Agave xylonacantha near 6th & Fig

I have a lot of affection for Downtown LA, our underdog of a city center that lay fallow and forgotten for so many decades, its opulent old movie palaces abandoned or turned into dollar stores. It’s a boom town now, with brands like Urban Outfitters moving into those old movie palaces. I worked in DTLA in the decades pre-boom town, when there wasn’t a single grocery store for miles, when it emptied out at 5 p.m. like the zombies were coming with nightfall, and when the city and it’s beautiful but empty buildings (the Bradbury Building!) seemed to belong to me alone. I still work there quite often, now taking the Metro Blue Line from Long Beach to LA. Yes, contrary to popular opinion, we do have public transportation here in Los Angeles — just not enough yet. The trains to Santa Monica are slated to go online in spring 2016, and I can’t wait. Santa Monica and the west side of town are the worst commutes of all for me. Sitting in freeway traffic just seems like a crazily regressive way to start the 21st century, and I avoid it whenever possible.

But back to DTLA, where on Figueroa near 6th Street there’s this large planting of succulents that showcases some less frequently seen agaves, as far as public plantings go.

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Like Agave xylonacantha, with its high contrast, zig-zaggy leaf margins

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Backing Agave parryi var. truncata are enormous Kalanchoe beharensis, the size of small buffalos.
Nice touch to include some bromeliads. LA hasn’t really woken up to the potential of bromeliads yet in public landscapes.

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And as common as Agave parryi var. truncata is in private gardens, it too is rarely seen in commercial plantings around town. Mine at home send offsets several feet away.

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Aloe striata is widely planted.

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Agave guiengola ‘Creme Brulee’ is one of those agaves that can be hit or miss. If one of those big, asymmetric leaves becomes damaged, the effect is pretty much ruined.
These look to be in fairly good shape. With aeoniums in the foreground.

Happy Val Day

Interesting, isn’t it, that one of America’s most notorious authors of books banned under then-existing obscenity laws had the middle name Valentine? All true. Henry Valentine Miller.
“The publication of Miller’s Tropic of Cancer in the United States in 1961 by Grove Press led to a series of obscenity trials that tested American laws on pornography. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Grove Press, Inc., v. Gerstein, citing Jacobellis v. Ohio (which was decided the same day in 1964), overruled the state court findings of obscenity and declared the book a work of literature…Following the trial, in 1964–65, other books of Miller’s which had also been banned in the US were published by Grove Press: Black Spring, Tropic of Capricorn, Quiet Days in Clichy, Sexus, Plexus and Nexus.” from the Wiki on Henry Miller

In my teens I loved Miller’s Quiet Days in Clichy, Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch.
I don’t think I made it through all the Tropics. But as a teenager, I generally read everything my brothers read.
Then in my early twenties, living on my own I unconsciously switched to reading books written almost solely by or about women, Woolf and Wharton, Austen and DeBeauvoir.
This Val Day, not necessarily in this order, I’m thinking of the power of love, of books, sons and brothers, a good breakfast, foggy mornings, and the power of SCOTUS too.
And I’m bringing a bouquet of sunflowers to you to celebrate the day. They arrived early this morning, all the way from Tanzania.
Mitch is traveling through East Africa with IPFRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) and in Tanzania they stopped at a sunflower oil factory. The photos are fairly self-explanatory. Enjoy!

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Thursday clippings 2/4/16 (love letters to trees)



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Not my street. Our parkways are a hodge-podge of palms and jacarandas, magnolias, overgrown oleanders and scheffleras.


The City recently sent out crews to work on our street trees, and the snarl of power tools and episodic rise and fall of cherry picker machines in the sky like so many feeding brontosauri was a fact of life for a few weeks. No tree was overlooked, and they tackled palms 10-stories high, finishing right before the much-anticipated rainfall event last Sunday, which to me seemed like a non-event. One-quarter inch of rain? Seriously? The real story was the wind. No prediction for wind was given, no warning to secure top-heavy pots. Blackouts dotted the power grid across LA County, as winds up to 60 mph roared down the streets, veering tightly down narrow patios to upend pots and generally cause windy havoc. High winds are my least favorite weather event, but Marty always greets them with a cheery sailor’s welcome and becomes energized by their arrival, so there was nothing for me to do but make soup and wait them out. And pick up the breakage, pots and plants, on Monday. But our street trees were ready this time, by Jove, so the timing there was serendipitous. After a wind event like that, our street is usually littered with branches, but not this time. And there will be much less jacaranda litter on the agaves in the front garden this year. Huzzah!

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This is the one I was really worried about Sunday night. Though this pot may have that battered look that comes from toppling in high wind, its weight outmatched the wind, so it was untouched. I actually bought it in that decrepit state from an everything-must-go sale at the old Hotel Figueroa, where it was esconced on a pillar near the pool. The Euphorbia canariensis was too nice to pass up. After the winds abated, I did move it to a more sheltered position against the east fence. Each move brings off more paint and stucco, and a couple more will cause total disintegration

Speaking of the snarl (and bite) of power tools, we’ve gained new appreciation for their indifference to cutting wood for attic beams or the tip off an index finger. It’s all the same to power tools. Marty has been healing up the past couple weeks and was busy yesterday stablizing one of the Monterey cypresses that developed an alarming list after those ferocious winds on Sunday. And I now realize that I missed out on a successful career as an ambulance driver. The overwhelming mood around here the past week is thankfulness that it wasn’t much worse.

And since those fierce winds on Sunday, watching the trees bend and sway and emerge victorious, we’ve also gained new-found appreciation for our trees.
I love the idea behind this piece in The Atlantic’s CityLab “When You Give A Tree An Email Address.”


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If I sent my trees love letters, a valentine to my Fernleaf Acacia just coming into bloom would look something like this:

Dear young Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’:
I didn’t think your beauty could be improved upon, but now that you’re adding this subtle wash of yellow to those blue and purple tints, I see I was wrong. Superb!
P.S. Sorry about all that wind. I must say you’ve shown incredible resilience!

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Jacaranda flowers and Agave geminiflora, May 2013

nursery hopping in December

Pulling into a favorite nursery’s driveway yesterday, I could already see from the street it’s a madhouse. I’d completely forgotten the split personality most nurseries take on in December. The usually empty parking lot is not only full of cars, moving and parked, but also Christmas trees, shoppers, and children darting among the cars. I proceeded cautiously, pulling into the first (and only) available parking stall to eliminate one less moving object from the mayhem. The car makes a small bump, bump, and as I jump out to investigate an employee accuses, “You ran over our tree stand!” which he’s brandishing in his hand as evidence of the crime. Of course, there will be Christmas tree stands in the parking stalls in December, and overworked employees irritated that I would be unaware of this fact. There’s no more denying that the holidays are officially in full swing. I very nearly got immediately back in the car to leave.

But I’m glad I didn’t, because they were carrying Lobelia tupa in gallons, a plant never offered locally.
And their excellent stock of the proteaceae family included the sight of this Protea ‘Mini King’ in bloom in its container:

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And a bulbous plant not often seen, the giant red Crinum asiaticum var. procerum.

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This specimen was old enough and big enough to flower, sending a swooping stalk like a flamingo’s neck almost to the ground.
There was a smaller plant in a 3-gallon size for almost $50.

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I might want to try the variegated Euphorbia characias in a container too. The ones I planted last winter melted away again.

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As usual, I warm up to the winter holidays slowly, apparently marching to a different little drummer boy. But there’s still plenty of time.
We’ve always been the house that brings home the tree on the 24th.

Have a great week, and watch out for those tree stands.

clippings, 4th of July


My neighbors have been diligently practicing for 4th of July celebrations since May, the little darlings.
Fireworks are illegal here, a fact which obviously adds zest to surreptitious, after-dark escapades ending in window-rattling booms and blasts.
Seeing as it’s the 4th of July, it’s about time I empty out the odds and ends that have been accumulating in June.

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Top of the to-do list: My front porch is a disgrace, drab and basically a dog zone not fit for humans, so I’ve been taking notes around town.
I’d much prefer it resemble something like this porch.

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Not something I’d want for the porch (all plants are kept well away from this old wooden house), but I had no idea there was a variegated Solandra maxima.
In any case, my porch faces north, not the proper aspect for this sun-loving, house-eating vine.

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Hanging containers, lots of them, will be added to the porch. This is Vicki’s creation I bought at Reuben’s recent sale.
I added the silver ponyfoot yesterday, when Loree’s post reminded me again how much I admired JJ De Sousa’s use of it in her garden last year.

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An example of JJ De Sousa’s masterful use of silver ponyfoot, Dichondra argentea, in her 2014 garden, blogged about here.
The silver ponyfoot and the the shrub, Ozothamnus ‘Sussex Silver,’ despite their lush, sparkling appearance, are both very tolerant of dry conditions. Really inspired planting.

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This year’s santolina orb project is coming along nicely. Two can be seen in the photo, but I think there’s about four of them. Hard to tell now that it’s summer.
I’ve done clipped orbs in the past, the last attempt with ‘Golfball’ pittosporums, but I always end up feeling straitjacketed by having to keep the sight lines clear around them.
We’ll see how long this experiment lasts. I love the effect but haven’t been able to live with it for very long. Looks fantastic in winter.
I’ve recently seen this done with the ‘Sunset Gold’ coleonema and may have to try that next. Possibly in pots for the front porch?

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What else is new? Oh, yes, the ‘Zigzag’ euphorbia from the CSSA sale at the Huntington last week, waiting for a permanent home.

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I’ve been wanting this Euphorbia pseudocactus for some time, and variegated is even better.
It’s actually a hybrid of E. pseudocactus and grandicornis.

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The big box stores are stocking tons of succulents, many in large sizes, so it’s a good idea to check in regularly.
I’m seeing these plants deployed all over town, usually quick and dirty, planted too deep, etc.
I couldn’t resist this Devil’s Tongue ferocactus.

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The Pseudobombax ellipticum has been slow to get going this summer but is finally leafing out.

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Another slow-starter has been the Agave americana var. striata. It seemed to take forever before getting those pronounced striations.
I recently plunged the agave, pot and all, into the spot vacated by a verbascum, which was beginning to smother a young leucadendron. Shrubs always get priority.

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Yesterday I dug up the huge clump of Eryngium pandanifolium and planted instead some golden Pleioblastus viridistriatus ‘Chrysophyllus,’ a dwarf bamboo, and some bog sage, Salvia uliginosa.
Seedlings from this eryngo are throwing up a bloom stalk elsewhere in the garden, so it will live on.
It was planted much too close to the bricks and spilled over our feet under the table, and those leaves are ankle biters, armed with hooks and barbs.
(The table has been moved to join up with its twin for extra summer seating.) I’m betting the salvia and bamboo will survive summer planting just fine.
It’s the dry garden stuff that’s much touchier, often succumbing to water molds. It’s always essential to wait for fall planting for dry garden plants.
(Having said that, I did take a chance and just planted a Lavandula stoechas ‘Silver Anouk’ because it was so drop-dead gorgeous.)

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Eryngium pandanifolium in July 2013.

In other news of poor plant placement, I took out Agave ‘Mr. Ripple’ today. Several pups have been saved for containers.
The beautiful monster agave guarding the east gate has been retired. There will be no photos. I prefer to remember Mr. Ripple in his prime.

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Agave ‘Mr. Ripple’ August 2014.

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A photo from November 2013 shows the agave and the ‘Little Ollie’ hedge at cross purposes. At least now I can clip and maintain the olive hedge.

Lastly, July 4th is the final day of American Flowers Week, a celebration of local and homegrown blooms.

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And what could be more American than these treasures of the New World, dahlias and corn?

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Unfortunately, these dahlias weren’t grown by me. The dahlias at my community garden plot didn’t appreciate my lackadaisical watering schedule.

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Next year, I swear there will be dahlias even if I have to forfeit zucchini.

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Latest toy at the community garden, a wood-fired oven. I missed the work party on this one.

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I may bicycle to see some fireworks or just hang out up here atop the laundry shed until Marty gets off work around 10 p.m. Ein loves getting hoisted up the ladder too.
There’s always a breeze to catch up here, and there’s even been a little clip-on reading lamp added.
I’m hoping the neighborhood gets explosions out of its system tonight. Happy 4th!


Monday clippings 6/22/15

It’s almost the end of the month, a good time to unpack some random June impressions.

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Dustin’s potted Aloe ‘Johnson’s Hybrid,’ the mother of my little one I mentioned recently. See how spectacular?
Blooms nearly year-round, and Dustin says it’s much better than the similar ‘Grassy Lassie’ and especially fine for container culture.

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Detail of my favorite CMU (concrete masonry unit) hack so far, a little bench set amidst CMU stacked planters at a local Thai restaurant.
I need to go back for a thorough examination so I can get started on my unapologetic theft of this brilliant idea.

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Massed succulents around town are at their peak of beauty before the really hot days of summer begin in July. Aloe brevifolia perhaps

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Kiwi aeonium, aloes and echeverias

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Agaves as front porch sentries

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massed Queen Victoria agaves at Orange Coast College

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Tree aloe, Aloidendron barberae, at Orange Coast College

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Euphorbias tirucalli and ammak vying for supremacy. Orange Coast College

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A tiny glimpse of Joe Clements’ work at Claremont College. I need to return and take a much longer look around.

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Possibly Agave ‘Cream Spike,’ with opuntia, also seen at Claremont College

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Cotyledon orbiculata is in bloom everywhere.

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Everywhere except my garden, that is. Clumps are still too small.

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A sweet variegated ferocactus seen on a recent garden tour.

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And just a couple photos from a 100-degree visit to the elegant Rancho Reubidoux Saturday.
The stacked pots on the far left are new, most enviable acquisitions.
I had just streamed a documentary on the Catalan architect Gaudi the night before my visit and couldn’t help seeing his organic forms in a lot of Reuben’s impressive pottery.
All containers are stone and cement, which has the effect of draining the garden of random colors, clarifying line, shape and form.
Everything has been pared down, simplified, classicized, if that’s even a word, and is emphatically serene and spacious. Fresh adventures always beckon Reuben and Paul.

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The heat and strong light frustrated documentation attempts, so we mostly hung out here under the deep, shady overhang.
Reuben and Paul’s buddy, cactus purveyor Rob MacGregor, regaled us with talk of spiking barrel cactus with hot nails to spur growth of multiple heads.
Marty can’t wait to try this on mine. (No way!)
And I was able to bring home one of Vicki Perez’s creations, a planted tractor funnel, so it was an altogether fine day in the inland inferno.

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For an older look, I had forgotten all about this video Mitch made of the Rancho several years ago until Reuben mentioned it yesterday.
(Reuben, persuading the paletas vendor to loan you his popsicle cart for the day further confirms your devilishly detailed genius. The lime paleta was divine!)

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And don’t forget the big CSSA show is this week, June 26-28, 2015, at the Huntington.
Rob says he’ll be giving a lecture there, which hopefully will include more fiendish ways to propagate succulents.


friday clippings 6/5/15

Late spring conversation at our house sums up living in a “mixed” household (gardeners/nongardeners):

Duncan, from the back porch: Whatcha doin’ out there?
Me, from deep in the garden: Sitting in a field of poppies.
Duncan (scanning for alleged field of poppies): Okay.

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Disembodied voice from deep in garden continues: It’s just one plant really, but I’m pretending.
And it’s not a poppy exactly, but in the poppy family.
Glaucium grandiflorum from Iran, a country we don’t get much good news about, and yet there grows this poppy that is so…so…

Duncan: Pretty?

Voice from deep in garden: Yes! So very pretty.

Duncan: Okaaay.

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Voice from deep in garden continues talking to now-empty back porch:

Botanists should be the ones in charge of things, politics, treaties, border disputes…What’s good for the plant world will necessarily be good for everything else…

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(plant-drunk words and theorizing continute to drift over poppies)

In other news…

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Cyrtanthus elatus x montanus is in bloom, a hybrid of a South African bulb.
I haven’t noticed any real dormancy requirements with this one, where watering needs to be withheld to let it rest. Makes it easy.

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And in still other news (real news), if you’re not on Facebook, you may have missed the announcement that Sunset is moving its offices to Oakland.
Its test gardens and kitchen will be moved to Cornerstone, Sonoma, Calif. (read here).
Cornerstone is a collection of outdoor gardens, shops and restaurants inspired by the International Garden Festival at Chaumont-sur-Loire, curated by owner Teresa Raffo.
It was the site of possibly my favorite garden show ever, “The Late Show,” in 2009.
Sunset at Cornerstone makes perfect sense.

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There are permanent installations by artists, designers, and landscape architects to visit year-round, like the “Garden of Contrast” by James Van Sweden and Sheila Brady

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“White Cloud” by Andy Cao and Xavier Perrot

And yet another change for a major garden publication, Better Homes and Gardens announced recently that Stephen Orr will be the new Editor-in-Chief.
I loved Orr’s book Tomorrow’s Garden, fresh and forward-looking, all which bodes well for BHG.

And this weekend Toronto hosts the Garden Bloggers Fling, so there should be lots of good reading from attendees in the weeks ahead.

The first week of June, and it’s still mild and overcast (glorious!) here in Los Angeles. Enjoy your weekend!

favorite plants and an end-of-week nursery browse 5/29/15


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All the new and interesting dry garden shrubs on the smallish side seem to be coming from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials.
Gnidia polystacha from South Africa is a light-limbed shrub with needle-like leaves that readily give away its Thymelaeaceae family heritage.
It’s new in my garden this year and just building size. To see more fawned-over favorites, plant-luster Loree collects them the last Friday of the month.

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I love having favorite nurseries stashed all over town, available for a quick liaison if I’m in the area.
One such regular stop is Lincoln Avenue Nursery in Pasadena, which was in fine form this morning.
Their retail plant display chops are crisp and clear, and there’s always new plants to discover, like Tradescantia cerinthoides ‘Greenlee’
aka the Thick-Leaved Wandering Jew (a “compact perennial” 10 inches X 2 feet, full sun/bright shade, hardy 20-25 F, from San Marcos Growers).
Those dark, swarthy leaves might suck in light like a foliar black hole unless paired with something bright. The nursery chose a variegated Silene uniflora.

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Coincidentally, this nursery also carries Annie’s Annuals & Perennials stock, and I was able to nab some lime green and orange zinnias to grow for vases in the veg garden.
And I found more Emilia javanica, seen above from July 2014.
Don’t let this little annual’s delicate looks fool you. It was the longest-blooming plant bar none last year. The butterflies and I are completely smitten.
There were so many volunteer seedlings this spring, I thought I’d never be without it again. But, oops, I did manage to weed them all out.

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Hot color for sun/light shade from a California native, the monkey flower.

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I’d grow it in a container to concentrate that molten color, but I’ve cut back on anything new but succulents for containers this year.

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No name tag on this volcanic mimulus variety, but Yerba Buena Nursery has a mimulus ID page here.

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Plectranthus always get my attention for their great leaves and good looks that go on and on, and these tight grey leaves drew me in for a name check.
The hummingbird-attracting blue flowers last for months, sometimes year-round in frost-free climates. Perfect for dryish gardens.
This one, the Ethiopian Spur Flower, Plectranthus coerulescens, is described as a compact subshrub.
Don’t ask me why I left it on the bench this time, because there is no rational answer.

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The best thing ever, a lipstick red “monopot” of multiple young ponytail palms, Beaucarnia recurvata.

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I don’t know — what do you think? If price makes a difference, leave a comment and I’ll tell you how much.

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The mature cacti and euphorbia selection is one of the best in town.

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I love the soft-leaved Beschorneria yuccoides. That multiples-in-rows thing nurseries do gets me every time.

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All the familiar bad boys are here

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I remember when it used to be so hard to find Agave desmettiana ‘Joe Hoak’

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This beauty was labeled ‘Moonshine.’ I wonder who the proud parents are. The white markings remind me of Agave impressa.

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Whole lotta trunking going on. I think this is the Spanish Bayonet, a variegated Yucca aloifolia

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I just stripped the lower leaves from my Dasylirion wheeleri at home, but it’s nowhere as clean as this trunk yet. Lots more work to do.
After blooming last year it became shaggier, more disheleved, and some grooming seemed in order. The clean trunk does help.

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Well, hello, sexy. Don’t be shy.

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Agave salmiana var. ferox ‘Medio Picta.’ This was available in a gallon, but where am I going to put another potential 5-footer?

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You can have complete faith in any nursery that trains a Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’ over an office doorway.

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Did you see Debra Lee Baldwin’s piece on echeverias for Pacific Horticulture?
One of the photos shows a mass planting of Echeveria pallida, in that light shade of green I find irresistible.
I found an unlabeled echeveria with that similar light green to the leaf but with a red edge, so I’m not sure if it’s E. pallida. Maybe it’s E. subrigida?
The color can be off when they’re brand-new out of the greenhouse.
The small-sized succulent selection at Lincoln is like a living plant encyclopedia. It’s that good.
A nearby shopper kept muttering to herself over and over, “It’s overwhelming…”

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The leaf color seemed a bit pale on Aloe deltoideodonta ‘Sparkler’ too, but they had my favorite size, a 4-inch pot. Available in gallons too.

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For some light weekend reading, how about a comprehensive list of plants for Mediterranean gardens?
Great for planning a new garden and just fun to go through and see how many you’ve grown (and killed).
And The New Yorker wrote a really smart review of The New York Botanical Garden’s new exhibit on Frida Kahlo’s garden “Art Garden Life.”
I could read all weekend, but this one will be the last opportunity to get the wheels out to celebrate National Bike Month.
I haven’t been on mine in ages.
This weekend is also the Los Angeles Cactus & Succulent Society Annual Drought Tolerant Plant Festival.

small garden, tough choices

I reckon there are 5 seasons.
There’s an early spring, which I call Sprinter…a Sprummer which comes after that for 2 month…There’s a long summer…a short autumn, a short winter – both just two months long, and then you’re back at Sprinter
.”

Tim Entwisie, Director, Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, Australia.

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Succulents and evergreen shrubs are mainstays year-round. Summer bloom 2015 from isoplexis, agapanthus, anigozanthos, verbascum, the annual Orlaya grandiflora.

Small garden, tough choices. Is the plan geared toward winter, spring, summer and/or fall? All of the above?
Add a collecting habit into the mix, in a summer-dry climate that blurs traditional seasonal boundaries, and it gets even more complicated.
I probably write more about my collector mania side, but believe it or not, there is a side that tries to stay mindful of the garden as a whole, with varying success year to year.
And, locally, as front lawns are changed out from lawn to garden, there’s sure to be a lot more minds focused on similar design issues for small spaces.

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‘Blue Glow’ agaves and Brachysema praemorsum in the front garden. Not much happening for summer here.

My succulent-filled front garden gets minimal dry season irrigation, so most of the experimenting takes place in the back garden.

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Courtesy of the collecting side of my brain, a NOID hechtia, a terrestrial bromeliad from Mexico

The back garden is smaller than a lot of living rooms and, to be honest, just can’t support all my ambitions for it. There have to be some compromises.
The answer to where to put the planting emphasis, whether on the “Sprinter,” the “Sprummer,” (to use Mr. Entwisie’s terminology) or the long, dry summer, changes all the time.
For me spring is simple (poppies) and by fall conditions are much too dry to expect anything grand happening in the garden. Besides, that’s when the grasses shine.
In the past I gave more ground to summer, with a higher concentration of perennials and annuals, but that can be a more water-intensive approach, and it does takes ground from the winter garden.

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The newest planting in the back garden is this section under the Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea,’ after the Arundo donax ‘Golden Chain’ was pulled out last fall.
A Leucodendron ‘Safari Goldstrike’ is making good size behind the cordyline. There are lots of aloes here, grasses, and an Agave ovatifolia.
Not much for summer unless the young asphodels take root and thrive.

Currently, the back garden this year is shrubbier, more solid, more evergreen, maybe even a bit more somber.
This year summer gets maybe 40 percent of the planting emphasis breakdown.
But a lot of new shrubs are still small and will take up considerably more room by 2016, so the focus and weight will have shifted again next year.

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Some sections of the garden don’t change much for summer.
There is a young Grevillea ‘Moonlight’ behind the Agave sisalana ‘Variegata’ that should contribute some blooms soon.
Agave ‘Mateo’ slowly makes size here too, in front of the A. sisalana, and Aloe ‘Hercules’ was moved here recently, last spikes on the right.
Year-round, there should be plenty to hold my interest here, which is key because when the eye gets bored, havoc can ensue, and the compost pile then grows by leaps and bounds.
And with the city outside my gate built strictly for commerce, I need the garden as my constant visual stimulator.
Which brings us around again to small garden, tough choices.

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I wish the summer garden was never without the stimulus of Verbascum bombyciferum and that there was space for multiple spires dotted through the garden.
Because it’s biennial, there can be gaps and off years while new plants bulk up the first year, flower and set seed in the second, then expire.
I just bought another young plant as insurance for next year until the self-sowing cycle reliably kicks in.

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It’s a big plant for a small garden but worth every inch of space you can give it.
(Long stems of the photo-bombing slipper plant, Pedilanthus bracteatus, leaning in on the left.)

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I haven’t stopped trialing intriguing, new, dry garden perennials like this Nepeta ‘Purple Haze’ from Terra Nova, tissue culture of a cross between N. tuberosa and govaniana.
Stats say this nepeta with the big bottlebrush flowers will grow low and wide. I had to bat the bees off as I made my selection at a local nursery.

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Not new but an old favorite with a new name. What I knew as Ballota ‘All Hallows Green’ is now known as Marrubium bourgaei ‘All Hallows Green.’ So glad to find this again locally.
Ballota are great little subshrubs that hold it together all summer and, if used in sufficient numbers, somehow make a disparate group of plants look like a coherent plant community.

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An old standby, Ballota pseudodictamnus, very subtly in bloom at the moment.

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Ever since moving into the house 26 years ago, I’ve been thinking of the next garden, the bigger one, and what I will plant there.
The future garden will have agaves, grasses, but rather than accents, as in this garden, there will be scads of them.
Grass-like clumps are Lomandra ‘Lime Tuff’ and ‘Breeze’

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Any future garden would include the Golden Coulter Bush, Hymenolepis parviflora, here backed by the other ‘Purple Haze’ in the garden, the melianthus.

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The mythical future garden would also include Crithmum maritimum, a fleshy, almost succulent-like umbellifer with lacy blue-green leaves.
Seeds around very lightly to slowly build up sizable clumps. Like ballota, because it has such a long season, it knits together surrounding plants into a community.

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And then there’s the agapanthus experiment this year. Mass plantings are in bloom all over town. It still feels weird to have some in the garden.

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There’s some snobbery here, for sure. If I didn’t see it everywhere, it would be considered a rare treasure, like it is in more cold-challenged gardens.
But it’s easy, takes tough conditions, and has nice lines. The bright leaves of ‘Gold Strike’ stand out against the dark green cistus just behind, ‘Snowfire’

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Cistus ‘Snowfire’

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Like agapanthus, I see kangaroo paws all over town, too, which hasn’t turned me against them yet, so it’s obviously the opinion of an inconsistent mind.
Just visible in front is a very faint wash of the grass Aristida purpurea in its second year, slow to build up, a well-behaved substitute for Mexican Feather Grass.

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The Glaucium grandiflorum is putting on a huge show this year, and I love having some poppy-like flowers for summer.
As a short-lived perennial, it may or may not return next year. Rumor has it that it’s a shy reseeder, so I’d have to bring in new plants.

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Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ has been reliably perennial for those of us with severe allium-envy. There’s just not enough winter dormancy for most alliums here.
I’m trialing another fern-leaf lavender new to me this year, Lavandula minutoli, so am not sure what to expect, but so far love how the pale flowers seem to glow.
It stays low and compact and seems a lot less vigorous in growth than Lavandula multifida, which has inky blue flowers.

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Brachysema praemorsum ‘Bronze Butterfly’

So there’s a quick sketch of the method to my madness with just enough time to head out for a picnic. Enjoy your Memorial Day!

friday clippings 4/24/15 (SoCal Spring Garden Show weekend)


Southern California’s Spring Garden Show started yesterday, 4/23/15, and continues through Sunday, 4/26/15.
It’s always held in the enclosed “Home Store Wing” of the South Coast Plaza.
This wing includes, among many other stores, Anthropologie, West Elm, Z Gallerie, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware — you know them by their envy-inducing catalogues.
Scuttlebutt at the show today suggested that these stores, while appreciating the customers the show has historically driven to their doors, decided this year to thin that plant-mad traffic out a bit.
Fewer plant vendors were allowed to participate so there would be more breathing room around the stores.
In another twist, the stores partnered with local designers to create the show gardens.
How did it all pan out? Judge for yourself.

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And, relax, of course there were still tillandsias! There just weren’t multiple vendors with tillandsias. Redundancy was verboten this year.

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And there was still a sexy agave or two (Agave guiengola ‘Striata’)

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Orchid lovers still had lots to ogle. The epidendrums, or reed orchids, never miss a show.

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A very lush and happy Abutilon megapotamicum grown on standard was in attendance.

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As were a few bromeliad tables. This vendor had their flowers cut for a bouquet.

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Succulents were fairly well represented. I’m always surprised at how beautiful a gasteria is in bloom.

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Pottery

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But where were the really cool plants, the juicy show stuff?
I was on the prowl for the Flame Pea, Chorizema cordatum, which I had just seen at the Disney Concert Hall garden yesterday.
Up and down escalators to three floors, and no Flame Pea. Fine, I’ll just head over to the B&D Lilies table…okay, maybe not this year.
Admittedly, I was a bit let down at first at the reduced number of plant vendors.

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So I headed over to Dustin Gimbel’s collaboration with Crate and Barrel and immediately cheered up.
So much of what I see in his own garden and shapes he’s been mulling over in his work came through in this display…if not my photos.
People, these are plant show photos, weird light, funny angles, arms and legs blocking shots, etc.
That’s a tiny glimpse of a majestic, over 10-foot Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’ on the right.

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I loved people-watching through this view

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More of that blue/green screen, carefully sanded to let paint and wood bleed into each other.

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Like stories within stories, Dustin always plays with visual framing devices.

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Wands of hesperaloe weave through the octogon frames, some of which looked off kilter and precariously balanced.
Just another trick of the eye. All were sturdily fixed in place.

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A hesperaloe to keep an eye out for, with heavily textured leaves and frothy blooms, ‘Pink Parade.’

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Land Workshop’s collaboration with West Elm.
By and large, the designers all used simple materials, clean shapes.
And studying the materials used to build the displays was a crash course in effective screens and fencing sourced straight from the hardware store.
The corner is formed by pallets on end, the open top used as a planter.
The slapdash screening woven with wooden slats reminded me a bit of Stephen Glassman’s work with bamboo.

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Behind the gentleman was a short flight of stairs leading to a small sitting area

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A screen of aluminum pipes, painted in pastel shades, planted with Senecio vitalis.

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Another crazy angled overhead shot to show how this small area fit together.

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At ground level was a sweet mosaic table, potted plants, and a raised bar/dining area out of frame
This display garden was opposite the Apple store, and foot traffic was very heavy around the perimeter.

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Another display I liked was designer Camille Beehler’s collaboration with Pottery Barn.
I was particularly interested in the walls, the puzzle-fitted cement backer boards behind the couches for one wall, corrugated siding for another.

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Potted palo verde tree, couches, bar cart, corrugated screen

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Multiples of blooming Aloe striata in square black planters on pavers edged in river stones

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My humble critique? While this show may have stinted on plants, the designers came up with loads of good ideas to fool around with at home.
And, mercifully, there was a welcome absence of over-the-top outdoor kitchens/saunas/fireplaces, etc.
Next year I’m hoping that a better balance can be achieved that accommodates space for plant vendors, good design, and the needs of the stores themselves.