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Walking Tour: Desert Theater Nursery

February 5, 2011

Vast with succulents

Last weekend’s trip to the artistically bold  Nikki de Saint Phalle sculpture garden was pretty astounding … but Escondido was harboring more hidden treasure in its nearby hills. Using my trusty iPhone, I searched for succulent nurseries in the area. I found two that sounded interesting, but picked the more intriguingly-named Desert Theater Nursery as our next stop. Entering our coordinates into the smart phone, we left downtown Escondido, onto to the 15 freeway a short distance, then up into the hills … up winding roads, then more winding roads, then more … until we reached what seemed like the literal end of the pavement and a truly amazing sight: acre upon acre of succulents! Huge succulents, prehistoric looking succulents, awesomely colorful succulents; gorgeously sinuous, curvy, spiky, prickly-poke-y-plump and juicy succulents! I’ve felt succulent-giddy before but never on this level. Only bad thing? They were closed!

So many choices

Knocking on the door of the house inside the nursery’s open gate, we got no response  (in spite of the cars in the driveway). Not wanting to trespass, but determined to get at least a look, I got on the phone again to call the number on the google listing … and got an answering machine … and a number to call if no one was home. Called that, and got the nursery’s manager … who offered to call the owner to get us permission to have a look around. After an interminable wait he called back and we were finally allowed to wander among what seemed like endless succulent choices …

All kinds!

Dragon trees. Aloe trees. Agaves. All just standing around in the sunlight giving me come-hither looks. Delirium was beginning to set in: How could all these fantastic plants be in one place? How much could they cost, how much could we fit in the car? I had questions and no one to ask … so I just kept looking, agog at the aloes, many of them in bloom …

Aloes all 'round

… and, spectacularly so! Some with shocking orange blossoms, some more rust, others citrus orange, but all of them fantastic. There were aloes with pale gray-green foliage and smooth surfaces; others studded with nodules and spikes with serrated-edged leaves and colored like freshly fired bricks still warm from the kiln. Many of these aloes were much taller than Paul and myself, making them look like perfect set dressing for a dinosaur’s dramatic production …

Really big; really sharp

Two amazing agave examples: at top, this towering giant has super-long, spear-shaped foliage, and must be close to 10-feet tall, not counting the one with the enormous stalk … I have never seen this agave so large! Next, a shapely number shows off its lethal-looking spikes; a beauty with bite! …

Petite pokers

Another source of unbridled amazement: cacti in the hundreds, if not thousands, and in sizes small, medium, large and extra large! So much concentrated cactus energy in one place was awe-inspiring … I loved walking around, and among them; cautiously, of course.

Endless barrels!

Did I mention there were barrel cacti? Only as far as the eye could see … seeing the spiky spheres trailing in loose columns across the terrain delights the eye and fills me with a very happy feeling. So fun!

Cactus diversity

Sentries, soldiers and gnarled guardians, the cacti stand at attention, some with spine-edged furrows, in orange, and in white. Others are festooned more randomly with dangerously long needles. The patterns of light and shadow are entrancing but I’m careful to keep my distance … Again, I’m stunned by the profusion of plant sameness!

Serving suggestions

Leaving the nursery proper, we head back up to the driveway and house, where smaller plants are grouped in charming arrangements. Aeoniums, euphorbias, senecios, echeverias, you name it, they’re all here in delicious combinations. Some are planted in clever old, rusted containers, and surrounded by more relics from times past, including old wooden chairs, rusted tools, chains and fencing. Very inspiring … I want it all!

But the nursery’s closed, remember, and although someone has showed up at this point, she describes herself as ‘just the girlfriend’, and can offer only vague price quotes. Which is fine, really, since the car’s not ready for hauling anything, let alone prized succulent booty. So, we’ll wait. Call ahead, as is recommended, hopefully coming away with a couple of show-stoppers at wholesale prices … maybe next weekend.

Desert Theater Nursery, 9655 Kiwi Meadow Lane, Escondido, CA 92026; 760.594.2330; Call for appointment; click here for website and other information

16 Comments leave one →
  1. Miss Moni permalink
    February 5, 2011 4:01 pm

    Geeeeez its like a dream!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      February 5, 2011 7:29 pm

      It really was unreal to see so many large succulents in one place!

  2. Dave in Toronto permalink
    February 5, 2011 4:55 pm

    All I can say is wow. Never heard of that kind of place in Phoenix, or I would have visited, and gone nuts!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      February 5, 2011 7:30 pm

      I’m actually glad the nursery was closed, Dave… because ‘nuts’ was imminent!

  3. February 5, 2011 6:10 pm

    Beautiful torture….

    • reubix1 permalink*
      February 5, 2011 7:31 pm

      Torturous is exactly what it was!

  4. February 6, 2011 3:08 am

    Spectacular – I call that a successful scouting expedition – so jealous…

    • reubix1 permalink*
      February 6, 2011 3:17 am

      A chance encounter with long-ranging effects, I’m thinking!

  5. February 6, 2011 7:19 am

    what a bounty! those barrels were gorgeous! i want to go!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      February 6, 2011 1:26 pm

      You gotta go, but first call ahead … or, like us, you’ll have the frustration of no one being able to give you prices or sell you anything!

  6. February 7, 2011 12:33 am

    Wow, that is spectacular ! Wish they’d been around back in the day when I was a San Diegan..or maybe not, as I have little or no restraint.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      February 7, 2011 2:26 am

      Lacking restraint here as well… so kinda glad they’re not right around the corner …

  7. Judy permalink
    February 10, 2011 3:21 am

    Oh my gosh! This place is spectacular!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      February 10, 2011 4:55 am

      And the pictures don’t really do it justice!

  8. AlgaRythums permalink
    October 6, 2011 5:17 pm

    Wow… A Rancho Reubidoux Disneyland!!

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