Friday, August 5, 2022

Too warm to linger long

My blood pressure has been running a bit high and, as I don't want to take medication to control it, I've started making it a point to walk each morning.  Earlier this week, instead of walking my own neighborhood, I drove to South Coast Botanic Garden about five miles away to walk there.  I took photos of some of the highlights.

The Japanese Garden doesn't change remarkably from one season to another but it always starts my tours of the garden off on a peaceful note

This area still shows up on the garden map posted online as the Volunteer Garden but I don't know how much involvement the volunteers have with it anymore.  This particular area was packed with Salvias and, as a result, it was also the site of lively hummingbird activity.

There are a variety of Agaves in the mix, one of which was sporting a bloom stalk

Closeup of one noID Salvia and a hummingbird.  I'd considered bringing a telesphoto lens with me to the garden but I didn't want to tote that around so the hummingbird photo was the best I could manage by cropping a photo taken from several feet away.

The area adjacent to the Living Wall has been undergoing changes off and on for some time.  In the past, anyone who wanted to eat at the garden had to use one of the picnic tables set up in the parking lot.  Small tables with seating appeared in 2021.  A refreshment stand was set up near the plant stand for a time, although I don't remember seeing it during my last two visits; however, refreshments are periodically offered in connection with various events.  I understand that the garden has been planning to make more formal arrangements for onsite food service and it looks like they're getting closer there, although I don't remember seeing an announcement about this in their monthly newsletters.

This certainly looks like the entrance to a food service area

Plants on all sides provide the area with a sense of enclosure

The Living Wall provides the backdrop for the area

The sign shown on the upper left is the clearest evidence of an official refreshment stand, although I saw no signs that it was open for business yet.  There's no menu inside that frame but it's obviously intended to hold something.  The lights and roll-up windows are further evidence that something's in the works.

 I checked in on the rose garden next.

The roses could use deadheading but I expect that's true all the time at this point in the season.  As this is a wedding venue, I suspect deadheading happens on a schedule linked to those events.

One vantage point showed a gardener mowing the grass in the meadow below around the flamingo topiaries, moving them as he worked


The Banyan Grove was my next stop.  It was closed for a month from mid-June through mid-July for the "pre-construction phase" of an undisclosed project.  It's one of my favorite places in the garden so I was curious to see what evidence of the new project  might be evident.

Everything looked normal on the surface here

But then I noticed that the soil level was higher in one area and that a protective cover had been placed over the surface-level roots of at least 2 trees

Other areas have now been impacted by the ongoing project as evidenced by the broad area now screened off by signs and yellow caution tape.  The lavender field is obviously affected.

My suspicion is that all this marks the start of the development of the new children's garden.  The current children's garden is almost as old as the botanic garden itself.  Built by volunteers around nursery rhymes, it doesn't resonate as well with children today, or at least that was my experience when I conducted tours as a docent.  Even so, I love this vignette of a child-sized house in the distance framed by the massive tree in the foreground.  Whatever they do with the old children's garden, I hope the tree is preserved.


By the time I got to the Desert Garden it was warmer and, with humidity also rising as a byproduct of the monsoonal moisture to the east of us, I decided to end my walk after a spin of that area.

View looking at the front of the Desert Garden a short distance from the Rose Garden

A large but well-kept Kalanchoe beharensis (left) and a giant grass tree (Xanthorrhoea sp.) in bloom (right).  What looks like yellow flowers on the grass tree's left flower stalk is actually the flower stalk of an Agave a distance behind it.

This extension to the Desert Garden, focused largely on Aloes, is still relatively bare in terms of plantings but this section looked good

It being August, the garden has fewer flowers than usual but I snapped some photos as I moved from one area to another.

I noticed a smattering of flowers on this very large Barleria obtusa (bush violet).  Mine don't generally have any blooms until late September at best (but I also don't allow my plants to get this big).

Bahinia galpinii (aka red orchid bush) I think

A vigorous noID Fuchsia

Clockwise from the upper left: Amaryllis belladonna, Crinium (I think), Cassia leptophylla (aka gold medallion tree), Drimia maritima, Gomphocarpus physocarpus (aka hairy balls milkweed), Pandorea jasminoides 'Rosea', and Passiflora


I spied the most interesting flowers I've seen in a long time as I exited the garden and entered the parking lot.

After a little digging, I discovered that this is Combretum fruticosum, aka orange flame vine.  Via Instagram, landscape designer David Feix let me know that San Marcos Growers, a wholesale nursery, grows this plant.  A comprehensive description of the plant can be found on SMG's site here.


That's it for me this week.  There's a very slight chance of a stray thunderstorm here but, as the weather forecasters have teased that possibility for over a week, I consider it highly unlikely.  At least the cloud cover has been keeping our temperatures in the low 80sF/27-28C but it's muggy.  Historically, Southern California has been known for its dry heat but, like many things climate-related, that seems to be changing.  I hope you enjoy a pleasant weekend wherever you are.

All material © 2012-2022 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party


  1. I imagine you clock a lot of steps at SCBG -- it's big! So cool to learn about combretum. Of course, David Feix knew the identity...

    1. SCBG is 87 acres. Since the docent role was eliminated and the lake is gone, I don't venture into the back 40 as often anymore unless I'm looking for something in particular and temperatures accommodate a really long walk, which isn't currently the case. My phone's plant ID function actually allowed me to hone in on the genus Combretum but David Feix identified a source within the nursery community, which is one step closer to getting hold of that plant...Since SMG is a wholesaler and doesn't sell directly to individuals, I just need to convince a local garden center to order the plant ;)

  2. Good for you for deciding to take a daily walk. Its' good for body and soul. I hear Hibiscus tea may be helpful in lowering blood pressure, it's a little on the tart side.
    The massive tree trunk is very impressive. As a kid how enjoyed climbing trees, I know my very young self would have loved it.

    1. My brother contacted me recommending chamomile and ginger tea, Chavli ;) My blood pressure isn't sky high and it's a LOT lower than it was when I was in the doctor's office recently but it's running somewhat higher than it was the last time I was checking it 2x a day. Walking - and gardening - help!

      Like the tree on the outskirts of the current children's garden, I love the Banyan Grove for its climbing possibilities too. It was always a winning stop when I was giving tours to schoolchildren. And the adults appreciate its shade.

  3. This garden is one I'd love to wander around in, maybe not on such a hot day. Your Combretum fruticosum is indeed an interesting discovery. Hope the daily walks will quickly make an impact. Wish you could join me for a nice gentle yoga class.

  4. Thanks for the tour: You have some beautiful places to hike! Hope your blood pressure will reduce, too. :)

    1. My blood pressure is much lower than it was in the doctor's office, Beth, but I admit it's a little higher than it used to be!

  5. It seems to keep people coming back public gardens are seeking to change things up. Always interesting to see what can be done with lots of gardeners, heavy equipment and bigger budgets. The vine is gorgeous. Love those hot colours. Beautiful place to walk and relax.

    1. The botanic garden spent at least a couple of years raising money to build a new children's garden. The last I heard in late 2021, they still needed $2.5M so it's conjecture on my part that's the undisclosed project, although the area currently surrounded by caution tape fits the hypothesis. They've also been talking for years about restoring the lake that used to be a major draw (for people as well as birds and other animals) but that plan seems indefinitely stalled...

  6. Looks like your walk brought horticultural rewards as well as health benefits, Kris! That Combretum fruticosum is quite amazing - and to find it in a car park! It looks like something that nectar feeding birds would be fond of too.

    1. Well, the car park is part of the botanic garden's property but why they "hid" it there, I don't understand. The bees were all over it but no hummingbirds in sight, although maybe that's because I hung out there taking a zillion photos for 15-20 minutes ;) There were some butterflies hovering about too but I wasn't sure whether the attraction for them was the orange flame vine or the passionflower vine inter-planted with it.

  7. It would be lovely to live close to a BG. Looks like you had a nice variation on a neighborhood stroll. Combretum--cool flowers!

    1. I wish it were an easily walkable distance but I'm grateful to have the garden so close.

  8. That living wall is looking fabulous and wow, the Ensete ventricosum are ginormous! Combretum fruticosum... it's hardy to 15-20F... THAT would certainly add some color to my garden.

    1. I'm totally in love with that Combretum fruticosum and hope I can find it at some point, even if the vine can grow 20 feet and I've no idea where I would plant it. I was impressed by how fast the red banana plants grew too.


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