Thursday, January 31, 2013

thy neighbor's aeonium

Let me just start with a confession: I have coveted my neighbor's aeoniums. Aeonium arboreum and Aeonium arboreum (var. atropurpureum) stand tall in the brick planters on either side of his front door. They face west to take advantage of afternoon sun, and are lovingly watered at least once a week. They have been blooming in neon yellow splendor since about January 15.

My own aeonium arboreums have never bloomed for me. They include plants grown from clippings given to me by this same neighbor, as well as a potted aeonium 'Irish Bouquet' bought years ago at a farmers' market in San Diego.

On a recent trip down the coast, I spotted a huge pale yellow aeonium at a 'destination nursery' in Leucadia. It was not a blossom. It bore the unmistakably petal-shaped leaves of an aeonium arboreum, and spread as large as a mid-summer mid-western sunflower. Yet it stood only a foot above ground level. I had to have one.

The affable nurseryman identified this beauty as a 'Sunburst Aeonium,' but regretted that he had none potted up for sale. Sympathetic to my needs, however, he dug up another specimen bearing two foot-long stems. I could plant the main stem in the garden and make a cutting of the subsidiary stem. This smaller one I would pot for something spectacular to enter in the garden club show next June.

All the way home, I thought about how my neighbor would covet my new aeonium. Of course I would place it so that it faced directly toward his front door.

Yesterday while doing errands, I noticed some new plantings in the median strip down the center of our east-west commercial street: tufts of ornamental grass, surrounded by a border of about a dozen sunburst aeoniums -- as big as my two and much healthier. How long have I, and my neighbor (not to mention all the garden club members), been driving past these not-so-rare specimens?

With any luck, my Calandrinia grandifloras will attain covetable stature this year. I hereby resolve to water them, and the sunburst aeoniums, at least once a week.

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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License