Friday, July 14, 2023

Visiting Todd Mahal and Arc Plants; zone pushing and plant lusting in the upper Pacific Northwest

On a warm Sunday evening in June—after visiting the last of the open gardens that were part of the Vancouver Hardy Plant Group Study Weekend—I stopped by the Todd Mahal to see a couple of friends; Todd Holloway and Louis Alden. I've known Louis for years, being a faithful reader of his blog Parallel 49 Palms and Exotics, and Todd (founder of Pot Inc), showed up on my radar with his memorable 2014 City Living display at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle (photo here). 

So what is the Todd Mahal you might be wondering? Todd's garden, full of fabulous plants and a few Pot Inc pot displays, like here with the Leo wall planters...

After the frenetic pace of visiting 17 gardens over 3 days it was a refreshing sort of homecoming to settle into a friend’s garden surrounded by plants I might see at home, as well as several new-to-me exotic (but hardy) edible fruits and vegetables. 

I'd heard about this busting out of it's pot clump of Aloe aristata (Aristaloe aristata), and I'm glad I got to see it in person—and in bloom.

WOWSA! Leucadendron 'Ebony' (at the back), Strobilanthes gossypinus, along with an echeveria I can't ID and a nice rusty sedge.

While the Vancouver area’s climate isn’t all that different from the one in which I garden, the plant palette of the open gardens we saw that weekend definitely was. For example, I had just finished walking around the Todd Mahal (with a glass of wine in hand, the very best way to visit a garden) when I got a text from a fellow Oregonian who had also been up for the Study Weekend events. She asked why we hadn’t seen a single Tetrapanax, were they not available in Canada?

Louis was happy to tell me that while they may not be widely available, they certainly can be grown there, as he has several in his garden on the eastern fringes of Vancouver where it gets colder than the city proper. Something else I don't remember seeing in the gardens I toured, Yucca rostrata. If they can grow in Denver, they can certainly grow in Vancouver! 

Guess how many arctostaphylos I saw that weekend? 

Yep, just this one—Arctostaphylos manzanita 'Blue Tip' (from Cistus nursery). I definitely could have missed a couple in the gardens we toured, but I don't remember seeing any.

Digitalis parviflora, sexy!

This plant is definitely having a moment...

All the cool kids are growing it. Which, if you're keeping track means I am not one of the cool kids.

Pittosporum patulum, probably also from Cistus.

And look at this combo! That's some zone pushing (denying?) for sure. Another Leucadendron 'Ebony', Adenanthos 'Silver Magic' and the always stunning Leucadendron argenteum.

To be fair the plants in that vignette above are all in containers, they definitely wouldn't make it in the ground in Vancouver (nor would they in my garden), but Todd and Louis are exploring what can be successfully grown in their part of the PNW, as well as lusting after all the cool plants. Follow their adventures on the Instagram account, Arc Plants.

Leptospermum namadgiensis

Lobelia 'Bruce Wakefield' (Bruce gets around! He's also got a great garden in Portland called Old Germantown Gardens, some of you may have visited).

I shared this shot in my greenhouses post, but wanted to include it again here, especially since I was so focused on the plants I didn't really take any wide shots of the garden.

Spikes! Todd had warned me to not expect agaves (last winter was tough on them up in Vancouver too) but I was thrilled to see a spiky cylindropuntia and a pot of soap aloes.

Yucca baccata (I believe)

A spiky puya...

And the new foliage of Casimiroa edulis, aka white sapote—what is white sapote you might be asking? It's a tropical fruiting tree which goes by the common name of Mexican apple. 

The older leaves of the same plant look quite different! I could do an entire series of blog posts on the interesting rare fruits and vegetables Todd grows, it's quite the amazing selection. 

Thanks for the fun evening guys, what a wonderful way to end a long weekend of garden touring!

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  1. OMG! Thanks for letting me know I am a cool kid. Love the plants in the pair of pots in the second photo. But I really love the pots and want a pair . . .

  2. So many cool plants! Moving potted leucadendrons inside for the winter, that's dedication!

    Why not more manzanitas? You'd think at least some of them would grow well in Vancouver?

    A friend gave me a white sapote to eat a few years ago. It was one of the best fruits I'd ever had. Too bad they're never available, but apparently they bruise easily and aren't suitable for transport.

    1. Lack of availability, that's why you don't see more manzanitas and other plants that would grow fine there.

  3. AnonymousJuly 14, 2023

    Oh that leucadendron is incredible! Since I’m red and green colorblind those purple and burgundy colored plants really stand out to me. I use them with chartreuse a lot. The digitalis parvifola I’m sure is a knock out but it doesn’t stand out to me, other than it’s spire structure. I used to golf when I was a kid when people started using orange golf balls. I’d just lose them.
    Love that puya too! So sad I lost mine despite putting it in an unheated greenhouse.

    Hard to think of a plant with such different leaves as it grows! Pretty cool Mexican apple.

    Jim N. Tabor

    1. I thought the changing leaves of the Mexican apple were kind of like Schefflera delavayi. They too start out small, thin and pointy, and brown... then mature to big glossy green. That's the only one I could think of though.

  4. I think I "need" that wall planter - it'd look great attached to a section of my lath house. The white sapote is interesting. I'm assuming its common name means it's of Mexican origin but I can't say I've ever seen it here. I have to look up the new-to-me Leptospermum too.

    1. Well of course you need it! (the Leo and the lepto)

  5. Great name, and the plants look luscious. I want the Casimiroa! Looks and sounds like a fascinating plant. I really like the potted combinations, too.

  6. AnonymousJuly 15, 2023

    Oh, those magnificent planters. That first shot knocked my socks off: I love that saturated orange.
    I picked up Digitalis ferruginea this spring. Somewhat similar to Digitalis parviflora, though I'm not sure it enough to get me into the club.

    1. Oh I think you're in. Digitalis ferruginea is also a good one.

  7. I'm quite envious you were able to meet up with Todd, he's a great guy. We originally met years ago through a Fine Gardening container gardening competition. I won and he provided the prize, a new steel model of a Pot Inc container. It was an absolutely gorgeous container and we became friends during the process. We actually finally met in person at the NWFGS show. Small world. Thanks for the photos of the Todd Mahal and his great collection, it brings back lovely memories.

    1. Glad you enjoyed! I regret that we've (you and I) not been at a NWFG Fest at the same time!

    2. Fingers crossed it will happen, somewhere, some how!

  8. An interesting garden. Love the name of the garden. I agree the best time to view any garden is with a knowledgeable host and cold drink in hand.

  9. Wow. That container with the leucadendron almost made me want to rip out one of my roses. Gorgeous.


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