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.

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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.

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

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.


Flora & Bee


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In Sunset magazine this March 2016 is a profile of the home of garden designer Manda Galbraith, principal of Flora & Bee, located in Burien, Washington.
(“How to design a vibrantly colorful garden.“) I’ll be looking again and again at these luscious photos by David Perry all month. Enjoy.

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concrete containers by Dustin Gimbel

Dustin’s Facebook feed is showing lots of new work, and I just had to pop over to see what he’s been up to, even if it was almost too late in the afternoon for photos.

Invariably, whenever I post on Dustin, I get inquiries about his work, running the gamut from private individuals to public garden directors.
If there’s any questions, you can contact him at: dustingimbel@mac.com.

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If I understood correctly, the concrete is a special formulation with some kind of fibers that allows him to play with a range of shapes.

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Not made by Dustin but in keeping with the theme.

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Of course I had to check out his plants too, because there’s always something new.
For example, a client didn’t like this variegated Italian Buckthorn (Rhamnus alaternus), so Dustin brought it home.
Thank goodness he has lots of other creative outlets to balance out the occasional disagreeable client.

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The always envy-inducing variegated ponytail palm

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The hulk of the cherimoya tree, painted a cheery yellow, now supports a hanging garden of rhipsalis, tillandsias, bromeliads.
When the tree was alive, it rained down vast amounts of messy, fly-attractiing fruit. In its afterlife it’s become one of my favorite things in his garden.

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The fading light reflecting off the pond.

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I love how Dustin teams up extravagantly beautiful plants with containers made of simple geometric shapes.
The plain geometry of the containers is a wonderful counterpoint to the complex, exuberant geometry of plants.

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blogger meetup at the Huntington

I should have talked less and picked up the camera more at the meetup this past Saturday at the Huntington Botanical Garden, but that wouldn’t have been as much fun as our nonstop gabfest. The occasion for the meetup was Gerhard (Succulents & More) visiting Los Angeles at the end of a week-long winter sabbatical — a plant-centric sabbatical, of course, which he will be blogging about forthwith. Gail (Piece of Eden), Gail’s husband Alan, Luisa (Crow & Raven), and I were the Southern California welcoming committee.


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Also part of Gerhard’s welcoming committee were the winter-blooming aloes.

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With so many aloes in bloom, the desert garden absorbed all our time and attention.

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Aloe sinkatana

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Aloe rubroviolacea

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We’re all pretty fond of agaves too.

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And hechtias.

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In fact, there’s very little about the desert garden that we’re not all crazy in love with.
I hope Luisa does a post on her beloved opuntias. Alan admirably fulfilled documentary duties.


The desert garden is always jaw-droppingly amazing, but this time I wish I had more photos to substantiate my enthusiasm for the plantings in the new entrance garden. I grabbed a couple photos as I left in the early afternoon, which just hint at the large swathes of the landscape made predominantly of muhly grasses interspersed with kniphofia and aloes. The grasses carry the scene nearly year-round and are especially stunning fall and winter, at their shimmering best in the low angled light. The Huntington’s own hybrid Kniphofia ‘Christmas Cheer’ is in bloom now, and then the torch will be handed over to Aloe ‘David Verity.’ Very minimalist but strategically smart succession planting on a waterwise budget, with washes of blue supplied by the mallee shrub Eucalyptus ‘Moon Lagoon’ The grasses are Muhlenbergia dubia, Muhlenbergia rigens, and Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tails.’ There was also a small massed planting of Hesperaloe ‘Brakelights,’ and lots of other things like verbascum and glaucium, but the overall mood of the landscape is governed by swaying, glittering sweeps of grass.

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More like a quick watercolor sketch than a photo, but the general idea is conveyed.
The blue wash is from Eucalyptus ‘Moon Lagoon.’ Kniphofia ‘Christmas Cheer’ is in bloom, like little signal fires dotted amongst the grasses.
After the kniphofia fires die down, Aloe ‘David Verity’ will light up the Muhlenbergia dubia. Really smart, gorgeously simple planting.

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Kniphofia ‘Christmas Cheer’ is a hybrid of Kniphofia rooperi that emerged from the Huntington in the 1970s.
From San Marcos Growers website:
John MacGregor, long-time horticulturist at the Huntington Botanical Gardens, noted that this plant is one of the best winter hummingbird plants he knew of for mild climates.”

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The new entrance garden warrants another, much more comprehensive visit.
And without my blogger friends, there’ll be less talk and more photos. But not nearly as much fun.

the siren call of cycads

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a local Long Beach front garden, zone 10, south-facing exposure

I recently chanced upon a house and garden that I used to drive by a lot more frequently.
Habits change, errands take one in a different direction, and in that unobserved period a cycad suddenly seems to have become enormous.
And cycads, as a rule, don’t do anything suddenly.

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The most frequently seen cycad, Cycas revoluta, known by the misnomer “Sago Palm,” is probably the only cycad I can safely ID.
I think this is a Sago Palm, though I could easily be mistaken. I’ve never seen one this big.

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That little garden reminded me of the photos I’d yet to post of the cycad garden at Lotusland for you cycad lovers.
I admire cycads, though I haven’t yet come to love them. I really should make up my mind, because it requires an investment of years, decades, to grow them to these sizes.
I know I certainly wouldn’t refuse a good-sized, robin’s egg blue Encephalartos horridus for a tall container. (Like I’d ever expect to find that gift-wrapped under the Christmas tree.)

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Sorry, but I can’t help with IDs of these ancient plants. I know they are very slow growing, so size equates with value, and it’s a huge big deal when they cone.
Ceratozamia, cycas, dioon, encephalartos, lepitozamia, macrozamia — I’d be hard-pressed to tell them apart.
I do know they are one of the most endangered plants in the world.

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Of course, the best way to learn about a plant is to go to the experts.
And it just so happens that The Cycad Society is holding a “Cycad Day” on October 24, 2015.
Maybe you needed a compelling reason to finally make that trip to West Palm Beach, Florida. If so, now you have one. You’re welcome.

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A Southern California source for these plants is The Palm and Cycad Exchange in Fallbrook, California.

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Lotusland’s Rare Plant Auction would be another source.

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I imagine they turn up at the Huntington’s plant sales too.

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Lush and deep green in leaf, some are tolerant of conditions dry enough to suit our native oaks, which don’t appreciate excess summer irrigation.

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Cycads are members of that small, select group of plants dating to the Mesozoic period called gymnosperms (“naked seed”), whose exposed seed are borne in cones.
Angiosperms, relative newcomers but now 80 percent of plants today, generally develop their seeds via flowers.
Credit cycads’ good looks for making people wild enough about them to devote whole gardens to them in climates that can accommodate their needs.
They hail from tropical and subtropical places, like South and Central America.

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That improbable palminess via stiff geometric leaves on a stout trunk, plus their rarity and unique evolutionary status, are part of what turns ordinary people into devotees.

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Where to See Cycads.”


planting details at the Reid garden

I went through my Reid garden photos again, looking for clear examples of the subtly layered plant communities that rose up around my feet as I followed the paths, scanning the garden like a hungry predator, looking down then quickly back up to trace the changing treeline, the alternating pools of light then shade, the understory of shrubs surrounded by blankets of ground-hugging sedums, bergenias, hardy begonias, grasses. Immersed in the garden, it feels as though the enfolding landscape continually builds up then releases great dramatic tension, holding charged breaths filled to bursting, then exhaling in a pool of sunlight, or a vista over fields and distant stands of trees. Heady stuff.

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Filling over two acres, plants are allowed to contribute the full breadth of their character and are seen in all their dimensions.

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The Lion’s Tail, Leonotis leonurus, was a dazzlingly exotic beast to American Conifer Society members on the tour.
I heard languages from all over the world amongst our group excitedly conferring over the Lion’s Tail.

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Remember, this is a California garden in September, in a mediterranean climate (theoretically winter wet/summer dry) under water restrictions due to our cursed, ongoing drought.

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On the path alongside the serpentine wall.

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Their terraced landscape covers two and a half of the 140 rolling acres they bought outside Occidental in 1989.
A few miles east of the Pacific Ocean and south of the Russian River, the garden overlooks farm fields, apple orchards, and fir forests
.” — (“A Passionate Pursuit”)

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Now on the semi-parched lawn atop the wall.

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Leucadendron, Rosa mutabilis, and Salvia involucrata.

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Cussonia paniculata on the left, in the distance behind the veil of Stipa gigantea, white oleander on the right.

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Up against the house, tibouchina and abutilon.

There is a new book out, that I haven’t read yet, entitled “Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes,” by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West, that describes this kind of “ecological landscape design.” If you have a nearby garden to study that follows these principles, consider yourself fortunate, because brilliant examples like the Reid garden in Northern California are not often seen. Gardens attached to nurseries, like nearby Western Hills in Occidental, are often good places to study this kind of planting, because detailed plant knowledge is the key.