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Back to School Sale

October 19, 2009

Vary varied, sculptural and tactile (ouch!)

Very varied, sculptural and tactile (ouch!)

The 27th annual Friends of the UC Riverside Botanic Gardens Fall Plant Sale was yesterday and it was great, as always. As you can see, above, we were able to find some really interesting and varied specimens that should look great at the Rancho. Taking it from the top, three types of opuntia cactus display a variety of shapes and sizes: a tall, sculptural version is branching in an almost propeller-like fashion; next to that is a smaller version with the longest spines I’ve ever seen, almost 3-inches long in some places; by contrast, the last one has no spines at all on its thick, fleshy pads. Opuntia’s have a reputation for being difficult because of their barbed spines, called glochids, that penetrate the unwary gardener’s flesh and are devils to remove. But, they’re so cool looking I’m willing to work with ’em. A furry-stalked shrub-type myrtle is next, sharing the frame with a great pumpkin I couldn’t resist. An unusual Star of Madeira, with a variegated leaf, follows; I can’t wait to place this into the landscape and I hope it flourishes — there’s nothing more spectacular than the awesome purple-blue spikes of this shrub when it’s in full bloom. Lastly, a small Chinese tallow tree fights for attention with its beautiful red-orange color and delicate leaf pattern. But this is starting at the end, so let’s go back to the beginning.


Wagons, carts and avid plant shoppers

A botanic garden plant sale begins in the parking lot, where, if you’re a savvy plant shopper, you’ll be unloading a wagon, cart or some other conveyance for your many purchases. Oops, we left the house so quickly neither of us remembered our shopping cart! Thankfully, the gardens usually supply a limited number of them. Knowing this we join the crowd heading up the hill to the gardens. Once there, we know we’ll find …


So many succulents, so little space at the Rancho

… a vast assortment of plants of all types. For me, the big draw are the succulents, and there are dozens to choose from. The picture above doesn’t begin to show all the varieties available, but there were plenty for aficionados to choose from. There is no lack of botanic garden staff and friends at these sales so it’s easy to find someone to answer questions about plants on offer. Still, Paul and I are very fortunate to know one of the most knowledgeable staffers, who just also happens to be our former neighbor …


Paul, with our official plant consultant, Ann Platzer

… the energetic, Ann Platzer. An endless fount of information about succulents and cacti of all types, Ann’s a walking encyclopedia. She’s also quite willing to give her opinion on my choices and I can always trust her to steer me to the best specimens. She and her husband have an amazing home they’ve turned into a wonderland of winding paths and succulents and cacti near the university. She’s offered us some cuttings from her garden and I can’t wait to visit there again soon. The plant sale takes place on the grounds of the botanic gardens and it’s a gorgeous place to shop …


Shopping, forest style

… surrounded by tall trees, in a forest-like setting called the Alder Canyon. It’s fun to be around so many people interested in plants. I love eavesdropping on the conversations of my fellow shoppers; sometimes asking questions about their own gardens and what plants are working for them. Everyone’s friendly and willing to share information. The overall spirit of the sale is very relaxing, maybe it’s the setting or maybe it’s the great attitude of all the staff …

tallying up

Volunteers tally up

… and helpful volunteers on hand. Loading our choices in a botanic garden wheel barrow we were ready to check out, barrowing up to a couple of ready total-ers. Being prudent this sale, and not nabbing everything that caught our eye, we felt we came away cheaply, paying only $45 instead of the usual $100+ of past sales. It’s Sunday now and some of our purchases have found their spots, others will gain new homes later today. I’m already looking forward to the Spring 2010 sale… see you there!

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