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holiday hangups (happy 4th of July)

I’ve been pushing for the long weekend so hard, I was convinced most of yesterday that it was Friday and kept wishing everyone a happy holiday. Not quite, but almost there.
Today a broken camera, an overlooked deadline, and a forgotten mid-day dental appointment means I won’t get away to play at the CSSA sale until the weekend.
It’s predicted Californians will be driving in record numbers this holiday weekend, with San Diego, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco among the top destinations.
Might I suggest avoiding the Harbor Freeway between 10 and 11 Saturday morning? That’s all the time I’ll need to get to the Huntington. Thanks awfully.

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Do try this at home: Furcraea macdougalii, ‘Angelina’ sedum, ‘Jitters’ crassula and echeverias, Roger’s Gardens

And during the bravura, explosive celebrations setting off car alarms on my street all weekend I’m going to try to keep in mind :
The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort,
and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day
.”
― David Foster Wallace, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life

Have a blast this 4th of July weekend.

51st Annual CSSA Show & Sale at the Huntington July 1-3, 2016

It’s that time again.

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The Cactus and Succulent Society of America is holding their 51st Annual Show & Sale at the Huntington July 1st through 3rd, 2016.
It’s going to be a long week until Friday. Hope to see you there.

friday clippings 6/24/16

Little Diego next-door has taken upon himself the challenge of learning drumming. In the last couple months, he’s been practicing on whatever is handy, whether it be pots, pans, buckets, gates. It was hard to tell at first how invested he was in his new-found chaotic project. I suspected it was just a goof to annoy his mom, but he has persisted for at least a few months. And today I could detect for the first time his discovery of pattern and repetition. I mean it was just the usual wild thrashing and then, boom, he was controlling the beat. A momentous day for the little guy. He lives just on the other side of the east fence, against which the three big lemon cypresses somewhat muffle his practice sessions.


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For muffling little drummer boys, privacy, beauty, bird sanctuary, the cypresses are incredibly valuable to us. But of course I couldn’t just let them be cypresses.
They’d be perfect as scaffolding for vines, right? But not at the expense of harming them, of course. And that’s a very fine line, I’ve come to find out.

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I’m still amazed that the Solanum ‘Navidad, Jalisco’ from Annie’s Annuals has become this happy.
It was planted against the fence, in the dry soil amongst the cypresses, with not enough light, and seemed to be puny and languishing for forever…until it wasn’t.
This is all so new, that a plant has actually followed orders: Get in there, don’t mind the awful conditions, and climb that cypress, will ya?
And it’s possible the solanum may be too obliging and eager to please. Because when it comes to choosing between the cypresses and a rollicking, rampageous vine, that’s an easy choice to make.
Little Diego has lots more practicing to do this summer.

Have a great weekend.


my new earrings (via collaboration of Molly M Designs & Roberto Burle Marx)

You know how one thing leads to another, and before you know it there’s a new pair of earrings coming in the mail? Let me explain.
There’s a Roberto Burle Marx exhibit right now at the Jewish Museum in New York (review here, “The Builder of Jungles” by Martin Filler.)
I admit to being slightly confused as to how a museum exhibit could possibly do justice to the work of the great Brazilian modernist landscape architect.
But Burle Marx was an outsized, protean artist, “a painter and sculptor; a designer of textiles, jewelry, theater sets, and costumes; a ceramicist and stained-glass artist.”
Therefore, he’s eminently worthy of an indoor exhibit, though I have to agree with Mr. Filler that:
The primal presence of nature—even in this designer’s highly stylized manner—is needed to fully explain the atavistic magic that emerged from his jungle fervor.”
(If you’re going to the Olympics in Rio this August, in addition to the famous Avenida Atlântica, the Copacabana boardwalk, you’ll want to research some Burle Marx-themed road trips.)


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Avenida Atlântica, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, via The New York Times

After reading the NYRB review, I confess my next thought was on the low-brow side: museum shop!
Maybe there were some special prints for sale made for the show, such as a print of this:


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Burle Marx’s design for a rooftop garden, Ministry of Education and Health, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1938, via NYRB

or this:

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“A detail of Roberto Burle Marx’s design for the garden of the Ministry of the Army in Brasília from the early 1970s.”
The New York Times – “Revisiting the Constructed Edens of Roberto Burle Marx

I didn’t find a print, but did experience an aha! moment discovering the jewelry of Molly M. I was beginning to think I was hopelessly tone deaf when it comes to jewelry.
It’s gotten so bad that I’ll find myself at work completely denuded of any ornament, having forgotten to wear even a wedding band before leaving the house. What’s wrong with me anyway?
My indifference to jewelry all my life never really bothered me much, but I’ve begun to notice the emotional attachment people feel to their rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
Frankly, I’m a little envious of that attachment. So I had a couple Etsy sessions recently, dutifully scanning the sites for something to spark an interest. Nothing. Hopeless.
Until I saw the laser-cut creations of architect-trained Molly M in the Jewish Museum Shop tying into the Burle Marx exhibition.

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Finally, jewelry I actually desired. Now I get it! The Tropicalissimo Quill Necklace made a convert of me.
But a necklace is a big step for the newly converted, formerly jewelry phobic. Maybe there were earrings on Molly M’s own site?
Yes, there are Quill earrings available, as shown in the above photo.

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But at almost 2 inches in diameter, I opted for something smaller in “Radial,” made of “natural and charcoal stained birch.”

You can read more about Molly M here. I think I may have found, via our beloved Roberto Burle Marx, the cure to my jewelry phobia.

Occasional Daily Weather Report 6/20/16

We thought we’d have the whole house fan installed before the long, hot days of summer, but there’s been a few hiccups.
When it finally arrived for pickup at a local big box store, it was shipped without instructions or necessary hardware, so that set us back a couple extra weeks.
The current heat wave may have won this round, but we’ll be ready for the next one (fingers crossed).
118 in Palm Springs yesterday, 100 in our own Long Beach. Hotter today.
Smoke from the Sherpa fire fills our skies, making a fire 100 miles north seem uncomfortably local.
Highway 101 around Santa Barbara is open today but has been subject to closures.
Garden lovers will also worry about Lotusland when that area burns, but as far as I can tell it is far enough south that it’s not in imminent danger.

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Buckle up. It’s the first day of summer.

Gladiolus papilio ‘Ruby’

I’ll tell you the same story I told Marty before work this morning, when he caught me around sunrise, barefoot and still in pajamas, crouching in the garden, snapping away with the camera.
Back in March of 2014, I sent off a terse but plaintive e-mail to Sue Mann of Priory Plants in the UK:

Just wondering if your nursery ships bulbs to the U.S. — specifically, Gladiolus ‘Ruby,’ which currently has no source in the U.S. Thanks for your help.”

With Sue’s cheerful and steady cooperation, the bulbs were in my hands on April 2, 2014. I immediately planted them in the garden, which was absolutely the wrong thing to do.
The garden seemingly ate them for lunch, and there was no further sign of my precious gladioli. Until spring 2016.
In hindsight, I know now to always pot up rare little bulbs and corms while they make size and multiply.

This spring I noticed some bulb foliage that seemed a bit more substantial than all the ipheion, sparaxis, and other little bulbs that have accumulated over the years.
Instantly I realized that these leaves could very well belong to ‘Ruby.’ A tense vigil over several months ensued while I waited for a sign.
A couple of days ago a sliver of red gleamed through the tight flower bud, and identification was confirmed.
Bulbs truly are among the most resilient of life forms.


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So what’s the big deal, you ask? ‘Ruby’ is a hybrid of the South African species Gladiolus papilio, which has a tall, purply-brown flower with grassy leaves.
Coming from South Africa, the species glads are a natural choice for Los Angeles’ similar climate and won’t need chilling like many of the more traditional garden bulbs do.
(As it turns out, though, ‘Ruby’ is said to be hardy if mulched well.)
I’ve tried a few species gladioli and never really fell in love…until I saw photos of ‘Ruby.’
I think it was one of Dan Pearson’s top picks in an article in Gardens Illustrated.

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She’s got it all — great proportions (flowers not too big/not too small), graceful bearing, good height, strong stems, rich color.
From another UK nursery, Broadleigh Bulbs: “It combines the depth of colour of a modern hybrid with the growth habit of its species parent.”

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I want about 50 more this instant, but that’s not going to happen any time soon.

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Moving plants around as I constantly do, ‘Ruby’ ended up in quite a crowded spot. I’d much rather see her in a less tumultuous setting.
It might be best to lift the corms in the fall and move them to the safety of a pot, where they’ll hopefully increase into dozens more. And very soon, please.
Warm thanks again to Sue Mann of Priory Plants for going to all that trouble to send me a few corms, which I promptly lost, then despite the odds, found again.

P.S. 6/20/16 — I promised to send photos to Sue when ‘Ruby’ bloomed, and this is her response:

I am so glad they survived for you. Once they get going, they multiply quite quickly, and in fact, I think they will probably grow better in your climate than they do here!. I have just been potting up some more today. When I get a lot of little corms, which are too small to put out into the garden, I plant them in old polystyrene fish boxes, which are about 14″ x 9″ x 6″ deep. Quite gritty soil – after about 6-8months of growing on, they are ready to be potted up into individual pots, or out into the garden. When they are in flower, they are instant sellers! I’m going to a plant fair on the 19 July, so they should be on flower for then.”

revisiting a local succulent garden

I haven’t revisited the garden I posted about here in person, though I’d love to.
But I did find outtakes, photos that, for whatever reason, I didn’t include with the original post, mostly detailed closeups that were repetitive.
Some people have no trouble at all with intricately complex, multi-layered plantings. And they make it look so easy.

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Photos were taken in December, when autumn leaves clung to the plantings but were swept off the walkways.

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Fine jewelry, hand-made shoes, a good meal, exciting painting and sculpture, all things universally appreciated.
Yet how many appreciate the knowledge and craft that went into this?

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Among so much generalized plant blindness, there are occasionally those who can really see.

Bloom Day June 2016

In June, it seems like everywhere you point the camera, something is in bloom.

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Glaucium grandiflorum wants the entire garden for itself, so there’s been lots of ongoing, strategic pruning.

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The blooms of Eryngium planum eventually slide from silvery-green into blue.

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Berkheya purpurea has matured into several big clumps and probably won’t stop there.

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‘Enor’ was planted in spring from gallons, just two, plus a ‘Pike’s Peak Purple. I like the almost dierama-like effect from the the tall, smaller-flowered varieties of penstemon.
And I always fall for the darkest colors. ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Raven’ are similarly dark-flowered varieties.

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Salvia uliginosa is unapologetically robust. I’m already making mental notes to split this clump in fall.
I think this might be the salvia to interplant with big grasses.

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Chocolate Daisy, Berlandiera lyrata, unlike Chocolate Cosmos, really does scent the garden chocolate. As long as the sun is out, that is.

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Small, frost-free, the back garden chugs along year round, so summer must share ground.
And I’m partial to long-lasting flowers with a strong architectural presence. (Which means BD posts can be a tad repetitive.)
Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ returns for at least its third year, same footprint, no reseeding, reveling in the driest, hottest conditions. It’s a performance so perfect as to be almost artificial.
Anthemis ‘Susanna Mitchell’ is the buttery daisy. Agastatche ‘Blue Blazes’ is barely noticeable, just starting to gain height. The latter two are both new this year, though I’ve grown them in the past.

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A similar effect can be had from the succulent Cistanthe/Calandrinia grandiflora (long-stemmed, screaming magenta flowers), but clumps of calandrinia seem to double in size overnight.

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Agastache ‘Blue Blazes’

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Anthemis ‘Susanna Mitchell’

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I thought the ‘Terracotta’ yarrow would never bloom. It was playing by the rules and waiting to make that fabled third year leap.

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The kangaroo paws aren’t nearly as tall as they should be. Steady irrigation before and during flowering seems to be key.
I put El Nino in charge of the irrigation this winter, and what a slacker he turned out to be. At least in Southern California.

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I’m loving the bright chartreuse new growth on Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’

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The Pittosporum crassifolium ‘Variegatum’ was a recent indulgence.

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Even in June, flowers just aren’t enough. Let’s give it up for leaves.

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June is a month not to be missed for Bloom Day news, which Carol collects for us at May Dreams Gardens.

Stipa ichru

The Peruvian Feather Grass may save the world from Mexican Feather Grass, Nassella (formerly Stipa) tenuissima.
Whether the world needs saving from the rampant reseeder MFG depends on your point of view and where you garden. (More on that here.)
I’ve heard grass authority and famous contrarian John Greenlee proclaim that he’d rather see Los Angeles’ vast concrete spaces festooned with MFG than bare.
MFG effortlessly insinuates itself into cracks in paving. The biggest concern would arise if your Southern California garden abuts open spaces where MFG can escape.
In that context, Stipa ichru, aka Jarava ichru, aka Peruvian Feather Grass, is being touted as a substitute.

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This is its first summer in my garden, and already I’ve noted some differences, though. For one, PFG is taller.
And because it’s not a prolific reseeder, we’ll probably be seeing it more as a specimen than en masse, as the MFG is so often used.
It might be too early to judge if this is a long-lasting trait or due to its young, small size, but Peruvian Feather Grass has more of an arching, weeping form.

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My early impression is that this grass really deserves to be considered on its own merits. because it’s a beauty.
I’ll be thrilled if it reseeds…lightly.

an overgrown corner

When my boys were 5 and 10, respectively, I would have gladly had that moment last about 10 more years. And I knew it at the time. Just stop the clock, please.
Gardens are all about change, too, and I love that about them. But sometimes I wish a moment would last a couple seasons or three or five.
When an area gets overgrown, rather than try to restore it, I generally rip it up and try something new. So garden scenes come and go.

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I like this little corner off the kitchen, but it’s reached critical mass and will need thinning.
Eucalyptus ‘Moon Lagoon” was pruned fairly heavily last fall, cutting into 1-inch diameter branches. It jumps right back and keeps those gorgeous juvenile leaves.
So there are some things on which you can inflict perpetual childhood. ‘Moon Lagoon’ isn’t going anywhere because…well, just look at it. I can’t ever imagine getting tired of looking at that.
The ‘Blue Flame’ agaves are pupping furiously. A couple offsets are still in large pots on the fireplace mantle indoors.
I grow soft-leaved agaves close to the paths, a kind of sneaky way to grab more garden, but I really should stop it.
I notice some visitors get instantly wobbly on their feet when plants are nearby, like the garden is a gravity well pulling them in. Undecided whether these agaves should stay or go.
The corner aloe is ‘Cynthia Giddy’ and she’s got nowhere left to grow. I still haven’t seen a bloom yet so won’t thin this clump until that happenes.
Yes, that’a a painter’s tarp partially obscuring the door to the office. They make great tablecloths too. And cushion covers. So tough, so cheap, so useful.
The light this time of year hits us right in the eyes sitting at our desks. Awnings would be great eventually. Or another narrow pergola running along this side.
I need to raise those sinking bricks too. The mortared brick path on the right was inherited with the house, so we matched it with bricks laid on sand, which settles and sinks eventually.
Projects, projects, they multiply like aphids around here. Not enough time.

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After moving the slipper plant/pedilanthus from a large pot, some of the stems browned and dried off. There’s an example on the left.
It’s pretty much recovered, all gorgeous and green, flowering as well as it has since the move. Might need to move it again to allow the eucalyptus more room.

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The succulents at the base of the slipper plant have nowhere to go either, just when they start to look really happy.
I think I bought this aeonium under the label. A. rubrolineatum but I doubt that’s what it is.
Gardens keep time at the forefront of the brain, and that’s a good and important lesson. But it doesn’t mean I can’t grouse about it now and then.
Have a great weekend.