Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Aloe 'Hercules' Progress And October Light


February 2014:
Aloe 'Hercules' photo alo4100_zps36156e7d.jpg
October 2014:
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Here's a young 'Hercules' of about the same size at the Huntington Desert Garden:
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We have October foliage colors in Southern California.  The colors are similar to the displays in temperate climates, but the foliage is different.  A glowing orange in Echeveria agavoides:
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A beautiful mass of small Crassula, Echeveria, Sedum, and Gasterias in the afternoon light:
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Rather than mellow autumnal pumpkins, the large orange fruits from Encephalartos arenarius:
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Squirrels were squabbling over the Encephalartos fruit, and crunching on palm seeds in a nearby Jubaea/Butia hybrid.  The squirrel looked orange, too.
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Nice trunk on that Jubaea/Butia hybrid:
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Woodpeckers worked at the trunk of a Phoenix canariensis.  Dried Alluadia flowers to the right.
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Alluadia and Cussonia paniculata remain their typical green.
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Yellow not in the foliage but in a lavish floral display from Choisia insignis:
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Yellow flowers soon from a young Aloe dichotoma.  A fallen brown Sycamore flower mixed in the Aloe foliage.
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Now what is that?  Look down at the lower right... photo huntdg3249_zps114d25ef.jpg
Stapelia, complete with flies. 
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Autumn in Southern California can be more the quality of the light and air than anything else.  A softness to the light, a mistiness to the air, and some, not all, of the leaves are brown.
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Sunday, October 19, 2014

The Rest Of The Newport Beach Civic Center Garden

Ah, a native plant garden at summer's end. Good thing there are sculptures to look at. 

The sixteen acre Newport Beach Civic Center garden is divided into the following:
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The Desert Garden looked mostly wonderful, although I wonder how they are going to handle Agave americana's tendency to sucker itself into massive clumps.  These orderly rows won't be orderly forever.  
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The Palm Garden functions as a screen hiding the road cars must take to get into the parking garage.  I have a serious Bismarkia crush still, after mooning over the beauties at the LA Arboretum.
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There were also Dioons, Cycas... photo newport2838_zps4b39a5ab.jpg
...and what are those non-Bismarkia fan palms?  Trachycarpus wagnerianus? 
 photo newport2849_zps7b9d08b1.jpg Give them all a decade or two and they'll be more compelling.

To be honest, for six months or more, most non-irrigated California native plants look like crap.  They just do.  They're asleep for six months, waiting for rain.  They turn brown.  Some of them turn black.
What is beautiful right now is the stairway. 
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The most successful native gardens I've seen looking good even in the dry season, are woodlands--Oaks, Toyon, and Manzanitas, with a fluffy carpet of fallen oak leaves munched beneath visitor feet.  The Civic Center garden had a few of each of these plants, but the designers chose Coastal Sage Scrub, not Oak Woodland.  Technically correct, but not so enchanting or impractical--our native oaks are best planted from local acorns, and how many people today think of a long-term future for a garden?   
Young Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia):
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 Granted, backlighting gave a touch of magic to the dying Gaillardias in the Meadow/Grassland.
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Salvia clevelandii in the foreground, not so good this time of year.  blooming Epilobium canum in the background, looks like crap, too.  The boulders are nice but bear no resemblance to the site's own yellow-gold sandstone--I know I quibble, but...
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Not dead, asleep. The wetlands are between those two sets of blue metal.  The lower structure is a bridge, the upper a seating area for observing a muddled mass of  foliage that may or may not contain a bird.
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Young, recently planted Arctostaphylos stressed by a hot summer.  Eventually, they can be beautiful. 
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The designers placed most of the sculptures in the Coastal Sage Scrub section of the garden, which gives the area interest when the plants are summer-dormant.
A giant Kachina made from old cars.  Not my favorite sculpture.
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With the "salon" sign in the background, these were like shampoo bottles, but also evoke 1960's era space capsules.  Oh that view is tremendous.
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A large native plant garden is difficult.  

Some idiotic nit-picker comes along and says the boulders are not right.  Oaks are more compelling than Coastal Sage Scrub, but the Oaks belong a few miles inland.  A designer might just give up and mass plant the Rhaphiolepis.   

Arranging groups of native plants as if they were conventional landscape plants looks unnatural.  Sweeps and lines look odd, when you've seen natives in, well, nature.  Yucca whipplei can be seen in the Cleveland National Forest as regularly spaced as these Agaves, but only on slopes facing a particular direction.  As the slope changes orientation, the Yucca thin and then vanish.

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Just a big mass of the same plant seems better, with a sculpture to distract.  Love the ADA-compliant walkway more.
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But this is a native demonstration garden of sorts, not habitat restoration.  Let's move on.
Yes, I know bermuda grass in the vacant lot down the street looks like that.  
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This is the wetlands.  Can you tell?
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Across the cool foot bridge...
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There's a bouncy cantilevered lookout to the sea.
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Carefully sited and measured so the homeowners across MacArthur don't sue the city for blocking their ocean view. 
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Please don't sue the green steel origami bear cub.
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From the lookout:
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The bridge over the wetlands gully:
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This was my favorite sculpture, by the Torrey Pine Grove, on the way to the dog park.
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It was beautiful close up as well as from a distance.
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The fancy non-view-inhibiting bridge leads to the fanciest dog park in Orange County.  The grass is plastic, the dogs are well-behaved, and all the owners are on their iPhones. 
Not the usual chain-link draped with forgotten leashes.
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Clever that the low concrete base for the steel poles is high enough so that dogs will pee on the concrete instead of on the steel.
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Hey, you random human you, wanna throw ball?  My owner is on the damn phone again.
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The netting--did the lawyers demand that?
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Beautiful place, all in all.  The native plants will develop better in time.  Perhaps the specimen Oaks will shed enough acorns to create a woodland after all.  Plus, the millions show.  
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