pieces of Rancho Reubidoux

The inaugural Rancho Reubidoux Bazaar took place this weekend, a truly one-of-a-kind experience amounting to a physical journey through Reuben’s blog posts, a kind of dimension-pushing experience with flash mob overtones. Blogging in 3-D, so to speak. At my last visit to RR in April, it was garden-tour ready, (see this post here from which I’ve borrowed some photos) and now we had Reuben’s beaming permission to dismantle it all and cart it away. And at ridiculously good prices.

Gear Guy found a good home in an art gallery.

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I can barely express what an unusual, layered experience it is to rummage through objects and at the same time have flashes of recognition, already in possession of the object’s most recent, specific story of Reuben’s relationship to them. Like this neoclassical urn on the right, one of a pair, formerly part of RR’s temple. Already purchased by the time I got there.

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I was trying to keep the focus on small, lightweight, and plantable, since all the bulbs chilling in the fridge will need potting up soon. I’m still wishing I’d found a way to bring home this very heavy, planted metal container with the zigzag striations. MB Maher grabbed the vent.

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And then there he was, the little man. I’d completely forgotten about him. Was he already purchased? Carefully lifting him and holding him aloft, I called out to Reuben, who said, Take him. He’s a gift.

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Reuben knew from my comments on his blog that I was smitten with the little homunculus. I’m telling you, anywhere the little man sits, his naked serenity instantly calms and composes his surroundings. I’ve already tested this theory quite a bit. Currently the little man sits on the fireplace mantle.

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I did find some troughs for the bulbs, the top one planted yesterday with Dutch iris, and this indispensable grappling hook/anchor thingy.

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Whether abstract pieces of heavy pig iron formerly built up into towering assemblage or delicate, metal bird’s nest weavings, all the objects hummed at the Rancho’s frequency. And now they would hum elsewhere. Reuben hinted at a new direction he’d be exploring, inspired by a recent visit to Joshua Tree.

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Thank you, Reuben, the ever-charming Paul, and all the friends and vendors who made the bazaar possible.

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Can we say until next time?

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Villa Mundo Nuevo

This fall photographer MB Maher revisited this Northern Californian residential garden designed by landscape architect Jarrod Baumann of Zeterre Landscape Architecture and built by contractor Jim Everett of EvLand LLC that won the 2010 California Landscape Contractors Association Trophy Award. An early rough video preview of this project from last November can be found here. Laura Livengood Schaub first blogged on this project on Interleafing May 2010, found here.

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Continue reading

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Occasional Daily Weather Report 11/2/11

There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch.” — Raymond Chandler, “Red Wind”


Aunt Annette and Uncle Paul in Chicopee, Massachusetts, still don’t have power on after that freak snowstorm blindsided the East Coast in late October. Here in Los Angeles nothing so devastating has occurred weatherwise, but this morning the Santa Ana winds did arrive, making this the kind of day where ions are so active and static electricity so intense you don’t dare pet a cat. Our house is divided over these seasonal winds, with the breakdown in approval/disapproval generally falling along skin types. Oily skins love it. The sailor in the house loves it. And robust nervous systems usually have no quarrel with these winds blowing out of the cooling high deserts, but the Santa Anas have been notoriously to blame for all manner of calamities and crimes, as Joan Didion explains in this quote from “Los Angeles Notebook.”

Los Angeles weather is the weather of catastrophe, of apocalypse, and, just as the reliably long and bitter winters of New England determine the way life is lived there, so the violence and the unpredictability of the Santa Ana affect the entire quality of life in Los Angeles, accentuate its impermanence, its unreliability. The wind shows us how close to the edge we are.”

Kate Braverman in “Lithium for Medea” also finds the winds menacing:

The Santa Ana winds were blasting through the streets, bristling and smelling of desert, of white sunlight, of sharp, wiry plants and white rock…A hot madness was enclosing the city.”

Doomsday literature aside, really, if you keep the lip balm handy, you’ll be fine.

(Brought to you by that imperturbable weather girl, Evie the cat.)

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this week on AGO

A new garden in Los Gatos, California, by Jarrod Baumann of Zeterre Landscape Architecture, re-explores formalism in the landscape and proposes that modern materials like steel do not necessarily equal chilly results. Not when forged with a plant lover’s sensibility.

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More photos by MB Maher later this week.

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seeing double

At Yamaguchi Bonsai Nursery in West Los Angeles yesterday, I was surprised to find double blooms on a couple of popular summer tropicals, abutilon and mandevilla, something to keep in mind for next summer’s containers. (Abutilon for shade, mandevilla for sun.)

Abutilon ‘Victorian Lady’

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Perfect for those who enjoy grooming containers after a long day, secateurs in one hand, glass of wine or mixological concoction du jour in the other. I didn’t find a label on the mandevilla, but it’s most likely Monrovia’s ‘Tango Twirl.’

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Aging double flowers famously do not go gently into the night, and like Norma Desmond they stubbornly cling to the stems of their youth whether on roses, daylilies, abutilons, hibiscus or mandevillas. So like all divas, they do require some extra maintenance. Personally, I put up with very few diva tantrums in the garden, but I concede there is something undeniably sumptuous about all those petals, especially as the buds swell.

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Yamaguchi Bonsai Nursery, despite the name, is an all-around general purpose nursery, with fine selections in pottery, annuals, perennials, shade plants and succulents. Bonsai allows for close-up appreciation of a ginkgo’s leaves turned buttery yellow in autumn.

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This little block of Sawtelle Boulevard had me seeing double in nurseries too. Right across the street from Yamaguchi’s is The Jungle, which has one of the best succulent selections around town. And just down the street is Hashimoto Nursery, but dwindling lunch break time prevented a visit. Tucked in among multistory office buildings, all three nurseries are enduring examples of neighborhood nurseries, each as useful as a Swiss Army knife and all worthy of a nod at the tail end of Support Your Independent Nursery Month. I’ve blogged about these West LA nurseries before here.

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Occasional Daily Weather Report 10/28/11

Days in the mid to high 70s (Fahrenheit to Celsius conversion), nights in the low to mid 50s.
Finding just the right angle of morning sun and then holding absolutely still for maximum absorption is a morning’s work for Evie.
My furry iguana.

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And another little sun-loving beauty greeted me this morning, a pale pink Nerine bowdenii.

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A brief description of these autumn-flowering, South African bulbs from Hortus III:

Nerines are tender and are grown mostly in pots in the
greenhouse, or outdoors in Zone 9. They should be
given plenty of water until after flowering, and the
bulbs should then be rested for a few months.
Propagated by offsets.

Bulbs are the cheapest jewels a girl can buy.

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the uninvited

we are all on watch, just a little on edge here.

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closer and closer to the gloaming, only the fiercest colors now pierce the gathering dark
while shy creatures creep out of hiding, feeling emboldened to assert their elemental natures

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This Monday we’ll be locking the gates, shutting off the porch lights, and watching The Uninvited (1944). Beautiful old house on a cliff in Cornwall offered for sale at impossibly cheap prices for reasons that none of the town folk care to discuss. A lost dog. Amazing staircase that animals refuse to ascend. A seance with an Ouija board and shattering glass. Ruth Hussey and Ray Milland impeccably dressed for life in a country house. My kind of scary movie.

Oh, and the haunting scent of mimosa reaching into cold rooms, reaching across time…

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(Photo of Acacia pravissima by Forest Farm. The mimosa scent from the perfume worn by Stella’s mother probably derived from Acacia dealbata.)

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Chionanthus retusus

The Chinese Fringe Tree. A deciduous tree beloved by both gardener and birds for clouds of bloom in spring.

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Followed by those indigo autumn berries. Now about 15 feet in height, at maturity reaching 20-25 feet.

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True story: The fringe tree was dragged to its current spot in the back garden by an ’82 Jeep Wagoneer straining on the ropes, tires tearing up the front lawn pre-gravel garden, inching it slowly from the west side of the house to the east, neighbors agape at the sight. First mistake was planting this wider-than-tall tree in a narrow strip along the driveway. By the time this mistake became apparent, the sapling didn’t impress as too big to transplant, but after freeing up the root ball there was no way for man or beast to lift that root ball up and out of that deep, deep hole. Wagoneer to the rescue. One of the more foolish garden escapades I’ve initiated but with a “berry” happy ending. Bought as a tiny seedling from Burkard’s Nursery in Pasadena.

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Lipstick Traces

Artful smudging. Irving Penn’s 1986 ad for Loreal.

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Artless smudging. Kalanchoe luciae ‘Fantastic,’ Variegated Paddle Plant.

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Gardeners’ World by Julian Barnes

Hearing the news this week that Julian Barnes won this year’s Man Booker prize for his novel The Sense of an Ending had me searching for my unread copy of Barnes’ Arthur & George buried somewhere in a disgracefully cluttered bookshelf amidst rhinos, rabbits and a snapshot of Madame Ganna Walska. Also brought to mind was his short story, “Gardeners’ World,” from the collection Pulse, which presents a portrait of a marriage via the garden as battlefield, with gardening the banal pursuit of a couple whose relationship has gone a bit soggy. I’ve only read reviews and snippets of this mordant piece on a shared garden and haven’t yet bought the collection, since I freely admit that what little I’ve read of this story, although very funny, gives me the willies.

A brief exchange from the story:

“What have you done with the blackberry?”
“What blackberry?”
This made him more tense. Their garden was hardly that big.
“The one along the back wall.”
“Oh, that briar.”
“That briar was a blackberry with blackberries on it. I brought you two and personally fed them into your mouth.”
“I’m planning something along that wall. Maybe a Russian vine, but that’s a bit cowardly. I was thinking a clematis.”
“You dug up my blackberry.’
Your blackberry?” She was always at her coolest when she knew, and knew that he knew, that she’d done something without consultation.

Other memorable lines include: “Can we please, please not call it a water feature?”

Only a British writer would be capable of producing such a withering, lacerating look at the territoriality issues in a relationship spilling over and turning gardening into a blood sport. If it seems like your cup of tea in fiction, more excerpts from “Gardeners’ World” can be found here.

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