Avid gardeners like to visit great gardens, wherever they may be. Many local petal pushers occasionally set down their shovels and make the drive up to Huntington Gardens in San Marino, The L. A. Arboretum in Arcadia or even Descanso Gardens in La Canada. We all like to visit these great botanic gardens, finding something new on every visit.
Unfortunately, many gardeners overlook the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens, in nearby Claremont, less than an hour away. For uncertain reasons, Rancho Santa Ana is often overlooked by gardeners. It seems to be the stepchild of Southern California's big botanic gardens. That's a shame, because this is one of the best places to discover and appreciate plants and to get a sense of what Southern California originally was like, before suburbia took over.
The beauty of Rancho Santa Ana is understated and unpretentious. It is a relaxed place, with plants, people and wildlife all in harmony. No clipped hedges or contrived designs.
The Huntington and the L. A. Arboretum separate their gardens into plant collections, organized either by a region of the world or by a plant type. At these gardens you'll find the Chinese garden, the Japanese Garden, the Australian collection, the tropical collection, the desert collection and so on.
Now through May is an ideal time to visit Rancho Santa Ana. The temperatures are cool and the plants are at their peak. Last week the gardens huge selection of manzanitas were at their floral peak, as were the coast silk-tassel bushes (Garrya). Flowers were already adorning the bush island poppies (Dendromecon), wooly blue curls (Trichostema), wild currents (Ribes), monkeyflowers (Mimulus), coast sunflowers (Encelia) and several ceanothus.
The optimum planting time for avocados is from about March through summer. Being sub-tropical plants they want to be planted when the soil is warm and days are long. Most important is that avocados need extremely good drainage. As for the variety, that really is best answered with a dialog; there are too many variables. Certainly ‘Haas’ (black pebbly skin) and ‘Fuerte’ (green smooth skin) are the most popular and are excellent as home garden trees. But different people have different taste preferences. If you are looking for a smaller tree, I would suggest ‘Holiday’, a new introduction. Again, there are many varieties and the selection can be as complicated or as simple as one chooses. For me, I would be happy with any of these three varieties.