bromeliads for hanging planters? (yes!)

A lot of my bromeliads swing from on high now.

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And it all started with an act of generosity back in January of 2014.
A gift from Reuben, after our joint flea market venture.
(It’d be fun to plan another flea market escapade for winter, or maybe a pop-up shop. But these are plans for cooler weather.)

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At first a single bromeliad, Aechmea recurvata ‘Aztec Gold,’ made its home here.
(Nice to see that yucca and coronilla again, both plants that have moved on, leaving behind progeny that pop up from time to time.)

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I bet you know where this is going. When have I ever left well enough alone, or been a one-bromeliad-per-sphere person, so to speak?
By April 2014 there were two.

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By June of 2015, there was lots of company.

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It’s actually been thinned out a little since 2015. Some of the bromeliads grow too large and get moved out into pots.

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There are terrestrial, ground-dwelling bromeliads, which can get enormous like the alcantareas, and epiphytic, tree-dwelling bromeliads.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, that first aechmea was a good choice, being an epiphytic bromeliad, with roots adapted to clinging to trees.

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Now you know as much as I do about these plants with the fabulously plasticine, kaleidoscopic leaves and flowers as colorful as tropical birds.
Like succulents, these are forgiving plants that don’t punish ignorance.
A more organic approach than my sphere is an option, as seen in this example in the cloud forest section of the Huntington Botanical Garden’s conservatory.
Bromeliads are mossed and fixed to the branch by florist wire or fishing line (further instructions here).

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There are thousands of species of bromeliads, pretty much all of them native to Central and South America (the neotropic ecozone.)
Some of the more familiar are the ones we make upside-down cakes with (pineapples) and the wildly popular air plants/tillandsias.

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Some enthrallingly kinetic examples of tillandsias from local nurseries and plant shows.

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Rest assured, there are great minds out there applying themselves to devising methods for displaying tillandsias.
Above is the Airplantman Josh Rosen’s Airplant Frame seen at Big Red Sun in Venice.
Seth Boor in collaboration with Flora Grubb designed the Thigmotrope Satellite.

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Another hanging arrangement with tillandsias from my garden. I incorporated most of these into the sphere.

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The takeaway here is, this growing arrangement has legs. The plants thrive on very little input from me.
For truth be told, for all my enthusiasm, I am not the most technically gifted plant caretaker.
Requiring little soil, mostly just moss, tolerant of dryish conditions, appreciating a refreshing spritz with the hose once a week. And that’s it.

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In fact, the care for shade-tolerant succulents and bromeliads is so similar that I combine them in shallow planters.

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As rain forest understory plants that can absorb nutrients and moisture through their leaves, I’ve always assumed, for Los Angeles, shade is the safest best.
But some bromeliads can tolerate a surprising amount of sunlight, as long as it’s not strong afternoon sunshine. I’m trying out a few under an acacia tree with grasses.
The best leaf color is obtained by exposure to as much sun as can be tolerated without leaf burn.
There are surer ways of sorting out light requirements for the different species, of course, like consulting a reference book.
Bromeliads for the Contemporary Garden,” which I haven’t read, looks promising.

Nice-sized specimens, however, do not come cheap. I like looking for deals on small pups at bromeliad shows, like the upcoming show August 6th & 7th at Rain Forest Flora in Torrance.

You don’t happen to have a sphere lying around? What the heck, it’s mid summer. Go ahead and treat yourself. Salvage yards are full of interesting possibilities.
And Terrain offers a very similar Hanging Planter here.
Potted’s Hedge Hanging Planter would work just as well.
Or get to work with a branch and some fishing line.
I’ve got an empty hayrack that I’d love to see overflowing with bromeliads.
More images of bromeliads from AGO can be found here.

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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.

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

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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!)

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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let’s get potted for the holidays

Doesn’t that sound like a great idea? Oh, right, there’s still shopping to do.
Malls, catalogues…these holiday shopping options for me are usually a) nerve-wracking b) spirit crushing c) oftentimes both.
I’ve been working up near Griffith Park, off Los Feliz Boulevard, which in my personal geography means a mandatory visit to Potted.
In Los Angeles, Potted is the savvily curated, arrestingly displayed shop of stylish presents I want to give and/or receive. Home of the Circle Pot, City Planter, etc, etc.
And they’re having a 20 percent sale off one item December 11th through the 13th. If you can’t pop in, there’s still plenty of time to order online.
Here’s a quick look at their shop tricked out for the holidays, which I must say did wonders for my flagging holiday cheer.

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This little treasure came home with me.

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Where else are you going to find a spiral aloe pillow?

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(This California frame/planter just made the LA Times list of “13 enchanting gift ideas for house and home”)

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In case Marty’s reading, this pot and stand need another look. (Pssst, 20 percent off December 11-13!)

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streetside; rainy day house & gardens

alluding to Joni Mitchell’s Rainy Night House
I recently read that Taylor Swift wanted the part in a movie on Mitchell.
I see Swift’s photo all over the Internet, but it wasn’t until Sunday that I finally heard one of her songs on the car radio.
Yes, I do live in a pop culture-free bubble, not always by choice. All I’m going to say is, thank god Mitchell refused. (Oh, the travesty!)

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Rainy day house’s front garden in Venice; dymondia, agaves, sticks on fire, with a hedge of Acacia iteaphylla on the chimney side

I just had one of those Sunday afternoons where an absurd number of destinations are optimistically crammed into a 4-hour window.
The forecast was, again, possible showers.

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The clouds did open at Big Daddy’s

The itinerary:

1. Check out International Garden Center near LAX (done)
2. On to Culver City and Big Daddy’s (I became lost for quite some time but eventually found that weird intersection near National)
3. Cruise the streets of Mar Vista, which has an excellent garden tour coming up this spring.
(I got tired of driving aimlessly and gave up. I’ll have to wait for the tour map. See Dates to Remember for upcoming tour April 25.)
4. Stop by Big Red Sun in Venice (too much traffic on Lincoln Blvd., gave up.)

And did I mention it was raining? Los Angeles drivers, whenever challenged by the smallest drops of moisture from the sky…oh, never mind.

International Nursery had a $30 protea in a one-gallon in bloom, simply labeled “Orange Protea.” Tempting.
And not a bad price for the plant, seeing that 7 stems of proteas go for $100 as cutflowers

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Merwilla plumbea nee Scilla natalensis.
I always plant new stuff out within a couple days. I hate waking up to the rebuke of homeless plants in nursery gallons.

I eventually dropped the protea for this South African bulb, Scilla natalensis. San Marcos Growers says it’s rarely dormant. The leaves are wide, almost eucomis-like.
My problem with Scilla peruviana has been placement that allows for its dormancy needs, which means having a big gap in summer.
The peruviana have ended up against the fence under the lemon cypress, not optimal conditions for a sun-loving bulb. It’ll be exciting to watch this one’s performance.

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International’s Annie’s Annuals section is by far the best I’ve seen at SoCal nurseries.
I grabbed a couple Asphodeline luteas again, though I think I’ve established beyond doubt the asphodels will only curl up their toes for me.
I can’t remember if I’ve tried spring planting before though.
The asphodel is now rivaling dierama for number of kills in my garden.
But memory is still fresh of Asphodeline lutea in Portland, Oregon last summer, photo above.

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Pots on spiral staircase at Big Daddy’s

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Though there’s plenty of the ornate, BD has a nice selection of unadorned but aged-looking planters.

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I’ll take all three of these metal tubs, please.

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Giving up on fighting traffic enroute to Big Red Sun, I drove through a couple streets in Venice.
Thundery skies and bright orange, thunbergia-covered walls.

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And fabulous streetside succulent gardens like this one.

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Big clump of the slipper plant, Pedilanthus bracteatus

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The long parkway was dotted with multiples of the Mexican Blue Palm, Brahea armata

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I once came very close to painting my house these colors, an agave grey-blue and mossy green.

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Aloe marlothii

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The coral aloe, A. striata

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I may not have made it to every stop on the itinerary, but it was still a fine rainy day in LA.

a garden wedding



When someone who works in landscape design gets married, even the agaves are dressed for the occasion.

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Congratulations to Mary True and Cheryl Fippen on their recent wedding in Berkeley, California.
Thank you both for your kind permission to use these photos.
Additional thanks to Shirley Watts and MB Maher.
All photography by MB Maher.


contain your enthusiasm


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Creating a small, plant-rich garden in zone 8 can be a brutal business. Faced with so many tempting choices in such an agreeable climate, a small garden runs the danger of sinking into visual chaos. Wielding the power of refusal, the ability to say no more often than yes, is probably the most useful tool in the garden shed. It’s no surprise that some of the most visually impactful gardens are made by people that put their foot down, people with strong, angular ideas and sharp-elbowed opinions. Many of us with a tinge of the collector mania gladly put up with the chaos. What’s rare is finding a garden that manages to incorporate a strong love of disparate plants into a seamless design whole. Plant collecting and its byproduct, containers, are usually the enemy of clean, uncluttered design. Pots and containers often fill the porches, stairs, and patios of a more relaxed style of garden. That they can be deployed to create a rigorous, crisp picture can come as a surprise.

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Astelia and bocconia on square concrete pavers in Loree Bohl’s Danger Garden
The pot and the ‘Red Devil’ astelia were meant to be together.


In the Portland, Oregon gardens of good friends Loree Bohl and JJ Sousa, there’s obviously a similar love of pottery, matched with a love of architectural plants, some of which cannot survive year-round outdoors, and temperaments that will not compromise on good design. I love how both these gardens turn the old design axiom, to plant in multiples, on its head. In a small garden, such advice would result in a boring monoculture and leave the collector unsatisfied. (Horrors!) Loree and JJ flip the axiom around. Instead of multiplying plants for a strong impact, make multiples of containers, use repetition in their color and shape, and the result will also be a concentrated, heady experience that confidently leads the eye and rhythmically builds into a densely rich mise-en-scène, to borrow a theatrical phrase. Both gardens riff on a timelessly effective formula: the tension of nature’s most outlandishly gorgeous patterns and textures contained within well-defined boundaries. Edges aren’t softened or hidden, they’re accentuated and celebrated. The Portland gardens of Loree Bohl and JJ Sousa organize space like neat bento boxes, with sharp lines and angles providing contrast and staging opportunities for an extravagant collection of in-ground and potted plants that becomes much more than the sum of its parts. The strong lines frame the many containers as well as the lush, in-ground plantings, and there is frequent intentional interplay between the planted and the potted. Plants are shown to wonderful advantage in this disciplined approach, which shows that minimalism isn’t the only answer for a small garden that is asked to absorb a collector’s ongoing enthusiasm for plants and also read as a coherent design.

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garden chairs

A chair is a very difficult object. A skyscraper is almost easier. That is why Chippendale is famous.” – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

Continuing my monomaniacal, object-specific tour of Portland gardens, which brings us around to chairs. Because I’ve always coveted chairs, all shapes, all sizes. Just ask my family. Found at flea markets, thrift shops and, yes, even curbside, we have way more than necessary indoors, so of course the obsession spills outdoors. Sculptural, practical, evocative of humankind at our very best. An unoccupied chair always strikes me as breathtakingly poignant. A single chair occupied speaks to contemplative moments, gathering strength for rejoining the fray. A group of chairs occupied, animated in conversation, is arguably the best civilization has to offer. High, low, rustic, elegant, I want them all.

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Portland Pots It Up

There’s so many reasons for plants to spend some or even all of their lives in containers.
Aside from the practical reasons — fine-tuning sunlight, better drainage, more moisture, less moisture, special soil mixes, protection from chewing and digging creatures, the ability to shuttle plants indoors where a cold winter will be inhospitable and/or deadly — all these good and sensible reasons aside, containers provide strong graphic and framing opportunities that many of us find hard to resist. And it’s not like our infatuation with pots is new — the oldest pottery found in China dates back almost 20,000 years, so I’d argue that we’re just yielding to an age-old, irresistible impulse that impels us to seek out empty vessels brimming with so much potential. The gardens of Portland we toured exploited this graphic potential like nobody’s business.


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Euphorbia ammak would not survive the Portland winter were it not for the portability of the freckled chartreuse pots in Craig Quirk & Larry Neill’s Floramagoria garden designed by Laura Crockett.
A perfect example of the gorgeous joining hands with the practical. I love this soft color that blends so well with plants. (A year or so ago I found a pot with this same glaze at Rolling Greens in Culver City.)

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