Friday, December 2, 2022

Taft Garden Fridays; the Australian and South African collections

When I first heard of the Taft Garden it was because of their extensive Australian plant collection, things like this Stenocarpus sinuatus, also known as the firewheel tree.

Jo O'Connell (owner of Australian Native Plants Nursery) was responsible for creating the Australian Garden here. Granted I don't have much to compare it to, but it's pretty outstanding.

The blooms on the tree above, a banksia.

Banksia seed pods are best!

In fact I guess I love all stages of banksia blooms.

Grevillea 'Robyn Gordon'

These are not round baby chicks, but what they are I do not know.

Banksia blechnifolia

I love how this one creeps along the ground.

Based on the foliage—and the fact that I briefly grew one of these—I want to call this one Banksia serrata, but that's just a guess.

Another few unknown banksia species...

More mystery seedpods.

Eucalyptus buttons?
Some of these leaves may have come home with me. Yes, I am serious—they went into my dried protea wreath.

An acacia in full glorious bloom.

Another grevillea, I didn't see a label but it might be Grevillea 'Ned Kelly' (?)

Maybe Banksia marginata (?), whatever it is I had a lot of fun photographing it...

If that tree was in my garden, I think I'd spend a lot of time sitting in it.

Hakea laurina

Over near the house at the back of the grounds the party is (literally) about to get started...

The party that bumped me from my reservation, not that I'm bitter. As I mentioned in the first part of my Taft Garden coverage there's now a website where you make reservations to visit, and pay—which I did. Then just a couple of days before we left for vacation I got a call telling me they'd booked the garden for an event and I would not be able to visit—could they reschedule me for another day? Not so easy when you're traveling hundreds of miles and have a packed schedule. I was feeling a little dismissed.

Thankfully we reached a compromise and I was able to visit earlier on the day I'd planned to be there.

Xanthorrhoea (sp?), aka grass tree.

Standing in a grove of these monsters is truly breathtaking.

A close-up of the bloom-spike.

And a kinda scary fellow lurking in the patch. 

I can't imagine coming upon this at dusk.

Leucadendron argenteum

These final few photos are of other leucadendron that I can't ID, but I adore just the same. I really do wish I was able to grow these South African protea.

If you're in the area—Ojai, about an hour and a half north of Los Angeles—I highly recommend visiting the Taft, make a reservation here.

All material © 2009-2022 by Loree L Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. It was great to share your visit. I'd no idea that there are Banksia that grow to tree-like heights and now I'm wondering if I can find one. Local garden centers have dipped their toes into Banksia but all I've seen thus far have been low-growing specimens. Since Jo O'Connell was pressed to close her nursery on weekends, that's a harder source to tap.

    The tree trunk in photo #12 is amazing! I think the Grevillea in photo #22 may be 'Superb' - 'Ned Kelly' has more red in the flowers. #44 looks to be a Leucospermum but I couldn't tell you which. The remainder at the end of your post look like Leucadendrons, the last 2 photos are possibly L. salignum 'Blush'.

    1. I'm so jealous that you can grow banksia of any height! Thanks for the ID's...and you REALLY need to visit!

  2. Absolutely incredible plants. Can you imagine what it must have been like for the first non-native people to arrive in Australia and see this plant life?

    1. I'm remembering the first time I saw car-sized agaves and thinking maybe the feeling was similar?

  3. Great tour, thank you very much. Glad you were able to visit after all--look what you (and your readers) would have missed. Impressive specimen of Firewheel tree in the San Diego botanic garden, too, and I think they had planted one in the Huntington as well.

    1. Yes I admired the firewheel tree the last time I visited the Huntington, oh gosh, which was this same trip!

  4. Goodness, all those exotic plants. some seem out of this world, which the land down under kinda of is.
    I'd be making all kinds of extravagant wreaths if I had this wealth of seed pods and plant material.
    (I'd be tempted to crash that party...)

    1. Oh yes! Can you imagine the wreaths we could make with this bounty. That would be incredible.

  5. Thankfully they were able to reschedule you for a different time. Aussie flora is so cool. Completely different than almost anywhere else in the world. The garden really is something special especially with all those Banksia trees. I could see you using all of the different seed pods in your arrangements and pots. I have a Banksia seed pod that I love. My son finds it very creepy which is somewhat surprising but have had a similar reaction from others too. Odd?

  6. Oh, the Taft! That garden produces the most beautifully patterned leaf mulch for its paths...

  7. As was to be expected, the Australian Garden is more beautiful than ever. Because of its size and setting, it looks so much naturalistic than most Australian gardens in botanical gardens.

    I understand the need to raise cash for the upkeep of the garden, but large groups do spoil the enjoyment a bit. I guess that's mainly an issue for those of us who were lucky enough to visit when virtually nobody went. On my visit (first and only to date), I spotted Mr Taft reading a newspaper on the patio of his house. Now they're having catered events there.


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