I have written a few blog post over the last two years showing off some of the amazing gardens that members of the Southern California Palm Society (PSSC) have created. Recently I had the opportunity to tour what is most likely the nicest of all of them in Southern California: the beautiful “Cuesta Linda” garden estate of Jeff and Christine Brusseau. Their garden sits on a 2-acre lot on top of a hill in the “climatic wonderland” of Vista, California. Cuesta Linda was started almost 20 years ago, so many plants have had almost two decades to mature and grow into the perfectly grown specimens you will see today.
The Cuesta Linda garden tour was run differently than other PSSC events in the past. Jeff’s garden estate is a big draw, so the PSSC decided to offer it as a catered event and used his garden as a recruitment tool to attract new members. The fee to eat Garcia’s Mexican food and tour the garden from 10 AM – 4 PM was $35. You had to be a member of the PSSC to RSVP. No random visitors were allowed for this meeting. The cost of entry also covered the shuttle service that was required to get to his house due to the fact there is no parking in the area to handle the amount of people the garden tour would attract. Now, normally I am not a fan of paying to get into people’s private gardens, but I believe it was warranted here and I personally felt the day was well worth the $35. Plus all proceeds go to the non-profit PSSC to help them continue to run as an all-volunteer organization.
The gate was set to open at 10:00 for all PSSC members. I got there an hour early, as I offered to help guide groups around Jeff’s garden. Many people started showing up around 9:30 to wait in line to get into the garden.
Next to the check-in table you get your first glimpse of the detail that goes into the garden. If the front of a garden looks like this, you can only image how nice the back will be.
Once in I found the Board of Directors of the PSSC conducting their quarterly meeting. This group has worked hard to rebuild the PSSC after the devastating theft of most of their money by an unscrupulous former treasurer a few years back.
Before we began the tour, Jeff Brusseau offered a warm welcome to all guest and gave a brief bit of history on the property. Both he and his wife Christine put in many hours preparing for this event.
To me, one of the more impressive scenes in the Cuesta Linda garden is the meticulously planted sides of the driveway that run all the way around to the garage. There are just too many amazing plants to list from the photo below. I will be showing just a fraction in this post.
Brick steps take you to one of a few courtyards the house has.
In that courtyard you get a great view of one of the iconic palms of Cuesta Linda: a massive Jubaea chilensis sitting behind a beautiful fountain built out of custom-made tile.
The Jubaea chilensis from the driveway; but this time with scale. Always looking for a way to be in a picture, Josh Allen gives you an idea of just how fat the trunk is. Some of you might remember Josh from the blog post I wrote about his nursery.
A seeding Pseudophoenix sargentii on the left and a coning Encephalartos whitelockii to the right.
Not really sure why, but Ravenea xerophila is one of my favorite palm trees. Cuesta Linda has a really nice example of this very slow growing palm tree from the southern tip of Madagascar.
I gave up on my Pandanus utilis long before it got to this size where you can appreciate it without getting sliced by the plant’s serrated edges. It takes a lot of painful maintenance to keep a Pandanus utilis looking this clean.
One of a few groups that could be found touring Cuesta Linda on the day.
Cycads border the entire driveway.
The male cones of Encephalartos ferox.
A Copernicia fallanse I sold Jeff close to 10 years ago planted in between rocks and some blue Encephalartos.
Most likely the largest Copernicia baileyana in California is found growing under a massive Roystonia regia.
Ando caught in action. Ando is a well-known garden photographer that likes to post his photos on palmtalk.org. He doesn’t like to be in photos, however. Got him!
Ceroxylon quindiuense (center palm) is a slow palm to get started but once it shows trunk it is a speedster. All the growth in trunk you see happened just within the last few years.
Raphia farinifera is another example of a well-grown palm growing in Cuesta Linda that proves very difficult to cultivate elsewhere in Southern California.
Before moving to the back of the house, you can get one final view back down the wonderfully planted-out driveway.
The back of the house is planted similarly to the front. Two Jubaea chilensis anchor another brick-covered pathway.
Three New Caledonian palms growing in almost full sun. Cyphophoenix nucele, Cyphophoenix elegans and Kentiopsis pyriformis mixed in with multiple blue Encephalartos, to include the large Encephalartos middelburgensis seen in the foreground.
Dypsis carlsmithii extending past the roofline.
Another angle from behind the house. This one looking down into the “jungle” which we will get to later. The palm trunk in the picture is of a Sabal mauritiiformis.
A beautiful, flowering Brahea moorei can be found growing in the back. It is not often you can find them this size in Southern California.
Dypsis sp. “Mayotte” on the left, and on the right a Dypsis leptocheilos x decaryi (TriBear) that I sold Jeff back in 2008.
Numerous Hawaiian Pritchardia palms and more Encephalartos in the side yard.
Unknown Pritchardia species.
Palm collectors love this South African native – Jubaeopsis caffra.
Aloes in a tropical paradise? It actually works surprisingly well. I believe this should be incorporated more often. I myself have many aloes scattered about my tropical garden.
Time to make our way into the jungle of the Cuesta Linda garden estate. It is here that I notice I am rubbing off on Jeff. He planted a croton and some Ti plants for color.
Before descending into the canopy of the jungle, I ran into this guy. This is local palm nut Bill Sanford, caught in the act of measuring the width of a Dypsis prestoniana base so that he can compare it to the size of his palm back home. Yep, us plant people can sure be crazy. It wasn’t so much that he was caught measuring the trunk that I found so funny, it was the fact he had a tape measure in his pocket to begin with.
The jungle is a densely planted palm utopia with various types of ferns, anthuriums and philodendrons growing all over.
The view looking back into the jungle from the very bottom of the property.
Look who I found wandering the jungle well camouflaged. Long time PSSC member and another avid photographer: Chris Stevens.
Another Pandanus utilis planted in the garden with a nice Birds Nest Anthurium (Anthurium hookeri) and Ceratozamia latifolia growing under it. The Ceratozamia latifolia is showing the colorful orange-emerging new leaves it flushes.
Two Chamaedorea woodsoniana looking out towards the north. This photo hints towards the fact that the garden estate sits on top of a hill, so it has an excellent microclimate.
Josh giving his best Tiki impression.
A few jungle closeups. The first is the trunk of a Chambeyronia macrocarpa ‘Watermelon,’ the second and third are shots of begonias, the fourth photo is of an anthurium in seed, the fifth of an unknown orchid flower, and the last is of some bamboo stalks.
Once you reach the bottom of the property you get an idea of what it takes to manage such a large garden estate. In order to keep a garden of this magnitude filled with plants, a nursery area to grow and propagate plants is a must. Jeff has two completely full shade houses to grow up the smaller nursery stock.
There is also a sunny area in the nursery as well. You can see from the pictures, Jeff has a lot of plant material.
This is the designated potting and propagation area.
What is needed to do yard maintenance? Tools. And lots of them.
Also found in the tool shed is a commercial-sized Dosatron. The best (and easiest) way to fertilize a large garden like Cuesta Linda is by running liquid fertilizer through the irrigation. Called “fertigation,” the Dosatron injector is the perfect device to do the job.
It was about at this location the notice was given that lunch would be served shortly. It was time to get my tour group back to the top of the property for some good Mexican food. Here is the group walking in line through the nursery.
Two more palms to point out before arriving to lunch. A Parajubaea torallyi var. macrocarpa and the very rare Attalea dubia. Just a baby, Attalea dubia is most likely the most cold-tolerant of the genus, but like most other Attalea, it will grow into a monster-sized palm.
By the time we got up to the pool area where lunch was being served, most tables had been filled.
Christine decorated the center of each table with cuttings from the garden. It was a nice touch.
Garcia’s Mexican Restaurant catered the event.
Custom-made tile decorates the hot tub. Just as they did on the fountain in front of the Judaea chilensis from one of the first pictures in this post.
I like the plantings around the pool, as it is one of the least busy areas in the garden. It gives you an opportunity to admire the details that went into the house when it was being built. The Brahea edulis seen below is one of the few palms that was growing on the property prior to the Brusseau’s purchasing it almost 20 years ago.
Something standard with each PSSC meeting and used to close out the day, a palm auction is conducted. It is a great opportunity for PSSC members to score some hard-to-find palm trees for their collections at a great price. You can see #23 there in the front: Leland Lai, the former President of the International Palm Society.
Well, I have to stop somewhere. I always have difficulty pruning down the number of images I shot on a day so I can write my blog post. It was extra hard this time. I took just over 350 photographs that day and ended up posting 78. I feel these 78 gave the best overall feel of the day. Hope you enjoyed the tour of the Cuesta Linda garden estate.