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The weather forecast had predicted a 70% chance of rain. It poured down when we got up, packed the car and found a Starbucks for breakfast. We had arranged to meet John Bleck in the car park near Starbucks and there he was, almost hidden by his umbrella. For those who do not know John, he is a retired horticulturist who looked after the plants at the University of California in Santa Barbara, (UCSB) and gained some fame as the creator of Aloe hybrids such as the famous ‘Lizard Lips’.

He was part of the ‘in crowd’ that included Charlie Glass & Bob Foster and was a true ‘Beach Boy’, starting as a Life Guard at the age of 16 and still swimming competitively now at the age of 75. He’s ranked in the top 10 of the US Master Swimming classes in the 75 – 80 age group, having been consistently in the top 10 for the last 20 years or so. I’m sure that a full biography would reveal many more interesting facts about John than a quick search on Google could come up with. Respect!

We drove the short distance to the entrance of Lotusland (S1228). I’ll save time by directing you to their website for the full story:

I recommend that you take a look at the History and Garden sections in particular. The key points for us were that:

a) The Gardens are famous in the cactus world because for a while Charlie Glass & Bob Foster were responsible for the gardening design and maintenance

b) The owner’s vision was for complete over-the- top mass planting that works surprisingly well, particularly from a photographic perspective

c) Admission is normally US$ 35 per person and we were getting in for free

d) We were being shown round by John, who seems to know everything about everything and by the assistant curator, Paul Mills, who is married to a Chilean lady he met during his days as a surfer in Pichilemu, where they still have a house. Juan & Florencia might be interested to know that he’d love to meet up with Chilean cactus enthusiasts! and

e) They had fairly recently received a collection (the Dunlap collection) of mature (larger than we saw in habitat in Peru!) Weberbauerocereus, grown from ex-habitat material received from Peru in the 1960s / 70s, including ex Ritter and KK & KZ material. I was hoping to take their pictures together with their name tags – Paul M was hoping that I might provide names where they were missing or correct some of the existing names. A typical case of the blind leading the blind!

The day was ‘AWESOME!’ The sun came out, the sky was clear, the light played on the raindrops left hanging on cactus spines and the conversation centred on all the things that we wanted to know. As you can see from the website, Lotusland is much more than just a cactus garden. They have a tremendous collection of cycads and we saw more species of palms than I would have guessed existed. Their Blue Garden was an eye opener and the theme seemed to be extended elsewhere, with bluish Agave americana planted with bluish Opuntia etc. Mass planting really works here. You’ll have to wait to see the pictures!

S1229 was at the Channel Islands National Park visitors centre, which was at the harbour where the boats (ferries) left to the islands. There was a modest botanical garden where some of the endemic island species, including Dudleyas, were on display with name tags.

S1230 was somewhere along the coast along Highway 101 (? – I still need to plot our stops on Google Earth), north of Malibu, where the coastal hills had cactus (Opuntia litoralis) and a white waxed Dudleya dotted in the rocks. On closer examination, there were (again) two species of Dudleya. Never mind their names – there usually seem to be a broad spatulate leafed Dudleya (Dudleya pulverulenta?) growing alongside a thin lanceolate leafed sp.(Dudleya lanceolata). Sometimes there are intermediates, sometimes there are not. It seems that particularly on the broad leafed plants there are those with ‘white wax’ (farina) and those without (green forms). It seems that these ‘forms’ are sometimes given separate names while at other times they are considered to be just a single variable species. When I get back to the UK I’ll have to sit down with all my Dudleya pics and see how consistent these observations are and what the names might be at the various locations, to see if there is a pattern developing and, if so, what the reason might be.

S1231 is just a collection of some 20 pictures taken of a sunset along Hwy 101 in Malibu, before the guy from the parking lot wanted to collect US$ 7 as it turned out that this public car park was for use of customers of an Ocean side restaurant that looked much too exclusive for bums like us.

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