Dioscorea elephantipes

Was going through old pictures in Adobe Lightroom and found this shot of my Dioscorea elephantipes when I first bought it almost six years ago. The great thing about digital photographs is they can help create a record of your plants. When you got them. How much they have grown.

Dioscorea elephantipes

Here are pictures of it now with a nice new flush of leaves.

Dioscorea elephantipes

Not the fastest grower perhaps but you can see there is a marked difference in the size and shape of the caudex.

Dioscorea elephantipes

A caudex is the base or stem of a plant and caudiciforms are plants with ornamental fleshy stems, trunks, or roots. The caudex of these plants is often the most interesting feature and they are usually potted to display them to advantage.  In the case of my Dioscorea it is dormant for at least half the year with no foliage at all. I would love to start a collection of caudiciforms but they are not easy to come by. Often rare and pricy in the trade. Your best bet to find them is often to grow the plants from seed or to visit cactus and succulent society shows or hunt online. So for now my Dioscorea will remain my only caudiciform.

Road Trip to Santa Barbara!

This morning I took a road trip to Santa Barbara to shop at the wholesale nursery San Marcos Growers.  But first a few weird and wonderful plants!

I’ve set aside a few of the oddities I bought at Annie’s last week.  They were sort of impulse purchases because they are so neat. I don’t have anywhere to put them at the moment.

On the left is Deppea splendens a rare plant from the cloud forests of southern Mexico that is extinct in the wild and isn’t terribly common in cultivation. I’ve seen online auctions for it go for several hundred dollars but luckily mine wasn’t quite that expensive.  Annie has a cool blog post about it here: Return of the Golden Fuchsia.  Frost might kill it and it has been going into the 30’s here at night this week so I bring it in every night.  I may pot it up and baby it a while before I plant it out in the garden.

To the right of that is Agapetes serpens an epiphyte from Nepal.  A few things about this plant I like.  One I just like saying Agapetes.  Uh-GA-pet-eeze or Ag-uh-PET-eez however you want to say it it’s fun!  Second it is from the family Ericacea which includes Ericas, blueberries, and Rhododendrons among other cool plants.  And third it reminds me of the Upland Tropical Rainforest house in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden.  There are all sorts of lovely and weird Ericaceous plants there.  Many of them have flowers and fruit that look like colorful pieces of plastic or candy.  I may put this plant in some sort of hanging basket and hang it near my front door.  I think it should be fairly happy in foggy Los Osos.  At least I hope so.  Please feel free to give me any tips if you have grown it.

The spiky little plant in front is Maihuenia poeppigii, a cactus from southern Chile.   All you have to do is look the plant up on Annie’s website and you will see why I needed it.  Cool stuff.

The weird plants in the background are Boweia volubilis on the left and Dioscorea elephantipes on the right.  The Boweia I bought at Logee’s in Connecticut on a road trip with my sister back on July 24, 2000.  My sister bought one too and much to my shame even though I am the plant person and she is the animals person (she’ll graduate from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania next year – so proud) hers had always done better.  But after nearly killing mine about three years ago it is finally bouncing back and looking really good.  The Dioscorea I have had for around three years.  I’m surprised at how quickly it grows and I am always surprised that it is still alive when it comes out of its summer dormancy.

Before I left on my road trip this morning my order from Annie’s Arrived!  I know! I know! I was just there last week.  Well of course right when I got back I got that evil and enticing spring slide show e-mail and saw a few things I NEEDED.  Particularly Lupinus regalis ‘Thomas Church’ which is mail order only.  So dreamy. I couldn’t stop myself.  Ordered it and then added a few other plants to fill the box. Look at what a great job they do packing the plants. No chance of anything being smushed, huh?  This Lupin and another one I bought from Annie’s already has a bud. What do you think should I pinch it out so the plant puts more energy into growing or should I just let it flower.  I am so bad at that. I don’t want to wait!

I wish I had some photos of the journey to Santa Barbara.  It was such a beautiful day and the hills were covered in bright yellow wild mustard and tiny blue and white lupins were blooming along the highway.  But I got a bit of a late start and didn’t have time to stop.  San Marcos Growers is a big place and I just had a few hours to fill my car!

I fell in love with Thamnochortus insignis the first time I saw this beautiful container specimen last fall.

Restios are not the easiest plants to photograph.

I believe this is a 15 gallon container of Grevillea ‘Long John’. I bought a 5 gallon plant.  Such a wonderful plant. As I’ve mentioned before I am currently having a bit of a love affair with Grevilleas.

Grevillea ‘Long John’ has large flowers by Grevillea standards. You can’t really tell from the angle I took this photo but they are sort of two tone.  Sort of pink and golden orange.

This Thunbergia alata is eating a small building.  Don’t stand still next to it for too long or you may be next.

They have this huge display border along a stream or drainage ditch that divides the nursery in half. I loved this little grouping.  That is Arctotis acaulis ‘Big Magenta’ in the front, I believe the center plant is Grevillea lavandulacea ‘Penola’, which is surrounded by silvery Maireana sedifolia.

The other day I mentioned how impressed I was with the specimens of Euphorbia lambii at Vince and Janet’s house but boy this one really takes the cake!  At least ten feet tall and wide.  I must admit I left the nursery with a five gallon pot of it.

You can just make out the little white sliver of the moon in the sky.

The beautiful Santa Ynez (and maybe San Rafael I’m not sure) Mountains are the backdrop for the nursery and this big grouping of Phlomis lanata.

Grevillea lavandulacea ‘Penola’

As soon as I took the picture this plant lept into my cart.  Sneaky plants.  You can’t turn your back on them.

The unusual rust colored blooms of Aloe castanea. This I didn’t buy. But only because I already have some seeds at home.  I feel like growing Aloes from seed might be fun because I’m guessing the seedlings will be adorable.  I really need to sow them this weekend.

And to end our tour I give you this insanely impressive specimen of variegated Echium candicans (possibly the cultivar ‘Star of Madeira’).  Apparently no one told it that it is only supposed to be three to six feet tall because this beast screening a work area is easily twelve feet. I’ve seen very big stands of Echiums before but I don’t think I have ever seen one quite this big before and certainly not a variegated one!

At the end of the day I bought forty six more plants.  Not as many as the two hundred that followed me home from Annie’s but these are all in one, two, three and five gallon pots so I have my work cut out for me.  I ended up falling in love with so many shrubs and large plants that I decided on the spot to create a shrub border in the six foot by twenty three foot bed that I wasn’t sure what to do with. It should cover up an ugly chain link fence and also give me a bit of privacy in my side yard once they fill in.

So now my garden will be full of plants from Native Sons, Annie’s Annuals, and San Marcos Growers plus a few mail order sources that should be arriving soon and of course some seed grown plants. I just wish someone else was going to plant them all for me!

Other things I liked about SoCal

The hummingbird garden on my balcony.The street art across from my old apartment in Santa Monica.Los Angeles Arboretum.Peacock at Los Angeles Arboretum.Mountain view from my old apartment in Santa Monica.Blooming nectarine at South Coast Botanical Garden.
Orange Leucospermum hedge blooming in Sunset Park, Santa Monica.Antelop Valley Poppy Reserve in April.Antelop Valley Poppy Reserve in April.Bounty from the Santa Monica Farmers Market.The Drosanthemum floribundum carpeting this sloped front yard near my old apartment in Santa Monica.The Santa Monica Community Garden on Main Street.
My favorite was the sweet pea guy.Kite Surfers in Malibu!View of the ocean from my old apartment in Santa Monica.Dioscorea elephantipes at California Cactus Center in Pasadena.Charmlee County Regional Park in MalibuView of Malibu and the Pacific from Charmlee County Regional Park.
Amazing arrest I saw.The gardens at the Getty in Brentwood.The view of Los Angeles from the top of Runyon Canyon Park.Greystone Mansion in Beverly Hills.Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden in Claremont.Coreopsis gigantea blooming on the cliffs of north Malibu.

Things I liked about SoCal, a set on Flickr.

Here are a few more pictures that didn’t make the cut but were still pretty cool. Click the thumbnails to see a description.

Berkeley Botanic and Tilden

Dioscorea machrostachyaWelwitschia mirabilisCeropegia ampliataMitrophyllum dissitumAloe plicatilisBrunsvigia josephinae
Protea cynaroidesCeratotheca trilobaClose up of CeratothecaDeuterocohnia brevifoliaThe green weeping conifer is Dacrydium cupressinumSome type of dogwood?
Symphoricarpos albus var. laevigataArctostaphylos pallidaArctostaphylos regis-montanaClose up of the beautiful red peeling manzanita barkManzanita BarkManzanita Bark
Manzanita BarkManzanita BarkManzanita BarkGrove of quaking aspensWoodpecker or sapsucker damage on this old tree?Redwood Grove at Tilden Regional Botanic Garden

Berkeley Botanic and Tilden, a set on Flickr.

I’m up in the bay area on a little business trip so I decided to visit UC Berkeley Botanical Garden and the Botanical Garden at Tilden. Both are great gardens and just a few minutes away from each other so it is worth checking them both out if you are in the area. Berkeley displays plants from around the world and Tilden is a native plant garden.