Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Streets of Santa Barbara

Part of my continuing series on our October trip to California…This trip was my first introduction to Santa Barbara, as far as I am concerned that city is gardening paradise. Agave attenuata grow like weeds there, I am not kidding! They were everywhere, like this center island on a residential street (above).

We even drove by one that had been burned in a fire (ok, the fires that frequent the area are a definite draw-back) the leaves and stem were scorched but in the center was a new green leaf emerging. This group, with their sizable trunks must be fairly old.
This healthy cluster was in a front garden of a home…
And this one, the bloom covered with babies, was in a yard on the edge of a narrow and very curvy road. I was willing to risk an accident and possible scorn to grab a plantlet. But the husband (who was behind the wheel) was not. We didn’t stop…
I wonder if homeowners with blooming agave spikes covered in plantlets loose very many to passers by? I feel like it’s probably only visitors like me, who are so excited by the site that they actually forget it’s stealing, that are the problem. People who live there probably couldn’t care less.

I was so focused on the cone in the center of this agave that I failed to get an overall shot of the plant. The whole thing was crinkled like this….isn’t it magnificent? Anyone know what type it is?
I suppose you already knew I was going to say that I wanted one? Right?
These pictures are from the front gardens of two homes across the street from each other. Aren’t they stunning?!
I’m sure someone can tell me what this remarkable tree is…the blooms were so vibrant!
And these? They lined State Street in Santa Barbara, are they Ficus trees? We were walking to dinner when I took these pictures; it was late and getting dark so the pictures are a little fuzzy.
Maybe it was that cover of darkness that encouraged me to do it… when I saw this bloom spike leaning over the sidewalk and covered in little plantlets I simply had to grab a couple.
Aren’t they adorable? (yes these are the same babies that were part of my modified jack-o-lantern post on Halloween)
Since this is how the mother plant looked, I figured this business didn’t have a lot of love for their landscaping. And look at all the little pups that were already filling in. They wouldn’t miss a few, right?Since our local forecast is calling for weekend temperatures dipping as low as a chilly 25 degrees (according to a couple sources) and the potential for snow (yikes!) this was the perfect time to get back to sunny California…if only for a few minutes. Perhaps I’ll have to escape there again tomorrow….


  1. I have never been to Santa Barbara, but right now, it's going to the top of my must-visit list! That crinkly agave is beautiful. I hope someone knows its name. Actually all of those photos are of beauties. Could that gorgeous tree possibly be a ficus benjamina?

    Thank you for the fabulous warm-up on this chilly Portland evening: I'm not looking forward to my Max ride, but I need to get home quickly and tuck a few more plants under wraps!

  2. Thanks for taking us with you to sunny California. I just had a long conversation with my cousin there, and he was complaining about temperatures dropping to night! I was less than sympathetic, i fear.

  3. Hi Loree~~ I was nodding my head as I read about your hubby nixing the confiscation of baby agaves. [Kill joy.] Not too long ago hubby and I were hiking in a designated wildlife area. At one point on the side of the road a piece of wood was just mercilessly wooing me. Hubby was like, no, it's not right. You can't take it. I thought about going back the next day while he was at work. [Major kill joy.] What? Do these men really think we need the voice of reason and logic in our lives? :)

    This Agave attenuata is really growing on me. Is the orange flower a trumpet vine standard? Love the dark pink [ya think?] plant. Is it a pineapple?

    It's not going to snow. No snow this year. NO.
    How funny that the warm weather person for balking at 50

  4. I think all of us subtropical possessed gardeners should chip in and buy a time share in Santa Barbara.
    I simply LOVE this area.
    Maybe we can find a place right across the street from San Marcos Growers Nursery !

  5. OK, the agave attenuata thing is pretty cool, almost worth living somewhere without snow. Those red spiky things, the skinny ones, next to the agaves that look like artichoke agaves? Amazing. I'm sure if you have that many plantlets, you really want to share the love with other gardeners, right? Could you really find a home for all those babies?
    (oh and also, snow snow snow, jumping up and down. sorry)

  6. I can sooo relate to your temptation-I have to confess I recently took an aloe pup from a road island (but there were hundreds of them). Also in SF took some pups and cuttings from a lot (that were absolutely overgrown)owned by the city. Someone must have planted the succulents years and years ago to "beautify" the empty lot.
    Once while driving with a friend she noticed hige pieces of cut variegated screwpine and suggested we stop and take some. To me they looked neatly cut so I was hesistant in case these were cuttings as opposed to trash so we passed-then the next day I saw that they had trashed them!
    I think the "ripply" agave might be Mr. Ripples from Yucaa Do/Plant delights-also on my must get list.

  7. Thank you for this warm weather tour in the midst of our first blast of winter here in the NW! I have never been to SB but this is making me want to go. What an amazing array of spiky plants you found! I don't know about the plant "liberation" thing - wonder if it's better to ask? Sorry to be a killjoy. I know we all have different opinions on this one. If they were from a business or a neglected-looking place and there were millions, I don't really see the harm. But I woudln't do it from a home. Just my .02 on that score.

    Hey, I'm no expert in tropical plants but I think your flowering beauty might be an African Tulip tree. I only know that because they are kind of a weedy nuisance in my FIL's Maui garden.

  8. Loree, I agree with Karen, African tulip tree (spathodea campanulata). Did not recognise it at first as it looks even more vibrant in tropical light. Absolutely love it.

  9. I hope your trip was of the pleasure variety and not the business type - it would be hard to think about much else beyond those fantastic forms just planted any old place.

  10. i dunno if this will help you get thru your winter blahs or not, but let me speak from experience here: CALIFORNIA CLIMATE AND GARDENING CAN SUCK TOO.

    here are a list of my complaints:

    1. too many static plants. agave's are fun, and usually have a trick or two. but for the most part they kinda sit there. same for palms, bananas, etc. fall sucks in california. spring sucks in california. summer sucks in california. winter is nice!

    2. too much watering. you get excited by a dynamic plant that responds to growth cycles? it needs water to do that. you water ALL THE TIME. maybe dec-feb you have off.

    3. dirt, dust, debris- collects everywhere- with no rain to wash stuff away. rats. RATS. rats!!! spiders.

    4. HEAT. AND SUN. actually, after a while, sucks.

  11. Jane, I think you're right on the ficus...hope your ride home wasn't to cold, and that you got everything protected!

    ricki, I talked with my brother in Phoenix on Sat, he was complaining about going to the park and having it only be 55 degrees. I couldn't muster up much sympathy either.

    Grace, yes! I am glad to hear the A. attenuata is working it's charms on you. The Rare Plant Research sale in May will be the perfect place to buy one! I'm not sure about the pink plant. I was thinking a Dyckia but that is just a guess.

    DD Michelle, count me in!

    Megan, you could vacation somewhere with snow, maybe? That's what I was thinking about the agave babies. They would want to share...

    Nicole, thanks for the Mr. Ripples ID...gotta check that one out. Too bad about the cuttings. I know there is a fine line and I try not to cross it. But sometimes it's hard!

    Karen, I agree. It is a whole different situation when it's a home. The ones I did take were at a business. And neglected looking to boot! (rationalization!), thanks for the tree ID!

    Les, totally of the pleasure type. No business at all. A little family time was the only "must do"...

    eeldip, your comment was very timely after I just spent the entire day on Saturday protecting my semi-hardy plants from our "arctic blast," thank you. I appreciate seeing both sides of the coin. I do take our water for granted...but I beg to differ on the agaves just setting there. I love that! Still the rats? Really. Yuck. I;ll take our slugs, they don't move as fast.

  12. The tree in Santa Barbara with the orange blooms may also be a Royal Poinciana Tree. It also grows in Florida and Hawaii. I agree with you, Santa Barbara is magical. One of my husband's and my favorite places. We also love spiky plants and have been know to grab a baby or two along the way. But as they grow their own families we share them with other spike happy gardeners!


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