Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Visiting a plant collector's garden

San Antonio is full of surprising gardens and gardeners and I had a chance to visit one recently.  One significant contributor who helped make the Mitchell Lake Audubon Center gardens I posted yesterday such a beautiful place to visit was local plant collector Al Del Rio.   I had the opportunity to visit Al's garden one evening last week.  What a surprising visit it was!

Let's get started in the back yard where Al has recently removed most of the lawn and added areas for cactus, agave, aloes, and other succulents.

 Very much a San Antonio garden

Gravel pathways lined with local limestone rocks.

Through the gate to the three (yes, three) greenhouses where many surprises await us

Tillandsias displayed on the side of the building

Only a small part of the collection

Now to explore the greenhouses.  What's back there?

A huge plant collection!

I'd heard he had a lot of plants, but this is amazing!

Bright blue cactus toward the back was an attention grabber. What an amazing collection.

To get an idea of the extent of Al's collection, most of the plants in the greenhouses were singles or one of each with only a few duplicates.

I lost track of which of the three greenhouses held which collection but they were organized by plant type.

A view back to the garden from the end of the bromeliads.

All were neatly labeled.

We've been through the three greenhouses and we still haven't seen it all, there are more plants around in front of the garage.

I liked the colors in this variegated Agave parryi.

I loved the color of this Agave tequiliana 'True Blue" and took a photo of the label to remember.  Al sells his plants at local gardening events so I planned to ask him about this one.  Much to my delight Al had set out a table of plants for his guests to choose from and this one was available.  Guess which one I chose as a party favor?  It's not cold hardy here but so worth it for the great silvery color.

More gardens next to the garage, these are the passionflower fruits.  The striking tendrils are referred to as "crown of thorns".

The pool area near the house surrounded with tropical plants and pretty arbors.

We all agreed that Al would be a very busy guy when a freeze is predicted.  Meanwhile this is gorgeous.

Up on the deck an old tub holds plants.

The event began at 6 pm but I asked if I could arrive early to have more time to take photos in the daylight and he generously agreed.  I still ran out of light because of Al's amazing plant collection.  As it was getting dark I put down the camera and enjoyed the evening with friends.  We had a great time seeing Al's garden and plant collection.


  1. Wow! This guy is even more obsessed than the rest of us. Thanks for a fascinating tour.

  2. How wonderful! Looks like the botanical gardens!

  3. Fantastic collection. Looks like he has a few stapeliads, which is my biggest obsession; any chance you could inquire as to whether he's open to trading cuttings?

    1. I have sent him an email with your question and will let you know as soon as I hear back.

  4. At a loss for superlatives! Truly amazing. Am totally in love with the plant in your 13th image (collage of 3) on the left side that looks like either a bromeliad or a birds nest sansevieria gone a little crazy. Love. Really. Truly. Deeply. Do you know its name by any chance? Thanks for this fab tour. I will not covet, I will not covet, I will not covet.

    1. I liked that one a lot too. There were just so many to keep track of. I emailed Al for a ID on the plant so we should hear back soon.

  5. A fabulous collection of plants he has! And it's always nice to see the variety of gardens and private plant collections and garden to be found in Texas.

  6. Al's collection is just amazing! I knew you'd like it. There's always something new and different to see at his place and your photos make me want to go back because now I realize there were so many plants I missed seeing. And the remarkable thing is that Al knows each and every plant by name! So many plants, so little time!

  7. what a special garden! drooling! thanks for the amazing tour Shirley!

  8. What a fun place to visit! Looks like he's got a nice collection of dyckias too, which I'm rather fond of. I have all of four kinds, I think ... LOL. Thanks for the tour.

  9. WOW! Three greenhouses and all that goodness spilling out all over the place. Like Ricki said he's even more obsessed than the rest of us. Thanks for the photo tour!

  10. Three greenhouses! Amazing. And so many different plants. I would love to know the number of different plants he has! The gardens around the pool are beautiful, too. And I love the tub with plants spilling over it. Al sounds like a very nice person. I'm glad you got the plant you were eyeing!

  11. Great collection of plants! I especially liked the large piece of driftwood with some plants stuffed in it? Did he give details as to what particular Plant Sale he will be selling at? I'd like to see if I can pick up some interesting specimens.

    1. He had a booth at the Mitchell Lake Fall Festival and had a booth at Festival of Flowers in the spring. Most events publish a list of vendors in advance so that's a good way to check.

  12. love your collection nice to see the variety of gardens and private plant collections and garden.


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