Monday, April 27, 2015

Mountain expedition!

A week of so back, Jim and I took a trip up to Idyllwild which is a small town located high in the San Jacinto mountains, about an hours drive from Palm Springs. I have to admit I had once before attempted the drive when my sister was here some years ago but the narrow road, hairpin bends and sheer drops gave me the collywobbles,  so we abandoned and came home! This time, with Jim driving, we got there safely, although we did observe a nasty accident where a biker had taken a curve too fast and had left his bike! I can't imagine doing this road in the dark, in winter with ice and snow! The drive itself was beautiful, going from the desert plain, to craggy mountainous flora and then up into the mountain top with green fields, grazing cattle and pine forests. Couldn't resist stopping where safe to capture some of the wild flowers.

The road to Idyllwild
Near the top!

Hesperoyucca whipplei - Our Lord's candle
Echinocereus fendleri - love seeing these growing wild

Sphaeralcea ambigua  - desert mallow

Penstemon eatonii - Firecracker penstemon

Idyllwild is a small community of just under 4000 inhabitants. The town center has its own theater, (called the Rustic Theater and it is!) cinema, art galleries and numerous restaurants and tourist style gift shops. Although a bright sunny day, the temperature was just in the cool 70's compared to the the sweatty 90+ degrees we had left behind in Palm Springs. It is popular particularly in the summer when the desert temperatures soar and many people have second homes here to escape to. We ate at a quaint outdoor restaurant, bit like an English pub,  where they supplied us all with a blanket each in case we were chilly!

Idyllwild and still the mountains soar above!

Courtyard Gallery- another co-op gallery but smaller than ours in Palm Springs
Log cabins and old pick-ups - bit of a time warp!

Wandering around we came across a small garden center where both of us indulged in nostalgia, recognising plants from my UK home and Jim's Michigan garden, none of which would grow down in the desert. One of Jim's favourites was a small flowering lilac. Chatting to the owner, we discovered that just up the road there was a garden, open to the public and filled with a collection of lilacs. The Alpenglow lilac gardens started in 2003 with a gift of 15 plants from Reva Ballreich a local lilac hybridizer. The collection now numbers over 275 cultivars nestled into a mountainside garden. On the day we visited, the sight and smell was memorable. 

Syringa Laurel Lynn - and apologies that I didn't get the names of the others!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Gardens Tour - the sequel!

Rather than overwhelm you with five gardens last time, I told you about four and saved the best till last! I'll give it a starring role in a blog of its very own this week! Actually I had seen this garden last year as part of the Modernism garden tour, so as soon as I saw it was on this tour, I knew we were in for a treat! The garden wraps around a 1931  Mediterranean Revival House named 'Villa Vechia' and was created by owners Troy and Gino who are landscape designers and run Mojave Rock Ranch. Forgive me for putting in a few extra pictures from last year but there again, I guess you won't remember!


The garden has a wonderful traditional Mediterranean feel to it with citrus, roses, bougainvillea and several pools. The owners explained that with the current drought, they are in the process of turning certain areas over to less water greed desert planting. An understandable decision but it would be a pity for this lovely garden to lose its character. The garden is full of charm and little well placed details everywhere, so different from many of the sterile modern desert gardens.

As well as being a well-designed garden with a lovely air of maturity, it is filled with interesting plants. A variegated lemon tree grows in the front garden. Several unusual euphorbias grow alongside mature poinsettias and desert favourites like bougainvillea. I particularly liked the way the various different varieties had been allowed to mingle with each other.

Duranta erecta (update from Chad - cultivar 'Sapphire Showers' - thanks!) and bougainvillea

Variegated lemon - no fruit this year!

Think this is Pedilanthus macrocarpus
This is its flower but shot in another garden

Leaf cutter bees at work - curious but messy - they take the sections to make nests.

I've lost the name of this bougainvillea despite having it in my own yard and annoyingly it was doing better than mine!

Euphorbia trigona 'Rubra'- possibly?

Euphorbia erythraea forma variegata ?

Euphorbia cotinifolia - named because of its similarity to the purple leaved Cotinus, here with Bismark palm
Euphorbia resinifera?

Gardenia - possibly jasminoides 'Plena'

Update - Homalocephala texensis - thanks Chad
 One pool in the front garden is home to a family of red-eared slider turtles, apparently rescue turtles! The pool in the rear garden is filled with koi carp and inevitably there was a swimming pool too!

Hope you enjoyed my virtual tour of this lovely garden!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Garden Tour 2015

Yesterday was the Palm Springs Garden tour organised by the Desert Horticultural Society and five local gardens were open to visit.  The society 'promotes the use of desert appropriate plants in an attractive, environmentally sustainable landscape'. In past years, I have always had to return to the UK by this time, so never been on this particular tour,  although I have previously done the Modernism garden tour. The gardens were all distinctly different and it was good to have the opportunity to chat with the owners and garden designers in some of them. Jim and I did the tour together as Philip was working. 

In one street we observed a curious 'plant' with a label explaining it was local to the Coachella Valley and for more information to ask the owners at number 276. Closer inspection revealed that the curious 'plant' was merely the head of a palm flower stuck in the soil - very common but rarely seen by those of us that don't climb to the dizzying tops of palm trees! I guess the owners of 276 may have been less than amused by the end of the afternoon!

The first garden in East Joyce Drive was informal and created by its owner, a lovely gentle landscape with a centrepiece of a pool and cascade, possibly not the most desert-friendly feature during a drought but still a great garden.

Chilopsis linearis - desert willow

The second garden in North Burton Way is a beautifully designed garden which although only planted some six months ago had a certain maturity. The landscape architect had retained some existing plants and repositioned others. I particularly like the way he had set groups of Agave in contrasting stone and gravel.  

Palo verde - lovely at this season - Parkinsonia florida- correction - cultivar 'Desert Museum'  - thanks Chad

Anyone know this cactus?  - Cylindropuntia spinosior - thanks  again Chad!

Name anyone? - u[date -  Echinocereus triglochidiatus - thanks David.

The garden in North Rose Avenue was not my favourite. Much of it was white concrete with white furniture and it glared in the mid afternoon sun. I can't imagine what it will be like in the heat of August! At the rear of the garden there is a large area tediously planted with evenly spaced aloes and dominated by a block structure which is actually an outdoor shower but less pleasant descriptions come to mind! I love the idea of an outdoor shower but if I had one I would want to be able to stand and see the mountains not a cylinder of concrete. The best bit is a little enclosed area planted with a mix of desert plants surrounded by traditional pierced concrete blocks.

The final garden visited is at the base of the mountains and created on a very rocky sloping site. For some reason, I took very few pictures.  I loved the white bougainvillea which had been left to grow naturally and flower properly. 

Oenothera speciosa I think

We visited one other garden - my favourite and the most interesting of all, which I  will write about next time!