Los Angeles’ Grand Park

I worked at the courthouse in downtown Los Angeles today. I love these occasional work assignments downtown. We drove up Broadway, taking in an early morning dose of awe at its many ghostly, majestic movie palaces like the Orpheum, now housing optometrists and bargain shops. It wasn’t until I was dropped off at the courthouse steps on Hill Street, preparing to brave the security queue, that I caught that distinctive flash of magenta out of the corner of my eye. I instantly knew where I’d be spending the lunch hour.


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The courthouse borders part of the new 12-acre Grand Park, which replaces the moribund Los Angeles County Civic Center Mall, about as inviting a space as a name like that implies. There have been lots of financial complications and physical challenges leading up to the opening of Grand Park in July 2012, which can be read here. But today I wasn’t interested in the sausage-making back story. This was my first look, and I was ready to be dazzled. Yes, the new park is sited awkwardly in places. Yes, it’s a compromise location. And it strikes me as more plaza than park, probably because it’s not heavily treed and is unapologetically angular and geometric. But, oh, I do most definitely approve.

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Landscape architects Rios Clementi Hale Studios were not only bold in their choice of seating but in their selection of plants as well.

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It was the plants that coaxed and lured me deeper into the park. A lunch hour wasn’t nearly enough time to explore it all.

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The openness of the park allows for wonderful views

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Large bunch grasses like miscanthus are seldom seen in Los Angeles. Here were great sweeps of them.

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The movable metal street furniture was designed inhouse by Rios Clementi Hale and manufactured by Janus et Cie.

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It’s about time Los Angeles decided to be included in the pantheon of cities with great urban parks.

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The opening of the fourth and final segment will be celebrated this Saturday, October 6, 2012.

From Rios Clementi Hale Studios website:

“Our design for Grand Park has no smaller aim than to express the global multicultural diversity of Los Angeles through landscape design and architecture to create a spectacular, iconic park for Downtown Los Angeles. Thematically, the park celebrates Los Angeles’ identity as a 21st-century multi-cultural global city metropolis composed of an amazing diversity of authentic ethnic communities and neighborhoods, set in a County where 244 distinct languages are spoken.

Over its length, the site is divided by two city streets and a challenging 90-foot grade change. Our design makes a series of grand park gestures to tie the four-block site together, and create a connected, unified park. We used Grand Park’s significant grade changes as an asset, rising to the challenge of softening Bunker Hill’s natural incline with pedestrian-friendly and ADA-accessible ramps and broad steps. The new ramps extend existing below-grade ramps to the north and south to create a series of central terraces leading down into the park from Grand Avenue with a great view of the restored fountain. The terraces are adaptable to an array of uses, including al fresco dining, event seating, meeting enclaves, and general gathering places. The historic Arthur J. Will Memorial Fountain has been restored and expanded to increase its sustainability as well as its viability as a dynamic water feature for park users.”

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cross-pollination 9/29/12

Annette and Gustavo Gutierrez hosted another “Cross-Pollination” on Saturday. These get-togethers were initiated by garden designer Dustin Gimbel, who’s already hosted a couple dinners, and are a hybrid between a revolving conversation society and garden party. There was just enough time before nightfall for a few photos.

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The tantalizing aroma of Gustavo’s paella permeated their 100-year-old, two-story Craftsman (see Apartment Therapy’s tour here), while in the garden off the kitchen plumeria poured its scent into the warm night air. The Hollywood sign in the nearby hills, visible from the deck, along with the ring of palm trees encircling their street, are the kind of party props you just can’t rent.

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photo from Apartment Therapy.


Annette Gutierrez and Mary Gray, at their Atwater Village shop Potted, are providing Los Angeles a much-needed source for modern, vibrant options in outdoor design. (Now, via online sales, everyone else can get Potted too.) At home, Annette mixes many of Potted’s furniture and signature pottery with vintage chairs, built-in banquettes, tile-top tables by Tracey Reinberg’s line of Kismet cement tile, showing how bright-hued Fermob and Bend chairs and tables co-exist beautifully with other materials and styles.

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It’s wonderful to see a love of strong color and pattern spill out into the garden, bringing together an outdoor space that, instead of being considered an afterthought, is as personal, idiosyncratic, and irresistibly welcoming as what’s inside the house. Maybe more so. Where else but at a garden party can you be entertained by a dog eating avocados falling from the tree?

Thank you, Annette and Gustavo, for hosting a fabulous evening of Cross-Pollination.
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some cool customers

For a reliable dose of cool, deep greens and blues are the colors to choose.

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Yucca whipplei, Agave ‘Blue Glow,’ Elymus arenarius, Blue Lyme Grass

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Cool comes smooth, barbed, spiked, sometimes all at once, like the barbs of Furcraea macdougalii

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Cool can take the heat. (Thank you, Aloe marlothiii, for remaining flawlessly poised during this interminably hot summer.)

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Always more cool to discover. From unknown to me before July 2012 to ecstatic possession in September 2012, Agave celsii var. albicans ‘UCB.’ A Pasadena nursery was having a 35% off sale, and there he was, an agave I’ve never seen offered locally before. The kismet of cool.

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Occasional Daily Photos 9/26/12


Couple things caught my eye in the front garden tonight.
Santolina ‘Lemon Fizz’ has thickened up nicely over the summer into a sturdy chartreuse bun.

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And one of my favorite indicators of the end of summer, the aeoniums coming out of dormancy, deepening in color and plumping up.

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monday clippings 9/24/12

It may technically be autumn, but the high temps and torpor of summer persist. I’m feeling a bit muzzled by the heat, but stuff is still getting done.


Agave parrasana ‘Fireball’ was moved to a larger pot this weekend.

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As was Agave ‘Dragon Toes’

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And this little New Zealand Tree Daisy with the big name of Olearia virgata v. lineata ‘Dartonii’ was potted up too. I’ve already planted an Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ in the last available spot for a tree, so for now this olearia will have to spend a good part of its young life in a container.
Far Reaches Farm’s description reads: “Intriguing ‘Shrub Daisy’ from the South Island in New Zealand. If you’ve hankered for a willow but lament your dry conditions, then weep no more. All the grace and texture of a small willow with the bonus of small white flowers.”

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The black containers are from a pottery wholesaler at the southern end of the Harbor Freeway I visited a month or so ago, and the salvaged iron stand has been kicking around here for years. Its original industrial function remains a mystery. A recent purge moved it to a discard pile in the driveway, where I rescued it once again on Saturday. There’s a constant tug between clearing useless junk out and having it on hand to play with.


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The shelves are vents of some kind that I picked up at a hardware store over a year ago that looked like they’d be useful for something.
Wish I’d picked up four.

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small space big style: Potted shows how it’s done

You’ve gotta get over to Potted’s blog to see their before-and-after photos documenting Potted’s contribution to the California Home+Design showhouse at The Hollywood Lofts.

Follow Potted’s step-by-step photos to find how they arrived at this:


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And this:
(Note the debut of Potted’s City Planter in white.)

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Annette and Mary mix modern and bohemian like nobody else.

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Congratulations on this amazing transformation to an open-air, outdoor room showcase at the Hollywood Lofts for CH+D.
I’ve got until November 18 to see it in person. Reservations can be made here.

Showhouse hours:
September 14 – November 18, 2012; Friday, Saturday & Sunday Only.
Friday: 10am – 2pm
Saturday & Sunday: 10am – 3pm

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succulent container with ocotillo

Running errands in Orange County yesterday, I popped into the new Rolling Greens again to see if their selection of outdoor plants had arrived. Yes, a good range of succulents was in, including this fabulous variegated beaucarnia or Pony Tail Palm.

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There were also some striking succulent containers planted up and added to the display.
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This has to be a first — I don’t think I’ve seen ocotillo used in containers before. But why not? Just don’t forget the gloves.

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The ocotillo’s strong pattern is marvelous when viewed against a backdrop, reflective or otherwise.

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Interesting horizontal, topographic effect obtained by mossing up and planting salvaged industrial metal trays and other low-slung containers.

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And I just happen to have one of those metal trays hanging around here someplace…
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Bloom Day September 2012

A stupefyingly hot Bloom Day here in Los Angeles. June and July were lovely, August and September the devil’s smithy. This heat wave is having the same effect on the streets as martial law, rendering them eerily quiet and empty. The garden is pretty quiet too.


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Amazingly, some things have the backbone to bloom in this heat. Not me. But the summer-dormant, winter-blooming Pelargonium echinatum opened its first blooms yesterday.

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And Russellia equisetiformis has leapt into bloom, even with having to face down day after day of searing afternoon sun.

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Plant Delights described this salvia as making a nondescript, almost grass-like contribution all summer before blooming in fall, which sounded ideal, and this first year that assessment has been borne out. Doesn’t bulk up huge during summer but maintains a slim, barely noticeable presence until it becomes studded in blue flowers in fall. Ultimate size 3-4′ x 15-18.” Salvia reptans West Texas Form.

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Passion vine Passiflora sanguinolenta is sailing through the high temps, reliably unfurling its little pink parasols.

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Definitely cactus weather. Aporocactus, unfazed by the heat.

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Palo verde trees, agaves and grasses scoffing at the heat at a Starbucks in downtown Los Angeles yesterday.
These last two photos taken with my iPhone.

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Cor-Ten steel fountain, agaves and hesperaloe. Walking around downtown yesterday, I convinced myself that until I devise a fountain or water garden, it might be helpful in the interim to just print verbs for the movement of water on my east fence, which was just restained an even darker indigo blue. Words like brim, pour, spill, trickle, flow, rush, cascade, plunge, drip, splash, pool, eddy

Thank you, Carol, (May Dreams Gardens) for this count-your-blessings monthly ritual, along with all the Bloom Day contributors.

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August water bill

20 percent less water usage this past August compared to August 2011. That wasn’t too terribly painful. The back garden is fairly torn up right now, but that’s all me, Edwina Shovelhands, not a result of any water rationing. The Lobelia tupa did perish under the August sun, just crisped away, but not for lack of moisture. A couple of the Canary Island foxglove relatives, isoplexis, are hanging on. I caught one in a severe state of wilt yesterday morning and rushed a hose to its base. By afternoon sun, it was fine. It’d be lovely to see it bloom next summer. Did you know Thompson & Morgan have crossed isoxplexis with Digitalis purpurea? T&M have named their creation Foxglove ‘Illumination Pink.’


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We haven’t cooled off yet and the forecast is for more of the same for the next couple weeks at least. The hot, rainless months of August and September are always the winter of my discontent. I’m already planning for next year, and as usual I aim for the garden with the most cake but easy on the resources. Might as well aim big. Depending on how much of the *smoke tree is cut back, the sun/shade equation will change. For sun, there’s some nice honey-colored yarrows like ‘Marmalade’ and ‘Inca Gold’ I’d like to try for next summer. Thinking along these lines had me wondering if Piet Oudolf has done any mediterranean planting. Still on the reading bench for occasional inspiration is his book ‘Landscapes in Landscapes,’ and a quick check confirms, yes, he has done one such garden, in Barcelona.
Photo from the book, taken from the Oudolf website:

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Lots of calamint and grasses. I haven’t grown Calamintha nepeta in a very long while, and it’s a good plant here, if a little overenthusiastic as a reseeder. Calamint and yarrow? A definite maybe.

If Orlaya grandiflora seedlings turn up again in spring, it might look something like this Hampton Court garden show exhbit. But no foxtail lilies/eremus in zone 10 of course. A write-up on the blog Flowerona has more photos and identifies some of the plants used.
(RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2012, Catherine MacDonald, awarded Best Summer Garden.)

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*So many projects squeezed out blogging time and left posts like this half-finished. Cotinus coggygria x obovatus ‘Grace’ has been removed. Her hybrid vigor translated into a lethal combination of gigantic cutback shrub/tree in my garden (and the neighbors too). 25-feet tall, 40-feet wide, brought down by chainsaw, ropes, and loppers. All fingers and toes accounted for. As Marty summed it up, “We tried to be patient with her, but she just didn’t know when to quit.” Now there is the shock of the new, a garden without ‘Grace,’ the sun/shade areas completely upended. Big sky country here again. It’s been…emotional. My little Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ is topping the list of trees to follow ‘Grace.’

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Rolling Greens opens in Orange County

I’m so very glad that owner Greg Salmeri and creative director Angela Hicks have opened another location where they can express their unique “global nomad” outlook on indoor/outdoor rooms and gardens, bringing the total to three locations in Southern California: The original Rolling Greens Culver City location, the second location on Beverly Boulevard in West Hollywood, and now Costa Mesa in Orange County, which just might be the easiest one for me to visit. Each location is different enough from the others to merit visiting all three. The new Costa Mesa location continues the global nomad theme but with the accent heavy on French influences.


A salvaged French greenhouse displays indoor plants.

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Maybe it’s the latent dry goods grocer in me, but I’ve always found neatly stacked displays of hand-made goods and curios utterly compelling. Rolling Greens excels at stirring up primal dry goods lust with its wonderful, award-winning displays on salvaged cabinets and trunks.

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The last time I saw tablecloth linens by Garnier Thiebaut was at the Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville in Paris. I brought stacks of Garnier Thiebaut dish towels home from Paris as gifts — lightweight, easy to pack, beautiful, durable fabric. Nice to see them again at Rolling Greens.
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Each new location seems to move more in the direction of garden-inspired home furnishings. I did ask and was told that the Costa Mesa location intends to sell outdoor plants as well. They just hadn’t arrived yet. Although open for business, the official grand opening will take place September 15th, when the Arrangement Bar will be waiting to help customers unleash their botanical creativity.

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Lamps I covet hanging over the Arrangement Bar, which will also hold future workshops. All fixtures are for sale.

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More lamps to covet.

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This sputnik of a plant stand was a real charmer

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Terrariums and tillandsia orbs
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What I didn’t get photos of was their wide selection of containers, silk flowers and plants.
Even though I asked permission first, I was still slightly embarrassed at the number of photos I was taking.

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The very kind sales staff handed me a post card listing special events at the Grand Opening on Saturday, September 15, 2012.

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Special Events to include:
fresh flower mart and custom bouquets
custom terrariums and succulent arrangements
learn+grow terrarium workshop (RSVP)*
gourmet tasting with Sasha Hagenlock

*RSVP to events@rg-ca.com
Rolling Greens Costa Mesa is located at 3315-A Hyland Avenue at South Coast Collection. (714) 444-4425


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