In my continuing saga, Stranger in a Strange land (kudos to Denise Maher for the pithy observation,) I’m trying to sort out how to think about Sunnylands–apparently a place of world-wide fame. I’m sure I missed the royal treatment generally reserved for visiting dignitaries, but still, in strolling the gardens–impressive though they be–I came away confused.

Why mass planting after mass planting? I wanted to grab a spade and mix things up. Of course, there was this to discourage me–if I were to be seriously inclined. Overall, though, I had strong deja vu of parochial-school confines.

And though I didn’t observe security–other than the cameras every 20′ surrounding the entire perimeter–I imagine someone would have appeared to stop me.

Aloes line up over here.

Aloes line up over here.

And a wider shot, but you see what I’m saying about the formations–a little soldierish. In fairness, this area did have nice trees.

I liked the trees, Parkinsonia aculeata aka Palo Verde.

I liked the trees, Parkinsonia aculeata aka Palo Verde.

And this–which was a lovely vista.

The Palo Verde bloom is an intense clear yellow.

The Palo Verde bloom is an intense clear yellow.

More soldiers, Echinocactus grusonii aka Golden Barrel Cactus.

Barrel Cactus all in a row. (Actually, one of my favorite mass plantings.)

Barrel Cactus all in a row. (Actually, one of my favorite mass plantings.)

And more organization. Of course, now that I look at the pictures, I like it more than I thought I did when I was there.

Hesperaloe, which I love, planted en masse.

Hesperaloe, which I love, planted en masse.

Hah, I found a bed where things were intermingling a bit. That’s more like it.

This bed mixed it up a bit. More interesting, no?

This bed mixed it up a bit. More interesting, no?

I liked that there were lots of trees, relatively speaking. I mean, not Oregon-style lots of trees, for godsakes, but trees.

A little shade makes everything better.

A little shade makes everything better.

I’m always looking for a place to park in the shade, and my son-in-law Justin (in all but the fine print) indulged me by finding one.

Parking in the shade, sorta. Thanks, Justin.

Parking in the shade, sorta. Thanks, Justin.

In looking at the photos, it seems more lush than it felt when we were there. The trees were lovely.

Megan way down over there, to give an idea of scale.

Megan way down over there, to give an idea of scale.

And there were some nice people sitting behind this vista who kindly took our photo. Public Service Announcement: when taking a group photo, get the feet too!

Elliot, me, Bill, & Megan at Sunnylands.

Elliot, me, Bill, & Megan at Sunnylands.

Ever so slight mixing it up.

Texas Sage backdrop, lots of Texas Sage.

Texas Sage backdrop, lots of Texas Sage.

I liked this bright bug, but couldn’t get him to turn around for me.

Unidentified bug on unidentified plant. You're welcome.

Unidentified bug on unidentified plant. You’re welcome.

Soft and fluffy trees with grass in the desert. Hmmmm.

Repetition on a theme: grass, cement, trees.

Repetition on a theme: grass, cement, trees.

I purposely have not read a lot of other bloggers’ thoughts on Sunnylands. I didn’t want to be unduly influenced. But I will now. In trying to identify the plants, I stumbled upon pal Gerhard’s post. He knows stuff, and you can read about his take here. (In my sneak peek of his post, seems we had a similar reaction, though his is a more scholarly approach.)

In perusing Google images, I was struck by the similarity of our photos. That says something, doesn’t it, that in a garden this big, we all got the same shot? Access, regimentation, or something funny.

What say ye?

Cheers.

Echinocactus grusonii
Golden Barrel Cactus.
Pachycereus marginatus
Fencepost Cactus.
Agave desmettiana
Smooth Agave.