The Cactus Patch
Volume 12       October 2009      Number 10

The Huntington & the Sierras
A Letter From Bruce
by Bruce Hargreaves

My baby sister Lora flew back to Kwajalein on the 25th of Aug. Her son Joshua is staying with his aunt Anne and has started his senior year at North High. We celebrated his 17th birthday at Red Lobster on the 30th. They had all you can eat shrimp and he had 5 helpings.

On the 28th our exercise group balanced our activities with a pig out at Don Pericos. There are beautiful plant pictures on the walls, but they mix African, South American and Pacific species. On the 1st of Sept. we went to see “Up”, a cartoon too good to waste on kids alone. There were beautiful plants on the Amazonian plateau, but most were unidentifiable.

On the 2nd I finished A Botanist in Southern Africa by John Hutchinson of Kew Gardens which was published in 1946. I had bought it from Fables Bookstore in Grahamstown, South Africa and it was a long time in coming (despite heavy postage added onto a heavy price). It is not just a list of places and plants, but has interesting comparisons of plant distributions in southern continents. It also has a controversial tree of plant families which divides dicots into woody and herbaceous families.

On the 4th Polly & I drove to Pasadena, passing under underpasses full of fire trucks from the nearby wildfire. We then had lunch at Vroman’s Bookstore, a fantastic place we discovered years ago when Polly’s niece Marina worked there. From there we went to Huntington Gardens and checked that my prepared talk worked on their computer. We then toured the new Chinese Garden which has expanded since last year, but is still only 1/3 done. We had a Chinese dinner with staff and speakers in the garden center and then had a night tour of the Chinese Garden (when it is normally closed). We stayed the night at the Athenaeum at Cal Tech.

Next morning it was back to the Huntington for breakfast and a welcome by Jim Folsom, garden head. He showed us pictures of his recent trip to Chile. Sean Lahmeyer, also of Huntington, showed us some optimistic results on tissue culture, although I objected that endangered species such as the spiral aloe were being perpetuated only as clones and thereby losing genetic variability.

Stephen McCabe of UC, Santa Cruz took us to remote islands as well as mainland alta and baja California to shown variability in Dudleyas. I then presented an expanded version of “The Karoo in Botswana”.

After lunch there was heavy bidding at the silent auction. I got a copy of Bradleya, the British succulent journal and seeds of Boophane disticha, a beautiful relative of Amaryllis which is widespread in southern Africa. John Trager of Huntington took us to Oaxaca, Mexico to see tropical succulents and Jose Delgadillo Rodriguez of the University in Ensenada compared Mediterranean plants of Baja and South Africa. The parallels are quite intriguing.

We were then plied with drinks in the growing area and allowed to purchase plants. Among others, I bought Schizobasis intricata, a bulb related to Bowea. I have seen them in Malawi and Botswana, but there the bulbs were pink. I suspect the ones at Huntington are green due to exposure to sunlight.

We then returned to the conference area for dinner followed by “The gardens of Valley View” by Dr. Barad of Fleminton, New Jersey. This tour of his garden and collection was especially nostalgic for us because we visited the Barads back in the 70s when I was a graduate student in New York. It is amazing how much has developed since then.

Next day we visited Olivera Street in LA, the Chinese Museum and Fire House which are next to it and finally went to Angels Flight, but found it not yet reopened. At the market there we had a middle eastern lunch with the saltiest yogurt I’ve ever drunk.

We returned to Bakersfield to collapse until the BCSS meeting on Tuesday. I hope we can have some succulent wreaths for our show soon. I have seen them, but never made one.

That Friday we drove up to Fresno and picked up our son John who took the train down from Sacramento. At 5 am on Saturday we drove up to Lake Wishon for the Western Regional Meeting of the National Speleological Society. Most of the day was spent on various field trips. We went on up to Lake Courtright for a picnic lunch. This is one of several reservoirs built in the 50s by PG&E. There is a tunnel a thousand feet down in the rocks between Wishon and Courtright and midway there is a powerhouse. I had stayed at Lake Edison in 1962 and carved a branched stick of quaking aspen into a rabbit (me) and parrot (Polly). We also visited Florence Lake back then so I have seen all the larger lakes in the area. There are still lots of ponds in the Dinky Lakes area, however.

Returning to camp, we pitched our tents and watched a demonstration of climbing techniques. Unfortunately, a nearby tent was decorated with those ubiquitous pink flamingoes.

We had an excellent Mexican dinner followed by the usual dull business meeting. The auction after this was more exciting. There were shot glasses of liqueur sold to raise money, at which point we called it a night. (We could, however, hear the Karaoke from our tent.) Next day we stopped at the McKinley grove of giant redwoods on the way home. This was a new bunch for me, although I’ve seen a lot. Just as we left the mountains at the junction with Lodge Rd., there was a stand selling bonsai trees! The most interesting was a fig which looked like a balloon dog with its fat branches.

Firetrucks above the Pasadena Freeway

Bruce with Jim Folsom

Polly and John watching climbing demo

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