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Category Archives: Press Articles

FALLBROOK: Escondido nursery grows roof for new Fallbrook Library


Roofing material doesn’t usually attract much attention, but there’s something special about the one planned for the new Fallbrook Library.

“We’ve had people calling from all over about this,” said Jerri Patchett, chairwoman of the Friends of the Fallbrook Library building task force. “They want to know about the art and the green roof.”

“Green” usually means a building is environmentally sensitive, but it has a more literal meaning with the library’s roof, which will be covered with 3,300 square feet of living succulents.

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Research Center Established At Altman Plants

Originally published at November 12, 2008

Ken and Deena Altman of Altman Plants recently completed construction of a new greenhouse that will act as a scientific research hub for the Center for Applied Horticultural Research (CfAHR). The grounds of the facility include a lab to conduct applied plant research and a climate-controlled greenhouse with five individual rooms.

“As a board member of the American Floral Endowment, I have seen firsthand the need for applied research and the great results that come from supporting that research,” Ken says. “I have seen the value that comes from having a time and place to be inquisitive. There is no shortage of issues that need to be solved.”

The CfAHR is a 501(c)(3) organization. As a non-profit organization, the CfAHR will maintain and manage resources and facilities to carry out applied research based on growers’ and industry needs. Activities are overseen by a board of directors composed of accomplished industry representatives.

All the information generated at the center will be available to growers, the industry and the general public. The CfAHR also encourages the submission of ideas that could provide solutions to current horticultural issues.

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Plants For Even Hotter Weather

When up against wildfires, drought and water restrictions, bedding plants would seem to be part of a losing battle. In dry and fire-prone areas of the country, however, gardeners can fight back – with succulents and cacti. New options for these parts of the country are being researched, looking for varieties that are both functional and beautiful.

Cactus varieties have been evaluated on criteria including blooming, a minimal number of spines and day blooming by John Erwin of the University of Minnesota. Experiments began with cooling, photoperiod and total light treatments and 58 of the 65 varieties tested went into flower. Now follow-up work is being done on 10 to 15 of those to see which ones are best for commercial production.

But are cacti cold hardy? The ones Erwin is researching native to the cold mountaintops of Argentina are cold hardy, but research is looking at how cold hardy. And while in Portugal, Erwin reports seeing mixed containers of annuals with cacti and succulents.

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The genus Kalanchoes is comprised of many unusual and appealing plants, encompassing various leaf shapes, colors, and textures. The native habitat of the Kalanchoes extends from south of the Sahara desert in South Africa, and includes Madagascar. Kalanchoes are part of the large succulent family Crassulaceae, which also includes Echeverias, Aeoniums, and Sedums.

One group of Kalanchoes (also known as Bryophyllums) has a charming characteristic of producing baby “plantlets” along the edges of the leaves. In time, these plantlets fall from the “parent” plant, rooting in the soil to produce new plants. Included in this group are Kalanchoe tubiflora (“Chandelier Plant”}, with dark purplish speckled tubular leaves and fluted reddish flowers in January. Others of this group include Kalanchoe daigremontianum (“Mother of Thousands”), and Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi variegata ‘Aurora Borealis’, with beautiful bluish scalloped leaves that are variegated with white and pink.

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The Many Faces of “Kerkei”

The “Kerkei Bush” (Crassula ovata), commonly known as “Jade Plant”, becomes arboreal to a height of 10 feet, with thick, gnarly trunks and a canopy of elliptical, shiny jade-green leaves, often edged in red.  Endemic to rocky outcroppings in the stark, arid environ of South Africa, the Jade lives amidst some of the most remarkably diverse flora on earth, including Spekboom (“Elephant Bush”,) Aloes, “Plakkies” (Crassulas), Euphorbias, and “Vygies” (“Rock Mimicry “).

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Elephants in Your Garden? Portulacaria

In the area of South Africa known as the Karoo Succulent Biome dwells a very xeriphytic succulent, Portulacaria afra, or “Spekboom”, as it is known by the native people. “Spekboom” (known popularly as “Elephant Bush”) is essential to many browsing animals, including kudu and elephants because of its ability to remain succulent despite periods of searing heat and drought. The relationship of the “Elephant Bush” with the elephant is actually quite symbiotic. As the elephant tears branches from the arborescent Portulacaria, stripping them of tender leaves, the leafless branches are then tossed aside, rooting at a later time to create new thickets known as “Spekboomvelds”. This symbiosis is crucial for the Portulacaria as the biome is so extremely arid that Portulacaria seed has great difficulty germinating in its native habitat.

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Aloes – Lilies of the Desert

When Aloes are mentioned, most think of Aloe vera. Actually, there are over three hundred species of Aloes inhabiting Arabia, Madagascar, and Africa. These plants belong to the Lily family (Liliaceae), with various morphologies ranging from the small grass Aloes that serve as excellent windowsill plants to the huge, striking tree forms of Aloe dichotoma, Aloe pillansii and Aloe bainsii. The thick, fleshy leaves of Aloes store water during the rainy season, adapting them well for the harsh, drought-stricken areas of mountains, deserts and grasslands, thus making Aloes an excellent choice for xeriphylic (dry) landscapes.

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Rhipsalidopsis Easter Cacti or Spring Cacti

Rhipsalidopsis are commonly known as Easter Cacti or Spring Cacti as they typically flower during April and May. Often confused with Christmas Cacti or Schlumbergera, they are, in fact, similar in appearance but have very different flowers. The flowers of the Rhipsalidopsis are star-shaped, open very flat, and occur in very saturated colors. Rhipsalidopsis are epiphytic cacti, and are considered to be in the same Tribe of cacti that includes Epiphyllums, Rhipsalis, Schlumbergera (Christmas Cacti) and many other epiphytic cacti. In general, most Rhipsalidopsis on today’s market are hybrids between two species; Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri (reddish-orange flowers)and Rhipsalidopsis rosea (profuse orchid-colored flowers).

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Opuntia – Icon of the Southwest

The genus Opuntia is comprised of many interesting shapes (morphologies). These can vary from ground-hugging miniatures spanning only inches in height, to arboreal giants of 20 feet or greater. Some Opuntias are fast growing, low maintenance desert sculptures, making them standouts as xeriscape specimens. Some excellent landscape forms are Opuntia ‘Santa Rita’, with silvery round pads tinged purple in cooler weather and Consolea falcata, with its shiny green pads and its floriferous nature. Other favorites include Opuntia robusta, with giant 12″ round bluish pads and Opuntia leucotricha, with its dense silvery spines. All of these make bold statuesque statements in any garden or xeriscape.

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Echeverias in the Xeriscape

Plant enthusiasts are familiar with Echeverias as small, attractive rosettes that in time form the “Hen & Chick” clusters so well suited to window culture, and as container plants on the patio in singular or multiple plantings. Few are aware of the potential of the larger Echeverias with regards to xeriscaping.

The culture for these plants is not complicated. Echeverias prefer excellent air circulation, well draining soil, and will thrive in slightly cooler, temperate climes. Echeverias may become somewhat dormant in extreme heat, but begin growing again once the temperature cools in the fall. It is preferable to protect Echeverias from frost to prevent the subsequent scarring of the plant.

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