Desert Blooms in ResedaTens of thousands of cacti and succulents are beginning to set flower buds. Exotic, Night Blooming Cereus fill the air with a powerfully fragrant perfume. Hummingbirds fit around sucking nectar from Haworthia Aloe and Echeveria flowers.
A trip to South America isn't required to experience this scene. The unique microclimate described above sprawls over a 1½ acre agricultural site in Reseda, California. More than 100,000 cacti and succulent plants thrive in the display gardens and greenhouses maintained by California Nursery Specialties, where the unusual is commonplace.
For the curious visitor, the fun starts with the outdoor display gardens, where dominating 20 foot giant denizens of the desert throw long shadows across the details of the landscape below. A myriad of smaller cacti and other odd succulents fill almost every little nook and cranny between boulders and weathered wood.
First time visitors are awe-struck by the incredible diversity of these unusual plants which grow in so many bizarre shapes, textures and colors. Some of the ugliest plants suddenly send up some of the most beautiful flowers. There are so many intriguing varieties...You'll wonder, "What next?"
Cross an old wooden bridge over a rugged dry wash and discover oddly twisted (crested) Euphorbia mutations growing along with more common Opuntias and Barrel Cacti. A few scattered remains of a bygone era still lie out in the full sun…Parts of an old stagecoach rest close to the old bridge, and a group of blooming cacti cluster up next to the sun-bleached bones of an animal that perished years ago.
A short walk from the main display garden leads to a series of "desert galleries," where the majority of the plants are offered for sale. Prices of individual plants range from little over a dollar for the smallest specimens to over a thousand dollars for the largest ones.
Be sure to ask about the special "Dozen Discount."
Thousand of potted plants are arranged atop dozens of display benches. At first glance, each bench forms an elaborate tapestry of color, but a closer inspection of individual plants is what this treasure hunt is all about. Whether it’s a cute cactus in a 2" pot for your window sill, or a large, branching columnar specimen for your southwestern interior or outside landscape, you'll probably find it in one of the greenhouses. But don't be surprised if the decision takes longer than you planned…The array of choices can be overwhelming. You will be amazed at the selection.
Many regular visitors have found themselves "hooked." While you are under no obligation to buy anything, it’s hard to browse around and not find a little collection of odd or beautiful plants that you'll want to observe growing in your own home. You may even find yourself inspired to tear out your thirsty lawn and replace it with a medley of "water-wise" plants. Other regulars have filled their patios, balconies, or window sills with small collections.
In recent years, the interest in drought-tolerant gardens (and low-maintenance plants in general) has increased the appeal of cacti and succulents. The popularity of the "southwestern look" has made these plants the ideal choice for use as indoor "living sculpture," as well as indoor-outdoor landscape combinations. These plants compliment many styles of decorating and architecture, especially the early California, African, Spanish, rustic and western themes. The bold look of some cacti and succulents also allows them to fit in with modern, ultra-modern and high-tech or futuristic style environments (i.e., cacti in chrome pots).
Personalized ServiceCalifornia Nursery Specialties can help you with projects of any size, whether it be a special group of potted plants to accent your home or patio, or a large-scale custom planting for you business or estate. Several independent consultants and contractors, who work through the nursery by referral, are available for installations requiring special expertise. These designers and contractors can make a commercial or residential landscape resemble the grasslands of Argentina, the mountains of Peru, the deserts of South Africa, or the valleys of Mexico. Exotic themes are their specialty.
Environmental ProtectionMany visitors to the nursery have asked where the plants are "dug up from." All of the plants in the nursery are propagated from seed, cuttings, division or grafting. With the exception of a very few plants that were legally rescued from desert construction sites and road building protections, NO plants are collected in the wild. That would disturb nature’s delicate eco-systems.
Besides, nursery-grown plants are much cleaner than plants grown in the wild; nursery-grown plants don't bear the scars of time that accumulate in their native environment. The production of these clean and perfect plants in the controlled conditions of the nursery environment actually deters the brutal stripping of plant life from natural habitats. The is no reason for collectors to ruthlessly destroy the natural habitat and risk hefty fines and jail when they can now buy a perfectly clean, well-grown, healthy specimen.
The collection of oddities has been "growing" in the San Fernando Valley since 1976, when owner David Bernstein raised a greenhouse full of succulents and foliage plants for a high school science project. He became fascinated with the desert flora and made it his business to produce them. California Nursery Specialties is now one of the largest of its kind in the Los Angeles area. The Reseda facility is supplemented with production from his other greenhouses in northern San Diego County.
Exotic Details Year-RoundSeveral visits throughout the year are necessary to fully appreciate the changing character of the plants. Like a "natural kaleidoscope," different times of the year expose different treasures throughout the collection. Most of the cacti explode into vivid bloom in the springtime and early summer. The heat-loving cacti put on a lot of radiant new growth during the summer while some of the succulents slow down their growth. Then, the cooler temperatures of autumn and winter put the majority of the cacti to rest for dormancy, while it wakes up the other succulents for their growing season and most intense colors.
You can actually walk through the greenhouses and gardens several times during the same day and see something different each time. There’s so much to see that it’s hard to absorb it all on a single outing.
One of the best ways to grasp the endless, intricate details of the patterns, textures, forms and colors is to focus on individual plants through a camera with a good close-up lens. Enlargements of these interesting plants can reveal unusual and even bizarre works of ornate natural art.
Many of the hybrids in this treasury produce spectacular colored flowers bigger than the plants themselves. Others sparkle like little gems with bright but tiny flowers that bloom in profuse halos around the e plant. Some varieties, such as the Cereus and Opuntias, provide both fragrant blossoms and sweet, edible fruit after pollination. A few succulent species are grown primarily for their medicinal value (i.e., Aloe Vera).
You will discover hundreds of varieties of low-growing cacti, tall columnar varieties, globular varieties, and succulents of every wild color and shape. The names aren't just fanciful, they're descriptive: Living Stones (Lithops), Bishops’s Caps (Astrophyum), Tiger Jaws (Faucaria), Brian Cactus (Crested Mutations), Wooly Torch (Pilosocereus), Hairy Old Men (Cephalocereus senilis), Baby Toes (Fenestraria), and Living Odd Balls (Euphorbia obesa) are just a few of the surprises awaiting visitors. By now you have a good clue as to why an alien spaceship is painted on the colorful murals that decorate the company’s semi-trailer.
To quote an Ortho magazine publication of THE WORLD OF CACTUS AND SUCCULENTS, "Every gardener dreams of the ideal plant - one that has interesting sculpture and beautiful flowers, thrives on neglect, draws gasps of administration from their neighbors, and comes in enough varieties to fascinate you for a lifetime. What they are dreaming of is…The cacti/succulent."
David suggests that visitors to his "cactus ranch" come by when they have at least an hour to spend. It’s easy to linger longer, through. He loves to share the place, to talk with people about the plants, and let them learn about a special part of nature that they may never have experienced. Visitors are often surprised by the beauty and incredible diversity that exists. They come to realize that what they thought of as a loathsome "prickly product" is actually quite interesting and beautiful.
Some guests come by just to gawk. Others come with lists of what they need to complete a collection or finish a landscape. An occasional busload of students or green thumbs comes to learn more about the desert flora. Artists and photographers often make themselves at home, capturing the dazzling beauty of nature with easel and paints, or tripod and camera. Tourists often make the nursery a "must see" stop on their list to experience the unique plants that they don't usually see in colder parts of the world. Whatever your reason for coming, David makes every visitor welcome. Your visit will be an adventure; and as you might expect, most visitors leave with a plant in hand.
Away from the hustle and bustle of the city, California Nursery Specialties’ "Cactus Ranch" shelters magnificent natural beauty that you won't find at any other attraction in Los Angeles.
A wooden sign hanging near the entry of one of the greenhouses proclaims, "There is no place like this place anywhere near this place, so this must be the place!" You have to come and see it to believe it.
California Nursery Specialties is primarily a production grower, with a network of retail distributors, open to the public only on weekends.
Visitors are WelcomeSaturdays & Sundays
11am - 6pm (winter 11am - 5pm)
Location and DirectionsThe Reseda facility is located at 19420 Saticoy, Reseda, CA 91335, 2 ½ miles north of Hwy 101. Exit Tampa, north to Saticoy, west on Saticoy 1 ¼ blocks. Street parking is available along the front of the gardens.
Cash or Check OnlySorry no credit cards are accepted. All purchases must be made by cash or check. No catalog or mail order service is available, since each individual plant has different character.
Part of the fun is picking your favorites in person!!!
Contact InformationWe prefer to be reached by phone (818) 894-5694.