Schefflera taiwaniana and its cousins

Schefflera taiwaniana (台湾鹅掌柴) is a new evergreen shrub from high mountains of Taiwan. The unique thing about this elegant beauty is that it is much hardier than your typical house plant Scheffleras (S. arboricola and S. actinophylla ). Now Monrovia Nursery may have been too optimistic to give it a cold tolerance rating of USDA Zone 7, which is 0F or -17.8C, but judging by the reports from zone-pushing gardeners in UK, it is at least good to about 20F. So it should be great as a tropicalesque backdrop for most Bay Area gardens.

It was Dan Hinkley the renowned plant explorer who first brought this plant back to the U.S., but while his fellow collector from UK has had it available at Crug Farm Nursery for quite some time (For plant lovers, it is painful to see many other exciting Schefflera species exclusively available there), Schefflera taiwaniana never went into trade here. A certain large seed company may played a part when they bought Dan’s independent nursery, Heronswood, and subsequently moved it to the East Coast.

The fortune has finally changed a couple years ago, when Monrovia and Dan teamed up to offer a line of collector plants including S. taiwaniana. It is scheduled to be widely released in spring 2012, but a few plants has gotten out last year (2010) and it caused quite a stir among serious gardeners in the Pacific Northwest.

1st Schefflera taiwaniana 2nd Schefflera taiwaniana

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Gamble Garden Tour 2011

Today and tomorrow (April 29-30) are the Gamble Garden Spring Tour days. I signed up early this year and joined the mostly female crowd to see five beautiful gardens in Palo Alto today. Ever since my plant interests shifted to the more exotic groups a few years ago, I have been skipping this event since my impression from before was that the plant palettes were on the conservative side. From what I saw today, the loss is on my part since even though these gardens still are not quite cutting-edge plant-wise, they do have very impressive hardscapes. Here are some highlights:

The first garden has several sitting areas under wisteria arbors. This one is right next to house with a hidden polycarbonate roof for rainy days
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Big Magnolia X alba in San Jose

My koi-keeping hobby has taken me to Cherry Hill Koi near the famously creepy Winchester Mystery House and the trendy Santana Row shopping area. And the most exciting discovery is a big specimen of Magnolia X alba, which I called the king of all fragrant plants in a previous blog entry. For a long time, this species was under the name of Michelia alba, or Michelia champaca ‘alba'(Monrovia Nursery), but a few years ago American botanists lumped all Michelias plus several other related genera into Magnolia. It is also verified that this particular species is indeed a hybrid between Magnolia champaca and Magnolia montana , which accounts for the extra cross sign in the new name.
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Wave Garden in Point Richmond

The season of garden tour is upon us and I am already getting a head start with a trip to the Wave Garden last Sunday (April 10) organized by our venerable Bay Area Horticultural Group aka The Hortisexuals.

Point Richmond is definitely a diamond in the rough. The troubled reputation of the city of Richmond is revealed by the subpar conditions of the streets. But what a view they have over there! The Golden Gate Bridge is framed on the left by Angel Island as viewed from the road leading to the Wave Garden, a seldom seen angle indeed.
View of GG Bridge
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More Spring Flowers

Yesterday (April 11) I attended a board meeting of my local district of Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD) in Palo Alto. With a little free time before the meeting, I went by Elizabeth Gamble Garden for a quick tour. Gamble Garden is a local oasis of horticulture with two and a half acres of well-tended plants. It is free to the public and open all year. Since they have many mature specimens of all kinds of garden plants (no tropicals yet and I need to volunteer to help), I usually go for a visit at least once a month to see what is in season. Yesterday the first attention-grabbing flowers were the long blooms of Wisteria floribunda and the double ones of Wisteria sinensis.

Wisteria floribunda
Double Wisteria

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Presidio Habitats Exhibition

Last Sunday (April 3, 2011) I joined a small group for a guided tour of the Habitats Exhibition at the Presidio in San Francisco. This is an outdoor art exhibition with a theme of designed habitats for wildlifes that are currently here and those that once lived here. It is sponsored by FOR-SITE foundation and they invited an international group of artists and designers to submit proposals. Even with a million-dollar budget, only eleven out of the twenty five proposals were built and installed in May 2010. However, all of the proposals can be seen in this 1300-square-foot Exhibition Pavilion made out of three shipping containers.
Exhibition Pavilion
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