Monthly Archives: January 2013

driveby garden; 1/31/13

Do you consider the color of your house and its role as a backdrop/canvas for the garden?
I can’t believe the luscious, creamy, chlorophylly color on this house was an accident.
The plants are positively strutting and preening against it.


lime green sings

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Both siding and trim echoed in one plant. Possibly Opuntia monacantha var. variegata.
Just try to convince me that’s an accident.

scenes from Versailles

As promised, photos of the gardens of Versailles, the apogee of the French formal garden style, designed by landscape architect Andre Le Notre for King Louis XIV of France (September 5, 1638 – September 1, 1715). With itinerant photographer MB Maher in town briefly for a friend’s wedding, I was able to shake his coat upside down and turn the pockets out for photos from his recent travels. He’s already back to England, then again to France, so do contact him here for any inquiries or just to chat about projects, or if even just for a drink in the local tavern, where he’ll probably leap over the bar and take over mixology duties. He’s an omnivorous fellow interested in just about everything.

Ready for a stroll? Properly attired, bewigged, perfumed, and powdered? Ladies should be outfitted something like this, give or take a few decades in the evolution of costume:


http://costumedramasheaven.blogspot.com/2008/05/dangerous-liaisons-costumes-merteuils_7907.html
Glenn Close, Dangerous Liaisons, image found here.

Cue the rustle of satin and taffeta swishing over gravel walkways, the whispered plans for afternoon trysts, the rhythmic, metallic clipping and snipping by fleets of gardeners as they maintain the miles of hedges and topiary (presaging a somewhat more reactionary use of sharp cutting instruments to be used upon Louis XIV’s descendants).


Prepare to be awed at what the Sun King has wrought.

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By the beginning of the seventeenth century, with a Medici as Queen of France, the royal palace gardens in Paris were largely Italian in plan.”
— Hugh Johnson, The Principles of Gardening

Continue reading scenes from Versailles

winter veg

This is my first winter in a new community organic garden. The first summer, which was 2012, was so dreadful that I couldn’t bring myself to post about it. I’ve participated in community gardens in the past, got too busy, dropped out. And there’s no rule that you have to grow vegetables. The first time I saw a baptisia bloom, Hedysarum coronarium, catanache, echinops, so many others, was in my first community garden, when my apartment offered no such opportunities. But the key word for vegetables is s-o-i-l. Loose, free-draining, compost-enriched soil.

The location of our community garden, a former railway easement, was previously the site of a year-long public works project, digging up the easement to vast depths to lay enormous new sewage pipes underground. What the gigantic, earth-moving equipment did to that clay soil will take more than a season to repair.

Everyone gave it their best. We brought in mountains of compost. One gardener double dug the concretized, compacted clay of his plot with a pick ax, until only the top of his head could be seen as he worked in the grave-like ditch. The results were uniformly, miserably the same: nothing flourished. Raised beds might have had slightly more success, but not much.

That’s when things turned a little ugly. By early summer, some gardeners were accusing others of surreptitiously watering their neighbors’ plots without permission, because the soil was always a soggy, gluey mess, the drowning plants stunted. I was certain there was a water leak under mine, because I never had to irrigate, and this was during the rainless season. Many people believed that the compost a lot of us brought in was to blame, that it was “bad” somehow. The fees suddenly seemed exorbitantly high ($40 a season). There was grumbling, self-doubt, even paranoia — raw emotions were riled. (I’ve always felt Downton Abbey was remiss in not portraying the garden staff. Plenty of good drama there. People don’t check their weaknesses and doubts at the garden gate.) Most plots were abandoned and uncared for by August. I left mine mulched and didn’t return until the weather cooled in October. When I saw it again, it was a rippling sea of blue morning glories, covering the trellises, the ground. It’s the devil in a blue dress when it comes to garden weeds here.


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My “garden shed.” I repainted the wooden box which delivered my brother’s holiday gift of wine.


By the end of summer, after comparing notes, we were all relieved to find out that everyone’s plot had suffered from the same poor soil problems, that it was nothing more complicated than that. The new gardeners’ nerves were calmed, and the pride of the most skillful, experienced gardeners soothed. What stretch of urban land wouldn’t be a challenge? In fall, winter, and spring, we could try again with the leaf crops, lettuces in all their colorful variety, spinach, kale, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy, peas, fava beans. Root crops will have to wait for the soil to loosen up and come around a bit more.

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Good soil practices will inevitably restore the tilth and friability. This winter is already showing huge improvement. I saw my first earthworm in my plot a few weeks ago. The soil is slowly coming back to life.

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Tuscan “dinosaur” kale

All these plots had to be measured and bordered, the paths mulched, tool shed and benches built, compost piles maintained, which easily fills up the required six hours of community garden time per season per member.

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Any surplus is donated to a local food bank.

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The only photo from my 10 X 10 plot is the fava beans above. All other photos are from my neighbors’ gardens. Fava beans, like all legumes, are capable of the neat trick of converting atmospheric nitrogen into a form that makes it available to plants. As well as eating the beans, the plants make a good “cover crop,” a technique to improve soil fertility and structure that involves chopping the plant down just as it’s about to bloom and letting it decompose in the garden, releasing valuable nitrogen. I’m also growing kale, spinach, broccoli raab, snap peas, and a few sweet peas and ranunculus.

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I love touring the garden to discover the kitschy personal touches owners add, which speak of the emotional attachment these little plots of earth hold for their caretakers. A woman told me she had been on this waiting list ten years! Soil issues aren’t going to dampen that kind of longing to make a garden.

comparative aeoniums

One of the perks of winter in a Mediterranean climate is stooping over plants, cup of coffee in hand, hair spangled and frizzed with rain, inspecting the beneficent aftermath of the previous night’s rainfall on the garden. Which are some of the loveliest effects to be had anywhere. Growth, succulence, life. A dry summer is guaranteed in a Mediterranean climate, but winter rainfall can often be disappointingly less than our average of 15 inches.


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Aeonium arboreum hybrid


Last fall I gathered up a bunch of aeoniums in my garden, five different kinds, most of them sporting their shriveled, end-of-summer, traumatized look, and plopped them into a bed right off the back porch steps in anticipation of their winter show. Though many aeoniums will continue to grow and hold it together in summer, the cool temperatures of a zone 10 winter are what really make them fat and happy. (I don’t know about happier, but I can identify with the effects of winter relative to the former.) Since they’re already overcrowded, I’ll dig them up for summer again and probably move them back into pots, but for the winter, their best season, I wanted to keep these hypnotic rosettes close at hand.

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Aeonium arboreum hybrid, less red to the leaf except for a thin edge

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For comparison, a different Aeonium arboreum hybrid with red smearing out from the margins and suffusing the leaves

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100 percent positive this is Aeonium balsamiferum

There’s not a dramatic dark red one in the bunch, just subtle differences in the leaf shapes, edging, and shades of green. I often buy them unnamed.


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But now that they’re plump and gorgeous, it’s bugging me that I don’t know their names. As opposed to when they were shriveled and gaunt in summer, when I didn’t care.

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Aeonium percarneum? Aeonium lancerottense?

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It definitely has a bluer cast to the narrow leaf, with a delicate pink edge. The color of the flower will help with identification.

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This one is bright green with a carmine edge extending in a faint stripe down the middle. Possibly the common Aeonium haworthii?
I bought it as Aeonium rubrinoleatum but can’t confirm the name.

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And I suppose the name isn’t really all that important anyway, because there’s no such thing as an ugly aeonium.


1/24/13 Thursday Garden Talk with Lili Singer

I had the belated, long-postponed, very intense pleasure of attending one of Lili Singer’s Thursday Garden Talks held by the Los Angeles County Arboretum, a tradition going back ten years. Lili Singer has long been so embedded and enmeshed in everything that is good about Los Angeles gardens and garden making that it’s impossible to untangle a first awareness of her. I know of Lili primarily from her public radio broadcasts on KCRW called simply “The Garden Show,” which spanned the years 1982 and 1996. Her Thursday talks at the arboretum never jibed with my work schedule, but I kept abreast of the talks through The Los Angeles Times weekly Datebook, serene in knowing that such fine things were taking place. And then The Los Angeles Times cancelled the wonderful Datebook section, and that news blackout startled me into action, a bleak reminder to take advantage of the good things while they last.

Yesterday’s Garden Talk took the form of a tour of three Los Angeles area gardens. Photographer MB Maher is in town briefly and tagged along on the tour as chief photographer and navigator. Rain had caused the freeways to spasm and seize up, so we shamefully straggled in five minutes late, which turned out to be earlier than most of the other attendees who were also caught up in rain-panicked traffic. Lili said this was the first time in ten years that one of her field trips saw rain. Nothwithstanding the atrocious traffic, I loved it. January rainfall in Los Angeles means all is right with the world.


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This landscape was designed to soak up every precious drop.


From the handout, a description of this Brentwood garden:

Simplicity and clean lines define this Southern California part-modern, part-Japanese, part-woodland landscape with good ‘old bones.’ Situated on a well-traveled Westside street, the outdoor spaces surrounding the Mid-Century Modern residence are carefully studded with ornamental and edible plants from continents near and far. The eastern redbud and western sycamore will be bare, but the ancient camellias will be showing some color. Ryan Gates and Joel Lichtenwalter of Grow Outdoor Design, who updated the landscape in 2008, will join us on site.”


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Taking shelter under the carport. One of the garden designers from Grow Outdoor Design, Joel Lichtenwalter, with umbrella.
Acacia iteaphylla the lacy-leaved shrub in the background

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Not often seen in local gardens, the marbled leaves of Arum italicum ‘Pictum,’ an enthusiastic spreader, with asparagus fern, euphorbias, and oakleaf hydrangeas sprawling at the base of a privacy screen.

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The privacy screen

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Leafless Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy,’ one of several throughout the landscape, and front driveway.

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Around the corner into the back garden, past the twisted trunk of a magnolia gleaming dark from the rain against what looked like a Mexican Weeping Bamboo, Otatea acuminata aztecorum, but I didn’t verify the name.

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The decomposed granite pathway had already soaked up all the overnight rain.

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The back garden was sleek and simple, a retreat designed to honor existing trees and the needs of a growing family, with the central area kept mown lawn, a glimpse of which can be seen here, bounded by the encircling walkway of decomposed granite.

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The power of restrained use of ornament: The owner’s brilliant choice of ceramic tiles by Sam Stan Bitters, which deftly emphasize the orange culms of the towering bamboo growing behind the fence in the neighboring property, claiming ownership and inclusion of a “borrowed” view.

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I wish I could provide a website for Mr. Bitters’ work, but none could be found.

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The owner’s choice of chairs was equally inspired.

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The weight of just one of these chairs was more than I could single-handedly support.

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The owner’s penchant for Mid Century Modern design is also evidenced by the choice of the Circle Pot, designed by Mary and Annette at the Atwater Village shop Potted.

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The garden designers worked closely with the architects, continuing the architect’s use of concrete as the medium for the steps descending from house to garden.

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Chatting about plants and design is the perfect use of a drizzly January morning. So very, very glad I finally decided to attend one of Lili’s Garden Talks. From now on, I’m hoping to make it a standing Thursday appointment.

More photos of this garden can be found on the website of Grow Outdoor Design.

Occasional Daily Weather Report 1/23/13


Eye strain has kept me away from the computer for a few days, so following butterflies around the garden has been more my speed.
I blame the eye strain mostly on the amount of political news I read online, far more than is safe for a balanced mind and clear eyes, so that’s one new year’s resolution I’ll be working on.

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This little guy’s sun-fretted wings tell of the warm spell we’ve been having. Rain forecast tonight, thankfully.

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The growth of the tulips surged under sunny skies.

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It’s been warm and bright enough that I rigged some shade under the pergola by weaving a painter’s canvas drop cloth through the top slats, securing them with carpenter’s clamps I found in Marty’s tool shed, where all the really cool stuff is kept hidden away from prying eyes and fingers. Matter of fact, I found the canvas drop cloth there too.

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It was over 80 degrees at the flea market on Sunday, where we found a pair of Homecrest chairs to match the one we inherited from a neighbor. The PBS show Market Warriors was filming, which caused some traffic jams in the aisles and a bit of generalized grumbling amongst the flea marketeers.

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And I accomplished what’s probably the last major sweep of the season, on the east side at least. The fringe tree (Chionanthus retusus) has at last dropped all its leaves. Ready for rollerskating, if I had any skates. (What do you bet there’s an old pair in Marty’s tool shed?)

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And just before it’s time to put away all the tools before the next round of rain, these very heavy, 100-year-old bronze cage lamps will finally be getting use again after some wiring work. A third one will need to be straightened after its fall when the old bolt gave way. They last illuminated the storm warning station atop the oldest warehouse in San Pedro at the entrance to Los Angeles Harbor, fittingly named Warehouse One. The lamps were hidden away in the tool shed too, or “rat-holed” away, to use Marty’s preferred vernacular.


I’m pestering MB Maher to shake loose some wonderful photos of his recent visit to the gardens of Versailles, including Marie Antoinette’s rustic fantasy Hameau de la Reine. Whenever I’m discouraged by the excessive rusticity of our little compound, I’ll try to remember that Marie Antoinette paid extra for that effect.

driveby garden: Baker Street, San Francisco

For those who plan to attend the garden blogger meetup in San Francisco this year, known as the Garden Bloggers Fling, here’s a tiny glimpse of what the City offers mid January. And if you haven’t decided to attend yet, just imagine what June will be like.

The grand houses and dowager apartment buildings of the Marina District are set back just a few feet from the sidewalk. On Baker Street, there is the rare urban garden-making opportunity in those narrow, rectangular beds bordering driveways and front door walkways. Varying in size, these photographed below are relatively large, maybe 5 X 4 feet in size, running perpendicular to the sidewalk. Most of these spaces are planted simply, grassed or paved over, but someone grabbed the reins and went absolutely wild in maybe three or four of those rectangles, and in the adjacent parkways too.

What first slowed my pace from quite a distance were the spires of this brilliant, lemony bulbinella leaning into the sidewalk:

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Bulbinella nutans? This bulbinella’s leaves were strappy and wide, not grassy.

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Up close, the extravagance of the planting brought me to a full stop.
And closer inspection revealed that two rectangles had been planted almost in mirror symmetry.

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The two Agave americana var. medio-picta ‘Alba’ were the tip-off.
But there were also twin Mediterranean Fan Palms, one each in the center of these two rectangles, and the same plants were repeated in varying combinations.

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The symmetry wasn’t pushed to an extreme, but the overall shapes and sizes were congruent with the neighboring beds.
Massed aeoniums were planted alongside one agave, a crassula alongside the other.
Both dark and green aeoniums were repeated extensively throughout.

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The blue fronds of one of the young fan palms can be seen here, along with various aeoniums and dyckia. In the distance, a yellow phormium anchors another rectangle, possibly Phormium ‘Yellow Wave.’

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The beds were built up and rimmed with stones encrusted with sempervivums and baby tears.

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The bed with the yellow phormium, bulbinella, yucca (filamentosa?) almost buried under the phormium, Agave bracteosa, echeverias, with the dried, aged blooms of a hydrangea nearer the house. The large grassy clumps in front of the phormium may be aloes. Amazingly enough, I think there may have been some beschorneria in here too. It’s hard to say how old the plantings are, but another small garden could easily be made from the abundance of plants without leaving noticeable gaps. In the Bay Area, a succulent garden can quickly leap from the initial, spare, well-spaced plantings to the lushness of these little gardens.

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The palms in particular will definitely be needing more elbow room.

baker street sf

But at this moment in time, the proportions still hold up. Succulents are the perfect place holders here, easily thinned out to allow more room when necessary — well, maybe not so much the dyckia, seen here next to one of the medio-picta agaves. I don’t dare thin the enormous clump of dyckia in my front garden. It is far more formidable a plant than any agave where flesh wounds are concerned.

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The phormium repeated in the parkway with what looks like Kalanchoe grandiflora.
Euphorbia characias wulfeniii has seeded among the plantings too.

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I’m pretty sure this is a beschorneria in the parkway, also known as the Mexican lily, which all have spectacular flower spikes that dangle intricate lockets of blooms.

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Another plant repeated in different combinations was the squid agave, Agave bracteosa, here among baby tears, variegated yucca nearby.

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Lush, strappy parkway.

What a pleasure it was to stroll along this undulating sequence of intense planting built up of rosettes and variations on strappy, spiky leaves. And you can’t miss it, should you attend the Garden Bloggers Fling. It’s directly across from here:

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The Palace of Fine Arts/Exploratorium, though I understand the Exploratorium is moving elsewhere soon.

Magnolia stellata 1/12/13 Legion of Honor

Magnolia stellata in bloom January 2013, Palace of Fine Arts


UCBG Natural Discourse: Form and Function 1/11/13

The final event in the unique, year-long collaboration that the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley undertook with “artists, architects, scientists and poets in the garden,” Natural Discourse, was held Friday, January 11, 2013. As co-curator Shirley Watts explained at the beginning, “This is my dream symposium. So I just said, Who do I want to hear?”

What we heard was an extraordinary series of lectures, a “natural discourse” that drew from the disciplines of anthropology, art, botany, design, science, politics, engineering, including: The transformation of a sheep ranch in Sonoma County into a world-class, Richard Serra-containing, outdoor art installation (I must see this some day*); the inception of the International Garden Festival at Chaumont sur Loire (I must visit this some day); the making of The Ethnobotanical Garden of Oaxaca, Mexico (I MUST go here some day); the role of cellular structure, its actual physical shape, in furthering understanding of stem cell biology (I may benefit from this some day). And, of course, the juicy back story behind the creation of and ensuing national controversy surrounding one of the Natural Discourse exhibits, SOL Grotto, which utilized the discarded cylindrical tubes from the bankrupt solar cell manufacturing company Solyndra (written about previously here.) My magpie brain happily gorged on the lectures, and I was able to dart into the garden, hummingbird-like, when opportunities presented. A dream symposium indeed.

In between lectures, the garden, which hasn’t experienced a frost yet, was ours to explore, so I’m interspersing some of the photos I took during the short breaks and lunch. I didn’t explore too far beyond the conference area. The one time I did, I was late for a lecture. Shades of college all over again.

Agave strictahedgehog agaveucbg 1/11/13
Agave stricta

ucbg 1/11/13 natural discoursesymposium

Euphorbia cooperi var. cooperi
Euphorbia cooperi var. cooperi, South Africa

Aloe sabaeaYemen
Aloe sabaea, Yemen

Aloe sabaea bloom
Bloom of Aloe sabaea

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Agave species, Mexico

Depending on sound quality, I have ambitious plans to produce transcripts of most of the lectures — they are simply too wonderful not to share — but there may be unforeseen technical challenges ahead. For now, below are the opening remarks by Paul Licht, Director, UCBG:

It’s a pleasure to see this many people interested in what I think are very important parts of our lives. I’m Paul Licht. I’m the director of the garden, and so I get the great pleasure of opening what’s going to be an exciting day.

“And I’m not supposed to say this, but if you get a little tired of sitting, there’s a lot of other things to see out here. In fact, there are 34 acres. We describe it as 34 glorious acres, which houses one of the biggest, most diverse plant collections in North America, and it’s unequaled in many ways.


UCBG 1/11/13, Beavertail cactusOpuntia aff. prolifera
Opuntia aff. prolifera, Beavertail cactus (note searchable database)

“I’m not going to give you the whole spiel, but you’re in a very special place for many things, one of which you’re going to hear about the rest of the day. But just to orient you, it is a 34-acre garden. It’s part of the University of California, but we are one of the few really public entities of the University of California. There are other museums, but they are not public. They are mostly research. We have a plant collection that’s unequaled not only in its diversity, that is, the number of different kinds of plants — we have roughly 12 thousand different kinds of plants growing here. They are from all over the world. But they are unusual in that they are almost all wild collected, and no other garden has this kind of collection. And it’s hard for people to believe that right here in this little town of Berkeley we have this incredible resource. That’s what it’s supposed to be, a resource for you. It’s a public garden. It’s your garden as much as anyone’s.


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Puya venusta, Chile


“What we’ve tried to do over the past few years is to make people more appreciative or better able to discover the garden by appealing to a lot of different senses that I think should be part of the garden, and one of them is art. Art and music, I think, go together. Now, I’m very much of the belief that if you did nothing in this garden, it is still a piece of art. It’s an artwork. Any landscaper, any gardener, will tell you that no matter what it looks like, whether it’s just a bunch of flowers or very natural looking, it’s artificial. It’s created by people, landscapers and gardeners and people who love these living things. So I would argue that it’s all a piece of art that you’re sitting in the middle of right now. Everything is intentional. Well, not everything. We do have some weeds. But most of what you see here has been done intentionally. And if it doesn’t look like a formal garden to you, that you’re used to, like rows of beautiful plants, that’s intentional. We’ve tried to recreate nature in the middle of nature. But we’ve created it in the way that we think sends out a message.


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Aloe capitata
Aloe capitata


“So we started from the point of view that we think we have a lot to offer to the art world, and then we began to explore more — I won’t say traditional, but things that I understood better. Simple things, like botanical illustration, was clearly related to the garden. So next week in this room, next Saturday, is the opening of a botanical illustration exhibit, where we’ll have a whole group of several dozen botanical illustrators that have worked here, displaying their things.

“And then when I thought I sort of had it all under control. Mary Anne Friel and Shirley Watts came with another idea, which kind of stretched my imagination a little bit. What they put together was an exhibit they called Natural Discourse. And to this day, it is so rich and varied that when people ask me what is it, it takes a long time for me to sort of articulate it. And I think it’s much better done by seeing it than talking about it. So I hope in the course of this talk you’ll have the opportunity to get out and really experience it firsthand. And if it’s brought in people who haven’t been to the garden before, then it really succeeded because that’s the whole goal of it.


Euphorbia grandialataSo. Africa
Euphorbia grandialata, South Africa
(window shade coverings, very faint in this photo, are vellum-burned “spiderwebs” by Gail Wight, exhibit entitled “Under the Influence,” inspired by 1960 experiments of feeding psychotropic drugs to spiders.)

“And it’s very different from the traditional artwork in that it is very much part of the garden, an extension of the garden. The artists who created these pieces did a wonderful job of extending the garden into their artwork, and that’s I think what makes it so very, very special. A lot of these pieces might not look as exciting if they were just plunked in the middle of the MOMA or the DeYoung or something. They would look interesting, but they wouldn’t have the same meaning. And that’s what I hope you’ll all get out of this, that art can be just a transition into the garden. It doesn’t have to be a separate thing…So I hope that you’ll find this as exciting as I do. And I hope that it will present a doorway for you to get out into the garden and enjoy the art that’s part of the garden.”

List of speakers:
Dr. Paul Licht, Director, UC Botanical Garden, Welcome
Shirley Watts, Natural Discourse co-curator, Introduction to Symposium
Mary Ann Friel, Natural Discourse co-curator, Overview of exhibition
Ronald Rael, “Material Provenance” (SOL Grotto)
Steven Oliver, “Art That Ceases to be a Commodity”
Gerard Dosba, The International Garden Festival at Chaumont sur Loire
Dr. Marie Csete, “Structure and Function in Stem Cell Biology,” Division Director, AABB Center for Cellular Therapies, Bethesda, MD
Dr. Alejandro de Avila, “Blood on a Fountain,” founding director of The Ethnobotanical Garden of Oaxaca


*Visits to the Oliver Ranch are arranged only through membership in non-profit organizations. For example, the UCBG is arranging a visit for its members in 2014.

no-burn day

On the drive to work this morning, my local public radio station advised that today is a no-burn day.
I had never heard that term before, though I’m familiar with the reasoning behind it:

A ‘no burn’ alert is in effect through midnight Wednesday for parts of Los Angeles and Orange counties.

Sam Atwood, spokesman for the South Coast Air Quality Management District, said this is the third time the agency has issued an alert this winter.

‘During the winter, we can get these low-level temperature inversions which trap the smoke from the fireplaces low to the ground and can contribute to unhealthy air quality,’ he said.

A ‘no burn’ alert means residents in affected areas cannot burn wood or manufactured logs in fireplaces or outdoor fire pits.”

I love to burn wood in an outdoor fireplace, but it’s becoming increasingly apparent that my outdoor fires are an unnecessary indulgence, an ill-advised luxury that contributes a shocking amount of particulates to a neighborhood, a city, a county, an inversion layer. So now it’s a rare occurrence, maybe once or twice a year, burning only the driest wood to keep the smoke down. I mostly keep potted plants on our old Ben Franklin stove now.

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In late December we trialed a new flue we had built. Along with building the flue, the stove was sandblasted again, the second time since we’ve come to own it over a decade ago, after retrieving it from an outdoor dump site in Riverside County. Marty put a quick coat of silver paint on it after the sandblasting to protect it from the winter rain. Willie’s Tin Shop built the flue. Sometimes I think we invent projects just so we can work with a business that would choose a name like Willie’s Tin Shop. Plus, the original, decades-old shop had really cool signage. (Forget Yelp, we go by signage and heartfelt business names.)


We trialed the flue in a couple locations, moving the heavy monster around on a wheeled base, settling on a spot out of the wind.

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I do miss the long-ago fires we had throughout the winter before I knew better. We all love a good fire here.

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But this will most likely be the only outdoor fire I’ll enjoy this winter, the torches of aloes in bloom.

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No tag, possibly Aloe africana, growing at the entrance to the 710 Freeway on Seventh Street.

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My own Aloe capitata var. quartzicola’s bloom taking shape.

So the Ben Franklin remains dark for the foreseeable future, this no-burn winter.