Saturday, February 25, 2012

LA Arboretum-Part 1

I recently had a hearing with the Assessment Appeals Board to review my property tax. The meeting was scheduled to take place at the LA Arboretum. I guess it's a county facility so they can use it for free. The hearings are held in the same building as the LA Inter-city Cactus and Succulent Show.

I've been to the show a few times but I'm embarrassed to admit I'd never walked through the gardens. I'm usually too intent on filling a box with little agaves.

This time I arrived early to sign in for my meeting which left me an hour before hand to check out the garden. It was mid day so the sun was intense.

The first plant that caught my eye was this Agave guiengola.

My photo doesn't come close to capturing the presence of this plant. It's big and has a torpid weightiness to it. I think it was the proportion of the leaves that struck me as unique. The plant seems neotenic, like a juvenile grown to adult size, few only a few leaves that are fat and short. The color and appearance remind me a little of A attenuata, but the guiengola lacks the gracefulness and delicacy of the attenuata. It seems monstrous by comparison, which makes me like it.

I'd never heard of this agave before but was able to learn more about it at San Marcos Growers. They describe it as being susceptible to low temperatures and over watering, which can cause edema. That could explain the discoloration and pits on a few of the plants. They had general look of being harassed. The Arboretum is further inland and at a higher altitude than me, so it's possible that they experience periodic drops in temperature that damage the guiengolas.

One agave that the Arboretum does really well is A. vilmorinianna. They have several large plantings that make the most of the sinuous leaves.

I was drawn the the dark green of this agave that was identified as marmorata.

Research describes marmorata as glaucous and scabrous, which this plant definitely isn't. Maybe there are different varieties.

The Bismarckia nobilis looks like it would fit nicely into a succulent garden. It comes from Madagascar which is home to some of my other favorite plants.

Coming from the Midwest I experience some conflict about palm trees. The conflict is that I love them all, even the ones I'm not supposed to. They still seem so precarious and exotic to my deciduous eye. The Mexican Fan Palm is considered an invasive here and when you see baby palms prying themselves out of the cracks in sidewalks you can understand why. But I still love them. I actually have a volunteer Mexican growing in a pot right now. I tuck it in the back of the yard like a dirty secret.

Maybe with the Bismarckia Palm I could indulge without shame. Supposedly it is not invasive and is drought tolerant and can make it in zone 10. The internet also tells me that it is only recently introduced to the states which could explain why most of the photos I can find of it show young trees. describes a "handsome giant" with a 40-70 foot trunk and a 20 foot canopy. I guess I'll have to wait to see one of those giants in person.

The Bismarckias at the Arboretum must be fairly new since they are barely topping out at 10 feet. Maybe I can find some seeds somewhere and start a couple in my yard.

The Arboretum also has an impressive selection of aloes. I had just been to the Huntington to see their aloes in bloom and although the Arboretum didn't have as many I think the show they put on was just as spectacular.

Aloe vryheidensis

Aloe ferox maybe?

The label on this one says A. vahombre which I couldn't find anywhere else. San Marcos Growers comes to the rescue again, explaining that vahombre is the indigenous name of the vaombe. Yowza.

Even the Aloes that weren't blooming looked good. Aloe Hercules, a hybrid of A barberae (which I still usually call bainesii) x A. dichotoma. I've been seeing a lot of these pop up in new landscapes in LA. John and I got a couple little ones at the last Inter-City Show.

Aloe tomentosa

Aloe porphyrostachys

Crosby's Prolific (A. nobilis x A. humilis)

Aloe suzannae (even bigger than the ones at the Huntington)

These A. vaombe were almost done blooming but were still amazing to see. The tallest were probably 20 feet tall.

Like the Huntington, the Arboretum suffered from the strong winds we had a few weeks ago. I saw a number of plants like this one that still lay where they had toppled.

Many trees showed signs where a chainsaw cleaned up splintered branches. Even once new growth sprouts here, this tree will probably never achieve the symmetry it once had.

Some agaves were also blooming. This was a mature clump of "Blue Glow." I got a tiny one at the Inter-City show and almost had to fight a lady who was eye balling it in my box.

I don't blamer her though, they have such a beautiful shape and color.

Even the bloom spike was impressive.

There were a couple at different stages.

Pachypodiums are one of my favorite plants but I'm not convinced that LA is the best place to grow them.

They prefer to stay dry in the winter and that is when we get all of our rain. Even established specimens like this show signs of distress.

Others have entirely given up the ghost.

I've been slowly acquiring a little forest of Pachypodium lamerii, but they have stayed in plastic pots where I can move them out of the rain during the Winter. I think they are going to finally go in the ground this Summer, somewhere on a hill that has good drainage so their toes won't stay wet.

Sometimes Euphorbia rigida reminds me of a golden retriever that has just flopped down on the couch after a romp outside. It sort of belies the name rigida.

Wow this post is long, and this is only part one.

I stumbled onto a little forest of bottle trees, Braychichiton rupestris. I fell in love with this tree at Lotus Land. They have a really portly one in the parking lot.

I'm not sure how long it takes for the truck to form the bulbous bottle shape. These were all nice and round.

I have a young one that I got at World Wide Exotics and planted by the front stairs. It's been growing well for a few years but still seems positively svelt next to these.

There was a bed covered with giant Mangave "Macho Mochas." I had no idea that they got this big. These are 5 or 6 feet across, and it full sun so they were a deep purple.

I got a Macho Mocha at a Huntington sale a couple years ago. I must have really wanted it cuz the tag says $20. That's a lot more than I normally spend on a plant. After seeing the Arboretum's I took mine out of the pot and planted in a conspicuous part of the Scavenger's Garden. Hopefully it will be as big as these one day. I separated about 8 pups from it before putting it in the ground.

I'm going to finish Part 1 of this post with this nice grouping of A. bovicornuta and A. parryi. I never really thought about them together but they are a similar size and their hot and cold coloring complements each other. My bovicornuta is planted close to a few parryis but they are so small that you barely notice them.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Huntington

I went to the Huntington a few weeks ago with some friends to see the aloes in bloom. I feel lucky that it's so close and even luckier that my friend Samantha got me a membership for my birthday. I feel like my friends know me pretty well :)

It would have been worth it to pay the price of admission. The Huntington has so may well established aloes that it's a treat to see them blooming. We were there in the middle of the day so the sunlight was pretty intense and bad for photos, but I'm viewing this post more as documentation of some beautiful plants rather than proof of my skills.

These A. rubroviolacea had such beautiful sinuous trunks and floppy crowns it was like they fainted in the sun.

Even their bloom stalks leaned over.

This A. suzannae is a new favorite of mine. I like the unexpected grayish shark-like color and the leaves that curve upwards. Some of these leaves were 5 feet long.

I don't think it gets much better than this giant clump of A. vanbalenii. It's yellow blooms aren't as spectacular as some of the other aloes but the weighty twisty leaves lend it a sense of significance. The shady location of these keep them a deep, languorous green.

This is what most people came for: "Aloe Hill"

The photos don't do it justice. The reds and oranges are really intense. Especially against that blue sky.

I took a bunch of photos of agaves too. Maybe I'll save those for a separate post.