope that next year I'll be able to grow dahlias that look better than the ones I produced this year.

The vegetable garden had some healthy tomatoes and grapes that hadn't been consumed by birds like mine (despite the fact they weren't covered by nets), as well as some developing pumpkins.

This arbor was very short, maybe 4 feet tall at best

These pumpkins and tomatoes were planted in the middle of hay bales

We passed through the Garden for the Senses, which consisted mainly of dead herbs.  The lavender, although considerably past its peak, was still nice.

We briefly toured the rose garden, which I understand is a hot spot for weddings.

The roses sit within a bowl-shaped area

There's a fountain in the middle

My favorite rose was this one, 'Walking on Sunshine', a 2011 AARS award winner

From the rose garden, we headed to the "lake," which is now more of a marsh.  Apparently, a crack appeared in the lining of this man-made creation following an earthquake in 1971 and the problems created there were further complicated by mud flows following various El Nino rain events.  As a result, the lake is filled with mud and the water is only a few inches deep.  Tules and papyrus have taken over the margins but ducks and other birds, as well as insects and crawdads, still inhabit the area.

This duck swam toward us, probably looking for something to eat, but there are signs all over telling visitors not to feed the wildlife

This dragonfly just wanted me to leave him alone

An example of the foliage clogging the boundaries of the lake/pond/marsh

What's left of an old lake pier

On the way back toward the entrance, we passed through the cactus and succulent garden.

2 flowering agave backed by a yucca identical to the one that sits at the bottom of our own slope

Crassula falcata

Aeonium arboreum

I snapped a few pictures of the Children's Garden on the way out:

Overall, my favorite plants at the SCBG were the trees and tree-like shrubs, even though few were flowering at this time of year:

Mildew-free Crape Myrtles (Lagerstroemia)

Cassia bicapsularis, blooming well ahead of my own

Lycianthes ratonnetii, grown as a tree

Ornamental plum

And there were lots and lots of mimosa trees, reinforcing my belief that, left to their own devices, they'd take over this section of the planet.

Albizia julibrissin, already producing an ample supply of seedpods


  1. The dragonfly is a Flame Skimmer (Libellula saturata). I'm pointing that out because I spent a good deal of time with one Sunday and I think mine liked me.

    1. Thanks for the ID, Eric. As I recall, you said all nature's children love you (the occasional bee excepted).

  2. Happy 100th blog post! Sometimes a little trip somewhere nice like a botanical garden is all one needs for a boost :)

    1. Thanks Mark & Gaz! Now that I'm a member, I guess I can get boosts whenever I need them, which is probably a good thing.

  3. Glad you've stuck with the blogging thing as I really enjoy your posts! I thought of you yesterday when I drove by a mimosa tree with mountains of bloom litter under it. Yuck.

    1. Thanks, Loree! What's amazing about my mimosa this year is the number of seedlings I've found and continue to find. I'm sure there's one out there somewhere that I've missed that's slowing taking root in some hard to clear crevice...Sorry - that's my version of a horror story.

  4. Well, I still think a zip line would be a real money tree for SCBG. Pun intended. MS

    1. Maybe you need to join the Board and spend some of your spare time working on the "aggressive" strategic and financial plans they've called for. I'm sure you can convince them that a zip line would do more than increased fees to generate the required revenue. (But don't nix the proposed nursery, okay?)

  5. I'm surprised a large botanic garden would allow their herbs to die and invasive trees to take over. Does SD often have problems with mildew on their crape myrtles? I grown them here in the humid southeast without any disease problems at all. Parts of my garden are lacking, too. I have a very busy fall ahead of me as I redesign two large sections.

    1. I can only guess that the SCBG doesn't have sufficient funding to maintain the property in the manner of the more well-known SoCal botanic gardens. It has always seemed a bit ragged to me. For all the fancy signage about the "Garden of the Senses," it was disappointing that most of the named herbs were missing. If I ever sign up as a volunteer, maybe I'll get the inside scoop.

      I think the local marine influence probably accounts for my difficulty with Crape Myrtles (as well as other mildew susceptible plants). The SCBG is about 5 miles further inland and the trees seem to be fine there.

  6. Your photos are lovely! Sometimes it does me good to see a public garden that is bedraggled around the edges or with a few weeds. That way I don't feel bad about my own garden. The summer months are always tough on gardens around here.