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The Succulents of Tacoma, Washington

Living in the far left corner of the continental U.S. doesn’t provide a wide variety of opportunities for cactus and succulent field trips. However, our club was treated to an excellent array of plants during our recent club field trip to Tacoma, WA. Certainly it’s not on the register of places one would think of visiting to see succulents, but we filled a day with interesting sites.

Our first stop was the Pt. Defiance Zoo and Aquarium for a guided tour of their succulents and other plantings. We enjoyed learning more about pushing the zone – using the angle of the sun, presence of concrete, and protection of buildings and other plants – to create growing space for succulents. The variety of plants was impressive given their zone 7 designation. We especially enjoyed seeing this toothy Agave macroculmis.

Capping our visit to the zoo was a patch of Sarracenia carnivorous pitcher plants, glowing yellow amongst some bushes.

Our next stop was Tacoma Conservatory for a guided tour of this historic building in a lovely park with some very old trees. Most impressive of all was not a succulent but a citrus – a Ponderosa lemon. Carrying a lovely scent, the lemon can be held in two hands – larger than a softball.
We zipped off to Jungle Fever for a plant purchasing fix – enjoying the tumble of plants in the front yard of the shop. Some interesting plants and displays caught our eye.

Already feeling pretty good about the day we headed for The Outlaw Garden – an overwhelming (in a good way) plethora of plants, art objects and grave markers (yes) wending their way through an urban lot. At no point can one rest their eyes, there is so much visual stimulation. Most striking in the element of humor woven through garden displays.  Rather than try to explain the lovely seats in the bamboo grove, or the surprise mannequin around the corner, we will let these photos tell the story.

We dragged ourselves away from Peter’s incredible work of art – his garden – and returned to Seattle, stopping in West Seattle for a quick peek at another garden defying the odds. This one located on a ridge capturing the western sun on a rocky slope.

Many succulent plants peaked out amongst the rocks with even some cacti here and there. We learned these are spared the rainy winter weather by a plexi-glass rack that sits on the rocks to shield them from the wet. Keith explained how he planted the rockery, salvaging it from blackberry, and shared some interesting plant stories as well.

Not too bad for the rainy Northwest.  We were inspired by what we saw and each of us returned with renewed hope for our succulent plants and some ideas for outdoor growing.