Up front I have to admit I’m not a current subscriber to this venerable West Coast horticulture journal. At some point in the last 20 years, I realized my copies were piling up unread, that perhaps they were a little taxonomic-intense for the harried existence and hummingbird attention span of my thirties, perhaps too plant wonkish, and I was, for good or evil, ever a generalist, interested in combining plants, making gardens. And as hard as it is to admit, knowing what this will reveal about my gardening soul, PH just wasn’t glitzy enough. So it’s been some years since I was a subscriber. Maybe PH has undergone a change, maybe I have. Whatever the case, I plan to sign up again as soon as possible.
This issue blew the doors off my musty assumptions about PH. There’s that cover (seen in the link above), a photograph by Marion Brenner of Suzanne Biaggi’s installation for 2009’s fall garden show The Late Show Gardens held in Sonoma, California, the dazzling View of Future Feast. Ms. Biaggi’s account of her process for this installation makes great reading.
But back to the cover photograph. The photographs throughout this issue are nothing short of stunning. If gardening magazines and print journals intend to compete with the vast amount of free horticultural information available from blogs, I’d guess photography is where they should put their money, right up there with the best designers and writers. It’s the rare blog that regularly accomplishes really great compositional photography.
Laurel Woodley’s Trees of South Coast Botanic Garden nearly had me falling out of the 6-foot high bivouac in excitement. A grove of banyan trees a football-field length in size! Possibly California’s most densely planted grove of Moreton Bay fig trees! (Ficus macrophylla, the banner photo of this blog.) Her description of the banyan seed germinating in the treetop of its host banyan, starting out as an epiphyte then slowly engulfing the host tree, makes for a botanic/sci-fi thriller. And I’d always thought the South Coast Botanic Garden was a sedate public garden where dahlia and begonia shows were held. Now I can’t wait to get my camera over to the SCBG, just a few miles away, and track down these giant trees. And it’s near a good supply of horse manure too. (win/win!)
PH gives the authors ample space to develop their themes. I often find magazine garden pieces are like Chinese food; as soon as you finish reading, you’re hungry for more. You can actually settle into a chair (or bivouac) with this issue and have a feast of reading for a solid 30 minutes, rather than the light browsing required by most garden magazines. Along with fabulous photos, PH has kept its focus on allowing gardeners and designers a forum to write about their creative process in great detail.
My interest in bespoke gardens was very much gratified by this edition of PH. Val Easton gives an engrossing tour of Jennifer Carlson’s Seattle garden. Puck Erickson reveals her work with the Korpinen-Erickson garden, a fire-challenged garden in Santa Barbara, California, expanding on six design concepts: Entry as oasis; prospect and refuge; definition and orientation with horizontal and vertical planes; the interplay of positive and negative space; linkage, a series of passages; and garden as repository to “hold on to objects that are expressions of our true selves.”
And a little garden whose gorgeous, stamp-cut metal gates I’ve actually peered through from the sidewalk in San Francisco is profiled, the garden of Eileen Shields, designed by Shirley Watts.
MB Maher, this blog’s occasional guest photographer, took these photos for PH, and I’ve received his permission to include a few of them here. This is a tiny urban garden full of brilliant details.
Where Shirley Watts found these sheets of industrial-grade metal stamping is the Bay Area’s best-kept secret.
Eileen Shields’ account of watching her garden unfold is a charming glimpse of a trusting client/designer relationship. One can’t help but smile at Eileen’s bemusement as Shirley would drop by to deposit yet another inscrutable rusty object for the garden. This photo is included in PH.
This submerged camel’s mate is in the seating area near the fireplace a few photographs above.
Dahlias from the garden.
This last photo is also included in PH.
I’ve gone on far too long, but that still doesn’t cover all the good things in this edition of Pacific Horticulture, a journal with much to interest gardeners across the globe.