Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The chilling tale of the frozen horticulturalist!

I am slowly warming up again after a very chilly weekend in San Francisco. As I shivered under a thin duvet on a friend's couch,  I realised that I had not been so consistently cold since - (I do have a short memory) - my last trip to San Francisco! Will I never learn that San Fran, for all its so called mild climate is VERY much colder than Palm Springs? More clothes next time! I'll get to the horticulture in a minute but first a mild rant.

Hotel rooms were running at nearly $400 a night so I had opted to stay with a generous friend but despite his hospitality - many thanks Josip - I was not comfortable. The first night I was frozen in bed, the second night, I woke up with migraine, the third night I was woken by my host and his friends arriving back after a jolly night out  at 2am and 4am. (jolly = drunken!) The fourth night I ventured to the bathroom in the middle of the night for the inevitable comfort break (yes - its my age!) and nearly stood in a little gift the dog had kindly left on the mat by the toilet. If I am charitable I might say that the poor animal fell off the toilet seat but maybe not! I am glad to be back in Palm Springs, nicely sweating and sleeping in my own bed.

Dancer - a Chinese Crested - the culprit!

Whilst in San Francisco, I visited the  Botanic Garden in the Golden Gate Park. This extends to 55 acres divided into various geographic collections and themed gardens.  In the past I have been with Philip when visiting these gardens and although he's very patient, well fairly patient, I have always taken a lightening trip round, aware of him sitting on a bench waiting with his friend Kindle. This time I was able to take a leisurely trip round in the early morning sunshine and take hundreds of pictures, most of which I'll never use! Anyway - have a look at a few of the best - apologies if they seem disjointed - just plants or views that caught my eye as interesting!

The succulent garden - not as good as the Huntington but still attractive

Fascicularia - a terrestrial bromeliad but is it F. bicolor or F. pitcairniifolia? How do you tell?

Just loved these sunflowers - part of a small trial bed.

Passiflora parritae - in the Andean cloud forest garden

Interesting colour in a group of ferns - anyone identify?
Tibouchina semidecandra - common here - often seen in gardens
Now this is sad - plant graffiti
Bergenia 'Silberlicht' - strangely flowering in autumn

The Redwood Grove

I also went out to the  Botanic Garden on the University of  California campus at Berkeley which I have also visited previously. This is an extensive and beautiful garden established in 1890 and extending to 34 acres. The garden contains over 20,000 different plants, all carefully labelled. The site in Strawberry Canyon is undulating and includes various hot slopes as well as cool moist valleys, making it possible to provide ideal conditions for desert plants from South Africa through to Asia's rhododendrons and so on. Now if you read my post a couple of weeks ago, you will know that I am not a great lover of things that jump, crawl or slither in the garden - yes I know I'm a big girl's blouse! Well I was trying not to respond too much as small lizards skittered over the paths in the midday sun but I did jump when a snake slithered away! It was only a small one but it was a snake not an earthworm! It left me rather jumpy!

View from near the garden entrance

Aloe polyphylla - what a wonderful pattern

Another curly plant - yes I'm easily pleased! Probably Costus speciosus - thanks Chad for the name correction!

Brunsdonna parkeri (the garden's name) - growing in the South Africa area (Chad corrects this as X Amarygia parkeri)

Cautleya spicata - I think - patterns of light and shade were dramatic

Comarostaphylis arbutoides - easily mistaken for an Arbutus

Heliconia psittacorum

Heliconia rostrata - in the trpoical house

Justicia fulvicoma - a lovely rusty colour

Opuntia phaecantha - a Caifornian native

Sarracenia - no idea of species

Sedum rubrotinctum 'Aurora' - again - lovely colourings

Although I didn't walk the streets this time,  I must mention San Francisco's wonderful record with street tree planting, most of which is organised by The Friends of the Urban Forest. Over the years this organisation has planted thousands of trees in residential areas including some quite unusual species. This beautiful tree was growing just down the road from where I was staying.

Corymbia ficifolia - used to be a Eucalyptus ( or is that an Eucalyptus?) Again - thanks Chad for the spelling correction - I'm glad someone is reading this blog!


  1. Sounds like being back at home, with the cold weather and all :)

    But al least you saw so many beautiful plants! The Botanic Garden on the University of California campus at Berkeley is on our list lists of places to visit in the near future.

  2. 'Biophytum detergens - another curly plant - yes I'm easily pleased!'

    And easily mislead by the proximity of labels!

    Biophytum detergens has compound pinnate leaves. I think your picture is of a Costus [C.speciosus is the commonest in cultivation].


  3. I think the final Eucalypt is Corymbia ficifolia.

    I can’t find a reference for ‘filicifolia’.


    Ps. I sound terribly negative here. I’m not really – or I wouldn’t keep reading your blog!

  4. And whilst I am in curmudgeon mode, x Brunsdonna parkeri was first crossed the other way round, so is called x × Amarygia parkeri by most folk!

    That name, as I’m sure you know, covers all the hybrids between Amaryllis [the true species – A.belladonna, not Hippeastrum] and any of the Brunsvigia species; which ever way round the cross was done.

    Are you sure you are happy for me to comment on nomenclature on the open board? I think it is making me look very rude!


  5. Chad - carry on - enjoy the notoriety! Seriously - please do comment or correct. Wherever possible I photograph the plant and if available the label. Where there is none I do my best to identify but despite all my years in horticulture I have never claimed to be a botanist, taxonomist or really a plantsman. I like good garden plants and enjoy sharing pictures of them and writing about them. If I get it wrong - or you just disagree with me then say so - makes interesting reading! Anyone else fancy an on line duel- bamboos at dawn!

  6. I remember SF my first time...August, I was going into the 6th grade...we came there from going across the US from Alabama, and when your last place is hot Sacramento, it's like a wall of cool-humid hitting you there! But was it one exotic setting with all those trees at Golden Gate Park, which I knew nothing of as a boy. Palm Springs probably would be nicer...not as umcomfortable. Being at people's homes without AC in summer, or who keep the inside like a meat locker in winter, has me often splurging to pay for lodging!

    But those are some happy plants at the SF Botanic time, maybe I can visit there. As to the rest, it is impressive all the climate zones they have there, changing in such a short distance plus microclimates, what is afforded there.