In the spring of 2015, The Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens
more than tripled their existing collection of cycads with a donation from the estate of a Loran Whitelock of Eagle Rock, California. Loran was a locally famous passionate plantsman whose collection included many unusual and rare plants, with an emphasis on cycads. Within a three month window, we transplanted 620 cycads from his private garden into a new planting at the Huntington. Each of those specimens had to be identified, labeled and recorded before this herculean move could even start.
Jim Folsom, our Director of the Botanical Gardens, worked with Loran to design a “ribbon” of cycads that cuts through from the easternmost Desert Garden to the westernmost Japanese garden. This allowed us to keep the cycads in botanical families and closely match the climates of their homelands. The plants have responded amazingly well to the transplant, especially remarkable when you realize we dug them out of the ground bareroot, trucked them down York Boulevard and plopped them into their new home in San Marino.
Loran’s estate has also generously endowed a permanent position on the Huntington Botanical staff for cycad research. We are already collecting and freezing pollen to attempt hand pollinations of these rare prehistoric species. Now that the plants are settling in, putting out lush new fronds and spectacular flowering cones, you’ll be able to walk the ribbon and sense the beauty that captured Mr. Whitelock’s heart.
Gary Roberson has enjoyed plants for most of his life, starting with his own garden at the age of 6, and was inspired to pursue horticulture as a career by his Grandfather. His involvement with Future Farmer’s of America took him to Germany and Australia as an horticultural intern. He has worked in the nursery industry, both retail and wholesale.
When an opportunity arose to work at the Huntington Library and Botanical Garden, he moved from Washington state to Southern California. Gary has worked in several gardens, including the Desert Garden, at the Huntington for over 15 years. He now serves as the Lead Project Gardener for the Cycad and Palm Collection.
When a large donation of cycads was willed to the Huntington from the estate of Loran Whitelock, Gary was instrumental in coordinating the move of over 640 cycad specimens from Eagle Rock to the Huntington grounds. All in all, over 2800 plants (clivias, staghorn ferns, orchids, aloes, agaves, palms, etc.) were collected from Loran’s extensive garden.