Monday, April 29, 2019

Visiting St Francis Ranch during the Bromeliad Summit

Today we head back to the Bromeliad Summit in Santa Barbara. I previously shared photos of the remarkable opening night reception location (here and here). Today we'll take a look at St. Francis Ranch, the estate that hosted us for Saturday night's dinner.

As we drove in we laughed about the sign, what's that zebra doing with the cattle? (we: me, Gerhard and Jeff Moore, owner of Solana Succulents)

We saw the cattle...

And then we saw the zebras! Wow, I was not expecting that.

After winding our way along a long road dotted with several small houses and outbuildings, we came to the main home and parked. I was expecting lots of scenes like this one...

But we soon discovered we were in for much, much, more...

(and so are you, this is a very photo heavy post...)

I heard several numbers relating to how large the overall estate is (3,000 acres) but never one that told how large the garden itself is. All I know is that when you thought surely there can't be anymore, there still was.

I should have asked Gerhard to stand next to this agave for scale. It was larger than my car, maybe two of my car...

The bloom spike itself was unbelievable, the size of a football player's thigh around and taller than some trees. Mind blown.

Isn't this a lovely carpet?

So many agaves...

So many bloom spikes...

Of course there were plenty of opuntia and blooming aloes too.

And Echium wildpretii about to bloom.

On one side of the garden there would be an occasional break in the intense planting, where spiky plants were spaced out a bit among the green that came from a wet California spring. It was a nice contrast.

I've never seen so many agaves in a private garden. Of course I've never been in a private garden this large.

Aloe marlothii (I think)...

Kalanchoe as ground cover...
Tempting to sit for a spell, but there's still so much to see before the sun goes down.

Every once and awhile I'd look up and see those hills and I would be struck with a sense of wonder over the fact I was here. How did this happen? How fortunate I am to travel and see the things I get to see. I do not take it for granted.

Ridiculous beauty surrounded me.

I should know this agave. I really should.

Agave americana ‘striata’, I believe.

Love these containers, and the agaves and the way they were placed.

This whole garden was wonderfully designed. While I didn't get a chance to talk with her myself I overheard a few conversations with the owner, Alex, and she is quite the plantswoman. This is a very personal garden not a rich person's showpiece.

But you could probably tell that already.

Can you spot the huge mosquito in the pond?

Agave vilmoriniana 'Stained Glass'

Agave 'Kissho Kan'

Agave shawii (I think)

I walked up one side of the garden and then wound my way back down the other side, being sure to take every side path. We're getting back near the house now...

Agave ovatifolia

That brick wall encloses a sort of courtyard garden between the main house and a guest house.

Once back at the house the wine and delicious guacamole made focusing on taking photos difficult (since I only have two hands).

I managed just two photos of the courtyard before I decided to find a seat and enjoy a little dinner. Taking photos of paradise is exhausting!

As I ate, an older gentleman joined me and we struck up a conversation. It turns out he knew Ganna Walska, the creator of Lotusland, personally (our group had spent the entire day at Lotusland listening to lectures on all things bromeliad—photos to come). He shared stories of Ganna and corroborated a few I'd read and wondered about. Again, how did I end up here? It was a very special ending to a magical day.

Do you want to see more photos? Gerhard is writing about this garden today too. Since we visited together, we thought it would be fun to see how we each approached the garden, what things we both took photos of, and what stood out to us personally. His post will no doubt include many more plant ID's than mine, click on over to Succulents and More to check it out!

Weather Diary, April 28: Hi 67, Low 38/ Precip 0

All material © 2009-2019 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. It is almost laughable how huge and how gorgeous it all is. The size and the pristine quality of so many of the plants was striking. The plants are also the right scale for each other and the larger landscape; not an easy thing to do when the landscape includes mountains!

    1. You are so right. The huge agaves didn't seem disproportionate at all.

  2. I felt exactly the same way: so excited and grateful that we got to experience this. What made this garden even more special for me was the fact that it's in the middle of nowhere (literally), with nothing but wide open spaces and rolling hills surrounding it. Almost surreal.

  3. What a great garden! You were so lucky to get to experience it.

  4. I always enjoy your travel photos, but this garden was something extra-special, and the colors and forms in your photos are particularly outstanding and perfect!

  5. An incredible garden in so many ways. Huge agaves, green rolling hills, enough space to grow anything one wanted - Who could ask for anything more? (besides help in doing it all.) Adored the Agave vilmoriniana 'Stained Glass' in the spherical container.

    1. Oh I think she has help, lots of it. So basically it's the perfect life!

  6. So gorgeous, thank you for posting!

    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  7. Thanks for the tour of a fabulous Agave paradise!

  8. :: zebras! Wow, I was not expecting that. :: Even with a zebra over the entrance gate to alert you... Wittgenstein was right about signs.

    Another overwhelming and surreal, beautiful and magical place. This summit was quite an adventure! I feel lucky to experience it through your and Gerhard's talented eyes.

    1. Yes even.

      And you're right...quite an adventure. I still can't believe I was there for it all.

  9. Wow, what a treat to see this fabulous garden (and doubly so that you got to see it in person). So well designed that it looks natural. I could spend lots of time here!

    1. I would have loved to see how it changes through the day. The morning light, the harsh mid-day light.

  10. Your post and Gerhard's complement each other nicely. Your 27th photo captured the garden for me - I'd love to live there, at least when the hills are as green as they are in that photo. When you noted that the property is 3000 acres and I realized that was equal to 35 times the size of my local botanic garden (which I rarely cover in its entirety on a single day), it blows me away.

    1. I wonder what it looks like when the hills are not as green? Hard for me to imagine, and the thought of fire is rather sobering.

  11. ooo la la, you must have been in heaven Loree. Can you even imagine what it must be like to live in a place like that ?? I'll bet it is one of the best places on the planet to sit outside with your morning coffee.

    1. I cannot imagine. Not in my wildest dreams...and I was there!

  12. Wow! such an incredible garden. Did you find out the story behind the zebras? Not your usual farm animal.

  13. Wow, what an amazing place. Like a sculpture garden of plants, but the sculptures are growing


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