Gilmour’s Interactive U.S. Planting Zone Map for 2018

Planting zones are broken down into thirteen areas, also known as USDA zones, which cover the entire United States, including Hawaii, Alaska and Puerto Rico. Each agricultural zone covers a 10-degree range. Zone 1 is the coldest, with an average minimum winter temperature of -60 to -50 degrees F, while the minimum winter average temperature in Zone 13 is 60 to 70 degrees F.” (link here)

I’m a 10b — no, not shoe size! That’s the planting zone for Los Angeles:

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Los Angeles County garden of garden designer and ceramicist Dustin Gimbel growing leucospermum, magnolia, acacia, gerbera, citrus

Los Angeles
Planting Zone: 10b

With an average yearly temperature of 63.68°(F), Los Angeles has a Frost free growing season and is located in a warm temperate thorn steppe.* Common grasses include bermuda grass, buffalo grass, St. Augustine grass and zoysia grass.

Low Temp: 35 to 40°(F)
Rainfall: 18.67”
Sunny Days: 284
Altitude: 292′

The coast of California usually has dry, warm to hot summers, with rainy winters in the north and mild winters in the south. The high elevations of the Sierra Nevadas, Cascades and Klamath mountains have mild to moderate summer and snowy winters. The low elevation eastern deserts in Southern California see minimal frost in the winter and have hot summers, while higher elevation eastern deserts in the central part of the state are prone to thunderstorms from July through early September.”

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Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Arizona

It’s a fun game. What’s the zone for Phoenix, you ask? Click on the state, and major cities will be highlighted. Phoenix is 9b. (“With an average yearly temperature of 75.05°(F), Phoenix has a February 26-November 20 growing season and is located in a subtropical desert scrub. Common grasses include bermuda grass and St. Augustine grass. Averages; Low Temp: 25 to 30°(F), Rainfall: 8.04” Sunny Days: 299, Altitude: 1093‘)

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Tanglewild Gardens, Austin TX

Okay, I was just in Austin. Let’ check the deets on it: 8b ( “With an average yearly temperature of 69.4°(F), Austin has a February 17-December 6 growing season and is located in a subtropical dry forest. Common grasses include bermuda grass, buffalo grass, rye grass, St. Augustine grass and zoysia grass. Averages; Low Temp: 15 to 20°(F), Rainfall: 34.25” Sunny Days: 228, Altitude: 489′)

Go ahead, give it a try. Honolulu is 12a, Miami 11a...

"Instead of simply assuming you are in a certain zone and thinking you already know what grows best, click on the major metros near you to see detailed information specific to your exact area. Individual zones are no longer simply just bands that go across the country. Detailed sections are now based on multiple factors.

Click on your state to reveal a basic overview, including the state flower, a list of major metro areas, gardening zones and an overview of climate. By clicking your closest metro area, you’ll find even more detailed information to help make your gardening decisions."

Gilmour, which sells household/garden supplies, emailed this helpful planting zone map. No business relationship exists between Gilmour and AGO.

*that's my bold, since I was unfamiliar with this nomenclature "warm temperate thorn steppe," which derives from the Holdridge Life Zones Data Set.

Posted in climate, science | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

multifaceted Mirador house, Austin TX

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Heroic in scale, the agaves and Cor-Ten steel undulating walls wet with rain, topped by a grove of Yucca rostrata at the rear entrance to the property.

I was so intrigued by this garden I visited in Austin earlier this month that my meager amount of rain-splashed photos weren’t enough to sate my curiosity. I had to know more. Yet reading further about this house and garden had me wondering if I saw the same project. Depending on the source material, various discrete design elements were emphasized, many that I didn’t recognize at all since I only saw a small part of the whole. (My introduction to the landscape design was through Pam Penick’s blog Digging. Pam is one of the co-founders of the Garden Bloggers Fling. Be sure to check out her excellent post for a much more comprehensive, sunnier/drier tour of the entire property and a look at the native grasses in bloom in fall.)

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To say this house and garden have a lot of angles is an understatement on so many levels besides just the literal. Because of that interplay of the house and landscape architecture, it’s one of those projects that makes you wish the architect and landscape architect were available in a panel discussion to talk about how they fit all these disparate puzzle pieces together to accomplish such a unified vision. I knew the fabulous landscape architecture was done by Curt Arnette but didn’t know who built the house.

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(Edited 5/22/18: Pam Penick Pam helpfully provided the architectural attribution as well as correcting other research: Jim LaRue of LaRue Architects.)

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A peek into the courtyard behind the massive Cor-Ten planters also serving as walls.

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Raining off and on, I didn’t grab many photos of the veg garden just beyond the courtyard, which along with this cool, Lone-Star emblazoned cistern had a spectacular board-formed concrete water feature. Some of the photos were too rain-blurred to be useful. Like I said, there were a lot of angles, a lot of facets to this complex property that somehow folds itself seamlessly into the oak-dotted landscape. What I’ve captured in photos is a tiny slice of the whole, including the back entrance leading to an inner pergola, terraces, patios, lawn, and pool off the back of the house.

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Photographically, balancing the interplay of all those angles is a fascinating challenge, which makes the work of the masters of architectural photography like Julius Shulman that much more impressive. I had to straighten quite a few of these photos!
We did not enter here but headed to the terraces, pool, and patios off the back of the house by heading left of that curved retaining wall.

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Leading to a fig-draped pergola and the pool area beyond.

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From the pergola, then across the lawn to the pool and terraces.

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Looking from the limestone terraces off the house in the direction of the pergola.

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Just visible beyond the lounge chairs is the deep overhang sheltering the sitting area closest to the house. Summer in Austin means days on end over 100F.

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A limestone soaking tub is a few steps away from the Cor-Ten-enclosed pool.

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The view from the terraces also encompasses the surrounding landscape. Yep, between the architect and the landscape architect, I don’t think they missed a trick.

Posted in agaves, woody lilies, artists, design, garden travel, garden visit | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments

friday clippings 5/18/18

Do you ever worry that you’re getting a little jaded, just slightly inured to cool stuff because we see so much of it now via blogs, Instagram, online periodicals? I admit I worry that occasionally feeling a little inspirationally flat will stretch on into a forever of not caring ever again about interesting design, and that would be an impoverished existence indeed. And then that thing comes along that rocks my world all over again.

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Want! It feels so good to want, doesn’t it? Waaaaant! To live is to want, and I’m flooded with want for the UFO pot, which landed on my Instagram feed yesterday (izawa_seito). Deep admiration too. From Izawa Ceramics (as seen on Gardenista).

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I came upon the brilliant work of British designer Christian Marsden when I was all excited about casting industrial detritus and did a quick search to see who else was mining this urban salvage vein. My reaction was equal parts exhilaration, deflation, inspiration, admiration — possibly heaviest on deflation. It’s so good.

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I love the work and am jealous of the very clever name of it all — Stolen Form.

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Saya Designs reached out to AGO to help spread the word about their “Handcrafted hair sticks, hair slides and hair forks created from roots salvaged from old plantations. For each one purchased we will plant up to 10 endangered trees.” Fighting deforestation and keeping the hair out of my eyes? I’m in. Victoria sent some of their “hair sticks on a mission” for us to play with, results of which will be on the blog soon. (It’s estimated a quarter of carbon dioxide emissions are sucked up by trees — very effective carbon sinkholes!)

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rainy-day garden of Jenny Stocker, Austin, Texas, the Rock Rose.

Beth Chatto‘s life in the garden has come to an end, leaving so many of us grateful, inspired, in awe of her legacy. The Dry Garden is a classic I’ve treasured a long time, but it’s in her correspondence with Christopher Lloyd (Dear Friend and Gardener) where I think her complex portrait really comes into focus:

Dear Christo…I had forgotten to take bread out of the freezer last night, so I put a flat round loaf into the oven while I carted logs into the house for the wood-burning stove. Coming in from the cold air I found the smell of warm bread and wood smoke comforting. After breakfast I went out to empty the sink bucket, feed the birds and collect fresh vegetables, intending to take only a few minutes, but an hour easily slips by on such a rare morning. Near the compost heap, where I empty the waste-bucket, I spotted a fine plant of Euphorbia wulfenii seeded into a narrow crack in the concrete floor at the foot of a south-facing wall. It looks better, if anything, than many I have in cultivated borders, possibly benefitting by having its back to the warm wall. After all, it comes from the southern Mediterranean countries…I bent to look for the flower buds and found clusters or ladybirds, tucked close to the stems, protected among tight whorls of leaves, waiting, ready for their first meal of aphids when they arrive.”

(So you’re worried you don’t have a so-called “green thumb”? Cultivate instead an appetite for hard work and a keen, observant, insatiably curious mind — those make better odds for becoming a good gardener.)

At Jenny Rocker’s Austin garden, visited in the rain, the fleeting wildflowers bent earthward by the deluge, Beth Chatto’s name came up as an influence. Jenny and Beth share many of the qualities I mentioned above.

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Jenny, a British expat, takes the extremes Austin’s climate mercilessly doles out and crafts a gorgeous, unintimidated, uniquely personal horticultural response based on careful observation of the soil (or lack of it!), geology, climate. Beth would be so proud. Gardens are a dialogue with the land, the climate, and those living as well as passed on. I was reading a book on the plane to Austin by New Yorker journalist William Finnegan, a memoir of his surfing childhood “Barbarian Days,” and was struck by the similarities between surfing and making a garden, the intense observation and knowledge required of local conditions like currents, underwater reefs, wind conditions. I’ve misplaced the book, but here’s a quote from a New Yorker piece, “Playing Doc’s Games—I” for some of its flavor:

A wave comes. It swings silently through the kelp bed, a long, tapering wall, darkening upcoast. I paddle across the grain of the water streaming toward the wave across the reef, angling to meet the hollow of a small peak ghosting across the face. For a moment, in the gully just in front of the wave, my board loses forward momentum as the water rushing off the reef sucks it back up the face. Then the wave lifts me up—I’ve met the steepest part of the peak, and swerved into its shoreward track—and with two hard strokes I’m aboard. It’s a clean takeoff: a sudden sense of height fusing with a deep surge of speed. I hop to my feet and drive to the bottom, drawing out the turn and sensing, more than seeing, what the wave plans to do ahead—the low sun is blinding off the water looking south. Halfway through the first turn, I can feel the wave starting to stand up ahead. I change rails, bank off the lower part of the face, and start driving down the line. The first section flies past, and the wave—it’s slightly overhead, and changing angle as it breaks, so that it now blocks out the sun—stands revealed: a long, steep, satiny arc curving all the way to the channel. I work my board from rail to rail for speed, trimming carefully through two more short sections. Gaining confidence that I will in fact make this wave, I start turning harder, slicing higher up the face and, when a last bowl section looms beside the channel, stalling briefly before driving through in a half crouch, my face pressed close to the glassy, rumbling, pea-green wall. The silver edge of the lip’s axe flashes harmlessly past on my left. A second later, I’m coasting onto flat water, leaning into a pullout, and mindlessly shouting “My God!

Very different experiences temporally, but I’ve walked into the garden some mornings and mindlessly shouted those very same words.

The Planthunter’s Guide to Growing Native Houseplants suggests veering away from run-of-the-mill houseplants and experimenting with something like, oh, lomandra and Grevillea robusta!? Native in this case meaning hailing from Australia, but the idea is an intriguing one.

The New York Times’ somewhat snarkily condescending but nevertheless useful advice on “How To Become a Plant Parent” can be found here.

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Lastly, a local plant sale in Thousand Oaks and a garden tour in San Clemente this Saturday.

Have a great weekend!

Posted in clippings | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Bloom Day May 2018

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The Chinese Fringe Tree, Chionanthus retusus, seemingly leafs out and blooms simultaneously. Every year before it does so and appears instead to be quite dead, I fear that this is the year it has truly died, succumbing to lack of winter chill. It’s one of the few deciduous trees, along with cotinus, that I planted when we first moved in almost 30 years ago. Since then I’ve planted mostly evergreens like acacia. But it’s a nice, mediumish-sized tree that has no aspirations to gigantism, and helpfully shades the east side of the house, giving the parakeets in the screened bathhouse off our bedroom something to chirp about, with all the squirrels and birds freely making use of its branches and canopy. (I may as well tell you that the parakeets revealed their true names to me in a dream recently. Speaking for them both, the yellow one politely informed me that she is “Bierksa,” and the noisy green parakeet is “Golder.” I believe we had named them PeeWee and Ike, respectively. I tell you, I have some wacky dreams…but whatever, we’re going with the new names.)

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Passiflora ‘Flying V’ stayed evergreen over winter and erupted in spring with loads of small, parasol-shaped flowers. I think I’ve compared the floral effect before to the annual vine Rhodochiton atrosanguineum, the Purple Bell Vine, which seems to like a cooler summer than I can offer. This passion vine completely and enthusiastically accepts my garden’s terms. I like that.

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It’s already sprinkled with tiny Gulf Fritillary caterpillars.

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Pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’ is always in a rush to bloom first among grasses. A bit messy and disorganized, and best if given strong shrubby support from neighbors.

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New to the garden this year and throwing its first bloom, Miscanthus nepalensis, the Himalayan Fairy Grass, which I’m so hoping decides to make a new home in Los Angeles — a very long way indeed from Nepal.

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I offered the Lion’s Ear, Leonotis leonurus, an inhospitable, terribly dry spot under the Purple Fernleaf Acacia because I know how thuggish and overwhelming it can be in good garden conditions.

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It apparently has no clue it was insultingly offered the worst conditions in the garden and is having a fabulous time here.

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Nicotianas in chartreuse and white continue to reseed.

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Centranthus lecoqii, a valerian I really like for the two-tone shading to the flower trusses. Reseeds robustly, like all valerian, but easily edited.

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I bought this Linaria maroccana seed from Chiltern’s, the ‘Licilia’ series, ‘Licilia Azure’

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Seedheads of purple orach, a cool-season, spinach-like green that I grow for its tall, slim silhouette and deep color. Seed came from Wild Garden Seed.

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A succulent-leaved pelargonium known as the Sorrel Geranium that I bought from the Huntington in 2017. Pelargonium acetosum ‘Peach.’ It’s really starting to grow on me. Tolerates very dry conditions.

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Phytolacca icosandra, the South American Button Pokeweed, from Annie’s Annuals, supposedly to 9 feet but probably much less in a container. I have no idea what to expect — so exciting!

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Found the tag on this flowering maple. Abutilon megapotamicum ‘Red.’ Brought home mid-winter, it was irresistible, beautifully grown — and then it immediately collapsed under my care, no longer getting that fertilizer “push” from the growers. It dropped most of those leaves, looked hideous for a while, and is now adapting to the real world aka life under my care. I can’t believe I still fall for those nursery growing tricks — I blame it on January.

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There are two clumps of paws in the garden this summer. ‘Tequila Sunrise’ is one. I hate that it continually reminds me of that song but love the color.

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It grows at the outer edge of the tetrapanax canopy, with the big leaves trimmed off when they cast too much shade.

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Taken late in the evening and not the best quality, but this shows the height of the lost-tag, yellow anigozanthos this year, despite relatively low rainfall over the winter. (Have we even reached 5 inches of rainfall this season?) It’s not ‘Yellow Gem’ because there’s no orange in the flower, just a pure chartreusy yellow. Long-lived and over 6 feet tall — it’s a keeper. And there’s that spot we missed over the kitchen window awning…

In the background is Grevillea ‘King’s Fire’ and Verbena bonariensis, Amicia zygomeris in the foreground.

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Looking away from the house at the garage/office window, orach in foreground, kangaroo paws and Grevillea ‘Moonlight’ in the background, with bog sage, Salvia uliginosa, just starting to bloom next to the paws. And flowering tobaccos have some head room for reseeding under the grevillea now that it’s large enough to be trained into a small tree.

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The silver behind Salvia fruticosa is struggling Calif. native Hazardia detonsa, the Island Bristleweed. I hate to call it quits with this one, but it’s not very happy. New basal growth seems stunted.

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The lavender is ‘Goodwin Creek Grey.’

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Gaillardia ‘Mesa Peach’ is an experiment in containers — too big and sprawly for the garden.

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Fuchsia ‘Koralle’ (or ‘Coralle’?) from Denver Botanic Garden plant sale last spring. (BTW, Denver will be the destination for next year’s Garden Bloggers Fling.)

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Erodium chrysanthum and what I think is either hybrid Aeonium ‘Berry Exciting’ or Aeonium leucoblepharum.

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Baja spurge, Euphorbia xanti. There are vast, enormous hedges of this at the Huntington adjacent to the Desert Conservatory that were in full bloom my last visit. I’ve kept mine in a container.

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A gift aloe from Dustin. Aloe camperi? The bloom timing fits, but it’s clean green leaves are very unlike a smaller Aloe camperi already planted in the garden with spotted leaves. San Marcos Growers discusses the various spotted and unspotted camperis in leaf, which may explain the mystery. My original aloe, still small and yet to bloom, may be Aloe camperi ‘Cornuta.

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The chocolate daisy, Berlandiera lyrata, is the right height, the right amount of reseeding and tolerance to dry conditions, the right sort of absorbing seedpod detail, the right sort of contrasting stamens — it’s the daisy with the right stuff for this garden, including that fantastic chocolate scent. (Thank you for everything, Mr. Wolfe!)

As always, the Bloom Day reports are collected by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Posted in Bloom Day | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

wrap-up; Garden Bloggers Fling Austin 2018

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the last night’s post-tour dinner in a field of larkspur

Austin opened its friendly arms wide, Texas-style, in a full-circle welcome to garden bloggers from all over the world. These annual soirees and orgies of garden touring and plant talk are known as the Garden Bloggers Fling, and it all started here in Austin ten years ago. (Way back in the Dark Ages Before Paypal, as Diana Kirby wryly observed, one of the original co-founders along with Pam Penick, who were joined this year by Laura Wills.) The Fling is simply one of garden blogging’s great rewards. The incredibly generous sponsors are listed here.

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The afterparty was held on the fabulous grounds of Articulture Designs. Paul Glasse and his trio played some great Django Reinhardt-inflected Texas swing, and the inspired cocktails all began with tequila, from recipes out of Lucinda Hutson’s ¡Viva Tequila! Texas BBQ just had to be on the menu, I prayed, and it was — the brisket was divine.

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Thundery skies threatened at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the first stop on the tour…and it was no idle threat. What ensued was an epic soaking rain that had us scattering through the wildflower fields for cover, triggering local flash flood warnings and vestigial memories in me of similar childhood rains in my now drought-prone home. My shoes and socks were soaked the rest of the day, but it was an indelible, emotion-charged Here Comes The Rain Again moment that vividly conveyed the source of all the green lushness of Austin in late spring. (When not experiencing drought, average rainfall in Austin ranges 32-36 inches, and the heaviest rainfall occurs in May and September.)

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For me the iconic plants on the tour were the oaks, the yuccas and dasylirions, the hesperaloes everywhere in bloom, and the majestic whale’s tongue agaves, which are one of the handful of agaves hardy enough to overwinter outdoors in Austin. Casually chatting about the merits of the various hesperaloe varieties on the market with the creator of many of them, David Salman of High Country Gardens, is a one-of-a-kind experience typical of the Fling.

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The First Lady’s legacy at the Wildflower Center is not a demure homage to pretty wildflowers, but a kick-ass, cutting edge, contemporary setting for Texas’ incredible range of native plants.

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And then there was that stonework. The pale, luminous limestone, kurst, marl — whatever you call it, that is the geologic evidence of Austin’s ancient shallow seas, is everywhere, as cladding for houses and garden structures, edging plantings, laid down in paths, stepping stones. It bestows on Austin’s houses and gardens an unmistakably strong regional style. Along with the stock tanks and giant gleaming cisterns, the limestone is part of a vernacular design vocabulary that, as far as I know, is uniquely Austin’s own.

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I’ll be unpacking more impressions from the trip to Austin in the coming weeks. Warmest thanks to the planners and sponsors who helped make this visit to Austin possible — and to all the old and new friends I met on the tour.

Posted in agaves, woody lilies, design, garden travel, garden visit, pots and containers | Tagged , , , , , | 11 Comments

wednesday vignettes 5/2/18

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More Palm Springs-style landscape architecture from the recent Pasadena Garden Conservancy Open Days, in this case overlooking a deep arroyo, with some of the foothills’ iconic bridges in the distance. The landscape design zealously protects views and is as much out of a MCM 1960s time capsule as the house. Depth and soulfulness courtesy of some spectacular oaks.

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In 1963, Smith & Williams designed this single-story mid-century home on the banks of the Arroyo River. Sited to best take advantage of the views, the post-and-beam residence provides walls of glass and a seamless transition to the outdoors and vistas beyond. During the renovation of all the outdoor spaces, the current owners wanted to maximize the outdoor entertaining space, as well as create a more natural connection, utilizing Southern California indigenous plants. Nord Ericksson designed a landscape vocabulary that both leveraged the architectural lines of the home and maximized visual attention to the existing palm, oak, and olive trees on the property. As for plants, the focus was to utilize drought-tolerant specimens and citrus as much as possible…The infinity pool is anchored by a band of grass above and seating area below.”

Posted in agaves, woody lilies, climate, design, garden visit, succulents | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Eric Trine’s Column Pedestal Planter Holder

A bit of a switch-up from my rusty flea market finds, but here’s proof that elevation is also on the minds of commercial designers and artists, albeit in much sleeker, powder-coated forms, suitable for indoors or outdoors.

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Photo courtesy of West Elm

In my inbox this morning from Dwell: “LA-based designer Eric Trine designs by making, rather than drawing. Made of powder-coated steel, these column-inspired plant holders’ airy design elevates planters off the ground, yet still keeps your space light and open. Flip them upside down for double duty as a side table.”

(I would just like to drill down geographically and flaunt some shameless hometown pride — to be precise, Eric Trine is a Long Beach-based object designer and commercial artist.)

Posted in artists, design, pots and containers | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

monday clippings 4/30/18

Have you checked on your dudleyas lately? (“Stolen succulents: California hipster plants at center of smuggling crisis; Demand in China and Korea has led to thousands of dudleya being stolen from California as officials lament ‘plant poaching.”)

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Lots of pruning and shaping going on here. It’s like editing a novel, one written by a verbose writer like Thomas Wolfe, but then the garden miraculously finds its stern editor Maxwell Perkins. (Sometimes the editor is asleep on the job for years.) The garden definitely develops a story I wasn’t aware I was writing, like how I’ve started to plant in bays of shrubs infilled with lower-lying plants. Carefully pruning a leucadendron throws into relief the shapes of Beschorneria albiflora and Yucca ‘Blue Boy.’ The yucca snakes a few feet on the ground before turning upright to 3 feet. New growth eventually turns that plummy shade. I like this phase of editing almost as much as planting, this building around what’s flourished, which takes the sting out of remembering what hasn’t.

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I’m actually being accused of having gone too far, because there’s (gasp!) ground showing. And I decided to gravel mulch the portion of the back garden filled with succulents rather than using plants as a living mulch, which requires more irrigation and can cause air flow problems for some of the aloes. The annual poppies have been pulled, the Centranthus lecoqii thinned out (a lilac-pink type), and I’m vowing that Yucca ‘Bright Star’ will not be engulfed and buried in summer growth.

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Pruning discipline allows light to reach everybody — look, a happy verbascum!

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In a Vase on Monday: Because I hate the fact that vases of flowers are such an emphatic microcosm of death in the garden (another weird trait of mine), I rarely keep them around the house. But here’s an indestructible combination I hit on at the popup, a Frankensteinian hybrid, part floristry, part assemblage, that’s strictly for outdoors because it’s so dang heavy. A large branch of a tree-like Euphorbia tirucalli sheared off in some high winds earlier in spring, so I saved it with no real purpose in mind. Wanting something with a little height for the popup, I ended up sticking it in this pipe supported in a square container of gravel. Surprisingly, it drew a lot of comments, and even some offers of purchase. Hating to take it all apart, I potted up the euphorbia with enough soil to keep it alive, shoved it back in the pipe, and planted up the base of the pipe with Echeveria agavoides. Yesss! Industrial-strength floristry.

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More such mad botanical scientist experiments ensue. A big patch of Agave parryi was thinned, and who could throw away such perfect rosettes? This one has been out of the ground for a couple months. Just in case anyone doubted whether I have very weird taste…

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Finding ways to bring height into the mix is a recurring theme. I found this plant stand in a dumpster yesterday. In my defense I was still all keyed up after visiting the flea market, still in that swivel-head search mode. The plant stand legs were sticking up out of the dumpster as we drove by enroute to fish tacos, and though it seemed full of interesting, garden-type detritus, we grabbed just this and ran, like true dumpster desperados. The nondescript shrub in the yellow pot is Acacia craspedocarpa, the leather-leaf acacia. It’s not a terribly exciting shrub, but it is as tough as old leather boots, a fact reinforced last Friday when I saw it flourishing in the Huntington’s desert garden.

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And by the way, it’s a great time to visit the desert garden, with the palo verdes and puyas in bloom.

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From the flea market yesterday, more of my weird taste. I love putting plants on a pedestal.

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And if it’s a see-through, wiry, architectural pedestal, so much the better. (Former trash can.) This will be loads of fun to play with.

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Adenanthos sericeus, the Coast Woolybush from Australia, has shot up this spring after languishing in the winter shade band. I think it’s tall enough now to remain in light most of the year.

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Peter and Kris are to blame for this new acquisition, Senecio candicans ‘Angel Wings’ that I mail-ordered from Annie’s Annuals.

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Another silver new to the garden this year, Centaurea ragusina, seems to be thriving. A couple of early losses are two California native annuals, which succumbed to this amended-for-30-years-but-still-clayey soil. That’s my guess. (Thistle Sage, Salvia carduacea, and White Pincushion, Chaenactis artemisifolia)

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The ‘Single Black’ carnations are exploding in bloom.

Some upcoming events you should check out while I’m in Austin attending the Garden Bloggers Fling:

May 5-6, Mary Lou Heard Memorial garden tour

May 5-6, San Francisco Botanical Garden 50th annual spring plant sale

May 6, Los Angeles, Garden Conservancy Open Days

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Garden Conservancy Open Days season (Pasadena)

The Garden Conservancy Open Days season is upon us, and I want to go to every single open garden, from here to Maine. Be sure to check the schedule for when gardens reasonably close to you will be included on the tour. Pasadena gardens already had their star turn this past weekend. I was determined to be a good blogger and document the garden visits, despite it being mid 80’s at high noon. I did try, truly, though very few photos were usable. So often when events occur mid-day, I leave the camera at home and don’t even make an effort to document the sun-bleached scenes. The results are always a poor substitution for “magic hour.” But look at it this way: pretend I was shooting with a Lomo (though I assure you I am not a member of The Lomographic Society International).

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I found lots to like at the private home of landscape architect Nord Eriksson, the first garden I visited on the tour and where I expended most of my documentary energy before getting beat down by the sun. Very crisp transitions accomplished with a variety of media, including concrete pavers, gravel and lawn, with the garden divided into generous upper and lower levels separated by a low retaining wall and short flight of stairs. Privacy handled on all sides.

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The upper gravel terrace overlooks a sunken lawn used for family sports and the lap pool. The change in levels was accomplished by using fill from the pool project.

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A deep overhang shades the back of the house, and an umbrella provides shade for dining outdoors near the built-in cooking station.

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The foreground orbs are what happens when you faithfully pinch ‘Little Ollies’ from a small size — dense perfection. My ‘Little Ollies’ were left unfettered and are an 8-foot privacy hedge now. Very versatile dwarf olive that obviously handles the blast furnace heat of the foothills with aplomb. In the distance a cork oak towers next to what I’m guessing is the former garage.

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It’s a long, searing summer in Pasadena, sometimes as much as 10 degrees hotter than my home in maritime-influenced Long Beach about 30 miles south. The heat comes early in spring and stays late into fall/winter. Planting here is comprised of a no-nonsense contingent of dry garden trees and shrubs laid out in mediterranean-influenced, broadly drawn strokes, with an emphasis on evergreens and privacy. Potted cacti and succulents add architectural flourishes. I love how the big Lavatera maritima is given full, blowsy expression at the end of the retaining wall on the left, where the pavers descend in stairs to meet the lower level.

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Here’s a bleached-out view on the other side of the retaining wall which is ringed in box on the lower level.

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Crisp geometry of the transition areas.

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Almost too deep in shadow to see in this photo, these are Fermob loungers overlooking the lap pool that Nord found at Flora Grubbs in San Francisco then ordered locally through Potted.

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I never could get the shaded loungers in focus, but the photo gives a sense of how the house opens onto the upper terrace.

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Looking across the lawn from the pool.

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Beyond the row of agaves is another graveled seating area which appears to me to be the former driveway. I was told the young trees here are London Planetrees.

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Looking out past the agaves to the lawn and pool.

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The trunk in deep shade at the end of the agaves belongs to the cork oak.

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The side path for access to the back garden, leading to the graveled seating area with the blue molded plastic chairs.

Some notes from the Open Days Program: “Part laboratory, part sanctuary, the gardens surrounding landscape architect Nord Eriksson’s Pasadena home bring together a lifetime of influences. The 1949 ranch-style home won over Nord, Cynthia, and their two sons six years ago, offering the chance to develop artful garden rooms on the 18,000-square-foot lot. Largely a blank slate, the grounds beckoned for something new. Six years later, hints of Nord’s appreciation of Scandinavian, Japanese, and Mediterranean design can be found in the remade gardens. The gently sloping land, anchored by a magnificent native Engelmann oak, was terraced to create interest, retain rainwater, and create a variety of spaces for family life and entertaining. A tapestry of textural paving weaves throughout; concrete, brick, slate, gravel, and pebble are crafted into a soulful mix. Walls of arroyo cobble and concrete block trace lines in the garden, originally laid out by pioneering landscape architect Edward Huntsman-Trout. A sojourn to Spain and Mallorca allowed Nord to study resilient landscapes and influenced his design of the lap pool and plantings of the rear gardens…Today, the garden grows, teaches lessons, and brings deep satisfaction. It’s a joy to come home to…and a gift to share.”

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Posted in agaves, woody lilies, artists, climate, design, garden travel, garden visit, pots and containers | Tagged , , , | 7 Comments

rainy thursday 4/19/18

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Would you look at that — wet pavement! The corrugated roof on the pergola starting lightly pinging about 7 a.m., and I froze stock still and listened. Could it be? The clouds seemed indecisive for a few minutes, like they’d lost the hang of letting water loose on Los Angeles, then finally relented and rained for almost an hour. I climbed up into the roofed lookout with a soggy cat and a cup of coffee for the duration. Glorious. Just a few days ago a 3X3 ‘Blue Flame’ agave bulging out of the garden took up half of this path, its trunk originating from just about the spot where the Aloe marlothii x peglerae was recently planted. I removed the agave while Marty slept in last Sunday morning, knowing how happy it would make him.

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I’d been the agave’s staunchest defender, but it became increasingly pushy, slouching more and more on the path, until it owned nearly the whole damn thing. I admit that’s a nice clean line now. I get clean lines, I really do…

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Predictably, Marty was thrilled when he woke up post-demolition, then immediately sensed a weakening on my part and further opportunity to define and reclaim the walkways. What about the huge clump of purple awn grass brushing up against the walkway and sticking its awns into our pj’s and the forest of Agave lophantha ‘Quadricolor’ aiming for our ankles? (Dry pavement photos taken earlier in the week.)

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All right, just the one rosette stays and dozens of offsets get tossed — gardens are for people, as Thomas Church famously wrote.

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But the Verbena bonariensis crowding another section of the path I insisted had to stay — gardens are for bees, hummers & butterflies too, Mr. Church.

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Before clambering up the ladder to the lookout for prime rain viewing, I grabbed the tractor funnel of pitcher plants from under the pergola and moved them into the rain. This is as far as I’ve ever gone with pitcher plants, almost a year, on a religious diet of distilled water and occasional rain water. (Very occasional, as in less than 5 inches this year.) No flowers yet but strong, new growth.

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While not a big fan of macrame hangers — I lived through the first wave of infatuation in high school, thank you very much — they do solve the problem of hanging irregular pot shapes, like this diamond pot. I had some leftover macrame hangers from the popup so have been playing around with them.

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Simple waxed string works too.

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More rain porn. Rain on plectranthus.

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Had enough yet? Not me. Rain on a trio of aeoniums.

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Rain on potted plants, but pavement already drying and sun gaining the upper hand.

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I nearly lost this thistle sage yesterday, finding it in a near-dead wilt late afternoon. I’ve been possibly a little overworried about rot so have been stingy with water. It’s an annual California native, Salvia carduacea, that I’m hoping will reseed. A quick drink yesterday and then rain today has brought it back to health. From the Theodore Payne Foundation nursery.

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Rain-spangled purple orach.

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Poppies dripping with rain.

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After just one year in the garden, I’m so impressed by this spring performance of the flannelbush, Fremontodendron ‘Ken Taylor. The new growth is a nice change from the dark, sooty appearance the leaves have had since last fall’s wildfires.

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I’ve been busy the past couple days potting up and squaring away the leftover popup plants and just got a lot of the cacti under the eaves yesterday where it’s snug and dry. No unnecessary moisture for these guys.

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Damp path!

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I missed this month’s Bloom Day deadline on the 15th, which is just as well. My flower floozie days have long since receded into a dim, gouache-washed past. My garden is much too small to plant for predominantly flowers, a fact I ignored in the early years, before I figured out that fall/winter/spring are the best months here in the garden. Now when flowers do grace the garden, they arrive sporadically year-round, on magnificent shrubs like grevilleas, on handsome succulents like aloes, and smaller things I like to try out, like this single carnation. There’s still plenty to keep me and the pollinators spellbound. The only rule I follow now is that when it’s done flowering, it’s not offensively shabby out of bloom.

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Love the tall, strong stems on this one and the fabulous scent. Dianthus caryophyllus ‘Single Black’ (from Annie’s)

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Some of what’s been in bloom this April. I’ve got the tag of this abutilon around here somewhere.

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Grevillea ‘King’s Rainbow’

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As compared to ‘King’s Fire’

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As compared to ‘Moonlight’

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Phlomis lanata

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The only blooms here are from a chocolate daisy, Berlandiera lyrata, leaning into Phlomis ‘Sunningdale Gold’ starting to form buds. Leucadendron ‘Ebony’ is looking really happy here, knock wood. Mostly full sun, lots of air circulation.

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Phlomis lanata and ‘King’s Rainbow’ (and cat)

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The orlaya is just about finished.

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Baja spurge has exploded into bloom again.

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Salvia fruticosa and orach.

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A stray bloom on Salvia chiapensis framed by tetrapanax.

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The ‘Ghost’ aloe, a hybrid striata, much later in bloom than the coral aloe.

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And now the sun is out, the pavement is dry, the show is over. The ghostly shape in the background is the Agave ‘Blue Flame,’ probably its last photo, and most of these poppies have been pulled too. Onward with Thursday.

Posted in agaves, woody lilies, climate, clippings, journal, Occasional Daily Weather Report, pots and containers, succulents | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments