Wednesday, December 26, 2012

California dreamin'

Ted Kipping on right, myself on the left. Last March.
For the last few years I've spent Christmas in California (Jan, my partner, has never not spent Christmas here) and I've been basking among the Bougainvilleas for nearly two weeks. Most years we wend our way northward for a week or so at the Bay area, but this year exigencies made us cut the trip short. I did go Bayward three times in the last year, so I haven't exactly neglected the area. Christmas here is a kick: everyone complains about how cold the weather is (days steadily in the 60's with lots of sun) and it seems to rain mostly at night...bone chilling lows in the fifties mostly. and there are masses of bloom everywhere. I am featuring one of my favorite California places--the garden of Ted and Diane Kipping, in the south part of San Francisco. This garden seems to encapsulate so many of the contradictions and delights of this amazing State for us gardeners...

Geranium maderense at Kippings'

Ted and Diane's sidewalk view is an uncharacteristic monoculture of Geranium maderense from the Canary Islands (which I first stupidly published as Geranium palmatum). Ted (who corrected me) points out that this is the largest of true Geranium. The pictures were taken in March, but this could have been taken most any month of the year...the danged plant never quits! Ted also emailed me a much nicer picture of the same which I shall post at the end of this post (post-haste!). Fortunately, not by parcel post...Ted also added this note in his email:  Some of mine have reached six feet in height along that front fence. They are so deliciously OUT of proportion there and in violation of most tenets of genteel gardening. Was it not Mae West who said "too much of a good thing is just wonderful!" ??

Ted and I regard one another as "Brothers by Choice" ("BBC's") since our friendship stretches back over three decades. I must scan the pictures of this handsome devil I've taken over that interval--he really hasn't changed much. He is the impresario of gardening throughout his region--like Shelley's poets who are "unacknowledged legistlators of the world", plantsmen of Ted's magnitude maintain the bonds of humankind with the Natural world, which he knows better than anyone: from tiny alpines he has pursued around the world, to tropical cloud forest woodlands, there are not many habitats Ted has not photographed and brought back in spirit to his home. As the premier tree shaper not only of the Bay area, but of America, Ted has a special bond with woody plants as well...and his raptor like gaze belies the gentlest of vegetarian hearts. He's near the top of my favorite people...and that garden reflects his uber-Catholicism (in plants that is...)

Senecio stellata
Most of us would be content with a mere Cinerea, but Ted must have an electric violet blue African gem positively glowing on his porch!

Ranunculus cortusifolius

And of course, he has to have the gigantic Azores endemic buttercup (a sort of book end to the Geranium earlier on.) A stroll through this garden is a bit of a whirlwind tour of the whole world.

Dierama sp.

 The pond margins seem to always have a Dierama blooming every time I visit no matter what the season...
Agave, Euphorbia cf. chacaricias, Trough with raoulia and miniature plants

A fairly typical vignette with a xeric American Agave next to a xeric Mediterranean Euphorbia, and a bevy of miniatures (knit together with a New Zealand scab plant) in one of his innumerable troughs...

Bromeliad tree
 How's this for a living Christmas tree? Growing bromeliads outdoors almost any time of year in Colorado is iffy, but here they delight year around in the cloud forest atmosphere...

Schizostylis coccinea
 For me, Schizostylis (I know they are now trying to lump it into Hesperantha!) blooms in September and October--for Ted it  blooms sporadically year around...tree ferns here and there around the yard...

Pond with mixed treasures...

I know that looks suspiciously like a Colorado blue spruce on the upper left...orchids and ferns everywhere again...
Warty trunk

I can't swear it's not a Ceiba--it could be anything in Ted's garden. And every winter as we drive around L.A. or San Diego you aren't sure if the paper birch will be growing alongside a Bismark Palm tree or a native Redwood.

Stumbling around California horticulturally for me I am reminded of snippets here and there of Andrew Marvel's great poem:

"...what wondrous life in this I lead?
Ripe apples fall about my head
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine.
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach
Stumbling on melons as I pass,
Ensnar'd with flow'rs I fall on grass..."

(from "The Garden" by Andrew Marvel)

P.S. Ted sent me a list of plants blooming in his garden on January 1, 2012: check below his picture...

Ted Kipping's MUCH nicer picture of Geranium maderense in front of his home...Mae West would approve!

Budding Body Count At 257 Joost Avenue, S.F., CA  1/1/2013  - in yore Honor – taxa observed with 1-scores of blossoms – some hanging on to the remnants of the last season and some precociously pushing ahead adumbrating well ahead of the flashflood of blooms to come:
1 Centranthus
1 Zantedeschia
1 Xanthorea
2 Melastomes
1 Brugmannsia
6 Cupheas
5 Begonias
1 Thunbergia
2 Potentillas
1 Cyclamen
2 Ranunculus
6 Fuchsias
1 Stachys
1 Prunella
2 Gunneras
4 Campanulas
5 Orchids
1 Galvezia
1 Heteroheca
1 White Mtn Daisy
3 Cestrums
1 Iochroma
17 Abutilons
2 Senecios
1 Schizostilis
1 Catananche
5 Oxalis
10 Geraniums
2 Myosotis
1 Parthenium
4 Helleborus
1 Heuchera
1 Tiarella
16 Bromelliads
3 Euphorbias
1 Hieracium
2 Cestrums
1 Clivia
2 Verbascums
1 Oenothera
1 Lithodora
1 Crassula
1 Kalanchoe
5 Echevarrias
1 Verbena
1 Iris
3 Aloes
5 Salvias
1 Lepechinia
1 Achillea
1 Dicentra
1 Armeria
2 Primulas
1 Cotula
2 Fragarias
1 Lobelia
1 Allium
1 Franchoa
1 Heather
1 Plectranthus
1 Impatiens
1 Calceolaria
1 Hydrangea
1 Erysimum
1 Nemophila
1 Leucodendron
1 Ginger
1 Polygonum
2 Vireya


  1. Sending a giganto "HELLO!" to one of my old pals...Ted, I haven't seen you in ages. Do you not age?!? Looking mah-vel-us and so is your wonderful collection of plants! I enjoyed this post immensely and have grown quite *homesick* for CA while savoring every word and photo. Although the Pacific Northwest has a gentle climate, it doesn't have the horticultural expansiveness of my old stomping grounds, the Bay Area (pssst...don't tell the locals I said that).

    All best wishes from Christi in WA!

  2. I don't know what Bay Area you've been visiting, but the one I live in is FREEZING! The biggest challenge seems to be that they forgot to heat and/or insulate the buildings :-) Considering a move to Hawaii in the near future - I bet you can work that into your travel schedule somehow! Miss you much!!

  3. I've not been in the Bay area this winter, alas, Diane...but I can assure you it's still warmer than Denver. The last ten days in the South Bay cities of L.A. basin have been heavenly! The sidwalk cafe's here in Manhattan Beach are filled with people--THAT is balmy! And yes, I will find myself in Hawaii if I can help it!

  4. So Cal temps or Bay Area? Sounds rough...colder than usual here persists. Just tell yourself about how crowded and expensive it is there, usually works...for a while.

  5. We must have been typing simultaneously, David! Southern California is still summer in my book! But the Bay has been hammered with rain. Still pretty mild in my book...and yes, it is crowded and expensive (I keep telling myself).

  6. Those Geranium palmatum are spectacular!

  7. I'd already read this post but didn't make the connection until a second read and seeing the photograph again. I sat directly behind this nice gentleman at a recent talk at the UC Berkeley Bot Garden. In profile, I was thinking he had a strong resemblance to Brian Dennehy. He did strike me, without even speaking with him, as one of the biggest hearted people in the room. And so nice to hear uber-Catholicism in plants is a virtue!

  8. Thank you for the very sweet note, Denise: next time you see Ted give him my best! You grokked him perfectly.


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