Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Alison's Big Adventure in Jacaranda Land

And now: the real reason why I traveled over 1,000 miles from Seattle to Southern California. Although I did have a lot of fun at Disneyland with Nigel, who had never been there before (I was there over 20 years ago on a business trip), the biggest thrill for me on this trip was meeting and touring the garden of Kris Peterson who writes the blog Late to the Garden Party.

When we first moved here from the East Coast 6 years ago, and I made the fateful decision to start a  blog about my new garden, I did a systematic search for other bloggers here in the Pacific Northwest (to begin with) and then widened my search to include West Coast bloggers in general. The Northeast is such a very different place from the Pacific Northwest, and I had so much to learn. Many Pacific Northwest gardeners have a propensity for zone pushing, and when they push, it often means incorporating many plants that really are more suited to California.

When I mentioned to Kris that I was going to be in Southern California, she very kindly invited me to come and see her garden, have lunch, and then visit the South Coast Botanic Garden. So I rented a car and set off across the L.A. area's freeways on a voyage of discovery. Kris met me at the door and her first words were "You look just like your picture!" I don't post a lot of photos of myself, but my garden buddy Peter The Outlaw Gardener often includes pictures of me from our many outings, and I know she also reads his blog.

We immediately toured her garden, much of which was familiar to me from reading her blog. But nothing is like being there in person. Kris was such a sweet, gracious hostess. My photos can not do justice to her garden, but I hope you enjoy them!

First, some closeups.

Gazania 'Sunbathers Otomi' newly opened -- an annual in the PNW

Grevillea 'Peaches and Cream'

A thriving trio of Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' at the base of a tree

Gazania from the Kiss series -- I've never seen Gazania flowers so big

Agave 'Jaws'

Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold,' which I thought contributed a texture to the garden much like a conifer

Lotus berthelotii (aka Parrot's Beak) with Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' growing in a pot near the front door

Agave attenuata

Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' and Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' growing below it near the ground -- a well-matched combo

Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder'


They've had a good amount of rain recently, and Kris's Gardenia has burst into flower as a result

Kris has quite a few fruit trees -- orange, lemon, lime, and fig. Imagine going out in your back yard and picking oranges!

Bignonia capreolata

An Aeonium that Kris has taken cuttings from and stuck in the ground throughout her garden

Another Aeonium ('Schwarzkopf'?) Notice the Pelargonium growing in the ground to the right.

Isn't this flying pig the cutest thing?

And some wider shots.

After a tour of the garden, Kris and I hopped in her car and went to a local cafe for lunch (my first salad in days), followed by a quick stop to see only a very small portion of the South Coast Botanic Garden. I had to be back in Anaheim by 5 p.m., and needed to be on the road by about 3 because of the L.A. freeway rush hour traffic.

I think this plant, flowering near the entrance to the garden, is an Epiphyllum, but it was blooming in the full sunlight of daytime

Holly-leafed Cycad

Asparagus fern

Ochna serrulata/Mickey Mouse plant -- the green seeds eventually turn black, and the entire little structure eventually resembles a Mickey Mouse hat



Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame'

Bird of paradise/Strelitzia reginae

Giant Bird of paradise/Strelitzia nicolai

Giant Bird of paradise flower nestled deep inside the clump

Opuntia santa rita

We wondered aloud how many honey bees could fit into one cactus flower?

That enormous plant on the right is a Euphorbia ammak

Euphorbia ammak trunk, as big around as some trees

Euphorbia ammak overhead

Yucca elephantipes

Golden barrel cactus


Agave 'Mr. Ripple'

'Mr. Ripple' closeup

Agave flower

Ferns growing in the crags of a date palm

Trichostema? Or something else

I encountered a couple of lizards that day

3 p.m. came much too quickly! This was only a small fraction of the goodies on offer at the South Coast Botanic Garden. But I had to get back to Anaheim for dinner with Nigel. Unfortunately, by the time I had reached my hotel, I was in the throes of an incipient migraine. Probably the result of a perfect storm of the stress of travel, freeway driving (I thought at one point the nice lady in the phone was going to take me back to Anaheim via San Diego), lack of sleep, and irregular meals of unhealthy theme park food (Note to self: ice cream and churros do not make a good lunch).

But I still have photos and great memories of a day spent with a blogger friend. Thanks so much, Kris, for being such a wonderful hostess!


  1. I enjoyed your post Alison, I like you did am just starting a new garden, but am unable to find any other garden bloggers in Perth, Western Australia, so I follow those overseas in hopefully a similar climate. I have looked at Kris's garden (via her blog) before & do enjoy it, you have take some great views thankyou

  2. Oh, Alison, what a treat to be taken through Kris's beautiful garden. I felt almost as if I were there too and you were beckoning me, "Come over here, look at this!" And this. And this.

    Your California style zone pushing is like my Florida tropicals mania.

  3. I met up with a fellow blogger living fairly close to me. It's a great experience, especially seeing things that seem so familiar even though you've only ever been there before via a screen. Kris's garden must be a joy to behold. Glad you had a good time.

  4. So lucky to be able to meet her and visit her garden Alison! Her garden is gorgeous and never ceases to amaze!

  5. I love getting to see a familiar garden through someone else's lens. What a fun day (aside from the migraine). Lucky girl!

  6. I'm so glad that you didn't miss out on this part of your trip!

  7. A wonderful look at a garden I thought I knew well....but! Agaves! Has Kris ever shared photos of her agaves? I don't think so. Glad you had a fun day before the migraine took hold.

  8. It's been great to see Kris's garden through your eyes Alison. I love her garden and even without reading your words I'm sure I'd have recognised it.
    How nice too that you both managed to meet up, just goes to prove how much of a friendly bunch we gardeners are, don't you think?
    I hope the migraine did not persist too long.

  9. Well, at least you had almost a full day of garden visiting without the migraine. I didn't know you'd be driving all over SoCal! The second-to-last photo of the blue flwr is Clerodendrum ugandense.

  10. Thanks for visiting, Alison, and for the nice piece on my garden! I had no idea you took so many photos. The plant with the blue butterfly-like flowers is a Clerodendrum myricoides 'Ugandense' and I think the dark-leafed Aeonium is 'Garnet.'

    I'm sorry that your trip was marred by a migraine. LA freeways are vicious on so many levels. I hope you've fully recovered.

  11. A real exotic garden to me, enjoyed scrolling through this post up and down to watch all these lovely plants. Glad you did not miss a thing of the day by the migraine.

  12. How cool that you got to meet Kris and see her garden in person! It's fun to see her garden through your lens. Sorry you didn't have more time, that you had to drive in L.A. traffic, and that your day ended with a migraine!

  13. You managed to find the fun in Disnneyland, but now you're talking our language.

  14. How lovely to meet Kris and see her wonderful garden. I feel I know it but I would love to see it in real life. I' d love to see yours too. Unlikely that I will ever get over there so I shall just have to enjoy the pictures.

  15. How brave of you to drive in LA traffic without a navigator, well except for the lady in the phone. Tropical plants look so exotic and many are so architectural. But I must say, living here in the coastal PNW, I do not have zone envy.

  16. How funny that we both had the opportunity to tour gardens that we know so well through photos. Wasn't it fantastic!? I'm not familiar with her blog, so I'll have to follow your link.
    It's so crazy to me that the plants, just a state away, are so different. An orange tree! Awesome.


Gardening is a solitary activity. But blogging about it is a social phenomenon! I don't make money from my blog by advertising, or use it to drive customers to a business. If you liked my post, or my writing or photography, or even just one picture or turn of phrase, I'd love to hear from you. That's how I get paid.