socal feb 2016

I spent five days last week working/playing in Southern California, specifically La Jolla near San Diego.

I drove from LAX to La Jolla and back, which was a nice drive but difficult with lots of freeways, rain (on the way down), traffic (all the time) and of course driving on the wrong side of the road.

So, so, so many succulents and cacti everywhere.

Here’s some pics:

aloe and dragon trees

The latest addition to my arid collection is a aloe barberae (aloe tree). An amazing looking succulent that grows into a tree up to 18 meters tall! I’ll be keeping mine in a pot so I don’t think it’ll get that big. We got it on our way down to Byron Bay last week. On the way back we called past Dragon Trees Australia at Chindera, NSW who have some amazing Dragon Trees and Aloe Trees, all much too large for our rooftop garden unfortunately. Still very beautiful arid plants.






mt coot-tha botanical gardens: flowering succulents

I rode my bike last weekend to Mount Coot-tha to visit the Botanical Gardens. The great thing about this time of year, in addition to the clear skies, is that a lot of succulents flower in winter. I really like the aloes in flower at the moment, and the garden was full of wildlife feasting on the aloe flowers, including some rainbow lorikeets I managed to get fairly close to.


world aridland gardens at roma street parklands

I went for a crazy 17 kilometer walk around Brisbane on Saturday. My favourite part was getting to explore the Roma Street Parklands. I had never really spent much time there, and I was delighted to discover the World Aridland Gardens: a collection of succulents from around the world! I couldn’t believe that they had flowering crassula gollum/hobbit (coral shaped jade plants). Wow. I have never seen one flower before. Amazing.

my flowering pachypodium saundersai

I love my pachypodiums. They’re a type of caudiciform which means they store water in their trunks (much like a camel) so they can grow in arid conditions. This specific plant is a pachypodium saundersai which is a large bulbous plant originating from South Africa, covered in large spikes and shiny dark green leaves which once a year bursts into full bloom of pinkish white flowers. Very dramatic.




my flowering portulacaria afra (jade) plant

I have been meaning to post this for a while now. In December, during the Australian summer, one of my portulacaria afra (jade) plants flowered a small amount of flowers.

Kitty was in our rooftop garden when she calls out that my plant is flowering. “Not it’s not”, I say, “they don’t flower here”. “Yes it is”, she says, “I swear”. I finally am convinced to come outside and see.

It was the most amazing thing, considering I have never seen this plant flower before, and according to most sites on the Internet, I don’t think I will ever see one again.

The flowers are rare in cultivation, but if kept very dry the older [and presumably unpruned] plants may flower after rain.

Amazing stuff.


β€œFor some of us, a hobby is a wonderful way to pass the time. For others, it quickly curdles in the sun of our curiosity until it becomes a disease.”

~ Helen Razer on hobbies (The Big Issue 8 Nov)

This is rather relevant to my arid plant hobby, quickly becoming an addiction. I’ve got six weeks off work to help with the little bear, and seem to spend every spare moment hunting rare, old or unusual arid plants.

damon young on bonsai

I very much enjoyed this blog post by Damon Young, on bonsai and zen.

The finest bonsai have many, if not all, of these virtues. Instead of trying to represent every tree in a forest in their intricacy and detail, they suggest the landscape: the vital, ideal form, with a little moss, a single rock. Instead of being perfectly symmetrical, the best bonsai are balanced, but irregular: a harmony of differing angles, masses, shapes. They are not allowed to become overgrown or messy – they require constant pruning and training to acquire their evocative simplicity. And, while they’re kept alive, they give the impression of age: trees subject to the wearying flow of the decades, and to the cycle of the seasons.

The bonsai can be a craft, an artwork, and a meditation aid. It offers a brief chance to let go of anguish, false hope, and all the leaden accoutrements of the psyche. And it fits on the porch.

People who read this blog would know I am a big fan of Damon’s writing, particularly on gardening and mortgages.

on succulents flowering

The more I get into succulents, the more I anticipate and appreciate them when they flower. Unlike a lot of other plants, succulents will only flower when the conditions are just right, like it’s a reward for you looking after them well. Unlike bromeliads, they can continue to flower. A few of my favourite succulents are in flower at the moment, probably due to the nicely warm weather in Brisbane at the moment. I took s0me snaps of these on the weekend. There’ll be hopefully many more to come in the coming months.

damon young on gardening

I am a huge fan of Damon Young, I discovered him when he wrote the ‘Dreams don’t come in installments‘ article a while back. I like his approach to life, and the way he thinks about things. On his blog I recently read this quote from an article he wrote in Men’s Health Magazine:

“…gardens are one of the last, great bastions of the amateur. From computers, to cars, to the sharemarket, our daily life is dominated by experts. This is why they sometimes spend more daytime in our homes that we do. But like sport and cooking, gardens are where we can proudly, clumsily, happily be amateurs – and benefit into the bargain.”

Well said.

our urban paradise

Despite the negative connotations about city living, we love it, especially because of our urban balcony garden which has been extra special this past summer. Our frangipanis are continuing to flower into autumn, our succulents are thriving, and we’ve got two birds who visit about once a day to say hi. One of the birds is a beautiful shiny Australian Raven (we don’t have crows in Australia), and the other is a Grey Currawong. I found a shiny black feather from the Raven today when taking some photos of the frangipani flowers.


I’ve never owned a Bromeliad before. I’ve often stopped at plant stores/florists to admire flowering bromeliads, but have never convinced myself to bring one home. Earlier this week, I arrived home to find two new bromeliads sitting near the kitchen bench, a random extemporaneous present from Kitty who had been plant shopping that day. One of the plants is about to flower, whilst the other has just finished flowering. The bummer about Bromeliads is they only flower once, but at least once they have flowered they then offspring (pups), which, when grown up, will flower themselves. A beautiful gift.

courtyard centric brisbane home design

I like some of the design elements in this place in the Courier Mail yesterday.Β  I particually like the use of wood, the plumeria in the courtyard, and also the L shaped pond with water lilies. The house is at Fig Tree Pocket (although I am not sure where that is in Brisbane, I think out to the West), and it was designed by Bligh Graham Architects.

Courtyard Brisbane Home

Courtyard Brisbane Home 2

Click for larger images.