Wednesday, January 23, 2019

January at my local botanic garden

A number of things have kept me away from the South Coast Botanic Garden since mid-November - the holidays, the weather, and the Los Angeles teacher's strike among them.  With no schools scheduling tours of the garden, there was little need for docents.  However, we had a general meeting on Monday and another docent and I took the opportunity to make a quick spin around the garden to see what's going on while also checking out the new "Incredible Journey" adventure program for kids sponsored by the garden.

I took photos in 3 areas of the garden (all unrelated to the adventure program).  Our first stop was the new Living Wall.  I'd been told that the garden had posted a list of the plants included in the construction of the wall and, some readers of my prior post on the wall had expressed interest in this, I looked for it.

The wall looks much the same as it did in my November post, although what I think were bird's nest ferns in one small section of the planting scheme were struggling

The sign describes the construction of the wall, which is maintained by a hydroponic system.  It's still a mystery to me how it works to simultaneously support the needs of plants as different as succulents and ferns.

This is the plant list, which relies largely on common names.  I'm not sure what's meant by a "Chester Fern" or "Stars" and unfortunately I didn't take the time to examine the plants carefully when I was on-site.  "Stars" might mean "Earthstars," although the photo on the sign doesn't seem right if that's the case.  "Habbit Jade" refers to Crassula "Hobbit" and I think #14 is meant to be spelled "Plumosa Fern."


After we'd completed the "Incredible Journey" adventure tour, my docent friend took off and I cruised through some of my favorite areas of the garden, starting with the Banyan Grove, a common stop on docent tours.

These are photos of Ficus macrophylla, commonly known as Moreton Bay fig trees.  The elementary school kids on our tours love climbing over the huge roots of these trees under their immense canopy.  When our temperatures soar, this is literally the coolest spot in the entire garden.

This photo shows how roots reach down from the tree's limbs to embed themselves in the soil

This photo gives you a sense of the huge canopy created by these fig trees

The Stenocarpus sinuatus (aka Firewheel Trees) next to the Moreton Bay figs were in bloom

This is another tree I commonly point out to kids on our tours.  We refer to is as the "ghost fig" but its proper name is Ficus petiolaris.  The photos I've seen of this plant on-line don't show the yellow color of this particular specimen so that may be an anomaly.  

The fig tree attached to this palm (Phoenix sylvestris) is also one that interests kids.  It's referred to as a "strangler fig" as it's rooted in the palm and working hard to take over its host.  The garden recently cut it back but it's not defeated.


My final stop was the garden's expanded Desert Garden, where I checked out the blooming Aloes.

Aloe arborescens: the group on the left was referred to by the common name of Candelabra Aloe while the group on the right were referred to as Torch Aloes but they're the same species

Aloe aristata

Aloe castanea, or Cat's Tail Aloe, one of my personal favorites

Aloe 'David Verity'

Aloe vanbalenii

Aloe hybrid 'Spiney'

This one wasn't in the Desert Garden and I couldn't find a label but my guess is that it's Aloe wickensii (which I think has been renamed but that's the name I know if by)


I've been thinking more and more about planting my back slope in succulents.  It's east-facing so it's not optimal for Aloes and other succulents that want full sun to flower but I may experiment a bit anyway.  The succulents planted on the southeast-facing slope at the entrance to our neighborhood are doing surprisingly well as shown in the photos below.

Created from a hodge-podge of succulent pups and cuttings donated by neighbors including myself, this succulent bed on a fairly sharp slope looks better every year

This is the view from the other direction

Among other things, the mix includes Agave attenuata, Aeonium arboreum, Aloe arborescens, Crassula ovata, Carpobrotus, and Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire'


A neighbor's front garden just up the street from ours sported an even more impressive display.

Isn't this a gorgeous mix?  It includes Aeonium arboreum, A. 'Zwartkop' (or a relative), Agave 'Blue Glow', Aloe nobilis and other plants I can't immediately identify


Food for thought...


All material © 2012-2019 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

30 comments:

  1. Oooh, castanea is one of my favs too -- might have to pay a visit! Thanks, Kris.

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    1. It's too bad that Cat's Tail Aloe is so large. I'd love to grow it in my own garden.

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    2. oh - there must be some place for aloe castanea :) - it will take yrs to the size shown above.

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    3. I admit I've thought of that, Hans...

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  2. I'm in love with that living wall... so fabulous! Also really enjoy all the colors and textures of your neighborhood steep succulent bed. How cool that it's kind of a community project! I say go for it, and experiment away! Isn't that what gardening is all about? I do plenty of experimenting. Sometimes I fall short, but there have been numerous wonderful surprises too. Some plants are more resilient than others, and you will likely be surprised too. That Cat's Tail agave is so fun!

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    1. I can't say that the neighborhood succulent bed was a coordinated community activity, Anna - it's more of a place to send unwanted plants but it's come together nicely nonetheless.

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  3. Your neighborhood entrance bed looks fabulous. Something like this would be grand on your back slope.

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    1. That neighborhood succulent bed is a little easier to navigate than my own slope but I'm thinking if maybe I can get some help clearing out the ivy and honeysuckle and installing a couple of narrow pathways, it might be something I could handle.

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  4. Disappointing for hopeful gardeners if the names for the Living Wall plants are erratic.

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    1. I wish they'd used a combination of botanical and common names as they do with most of their plant labels.

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  5. Kids must love those amazing plants and trees. I can understand using common names on signs, but too bad they don't use botanical names as well. Too often the common names will be no help if one actually wants to buy the exact same plant. I love the neighborhood plantings. Seems like definite possibility for your garden as well.

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    1. The metal plant tags elsewhere in the garden generally use both the botanical and common names, although I was amused to see that 2 different common names were used in the case of different groups of Aloe arborescens.

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  6. Impressive aloes at the garden and the green wall is beautiful. I think your neighborhood slope is looking terrific!

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    1. The neighborhood succulent bed is at its best this time of year when the aloes blooms. I don't have a single aloe arborescens in my own garden, which is think is a terrible omission that requires fixing.

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  7. I love that living wall! And the blooming aloes...and the succulent bed on the hill. All marvelous! I wish I could get away and take a trip out to the west coast for the month of February. Maybe when we're both retired. Sigh...

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    1. February and March can be wonderful here, Beth. I'm hoping the rain we got this month will make them so this year.

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  8. The wall really is quite lovely, at least from the angle and distance that you photographed it from. Now I’m gong to turn off my iPad and dream ‘Blue Glow’ dreams all night long...(that plant is GORGEOUS!)

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    1. 'Blue Glow' was my first agave and still the one I have in the greatest number but none of mine are paired with a gorgeous dark Aeonium like that. That's an idea I definitely need to copy!

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  9. The sunshine in your images makes me want to get on a plane immediately! It's only January and I'm already fed up with winter. I'm surprised a Botanic garden does use either only Latin names or at least include them. Perhaps you should suggest it.

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    1. We've been warming up here, Christina, presumably due to repeated episodes with Santa Ana winds. Our temperatures are expected to climb into the upper 70sF (25C) by the weekend. As to the signs, the one next to the Living Wall is the only official one I've seen that didn't bother including Latin names (or use consistent naming protocols).

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    2. I see a future addition to that sign: bot names in parentheses. There's plenty of room.

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    3. I hope they do reprint the sign one day, Nell, although they may want to wait a little while to see which plants stand the test of time.

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  10. That fantastic Ficus immediately reminds me of the yellow-painted tree in Dustin Gimbel's garden that Denise posted a while ago.

    Wind is howling across a grey landscape today, but all it takes to strengthen the inner flame is a good look at the firewheel flower against your clear, clean sky!

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    1. I've seen Dustin Gimbel's tree but I didn't remember it until you mentioned it. I'm fairly certain the botanic garden's tree isn't painted. It does stand out from the surrounding figs, though.

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  11. My favorite part of the now-luxuriant succulent slope is that light green Aeonium arboreum against the deep green ground-covering plant. Wow. I realize Aeoniums have a longish avert-your-eyes period when the heat and drought drag on, but the freshness of this vignette surely helps fade that memory... The single tall plant rising from a solid, all-one-kind sweep of a lower one is as important to the effect as the color contrast; succulent plantings can be a bit busy without a few calming masses here and there.

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    1. If an area is irrigated, as the neighborhood succulent bed is, Aeoniums fare better during the summer months than in circumstances when they're left entirely to their own devices. They do indeed look very sad then.

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  12. Can't stop looking at the magnificent slope, which is all the more remarkable for being a collective effort with improvised design (working as you all have been with garden-surplus material mostly).
    What are those plants with the glowing purple bloom at the far lower endend?

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    1. It's an groundcover ice plant. My best guess is the purple-flowered Delosperma cooperi.

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  13. There is just something about that wall... it just draws me in. I suppose that it is the organization of it - like a hedgerow maze or that feeling I get walking through a perfectly aligned olive grove, where the horizon is nowhere to be seen. Plus, being vertical, it hits you smack-dab in the face. Just awesome.

    It's unfortunate that the sign is so unorganized in contrast with the wall. Common names at a botanic garden? And incorrect ones to boot? Someone was not on the ball.

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    1. I suspect the sign was an afterthought and someone just spit off names without any deliberation.

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