I just potted the Pelargonium echinatum into this chipped Bauer pot inherited from my grandmother. A chipped Bauer pot ceases to be a sacred cow and can definitely mix it up with the other garden pots. Just took me a while to realize that. I’m certain my grandmother would agree. The pink-limbed, trailing cactus in the clay pot is Lepismium cruciforme.
It’s that time of year again to catch the displays of these spectacular South African succulents in bloom around town.
These photos were taken mid-day at the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden 2/7/13.
Many were of hybrid origin, no name given.
En masse, the hot-blooded, scorched-earth effect of an aloe in bloom gets seriously ramped up.
Another good bet to see a glorious display is at the Huntington Botanical Gardens.
Like the movie Being John Malkovich, the doorway to your fertile imagination is waiting for me whenever I need an infusion of inspiration, and you never disappoint. I still find it astonishing that I can see the world through your eyes merely by selecting Paradis Express from my blogroll, where it’s been since my blogroll was only a few inches old. From the first click that found you, the craving to experience gardens and design through your discerning eyes has never abated. You find the most amazing things to inspire me. There is no other doorway that leads to enchantment as frequently as yours.
mysterious, delphic Delphine. I’m not at all surprised to learn that you have your own personal cave.
or that you are a designer of worlds within worlds. (So many new worlds you have shown me!)
or that you live in a jungle within the walls of your 300-year-old house outside Paris.
or that we can identify members of our tribe by their windowsills
I am not at all surprised by your kindness and warm welcome to Mitch, but must thank you anyway for calling him now part of your “French family.” There is only one word that describes how I feel about you, and it’s your word, but I’m stealing it anyway: I am passionated by you.
(Reasons to blog: Right up there with the fantasy that a blog provides of being the senior editor of your own little magazine, there is the mysterious transformation a blog makes when it moonlights as a passport. Blogs emit dog whistles for the gathering of the tribe, the ones we never seem to bump into in the workaday world, and help us find each other, no matter the distance or language. Photographer MB Maher had the enviable opportunity this past January to pay our respects to Delphine and her family, Lucien and Paul, at their home near Paris, France.)
It’s a cold, blustery day, as Pooh would say, and I’m trying like mad to mentally recreate the scent of Michelia doltsopa from yesterday’s visit to the Los Angeles Arboretum. But, poof, it’s vanished beyond memory, just as it’s probably vanished from that little courtyard in today’s high winds and rain. Raw, windy days like today are kryptonite to scent.
Michelia doltsopa, from the magnolia family, native to Nepal, for zones 9 to 11. Discovered by Scottish physician Francis Buchanan-Hamilton around 1803 near Kathmandu, while he served in the Bengal Medical Service. (There’s not enough hours in a lifetime to read about all these intrepid, multi-hyphenate British scientists/explorers/physicans/zoologists/botanists. Dr. Buchanan-Hamilton also found the time to run the Calcutta botanical garden in 1814.) I can’t tease apart the scent’s various notes, but can confirm that it is freely borne, almost overpowering. Mood-altering, in fact. I’ve only encountered the scent of Michelia figo before, the Banana shrub. That scent is fairly straight-forward, as the name suggests.
The courtyard has several Michelia doltsopa, the tallest probably 15 feet high and covered in flowers pouring out this heady perfume. 25 to 30 feet is about the norm for these trees in cultivation, though in the wild they can reach 90 feet and are used for timber. For LA locals, it’s very much worth a special trip to inhale that complicated scent and reap the benefits of an exotic, in-situ aromatherapy, redolent of bygone explorers and forests filled with “a more beautiful tree than any magnolia.” (Or so says Frank Kingdon-Ward, another of that rare breed of explorer born from the British Empire.)
I wrote about artist James Griffith’s Natural Selection series here, as he was preparing for that show, and have heard now that he’s off in a new direction for a show to be held sometime in 2014. Something to do with glass perhaps? Very intriguing. Still, I can’t quite let go of the Natural Selection series and wanted to grace the pages of the blog again with a few of those images. Must be infuriating for artists to have their audience cling to old work (“Why don’t you paint another Starry Night, dude?”)
“Now, as I paint images of contemporary nature in a medium such as tar, the image is re-framed with an awareness of this moment’s ancient provenance. It underscores its place in time. The ‘painted moment’ can be seen as a brief segment in a vast fluid process we call Nature.”
– James Griffith, “Natural Selection”
Dark Wings – Finch, Tar on Panel
Crow and Tool, Tar, copper sulphate on panel
Young Crows – Natural Selection, Tar, Pollen, Human Ash
For information on future work or availability of paintings from the Natural Selection series, contact James Griffith at email@example.com.
The second garden we toured with Lili Singer on 1/24/13, through the Los Angeles Arboretum & Botanic Garden’s series “Thursday Garden Talks with Lili Singer.” The first garden toured can be seen here.
The description of the second garden from the handout:
“The youngest of the three gardens we’ll visit, this family- and dog-friendly landscape in Santa Monica Canyon includes colorful fragrant natives and other mediterranean-climate plants, permeable paving, drip irrigation and smart controllers. Edibles and ornamentals abound, along with birds, butterflies and other beneficial wildlife. Designer Fleur Nooyen will be our guide. She began the installation in 2011 and still works with the owner (an enthusiastic new gardener!).”
12-year-old lab Sadie in a rare state of repose. She greeted everyone individually, graciously welcoming each of us into her domain.
Sadie runs this garden. Runs it, squashes it, tramples it, digs it.
The owner has the good sense (and warm heart) to design around the challenges posed by Sadie.
An avid lounger on plants, the sticks are intended as Sadie deterrents.
The turquoise blue fountain stones are from Arizona.
A young Arbutus ‘Marina.’ Stunning showboat of a tree to shade the seating area off the back of the house.
A fascinating provenance for this madrone is given by San Marcos Growers at the link. “Marina” refers to the Marina District of San Francisco. Legendary plantsman Victor Reiter, founder of the California Horticultural Society, is involved in the account:
“Mr. Reiter had acquired his plant in 1933 when he was allowed to take vegetative cuttings from a boxed specimen that was at the Strybing Arboretum. The Strybing Arboretum, under director Eric Walther, had purchased the boxed tree from the closing down sale of Western Nursery on Lombard Street in the Marina District. Charles Abrahams, the owner of Western Nursery, was thought to have taken cuttings from trees that were sent from Europe for a 1917 horticultural exposition, one of which was probably this beautiful tree.”
Dining area with herb garden. Weber kept in handy proximity.
Luminous bright leaves in the herb garden are, I think, Cuban oregano,
Plectranthus amboinicus Plectranthus neochilus ‘Mike’s Fuzzy Wuzzy’
A row of Salvia leucantha is planted in a narrow border alongside the table. When this salvia is strictly cut back hard each year, as is done here, it is marvelous. When not cut back, it’s a twiggy, leggy, obnoxious mess.
The herb garden, with Salvia leucantha in the foreground. Stairs lead to…
The hot tub
Coming up the driveway, the fence is planted with privacy vines, ceanothus, abutilon
Ceanothus ‘Frosty Blue’
Luscious flowering maple. I asked the designer Fleur Nooyen about the scale insect problem that always afflicts any abutilon I try to grow. Not a problem here so far. Fleur said that other than applying dormant oil, there’s not much remedy for bad scale infestations. Don’t I know it!
Looking back at the house, photo taken from an unseen lawn of Carex pansa, a lawn substitute that doesn’t require mowing.
The entire back garden is built for water permeability to avoid wasteful runoff, with pathways of decomposed granite and terraces of unmortared, dry-set stone.
Some of the carex visible in this photo. The large swath of Carex pansa surrounds another terrace topped by an arbor.
Keeping track of the blues?. Blue fence, blue stones, and now blue Adirondacks.
The blue doors are a design deception that lead nowhere. Clever trick for breaking up a long, adjoining garden wall.
The blues in the garden tie in with the trim on the Spanish-style house
Little orbs on the light strings woven from grapevine
Just one of the many benefits of bringing in a designer is that every detail is planned and built in from the get-go.
How many years has it taken to get around to building your potting area? 24 years here, and still counting.
One more angle of the madrone and its gorgeous bark. Another of its names is the Strawberry Tree.
Thanks to Lili Singer, the owner, and designer Fleur Nooyen for the tour of this personal, intimate garden designed for long outdoor meals, filled with natives and aromatic herbs that are easy on the water bill. Sadie is one lucky dog.
One more to go. The designers’ briefs for the first two gardens revolved around family, pets, native plants, edibles, permeability. The designer of the last garden is pedaling like mad to keep up with the owner’s enthusiasm for garden antiques. She keeps a personal warehouse container at the ready at Big Daddy’s, which I’ve written about here. lord, have mercy! I’ll have that post up later this week hopefully.
Photos 2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 13, 14, 15, 16 and 17 by MB Maher.
First it was the lush, wavy growth and strong limber lines Euphorbia lambii acquired this winter that I stopped to admire just as the sun was coming up. Euphorbia lambii is another one from the land of all things tender and exquisite, the Canary Islands, zoned for 9-11.
The so-called tree euphorbia, I used to dislike it for the very reason I now love it, the trunks and tree-like shape. Tastes change [shrugs].
Once the eye starts tracing lines, it quickly becomes a game of visual pickup sticks. Following the trunk of the euphorbia led to the pattern of lines in a nearby chair, the original Homecrest and the reason for recently acquiring another pair.
And then I noticed the beehive pot was getting in on the action too. Plant, chair, pottery — the important things in life.
Acanthus, thistle, iris, papyrus — plants are the graphic bible of pattern, the visual codex we’ve all been studying for millenia —
okay, admittedly some people more than others.
and selfishly hoarding it all to myself
a single cut flower can convince me I’m guilty of doing just that
The long neck of this aloe bloom had been gradually listing, leaning, until it made a full, graceless face plant, of no more use to the garden or pollinators, but still a fine thing for a vase in early morning eastern light.
Do you consider the color of your house and its role as a backdrop/canvas for the garden?
I can’t believe the luscious, creamy, chlorophylly color on this house was an accident.
The plants are positively strutting and preening against it.
Both siding and trim echoed in one plant. Possibly Opuntia monacantha var. variegata.
Just try to convince me that’s an accident.
As promised, photos of the gardens of Versailles, the apogee of the French formal garden style, designed by landscape architect Andre Le Notre for King Louis XIV of France (September 5, 1638 – September 1, 1715). With itinerant photographer MB Maher in town briefly for a friend’s wedding, I was able to shake his coat upside down and turn the pockets out for photos from his recent travels. He’s already back to England, then again to France, so do contact him here for any inquiries or just to chat about projects, or if even just for a drink in the local tavern, where he’ll probably leap over the bar and take over mixology duties. He’s an omnivorous fellow interested in just about everything.
Ready for a stroll? Properly attired, bewigged, perfumed, and powdered? Ladies should be outfitted something like this, give or take a few decades in the evolution of costume:
Glenn Close, Dangerous Liaisons, image found here.
Cue the rustle of satin and taffeta swishing over gravel walkways, the whispered plans for afternoon trysts, the rhythmic, metallic clipping and snipping by fleets of gardeners as they maintain the miles of hedges and topiary (presaging a somewhat more reactionary use of sharp cutting instruments to be used upon Louis XIV’s descendants).
Prepare to be awed at what the Sun King has wrought.
“By the beginning of the seventeenth century, with a Medici as Queen of France, the royal palace gardens in Paris were largely Italian in plan.”
– Hugh Johnson, The Principles of Gardening
Continue reading scenes from Versailles