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some upcoming events this weekend 4/30-5/1/16



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Tillandsias can perch just about anywhere with the right conditions, including on other plants.

This weekend brings the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden tour.
I don’t think I’ll be able to make it, so if you go, link back here maybe, so I can catch up.
(Spring has been so hectic that I actually made a dry run to one of the properties last weekend, mistaking the dates…oy!)

One of my jobs this week was located across the street from Rain Forest Flora (oh, sweet serendipity!)
I popped in just before closing and nabbed a couple tillandsias.
(T. bulbosa gigante and T. caput-medusae)

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A flier at the checkout counter of Rain Forest Flora was a handy reminder that there will be a bromeliad show this weekend
It will be presented by La Ballona Valley Bromeliad Society, held in conjunction with Sunset Cactus & Succulent Show and Sale.
Both shows and sales will be held at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 4117 Overland Avenue, Culvery City, CA. (323) 294-9839.

Happy weekend!


N.B. My Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ is producing prodigious amounts of seed this year. Let me know if you want to practice your propagation skills on some.

an hour in San Francisco Botanical Garden in April


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At the Friend Gate, Ageratum corymbosum Bartlettina sordida (thanks, Mr. Feix!)

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with a Fuchsia magellanica. Or maybe thymifolia. I didn’t check. No time!

A few weeks ago I had the rather condensed pleasure of visiting San Francisco’s Botanical Garden in Golden Gate Park for an hour.
Ahead of me in line were a couple from Scotland. Just behind me the pair were from Israel. The ticket taker was therefore not that impressed by a visitor from Los Angeles.
As far as distance traveled, I was the obvious slacker.

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I chose the Friend Gate entrance because that’s where the daily plant sales are held.

Entering through the Friend Gate was a happy accident. Just steps away were the Australian and New Zealand gardens, and not much further away the Mediterranean garden.
I immediately set to work power walking, dodging dawdlers intent on constructing the perfect selfie. Compression of time made me even more singled-minded than usual.

Continue reading an hour in San Francisco Botanical Garden in April

Bloom Day hangover/Foliage followup April 2016

The distinctive measured pace of a garden this time of year, compared to the frenetic pace outside my front gate, is what I find so compelling: the syncopated intervals between birdcalls, the varying rhythms of arrival and departure of hummingbirds, butterflies, bees. Incidents on the wing gently drift in and out…but this weekend it’s all against a background roar of engines. (It’s Grand Prix time in Long Beach again.)
Bloom Day falls on the 15th, hosted by May Dreams Gardens. Foliage Followup is hosted by Digging on the 16th, so I’m straddling memes today.

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The ballota is just now enlongating with bobbles of chenille-like blooms.
The largish green-leaved plant on the right is a Teucrium betonicum I found seeded in the gravel in the front garden this winter.
Strangely enough, the mother plant was grown way back in 2012.

In the back garden, I’m loving the low scrubbiness of it all, with occasional verticals and undulating agaves piercing through the hummocks of greys and greens.
And the proportions are, at this moment, just what I’ve been trying to accomplish for the past couple years.
New stuff I’ve been planting will no doubt change the shape by next year, so it’s a fleeting effect that I’ve come to appreciate just because it is so transitory.
Stepping out the back door this morning from a quiet house into a garden humming and buzzing and flitting with life — well, just add coffee for a perfect Saturday morning.
Even the Grand Prix can’t ruin that. Thankfully, the city has restricted the number of days racecars can “practice” before the big event, so it’s squeezed into mainly a weekend now.
A fair compromise between the businesses that flourish during race time and the residents that mostly suffer through it.

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I’ll spare you repeat photos of poppies, grevilleas, salvias and whatnot. Tanacetum niveum is new to both Bloom Day and the garden this year.
I’ve always loved the simple clean blooms of plants like chamomile. This daisy is no ground-hugger like chamomile, but billows up and out, with finely cut grey leaves.
It can become shrub-like in size given enough room to develop. It’s constrained by the tight quarters here. Purported to reseed, fingers crossed.
Looks like I trialed it/killed it back in 2010.

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Marrubium supinum’s blooms are similar in structure to ballota, but with a slight wash of color.

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I wouldn’t mind several more clumps of Kniphofia thompsonii dotted throughout.

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Plectranthus neochilus still obligingly covers the stump of Cotinus ‘Grace,’ buried under there somewhere and quietly decomposing.

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Some find the strong scent/stink/skunkiness offputting. I don’t scent it on the air, just on contact, when clipping it back.

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Gerberas at the base of the plectranthus stump.

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Other daises elsewhere in bloom include orange arctotis and maroon osteospermum.

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I planted the Eriogonum crocatum a little too far from the paths for photos, so this one gives just the basic outline of the blooms which start out chartreuse and age to brown.
I can’t wait for it to bulk up some more. I really do try to stick to the never-walk-on-the-garden rule, especially with clay like mine that compacts so easily.

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The potted camellia on the front porch hasn’t gotten much play on Bloom Day though it’s been in bloom a few months.

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Erodium pelargoniflorum reseeds into the gravel amongst the agaves in the front of the house.
If kept watered, it would probably bloom into summer. I say embrace the ephemeral!

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Anisodontea ‘Strybing Beauty’ is growing into quite a graceful presence, loose and open.
Last year the mallows were represented by Sphaeralcea ‘Newleaze Coral,’ a wonderful plant for a much bigger garden than mine.

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Potted Glory of Texas, a thelocactus just opening its blooms.

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I tossed some ixia into the garden this winter, in a few colors, ordered off ebay.

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Finishing up with the odd blooms of slipper spurge, Pedilanthus bracteatus, another one I keep forgetting to include on Bloom Days.


Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’

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Love it or hate it, Fatsia ‘Spider’s Web’ can now be found locally in Southern California. Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar is carrying it in affordable one-gallons. Fatsias grow like weeds here in dry shade, so when Southern California bloggers first saw this fatsia in Portland, Oregon gardens at the 2014 blogger meetup, we were, well, a bit indignant. By all rights, fancy cultivars of Fatsia japonica should be readily available at our local nurseries too. Pathetically, it’s taken two years. Let’s step it up, local nurseries! I’ve been told that the succulent craze is hitting nurseries in their pocketbooks, because succulents aren’t killed off as easily as spring/summer bedding, failures which usually bring lots of repeat customers. Succulents endure and don’t require seasonal replanting either, hence less nursery visits. One way for nurseries to stand out is by offering slightly off-the-beaten track plants. Nurseries that source specialty plants like this fatsia will always get my loyalty.

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About that variegation. We once hired a painter (hi David!) who used to clean his brushes by whipping them around centrifugally, covering pots and plants in nearest proximity with a stippled whitewash. This plant reminds me of that painter David, and how quickly he was hustled off the job after that whirling dervish brush-cleaning trick. Or maybe the variegation reminds you of a bad case of spider mites. I like how it brightens shady corners and reminds me of heated discussions over controversial variegation with plant friends.

(The Garden Bloggers Fling for 2016 is meeting in Minneapolis July 14-17, 2016.)

Greater Los Angeles APLD GardenTour 4/17/16


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On the tour: A garden designed by Joel Lichtenwalter and Ryan Gates of Grow Outdoor Design embodies the tour’s theme:
“The Watershed Approach to Landscape Design”
photo by MB Maher

The garden I posted about here in 2013 will be one of the eight gardens featured on the Greater Los Angeles APLD Garden Tour this Sunday, April 17, 2016.
You can pre-order your ticket online here.

After last week’s rains, the gardens should be sparklingly fresh.
Perfect timing for a first-hand look at landscapes built with water, or the lack thereof, on the brain.

Saturday clippings 4/9/16


The Los Angeles Festival of Books is this weekend. I haven’t been in ages. I can only imagine what the food truck scene is like now. I didn’t see any garden-themed speakers on a quick check of the roster, but long ago (1998!) I attended talks by Robert Smaus, (former LA Times garden editor) Clair Martin (Huntington rose curator) and Robert Perry (native plantsman extraordinatire). The political discussions used to be very good, and around 2004 we attended a panel discussion on the Iraq War, with the late Christopher Hitchens attempting to defend his pro-war position (mostly a position he held in sympathy for the Kurds, I think), along with Mark Danner, Samantha Power and Robert Scheer. If you go, bring an umbrella.

The past two days have brought light rain, a hockey victory for the Kings over the Ducks (ferocious Los Angeles vs. Orange County rivalry), so all in all, it’s been a pretty good week.
On the Metro yesterday, when the doors opened at a stop midway to downtown, a gust of jasmine flooded the train, causing me to look up from my reading, just in time to see the jasmine draped over a chainlink fence begin to recede as the doors shut and the train sped away. Talk about fleeting fragrance. There’s a tall, columnar, ferny-leaved tree along the freeway in bloom now too, golden flowers, whose name I’ve forgotten. The flowers almost look grevillea-like. Not knowing the name is bugging me. Any ideas? I was thinking maybe lyonothamnus but the flowers aren’t a match.

In my own little garden, this week I’ve been thinking about some of my favorite kinds of plants, those that “grow up, not out.”* Not necessarily plants that have been bred to behave and grow in tight spots, though that’s a subject in its own right. I’m talking about ordinary plants with transformative abilities. Smallish footprint, big aerial drama. Here’s a couple examples I’m enjoying this week:


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The old standby, Verbena bonariensis. This is a two-year-old plant, so it made quick growth this year.
Annual in colder zones. It’s a much better plant for me in its second year, more uniform in structure.

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The poppies will probably be over by the end of April.
Another plant that visits the garden and then leaves without causing a lot of disruption.

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I’m not sure if this is Passiflora exoniensis, but whatever it is, I think I’ve found a vine to ease the pang of being unable to grow rhodochiton.
(Ever so grateful to Max Parker for this!)

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I lost the main clumps of Aristida purpurea, which didn’t impress me hugely last year.
I love what a seedling has done with this agave, though. Much better placement than my attempt. More, please.
And I really should thin those pups out this weekend.

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Albuca maxima. I moved a couple bulbs into the back garden. This one does quite the disappearing act, dormant in summer.

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The Rudbeckia maxima experiment continues. Very entertaining so far.

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Depending on how it handles dryish conditions this summer will decide its ultimate fate.
You can’t really describe this as having a small footprint either, but I’ve removed some of the lower leaves.

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Nicotiana ‘Hot Chocolate’ easily hoists itself above the crowd, without being any trouble at all. Self-sows.

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Kniphofia thompsonii var. snowdenii is slim and elegant. I hear it can be trouble with more water, but it stays put here.

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Crambe maritima breaks the tall and slender theme, but look at those gorgeous new leaves.

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I’m getting lots of seedlings of this sideritis. I think it’s Sideritis oroteneriffae. If you feel otherwise, let me know.

And have a great weekend!


*“Sister Sue, she’s short and stout
She didn’t grow up, she grew out”
— Randy Newman, “My Old Kentucky Home”*

I’ve been reading Greil Marcus’ 1975 landmark paean to American music “Mystery Train” on the Metro to work. Any critic who up front acknowledges a debt to Pauline Kael is fine by me. If you’re short on time, just read Marcus on Robert Johnson, the musician whose skill went from so-so to prodigious in such a short period of time that he was rumored to have sold his soul to the devil. Without Johnson, The Rolling Stones couldn’t exist. Books, music, and plants — is there anything I’ve forgotten? Didn’t think so.

checking out Dustin’s pottery

As soon as work let up a bit, for a treat I’d been promising myself a trip to Dustin’s to check out his new concrete pottery.
I don’t know how it happened that Dustin’s concrete work became an exact match for the containers I crave.
It’s a mysterious case of convergent design evolution. He makes them and I want them. I want them all.
As always, I arrive with plant questions I’ve saved up for him that usually get knocked out of my brain the minute I step into his restlessly creative, ever-changing garden.
I forget everything else and commence pelting him with new questions rapid-fire as I tour the garden. He takes this annoying habit of mine with incredible good nature.
For example, this visit there was the headless stump of a ‘Hercules’ aloe/aloidendron plunged into the front garden, reaching about chest-high, mixed in among the “totems.”
I did find the head of ‘Hercules’ in the back garden. Some mishap had befallen the tree aloe at a client’s garden, so Dustin brought the wounded ‘Hercules’ home for surgery.
Two of them, in fact. He assured me rooting the massive things again wouldn’t be a problem.
He truly is the Willy Wonka of the plant world. Nothing fazes him, anything is possible, and pure imagination always triumphs.
Despite such absorbing distractions as headless aloes, I did manage to remember to ask about a dark brown Sticks on Fire I had heard about recently.
Had he ever heard of such a plant? Of course, he had.


Dustin: Yeah, it’s right over here. You want a piece?

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Chocolate Sticks on Fire in Dustin’s vase.

After exhausting him with questions, I moved on to checking out the pottery and selected several pieces to bring home.
Marty feels this one holds a remarkable resemblance to One World Trade Center. I’m not sure if that was intentional.

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For the moment, some of the pieces have been strewn on the ground.
The two pyramidal shapes are hollow and can be hung and used as vases or planters.

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For now they’re a helpful physical reminder for wandering corgi paws to navigate around Leucospermum ‘High Gold’ brought home from Seaside Gardens last weekend.
For inquiries on his work or custom orders, Dustin can be reached at: dustingimbel@mac.com.


spring rush


Last Sunday we roadtripped up the coast about two hours near Carpinteria, where Seaside Gardens was having a “Spring Fling.”
The day before, Saturday, I drove myself two hours south to check out the San Diego Horticultural Society’s spring garden tour.
All told, I put 400 miles on the car. The spring rush is definitely on, and already I’m wondering if I’ve got the stamina to keep up.

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But it was so worth it. Everywhere I went the spectacular pin cushion flowers of leucospermum were stealing the show.
A Del Mar garden on the San Diego Horticultural Society tour was filled with these South African shrubs arrayed against a backdrop of Torrey pines.
Australian plants like grevilleas, isopogon, and banksias were well represented too.

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Even though it was a two-hour drive south, I took a chance on the San Diego Hort. Society tour this spring and was not at all disappointed.
Leucospermum and other members of the proteaceae family are grown commercially as cut flowers in San Diego, so it’s no wonder they flourish in private gardens too.
The steep banks of the owner’s ravine were a particularly favorable site.

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Looking down onto the floor of the ravine

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Grevillea ‘Peaches & Cream’ alongside the driveway at the entrance to the house and garden

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For a closeup view of these flamboyant pin cushions, these were some of the beauties Seaside Gardens had for sale on Sunday, about 200 miles north of San Diego.

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‘Tango’

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I think this one was labeled ‘Spider’

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This one was leaning on Leucadendron ‘Ebony’

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Leucospermum reflexum hybrid

Wednesday miscellany

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Progress report on Rudbeckia maxima. Snails love this rudbeckia, so I’ve been cutting out a lot of chewed-up lower leaves.
Believe it or not, it seems to be forming bloom stalks already.
Zone 10 can be a topsy-turvy home for true perennials, which sometimes develop a bad case of insomnia as they are constantly prodded out of dormancy, or fail to enter dormancy entirely.
Whatever happens with the blooms, I still love those leaves, so the snails have a fight on their hands.
With ‘Sundiascia Peach,’ Melianthus ‘Purple Haze.’ Blue grass is Leymus ‘Canyon Prince.’
I’ve pretty much given up on the parkway/hellstrip the past few years but am thinking of making a stab at planting it again, with this wonderful grass.
Wildly swinging car doors, careless stompers, trash throwers, all you negative forces in the universe, I’m putting ‘Canyon Prince’ up against everything you’ve got. We’ll see who wins!
Along with planting parkways, I continue to be of two minds on just about any subject. As much as I love flowers, the diascias look a bit much to me.
I think I prefer big floral displays in OPG (Other People’s Gardens). And it’s doubtful anyone would count this as a big floral display, but still it’s a bit too foo-foo for me.
Of course, insects love the foo-foo, so there’s that to consider.

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This, however, is my kind of floral display. The beschorneria bloom stalk has topped out at about 5 feet and the individual buds have opened.
This has to be one of the most colorful bloom stalks ever to grace my garden.

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Strobilanthes gossypinus is looking fine this spring too and continues to astonish. Silver and gold? Seriously, you can do that?

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My mom’s neighbor’s graptopetalum is covering itself in its unique galactic bloom strucuture again.
It’s hard to sneak a photo because I have to stand directly in front of their window to do so.
Being a gated community, there’s not a lot of love for strangers with cameras fawning over their plants.

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I don’t remember the lemon cypresses producing these last year.
Nearby plantings were getting coated in a golden dust that had me mystified as to its source, until I knocked a cypress branch and unleashed a mini golden dust storm.
Of course I couldn’t leave the cypresses alone and have forced them into double duty. Passion vines and solanums are threading their way up.

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And I keep forgetting to credit Abutilon venosum for blooming all winter, so thank you!

a garden with Irish wolfhounds

In Georgina Reid’s piece on Michael Cooke I found my antipodal soul-mate garden.
Georgina (The Planthunter) visited the garden designer at his home on the Central Coast in New South Wales, Australia for The Design Files this March.
Reading Michael’s blog on his design practice, the plants — aloes, palms, crepe myrtles, strelitzia, bougainvillea, russelia — are very familiar. This could easily be home.
And those Irish wolfhounds have been running through my imagination for a very long time. Always in slow motion, of course.

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My family will vouch for my long-standing crush on Irish wolfhounds, which dates back to a childhood friend’s mother who bred these magnificent dogs.
Occasionally, she’d let them loose to run in packs in an nearby empty field at the end of our cul de sac where she also trained and exercised horses.
There is nothing like watching one of these dogs at full run, their long limbs effortlessly pulling forward to swiftly cover ground.
As kids we’d try to run with them but a few tumbles taught us to just get out of their way, stand back and admire.
If I pass you in the street with your Irish wolfhound, be prepared to be delayed while I greet and admire your majestic friend.

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Michael has two Irish wolfhounds. Horses too. And an empty field nearby, or paddock as he calls it. My childhood is being reenacted in New South Wales.

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Dogs, horses, and dragon trees too.

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Because I recently acquired one, I’ve become sensitized to sightings of doryanthes, the Giant Spear Lily.
My little one is Doryanthes palmeri, which eventually grows larger than Doryanthes excelsa, which flank Michael’s front door. D. excelsa has a taller flower stalk.
Note the envy-inducing xanthorrhea, the grass tree on the right. More photos by Daniel Shipp at The Design Files.