Monthly Archives: April 2015

friday clippings 4/24/15 (SoCal Spring Garden Show weekend)


Southern California’s Spring Garden Show started yesterday, 4/23/15, and continues through Sunday, 4/26/15.
It’s always held in the enclosed “Home Store Wing” of the South Coast Plaza.
This wing includes, among many other stores, Anthropologie, West Elm, Z Gallerie, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware — you know them by their envy-inducing catalogues.
Scuttlebutt at the show today suggested that these stores, while appreciating the customers the show has historically driven to their doors, decided this year to thin that plant-mad traffic out a bit.
Fewer plant vendors were allowed to participate so there would be more breathing room around the stores.
In another twist, the stores partnered with local designers to create the show gardens.
How did it all pan out? Judge for yourself.

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And, relax, of course there were still tillandsias! There just weren’t multiple vendors with tillandsias. Redundancy was verboten this year.

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And there was still a sexy agave or two (Agave guiengola ‘Striata’)

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Orchid lovers still had lots to ogle. The epidendrums, or reed orchids, never miss a show.

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A very lush and happy Abutilon megapotamicum grown on standard was in attendance.

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As were a few bromeliad tables. This vendor had their flowers cut for a bouquet.

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Succulents were fairly well represented. I’m always surprised at how beautiful a gasteria is in bloom.

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Pottery

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But where were the really cool plants, the juicy show stuff?
I was on the prowl for the Flame Pea, Chorizema cordatum, which I had just seen at the Disney Concert Hall garden yesterday.
Up and down escalators to three floors, and no Flame Pea. Fine, I’ll just head over to the B&D Lilies table…okay, maybe not this year.
Admittedly, I was a bit let down at first at the reduced number of plant vendors.

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So I headed over to Dustin Gimbel’s collaboration with Crate and Barrel and immediately cheered up.
So much of what I see in his own garden and shapes he’s been mulling over in his work came through in this display…if not my photos.
People, these are plant show photos, weird light, funny angles, arms and legs blocking shots, etc.
That’s a tiny glimpse of a majestic, over 10-foot Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’ on the right.

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I loved people-watching through this view

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More of that blue/green screen, carefully sanded to let paint and wood bleed into each other.

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Like stories within stories, Dustin always plays with visual framing devices.

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Wands of hesperaloe weave through the octogon frames, some of which looked off kilter and precariously balanced.
Just another trick of the eye. All were sturdily fixed in place.

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A hesperaloe to keep an eye out for, with heavily textured leaves and frothy blooms, ‘Pink Parade.’

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Land Workshop’s collaboration with West Elm.
By and large, the designers all used simple materials, clean shapes.
And studying the materials used to build the displays was a crash course in effective screens and fencing sourced straight from the hardware store.
The corner is formed by pallets on end, the open top used as a planter.
The slapdash screening woven with wooden slats reminded me a bit of Stephen Glassman’s work with bamboo.

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Behind the gentleman was a short flight of stairs leading to a small sitting area

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A screen of aluminum pipes, painted in pastel shades, planted with Senecio vitalis.

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Another crazy angled overhead shot to show how this small area fit together.

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At ground level was a sweet mosaic table, potted plants, and a raised bar/dining area out of frame
This display garden was opposite the Apple store, and foot traffic was very heavy around the perimeter.

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Another display I liked was designer Camille Beehler’s collaboration with Pottery Barn.
I was particularly interested in the walls, the puzzle-fitted cement backer boards behind the couches for one wall, corrugated siding for another.

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Potted palo verde tree, couches, bar cart, corrugated screen

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Multiples of blooming Aloe striata in square black planters on pavers edged in river stones

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My humble critique? While this show may have stinted on plants, the designers came up with loads of good ideas to fool around with at home.
And, mercifully, there was a welcome absence of over-the-top outdoor kitchens/saunas/fireplaces, etc.
Next year I’m hoping that a better balance can be achieved that accommodates space for plant vendors, good design, and the needs of the stores themselves.


eat your lilies

How many times have we browsed through plant catalogue descriptions padded with chatty, ethnobotanic non sequiturs like such-and-such is an edible delicacy in its country of origin?
Impatient to discover whether the object of your desire is frost hardy, does such arcane information sometimes strike you as an insufferable display of useless erudition?

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Eat this? Don’t you dare. My only lily this year, ‘Black Charm’ cozying up to aeoniums for support.

Take lilies, for example. Catalogues would have you believe that someone, somewhere, is growing lilies not for those soul-stirring flowers and scent but to eat the bulb.

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And of course it’s all true. I was recently vividly reminded that eating some plants that we consider only as ornamentals isn’t a practice remote in time or place.
All these photos were taken last month at my favorite shopping destination when I work in Koreatown, Zion Market.
(Lily bulbs used for cooking are the “Lanzhou lily (Lilium davidii var. unicolor), which was mainly grown in the region around Lanzhou, Gansu province, Longya lily (L. brownii), which was mainly grown at Hunan and Jiangxi province, and Yixing lily (L. lancifolium), which was mainly grown in Jiangsu province,” source here.)

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I knew these leaves as Chyrsanthemum coronarium, when I tried growing them for cut flowers, now Glebionis coronaria

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Platycodon grandiflorus, the Balloon Flower, doraji in Korean. Lots of ways to go with this, including boiled and dried.

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Campanulas are typically considered the bellflowers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is platycodon as well.

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Platycodon grown as an ornamental, photo via Monrovia

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There does seem to be a Campanulaceae slant to this edible theme.
I did have a codonopsis phase once, spurred on by Heronswood’s wide selection under Dan Hinkley.
Very dainty vines with tiny, subtle bellflowers that, as far as I could tell, hated life in So. Calif. Eating it would be the perfect revenge.

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Leaving plants behind for the moment. Examples like this always make me wonder about that first pioneer who urged, “Try it! Tastes just like __________!”

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I just love that word, bracken. It’s just so, I don’t know, Wuthering Heights. (It’s a large fern.)

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Crithmum maritimum

The blurred line between edibles and ornamentals shouldn’t be such a surprise to me.
I’ve long grown two well-known edibles, the sea kale, Crambe maritima, and samphire, Crithmum maritimum, not in the vegetable plot but among agaves and grasses.

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New, powder-blue leaves of Crambe maritima in March

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And who just went through an extensive search, at no little cost, to source the rare variegated Tuscan kale? That would be me.
I still haven’t decided whether to eat it or worship it.
(Territorial Seed Company carries small plants of “Kosmic Kale” — it doesn’t come true from seed.)
Edible or ornamental? Depends on the eye, palate, and culture of the beholder, and we know those three things are in constant flux.

Zion Market is located roughly between Normandie and Vermont on Wilshire Boulevard.
It’s improbably tucked away in a new mall at the back of the Brutalist-style Equitable Plaza. The main entrance is on Sixth Street.
You could spend a half hour in the kimchee section alone.
And if you want to try your hand at home-made Korean tacos made famous by Roy Choi and his ground-breaking Kogi food truck, you can find your bulgogi marinade here.
I’d been raving about this market to Marty for some time (oh! the aisle-long, mulit-hued bags of rice display!) and finally was able to show him around recently.
It was gratifying to see Marty utterly gobsmacked too. The fresh fish section is a wonder, and the dried fish section is no slouch either.
We’re huge fans of the anchovy, especially in pasta, and there were enormous bags of dried anchovies for I know not what purpose, but we’ll have to figure something out.

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photo via The Los Angeles Times

A few blocks from Zion Market, Roy Choi opened up The Line Hotel.
I love how the greenhouse-inspired restaurant emphasizes the source of all our food, of life itself, plants.
I’ve peeked in the door, but the busy lunch crowds have scared me away so far.
Maybe the The Commissary is serving up some tasty crown daisy.

my mom’s sweet peas

thanks, Mom, for sending me home with sweet peas last night.
As insurance, in the fall I planted sweet peas at my mom’s house as well as my community garden plot.
I neglected to water the sweet peas at my plot the entire month of March. I pulled those withered vines up a couple weeks ago.

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But the family Sweet Pea Project is a rousing success. I plant them in her little raised bed Marty built, she waters them, cuts them. We both swoon over their scent.
The sweet pea vines will be just about done producing when temperatures are warm enough to plant her raised bed with tomatoes for the summer family Tomato Project.
Sounds diabolical of me, doesn’t it? I prefer to think of it as a healthy family symbiosis.

(Way to go, Mom!)

Scheming for more planting space is nothing new. As an apartment dweller, I once rented a neighbor’s empty backyard to a) keep my dog and b) plant cut flowers to sell to restaurants.
The cut flower project barely paid for the seeds, but my dog had a place to stay two doors down, and old Al said the flowers reminded him of his wife’s garden, which had died with her.
Now that I lack both the time and energy (and water!), the neighbor’s yards are safe from my covetous gaze.

So what’s going on this weekend? My weekend plans always start out full of amibition: work in the community garden, make it to Fullerton Arboretum’s Green Scene.
And I’d love to hit the Clarement Eclectic/Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden tour on Sunday too. And the Sunday flea market…two days is never enough.
Keep an eye on Dates to Remember for more upcoming sales and tours.

I know I never mention the weather unless it’s to complain, so for a change let me just say that it’s been stupendously beautiful.
Soft breezes, mild sunshine, the scent of jasmine everywhere, almost overpowering when stopped at traffic lights near medians planted with star jasmine.
Have a great weekend.

Wednesday clippings 4/15/15 (water on the brain)

Finally, a chance to spend some time with the blog again. There’s been lots of reading to catch up on, after the guv dropped that bombshell. (Pass the almonds.*)

One of the best sources of information I’ve found was right there on my blogroll, journalist Emily Green’s Chance of Rain.
In concert with KCET, Emily is writing an amazingly detailed series bristling with helpful links and step-by-step instructions for those wondering what to do with their lawns.
Definitely read Emily’s After the Lawn series before making a call to any lawn removal company that’s eager to snap up your rebate dollars in exchange for wall-to-wall gravel.

Amidst all the finger pointing and accusations, at least we’re beginning to talk about our water situation.
Ironically, after decades of denial, we just can’t seem to shut up about it now.

This entry under the Dot Earth blog at The New York Times rounds up dozens of articles for background reading.

And here’s a great interactive map on water use across the state, city by city, courtesy of The New York Times (“How Water Cuts Could Affect Every Community in California“)

And who knew that a century-old, squatter’s rights mentality governs ground water for agricultural use? Emily Green deciphers the state’s arcane water rights here: (Whose Water Is It Anyway?)

So, yes, I’ve been reading up on the politics of the recent water restrictions. Because it’s not like we need more information on how to design dry gardens.
Reaching into my bookshelf, I can pull out Beth Chatto‘s The Dry Garden, a chronicle of the 30-year-old garden she’s made in East Anglia, England, supported on rainfall alone.
(Which if I remember correctly is, at 30 inches, at least double our 15-inch average pre-drought.)

Then there’s Bob Perry’s landmark resource Landscape Plants for California Gardens.

More recently, there’s the great California resource Reimagining the California Lawn: Water-conserving Plants, Practices, and Designs

Lambley Nursery in Australia is also planting display gardens sustained on mostly rainwater.

At home I’ve been tweaking the garden the past few years to accommodate drier conditions anyway, and our water bill is consistently below average.
Granted, smaller properties like ours will have an easier time adjusting to restrictions.
What lawn we inherited when buying the house was removed over 20 years ago. I’ve never been emotionally attached to closely cropped, bright green turf.
But both neighbors to the east, who cherish their front lawns, have been quietly irrigating them with grey water for years.

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Berkheya purpurea, brought home from Cistus last summer, is a riveting, prickly daisy out of South Africa.
One of countless examples, native and exotic, of gorgeous plants blithely indifferent to dry conditions.
The literature cites berkheya’s habitat as stream banks, so we’ll see how tough it really is.
Once established, anything tap-rooted has a big advantage.

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Hymenolepis parviflora, a dry-tolerant shrub with chartreuse umbels. Nature is a genius.
In the past few years a lot of perennial/biennial/annual umbels have passed through the garden, the toughest probably being cenolophium, melanoselinum, yet even they needed pampering.
This one, however, is the real deal. Hymenolepis is a short-lived shrub from So. Africa that will probably need to be renewed from cuttings in a few years. I’m cool with that.

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Lily ‘Black Charm.’ Fortunately lilies love container life. I find it makes better water sense to grow them in pots to provide the even moisture they crave than in the ground.
The bucket collecting water from the shower is a steady source for container plants now.

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Seeing the Desert Bird of Paradise in rampant bloom wedged into the heat-reflected, bone-dry parkways along Long Beach City College set off a county-wide search for a source.

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The City College’s Hort. Department sold all their stock at their recent plant sale, but one local nursery had a couple plants.
I replaced Salvia ‘Amistad’ with Caesalpinia gilliesii. I know Sunset is marketing this salvia as waterwise, but I’d planted mine far from the hose bib, and it was showing some stress.

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Verbascum in Dustin Gimbel‘s garden, seed collected on his recent trip to Italy. He gave me two of these wavy-leaved mulleins, possibly V. undulatum.
Verbascums are classic perennials for dry gardens.

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Water garden out, agave in. Formerly a small water garden, now a cache pot for Agave franzosinii.
Surrounded by the unstoppable globe mallow Sphaeralcea ‘Newleaze Coral,’ a hybrid developed at Hopley’s in the UK.
Planted last fall, I’ve cut back and thinned the globe mallow three times since mid winter.
It’s never stopped blooming and, because of its vigor, I purposely avoid adding water.

One last point, an important one to keep in mind.
It’s no big surprise that trees are a constituency without much representation at the water restriction negotiations table.
I vigorously applaud Emily Green’s emphasis on prioritizing irrigation for our trees.

Landscape reform is sweeping California more as an emergency response to drought and less as a considered piece of town planning. Representatives from three of the region’s largest water providers, a City of Los Angeles arborist, and a Los Angeles County botanist interviewed for this article all seemed surprised when asked if they had consulted one another about the impact on the region’s urban canopy before moving to dry out the lawns in which most of the trees are planted.” After the Lawn Part I

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*”[A]ccording to estimates by the Public Policy Institute of California, more water was used to grow almonds in 2013 than was used by all homes and businesses in San Francisco and Los Angeles put together. Even worse, most of those almonds are then exported — which means, effectively, that we are exporting water. Unless you’re the person or company making money off this deal, that’s just nuts.” – “Making Sense of Water

poppy days

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The Dwarf Breadseed Poppy is carrying the banner for spring here. Quite silky banners too.

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No stranger to the blog, posts on this poppy go back to 2010. The above photo is from 2011.

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And no disrespect intended for California’s state flower, the poppy Eschscholzia californica, but Papaver setigerum’s long neck and slim profile make it the perfect poppy for my garden.

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Both poppies have evolved in mediterranean winter wet/summer dry climates and will naturalize in your Southern California garden.
If I had a bigger garden, there’d be lots more California native wildflowers joining in, but as it is, a few of these non-native poppies will have to signify spring.

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I wish this native thistle was half as exuberant, the very touchy, hard-to-establish Cirsium occidentale.
I found this as a tiny seedling on the compost pile, just as a plant I bought in fall was keeling over in winter.
Proof that at one point it flowered in the garden, even though I remember only the failures.

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The Poppy of Troy, another of its monikers, needs no coddling, self-sowing its slim tap root into the tightest quarters.

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It is the perfect spring guest, striking up sparkling conversations every year wherever it sows itself, departing quietly before the heat of summer.
But not before knocking over that salt shaker of a seed pod, sowing the way for the spring party next year.

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All About Evie

All of my cats have been garden cats, but none more so than Evie. The usual drill for my cats has been lounge all day in the garden, then come into the house at night.
Not Evie. She insisted on sleeping in the office (former garage), whose screenless window on the garden was always left open just for her.
Evie’s last day was spent in the garden over the weekend, so I’ve put together a little tribute to my sweet little garden cat.
She was born here at home some 17ish years ago and never spent a day anywhere but in her garden, so she was frequently spotted on these blog pages.

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(You can read Evie’s one-and-only guest post here.)