Category Archives: design

the sun king redux

With cabinet selection still underway, previous hiring decisions during the president’s business career can provide some illumination into his selection criteria.
And if a 24-year-old kid with no horticultural experience can end up working as Trump’s landscape architect, you might want to start polishing up your resume. Truly, anything is possible.
Judging by his well-known, gold-plated desires, it’s no surprise that Trump’s taste in garden design leans toward the opulently formal.
At his Trump National Golf Club, where “members pay an initiation fee of $350,000,” a $7.50-an-hour summer employee named Andy Sick was tapped to perform landscape architect duties.

“A few days after the boss was fired, one of Trump’s golf-course architects, Tom Fazio, Jr., spotted Sick planting petunias.
‘He asked me if I was the landscape architect,’ Sick said. ‘I told him yeah. My only gardening experience was mowing my parents’ lawn.’
Fazio told Sick to get to work, so he went home that night and Googled ‘French formal gardens.'”

Trump’s fans are thrilled by his low-information, shoot-from-the-hip management style, which seems to have worked out fairly well so far as one of his eponymous golf courses is concerned.
Andy Sick turned out to be a natural at intuiting his employer’s taste in landscape design:

“I knew Trump liked ostentatious stuff, so the gardens of Versailles were a perfect fit. I wasn’t even looking at other golf courses. I was just looking at grandiosity.”


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“Early on in Sick’s planting, Trump paid a surprise visit. He loved what he saw. ‘Once that happened, I was given an unlimited budget,’ Sick said.

After spending between two and three hundred thousand dollars of Trump’s money, Sick got nervous.
‘I was worried the plants were going to die,’ he said, so he e-mailed a high-school friend who had studied landscape architecture for guidance.”

Sick turned out to be a quick study in economics as well:

“A few months went by, and Sick, who was still earning $7.50 an hour, decided to ask for a raise.
‘The new boss asked me how much I was making. I told him it didn’t matter — I wanted $75 to $100 an hour.
He agreed to $100.’ At the end of the summer, Sick had to quit to start his first year of law school, at Syracuse.”

“Trump ended up liking the golf club so much that, in 2007, he filed plans with Somerset County to build a family mausoleum there…”


From The New Yorker 10/24/16 “Where Trump Wants To Be Buried – How an untrained gardener created a Versailles-inspired landscape at the Trump National Golf Club.

a succulent garden in February

On the way to picking up a family member’s weekly box at the CSA Growing Experience in North Long Beach last week, I took the opportunity to drive slowly through the surrounding neighborhood of mostly Spanish-style homes. It was drizzling again, still a charming novelty after years of drought. Because of that drought, there’s very little front lawn left in these neighborhoods, and what’s filling the turf vacuum are all sorts of interesting mashups. I was ready to head for the main thoroughfare again, when I caught a peripheral flare of orange as high as a street parking sign. Could it be? Several K-turns and U-turns later, I found this gem of a garden:

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That promising orange flare was everything I hoped for. If this is Aloe marlothii, it’s the biggest one I’ve seen outside of a botanical garden.
Amidst all the post-drought, lawn-replacing, tentative start-up front gardens, here’s a garden planted long ago and simply for a love of these plants.

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Could the shaggy-headed aloe on the left be ‘Goliath’? (A tree aloe notorious for growing more leaves than the trunk can support and therefore prone to toppling over.)
Whatever its name, it’s a magnificent specimen, with no underplanting to obscure the trunks.

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Here’s a better view of that tree aloe. The experts say to grow them lean, and you’ll have a better chance of keeping them upright.

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I assumed the other trees were palo verdes, but under these overcast skies it’s hard to tell.
The architectural massing of plants builds closest to the house and lessens at the sidewalk.
With strategic positioning of plants, the house is both screened and open to the neighborhood.

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After all this rain, the d.g. still meets the sidewalk in a disciplined line. It was obviously laid down properly, with a good base, then compacted with a roller.
Having the planting on a deep setback from the sidewalk is a neighborly gesture to reassure the spiky plant phobic.

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I wonder how much editing was done before this vision emerged.
This garden struck me as the antithesis of most succulent gardens —
which focus mainly on understory, ground-cover planting that builds tapestries out of all the amazing shapes and leaf colors succulents offer.
Here the huge specimens dominate, surging skyward from an austere base of decomposed granite. A very clean, dramatic effect.

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A great example of the range of moods and styles possible when planting with succulents.

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The Point Pot

If you’re an Instagram fan of garden designer/ceramicist Dustin Gimbel and/or Potted, LA’s premiere source for stylish plant containers and garden furniture, you’ll know that they’ve been collaborating for some time on the first mass-produced offering of one of Dustin’s ceramic designs called “The Point Pot.” Tantalizing peeks, projections, and promises that have kept me “en pointe” for months have now become actionable, and just in time to brighten a dreary February. The Point Pot has gone live, available in three colorways, Pacific Blue, Vanilla Bean and Sea Spray Green.


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Potted dubs The Point Pot “A Modern Planter for Modern Times.”
“Sleek and geometric, this elegant planter offers versatility as well as good looks with the ability to be used table top or hung from a stainless steel cable.”

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I simply cannot overstate how proud I am of these collaborators, each of them dedicated to strong, modern design for our gardens. Potted is of course justifiably famous for their own exclusive designs, such as the Circle Pot, City Planter, and Orbit Planter, so The Point Pot joins some seriously strong company. (And each of these planters complements the others incredibly well, btw. I’m thinking about hanging a Point Pot next to an Orbit Planter.) But gorgeous design aside, what really gets me just a little verklempt about this homegrown, Los Angeles venture is their resolute determination to have their creations made in the U.S. — pottery may have once been king in California, but that heyday has long since passed, so I know making good on that commitment hasn’t always been easy. Bravo, you guys.


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The Point Pot’s strong lines can be appreciated from many angles — dangling as a pendant or brandishing its multi-faceted planes singly or in multiples across tabletops and bookshelves.

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Order info right here.

Long Beach’s illustrious architect Edward Killingsworth

New Year’s Resolution No. 22: Check my hometown newspaper out more often. Included in the Los Angeles Times end-of-year roundup on “The 11 most popular home and garden stories of 2016,” was a piece I had missed that contained some intriguing back story on a house and garden that has been casually mentioned on the blog a couple times. That cool little house I’ve been admiring on countless dog walks happens to have been built by Long Beach’s most famous architect Edward Killingsworth (1917-2004). Never heard of him? I hadn’t either. Unlike other MCM Case Study architects like Eames, Neutra, and Saarinen, Killingsworh hasn’t become a household name. From what little reading I’ve done so far, I get the sense that branding just wasn’t where he focused his energies.


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(photo Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Not that this is a Case Study house, that experiment in residential architecture sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine in the post-war years.
The Frank House in nearby Naples holds that enduring honor.
Strangely enough, my dog-walk house wasn’t meant to survive at all, but was hastily constructed in the 1950s to function as a temporary design model for a proposed project, the 12-story “Marina Towers.”
The Marina Towers condo project was ultimately abandoned, but Killingsworth couldn’t bear to tear down the little model house, so it was rented for a time then ultimately sold.
Apparently, subsequent rehab attempts were not kind to the architect’s vision.

The above photo shows the view of the house I’m familiar with from the vantage point of dog walks on the park across the street. That Yucca rostrata always catches my eye.

From a December 2013 post:

What they say about good bones for faces and houses applies to gardens too. Good bones will see you through some tough times. I’ve posted just a couple photos on this sweet little house and garden before. The front facade is entirely of glass, so one can’t be too obnoxious with the camera under such circumstances. But walking Ein on the park across the street from this house a couple days ago, I noticed that the landscape was being worked on, and heaps of aloes and agaves were strewn on the walkways. I gave the leash to Marty and looked closer. The house was empty. No more George Nelson bubble lamps or butterfly chairs on the balcony. The house had sold! And what on earth were the new owners doing to the garden? Did they have a deep-seated aversion to desert plants? If so, I needed to talk to them about those enormous Yucca rostrata ASAP.”

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(photo Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

View through the front of house to the offshore oil islands and Bluff Park, where we used to walk the corgi. (Now 14, Ein sticks pretty close to home.)

More from the December 2013 post:

I am normally not an overly bold person, but I found myself striding across the street and up to a couple of surprised men standing amongst masses of discarded Agave attenuata. It was the new owner and the gardener, who wasn’t removing the plants but merely thinning them. The owner was an architect and loved the house and garden but said both were in terrible shape. He told me he had been seduced by the furniture seen through the glass wall, too, but when it was all removed and he gained ownership of the house, his heart sank. The magic was gone. Now he wondered if he hadn’t made a terrible mistake. The place was a mess and had not been well cared for. Amazing what a spell all the classic mid century modern furnishings had cast, and how well even a neglected desert garden looks after itself. I told him it had always been my favorite house among the much bigger mansions that lined the street opposite the park, and this seemed to brighten him up considerably. He even showed me into the backyard, which was graveled and already had mature privacy screens of clumping bamboo. It was a gem, even if the interior’s cork floors were in terrible shape. The new owner was knowledgeable about plants (clumping vs. running bamboo) and energetic. There might be a few more dragons to slay than he bargained for, but the house and garden would no doubt surpass what was here before.”

(Check out the Los Angeles Times’ slide show on the stressful but ultimately happy renovation here.)

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(photo Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

The backyard in 2016.

The new owner/architect I interrupted that day in 2013 was Ted Hyman, a partner in the firm Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects.
He and his wife Kelly found out the house was for sale in 2013. At that point, conventional waterfront real estate wisdom was in favor of a teardown.
But the Hymans resisted the teardown route and embarked on an arduous restoration.
So I have the Hymans to thank for my continued enjoyment of this lovely house and garden on future walks (with me pushing the corgi strapped into his dog walker).

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(photo Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

And how does one accomplish a faithful restoration of a home that was never meant to last?
Lots of love and respect for the spirit of the design along with copious research, including a road trip to Santa Barbara to consult the original 7-page plans.
And everything has turned out splendidly. A daughter’s wedding has been held here, and Killingsworth’s widow Laura paid an approving visit, her first since 1958.

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Killingsworth’s Opdahl house via Dwell

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Killingsworth’s Spalding House via SFCurbed

It is so good to be in a space where the spirit can soar, and, with all of this, it must soar with the sense of balance and proportion set up by the spaces we create.”
Edward Killingsworth, “Contemporary Architects.”


a holiday visit with Dustin Gimbel

Now that garden designer Dustin Gimbel has branched off into ceramics, I can buy a few holiday presents and visit his incredibly inspiring garden.

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Coming in the little side gate, there’s this silvery vision of Acacia pendula, faced down by a mature leucospermum loaded with flower buds. A new planting of aloes catches the light.
I still get palpitations every time I visit.

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Acacia podalyrifolia on the opposite side of the porch has replaced the Arbutus ‘Marina’ that stubbornly failed to thrive here.
It was uncharacteristically windy today, the first real “weather” we’ve had in Los Angeles, starting off with the previous night’s measurable rainfall.
Note the Acacia podalyrifolia bowing in the wind.
The totem sentinels seem to have proliferated since my last visit, accentuating a really strong, syncopated flow he’s been working on in the front garden with octagonal pavers and festuca.

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The view under Acacia pendula, trained beautifully on a rebar arbor, looking down the main path at the front of the house toward the driveway

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In this view, to the right of the main path, is where his signature totems congregate.
The small pavers allow for a “custom” journey through the garden, an intimate, immersive engagement with the plants.
Dustin uses berms to build topographical interest into the front garden. The stones to the left rim the berm containing the leucospermum.
At the far end is a berm built up with “urbanite” aka broken concrete, which abuts the driveway. Of course, drainage in the berms is excellent too.

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The berm by the driveway, planted with echium, adenanthos, centaurea, kalanchoe, and lots of other treasures.
The dark green ground cover is Frankenia thymifolia.
Luminous Yucca ‘Bright Star’ needs no introduction.

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We played around with his new “tinker toy” ceramic pieces in the front garden.

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I continually nag him about getting a shop website up for his ceramic pieces. He promised it will happen in the new year.
Wonderful shapes and texture from box balls, grasses, Agave mitis var. albidior through a scrim of dripping acacia.

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The Gaudi-esque tinker toys among pavers, grasses, small succulents.

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I’m always impressed by the captivating visual power of Dustin’s garden, the compounding effect of the pure geometric, organic shapes and forms he favors.
Just beyond that hedge, it’s almost a shock to the system when the magic quickly dissolves into ordinary sidewalk, street, cars, etc., etc.

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Everywhere you look the planting is almost unbearably gorgeous.

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In the back garden, I was able to check on the progress of the wood screen which hides the propagation tables.

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I gathered my holiday purchases (which must remain a secret for now), very pleased with myself for combining business and inspiration in one visit.
You can find more of Dustin’s ceramics and garden designs on his Instagram feed.
Have a great weekend.

Natural Discourse: Fire! 9/30 & 10/1/16

I’ve lived long enough to have experienced the dispersal of information about plants move from paper to the computer screen, and it seems I rarely have the sense anymore that I’m cut off from an essential stream of information on one of my favorite topics. But in other important cultural, scientific, and political matters, I often feel that with the digital floodgates open on seemingly every topic and opinion, many vital issues fall prey to a lack of inflection or emphasis and are thereby deemed irrelevant in the popular imagination. Yes, platforms like the TED talks help give marginally popular issues a voice, but for those of us always scanning the sky, the land, thermometers and rain gauges, I do feel our concerns are woefully underrepresented in popular media. And what’s incredibly frustrating is that these concerns of ours are not narrowly personal but important and central to everything we love (life!). So when programming like Natural Discourse came along back in 2012, I immediately sensed this is the focus that’s been lacking.

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Photo above taken by photographer George Bennett, when fire was threatening the 747 Wing House in the Malibu hills.
The house, designed by architect David Hertz from the wings of a decommissioned Boeing 747, is on the site of Tony Duquette’s Ranch, which itself was destroyed in a brush fire in the 1990’s.
When fire was menacing the Wing House in 2013, George was on site with his camera. He has been invited him to show us these stunning images and recount this close brush with destruction.

Shirley Watts has brought Natural Discourse, an “ongoing series of symposia, publications, and site-specific art installations that explores the connections between art, architecture, and science within the framework of botanical gardens and natural history museums,” this year to the Huntington on September 30 and October 1, aiming her intensely curious, curatorial mind on a subject of both regional and timely importance. Apart from record drought continuing in the West, July has been pronounced the hottest month on record, and our notorious fire season has leaped its usual seasonal boundaries and has morphed into an ongoing conflagration. The subject of fire is, well, hot. If ever there was a time to shout Fire! — this is it. Fire in all its guises, destructive, regenerative, inspirational, will be discussed by a fascinating group of scientists and artists at this year’s Natural Discourse at the Huntington September 30th and October 1st:

Friday evening from 7:30 to 8:30:
John Doyle, Jean-Lou Chameau Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems at Caltech. His talk Fire and Life, will highlight Southern California’s particularly complex relationship with fire.
Mia Feuer, artist, Assistant Professor of Sculpture at CA College of the Arts, will talk about her work at the tar sands in Alberta, CA.​​​

Saturday from 9 to 4:
Thomas Fenn, Director of the Yale Center for the Study of Ancient Pyro-technology. Tom is an archaeologist who specializes in examining early technologies. His research combines chemistry, geology, archeology, cultural anthropology and history. He will talk to us about the history of man’s discovery and use of fire.
George Bennett, photographer, will talk about fire at the Wing House in Malibu
Erica Newman, fire ecologist will talk about biodiversity in chaparral and what to expect with fire and climate change
William L. Fox, Director of the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art, will talk about fire as an outdoor spectacle and as art in the environment.
Sara Hiner, musician and Eric Elias, pyro-technician, will talk about their collaboration on the fireworks at Hollywood Bowl
Mark Briggs, river ecologist with the World Wildlife Fund’s Rio Grande/Bravo Programs will talk about controlled burns on the US/Mexican border

I do think it’s incredibly important to support this unique programming (written in my best, silkiest NPR/PBS-solicitous voice), and it’s just been made easier to do so.
Prices have been reduced; tickets can be ordered here.

Los Angeles, if ever there was a discourse designed specifically with you in mind, this is it. Come support Natural Discourse. I’d love to see you there.

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

Last week was a good one for plants. I finally found some Acacia ‘Cousin Itt’ in small sizes, under $10 each, to plant under the Chinese Fringe Tree.
(Chionanthus retusus, as distinguished from our native Chionanthus virginicus.)
This great, mediumish-sized tree grows in a rough square on the east side of the house, hemmed in by hardscape on all sides.


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This photo from September 2015 shows how I typically mass pots on the hardscape surrounding the tree, which casts some welcome filtered shade for summer.
Keeping the base unplanted has been the easiest way to go as far as cleaning up after the tree. (All the best things shed, i.e., trees, dogs, cats.) I just sweep the copious amounts of leaves/berries/spent flowers back under the tree and then raid the precious stuff when needed for mulch elsewhere in the garden. But then this vision of ‘Cousin Itt’ thriving in the dappled light of the fringe tree kept threatening to upend my pragmatic approach, and ultimately I just couldn’t shake it. I know, I’m weak that way. There’s too much constant debris for bromeliads to make sense under the tree, but I’m hoping I can gently rake through ‘Cousin Itt’ or give it a shake now and then.


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One of the four new Acacias ‘Cousin Itt.’ I need at least three more. I’ve been wanting to try this acacia out for ages.
It’s just not been available for under $40, so four for that price, even if in 6-inch pots, felt like the breakthrough I’ve been waiting for. Hurray for expensive plants in affordable sizes.
It’s always fabulous in a container, but my vision required its green shagginess to ring the base of the tree. And there will still be access available for the broom to do its work.
As with any planting in dry soil, you move the odds substantially in your favor by filling the planting hole several times with water before settling the plant into its new home.

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These Celosia caracas ‘Scorching’ came home the same day as the acacias.
I’ve been planting throughout summer, but wouldn’t consider putting these in the ground in August.
They prefer steady moisture and rich soil, so I planted two in a big 5-gallon nursery can, where I can easily top them off with the hose.
Oddly enough, I had just fired off an order to Annie’s Annuals & Perennials, and included in that order was another celosia, ‘Cramer’s Amazon.’
The order was mainly to get ahold of Rudbeckia triloba again. August is the best time to get biennials started, either from seed or plants if you can find them.

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photo from Fernando Martos’ website. The bearded iris is ‘Syncopation’

Something else to order in August are bearded iris, a plant I’ve run hot/cold over for some years.
Noel Kingsbury wrote about garden designer Fernando Martos‘ approach to Spanish gardens for Gardens Illustrated, July 2016:
(“The typical Mediterranean garden is very static, it never changes. I want to make gardens that appear different every time you look at them.”)
I feel the same way. Summer wouldn’t be the same without transient poppies and spears and thistles surging skyward amidst the more permanent agaves and shrubs.
Seeing how Martos dotted bearded iris throughout low-growing, dry garden shrubs like lavender had me checking iris suppliers online before finishing the article.

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But be warned, it’s generally a very fleeting effect, a matter of weeks. Personally, I’m beginning to appreciate fleeting effects more and more.
I last grew them in April of 2014. My style of overplanting tends to swamp their crowns, which require full sun to build up energy for the next year.
But there’s no harm in trying again, is there?

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Fleeting effects aside, when ordering bearded iris, I always get hung up on the issue of rebloom. There are a handful of varieties that are said to reliably rebloom in Southern California.
The pink ‘Beverly Sills’ is one of them, and there’s more included in a list here.
So it seems foolish not to order a potential, if not guaranteed, rebloomer, right? But the reblooming varieties are nowhere near as exciting as, for example, ‘Syncopation’ which blooms just once.
I did find a couple bicolored varieties at Schreiner’s that supposedly rebloom. No guaranties. (‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Final Episode’)

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Something to add to your Things To Do in August list: If you care to have them next year, order bearded iris now!

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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