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Archive for March 5, 2008

Wednesday, 5 March 2008 – Vista Nurseries etc & back to Torrey Pines

Greetings from Room 268 (and not 286 as reported yesterday – should I join DNA – the National Dislexic’s Association now?)

Eunice arrived promptly at 8 and had promised to take me to a Mimies for breakfast, so as to avoid another Dennys. A great experience, with a crab & avocado omelette, fruit salad, and toast, coffee & orange juice at only a few dollars more than Dennys (although the latter has convenience in its favour). ‘Have you been here before?’ was the question from the waitress. ‘No’, I replied, ‘I’m visiting, from the UK’ – ‘Awesome!’ she responded, as only Californians know how. As a nice surprise during breakfast, she brought a box with 4 different muffins as a present for me to remember my first visit to Mimies! Eunice says it’s because the English accent reminds people of James Bond – shaken, not stirred. I explained that the American accent in the UK results into a general ‘Oh, no, Yanks!’ response. You just don’t get that kind of service at your average English eatery!! I asked if there were plans to open up a chain of Mimies in Baja within the next 3 weeks. Unfortunately not, although Eunice could have put in their IT network at a modest discount in return for free quality coffee during the trip.

We were early for our meeting with Mark Fryer at C&Js at 11, so stopped by Rainbow Books to meet Jerry (who runs the nursery) and Chuck, who runs the book store, at least those bits that did not move to Tucson. I was asked to sign a copy of the Grantham / Klaassen masterpiece, which, he informed me, did not sell very well in the US. ‘Not surprised’ I said, ‘it was written to a set of instructions from the publisher for a UK audience.’ I bit my tongue, so as not to ask ‘And what did you ever write that sold better?’

Our visit to Rainbow had now made us late for C&J’s, where Mark was waiting for us. He had not been back for a while and was visibly upset on the things that should have been but had not been done since he had left some 8 weeks ago. These plants were part of his family, he had cared for them for a number of years and now the quality of that care had gone down hill. I sympathised and thought of Holly Gate.

I found that I took remarkably few pictures, but that was because I was distracted by great chat. Hope Eunice made up for it and has a picture that Mark & I had discussed in Cactus_Study some 4 years ago – 4 plants raised from seed that had come in with some Discocactus (ex-habitat?) plants and which had grown into plants looking like Uebelmannia but with white Discocactus flowers. I had seen this plant earlier at Juergen Menzel’s. I believe Marlon is aware, but should really go and take a look himself sometime.

I was also amazed to see so many plants being grown in cold frames, raised on concrete blocks and with the bottom made out of slats to allow the air to circulate freely. Worked great in Vista! As I took some pictures of these frames surrounded by trees I noticed that the trees were actually 20 ft+ tall tree-Aloes. Mark tells me that it only took some 15 years to reach this size. Growing most cactus & succulents really doesn’t seem to be a challenge in California.

From C&J’s it was possible to see the junction that lead to Steve Hammer’s nursery. His phone was engaged, which means that he was in, but working in his greenhouses, so he was our next visit. Steve is great, as those who have seen his lectures in the UK will know. He really knows how to raise your interest for the plants that he talks about – great enthusiasm. And that is what he is like when he is at home between his plants. He showed Eunice a Lithops hybrid that carries her name and seems to be doing quite a bit of hybrid crosses experiments. This seems one way to distract ‘serious collectors’ from their obsession with ex-habitat plants and so, should be encouraged, although I’ll probably keep up my fascination with cacti in habitat, but without the need to own them, in the UK. Pictures are just fine by me.

I reminded Eunice that after my visit to Torrey Pines State Reserve ‘proper’ she wanted to go there too. I remembered Dudleya brevifolia from my list of plants that I learned I had missed yesterday, so asked a Ranger we met in the visitor’s car park. We were directed down the closed road to the Golf Course and to take a ‘broken path’ to the area where small round ferric/ ferrous pebbles littered the ground, just as at the Glider Club location we had visited earlier in the week. We followed the road as instructed, saw an area that fitted the description and walked a short distance along a sort-of path (Broken path?) and almost immediately found small Dudleya that looked as though the name ‘brevifolia‘ was appropriate. The Dudleya book I have has no picture of the plants. The Ranger had indicated that plants were little more than an inch tall, and these plants were just over that size, but they did look very much like small D. lanceolata. My suspicions grew stronger when, among the bushes, we found larger plants, straight D. lanceolata?

Our camera snapping was interrupted by another Ranger, who told us that we were on land that was closed to the public to allow plants to recover. We apologised and asked where we might find the plants that we were looking for, as obviously his colleague who had directed us here, had been unaware that it was out-of-bounds. Our new ‘friend’ admitted that he was in charge of toilets and making sure to draw visitors attention to breaking park rules – he knew nothing about plants. Never mind, we walked further along the paved road and just as we were thinking about going back (the sun was getting low in the sky and sets quickly in California) we found a sign pointing to Broken Hill Trail. So we had been in the wrong place. Sorry Mr Ranger.

The track was said to be only 0.5 miles long (I think it was more) and went through thick scrub. There were some Dudleya at the feet of the shrubs, but light was now so bad that plants growing underneath the shrubs were not photographable without a tripod (left in the UK in my case, at Long Beach in Eunice’s house). Eunice will have to go back later in the year, as we believe the plants are so small that they are best spotted when they are in flower.  We took some nice sunset pictures through the pine trees and fought or way through the rush hour traffic back to Carlsbad Village Drive, from where Eunice still had a 101 mile journey to L.A.

I have since had a look through my Dudleya book, but, as mentioned before, it has no picture of D. brevifolia, which is placed in Genus Hasseanthus in Paul Thomson’s classification system (regarded as a subgenus by others).
Amazing how tiring all this plant photography is.