Thursday, November 26, 2015

Fall color at the Huntington

Having become a member of the Huntington and having a willing driver in my friend Jim, it is great to be able to visit regularly and see this beautiful garden at various seasons. This last trip was an attempt to see some fall color but apart from some beautiful ginkgos in the Japanese garden, there was little. Foliage of plants such as maples seemed to have just dried up without coloring. Despite this there was much to see in the garden and in particular some colorful aloes starting to flower in the desert garden. For those that want to know and see more of this garden, check out my earlier blogs in March 2012 and May 2015. As I've described the gardens in those earlier pieces, I'll just let the pictures speak for themselves this time. Increasingly I find myself captivated by the desert garden and all the curious and wonderful plants that thrive there.

Agave americana Variegata - common but I love the way the leaves twist

Agave multifilifera 'Chahuiqui'

Aloe ramosissima

Echevaria agavoides x E. olorata - love this but it just burns up in Palm Springs heat

Barrel cactus - lovely to see so many

What is this? An Agave?

Opuntia littoralis var austrocalifornica

Opuntia microdasys

Stapelia - species?

After the desert garden (and a very nice lunch)  we headed off through the jungle and subtropical gardens and then briefly visited the Japanese and Chinese gardens.

Grevillea - love it but couldn't find a label

Chorisia insignis

A small palm but what is it?

Love the reflections - I feel a painting coming on!

Love the sun hitting these and the Iresine below

Delighted to find a Monarch caterpillar on a milkweed, particularly as I have just planted some in my little yard. I now know what to expect.

The beautiful Chinese Garden
Sapium sebiferum -  Chinese tallow tree - at last some fall color!

Camellia sasanqua flowering in various areas

Wonderful cones on these cycads

What is this pretty butterfly?

And finally Ginkgo biloba in fall finery!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Everything is coming up roses

Last Sunday I finally made it to the Palm Desert Rose Society's Annual Show. Although I have been here in the desert for a number of years, I always seem to have missed it in the past. This society was formed in 1985 and boasts a thriving group of over 200 members. I have to admit to a rather scathing preconception of roses in this area, having seen many very scraggy looking bushes with scruffy blooms. However I was thrilled to find myself in a room packed with row upon row of beautiful blooms and this was late in the second day of the show. Exploring the show was a visual delight but I have to say that despite all those blooms in one space, there was little scent - what a pity breeding of so many modern roses has lost the perfume.

There were hybrid tea, floribundas, miniatures, shrub roses and old fashioned polyantha roses. Throughout the benches there was a liberal scattering of red and blue ribbons. It did seem odd that there were multiple first and second prizes within each Section and class but I understood that it was society policy to encourage all growers. 'Everyone's a winner!'

As well as the immaculately presented show blooms, as individual flowers and sometimes as groups of three or five, there were the floral art sections. And throughout the show, all the roses were beautifully named. Apologies that the pics aren't captioned - I really should have noted the names!

Deciding I finally needed to know how roses such as this were grown in the desert, I approached one of the members with a badge. Sure enough I got a knowledgeable mini-lecture on rose growing. Feeding is key, as the soil locally is of course desert sand and mildew and black spot are fortunately non-existent due to the dry climate. Noting my accent, they then told me that the show judge was from the UK and would I like to meet him. I was led to the kitchen where a group of members were eating a pizza lunch.  I was introduced and to my astonishment found he was from Felixstowe - the little Suffolk town where I was born and brought up - small world!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

The Los Angeles Arboretum

At last I have something new and horticultural to write about! Forgive me for the past few weeks but the Californian desert at the end of a hot, drought-ridden summer has not exactly stimulated horticultural writing.  Anyway I have just spent a lovely day exploring the Los Angeles Arboretum and Botanic Garden. The site extends to some 127 acres and is sited on the remains of the Rancho Santa Anita, one of the Mexican land grants.  After various early ownerships, the property was acquired by Elias Jackson 'Lucky' Baldwin in 1875, who constructed various buildings including the whimsical Queen Anne Cottage and Coach Barn.

The estate was originally located above the Raymond Basin Aquifer with three sag ponds and numerous springs in the area. In this context it is now sad to see the arboretum lakes drying up and much of the garden suffering from drought.The presence of numerous ponds and water features links with its past but sadly many of these are now becoming dry or disused. The one exception was the fine waterfall.

Baldwin Lake - now sadly drying up
Meyberg Waterfall

Development as a botanic garden began in 1947 with the purchase of the land, funded by the city of Los Angeles and the state of California. The existing plants were inventoried in 1949 with the construction of the first greenhouse. In 1951 the first 1000 trees were planted and the garden opened to the public. Its designation as an arboretum, as well as botanic garden means that there are wonderful collections of mature trees and even in November there was much to see.

Bismarckia nobilis - my favorite palm

Brachychiton discolor - Queensland lace-bark

Chorisia insignis - silk floss tree and its wonderful bark next

Chorisia insignis 'Alba' - white silk floss tree
Chionanthus retusus - Chinese Fringe tree

Biggest fish-tail fern I have ever seen

Nuxia floribunda

Ailanthus - tree of heaven - common and a weed in some areas but lovely in the Fall

There are various areas within the garden such as geographical collections from Africa, Australia, temperate Asia and Californian natives. Horticultural collections include a rose garden, perennial garden, desert garden as well as collections of day lilies, magnolias, Ficus, cycads, palms and bamboos.  Amazingly for November, there was still lots of color throughout the garden.

Desert garden
Love the shadows!

Xanthorrhoea quadrangulata - Square-leaf grass tree

Name - no idea?

agave - which one?

Opuntia - is it engelmannii?

Cycad - no idea?

Philodendron bipinnatifidum

White iris in November?

Iochroma cyaneum or is it a cestrum?

Belloperone - shrimp plant - used to be grown in the UK as a house plant -it then became Drejerella and I believe it is now Justicia brandegeeana? Don't you just love the botanists!
Cassia 'Buttercream' - just bought a young one of these and I'm delighted to see how it will mature if it survives the Palm Springs heat.

Canna 'Durban' - old favorite - colors fading but great in the low sunlight

Dombeya 'Seminole' - wedding flower

Paper white narcissus - the only one I know that will flower without a chill period

We didn't get to see the organic vegetable garden, the tropical greenhouse, the new water conservation garden or the Santa Anita Railway Depot so we have every excuse to return and explore some more!