It is not often that you have an opportunity to visit a multi-generational garden. So when the Palm Society of Southern California (PSSC) quarterly meeting was going to be held at one of my favorite palm gardens in Southern California, I knew I would be blocking off that time on my busy schedule. The Gregg Hamann garden is a well known palm oasis and a fan favorite of palm lovers throughout Southern California. I know you will enjoy this tour as much as I enjoyed walking it.
I always seem to say this with each garden tour I post, so once again, it is easy to find a plant lover’s house because they always have front yards that tend to look like this. While the house is Gregg’s father’s, the garden, as we will see, really began about thirty years ago and offers a ridiculous assortment of rare palms, cycads and other tropical plants on his approximately 1.5 acres. Gregg planted his first palms in 1990 and and got the bug from Rudy Lusaga and then from Phil Bergman. At the time of this garden tour, Gregg had approximately 590 species of palms and cycads in the ground, split between about 400 species of palms and about 190 species of cycads.
The palm in the center in the photo above is an old Phoenix reclinata. A closer photo below.
The Gregg Hamann garden has a long, U-shaped driveway that cuts through his densely planted front yard. This is the driveway entrance on the left.
A theme throughout the Gregg Hamann garden is “palms and boulders.” His garden makes excellent use of the numerous natural boulders that are scattered around throughout his property.
This triple planting of Roystonea regia don’t even know they are in Southern California and not Florida.
One of many side paths that come off his U-shaped driveway. This area had recently been cleaned up and replanted.
A little succulent bed tucked away on a pathway.
Another pathway coming off the driveway. This one passes a koi pond.
Nannorhops ritchiana in the front yard.
This is a really nice trunk of a Chambeyronia macrocarpa “Watermelon.”
Two more outstanding Chambeyronia macrocarpa “Watermelon” trunks.
If you are a palm collector, one thing you will start to notice as you tour the garden is that Gregg loves the spiny stuff. He has quite a few spines palms, many of which you will see here in this blog post. The one that was the most impressive to me is this Astrocaryum mexicanum. Astrocaryum mexicanum is not an easy palm to grow here in our climate. It is slow, it hates Santa Ana winds and it despises any frost. This palm, and a few others in the garden, are markers for the ridiculous warm microclimate Gregg lives in.
Another front yard pathway. This photo gives you an idea of just how dense his front yard has been planted out. The twisted and prostrate Chamaerops humilis trunks you see were planted in 1967 by Gregg’s father.
A tool of the trade in the Southern California palm world is to plant Chamaedorea in densely planted, shady locations. Most are small and enjoy the shade. This Chamaedorea geonomiformis is a great example. Something else to note in the photograph below is the use of etched river stones to label the palm. Gregg has many of his palms in the garden labeled this way. The process to make these name tags involves a sandblasting and masking system and they all contain four pieces of data: Scientific name, place of origin, date planted and size planted. Sure beats a bunch of plastic name tags.
Unknown heliconia and ginger flowers.
Moving around to the backyard we find a large, open grassy area, a deck and a beautiful pool. The copper details at the roof ridges were added in 1999 when Greg remodeled the “Polynesian Style’ house his dad built in 1967 and that Greg purchased from him in 1988.
The pool bottom was uniquely designed with small glass tiles. Cycads of various kinds were planted around the pool.
This deck was built on top of a massive granite boulder. At one time it probably gave expansive views of East County, San Diego, but with the rise of his jungle canopy, some of that view has been blocked.
From the deck you can get an up-close view of his Dypsis leptocheilos x lucubensis.
Plants along the pool pathway. It is this pathway I used to drop down into his backyard garden. A few pathways wind through the southern exposure hillside that has about the best microclimate you can hope for in San Diego.
Our host Gregg Hamann leading a group of PSSC members through a tour of his magnificent garden.
Here is Gregg asking the group to raise their hand if they have a cycad named after them. Gregg does – Zamia hamannii.
Who are these two handsome fellas with such colorful shirts? Jeff and Josh are actually two of the more crazy palm collectors in Southern California. Of course they wouldn’t miss the Gregg Hamann garden tour.
Another spiny palm tree in Gregg’s garden – Acrocomia mexicana. Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
An Aloe marlothii that most likely once enjoyed full sun.
Gregg has an impressive collection of Encephalartos.
The garden theme again? “Palms and boulders.”
The spiny Acrocomia crispa with a Euphorbia cotinifolia providing a colorful backdrop. The cycads in the group planting are Encephalartos lehmannii.
Pandanus utilis. I wish I would have been more patient in my garden and had waited for mine to grow up overhead. The leaves are sharply serrated and I got tired of getting cut up, so I removed mine years ago. Pandanus utilis really makes a Southern California garden look much more tropical.
This is a really cool palapa that was built just under that deck I posted earlier.
The palm tree dead center in the photo above is an old Cyphophoenix nucele. Below is another view of this attractive palm.
Let’s get to the Dypsis palms. Below are just a few examples of the many different species of Dypsis Gregg is growing in his garden. He has the largest examples of some Dypsis species in all of California.
An attractive, unknown Dypsis baronii type.
Dypsis albofarinosa. This palm tree was imported by Rancho Soledad Nursery about 10 years ago as Dypsis affinis. I am almost positive it is really a Dypsis albofarinosa.
The trunks and crownshaft of Dypsis sp. “Bef” with Dypsis albofarinosa behind it.
Another Dypsis albofarinosa.
Gregg has many tall Dypsis madagascariensis types in the garden.
Dypsis decipiens. No palm yard could be complete without it.
Hard to photograph, this is by far the largest Dypsis ceracea in California. This species has changed names numerous times and will do so again in the near future. For this post I just call it what it came in labeled as almost 20 years ago – Dypsis ceracea.
Dypsis “Orange Crush” to the right and an unknown Ravenea that came in many years ago as Dypsis sp. “Kingaly.” The Dypsis “Orange Crush” is the largest in California.
Peeking past those two palms you can find a really well grown Latania verschaffeltii. Not the easiest of palm trees to grow in Southern California.
If I had to select my favorite palm in the Gregg Hamann garden, at this time I think it would be this Dypsis shown below. This palm was sold to Gregg as a Dypsis pilulifera but it is doubtful it is that species. The colorful crownshaft, smooth green trunk, and grouped irregular leaflets make this a gorgeous palm.
The palm on the left is one you’ll seldom find growing in California. It is a Heterospathe barfodii. The palm on the right is a Dypsis plumosa.
The winding paths in the garden will lead you to many rare palms. You’ll also see trunks of old species towering well overhead. At every turn you could find something of notice. You really needed to make numerous passes through the garden in the hopes of seeing most plants. Even then, you are guaranteed to miss something. The garden is that large and has that much plant material.
Jubaeopsis caffra. I would assume this palm was planted into the full sun at some point, but the faster growing palms around it have since shaded it.
Coccothrinax crinita. The Old Man Palm.
You must look around every boulder, as you could miss a planting like this small Coccothrinax borhidiana.
Another spiny palm in the Gregg Hamann garden. This is likely the most vicious of them all. Acrocomia totai.
This is one of the few spiny palms I grow in my own garden. Zombia antillarum.
Syagrus glaucescens from seed collected back in 1993. This is a slow palm tree.
A new trial planting. This Johannesteijsmannia altifrons has only been in the ground for a year. Perhaps someday it will look like these Johannesteijsmannia altifrons that Gregg and I saw in Bako National Park, Sarawak, Malaysia.
One of the pathways that takes you out of the backyard jungle. This one goes under a large orange tree.
One of the events that happens with each PSSC meeting is a palm tree auction. Here we see Dave Bleistein, the current treasurer of the PSSC, auctioning off a palm to the members that remained after the garden tour. The auction offers a great opportunity for people to win some great palms at low prices.
All garden tours must come to an end, so it is here that this one does. I would like to thank Gregg and Debbie Hamann for opening up their beautiful garden for PSSC members and for allowing me to write up a blog post to share the garden with people around the world. I have another impressive garden tour I will post in two weeks here on Married to Plants. Be on the look out for it. Until then, we wish you farewell.