San Diego Botanic Gardens

230 Quail Gardens Dr, Encinitas, CA

Truly I find it hard to say I have a favorite garden.  When I travel and visit gardens I enjoy the very moment in that garden.  However the San Diego Botanic garden holds a special place in my gardening heart.  What doesn’t grow wonderfully here?  This trip was a misty day with lots of moisture in the garden.  Droplets on leaves and blooms sparkled everywhere you looked.  But this day I happened to meet Margaret Jones, who describes herself as the “fashion maven of the well dressed topiaries of the succulent garden”  A garden volunteer she applies her pallet of plants to the garden resident plant people modeled on human form.   Each of the plant people has two garden volunteers working to keep them well dressed.  There are a team of 10 working on the topiaries.  Pat Hammer is director of Operations for SDBG and is responsible for bringing the topiaries to SDBG.  Originally they were all covered with ivy.  Now the clothing fashion is changing to succulents.

The clay masks are modeled on the human faces of garden luminaries.  The man with the vest is Don Walker who started the San Diego Horticultural Society.  The hostess serving tea is Dorthea Walker.  The three musicians are the faces of three of the nursery workers of Widners Nursery.

A beautiful garden is always in transition and plant sculpture is one way to really understand this.  Working on a steel forms covered with sphagnum moss succulent starts are pushed into the frame to take root and grow to cover the entire structure.  Margaret does this, working with a small plastic container  hung around her neck.  The box of plant starts  handy she works carefully with her long handled tweezers to work the pieces into place.    The artist’s work requires patience as the beginnings can be a bit sparse in creating the vision.  Unlike artists working with paint on a canvas nature will control the final product.  Watering, warm weather and a bit of luck will create the masterpiece.

Here Don Walker has the appearance of a fresh haircut but in time his head will be full and curly as the little plants grow.  One of the musicians has a lovely vest of light green.



During this visit the most beautiful plant person is now representing Evelyn Cisneros  the captivating prima ballerina of the San Francisco Ballet.  This masterpiece of perfect succulents is the work of Margaret and has had a year to mature.  The results are captivating.


Her skirt is a floral work of echeveria and the ruffle will bloom in purple flowers.  Her hair is sedum, as is the toe of her ballet slipper.  Elfin Thyme is covering the bodice, her shoulders are ruffled with succulents.  Her hair is sedum, and she has a string of pearls around her neck. She holds a nosegay in one hand and has a ring and a bracelet of plants on the other.



Now and then the clothing needs a trim, a patch and a reweaving as the plants perform naturally growing, blooming and growing old.  This is a temporary splendor changing each day.  But artistic volunteers will redesign and grow a new outfit for all of us to enjoy.

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