WestEdge Design Fair 2018

What: WestEdge Design Fair October 19-21, 2018.
(Sunday is the last day!)

Where: The Barker Hangar
3021 Airport Avenue
Santa Monica, CA 90405

When: For general admission, October 19-21, 2018.
(Sunday hours 10-5 p.m.)
order tickets here

In the spirit of short notice is better than no notice at all, today, Sunday October 21, is the last day of this very lively design show held in the Barker Hangar at Santa Monica Airport. I’d never attended this six-year old design fair, which is geared toward industry professionals, but I noted that Bend furniture would be there this year, and the Air Plant Man (tillandsias), so we stopped in on Friday. It’s definitely worth a look, and today is your last opportunity for 2018. I’ll be marking my calendar for a return visit next year and plan to make time for more of the panel discussions. And visiting the repurposed air hangar is a treat in itself. In between discussing the price of floor models (yes, he bought a couple), Mitch ended up with quite a few photos.

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Have a great Sunday!

photos by MB Maher

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Natural Discourse 2019 Preview Conversation 10/19/18

Where: Wind Tunnel Gallery
Art Center College of Design
950 South Raymond Ave, Pasadena

When: Friday, October 19, 2018
5 to 7 p.m.
free but reservations encouraged

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The winter aloe bloom season is coming, always a compelling reason to visit the LA Arboretum in winter. The return of other equally exciting events at the LA Arboretum in 2019 include Natural Discourse’s Digital Nature February 27 through March 3, 2019.

In anticipation of the 2019 return of Natural Discourse to the LA Arboretum, a Preview Conversation will be held this Friday, October 19, 2018, 5-7 p.m. (free but reservations are encouraged, here).

This Preview Conversation will be held at:

Wind Tunnel Gallery
at Art Center College of Design
950 South Raymond Ave, Pasadena

The speakers on Friday, October 19, 2018, at the Wind Tunnel Gallery in Pasadena include:

John Carpenter is an interactive digital artist and designer whose work explores the use of gesture with complex data and spaces. Based in Los Angeles, he works for Oblong Industries as an interaction designer and is a visiting professor at the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, MA+P. John earned his MFA from the department of Design Media Arts at UCLA (thesis: qualitative spaces in interactive art + design, 2009) and has recently exhibited work at INHORGENTA MUNICH, the LA Arboretum, the Murmuration Festival, Young Projects, ACME. Los Angeles, and the Academy Awards.

Richard Schulhof, CEO of the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden and a native of Los Angeles, has a strong commitment to public education and serving urban communities. Schulhof was deputy director of Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum in Boston, executive director of Descanso Gardens in La Cañada Flintridge. He completed horticultural internships at the Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino and the Mildred Mathias Gardens at UCLA. Schulhof has an undergraduate degree in landscape architecture from U.C. Berkeley and masters degrees in public garden administration from the University of Delaware and in forestry from Harvard.

Shirley Alexandra Watts is curator of the ongoing project Natural Discourse, a series of symposia, publications and site-specific art installations that explore the connections between art, science and the humanities within the framework of botanical gardens and natural history museums. Natural Discourse began with an exhibit of site-specific installations on view at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden in 2012. Shirley has organized six daylong symposia at the Berkeley Botanical Garden, the LA Arboretum, the LA Natural History Museum and the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. In fall 2016 she curated the exhibit Digital Nature at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanical Garden. With support from the NEA, Digital Nature 2019 will take place at the LA Arboretum February 27 to March 3, 2019.”

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lagerstroemia by John Carpenter and Justin Shrake, Digital Nature 2016

The Preview Conversation will touch on some of my favorite topics, “art, science, trees and the upcoming exhibit Digital Nature 2019 at the LA Arboretum February 27 through March 3.”

You can read up on past Natural Discourse events at these links here.

images by MB Maher

Posted in artists, clippings, design, MB Maher, science | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

garden notes 10/14/18

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Bitter Cassava, Manihot esculenta ‘Variegata,’ waylaid me at the local nursery Friday while stocking up on potting soil. Just try walking by this. Not possible.

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Manihot grahamii, the hardy tapioca, always drops its leaves mid-winter, while the Bitter Cassava is reputed to be evergreen, so now I get to compare the two.

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There was a rumor of rain, so early Friday morning I immediately grabbed the hose and slow-soaked the lemon cypresses against the east fence. Because fool me once, shame on you, weather people. Fool me twice…but if anything, I think the good weather people underestimated this rainstorm and lightning show. Water was at last uniformly delivered to the entire garden, something I do a poor approximation of for seven or more months. I think the slipper plant, Pedilanthus bracteatus, shot up another foot in one day.

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Unlike the last no-show, I was determined to play it extremely casual about this forecast, so didn’t pull any of the plants under the pergola out for a rain bath. I’m not sure why these coleus are doing so well, when through bitter experience I’d become convinced coleus hated life with me. It may be these are exceptionally easy-going varieties, ‘Henna’ and ‘Inferno,’ or the large, shallow container provides better drainage, or it also might have to do with the creeping humidity overtaking our summer weather. If the Santa Ana winds do make an appearance this week, these will most likely be their last portraits for 2018. But I’ll be grabbing some cuttings.

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Coleus (Solenostemon) ‘Henna’

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Plectranthus argentatus is filling out again after looking a little pinched in late summer.

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The xanthosoma got a good soak, its pot situated just clear of the pergola. The red spike is from a pokeweed, Phytollaca icosandra, that’s been poking along all summer, finally in a bit of a growth spurt. I’ve found a seedling that I may try in the garden next summer instead of a container. The patterned leaves climbing the silver spoon/kalanchoe are from Aristolochia fimbriata. Photo taken from the garden side of the pergola.

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And photo taken from the house side of the pergola. The mesmerizing sound of rain on the corrugated pergola roof kept us outdoors even after dark, munching on chips and salsa and counting off the thunder after every flash of lightning. Rain party!

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I wasn’t sure about full sun for the new kid on the block, Hamelia patens, the Firebush (Lime Sizzler™) so it’s been planted in dappled to full sun most of the day.

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The plants under the fernleaf acacia are temporarily all washed clean of that fine white powder that the tree exudes late summer. The Abutilon megapotamicum ‘Red’ took a break from flowering most of the summer.

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Like kids all cleaned up, you just have to take their portrait: Agave bracteosa ‘Monterrey Frost’

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The Coastal Woolybush, Adenanthos sericeus, has developed a nice upright habit to over 6 feet. (I finally did pull Salvia ‘Desperado’ which was crowding it and not particularly happy with its location anyway. This native hybrid salvia was talked up at the recent APLD Plant Fair as a very special plant for big, sunny gardens.)

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Fall-planted from 4-inch pots, Kniphofia thomsonii unexpectedly exploded into bloom. It’s a wonderful performance, but I’m worried it might be their swan song. I haven’t had much luck with these in the past, but it may have been due to overcrowding, so these have been given lots of air and light at their base. Since they’re known as the Alpine Poker, the sea level elevation may be an issue, but Annie’s Annuals has them zoned for 6-10.

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I never thought I’d grow lantana in the garden, that parkway/hellstrip queen, but the variegated form ‘Samantha’ has won me over. And they’re fabulous pollinator plants too.

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Eremophila glabra has been pinched back all summer and would seemingly make a nice small hedge. I bet it could even be formed into orbs, it’s that obliging.

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Crassula ‘Jitters’ attracted a lot of attention on the recent Mediterranean Garden Society tour of gardens in Newport Beach. I haven’t been paying mine much attention, which hasn’t stopped it from quietly growing into this nice dome shape.

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I’m rooting some stapelia cuttings from Dustin around the rim of a large potted cussonia, and surprisingly they still formed these dark, dark blooms. I think this must be Stapelia leendertziae, the Black Bells.

What a nice rainy weekend it’s been here! Hope yours has been enjoyable as well.

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OMIOMI’s chromaphilia in blue

Mitch’s photowork often provides me a window on some unique, one-off collaborative events, especially in the food world, where energy and creativity continue to bubble along at a full boil. Case in point: Omiomi recently held a “dream food conceptual dinner series” in Oakland, California, in collaboration with Sophia Lorenzi’s Hoste Productions, for IDEO, the global design company, “with color as a guide for memory and emotion, experienced through a blind tasting and shared meal.” The lavish emphasis on color was a chromaphiliac’s dream. With the big, tradition-laden holiday meals coming up, it seems an appropriate time to share the work of people who think hard about food 365 days a year.

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When I first saw the photos, they delivered a small shock of the new, yet there was a lot that was familiar too: the sensual emphasis on the forms and colors of plants, the simultaneous sense of abundance and control, the tension between nature and artifice.

Continue reading

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APLD + Arboretum Plant Fair 2018

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Leave it to the landscape designers to build one of the best plant fairs I’ve attended — relaxed, convivial, informative, great flow, pacing, and easy accessibility to the plant vendors, multiple ongoing activities seamlessly integrated — all qualities found in a good garden designer’s tool kit, right? So it only makes sense. Offering CEU credits for APLD members, and with the fall/winter planting season ahead, the plant fair couldn’t have been better timed.

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One of the main organizers, president of the Los Angeles chapter of APLD, Johanna Woollcott, chatting with Tim Fross of Native Sons, Chondropetalum tectorum ‘El Campo’ in hand, a compact selection of this restio.

The Los Angeles Chapter of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers held their first plant fair at the Los Angeles Arboretum on September 29th, and judging by its success I’m convinced (and dearly hoping!) it won’t be their last. Doors opened at the arboretum’s Ayres Hall at 9:30 a.m., with coffee and continental breakfast laid out among tables bursting with gorgeous plants. Not a bad way to start a Saturday! Cup of coffee in hand, there was a good 30-40 minutes to stroll among the plant vendors before the program started, to check out the plants and ask questions of some of the most knowledgeable nursery people you’ll ever hope to meet. (I found out early that if you especially admired a particular plant on a table, like I did silvery Halimium atriplicifolium from Native Sons, they tagged it with your name to take home, a slightly disorienting but undeniably auspicious beginning to any plant fair. And this was before the multiple raffles…)

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Finding this beauty at Native Sons’ table, I mentioned it looked like a saltbush, which is when I was informed its name did derive from atriplex, Halimium atriplicifolium, which means “like a saltbush.” The Yellow Rockrose is kind of the mediterranean equivalent of our Island Bush Poppy, the dendromecons. I had momentary doubts of finding a spot in the garden for a big, 3-gallon sun lover, but as usual I managed to squeeze it in…

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I also brought home a dwarf Banksia ashbyi from Australian Native Plants that Jo said is not overly sensitive to our alkaline soil, and the Mexican Soft Muhly, Muhlenbegia pubescens, from Native Sons.

The tables were filled with stunning plants, many of them never before seen and headed for release in 2019 or beyond. Around 10:30ish, after opening remarks by APLD president for the Greater Los Angles District, Johanna Woollcott, the formal program began, wherein each nursery person intermittently peeled away from their table throughout the day to head to the stage to present four plants. (Having attended a rather famous plant fair in England last fall, during which I never did find the location of the talks, this arrangement was a breeze to navigate, being all under one roof.) Within this briskly paced format, a large number of plants were discussed and yet the day flew by, with Johanna keeping a light hand on the timer for any extended questions from the attendees. If you preferred to hang out at the plant tables, chat with friends, or wander out into the arboretum during the presentations, that was fine too. The day was inspiring, educational, restorative and even reassuring in the sense of witnessing so much horticultural talent devoted to producing the best plants to meet the complex, evolving challenges of Southern California landscapes. The LA Chapter of the APLD really hit it out of the park and created the perfect plant fair “ecosystem.” There were lighting and ceramic vendors, including Annette Gutierrez and Becky Bourdeau representing for Potted, but here I’m going to touch on some of the plants discussed.

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Wendy Proud from Mountain States (on the left) brought three hesperaloe to present, H. parviflora ‘Desert Flamenco,’ ‘Desert Dusk,’ and ‘Sandia Glow.’ The hesperaloe is a particular favorite of Mountain States president Ron Gass and is considered one of their “legacy” plants, with many, many years devoted to breeding the best selections. I took my photos late in the day, so all the hesperaloe had already either been sold or given away, as the empty table behind Wendy reflects.

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All plant photos were provided by the individual vendors unless otherwise noted.

Like all the hesperaloes Wendy discussed, ‘Desert Flamenco’ is propagated by tissue culture, resulting in uniform growth and prolific bloom. DF is an especially heavy bloomer and “displays loads of side branching on the flower spikes creating waterfalls of showy, tubular, pinkish-orange flowers. It produces very little seed which allows for an extended bloom time from spring all the way through the fall.” It’s a clean grower with blue-grey leaves, 2X2 with 4-foot flowers. ‘Desert Dusk’ flowers have an unusual purply overlay, with very straight flower spikes that don’t splay outward, so it’s perfect for tighter spaces. Semi-dwarf ‘Sandia Glow’ is a juicy watermelon red, larger than ‘Brakelights,’ with bright green leaves, to 2X3. Mountain States will be celebrating their 50th anniversary and is launching a new website this year.

Matthew Romsa of Bamboo Pipeline discussed the elegant Agave attenuata ‘Ray of Light,’ along with Duranta repens ‘Sapphire Showers,’ Acacia cognata ‘Cousin Itt,’ and Cordyline ‘Salsa.’

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Some really exciting innovations are now coming rapid-fire in dry garden ground covers and turf replacements. Robert Sjoquist of Delta Bluegrass presented Kurapia®, a sterile form of vigorous California native Lippia nodiflora that is said to be the least thirsty, greenest GC you can plant. Mr. Sjoquist says it receives water every three months in Camarillo, Calif, and can tolerate light to moderate foot traffic. There has been a large installation of Kurapia® at the San Bernardino County Courthouse, and it is already widely used in the Middle East, so those are some impressive credentials. He also discussed Delta Grassland Mix™, No Mow Free™, Native Bentgrass™, and Native Preservation Mix™.

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Randy Baldwin of San Marcos Growers chatting with a group including Nicholas Staddon of Village Nurseries.

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Randy Baldwin of San Marcos Growers selected one of the new Hans Hansen mangaves, ‘Mayan Queen,’ to discuss, “a complex hybrid involving a manfreda cultivar, Agave macroacantha and A. pablocarrilloi.” These mangaves from Mr. Hansen’s breeding program at Walters Gardens are irresistibly collectible as well as fantastic in the landscape, a spineless alernative for the spiky plant phobes. I envy whoever walked away with the spectacular specimen on the San Marcos table.

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Like the Hansen mangaves, another “it” plant of the moment is Casuarina glauca ‘Cousin It,” a fire resistant, drought tolerant ground cover/container plant from Paul Chambers at Australian Outback Plants. Mr. Baldwin also discussed Rhagodia spinescens, Creeping Australian Saltbush, a vigorous but very worthy ground cover brought into cultivation by the late plant explorer and nurseryman Gary Hammer. There is an impressive planting of this creeping saltbush at the arboretum that I didn’t have time to check out but will in the future. Other San Marcos selections included Leucadendron ‘Hawaii Magic,’ a compact cone bush from John Cho at the University of Hawaii, and the compact Chondropetalum tectorum ‘El Campo,’ which I have in my notes as first appearing in mass plantings at the Huntington Botanical Gardens — though I can’t swear by my messy notes on this point. San Marcos is another nursery celebrating some impressive longevity, 40 years’ strong.

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John Schoustra of Greenwood Daylilies presented Iris ‘Frequent Flyer’ for its year-round presentability and prodigious blooming, pictured above on the left; Hemerocallis ‘Dusky Rouge,’ a daylily in bloom for 10 months out of the year and judged by chefs to have the tastiest blossoms (who knew?); Syringa vulgaris ‘Snowy Beach’ for the many nostalgic transplants to SoCal, and apparently there are a lot of them — the ones who want to grow peonies and lilacs in a climate wholly unsuitable, so plant breeders to the rescue. I’m always impressed by his discussion of the bioremediation abilities of long-lived daylilies and the amount of urban pollution they can tolerate.

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Recent honoree by the Southern California Horticultural Society as 2018 Horticulturist of the Year, Mr. Schoustra, humble as ever, works his table.

Mr. Schoustra also presented Salvia ‘Love Child,’ a naturally occuring hybrid of Salvias clevelandii and leucophylla (I believe found in his home garden).

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Trees were not excluded from discussion nor raffles. BrightView brought gorgeous specimens of the Netleaf Oak from Chiapas, Mexico, Quercus rugosa. I saw Annette from Potted walk off with one of these, saying something about once having had to remove a large oak, and it was time to make restitution by planting a new one. Johanna’s partner, prop master and multidisciplinary artist Eugene McCarthy, won a raffle of one of these oaks too.

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Red leaf tips on Quercus rugosa.

Brightview also presented Quercus tomentella, the California Island Oak, Quercus engelmanii, and Quercus virginiana ‘Cathedral.’

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On the Native Sons’ table and up for discussion during their presentation was this lovely thing, a variegated sport of Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince’ appropriately named ‘Canyon Princess.’ Available sometime in 2019. I’ll be waiting.

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Native Sons also presented Actostaphylos insularis as particularly worthy of mention in a genus overflowing with worthiness. A very tough fern, Polypodium scouleri, also received plaudits, along with Sesleria ‘Campo Azul,’ a seedling from S. autumnalis.

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After a break for lunch, Nicholas Staddon of Village Nurseries talked up another plant currently having its moment in the sun (or shade too), Lomandra ‘Platinum Beauty’ (‘Roma13’). Mr. Staddon also chose for discussion Callistemon viminalis ‘Slim,’ Ilex X ‘Rutholl,’ the dward Jacaranda mimosifolia ‘Sakai01’ and Laurus nobilis ‘MonRik.’ Mr. Staddon announced that the UC Davis Landscape Plant Irrigation Trial program will be opening a satellite trial ground at UC Irvine next spring, which professionals will be able to visit and study.

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Lili Singer presented Theodore Payne’s selections, including the Desert Willow, Chilopsis linearis ‘Burgundy,’ a beautiful, small, fast-growing tree in bloom May to November; winter deciduous, multi-trunked. Also discussed were Arctostaphylos cruzensis and Ceanothus ‘Frosty Blue.’ Ms. Singer recommended a great online resource for California native plants, Calscape, which allows you to plug in your zip code to find suitably zoned plants for your area. The Theodore Payne Foundation will be holding its fall sale October 25-27. They offer $100 membership to landscape professionals that discounts 25% on all purchases, which includes pulling the plant order to have it ready and waiting for you.

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Jo O’Connell of Australian Native Plants began her presentation with a heartfelt thank-you to all who helped in her nursery’s recovery from last year’s devastating wildfire in the Ventura/Santa Barbara area. She brought some wonderful banksias to discuss that are not overly sensitive to our alkaline soil issues, such as Banksia integrifolia and grandis.

Banksia grandis, the Bull Banksia, has no problem with chlorosis in alkaline soils. (In any case, adding iron chelate is an easy fix.)

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Hakeas are one Australian plant I’ve yet to grow. This is Hakea archaeoides, a “medium to tall shrub with mid-green leaves with rusty new foliage, lignotuberous, and has orange-red flowers. Hardy to moderate frost, prefers some summer watering. Requires well-drained soils in full sun or partial shade position. Excellent cut foliage. Good informal screen, fast growing.”

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The smaller mallee eucalypts are a favorite of Jo’s, including the ghost gum, Eucalyptus victrix, “a striking, smooth, white-trunked small tree from Western Australia and Central Australia and into the Northern Territory. Very drought and heat tolerant. Said to be slow growing (for a Eucalyptus!) It has been growing well in Ojai and tolerating 110F and a cold 18F with little protection.”

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At John Greenlee’s table, a lucky attendee walks off with a very promising local selection of the eyebrow grass. Maybe you’ve noticed that Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ isn’t a spectacular performer in Southern California? This new form comes from seed collected near Big Bear Lake and is therefore more regionally suited to SoCal. And just look at the profusion of bloom! Also of great interest to me on Greenlee’s table were those tall purple blooms. I’ve always felt that tulbaghia was very worthy of plant breeders’ attention, and gratifyingly there were a couple interesting examples at the show. Native Sons had a lovely white form of a tulbaghia brought over from England, and this agapanthus-like tulbaghia from Greenlee, available sometime in 2019, is called ‘Big Amethyst.’ Not up for raffle, no one was walking away with these rare beauties.

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Leymus triticoides ‘Lagunita’ “has the potential to become the gold standard of native California meadow grasses.”

Mr. Greenlee (“Who’s your grass daddy?” he asked, as he bounded up to the stage) presented Calamagrostis nukaensis ‘The King,’ Eragrostis intermedia ‘Madera Creek,’ Poa cita ‘Golden,’ and Leymus triticoides ‘Lagunita,’ another very exciting grass that supposedly can take not only foot traffic but some tire traffic as well! (Sometimes it’s hard to tell if/when he’s joking…or it could be my notes again.) As a designer of grass ecologies, he aims for the most green for the least amount of water. Continuing his investigations into mowable meadows interplanted with bulbs and perennials, I noted a six pack of fairy lilies/zephyranthes on the table. He no longer has his own nursery but associates with other growers.

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The last presentation was by Berylwood Trees, which runs an impressive operation handing enormous boxed trees for installations large and small. And they offer a bespoke espalier service, so if you’re interested in 15 espaliered flannel bushes, talk to Berylwood.

You’ll be relieved to find I have just four more words to say about the APLD Los Angeles Chapter’s first plant fair: Let’s do this again!

Edited 10/9/18: More photos and information on many of these plants are available via PlantMaster, which handled the slide presentation. You can find out more about this professional resource by contacting Gerry Kiffe, General Manager GardenSoft, (805) 499-9689.

Posted in agaves, woody lilies, plant nurseries, Plant Portraits, plant sales | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Willy Guhl Spindle Planter

There’s really no other Mid Century Modern planter quite like the Spindle by Swiss designer Willy Guhl, made with his student Anton Bee in collaboration with Eternit in 1951.

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Mitch showed me some photos from an interior shoot he did recently, and I only had eyes for these planters, also called Diablo or Hourglass planters. I see these containers occasionally but knew nothing of their history and hadn’t heard of Mr. Guhl before. Google image search to the rescue.

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Made from a fiber/concrete formulation, they’re scene stealers whether indoors or outdoors.

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I’m not sure if these are original or reproduction, but that oxidized wash is fabulous.

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Sculpture, planter — whatever. Love these.

photos by MBMaher for Laura Brophy Interiors

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touring gardens in Newport Beach

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The Southern California Branch of the Mediterranean Garden Society led a tour of some Newport Beach, Calif. gardens last weekend. My assumption that there would be large succulent gardens in the Fallbrook style was no doubt due to my ignorance of Orange County land use and demographics, but the exciting, experimental tumult of a plant collector’s garden was nowhere to be found. Serene formality ruled the tour, with the small spaces surrounding the homes meticulously groomed for eating and lounging in a mild maritime climate that rarely intrudes on such activities.

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A relaxed acceptance of the limitations of low rainfall was everywhere in evidence, following the precepts of mediterranean garden design that were forged in the fire of sun-drenched lands millenia ago. The struggle for design answers was over, good taste and common sense had won. Maximalist minimalism reigned.

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Not that there wasn’t a large succulent garden on the tour. Our early morning meetup was held at the Newport Beach Civic Center, landscape design by Peter Walker. I spent a glorious 45 minutes pretour wandering among the giant aloe trees, prickly pear, agaves, and ponytail palms.

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The day proved to be an interesting study of the inadequacy of the word “garden” to describe the variety of outdoor spaces we habitually include in that term.

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At the end of the day, we all met up again for a lecture by Ron Vanderhoff at Roger’s Gardens, where he talked about…yes, the paucity of language available to describe gardens he was interested in, those built around plant communities. For the moment, Ron calls them “natural” gardens. Formal, informal, plant-driven, design-driven, natural (unnatural?) — the language is frustratingly nonspecific. So when someone invites you to visit their “garden,” be ready for anything.

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On the tour itself, the gardens were uniformly small and all comfortably esconced in solid, low-water, mediterranean garden principles.

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Stone and gravel surfacing, pools, fountains, rosemary, olive, box hedging, citrus, and the occasional outdoor shower.

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Real terracotta, probably from Impruneta.

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The gardens were designed for viewing from multiple vantage points within the home.

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An inundating tide of September light poured in through the windows.

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The plants were rowdier and more demanding of attention at the Sherman Gardens and Library, where we stopped for lunch.

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And this was the view from a narrow back garden. There’s always a volleyball game going on, the hostess told us.

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Now I know a little bit more of what to expect from gardens, Newport Beach style.

Posted in garden travel, garden visit, pots and containers, succulents | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments

summer plant report 2018

Imposing title for a modest report on a handful of new plants, right? Regardless of the size limitations of a small garden, I’m always trialing new plants, but I’m hesitant to report on results that might give a false impression of a plant’s true potential. Because, face it, I can’t offer optimal conditions — maybe too much sun or shade, too much root competition, inadequate winter rain to get the season rolling. Above all, I’m a merciless crowder of plants. (And I’m focusing here on herbaceous or shrubby plants, not succulents.) For example, I think the new Senecio palmeri is going to be a fabulous addition to the dryish garden. It hung on all summer in mostly full sun wedged in among a welter of other stuff. Today I removed a couple of broken branches (cat!). It never achieved the silvery dome I envisioned because I could offer only a quarter of the space it required. Still, it makes the cut for inclusion next year.

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Not a very tempting photo of Senecio palmeri, but nevertheless, you really should try this one, giving it as much room to expand as you can muster, and then you can judge whether it’s strictly a foliage plant or looks equally fine in bloom with bright yellow daisies. I think it’s got a lot of promise for a sunny, dry garden in zones 9-10. The jury is out on another silver in my garden, Senecio candicans ‘Angel Wings,’ but it also deserves consideration for making it through summer in full sun — just not growing much. I’m guessing better drainage and maybe a tad more water. The best specimens I’ve seen were made comfy in pots filled with loose potting soil, not stiff clay like mine.

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Another indeterminate appraisal goes to a compact form of one of our native buckwheats, Eriogonoum giganteum var. compactum, not an easy plant to find. Try the native plant nurseries like Theodore Payne or Grow Native at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. All three plants survived summer, and one even bloomed, so they’ve all made the cut for continued trial. All three stayed under a foot in height, an impressively compact performance. I’d never be able to accommodate the enormous girth of the species. Eriogonum is a famed nectar source for lots of butterflies. Squeezed in here among frothy calamints, which will always have a summer home in the garden for fitting in so well among agaves and other succulents and making the bees deliriously happy. I’d love to find a smallish nepeta that gets started earlier than the July calamints, possibly Nepeta grandiflora ‘Little Trudy.’ I could fit in maybe two — if I hadn’t already started infilling erodiums in gaps among the succulents. Erodium chrysanthum in particular quickly makes a feathery mound of bright silver and flourishes in the same dry sunny conditions as succulents. But planting among established succulents can be tricky; this summer I lost a nice clump of Euphorbia resinifera to rot caused by the water I diligently provided to a young Banksia repens getting established nearby.

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And this photo, with kangaroo paw leaves splayed over the buckwheat, illustrates just what I’m talking about as far as less than optimal spacing. I’d love a long sunny bank to give these silvers a proper trial.

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Like erodiums, the glauciums are wonderful interplanted among succulents, in flower or out. Centranthus lecoqui slips in quietly among the succulents too, shown here in bloom above Agave ‘Ivory Curls,’ but be warned that this valerian does seed itself around and not always where you want it. (Personally, I love thinning out the largesse of self-sowers — it makes me feel impossibly rich.)

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Centaurea ragusina is another promising silver, shown here in April. Despite its robust appearance, apparently it’s somewhat shallow rooted. Grabbing a brown leaf, I inadvertently pulled up the entire plant. And, unfortunately, none of the cuttings taken rooted. But my mishap aside, I’m hearing good reports from lots of growers.

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Occasionally I’ll stumble on a summer perennial that doesn’t mind our mild, dormancy-deprived winters. Persicaria amplexicaulis is one, and I seem to remember someone extolling veronicas as another. I picked up this Veronica ‘Purpleicious’ a couple weeks ago at a local nursery (where BTW gentians were also for sale, if that’s any indication of less-than-sound plant offerings for zone 10.). The silver leaves belong to Salvia ‘Desperado,’ a hybrid of two native sages, Salvia leucophylla and apiana. No blooms in its first summer. Some native plants shed their winter leaves for fresh summer leaves, and I’ve noted this sage cycling through sets of leaves at least three times, so it always seems to be holding on to some shabby leaves. If it doesn’t bloom next year it’s out. It’s probably in too much shade anyway, so my trial is by no means definitive. Speaking of native salvias, I pulled out my two Mojave sages in August. They weren’t dead, but Salvia pachyphylla has very little chance of thriving and blooming well near the coast, whereas an adjacent Salvia ‘Waverly’ is foolproof but wants more water than the Mojave sages can tolerate, so due to water incompatibility somebody had to go. Undeterred, I’m trialing another native salvia this fall, a compact selection of a native sage, Salvia apiana ‘Compacta.’ Not sure where this one will go yet.

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A towering Euphorbia ammak ‘Variegata’ was leaning from too much shade so was dug up and potted, and the open view to the garden beyond was so entrancing that I vowed to plant nothing else to impede the view…until I got a great deal on this Metrosideros excelsa ‘Gala.’ It’s only getting half-day sun here, again, not optimal. Sigh…

This fall phygelius are on my mind again for their shrubby reliability and long bloom. I’ve grown the peach and yellow forms in the past, but this year I’m trying a smallish form, ‘Magenta.’

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And just in time for fall planting, the Los Angeles chapter of the APLD is holding a plant fair at the Los Angeles Arboretum September 29, with vendors and sponsors like San Marcos and Australian Native Plants. Non-APLD members are invited to attend as well.

Not that I have any space for more plants…still, it never hurts to look, right?

Have a great weekend.

Posted in plant nurseries, Plant Portraits, plant sales | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

friday clippings 9/7/18

What a week. I think it’s time for some portraits of very clever squirrels by Geert Weggen, like this:

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More industrious squirrel portraits at the link, via My Modern Met.

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Another mood lifter is this charming series of drawings by Gretchen Roehrs entitled “Edible Ensembles,” via The Guardian

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I’ve never heard the expression “cowboy pool” before, but Victoria Smith at sfgirlbybay details how a stock tank becomes one in her DIY.

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/06/travel/oaxacas-potent-secret-mezcal-is-born-of-time-tradition-and-a-slow-growing-plant.html?action=click&module=Well&pgtype=Homepage&section=Travel photo merlin_142706031_c176ced6-f8d8-43ff-98f0-e2d57ccfe864-superJumbo.jpg

Some weekend reading: “Oaxaca’s Potent Secret, Mezcal Is Born of Time, Tradition and a Slow-Growing Plant

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On my wish list is this dreamy book of greenhouse photography by Samuel Zeller, “Botanical

And here’s a horticultural mystery solved. In case you’ve ever wondered what the heck is up with the weak growing habits of chocolate cosmos, Cosmos atrosanguineus, the RHS’ The Plantsman is on the case in “The story of Cosmos atrosanguineus.” Assumed to be extinct in the wild, the gene pool was reduced to a sterile, male form of the plant found at Kew that was tissue cultured and sent back to Mexico for reintroduction. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to all concerned, “a diverse population of seed-raised plants was already in existence in New Zealand and the plant was not, in fact, extinct.” Now I don’t feel so inept about past failures and am very interested to know what the genetic status is of current nursery offerings, like the three plants I brought home that seem much stronger and healthier than in the past. Maybe they’ll even make it to a second year — wouldn’t that be a nice change!

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I’m such a fan of self-sowers. Some of us are discovering that Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ is the new Verbena bonariensis, though it doesn’t reseed to the same extent. But a few plants are all I ever need. Just one volunteer seedling of Solanum pyracanthum is making a big impact on my summer.

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Nan Ondra introduced me to Emilia javanica ‘Irish Poet,’ which hasn’t reliably reseeded, so I sowed fresh seed in spring. Must remember to save some this year.

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My triangle palm, Dypsis decaryi, sends out lots of volunteers. Rather than continually weeding out the seedlings because of worries over ultimate size (the mother palm is 20 feet plus), I’ve had a change of heart and decided to play around with the slow-growing baby palms. I’ve even read that they can be grown as houseplants, so will dig up a few to give that a go.

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Like a lot of us, Leslie Vigil is obviously a fan and keen observer of all things succulent…(via This Is Colossal), but just look where she takes those observations:

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Treat yourself to something nice this weekend!

Posted in clippings | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

oil drums for plants

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Way back in spring, when we were sourcing stuff for the popup, there was an ad on craigslist offering food-grade, powder-coated oil drums for cheap. Really cheap. Temptingly cheap. Large containers are so pricy, and these would be perfect for small trees and shrubs.

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I hemmed and hawed and ultimately gave in to the fear that I’d get stuck with them so took a pass, because there’s not an inch to spare here at home.

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Pouring salt in that wound, Imperfect Interiors (via Desire to Inspire), uses oil drums to great effect in their East Dulwich Industrial Conversion. That’s what I’m talking about!

Drat…I mean well done!

Posted in design, pots and containers | 4 Comments