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The UC Plant Sale

Along with Tilden, the UC Botanical Garden has the other big plant sale in the East Bay. UC does the sale in two parts, with the sale Saturday but a members-only preview Friday evening. The preview is in many ways the main event. Anita and I got memberships this year, so we got to go for the first time. Pretty cool event, with some unusual things for sale, weird indoor plants and carnivorous plants and funky caudiciform plants I’d heard of. I realized how much I’ve just been shopping in the mediterranean and native sections of the nurseries lately.

I wandered around for a while in the native section after checking out the sale. There were fewer things blooming than I expected — irises, thimbleberry, the white form of meadowfoam, a western azalea were the highlights — but everything looked really fresh and green. The native section is always bigger and less like a garden than I’m expecting, more like the landscape of a hiking trail. The oaks are especially nice. Some photos are below. (more…)

The UC Botanical Garden, Late February

I went to the UC Botanical Garden yesterday. Anita and I decided to get memberships for the year. We realized that the garden is actually quite close to our house, not quite as close and convenient as the Tilden garden, but almost, and we should get to know it better. This was the first visit of the year. The garden was in transition between winter and spring, the earliest plants in leaf but most of the other deciduous plants still dormant.

The South Africa section has a new section of moss rock wall. Really nice stonework, dramatic contrast between the boulders and the walls. Be interesting to see what they plant, something with an intense flower no doubt, based on everything else in that section. I think it’s my favorite section of the garden.

It’s hard to think of a flower like this as the natural bloom and not a cultivar that has been bred by humans, but the UC has only wild collected seed.

I don’t remember noticing this vertical stone before. I think that’s a flowering quince behind it.

The ceanothus were going in the native section, but a lot of the other spring bloomers were just getting ready to break. Like the Tilden garden, the UC is a little later than my more coastal garden.

The Summer Holly, Comarystophylis diversifolia, was covered in buds. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen one in full bloom. The Oso Berry, Oemleria cerasiformis, is another one that I don’t often see in bloom.

And there is patch of Giant Coreopsis, the star of my recent bloom day, looking like they wandered over from the South Africa section. Such a strange plant; it’s very clear to me why I need one in my own garden and why I’ve never planted one for anyone else.

UC Botanical Garden

bamboo shade structure

bamboo shade structure

I took some more pictures at the UC Botanical Garden while I was there viewing the corpse flower. There’s a lot to see there. The garden is organized by region, like most botanical gardens, with an emphasis on mediterranean and low-water plants.

Dichelostemma volubile

Dichelostemma volubile, Snakelily

Snakelily stem

Snakelily stem

I tend to think of the Tilden garden when I think of natives, but California natives make up about one third of the UC garden’s acreage, and the garden claims to have about one third of California’s native species represented, including almost all of California’s native bulbs. One I hadn’t seen before is a Snakelily (Dichelostemma volubile), a climbing bulb whose stems twine their way up through shrubs in the oak understory.

serpentine dry stack wall

serpentine dry stack wall

Someone made a nice low wall of (I think) serpentine stone for the raised bed of serpentine plants. Serpentine, or serpentinite, is the state rock of California (though there is a languishing attempt to un-designate ti because it contains asbestos) and gets talked about in native plant circles because only certain plants will grow in serpentine soil. The stone is hard and smooth with a bluish or greenish cast to it; the white is from calcium. It’s rarely used for building in our area. About.com says that “serpentinite is a sexy rock.”

South African section

Southern Africa section

The Southern Africa section has some intense colors.

New World Desert section

New World Desert section

The New World Desert section might be my favorite. The garden has a huge collection of cactus.

Knot Garden

Knot Garden in the Mediterranean section

The garden has a great collection of palms near there, but I didn’t take any photos. I sometimes forget how nice palms can be, and even seeing them and realizing how cool the different shapes and varieties are, I still neglected to take a photo. Several more photos that I did take are below. (more…)

Trudy the Corpse Flower

Trudy the Corpse Flower

Trudy the Corpse Flower

You can catch flies with honey, but you can catch even more with the stench of carrion. I went to see Trudy the corpse flower blooming at the UC Botanical Garden in Berkeley. Corpse flowers (Amorphophallus titanum) earn that lovely goth name by exuding the stench of rotting meat to attract flies to act as pollinators, and they’re not shy about it. The smell is potent, Trudy filed the UC glass house with the smell of roadkill goat, and it’s effective, too; there were ten or twenty flies buzzing around it while I was there, and apparently there’s a bigger swarm in the morning when the smell is strongest. And it’s all a con job on the flies; they lay their eggs thinking there will be food for their offspring, but the children hatch and starve without a genuine carcass to feed on.

The flower is six feet tall and impressive even without the stench. Corpse flowers are from Malaysia and they take seven or more years to bloom, waiting until the plant’s corm weighs thirty pounds or more. The bloom, which is actually a collection of little flowers, has a claim as the biggest inflorescence in the world, and the spadix (the big spike sticking up in the middle) generates heat, up to twenty degrees warmer than the ambient temperature. Someone at the garden has a sensor set up to test if the plant gives off a biomagnetic field the way humans and animals do.

This particular corpse flower, Trudy, first bloomed in 2005 at age twelve, and then waited four years to bloom again, making this her second time blooming, though the garden has others which bloomed while Trudy was resting. The bloom will only last a couple of days before it gets pollinated and collapses. The garden’s website has tons of photos and regular updates. For years, we’ve been getting emails every time one of them blooms, but this was the first time I went by to check it out, and, I gotta say, it was pretty cool. There are seedlings for sale if you want to pay thirty dollars for an indoor plant that requires constant watering and feeding and smells like carrion when it blooms. Photos of nice-smelling flowers are below. (more…)

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