Monthly Archives: March 2013

when agaves become homebodies

I’m sure these images have been kicking around design blogs for some time, but if they have I’ve missed them.
(Found here at Miluccia, via the magazine Ideat.)
It’s easy to become numbed by the tsunami of photos of interiors available online, but this one snagged my full attention. The light, the chairs, the fascinating wire armature, the writhing agaves. I’m wondering if our sagging 100-year-old wood floors could stand this kind of excitement.

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Jardin Majorelle, Morocco

What I know about Yves Saint Laurent, the fashion designer, as opposed to his enormous, well-known cultural celebrity, is limited to sewing up some of his “rich peasant” and stunning Russian collection designs off of Vogue patterns in high school. Before collecting plants and obsessing over gardens, I collected fabrics and obsessed over….well, mostly fabrics really. I never made the jump to obsession with high fashion, though there was a short stint in dress-making and pattern-making school. But as it happened, Saint Laurent did something later in life that left even those clueless about haute couture forever in his debt. He bought the fabulous Jardin Marjorelle, where the pigment bleu Majorelle was born. If you’ve ever painted a garden wall or a fence, as I did, a vivid electric blue, knowingly or not, this garden in Morocco created by French painter Jacques Majorelle is the source of that gesture.


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When I heard that photographer MB Maher was headed for North Africa, I made a special request that he photograph the Jardin Majorelle in Marrakesh, Morocco. For about 50 dirham, roughly $13.61 in US dollars, the Jardin Majorelle is open to everyone year round.

Boy, do I owe Maher for this one.

Continue reading Jardin Majorelle, Morocco

hidden mesoamerican palaces

not in Central America but here, in Los Angeles.


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Frank Lloyd Wright’s Sowden House, of textile-block construction, built for friend and photographer John Sowden in 1926. Renovations by a new owner in 2001 included restoring the stonework and the addition of a courtyard pool and spa. His son, Eric Lloyd Wright, “felt it was a ‘mistake’ to break up the courtyard space with a pool and spa,” which originally had been a lawn. (Wikipedia) Image found here.

In channeling classical Mayan architecture, this primal meditation by Frank Lloyd Wright on nature and civilization seems to have attracted its share of odd owners and a collection of lurid tales, including speculation that it’s the site of the infamous Black Dahlia murder. Now mainly used for film locations, the brooding Sowden house seems more a meditation on civilization and its malcontents.

I’d love to visit, but now I might be too spooked. Maybe in a large group…

tulip report 2013

After all the mid-summer catalogue busywork, the list making, the dreaming in color, the potting soil mess, the ritual chilling of the little bundles of bulbs from September to November like some demented grocer, in other words, the really fun part of the whole tulip affair, some seven months later comes the sober truth. Will they or won’t they bloom?

Which is why I’m suggesting you might want to skip over several of the above steps and just order lots of ‘Queen of the Night.’ Never has this tulip disappointed. The color might be a little stressed this year and veering off its normal rich aubergine due to the unseasonably warm temps we’ve had, but it’s hands down the most reliable tulip for the 6-week prechilling regimen. Just be sure to keep fruit away from the bulbs while in the refrigerator, or the ethylene gas emitted can cause the flower buds to “blast” and not form properly.


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back in the garden

I’ve still got a big cosmic hangover from visiting the California Science Center last week.
“Hubble 3-D” was at the IMAX theater. My brain was not built for IMAX movies, so what with the 3-D glasses and sitting too close because some in our party had stair issues, I thought I’d have to keep my eyes shut for the whole thing. When the movie started, I could feel the pressure building, like an anvil was sitting on top of my head, then two anvils. We were insanely close to the screen, but I hoped I could cope. Then three anvils were on top of my head. (I’d make a terrible astronaut.) At the last minute I fled the group and headed for high ground, the second-to-last row, which was empty. If this doesn’t do the trick, I thought, I can assume the 1950s atomic bomb, duck-and-cover posture for the whole movie, head between the knees, with none the wiser. In the last row behind me sat the usherette, absorbed in her iPhone. Final adjustment of the 3-D glasses, and I’m good to go. But instead of the voice of the gods, the narration appeared to be by an enthusiastic ninth-grader reading from his science report (Leonardo di Caprio). Then images from Hubble began to fill the screen, and I had my own private catharsis in the second-to-last row. Expecting to be more irritated by the experience than impressed, I now had to blink back tears so I wouldn’t miss an image. What was I getting so choked up about? I’ve been wondering ever since. I really don’t know. Is it because this might be the purest expression of our timeless curiosity? Is it because so many of these otherworldly shapes were somehow very, very familiar? Is it because we’ve been looking everywhere, and there’s literally no place like home?

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I’ve had Hubble goggles on ever since and hope I never lose them.


Images from Hubble


From the top, Ursinia sericea, Sonchus canariensis, rat-tail cactus, Eryngium padanifolium, Coronilla valentina, Leonotis leonorus, Cirsium occidentale, unnamed succulent, Senecio anteuphorbium.