Friday, May 17, 2013

Huntington Botanical Gardens

Huntington Botanical Garden


I have sojourned in the Southern Hemisphere, at least plant wise, for the past couple of weeks, and today I'll conclude with the main attraction, a visit to the Huntington Botanical Gardens. Our intention was to save the best for last, and indeed we did.

Huntington House
Huntington Botanical Garden

























































Henry Huntington had scads of money, to be sure, and when he bought his San Marino ranch it was a working farm. He energetically transformed it into a botanical garden, now covering 120 acres, and I imagine he would be stupefied to see how it has matured, and overwhelmed by the hordes of visitors. Today the garden hosts over 14,000 named plant varieties, diligently tended by forty gardeners and many volunteers, and nary a weed could be found. That is quite an accomplishment when you consider the enormous cactus collection with its millions of barbs and spines.

Huntington Cactus Garden

Huntington Cactus Garden

Mammillaria compressa

Mammillaria compressa

Plantsman Hatch and I agreed to go our separate ways so we could better indulge in our individual pleasures, as certainly 14,000 different plants, and each other, was far beyond what our brains could absorb. I beelined to the cactus grounds, remembering it from fifteen years ago when I was originally overwhelmed. I say "cactus grounds," but there were also plenty of Aloes, Agaves, Puyas and the like, with many species new to me. The collection appeared more full than last time, which isn't always a good thing, but I especially liked Huntington's plantings in groups, rather than as lonely individuals. Mammillaria compressa, for example, really did seem compressed, with dozens of them all hunkering close to the ground, each forming its own colony. This "Pincushion Cactus" originates from Mexico and is also known as "Mother of Hundreds," due to its spreading habit and ease of propagation.

Mammillaria geminispina

Close by was another Mammillaria species, geminispina, with spheres covered in white down. It is adapted for desert survival, as its large mounds retain moisture beneath the plant, and its dense white spines reflect the heat (that's what the label said). It too is from Mexico. The genus name is from the Latin word mammilla, coined by Linnaeus, as all species exhibit "nipple-like tubercles with dimorphic areoles on the ends." Mammillaria contains about 200 species, and is one of the largest groups in the cactus family, Cactaceae.


Notocactus magnificus

Notocactus magnificus
Notocactus claviceps




Notocactus claviceps






















Notocactus leninghausii 'Lemon Ball'


There is no genus called "Cactus," and originally it was merely a common name (from Greek kaktos) for a spiny plant whose identity was not certain. Cacti are native to the Americas, ranging from Patagonia in the south to western Canada in the north. Huntington did display a number of Notocactus species. The name is derived from Greek notos, meaning south, and indeed they were from Brazil. My favorite I suppose was Notocactus magnificus, and I certainly don't need to explain the species name. The bristly spines protect the plant from the heat by providing shade, and also from water loss. Notocactus leninghausii was nicely represented by the cultivar 'Lemon Ball', while Notocactus claviceps displayed beautiful cream-yellow flowers, and, the most horrid of any plant's spines. I managed to stab myself as I attempted to adjust the silver plant label when I was recording the name. A piece stayed under my skin for the rest of the day, but fortunately I was able to dig it out later that night back at our hotel.

Matucana aurantiaca

Echinopsis ayopayana

Echinopsis mamillosa var. flexilis

Echinocactus grusonii

Echinocactus grusonii

Matucana aurantiaca is a cactus species from Peru, while Echinopsis ayopayana comes from Bolivia. The former was discovered in the 1800's near the town of Matucana and was first described as an Echinocactus. Echinopsis is known as the "Hedgehog Cactus" or the "Sea-urchin Cactus," as echin comes from the Greek word ekihnos for both, while opsis means "resembling." Echinopsis mamillosa var. flexilis, from Bolivia, was not in bloom, but its lime-green body glowed in the landscape. And of course there was a planting of Echinocactus grusonii, the "Golden Barrel Cactus" of Mexico, which I saw in previous gardens.




























Cleistocactus strausii



















Cleistocactus strausii is the "Woolly Torch," and is native to high elevations in the mountains of Bolivia, at and above 10,000 feet. The gray columns can reach ten feet in height, but are only a few inches in diameter. They produce deep red cylindrical flowers which poke out horizontally, and to my eye the red clutter was not beautiful because the flowers barely open. The genus prefix cleisto is from Greek kleistos, meaning "closed," as in the closed nature of the flowers.

Aloe fosteri

While cacti are native to the Americas, the Aloes are not – they are native to Africa and the Arabian peninsula. I saw a number of species the previous two days, but Huntington's collection far exceeded the other gardens. Aloe fosteri was a nice find. It was not in bloom, but it didn't need to be to impress me. This South African succulent is known as the "Large Spotted Aloe," and is particularly attractive for blue-green leaves with cream-white striations and rectangular spots. It was named to honor the Aloe enthusiast Cyril Foster who collected the plant. I would describe an "enthusiast" as one who is not a professional plant hunter or nurseryman, and not a formally educated botanist either. I personally find these enthusiasts to be the better company in a garden, whether in theirs or elsewhere, as they often appreciate the floral world with innocent wonder. And besides, they frequently are the more intelligent because they approach their subjects out of plant love rather than from career motives, so they don't get bogged down with an energy-draining outlook.

Aloe hendrickxii

Aloe chabaudii

Aloe hendrickxii was a stately creature, and how many of you have seen any plant from central Africa's Democratic Republic of the Congo? Aloe chabaudii was similar, to my limited knowledge, and it is native to southeastern Africa on rocky slopes and outcrops. It was also named for another enthusiastic gardener, a Mister John A. Chabaud of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. The South African botanist, Dr. Selmar Schonland thought it was first discovered in southern Zimbabwe, and described it in 1950. The new species was given to Chabaud by a game hunter, and Chabaud was the first to flower it in cultivation. The common name is "Dwala Aloe" for its typical habitat, as a "dwala" is a word used to describe a large unbroken dome of granite in Zimbabwe. I must acknowledge San Marcos Growers from southern California for much of my Aloe information.

Aloe 'Goldilocks'

A red-leaved Aloe hybrid featured perhaps the most impressive flower of all, a yellow-orange Kniphofia-like bloom. 'Goldilocks' was its name, but I could find no further information about it. But remember: I was far out of my element anyway, where bright April sunshine, bronzed California girls and electric-colored blossoms were the norm, and where country-boy Buchholz was the outsider far from home.

Aloe labworana



























Aloe berhana


A few other Aloes are worth a mention. Aloe labworana is from Uganda, and hopefully former dictator Idi Amin didn't stomp on any in his younger days as it is a rare species. It is appreciated for its yellow flowers, but none were present on our April visit, and one is advised to return in mid-fall to see the show. Aloe berhana is from Ethiopia, and it was vibrantly in bloom, with the flowers a shocking orange-red. The species name is from Amharic (A Semitic language spoken in Ethiopia) which means "light" or "illumination," but I'm not sure if this refers to its flowers, or to its native locality.

Opuntia species?

Let's get to the Opuntias. It is a genus in the Cactaceae family, commonly known as the "Paddle Cactus" or as the "Prickly Pears." Though they occur in the Americas – from Canada, through the Caribbean and down into Argentea – the Opuntia name refers to a Greek location, Locris Opuntia, as the town of Opus is where other spiny plants grew. One specimen was particularly beautiful in the California light, but I searched in vain for an identifying label. This has happened many times before with plants, and the situation leaves me unsatisfied and feeling "short-changed," as I've paid full garden admission and expect to have the facts.








Opuntia gosseliniana var. santa-rita


Opuntia gosseliniana var. santa-rita

Opuntia gosseliniana var. santa-rita




I did find the label for Opuntia gosseliniana, with the varietal label Santa-Rita. Whether this was an old Huntington designation, or something from modern botanical classification I'll never know. But anyway, the specimen was attractive for yellow flowers atop purplish paddles.


Crassula 'Crosby's Red'

Crassula capitella 'Campfire'

A lot of Crassulas caught my attention on this pleasant April day. Crassula ovata is a well-known "house plant" from South Africa, commonly known as the "Jade Plant," and the cultivar 'Crosby's Red' was most impressive with the leaves back-lit in California's sunshine. Also stunning was Crassula capitella 'Campfire', with leaves ranging from light green to bright red.
























Crassula perfoliata var. falcata


Crassula perfoliata var. falcata is another South African succulent with a slow spreading habit. The fleshy gray-blue leaves are sickle-shaped and overlap each other, and the common names of "Propeller Plant" or "Airplane Plant" are due to the arrangement of the leaves. The Crassula name was offered by Linnaeus, coming from Latin crassus meaning "thick," due to the thick leaves of the genus.


Puya coerulea var. violacea

Puya coerulea var. violacea

Puya species

Puya venusta

Puya alpestris

Puyas are in the Bromeliaceae family from Chile, and Puya coerulea var. violacea was in bloom, rising above its silvery foliage. Puyas are exciting for their deep blue flowers which feature prominent yellow stamens. Puya venusta was hosting hundreds of bees, but they were so consumed with their task that they posed no danger. And I think that birds love the Puyas too, and like pigeons in the park, they get used to all of the garden visitors. Puya alpestris was home to a bird who watched me closely for ten minutes.
























Dyckia 'Carlsbad' x platyphylla


Bromelia balansae

Bromelia balansae

Fascicularia bicolor

Also in the Bromeliaceae is the genus Dyckia, and a specimen of Dyckia 'Carlsbad' crossed with Dyckia platyphylla had striking orange flowers. Bromelia balansae was the most impressive, though, coming from Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, and its common name "Heart of Flame" says it all. This spiny species closely resembles the pineapple and its orange-colored fruit makes a delicious drink. Besides that, it is a medicinal plant used in Brazil as a cough syrup. Bromelia balansae looks an awful lot like Fascicularia bicolor from Chile, and they're both in the Bromeliad family, but the Bromelia is considerably less winter hardy.

Agave schidigera 'Durango Delight'

Agave schidigera 'Durango Delight'

Agave bovicornuta

Agave parryi var. truncata



























Agave parryi var. truncata



Agave schidigera, the "Thread Leaf Agave," was represented by the attractive cultivar 'Durango Delight'. You guessed it: it was grown from seed from Durango, Mexico. Agave bovicornuta, another Mexican species, is commonly known as the "Cow Horn Agave." I found the broad, hefty leaves to be very attractive. And, of course, Huntington had excellent specimens of Agave parryi var. truncata, which I had previously seen a day or two ago. It's not hard to see why it is referred to as the "Artichoke Agave." Eventually they will flower as they send up spikes to over ten feet tall. Orange buds will open to yellow flowers, usually in the summer, but I have never seen one in bloom.


Erepsia heteropetala

Erepsia heteropetala

Lampranthus species

Lampranthus 'Red Shrift'

Lampranthus 'Red Shrift'

























Drosanthemum hispidum


There were some nice plantings of daisy-like flowers, and Erepsia heteropetala, from South Africa, had attractive lavender-colored blossoms. The name erepsia is derived from the Greek erepso meaning "I shall hide," which I don't understand at all because the flowers were quite visible and showy. Lampranthus, or the "Ice Plant," also from South Africa, was casually planted. I say "casually" because I could find no species label, and there are many. 'Red Shrift' was apparently a hybrid with intense purple-red flowers, and a large patch kept the bees busy. Drosanthemum hispidum is in the same Aizoaceae family, but I couldn't determine how that genus differed from Lampranthus.

Erythrina acanthocarpa

I was getting hot, overwhelmed and rather dizzy in the bright sunshine, but my retreat was halted by yet another amazing blossom, on a member of the Pea family, Erythrina acanthocarpa. The genus name Erythrina is from the Greek word erythros, meaning "red." The species name is derived from Greek akanthos, meaning "thorn" and karpos, meaning "fruit," but while the blossom was quite beautiful, the bush was hideously ugly. It is known as the "Tambookie Thorn," for it is native to South Africa's area of Tambukiland. As I walked away, I kept repeating to myself "Erythrina acanthocarpa, Erythrina acanthocarpa" – you say it too – "Erythrina acanthocarpa," such a beautiful-sounding name. I would love to have another daughter and name her "Erythrina." My dear little "Eri."

Anyway, as I said, I was getting dizzy, so I made my way to the Huntington Art Museum, and later the famous library. I've always felt that I've lived a full, wonderful life, but my god: what money can buy! My tastes in art are different from Huntington's, but I too would cram my lavish estate with the world's best. Years ago I found it amusing and amazing that Bill Gates, a Seattle nerd, could outbid the Italian government for a Leonardo da Vinci drawing, that he had the millions to do so. But, oh well, I wouldn't trade any of it for my family...except that I would like to have both.

I'll conclude with some of the stuff that Huntington collected, besides his wonderful plant collection. Tomorrow morning we would fly home, while memories of my three-day whirlwind tour in southern California will stay with me forever.

Thomas Lawrence Pinkie 1794

Thomas Gainsborough The Blue Boy 1770

Frank Myers Boggs Beach by Dieppe 1881

Mary Cassat Breakfast in Bed 1894

Joshua Reynolds Diana, Viscountess Crosbie 1777

Carles Peale Polk George Washington 1790-1793

Reginald Marsh Girls (Red Buttons) 1936

Stuart Davis Gloucester Landscape 1919


Morris and Co. Mercy 1898

Illustration from A Midsummer Night's Dream


Benjamin West Saul Before Samuel and the Prophets 1812

Severin Roesen Still Life with Flowers and a Bird's Nest 1860

Constant Troyon Sunshine and Shadow 1830

George Romney The Clavering Children 1777

Jules Breton The Last Gleaning 1895

Thomas Hart Benton The Yankee Driver 1923
William Hahn Vallejo Street Wharf, San Francisco 1872




























Clodion Young Woman Presenting her Child at an Altar


John James Audubon Birds of America 1827-1838

John James Audubon Birds of America 1827-1838

John James Audubon Birds of America 1827-1838

John James Audubon Birds of America 1827-1838

John James Audubon Birds of America detail 1827-1838

John James Audubon Birds of America 1827-1838

John James Audubon Birds of America 1827-1838

The palms of California

Old Buchholz, exhausted from his California trip




3 comments:

  1. I love the last picture and entry! Lol
    Kindest regards,
    Jennifer

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sunday morning quite time. Thank you

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great recent posts, something different from the usual conifers jap maples and everything else. Everything we got from you this spring looked amazing as always. Really loved the GIANT Mikawa seedling in the #45 pot. Great plants, great blog and amazing website keep up the great work. -David from Kansas City

    ReplyDelete