Creative Concepts Landscape Management took a field trip to The Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, more locally known as the LA Arboretum. Come along with us as we walk the gardens. We’ll call this Pictures at a Living Exhibition (nod to Mussorgsky).


This succulent garden mimics a coral reef. Can you see the resemblance?



Euphorbia resinifera, commonly known as Resin spurge or Moroccan mound, is a native of the forested regions of Morocco on the slopes of the Atlas Mountains. The dried latex of this plant was used as a medicine for centuries, however if mishandled it can irritate the skin.



A species of Haworthiopsis growing amongst Aloe. Succulents often do well in Southern California as many of them have evolved in areas comprised of sandy soil with low precipitation.



Cephalocereus senilis, also known as the Old man cactus, is a native of east-central Mexico. It is growing in popularity among cultivated gardens but threatened in the wild. Its woolly appearance, caused by hairlike fibers, becomes more pronounced when it receives bright, full sunlight (the fibers protect it from intense sunlight). Don’t be fooled though, this old man still has teeth. The friendly looking hairs conceal sharp central spines.



Echinocactus grunsonii, or the Golden barrel cactus, is prized for its golden hue and satisfyingly rounded shape. These plants can grow up to 3 feet in diameter and are a staple in desert themed landscapes throughout the Southwest. Again, this plant is native to east-central Mexico and is threatened in its natural habitat. This cactus grows well, in the wild, on well draining volcanic rock slopes (especially at around 4,000 – 5,000 ft elevation) – note the volcanic rock used in this planter.



Pachycereus schottii, the Senita cactus, is a native of Baja California, Sonora, and southern Arizona. Although fairly rare in the wild, these cacti are growing in popularity in cultivated gardens (including as potted plants) for their dramatic ornamental effect. They have a symbiotic relationship with the Senita moth, which pollinates the cactus and eats the flowers during their larval stage.



Looking down the large tower-like stalks of Pachycereus schottii. Will cities of the future look this way? It’s quite dark down there at the bottom. Perfect for small critters to hide in. By the way, it’s good that small critters are able to hide in garden plants. If you don’t like critters, please call Elon Musk and ask for a ticket to Mars (where there may well still be microbe critters).



The LA Arboretum has a rain and ground water capturing system consisting of underground perforated PVC tubes. The water collects in the tubes and is pumped up into their storage tank (pictured above). Although this does not provide water for the entire grounds (which is a massive area around 127 acres), it does provide water for their edible gardens.



The LA Arboretum’s vegetable garden (a section of their edible gardens) is usually operated by volunteers and watered from the tubing system mentioned in the previous photograph. Although it is currently closed to the public (and volunteers), due to Covid restrictions, the LA Arboretum plans to get the program up and running again in the near future. All are welcome to apply to become a volunteer at the LA Arboretum!



Creative Concepts Landscape was fortunate enough to get a tour by the LA Arboretum’s very own, Frank McDonough, who is a certified arborist and the Botanical Information Consultant for the LA Arboretum.

In this photograph, Frank is explaining some special properties of a local hero, Quercus agrifolia, the coast live oak. The coast live oak is native to coastal California, including Southern California, and is a state treasure with protected status in many municipalities.

In the following picture we see the rounded natural form of the coast live oak. This form, along with the cup-like shape of the leaves (also pictured below) act to break up the wind around the tree, protecting it from damage. It’s important to allow these trees to retain this natural form. Over pruning and toping is a common mistake. It never helps the tree, and in fact, only works to invite further damage and reduce structural integrity.



The naturally arching, mounded form of Quercus agrifolia acts to break up high wind, helping to keep the tree structurally sound.



The cupped shape of Quercus agrifolia’s leaves further help to reduce wind turbulence around the tree (like the dimples of a golf ball), by breaking up the layer of air directly around the tree, reducing drag.



The sweeping, cascading natural canopy as seen beneath Quercus agrifolia. We, here at Creative Concepts Landscape, propose a national ‘Sit Underneath a Tree Day,’ and today will do perfectly.



The fungi genus, Armillaria, is often suspected of damaging trees. At the LA Arboretum, there is strong evidence that it is living benignly with this specimen of Quercus agrifolia (pictured above is the reddish-brown fungi). Although Armillaria is a well documented pathogen amongst many tree populations, further research might show a more complex, and far less destructive relationship with certain tree varieties in certain climates.



An art installation/ecological statement? In the cultivated garden, pruning trees is often necessary. Removing trees is sometimes necessary. Careless cutting is never necessary.



Eucalyptus deglupta, the rainbow gum, is a crowd pleaser here at the LA Arboretum. Seferino poses with this tasty specimen. Native to the Philippines, Indonesia, and Papua New Guinea, this is a true rainforest dweller. Although it can survive in our climate, its colorful bark is often less pronounced… but still very cool.



The Prehistoric Forest at the LA Arboretum. Here we see eucalyptus, schefflera, banana, and palms, amongst many others.



Lake Baldwin, near the Prehistoric Forest, at the LA Arboretum. The Arboretum grounds sit on top of an area generally closer to the bedrock layer, therefore the natural water table is closer to the surface. This swampy area, which Lake Baldwin is part of, has long been a gathering place for local animals and plants.



Elias Jackson ‘Lucky’ Baldwin, owner of the Santa Anita Ranchero (where the LA Arboretum is located), imported several peafowl pairs from India in 1879. Their descendants freely roam the grounds today. Their natural, and healthy, diet consists of seeds, plants, insects, small reptiles, and even small mammals, not hamburger and chips, so do not feed or touch them. But do take pictures of them. They love to pose and strut.



The human made, but still beautiful, Meyberg waterfall at the LA Arboretum. Would you like this in your backyard?



A ghost in the forest. The Ficus benjamina ‘Variegata’ also known as the weeping fig is a common sight in Southern California, although this variegated form takes on a certain eye-catching, specter like appearance.



The variegated leaves of the Ficus benjamina ‘Variegata.’ The variegated (white) areas of these leaves do not have chlorophyll, therefore they cannot photosynthesize (however the green areas still do).




Brugmansia suaveolens, the Angel’s trumpet, is a prized for its showy, hanging flowers and is somewhat common in the coastal areas of Southern California. Despite its angelic name, it’s poisonous if ingested.



These lovely, tropically aesthetic flowers of the Ceiba speciosa are actually common throughout the Los Angeles area, even though they are native to South America. Globalism isn’t just for powerful nations and massive corporations; it’s for flowers too.



Plumeria frangipani ‘Heavenly Clouds’ bids you adieu



The metropolitan sea washing up against the San Gabriel Mountains (as seen from Tallac Knoll in the LA Arboretum). Landscaping, as in much of life, is a delicate balance between what we want and what works within our ecology. That balance can be tricky to obtain, but here’s to us all trying our best.



What’s going on here? Join the LA Arboretum for their annual show, Lightscape (November 12 – January 16, 2022)



Thank you for joining Creative Concepts Landscape Management on another memorable outing to see the beautiful and abundant flora of Southern California. Feeling inspired? As always, contact us for all your landscaping needs, and join us again next Wednesday for another horticultural adventure.



Your humble narrator, Daniel Williams, admiring a beautifully gnarled specimen of Schinus molle, the California pepper tree (but actually native to the Andean deserts of South America).




The Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden is a gem here in Southern California. It’s perfect for the solo adventurer or the family. It’s also a great place to impress a date, so head on over there!