Marina District, San Francisco

There’s a particular pet-friendly motel we like in this district near the Presidio in San Francisco, the Marina Motel, which is where we stayed for the recent garden show.

Ein with his garden show face on.
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Plants are a big part of this little motel’s appeal. This brugmansia was in bloom in the courtyard, which is lavishly planted with fuchsias, geraniums, abutilon.

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Through the little kitchenette’s window from our upstairs room was a view of this private garden. I tried not to look too often. Really, I did.
And, anyway, no one ever came to sit in the chairs at the table. An empty garden is…mesmerizing.

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The secret language of gardeners permeated the entire trip. These banners were flying on nearby Chestnut Street, announcing Amy Stewart’s upcoming exhibit at Golden Gate Park.

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Sloat Garden Center, just off Chestnut at Pierce Street, looked like a fantastic neighborhood nursery. I popped in for a few photos, meaning to go back for a thorough browse, but the weekend flew by and I never did make it back. But it was just enough time to grab this little Trifolium repens ‘Dragon’s Blood.’ (Rainy Weekend Sale 20% Off. I wonder how many rainy weekends ago that sign was posted.)

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Such is the mercurial nature of city neighborhoods, the Marina District now seems to appeal more to the boomer crowd, reflected by the long line I saw waiting for Sammy Hagar to show up for a book signing at the local book shop and the nonstop foot traffic at the yoga center, but it does have relatively quiet streets perfectly suited for late-night dog walks, some good groceries and bakeries and a couple movie houses, and is just minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge. (Which is another reason why we started staying here years ago, for easy access to the plant nurseries in Marin and Sonoma Counties just over the Bridge, like the now defunct Western Hills.) The Mission district is where all the new restaurants are opening, and we did eat at Frjtz’s on Valencia in the Mission Saturday night, known for its frites and huge variety of dipping sauces. Perversely, I ordered mussels, washed down with Belgian beer, Lindemans Framboise Raspberry Lambic. My husband said the mussels smelled like cow dung. I admit, they weren’t the best mussels I’ve ever had, but I thought that smell was briny, not Bandini Mountain. A brief walk through the Presidio, which left military jurisdiction in 1994, opening up over 1400 acres to mixed commercial and public use overseen by the Presidio Trust, was the highlight of the trip for Ein. Exploring this enormous old military base at twilight, the pungent scent of eucalyptus underfoot and in the air was unmistakable, overpowering.

Just some quick travel notes.

Wyatt Ellison Metal Work

Somebody sign this man up now to do whatever he wants with an exhibit at a 2012 garden show.
Flora Grubb Gardens currently has a good selection of his work, where I snapped these photos over the weekend.

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Images frrom the website Wyatt Studio:

Geometric globes
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Morocco totems
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Tetris nesting tables and Chaos sculpture
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Poppy
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Garden Show Road Trip 2011

Smashing two of my fingers in a car door just before leaving San Francisco hasn’t helped to speed up the process of posting a few measly photos from the show. Not quite the airtight excuse, since having two fingers turning gothic shades of purple and inky blue didn’t prevent me yesterday from planting nearly the entire flat of plants brought home from the show and several nurseries we visited. (I highly recommend making little protective condoms from rubber gloves to protect injured digits while planting. And this year I will get a tetanus shot.) There is an excellent little video by Cindy McNatt and MB Maher making the rounds, and Floradora’s posts are very comprehensive, with the added bonus of getting a designer’s point of view. As for me, it seems I did nothing but buy plants and, judging by the meager output of photos, paid very little attention to the exhibits. The exhibits were all solid, beautifully executed, not ground-breaking, but the show overall had great fizz to it, a good layout with lots of outer buildings and tents to ease the claustrophobia of the crowds in the main hall. And lots of great plants for sale. Geraniaceae and Digging Dog are where I parted ways with most of my plant show money.

I did admire the streamlined elegance, the utter scientific cool of the UC Berkeley hydroponics exhibit.

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Hanging glass has been on my mind for this summer. I keep this tear sheet handy, a photo by MB Maher of a friend’s studio.
Maybe using distilled water will keep the nasty calcification crusting from rimming the glass. Any excuse to play with glass beakers and flasks.

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Back to the show. This rusted bedspring would be just as cool hanging on a wall, filled with tillandsias and Spanish moss.
By Quite Contrary Garden Design:

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Shimmering Acacia craspedocarpa against corrugated fencing. Poor photo of a wonderful acacia.

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Tierra Seca’s “Golden State of Mind.” Exquisitely stacked stone walls and Southern California river rocks on pikes.

Photo by MB Maher

Although Brian Swope intended these floating rocks to illustrate that anything is possible in California, levitating over an “energy field” of plastic sheeting, I can see them used also as an inverse visual pun, floating over rushing water, over rivulets of succulents. I much preferred Swope’s stylistic treatment to the naturalistic use of rocks in some of the exhibits, which struck me as jarringly out of place in so artificial an environment. (I cringingly introduced myself to Mr. Swope as a “minor blogger.” Sometimes the words that spill out of my mouth….)

Photo by MB Maher
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From Gold Medal Winner Jeffrey Gordon Smith’s “Pi R Squared,” black plastic culverts planted with succulents, an exhibit he first built as a temporary installation on sustainability for the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden. A wood-fired heater warms the water for the tub then roasts the veggies while you soak. Sustainable decadence.

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One of the living walls from Filoli’s dovecote.

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Studio Choo’s florals in repurposed wooden dynamite boxes in Star Apple’s edibles tent. Possibly from being visually saturated by succulents and livings walls, I was riveted by these Flemish Old Master tableaux vivants with crown fritillaries, tulips, and ranunculus in astonishing Persian carpet shades of russet, raw sienna, mahogany.

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That’s probably enough flower photos. Congratulations to the hard-working people behind the SFFGS for a fine 2011 show,
a successful inauguration of garden road trips 2011.

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Do You Groupon?

Current rainwater catchment system:

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Desired rainwater catchment system, available now, half-price, through Groupon.

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We’ve been dithering for some time over how to incorporate into a small lot what have been up to now bulky rainwater collection systems.
The size, the modularity, the ease of fitting into the slim, unused spaces against the garage, everything about this system speaks to us.
My plan, once the 150 gallons of rain water is used up sometime in summer, is to fill maybe just one of the tanks for disaster water supplies.
(In Southern California, we’re talking earthquakes.) Use that water on the garden in fall before the winter rains, refill with winter rain, then repeat the usage cycle.

Plant Show Weekend/Weakened

I vaguely remember promising not to post any more photos of tulips, so in my weakened state I’m violating that oath with one more photo of tulips ‘Queen of the Night,’ taken just before heading north for the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show. The tulips have no doubt been flattened by the serial storms which have been queuing up offshore like circus elephants all week. Good thing I brought wellies on this trip, because it’s been nothing but squelchy ground underfoot. Could it be this inveterate traveler is slightly homesick? Sitting in a little kitchenette motel in San Francisco nursing an Anchor Steam, grey and drizzly outside, a car brimming with plants, including the legendary Mathiasella bupleuroides, (what fabulous good luck to stumble into this one, a propagator’s nightmare, found at The Dry Garden in North Oakland), and some rusted bits salvaged from Building REsources, I’m ready to swing homeward and plant, shuffle pots, shuffle photos, and write a bit about what I’ve seen. What a homebody I’ve turned into. Funny how that happens every spring.

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Do It In The Garden

The couch was occupied by a lower back temporarily refusing to face another day, so the person attached to the lower back had on the TV to ease the situation.
(Not my lower back, still capable of a good dig this spring.)
Playing on the TV was the movie from which I’m paraphrasing, Scorcese’s Mean Streets:
You don’t make up for your sins in church. You do it in the garden…The rest is bullshit and you know it.
(The movie where I fell in love with Harvey Keitel while the whole world fell in love with DeNiro.)

Segue to Geranium maderense ‘Alba,’ still standing after enduring 50 mph winds in last weekend’s storm.

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Off to the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show for a couple days.

Very murky opening sequence to Mean Streets.

Senecio crassimus

I don’t see this succulent for sale frequently, or in gardens very often for that matter. Got mine at the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show a couple years back, which coincidentally is opening next week, March 23-27, 2011. If I find it again, I might bring home another Senecio crassimus this year. Judging by the bruising and damage to its leaves, the pampered life of a container might be more suitable to this light shade-tolerant succulent. I’ll miss those purply stems and leaves alongside the path of the gravel garden rising up out of a carpet of Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina,’ but if I pot up the senecio with a small piece of ‘Angelina’ today to pair up these two again in a container, I should get a full chartreuse carpet in the pot, oh, in about a week. Dustin Gimbel has shared some S. rupestre ‘Lemon Coral’ with me, which he finds vastly superior to ‘Angelina,’ so I’ll be having a comparative growathon between the two this spring.

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West Los Angeles Nursery Crawl

I don’t explore West Los Angeles and Santa Monica nearly enough, since getting there means battling some of the worst traffic in Southern California. But yesterday afternoon I had to work in the 1800 block of Sawtelle, roughly between Olympic and Santa Monica Boulevard. Leaving mid-day, the traffic was relatively thin, and I arrived early for my appointment, which was fortuitous since it left me 15 minutes to explore The Jungle, a small nursery located directly opposite the building I was working in. I had discovered this nursery in just such circumstances a couple times over the years, but in the frenetic haste of a workday timetable never noted the name or location. It was lovely to stumble on it again, always a thrill to combine work with plant trawling. It is tucked away tightly on its small lot amidst tall office buildings and, driving by, can easily be overlooked. But even if you’re distracted by West LA street life and inadvertently swiveling your gaze in the opposite direction as you drive by, you’d be clamping eyes on the Yamaguchi Bonsai Nursery just across the street from The Jungle. This little block of Sawtelle is the rarest of rarities, a street with not just one but three independent nurseries, including Hashimoto Nursery, which I didn’t have time to visit yesterday, all very small, but each with a distinctive eye and taste guiding nursery operations, such as these valances of Spanish moss as drapery for a wall of The Jungle’s greenhouse.

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A display of ferns and Spanish moss were grown vertically in sculpted pockets of sphagnum moss against a large backboard, possibly of plywood.

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And what self-respecting jungle doesn’t have fauna to go with its flora?

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That first 15 minutes was the only time I’d get at The Jungle, which was closed when I was done with work and ready to head home a little before 5:00. I wanted to pop in before driving home to rethink passing up a variegated paddle plant, Kalanchoe ‘Fantastic,’ but was spared that agonizing deliberation. There was a large variegated Billbergia nutans, the bromeliad known as Queen’s Tears, that I wanted a second look at too. This little nursery caters to landscapers, and plants come in large (and expensive) sizes, though they had an excellent assortment of succulents in small sizes. Checking comments online, The Jungle reputedly has the best selection of bamboo on the Westside, but I didn’t have a chance for a good prowl and will have to return, next time ensuring the camera memory card is empty. I had enough foresight to bring a camera when heading to the Westside, but not enough to check the memory card, which was a few photos shy of full, so obtained just a couple photos.

With The Jungle closed, I headed to Yamaguchi Bonsai Nursery, still open just across the street, and spotted this through the chain-link fence (photos taken this morning in my garden). A restio I hadn’t seen before, Elegia fistulosa. The one that caught my eye was enormous, much more upright than my thamnochortus at home, with inflorescences so big that, from a distance, they had an effect almost of cattails. A gallon size was helpfully placed nearby, so I nabbed it.

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This morning in my garden. Still very slender in size, the large one at Yamaguchi must have been at least three times this one’s diameter, bristling with blooms.

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And then this lacy number on a shade bench caught my eye. Thalictrums are a fatal attraction for me in zone 10, fatal to the thalictrums, poor things, not that I torment trial many new ones these days. But this California native meadow-rue, Thalictrum fendleri var. polycarpum, Fendleri’s Meadow-rue, is reputedly drought tolerant when established. Positively Oudolfian in its post-bloom state. I believe the flowers would be yellow in color. Who knows why dessicated flowers were such an appeal that day. Just being contrary, I suppose, now that it’s spring.

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This thalictrum came staked, a little over 2 feet in height, with typically gorgeous meadow-rue foliage.

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It was while I deliberated over this thalictrum that I overheard a woman drive alongside the nursery, put it in neutral, and shout through the fence about a particular plant. A clerk affirmed, yes, they carried that plant (shiso/perilla), but she’d have to come inside. With the car still idling, the woman shouted back that she’d like two, please. “Ma’am, you’ll have to come inside!” Whereupon, the potential customer drove off in a huff. (Now, there’s an idea, drive-through nurseries!) Buying my two plants, I asked the clerk if we, meaning the great unwashed public, we’re really getting as bad as that incident would seem to indicate, and she rolled her eyes and recounted a few more horror stories.

The Jungle and Yamaguchi Bonsai Nursery have a fine selection of pots, all sizes. The nurseries of Yamaguchi and Hashimoto, like the remnants of cloud-pruned residential topiary still seen in Los Angeles, are vestiges of the time when Japanese immigrants filled the horticultural niche in Los Angeles, opening up the first Flower Market in Downtown Los Angeles in 1913. Yamaguchi’s seems to be less about bonsai now, but that emphasis, along with The Jungle’s landscaping focus, would seem to be clues to the survival of these small but excellent nurseries.