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Louisa R. Beck (1952-2004)

            Louisa had a strong affinity for plants and gardens. Her home in Willow Glen had a large garden with one of the immense willow trees the neighborhood was named for. She loved the tree for the shade it provided and the perches for birds. In addition to the willow, a Japanese maple and large pond and waterfall formed the bones of the garden.
            She preferred to hand-water the beds, giving her lots of time to observe subtle events that others would have missed. Praying mantises bred in the garden and she was delighted whenever she would detect an adult or one of their egg cases. She once grew a dish-sized sunflower and took photographs of it daily to chart the progress of finches consumption of the seeds. A metal screen created airy walls and a ceiling to enclose the deck (and keep her two declawed cats safe yet free to enjoy the fresh air) and she like to grow gourds that would hang down from the top of the enclosure.
            She and her friends thoroughly enjoyed attending native plant sales as well as cactus and succulent events. Plants in the garden where she grew up in Mill Valley, such as Billbergia nutans, remained special in her heart although several other commonly grown garden plants from that era were not held in much regard. Plants she had a particular fondness for and grew at home included Philadelphus californicus, Salvia "Bee's Bliss", S. canariensis, S. "Indigo spires", S. uliginosa, S. semiatrata, S. carduacea, Anemone "Honorine Jobert", Aristolochia californica, Melianthus major, Asclepias sp., and Cuphea llavea among many others.

A dried seed pod of
Proboscidea louisianica,
or "Devil's Claw"
illustration by
Gretchen Kai Halpert
She had a unique collection of cacti from a period when she lived in Tuscon, Arizona. She grew the southwest native Proboscidea louisianica and would hang a dried seed pod of this plant in interesting places including the dash of her 1972 Volkswagon beetle. In fact, one might consider the pod to be Louisa's emblem.

Western Horticulture Society
PO Box 166, Mountain View, CA 94042