On US Highway 1, just past Los Padres National Forest, where the most southerly stands of coast redwoods live a stunted and decidedly non-lush existence, the Transverse Mountains forms a subsational barrier, defining the border of the Central and Southern California Coastal bioregions. North of the Gaviota Pass, California bay, madrone and buckeye thrive. South of the pass, the agave range starts, the coastal scrub diversifies with with more than a dozen salvias and a multitude of oaks species. Crops that would need greenhouses and heaters in Monterey thrive in southern Santa Barbara County. Kentia palms, avocados and citrus in all manner of colors and scents dot the hills and neighborhoods.
Goleta and Isla Vista provide the first major indications of the larger Los Angeles metropolitan area that sprawls south to the Mexican Border. While Isla Vista is focused on the educational pursuits and, occasionally, mishaps of students at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Goleta is the warm, suburban surfing town that buffers the ranches of Lompoc to the north and the tony Santa Barbara estates to the west.
Transversed by several creeks, a slough complex and major debris runoff from the mountains, the soil in Goleta is fast draining, rich and easy to garden in. Like all coastal areas south of Point Conception, the waters of the Pacific are much warmer here, providing Goleta with year-around, near perfect hibiscus growing weather.
Our hosts, Brad and Beverly Daniels have lived in their sweet, sedate suburban home since 2001. Only in the past few years has Brad become an aficionado and advocate of hibiscuses. What Brad lacks in longevity, he more than makes up for in sheer abundance and variety.
In the parking strip, a half dozen bushes, some more than 4 feet wide, are blooming large, impervious to traffic, dogs or the devoutly religious neighbor that gathers a couple dozen, just-ready-to-open blossoms each Friday.
The backyard showcases Brad’s willingness to experiment. Plants, from just started cuttings to 5 gallon behemoths, grow in a shade house, while other plants bask in 1 and 2 gallon pots, on benches and stands, in the Southern California sun. A few choice specimens grow near angel’s trumpets, palms and the omnipresent citrus. Ever drought aware, each hibiscus is watered by hand and supplemented with compost tea, fertilizers and overseen by an ever-mindful Brad.
Tropical hibiscus, Hibiscus rosa-sinensis hybrids, with blossoms over 6 inches in diameter make up the vast majority of Brad and Beverly’s collections. Plants from Hidden Valley Hibiscus, Hibiscus Lady Nursery, Logee’s and local nurseries are all grown in the Daniel’s yard.
Depending on the day, visitors can find almost any color of the spectrum represented in Brad and Beverly’s yard.
Brad gave a demonstration of root pruning a hibiscus and how to repot a newly shorn plant. Look for a video on the website and our Facebook page soon to see how you can accomplish this for your own pot-bound plants. Brad also expounded and evangelized on his recent successes with compost tea and his newly acquired compost tea maker. SCHS President Darren conducted our business meeting and reported on updates for the holiday brunch, membership options and SCHS use of PayPal.
After a buffet lunch on the covered patio, graciously provided by Beverly, the plant auction commenced with several hybrids from Hidden Valley Hibiscus. Spirited bidding and boisterous exchanges provided fine after-lunch laughs.
Thanks to our hosts Brad and Beverly for sharing their garden with us and inspiring all of us to be as thoughtful and methodical as Brad in growing our own hibiscus.