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Rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies © Robert Sommers 2017

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Dr. Darian's Garden

Dr. Mardi Darian shows Dr. Diener a rare cycad
I have been getting back into palm trees of late. Unfortunately I sent my palm books to Shawn in Thailand about twenty years ago so I don't have any reference at the moment. I belonged to the Palm Society many, many years ago and am just now dipping my toe back in.


It is said that the koi pond once housed a few alligators.
I was surfing on Palm Talk, the online website, when I saw that there was a local Palm Society meeting scheduled at the garden of the famous Dr. Mardi Darian in Vista. The Palm Society of Southern California, PSSC, to be specific.

Darian is legendary in the palm world and his garden is a natural wonder not to be believed. Really indescribable.

I have wanted to visit for over thirty years. Here was finally my chance!

Words and pictures completely fail.

Not just palms, cycads, orchids, ferns, bromeliads, the whole tropical gamut.

Dr. Darian and his wife Cheri started working on this garden over sixty years ago.

He was one of the first people to go to Madagascar in search of rare palms and went a total of eleven times, bringing back many new varieties and trailblazing a path seldom, if not ever before tread.


A veterinarian by trade, his home is equal parts Jurassic Park, Huntington Gardens and Swiss Family Robinson. I have never seen anything quite like it, never seen its equal.


There had not been a meeting at his home in five years. Now I believe an octogenarian, it is getting harder for him to maintain his wondrous creation. Money, time and water are short. The amount of work and resources necessary to maintain his garden have to be absolutely staggering. This was said to possibly be the last chance the public would have to view the garden. So lucky I was able to attend. Wish Leslie could have been with me too.


I joined the Palm Society online as did Doug and we trekked out to the Vista hilltop in a sporadic rain yesterday morning. There was quite a group assembled, we met people that drove down all the way from Santa Rosa to attend!

A handsome dioon
We were a few minutes early, met Dr. Darian and he was gracious enough to give us a quick private tour of his cycads, Doug's love, before we joined the main garden tour. He was far nimbler then we were as he skipped down the steep garden walk and was happy to show off his progeny .

Mardi Darian
We wandered past beautiful specimens of encephalartos princeps and other assorted rare cycads, dioons, zamias and encephalartos.

Doug, who has a nice collection of cycad specimens, mentioned that after seeing some of the gigantic plants of Mardi's he better give his babies a little more room. Mardi gave him a big grin and said, "You got that right."

We learned from somebody that he had sold his massive and rare woodii specimen to the Huntington, purportedly for $72,000, money that was used to keep the garden running.


We joined a garden tour and our docent Len was a walking encyclopedia of palm and botanical knowledge. I am a rank amateur in this crowd, many of the people active collectors for many decades. I was very impressed and they were all very cordial and helpful.


There are so many twists, turns, microgardens and pathways , it is hard to believe that the wonderland is situated on a little over three acres. There are pool areas and shade areas, so many different interesting views and I don't think I saw it all. Great chance to see super rare material at maturity.


This is Doug under a giant licuala orbicularis leaf. I wish I knew the botanical names of everything I saw, the dypsis, all of the malagasy material, the many obscure variety of palms, but I don't and don't want to botch it up, so I won't.

Doug at the base of a nice brahea armata and a bismarckia palm


This is Wayne at the base of a gigantic dypsis prestoniana. By the way, he had permission to get off the trail so that we could get an idea of scale.


After the tour there was a general meeting and a plant auction. Here our tour guide is auctioning off the largest seed in the world, the Lodoicea maldivica from the Seychelles.

I bid and won a Livistona Laguninosa, a wooly cabbage palm, now sadly there are only 512 specimens extant  naturally in its native Queensland. It will look good near my L. decipiens.

This is an australian family but they grow very well in hot Southern California. Shame more people don't use them. Getting awfully tired of queens and canaries.

Doug, yours truly and Mardi © Phil Bergmann
What a marvelous day. A big thank you to everybody concerned, especially Dr. Darian, for opening up his garden and allowing us to share in its glory. Also to Phil Bergmann, David Bleistein who helped plan and moderate the event and all the other folks who helped.


Here are a couple more articles about Dr. Darian's masterwork:

http://www.pacifichorticulture.org/articles/a-tropical-eden-with-a-mission/

http://www.kpbs.org/news/2007/jan/08/retired-vista-vet-creates-rare-plant-rainforest/

If you have an interest in palms and cycads, please join the International Palm Society. Join here. If you have an inexpensive e. horridus or trispinosus for sale please let me know!

We are talking blue!

3 comments:

Emergefit said...

I enjoyed this thoroughly. Thank you!

Max Hall said...

Fantastic! Thanks Blue.

Blue Heron said...

see more pics here.http://www.palmtalk.org/forum/index.php?/topic/46489-more-pics-from-dr-darians-garden/