7 days in So Cal makes one weak

carol6ma_7ari(zones 6 & 7a)February 13, 2012

Today is the last day of my week of Los Angeles area visits to winter gardens and I'll give you a report:

Huntington Gardens near Pasadena was a revelation - of course the roses were all pruned back (except for a nice Joseph's Coat and a few other climbers) -but I had no idea that the desert and jungle and succulent world could come up with such amazing shapes and forms! Also, I lucked into the annual camellia show there. Gorgeous forms and delicate colors, but they still don't compare with roses because they have almost no scent and what scent they have is mildly like a root vegetable. So roses rule, IMHO.

Descanso Gardens had also of course been pruned except for the climbers which 2 guys with ladders were taking care of. One Old Blush still bloomed shyly.

I visited museums and gardens but my chief joy was walking around outdoors in a T-shirt. I prefer northern Cal, because the plant life there seems more aesthetically controlled and consistent. Here, the mix of plant types, even at the Huntington, wasn't always beautiful. At least to me, with my New England eyes. But it was almost surreal, all those twisting, spouting, grotesque botanic sculptures.

So my next westward trip will probably be in 2013 and to the Bay Area

again, for the old roses.

Meanwhile, this June will be the 3rd or Leap Year for my own antique climbers. Can hardly wait!


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jerome(z9 CA)

Your leap year is in leap year! :-)

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 12:44PM
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seil zone 6b MI

What a nice break from dreary winter and it sounds like you've had a wonderful trip! I'd love a chance to see some of those gardens. Maybe some day.

Want to see pics of your beauties in bloom this spring!

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 1:19PM
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ingrid_vc(Z10 SoCal)

I'm glad your visit was still enjoyable Carol. I know that just getting a break from cold and gloomy weather can be such a mood lifter. I completely agree with you about mixtures of plant types being jarring. That's the main reason why I've tried to make mine a Mediterranean garden with English leanings. That means no cacti, succulents, contorted shapes or other less than soothing ingredients. Seeing those things in a botanical garden is one thing but having them at home is quite another. Nevertheless, I have been in gardens where most of the plant world south of the arctic circle seemed to reside. Cacti planted cheek to jowl with Atlas cedars just don't thrill me!


    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 2:59PM
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Though not what I long to see out my deck doors, I admit that the textures, colors and architecture of evergreens, succulents and cacti are quite intriguing. I enjoy seeing agaves and such elsewhere as they can be absolutely beautiful, WHEN and WHERE I don't have to be personal with them. I'm enjoying the roses close to the house, but lower on the hill where I don't have to tend them, caesalpinia, leucophyllum, grevillea, acacia, senna, atriplex, salvia and other "self supporting", rodent resistant plantings are wonderful. They should look quite interesting eventually with the Bracteatas, Californicas and other "invasive", bullet-proof species I'm sprigging there. Kim

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 3:12PM
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Campanula UK Z8

OMG, The Huntingdon - a place I have only ever seen in pics. Mr.Camps went while on a geography field trip and was completely blown away(the start of his gardening life). To this day, I have a huge american agave grown in homage, which is now so big and gnarly, it lives outside with salvias and stipas - it simply shrugs off the worst of the UK windy chill, . Glad you had a chance to do a bit of chilly shrugging too, Carol.
Kim, I absolutely LOVE the sound of the hill - it is a look I am also attempting to replicate with tough species roses and garrigue wild flowers and evergreens.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2012 at 8:52PM
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Thanks Campanula. BTW, the Huntington is a marvelous place, but even they have lost much. And, much more is slated to change in the relatively near future from what I understand. Their Australian and Cactus gardens are amazing. Someday, MAYBE, this hill will look decent, but it is literally like trying to plant in rocky, crumbly talc which gets extremely sticky when wet, then dries out to powder very quickly. It isn't worth trying to amend because of the severity of the slope and the great distance between anything level and where these need to be planted. That level area is a full story and a half below street grade and only requires schlepping everything down four flights of stairs. So, I LOVE volunteers (like the dodonaea and mesquite seedlings which are sprouting everywhere) and raise what I can from cuttings and seeds as close to the slope as possible. I'm also very grateful for the Brazillian and California Peppers which love it here, too. Kim

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 12:48AM
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Even here in northern California the rhododendron planted beneath the palm tree is an all-too-common sight. It is so easy to grow so many things here (compared to western Massachusetts, where I gardened for 10 years) that it is difficult to avoid.

My yard admittedly suffers somewhat from "plant ecologist syndrome", but at least I try to keep biomes consistent. Water conservation is also a concern. So, the front-front yard is "the Southwest (U.S.) meets South Africa", and the hill in the back is "multi-cultural chaparral", with elements of California soft-scrub and hard chaparral (Artemisia californica, toyon, coffeeberry, Rhus integrifolia, Ceanothus, Salvia mellifera, manzanita, larger Eriogonum sp., and more-- whatever will withstand Livermore's heat and clay-ridden soils!) cheek-by-jowl with the rosemaries, Grevilleas, and Eleagnus pungens which were already here. The CA natives replaced literally 1000+ sq. feet of blindingly fluorescent magenta mesembryanthemum and invasive gorse that were also on the hill and almost immediately ripped out. A large valley oak at one end and a really old CA pepper at the other anchor the more-or-less native part of the garden. Like Kim says, it's a real challenge to plant within the severe constraints out here (of course, in Massachusetts, I always thought there was too much rain and lived in what was practically a swamp, but the peonies were beautiful).

The roses here mostly hang out in the irrigated flatlands of the yard with the fruit trees and berries. The fruit plants sort of provide infrastructure or divisions for the various "rooms" of roses and keep the color schemes from getting too crazy. Some "non-biome-correct" plants seem to look okay with roses, such as caespitose Yuccas from the southeastern U.S. (e.g., Yucca filamentosa, and where else am I going to put them, she asks?!).

-- Debbie

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 1:52AM
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Mendocino_Rose(z8 N CA.)

I'm glad you enjoyed yourself. I agree Southern and Northern California are two different places. A month or two in either direction would have made a difference in what you experienced, but what the heck.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2012 at 7:04PM
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annabeth(Zone 8 No Cal inland)

Next year when you come to Northern California, you should visit the Sacramento City Cemetery (in April, especially) if you've never been there. It's very special.


    Bookmark   February 17, 2012 at 1:09AM
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