Friday, October 21, 2016

Alice Keck Park Memorial Gardens

Let's go back to Santa Barbara shall we? It was July, and we'd walked up to Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden. Andrew found it on the map and it looked promising. Across the street was this gorgeous church surrounded by palms of every size (small, medium and large).

No fishing? No swimming?

No skateboards? No bicycles? No alcoholic beverages? No adult soccer? What kind of a park is this anyway???

Ah, one with great plants! It's also a water-wise demonstration garden with plant lists available for the taking (an online version here) and brochures about how to reduce water use in home gardens. Check out those bloom-spikes!...(bloom-droops?)...I believe this is a Brahea armata (Blue Hesper Palm).

Somehow swimming wasn't the first thing that came to mind when I saw the pond. That color doesn't exactly say "jump in" does it?

Although this little guy appears to be enjoying himself.


It was a very lively place, that pond.

Ceiba speciosa or maybe C. insignis.

And a ginormous Brugmansia.

The delicate blooms on this patch-o-Cannas were quite fabulous.

But we eventually swung back around by the pond...

And the turtles!

So many turtles.

The waterlilies were nice too...

It's a sea of snakes! Or Foxtail Fern aka Asparagus densiflorus 'Myers'. I love this dense planting, especially with the Erythrina flowers peaking in on the left.

This tree! It was (and is) beautiful...

I believe it's Eucalyptus (Corymbia) ficifolia.

I searched the ground for fallen seed pods but found none.

Ah! The succulent section...

This garden unfolded with one impressive planting after another...

I read various accounts of how the garden came to be, but basically after a fire destroyed the existing buildings, the block was slated for high-rise development (to much opposition from the community which effectively killed the project). Various other uses were proposed, including one by the Santa Barbara Art Museum, but none worked out. So "in December 1975, affluent resident Alice Keck Park purchased the property and donated it to the City of Santa Barbara" (source)... by some accounts the donation was done on the condition of anonymity until after her death.

How do they keep this Dyckia so clean!? (I believe it's D. 'Jim's Red')

Aloe plicatilis, now Kumara plicatilis

I wanted to give these poor Agave parryi a nice big drink!

Maybe Aloe brevifolia (blooming)

So did you notice this bad boy in one of the earlier photos? I'd seen it from a distance and wondered what it was, then when I got closer and saw the trunk, well I had to go "off path" and get even closer.

This is why! There are little pups all over it...

It looks like an Agave, but the trunk? Only a few Agaves form trunks, what could it be? I consulted the plant list but didn't find any Agaves on the list that were contenders.

An internet search turned up this post from my friend Gerhard, turns out he'd spotted this same plant when driving by which had him pulling over. He captioned his photo "Variegated Agave sisalana or tequilana? I can’t tell, but it was HUGE!"...(it didn't look to be pup-covered when he saw it)...

This is when things get interesting for me (I'll try to keep it short). While I was in Phoenix last week I went plant shopping with my brother. He and my sister-in-law picked out a plant that wasn't labeled but I thought was a Furcraea. I took to Facebook asking for answers only find more questions, people were fairly confident it was an Agave though. Finally I decided to email Gerhard and he identified it as Agave sisalana ‘Variegata’ — an ID that I think is correct — so indeed my brother's plant was an Agave after-all, not a Furcraea.

BUT this searching to ID it, and pouring back over the plant list, I noticed the name Furcraea selloa var marginata. An internet search sent me to the San Marcos Growers website where I saw a photo of a very similar looking plant (here). I'm going with F. selloa var marginata as the ID...

A Furcraea, whaddaya know? So I wonder, did it bloom and now it's producing these pups by the million? I saw no indication of a bloom, but it was quite a bit taller than me, so had the spike been removed carefully I may not have seen it. Perhaps something else is causing it to go into reproductive over-drive?

Anyway, I thought it very interesting. Oh and here's a trio of another Furcraea, these F. macdougallii.

I'll end this visit with a look at a gorgeous Parkinsonia aculeata...

Oh Santa Barbara, why must you be such an expensive place to live!!! Don't you know I belong there?

All material © 2009-2016 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. Very cool park with great plants. The color on that Dyckia is pretty incredible and good job on your detective work on the Furcraea. (Although I'm saying that as if I somehow I have the expertise to know you're right......).
    But plants aside, that first turtle kills me. Personality is not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of turtles, but that one looks like it is having a blast, ready to toboggan off that rock and into the water. Maybe it is a model turtle, following the photographer's directions 'Look like you're having fun and say 'Wheeee!'

    1. "Wheee" is exactly what comes to my mind when when I look at that photo. Also it looks like he's trying to soak up as much sun as possible.

  2. Wow, Furcraea selloa var marginata! Who would have thought. I have no personal experience with furcraeas but this is one handsome plant. Does your brother have room for it though?

    1. Oh no, I am convinced his is Agave sisalana as you said. But yes, if it turned out to be the Furcraea then he'd have the room. He has so much room...

  3. That Furcraea is incredible! I don't think I've been to this park since I was an undergrad (i.e. a long time ago) and it certainly has changed a lot. For the longest time, I wanted to live in SB too but it's never been very affordable and their water restrictions were tough years before the drought led to restrictions throughout the state.

    1. I would definitely like to try life in SB, if $ wasn't an issue...

  4. Huh, it specifies "adult" soccer. What kind of kinky games are people playing down there? Those poor turtles will never be innocent again.

  5. That weird Furcraea covered with pups is...weird. But what a cool park.

  6. Glad they didn't build a high rise there as this park is wonderful. Such cute turtles. Ah, Santa Barbara...time to buy a lottery ticket!

  7. You inspired me to go back and look at my Alice Keck photos from 2011..the last time I was there.I'd forgotten what a great public garden it is ! I was there in April so it's different than your experience. Great fun to compare both.

  8. The way real estate is going in Portland, you might soon be able to do a straight-across trade. Forget I said that...we would hate to lose you.

  9. AnonymousJune 17, 2017

    Thanks for all the wonderful photos - they really bring an added dimension to enjoying the park's already beautiful flora and fauna. Speaking of fauna, I have a question on interacting with the turtles. I recently saw a man and likely his grandson,about 10 years old, playing with the turtles. The boy leaned over and reached into the pond, removing multiple turtles. They then put the turtles on the a path and raced them, replacing them with another set of 'race turtles. Other adults with kids, attempted to restrict their kids from similar behavior and were met with "well that guy and his kid are doing it." The child then picked up a small turtle and took it home. When I questioned the man, he said it was 'no problem at all' and he had the situation under control. What do you make of this?

    1. Well my first reaction to your story is that their behavior was horrid. The poor turtles should not be treated like play things, and to take a turtle away sounds like outright theft. Since I don't live in Santa Barbara I don't know what the norms are as far as park behavior but seriously I am appalled.


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Comment moderation is on (because you know: spam), I will approve and post your comment as soon as possible!