more shelves

I don’t have any travel plans this summer, so July’s rhythm has been work, work, work, decompress in garden, shower, repeat. And I don’t really mind because the garden is so absorbing this time of year. At least once a day I stand as close to the center of it as possible, on a rapidly disappearing access path, like Moses parting the Red Sea, to study the fleets of winged insects that visit. They’re the perpetual fireworks of the July garden. The air space is thrumming with the familiar bees, bumblebees, wasps, lawn skippers, hoverflies, but there’s so many that are nameless to me. Like the British research ship-naming contest, they may as well be Buggy McBug Faces. I was even convinced the other day that the tiny and rare El Segundo Blue butterfly paid a visit. Since its only known remaining habitat is under the flight path of LAX, that’s unlikely. But when your identification skills are sketchy at best, anything is possible, even rare blue butterflies.


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I did get out to the CSSA show at the Huntington last week. Here’s a splendid Gymnocalycium friedrichii as proof.

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I brought home just a couple plants, an Agave colorata and Euphorbia multifolia, but like clockwork, every summer I become convinced I need more shelves.
So Marty helped me rig a new shelving system, which gets lots of the pots up off the ground.

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Not that I have anything against pots on the ground, but I like options for closer, eye-level inspection too.

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Sturdy potted plants are fine at ground level.

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Last summer I massed lots of sturdy stuff against the east (blue) fence.

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But the little treasures have a better chance of survival if they’re right under my nose.
Little side tables and shelves, a garden needs them too, right?

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I found these shelves at Building REsources in San Francisco last spring. They reminded me of old ironing boards.

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The diamond perforations looked ideal for drainage. I saw great potential, but Marty wasn’t convinced with any of my early design proposals.
This arrangement suits everybody.

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Euphorbia multifolia is temporarily cached in that lime green swirly pot.

I’ve seen this exact pot sitting on a neighbor’s porch a couple streets away, but have never seen it anywhere else, flea markets, etc.
A collecting friend gave me this one when it became chipped. What are the odds of there being two in my neighborhood?

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The shelves are hung against the bird house/bath house. I like this corner for its morning sun/afternoon shade.
The ferny plant is a young Acacia cardiophylla. I thought the parakeets would appreciate something leafy to look at.

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Now that they’re hung, I’m wondering if they shouldn’t have been painted first.

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The shelves are rigged so that unhooking them for painting would be incredibly easy.
And the spray paint has really been flying around here lately. Someone cleaned out a garage and unloaded boxes of spray cans on us.

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Marty has done all the painting. I come home from work, and there it is, the marvel of fresh paint.
For someone who has had a lifelong tolerance for rust, I’m growing alarmingly fond of fresh paint.
I can’t seem to move beyond black though. Marty had repainted this metal jardiniere in its original orange, and it was gorgeous.
But my eye kept stuttering and tripping over it. I guess that’s called a focal point, right? I needed it black, and Marty reluctantly repainted it again. What a guy.

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And this old aquarium stand with those great hairpin legs got some fresh black paint too.
The marble top also came from Building REsources a few years ago.

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Fresh paint is great, but some old finishes are too good to cover. I found this galvanized table really cheap at a great shop in San Pedro.

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This shop is so good, with such great prices, that I’m hesitant to name it.

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Okay, that would be incredibly selfish. It’s House 1002 on Pacific Avenue.

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So the question remains, to paint or not to paint? If we do repaint, I’m leaning toward repainting the shelves their original color, not black, but I’m open to suggestions.


13 thoughts on “more shelves

  1. I think the current look is fabulous, combines so well with the pots and that corner. Since it is in the corner though I’d repaint in the current color if you decide to go that route. Too many dark pots for a dark shelf!

  2. Thanks, Alan! I appreciate the input. I also like the original color because it ties in with the house, and we do have spray paint in this color so…

  3. The lime-y green of the swirly pot would be nice. Great shelves, lovely pots, your garden looks…golly gumdrops!

    Yeah, that Gymnocalcium!

  4. I vote no paint. I have dreadful shelf shortage on my patio. small pots all over the ground or taking up workspace on my potting bench.

  5. I love the new shelves. I wouldn’t paint them but, if you feel compelled to do so, I agree with Alan – avoid black in this case.

  6. Looking good Denise! Have you considered asking the neighbor if they would part with their green swirly pot? Might be something they don’t treasure and then you’d have two. As for the shelves I love the color as is. If you have to paint them though I’m breaking with the ranks and saying black. Unless you could match just a shade or two darker then the house color.

  7. I’m pro-rust, since it lasts forever in this bone-dry climate. But in L.A., in the 1950s, I remember my grandfather, who taught me gardening, having me paint everything made of iron with silver paint. I can still smell the paint (like I can still smell the plastic of the inflatable swimming pool I had at the time); this amazing metallic aroma rising from the can, watching the strange swirls of black in the silver paint, which disappeared as I stirred it.
    Modern silver paint doesn’t smell or look the same. Henry Mitchell said that if you have to paint something, paint it black, which would be my third choice, after silver, and after rust.

  8. @Hoov, I liked your photo of the gymno which got more of those amazing pink buds. Lime green shelves sounds so great, but I doubt I could live with it.
    @Kris, that’s so great to know you wouldn’t paint them — they really look a little bedraggled to me
    @Loree, how many times have I wished the neighbor was out so I could ask. I should leave a note, maybe ask for a swap. And you say black! Considering it…
    @Bob, ah the Proustian power of scent memory, even paint! And funny how parents always let kids stir the paint. Nice to know I’m channeling Mr. Mitchell, thanks.

  9. Every single photo has so much gorgeousness in it. Sigh. It’s all beautiful. I love the shelves as they are, and I feel certain I’ll love them if you paint them. They are just so cool. And that gymno-whatzit? To die for.

  10. My amazement concerns how perfectly pulled together and debris free your garden always appears to be. My garden requires endless sweeping all summer from all the trees.

    My vote would be to keep the shelves as they are, why work any harder than necessary?

  11. @Ah, Tim, that’s just what I need to hear! This little camera is just about exhausted, and these might be the last of the photos I get out of it. Thanks for the input on the shelves. I think they’ll stay paintless.
    @David, the debris-free state might be a function of the drought. My neighbor’s trees along this fence, a peach and a lemon, used to drop a lot of fruit and leaves, but the peach is gone and the lemon is struggling. There’s other areas I sweep, like around the fringe tree, but this area stays pretty clean.

  12. I’ll side with the majority on this one, and say leave them as they are. Or, if you decide to paint them, use a similar color. I love the elegant simplicity of your new shelves – just perfect!

  13. Beautiful! I always love the collection of pots… there’s something very unique about a plant on its’ own, potted in something specifically meant for it(most of the time!). I always enjoy seeing the succulents & cacti you have-thank you for sharing! I was wondering, would you still like an Agave Happy Crown pup? I wasn’t sure if you had one in your collection, and I’m going to be removing one or two from my mother plant because she’s starting to tilt off-center…

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