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orange and blue

I love garden surprises. Sure, there is some planning involved, but because the garden supports a collecting habit, the big picture is usually uncertain and often a mixed bag.
What the collecting id of my psyche is up to all year is anyone’s guess, including mine, and uncertainty prevails. Excitement too. With spring comes the big reveal.

This year’s reveal shows a pronounced orange and blue theme.

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There’s a big, bold orange and blue statement with Eucalyuptus ‘Moon Lagoon’ now that Isoplexis isabelliana is in bloom.

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But there’s orange and blue everywhere.
Agave franzosinii with Phygelius ‘Diablo’ and Sphaeralcea ‘Newleaze Coral’

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Arctotis ‘Opera,’ one of about three clumps threaded through lomandra, anigozanthos, euphorbias, still a youngish planting.
The only real plan was for summer daisies to be orange, so orange varieties of arctotis and osteospermum were selected. The rest is all collector mania.
Gomphrena ‘Fireworks,’ magenta bobs on the right, has been perennial. This is its second (or third?) year.
It’s a pretty close substitute for alliums all summer long and matches clear orange in intensity.

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Osteospermum ‘Zion Orange’ was planted in January.
There was a really good color selection of the South African daisies at the nurseries this spring, making possible your own personally customized veldt.
Lower branches of this aeonium keep breaking off in winter storms then rooting, so it’s quite the undulating thicket now.

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The source for all that blue (and silver) is the plentiful number of dry garden plants with leaves in those shades.
New planting of Stachyls ‘Bella Grigio’ replaced biennial Echium simplex after it finished blooming.
From reading other blogs, it’s uncertain whether this stachys will be a durable member of the garden or just a fleeting phenom.

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I’d love to see Digitalis ferruginea bloom here, but so far they haven’t take a shine to the garden. But isoplexis is more than enough compensation.
Like the bigeneric hybrid digiplexis, the isoplexis attract scale, but overall I think I prefer the shrubbier isoplexis.
And with the warmer winters, a big ants and scale problem is the new norm.

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Purchased from Jo O’Connell’s Australian Plants Nursery last year, the eucalyptus was planted from a gallon in July 2014. As you can see, it’s fast on its feet.
I’ve already trimmed it back a bit but will ultimately give it free rein in this corner, which means shifting and moving everything in its path.
Initially I had plans to keep it in a container, a silly idea in a drought. Now I’m hoping to grow it as a large shrub, not a tree.
I noted on a recent visit that the Huntington’s new Education and Visitor Center plaza area has planted quite a few of this eucalyptus too.

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Blue Agave ‘Dragon Toes,’ with Aloe cameronii on the left and Aloe elgonica on the right, both aloes flushed orange from the recent heat waves rolling through every few weeks or so.
And then the little variegated agapanthus will bring more blue in a week or so.
I’m still apprehensive about agapanthus in my garden, the first time ever. It’s now in bloom all over town.
My gamble is that it will seem less quotidian surrounded by succulents and grasses. It’s such a good plant for dry summer gardens.
But there’s a strong chance I won’t be able to overcome lifelong prejudices and shopping center associations.

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And then silvery-blue Glaucium grandiflorum started building up some imposing bloom architecture. Photo taken May 9, 2015

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I gasped when I saw these open this morning.

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Audibly gasped. Between gasping at flowers and talking to bees, who knows what the neighbors must be thinking by now.

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This glaucium might behave as a short-lived perennial or biennial and may or may not set seed. There were no blooms last year, just those magnificent leaves.
There’s two clumps, and both plants were covered by the band of shade that lies over this part of the garden in winter, which had me worried a bit.
Maybe in a wet winter the shade might have proved fatal. Both clumps are in full sun now.
This glaucium is from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials but not listed as available now.

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Another big wash of blue (under Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ no less!) from Plectranthus neochilus.

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Mostly blues and silver here now, but a lot of aloes have found their way here under the acacia, out of frame (and Helianthemum ‘Henfield Brilliant.’ More orange!)
I hope I don’t get orange and blue fatigue any time soon…


visiting Ms. Fish’s garden


In 1993, when my boys were 5 and 10, we took our first vacation without them. It was a big emotional deal for all of us to be apart some 10 days, but I needed to see if there really existed such gardens as those I knew of only through books. Gardens where plants were king. They certainly didn’t exist in my part of the U.S. (Back then I had very little understanding of climactic influence on garden style.) But how did one find such places pre-Internet? By running one’s finger down the indices of garden books and making copious lists cross-referenced against maps, of course. This is how our itinerary was born. The majority of destinations were in England, with a few outliers such as Powis Castle in Wales and Logan Botanic Garden in Scotland. We all know the names. Kew Gardens, Sissinghurst, Great Dixter, Barrington Court, Hidcote, Hestercombe, Mottisfont, Barnsley House, Tintinhull, Packwood House, Wakehurst Place, East Lambrook Manor and many more. We chose September because it was cheaper than spring or summer, joined the National Trust, which is an incredible deal when visiting lots of gardens, and rented a car. England is such a small country that 3 or 4 gardens can be seen in a day, and having gone vacationless for so long, both Marty and I had quite the pent-up need for an adventurous road trip. (Or as adventurous as a road trip can be in England.) The miles of immaculate hedges, Lutyens’ stonework at Great Dixter and Hestercombe, deer in the early morning Italianate mist at Powis Castle, it was all incredibly rich, in multiple senses of that word, but what mainly resonated with me was the fierce love of plants everywhere in evidence. And at East Lambrook Manor at least was a smallish garden, not too grand, with a little attached plant nursery. I’m sure I carried a few of that nursery’s plants back home in my suitcase, maybe even Astrantia ‘Margery Fish,’ when I was still trialing such SoCal-averse plants in my garden. But I took no photos so have nothing to post, and I can’t seem to locate the journal I kept of our travels, though the letters I wrote to the boys are around here somewhere. I’ve never been one to desire an “English” garden or even a “cottage garden,” but I can still point to that trip for abetting a tendency to crowd far too many plants in one garden.

What reminded me of this trip today, apart from the holiday, is a piece on Margery Fish in Slate entitled “A Gardener’s Revenge,’ by Rachel Cooke, extracted from her book “Her Brilliant Career: Ten Extraordinary Women of the Fifties.” I had no idea that Ms. Fish’s garden at East Lambrook started out as a conjugal battle of wills:

The ideological battle must commence. In the red (and yellow and orange) corner is Walter, with his Tudorbethan ideas about tidiness and color. In the green corner is Margery, all sculptural seed pods and luxuriant foliage. Walter is alarmed. He hadn’t taken his wife for a modernist. So he goes on the attack, arguing for, and winning, his much-desired lawn, a province with which he is soon quite obsessed. ‘Walter would no more have left his grass uncut or the edges untrimmed than he would have neglected to shave,’ writes Margery, who at this stage in the book is still doing her best impression of a loyal wife.”

Sounds like a great read, doesn’t it? Walter would be appalled at the annihilation of lawns currently taking place in California. Margery, on the other hand, I’m sure would be cheering us on.

notes on some spring plant sales

Is that a water pistol in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?


I’ve been hearing from friends in the retail nursery business that the new water restrictions have them very worried. Indeed, I’ve been told retail sales for April were most discouraging.
Yet botanical garden plant sales this spring, which understandably bring out the most avid plant lovers, have been mobbed.
Undaunted, unbowed, we’re still in search of a new plant love, just like every spring before this momentous one, but keeping a closer eye on our latest infatuation’s potential drinking problem.
(At Fullerton Arboretum’s outdoor Green Scene, this year’s darling was Pimelia ferruginea, helpfully in full bloom. It seemed to be in everyone’s cart.)

But since the announcement, the confusion and dismay of the lawn-and-foundation-shrub crowd is palpable. There’s even panicked talk of deploying Astroturf.
A simple, reasonably easy-to-maintain, preferably inexpensive solution to the space between the sidewalk and front door is wanted now.
Local nurseries have a huge opportunity to lead the masses into a dry garden oasis, possibly by more focus on small display gardens instead of benches and benches of summer “color.”

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Now, this is a plant sale. San Francisco Botanical Garden plant sale 5/2/15. Shopping carts!

Along with Fullerton Arboretum’s Green Scene, I’ve attended the Huntington and the San Francisco Botanical Garden sales.
These photos are all from SF, a plant sale I’d never attended before. Was it worth the 6-hour drive? Absolutely, every minute of it.
(Plus, I got to stop in and give Mitch a hug for his birthday later in the week.)

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Prices were unbelievably low, the selection much more rarified than the plant sales in SoCal.
I lingered long and hard at the proteaceae table. That’s Grevillea juniperina ‘Molonglo’ in the foreground.

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Here was the Leucadendron argenteum I’ve been waiting for, but ultimately I passed. It’s a big beast.
I took a chance instead on a Protea neriifolia, which probably won’t get very big in my garden, if you take my meaning…

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A book table was a nice touch, but I didn’t spend too much time here (any!). The variety of plants was way too distracting.

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Some desirables were sitting not on sales tables anymore but in somebody else’s cart, like this bomarea. In somebody’s unattended cart.
That moral dilemma might be too much for some attendees. Fortunately, I was forearmed with the knowledge that life in Los Angeles for bomareas is a struggle for survival.
After a couple years, mine is still alive, but just barely. Sometimes it’s so hard to distinguish that fine line between still getting established and fading away entirely.

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Oh, there was plenty of juicy looking stuff, like Mukdenia rossii. Walk away, just walk away.

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Now we’re talking. There was a huge California native section too.

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Lemony flutterby poppies.

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And a big succulent selection, of course.. I think the only area SoCal has SF beat is in agaves. Not a big selection in SF.
But then that’s what the Ruth Bancroft Garden plant sales are for. I wish there had been time to stop by this trip, but there just wasn’t.

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I’ve been thinking of lavenders a lot too. Absolutely nowhere to put them at the moment.

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Plant sale haul at home. Protea neriifolia, Leucadendron laxum, Plectranthus zuluensis. The white dierama in bloom was too cheap to pass up.
(But I do apologize in advance for moving you to my garden, the renowned graveyard of dieramas.)
The dierama was planted near Eryngium pandanifolium and Rudbeckia maxima, both of which wouldn’t mind it moist but tolerate drier conditions when established.
(Rudbeckia maxima was found at the Green Scene plant sale.
I spotted the rudbeckia’s big silvery paddle leaves at a display garden at Fullerton Arboretum and tracked it down to their store, The Potting Shed.)

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And this marvelous creature came home from SF, too, a species watsonia.

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I’ve grown the garden hybrids of this South African bulb off and on, which bulk up fast and get bigger than phormiums.
I got a bit bored with the pink and white selections of those. This one’s color reminds me of Nerine sarniensis.

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With a pronounced seductive red flush on the stems and leaves.

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Coincidentally, I bumped into a Protea neriifolia in bloom that weekend at Flora Grubb Gardens.
FGG is where I found my Mother’s Day present, a new container for my Cussonia spicata, which literally busted through the old one.

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And a happy Mother’s Day to all you mothers of invention, gardens, kids and/or animals. May you find a new pot for your growing cussonia!
The skies have turned cloudy and, believe it or not, slightly rainy, so I’ve turned my attention to getting the vegetable garden sorted out, beans planted, tomatoes tied up, etc.

friday clippings 4/24/15 (SoCal Spring Garden Show weekend)


Southern California’s Spring Garden Show started yesterday, 4/23/15, and continues through Sunday, 4/26/15.
It’s always held in the enclosed “Home Store Wing” of the South Coast Plaza.
This wing includes, among many other stores, Anthropologie, West Elm, Z Gallerie, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware — you know them by their envy-inducing catalogues.
Scuttlebutt at the show today suggested that these stores, while appreciating the customers the show has historically driven to their doors, decided this year to thin that plant-mad traffic out a bit.
Fewer plant vendors were allowed to participate so there would be more breathing room around the stores.
In another twist, the stores partnered with local designers to create the show gardens.
How did it all pan out? Judge for yourself.

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And, relax, of course there were still tillandsias! There just weren’t multiple vendors with tillandsias. Redundancy was verboten this year.

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And there was still a sexy agave or two (Agave guiengola ‘Striata’)

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Orchid lovers still had lots to ogle. The epidendrums, or reed orchids, never miss a show.

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A very lush and happy Abutilon megapotamicum grown on standard was in attendance.

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As were a few bromeliad tables. This vendor had their flowers cut for a bouquet.

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Succulents were fairly well represented. I’m always surprised at how beautiful a gasteria is in bloom.

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Pottery

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But where were the really cool plants, the juicy show stuff?
I was on the prowl for the Flame Pea, Chorizema cordatum, which I had just seen at the Disney Concert Hall garden yesterday.
Up and down escalators to three floors, and no Flame Pea. Fine, I’ll just head over to the B&D Lilies table…okay, maybe not this year.
Admittedly, I was a bit let down at first at the reduced number of plant vendors.

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So I headed over to Dustin Gimbel’s collaboration with Crate and Barrel and immediately cheered up.
So much of what I see in his own garden and shapes he’s been mulling over in his work came through in this display…if not my photos.
People, these are plant show photos, weird light, funny angles, arms and legs blocking shots, etc.
That’s a tiny glimpse of a majestic, over 10-foot Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’ on the right.

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I loved people-watching through this view

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More of that blue/green screen, carefully sanded to let paint and wood bleed into each other.

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Like stories within stories, Dustin always plays with visual framing devices.

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Wands of hesperaloe weave through the octogon frames, some of which looked off kilter and precariously balanced.
Just another trick of the eye. All were sturdily fixed in place.

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A hesperaloe to keep an eye out for, with heavily textured leaves and frothy blooms, ‘Pink Parade.’

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Land Workshop’s collaboration with West Elm.
By and large, the designers all used simple materials, clean shapes.
And studying the materials used to build the displays was a crash course in effective screens and fencing sourced straight from the hardware store.
The corner is formed by pallets on end, the open top used as a planter.
The slapdash screening woven with wooden slats reminded me a bit of Stephen Glassman’s work with bamboo.

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Behind the gentleman was a short flight of stairs leading to a small sitting area

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A screen of aluminum pipes, painted in pastel shades, planted with Senecio vitalis.

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Another crazy angled overhead shot to show how this small area fit together.

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At ground level was a sweet mosaic table, potted plants, and a raised bar/dining area out of frame
This display garden was opposite the Apple store, and foot traffic was very heavy around the perimeter.

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Another display I liked was designer Camille Beehler’s collaboration with Pottery Barn.
I was particularly interested in the walls, the puzzle-fitted cement backer boards behind the couches for one wall, corrugated siding for another.

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Potted palo verde tree, couches, bar cart, corrugated screen

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Multiples of blooming Aloe striata in square black planters on pavers edged in river stones

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My humble critique? While this show may have stinted on plants, the designers came up with loads of good ideas to fool around with at home.
And, mercifully, there was a welcome absence of over-the-top outdoor kitchens/saunas/fireplaces, etc.
Next year I’m hoping that a better balance can be achieved that accommodates space for plant vendors, good design, and the needs of the stores themselves.


eat your lilies

How many times have we browsed through plant catalogue descriptions padded with chatty, ethnobotanic non sequiturs like such-and-such is an edible delicacy in its country of origin?
Impatient to discover whether the object of your desire is frost hardy, does such arcane information sometimes strike you as an insufferable display of useless erudition?

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Eat this? Don’t you dare. My only lily this year, ‘Black Charm’ cozying up to aeoniums for support.

Take lilies, for example. Catalogues would have you believe that someone, somewhere, is growing lilies not for those soul-stirring flowers and scent but to eat the bulb.

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And of course it’s all true. I was recently vividly reminded that eating some plants that we consider only as ornamentals isn’t a practice remote in time or place.
All these photos were taken last month at my favorite shopping destination when I work in Koreatown, Zion Market.
(Lily bulbs used for cooking are the “Lanzhou lily (Lilium davidii var. unicolor), which was mainly grown in the region around Lanzhou, Gansu province, Longya lily (L. brownii), which was mainly grown at Hunan and Jiangxi province, and Yixing lily (L. lancifolium), which was mainly grown in Jiangsu province,” source here.)

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I knew these leaves as Chyrsanthemum coronarium, when I tried growing them for cut flowers, now Glebionis coronaria

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Platycodon grandiflorus, the Balloon Flower, doraji in Korean. Lots of ways to go with this, including boiled and dried.

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Campanulas are typically considered the bellflowers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is platycodon as well.

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Platycodon grown as an ornamental, photo via Monrovia

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There does seem to be a Campanulaceae slant to this edible theme.
I did have a codonopsis phase once, spurred on by Heronswood’s wide selection under Dan Hinkley.
Very dainty vines with tiny, subtle bellflowers that, as far as I could tell, hated life in So. Calif. Eating it would be the perfect revenge.

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Leaving plants behind for the moment. Examples like this always make me wonder about that first pioneer who urged, “Try it! Tastes just like __________!”

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I just love that word, bracken. It’s just so, I don’t know, Wuthering Heights. (It’s a large fern.)

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Crithmum maritimum

The blurred line between edibles and ornamentals shouldn’t be such a surprise to me.
I’ve long grown two well-known edibles, the sea kale, Crambe maritima, and samphire, Crithmum maritimum, not in the vegetable plot but among agaves and grasses.

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New, powder-blue leaves of Crambe maritima in March

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And who just went through an extensive search, at no little cost, to source the rare variegated Tuscan kale? That would be me.
I still haven’t decided whether to eat it or worship it.
(Territorial Seed Company carries small plants of “Kosmic Kale” — it doesn’t come true from seed.)
Edible or ornamental? Depends on the eye, palate, and culture of the beholder, and we know those three things are in constant flux.

Zion Market is located roughly between Normandie and Vermont on Wilshire Boulevard.
It’s improbably tucked away in a new mall at the back of the Brutalist-style Equitable Plaza. The main entrance is on Sixth Street.
You could spend a half hour in the kimchee section alone.
And if you want to try your hand at home-made Korean tacos made famous by Roy Choi and his ground-breaking Kogi food truck, you can find your bulgogi marinade here.
I’d been raving about this market to Marty for some time (oh! the aisle-long, mulit-hued bags of rice display!) and finally was able to show him around recently.
It was gratifying to see Marty utterly gobsmacked too. The fresh fish section is a wonder, and the dried fish section is no slouch either.
We’re huge fans of the anchovy, especially in pasta, and there were enormous bags of dried anchovies for I know not what purpose, but we’ll have to figure something out.

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photo via The Los Angeles Times

A few blocks from Zion Market, Roy Choi opened up The Line Hotel.
I love how the greenhouse-inspired restaurant emphasizes the source of all our food, of life itself, plants.
I’ve peeked in the door, but the busy lunch crowds have scared me away so far.
Maybe the The Commissary is serving up some tasty crown daisy.

my mom’s sweet peas

thanks, Mom, for sending me home with sweet peas last night.
As insurance, in the fall I planted sweet peas at my mom’s house as well as my community garden plot.
I neglected to water the sweet peas at my plot the entire month of March. I pulled those withered vines up a couple weeks ago.

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But the family Sweet Pea Project is a rousing success. I plant them in her little raised bed Marty built, she waters them, cuts them. We both swoon over their scent.
The sweet pea vines will be just about done producing when temperatures are warm enough to plant her raised bed with tomatoes for the summer family Tomato Project.
Sounds diabolical of me, doesn’t it? I prefer to think of it as a healthy family symbiosis.

(Way to go, Mom!)

Scheming for more planting space is nothing new. As an apartment dweller, I once rented a neighbor’s empty backyard to a) keep my dog and b) plant cut flowers to sell to restaurants.
The cut flower project barely paid for the seeds, but my dog had a place to stay two doors down, and old Al said the flowers reminded him of his wife’s garden, which had died with her.
Now that I lack both the time and energy (and water!), the neighbor’s yards are safe from my covetous gaze.

So what’s going on this weekend? My weekend plans always start out full of amibition: work in the community garden, make it to Fullerton Arboretum’s Green Scene.
And I’d love to hit the Clarement Eclectic/Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden tour on Sunday too. And the Sunday flea market…two days is never enough.
Keep an eye on Dates to Remember for more upcoming sales and tours.

I know I never mention the weather unless it’s to complain, so for a change let me just say that it’s been stupendously beautiful.
Soft breezes, mild sunshine, the scent of jasmine everywhere, almost overpowering when stopped at traffic lights near medians planted with star jasmine.
Have a great weekend.

Wednesday clippings 4/15/15 (water on the brain)

Finally, a chance to spend some time with the blog again. There’s been lots of reading to catch up on, after the guv dropped that bombshell. (Pass the almonds.*)

One of the best sources of information I’ve found was right there on my blogroll, journalist Emily Green’s Chance of Rain.
In concert with KCET, Emily is writing an amazingly detailed series bristling with helpful links and step-by-step instructions for those wondering what to do with their lawns.
Definitely read Emily’s After the Lawn series before making a call to any lawn removal company that’s eager to snap up your rebate dollars in exchange for wall-to-wall gravel.

Amidst all the finger pointing and accusations, at least we’re beginning to talk about our water situation.
Ironically, after decades of denial, we just can’t seem to shut up about it now.

This entry under the Dot Earth blog at The New York Times rounds up dozens of articles for background reading.

And here’s a great interactive map on water use across the state, city by city, courtesy of The New York Times (“How Water Cuts Could Affect Every Community in California“)

And who knew that a century-old, squatter’s rights mentality governs ground water for agricultural use? Emily Green deciphers the state’s arcane water rights here: (Whose Water Is It Anyway?)

So, yes, I’ve been reading up on the politics of the recent water restrictions. Because it’s not like we need more information on how to design dry gardens.
Reaching into my bookshelf, I can pull out Beth Chatto‘s The Dry Garden, a chronicle of the 30-year-old garden she’s made in East Anglia, England, supported on rainfall alone.
(Which if I remember correctly is, at 30 inches, at least double our 15-inch average pre-drought.)

Then there’s Bob Perry’s landmark resource Landscape Plants for California Gardens.

More recently, there’s the great California resource Reimagining the California Lawn: Water-conserving Plants, Practices, and Designs

Lambley Nursery in Australia is also planting display gardens sustained on mostly rainwater.

At home I’ve been tweaking the garden the past few years to accommodate drier conditions anyway, and our water bill is consistently below average.
Granted, smaller properties like ours will have an easier time adjusting to restrictions.
What lawn we inherited when buying the house was removed over 20 years ago. I’ve never been emotionally attached to closely cropped, bright green turf.
But both neighbors to the east, who cherish their front lawns, have been quietly irrigating them with grey water for years.

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Berkheya purpurea, brought home from Cistus last summer, is a riveting, prickly daisy out of South Africa.
One of countless examples, native and exotic, of gorgeous plants blithely indifferent to dry conditions.
The literature cites berkheya’s habitat as stream banks, so we’ll see how tough it really is.
Once established, anything tap-rooted has a big advantage.

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Hymenolepis parviflora, a dry-tolerant shrub with chartreuse umbels. Nature is a genius.
In the past few years a lot of perennial/biennial/annual umbels have passed through the garden, the toughest probably being cenolophium, melanoselinum, yet even they needed pampering.
This one, however, is the real deal. Hymenolepis is a short-lived shrub from So. Africa that will probably need to be renewed from cuttings in a few years. I’m cool with that.

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Lily ‘Black Charm.’ Fortunately lilies love container life. I find it makes better water sense to grow them in pots to provide the even moisture they crave than in the ground.
The bucket collecting water from the shower is a steady source for container plants now.

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Seeing the Desert Bird of Paradise in rampant bloom wedged into the heat-reflected, bone-dry parkways along Long Beach City College set off a county-wide search for a source.

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The City College’s Hort. Department sold all their stock at their recent plant sale, but one local nursery had a couple plants.
I replaced Salvia ‘Amistad’ with Caesalpinia gilliesii. I know Sunset is marketing this salvia as waterwise, but I’d planted mine far from the hose bib, and it was showing some stress.

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Verbascum in Dustin Gimbel‘s garden, seed collected on his recent trip to Italy. He gave me two of these wavy-leaved mulleins, possibly V. undulatum.
Verbascums are classic perennials for dry gardens.

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Water garden out, agave in. Formerly a small water garden, now a cache pot for Agave franzosinii.
Surrounded by the unstoppable globe mallow Sphaeralcea ‘Newleaze Coral,’ a hybrid developed at Hopley’s in the UK.
Planted last fall, I’ve cut back and thinned the globe mallow three times since mid winter.
It’s never stopped blooming and, because of its vigor, I purposely avoid adding water.

One last point, an important one to keep in mind.
It’s no big surprise that trees are a constituency without much representation at the water restriction negotiations table.
I vigorously applaud Emily Green’s emphasis on prioritizing irrigation for our trees.

Landscape reform is sweeping California more as an emergency response to drought and less as a considered piece of town planning. Representatives from three of the region’s largest water providers, a City of Los Angeles arborist, and a Los Angeles County botanist interviewed for this article all seemed surprised when asked if they had consulted one another about the impact on the region’s urban canopy before moving to dry out the lawns in which most of the trees are planted.” After the Lawn Part I

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*”[A]ccording to estimates by the Public Policy Institute of California, more water was used to grow almonds in 2013 than was used by all homes and businesses in San Francisco and Los Angeles put together. Even worse, most of those almonds are then exported — which means, effectively, that we are exporting water. Unless you’re the person or company making money off this deal, that’s just nuts.” – “Making Sense of Water

poppy days

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The Dwarf Breadseed Poppy is carrying the banner for spring here. Quite silky banners too.

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No stranger to the blog, posts on this poppy go back to 2010. The above photo is from 2011.

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And no disrespect intended for California’s state flower, the poppy Eschscholzia californica, but Papaver setigerum’s long neck and slim profile make it the perfect poppy for my garden.

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Both poppies have evolved in mediterranean winter wet/summer dry climates and will naturalize in your Southern California garden.
If I had a bigger garden, there’d be lots more California native wildflowers joining in, but as it is, a few of these non-native poppies will have to signify spring.

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I wish this native thistle was half as exuberant, the very touchy, hard-to-establish Cirsium occidentale.
I found this as a tiny seedling on the compost pile, just as a plant I bought in fall was keeling over in winter.
Proof that at one point it flowered in the garden, even though I remember only the failures.

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The Poppy of Troy, another of its monikers, needs no coddling, self-sowing its slim tap root into the tightest quarters.

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It is the perfect spring guest, striking up sparkling conversations every year wherever it sows itself, departing quietly before the heat of summer.
But not before knocking over that salt shaker of a seed pod, sowing the way for the spring party next year.

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All About Evie

All of my cats have been garden cats, but none more so than Evie. The usual drill for my cats has been lounge all day in the garden, then come into the house at night.
Not Evie. She insisted on sleeping in the office (former garage), whose screenless window on the garden was always left open just for her.
Evie’s last day was spent in the garden over the weekend, so I’ve put together a little tribute to my sweet little garden cat.
She was born here at home some 17ish years ago and never spent a day anywhere but in her garden, so she was frequently spotted on these blog pages.

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(You can read Evie’s one-and-only guest post here.)

Echeveria ‘Opal Moon’

I’ve been passing this echeveria around all over town (Gail, Kris), so it’s a good time to discuss what it is and what it isn’t.

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It is not one of those tight, amazingly concentric echeverias like imbricata that draw you in as though the birth of a galaxy is unfolding before your very eyes.
It is quite the opposite, asymmetrical and awkward, and it grows into a huge, gangly thing. But there is something compelling about the sheer fleshiness of this succulent.

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The original plant, grown into a 2X2 shrub.

In November I broke up the trunked shrub it had become into about a dozen pieces and planted the cuttings out along a path in the garden.
That strip of the garden had once been a brick-on-sand path, so the soil was still mostly the sand base used for the bricks.
The cuttings loved these conditions, rooted quickly over winter, and grew fat in the slightly rainy days back then.

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Cuttings in ruddy winter coloring

I moved some Stipa barbata into their spot, so I dug up all those rooted cuttings and planted them in this bowl.
Color-wise, ‘Opal Moon’ shares the grey-pink tones of Graptoveria ‘Fred Ives’

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An old photo, ‘Opal Moon’ forming flower buds.

There’s not much information available on this echeveria.
It really is an anomaly among echeverias, and I wish I knew its provenance. Possibly some E. gigantea in the mix?
I never see it offered for sale. Maybe its large size and unusual growth habits make it less desirable than the smaller echeverias that multiply into dizzying, patterned carpets.
I just want to be up front that that’s not what this echeveria is going to do.