Friday, September 3, 2021

Highlights of my botanic garden visit

Last week I visited South Coast Botanic Garden, about 6 miles from my home.  My intent was to see the disco rollerskating set-up before that event closed but of course I also checked out other parts of the garden.  Some areas frankly left me depressed; however, there was beauty to be found and I wanted to share the highlights.  (My prior post on The DiscOasis can be found here.)

The Japanese Garden is small but well-maintained

The Living Wall has undergone some replanting


Even in late summer, there were  flowers to be found.


Flowering plants found elsewhere in the garden:
Top row - Amaryllis belladonna and Physostegia virginiana (aka obedient plant)
Middle row - a variety of Lagerstroemia (crape myrtle trees)
Bottom row: a mass of Bauhinia galpinii (aka red orchid bush)


My visits are often restricted to the garden's front area but, on this occasion, I covered a good portion of its 87 acres, including one of my favorite areas, the Banyan Grove.

This is literally the coolest part of the garden - it's ten degrees or more cooler that other areas of the garden during our hot summer months

The trees are Ficus macrophylla (aka Moreton Bay figs or Australian Banyan)

The aerial roots stretch to the ground, eventually taking root to help support the tree's top-heavy canopy

When I was involved in giving school tours, we called this Ficus petiolaris the "ghost tree" due it its naturally pale bark color

We also used to refer to this as a "strangler fig" as the fig tree sprouted from a seed dropped into the trunk of a large palm.  The fig is usually cut back hard each year but this year it looks as though it might actually succeed in strangling that palm.

As I moved into the "back forty" of the garden, I focused on the trees.

Ceiba speciosa (aka silk floss tree)

I'm not sure what kind of conifer this is but it's in the process of being strangled by what I think are honeysuckle vines

Two Podocarpus  macrophylla (aka yew pines) surround a Taxodium distichum (aka bald cypress) fronted by a weed-free blanket of fresh wood mulch

A tree-shaded tunnel

Most of the sculptures included in the Hide & Seek - Art Meets Nature exhibit loaned to the garden by the Los Angeles County Museum of Art are located in the back part of the garden.  I photographed all but the original sculpture in the front area, which is owned by the garden.

This is Fuller by Doris Sung, commissioned specifically for SCBG.  It's surrounded by Centaurea 'Silver Feather'.  Last time I visited kids were crawling inside the sculpture.  Luckily, this time it was unmolested.

This is Firestone, one of the pieces on loan from LACMA.  It was created by Peter Voulkos in 1965.  The plants surrounding it in the Sakura Meadow are Agave vilmoriniana (aka octopus agave).

This sculpture, called One on One by Richard Artschwager, actually was almost entirely hidden behind a hedge of cypress trees in Phoebe's Meadow

This colorful sculpture is called Trace.  It was created in 1981 by Nancy Graves.

The Duchess of Alba by Reuben Nakian was created in 1960.  It sits in the She-oak Meadow surrounded by a bed of begonias.

This kinetic wind sculpture, Four Lines Oblique Gyratory-Square, forms different shapes.  It was created by George Rickey in 1973.

Teha, by Mark di Suvero, sits in the Memorial Meadow surrounded on three sides by dark Aeonium arboreum

I crossed the garden's upper meadow on my way to the the exit and noticed that, even if school tours are on an indefinite hold, the garden was being used by some for educational purposes.


I'll end with photos of the renovated Palm Circle near the garden's entrance.

Formerly filled with flowering plants, this area was replanted with palms, agaves, and other drought-tolerant plants earlier this year.  It's filling in nicely.

Best wishes for the holiday weekend.  My thoughts are with those of you in the US dealing with one or another climate-related disaster.


All material © 2012-2021 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party


24 comments:

  1. The plants themselves are so sculptural I will never understand that addition of large distracting pieces of art. (yes I know... money... but still!)

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    1. I wouldn't be drawn to this botanic garden based on the art on display, Loree, but SCBG obviously thought it'd draw people in. I suppose that may be true among people who don't care much about gardens to begin with. (That also may have been the thought behind the disco rollerskating thing.) If there's been a recent survey of what draws visitors to the garden, I haven't seen the results but I'd be surprised if Hide & Seek rated high on the list.

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  2. Those Banyan trees are very cool. The aerial roots always remind me of swamp trees. Agree with Lori as would rather look at plants than abstract art. However, others obviously enjoy them. A great weekend for you too.

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    1. I love those Moreton Bay figs. Better to have kids climbing over and around their roots than clambering on sculptures too ;)

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  3. Disco rollerskating, huh? It looks like a neat place; sorry there were a few disappointments, but it looks pretty nifty in some sections. I wish I could grow Crepe Myrtles here, but we're just a bit beyond their range. That "living wall" is pretty nifty. The Toronto Botanical Garden has a wall area like that. Awesome stuff!

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    1. I'm tempted to try growing a crape myrtle in my own garden. I've always loved them but mildew is a problem here. I understand there are some mildew resistant types and the fact that SCBG just 5-6 miles away can grow them has me thinking about it, though.

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  4. I can imagine any venue dependent on public revenue these days is struggling, so trying new things makes sense. I'm not a big fan of modern art, but I do like the kinetic ones, which I will watch indefinitely, ha!
    I like the new palm/agave planting replacing thirstier plants. Makes good sense.
    Have a great weekend, Kris. Our weather looks pretty nice for a while– we deserve a break, it's been a rather unusual weather summer.

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    1. I'm glad you're getting a break in the weather department, Eliza! You do indeed deserve one. We're headed into another "warm up" but that's really business as usual for us in September.

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  5. I love to walk down lanes with trees and or shrubs that make it feel like a tunnel or at least a canopy over the road.

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    1. I restrict my visits (usually due to time constraints) to the botanic garden's front area all to often, Lisa. The "back forty" is a nice place to walk. They're offering some dog-walking hours at the garden now - if I had a dog, I'd probably stroll that area more often!

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  6. Looks like a wonderful place to spend a day. My favorite part to is the Banyon Grove. It reminds me of what I think Australia would look like, or at least what I've seen in movies.

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    1. Those Moreton Bay figs hail from eastern Australia so you're right on target with your impressions, Cindy ;)

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  7. Thank you for your post, because I have not seen the garden since our last visit there together. It has been exactly 2 years since the grand opening of “Hide and Seek.” The days before the opening, I had assisted with planting those Begonias around the ‘Duchess of Alba’: from your photos, it appears that some appear leggy and untidy. It appears that it is relatively recently that they planted Agave vilmoriniana around Firestone. It was intended that “One on One” was encompassed within a “room” delineated by the Italian cypresses: it looks like a success, but there should be one area devoid of a cypress or two to have an open door into the room. I’m surprised that ‘Trace’ no longer has the expansive wood chip mulch surrounding it or plantings to replace the mulch. The Japanese Garden and the Banyan Grove, including Ficus petiolaris as well as Ficus religiosa, bring back wonderful memories of being a docent with you there! Thanks again.

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    1. There are just too few gardeners to keep the garden looking its best, Kay. I was particularly distressed by the conifer being overtaken by the honeysuckle but many areas have received even less attention, including the one you'd tended so lovingly in the past. Maybe they've abandoned some areas due to future building plans - or maybe they're just stretched too thin and unable to pull in volunteers anymore. The One on One area did have a "door" but I was surprised that there were no plants surrounding Trace or Four Lines.

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  8. The shaded grove of Ficus macrophylla is just the best! Not just because I love shade: those trees are spectacular. They outshine any of the sculptures. I don't mind art in a garden, but non of those appealed to me. If "One on One" was located in the shade, I could see having a relaxing moment with a glass of wine... (I'm sure it's not allowed, but it could give the piece a purpose).
    The "strangler fig" takes vertical gardening to a new level, in a totally accidental way!

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    1. I like the Trace sculpture because it's colorful but I felt it looked awkward without any plants directly surrounding it to give it a better sense of being part of the space. I've seen One on One with children climbing all over it before, which didn't bother me at all as it seemed made for that. (Fuller, which appears more breakable, is a different story.)

      When I conducted tours, the kids generally enjoyed the strangler fig story, especially when I told them how that fig probably got planted in that palm. Ditto with the story of the Opuntia in one of the silk floss trees. Stories involving "poop" always seemed to be a hit ;)

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  9. They do have a lot there--thanks for showing some of it. Too bad a shortage of budget and strange choices by the people at the top can't develop it better.

    Banyan grove--unfortunate no one had the foresight to make it a native Oak grove instead. Maybe the landfill beneath was better tolerated by Ficus

    Very sad that Orange County's chance for a major public Botanical garden looks lost--there was supposed to be one at the "Great Park", but there's too much money to be made on cramming in more houses.

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    1. If there are any oaks in SCBG, I can't say I've noticed them. However, I understand that a lot of trees and other plants had difficulty with the heat generated by the ongoing decomposition of the garbage beneath the surface when the former landfill was converted into a garden so you may be on point on that score. I also have the impression that SCBG also got a lot of its tree stock as handoffs from the LA Arboretum (LA County owns the land at SCBG). The garden wasn't planned in the way one would hope.

      I'm sorry to hear that the OC may be foregoing its opportunity to build a botanic garden, especially as we need all the trees we can get to absorb greenhouse gasses.

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  10. I love that Living Wall. What a great idea!

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    1. Vertical gardens and living walls have gotten a lot of attention here but big ones like that in SCBG do need regular maintenance to keep looking good. SCBG's wall was installed by a contractor, which I believes also takes care of the maintenance.

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  11. Hello Kris ! You gave me a great laugh with the remark about Rozanne packing her bags twice in your garden .. that some how instantly projected a picture in my mind of a lanky blue geranium with bags in hand walking away ? LOL
    Your tour here has been wonderful because I am a tree person and seeing these trees that are so different from what I am used to here is amazing.
    Especially the Fiscus petiolaris "ghost tree" what a gorgeous tree !
    I have a weakness for seeing cypres in a line .. photos of Italian country side pass through my mind. I'm sorry to know another tree is being strangled by a vine .. I understand your distress with that.
    I have first knowledge about the change of temperature when under a structure of trees .. the degree of change can be shocking in fact. I have this ridiculous Pacific Sunset maple that double it projected size (I think due to consistent watering from the sprinkler system and a protected garden with the 8 ft. fence .. but wow .. we had no idea that would happen.
    It provides a cool place for birds and small animals and makes oxygen galore. But the 2 detriments ? .. it blocks my skyline to take moon pictures and when Autumn comes it doesn't quite colour up the way it should, just too protected ! We love it anyways .. how can you not love trees !
    Take care and stay safe !

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    1. It probably would have been more apt on my part to say the Geranium 'Rozanne' went underground and was never seen again, CGJ ;)

      I wish my community loved trees as much as you and I do. Not long after moving here, I discovered that there is a local "view conservation and restoration" ordinance. In essence it values the views of neighbors, as in effect in November 1989, over trees, requiring that the offending trees be cut back or removed entirely. I got pressured into removing 2 trees early on, until I declared "enough" and told the neighbor in question I'd fight her with everything I had before removing another. Luckily for me, she moved soon after. Given current circumstances with our changing climate, I'd take the battle beyond our community to the court of public opinion if push ever comes to shove again. As it is, we get our trees trimmed on a regular basis.

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  12. Perhaps if the rollerskating bit remains an events / for profit space, the garden can focus on kinder gardening in the rest of the space. Lovely to walk in the cathedral shade of tall trees on a hot summer day, the air refreshing and cool. Bliss.

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    1. The Banyan grove does indeed offer a peaceful respite.

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