A lot of my bromeliads swing from on high now.
And it all started with an act of generosity back in January of 2014.
A gift from Reuben, after our joint flea market venture.
(It’d be fun to plan another flea market escapade for winter, or maybe a pop-up shop. But these are plans for cooler weather.)
At first a single bromeliad, Aechmea recurvata ‘Aztec Gold,’ made its home here.
(Nice to see that yucca and coronilla again, both plants that have moved on, leaving behind progeny that pop up from time to time.)
I bet you know where this is going. When have I ever left well enough alone, or been a one-bromeliad-per-sphere person, so to speak?
By April 2014 there were two.
By June of 2015, there was lots of company.
It’s actually been thinned out a little since 2015. Some of the bromeliads grow too large and get moved out into pots.
There are terrestrial, ground-dwelling bromeliads, which can get enormous like the alcantareas, and epiphytic, tree-dwelling bromeliads.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, that first aechmea was a good choice, being an epiphytic bromeliad, with roots adapted to clinging to trees.
Now you know as much as I do about these plants with the fabulously plasticine, kaleidoscopic leaves and flowers as colorful as tropical birds.
Like succulents, these are forgiving plants that don’t punish ignorance.
A more organic approach than my sphere is an option, as seen in this example in the cloud forest section of the Huntington Botanical Garden’s conservatory.
Bromeliads are mossed and fixed to the branch by florist wire or fishing line (further instructions here).
There are thousands of species of bromeliads, pretty much all of them native to Central and South America (the neotropic ecozone.)
Some of the more familiar are the ones we make upside-down cakes with (pineapples) and the wildly popular air plants/tillandsias.
Some enthrallingly kinetic examples of tillandsias from local nurseries and plant shows.
Rest assured, there are great minds out there applying themselves to devising methods for displaying tillandsias.
Above is the Airplantman Josh Rosen’s Airplant Frame seen at Big Red Sun in Venice.
Seth Boor in collaboration with Flora Grubb designed the Thigmotrope Satellite.
Another hanging arrangement with tillandsias from my garden. I incorporated most of these into the sphere.
The takeaway here is, this growing arrangement has legs. The plants thrive on very little input from me.
For truth be told, for all my enthusiasm, I am not the most technically gifted plant caretaker.
Requiring little soil, mostly just moss, tolerant of dryish conditions, appreciating a refreshing spritz with the hose once a week. And that’s it.
In fact, the care for shade-tolerant succulents and bromeliads is so similar that I combine them in shallow planters.
As rain forest understory plants that can absorb nutrients and moisture through their leaves, I’ve always assumed, for Los Angeles, shade is the safest best.
But some bromeliads can tolerate a surprising amount of sunlight, as long as it’s not strong afternoon sunshine. I’m trying out a few under an acacia tree with grasses.
The best leaf color is obtained by exposure to as much sun as can be tolerated without leaf burn.
There are surer ways of sorting out light requirements for the different species, of course, like consulting a reference book.
“Bromeliads for the Contemporary Garden,” which I haven’t read, looks promising.
Nice-sized specimens, however, do not come cheap. I like looking for deals on small pups at bromeliad shows, like the upcoming show August 6th & 7th at Rain Forest Flora in Torrance.
You don’t happen to have a sphere lying around? What the heck, it’s mid summer. Go ahead and treat yourself. Salvage yards are full of interesting possibilities.
And Terrain offers a very similar Hanging Planter here.
Potted’s Hedge Hanging Planter would work just as well.
Or get to work with a branch and some fishing line.
I’ve got an empty hayrack that I’d love to see overflowing with bromeliads.
More images of bromeliads from AGO can be found here.
What I wanted to do tonight was attend an event I’ve been hearing about on NPR as I drove the freeways this week, Summer Nights in the Garden, hosted by the Natural History Museum.
It’s free but RSVP is required, so I checked online this afternoon. No go, they’re already full up. There are a few spots set aside for walk-ins. Maybe another time. There’s a couple dates in August too.
I was really hoping to get an early evening, soft light opportunity to photograph the NHM garden designed by landscape architect Mia Lehrer.
I stumbled into a Lehrer-led, mid-day tour of this garden at the last Natural Discourse symposium 10/17/15 and have been meaning to go back for another look.
That’s Mia Lehrer on the far left. (I only wish my hair was still this short. It’s 95 degrees as I type at 5 p.m. today. The whole house fan has been a big help with this heat wave.)
The Los Angeles Times recently announced her firm’s winning the design competition for the proposed 2-acre park downtown at 1st and Broadway.
Along with the new design approval for Pershing Square, LA seems to have gone uncharacteristically park mad lately.
It’s about time, I say. Christopher Hawthorne has done excellent reporting on the progress of both parks, see here.
(To complete the trifecta, the progress on one of LA’s biggest environmental/design challenges, our beleaguered, concrete-bottomed LA River, was recently covered by Hawthorne here.)
Back to one of my favorite events of the year, Natural Discourse.
This year Shirley Watts has chosen Fire! as the theme for the upcoming Natural Discourse to be held at the Huntington September 30 and October 1, 2016.
Like much of the West, the foothills around LA burn regularly and fiercely, so we are no strangers to the immediate perils of uncontrolled fire.
As usual, Shirley finds the most interesting minds to weigh in on her chosen subject, so you’ll want to check your calendar early to save the date for this one.
But that still leaves me without a plan for Friday night. Guess I’ll just hang out in the garden.
The heat has transformed the solanum into a drapery of purply bloom.
Have a great weekend.
Dahlia coccinea ‘Orange,’ Mendocino Botanical Garden
Thank goodness there’s not a crazy nativist strain complicating appreciation of summer’s most colorful annuals.
The only walls associated with these summer beauties might be the ones surrounding your cutting garden (you lucky devil!)
Cosmos, zinnias, and dahlias, the mainstay of summer vases, are all outsiders that emigrated via European explorer ships from Mexico and South America.
And how far they’ve come! Zinnias have even been germinated on the International Space Station.
And dahlias — well, the colors and shapes are sometimes almost too outre to be believed.
The more outlandish are generally grown for cutting, not for associations with other plants in the summer garden.
That’s because a flower as big as your head will require several stakes to keep from crashing face forward.
Smaller-flowered, more graceful varieties like “Bishop of Llandaff’ are often included in summer borders, but even these won’t thrive in dryish gardens like mine.
Here’s just a small sample I found at a local nursery’s dahlia cutflower contest last weekend that shows their incredible range.
My first trip to the Pacific Northwest (in plant years, when Hinkley still owned Heronswood) included a stop at Swan Island Dahlias, whose catalogues I perused into tatters.
Their growing fields are a hallucinatory experience. In the UK, Sarah Raven has been a staunch champion of dahlias.
Floret Flower Farm provides detailed growing instructions here and also ships tubers.
On a much smaller scale, my little community garden plot is starting to favor flowers over edibles, with as many zinnias planted as beans and tomatoes this year.
To grow zinnias for cutflowers, my usual brand of tough love won’t cut it. With the possible exception of cosmos, the cutflowers of summer need the best growing conditions you can give them.
How could I forget the Japanese silverleaf sunflowers?
An international effort. Native to coastal southern Texas, it is known as the Japanese Silverleaf due to that country’s renowned work in breeding sunflower varieties.
I’m not sure whether this is the straight species or an improved-upon seed strain via Japanese growers. My source was Annie’s Annuals.
They do attract attention. (Marty this morning: How many sunflowers are open today?)
You know how the annual sunflowers always have that descriptor “coarse” used when describing the leaves?
Not with these leaves. Silvery-green, slightly furry, tidy, neat. Never coarse.
Now residing in my humble stock tank, which barely has the depth to support its exuberant growth.
If you grow it close to a table, no vase will be required to enjoy the flowers.
I added a length of rebar for insurance, and to keep the table clear for morning coffee.
Have a great weekend.
I’m going to try a systematic approach, so bear with me.
Right outside the office, the planting is getting some height from the bog sage, kangaroo paws, and Pennisetum ‘Skyrocket’ showing a few blooms way in the back.
Using the bocconia as a reference point, swinging east, away from the office, the Crithmum maritimum, an almost succulent-like umbellifer, is in bloom at the base of the bocconia.
The grass in front of the crithmum, Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tails,’ is just getting started.
Silvery plant to the right of P. ‘Fairy Tails’ is the Island Bristleweed, Hazardia detonsa, endemic to the Channel Islands off Ventura, Calif.
The tiny golden paint brush blooms are only interesting insofar as they elongate and further develop the plant’s architecture. I love the overall effect.
Closeup of the crithmum
Before leaving the office planting, I want to give a shout out to Calamintha ‘Montrose White.’ Frustratingly difficult to get a decent photo of the clouds of tiny white flowers.
But so cool and Grace Kelly elegant. The bees and I are wholly smitten. It is by far the best bee plant in the garden.
A second clump of Glaucium grandiflorum has just started blooming behind the calamint.
In the foreground of the first photo is this amazing, silver-leaved mat-grower whose name I never committed to memory. It may have once been known as a helichrysum. Hasn’t every silver plant?
Sold as a summer annual, it would be perennial here in zone 10. Even though planted spring/early summer during some easy-going temperatures, this one gave me the same trouble as Stachys ‘Bella Grigio.’
Both collapsed after a couple days in the ground. I pulled them out, set them in the shade, where they surprised me by fully recovering.
In both cases, the soil mix was incredibly fast draining. The heavier garden soil was wicking away all the moisture.
After recovery, the mat grower was moved back into the garden. Some careful hand watering has helped to reveal its true and sturdy dry garden temperament.
(edited to add mat grower’s identity: Chrysocephalum aplicata. thanks, Hoov!)
The stachys will reside in a container for summer, and if it makes it to fall I’ll reappraise options for a spot in the garden.
I asked the nurseryman if this stachys was the real deal, as in is it trustworthy enough for use in landscaping projects? He assured me that it was. I remain unconvinced.
Still near the office, Agave ‘Mateo’ with the Crambe maritima (that never blooms), orange arctotis, Ricinus ‘New Zealand Purple,’ succulents, sideritis.
Verbena bonariensis finds support among aloes and agaves — as do I!
(Okay, I’m officially ditching that impossible systematic approach now.)
Penstemon ‘Enor’ had the usual problems with budworms blasting the flower buds before opening, but the wasps seem to have sorted it all out now.
My theory is whatever insecticide suppressant is in use at nurseries wears off soon after planting. As ever, I’m always thankful for parasitizing wasps and hungry birds.
Origanum ‘Rosenkuppel’ in the center, with yarrow and agastache.
Yesterday I took out the largest planting of this oregano to try out Sedum ‘Blue Pearl.’
The oregano is a demure evergreen mat all winter but leaps into alarmingly expansive growth in summer. It suffocated a grevillea and threatened to do the same to other neighbors.
Like first world problems, similarly, these issues get filed under small garden problems.
Calamagrostis brachytricha has about five bloom stalks. Prefers moist soil, but okay on the drier side.
Ruby grass, Melinus nerviglumis, was recently added to fill gaps where I took out a couple clumps of Elymus ‘Canyon Prince.’
I love the elymus, but it also needs a bigger garden to develop and play out its rhythms. And possibly a more wind-exposed site.
One clump of elymus tentatively remains.
And yes, Margaret, there is a fast-blooming puya. Not the sexiest, but the quickest to bloom.
And Puya laxa’s very prickly leaves are like silvery tillandsias for full sun. It’s a notorious spreader, so it remains in a pot.
Since this photo, a navy-blue flower has opened, barely discernible in the overall scheme of things.
Even though it’s not one of the flamboyant turquoise beauties, I do appreciate the quickness to bloom, tall, stemmy structure, and the gorgeous leaves.
Bulbine ‘Athena Compact Orange’ blooming through a carpet of horehound, Marrubium supinum.
A second clump of bog sage mid garden with Verbena bonariensis. The black bumblebees and hummingbirds go for the bog sage, the butterflies favor the verbena.
The bog sage, Salvia uliginosa, has elbowed out Crocosmia ‘Solfatarre’ this summer, so there will be some shifting around this fall.
Just giddy about summer-blooming Aloe ‘Cynthia Giddy’
Possibly Aloe ‘Christmas Cheer’ giving off some July cheer too.
Mid garden crescendo with Agastache ‘Blue Blazes,’ Achillea ‘Terra Cotta,’ eryngium, glaucium, oregano, verbena, anthemis, bog sage, melianthus.
Indefatigable Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ bulwarked by Senecio medley-woodii. Anthemis ‘Susannah Mitchell, kangaroo paws.
Berkheya purpurea obligingly keeps sending up one bloom truss after another.
And that, give or take, is a wrap on July’s Bloom Day.
Check out our host’s site May Dreams Gardens for more blog contributions to July Bloom Day.
I don’t have any travel plans this summer, so July’s rhythm has been work, work, work, decompress in garden, shower, repeat. And I don’t really mind because the garden is so absorbing this time of year. At least once a day I stand as close to the center of it as possible, on a rapidly disappearing access path, like Moses parting the Red Sea, to study the fleets of winged insects that visit. They’re the perpetual fireworks of the July garden. The air space is thrumming with the familiar bees, bumblebees, wasps, lawn skippers, hoverflies, but there’s so many that are nameless to me. Like the British research ship-naming contest, they may as well be Buggy McBug Faces. I was even convinced the other day that the tiny and rare El Segundo Blue butterfly paid a visit. Since its only known remaining habitat is under the flight path of LAX, that’s unlikely. But when your identification skills are sketchy at best, anything is possible, even rare blue butterflies.
I did get out to the CSSA show at the Huntington last week. Here’s a splendid Gymnocalycium friedrichii as proof.
I brought home just a couple plants, an Agave colorata and Euphorbia multifolia, but like clockwork, every summer I become convinced I need more shelves.
So Marty helped me rig a new shelving system, which gets lots of the pots up off the ground.
Not that I have anything against pots on the ground, but I like options for closer, eye-level inspection too.
Sturdy potted plants are fine at ground level.
Last summer I massed lots of sturdy stuff against the east (blue) fence.
But the little treasures have a better chance of survival if they’re right under my nose.
Little side tables and shelves, a garden needs them too, right?
I found these shelves at Building REsources in San Francisco last spring. They reminded me of old ironing boards.
The diamond perforations looked ideal for drainage. I saw great potential, but Marty wasn’t convinced with any of my early design proposals.
This arrangement suits everybody.
Euphorbia multifolia is temporarily cached in that lime green swirly pot.
I’ve seen this exact pot sitting on a neighbor’s porch a couple streets away, but have never seen it anywhere else, flea markets, etc.
A collecting friend gave me this one when it became chipped. What are the odds of there being two in my neighborhood?
The shelves are hung against the bird house/bath house. I like this corner for its morning sun/afternoon shade.
The ferny plant is a young Acacia cardiophylla. I thought the parakeets would appreciate something leafy to look at.
Now that they’re hung, I’m wondering if they shouldn’t have been painted first.
The shelves are rigged so that unhooking them for painting would be incredibly easy.
And the spray paint has really been flying around here lately. Someone cleaned out a garage and unloaded boxes of spray cans on us.
Marty has done all the painting. I come home from work, and there it is, the marvel of fresh paint.
For someone who has had a lifelong tolerance for rust, I’m growing alarmingly fond of fresh paint.
I can’t seem to move beyond black though. Marty had repainted this metal jardiniere in its original orange, and it was gorgeous.
But my eye kept stuttering and tripping over it. I guess that’s called a focal point, right? I needed it black, and Marty reluctantly repainted it again. What a guy.
And this old aquarium stand with those great hairpin legs got some fresh black paint too.
The marble top also came from Building REsources a few years ago.
Fresh paint is great, but some old finishes are too good to cover. I found this galvanized table really cheap at a great shop in San Pedro.
This shop is so good, with such great prices, that I’m hesitant to name it.
Okay, that would be incredibly selfish. It’s House 1002 on Pacific Avenue.
So the question remains, to paint or not to paint? If we do repaint, I’m leaning toward repainting the shelves their original color, not black, but I’m open to suggestions.
I’ve been pushing for the long weekend so hard, I was convinced most of yesterday that it was Friday and kept wishing everyone a happy holiday. Not quite, but almost there.
Today a broken camera, an overlooked deadline, and a forgotten mid-day dental appointment means I won’t get away to play at the CSSA sale until the weekend.
It’s predicted Californians will be driving in record numbers this holiday weekend, with San Diego, Santa Barbara, and San Francisco among the top destinations.
Might I suggest avoiding the Harbor Freeway between 10 and 11 Saturday morning? That’s all the time I’ll need to get to the Huntington. Thanks awfully.
Do try this at home: Furcraea macdougalii, ‘Angelina’ sedum, ‘Jitters’ crassula and echeverias, Roger’s Gardens
And during the bravura, explosive celebrations setting off car alarms on my street all weekend I’m going to try to keep in mind :
“The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort,
and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day.”
― David Foster Wallace, This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, about Living a Compassionate Life
Have a blast this 4th of July weekend.
It’s that time again.
The Cactus and Succulent Society of America is holding their 51st Annual Show & Sale at the Huntington July 1st through 3rd, 2016.
It’s going to be a long week until Friday. Hope to see you there.
Little Diego next-door has taken upon himself the challenge of learning drumming. In the last couple months, he’s been practicing on whatever is handy, whether it be pots, pans, buckets, gates. It was hard to tell at first how invested he was in his new-found chaotic project. I suspected it was just a goof to annoy his mom, but he has persisted for at least a few months. And today I could detect for the first time his discovery of pattern and repetition. I mean it was just the usual wild thrashing and then, boom, he was controlling the beat. A momentous day for the little guy. He lives just on the other side of the east fence, against which the three big lemon cypresses somewhat muffle his practice sessions.
For muffling little drummer boys, privacy, beauty, bird sanctuary, the cypresses are incredibly valuable to us. But of course I couldn’t just let them be cypresses.
They’d be perfect as scaffolding for vines, right? But not at the expense of harming them, of course. And that’s a very fine line, I’ve come to find out.
I’m still amazed that the Solanum ‘Navidad, Jalisco’ from Annie’s Annuals has become this happy.
It was planted against the fence, in the dry soil amongst the cypresses, with not enough light, and seemed to be puny and languishing for forever…until it wasn’t.
This is all so new, that a plant has actually followed orders: Get in there, don’t mind the awful conditions, and climb that cypress, will ya?
And it’s possible the solanum may be too obliging and eager to please. Because when it comes to choosing between the cypresses and a rollicking, rampageous vine, that’s an easy choice to make.
Little Diego has lots more practicing to do this summer.
Have a great weekend.
You know how one thing leads to another, and before you know it there’s a new pair of earrings coming in the mail? Let me explain.
There’s a Roberto Burle Marx exhibit right now at the Jewish Museum in New York (review here, “The Builder of Jungles” by Martin Filler.)
I admit to being slightly confused as to how a museum exhibit could possibly do justice to the work of the great Brazilian modernist landscape architect.
But Burle Marx was an outsized, protean artist, “a painter and sculptor; a designer of textiles, jewelry, theater sets, and costumes; a ceramicist and stained-glass artist.”
Therefore, he’s eminently worthy of an indoor exhibit, though I have to agree with Mr. Filler that:
“The primal presence of nature—even in this designer’s highly stylized manner—is needed to fully explain the atavistic magic that emerged from his jungle fervor.”
(If you’re going to the Olympics in Rio this August, in addition to the famous Avenida Atlântica, the Copacabana boardwalk, you’ll want to research some Burle Marx-themed road trips.)
Avenida Atlântica, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, via The New York Times
After reading the NYRB review, I confess my next thought was on the low-brow side: museum shop!
Maybe there were some special prints for sale made for the show, such as a print of this:
Burle Marx’s design for a rooftop garden, Ministry of Education and Health, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1938, via NYRB
“A detail of Roberto Burle Marx’s design for the garden of the Ministry of the Army in Brasília from the early 1970s.” The New York Times – “Revisiting the Constructed Edens of Roberto Burle Marx“
I didn’t find a print, but did experience an aha! moment discovering the jewelry of Molly M. I was beginning to think I was hopelessly tone deaf when it comes to jewelry.
It’s gotten so bad that I’ll find myself at work completely denuded of any ornament, having forgotten to wear even a wedding band before leaving the house. What’s wrong with me anyway?
My indifference to jewelry all my life never really bothered me much, but I’ve begun to notice the emotional attachment people feel to their rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
Frankly, I’m a little envious of that attachment. So I had a couple Etsy sessions recently, dutifully scanning the sites for something to spark an interest. Nothing. Hopeless.
Until I saw the laser-cut creations of architect-trained Molly M in the Jewish Museum Shop tying into the Burle Marx exhibition.
Finally, jewelry I actually desired. Now I get it! The Tropicalissimo Quill Necklace made a convert of me.
But a necklace is a big step for the newly converted, formerly jewelry phobic. Maybe there were earrings on Molly M’s own site?
Yes, there are Quill earrings available, as shown in the above photo.
But at almost 2 inches in diameter, I opted for something smaller in “Radial,” made of “natural and charcoal stained birch.”
You can read more about Molly M here. I think I may have found, via our beloved Roberto Burle Marx, the cure to my jewelry phobia.