Monthly Archives: December 2015

it’s oh so quiet

The house has emptied out, and I can’t help thinking how oh so quiet it’s become after the holidays.
Yes, I do have a tendency to privately editorialize on circumstances using song titles.
(I thought Bjork wrote the song, but I see now it’s a cover from 1951 by American singer Betty Hutton, written by an Austrian composer and a German lyricist. What an international effort!)
Now’s probably a good time, before 2015 ends, to thank another international effort, Wikipedia, a resource I use constantly.
It feels so good to contribute (in my case, cash, not knowledge) and thereby become a small part of this endlessly enriching project.
It’s as though the library at Alexandria is being rebuilt again, stone by stone, entry by entry. Without papyrus this time.

Taking my crazy musings out of a quiet house into the garden this morning…

 photo 1-P1010077.jpg

I am shocked at how lush Lotus jacobaeus becomes with cold weather. Cold weather makes me feel puckered and dry, not at all lush.
(I wrote about this lotus previously here, quoting liberally again from, you know it, Wikipedia.)
Behind the lotus, the Mexican Grass Tree (Dasylirion longissimum) seems to have survived being uprooted from the front garden for life in a container, away from all that jacaranda debris.

 photo 1-P1010071.jpg

On the other side of the dasylirion, buds of Aloe ‘Safari Sunrise’ are coloring up.

 photo 1-P1010075.jpg

Coloring up faster than the buds on Aloe cameronii. Little Aloe conifera on the left has a bud too.

 photo 1-P1010050.jpg

A nice, quiet lull…until the New Year celebrations, which our neighborhood takes very seriously. Ba-boom! I hope you’re enjoying the holidays.

Wallaby, the Nursery Dog

When I last visited Austalian Native Plants Nursery this past June, I had the good fortune of meeting this little one:

 photo 7834457_1451164395.3708_funddescription.jpg

Jo O’Connell, the owner of ANPN, is devoted to the Blue Heeler breed, which originated out of her homeland Australia. I’ve only encountered this breed twice, coincidentally both times at plant nurseries, and was immediately impressed with their charm and intelligence. Like my corgi, the Blue Heelers were bred to herd cattle, so I have a natural sympathy for this breed’s work ethic and single-mindedness.
Jo was over-the-moon excited the day of my visit about her brand-new puppy.

I was shocked to learn that young Wallaby went missing over the Christmas holiday. Thankfully, she’s been found but has sustained serious injuries.

In Jo’s words:

Dear Friends of Australian Native Plants Nursery,

My beloved Australian Cattle Dog pup, Wallaby, was hit by car on Christmas Day. She is my “nursery greeter,” loved by everyone who visits the Nursery.

After being taken to the Ojai Humane Society and then to a vet in Thousand Oaks, she is now at Ventura Surgery Center in critical care. We thought we had lost her, but she is breathing independently now and the vet says she could make a full recovery.

She has a fractured pelvis, fractured hip, broken ribs and a collapsed lung. Despite being in obvious pain, she was visibly relieved and happy to see me when I visited her this morning and evening.

Wallaby is a strong young dog so she will pull through. But the vet’s bills are racking up and are going to be over $12 thousand (US).

My good friends have made a GoFundMe page to help with expenses.
We would so grateful if you were able to 1) donate to Wallaby’s recovery and 2) share the fundraising campaign with your contacts.

Please click on any of the pictures of Wallaby to donate and for more information.

Thank you so much,


You can go here to help get this little nursery dog back up on her paws and greeting customers again at Australian Native Plants Nursery.

Occasional Daily Weather Report; winter solstice

Happy Winter Solstice! Apparently, the place to be this shortest day of the year is Stonehenge.
Here’s the personal, always emotional weather report: After a drizzly Saturday, a soft rain started falling again yesterday afternoon.
All of which is the kind of gentle preparation the parched soil needs to absorb the predicted torrents of El Nino, due to arrive sometime in the new year.
For a few months, the garden will be off life support. At last the hose can be coiled up and stowed, one less tripping hazard. Not to be a jinx or anything, but hello, rainy season.
The U.S. Geological Survey noted as of October 5, 2015, that “California’s 2015 and 2014 Water Years, which ended September 30, 2015, were the warmest years on record.
2014 was the third driest year on record. On April 1, 2015, the California Department of Water Resources measured the statewide water content of Sierra snowpack at five percent of average for April 1st
.” (California’s “water year” runs from Oct. 1 to May 31.)

Looking through old December blog posts, there’s lots of photos celebrating the seasonal return of moisture.

 photo P1011470-002.jpg

Cussonia gamtoosensis, December 2013


Leucadendron salignum ‘Blush,’ December 2010


Mangave ‘Bloodspot,’ December 2010


Echeverias, December 2010



Tibouchina heteromalla, December 2010


Euphorbia characias, December 2010


Canna ‘Bengal Tiger,’ December 2010


Canna ‘Intrigue,’ December 2010


Sedum nussbaumerianum, December 2010


Agave attenuata, December 2010


Musa ‘Siam Ruby,’ December 2010

I wish I had a river I could skate away on (reprise december 2013)

This post from 2013 holds remarkably true for for this holiday, except yesterday at the flea market it was chilly enough for an extra sweater.
And I did start a couple batches of cookies about 4 a.m. this morning:

Digging out from under piles of work, with holiday prep woefully inadequate to date, I’ve been daydreaming, romanticizing really, what I could do with a pair of ice skates and a frozen river. The reality is, in Los Angeles it was too hot yesterday for an extra sweater over a T-shirt. But I can’t complain. (I have a neighbor who uses that as his constant rejoinder to “How are you”? Always he gives the calm response, with a philosophical shrug and smile, “I can’t complain.” I’ve been trying on the phrase for size, but still need a lot more practice with it.)

 photo 1e157e00-e2a8-4a32-b01a-27ddb415a690.jpg

Amsterdam’s frozen canals in 2012

 photo 93507a1c-b8d9-4a42-9f55-a734e936fd5e.jpg

From a 2012 Huffington Post piece.

And just because a daydreaming procrastinator loves company, here’s a link to an article on the world’s best ice skating from Four Seasons Magazine. Note the comment from Patty in Davis, California: “Half way between Montreal & Quebec City is a privately owned labyrinth of zambonied ice paths through the woods totaling 12km. This is the largest non rink ice skating in the world. It is called The Labyrinth du Domaine Enchanteur. It is absolutely amazing, an ice skaters mecca!! See for yourself, well off the beaten path, no crowds here. These people are beekeepers and have this in the winter along with ice fishing to support their livestock and bees.”

Someone is skating through snowy woods on The Labyrinth du Domaine Enchanteur today. My speed and distance will be dictated by the wheels on this office chair. But I can’t complain. And I’m a terrible ice skater anyway.

Origanum ‘Rotkugel’ (or ‘Herrenhausen’)

I’ve often described this plant, what I’ve erroneously believed to be a calamint, as “oregano-esque.”

 photo 1-P1010021.jpg

chilly morning today

Checking out High Country Gardens’ current sale offerings, I’m now fairly certain that I can drop the “esque.”
This plant was shipped to me as Calamintha nepeta ‘Gottlieb Friedkund,’ but judging by HCG’s photo, its true identity is either Origanum ‘Rotkugel’ or ‘Herrenhausen.’
I’ve grown calamints before, so I know their small-flowered, twiggy ways, and this one just never seemed to fit the mold.
But because there’s not a lot of photos available, the misidentification has been surprisingly prolonged.

 photo P1016853.jpg

The “oregano-esque” blooms in July. The dusky bracts give a good impersonation of a miniature Joe-Pye Weed.
(From High Country Gardens:
Rotkugel is one of the very best ornamental oreganos that blooms in mid-to late summer with a profusion of flower heads filled with small bright pink flowers.
A fantastic perennial for feeding bees and butterflies

 photo 1-P1010024.jpg

Threading around the base of Euphorbia atropurpurea.
I was just mentioning in the last post how valuable small-scale, creeping plants can be, and I never have a roster of them as deep as I’d like.
This oregano is just the scale of ground cover I need in my small garden, where it’s evergreen. ‘Rotkugel’ was introduced to the U.S. by Dan Hinkley as superior to ‘Herrenhausen.’

 photo 1-P1010026.jpg

The oregano and Grevillea ‘Mt. Tamboritha’ are getting increasingly chummy, but so far seem to be matched in vigor.

 photo P1019557.jpg

In bloom last July.
Mystery solved, sort of.

streetside succulent garden

Some lucky neighborhoods have stimulating examples to study of successful front gardens made without a blade of lawn.
This example is in my hometown, Long Beach, Calif, coastal zone 10, western exposure, December 2015, drought-stricken, irrigation restrictions imposed since last spring.
The garden looks to be of a mature enough age where offsets of original plants have been added to infill and increase the size of individual plant colonies.
Drifts of massed plants, whether herbaceous or succulent, enable strong rhythmic patterns to emerge.
Replanting front gardens that were designed to hold flat planes of lawn is undeniably tricky.
The process needs tinkering and fiddling as some plants fail and others succeed, or the vigorous overrun slower growers. (It’s called “making a garden.”)
The dark mulch on the lower right covers a brand-new landscape next-door dotted with tiny succulents of uniform size, mostly small kinds like echeverias that will take years to fill in.
The garden on the left benefits from big, statuesque plants like ponytail palms, Furcraea macdougalii and Euphorbia ammak, now reaching mature sizes.
There’s also shrubby stuff as a backdrop, like Salvia apiana and Echium candicans, along with the shrub-like succulent Senecio amaniensis.

 photo 1-_MG_3879.jpg

Near sunset, the darkened sky was hinting at the rain to come later.

 photo 1-P1019964.jpg

In this photo alone, I spy several kinds of agaves, including desmettiana, macroacantha, bracteosa, parryi, ‘Blue Glow.’
Panels of small-scale ground covers knit the rosettes together.

 photo 1-P1019969.jpg

I like the careful buildup of heights and volumes.

 photo 1-P1019956.jpg

With aloes nestled against agaves. I think the owner has tucked in Salvia nemerosa here, too, for summer bloom.
I also noted some large, shrubby salvias against the house, what looked like the mexicana hybrid ‘Limelight.’

 photo 1-P1019951.jpg

Agaves ‘Blue Glow’ and possibly stricta.

 photo 1-P1019945.jpg

Kalanchoe grandiflora and Euphorbia tirucalli

 photo 1-P1019952.jpg

Good winter color on the Sticks on Fire. We’ve occasionally dipped into the 40s in December.

 photo 1-P1019972.jpg

On the opposite side of the central path is a beautiful specimen of Euphorbia ammak, a clump of pedilanthus, opuntia, and needle-leaved agaves, possibly geminiflora, stricta or striata.
One of the shrubs as tall as the euphorbia is an overgrown Echium candicans, which has been sheared into a hedge and functions now as a boundary between the two properties.
A young Aloe marlothii is in the foreground. The light was just about gone at this point.

 photo 1-P1019932.jpg

Not sure whether this is Agave stricta or geminiflora, but it’s set off wonderfully against the rocks and Santa Rita prickly pear.

 photo 1-P1019933.jpg

Agave potatorum with lots more pups tucked under its skirt of leaves.

 photo 1-P1019978.jpg

There’s a huge, blooming-size clump of what can only be a puya along the main path to the front door.

 photo 1-P1019944.jpg

Puya, right?

 photo 1-P1019917.jpg

Another look at that inflorescence as the sky darkens. Big leaves of flapjack kalanchoes and Kalanchoe synsepela in the foreground.

 photo 1-P1019939.jpg

Just a great source of inspiration for the neighborhood.

Senecio tropaeolifolius

Every once in a while I find a familiar plant grown with such sympathy for the plant’s innate qualities and needs that it feels like I’m really seeing it for the first time.

 photo 1-P1019902.jpg

Sunset Nursery, at Sunset Boulevard near Hillhurst, had this small pot of Senecio tropaeolifolius staged high on a large urn.
And this simple composition competed for attention with a very good selection of succulents of all stripes surrounding it and still managed to stand out.
If you find yourself at the eastern end of Sunset Boulevard, stop in and have a look around at this excellent neighborhood nursery.

let’s get potted for the holidays

Doesn’t that sound like a great idea? Oh, right, there’s still shopping to do.
Malls, catalogues…these holiday shopping options for me are usually a) nerve-wracking b) spirit crushing c) oftentimes both.
I’ve been working up near Griffith Park, off Los Feliz Boulevard, which in my personal geography means a mandatory visit to Potted.
In Los Angeles, Potted is the savvily curated, arrestingly displayed shop of stylish presents I want to give and/or receive. Home of the Circle Pot, City Planter, etc, etc.
And they’re having a 20 percent sale off one item December 11th through the 13th. If you can’t pop in, there’s still plenty of time to order online.
Here’s a quick look at their shop tricked out for the holidays, which I must say did wonders for my flagging holiday cheer.

 photo 1-P1019845-001.jpg

 photo 1-P1019858-001.jpg

 photo 1-P1019839-001.jpg

 photo 1-P1019863-001.jpg

 photo 1-P1019861-001.jpg

This little treasure came home with me.

 photo 1-P1019862-001.jpg

 photo 1-P1019869-001.jpg

 photo 1-P1019816-001.jpg

 photo 1-P1019851.jpg

 photo 1-P1019849-001.jpg

 photo 1-P1019853-001.jpg

 photo 1-P1019883-001.jpg

Where else are you going to find a spiral aloe pillow?

 photo 1-P1019896.jpg

(This California frame/planter just made the LA Times list of “13 enchanting gift ideas for house and home”)

 photo 1-P1019893-001.jpg

 photo 1-P1019875-001.jpg

 photo 1-P1019885.jpg

 photo 1-P1019882-001.jpg

 photo 1-P1019889-001.jpg

 photo 1-P1019876-001.jpg

 photo 1-P1019879-001.jpg

 photo 1-P1019881.jpg

In case Marty’s reading, this pot and stand need another look. (Pssst, 20 percent off December 11-13!)

 photo 1-P1019847-001.jpg

commercial landscape

Some commercial and business office plantings are really stepping up their game. Here’s another example of good plantsmanship I’m seeing around town.

 photo 1-_MG_3784-001.jpg

 photo 1-_MG_3809-001.jpg

 photo 1-_MG_3795-001.jpg

 photo 1-_MG_3800.jpg

 photo 1-_MG_3806-001.jpg

 photo 1-_MG_3808-001.jpg

Nicely done, I think. Ribbons of succulents along stone walkways, arbutus, olives, furcraea embedded in blankets of westringia.
Solid, workman-like plant choices, getting the job done. Lawn is used strategically, not as a default.
On the streetside, I saw Berkeley sedge, Carex divulsa, used instead of lawn. And for a project this size, fairly straightforward as far as maintenance.
I’ve been watching this project at least two years, and it’s grown in and maintained itself very well. PCT Office Complex, 222 No. Sepulveda Blvd.

Renovation work has been completed at PCT, a LEED-Gold certified, 1.6 msf office complex formerly known as Pacific
Corporate Towers. The property is owned by an investment management client of BlackRock.
Located at 100, 200 and 222 North Sepulveda Blvd in El Segundo, PCT has been under renovation since October 2013.
This extensive project included the conversion of indoor and outdoor areas into lively communal gathering spaces with a
contemporary design aesthetic. To oversee the renovation design, PCT engaged highly regarded STUDIOS Architecture,
based in San Francisco, and the Los Angeles landscape design practice LRM
.” – found here

nursery hopping in December

Pulling into a favorite nursery’s driveway yesterday, I could already see from the street it’s a madhouse. I’d completely forgotten the split personality most nurseries take on in December. The usually empty parking lot is not only full of cars, moving and parked, but also Christmas trees, shoppers, and children darting among the cars. I proceeded cautiously, pulling into the first (and only) available parking stall to eliminate one less moving object from the mayhem. The car makes a small bump, bump, and as I jump out to investigate an employee accuses, “You ran over our tree stand!” which he’s brandishing in his hand as evidence of the crime. Of course, there will be Christmas tree stands in the parking stalls in December, and overworked employees irritated that I would be unaware of this fact. There’s no more denying that the holidays are officially in full swing. I very nearly got immediately back in the car to leave.

But I’m glad I didn’t, because they were carrying Lobelia tupa in gallons, a plant never offered locally.
And their excellent stock of the proteaceae family included the sight of this Protea ‘Mini King’ in bloom in its container:

 photo 1-P1019780.jpg

Protea 'Mini King' photo 1-P1019776.jpg

 photo 1-P1019781.jpg

 photo 1-P1019763.jpg

And a bulbous plant not often seen, the giant red Crinum asiaticum var. procerum.

 photo 1-P1019754.jpg

This specimen was old enough and big enough to flower, sending a swooping stalk like a flamingo’s neck almost to the ground.
There was a smaller plant in a 3-gallon size for almost $50.

 photo 1-P1019775.jpg

I might want to try the variegated Euphorbia characias in a container too. The ones I planted last winter melted away again.

 photo 1-P1019766.jpg

 photo 1-P1019765.jpg

As usual, I warm up to the winter holidays slowly, apparently marching to a different little drummer boy. But there’s still plenty of time.
We’ve always been the house that brings home the tree on the 24th.

Have a great week, and watch out for those tree stands.