Aloe africana (South Africa)
Today, inspired by Alice Joyce’s wonderful Rancho La Puerta post, I’m going to write something that’s not at all seasonal. At least it’s not seasonal where I live. Alice’s post about Mexico cheered me up so much, after two weeks of overcast skies and off-and-on rain.
Mind you, I feel a pall of guilt settling over me when I admit this. Every time I set a clog in the puddling sog of my yard, I think: “Be grateful. We need the water.”
We do. Higher water table means our wells don’t go dry. Bigger snow pack means our rivers don’t go dry. And all of it means that our fire danger is greatly lessened, because the moisture will last longer. Since I had ash from a nearby fire dropping on my yard last summer, and breathed brown air from a huge wildfire futher away for three weeks the year before, that’s something to celebrate.
But there are beautiful things about a dry, hot landscape, and Huntington Gardens can show you a multitude of them.
Every year I visit LA someime around February or March. It’s just when the succulents at Huntington are at their best, and my family indulges me by taking me there.
Oh, I pay occasional tribute to the other parts of the huge Huntington Garden/museum complex. But I’m always drawn back to the succulents. I could spend days among the succulents, just learning.
There are so many, in fact, that I’m just going to concentrate on the aloes for this post.
This Aloe mariothii, from South Africa, acts almost like a palm tree: the living part sits atop a tower of old, dead leaves. This one is several feet high.
I also enjoyed the speckling on the leaves, a reverse of the light-on-dark speckles we usually see in the aloes we keep on our windowsills and porches.
The flowers of this Aloe petricola (from the Transvaal region of South Africa) flame against the deep blue sky behind them.
And who can deny the brilliance of this Aloe petricola setting, among tree aloes whose curves both echo and contrast the smaller aloes below? (I couldn’t get the i.d. on the tree aloes).
Aloe graminicola has a different kind of inflorescence, a much looser shape resembling the heads of the palms and cycads planted around them.
And underneath, Aloe graminicola has these beautiful bicolored pink-and-green leaves.
Aloe suffulta, from Mozambique, has brilliant leaf-markings that remind me of some of the checkered fritillary flowers.
And diminuitive Tanzanian Aloe dorotheae glows like embers on the ground.
Aloe suzannae, from Madagascar, looks quite unlike my former ideas of aloe, with its smooth waving stems, like a kind of succulent seaweed. (I wonder who Dorothy and Suzanna were?)
I always take another look at my personal favorite, the deep-burgundy-leaved Aloe somaliensis, when I leave. It’s near the entrance to the garden.
This is only a tiny sampling of the aloes in Huntington Gardens, which has one of the best collections in the world, and of course that collection must be only a smattering of the aloes you can see in the wild.
For those of you who want to learn more about aloes, I highly recommend Aloe Garden Wilderness, a blog from South Africa, where many aloes come from. Eurica Teichman and her husband not only raise aloes for seed, they also travel to the aloe’s native habitats to see them there. The posts aren’t frequent, but you can learn so much from the archives.
Aloe petricola (South Africa)