Category Archives: journal

myoverplantedgarden.com

My working title for this post was overplanted.com, but I’m glad I checked before posting — that already belongs to Tom Fischer!


Yesterday seemed like a good time to check out Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach for fall planting. In this brief interval between another holiday, before Roger’s goes all in on Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and then Christmas, I was hoping the nursery’s focus would be single-mindedly on plants, because when it is, nobody does it better. And the plant focus was there to a certain extent. You could almost say I had the nursery to myself, since everyone else seemed to be boisterously enjoying the newly opened restaurant The Farmhouse. This fresh-built, two-day-old outdoor restaurant manages to convey the air of a venerable establishment at least a decade older. Its physical presence makes as big an impact as the Huntington’s new cafeteria. I was floored by its seemingly instantaneous Tuscan-style sumptuousness and elbow-to-elbow diners crowding its tables, like Cecil B. DeMille had barked “Action!” on a big-budget film soundstage. I called Marty on the phone to tell him about it, then quickly turned heel to search for plants. No time for photos. You can check out their website for a look.

The upside to Roger’s preoccupation with holiday retail is these display extravaganzas require vast movements of materials to make room for each holiday, which is when plants and pots really get marked down.
When it comes to holidays, I run the gamut from lukewarm to uninterested, but I suppose thanks are owed to all those holiday-themed shoppers, because no doubt their zeal bankrolls the continuing excellence of the plant nursery, not to mention the episodic shots in the arm they give to the economy. I was hoping an Agave xylonacantha ‘Frostbite’ I’ve had my eye on was marked down, but no such luck.

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Also not on sale, but I was nonetheless thrilled to find this Acanthus ‘Morning Candle,’ and with multiple bloom spikes too.
There seems to be some dispute over its lineage, hungaricus and mollis vs. spinosus and mollis.
(Tony Avent says: “most growers wouldn’t know true Acanthus spinosus if it stuck ’em in the rear.”)
But what’s agreed on is that it was bred in Holland and is very free blooming. I pray it doesn’t object to zone 10.*
(Edited 9/12/16: It may need to be moved to afternoon shade to avoid the full flaccid wiltdown it enacts every day. Currently, it has an umbrella propped overhead.)

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I’ve always preferred the species/hybrids with narrower leaves over A. mollis.
My youngest son’s middle school flanked its entire length, a couple blocks long, with A. mollis, but it doesn’t seem to be planted much anymore.
I predict, however, that it will be the new “it” plant any day. Despite my preference for other species, it is undeniably a classic. The Ancient Greeks were nobody’s fool.

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The acanthus was planted behind the agave, where Anisodontea ‘Strybing Beauty’ reached over 5 feet this summer, but always carried as many yellow leaves as green ones.

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Anisodontea ‘Strybing Beauty’ this summer, now no more.
I did take one cutting, but the cool summers of San Francisco would seem to be its preferred climate. Understandably so, since it used to be mine too.
I seem to be getting the rhythm of the heat after all these years, not that this summer broke any records here.
It’s been unbearingly, distractingly lovely for the most part, and I’ve spent every available minute well away from computers.

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This self-sown Echium simplex is enjoying some newfound breathing room after the anisodontea was removed.

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This unlabeled Salvia greggii/microphylla hybrid was on sale and has already been stuffed into the container with Stachys ‘Bella Grigio.’
In the post-shopping planting frenzy, I pulled out the Japanese sunflower going to seed in the stock tank to make room for dwarf Tagetes lemmonii, the Copper Canyon Daisy for fall.
And I brought home yet another grass, Miscanthus ‘Little Kitten.’

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Am I being a complete bore yet about grasses? There’s really nothing as transformative, with a relatively slim footprint and such a magnificent, seasonal surge of growth.
Without the space or water resources to support half the summer stuff I want to grow, the grasses are almost consolation enough.
Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tales’ was planted from gallons this spring, from the Huntington’s plant sale.

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Catching and playing with light, wind, they’re as mesmerizing as staring at a campfire.

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Now to the plants I didn’t buy yesterday.
Plants that spent time in my shopping basket but were ultimately removed included, among many, the chartreuse Santolina ‘Lemon Fizz’ in 4-inch pots and Ballota ‘All Hallows Green.’
The 4-inch size is so tempting, and the selection was very good, including Ceanothus ‘Diamond Heights,’ Verbascum bombyciferum.
I’m already growing ‘All Hallows Green’ in my garden, as seen in the photo above. I wish there was room for a half dozen more in 4-inch pots.

I lingered over a new echium offering from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials, Echium webbii, a reputedly “dwarf version” of fatuosum.

Metapanax davidii was tempting but a bit too disheveled. I prefer M. delavayi’s much finer cut leaf.
In the herbs/veg section I found Calamintha nepetoides and grabbed three. Unlike the stellar ‘Montrose White,’ they will reseed, but it’s so rare to find calamints that I went for it. Grown by Native Sons.

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Speaking of disheveled, summer’s shabbiest award goes to Melianthus ‘Purple Haze,’ and that’s only because its weary leaves are usually cut to the ground by August.
That it made it through July/August at all was only by the grace of drip hoses, but it’s undeniably crisped and thin.
Knocking back that leaf canopy mid summer always seemed to desolate this end of the garden. New growth is already showing, and I’ll cut down old growth when it’s made more headway.

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Other than what I’ve ripped out/transplanted, there’s been no real losses this summer. If I’ve already blogged about terrible losses and forgotten, don’t remind me.
The drip hoses have resulted in some mad growth, including this solanum vine, now stretching from the top of the 18-foot cypresses down nearly to the ground.

And just to be clear, I have nothing against holidays! Especially the long Labor Day Weekend. Have a great one.

P.S. I’m going to figure out who won the little Muradian pot later this weekend.

a week in plants, continued

I so rarely document thoroughly, before and after, that I thought for once I’d push back a little against those slacker tendencies.
This small project is an easy place to start. In the last post, there were four ‘Cousin Itt’ acacias added under the fringe tree, and that was theoretically the end of it.
Where we left off, I was going to leave space open to sweep in the leaves and not plant bromeliads because it’ll be messy with the tree litter, etc., etc. I am so full of shit, it still astounds me.
No way can I leave something half-planted like that. In for a penny, in for a pound, always.
So this morning the burning question was: What other dry shade-tolerant stuff do I have lying around?

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There’s this huge potted Lomandra ‘Breeze’ that can be sawed into two big clumps. Rough treatment, but I seriously doubt one can mistreat a lomandra. We’ll see.
A potted Asparagus retrofractus to billow between the two lomandras, all kind of hitting the same shade of bright green so the mix of plants isn’t too patchwork.
A few bromeliads for big crazy colorful rosettes, tree litter be damned. As shallow growers, it’s easy to change your mind with bromeliads.
I’ll probably remove them before they get buried in leaves over winter.

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Still too bare for my taste, but if the acacias like it here they can get over 4 feet across.

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This no ID rhipsalis seems to be growing in an upright clump, so it gets to be the fifth “acacia.” Very root-infested soil in this spot.

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A ringer for the acacia, right?

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Lost the name of the foreground bromeliad I’ve had for years.

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Neoregelia ‘Dr. Oesser Big Spots’ was brought home this weekend from the sale/show at Rainforest Flora in Torrance.

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Neoregelia ‘Martin’

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One of the many gorgeous bromeliads at the weekend show that didn’t come home with me, Aechmea ‘Samurai.’
If only I’d had this planting scheme before the sale. Overplanning has never been my strong suit. It’s always been spontaneity or bust.

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I tucked a potted variegated monstera, also from Rainforest Flora, behind the asparagus against the fence, but there may be too much slanting afternoon sun for it.
If the sun isn’t too strong, I’m going to check into espaliering it against the fence.

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Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’ marks the new planting for wayward paws that have been used to digging here and kicking up leaves.
I’ll keep you posted on the fate of this little acacia experiment.

more shelves

I don’t have any travel plans this summer, so July’s rhythm has been work, work, work, decompress in garden, shower, repeat. And I don’t really mind because the garden is so absorbing this time of year. At least once a day I stand as close to the center of it as possible, on a rapidly disappearing access path, like Moses parting the Red Sea, to study the fleets of winged insects that visit. They’re the perpetual fireworks of the July garden. The air space is thrumming with the familiar bees, bumblebees, wasps, lawn skippers, hoverflies, but there’s so many that are nameless to me. Like the British research ship-naming contest, they may as well be Buggy McBug Faces. I was even convinced the other day that the tiny and rare El Segundo Blue butterfly paid a visit. Since its only known remaining habitat is under the flight path of LAX, that’s unlikely. But when your identification skills are sketchy at best, anything is possible, even rare blue butterflies.


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I did get out to the CSSA show at the Huntington last week. Here’s a splendid Gymnocalycium friedrichii as proof.

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I brought home just a couple plants, an Agave colorata and Euphorbia multifolia, but like clockwork, every summer I become convinced I need more shelves.
So Marty helped me rig a new shelving system, which gets lots of the pots up off the ground.

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Not that I have anything against pots on the ground, but I like options for closer, eye-level inspection too.

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Sturdy potted plants are fine at ground level.

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Last summer I massed lots of sturdy stuff against the east (blue) fence.

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But the little treasures have a better chance of survival if they’re right under my nose.
Little side tables and shelves, a garden needs them too, right?

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I found these shelves at Building REsources in San Francisco last spring. They reminded me of old ironing boards.

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The diamond perforations looked ideal for drainage. I saw great potential, but Marty wasn’t convinced with any of my early design proposals.
This arrangement suits everybody.

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Euphorbia multifolia is temporarily cached in that lime green swirly pot.

I’ve seen this exact pot sitting on a neighbor’s porch a couple streets away, but have never seen it anywhere else, flea markets, etc.
A collecting friend gave me this one when it became chipped. What are the odds of there being two in my neighborhood?

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The shelves are hung against the bird house/bath house. I like this corner for its morning sun/afternoon shade.
The ferny plant is a young Acacia cardiophylla. I thought the parakeets would appreciate something leafy to look at.

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Now that they’re hung, I’m wondering if they shouldn’t have been painted first.

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The shelves are rigged so that unhooking them for painting would be incredibly easy.
And the spray paint has really been flying around here lately. Someone cleaned out a garage and unloaded boxes of spray cans on us.

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Marty has done all the painting. I come home from work, and there it is, the marvel of fresh paint.
For someone who has had a lifelong tolerance for rust, I’m growing alarmingly fond of fresh paint.
I can’t seem to move beyond black though. Marty had repainted this metal jardiniere in its original orange, and it was gorgeous.
But my eye kept stuttering and tripping over it. I guess that’s called a focal point, right? I needed it black, and Marty reluctantly repainted it again. What a guy.

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And this old aquarium stand with those great hairpin legs got some fresh black paint too.
The marble top also came from Building REsources a few years ago.

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Fresh paint is great, but some old finishes are too good to cover. I found this galvanized table really cheap at a great shop in San Pedro.

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This shop is so good, with such great prices, that I’m hesitant to name it.

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Okay, that would be incredibly selfish. It’s House 1002 on Pacific Avenue.

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So the question remains, to paint or not to paint? If we do repaint, I’m leaning toward repainting the shelves their original color, not black, but I’m open to suggestions.


friday clippings 6/24/16

Little Diego next-door has taken upon himself the challenge of learning drumming. In the last couple months, he’s been practicing on whatever is handy, whether it be pots, pans, buckets, gates. It was hard to tell at first how invested he was in his new-found chaotic project. I suspected it was just a goof to annoy his mom, but he has persisted for at least a few months. And today I could detect for the first time his discovery of pattern and repetition. I mean it was just the usual wild thrashing and then, boom, he was controlling the beat. A momentous day for the little guy. He lives just on the other side of the east fence, against which the three big lemon cypresses somewhat muffle his practice sessions.


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For muffling little drummer boys, privacy, beauty, bird sanctuary, the cypresses are incredibly valuable to us. But of course I couldn’t just let them be cypresses.
They’d be perfect as scaffolding for vines, right? But not at the expense of harming them, of course. And that’s a very fine line, I’ve come to find out.

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I’m still amazed that the Solanum ‘Navidad, Jalisco’ from Annie’s Annuals has become this happy.
It was planted against the fence, in the dry soil amongst the cypresses, with not enough light, and seemed to be puny and languishing for forever…until it wasn’t.
This is all so new, that a plant has actually followed orders: Get in there, don’t mind the awful conditions, and climb that cypress, will ya?
And it’s possible the solanum may be too obliging and eager to please. Because when it comes to choosing between the cypresses and a rollicking, rampageous vine, that’s an easy choice to make.
Little Diego has lots more practicing to do this summer.

Have a great weekend.


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.


last of the poppies

I’m just now starting to see photos of poppies in bloom showing up in gardens in colder climates, but by June the annual poppies are usually finished here.
In my garden, as June continues the mild, overcast weather of May, there are a couple of holdouts.

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I’ve never planted this variety, which looks like the simple “Lettuce Leaf Poppy.” I note that they showed up in 2013, too, here.
“Lettuce Leaf Poppy” and “Breadseed Poppy” are the politically correct common names, because we musn’t use the “o” word.
(For a great story on opium dens, you can’t beat Conan Doyle’s “The Man With The Twisted Lip.”)
Maybe it rode in on a poppy seed bagel. My poppy show comes mainly from Papaver setigerum, which I’ve documented profusely on the blog.
It’s much smaller in stature than those towering in the photo above.
With these much bigger poppies, when a new flower is open in the morning, it takes you aback, like someone shouting, “Hey! Check it out! Whaddaya think?!”
But any poppy is OK by me. Poppies are characters loaded with silky personality.
And there’s all that…um, history they carry, that illicit, pharmaceutical, double life they’ve led since prehistoric times.
Poppies and people and pain relief go way, way back.

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There’s just these two plants left that germinated later than the first flush of poppies that got going in February and March, which is typical for Southern California.
Drip hoses and continuing overcast weather are responsible for these remaining two. We’ve loved the gloomy skies of May and June, a kind of weather I find rather addictive.

Wednesday miscellany

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Progress report on Rudbeckia maxima. Snails love this rudbeckia, so I’ve been cutting out a lot of chewed-up lower leaves.
Believe it or not, it seems to be forming bloom stalks already.
Zone 10 can be a topsy-turvy home for true perennials, which sometimes develop a bad case of insomnia as they are constantly prodded out of dormancy, or fail to enter dormancy entirely.
Whatever happens with the blooms, I still love those leaves, so the snails have a fight on their hands.
With ‘Sundiascia Peach,’ Melianthus ‘Purple Haze.’ Blue grass is Leymus ‘Canyon Prince.’
I’ve pretty much given up on the parkway/hellstrip the past few years but am thinking of making a stab at planting it again, with this wonderful grass.
Wildly swinging car doors, careless stompers, trash throwers, all you negative forces in the universe, I’m putting ‘Canyon Prince’ up against everything you’ve got. We’ll see who wins!
Along with planting parkways, I continue to be of two minds on just about any subject. As much as I love flowers, the diascias look a bit much to me.
I think I prefer big floral displays in OPG (Other People’s Gardens). And it’s doubtful anyone would count this as a big floral display, but still it’s a bit too foo-foo for me.
Of course, insects love the foo-foo, so there’s that to consider.

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This, however, is my kind of floral display. The beschorneria bloom stalk has topped out at about 5 feet and the individual buds have opened.
This has to be one of the most colorful bloom stalks ever to grace my garden.

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Strobilanthes gossypinus is looking fine this spring too and continues to astonish. Silver and gold? Seriously, you can do that?

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My mom’s neighbor’s graptopetalum is covering itself in its unique galactic bloom strucuture again.
It’s hard to sneak a photo because I have to stand directly in front of their window to do so.
Being a gated community, there’s not a lot of love for strangers with cameras fawning over their plants.

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I don’t remember the lemon cypresses producing these last year.
Nearby plantings were getting coated in a golden dust that had me mystified as to its source, until I knocked a cypress branch and unleashed a mini golden dust storm.
Of course I couldn’t leave the cypresses alone and have forced them into double duty. Passion vines and solanums are threading their way up.

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And I keep forgetting to credit Abutilon venosum for blooming all winter, so thank you!

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

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…

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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.

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

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

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