potted plants on the move

The summer containers in nondrought-stricken gardens can become quite a virtuoso display. I’ve understandably pared things down the past few years but am always amazed at how even a relatively small group of pots can exclaim “Summer!”

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All the pots scattered through the garden become candidates for a massed summer display. I appreciate how growing a single species to a pot means it can be a focal point at one time of year and part of a big group display at another time. A good place for summer staging is around the Chinese Fringe Tree (Chionanthus retusus) which bisects the long, narrow patios on the east. Now that the tree has fully leafed out and all the flowers have fallen, I’ve massed pots on either side of the tree to take advantage of its dappled light.
A chaise in dappled light isn’t a bad idea either. A Mid-Century Homecrest, it needs a touch-up of black paint but is the most comfortable lounger, like floating in zero-gravity.
(Thanks again to Shirley Watts for hauling it down from Alameda in her truck.)

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This group of pots has been gradually accumulating here the past month or so, pulled from all over the garden. The chartreuse Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’ was moved in when it gained enough size to make an impact. Unlike so many colocasias, this tropical reliably returns from winter dormancy year after year. I turn the whole pot on its side and leave it outdoors in winter. I have lots of small, slow-growing agaves in pots, but I like having a couple good-sized potted agaves to mass for summer. There’s a couple pups here of ‘Blue Flame’ and ‘Boutin’s Blue,’ both of which don’t mind some shade. The golden Schefflera ‘Amate Soleil’ was fine in full winter sun but definitely needed dappled shade by June.

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The pots of mostly foliage are easy on the water budget, and water from the shower handles all the containers. The latest addition is a big pot of cosmos, chamomile and silver-leaved horehound/marrubium, a gift to the bees.

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Looking from the other end, Cussonia spicata in the tall grey pot is doing so much better in the dappled light after wintering in full sun.
Variegated manihot, potted succulents, and closer to the table the huge Aeonium ‘Cyclops,’ also moved here to escape full summer sun.

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The base of the fringe tree is unplanted, covered with a mulch of its own leaves year-round. The view after August rain last year (see post here). I’ve since broken that coffee cup, a favorite from a local tugboat company. And Mitch took those wooden planters up to his garden in San Francisco. Before my neighbor planted palms on his side of the fence, this little patio used to be a heat trap by mid-day and went mostly unused until evening. As a native Angeleno, it’s taken me a lifetime to appreciate the slim footprint of the ubiquitous palms and the lovely shade they cast.

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I’ve been playing around with that tall iron stand for 20 years or so. When I saw photos of Maurizio Zucchi’s home, I felt both validated and incredibly envious. The little Euphorbia ammak at its base has a long way to grow to make an impact. I’d so love to find some more iron scaffolding for this patio. The twisty tuteur supports a marmalade bush, Streptosolen jamesonii, I’m hoping can be trained up through its spirals. The empty frame is part of the floor grate to the broken heater we inherited with the house.

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Last summer the vine Mina lobata grew up the iron stand’s girders, wilting in the afternoon sun. I found a seedling of this vine that’s been potted up to try in morning sun/afternoon shade.

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Potted’s City Planter was planted up last summer and has been bullet-proof ever since.

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Hopefully this will be the last time I move this monster pot for a few months. Showing is one of two lamps salvaged from Warehouse No. 1, the oldest warehouse in Los Angeles Harbor. Marty kept a little workroom in the basement of the cavernous warehouse when he worked for the Port of LA, so we have a strong affection for the old relic.

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The remaining rosette of the huge clump of dyckia I just removed this week from the front garden. Dyckias and year-round tree litter are just not a good combination. I was so sick of the mess.

I know a lot of pots of tender plants are on the move out of basements and greenhouses, where they vacationed like winter snowbirds. Sometimes I wonder if the pots in this frost-free garden don’t have just as many miles under their rims.

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14 Responses to potted plants on the move

  1. Kris P says:

    After struggling to clean up underneath my Albizia late this afternoon, I truly appreciate your pristine chaise lounge area. The area behind the table and chairs has a gallery-like feel – it relaxes me just to look at it. And your Corokia looks great in a pot – the one I put in the ground in my front garden is doing well with almost no attention, making me wish I’d bought more.

  2. Anna K says:

    Totally swoon-worthy! Both the assembly of pots and the lounger – what a great find! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Cussonia before, and now I want one. It looks perfect in its new pot. 🙂

  3. Lisa says:

    Beautiful!! I love the style of both the garden and the pictures! And the city planter is looking amazing!

  4. Denise says:

    @Kris, the fringe tree has become indispensable for shade. Sure, there’s litter but nothing on the scale of the jacaranda. I once had the same corokia trained as a standard! Very tough, versatile plant.
    @Anna, yes, you need a potted cussonia. This one, Cussonia spicata, seems much easier and faster in growth than the more common one, Cussonia paniculata. If I see one locally I’ll blog!
    @Lisa, I’m glad you like it, because it’s all because of your generosity that I have it!

  5. Emily says:

    Beautiful photos, as always. Your garden does not appear at all droughted. And–I know exactly what you mean about the Maurizio Zucchi photos–I pinned those some time ago: They appealed instantly.

  6. Looking good lady! And that light fixture, I’m going to be dreaming about that light.

  7. Jessica says:

    I can never get enough photos of your beautiful garden — these detail shots are beautifully captured! You have a great eye ^_^

  8. hb says:

    Beautiful area–don’t remember seeing it quite this way before–but good grief, all that empty space not occupied by plants? What’s the problem, lady?

  9. Denise says:

    @Emily, yes, Pinterest or tumblr is where I first saw Zucchi’s house too. The pots are easy to care for in summer. Where I have trouble is remembering to deep water the big stuff, trees and hedges.
    @Loree, there’s a third light around here somewhere that was bent. Not sure if Marty straightened that yet or not.
    @Jessica! I just saw photo of you today with a big lizard named Pepe on your shoulder! Nice of you to take time from your vaca to comment!
    Hoov, what can I say? I’m starting to appreciate the empty spaces…and less watering too!

  10. Saucydog says:

    Loved getting the tour on a (for me) rainy Sunday morning. Everything looks great and I hope to get out to see it in person someday. I am jealous of the chair because I have been scouring the want ads for just the right thing 😉

  11. Pam/Digging says:

    That white pot and dyckia combo atop the upside-down metal planter is so perfect. I had to stare at that photo for a minute or two. It looks even better for the contrast with the rounded brown pot around the corner.

  12. Of course, I’m trying to figure out the plan view of all your killer garden spaces, and how they relate, being an LA and all…

    My favorite scene today is in photos #1 / 2. It seems you’re able to shift pots and get a different feel from that alone. But the lamp planter / plants / blue metal planter and chair at the end are a close 2nd to me. As to a frost-free garden, I also wonder if your plants get worn out faster than those that get to go dormant?

    The Shirley Watts brought you that chaise…nice.

  13. Luisa says:

    The Schefflera… the Xanthosoma… [swoons]. The iron scaffolding, the warehouse lamp, the colors, the groupings of pots and places to rest and look… I’d plant myself in the Homecrest chaise and never leave. Beautiful!

  14. Denise says:

    @So nice to “hear” your voice, Lisa! I wonder if all the Homecrest chairs are here on the West Coast? (Road trip for you!)
    @Pam, you’ve always liked that trash can! It’s good as a planter or a pedestal. I need to hit the fleas for more like it — so useful.
    @David, the house sits pretty square on the lot. The back/south side may be slightly deeper than the front/north. The west is the driveway/garage and the patios are on the east. The succulents outdoors year-round do get beat up more than those wintering indoors — but they also grow big, flower, and do all sorts of interesting stuff!
    @Luisa, it is a little heavy on chartreuse leaves. I like dark leaves too, but the chartreuse lights it up big time.

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