The Alta Vista Gardens Cycad Garden
The Cycad family are prehistoric plants; the biological descendants of their Jurassic period (200-150 million years ago) ancestors. In 2007, Alta Vista Gardens was gifted a substantial collection of Cycads by Bonnie McIlvaine from the estate of Hubert Charles de Monmonier who passed away on March 7, 2007. The estate created quite a stir with an additional bequest made to the University of Arizona in Tucson of 871 mineral specimens and rare books valued at $7 million. The donation to Alta Vista Gardens included an Encephalartos woodii- considered to be the rarest plant on the planet. A.V.G. was young at the time and desperately in need of funding. The Board had been offered $50,000 for the E. woodii and so with sadness voted to sell the prize specimen. The Garden needed the funds to install a fence around the Gardens to provide security for the eventual planting of the rest of the collection.
Since the site had not yet been fenced, the Gardens decided to box the Cycads to allow them to mature before planting them in their eventual home. In 2010 the process of installing them began around (and below) what would one day become the home of the A.V.G. Labyrinth. Board member and avid Cycad collector John Voss had been adding his private collection to our original bequest from Mr. Monmonier and as a result our collection had been expanding rapidly. John worked hand in hand with board president Bryan Morse to develop the vision for this Garden. It was decided to place the blue Cycads on the rocky slope just below the western edge of the Labyrinth. This area is the Blue Cycads Garden which are dominantly Encephalartos from the harsh climate of the Cape area of South Africa. Across the way, further to the west, a collection of taller growing Cycads are grouped with a Wollemia nobilis (Wollemi Pine—a 200 million year old fossil from the Brisbane area of Australia); two Bismarckia nobilis and a Brahia armata. To the south of the Labyrinth, in the upper Jungle Garden, in the shade of trees, lie two Ceratozamia mexicana from the Oaxaca area of central Mexico. Towering above the path are the largest of the encephalartos in the collection.
To complete the Jurassic look the area is anchored by a Metasequoia glyptostroboides (Dawn Redwood- a fossil from the Mesozoic era about 250 million years ago) and three Araucaria angustifolia (Parana Pine or Brazilian Pine- another relic of the Jurassic period).
In addition to the primary collection...
The Alta Vista Gardens has been expanding rapidly. The Desert garden has hundreds of specimens in the ground. The Jungle Garden collection has been growing exponentially. The first conifers are now installed in the Pan-Asian Garden. Cork Oaks have been added to the Mediterranean Garden and more Cycads are being planted every month. If you decide to come visit us, be sure to pick up a copy of our new brochure which includes a map of the whole garden with an index of all of our Art and other points of interest.
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