More Amazing Aloes: South Africa in San Diego

– Posted in: Succulents

IMG_5778 There’s a nursery near my home aptly named Desert Theater. It’s nine acres of big, bold, dramatic, over-the-top succulents and cacti. It’s one of the nurseries I enjoy taking people to, because they’re invariably amazed. IMG_5665 It’s a photographer’s feast any day of the year, but my favorite time to go is mid-winter when large aloes come into bloom. Aloes are native to parts of Africa that have a similar climate to Southern California’s. IMG_5672 Owner Brandon Bullard is a plant wizard, but he has yet to give these hybrids names. I suspect most have in their lineage Aloe ferox, Aloe marlothii, Aloe africana, Aloe speciosa and/or Aloe castanea. IMG_5690 This double-colored, cream and rose flower is typical of Aloe speciosa…except this one has shorter stems and the flowers that line the bloom spike are not as tightly packed. And the flower heads aren’t tilted, which also is characteristic of the species. IMG_5699 And these look sort of like Aloe africana. They’re the right color, but Aloe africana flower spikes are pointed, and the lower part frills outward like a skirt. IMG_5773 The plant and the shape of the flower spikes suggest Aloe ferox, but the flowers are the wrong color. Aloe ferox flowers are rose-red to shades of orange. I wonder what contributed the cream? IMG_5788 Again, a guess: Aloe ferox x Aloe speciosa? IMG_5804 And pale green flowers tinged with orange? I have no idea! IMG_5810 Another mystery medley, with some euphorbias on the left. Don’t you love the violet leaves in the foreground? IMG_5823 I vote for naming this one Aloe ‘Peaches and Cream’. IMG_5650 And what about this one? Aloe ‘Corncob’?   My goal is to share the beauty of waterwise, easy-care succulents in gardens, containers and landscapes via blog postsnewsletterspublic speaking and workshopsphotosvideosmerchandise, and social media (Facebook and Pinterest). My books: Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardensand Succulents Simplified. 

Debra Lee Baldwin
Award-winning garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin authored Designing with Succulents, Succulent Container Gardens, and Succulents Simplified, all Timber Press bestsellers. Her goal is to enhance others' enjoyment and awareness of waterwise plants and gardens by showcasing the beauty and design potential of succulents via books, articles, newsletters, photos, videos, social media and more. Debra and husband Jeff live in the foothills north of San Diego. She grew up in Southern California on an avocado ranch, speaks conversational Spanish, and at age 18 graduated magna cum laude from USIU with a degree in English Literature. Her hobbies include thrifting, birding and watercolor painting. Debra's YouTube channel has had over 3,000,000 views.
Debra Lee Baldwin
Debra Lee Baldwin
14 Comments… add one

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Cornish Sam March 6, 2014, 3:22 am

Stunning photographs

michaele anderson March 6, 2014, 8:00 am

My goodness, talk about “bombs bursting in air”… looks like 4th of July fireworks in mid winter. These are very exciting to get to see.

Robín March 6, 2014, 8:37 am

My opinion is the poetry of succulents comes from the fact they take almost obvious and simple geometrical-mathematical forms. And simple, geometrically and fractally speaking is also complex, of course, the duality simple-complex of life. The duality simple-complex of beauty.

Edith isaacs March 6, 2014, 10:21 am

Gorgeous pics! The reason I don’t care to use aloes in my yard any more though, is the brutally sharp points and “thorns”. Weeding around them is a nightmare.

Cheryl March 6, 2014, 11:20 am

Looks like I need to put Desert Theatre on my bucket list! Have I already told you that I love your new book ” …Simplified?” I am constantly referring to it.

karen March 6, 2014, 1:33 pm

This is so timely….I’ve been struggling to I.D, a succulent for several yrs and just posted a pic of it on (in bloom) on my blog yesterday. I know you’re an expert in aloe, so if you don’t mind taking a look, maybe you could tell me what it is?
If you click the link I left in the “website” field above it will bring you to my blog’s most recent post which includes the plant in question.

Let me know!

Catherine March 6, 2014, 6:57 pm

Great photos Debra! There’s been a lot of aloe hybrid breeding in South Africa by Leo Thamm of Sunbird Aloes in Johannesburg which has produced many similar-looking plants to these. I love aloes, as here in ‘cool’ subtropical Sydney, some start flowering in early autumn (like ‘Baby Yellow’ – a fab ground clumping form with spikes of lemon-yellow flowers), the peak is in winter when not much else is going on, and others are still flowering in mid spring.

Jeff Adams March 7, 2014, 1:37 am

Wow…fascinating…and I love the name…I titled my certified habitats “Desert Dominion,” Desert Theatre tops all…truly apropos….beautiful; thanks for the Post ! 🙂

Sarah March 7, 2014, 9:21 am

Wow! Amazing in bloom. Wish we could grow here in northern VA. Hesperaloe parviflora (a relative) you see in gardens here and a couple other marginally hardy. Or in pots. But this winter they could be mush. Too much winter wet — i.e., snow.

Arthur in the Garden! March 8, 2014, 9:51 am

Blooming aloes are amazing!

Kim Smith March 12, 2014, 11:59 am

I wish I could grow these outside. I have no place inside for these.

Debbie March 15, 2014, 4:54 pm

I’ve just started and cactus and succulent plot in my garden on the Greek island of Crete – I have several aloes in there. My favourites are the variegated types. Aloes grow like weeds here, so collecting from the wild is not a problem 🙂 .

Hellen March 19, 2014, 11:28 am

Wow, such beautiful colors and rare plants. I never imagined such beauties. I would love to grow some of these in Miami.

Debra Lee Baldwin July 7, 2014, 2:21 am

I’m intrigued by your comments and the fact that aloes bloom in the fall in Australia. As for weeding around them to be “a nightmare” — I disagree. Agaves, yes—they have sharp spines and hooked and barbed teeth along the leaf margins. But aloes don’t have hard prickles that can tear the skin.

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