fairly cool plants

On my recent trip to the San Diego County Fair the horticultural displays seemed to divide into two big categories: exhibits that featured cool designs (usually entered by a landscape design firm or individual) and those that feature some pretty cool plants (mostly in exhibits assembled by specialty nurseries).

I’ve talked enough about the cool designs. Here are some fairly cool plants. Some have been around for centuries, others are fairly new to our gardens. Hopefully the new introductions are fairly tame, otherwise you might be seeing here the new exotic weed pests that’ll be keeping us busy for the next hundred years.

Ptilotus exaltatus 'Platinum Wallaby,' a plant that has been showing up in nurseries this past year.
Oh look: Another noteworthy plant, another ptilotus, Down Under.
Christmas in July? The Ecke poinsettia ranch folks who supply a huge percentage of the world's poinsettias were showing off this new white variety, Polar Bear. My county used to be poinsettia central for the world, but cheaper production costs have driven a lot of that to Central America.
Chartreuse, green, white and near-black: Lobularia Snow Princes, two kinds of ipomoea, with Coleus ColorBlaze Alligator Tears.
Geranium crispum, variegated form. This is one of many foliage plants that have flowers that don't seem to add much to the foliage.
Gosh, yet another noteworthy plant with a 'Noteworthy Plant' sign next to it. (Kinduv reminds me of those turnoffs labeled 'scenic viewpoint' on highways through spectacular landscapes, as if you needed the sign to tell you you were looking at something scenic or--in this case--noteworthy.) This was labeled a 'Pine Needle Fern,' but not with its species name. My quick web trawl didn't turn up much with that name, only a fact that it's considered one of the more primaeval kinds of fern. Very cool, whatever it is.
Rice flower, Ozothamnus diosmifolius, a plant drought-tolerant selection that, like the ptilotus plants, comes from Australia. You'd think they'd have run out of their notable plant signs by now.
Mention the word succulent and people have visions of a fairly desert-ey landscape. Here's a display by Cordova Gardens that instead comes off as a really lush flower arrangement.
Deuterocohnia brevifolia, a fairly amazing succulent. (Edit: this is actually a bromeliad!)
Mammilaria parkinsoniana, a fairly amazing cactus.
A nice mixed planting of cactus and succulents at the Solana Succulents display.
A gorgeous purple prickly pear Opuntia Santa Rita, part of the Solana Succulents exhibit.
Agave victoria-reginae, a normally prim little bundle of green and white botanical joy. Check out bloom stalk in the next photo, however...
OMG, when that thing blooms, stand back! This little two-foot plant has probably produced a twelve-foot inflorescence. How do you design with this plant? Is it a foreground plant? Or something for the background? Not a bad quandary to be in.

7 thoughts on “fairly cool plants”

  1. A great collection! I fell hard for the Ptilotus exaltatus ‘Platinum Wallaby’ at our FarWest Show last August here in Portland (how can you not love something that also goes by ‘Pink Mulla Mulla’?), but unfortunately it will never live through a winter in my zone 8 garden.

    Love the Agave victoria-reginae bloom spike! I don’t recall having seen one of them in bloom before. I bet it was a challenge to transport.

  2. Your really lush flower arrangement – looks to be mostly South African succulents. Except the 3 in the centre? Inspiration for garden panting there!

  3. Enjoyed the Australian selections, the lush succulent arrangement, and your photo of Deuterocohnia brevifolia caused instant plant lust.

    Btw, I sympathize with your “notable plant” sign uneasiness. In a related way, my mother always wondered what how you were supposed to react to “falling rock” signs on the road: duck?

  4. hi, stumbled across your pages when looking for Ptilotus…. I am the australian breeder of ‘Platinum Wallaby’ and ‘Downunder’, hope you like them there will be more in the future. The ‘Pine needle fern’ you have photographed is Huperzia squarrosa syn:lycopodium squarrosum… stunning fern allies! Regards, peter

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