Category Archives: garden visit

a garden visit with bixbybotanicals

It all started with a very sweet and generous offer of some foliage for vases. Via bixbybotanicals Instagram, I learned that his Leucadendron ‘Wilson’s Wonder’ was in full winter dress, and he was willing to share some of the largesse with anyone in Long Beach. The South African conebushes are prized for their long vase life, and since my leucadendrons at home are too young to pillage for vases, I jumped at the chance to pick up some ruddy-leaved branches.


 photo 1U6A3656.jpg

The Leucadendron ‘Wilson’s Wonder’ in question, so you’ll know in case you’re ever offered some branches. Just say yes.
And you never know — not only did we leave with a bucket stuffed with cone bush branches, but also some delicious duck eggs, which were ravenously consumed for dinner that night.
Okay, great taste in shrubs and garden fowl — who is this guy anyway?

 photo 1U6A3662.jpg

The shorthand answer to that question?
Just an Italian Renaissance art scholar/teacher and incredibly busy father of two with a big love of dry garden plants and a strong affinity for garden design.

 photo 1U6A3599.jpg

Of course, I immediately began pestering Jeremy for a return visit with the AGO crew (Mitch), and he graciously agreed to let us explore.

 photo 1U6A3629.jpg

And on an average suburban lot, there is an incredible amount to explore.
The parkway is filled with California natives, including milkweed and self-sowing Calif. poppies, making a plant-rich corridor between the hell strip and the front garden.

 photo 1U6A3741.jpg

And here’s where Jeremy’s garden and other front-yard lawn conversions part ways.
Just behind that thick band of plants bordering the sidewalk is this surprisingly private piece of serenity, just feet from the street.
I don’t think I’ve seen a river of blue chalk sticks/Senecio mandralsicae used to better effect. And, yes, Jeremy says they do require a stern hand to keep them in check.
A ‘Creme Brulee’ agave peeks through salvia, the red echoed by callistemon in bloom opposite.

 photo 1U6A3618.jpg

All anchored by the shiny simplicity of that lone stock tank. (There’s another one in the back garden.)

 photo 1U6A3650.jpg

 photo 1U6A3623.jpg

I love how he took featureless, flat panels of lawn and sculpted the space into a multi-faceted garden that works for the family, wildlife, and the neighborhood.
A strong sense of enclosure without a fence — who knew? My own street-side (and mangy) box hedges are striking me as unnecessarily claustrophobic now.

 photo 1U6A3608.jpg

Jeremy seems to have effortlessly managed balancing the broad strokes that strongly lead the eye with the detailed planting that rewards closer inspection.
I counted a total of three Yucca rostrata, but there may be more.

 photo 1U6A3641.jpg

The front garden was started in 2012, when it was nothing but a flat expanse of lawn and a couple palms. Not a trace of either is left.
(Those are a neighbor’s palms in the background.)

 photo 1U6A3764.jpg

Now there’s nooks to watch the kids chase butterflies.

 photo 1U6A3728.jpg

That Salvia canariensis on the corner of the house behind the nasturtiums is going to be stunning in bloom.

 photo 1U6A3773.jpg

Mixed in amongst the nasturtiums is the charmingly nubby Helenium puberulum, a Calif. native.

 photo 1U6A3758.jpg

And opposite the chairs and table is another gorgeous bit of planting, deftly angled to screen the house on the driveway side.
Obviously a collector of choice plants, nevertheless his design instincts are manifest in subtle screening and massing for privacy balanced by openness/negative space.
A sentinel arbutus stands apart, with the strong afternoon sun blurring the outline of a 5-foot Leucadendron discolor ‘Pom Pom’ to the arbutus’ left, one I’ve killed a couple times.
Jeremy admitted to lots of failures, too, but his successes are envy-inducing.

 photo 1U6A3736.jpg

Encircling ‘Pom Pom’ is a detailed planting of aloes, yucca, golden coleonema, senecio, Euphorbia lambii.
Like me, he browses for plants at local H&H Nursery as well as flea markets.

 photo 1U6A3739.jpg

Detail of arbutus bloom.

But where are those ducks? we asked, hoping to steal a peek into the back garden. The ruse worked.

 photo 1U6A3784.jpg

To visit the ducks, we were led behind a sleek black fence at the end of the driveway guarded by Acacia cognata.

 photo 1U6A3778.jpg

And a dombeya, the highly scented Tropical Hydrangea. Jeremy said he chased this small tree’s identity for years.

 photo 1U6A3701.jpg

All was finally revealed during a visit to Disneyland, where the dombeya was growing, and labeled, in Toontown. In an instant, the silly and the sublime converged.

 photo 1U6A3687.jpg

Meet the ducks.
Mural in the background was done by Jeremy’s brother.

 photo 1U6A3684.jpg

I want ducks!

 photo 1U6A3678.jpg

I asked how the gardens were handling the recent (relatively) heavy rain, and Jeremy said the front garden came through like a champ.
But there has been a bit of flooding in the back garden.

 photo 1U6A3673.jpg

I’m sure I was told but can’t remember who built the duck enclosure.
What duck wouldn’t obligingly lay as many eggs as possible in such cheerful digs?

 photo 1U6A3669.jpg

There’s a serious container fanatic at work here too…

 photo 1U6A3699.jpg

A termite-infested pergola attached to the house had to be knocked down when they moved in, leaving this low wall along the driveway as the perfect spot for staging containers.

 photo 1U6A3711.jpg

 photo 1U6A3695.jpg

In case you bloggers are feeling that it’s all about Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook, Jeremy is a faithful reader of blogs.

 photo 1U6A3655.jpg

Melianthus major

 photo 1U6A3722.jpg

Winter-blooming Dahlia imperialis, after several moves, in a spot obviously to its liking.

 photo 1U6A3762.jpg

For the leucadendron branches, the duck eggs, and the inspiring garden visit, thank you so much, Jeremy!

All photos by MB Maher.

a holiday visit with Dustin Gimbel

Now that garden designer Dustin Gimbel has branched off into ceramics, I can buy a few holiday presents and visit his incredibly inspiring garden.

 photo 1-_MG_4712.jpg

Coming in the little side gate, there’s this silvery vision of Acacia pendula, faced down by a mature leucospermum loaded with flower buds. A new planting of aloes catches the light.
I still get palpitations every time I visit.

 photo 1-_MG_4705.jpg

Acacia podalyrifolia on the opposite side of the porch has replaced the Arbutus ‘Marina’ that stubbornly failed to thrive here.
It was uncharacteristically windy today, the first real “weather” we’ve had in Los Angeles, starting off with the previous night’s measurable rainfall.
Note the Acacia podalyrifolia bowing in the wind.
The totem sentinels seem to have proliferated since my last visit, accentuating a really strong, syncopated flow he’s been working on in the front garden with octagonal pavers and festuca.

 photo 1-_MG_4768.jpg

The view under Acacia pendula, trained beautifully on a rebar arbor, looking down the main path at the front of the house toward the driveway

 photo 1-_MG_4773.jpg

In this view, to the right of the main path, is where his signature totems congregate.
The small pavers allow for a “custom” journey through the garden, an intimate, immersive engagement with the plants.
Dustin uses berms to build topographical interest into the front garden. The stones to the left rim the berm containing the leucospermum.
At the far end is a berm built up with “urbanite” aka broken concrete, which abuts the driveway. Of course, drainage in the berms is excellent too.

 photo 1-_MG_4757.jpg

The berm by the driveway, planted with echium, adenanthos, centaurea, kalanchoe, and lots of other treasures.
The dark green ground cover is Frankenia thymifolia.
Luminous Yucca ‘Bright Star’ needs no introduction.

 photo 1-_MG_4743.jpg

We played around with his new “tinker toy” ceramic pieces in the front garden.

 photo 1-_MG_4751.jpg

I continually nag him about getting a shop website up for his ceramic pieces. He promised it will happen in the new year.
Wonderful shapes and texture from box balls, grasses, Agave mitis var. albidior through a scrim of dripping acacia.

 photo 1-_MG_4770.jpg

The Gaudi-esque tinker toys among pavers, grasses, small succulents.

 photo 1-_MG_4765.jpg

I’m always impressed by the captivating visual power of Dustin’s garden, the compounding effect of the pure geometric, organic shapes and forms he favors.
Just beyond that hedge, it’s almost a shock to the system when the magic quickly dissolves into ordinary sidewalk, street, cars, etc., etc.

 photo 1-_MG_4731.jpg

Everywhere you look the planting is almost unbearably gorgeous.

 photo 1-_MG_4777.jpg

In the back garden, I was able to check on the progress of the wood screen which hides the propagation tables.

 photo 1-_MG_4722.jpg

 photo 1-P1014059.jpg

I gathered my holiday purchases (which must remain a secret for now), very pleased with myself for combining business and inspiration in one visit.
You can find more of Dustin’s ceramics and garden designs on his Instagram feed.
Have a great weekend.

Wednesday vignette 11/2/16

Ever wonder what Huntington Botanical Garden employees display on their file cabinets?

 photo 35eb5a4d-ed05-4b31-affa-1b043969eabf.jpg

Luisa Serrano (Crow & Raven) and I got a tiny glimpse when we visited the Huntington in early October.

 photo 8602a6e9-bc70-422e-bd46-d7d2032f6254.jpg

The rest of these photos come from that visit as well, mostly the desert conservatory and then the new entrance garden, part of my Wednesday vignette hosted by Anna at Flutter & Hum.

 photo 08198de2-b6c1-43a2-9f85-f512887d2ee4.jpg

 photo 085bddcc-89c9-45d4-a5d0-5e82280df638.jpg

 photo e6d65ab2-101d-43bd-ba78-159fbd060ac3.jpg

Wednesday vignette 10/26/16

Some images from my visit to the Los Angeles County Arboretum last weekend.
I love that the botanical garden is big enough that they send jeeps out near closing to offer guests a ride back.

 photo 1-_MG_4643.jpg

“Lucky” Baldwin’s Cottage emerges as if from an old home movie reel, nestled deep in the Arboretum.

 photo 1-_MG_4624.jpg

 photo 1-_MG_4622.jpg

I visited the geese and ducks for quite a while at Baldwin Lake (now at a perilously shallow 24 inches).

 photo 1-_MG_4645.jpg

And named this palm Narcissus.

 photo 1-_MG_4633.jpg

 photo 1-_MG_4694.jpg

 photo 1-_MG_4632.jpg

 photo 1-_MG_4610.jpg

Every Wednesday I look forward to the musings of Anna at Flutter & Hum, our host for Wednesday Vignette.

Digital Nature at the Los Angeles County Arboretum 10/21 & 10/22/16

When: 6-9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, October 21 and 22, 2016
Where: Los Angeles County Arboretum & Botanic Garden, 301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia.
Tickets: $16 adults and $14 children 5-12.
Information: 626-821-4623, www.arboretum.org.
Read more here.


 photo 1U6A7912-X3.jpg

Digital Nature opened last night at the Los Angeles County Arboretum, an event designed to be as sparklingly ephemeral as morning dew in Los Angeles.
It closes tonight, so you have a Saturday ahead to plan a fall afternoon at the Los Angeles Co. Arboretum and maybe stop in at their plant sale while waiting for nightfall.

 photo 1U6A8009-X2.jpg


If like me you tend to feel a twinge of dejection at being cast out of botanical gardens late afternoon, when things really seem to be getting interesting, today is your chance to experience the collective soft breath of the plants as they settle in for the night, the peacocks heading for their roosts, the dim rustling of leaves, the last birdcall. Though it’s been hot here all week, the Arboretum seems to be generating its own celebratory weather for this event, intriguingly chilly and moody, as if expressly ordered for the occasion by impresario Shirley Watts, known to blog readers as the curator of Natural Discourse, the series of symposia that melds the humanities and sciences to illuminate our ever-changing relationship to the natural world.

 photo 1U6A7980-X3.jpg

In Digital Nature, Shirley gets to explore a favorite theme, the intersection of technology and nature, and has invited video artists and engineers to the Arboretum in a one-off installation for this special event.

 photo 1U6A8191-X3.jpg

That drift of mist over the aloes is probably emanating from the “Smog House,” a disused greenhouse that once held experiments on the effect of smog on plants.
Artist Kevin Cooley has brought the abandoned greenhouse back to life for Digital Nature

 photo 1U6A8035-X2.jpg

Other exhibits include cactus blooms opening and closing, over and over, like we’ve always wanted them to.

 photo 1U6A8430-X3.jpg

Interactive digital artist John Carpenter creates work that allows us all to be maestros of shape and color.

 photo 1U6A8167-X3.jpg

 photo 1U6A8021-X3.jpg

 photo 1U6A7948-X3.jpg

Come see what’s showing at the Arboretum under the Bismarckia nobilis tonight.

 photo 1U6A7928-X3.jpg

All photos by MB Maher.


Natural Discourse: Fire! 9/30 & 10/1/16

I’ve lived long enough to have experienced the dispersal of information about plants move from paper to the computer screen, and it seems I rarely have the sense anymore that I’m cut off from an essential stream of information on one of my favorite topics. But in other important cultural, scientific, and political matters, I often feel that with the digital floodgates open on seemingly every topic and opinion, many vital issues fall prey to a lack of inflection or emphasis and are thereby deemed irrelevant in the popular imagination. Yes, platforms like the TED talks help give marginally popular issues a voice, but for those of us always scanning the sky, the land, thermometers and rain gauges, I do feel our concerns are woefully underrepresented in popular media. And what’s incredibly frustrating is that these concerns of ours are not narrowly personal but important and central to everything we love (life!). So when programming like Natural Discourse came along back in 2012, I immediately sensed this is the focus that’s been lacking.

 photo 01ffc9c913e4ac35ef3ec9dbd02d6e37.jpg

Photo above taken by photographer George Bennett, when fire was threatening the 747 Wing House in the Malibu hills.
The house, designed by architect David Hertz from the wings of a decommissioned Boeing 747, is on the site of Tony Duquette’s Ranch, which itself was destroyed in a brush fire in the 1990’s.
When fire was menacing the Wing House in 2013, George was on site with his camera. He has been invited him to show us these stunning images and recount this close brush with destruction.

Shirley Watts has brought Natural Discourse, an “ongoing series of symposia, publications, and site-specific art installations that explores the connections between art, architecture, and science within the framework of botanical gardens and natural history museums,” this year to the Huntington on September 30 and October 1, aiming her intensely curious, curatorial mind on a subject of both regional and timely importance. Apart from record drought continuing in the West, July has been pronounced the hottest month on record, and our notorious fire season has leaped its usual seasonal boundaries and has morphed into an ongoing conflagration. The subject of fire is, well, hot. If ever there was a time to shout Fire! — this is it. Fire in all its guises, destructive, regenerative, inspirational, will be discussed by a fascinating group of scientists and artists at this year’s Natural Discourse at the Huntington September 30th and October 1st:

Friday evening from 7:30 to 8:30:
John Doyle, Jean-Lou Chameau Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems at Caltech. His talk Fire and Life, will highlight Southern California’s particularly complex relationship with fire.
Mia Feuer, artist, Assistant Professor of Sculpture at CA College of the Arts, will talk about her work at the tar sands in Alberta, CA.​​​

Saturday from 9 to 4:
Thomas Fenn, Director of the Yale Center for the Study of Ancient Pyro-technology. Tom is an archaeologist who specializes in examining early technologies. His research combines chemistry, geology, archeology, cultural anthropology and history. He will talk to us about the history of man’s discovery and use of fire.
George Bennett, photographer, will talk about fire at the Wing House in Malibu
Erica Newman, fire ecologist will talk about biodiversity in chaparral and what to expect with fire and climate change
William L. Fox, Director of the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art, will talk about fire as an outdoor spectacle and as art in the environment.
Sara Hiner, musician and Eric Elias, pyro-technician, will talk about their collaboration on the fireworks at Hollywood Bowl
Mark Briggs, river ecologist with the World Wildlife Fund’s Rio Grande/Bravo Programs will talk about controlled burns on the US/Mexican border

I do think it’s incredibly important to support this unique programming (written in my best, silkiest NPR/PBS-solicitous voice), and it’s just been made easier to do so.
Prices have been reduced; tickets can be ordered here.

Los Angeles, if ever there was a discourse designed specifically with you in mind, this is it. Come support Natural Discourse. I’d love to see you there.

reprising a 2010 visit to the Ruth Bancroft Garden

(Ms. Bancroft is celebrating her 108th birthday this month — yes, that’s not a typo — and we’re all awaiting the upcoming launch later this fall of the book chronicling the making of her garden The Bold Dry Garden.)

If you have an Internet connection and a love of plants, you probably also have many unmet friends with those same two attributes.
Finally meeting up with them is thrilling. When they arrange to take you to marvelous gardens you’ve never visited before, life doesn’t get any better.

Just such a friend arranged for a group of gardeners to visit the Ruth Bancroft Garden, located in Walnut Creek, California, one I’ve long wanted to explore. The garden didn’t disappoint.

Photobucket

I’m guessing Agave lophantha.

Photobucket

This guy in the center looks a lot like my Mr. Ripple, which is an A. salmiana hybrid.

Photobucket

Thrilling enough, no? But what I didn’t expect to find was garden scenes like this.

Our visit luckily coincided with the RBG’s 16th annual Sculpture in the Garden fundraiser. Nothing loosens up a group of gardeners more than provocative garden sculpture.

Photobucket

You should have seen the caboose on this lizard lady. I don’t know how she kept her balance in those heels.

Photobucket

But it would take a lot more than a lizard in heels to upstage plants like the spiral aloe, Aloe polyphylla.

Photobucket

There were swathes of succulents of every stripe, spike, and rosette, including this Aloe distans.

Photobucket

And the occasional bull-human ceramic hybrid.

Photobucket

These sauteed gentlemen utterly charmed me.

Photobucket

We were wondering if this regal fellow is the Sharkskin Agave, aka the Ruth Bancroft Agave. Can you tell we toured without a docent?
I doubt a docent could have corralled us. We peeled off in twelve different directions, crossing paths periodically to compare notes and point out possible missed gems.

Photobucket

Barrel cactus and a gorgeous, diaphanous, broom-like shrub but apparently not a cytisus. No one knew its name.

When curiosity grew to unmanageable proportions, we flagged down docents to fire questions at them. (What a nice bunch docents are.)

Photobucket

This plant seemed to attract the most attention.
The flowers were similar in shape to our native calochortus and also to an Australian shrub that’s grown in So. Calif. that we call the “Blue Hibiscus,’ Alyogyne huegelii.
The Blue Hibiscus has sandpapery-textured, maple-shaped leaves, and this shrub’s leaves were threadlike.
Input from a couple docents pieced together an ID. Alyogyne hakaeifolia.

Photobucket

More garden denizens.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

These ceramic sculptures were built in components and slipped over pvc pipe. The combinations arising from this simple technique are seemingly endless.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Meeting a group of gardeners, of course, never disappoints. Their erudition in matters horticultural and otherwise can be astounding.

Photobucket

And whether fluent in botanical Latin or not, we all speak the same language and come from the same tribe.

Photobucket

The sculpture exhibit and sale runs through July 18, 2010.

Photobucket

beyond the lawn; part 2

Leave, my friend (for it is high time), the low and sordid pursuits of life to others, and in this safe and snug retreat emancipate yourself for your studies.” — Pliny the Younger

Another house on the Garden Conservancy Open Days tour in Los Angeles this early May had some wonderful ideas.
Right at the curb, the broad, decomposed granite parkway provided stark contrast to the neighboring turfed properties.
Even though this house and garden stand out among the others on its street and carry a bit of the shock of the new, the design principles upon which it draws are old.
Very old. Ancient, in fact. Indeed, the designer didn’t stray very far at all from the source materials for mediterranean homes and gardens.

 photo 1-_MG_4469.jpg

Step away from the street and the double rows of parked cars, up a short flight of steps, and we could be entering a Roman villa.

 photo 1-_MG_4468.jpg

And I’m talking about garden principles faithful in spirit. The Romans would have used myrtle and box, not the Australian westringia, but the latter’s small leaves fit in seamlessly.

 photo 1-_MG_4522.jpg

Landscape architect Joseph Marek began work in 2011, with more fine-tuning in 2014.

 photo 1-_MG_4463.jpg

By a cleverly strategic, stripped-down use of water and plants, a lushness and vitality is nevertheless communicated and felt.
Through gestures such as the rill in the front garden.

 photo 1-_MG_4478-001.jpg

From the tour notes: “[I]n 2014…the garden was re-graded and all lawn was removed from both the front garden and the wide parkway.
Once cleared, the house’s true scale and presence were revealed…
A gurgling iris-lined lily pond, intersecting a richly colored sandstone and gravel courtyard surrounded by Mediterranean,
Australian and native California plants now welcomes neighbors and visitors
.”

 photo 1-_MG_4480.jpg

Step through the portico, follow the path into the back garden, and we could be in Ibiza or Santorini.

 photo 1-_MG_4492-003.jpg

The side path leads to a trellised table area.

 photo 1-_MG_4511.jpg

Looking from the pergola, past a small fountain, to the pool.

 photo 1-_MG_4488-001.jpg

Looking down the length of the pool reveals a prioritized, economical use of space.
(And to further update a neoclassical setting, I believe that’s actress Rosalind Chao, nee Keiko O’Brien of Star Trek: TNG, under the olive.)

 photo 1-_MG_4508-001.jpg

The chairs and fire pit area are semi-screened from the pergola by citrus and from the neighbors by towering bamboo.
Ancient principles are clearly stated here, that irrigation should not be wasted on plants serving as shallow-rooted carpeting underfoot.
Water is prized, framed and contained, where its liquid abilities to brim and spill can be appreciated, but never squandered.

 photo 1-_MG_4503-001.jpg

Looking at the main house.
Buxom evergreen plants of box and citrus flesh out the patterned geometric surfaces underfoot.
This all just makes so much sense for hot and dry Los Angeles, a frenetic city that requires strong doses of sanctuary (and not just from the sun).
As Pliny the Younger puts it, in such a place as this we can leave the “low and sordid pursuits of life to others.” Amen, Pliny.

 photo 1-_MG_4494-002.jpg

Looking at the apartment/studio connected by the pergola to the main house.
Materials could be COR-Ten steel, recycled concrete, any neoclassical references on pergolas can be stripped away.
The basic premise remains that, weather permitting, it’s outside the home where mundane activities like napping, reading, eating, become heightened adventures
shared with the birds, the wind, the sun. Perhaps it’s a primal link to a time when we were outdoors far more than indoors?

 photo 1-_MG_4498.jpg

Under a surface luxury lies careful, conservative planning, strategic use of plants, water, shade, based on timeless design principles for summer-dry climates.

 photo 1-_MG_4467.jpg

I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re treated to more about this garden.


beyond the lawn; notes on 2016 LA Garden Conservancy Open Days

Since the 5/7/16 tour, Gov. Jerry Brown surprised us all by announcing that mandatory water restrictions are now suspended except for agriculture. Water use policies will revert back to the local level.
So pat yourself on the back for enduring those spartan showers, ditching the lawn, adding in more permeability to your garden, and overall diligent water use reduction efforts.
(But you still can’t hose down your driveway, so get over that.) Even so, this might be a good moment to emphasize the big picture. From The California Weather Blog:

Nearly all of California is still ‘missing’ at least 1 year’s worth of precipitation over the past 4 years, and in Southern California the numbers suggest closer to 2-3 years’ worth of ‘missing’ rain and snow.
These numbers, of course, don’t even begin to account for the effect of consecutive years of record-high temperatures, which have dramatically increased evaporation in our already drought-stressed region.”

And the bigger, possibly more sobering picture is that even in non-drought years, Los Angeles averages only 15 inches of rainfall. So the problem of too little water for too many people is not going away. Ever. And it was a problem long before the governor hit the red alert button. But you know what? Other cultures have already figured this out, this business of crowding ourselves into hot, dry lands. And there’s great examples all around town. Landscape designer Nancy Goslee Power’s garden on the recent GC Open Days tour is a case study of these principles. And while we all obsess over what to do with the lawn, her almost 20-year-old garden suggests we might also think about where outdoors to eat, nap, cook, read, chat with friends, daydream, warm by a fire, take shelter from the sun, catch an ocean breeze, inhale clouds of jasmine — the scope of possibilities extends far beyond the boundaries of that poster child for this drought, the lawn, and what replaces it.

I liked this line from that keen observer of all things Southern Californian, Joan Didion, in the 5/26/16 New York Review of Books. It easily applies to our attitudes about water in Los Angeles:

I have lived most of my life under misapprehensions of one kind or another.” Boy howdy, you said it, Ms. Didion. Don’t we all? (“California Notes” NYRB 5/26/16)

 photo 1-_MG_4386.jpg

This little table and chairs is at the front of Ms. Power’s small Santa Monica house, just off the street, entirely screened by plantings.
A short staircase zig-zags up from the sidewalk through retaining-wall beds filled with agaves and matilija poppies, depositing visitors in this shady “foyer.”
A potted cussonia at the entrance to a garden is always an auspicious sign of good things to come.

 photo 1-_MG_4456.jpg

Also in the front courtyard is the first of many small fountains and pools. Implicit is the strong affirmative that, yes, water is precious stuff.
Watch it glisten and sparkle in the sun, ripple in the wind, draw in birds. Just don’t ever take it for granted.

 photo 1-_MG_4388.jpg

Narrow passage to the back of the house, a jasmine-scented journey this time of year.

The forgotten spaces in most people’s houses — the side yards and setbacks — I look at as opportunities.”
(all quoted material from “Power of Gardens” by Nancy Goslee Power)

 photo 1-_MG_4379.jpg

Already you can sense the strong interplay between indoors and outdoors, the feeling of shelter extending beyond the house, eager to envelope and claim the outdoors as well.

 photo 1-_MG_4450.jpg

Up those distant steps leads to the banquette in the photo below.

 photo 1-_MG_4392.jpg

Ms. Power’s “napatorium.”

Walled gardens offer so many solutions still relevant in the modern world.
They give privacy and safety from the outside environment, often perceived as hostile.
The living spaces of the house open onto exterior spaces, and outdoor dining is possible in courtyards in good weather most of the year
.”

 photo 1-_MG_4396.jpg

[T]he more you define a space, the larger it becomes.”

 photo 1-_MG_4413.jpg

The view from the kitchen door.

I designed the water to be seen all the way through the house and make a strong central axis that pulls you outside.”

 photo 1-_MG_4436.jpg

 photo 1-_MG_4437.jpg

A small apartment/cottage shares the wall with the rill.

 photo 1-_MG_4390.jpg

Dining area off the kitchen, where the colors warm up.

 photo 1-_MG_4422.jpg

The kitchen, windows open to the narrow, pebbled side passageway, a nook in the wall for a potted plant just visible through the window.

 photo 1-_MG_4394.jpg

More shaded seating just off the kitchen.

 photo 1-_MG_4427.jpg

Everywhere were the tell-tale signs that the outdoors were as lived in as the indoors, if not more so.

 photo 1-_MG_4430.jpg

 photo 1-_MG_4384.jpg

From the street, you’d have no idea what lay up that small flight of steps off the sidewalk, so tours like this are much appreciated.
I wanted Casa Nancina to reveal herself slowly…I didn’t want my landscape to stand out.
It needed to be discreet and feel as if it belonged to the neigbhorhood
.”

an abbreviated look at the 4/17/2016 Los Angeles APLD tour

Of the eight gardens on the tour, divided into four in the morning, four in the afternoon, I visited six and drove by all of them.
I’m including photos of just three gardens from this tour themed “The Watershed Approach to Landscape Design.” (Another garden I visited was posted on here.)
This excellent tour was well organized, with the designer and owner available for questions at each garden. Smart phones and clear maps make driving tours like this a breeze now.
The tour occurred mid-day during another record-breaking heat wave, which meant a strong sun, deep shadows. I was mostly looking and listening, with the camera idle at my side.
Marty has always said I’ve got good “radar,” a trait that renders me a sometimes silent companion when dining in a restaurant.
For example, I can suddenly seem to go catatonic, staring off into the mid distance as I focus on an interesting conversation. (Eavesdropping, some might call it.)
During the tour I eavesdropped on questions asked of the designer or garden owner, figuring it would spare them answering the same questions from me.
I noticed that the owners were often blissfully unaware of plant names, irrigation systems. They loved their gardens as a whole and didn’t obsess over the components.
Once again, that relationship of trust between designer and client was an impressive thing to behold.

And sometimes the designer and client nail it, that chimerical vision of the garden-to-be, from inception, like the first garden on the tour.
Designed by Joel Lichtenwalter & Ryan Gates/Grow Outdoor Design, “Brentwood Mid-Century Woodland Garden.”
Everything was exactly the same as when I first toured it three years ago (here).
Which speaks volumes about the powerful mind meld that is possible between client and designer.

 photo 1-_MG_4213.jpg

Continue reading an abbreviated look at the 4/17/2016 Los Angeles APLD tour