Wednesday, March 10, 2010

California Cactus Center

Part of my continuing series on our October trip to California…We had no idea what was waiting for us at the California Cactus Center, we planned it as a fun time killer before the Huntington Botanical Gardens opened. But we were blown away by an impressive collection of amazing plants and a knowledgeable staff.
This is not the kind of nursery that I would be able to shop at frequently. They definitely cater to a certain clientele and their prices (or lack of – there were very few things that were actually priced, you know…“if you have to ask you can’t afford it“) reflect that. As we entered the courtyard there were a couple of people picking out plants which were quickly pulled to the side for delivery. These people were not the type who needed to ask about the price.
Since I don’t have definite ID on some of these (no tags) I’ll just overwhelm you with fabulous pictures….
They had a cut agave bloom spike tied to a post in the back of the nursery. It was in sections I'm guessing becasue it was too tall to fit otherwise. It was nice to have it at eye level where you could actually look at it close up!
And here's what we bought…my husband picked out this Euphorbia obesa or baseball plant (no, he's not a baseball fan).
And also the Adenium obesum (Desert Rose) on the right. I had fallen in love with a larger Echeveria agavoides at another nursery earlier in the trip so the little one on the left is for me.
And the big purchase? Not so big really. I learned a little lesson at the California Cactus Center. It’s dangerous to know just enough that you recognize when something is rare. And even more dangerous when you are so smitten that you have to have it. As you may have figured out, agaves are my weakness. I had never seen a variegated Agave victoria-reginea before. Sexy no?
Since there was no price I asked how much…$80 I was told. No, it’s not bigger than it looks; it was in a 4” pot. Now granted it’s filling that 4” pot nicely but we are not talking about a specimen size plant here. Deflated I continued to shop, all the while thinking about THAT agave.

And I formulated a plan.

One of the Agave victoria-reginea pots had several pups in with the mama plant. I asked if they would be willing to separate one of those pups and sell that to me. They didn’t embrace the idea right away. I persisted, and they agreed.

My pup…for $20…I paid $20 for this!
I know!!! Can you believe it? Love is blind and all logic flies out the window when you must have something. I found out shortly after returning home that Plant Delights has them for $28 on their website (link included so you can have one too!), but judging from the size of the plants I have received from PD when ordering “ordinary” agaves I doubt it would have been much bigger than mine. And besides if I ordered from them I wouldn’t have had the memory of figuring out a way to get something I must have, without paying $80.

And speaking of memories, there is another. Heading back to our car we saw a peacock walking down the street! A street in an ordinary residential neighborhood! This is not something you see in Portland, Oregon. Here he is moved over to the sidewalk so we could drive by.
Tomorrow and Friday I wrap up this series with two posts on the Huntington Gardens ... or PARADISE as we've taken to calling it.


  1. Wow. I have visited Pasadena multiple times and had never heard of this place. What a treasure trove of goodies! I love those little round cacti with the orange thorns and that great shot of all the small vertical cacti with the Old Man cactus in the front.

    What a clever plan to get the variegated a. victoria-reginea! I'd have loved to be there listening to you wheedling them into repotting it to get your pup.

    When we'd stay with my mother-in-law in Pasadena, we'd sometimes hear peacocks. They originally came from someone's exotic animal collection that was let out a long time ago, or something like that. Can't remember the details, but such fun!

  2. Oh, each pic was nicer than the last! I love the blue glass around what looks like (and probably isn't), hen and chicks.
    How nice that you talked them into selling you a pup!

  3. Many years ago, when I was part of an artists' collective in the west hills, we had peacocks. Finally had to donate them to the zoo. They would roost on neighbors' roof. Once they fell asleep (in the middle of the night), they would lose their grip and scramble noisily down the roof.
    I want to stow away on your next California trip!

  4. Wouldn't that be a great prize in a draw - the first prize is to be locked in for a night with only a sharp knife, and lots of plastic bags!

  5. i've seen peacocks walking down the street in portland...

  6. Ahhh... spiky plant heaven! Can you imagine heading to a nursery with the "price is no object" go-ahead? Wow. Those pots and plants they chose are pretty impressive. Wonder why the prices are so high? Glad you talked your way into a long-desired plant!

  7. I'm picturing this California trip as a series of non-stop plant sightseeing. Another incredible find. I don't travel to california very often, but I plan on just retracing your steps the next time I do. Nice work negotiating that bargain plant - I would have paid the $80 and regretted it later.

  8. OMG-serious cacti and succulent porn! I want them ALL-and in my climate, I could have them all.

  9. Loree, I about pooped my pants when you said $80. Talk about sticker shock. From what I'm gathering, the purveyors are a bit on the snooty side.

    Good for you, not taking no for an answer. Now that baby better LIVE!

    I love the sedum tower and the rows of succulents--a feast for the eyes.

  10. Jane, well I hope you will have an opportunity to visit in the future. Very fun place! Interesting to know about the Peacocks, we just thought it was so odd!

    K&V, I've since learned that the folks (or one of them in particular) at Cali Cactus Center were a big part of the containers used in Debra Baldwin's new book Succulent Container Gardens. You might enjoy checking it out!

    ricki, I feel bad laughing at the Peacocks in your story but it's just too funny to picture! No big plant adventure trips planned for this year, unfortunately.

    Jacki, dangerous!!!

    George, are you in the West Hills when you see them?

    Karen, no I can't - I think I would be totally frozen by the endless possibilities!

    Megan, it pretty much was non-stop plant sightseeing! And I want to do it all over again!

    Nicole, sounds like you need to visit Cali Cactus Center and talk them into letting you take a few clippings.

    Grace, not really snooty no, they were very helpful and really knew their stuff. I would just say they were confident in their pricing. So far it's very happy. I'm counting on some major growth as soon as it can move outside for the summer!

  11. How did I miss your CCC post? How impressive to negotiate for that offset. I rarely visit the CCC, mostly combined with a trip to the Huntington, like you did. Pricy but amazing selection, and often unavailable anywhere else, and very nice staff. I bought a beautiful shrub-like succulent, probably a crassula, from CCC a few years ago, unnamed, that I'm just now seeing in nurseries (still unnamed!) And that Sansivieria (sp?) cylindrica in your photos was their exclusive -- at least that's what they told me, though now it's widely available. Great road trip post.


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