September in the Demo Vegetable Garden
Fall and Winter Gardening Seminar

Undersea Garden at Quail Botanical Gardens

When I was last at my Dad's, in San Diego County, we went to Quail Botanical Gardens in Encinitas ( I have been there many times, to see their wonderful collection of plants, including a large planting of tropical and subtropical fruits. However, this time, I was hoping to see their new "undersea garden." I read about it in Pacific Horticulture Magazine, a few issues back. Most of the plants in this (actually drought tolerant) garden are succulents, but it looks like it is made up of corals, sea anemones and the like. Sure enough, I found it, over by the area where they hold children's events and day camps, and next to their administration building. It was as wonderful as I thought it would be, so I took some photos to share. (There was a similar garden in the San Francisco Landscape and Garden Show last March. It included a sculpted octopus.)

(I know that purists will be horrified to see these drought-tolerant, dryland plants pretending to be underwater creatures. I remember well Wolfgang, the owner of Red Desert, before he retired, admonishing us not to put shells in the pots with cactus and succulents. He thought it just wasn't right. Sorry Wolfgang. I like it.)

July_august_07_189_copyThis seahorse, which is 5 or 6 feet tall, is located next to the administration building, where the painted wall adds to the illusion. It is a giant example of the idea of inserting succulents in wreaths and other decorations. Many succulents have shallow roots, so can survive this way for some time, though clearly if they began to grow and multiply, the piece would have to be redone.


An oversized casting of a nautilus shell next to some otherwise rather ordinary small-leaved succulents gives this area its air of of oceanic authenticity.


The tillandsia looks to me like a sea anemone growing at the edge of a sea cave. This bromeliad is an epiphyte (an air plant) so it can just sit there on the rock.


This is my favorite shot. What is the plant on the right that looks so much like a coral? I think it is a euphorbia. I don't plan to look it up though, just enjoy the effect. Though this garden is in San Diego County, many of the plants could survive nicely in Bay Area gardens, so if you like the look, shop around in the succulents and bromeliad sections of a nursery and see what you can put together.


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Thanks for the tentative ID Peter. Have you seen this garden? I was thinking I probably should find out who designed it, but I was having too much fun looking at it.


The plant on the right is a crested Euphorbia, possibly E. lactea.


Hi Maureen,

I am answering your question in my column. I think it will be in the Chronicle on October 10. Thanks for the question.


Maureen Nicholson

How to take care of lavendars. i.e. how far and how much to cut back etc. Thank you. Maureen

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