In a Vase on Monday, (courtesy of the OG)

 photo 1-P1012782.jpg

Peter/Outlaw Gardener, that indefatigable daily blogger and all-around nice guy, raffled off some vases recently.

 photo 1-P1012776.jpg

(And look who’s a winner!)

 photo 1-P1012801.jpg

I found this fat little echeveria in the front garden and unceremoniously pulled him up by the roots to welcome Peter’s vase.
(Thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting In a Vase on Monday.)

 photo 1-P1012812.jpg

A vase that mimics a Notocactus magnificus doesn’t need much accompaniment, but I dragged some stuff off the mantle for the occasion.
This dried bloom of an Allium schubertii has lasted eons. The little green pedestal vase came home with me a few weeks ago.

 photo 1-P1012813.jpg

The bulb in the garden disappeared long ago. There’s not enough winter chill in zone 10 for this allium to thrive here.

 photo 1-P1012807.jpg

Thank you so much, Peter! And one raffle deserves another, though I doubt I can find something as worthy as your vase. I’ll have to give it some thought.

holiday hangups (happy 4th of July)

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

 photo 1-P1012299-001.jpg

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

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

Have a blast this 4th of July weekend.

revisiting a local succulent garden

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

 photo 1-P1017050.jpg

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

 photo 1-P1017042.jpg

 photo 1-P1017067.jpg

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

 photo 1-P1017024.jpg

 photo 1-P1016999.jpg

 photo 1-P1017022.jpg

 photo 1-P1017014.jpg

 photo 1-P1017017.jpg

 photo 1-P1017038.jpg

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

an overgrown corner

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

 photo 48b0c7cf-3307-4974-8223-ef3c219a7862.jpg

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

 photo 2dad927a-40b7-40cd-8a6f-656d79d22452.jpg

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

 photo 3f82d892-cfa5-4532-ab73-f65a2b0a667f.jpg

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


potted@lazybones: the start of a beautiful relationship

If you jump out of bed on weekends and race past the old, cat-clawed couch in the living room to head outside, scanning for the perfect spot for your shiny new Fermob table and chairs, then you probably already know about Potted, Los Angeles’ premiere outdoor living shop in Atwater Village, birthed by Annette Gutierrez and Mary Gray. Their design-savvy baby has grown by leaps and bounds in 12 years and is making new friends in Santa Monica, the boho clothing and housewares retailer Lazybones.

 photo 8c518415-fb7f-44cd-9528-965341218c7f.jpg

 photo 0d08c02c-cbe3-4bf2-8313-440c2ebd987b.jpg

Potted and Lazybones are so proud of their new collaboration, they’re throwing a party this weekend, with raffles, tarot readings, demos.

 photo Potted-Lazybones.jpg

The big outdoor space at Lazybones gives Potted the opportunity to really strut its stuff. Which means lots of new ideas for the garden for us.

I see it as a curated Potted West,” said co-owner Annette Gutierrez, “with unusual plants, our own products, ready-made planters and gifts for the garden.” — Los Angeles Times

Potted@Lazybones
opens this Memorial Day Weekend, May 28th and 29th, 2016
2929 Main St., Santa Monica, open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
schedule of events here

(Tip: If you get there early, you’ll be leaving with free tillandsias in your hair!)

busy, busy

It’s spring. Feeling a little pressed for time yet? Join the club. Some of what I’ve been up to the past few weeks include:


 photo P1011975.jpg

Cutting sweet peas from my mom’s vines. Buckets and buckets. Mine planted at the community garden withered away from lack of attention/water.
Suffering a severe case of garden-neglect guilt, I pulled out all my dead vines, along with the collapsed winter peas and fava beans, and got a few tomatoes and squash planted.
There wasn’t enough winter rain to sustain my plot, and being a bad garden gnome, I hadn’t watered in a couple months. So my mom once again saved the day.
Is it rude to call your mom a good garden gnome? I keep her little raised bed planted winter and summer, and she does the rest.
I didn’t buy her flowers for Mother’s Day because her house is filled with scent and color from vases of sweet peas in every room.
I did run over for a brief visit to bring her a card and share some cake, a two-hour window during which a thief took the opportunity to steal my bike from behind a locked gate.
Nice work, thief, stealing a girl’s bike on Mother’s Day. Couldn’t you switch your reptilian brain off for one day in honor of your mom?
(Roger’s in Newport Beach brings in the best only local selection of sweet peas in fall, award-winning types, all heavily scented, long-stemmed.)

 photo P1011960_1.jpg

It’s always exciting to stumble upon new plants, like this Dichondra sericea, found at Merrihew’s Sunset Garden.
At first sight I thought it must be some new brunnera cultivar. The leaves are leathery, about the size of a silver dollar.
San Marcos Growers says:
“It has been found repeatedly in a single location in San Cruz County in Arizona but is more widespread farther to the south in the Río Mayo region of southern Sonora and Chihuahua.
It is similar to Dichondra argentea, the plant commonly called Sliver Dichondra or ‘Silver Falls’, but it is evergreen in frost free climates and has much bigger leaves.

Merrihew’s, a great little neighborhood nursery, was the first stop on last weekend’s Garden Conservancy Open Day.

 photo P1011930.jpg

As usual, plants are perpetually on the move, sometimes out of the garden and back into a pot like this Agave macroacantha ‘Blue Ribbon’
When I sentenced it to the rigors of the outpost that is the front gravel garden, it was a mess, with leaves pitted and rolling at the edges when they should be straight.
Total neglect in the front gravel garden is apparently what it needed to mature out of its ugly phase.
I moved it back into a pot because it was getting swamped by faster-growing agaves. And because it’s so pretty now. Pups freely too.
The bloomed-out poppies have been pulled and any big openings filled with grasses, mostly pennisetum like ‘Fairy Tails’ and ‘Karley Rose.’

 photo P1011928.jpg

Might as well take ‘Cornelius’ portrait too. He’s starting to get a nice arch to his leaves.

 photo P1012011.jpg

Behind ‘Cornelius,’ Cotyledon orbiculata deserves a portrait of those peachy bells and long, silvery stems.

 photo P1011993.jpg

The Huntington plant sale had a couple Rosa ‘Mutabilis,’ so I fell off the no-more-roses wagon.
In its favor, it’s a single, which means it sheds its silky petals elegantly and doesn’t need deadheading.
It’s reasonably tough and healthy, for a rose, and makes a nice shrubby shape.
This unique rose of mysterious provenance is celebrated for summer-long bloom in colors that cycle through gold, orange, deep pink.
It’s been shoehorned in among the lemon cypresses at the east fence, with drip hose laid to give it a fighting chance.

 photo P1011908.jpg

Last Wednesday was overcast, like today, and work was reasonably under control (unlike today).
First thought under those conditions is: What do I want to get done in the garden?
There’s a chronic backburner plan to fill one of my trash can planters with blowsy summer stuff.
Cheap, deep, and roomy, metal trash cans are great for seasonal extravaganzas.
I bought them a few years ago but never really got with the program, using them more for overflow odds and ends.

 photo P1011942-001.jpg

A quick trip to the local nursery yielded a Buddleia ‘Cranrazz,’ Linaria ‘Licilia Peach,’ and Achillea ‘Sunrise.’
As I prepared to stuff the plants in, it was impossible to ignore what a rusted, pitted eyesore it had become. (“Hey, Marty, you got any spraypaint?“)
30 minutes later the can was a sleek matte black, filled with compost and fresh potting soil, and the plants installed.

 photo P1011921.jpg

Buddleias drive me a bit mad in the ground. Too big, all that deadheading. I like the idea of being able to pitch it at the end of summer.
Before I’d backfilled in soil and watered it in, the butterflies had already arrived. They don’t call it the butterfly bush for nothing.

 photo P1012015.jpg

I was so pleased with my new, deep containers that I asked Marty to paint another one for a Mother’s Day present. I’m thinking maybe orange tithonias for this one.
The ‘Hallelujah’ bilbergia was planted up over the weekend with some aeonium and Euphorbia mauritanica. I’m testing its sun tolerance.
I was told by Marina del Rey Garden Center that the more jagged the leaf, the more sun a bromeliad can take. Sun brings out the best color.

 photo P1011984.jpg

I usually keep a chair here on the bricks over the winter, but there’s not much room….or time…for sitting in spring.

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.

 photo 1-P1010952.jpg

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

 photo 1-P1010960.jpg

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.

 photo 1-P1010959.jpg

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.

 photo 1-P1010965.jpg

Aloe striata is widely planted.

 photo 1-P1010961.jpg

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.

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.


 photo 1-P1010232.jpg

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

 photo 1-P1010213.jpg

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

 photo 1-P1010207.jpg

Aloe sinkatana

 photo 1-P1010201.jpg

Aloe rubroviolacea

 photo 1-P1010240.jpg

We’re all pretty fond of agaves too.

 photo 1-P1010235.jpg

 photo 1-P1010234.jpg

And hechtias.

 photo 1-P1010200.jpg

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.

 photo 1-P1010254.jpg

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.

 photo 1-P1010250.jpg

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.”

 photo 1-P1010252.jpg

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.

it’s oh so quiet

The house has emptied out, and I can’t help thinking how oh so quiet it’s become after the holidays.
Yes, I do have a tendency to privately editorialize on circumstances using song titles.
(I thought Bjork wrote the song, but I see now it’s a cover from 1951 by American singer Betty Hutton, written by an Austrian composer and a German lyricist. What an international effort!)
Now’s probably a good time, before 2015 ends, to thank another international effort, Wikipedia, a resource I use constantly.
It feels so good to contribute (in my case, cash, not knowledge) and thereby become a small part of this endlessly enriching project.
It’s as though the library at Alexandria is being rebuilt again, stone by stone, entry by entry. Without papyrus this time.

Taking my crazy musings out of a quiet house into the garden this morning…

 photo 1-P1010077.jpg

I am shocked at how lush Lotus jacobaeus becomes with cold weather. Cold weather makes me feel puckered and dry, not at all lush.
(I wrote about this lotus previously here, quoting liberally again from, you know it, Wikipedia.)
Behind the lotus, the Mexican Grass Tree (Dasylirion longissimum) seems to have survived being uprooted from the front garden for life in a container, away from all that jacaranda debris.

 photo 1-P1010071.jpg

On the other side of the dasylirion, buds of Aloe ‘Safari Sunrise’ are coloring up.

 photo 1-P1010075.jpg

Coloring up faster than the buds on Aloe cameronii. Little Aloe conifera on the left has a bud too.

 photo 1-P1010050.jpg

A nice, quiet lull…until the New Year celebrations, which our neighborhood takes very seriously. Ba-boom! I hope you’re enjoying the holidays.

streetside succulent garden

Some lucky neighborhoods have stimulating examples to study of successful front gardens made without a blade of lawn.
This example is in my hometown, Long Beach, Calif, coastal zone 10, western exposure, December 2015, drought-stricken, irrigation restrictions imposed since last spring.
The garden looks to be of a mature enough age where offsets of original plants have been added to infill and increase the size of individual plant colonies.
Drifts of massed plants, whether herbaceous or succulent, enable strong rhythmic patterns to emerge.
Replanting front gardens that were designed to hold flat planes of lawn is undeniably tricky.
The process needs tinkering and fiddling as some plants fail and others succeed, or the vigorous overrun slower growers. (It’s called “making a garden.”)
The dark mulch on the lower right covers a brand-new landscape next-door dotted with tiny succulents of uniform size, mostly small kinds like echeverias that will take years to fill in.
The garden on the left benefits from big, statuesque plants like ponytail palms, Furcraea macdougalii and Euphorbia ammak, now reaching mature sizes.
There’s also shrubby stuff as a backdrop, like Salvia apiana and Echium candicans, along with the shrub-like succulent Senecio amaniensis.


 photo 1-_MG_3879.jpg

Near sunset, the darkened sky was hinting at the rain to come later.

 photo 1-P1019964.jpg

In this photo alone, I spy several kinds of agaves, including desmettiana, macroacantha, bracteosa, parryi, ‘Blue Glow.’
Panels of small-scale ground covers knit the rosettes together.

 photo 1-P1019969.jpg

I like the careful buildup of heights and volumes.

 photo 1-P1019956.jpg

With aloes nestled against agaves. I think the owner has tucked in Salvia nemerosa here, too, for summer bloom.
I also noted some large, shrubby salvias against the house, what looked like the mexicana hybrid ‘Limelight.’

 photo 1-P1019951.jpg

Agaves ‘Blue Glow’ and possibly stricta.

 photo 1-P1019945.jpg

Kalanchoe grandiflora and Euphorbia tirucalli

 photo 1-P1019952.jpg

Good winter color on the Sticks on Fire. We’ve occasionally dipped into the 40s in December.

 photo 1-P1019972.jpg

On the opposite side of the central path is a beautiful specimen of Euphorbia ammak, a clump of pedilanthus, opuntia, and needle-leaved agaves, possibly geminiflora, stricta or striata.
One of the shrubs as tall as the euphorbia is an overgrown Echium candicans, which has been sheared into a hedge and functions now as a boundary between the two properties.
A young Aloe marlothii is in the foreground. The light was just about gone at this point.

 photo 1-P1019932.jpg

Not sure whether this is Agave stricta or geminiflora, but it’s set off wonderfully against the rocks and Santa Rita prickly pear.

 photo 1-P1019933.jpg

Agave potatorum with lots more pups tucked under its skirt of leaves.

 photo 1-P1019978.jpg

There’s a huge, blooming-size clump of what can only be a puya along the main path to the front door.

 photo 1-P1019944.jpg

Puya, right?

 photo 1-P1019917.jpg

Another look at that inflorescence as the sky darkens. Big leaves of flapjack kalanchoes and Kalanchoe synsepela in the foreground.

 photo 1-P1019939.jpg

Just a great source of inspiration for the neighborhood.