Those Last Minute Fall Plant Sales!!

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I am such a sucker for the Fall Plant Sale, and by that I mean the plant sales with deep discounts, the ones that often have the sad plants that look like Charlie Brown Christmas trees. Maybe it’s the foster parent in me, the girl who has always been on the side of the downtrodden, sad, and neglected in life, or maybe it’s the fact that I have an incredible amount of patience that is backed by this drive in me to study things over a long period of time. Who knows but at least I am not alone.
I already have a Monstera deliciosa thriving in my entry, so I knew I could resist this amazing Monstera deliciosa¬†‘Albo Varietgata’ but I won’t lie, I wanted it! That frosted, glazed donut look gets me every time!

This year I limited myself to two sales and the first one I went to was at Al’s Garden Center¬†in Woodburn. When I saw that they had Woolly Pockets¬†at a deep discount, I had to go! I’d wanted one ever since I first saw them in an amazing glossy ad, but then I promised myself I would resist all the other stuff!

One more way to stuff African Violets into your home.
A frilly edged Asplenium nidus, or Bird’s Nest Fern.
Crocodile Fern, Microsorum musifolium.
Mounted Staghorn Ferns aka Platycerium.
I was so proud to have made it past all the ferns, but then it was this display of Bromeliads that ruined me. I saw all of them and thought, “Maybe I should keep working on this group. I bought one last winter and didn’t kill it so maybe I could expand on that success!” (For such a cynic, I truly can sound ridiculously positive.)
From left to right: Phlebodium aureum ‘Mandaianum’, Vriesea ‘Splenriet’,¬†Dracaena ‘Green Stripe’, Sansevieria trifasciata ‘Moonshine’.

Lucky for me I was able to find a Bromeliad on the clearance rack. At that point, after crumbling, I couldn’t buy just one plant from the sale rack, so I bought the group shown here and brought them home with me.

Moving out to the perennial sales area I came across this tulip blend and the idea of a ‘Wine and Cheese’ tulip mix really cracked me up. Maybe this loosened me up too much though because I continued to select a few more items to purchase.

Delphinium ‘Sweethearts’.

At least I was able to convince my friend to purchase this amazing Delphinium. I am not fond of pink, but I do love dusty rose. From afar, this plant really stood out too.

Doll’s Eyes or White Baneberry, Actaea pachypoda.

As if by fate, while standing there trying to convince my friend to buy something, I saw these Doll’s Eyes staring at me. This North American native is one I’ve wanted for a really long time.¬†I bought one of them too and, of course, I quickly harvested its seeds.

The second sale I was able to commit to this year was the annual Cistus Nursery¬†parking lot sale. Due to my rather challenging foster child that weekend we were a bit late, and many plants had already been purchased by people who’d shown up with trailers, but we had a good time anyway and found plenty of plants.

Our cart filled up quickly with plants that were very different from the plants we’d found last year! You just never know what you’ll find at this sale. That’s what makes it so much fun.

This year there were a number of Windmill Palms (Trachycarpus fortunei) so I picked one up.
My husband and I were never really sure about planting palms, but after seeing them in Japanese gardens in photographs shown during a lecture last winter up in Seattle, we felt more comfortable about adding one to our berm area.

I picked this one after the tag tugged at my heartstrings. It was grown from Portland seeds. Awhhhhhh!

Myrtus communis ‘Ann McDonald’.

There was also a Myrtle so I bought it even though I already have a small one in the backyard. Myrtles fascinate me and the blooms were so pretty I couldn’t resist.

Spider Plant ‘Gold Nugget’ (Chlorophytum ‘Gold Nugget’).

I also bought two plants from the nursery that were not on sale. This Spider Plant ‘Gold Nugget’ is one I’ve been wanting for awhile, and since it looked like it had some seeds, I was even more sold on the idea of it. I am curious to see how those grow. I know this must sound funny, but I really am curious.

Spider Plant ‘Gold Nugget’, (Chlorophytum¬†‘Gold Nugget’) seed heads.
Jasminum parkeri.

This cute little Dwarf Flowering Jasmine also caught my eye. The smell was nice too.

Has anyone else been to any great sales? What deals did you find this fall?

Alcatraz: The Garden Tour, Part One

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If you’ve not yet had the opportunity to visit the Rock, I hope that you gardeners out there will want to see it soon. Its many restored gardens are unlike any others you’ve ever seen and the atmosphere is incredible. Free docent led garden tours are offered at 9:30am on Fridays and Sundays, but you have to be on the first boat out to the island. Purchase tickets¬†in advance online though because they almost always sell out ahead of time.

Visits to the Rock are not always quite this warm and sunny but when they are, it makes the trip even more enjoyable. Don’t forget to pack some extra clothing too because the area can become windy.

The first plants you’ll see while you are still on the boat are the Century Plants, or Agave parryi.

During the garden tour our guide told us these were planted as a barrier by the early military posted on the island.
The trail that grants access to this area of the island is closed during most of the tourist season because of nesting birds. If you’d like to get up close and personal with these gentle giants you’ll have to plan a visit during the fall or winter months. That’s the only time during the year when the trail is open.
Aeonium species and hybrids as well as Jade Plants (Crassula argentea) can be seen all over the island.
This Australian Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) is most likely the oldest tree on the island. There are also several Dragon Trees (Dracaena draco) that were also planted by members of the military that were stationed here between 1850-1934.)


As you leave the dock and begin to walk up the Rock you are passing through the area with the oldest gardens on the island.

 Australian Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia).
The oldest Fuchsia on the Rock, this specimen is 70 years old.
A Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) near the cellhouse.

One of the advantages of the garden tour is that you are taken off the beaten path to admire all of the hard work volunteers have done over the last decade or so as they’ve improved gardening conditions. An extra added plus is that you get to see this! It’s the official compost area on Alcatraz!

This compost has even won some ribbons at the Marin County Fair! What’s not to love about that right?

With the help of the The Garden Conservancy the program here has truly flourished.

Limited to using historically accurate plant materials what’s wonderful is that after all of the overgrowth was removed from many of the gardens long overshadowed plants and bulbs started to return. With each new discovery we’re all learning more and more about how the island’s occupants once gardened. It is also a testament to the hardiness of many of these plants.

This rose was one of the amazing plants to be rediscovered on the island. Actually, it is probably the most important rediscovery. It is what’s called the Welsh Rose and up until 2003 it was thought extinct. That’s when this specimen was discovered on the island! Since then propagation work has been done and work has continued.

Aeonium arboreum gone wild.

Just above the compost and greenhouse level on the east side of the island are the last rows of gardens that were created around and in between the houses that once stood above the citadel. During my last trip I’d wanted so badly to wander down to them but due to the narrowness of the stairways and the unevenness of the paving they are too unsafe for the general public to walk around so be sure to take a tour! That’s the only way to gain access to these areas.

The plants in these little alcoves are very much the plants of gardeners who wanted to cheer up their isolated little spot in the bay. They were the first gardens of Alcatraz, but certainly not the last.

Just beyond the terraced area is the last portion of the earliest gardens and it is a bit more windswept and wild since it is at the top. Like the area below it, the housing structure has lost its wood to fire of uncertain cause and all that remains is the concrete skeleton.

I was left with some great pictures from the top of the Rock.
Kenilworth Ivy (Cymbalaria muralis) hugging the warm wall.
The spent flower stalks of Century Plants (Agave americana).
Note how the Jade plant (Crassula ovata) has its trunk partially in the shade. This adaptation also allows the plant to remain protected from the wind.
The hummingbirds of Alcatraz.

I should add that many of these areas were maintained by the prisoners of the Federal Penitentiary era but I will say more about that tomorrow.

To be continued…