Cross-Pollination popup April 14

It’s finally here, and I’m so hoping to see you there:

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Weather has been hot and sultry, jump-starting a celebratory mood for this weekend with so much to see and do. The glorious moment that is mid-April only comes around so many times, so don’t even think about saying no to it.

Have a great weekend.

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Wilder California at the popup April 14

We are thrilled to have prints from Wilder California at the popup this Saturday, included the new dreamy series of work on Joshua Tree. For the upcoming popup, I spent quite a bit of time looking for botanical prints I’d want on my own walls, and could find none more attuned to the structure and essence of desert plants than Wilder California.

(I still like opuntias best in photos — come have a browse at the popup and convince me otherwise. Maybe you know a surefire method for removing their prickly glochids.)

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When a friend of Mitch’s moved into new digs last week, he thought he’d warm up the empty place for her first night there (completely unbeknownst to her). So he grabbed anything to hand, which happened to be some of the stuff destined for the popup this Saturday, along with a jolt of color from a vintage Hermes scarf, hand-painted fabric from an old Hollywood theater, twinkle lights — you get the idea. It reminded me of the scene in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, (Alfonso Cuarón’s is the best screen version), when a sympathetic friend climbed into her cold attic garret while she slept and laid the bare table with food, lit a fire, brought in some soft blankets, and transformed the godforsaken garret into a scene out of 1001 Nights. That’s what friends are for.

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And since it was all going to be dismantled in a day, he grabbed some photos to remember by. File under the art of friendship.

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15th Annual Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour April 14 & 15 — a giveaway

This weekend is the 15th Annual Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour, Saturday and Sunday, April 14 and 15, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and if you’ve been paying attention (thank you!) Saturday, April 14, is also the day we’re holding a pop-up plant fair at Urban Americana here in Long Beach. Unfortunately, I can’t be in two places at once, so I’m definitely missing out on Saturday’s tour. But that doesn’t mean you have to! We’re joining forces with the Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour and giving away two pairs of tickets to the tour at our pop-up on Saturday, April 14, when we open at noon.

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Mention the tour to us when we open the pop-up at noon, and the tickets are yours — first come, first served of course. We’ll have maps and tickets ready and waiting. The tickets cover both Saturday and Sunday. This year there’s quite a few gardens in Long Beach and nearby cities on the tour on Saturday, so I’m really disappointed about the timing for me, but at least I’ll be able to attend the tour on Sunday, which covers gardens in Highland Park, Eagle Rock, Sherman Oaks, Woodland Hills, Northridge, North Hollywood, Altadena and Pasadena.

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But I’m still having a pity party over having to miss Saturday. Because on Saturday’s tour is a garden I particularly wanted to visit again, Garden 21 in Historic Filipinotown.

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This is an urban gem of a wild garden with monster flannel bushes, one of those gardens you can’t believe exists in a densely crowded city. Layout and hardscape are both done simply but with unerring taste. A refuge in every sense of the word, for people and wildlife. This garden is where I was introduced to the dwarfish flannel bush, Fremontodendron ‘Ken Taylor,’ that I added to my small garden after seeing it on the tour, now showing its first blooms this year. (woot!)

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There’s so many amazing gardens on the tour this year (including a Long Beach garden designed by Dustin Gimbel, whose ceramics will be in the popup), it’s hard to single one out as deserving of your time over another, so see as many as possible. But, personally speaking, another garden I really wanted to visit on Saturday has particular sentimental resonance for me. It’s located in San Pedro, on what we referred to as the Upper Reservation, an old military fort overlooking the Point Fermin Lighthouse. The site of the garden is three acres out of the 102-acre site and makes use of a WWII military bunker. The Upper Reservation is where my youngest attended a Montessori preschool, and it was a wild, semi-forgotten place then, with mostly artists and the preschool using the old military housing. We loved wandering the quiet, empty grounds, solemnly redolent of terrible historical upheaval, down to the details of rusting gun emplacements that were once trained on enemy submarines — yes, off our coast! It’s a spectacular location overlooking the Pacific Ocean that, because it’s federal land, has remain blessedly unchanged. Maybe next year it will be on the tour again…

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Sentimental favorites aside, check out the link to the tour, with photos and stories on each and every remarkable garden. Ready to strut and show why they’re revered in gardens around the world, the California natives are in bloom! And there’s no better vehicle for seeing them in all their diversity, planted with verve and panache, than the Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour.

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a Laura Morton garden on the 2018 APLD tour

On last weekend’s APLD “A River Runs Through It” tour, the “Blue Bayou” garden (cue Roy Orbison) designed by Laura Morton looked like “Party Central” to me. I volunteered as a docent for this garden so had ample time to dip in and out for photos. As the welcoming committee, we sat at a little table in the driveway, next to a white picket fence-enclosed small lawn, which some puzzled tour-goers with crestfallen faces initially mistook for the main event. Au contraire, it was all happening in the backyard, that classic bastion of sunny good times in Southern California — not that my childhood backyard ever looked like this. We were definitely in the “patchy turf” camp.

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Garden designer Laura Morton: “The back yard was predominantly patchy turf around old citrus trees and a pool. The clients’ wish list was long: pool party and play areas, kitchen garden and gathering spaces with a cozy fire. An outdoor cooking and dining space was important, as were new pool decking and equipment. Somewhere along the way we added a cabana with outdoor shower, changing room, and facilities amenable to pool party use. New design transformed the traditional kidney shaped pool as both a reflecting pond and oasis-like lagoon. Full-color bluestone patios and stepping stones break up hardscape. Two new Butia capitata palms anchor the oasis effect. Blue fence paint mirrors the pool, diffusing its edges. Design lines remain fluid on this project; the seating area echo’s the curvilinear pool shape, as does the fire pit. We reduced the lawn area and replaced it with a watersaving native mow-free variety. Plantings around the pool and perimeter include dry tropical plants to further reduce water use. In this way we use our water budget for the vegetables and fruit trees.”

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The grand old citrus trees were heavy with fruit, and the entire garden made one ache for a gin and tonic and a long, schedule-free afternoon (that stretched into a languid evening alternately dipping into the pool and then snuggling up to the fire pit).

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In addition to everyday use, the garden’s family has big gatherings to celebrate Labor Day, Memorial Day, as well as impromptu TGIF celebrations and school benefit activities.

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The view from the fire pit across to the pool, screened from view in this photo by the firecracker plant, Russelia equisetiformis.

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And the view from the fire pit to the hammock and circular divan in the far corner. You can grab a couple of those kumquats overhanging the concrete seating area to take with you to peel on the divan.

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Just step through the flagstone pavers leading through the tousled, mow-less, grassy meadow. (The entrance to the garden is on the right, just beyond a ping-pong table that doubles as an extra table and seating. A small herb and vegetable garden is close to the outdoor kitchen.)

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Pardon the overexposure — it was a bright, beautiful day for the tour. Wisteria standard and flanking orange pots with palms against the house. Orange and blue, orange and blue. The coherence of color discipline, especially for such a large space.

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Bathroom and shower are tucked into this far corner behind the divan. (I don’t know how they get guests to ever leave!)

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From the divan there’s a great view of the pool and who’s splashing who on a summer day. That’s dianella in bloom under the window.

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This may be the first hammock I think I could actually nap on — nice thick padding…

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The sentinel jelly palms framing the pool when viewed from the house (Butia capitata).

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The plant list: (*indicates Calif. native)

Abutilon megapotamicum ‘Orange Hot Lava’
Agapanthus ‘Baby Pete’
Arbutus unedo ‘Compacta’
Asclepia tuberosa
Asparagus meyeri
Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ *
Brugmansia ‘Charles Grimaldi’
Butia capitata
Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’ *
Chamerops humilis ‘Silver Back’
Convolvulus mauritanicus
Native Mow-Free turf *
Dianella revoluta ‘Little Rev’
Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’ *
Liriope muscari
Lomandra longifolia ‘Sea Breeze’
Philodendron Xanadu
Russelia equisetiformis
Salvia chamaeroides ‘Marine Blue’
Strelitzia reginae
Thunbergia grandiflora
Polystichium munitum *
Erigeron karvinskianus
Chamaerops humilis var. cerifera
Senecio serpens
Portulacaria afra
Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Limelight’
Wisteria sinensis ‘Purple Dragon’
Rosmarinus officinalis
Aloysia triphylla
Laurel nobilis
Citrus Kumquat ‘Meiwa’
Citrus Lemon ‘Meyer’
Citrus Mexican Lime
Various seasonal vegetables/herbs/flowers

A Blue Bayou garden that would have set Roy Orbison’s worried mind at ease. I know I had a wonderful time. Congrats to the APLD Greater Los Angeles District on their fabulous 3rd Annual LA Garden Tour!

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A River Runs Through It; A New Landscape Paradigm April 7/8

Day 1, Speaker Forum: Saturday, April 7th, 9:30 am-4:30 pm, Descanso Gardens.

Day 2, the 3rd Annual Garden Tour: Sunday, April 8th, 9:30 am-4:30 pm.

There could not be a more well-timed moment for the Association of Professional Landscape Designers’ upcoming conference and garden tour this weekend, April 7 and 8, “A River Runs Through It; A New Landscape Paradigm.” It’s all painfully fresh in our minds — drought, wildfires, heavy rain, mudslides, more drought. We know a garden can no longer be just another pretty face, but must be smart and resilient too, capable of rolling with extended drought or brief-but-fierce downpours. But how? This is your rare opportunity for the answers, with personal access to designers and authors at the forefront of the watershed approach to landscape design.

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Instead of the restorative ease and pleasure we expect from gardens, we’ve all just witnessed what can go horribly wrong; and every garden, no matter how small, can help makes things right. The watershed approach to garden design incorporates techniques that make the best use of water, whether it comes in the form of rain or the thrifty use of strategic supplemental irrigation, and by contouring the land with dry creeks, swales and berms to catch and direct water flow. (It’s terrifying to contemplate, but water does indeed run out, as Cape Town, South Africa, is unfortunately discovering — read about Day Zero here.)

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Last weekend I previewed the gardens on the tour, and they run the gamut from mature and in full-on spring bloom to fairly recently installed, where the principles and practices guiding the watershed approach are still clearly discernible and therefore very easy to understand. No matter what the climate throws at us, gardens will always be our refuge and home to countless other species, and hopefully not sources of anxiety and frustration — or, in the worst possible case, actual sources of harm. Whether your garden’s topography is utterly flat or scarily steep hillside, filled with trees or bare dirt, there’s a way forward that this conference wants to share. It’s a holistic, all-inclusive integration of design and ecology that can transform a mild-mannered garden into a local hero.

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I promise you’ll learn tons, both from the incredible panel of speakers on Saturday and the garden tour on Sunday. (My favorite new word is “hugelkultur,” composting whole trees, in this case seventeen palm trees to be exact, an ingenious solution when faced with a removal bill of 30k…oh, the stories you’ll hear!)

Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it.” — Norman Maclean

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ranunculus now

The ranunculus lovers among us are often encouraged to try growing them ourselves. And in Southern California, it’s totally do-able, especially if you have a dedicated cutting garden and can treat them as ephemerals, like tulips. Ranuncs love our sunny, cool springs, a fact which professional growers in San Diego County have long exploited. Every once in a great while I’ll pot up some of the claw-like tubers as they become available in fall for containers. (Soak tubers, plant, water well but not so much as to cause rot, watch out for marauding critters, etc.) But mostly I get my ranunc fix from the florist.

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An inexpensive alternative to the florist is checking your local nursery for plants this time of year. I brought these home in six-packs, many already in bloom, then potted them on into 4-inch pots to make big, fat, heavy-blooming plants. Check the six-pack carefully; some of the cells contained dead plants, so I swapped out the dead plants for viable plants from other six-packs. Ask a nursery person to help if you’re squeamish about taking charge and doing this yourself.

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spring rush 2018

Can you believe spring is here? Maybe it’s not full-on spring yet in your neck of the woods, but I’ve been on a tear the past few days, covering a lot of counties, San Diego, Orange, and Los Angeles, just trying to keep up. Mostly I’ve been stalking plants; some to simply admire, some to sell on at the popup, and some to keep. And let me just say those last two categories are extremely fluid.

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Looking down at Theodore Payne greenhouses from Wildflower Hill

At the Theodore Payne Poppy Day Spring Plant Sale on Saturday I found Ceanothus ‘Valley Violet,’ a UC Davis Arboretum All-Star recommended for small gardens, tolerant of summer-dry garden conditions as well as varying amounts of supplemental irrigation. I’m debating whether to pull out a couple clumps of summer-blooming agastache for this spectacular spring-blooming shrub. Still mulling over this seasonal trade-off.

(Note: The Theodore Payne Foundation is graciously donating two pairs of tickets for the 15th Annual Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour to give away at our upcoming popup on April 14th at Urban Americana. More details soon!)

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What I did immediately plant in the garden from the sale was Salvia carduacea, an annual known as the Thistle Sage. (Car jack stands make excellent cat exclusionary devices, dontcha know.) A bunch of little dudleyas bought at the sale are earmarked for the popup.

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The tall aloe in the green pot is a gift from Hoov/Piece of Eden — be careful when admiring a potted plant in her garden!

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Now, with this aloe on the other hand, I literally begged for a division. Aloe megalacantha, a stunning, profusely blooming, golden-flowered variant from Arid Lands.

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That’s Sisyrinchium ‘Stripey’ at the base of the tall pot, a fairly new variegated Blue-Eyed Grass getting a tryout this spring too.

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The little aloe in the stamped pot was bought at the Baker garden on Sunday, a fabulous “Coffee in the Garden” event sponsored by the Southern California Horticultural Society. Since the ’70s this former horse property in Tarzana has been sculpted into gardens and planted with renowned rarities:

Donna Marie’s late husband Bill Baker was responsible for collecting, hybridizing and introducing a number of plants to the nursery trade, including Pachyphytum ‘Bill Baker’, Dyckia ‘Brittlestar’ and Aloe ‘Hercules.’ As a team, they also collaborated on many high profile landscape installations throughout Southern California.”

Royce Wood, artist, botanical illustrator and landscape designer, and Tim Thomas, botanist and co-author of the book Southern California Mountains Wildflowers, both spoke movingly of their friend Bill Baker.

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Before and after the talks there was greenhouse after greenhouse to explore filled with bromeliads, cactus and other succulents, all for sale at very competitive prices.

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Enormous tillandsias.

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A variegated ponytail palm of this size is hard to find for less than a hundred, and this one was way under that price.

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An overwhelming selection, with literally thousands of plants to choose from. Bench after bench devoted to just dyckias! I admit to total spontaneity as far as purchases. I gave up on scrutinizing small plants and focused on the great deals available in larger sizes. For example, this rhipsalis. Its intense coloration completely won me over.

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I love it temporarily spilling out of this ventilator/fan thingy. Possibly Rhipsalis crispata?

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Just one more, I promise — Euphorbia horrida, another incredible find from the Baker garden sale.

Now that we’re closing in on April, it’s all coming thick and fast. Here’s some upcoming dates to keep in mind:

April 4-8, 2018, San Francisco Flower & Garden Show

April 7, 2018, San Diego Horticultural Society Spring Garden Tour “Enchanting Encinitas”

April 5-7, 2018, Dwell on Design LA

April 7-8, 2018, APLD Garden Conference, Los Angeles, California

April 14, 2018, “Cross-Pollination,” a pop-up plant fair, 12-6 p.m., Urban Americana, 1345 Coronado Ave., Long Beach, CA 90804

April 14, 2018, UC Santa Cruz Spring Plant Sale

April 14-15, 2018, Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour

April 26-29, 2018, 29th Annual At Home in the Garden Show, South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa, California

April 27-29, 2018, Huntington Botanical Garden Annual Spring Plant Sale

April 30, 2018, Garden Conservancy Open Days, Pasadena, California, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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banksia love

My little Banksia repens in the front gravel garden is looking really happy after the recent rains. A good soaking of sweet spring rain is the perfect launch to its second summer in the garden, hopefully another successful one. No flowers yet, but keeping me focused on the prize is a dried florist’s banksia that has been on the mantle for at least six months, leaves and flower, which Mitch included last week in photos of Dustin’s ceramics for the upcoming pop-up. Structurally, the genus banksia is endlessly mesmerizing in leaf, flower, and cone, and they support a rich community of life. Birds, mammals, bees, marsupials all vie for pollination rights.

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Back on the continent of its origins, artist Amok Island (“if he wasn’t an artist he would be a biologist“), is rendering banskias on industrial-size murals as well as prints. photo amok-2.jpeg

Ravensthorpe, Western Australia 2016. ‘Six Stages of Banksia Baxteri’ (side 2) Commissioned by FORM WA and CBH

How epically spectacular is this?

(via Colossal.)

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Banksia ericifolia lived briefly in my garden for a time in 2015. If Amok Island’s prints weren’t sold out, I’d be sorely tempted…

Have a great weekend.

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wednesday vignette 3/21/18

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When I last visited the Huntington a couple weeks ago, I mentioned to my friend that I had yet to visit the new Chinese Garden. (I should say “newish,” because the first phase was completed ten years ago!) That’s some serious, methodical avoidance, possibly because I intuited that Chinese garden design was a vast and deep rabbit hole that I couldn’t possibly fathom in a short visit, with no applicable inspo for my little urban garden.

After my friend left, I wandered over for my first, dutiful visit.

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Liu Fang Yuan is the only garden in the world built with authentic materials—all sourced, fabricated and shipped from China, built by Chinese artisans…”

Remember the chalk paintings in Mary Poppins? Stepping into The Garden of Flowing Fragrance feels like you’ve entered an ancient scroll that magically unfurls with each step. That a complete ignoramus like myself could be so moved by this garden speaks to the seductive atmosphere built up by incomparable, centuries’ old craftsmanship. The quick, cursory visit turned into an awestruck, lingering encounter, including a glass of Tsingtao and a bowl of Chinese broccoli at the Freshwater Dumpling and Noodle House for lunch. We are so incredibly fortunate to be able to visit this gem, the largest Chinese-style garden outside China.

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