Category Archives: pots and containers

a garden visit with bixbybotanicals

It all started with a very sweet and generous offer of some foliage for vases. Via bixbybotanicals Instagram, I learned that his Leucadendron ‘Wilson’s Wonder’ was in full winter dress, and he was willing to share some of the largesse with anyone in Long Beach. The South African conebushes are prized for their long vase life, and since my leucadendrons at home are too young to pillage for vases, I jumped at the chance to pick up some ruddy-leaved branches.


 photo 1U6A3656.jpg

The Leucadendron ‘Wilson’s Wonder’ in question, so you’ll know in case you’re ever offered some branches. Just say yes.
And you never know — not only did we leave with a bucket stuffed with cone bush branches, but also some delicious duck eggs, which were ravenously consumed for dinner that night.
Okay, great taste in shrubs and garden fowl — who is this guy anyway?

 photo 1U6A3662.jpg

The shorthand answer to that question?
Just an Italian Renaissance art scholar/teacher and incredibly busy father of two with a big love of dry garden plants and a strong affinity for garden design.

 photo 1U6A3599.jpg

Of course, I immediately began pestering Jeremy for a return visit with the AGO crew (Mitch), and he graciously agreed to let us explore.

 photo 1U6A3629.jpg

And on an average suburban lot, there is an incredible amount to explore.
The parkway is filled with California natives, including milkweed and self-sowing Calif. poppies, making a plant-rich corridor between the hell strip and the front garden.

 photo 1U6A3741.jpg

And here’s where Jeremy’s garden and other front-yard lawn conversions part ways.
Just behind that thick band of plants bordering the sidewalk is this surprisingly private piece of serenity, just feet from the street.
I don’t think I’ve seen a river of blue chalk sticks/Senecio mandralsicae used to better effect. And, yes, Jeremy says they do require a stern hand to keep them in check.
A ‘Creme Brulee’ agave peeks through salvia, the red echoed by callistemon in bloom opposite.

 photo 1U6A3618.jpg

All anchored by the shiny simplicity of that lone stock tank. (There’s another one in the back garden.)

 photo 1U6A3650.jpg

 photo 1U6A3623.jpg

I love how he took featureless, flat panels of lawn and sculpted the space into a multi-faceted garden that works for the family, wildlife, and the neighborhood.
A strong sense of enclosure without a fence — who knew? My own street-side (and mangy) box hedges are striking me as unnecessarily claustrophobic now.

 photo 1U6A3608.jpg

Jeremy seems to have effortlessly managed balancing the broad strokes that strongly lead the eye with the detailed planting that rewards closer inspection.
I counted a total of three Yucca rostrata, but there may be more.

 photo 1U6A3641.jpg

The front garden was started in 2012, when it was nothing but a flat expanse of lawn and a couple palms. Not a trace of either is left.
(Those are a neighbor’s palms in the background.)

 photo 1U6A3764.jpg

Now there’s nooks to watch the kids chase butterflies.

 photo 1U6A3728.jpg

That Salvia canariensis on the corner of the house behind the nasturtiums is going to be stunning in bloom.

 photo 1U6A3773.jpg

Mixed in amongst the nasturtiums is the charmingly nubby Helenium puberulum, a Calif. native.

 photo 1U6A3758.jpg

And opposite the chairs and table is another gorgeous bit of planting, deftly angled to screen the house on the driveway side.
Obviously a collector of choice plants, nevertheless his design instincts are manifest in subtle screening and massing for privacy balanced by openness/negative space.
A sentinel arbutus stands apart, with the strong afternoon sun blurring the outline of a 5-foot Leucadendron discolor ‘Pom Pom’ to the arbutus’ left, one I’ve killed a couple times.
Jeremy admitted to lots of failures, too, but his successes are envy-inducing.

 photo 1U6A3736.jpg

Encircling ‘Pom Pom’ is a detailed planting of aloes, yucca, golden coleonema, senecio, Euphorbia lambii.
Like me, he browses for plants at local H&H Nursery as well as flea markets.

 photo 1U6A3739.jpg

Detail of arbutus bloom.

But where are those ducks? we asked, hoping to steal a peek into the back garden. The ruse worked.

 photo 1U6A3784.jpg

To visit the ducks, we were led behind a sleek black fence at the end of the driveway guarded by Acacia cognata.

 photo 1U6A3778.jpg

And a dombeya, the highly scented Tropical Hydrangea. Jeremy said he chased this small tree’s identity for years.

 photo 1U6A3701.jpg

All was finally revealed during a visit to Disneyland, where the dombeya was growing, and labeled, in Toontown. In an instant, the silly and the sublime converged.

 photo 1U6A3687.jpg

Meet the ducks.
Mural in the background was done by Jeremy’s brother.

 photo 1U6A3684.jpg

I want ducks!

 photo 1U6A3678.jpg

I asked how the gardens were handling the recent (relatively) heavy rain, and Jeremy said the front garden came through like a champ.
But there has been a bit of flooding in the back garden.

 photo 1U6A3673.jpg

I’m sure I was told but can’t remember who built the duck enclosure.
What duck wouldn’t obligingly lay as many eggs as possible in such cheerful digs?

 photo 1U6A3669.jpg

There’s a serious container fanatic at work here too…

 photo 1U6A3699.jpg

A termite-infested pergola attached to the house had to be knocked down when they moved in, leaving this low wall along the driveway as the perfect spot for staging containers.

 photo 1U6A3711.jpg

 photo 1U6A3695.jpg

In case you bloggers are feeling that it’s all about Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook, Jeremy is a faithful reader of blogs.

 photo 1U6A3655.jpg

Melianthus major

 photo 1U6A3722.jpg

Winter-blooming Dahlia imperialis, after several moves, in a spot obviously to its liking.

 photo 1U6A3762.jpg

For the leucadendron branches, the duck eggs, and the inspiring garden visit, thank you so much, Jeremy!

All photos by MB Maher.

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.


 photo Point_Pot_2017_lg4.jpg

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.”

 photo Point_Pot_7.jpg


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.


 photo Point_Pot_2.jpg

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.

 photo dec551bc-29d2-4bae-baea-3be557e8ad61.jpg

Order info right here.

chasing agaves


Last Saturday, while millions marched their way into the history books, I was driving south to San Diego to meet agave expert Greg Starr.
I had been looking forward to this 2-hour road trip for some time, as a beacon in an otherwise fairly bleak January. Family medical issues against the chaotic national backdrop were starting to take a toll.
My guilt was somewhat lessened by the knowledge that our family would be represented by a marcher. Definitely count me in for the next one and the one after that.
NPR covered the march for the drive south, and the recent back-to-back storms cleared to offer up a gorgeous, cloud-scudded and dry Saturday. Pardon my nativism, but California is so beautiful.

 photo 1-_MG_4810.jpg

My destination was this private home where the San Diego Horticultural Society was hosting the talk by Greg Starr and a plant sale. Greg was bringing agaves!

 photo 1-_MG_4792.jpg

The front garden was a life-affirming explosion of agaves and aloes.
A blooming cowhorn agave, A. bovicornuta, is still a commanding presence, even among show-stealing flowering aloes.

 photo 1-_MG_4795.jpg

Tree in the background is Euphorbia cotinifolia.

 photo 1-_MG_4800.jpg

A narrow footpath runs a few feet in front of the house for access.
I’d be guessing at aloe names, since the owner has access to some amazing hybrids.
The bright orange in the left foreground looks a lot like my Aloe ‘Jacob’s Ladder.’

 photo 1-_MG_4801.jpg

Agave ‘Jaws’ fronted by a marlothii-hybrid aloe in bud.

 photo 1-_MG_4811.jpg

Incredibly tight tapestry of succulents, with some self-sowing alyssum and California poppies managing to find a root-hold.

Agave 'Streaker' (Rick Bjorklund collection) photo 1-P1014095.jpg

Unfortunately, Mr. Starr was unable to attend, probably due to the recent spate of severe weather and heavy rain.
But the owner’s private collection of aloes and agaves was more than enough compensation. That’s Agave ‘Streaker’ above in one of his raised beds in the backyard.

Agave pumila photo 1-P1014072.jpg

Agave pumila, at a size I didn’t know they achieved.

Agave utahensis photo 1-P1014084.jpg

Selection of Agave utahensis

Aloe longistyla prone to mites hard to grow photo 1-P1014074.jpg

Aloe longistyla, touchy about drainage, prone to mites, but so beautiful, flaunting some of the largest flowers of any aloe in relation to clump size.

The San Diego Hort. Society members provided lots of interesting plants for sale, including a variegated agave I can’t find a reference for (‘Northern Lights’ — anyone?)
With the Mini already nearly full to capacity, I stopped at Solana Succulents on the way home, detouring west to its location directly on Highway 1 in sight of the Pacific.
Owner Jeff Moore manages to tuck in a stellar selection of rarities in a relatively small-size nursery. Here is where I finally found the long-coveted Agave weberi ‘Arizona Star’ in a gallon.

 photo 1-P1014126.jpg

A nice shipment from B&B Cactus Farm was on the shelves, like this Astrophytum ornatum. I also brought home a Parodia magnifica.

 photo 1-P1014123.jpg

And another cowhorn agave.

I don’t think I’ve had Jeff’s self-published book out of arm’s reach since I bought it last Saturday.
“Aloes & Agaves in Cultivation” is everything you’d expect from someone who knows all the growers, hybridizers, and designers in San Diego County.
He’ll be speaking closer to home, at South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes, this March.
And February’s speaker doesn’t look bad either (Panayoti Kelaidis!)

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.

 photo 1-_MG_4712.jpg

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.

 photo 1-_MG_4705.jpg

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.

 photo 1-_MG_4768.jpg

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

 photo 1-_MG_4773.jpg

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.

 photo 1-_MG_4757.jpg

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.

 photo 1-_MG_4743.jpg

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

 photo 1-_MG_4751.jpg

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.

 photo 1-_MG_4770.jpg

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

 photo 1-_MG_4765.jpg

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.

 photo 1-_MG_4731.jpg

Everywhere you look the planting is almost unbearably gorgeous.

 photo 1-_MG_4777.jpg

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

 photo 1-_MG_4722.jpg

 photo 1-P1014059.jpg

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.

Wednesday vignette 11/2/16

Ever wonder what Huntington Botanical Garden employees display on their file cabinets?

 photo 35eb5a4d-ed05-4b31-affa-1b043969eabf.jpg

Luisa Serrano (Crow & Raven) and I got a tiny glimpse when we visited the Huntington in early October.

 photo 8602a6e9-bc70-422e-bd46-d7d2032f6254.jpg

The rest of these photos come from that visit as well, mostly the desert conservatory and then the new entrance garden, part of my Wednesday vignette hosted by Anna at Flutter & Hum.

 photo 08198de2-b6c1-43a2-9f85-f512887d2ee4.jpg

 photo 085bddcc-89c9-45d4-a5d0-5e82280df638.jpg

 photo e6d65ab2-101d-43bd-ba78-159fbd060ac3.jpg

end of month fav’s

 photo 1-P1013719.jpg

Plants and pottery, the twin joys of life. These are the cantaloupe bowls I’ve been coveting off Dustin Gimbel’s Instagram feed for some time.
He’s selling them today at the Artistic License show held at Estancia Park, 1900 Adams Ave., Costa Mesa CA., Oct 28-29, 10 am to 4 pm.
I know, late notice, not due to any under-handed, selfish intentions, just the week got away from me as usual.
I’m sure if you contact Dustin directly he’d be happy to ship. His Instagram feed has more photos and contact information.
And to be clear, these are food-safe pottery bowls for you, not for your plants. Or vessels for seedpods, tillandsias, and other such treasures.
But he’s also selling plenty of containers for plants, many already planted from his extremely cool and rarified collection. We need lots more shows like this.

 photo 1-P1013676.jpg

The cantaloupe rind pattern is a big part of their charm.

 photo 1-P1013705.jpg

I quickly chose pearly opalescent, bleeding into celadon, and indigo, because lingering too long over choice made me crazy. I wanted them all.

 photo 1-P1013671.jpg

The ‘Flying V’ hybrid passiflora is another fine piece of handiwork I’ve been enjoying this month.
Now that it’s apparent the vine enjoys my garden conditions, I need to get serious about a rebar trellis that can show it to best advantage.
A project to mull over this winter.

 photo 1-P1013701.jpg

 photo 1-P1013665.jpg

 photo 1-P1013704.jpg

 photo 1-P1013693.jpg

Loree at Danger Garden discusses more October favorites.

 photo 1-P1013664.jpg

Have a great weekend.

TBT: Shocking Pink

October seems a little early for the Cactus Geranium to start blooming after its summer dormancy, but it is, which occasions bringing up this old post from January 2011 in its honor.

Sometime during the night, the buds of Pelargonium echinatum unfolded their cerise petals. The next morning, the intensity of the color was a shock to eyes grown accustomed to the restrained colors of winter.


Photobucket

Which is about the time I wondered: When did pink leave demure behind to become shocking? And when did those two words first become inseparable?

Photobucket

What’s amazing to me, number one, is there is an answer to be found to such idle questions of mine, and it can be unearthed in less than 10 minutes:
Pink first became shocking when the eponymous perfume Shocking was launched in 1937, the packaging designed by Leonor Fini for fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli.

Photobucket


Surrealist-inspired Schiaparelli — pardon the crude and class-divisive shorthand which was in use at the time — was the ugly aristocrat to Coco Chanel’s pretty commoner, Chanel’s designs as sedate as Schiaparelli’s were outrageously flamboyant, and the two were supposedly intense rivals. (Perhaps flamboyance comes easier to those with trust funds? Just wondering…) Legendary photographer Horst P. Horst, interviewed by Maureen Dowd for the New York Times in 1988, remembers: “Chanel so disliked the overpowering style of the shocking pink, Dali-sketched creations of Elsa Schiaparelli…that she always pretended to forget Schiaparelli’s name, referring to her rival as ‘that Italian designer.'” Horst royally ticked off Chanel by photographing Schiaparelli first, but Chanel apparently became mollified enough to later sit for Horst. (Is life still this exciting?)

Tiny copy of Horst’s portrait of Schiaparelli:

Photobucket

Horst’s portrait of Coco Chanel:

Photobucket

The women’s choice of head gear says it all.

Horst might be better known for this corset ad, re-enacted by a famous singer in her ’90s music videoVogue directed by David Fincher:

Photobucket


In remembering how she came upon the name for her perfume, Schiaparelli recalls in her autobiography Shocking Life: “The colour flashed in front of my eyes. Bright, impossible, impudent, becoming, life-giving, like all the light and the birds and the fish in the world put together, a colour of China and Peru but not of the West’s shocking colour, pure and undiluted.”

Practically speaking, this little South African pelargonium is kept dry in summer, when it goes dormant, then erupts in impudent, shocking pink flowers after winter rains. Elsa would love it, a shocking color, pure and undiluted.

Occasional Daily Weather Report 9/20/16

We’re having a spell of clammy, sultry weather, the kind that will boost passionflowers another foot in growth seemingly overnight.


 photo 1-P1013391.jpg

Passiflora hybrid ‘Flying V,’ was a gift from Max Parker, who blogs at Hook and Spur.
‘Flying V’ is a cross between two Jamaican passionflower vines, Passiflora penduliflora and P. perfoliata.
Jamaica’s tropical marine climate averages temperatures around 83F, so I think ‘Flying V’ has been feeling right at home in this tropical island weather we’re having.

 photo 1-P1016106-001.jpg

All summer it’s been near impossible to get any photos, as all the blooms clustered at the top of this Agave mitis ‘Multicolor’ bloom stalk, disappearing under the eaves in this photo from 2015.
(Hybridizer Mark Cooper felt the leaves bore a resemblance to his favorite guitar, the Gibson Flying V, played by Hendrix, Albert King, Lenny Kravitz, among many others.)

 photo 1-P1013448.jpg

The vine was planted in a large pot that’s been half buried in the ground, with the agave stalk, minus most of its bulbils, plunged in the center as an impromptu scaffold.
To be honest, using the agave stalk for support was a bit of a joke. I assumed the vine would need endless cajoling and coaxing and ultimately opt not to thrive. Call me jaded, it’s true.
But this vine immediately took off for the heights, and it’s taken all summer for it to cascade back down and bring those little pink parachutes back within camera range.

 photo 1-P1013443.jpg

And if I leave too early in the morning or get home too late the blooms will be closed shut, more shuttlecock than parachute.
Now I’m wondering how long it will be before that fibrous agave stalk disintegrates and the vine needs to be disentangled from its support.
But that’s a worry for mid-winter, not days like this. It’s nice to see the sky tumbled with big fluffy clouds for a change too.
‘Flying V’ is reportedly root hardy to zone 8.

we have a winner

The Muradian pot will now reside in the care of Jon in Baltimore, Maryland. Congratulations! I’ve sent you a PM.

 photo 1-P1013331.jpg

It turned out to be fortuitous that the pot was set aside pending the giveaway, because these new shelves came crashing down Saturday with a sound Marty likened to the “wreck of the Hesperus.”
That would be my doing. I’m guilty of overloading it with just one more pot…every week or so.
It’s been strengthened and rigged again, and amazingly no plants seem to have been lost. I couldn’t bear to take a photo of the carnage so here’s the semi-tidy aftermath.
Lots of pot shards to sweep up, but nothing precious. The orphaned plants are already shaking off the trauma in their new digs.
It’ll be in the mail this week, Jon.

Muradian pot needs a good home

I’ve never planted this pot made by Fresno-based potter Mark Muradian, whose pots are at all the succulent and cactus shows in California.
It’s just too precious for the way I shuffle things around constantly. 5 and a half inches wide and tall, including feet.

 photo 1-P1013211.jpg

So this will be a low-key giveaway, no tie-ins to Instagram, Facebook, etc., just for the hard-core readers (you know who you are!) but U.S. only.
If no one wants it, then I’ll finally plant something in it, maybe the little Pachypodium namanquanan that’s bulging out of its current pot.
If only one person comments and needs it, it’s yours. I’ll close this out in early September.

Happy Monday!