Bloom Day July 2011

We’re a tad overexposed and on the run…


a day late for Bloom Day, the 15th of every month, hosted by Carol of May Dreams Gardens.

More photos after the jump. Continue reading

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Succulent Experiments

Crassula expansa subsp. fragilis was planted this past May in these car jack stands, using window screening to hold the soil in, first pictured here near the bottom of the post.

Unlike my mossy experiments, this crassula is growing much faster and really seems to be thriving rather than barely hanging on. Tiny, starry white flowers are just starting to erupt. Love the delicate, thyme-like texture on this one. Soon it will engulf the entire structure.


I like it so much that a new one has been created using Crassula pellucida var. marginalis. So much of this crassula was broken in the process!
Someone really adept with their hands and eye could get some beautiful folds out of the window screen as a feature in the open spaces of the design. It’s nearly as pliable as a stiff fabric.


Hanging on branches temporarily to grow in the dappled light under the Chinese fringe tree, Chionanthus retusus, the simple abstract shapes are not a glaring intrusion here. I have no doubt that this idea for multiple, nearly identical hanging planters was inspired, consciously or unconsciously, by the inventive hanging succulent creations seen this spring at Lotusland. The strips of rusty metal used for hangers, about 2 feet in length, are salvage from Building RESources in San Francisco, California.


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I finally corraled someone (Mitch) into modeling the sunsleeves that were sent to me by Kool Dog. If you email them and inquire as I did, I’m sure they’ll send a sample to you too.

The model’s unfortunate choice of a *Tintin and Snowy T-shirt, however, might possibly be stealing the sunsleeves’ thunder.




As I wrote here, I noticed these sunsleeves in a golf shop window. Didn’t know they were just sleeves at first. Didn’t even know what to call them. After some online investigation, I found that “sunsleeves” seems to be the preferred vernacular. These have an Eiffel Tower pattern, which wouldn’t be my first choice. I wore them at least five hours one day last weekend and can vouch that the arms stay cool and the sleeves don’t feel at all constrictive. Very comfortable, in fact.


With the high temps of this summer stretching into the foreseeable future, this kind of clothing may start to gain traction. The state of my dad’s arms after an adulthood of golfing in Southern California, even though his skin possessed the added protection of his Mediterranean heritage, are an incentive for protecting these constantly sun-exposed limbs.

*Coincidentally, LA Times this morning reports the Steven Spielberg/Peter Jackson production of “The Adventures of Tintin” will be released this December. Bless you, Steven & Peter!

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Occasional Daily Photo 7/11/11

Brugmansia hybrid ‘Charles Grimaldi.’ Incredibly voluptuous, scented trumpets…on a plant that rivals the hybrid tea rose for awkward growth and ugly legs.


Just haven’t found the right approach yet to placing these subtropical shrubs in a zone 10 landscape, where they can bloom nearly year-round.
To me, a gawky brug cries out for the structural boost of a container. A huge, preferably bottomless container, so it can root into the ground.
In which case it’s very nearly drought tolerant, as opposed to the daily wilt it gets in a pot.
Brugs: a love/hate relationship with a complicated subtropical beauty. Nothing like their scent on a warm summer night.

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Big Daddy On The Move

“You know what I feel like? I feel all the time like a cat on a hot tin roof.”
Maggie the Cat, daughter-in-law of Big Daddy, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof

Me, too, Maggie. It’s clearly going to be a hot-tin-roof kind of summer. Visiting Big Daddy’s warehouse full of idiosyncratic antiques during the stifling heat of July, it’s impossible not to think of that other relic, the Big Daddy patriarch heading Tennessee Williams’ cranky, dysfunctional Pollitt clan in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof, doing his best to ruin the lives of the two gorgeous leads from the movie, Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor. Big Daddy is played by Burl Ives. Someone had to be the physical foil to Paul and Liz’s delicately chiseled features. (Nobody does titles like Tennessee Williams. Clothes for a Summer Hotel, The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, etc.)

Image found here.

Big Daddy’s Antiques, collector of the fascinating detritus of families that came before us, dysfunctional and otherwise, could provide the set design for (unwritten) plays like Letters From A Bohemian Hotel or Desire Among the Ruins.


In addition to a menagerie of obscure objects of desire, Big Daddy’s also assembles bespoke light fixtures.


Big Daddy is on the move, leaving the Gardena warehouse to an as-yet-undisclosed space in Culver City. After reading about Big Daddy’s on Rancho Reubidoux, MB Maher wanted to capture the warehouse before the entire collection is dismantled and loaded into containers by August. This may be the last chance to prowl around a warehouse strewn with objects and furniture from all over the world that have pegged the meter of infinite cool that resides in owner Shane Brown’s visual cortex. The new home in Culver City will be more of a showroom and less a journey of discovery through a dusty warehouse/workroom.

After the jump, more photos by MB Maher from Big Daddy’s last month in Gardena.

Continue reading

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Mystery Mullein

Of all the old seed packets kept stuffed in cigar boxes and metal tins, this one wasn’t saved.
Started from seed from Chiltern’s about two years ago. One central inflorescence branching into smaller spikes.
Leaves are green, not grey and felty. Looks a lot like Verbascum nigrum.


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Occasional Daily Photo 7/7/11

Echeveria runyonii ‘Topsy Turvy’ in an urn at Big Daddy’s.


(At the end of the month, Big Daddy’s will be moving from its Gardena location to Culver City and may possibly be more inclined to discount inventory rather than pack and ship it to the new location, especially articles judged too fragile for shipping.)

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Journal July 6, 2011

The garden saw some frenetic activity over the long holiday weekend. Over the long, extremely hot holiday weekend.
Not since Nixon has a face dripped such copious amounts of sweat. Under these sticky, squalid conditions, one reverts to a feral state of being and savagely pushes on until the next cleansing shower rinse, emerging cooled and civilized once again, ready to attend holiday soirees. (For about five minutes.) Checking a weather map indicates that a good portion of the U.S. was taking frequent showers too this past weekend. I don’t know how plants manage to keep looking so cool.


The big ‘Hawkshead’ fuchsia had to go. A Dan Hinkley introduction for Monrovia, a selection of the shrubby Fuchsia magellanica, it has proven to be nonresistant to the fuchsia mite and was getting the typical leaf deformation. Flowering doesn’t seem to be affected. I’d highly recommend this fuchsia to any mite-free fuchsia gardens.


The 8-foot Coprosma ‘Beatson’s Gold,’ I decided Saturday, also had to go. My love for this shrub was blinding me to how big and out of scale to the rest of the garden it had grown despite increasingly frequent pruning interventions. Arguments against removal included evergreen “winter interest” and as a support for the winter-blooming Clematis cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream.’ To hell with winter interest. Time to realize this idea has grown stale, that waiting for the clematis to decide to bloom has become a tiresome winter ritual of disappointment, i.e., in spite of rampant growth, it’s never bloomed and has decided its sole purpose in life is to thwart my desire for its mid-winter blooms. A ‘New Zealand Purple’ castor bean plant was also removed. Taking out that beauty really hurt, but what’s the point of throwing kniphofias into the mix if there’s no room for them to grow and bloom? A seedling from this ricinus thrives elsewhere in the garden.


For a brief moment the entire area vacated by the coprosma and ricinus was simply left mulched, the bone-dry soil watered in, and I contemplated its serene emptiness, leaning toward resting the soil until fall. When I snapped to from this novel and unfamiliar state of being, a Melianthus ‘Purple Haze’ was being hauled out from elsewhere in the garden and planted to replace the coprosma, which has already been turned to mulch, and shade rigging erected over the honeybush. The melianthus can stay if it grows no taller than 6 feet. Loree’s (Danger Garden) generous gift of variegated London’s Pride, Saxifraga umbrosa, was moved here too.

Potted agaves were depupped, pots shuffled and reshuffled, begonias seared by afternoon sun dug up and moved to shade.
Tables and chairs were moved into the shade. Under the punishing sun, everything with means of locomotion moved to the shade.
But amidst all the demolition, the mud, the blood, and the beer, summer still works its magic.



A forgotten verbascum, started from seed in 2009, pushed up its candelabra of buds about to bloom. Eucomis are blooming.


After the jump, I’ve updated the garden journal of February, mainly for my own record-keeping purposes.

Continue reading

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Plant Societies

Why has it taken me so long to check out local plant societies? I’ve been a member of the various conservancies, The Mediterranean Garden Society, but membership was mostly in a passive sense, as a means to attend tours and lectures. There might be a small fear of compulsory meetings, which seem to always be held a good 40 miles away, in which case the will to attend usually flags on meeting day. But in the past month, as I checked out Cactus and Succulent Society of America-sponsored plant sales in San Diego, Los Angeles, Pasadena, and attended a meeting of my local Long Beach Cactus Club (oldest cactus club in the U.S.!), it’s become apparent that there’s nothing to fear and a huge amount of information (and plants!) to be gained.

In exchange for creating and maintaining a cactus and succulent garden on site, The Long Beach Cactus Club is allowed to hold its meetings at the Dominguez Rancho Adobe, a California State Historic Landmark. The old rancho is also home to a seminary of the Claretian order, which means the grounds are intensely private and quiet, allowing the thick adobe walls to work their magic in evoking Old California.


It hadn’t occurred to me how insular a plant society might be. If it had, I would never have had the nerve to attend alone. I strode into the newer outbuilding where the talk was taking place and then froze up just across the doorway threshold, instantly realizing I was in the company of people who had been friends for many years. Once the group recovered from the palpable shock of a new face in their midst, I was greeted very warmly and, as a guest, was invited to choose a free plant from a little table. I kept that bright orange-leaved aloe at the foot of my chair the entire meeting. Everyone is allowed to select a free plant, and scanning the room I noted that most of the other selections were cacti. At this stage I’m more interested in succulents in a landscape and garden setting, which was one of my biggest reservations about cactus clubs, that somehow plants would be reduced to a hobbyist pursuit. What I found at the meeting was a comprehensive cultural, scientific and historical approach to the plants that quieted any such misgivings. Woody Minnich gave a talk on a recent plant-exploring trip to Peru. Exquisite photos of Machu Picchu, Cuzco, the Nazca plains from a four-seater plane. Be still my anthropology-loving heart! I was riveted to the folding chair. Apart from his authoritative knowledge of the plants, Mr. Minnich’s talk reflected his catholic interests in the people of Peru, the food, culture, geology, and he’s simply a wonderful photographer. He speaks at cactus and succulent groups all over the world. If his name pops up as a speaker at a society near you, I strongly urge you to attend. He just might be presenting a talk on his recent trip to Namibia.

I bumped into Mr. Minnich again at the Cactus & Succulent Society of America’s sale at the Huntington Botanical Gardens this past weekend and told him again how much I’d enjoyed his talk. And then I got busy checking out the plants. And, yes, I succumbed and bought one of the specialty pots offered for sale at these shows. (This one is from Mark Muradian. Unfortunately, I lost my little notebook at the plant sale, and Mark didn’t have a business card, so I don’t have contact info, but he does sell through ebay.)

Lucky day to bag the elusive Agave americana var. striata. I asked the vendor if the difficulty in finding this agave is due to it possibly being less vigorous, offsetting less, and (fingers crossed) thereby being a a smaller, more manageable A. americana, and he said not at all, that it grows as big and pups just as furiously as the species. Still couldn’t pass it up.


I also brought home Sedum confusum, Crassula rupestris, Agave guiengola ‘Creme Brulee,’ Agave ovatifolia ‘Frosty Blue,’ and an Agave utahensis which I gave away as a hostess gift last night.

More examples of pots by Mark Muradian


The mother of all cactus and succulent shows is coming up August 13th and 14th at the Los Angeles Arboretum, The Inter-City Cactus Show & Sale. Not one to miss.


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Madeira Giant Bellflower

Musschia wollastonii bulges out of this large pot at an angle as though off a cliff in its native haunts of Madeira, Portugal.


It’s gaining size rapidly, pushing aside the cordyline, but I try to stay calm and suppress an increasingly giddy expectation that it possibly intends to bloom this summer. Internet photos of its 6-foot panicles of bloom show chartreuse flowers which remind me in character of Michauxia tchihatchewii, pronounced like a sneeze, another odd bellflower I grew once, with its “Catherine wheel” flowers. (Always that reference to michauxia having “Catherine wheel” flowers, a charming description. I remember the collaboration between choreographer Twyla Tharp and musician David Byrne called “The Catherine Wheel” but other than that, the words draw a blank. Possibly a reference to a medieval dance or a wheel for spinning yarn? This morning I looked it up and wished I hadn’t. An appalling Middle Ages method of torture and death.)

Thankfully, this biennial Madeira Giant Bellflower has no such cruel associations. *Named for the physician and explorer A.F.R. Wollaston. John Grimshaw’s Garden Diary has an interesting post on Wollaston and some of the plants given his name, like my Wollaston’s Musschia, which has been thriving in filtered morning sun and the even moisture a container provides. An exciting plant for shady gardens.

*According to Mr. Grimshaw, not named for AFR Wollaston after all…

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