friday clippings 8/16/19

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Mangave ‘Tooth Fairy’ from the August Inter-City sale.

The LA Times wrote a glowing review of the recent Inter-City Cactus & Succulent Show & Sale, and it was my impression as well that this event was an enormous success over past years. I was told by a cashier that three people on Friday earned a free T-shirt — free if you buy over $1,000 of plants. And on Sunday, attending a talk by Woody Minnich at South Coast Botanic Garden, he also expressed elation over the show’s success this year. The demographics at these shows seem to be undergoing rapid change, most likely driven by the exposure succulents are getting on social media, which the LA Times’ article alludes to as well. So there’s one good thing social media has done! I’m sure there are others…

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I missed a Bloom Day report on the 15th, so here’s some quick August garden updates. I’ve cut away most of the sprawling branches of horned poppy, and now Agave celsii var. albicans gleams again like an albino artichoke. I’m always surprised it handles full sun so well.

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August is when the slipper plant’s leafy growth erupts, the flowers open, and the hummingbirds stake their feisty claims. I love this late-summer lushness. All those leaves will drop over the winter, and its presence will become almost reed-like. Pedilanthus bracteatus is becoming one of my favorite plants in the garden, a slim, tall, “see-through” succulent.

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Pelargonium ‘Queen of Hearts’ has been in bloom since purchasing it in May
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Dianthus ‘Single Black’ is reblooming in August
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A couple Origanum laevigatum ‘Gentle Breeze’ were planted a few weeks ago and have a wonderfully uniform and upright habit of growth. And the bees are crazy for it. Which causes me to wonder why I stopped growing the ornamental oreganos, which are so good in late summer. Were they awful sprawlers? Here’s a partial answer I found from July 2016 regarding Origanum ‘Rosenkuppel’: “The oregano is a demure evergreen mat all winter but leaps into alarmingly expansive growth in summer. It suffocated a grevillea and threatened to do the same to other neighbors. Like first world problems, similarly, these issues get filed under small garden problems.” Sounds like I ripped it out in exasperation. Of course this new one’s compactness and uniform habit of growth is quite possibly due to its small size and the commercial grower’s skill, so it will take at least another year to see how it reacts to conditions in my garden. I’m hoping growing it drier among succulents makes a difference.

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Sesleria ‘Campo Azul’ is the perfect scale for growing among succulents (and flowering oreganos)
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Miscanthus ‘Silver Sceptre’ slowly gaining size, unusual for miscanthus in my garden
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An asteroid belt of Eryngium pandanifolium’s tiny blooms
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Grevillea ‘King’s Fire’ has looked like this for months
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Grevillea ‘Moonlight’ — unseen in the photo is how Passiflora ‘Flying V’ has threaded itself through the shrub, an effect I love while warily anticipating the other shoe to drop. Vines inevitably drop the other shoe.
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Berkheya purpurea peeks out over an agave

It’s been cooler, and Sunday is predicted to be cool enough to contemplate a visit to the Long Beach Flea Market. (Because of the huge asphalt surface, it always feels at least 20 degrees hotter there, so I rarely go in August.) There’s a plant vendor who comes up from Oceanside for the flea with an amazing selection of bromeliads for full sun, and I’ve been trying to inveigle an invite to his growing grounds down south — hope he’s there Sunday.

I told Marty I was booking a flight for Windcliff’s open garden days today and tomorrow, just to get a reaction, but not much surprises him anymore…

Have a great weekend!

Posted in clippings | 4 Comments

Scott Deemer’s dreamscape of rocks, fire, water

Scott Deemer keeps it elemental with the landscape design at his home in Niwot, Colorado not far from Denver, especially in the back garden. The front garden is more manicured, but in the back garden there’s a strong fantasy at play of wandering through a meadow and discovering a rocky pool — which for me evoked summer vacations in Three Rivers, Calif., near Yosemite, where that was the day’s sole agenda, just meandering through meadows alongside the river and periodically plunging into rocky pools to cool off.

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And you’ll just have to join in my fantasy, too, of slow meadow walks, lazing on warm stone, the shock of cool water on sun-warmed skin, and an outdoor fire at the end of the day. Because I pretty much ignored everything else about the house and garden.

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The incredibly engineered rockwork that is the stock in trade of Scott’s company Outdoor Craftsmen hews to the back of the house like a bulwark, smoothly handling the many changes in elevations, carving out terraces and an epic fireplace fabricated in situ that is contiguous with the biofiltration pool.

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Stone and steel, Rosa glauca, ceanothus on the right, irises on the far left
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Sitting at the fire, there’s a powerful alchemy of warmth, shelter and an open prospect.

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Steps lead into the meadow on the left, the pool extending off to the right.

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The planting around the pool is stylized, almost Japanese in feel, but not overwhelmingly so, with appreciable restraint in maintaining a balance between enclosure and sky-filled reflections and open views.

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Weeping Purple Beech, with dark-leaved sambucus in foreground

The multi-level house sits on the land like a lodge built into a rocky outcropping, overlooking the pool just feet away from the back door.

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The view, and I suppose the fantasy too, changes depending on the vantage point (and the viewer).

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A fantastical turquoise siren leads one down intricate rockwork of steps planted with grasses and small treasures like sea thrift to the lowest level of the house.

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A landscape both hyper-natural and elemental that for me unlocks memories, daydreams, reveries of wild places I’ve known.   Thanks to Scott and Paula Deemer for welcoming garden bloggers this past June to their dreamscape.

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

views of August

Continuing with the year-to-year comparison…

back garden in 2010, (technically September), when a dwarf purpleleaf grapevine and fatshedera still climbed up the pergola, before it had a corrugated roof, right about where a passiflora with grape-like leaves was planted last week. Young tetrapanax, now tree-like, can barely be seen deep middle, just above the variegated agave. That was a killer Agave bovicornuta that I adored on the left. Then as now, also growing was manihot, tropical salvias, cordylines, etc. Upright branches belong to Cotinus ‘Grace’ whose hybrid vigor proved too much for a small garden so it was removed.

I love plant-intensive gardens, planning them, planting them. I’ve learned a lot about spacing and air flow over the years, so the garden isn’t as dense as in previous Augusts, but I’m still just as plant crazy after all these years.

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the tetrapanax in 2019 tops the pergola. Evergreen fernleaf acacia replaced Cotinus ‘Grace.’
August 2012
looking east under the pergola, valerian, fabulous Senecio anteuphorbium and kangaroo paws in the foreground
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2019, kangaroo paws replaced with the slipper plant, Pedilanthus bracteatus, with most of the planting reworked. (Wire baskets are used to protect young plants, in this case a small Aloe tomentosa.)

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I’m not exactly practicing minimalism in 2019 either
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New addition to the pergola, Passiflora vitifolila ‘Scarlet Flame,’ a hybrid by the mysterious Patrick Worley, who’s responsible for another passiflora in the garden, the late-summer blooming ‘Witchcraft’

I still have the tendency to up-end things and throw a wrench in the garden, like a passion flower reputed to grow to 20-30′ — I’m hoping to train it up and then across the horizontal beams of the pergola, so the flowers dangle at eye level. But I’ve also developed more of a feel for a zone 10 garden that doesn’t slight the remaining months of the year in favor of one season over another.

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August 2013, perennial knotweed Persicaria amplexicaulis in the garden, that rare perennial that thrives in zone 10. Native to the Himalayas…

I was crazy about knotweeds for quite a few years. Still am, actually, but I no longer grow them or many other perennials in the garden.

variegated Polygonum orientale from 2010
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August 2013, a Southern Californian take on the plant-intensive “new naturalism”
Helicotrichon, anthemis, agastaches, persicaria, yarrow, crithmum. Along with other big grasses, that’s a Giant Reed, Arundo donax ‘Golden Chain,’ in the left background that we removed in the nick of time. So beautiful, so treacherously invasive.

Occasionally, like in 2013, the garden was very summer-forward. Working out the longest perennial show possible in zone 10 was incredibly absorbing but still left seven or eight months of nice weather with lots of bare ground.

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August 2019, annual knotweed Polygonum orientale (in a container)
Thank you for growing this rarely seen annual, M&M Nursery in Orange, Calif.

I still like to try out summer stuff in containers though.

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dark-flowered Thunbergia alata getting trained up fishing wire.
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Senecio confusus requires a little more intervention to train up fishing wire but I’ve got high hopes
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Then as now, manihots make lush growth for the dry garden

Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’ in 2010 when I plunged the pot into the garden
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‘Lime Zinger’ 2019. In August the leaves develop more substance and become extra-velvety
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Thinking small helps — a single pot of coreopsis can stand in as a microcosm for summer daisies

Apart from garden styles and trends (“the new naturalism”), in a little home garden, balcony, sunny window, there is a wonderful freedom to simply celebrate that emotional connection to the plants themselves.

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Calif. native Eriogonum giganteum var. compactum
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Another agapanthus planted in July (the hottest month on record), ‘Purple Delight’

Living surrounded by these once-in-a-universe masterpieces is a privilege that just never gets old. Hope you’re getting lots of garden time this August.

Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

revisiting the class of July 2014; (where are they now?)

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July 29, 2019

I love massing one kind of echeveria in pots and letting them multiply like crazy. Echeveria lilacina has completely filled in at the base of the shaving brush tree, Pseudobombax ellipticum. One E. liliacina in bloom is a novelty; over a dozen in bloom is an event.

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Pseudobombax ellipticum in July 2014

I instagrammed the blooming echeveria and was asked about the tree. Which got me wondering about the age of the shaving brush tree, which led me to this post “Back on the Home Front” in July 2014. (The tree bloomed this year, an event also noted on Instagram.) I’m still unsure about the exact age of the tree, now with an over 8-foot trunk, but the earliest entry I could find was 2014. Looking at the rest of the post, July 2014 struck me as a fairly ambitious month in the garden, a time when I was working on more color for summer, whereas the 2019 garden has grown shrubbier, with more aloes and agaves grown among sesleria and horned poppies/glaucium. And since I often feel that followup on all the plants I talk about over the years can be somewhat inconsistent, it seemed like a good opportunity to revisit some of the plants grown in July 2014. Where are they now?

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July 2014
“Really brightens things up. Corokia virgata ‘Sunsplash'”
Continue reading
Posted in agaves, woody lilies, journal, pots and containers, succulents | 5 Comments

formal wear for the summer garden

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I sensed a New Orleans influence — which is weird since I’ve only visited NOLA once. Credit goes to the owner’s skillful transposition of childhood memories

I toured this garden designed by Judy Horton back in May as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days for Los Angeles and recently uncovered just a few photos, not really enough for a proper blog post as far as overall layout and flow.  But looking at the photos in late July, I’m struck by how the garden makes the barest nod to spring, choosing instead to enfold its owners in vines, hedges and lacy tree canopies, the OG counterpart to living walls and green roofs inspired by the owner’s childhood in New Orleans.  This garden takes the long view, practicing in spring the cool look it will need for a hot summer, a balmy fall, a barely there winter (15 inches of rain in a “normal” year), and so back to spring.  Formal gardens, after all, are an ancient design strategy for hot, dry places, dating back to the Egyptians, when it’s thought the genesis of the geometric grid layout began with following the axis of irrigation canals.  

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the “Tree Room” under a Chinese elm, with acanthus in bloom, potted nicotianas, tropicals in Versailles tubs, topiaries on tables. Throughout the garden there’s an insistence on clarity in the modeling of spaces.

It’s a disciplined garden far removed from my own small plant collector’s jumble — but then the portraits that gardens provide of their owners are one of the key pleasures of visiting them. The rigorously clear design intentions hinted to me of a fastidious sensibility that looked outside California for inspiration, and I wanted to know more. (Links provided at end of post). What really fascinates me is that this design, purposely drained of most colors but green, was pondered over a dozen years by the owner, the interior designer Suzanne Rheinstein, and is an aesthetic choice as much as a response to a mediterranean climate: “Part of my garden was inspired by Nicole de Vesian, the head of design at Hermes for many years, who had an extraordinary garden in Provence that I was so fortunate to visit. She used a lot of gravel in her gardens, which was also a perfect solution to gardening in our Southern California climate.” (Nicole de Vesian began her influential garden at the age of 70: “She had a feeling for space just as a musician has a good ear.”  Modern Design in Provence by Louisa Jones)

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Garden designer and friend Judy Horton was handed “all the magazine clippings I had been saving over many years and brought them to life.” Hedges conceal the pool and lounges with black-and-white striped canopies, with a garden room off to the right.

The function of hedges is often viewed as the mute, utilitarian backdrop to floral exuberance, in conciliatory climates like those of England and Holland. As the Sissinghurstian trope goes, formal layout, informal planting. In this summer-dry garden, the importance of hedges is moved from background to foreground, their clipped geometry providing volume, scale, enclosure, and soothing studies of shadows and green. And the cooling abilities, bird cover, and pollutant-trapping powers of all those small leaves are not to be underestimated either. (“Plant hedges to combat near-road pollution exposure.”)

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The seedheads possibly belong to the South African bulb Veltheimia bracteata, which blooms in late winter
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I knew I wanted a green garden, because for me that was so reminiscent of the gardens I grew up with in New Orleans. I believe it all starts with the green architecture, and then things just happen to flower.”
Small panels of lawn surround a small pool with bubbler. Other surfaces are gravel, bluestone, brick.
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the Tree Room is opposite the house’s deep porch
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Pots of nicotianas (lime green, of course!) were interspersed throughout the garden. Behind the hedge is an enclosed potager with espaliered figs, vegetables and flowers
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All quotes from the summer 2011 issue of Flower, found here. The Rheinstein garden is included in Outstanding American Gardens; A Celebration: 25 Years of the Garden Conservancy

Posted in climate, design, garden travel, garden visit | 3 Comments

occasional daily weather report; got shade?

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Shade structure at Theodore Payne Foundation in April

Cooler with some moisture: I haven’t done an ODWR in quite a while, but today inspired me to file a report. The pavement was wet this morning. Wet I tell you! Enough drops were falling to drum some spare syncopation on the pergola’s corrugated roof. The fleeting tap-tap-ping! concert was enjoyed while sitting on the bench under the pergola with the first cup of coffee. And with the moisture-saturated air, it’s noticeably cooler. Supposedly we’re going to drop out of the 90s today. Yes, Long Beach is technically a beach city, but we’re always the hottest beach city in Los Angeles County. And the overall climate? Heat records breaking all over Europe. Political climate? Cowardice/avarice at the highest levels of U.S. government prevail regarding mitigating the effects of heat-trapping emissions. Facing an epic failure of leadership at the national level, I just have to bring up trees again, and this piece deserves a spot on your reading list: How Trees Can Save Us: “A tree is a piece of equitable green infrastructure…For some people, having access to trees can be a matter of life and death.”

Find some shade and stay cool!

Posted in Occasional Daily Weather Report | 2 Comments

Yucca rostrata goes with everything

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Just something I’ve observed about Yucca rostrata. Whether it’s MCM, Spanish Revival, Craftsman bungalow, Streamline Moderne, you can’t go wrong with this yucca, native to Texas and Mexico. Seen here standing tall amid a privacy buffer of crassula and foxtail agaves between two properties in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.

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Personally, I’d love to jackhammer some permeability into my own driveway

Wisely, the architecture is left to shine and not obscured by heavy foundation planting. There’s a tracery of vine, cycads, and that limbed-up shrub I couldn’t ID from the sidewalk.

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dymondia is achieving champion coverage

Most of the houses on this street are Spanish/Mission Revival with the occasional chateauesque property as seen looming in the background.

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I wouldn’t mind my own Yucca rostrata privacy screen

I took these photos back in April. Along with the yucca in bloom, you can see star jasmine in bloom just about mid-photo. So this is one example of what a “spring garden” looks like in Los Angeles, with succulents, cycads, yuccas, agaves, dymondia, decomposed granite mulch.

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And throw in a couple Dasylirion longissimum for good measure
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In truth, this is a dry garden that mostly ignores the seasons and will change very little throughout the year. It will effortlessly shrug off this week’s temperatures in the high 90s. In this neighborhood back in April, there were also front gardens in profuse spring bloom from California natives and dry garden exotics, and I’m a fan of those as well — especially if they sneak in a Yucca rostrata or two or three…because they really do go with everything.

Posted in agaves, woody lilies, design, driveby gardens | 3 Comments

hungry eyes, busy hands; Colorado garden of Dan Johnson & Tony Miles

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdomYou never know what is enough until you know what is more than enough.” — William Blake

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What I really enjoyed about one of the gardens I visited recently in Colorado was that it was a small garden that wanted it all and refused to say no to any of it. After a long winter, spring in this garden emerges unbowed, with a pronounced strut and swagger. Saturated colors, silky petals swooning against rusted metal, gnarled driftwood sinuously threading itself alongside narrow footpaths pressed on all sides by a profusion of flowers and emphatic spikes, with no opportunity to plant treasures among the rocks and stones left unturned. The owners are clearly having a blast and their enthusiasm is entirely infectious. Exuberant, maximalist, raucous, it was difficult to point a camera without interrupting a sight line or industrial salvage vignette.

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This garden flamboyantly courts excess like poppies shamelessly court honeybees. And it’s obvious this is not mere cheerful naivete at play. There’s a knowingness to the extravagance, the profligate gestures. For one thing, the command of the planting was first rate — irises, oriental poppies, Shirley poppies, California poppies, alliums, larkspur, columbines, all the sexpots of spring were here, all doing precisely what they had been asked to do. One of the owners, Dan Johnson, has spent his lifetime in gardens, the last 22 years with the Denver Botanic Gardens. Home is clearly where he lets his hair down.

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Curator of Native Plants and Associate Director of Horticulture, [Dan] has been at the Gardens since 1996. Though much of his focus is on xeric and native plants and naturalistic design, his work has included all corners of the Gardens. He has been involved with Plant Select since its debut in 1997. His horticultural exploration has included all four of the world’s Steppe regions and beyond, including the western US, South Africa, Argentina, Spain and Pakistan. Publications include the revised and expanded “Meet the Natives” wildflower guide, “Steppes” and many articles in gardening periodicals.” DBG Horticulturalist’s Bios

Sounds like a sober, all-business, scholarly type of fellow, right? If so, the garden completely blows that cover.

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purple wall and Homecrest chairs to match in a patio at the bottom of the back garden
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the narrow front garden is bounded by a low wall. The rose reminds me a little of ‘Zephirine Drouhin’
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view from the tour bus window — I started taking photos as soon as we pulled up
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glimpse of front garden patio in the background
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front and back gardens were entered through elaborate archways
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I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely feeling a southwest influence too, in the paint colors, stucco walls, the sotols and agaves…

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the stream at the bottom of the back garden, photo by Dan Johnson via Fine Gardening
(paywall protected)

I found a reference in a Fine Gardening article that there is (or was) a garden in Tucson, Arizona too. A single reference. And now I can’t stop imagining what a Tucson garden by these two must look like…

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( garden visit made possible by one of the best garden tours around, the Garden Bloggers Fling)

Posted in climate, garden visit | 8 Comments

parachuting in on the airplantman

I asked Josh Rosen if Mitch could pay him a visit with his camera to see what he’s been up to, which turns out to be quite a lot.  The landscape architect, aka airplantman, is moving away from full-time landscape architecture and focusing more on product design and custom work for clients as farflung as Singapore, as well as teaching a plant materials course at UCLA Extension.   For such restless creativity, one thing has remained constant for the last decade or so with his design process:  there will be tillandsias.

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From Josh’s website airplantman: “I’ve fallen in love with these absolutely incredible species of plant that have the unique adaptation to live without any soil. They can grow suspended in air, on treetops or rock faces and absorb water and nutrients right through their leaves.”
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A home visit reveals Josh’s appreciation for all kinds of plants

Mitch caught up with Josh at his home/design laboratory in Mar Vista, California earlier this month.

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the back garden doubles as design lab
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which means keeping lots of tillandsias on hand
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mash-up of staghorn fern, tillandsias and succulents
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it’s a whole new epiphytic world at Josh’s house
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dog eyes the increasing encroachment of plant world warily
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His classic air plant frames come preplanted, in an array of sizes.
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Most recently, I saw his work featured in 2018 at a local design show

I think I first saw his modular air plant frames back in 2012 at Big Red Sun in Venice and was immediately struck by the serious design chops that honored these little epiphytes’ growth needs as well as cleverly exploited their potential for a soil-less life in a stylishly modern framework. Already in 2012, the public’s infatuation with tillandsias was in full swing, and air plants were routinely being asked to live out their increasingly dessicated days under glass in twee dioramas — no wonder they developed an undeserved reputation for being difficult to grow. Good air circulation and easy access for drenching or frequent spraying are paramount needs that can’t be ignored. And if twee isn’t your jam, grids made on sleek, powder-coated frames provide a) great design b) optimal air circulation c) crucial ease of watering.

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Tillandsias have had the staying power of succulents in their rootless hold on our imaginations. (Actually, they do have roots, but they’re used only as anchors and not for nutrient or water uptake, which all happens through the leaves.) Indoor care is more exacting than for outdoors. Mine are all outdoors and get sprayed a few times a week. For indoor care, Josh says if you position them not more than 6 feet from north or east-facing windows and soak them, as in submerge them, 6-10 hours once a week, preferably in room-temperature tap water left to sit for 15-20 minutes before use, you should be good to go. His frames and vessels are all designed to facilitate this type of care. Grow lights indoors are fine too, no particular spectrum required.

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If spraying is your only option, do this several times a week, and make sure no water pools in their crowns because that will surely cause rot, so dry them upside down to avoid pooling. Again, air circulation is critically important, and rotating indoor tillandsias outdoors when possible is a good idea, or at least keep a window cracked. And don’t manhandle them either — oils in our fingertips can mess with their ability to uptake water, so keep handling to a minimum.

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Tillandsias are in the bromeliaceae family and, like cactus, are found only in the New World, more than 600 species hailing from South America and up into Texas. Their tough, epiphytic ways are a recent adaptation, which Josh finds metaphorically inspiring, now that we face a possibly rootless modernity ourselves that will require quick adaptive moves as year after year becomes the hottest on record. And as far as plant obsessions go, it doesn’t get more lightweight and transportable than tillandsias.

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Some of his favorite species include T. chiapensis, T. caput-medusae (most tolerant indoors), T. latifolia, T. ionantha, and of course the dramatic T. xerographica. Many will begin to blush just before bloom, and some of the flowers are incredibly scented.

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Josh helpfully points out where the new pup is forming at the base

After flowering the mother plant will die off but leave you with some pups, or offsets.

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For smaller-scaled, table-top displays Josh has developed air plant vessels in powder-coated steel, ceramic, and wood.

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Felted-wool kokedamas on customizable pegboards give lots of options too and look addictingly playable. Josh is exploring working with cacti like rhipsalis and others that, unlike air plants, do require some kind of substrate in which to grow.

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One of his latest designs has the working title of “airplantern,” which came about from some recent custom work when a client asked for a lantern planted with tillandsias. Josh envisions the airplantern as more for outdoors than the frames, say for hanging from a tree in temperate climates.

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The bigger spheres come with misters and lights, and the flexibility of the design allows it to be pulled into other shapes as well.

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I think I’m in love
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Thanks so much, Josh, for sharing your home with us and giving us a peek of your new work!

Photos by MB Maher

Posted in artists, design, MB Maher | 3 Comments

bloom day July 2019; what’s new

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Flowers? What flowers? This eastern end of the pergola is pretty much identical to last summer. Maybe a few more bromeliads — added a new one just yesterday, Bilbergia ‘Catherine Wilson,’ not in this photo

The blooming backdrop to July in my coastal zone 10 garden, the background fizz abuzz with winged creatures, continues to include grevilleas, horned poppies, flowering tobacco, Salvia chiapensis, Verbena bonariensis, little erodiums, and I’ve been adding a few odds and ends too like that new agapanthus ‘Indigo Frost.’ Summer is such a permissive time in the garden, isn’t it? Go ahead, grab that sexy thing and plant it is my July mantra. Planting in the ground mid-summer can be dicy, though I’ve been doing that too this marine-layered July, but pots can always be shuffled out of a heat wave if needed. There have been a couple surprises too, like Sinningia ‘Invasion Force,’ planted last year, with new blooms just noticed last night at the dryish base of a young Yucca rostrata (no photo). And how did I miss that bud developing on the night-blooming cereus? (last photo below) The grasses are blooming now too, one of my absolutely favorite things about summer. And despite these foliage-heavy photos, let me just affirm I do like summer flowers, especially little incidents of them, but they’re just not in the driver’s seat here. So let me point out some of them, because you’d probably miss them if I didn’t.

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new — Penstemon kunthii against foaming backdrop of the Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ that is perennial here. Agave salmiana var. ferox ‘Medio Picta’ is finally starting to get those leaves off the ground and up into a graceful arch. Grass is Sesleria ‘Campo Azul’

Even before I visited Denver’s gardens filled with penstemons I was testing the beardtongue waters again this spring at home with old standby hybrids like ‘Midnight,’ just whatever I could find local. This little species penstemon from Mexico, Penstemon kunthii, looked like a baby phygelius sitting on the sales bench at Xera Plants in Portland, Oregon, during a July 4th trip up the coast. Lots of penstemons flowed through my garden decades ago, sourced outside the U.S. by Lester Hawkins and Marshall Olbrich of Western Hills Nursery in Occidental, CA. The hybrids inevitably grew too large and flopped, and then the budworms found them. Seeing some of the compact species in Colorado rekindled the old penstemon flame. Maybe I need to look at the smaller species and grow them lean among the succulents. I remember ‘Midnight’ in particular getting out of control as far as size fairly quickly.

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Also picked up at Xera Plants, Cypella herbertii. Closeup of its furled bud this morning. The open flower is an intricate wonder. A South African bulb often grown in rock gardens that may be a good fit for this little succulent garden. Blooms last just a day. And that’s completely okay. And then omg there are blue-flowered species too…
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Cypella bud is on the left. Dianthus ‘Single Black’ is beginning another flush of blooms and getting along well in the same conditions as its succulent friends. A small nepeta trialed this year with the succulents, ‘Little Trudy,’ is looking promising here too. The silver leaves belong to Dichondra sericea, which has a ground cover habit and larger leaves than D. argentea but not as rampant as the more familiar trailing Silver Ponyfoot. Dianthus ‘Charles Musgrave,’ ground-hugging with white flowers, is starting to bloom out of frame to the right.
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Slightly better photo of Dichondra sericea’s habit of growth, filling in around an aloe. It seems to expand its range in summer then retreat in winter. Really good plant.
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The grevilleas are always accompanied by a buzzing, thrumming soundtrack of beating wings.
Grevillea ‘Moonlight’
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the leaves are bluer on the orange-flowered Glaucium flavum aurantiacum than the yellow-flowered Glaucium flavum, but this much blue is a trick of last night’s evening light
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new to the garden the last couple weeks, Salvia microphylla ‘Heatwave Glow’ grown by Native Sons, bought in bud and ready to jump into end-of-summer action. I thinned out some Aeonium ‘Berry Exciting’ to squeeze in three 4-inch plants.
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new — Xera Plants’ Sphaeralcea ‘Hot Pink’ — I’ve got my own mini trial of globe mallows going. Trialed a couple years ago, ‘Newleaze Coral’ is a monster shrub that I wish I had the space to let rampage. I think there’s a globe mallow out there for all-summer bloom in a small, dryish garden. Also on trial this summer is peachy ‘Childerley.’
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Miscanthus nepalensis, verbascum leaves, globemallow, Adenanthos sericeus. Heart-shaped, deep green leaves belong to Salvia purpurea gaining size
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Miscanthus ‘Silver Sceptre’
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locally grown Tradescantia sillamontana throwing a few flowers, as if those incredible leaves weren’t enough
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brown tips on leaves resulting from a sidelong blast of strong afternoon sun. To keep the leaves pure silver, ditch the strong sun, but I’ve seen it grown both ways. Good dry garden ground cover
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Solanum pyracanthum seedling from the garden potted up — there’s a big plant that wintered over blooming in the garden too
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And actually there is a bloom in this foliage-dense scene. See it next to the Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’? Pink frothy bloom is from Begonia ‘Red Fred’
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An artemisia new to me, the Maui Wormwood, Artemisia mauiensis, very silky and more finely cut than ‘Powis Castle’ and hopefully much more compact. From Lincoln Avenue Nursery in Pasadena: “In the wild it is only found
growing at elevations of 6,000-7,500 ft in Haleakala National Park on the island
of Maui in Hawaii. Its Hawaiian name is Ahinahina and refers to its gray color.
” — Bustani Plant Farm
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Yes, there are some summer flowers — just added a coreopsis with a name so awful I hate to use it (‘Lil Bang Red Elf’ — imagine asking your nursery person if they stock that plant?!)
The vine Senecio confusus is getting trained up fishing wire in the background. Just saw it grown spilling over a planter last week, so there’s always that approach.
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A stealth bloom from a night-blooming cereus branch discarded in a parkway that just recently rooted and was potted up. I hadn’t even noticed this bud form. The flower is flush against the fence because it was providing support while the cactus was rooting.

Wherever your floral ambitions lead you in the garden, May Dreams Gardens collects bloom reports the 15th of every month.

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