Monday, August 20, 2012

From Succulents to Roses

To mark the end of summer, we spent last Saturday at Berkeley. My boys had a lot of fun building Lego racers at the Lawrence Hall of Science, while I spent the afternoon at the University of California Botanical Garden nearby. The garden spans 34 acres and maintains one of the most diverse plant collections in North America.

A peaceful view of the San Francisco Bay through a picturesque tangle of hollyhocks, cosmos and cleome
There is a big display of carnivorous pitcher plants greeting visitors at the entrance.

Are they there as a reminder not to linger at closing time? Or as a warning not to stray off the paths?

Venture off the path and you might be impaled too. The collection of cacti is vast. This one is a cleistocactus buchtienii.
Turning away from the pitchers I was dazzled by a fountain of xanthorrhoea glauca surrounded by aloe and cycads. It is not often that one sees so much spiky foliage massed to such great effect.

I was fascinated by the symmetry of succulents and by sunlight streaming through the leaves.

But however perfect their geometrical shapes, I can't say I feel at home with such spiny plants.

Even when they look like a muscle man at a body-building contest.

Pachypodium lamerei

So it was a relief to leave the New World desert behind and see some cheerful kniphofia blooms in the South African collection.

Hummers liked them too.

 I wish I could show you all the amazing exhibits that I saw, but this post is already getting too picture-heavy.

A summer blooming aloe mitriformis/perfoliata whose leaves acquire a red tinge in dry conditions

 One of the plants I fell in love with was an ornamental oregano (below). It looks somewhat like heather but, like many Mediterranean plants, prefers hot and dry conditions. The only plant of it they had at the propagation shop went home with me (as did a mite-resistant fuchsia).

Origanum Sipyleum

But the best was still to come. At the very edge of the garden there is a small collection of old roses.

A big arbor with Lamarque
Some better-known cultivars from the 19th and early 20th century are blooming here along lavender-edged paths.

The roses were all well known to me but what attracted me was the choice of companion plants.  The garden seemed to rely heavily on annuals, with cleome, sweet peas and cosmos scattered widely among the roses.

I can see the benefit of having a few young and energetic college students on hand to plant the flowers anew year after year.

Some of the combinations were pretty unusual, such as a phytolacca icosandra with Fellemberg (below). Their color is almost identical which made the difference in their shapes even more striking.

After so much colorful wonder it was nice to sit down and contemplate a soothing and unsurprisingly traditional combination of Marie Pavie and lavender.

 And listen to the birds. It felt like home.

Western scrub jay


  1. What an amazing picture of the blue bird. You have captured it beautifully and with much clarity. The hummingbird picture is amazing too.

  2. Masha i really liked the rose pictures, what bird is that he is lovely.

  3. Ten ogród to rozkosz dla oczu. Pierwsze zdjęcie już zachwyca, a dalej to tylko podziwiać i podziwiać, nawet kolczaste kaktusy. I nawet jest śliczny koliber. Dla ciebie z pewnością rajem była część z różami. Dziękuję za przyjemność oglądania. Pozdrawiam.
    This garden is a delight for the eyes. The first picture has delights, and further it is only admire and enjoy, even prickly cacti. And even a beautiful hummingbird. For you certainly haven was part of the roses. Thank you for your viewing pleasure. Yours.

  4. Masha, thanks for sharing this interesting tour to the California Botanical Garden! I liked the succulents collection and the bed with cosmos, This very simple flower reminds me childhood.

  5. OMG! Photoshoot from paradise!
    Thanks for moments of pleasure!

    xoxo, Juliana

  6. Tak fordi du vil dele de dejlige billeder af de mange smukke blomster med os.
    Jeg har nydt billederne.
    Ha´ en god aften.

  7. I didn't know until now that Kniphofia attracted hummingbirds. Thanks!

  8. Stunning Masha! Is the bird a bluejay?

  9. Thank you!

    The bird in the last picture is a Western Scrub Jay. I have added a caption.

    Sally, I am glad to hear from you.

  10. I'm with you on the spiky plants... I find myself staring at them, but not sure I really like them.

  11. Masha,beautiful as it all is I guess you felt at home when you came upon the roses.The picture of the Jay is very special indeed.

  12. Love the hollyhocks. Remind me of my childhood spending summers with my grandmother. She told me when she was growing up in the the Mississippi Delta that they planted hollyhocks all around their outdoor privy, so when the ladies had to excuse themselves they simply said "i'm going to look at your hollyhocks"... Thought that was hilarious... She used to tell me when I was little, "your getting as tall as the hollyhocks!"

  13. I've never seen anything like that "muscle man"! And the ornamental oregano is beautiful. But, oh, what a joy it must have been to come upon the roses! Interesting idea about using annuals as companions.

  14. Bello tu blog,es un placer visitarlo.
    Un saludo muy afectuoso.

  15. Es una belleza, a veces quiero enviares un saludo y algo funciona mal.
    Hoy es la segunda vez que intento comunicar contigo.
    Si lo consigo recibe un abrazo y mis felicitaciones por tu blog.

  16. The blue bird is so exotic to me, beautiful. I also have a garden with lots of roses, but your photos are amazing. It's obvious that rose photography is your favourite hobby. I shall follow you.
    With kind regards,

  17. Most beautiful images and garden!

  18. Imagens maravilhosas, parabéns pelo blog

  19. What a beautiful collection of images. Just lovely!


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