March 2008

Photography31 Mar 2008 12:14 pm

Another plant in the collection of the UC Berkeley Botanic Garden. I must have recently taken my camera. I like to do that at least once a year. I recently showed a large one of these Aloes in a Berkeley garden, but not this large. This is big stuff. Very regular spiralling. They have good weather up on the hillside where the garden is.

Aloe polyphylla

News31 Mar 2008 09:50 am

I hope you enjoyed your garden tour in Riverside this past weekend. Did you visit the cactus garden that the Riverside Press-Enterprise featured?

Buck and Yvonne Hemenway, of Riverside, will display their back yard filled with drought-tolerant plants at the ninth annual Garden Tour and Plant Sale this weekend.

Nice garden. Where is Riverside anyway? I’ve always wanted to know.

Travel31 Mar 2008 07:49 am

A local site that travels locally called California Travels – “We’ll be exploring Northern California places the crowds don’t find” is their motto – travels to Stanford and finds an Andy Goldsworthy wall and a cactus garden.

The time is 8.30 in the morning and it is very peaceful. I wandered around looking at the many different cacti and succulents and then found a bench in the sun to write my journal. It’s a perfect day with hardly a breeze to stir the leaves. Every so often I gaze at the garden, which is showing its age a bit.

Now I know you’re wondering whether or not our weekend was pleasant, but the truth is often harder to discern after a couple shots of vodka. So I’ll just say that we were pleasantly surprised.

Photography30 Mar 2008 09:06 am

From the UC Botanical Garden’s collection comes this South African bulb in the Iris family, found on African Hill.

Ferraria crispa
An easy to grow bulb in coastal climates, it just has these wacky flowers. I find the leaves to be a particularly fine shade of blue-green, with a great structure coming out of the bulb. Older plants can form nice large caudex-like mats of bulbs above the ground.

Questions29 Mar 2008 12:12 pm

We Get Questions about pests, yes we do.

We ask people to send us photos, and they do, boy do they.

Q: cactus jungle,

here are the pictures. please note the white dots in the picture. what causes these? (lack of light or water, too much light or water?). also given the size of the smaller cacti, should any of them be transplanted to their own pots or can they all live together in the same pot as shown in picture 2 [not shown]? how much water should they be given being that they only get about 2-3 hours of direct sunlight? thanks for your help!


A: Jon,

Thanks for sending the photos, they are quite clear: your Pachycereus has scale, an insect that attaches itself to the plant and sucks the juices out. This is treatable.

1. Spray the plant with neem oil to kill them. We mix 100% neem oil, which is safe for cacti. Don’t use the 70% solutions, like “Rose Defense,” which are not safe.

2. After 2-3 days, carefully clean off the scale with a q-tip dipped in alcohol.

Finally, your plants are all fine in the same pot, but they need more sun. Not enough light is making them prone to the scale. Slowly bring them into a location that gets more direct sun, waiting a week after they’ve been treated. I recommend a minimum of 4 hours of afternoon sun, which means near a west or south facing window.

Water every 3 weeks, drenching the soil and letting the water drain away. You should lift the pot up on pot feet or bricks so it is never sitting in water in the saucer.

Good luck,


Photography29 Mar 2008 10:06 am

Aloe plicatilis at the UC Berkeley Botanic gardens, on the African Hill.
These tree aloes do very well in the Bay Area, although they top out at about 5 feet tall, rather than the 12 feet they get in South Africa.

News29 Mar 2008 08:09 am

The Jackson Hole Star Tribune has an article about a local gardener and her extensive cactus collection.

Lawson has grown cactus for 20 years, but she never expected she’d love it this much or get so carried away: “I was a plant nut anyway. I just got very interested in their growth pattern, their looks, their uniqueness. And it snowballed from there.”

The part I liked best is where the writer describes the occupants of the house and where they like to hang out.

Lanky saguaros lean against her walls…..

Chollas hang out by the bookshelves….

An Old Man cactus sits… his silky white hair looking disheveled in the sunlight.

Now that’s classic quality writing. I once wrote an article about the L.A. River and the restoration of the riparian edge.

Blogs28 Mar 2008 04:47 pm

I love it when someone blogs about the plants they got from our nursery. it makes me feel connected. Pictures always help too….

So Radical Acts found some Lotus crassifolus in our native section and now shares pictures of the plant in full bloom. We’ve sold out for the spring, except for one amazing plant in a mixed hanging basket.

News28 Mar 2008 03:36 pm

The Cleveland Plain Dealer lets us know about this weekend’s upcoming cactus and succulent show in Cleveland. That’s cold and wintry Ohio for those of us who live in the warm California sun.

Cleveland Botanical Garden, 11030 East Blvd.

Midwest Cactus and Succulent Show and Sale, noon-5 p.m. (program at 2 p.m.) Sunday, March 30. Cacti and Succulents of the World, 2-3 p.m. Sunday, March 30.

Go to for details.

Berkeley Succulents28 Mar 2008 01:33 pm

Oxford Street
Aloe saponaria

It’s always nice to have a wall to let plants hang over. It’s a very scenic style of gardening. Everyone should have a wall. We do.

Photography28 Mar 2008 11:03 am

A collected plant, at UC Berkeley Botanic Garden. The label is so clear in the photo that I daren’t type out the name for seeming repetitious. That’s just the way I am. But it sure is a pretty sedum. Whoops, there’s half the name.

Whippets28 Mar 2008 10:32 am

Benjamin once was a puppy.
That’s me in the background.

Blogs27 Mar 2008 03:28 pm

Borrego’s Aloe Blog has some beautiful pictures of large aloes at the UC Irvine Arboretum.

It practically makes you feel like you’re in Africa.

Questions27 Mar 2008 01:35 pm

The Ruth Bancroft Garden has a new entry garden. Ruth Bancroft answers your questions about her gardens in the Contra Costa Times:

Q: We like the look of your new garden alongside the gate on Bancroft Road, and we would like to do something similar in front of our house. Can you offer some tips?

A: Our entry garden is officially called the Lloyd Davis Entry Garden, after the late Lloyd Davis of Orinda, from whom many of the specimen plants came that were used in creating it. It features an array of cacti and succulents with a covering of gravel spread on the ground between them. This gravel is called “¾-inch Lodi” and came from Mt. Diablo Landscape Center in Concord.

You’ll have to read the rest of the article to find out her advice for replicating this garden at your home. I don’t want to spoil the surprise ending.

Photography27 Mar 2008 10:53 am

Adenium obesum
Usually our obesums have a pink bloom, sometimes even mostly white. This is the reddest one I’ve seen. So red, I had trouble getting the picture not to turn into mud, but I think I’ve captured it.

And yet, it sits on our counter and hasn’t sold yet. Someone saw it 5 minutes after I put it out on Saturday, and said they were coming back for it, but they haven’t yet. There are more than a dozen more blooms yet to come. I sound like a salesman.

News27 Mar 2008 08:35 am

Macy’s on State Street in Chicago has a large plant display for spring that features succulents.

Let’s see, I see Orchids of course, and an aloe and agave. Lot’s of Euphorbia tiriculi, maybe some rhipsalis and I suspect they must have some bromeliads too.

Continue reading “Macy’s Garden”

Blogs26 Mar 2008 01:19 pm

Shed Style wrote a short article for the LA magazine Angeleno which got edited down to one sentence. A long sentence, to be sure. But in the age of blogs, freelance writers now get to publish their own unedited manuscripts, or short articles as the case may be. Here’s my excerpted quote from the short article that was edited down in the magazine. Or you could read the whole thing at the link above.

“It usually involves some kind of big equipment like a forklift or a crane,” she deadpans. “We sold a saguaro cactus that had to be delivered by helicopter.”The scale and size of estate gardens call for big impact, which you can achieve with a pair of 4-by-4-foot variegated century plants (Agave americana ‘Variegata’) displayed in large urns…

Wish for something even rarer? Thongthiraj suggests a South African giant tree aloe (Aloe bainesii), with a price tag of $30,000 (12-foot).

Questions26 Mar 2008 12:26 pm

We sometimes get questions that we have never gotten before. Like this one:

Q: Hi,

I have a bunch of cacti that I keep indoors (I live in NJ.) I have a large yucca species that has developed an infestation of tiny centipedes in the soil. How do I get rid of them without killing the plant?

Any suggestions would be helpful.



A: Anne,

Centipedes! Really, now. We recommend a soil drench with neem oil. It’s also sold as rose defense, which will work fine as a soil drench, but don’t spray it on cacti since they need 100% neem.


California Native Plants&Photography26 Mar 2008 10:38 am

Lotus crassifolius var. otayensis – Otay Mountain Lotus

Herbaceous perennial. These furry grey stems are generally upright, but can lay prone as they grow. Stunning clusters of purple and white pea-sized flowers are bursting out in spring. Evergreen grey-green oblong leaves. It’s a lovely plant year-round, but a show-stopper right about now.

Native to San Diego County, California, rare in the wild.

News26 Mar 2008 07:19 am

The news is good in March, if you live in India.

New Delhi-based Meena Singh, considered an authority on cactus and succulents, advises: “This is a short period when one enjoys the fruits of labour put in from October. Clean the plants, water them and try to keep pests away.”

I woke up early today. I’ve been trying to learn French recently and the nursery has just been too busy so I haven’t had the time to listen to the tapes. Je voudrais un petit café.

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