Tillandsia Tuesday

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* Tillandsia duratii has the most fragrant flower over the longest period of time. There is currently more demand than supply.
* Tillandsia xerographica’s inflorescence can last up to a year. It has been overcollected in its home of Guatemala.
* Tillandsia aernanthos is the most common, the least expensive, and comes in lots of forms.
* Tillandsia brachycaulos’ deep leaf color lends that trait to colorful hybrids.
* Tillandsia tectorum was used as a model by James Cameron for jellyfish-like creatures in his movie “Avatar.”
* Tillandsia hybrid ‘Curly Slim’ is too beautiful to keep in stock.

I’m a mistress of tillandsia facts after listening to the recording of Paul Isley’s lecture given at our local Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific last year, link here.

Tillandsias, the so-called air plants, have a leaf structure and surface evolved to handle a drenching amount of moisture without rotting.
The most common mistake made growing them indoors is insufficient moisture. (Care instructions here.)

I felt immediate kinship with Mr. Isley upon learning that he inaugurated his adventure in tillandsias 40 years ago in a Jeep Wagoneer which he drove to Guatemala, bringing back seeds and plants to sell at the Pasadena Rose Bowl flea market. We never drove our used Jeep Wagoneer anything close to that distance, but it carried all four of us plus two Newfs for quite some time before the sagging headliner became too irritating to endure. (Next time you see a vintage Jeep Wagoneer check it out — I bet its headliner is sagging. We never could get ours to remain attached.)

Mr. Isley’s nursery in Torrance, Rainforest Flora, is now the largest grower of tillandsias in North America. No longer based on collecting, since 1993 the company has become entirely self-sufficient in producing this notoriously slow-growing bromeliad. A large part of their growing is done in Northern San Diego County.

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Tillandsia Tuesday — today’s micro-meme. Grab a drink and a comfy blanket and settle in. The lecture is a soothing 40 minutes’ long.

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Again, the link to the lecture can be found link here.
There’s an intro of about 2 minutes, where the word “bromeliad” is mispronounced more times than I would have presumed possible, so you can skip that and go straight to the lecture.


The Point Pot

If you’re an Instagram fan of garden designer/ceramicist Dustin Gimbel and/or Potted, LA’s premiere source for stylish plant containers and garden furniture, you’ll know that they’ve been collaborating for some time on the first mass-produced offering of one of Dustin’s ceramic designs called “The Point Pot.” Tantalizing peeks, projections, and promises that have kept me “en pointe” for months have now become actionable, and just in time to brighten a dreary February. The Point Pot has gone live, available in three colorways, Pacific Blue, Vanilla Bean and Sea Spray Green.


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Potted dubs The Point Pot “A Modern Planter for Modern Times.”
“Sleek and geometric, this elegant planter offers versatility as well as good looks with the ability to be used table top or hung from a stainless steel cable.”

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I simply cannot overstate how proud I am of these collaborators, each of them dedicated to strong, modern design for our gardens. Potted is of course justifiably famous for their own exclusive designs, such as the Circle Pot, City Planter, and Orbit Planter, so The Point Pot joins some seriously strong company. (And each of these planters complements the others incredibly well, btw. I’m thinking about hanging a Point Pot next to an Orbit Planter.) But gorgeous design aside, what really gets me just a little verklempt about this homegrown, Los Angeles venture is their resolute determination to have their creations made in the U.S. — pottery may have once been king in California, but that heyday has long since passed, so I know making good on that commitment hasn’t always been easy. Bravo, you guys.


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The Point Pot’s strong lines can be appreciated from many angles — dangling as a pendant or brandishing its multi-faceted planes singly or in multiples across tabletops and bookshelves.

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Order info right here.

chasing agaves


Last Saturday, while millions marched their way into the history books, I was driving south to San Diego to meet agave expert Greg Starr.
I had been looking forward to this 2-hour road trip for some time, as a beacon in an otherwise fairly bleak January. Family medical issues against the chaotic national backdrop were starting to take a toll.
My guilt was somewhat lessened by the knowledge that our family would be represented by a marcher. Definitely count me in for the next one and the one after that.
NPR covered the march for the drive south, and the recent back-to-back storms cleared to offer up a gorgeous, cloud-scudded and dry Saturday. Pardon my nativism, but California is so beautiful.

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My destination was this private home where the San Diego Horticultural Society was hosting the talk by Greg Starr and a plant sale. Greg was bringing agaves!

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The front garden was a life-affirming explosion of agaves and aloes.
A blooming cowhorn agave, A. bovicornuta, is still a commanding presence, even among show-stealing flowering aloes.

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Tree in the background is Euphorbia cotinifolia.

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A narrow footpath runs a few feet in front of the house for access.
I’d be guessing at aloe names, since the owner has access to some amazing hybrids.
The bright orange in the left foreground looks a lot like my Aloe ‘Jacob’s Ladder.’

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Agave ‘Jaws’ fronted by a marlothii-hybrid aloe in bud.

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Incredibly tight tapestry of succulents, with some self-sowing alyssum and California poppies managing to find a root-hold.

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Unfortunately, Mr. Starr was unable to attend, probably due to the recent spate of severe weather and heavy rain.
But the owner’s private collection of aloes and agaves was more than enough compensation. That’s Agave ‘Streaker’ above in one of his raised beds in the backyard.

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Agave pumila, at a size I didn’t know they achieved.

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Selection of Agave utahensis

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Aloe longistyla, touchy about drainage, prone to mites, but so beautiful, flaunting some of the largest flowers of any aloe in relation to clump size.

The San Diego Hort. Society members provided lots of interesting plants for sale, including a variegated agave I can’t find a reference for (‘Northern Lights’ — anyone?)
With the Mini already nearly full to capacity, I stopped at Solana Succulents on the way home, detouring west to its location directly on Highway 1 in sight of the Pacific.
Owner Jeff Moore manages to tuck in a stellar selection of rarities in a relatively small-size nursery. Here is where I finally found the long-coveted Agave weberi ‘Arizona Star’ in a gallon.

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A nice shipment from B&B Cactus Farm was on the shelves, like this Astrophytum ornatum. I also brought home a Parodia magnifica.

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And another cowhorn agave.

I don’t think I’ve had Jeff’s self-published book out of arm’s reach since I bought it last Saturday.
“Aloes & Agaves in Cultivation” is everything you’d expect from someone who knows all the growers, hybridizers, and designers in San Diego County.
He’ll be speaking closer to home, at South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes, this March.
And February’s speaker doesn’t look bad either (Panayoti Kelaidis!)

Long Beach’s illustrious architect Edward Killingsworth

New Year’s Resolution No. 22: Check my hometown newspaper out more often. Included in the Los Angeles Times end-of-year roundup on “The 11 most popular home and garden stories of 2016,” was a piece I had missed that contained some intriguing back story on a house and garden that has been casually mentioned on the blog a couple times. That cool little house I’ve been admiring on countless dog walks happens to have been built by Long Beach’s most famous architect Edward Killingsworth (1917-2004). Never heard of him? I hadn’t either. Unlike other MCM Case Study architects like Eames, Neutra, and Saarinen, Killingsworh hasn’t become a household name. From what little reading I’ve done so far, I get the sense that branding just wasn’t where he focused his energies.


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(photo Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

Not that this is a Case Study house, that experiment in residential architecture sponsored by Arts & Architecture magazine in the post-war years.
The Frank House in nearby Naples holds that enduring honor.
Strangely enough, my dog-walk house wasn’t meant to survive at all, but was hastily constructed in the 1950s to function as a temporary design model for a proposed project, the 12-story “Marina Towers.”
The Marina Towers condo project was ultimately abandoned, but Killingsworth couldn’t bear to tear down the little model house, so it was rented for a time then ultimately sold.
Apparently, subsequent rehab attempts were not kind to the architect’s vision.

The above photo shows the view of the house I’m familiar with from the vantage point of dog walks on the park across the street. That Yucca rostrata always catches my eye.

From a December 2013 post:

What they say about good bones for faces and houses applies to gardens too. Good bones will see you through some tough times. I’ve posted just a couple photos on this sweet little house and garden before. The front facade is entirely of glass, so one can’t be too obnoxious with the camera under such circumstances. But walking Ein on the park across the street from this house a couple days ago, I noticed that the landscape was being worked on, and heaps of aloes and agaves were strewn on the walkways. I gave the leash to Marty and looked closer. The house was empty. No more George Nelson bubble lamps or butterfly chairs on the balcony. The house had sold! And what on earth were the new owners doing to the garden? Did they have a deep-seated aversion to desert plants? If so, I needed to talk to them about those enormous Yucca rostrata ASAP.”

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(photo Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

View through the front of house to the offshore oil islands and Bluff Park, where we used to walk the corgi. (Now 14, Ein sticks pretty close to home.)

More from the December 2013 post:

I am normally not an overly bold person, but I found myself striding across the street and up to a couple of surprised men standing amongst masses of discarded Agave attenuata. It was the new owner and the gardener, who wasn’t removing the plants but merely thinning them. The owner was an architect and loved the house and garden but said both were in terrible shape. He told me he had been seduced by the furniture seen through the glass wall, too, but when it was all removed and he gained ownership of the house, his heart sank. The magic was gone. Now he wondered if he hadn’t made a terrible mistake. The place was a mess and had not been well cared for. Amazing what a spell all the classic mid century modern furnishings had cast, and how well even a neglected desert garden looks after itself. I told him it had always been my favorite house among the much bigger mansions that lined the street opposite the park, and this seemed to brighten him up considerably. He even showed me into the backyard, which was graveled and already had mature privacy screens of clumping bamboo. It was a gem, even if the interior’s cork floors were in terrible shape. The new owner was knowledgeable about plants (clumping vs. running bamboo) and energetic. There might be a few more dragons to slay than he bargained for, but the house and garden would no doubt surpass what was here before.”

(Check out the Los Angeles Times’ slide show on the stressful but ultimately happy renovation here.)

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(photo Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

The backyard in 2016.

The new owner/architect I interrupted that day in 2013 was Ted Hyman, a partner in the firm Zimmer Gunsul Frasca Architects.
He and his wife Kelly found out the house was for sale in 2013. At that point, conventional waterfront real estate wisdom was in favor of a teardown.
But the Hymans resisted the teardown route and embarked on an arduous restoration.
So I have the Hymans to thank for my continued enjoyment of this lovely house and garden on future walks (with me pushing the corgi strapped into his dog walker).

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(photo Allen J. Schaben/Los Angeles Times)

And how does one accomplish a faithful restoration of a home that was never meant to last?
Lots of love and respect for the spirit of the design along with copious research, including a road trip to Santa Barbara to consult the original 7-page plans.
And everything has turned out splendidly. A daughter’s wedding has been held here, and Killingsworth’s widow Laura paid an approving visit, her first since 1958.

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Killingsworth’s Opdahl house via Dwell

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Killingsworth’s Spalding House via SFCurbed

It is so good to be in a space where the spirit can soar, and, with all of this, it must soar with the sense of balance and proportion set up by the spaces we create.”
Edward Killingsworth, “Contemporary Architects.”


eat your dahlias

I’m halfway convinced to fill my vegetable garden this summer with dahlias.
Beans and tomatoes were an epic fail last summer, and though zucchini were OK, I can find them cheap and local.
But these beauties, however, will never be found at the local market. And their cultural needs are perfectly amenable to the vegetable plot:

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Floret Dahlia ‘Labyrinth’

Yes, winter marches on, but it will most assuredly end one day. And there you’ll be on a summer day, bitterly regretting the lack of foresight that separated you from armfuls of dahlias.
Dahlias in the kitchen, bedroom, dining room, overflowing from bookshelves. It’s a nice winter’s daydream anyway, isn’t it?
Floret Farm’s dahlias will be available to order in January, so get your pencils sharpened!

a holiday visit with Dustin Gimbel

Now that garden designer Dustin Gimbel has branched off into ceramics, I can buy a few holiday presents and visit his incredibly inspiring garden.

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Coming in the little side gate, there’s this silvery vision of Acacia pendula, faced down by a mature leucospermum loaded with flower buds. A new planting of aloes catches the light.
I still get palpitations every time I visit.

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Acacia podalyrifolia on the opposite side of the porch has replaced the Arbutus ‘Marina’ that stubbornly failed to thrive here.
It was uncharacteristically windy today, the first real “weather” we’ve had in Los Angeles, starting off with the previous night’s measurable rainfall.
Note the Acacia podalyrifolia bowing in the wind.
The totem sentinels seem to have proliferated since my last visit, accentuating a really strong, syncopated flow he’s been working on in the front garden with octagonal pavers and festuca.

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The view under Acacia pendula, trained beautifully on a rebar arbor, looking down the main path at the front of the house toward the driveway

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In this view, to the right of the main path, is where his signature totems congregate.
The small pavers allow for a “custom” journey through the garden, an intimate, immersive engagement with the plants.
Dustin uses berms to build topographical interest into the front garden. The stones to the left rim the berm containing the leucospermum.
At the far end is a berm built up with “urbanite” aka broken concrete, which abuts the driveway. Of course, drainage in the berms is excellent too.

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The berm by the driveway, planted with echium, adenanthos, centaurea, kalanchoe, and lots of other treasures.
The dark green ground cover is Frankenia thymifolia.
Luminous Yucca ‘Bright Star’ needs no introduction.

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We played around with his new “tinker toy” ceramic pieces in the front garden.

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I continually nag him about getting a shop website up for his ceramic pieces. He promised it will happen in the new year.
Wonderful shapes and texture from box balls, grasses, Agave mitis var. albidior through a scrim of dripping acacia.

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The Gaudi-esque tinker toys among pavers, grasses, small succulents.

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I’m always impressed by the captivating visual power of Dustin’s garden, the compounding effect of the pure geometric, organic shapes and forms he favors.
Just beyond that hedge, it’s almost a shock to the system when the magic quickly dissolves into ordinary sidewalk, street, cars, etc., etc.

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Everywhere you look the planting is almost unbearably gorgeous.

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In the back garden, I was able to check on the progress of the wood screen which hides the propagation tables.

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I gathered my holiday purchases (which must remain a secret for now), very pleased with myself for combining business and inspiration in one visit.
You can find more of Dustin’s ceramics and garden designs on his Instagram feed.
Have a great weekend.

friday clippings 12/9/16


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There. How’s that for proof of some holiday spirit stirring? You can keep the poinsettias. I’ll take my holiday colors in the form of Aeonium ‘Mardi Gras.’

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And then there was that very festive plant swap meetup this past week with Gail & Kris that helped start the thawing of my holiday-averse heart.
My offering was pups of this variegated Agave bracteosa ‘Monterrey Frost.’
Gail (Piece of Eden) brought a sackload of rare plant treats, as did Kris (Late to the Garden Party).
Kris was also entrusted with the solemn duty of dispersing pups from Pam’s whale agave Moby, who passed on in her Austin, TX garden in 2016.
(That’s my very young whale agave also in the photo above, the selection ‘Frosty Blue.’)

This weekend I plan on getting some shopping done at some of the craft fairs that are popping up.
A sure bet looks like the Renegade Craft Fair, especially since it will be held at Grand Park this year. And this Sunday is perfect timing for the Rose Bowl Flea Market too.
If you’re in Long Beach, the source of my ‘Monterrey Frost’ agave was Urban Americana, a great place, btw, for some holiday shopping.
Lots of Bauer and Gainey pottery, including this lust-inducing Bauer Hanging Indian Pot. Maybe Marty will check the blog before the 25th.
Long Beach harbor’s twinkly boat parade this Saturday night always softens me up and gets me in a holiday mood.
And If I stream the semi-holiday-themed movie “About A Boy,” maybe while baking some Molasses Crinkle cookies, I should be just about there.

Have a very merry weekend!

rainy day clippings 11/27/16

I’ve been up in my rainy “fort,” the open air, half-roofed lookout over the laundry shed, piles of soggy New Yorkers and Gardens Illustrated at my side, overindulging in a reading feast this blessedly stormy weekend. A copy of conversations with Robert Irwin, “seeing is forgetting the name of the thing one sees” has managed to stay semi-dry, and there’s also an assortment of other stuff I alternately pick up and put down, foraging for some badly needed inspiration. I found a couple pieces on the blog from several years back that coincidentally also feature Mr. Irwin in one guise or another.


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photo of lookout/rainy day fort from sunny August 2012. Coincidentally, Amicia zygomeris has been ordered and planted again for 2017


So just a quick hello, wishing you a happy Sunday and offering a couple accounts of some local jaunts in case you’re in need of some rainy day reading as well.

Following is a repost from August 2012 “melianthus at the getty and other controversies.”

The incomparable Herb Ritts and Titian were also at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, and some of Marie Antoinette’s hand-me-down furniture too. I think it can be safely said that gardeners are connoisseurs of the perfect moment, and last Sunday was that most exquisite of summer days, not too hot, just senusally warm and breezy, appreciated even more today for the fleeting rarity it was now that this week has brought the first real heat wave we’ve had this summer, along the coast at least. I’ve had such a strong itch to get to a museum lately. Must be all the press about the new *Barnes museum that’s been trickling in since its unveiling this spring in Philadelphia, which I hear includes a garden also, though there’s been little press so far about that. What few photos I’ve seen of the new Barnes’ garden depict a contemplative, austere space, the antithesis of Robert Irwin’s kinetic, kaleidoscopic maze at the Getty Center (to distinguish it from the Getty Villa in Malibu). But the controversy surrounding the new home of the Barnes Foundation reminds me of the raging controversy that Irwin’s garden for the Getty provoked at its unveiling in 1997.

And then there’s art controversies of the compound leafy kind. Here’s the melianthus in question. With those narrow leaflets, it’s definitely not M. major, and I’m inclined to think it’s M. comosus.


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One of the lazy assumptions I’m inclined to make, and unfortunately there are many, has been to assume that the other species of melianthus are not really worth growing if you can have M. major, but this one at the Getty might be changing my mind. Slimmer leaflets, not as lush but a little more succulent in feel, create an even stronger rhythmic pattern. I’m pretty sure the dense effect must have been obtained by cutting it back hard, because although it’s reputedly smaller in size than M. major, it does tend toward lankiness. (San Marcos Growers: “This plant looks best if pruned hard and is often treated more like a perennial than a shrub.”)


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The melianthus was planted at the top of the walkway leading down to the maze. This sylvan walkway flanking a tumbling stream is redolent with the fragrance of the London Plane trees lining either side, that strong scent of sycamore which to me will always be the perfume of summer and rivers.

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The stream hidden by the London Plane trees runs the entire length of the garden, ending in a dramatic spill into the azalea labyrinth.

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At the top, under the dappled shade of the sycamores, the Cor-Ten-bounded walkway plantings are filled with the strong leafy shapes of succulents, begonias, hellebores.

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Hirsute Echeveria setosa, silvery dyckias, paddle plant Kalanchoe luciae, and a few blades of ophiopogon, the Black Mondo Grass.

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Begonias and variegated ginger

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Astelia and persicaria

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That lovely sycamore scent eventually gets supplanted by the overpoweringly skunky notes of variegated tulbaghia as you descend down the walkway toward the Central Garden. The mass planting of society garlic shimmering in the shifting light amidst the slender trunks of crepe myrtle trees is an undeniably powerful effect after the complex plantings of the upper walkway.

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The improbable azalea maze in blinding full sun. Cotinus ‘Golden Spirit’ on the left. Purple blur in the distant background on the left is tibouchina, the princess flower, whose leaves were burning in the strong sunlight. The maze garden started looking its best towards closing time at 5:30 p.m. During the summer, this Getty is open til 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

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I can’t say the summer plantings of mostly dahlias were my favorite part of the garden, probably because I had just seen dahlias grown to perfection under the kinder skies of the Pacific Northwest. The effect was more of a shabby cutting garden, but the public seemed happy enough with the results. Irwin’s design calls for these labor-intensive, concentric borders surrounding the azalea pool to provide a triumphant and dizzying swirl of shape and color under a strong Mediterranean sun, and that’s a tall order. I think it’d be fantastic as a semi-desert garden, but the public might call foul. Art critic Christopher Knight had this to say about Irwin’s “folly” when it faced a barrage of criticism at its unveiling over a decade ago, and not for the plantings but for its very existence and the exuberant, almost comic contrast it presented to Meier’s stark, monumental architecture: “The great thing about a garden folly is that it’s, well, a folly. In a world of practical decorum, rationalism suddenly doesn’t apply. When the folly is conceived as the garden itself, rather than a discrete structure within a garden, then be prepared to suspend every expectation.” (Quote obtained here.)

On the path behind the massed society garlic, overlooking brugmansias, cannas, and a pomegranate tree to the giant bougainvillea rebar arbors.


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Always fascinating to uncover the multiple, shifting perspectives in Robert Irwin’s garden.

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This visit I was struck by the sensitive treatment of trees, whether silhouetted against Meier’s exquisite travertine limestone or weeping into clean-swept expanses of decomposed granite, like these California pepper trees.

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On the upper terraces closer to the museum, a bank of large pots massed together were planted simply and effectively with tough, scrubby stuff like helichrysum and Pelargonium sidoides.

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Museum fatigue usually hits me after an hour or so, but not this day. Even after five hours, I had to be reminded by security guards that the museum was closing and it was time to get a move on. The Herb Ritts photography exhibit closes September 2, 2012.

*Christopher Knight, art critic for the Los Angeles Times, is one of the diehard defenders of Albert Barnes’ original vision for his art collection. His review of the relocation of the collection to a new building in Philadelphia includes some helpful context for some of the timeless issues encapsulated in the debate over the Barnes collection: “Typical museums juxtapose art objects according to traditional knowledge categories like period, style or place. Not Barnes. His irreverent inventiveness used formal qualities — physical context, color, line, composition, texture, scale, space, etc. — to jump-start imagination. The result demanded that a visitor look and look hard.”

For more background on the Barnes, here’s a trailer to the controversial documentary entitled “The Art of the Steal.”

More of Robert Irwin’s work at LACMA, from August 2011 “Palms & Lawn” at this link.

Bloom Day November 2016

Daylight Saving Time and the electoral college. I think we can agree that these are two areas worthy of further study.
May Dreams Gardens collects Bloom Day reports the 15th of every month.
My excuse for posting on the 16th? The DST ate my report. I don’t know how you all manage with these shortened days.

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For November we’ll begin with N, for nerines, truly a miracle bulb. I get it that all bulbs are miraculous, but they are not, unlike my nerines, kill-proof.
But go ahead and forget nerines in a dry bowl all summer long (like I do a lot of other plants, come to think of it).

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In the case of nerines, you will be rewarded, not punished. They require that dry summer dormancy. Think of nerines as bulbs that actually encourage bad behavior.

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Okay, nobody gets excited by the drab composite flowers of a senecio, but I do like how the blooms extend the leaf-stacked lines of the stems. And November is not a bad month for a shot of yellow. (Senecio medley-woodi)

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More November yellow from Tagetes lemmonnii, the Copper Canyon Daisy. What a great common name, right out of a John Ford western. Some plants get stuck with unfortunate names like “lungwort.” Maybe I’m weird (ya think?) but I actually like the smell of the leaves.

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Bocconia is sending forth those frothy bloom panicles. Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea,’ the blue wash in the background, is also budded up with bloom. The acacia just underwent an intervention and had some Tanglefoot smeared around its trunk to stop the ants from massing cottony cushiony scale along its branches. As difficult as it is to imagine winners where climate change is concerned, there will be those who come out victorious, and I’m certain they will be bugs. Each one of those cottony, pillowy encrustations on my acacia holds over 600 eggs.

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I’m loving this tawny, oatsy look the garden has taken on in November. ‘Fairy Tails’ pennisetum in the foreground, oatsy-colored bloom trusses of tetrapanax in the background.

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One clump of melinus, the Ruby Grass, is still sending out rich-colored blooms. The other two clumps have only faded stalks. More oatsy theme.

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Once the grevilleas reach blooming size, look out. It’s just another ‘Moonlight’ mile, as far as continuity of blooms. It really does take on a lunar glow around sunrise.

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Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’ backed by the claret tones of ‘Hallelujah’ bilbergia. And since Dustin Gimbel burst into Mr. Cohen’s immortal song when he gave me these pups, that’s the gorgeous earworm I’m stuck with in their company. (I have to admit my earworm is sung by Jeff Buckley, though. I can’t help it — that’s where I heard the song first.)

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I don’t think I’ve given a shout-out to Plectranthus neochilus all summer. Ever stinky of leaf, but a sturdy friend to hummingbirds. The stump of the smoke tree ‘Grace,’ that improbably grew branches as thick and far-flung as a sycamore, still lies underneath. A little more decomposition of the stump, and I can dig it up and plant something more exciting. I know the hummers are going to hate me, though.

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And yet another entry in the category “Every Bloom Counts in November,” the little euphorbia that took containers by storm 5 or 6 years ago, now greeted mostly with yawns. Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ is perennial here and doesn’t get into much trouble. Nothing eats it and hot, dry summers don’t faze it.

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Another view of it wrapping around the other side of the containers, with another survivor, a climbing kalanchoe. The euphorbia loves that root run between garden and bricks.

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Berkheya’s feeble attempt at a weak-necked bloom this November highlights why it’s equally appreciated for those great, serrated leaves.

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Aloe “Kujo’ is just about spent, but the red-tipped aloe to the left, cameronii, was discovered to have two buds still tucked in close to the leaves this morning. (Woot!) The other aloe to the right is allegedly elgonica. I’ve searched the blog and find no reference to a bloom yet.

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And the little passiflora ‘Flying V’ is still displaying all those fine qualities, unstoppable, indomitable, etc. this November, on the day after Bloom Day.

This is no game

(This piece by Jack Handey, which appeared in The New Yorker January 9, 2006, made us laugh just as hard again this morning. Thank you, Mr. Handey!)

This is no game. You might think this is a game, but, trust me, this is no game.

This is not something where rock beats scissors or paper covers rock or rock wraps itself up in paper and gives itself as a present to scissors. This isn’t anything like that. Or where paper types something on itself and sues scissors.

This isn’t something where you yell “Bingo!” and then it turns out you don’t have bingo after all, and what are the rules again? This isn’t that, my friend.

This isn’t something where you roll the dice and move your battleship around a board and land on a hotel and act like your battleship is having sex with the hotel.

This isn’t tiddlywinks, where you flip your tiddly over another player’s tiddly and an old man winks at you because he thought it was a good move. This isn’t that at all.

This isn’t something where you sink a birdie or hit a badminton birdie or do anything at all with birdies. Look, just forget birdies, O.K.?

Maybe you think this is all one big joke, like the farmer with the beautiful but promiscuous daughter. But what they don’t tell you is the farmer became so depressed that he eventually took his own life.

This is not some brightly colored, sugarcoated piece of candy that you can brush the ants off of and pop in your mouth.

This is not playtime or make-believe. This is real. It’s as real as a beggar squatting by the side of the road, begging, and then you realize, Uh-oh, he’s not begging.

This is as real as a baby deer calling out for his mother. But his mother won’t be coming home anytime soon, because she is drunk in a bar somewhere.

It’s as real as a mummy who still thinks he’s inside a pyramid, but he’s actually in a museum in Ohio.

This is not something where you can dress your kid up like a hobo and send him out trick-or-treating, because, first of all, your kid’s twenty-three, and, secondly, he really is a hobo.

All of this probably sounds oldfashioned and “square” to you. But if loving your wife, your country, your cats, your girlfriend, your girlfriend’s sister, and your girlfriend’s sister’s cat is “square,” then so be it.

You go skipping and prancing through life, skipping through a field of dandelions. But what you don’t see is that on each dandelion is a bee, and on each bee is an ant, and the ant is biting the bee and the bee is biting the flower, and if that shocks you then I’m sorry.

You have never had to struggle to put food on the table, let alone put food on a plate and try to balance it on a spoon until it gets to your mouth.

You will never know what it’s like to work on a farm until your hands are raw, just so people can have fresh marijuana. Or what it’s like to go to a factory and put in eight long hours and then go home and realize that you went to the wrong factory.

I don’t hate you; I pity you. You will never appreciate the magnificent beauty of a double rainbow, or the plainness of a regular rainbow.

You will never grasp the quiet joy of holding your own baby, or the quiet comedy of handing him back to his “father.”

I used to be like you. I would put my napkin in my lap, instead of folding it into a little tent over my plate, like I do now, with a door for the fork to go in.

I would go to parties and laugh—and laugh and laugh—every time somebody said something, in case it was supposed to be funny. I would walk in someplace and slap down a five-dollar bill and say, “Give me all you got,” and not even know what they had there. And whenever I found two of anything I would hold them up to my head like antlers, and then pretend that one “antler” fell off.

I went waltzing along, not caring where I stepped or if the other person even wanted to waltz.

Food seemed to taste better back then. Potatoes were more potatoey, and turnips less turnippy.

But then something happened, something that would make me understand that this is no game. I was walking past a building and I saw a man standing high up on a ledge. “Jump! Jump!” I started yelling. What happened next would haunt me for the rest of my days: the man came down from the building and beat the living daylights out of me. Ever since then, I’ve realized that this is no game.

Maybe one day it will be a game again. Maybe you’ll be able to run up and kick a pumpkin without people asking why you did that and if you’re going to pay for it.

Perhaps one day the Indian will put down his tomahawk and the white man will put down his gun, and the white man will pick up his gun again because, Ha-ha, sucker.

One day we’ll just sit by the fire, chew some tobacky, toast some marshmackies, and maybe strum a tune on the ole guitacky.

And maybe one day we’ll tip our hats to the mockingbird, not out of fear but out of friendliness.

If there’s one single idea I’d like you to take away from this, it is: This is no game. The other thing I’d like you to think about is, could I borrow five hundred dollars?

(Author’s Note: Since finishing this article, I have been informed that this is, in fact, a game. I would like to apologize for everything I said above. But please think about the five hundred dollars.) ♦