Befitting a drippy rainy day (after so many days of relative dry), I present you with this (slightly blurry; it was raining) lovely sedum which appears to have dripped itself right off the top of this rock wall and into the soil below at the base. I was struck by the idea that this little happening is indeed an experience of movement in the garden, albeit slower movement than, say, a water feature.
Though we gardeners are usually quite aware of them, casual observer or one-time visitor might not notice the seasonal migration of things like self-seeding annuals or creeping perennials. This is certainly an instance of that sort of plant migration, and I love how this scene shows it so clearly.
Also, this is actually in a friend’s garden; my own has similar rocks but no such elevation – yet. I’ll get to it. Maybe…
On Thursday morning in Palm Springs, we took a tour of Moorten’s Desert Land Botanical Garden. It was either that or Sunnyland, and after perusing a few photos online of both places, I opted for the messier and crazier botanical garden. I can appreciate the serenity in a highly orderly formal landscape, but if you know me at all you know that my preference is a more chaotic natural garden.
Arriving at the Moorten Botanical Garden, you just park on the street; it’s not a big place, although it’s been around for some time, according to this plaque which states it was established in 1940.
Cactus Slim sounds like someone I wouldn’t mind hanging out with. I’m sure Patricia was cool too.
Despite the smallish size of the garden (about one acre apparently), it is absolutely packed with plants. The most memorable aspect of the garden was the emergence of many excellent vignettes that presented themselves again and again as we wound our way through garden paths. Individual plants were often quite striking, but it was the combinations of textures and forms and colors that fascinated me more than anything.
Looking through my 200 or so photos as I’m putting together this blog post, I’m thinking “how can I organize this?” I’m just going to go through the way I walked through the garden so you can have a sense of what it was like to tour the place.
At the entrance quite a few paths converge, and the cooing of doves is the dominant sound along with occasional voices talking softly. There is a small sign that says something like “start here and go this way” but of course we went the opposite way for whatever reason, and immediately came across this collection of aloes and euphorbias and other fine things:
I mean how ’bout that. Right out of the gate.
Euphorbia stenoclada, here as large as a small tree, appears to be considering making some flowers:
I’d never seen Aloe dichotoma before. This also gets to be a tree! You can see the Euphorbia stenoclada above/behind it.
I didn’t see a label on the lovely aloe above. This has been a great year for me with aloe flowers (which I adore). I got to see tons of them in Australia last June, and now this!
As mentioned this garden is full of fascinating scenes, little (or big) vignettes. Layers upon layers. And sticks! Dead branches, logs, and sticks featured quite prominently in this garden. I believe I can honestly confess that I have a bit of a thing about dead branches; they make a garden feel “real” to me.
I’m on the lookout for some kind of piece of old farm machinery, or really anything suitably rusty, for a friend. She would have loved these mining relics!
You cannot take a 5-gallon Agave americana on the airplane. I checked.
More plants for sale. There were quite a few of them over in the south end of the garden, some with “Sold” tags on them. Like a botanical art gallery.
While we’re on the subject of plants for sale, you have to see the tables of little succulents they had – such cuteness and oh so colorful! I am really starting to understand the appeal of plants like Echeverias for their waxy glowing pastel shades.
Considering how easy these things are to propagate this seems like a great way for the garden to make some money.
See the bird coop behind the $5 table? The doves in there were cooing constantly, a lovely sound.
So many suggestive shapes. Euphemisms and jokes became irresistible with some of these. I’ll leave it to your imagination.
Also for sale was some interesting garden art. I rather like these peacock things, especially the mostly green one over on the left in back.
David models for size comparison:
I cannot get over this next scene. It has everything.
Sigh. There’s more…
Tallest Opuntia I’ve ever seen on the right in the above pic. Those agaves are labeled “Blue Agave” which should be A. tequilana and I’m sure you can guess what they are grown for.
From the other side. These are not small plants – 6 feet tall and wide.
My friend Kate, who loves desert plants, said “I just want to be the guy who rakes this.” CAN RELATE
Hey guess what! Found the fabled Cactarium! I know just about NONE of these plants so I’ll just let you see with minimal commentary.
Using a finger as a “visor” for the iPhone camera lens is a trick I figured out works pretty well when the light is too bright or the sun is shining into the lens. Sometimes I miss and photobomb with finger, as above.
Caudiciforms: not the sexiest plants IMHO.
Various fun cacti:
All right, that’s it for the Cactarium. Let’s go back outside…
Another beautiful vignette:
More impressive Opuntia:
Hey I have this plant! Mine looks much the same as this one:
Now we’re in this lava rock area. Nice little plantings here:
Guess what my favorite part of the next picture is?
If you said, “the dead tree” I will hand you 50 cents the next time I see you.
Only hardy to about 25F, Caesalpinia cacalaco nonetheless fascinated me with its weird spine-bumps on the trunk and its thick coin-like leaves.
What is Ironwood you ask? It’s Olneya tesota. I found one over here… Like most Eucalyptus and many desert trees, it does not cast a dense shade.
Another plant I recognized, Dasylirion wheeleri. There were several here (and I saw quite a few of them around town). This isn’t a great picture but you can see how nicely they go with Opuntia for textural contrast:
Speaking of Opuntia, here we go again…
I never knew what Jojoba was!
Bursera microphylla. What a neato tree. Purple twigs!
And that brings us back to the entrance of the garden. Whew! One last plant, this gleaming vermilion Euphorbia milii, which seemed like an appropriately cheery-but-armed greeter for this spiky desert garden.
If you made it this far I salute you! There were so many faptastic plants here that it took three siftings through my photos to finally decide on the 79 selections included this post. Maybe this is indicative of how much I’ve been craving some color lately!
To recap my favorite things about this botanical garden:
Many, many beautiful vignettes with broad ranges of texture and form, with multiple layers and varying elevation. My favorite element.
The use of dead branches! My second favorite element. Might be tied for first.
5 gallon Agaves for the low low price of $25! Not that it helps me any.
I didn’t say this yet but I found the hand-painted signs really charming
Overall the place has a sort of whimsical, weird, out-west-roadside-attraction sort of feel, which was unexpected but I liked it a lot.
Next up: Joshua Tree. Previously I’ve also posted about plants I encountered in and around town in the gardens and front yards of Palm Springs.
It’s only natural that after a few days out of town one must inspect one’s garden. Happily, I found lots of signs of spring!
Ok, ok, the daffodils aren’t in my garden – they’re across the street from the place where I get my coffee beans in downtown Milwaukie. By the way a big part of the point of this blog is to serve as a record of when things get planted, when they come up, when and how they die, etc. So some posts, like this one, are really more about recordkeeping than anything else.
Anyway back to the garden. I do have daffodils! But they are not as far along; I *think* these are ‘Salome’ so they’ll bloom later than the yellow guys above.
This next one is the very beginnings of the Macleya cordata/microcarpa. Look at those wee little veins!
Here comes Persicaria virginiana ‘Lance Corporal’ – turns out the ducks really like eating the seeds of these. That’s probably to my advantage as I don’t need this thing to spread all over the place.
And here’s ‘Painter’s Palette’:
This was one of the biggest suprises! The largest leaf here on the Tetrapanax never actually died/fell off over the winter. I really wish I had a photo of it from last week – it was really curled backwards and looking shivery. But now it’s grown and almost completely unfurled, AND those two new leaves! Those were just tiny little ideas last week!
My little Azara microphylla! Are they supposed to be fragrant? I couldn’t detect a scent. Maybe more plant volume is needed. Hold on I just figured out that these are not OPEN yet. Duh. Sorry, I’m new to this plant…
Not only did Hydrangea quercifolia (cv unknown) not lose its leaves, but it’s already pushing out new ones.
Tanacetum parthenium (feverfew) has been trying to bloom all winter. Finally! Apparently it’s a short-lived perennial but most gardeners probably consider it a self-seeding annual. I think they all got killed off last winter. This is one of a scant handful of plants my chickens won’t eat, but I still have to protect it from those jerks because they’ll scratch at the ground around the plants and dig them up.
Allium schoenoprasum – chives. Been going like this for a month now. Yeah that’s perlite. This is a raised bed we made last year for kitchen herbs that like excellent drainage. The soil is mostly Sunshine mix #3 which was left over from a friend’s indoor garden; it only gets used once because sanitation, you know, mites and the like. Turns out rosemary, basil, and thyme love it.
And while we’re on the subject of edibles LOOK my ornamental cauliflower did this! I’ll remind you so you don’t have to remember or scroll: this was started from seed in July 2016. I know! It’s crazy!
Ok let’s go to the front yard and see what’s going on.
Hamamelis ‘Jelena’ is finally finishing up. Two months of bloom: I am impressed. And then afterward these shiny wine-red sepals hang out for a while and look cool.
Underneath the Hamamelis is a pile of seedlings of Limnanthes douglasii, which actually first came up in the fall and had no problem with frosts or ice or anything. There was Nemophila maculata here too but I’m not sure it managed to reseed itself. I might help these move around a bit.
Grevillea victoriae is too young to flower but it has some very promising coppery new growth. Those dark wiry stems belong to ‘Hot Lips’ Salvia which lost almost no leaves this year and barely even suffered an interruption of flowering (it has flower buds on it now). Last year, it lost 90% of its leaves and stopped flowering from December through about April.
This is just cause I thought it looked really freakin cool. It’s a cabbage leaf (yeah I grow cabbage in the front yard shut up) that got eaten I guess a while ago? None of those holes look particularly new, I mean look at all the healing that has happened.
This isn’t pretty but I had to make a record of it. Snapdragons don’t get killed by zone niney winters.
And right along with cabbage I also love to not clear out leaves and dead stuff! My neighbors love me, I know it. Here’s Oenothera lindheimeri. Which has a new-to-me common name of Gaura, tyvm.
And look! It’s showing signs of life under all those oak leaves and dead sticks from last year!
This isn’t leafy growth but while I was looking at gaura this red color caught my eye. It’s roots of Lysimachia clethroides. Isn’t that rad?
And speaking of Lysimachia, you know what? Here’s yet another great reason to skip the fall/winter yard clean up with the die-back perennials: you can see how much they spread from year to year! Here’s Lysimachia ciliata ‘Firecracker’, coming up in easily twice the area it occupied last year.
Ugh, I gotta get that grass out of there.
The hellebores in the backyard are in a pot, looking amazing because they’re not getting eaten by anything, but these are experiencing the usual predation; still, a nice flush of bloom.
Sambucus is happening! This is one of the native ones. I don’t know which. Right behind it is Rosa nutkana, still sleeping.
Here’s Dicentra formosa – I don’t remember this ever completely disappearing this year, come to think of it.
Mahonia aquifolium is working toward flowers. See the spider?
Underneath/in front of it, some tulips are battling slugs and the Zauschneria/Epilobium I planted last fall never died off. This area was covered in daylilies and they always looked bloody awful by about July so I moved them and replaced them with these. I put sedum in here too so there will be something green when/if Zauchnerias die back. We’ll see how it goes.
Last one, then you get chicken pictures. This is Agastache, probably ‘Apache Sunset’ and it never fully died away either. I just cleared several handfuls of leaves off of it and look at this!
I wasn’t kidding about chickens! Just for fun, this is the mob I have to contend with. Well, four of the six anyway.
As of now, finally, everyone’s done molting (they all molt annually, usually late fall/early winter, but Pinky started in December and just finished the Longest Molt Ever). We’re getting 2-5 eggs daily (in February! OMG) which includes at least one duck egg. Now that we have 8 birds total I have a feeling we’ll have some eggs available for sale this year.
And lastly, as promised I did sow 45 tomato seeds about 3 days ago. Early, yes, but I have a reason: I’m going to try grafting them this year and I wanted to allow a little extra time for what I expect will be an inevitable albeit temporary growth slowdown on the part of the tomatoes, due to getting chopped in half at an early age.
I hope you’re noticing signs of spring here and there too – in your garden, or even if it’s just freeway forsythias, new spring growth is always a welcome sight!