Monthly Archives: July 2013

Occasional Daily Photo 7/25/13

I’m tying this ODP in with Loree’s favorite plant of the week thread at Danger Garden.

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Agave attenuata ‘Ray of Light’

I’ve noticed a theme to favorite plants. They’re the ones that beat zonal odds or some foolish mishandling on the gardener’s part. It’s the latter case with this agave. I moved it roughly and hurriedly, in the wrong season, because I suddenly needed it right there. The lower leaves tell that story. But the luscious new growth it’s since been putting out this summer is what makes it my favorite plant of the week. Even the anti-variegation crowd can’t possibly begrudge what slim stripes do for agaves, right?

From the San Marcos Growers website: “This plant was discovered in 2003 by Graeme John Burton of Ohaupo, New Zealand as a vegetative sport of Agave attenuata ‘Tandarra’s Tiger’ in a greenhouse in Hamilton, New Zealand. It received US Plant Patent 21,854 in April 2011.”

the greenhouse in Minority Report

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Every summer eventually develops its own indelible rhythms. For instance, I generally don’t like heading into the house until the last rays of light are drained from the sky. Darkness, just as in a hushed theater, is the cue here at home for the movie to begin. About 8:30ish. Instead of popcorn, the movie is accompanied by dinner. (Lately that invariably consists of something with kale in it, since my garden plot is still producing buckets of it.) After the requisite skirmish over what to watch, it’s show time. Tolerance for movie violence is a common theme when discussing a selection. I seem to have less and less. But we all love sci-fi movies. And Minority Report’s themes of the state abridging civil liberties in the interests of security are undeniably and unfortunately as relevant now as when it was released in 2002.

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This movie is a particular favorite of mine, and not just because of the incredible greenhouse scene, although that does play a big part in my affection. Samantha Morton, Max Von Sydow, Colin Farrell all give riveting performances. Tom Cruise is…well, Tom Cruise. And even if that would normally put you off, this movie has so much going for it that the star’s likability factor isn’t a make-or-break proposition. His stolid performance is arguably just what this movie needs to hold the center. The cinematography by Janusz KamiƄski is unspeakably lush and gorgeous. Shot on Kodak film, using the “bleach bypass” technique for any interested film geeks. These scenes in the greenhouse are almost a gothic, over-the-top contrast to the film’s denatured vision of the future.

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Gathering these screen shots, I was impressed with the complexity of filming the greenhouse scene, with the actors hitting their marks among hanging plants, waist-high tables and benches overflowing with more potted plants, the camera dipping into deep blue shadows at one end of the greenhouse and piercing sunbursts at the other. Kaminski and Spielberg really capture the wonderful choreography of light found in all greenhouses. I have absolutely no need for one at all, but that doesn’t lessen my desire for a greenhouse in the least, where the fundamentals of light and warmth and the primacy of plants are on heightened display.

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The actress in these scenes is Lois Smith. Based on the short story by Philip K. Dick. Directed by Steven Spielberg, an Amblin Entertainment
and Cruise /Wagner production, distributed by 20th Century Fox DreamWorks Pictures.

Cross-Pollination July 2013

Garden designer Dustin Gimbel hosted another of those fabulous mid-summer rave-ups that he calls “Cross-Pollination” at his home and garden, where “hikers, nursery professionals, beekeepers, home brewers, crazy plant people, artists, architects and designers” gather for food and conversation, slipping away occasionally from the outdoor tables for periodic forays into the surrounding garden that nourishes as much as the food and conversation. A trifecta of sensory input. Think a slightly more design-centric Roman bacchanalia and you’ve got the basic idea. (And in case there’s any doubt, I fall into the “crazy plant people” category on the invitation.)

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photo by Dustin Gimbel

Maybe another attendee will post photos of the tables groaning under bowl after bowl of fresh, summery food and the friendly group that assembled to partake of the potlucked largesse.* This will be my typically monomaniacal plant reportage. For me one of the stars of the party was the Aristolochia gigantea vine in full, jaw-dropping bloom against the mauve wall of the garage. Various parts of the human anatomy were offered up as visual analogies for these bizarre, fleshily gorgeous flowers. (A non-profane example would be lungs.) The colors here in this corner of the back garden make up a tangily delicious concoction. The golden, feathery shrub is Coleonema pulchellum ‘Sunset Gold.’ On the left is Dodonaea viscosa. Euphorbia cotinifolia is directly behind the central variegated number, which is either a ponytail palm or a cordyline. Or something else entirely. In Dustin’s garden, always expect to be confounded and surprised.

This is Dustin’s photo and description: “Giant dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia gigantea) is reveling in heat AND humidity. Usually if it gets hot and dry these comically large blooms get seared by the heat and often don’t even open, burnt crisp by the sun.”

A horticultural event of immense drama — but then that pretty much describes Dustin’s garden any time you visit.

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Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ and Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’

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Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ with Dustin’s hand-made totem towers

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Cotyledon orbiculata var. flanaganii with mattress vine

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Peachy Russellia equisetiformis and a golden Agave attenuata, possibly ‘Raea’s Gold,” with I think Sedum rubrotinctum

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Dustin was way too busy hosting the soiree to be coralled into extended plant ID sessions like I normally do. So I’m hazarding that the shaggy beast in the far left container is Acacia cognata ‘Cousin Itt,’ with firesticks, Euphorbia tirucalli, and bowls of echeveria. A visit to Dustin’s garden always reminds one to go large. No itty-bitty gestures, please.

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The Acacia pendula arbor over the main diagonal path in the front garden, seen from the front porch, to which the path runs roughly parallel.
The golden, glowing strip in the background lining another path to the back gate is variegated St. Augustine grass. Dustin recently pulled out assorted plants here to go for a bigger impact with this grass. A wise man, that Dustin.

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Silvery ribbons of tillandsias and Spanish moss have been tied to delicately drape from the rebar arch.

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The Acacia pendula, an Agave ‘Blue Glow’ surrounded by Frankenia thymifolia, a walkable ground cover Dustin uses to such good effect in creating quiet pools of visual rest. Possibly Leucadendron argenteum and burgundy dyckias in the background. The privet hedges enclosing the front garden are maturing and filling in, screening the garden from the busy street.

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I have to admit I wasn’t too excited about the Gainey ceramic pots on pipes when I first saw them, but with the simplified planting underneath of Myer’s asparagus fern and variegated St. Augustine grass, I’ve become an enthusiastic convert.

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The Crested Ligularia, Farfugium japonicum ‘Crispatum,’ and an equally crested ivy, pairing the frilly with the frillier.

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Agave gypsophila and the Woolly Bush, Adenanthos sericeus. The silver trailer might be Lessingia filanginifolia.

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Bocconia and Frankenia thymifolia engulfing circular stepping stones

Thanks to Dustin, after such a magical evening one can’t help but leave feeling…well, pollinated and fertile with new-found energy and ideas. And just a little hung over the next morning.

*And Annette’s marvelous post can be read on Potted’s blog.

driveby garden; AT&T Center, Downtown LA

You’d be surprised how many “Angelenos” have never visited Downtown Los Angeles, even now that it is surging with vitality again. For decades it was right up there in ignominious competition as one of the most superfluous, neglected downtowns of any major city. Working here in my twenties, lunch breaks always included long walks into the historic core, among the faded movie palaces turned dollar stores and block after block of wonderful buildings I daydreamed of owning and restoring. Well, I couldn’t afford to rent here now. Most of those buildings have gone or are going loft, and the revitalization pushes ever deeper into previous no-go areas like the South Park neighborhood I worked in yesterday, which also holds Julia Morgan’s Mission Revival gem, the still-shuttered Herald Examiner building. The former insurance high-rise I worked in yesterday was built in 1965 and has been given a new facade, LEED certification, and rechristened the AT&T Center. What struck me yesterday were these plantings in steel containers rimming the building. Most of the planters were elegantly and simply planted in low clipped boxwood hedges underplanted with silver ponyfoot, Dichondra argentea, but the designer got a little frisky and kicked up his heels with one stretch of planters.

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This isn’t the frisky business I’m referring to, but Agave villmoriniana and rosemary, very appropriate for hot and dry urban container plantings and frequently seen. The olive trees in the distance are underplanted with sedum, kept neatly within the boundaries of the polygonal cutouts in the sidewalk.

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Here’s where it gets interesting. Ornamental oreganos? Also suitable but rarely seen outside of private gardens, and certainly not large-scale commercial plantings.

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So much of the ground previously given to mediterranean sympaticos like Convolvulus sabatius (Convolvulus mauritanicus) is now given to succulents when new commercial projects are undertaken.

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So it’s a bit of a surprise to find herbaceous stuff in sleek, steel planters.

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Looks like a mint in the foreground and Dorycnium hirsutum in the background

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One of the dark-leaved Geranium x antipodeum varieties like ‘Stanhoe’ or ‘Chocolate Candy’

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Lavender and a few magenta blooms from the “bloody” cranesbill in the foreground, Geranium sanguineum. Very odd sight these days, especially in a modern commercial design. Someone is definitely giving their plant chops some play time.

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More oregano.

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And then there was this (crooked) view down into the atrium which I couldn’t access. a Mondrian painting with pebbles, grasses, succulents and bamboo.
The variegated plant looked from a distance to be hoyas, the silver band in the center I’m pretty sure were hebes, and the maroon bands were succulents, either dyckias or a dark echeveria. There was at least twice again this length of bamboo and geometric shapes. Someone seems to be having an awfully good time with this commercial project.

The upgrade including landscaping was done by the Gensler firm.

consider the leaves

We have Pam at Digging to thank for hosting this monthly celebration of foliage. This month I’m focusing on some of the leaves that impressed me during recent garden travels as well as examples from the back pages of AGO. If July is exposing bare earth in the garden, that’s a pretty good sign to give some enduring foliage a little more consideration.

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Hostas and perilla in a Long Island, NY garden

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Boxwood and Japanese forest grass, hakonechloa, enclose an empty pot in a Long Island, NY garden

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Sasa veitchii against a low fence of rough-cut logs at Longhouse Reserve, Long Island, NY

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The golden creeping jenny, Lysimachia nummularia, in a container contest at Longhouse Reserve

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Bromeliads in the conservatory at Planting Fields Arboretum

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Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

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Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California

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The parterre at the home garden of the owners of Landcraft Environments, Long Island, NY

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A row of succulent-filled urns at Landcraft, Long Island, NY

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Containers filled with Oxalis vulcanicola and succulents, garden designer Rebecca Sweet’s Bay Area garden

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Dudleyas in a container in the Bay Area Testa-Vought garden designed by Bernard Trainor

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Aloe striatula, reddish trunks of Arbutus ‘Marina’ behind a low wall in the Testa-Vought garden.

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Dark-leaved ginger, Zingiber malaysianum, garden designer Dustin Gimbel’s home, Long Beach, California

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Weeping Acacia pendula, Dustin Gimbel’s garden

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Palms underplanted with mounds of mattress vine, Muehlenbeckia axillaris, Huntington Botanical Garden

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Los Gatos, California garden designed by Jarrod Baumann

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Los Gatos, California garden designed by Jarrod Baumann

Bloom Day July 2013

An extravagant display of blooms isn’t the overwhelming impression the garden is making this July, which is pretty typical.

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Though the Pennisetum ‘Skyrocket’ grasses are technically blooming.
In the dimming twilight, the ferny leaves of Selinum wallichianum can just be made out leaning onto Furcraea foetida ‘Mediopicta’ in the foreground.

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And the sideritis is also technically in bloom.

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Solanum marginatum’s white blooms are for all floral intents and purposes invisible.

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And there are blooms you have to move leaves aside to see, like with this little Aristolochia fimbriata. Since it reminds me of a tick, I don’t mind if the flowers stay hidden behind those very cool leaves.

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In the foreground lean in the bleached-out plumes of Chloris virgata. Eryngium pandanifolium tops the pergola in the background

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‘Monch’ asters are responsible for some of that blue.

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And ‘Hidalgo’ penstemon is the tower of lilac blue. So far this is a beautifully erect penstemon that I’d absolutely include in next-year’s garden if it decides to return or maybe seeds around. From Mexico, zoned 9-10, reputedly long-lived and not touchy about drainage issues. On that count, one of the first casualties this summer is the lovely shrub Phylica pubescens, pulled out yesterday. I pruned it lightly when I returned from being away a couple weeks. Immediate decline followed. Never, never prune touchy shrubs mid-summer. Will I ever learn?

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Peachy yarrows like ‘Terracotta’ line the path cutting through the border behind the pergola, now not more than a dog track.

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Salvia chiapensis flowering at the base of the eryngium.

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More closeups of Eryngium pandanifolium, the undisputed rock star of the garden this summer.

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Persicaria amplexicaulis will pretty much own the garden in August.

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In July I’m glad for every Verbena bonariensis I pulled out of the paving and planted into the garden in spring

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One of the “suitcase plants,” Pennisetum ‘Jade Princess.’

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Crithmum maritimum weaving into Senecio viravira. The senecio is starting to throw some more of its creamy blooms after being thoroughly deadheaded about a month ago.

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So far the crithmum has been the most reliable umbellifer to flower through summer. (Selinum wallichianum is struggling. to put it mildly.)
Crithmum with yarrow and Eryngium planum.

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Crithmum, yarrow, leaves of persicaria, calamint, anthemis, agastaches, anigozanthos in the background

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Some peachy Salvia greggii are building size for a late summer show with the grasses.

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I carved off some bits of the ‘Skyrocket’ pennisetum in spring to replace Diascia personata which I found disappointing, and the grass bulked up fast. Its slim tapers move quickly from burgundy to beige.

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Tall, sticky-leaved Cuphea viscosissima seems to love the heat.

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Plectranthus neochilus is starting to bloom heavily, just as nearby Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ slows down after being cut back

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Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ lightly reblooming

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In a border closest to the garage/office, early spring-blooming annuals and flopping penstemons were replaced with Gomphrena ‘Strawberry Fields’
and Gaillardia ‘Oranges & Lemons.’

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Russelia reminds me of a blooming restio, great for texture tumbling around nearby containers. It’s planted in the garden and does well with minimal irrigation.

There’s odds and ends I left out, such as eucomis and the passion flower vine which has been wonderful all summer, but that’s the sketch for July. Sending out solidarity to those suffering in excessive heat, or too little heat if that’s possible, unseasonal drought, too much rain. It’s always something in July! Thanks as always to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Bloom Day on the 15th of every month (and not minding those straggling in a day late).

suitcase plants

Any plant is potentially a suitcase plant as far as I’m concerned, but these agaves and the Euphorbia ammak would present especially prickly challenges. Though I suppose, like anything, where there’s a will, there’s a way. But TSA might be especially touchy about barbed, armed plants, and who knows what Euphorbia ammak might look like on an airport X-ray machine. The suitcase plant I’m talking about is the soft, peachy haze directly behind the potted agaves.

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The misery that is modern, economy-fare air travel still has one very persuasive advantage. And for me that is squeezing in a few plants amongst the dirty laundry at the end of a vacation. (And it’s perfectly legal: see article here.) Within hours after touching down on your local runway, suitcase plants can be unpacking their roots in your garden soil, even while you’re still clearing and popping your eardrums. For me this really brings home the marvels (and somewhat cancels out the indignities) of the Jet Age.

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Agastache ‘Summer Glow,’ purchased at a nursery on Long Island, New York, a few weeks ago, first seen at wholesaler Terra Nova’s display garden the previous year in the Pacific Northwest, now in bloom in my garden. Thank you, Jet Age. For some unknown reason, Terra Nova’s plants are rarely offered locally. Sharing cramped quarters with the agastache were a Plectranthus ‘Emerald Lace,’ Pennisetum ‘Jade Princess,’ and a couple begonias. Long Island grows the most amazing begonias, greenhouse after greenhouse of them.

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Begonias in the conservatory at Planting Fields.

All the plants stoically handled a few extra hours in the suitcase when it missed being loaded onto my plane and arrived a few hours after me. I chose to wait at the airport for the errant luggage, so Marty and I whittled down the hours having breakfast at the cafeteria on the bottom floor of the Encounter, LAX’s iconic George Jetsonish restaurant, until I was reunited with my little stowaways.

Long Island’s many, many nurseries were as seductive as any here in Southern California. All throughout the trip we puzzled over how this small spit of land could support so many upscale nurseries. As one tempting nursery after another whizzed by through the car windows, we cattily speculated whether they support enthusiastic, hands-on gardeners or the garden staff of summer homes. For the nurseries themselves, such distinctions are meaningless.

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Regiments of enormous, burlapped trees at Long Island nurseries, tens of thousands of dollars in inventory. The rope work was enthralling.

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Many of these nurseries were destinations in and of themselves.

To give my suitcase plants the best possible survival chances, I slipped them from their containers, swaddled them in sheets of newspaper (freely available in hotel lobbies), wrapped the bottoms in plastic bags I collected during the trip for this express purpose, and zipped them all up in a cheap, plastic blanket bag that the hotel provided. There was no soil spillage, no dampness issues. I always find bringing home a few plants does help even the score, if only psychologically, where economy air travel is concerned.

the first summer dahlias and a freakish summer rain

I moved the dahlias to the community garden this year and am so very glad I did. Just as in my own small home garden last year, the plant is a sprawling mess, but now I don’t have to look at it daily anymore and can pillage the flowers for vases as much as I like. No matter how many vases I own, it’s always this lab beaker that I grab first. Wide mouth, perfect height. The dahlia is ‘Chat Noir.’ I could easily get very serious about a cutting garden and wished I’d sown some ‘Green Envy’ zinnias this year.

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So my little 10X10 plot is producing exactly three things so far this summer: dahlias, kale, and Trionfo Violetto pole beans. Plus a little basil. I’ve never felt compelled to grow every vegetable A to Z in the summer garden. In fact, I’m late this year with tomatoes, just planting a couple earlier in the week. I admit, it’s la-la land’s long growing season that makes this lackadaiscal attitude possible. The community garden’s disease control rule of thumb is no tomatoes/solanaceae crops left in the ground past December, and none of the solanaceae group (aka nightshade family, including potatoes, eggplant) makes it into the compost piles. The down side of that long growing season and lack of winter chill (and isn’t there always a down side?) is the heightened risk of soil-borne pathogens.

Oh, and it rained today, a rare occurrence in a mediterranean climate, where all the rain (all 12 inches of it!) typically comes in the winter months. On the personal water conservation front, an ongoing domestic discussion since the dishwasher broke is which consumes more resources, hand washing or a dishwasher? I’m finding lots of articles like this to support my pro-dishwasher position. All opinions welcome.

the High Line in June

For about five days in mid-June a small group of us toured gardens on Long Island, NY, with the last day, Sunday, dedicated to visiting the High Line and the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, which seemed a perfect ending to the trip. I’d never visited the BBG before, and the High Line had opened a new extension since my two previous visits. But facing daunting logistics, including having to leave Brooklyn late on Sunday and find my way to a new hotel near JFK for the one night before the 6 a.m. flight on Monday morning, and squeezing in returning the rental car at some point, all these details broke me and I opted not to go. Instead I drove from Long Island to the hotel near JFK, checked in, drove to JFK to return the rental car, took the Air Train and then a hotel shuttle back to the hotel, where around 4 p.m. I called Marty (my husband) to let him know I had triumphantly mastered all these details, including navigating through some horrific New York traffic. Marty said well done, stay where you are, find something to eat, and don’t miss the 6 a.m flight Monday morning.

I then called MB Maher (my son) to deliver the same triumphant account, and he said, Are you crazy? You’re in New York and skipping the High Line?

I protested that it was 4:30 p.m., I was exhausted and hungry, having eaten nothing but raisins and peanuts all day, that the High Line’s website said the park closes at 7 (which I misread. It closes at 11 p.m during summer), and there was no way I could make the push to see the High Line this late in the day. Mitch wasn’t at all impressed with my recitation of timetables and repeated the Are you crazy? bit again, and I had to admit, yes, I would be crazy not to go.

So I found the hotel concierge, and within eight minutes of asking him how this cab thing worked, I was sitting in one and heading into Manhattan. Very slowly, in horrific traffic. In Los Angeles a cab ride experience comes along about as frequently as Haley’s Comet, and I had absolutely no frame of reference for suitable behavior, his or mine. My cab driver had never heard of the High Line, so I handed him my iPhone with a map. On the way, moving incrementally in mostly stalled traffic, I had grave doubts that the cab driver and I had successfully negotiated my destination and was certain only of the utter folly of the entire misadventure. But the traffic did ultimately thin out and before sunset we were in Chelsea, driving under those unmistakable railway trestles. I was chagrined to have doubted the driver, even though only in silence, tipped him heavily ($70 total), and arrived at the High Line by 6 p.m. And, yes, I would have been crazy not to go.

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Doubly crazy because the eremurus were still in bloom

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As were masses of Knautia macedonia

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Pink astilbe shockingly paired with orange milkweed

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With the sedums just coming into bloom

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Baptisia alba and liatris just coloring up

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So exciting to see Dalea purpurea in bloom. I just tucked a small dalea into my own garden.

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Echinacea species, maybe E. pallida

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Stachys ‘Hummelo’

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I have read that some locals consider the High Line too successful, and accuse the park’s gravity pull of distorting the surrounding neighborhood.

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The resulting construction boom I’ve been reading about since the park opened is everywhere in progress, and the park does become clotted with people at its narrowest walkways. But I haven’t been among this many excited people since the last hockey game I attended. There is an unmistakable sense among the strollers that they’ve arrived at a very special place and are participating in and affirming something truly wonderful. Camera phones clicked and visitors marveled at common plants like echinacea and other robust prairie plants and grasses that held their own against Manhattan’s skyline, something the typical park fare of bedding plants could never do. The dynamism of the seasonal plantings continually offers up new associations and perspectives and endless plant/city “combinations,” to use garden writing vernacular.

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Eremurus, dalea, and liatris

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Are the gigantic leaves inula?

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I’m not sure what allium has been planted, but it’s lovely even with the color drained away

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It was a hot, sticky New York evening, but the subway was icy cool on the way back to the hotel, and I was tucked in my room with a cold can of Fosters for dinner by 10 p.m. I did make the early flight (just barely) and settled in a middle seat between two largish men. Catching up on movies seemed a sensible option, and a choice offered was Steven Soderbergh’s lastest film Side Effects — small scenes of which were filmed at, yes, the High Line. This park has definitely arrived.

a much anticipated visit to the garden of Shirley Watts

I’ve been home for over a week, but I left my heart in….okay, not my heart, because that’s solidly esconced here at home in the LBC, but I think I may have left my sensorium in San Francisco. On the nearby island of Alameda to be exact, in artist and garden designer Shirley Watts’ garden, which undulates and swirls with cultural references, both pop and classical, science, language and poetry, but in teasingly subtle and allusive ways. Shirley has that rare gift of making a space look undesigned, inevitable. Lush and moody, the garden doesn’t give up its secrets all at once and welcomes and rewards the inquisitive. Intimate and intensely personal, humble really in its refreshing lack of assertive, California-style hardscape and “garden features,” it enfolds and envelopes, quietly offering up much to stimulate the eye and mind or just a tranquil place to become lost in thought. Confident, playful, simultaneously artless and artful, relaxed and rigorous, it’s a garden that asks you to peer in closer, look behind, into and around, that engages as much as it restores. A Joseph Cornell shadowbox of a garden. I’ve been wanting to see this garden for ages, and fortuitously Shirley and Emmanuel graciously agreed to open their home and garden Thursday night for a pre-Fling reception. I’ll change the Fling channel soon, I promise, but couldn’t resist offering a look at Shirley’s garden in repose, sans partiers, the prequel to Thursday night. Photos by MB Maher, who also paparazzi’d Thursday night’s festivities here.

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If there’s any doubt that this is the home of a supremely confident artist, constantly tweaking and playing with symmetry and classical expectations, the back view of the recent addition clarifies matters. The black pots are terracotta painted with chalkboard paint.

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A bracing juxtaposition to the exterior view of the addition is the traditional wainscotting, carpets and chandelier of the interior.

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The home and garden of a woman informed by and comfortable in any century.

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Rosa glauca tapping at the window

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The lanterns send out their glowing messages at night, whether fanciful images of coleoptera

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or words from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. (Don’t all garden makers veer dangerously close to the same impulses as Dr. Frankenstein?)

Below are some of my photos from Thursday at the kick-off party

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shoes of MB Maher

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Leslie Bennett of Star Apple Edible Gardens and one of the nicest people at the Fling. Swag from the Fling included her new book, The Beautiful Edible Garden

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Behind the vellum, the wooden sculptures and a screen filled with mussel shells.

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Though she doesn’t make a big deal of it, Shirley is a superbly knowledgeable plantswoman with a great eye for layering the plants of a garden down to the smallest detail. Everyone asked about this plant, Mathiasella bupleuroides, rare and not easy to grow (don’t ask). Shirley claims the opposite, that it’s not formidable at all, and said it’s been blooming like this since February. Mathiasella is a designer cocktail of a plant, equal parts angelica, euphorbia, and hellebore.

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Mathiasella bupleuroides, over 5 feet in height

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A wavy-leaved mullein, possibly Verbascum undulatum

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Calla lily tangled in a succulent’s bloom

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I saw this mimulus later on the trip at Annie’s Annuals & Perennials

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Begonia grandis

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One of the hallmarks of Shirley’s work is the subtly elegant use of salvage. She doesn’t hit you over the head with repurposing, but tucked away against a fence you might discern a screen of abstract shapes, the cast-offs from an industrial machinist’s template.

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A rose that reminds me of the Austin rose ‘Othello’

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To scent an open summer window, Nicotiana sylvestris

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A rusted urn filled with Echeveria nodulosa

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When acanthus blooms, a garden instantly becomes timeless

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Possibly the serrated leaves of Eryngium agavifolium

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The owl Emmanual liberated from the Reims cathedral in France

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The visage of Orlando Bloom broods over the garden. Shirley is fearless in sourcing pieces for her garden design work, and provenance can include old movie billboards.

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I’ll close with some images of a garden Shirley worked on for a client that shows traces of the same themes as her own garden. Photos by MB Maher.

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Along with her garden design work, Shirley has recently been acting as co-curator of an ongoing collaboration between artists and the University of California Botanical Garden at Berkeley entitled “Natural Discourse.” You can search AGO for posts related to Natural Discourse, such as this one here.

To read more about Shirley Watts’ work, check out Stephen Orr’s Tomorrow’s Garden and Zahid Sardar’s New Garden Design, both listed with Mrs. Dalloway’s Literary & Garden Arts.

(Edited 7/10/13 and reposted. Shirley confirmed the rose is indeed ‘Othello’ and that the owl “did not come from the Reims cathedral. It came from a 17th century villa across the street from where Emmanuel grew up. They were tearing it down for condos.”)