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Archive for February 26, 2008

Tuesday, 26 February 2008 – The Huntington Botanical Gardens

So, today was The Huntington pt 2. Eunice rang about 9:30 that all was still OK for the meet and suggested that if I was challenged at the gate, to say that I had come to meet John Trager.

Eunice was already waiting in the car park and Vernon (the once upon a time Dutchman, who I had met on Sunday) had also come along. Eunice seemed to know her way through a warren of paths between buildings we arrived at an area where plants were being prepared for sale. Many turned out to be things being prepared for ISI sales. Here we met Karin Zimmerman who was busy with the plants and showed us some of her recent Aloe hybrids and volunteer Barbara. As I know little about Aloe’s, I had difficulty differentiating a new exciting hybrid from plants that I was sure I had seen in the past at Holly Gate. It’s interesting to see that there appear to be more and more efforts here to come up with cultivars and perhaps in this way switch the focus of ‘must have’ plants for collectors from habitat material to the latest cultivated hybrids. Certainly the plants I saw had peculiarities such as ‘warts’, colouration and patterns that would catch your attention in any plant sale.

Karin took us into the main building, where we found John Tragar and again it was nice to be able to put a face to a name that is well-known throughout the cactus world. Karin next took us to the staff restaurant for lunch which showed that it was possible to get a healthy eating meal in the US after all!  I settled for a couple of roast beef and cheese on French Rolls that would have cost US$ 7.25 in the official visitors restaurant, but were half price in the staff restaurant. Healthy for the body does not equate to healthy for the purse. At lunch we were introduced to more members of staff and I recognised the name Tim Harvey from contributions on Cactus Study. He seemed to know all about our last trip to Baja from mailings by Alain, Willy Verheulpen and Mike Newberry. Again, great to meet a face behind email contributions in a forum.

After lunch we went back to the cactus garden so that I could come back with 115 more pictures  than I had already. Can you ever have too many pictures? We enjoyed trying to catch more hummingbirds on camera. During presentations here I have to remember that plants and animals that get a ‘Wow’ from the audience in Europe, get a ‘I get many of these in my yard’ in California.

We had arranged to get back to Karin around 3:30 and were met by another volunteer, more senior in age. ‘I know who you are’ she said smiling mysteriously. I thought and it clicked: ‘Hi Crassulady!’ and indeed it was Norma, with whom I had loads of correspondence around the turn of the century when she had thoughts of putting together a monograph on the Genus Crassula and its many hybrids. I filtered word of the gap in literature through to Gordon Rowley, through Keith Grantham and it seemed to help Gordon in putting pen to paper and produce a book that he had been planning for many years. Norma was in tears that I had recognised her. I can’t think that the tears were actually about meeting me, but we had a big hug and pictures were taken.

Next we were introduced to Jeff Karsner ,who is in charge of the plants in the education centre and in building a theme garden that would meet the tough standards of the Health & Safety committee. The creative California spirit that gave us Disney and Hollywood certainly have rubbed off on Jeff and I was particularly impressed by an airplane model covered in air plants, with a particularly bright coloured plant representing the flames from an engine on fire! Don’t see much of that in Europe!

Fame through my talk last Sunday had already spread, so I was invited to talk to his cactus society on Thursday 6 March, on the other side of L.A., near the Hollywood hills. Should pay for another night in a motel!

Yesterday’s and today’s visits complemented each other perfectly – yesterday I was able to just lose myself in the Desert Garden and today being privileged to have a look behind the scenes and meet some very interesting people.

Tomorrow, Eunice is going to take me to locations along the coast south of L.A., where Dudleya’s abound and we also have to track down habitat details for D. brittonii, the only one that I think will get a Wow in the UK as it looks as white as Echeveria laui. It (D. brittonia) is endemic to Baja, but where? Google soon came up with the answer, we had driven straight past it in northern Baja earlier this month!

More stories of a Dutchman’s adventures in California tomorrow.