Yerba Mate (Ilex paraguayense)    nice female specimen, winter, UCSC   a formal-looking, evergreen woody shrub grown for its tender young new leaves and stems, which are harvested and processed to make the famous South American tea beverage and uncountable modern energy drinks. These are male plants being offered, which are considered superior for their stronger caffeine (and related compounds) levels and better flavor. To about 8' tall at maturity here with similar spread. Dark green, glossy leaves are tidy and neat, should make a good, tough Mediterranean landscape shrub. Full sun, average to good drainage. Has demonstrated respectable drought tolerance at the UCSC Arboretum, at least for a supposedly tropical-subtropical plant, where a large female specimen receives minimal summer watering. For best yield at least some summer watering must be beneficial. That plant has also survived every major freeze since being planted, including I believe 1990 and 1998. Commercial processing of the leaves involves harvesting, blanching, drying, drying at relatively high temperature, aging (up to 24 months for some grades) and finally grinding/milling. Homeowner processing can be an abbreviated version of that! Southern Brazil, Paraguay. Aquifoliaceae. rev 5/2017 *New for 2017!* 

   semiwoody succulents ranging in habit from dwarfs under 2' to medium size, branching trees. Flowers can be edible, but edibility and palatability varies by species. They are mostly picked very young and fried up, often with eggs or vegetables. They have a pleasant flavor and crunchy texture, but can be bitter and alkaloidal/soapy. Sometimes removing the stigma and ovary can reduce this problem. Agavaceae. rev 5/2017

elata    SOAPTREE YUCCA    container plant    this species has a crown about 3' across composed of very narrow, leathery but flexible leaves, each with a spiny tip, almost grassy in habit (especially when young). It will eventually form a trunk, to 20' in its most favored habitats (desert or Great Basin-like situations) and with great age. It retains its old leaves as downward pointing thatch. The leaves are distinguished by attractive, tangled white filaments which erode from the leaf margins. Bright ivory white flowers emerge from each crown in a very narrow spike to about 6' above the foliage in late spring . It is found in many desert communities of the Southwest and had a wide range of Native American uses. It is quite adaptable and has done well for us along the coast even during the very cold, wet year of 2005. Sunset zones 7-24, USDA zone 7. rev 12/2006

filamentosa 'Colorguard'    blooming plant    young crown    backlit    winter   Phormium-like   an evergreen, clumping perennial species from the East Coast, the reverse of 'Bright Edge,' this time with green leaf margins and rich gold centers, resulting in brighter, showier foliage. Same flowers and habit but a slower grower. Also shows faint to deep coral tints with cool weather, strongest in full sun. Likes at least half a day of full sun, good drainage, and at least some summer watering. Sunset zones 1-24, USDA probably zone 5 or lower. Eastern US. Agavaceae. rev 1/2013rev 1/2013

gloriosa 'Variegata'  PALM LILY, SPANISH DAGGER   West Cliff Drive, young landscape specimen     flower closeup    foliage color on young nursery plants    fall/winter color  a species confused in the past with Y. elephantipes. This true form of the species is much closer in form and requirements to Y. flaccida or Y. recurvifolia, two other Eastern US species. It forms a trunk very slowly under California conditions, and should be considered mostly as a low rosette in shape until quite old. This is one of its most interesting forms, featuring rough, dark blue green leaves with a powdery white coating, broadly margined with creamy white, which turns intense coral pink for about four months starting in October or November. The leaves have a modest, sharp spine, but the flat leaves fold under pressure from the tip. They are soft enough to move in breezes for a fountain effect. So you get prickled, but usually not pierced. Flowers are to 4" across, white tinged with a little green, on a spectacular spike to 2-3' above the plant. Choice, and rare! Very frost hardy, Sunset zones 5-9, 14-24/USDA 7. Needs moderate to infrequent summer watering. North Carolina to Florida. rev 2/2010

rostrata    City Hall    at the Huntington      a moderate-sized blue grey species with a hard terminal spine but on a narrow, very flexible leaf. It shows some variation from seed as far as leaf color, leaf edge color, size, etc. Leaf margins are usually golden yellow, and just light up when backlit. Leaves have minutely sawtooth edges that need some care when you are working around it. A central flower spike to 2' will rise above the foliage of mature plants, bearing a heavy show of creamy white flowers in spring or early summer. With age (great age in cool climates) a trunk to 6-12' tall will eventually form. The very regular, even habit, outstanding foliage color, spectacular flower display, fast growth, forgiving culture and relatively unarmed leaves make this one of the best of all for containers, gardens and landscapes. Drainage must be average to good, however, and plants should be sited where winter sun will warm and help dry soil. Gophers can also remove a root system in short order, plan for that when planting if necessary. This also makes an excellent focal-point plant for a hot or very bright site, even with reflected heat. The leaves catch your eye when the move in the wind, acting almost like a fountain for drawing attention. Frost hardy for almost all of California except the most northerly or high elevation areas. US Southwest, Mexico. rev 5/2017

whipplei   Santa Lucia Mtns. form, sun    Santa Lucia Mtns. form, mostly shade   massive ssp. parishii at RSABG    native ssp. parishii in the San Gabriel Mtns.  ssp. parishii giant old flower stalk    large colony, Santa Maria-area hillside   Cuyama Valley, clustering  how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. Just the name immediately sweeps me away to the steep, rugged slopes of the Santa Lucia Mountains looming over the Big Sur coastline, where their silvery white clumps are dramatically sited against striking rock formations and picturesque chaparral native plants. Keep your eyes open, populations are variable depending on where they are found. Coasting downhill at high speed on 158 toward Bakersfield just outside Tehachapi you will notice, if you can spare a very brief glance towards the roadcut banks while screaming along tire-to-tire with double-trailer and flatbed semis, tall, very green clumps growing with a conspicuously vertical habit. Santa Lucia Mountains individuals are usually rather small, solitary or almost so until flowering, then usually offsetting young pups, and showing heavenly silvery white or bluish foliage, even when growing in mostly shade. Those in the Cuyama River wash along The Matilija Highway (CA 33, north of Ojai) are compact, grey to grey green and offset freely. Further west towards Santa Maria along The Maricopa Highway (166) individual plants are usually rather green and almost solitary, but often form virtually pure stands in places. The largest individuals are seen in the the San Gabriel Mountains, in the population sometimes recognized as subspecies (or variety)  parishii.  Plants are almost always solitary, usually massive and very often over 6' across, with very silvery white leaves, and almost always monocarpic behavior, i.e. dying after flowering without pupping at all. Bart O'Brien told me there are specimens of ssp. parishii  at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens known to be over 60 years old that have still never flowered. They may be more "century plants" than Century Plants! All other forms will usually flower after 4-10 years, sending up a stunning, terminal, vertical plume of dazzling ivory white flowers on a robust spike to 8-10' or more, up to 15' for ssp. parishii. Plants of all types will look and grow best in full to part sun with average to good drainage, mineral soils or very light pottings mixes, little or no fertilizing and for almost all sites no summer watering after established. Site it well away from paths, entries etc. rev 6/2018