Sunday, April 21, 2013

Gateways to the Communities Exhibition at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, "California's Native Garden", is undergoing renovations. Today (April 5, 2013*), I treated myself to a day in the gardens, including a docent tour of the "California Plant Communities." Signage in photos tells more about that. It was a lovely day and I felt quite privileged to be on an extended 2-hour tour! Clearly the staff and volunteers are going all out to improve the visitor experience, water-wisdom, and aesthetic appeal of the garden. They've included clay pots with sample plant materials for budding botanists to explore. And, put to very clever use fallen trees, limbs, and unearthed rocks (aka "Claremont potatoes") in creating interpretive sculptures located throughout the newly mapped Plant Communities.

Welcome to Gateways to the Communities Exhibition at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden:

Flannel Bush (Fremontodendron cultivar) like this one needs plenty of room to spread. Best for a very large garden, although there are somewhat smaller selections (e.g. F. 'Ken Taylor'.)
Some horticulturalists will go to great lengths to screen garden patrons from neighbor's barking dog! Sculpture conceived and installed by Joshua Kreutzer, RSABG horticulturalist. Interpretive signage:
Santa Barbara Island Dudleya (Dudleya traskiae) sited on berm sculpted with Rocks and Dead Trees.
Busy Lady Beetle in a sea of petite posies.
Boojum tree (Fouquieria columnaris), a Baja native, is in same family with the more common ocotillo (F. splendens.)
Twig sculpture, by Dago Lopez and Joshua Kreutzer, represents a caterpillar, complete with "innards"... containers of host plant specimens.
"Caterpillar"... ahem... rear view.
Fuschia-flowering gooseberry (Ribes speciosum) has gorgeous, pendulous red flowers, just right for snacking if you are hummingbirds. If you are people, though, you're best advised to watch out for thorns!
I am crazy for the patterns created by sugar bush (Rhus ovata) flower buds just getting ready to pop. (Okay, maybe I am just crazy.)
Closeup of Island Bush Poppy (Dendromecon harfordii) flower.
Island Bush Poppy (Dendromecon harfordii), like many other Channel Islands natives is rare in the wild, owing to human impacts. Rancho, as botanic collection and its Grow Natives, native plants nursery are doing their part to keep this large and lovely shrub available, especially for coastal gardens with well-draining soils.
California Crossosoma or Rockflower (Crossosoma californicus) may not be as popular in gardens as other Channel Islands native plants, perhaps owing to its quite variable size. Frost tender, it struggles a bit in an inland location such as Claremont. If you're on the coast and have room in your garden to experiment, it will reward you with lovely papery white flowers like large apple blossoms.
Small-leaved rose (Rosa minutifolia), one of California's own treasured roses is native along Baja coasts and previously (but now extinct owing to development) in San Diego County. Adapted to a summer-dry climate, it is summer-deciduous (that is, it drops its leaves in summer.) However, it is in full, albeit tiny, foliage during wet winter months.
This yerba santa is tagged Eriodictyon sessilifolium, which appears to be native to lower Baja California. Its flowers caught my eye and its scent touched my nose.
A sea of meadowfoam (Limnanthes douglasii ssp. sulphurea(?)) catches a few cloud-dimmed rays of sunshine and brightens a grassy understory among oaks and other native trees. This annual herb, popular with native gardeners here in the south as well, is native in Northern California. It is found along the coast near Point Reyes if I've correctly identified.
To the left foliage of native iris cultivars await their flowery display, and to the right bloom coral bells (Heuchera 'Wendy', a 1984 Rancho introduction of John Dourley, if I am not mistaken.)
Closer view of same coral bells (Heuchera 'Wendy'?)
Blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium bellum, not truly a grass but a diminuative member of the Iris family) is lovely in a native flower garden or a watered meadow. Here it and its companion, our State Flower the California Poppy (Eschscholzia californica), along with their foliage, form an iconic color palette from our native flora.
Busy bee, visiting a California poppy.
Wow, some California natives, like Parry's Beargrass (Nolina parryi) really know how to upstage a wildflower meadow!
Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia.)
"Communi-Tree" holding sway amid Fay's Wildflower Meadow, while pathway snakes by.

*Transcribed from post of April 5, 2013 on Facebook, includes correction and additional information.

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