Les’ rules (A Tidewater Gardener).
Leave your home or workplace on foot. Bicycles are OK. Bring a camera along. Depending where you live, the Winter Walk-off challenge may be a snowy trek requiring a team of huskies and a sled (does that comply with the rules, Les?) or a sunny stroll in the park. I hope Les doesn’t mind multiple entries. This is just a warm-up, a test run, kicking the Winter Walk-off tires, so to speak.
Biking to my community garden yesterday, as always I pass this tidy bungalow.
The house and garden looked as though it had primped and readied itself expressly for the the Winter Walk-off.
At the base of the fence tumbles blue marguerite, Felicia amelloides, alternating with a coppery coprosma, shrubs from New Zealand also known as the Mirror Plant.
A couple blocks away, hanging lanterns suspended from a California Pepper Tree, Schinus molle
The yellow flowers belong to an aeonium sitting in a pot on the fence
This beautiful parkway agave stranded in weeds looks like a variegated Agave weberi.
(vintage black Chevy in the distance, tail fins hidden by the palm)
At the community garden, purple cauliflower in a neighbor’s plot
and sweet peas, also not mine. My sweet peas are just barely grabbing on to the bottom of the trellis.
An abbreviated entry, but hopefully there’ll be time for a few more. And then it will be spring.
I think this is actually Les’ plan, to distract us until spring. I’m all for that. Thanks, Les!
We’re in the early planning stages of another project, and I’ve started to notice a pattern here. Often projects start out with stuff we’ve found, which gets stored deep in the recesses of the garage and is completely forgotten, but gets triumphantly unearthed a couple years later, at which point we become infatuated all over again with its potential. Case in point, this solid-wood door, circa 1950s. It’s huge, leaning against the narrow side of the garage now, so a larger photo isn’t possible, but take my word, the door is pristine and a lovely golden color. One edge became slightly termite-chewed during storage, but that can be easily cleaned up with a saw.
Like all our projects, the early stage revolves around deciding what it will be. There can be — let’s see. How can I put this? — spirited disagreement in these early stages and sometimes even — yes, it’s true — diametrically opposed opinions on the thing’s ultimate purpose.
For this door, I can vividly imagine a built-in bench for an awkward space against the east wall of the house in the biggest outdoor patio we have. Marty sees workbench. The common ground is, we both see a functional bench of some sort from this beautiful door, but in one version it gets the crap beat out of it as a workbench, riddled with gouges from hammers and saws. In another version, it has cushions and pillows and an iPad open to The New Yorker. It’s a conceptual gulf, to be sure, but one that can be bridged, as they all have been, by judicious argument and persuasion. Defending one’s position helps sharpen rhetorical chops too.
We are mad about benches here. Indoors a bench is a low bookshelf, both underneath and on top. A bench provides extra holiday seating around the table. A bench is a coffee table. A bench is anything you need it to be at the moment you need it most.
For small houses, small patios, I’m convinced a bench is the answer to nearly every spatial question.
I’m fairly certain the door was intially going to be a table. I’m even more certain that it will not be a workbench.
But since I’m only the persuader, not the builder, the outcome is still uncertain.
Every project starts with some aspirational/inspirational photos.
Although this isn’t a bench but more of a divan, this is the general idea of the envisioned use. (via Riazzoli)
Although open and free-standing, a concrete bench at Reuben and Paul’s Rancho Reubidoux is about the right size.
Where does Reuben find this great stuff, and how does he get it home?
Great seating at New York City’s Battery Park, but too municipal for a home.
Water garden doubling as a bench from which a Narcissus can ignore the water lilies and gaze at his own reflection.
A bigger project than I can manage at the moment.
(Robert Smaus’ 1990′s Los Angeles garden)
Not slatted wood like here, but the size is about right. (Denver Architect Roth Sheppard Architects via Houzz)
Potted’s built-in bench for California Home+Design showhouse at The Hollywood Lofts has the proportions I’m after.
With each successive “planning session,” I can feel my opponent weakening. I’m not above using the blog as a bully pulpit. I’m Martha and he’s George arguing about what to do about the “baby” in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? except not quite that nasty and we laugh more.
Right now, I think bench has got the edge.
for me will always be plants.
401ks and SEPs may crash and burn, but I’ll always be able to live on the cheap surrounded by some of the most gorgeous patterns and shapes on earth.
Some of the results from a leisurely rummage through old photos, trying to jump-start a slow, President’s Day morning.
Agave bovicornuta, Los Angeles County Arboretum
Venice Garden & Home Tour 2011
Melianthus major, Linda Cochrane’s Bainbridge Island garden
California Cactus Center
My dearly departed Agave guadalajarana
Spanish poppies (Papaver rupifragum), furcraea and succulents, my garden April 2012
Ever click on a house tour article that opens with a photo like this, hoping to see a few more photos of the landscape?
If the article is about a house for sale on the island of Barbados, I’m betting on getting lucky.
Hoping, at a minimum, that maybe the photographer got careless and inadvertently included a bit of the garden.
Very nice. Now, let’s go outside, shall we?
“Four decks and patios in the backyard are shrouded by lush tropical gardens. The beach is just beyond a hedge.”
C’mon, show some of it, will you? Let’s see some of what puts the tropical in “tropical gardens.”
Okay. The house will do. Now what about the garden?
Now we’re talking. That’s a pretty good start. More, please.
(Nice definition with the massed sansevieria at the patio’s edge, and that’s an impressive stand of ginger.)
“What you do automatically, everybody does, is walk straight into the garden, and straight to the sea,” said Peter Lewis, an owner.”
Of course we do.
But that’s it. All the rest of the photos are of immaculately clean, spare rooms in a house for sale in Barbados. I mean, the photographer is there already. Why not grab a few photos of the landscape? I admit I’m biased and don’t speak for the typical newspaper design reader, and I know this is a piece on real estate for sale, but at least get photos of all four patios. That’s what I’d need to see before thinking about spending $3.95 million, because that’s where I’d spend all my time. Hasn’t the concept of “outdoor rooms” reached the NYT yet? It’s Barbados, for chrissakes, an island I’ve had a crush on since reading an article about it in my teen-age brother’s Surfer
magazine. I forget what I had for breakfast today, but I can easily recall the name of the surfer in the article, Claude Codgen, salt-and-sun bleached blond hair pouring out from underneath a cowboy hat, head tipped back against a wall, eyes squinting into the island sun…but I digress. Help me out here, New York Times
. Magazines like Garden Design
are calling it quits
. A little more landscape with your house tours, please? Especially when the landscape figures so prominently in the appeal of the house. Sure, what the kitchen countertops are made of is important to know, I suppose, but in the owner’s words, with my emphasis:
“Here, to be honest,’ he said, “we don’t live inside, we live outside.”
What he said.
I admit I’m a vulgarian, if there was any doubt left. By February I’m starved for brash and garish, even though it violates the subtle order of nature that has spring unfolding with a delicacy that builds by degrees to a late summer, over-the-top crescendo. I go straight to over-the-top, and containers of gaudy tulips are the perfect vehicle for strong, fleeting boosts of color. I wouldn’t want masses of them, but a few in a pot are visual antidepressants on long stems, my go-to designer drug for jumpstarting spring. The species don’t like the chill-free winter here anyway, so that preempts any debate about the quiet beauty of species tulips versus the gypsy caravan hybrids. These hybrids are artificially chilled for six weeks in the garage fridge then go straight to the compost heap after blooming. This is the first pot of tulips to flower, the hybrid ‘Boston.’
Lotus jacobaeus would be wonderful draping over a low wall. I’ve clipped this one back quite a bit to keep it from smothering plants below, like the tall Aeonium ‘Cyclops.’ Its shrubby-but-lax framework is about 3 feet high now, kept upright with a rebar stake. A light background propels the velvety dark blooms. I like it against the pale leaves of the variegated Australian mint bush (prostranthera), and the lotus is thin enough in growth to weave through the shrub without harming it.
When there’s so many amazing succulents to grow, why choose the modest Crassula multicava? Because of its supernova show in spring, when it hoists those starry bloom structures over simple, dark green leaves. It would make an elegant ground cover at the base of palms. Here it’s sharing space with a potted cussonia. The crassula has a similar foamy effect to London’s Pride (Saxifraga umbrosa) or heuchera in bloom, neither of which grow in such rugged conditions for me.
Like the lotus, another lax member of the pea family, coronilla, has really started to bloom in the mini heat wave we’re having the past couple days. This shrub is supported and wound through a tuteur and has grown past the eaves of the garage roof. Its overall effect is that of a gigantic rue, except rue stinks and coronilla smells lovely.
More brash. Love the moroccan toadflax, an annual that blooms well through the winter and spring here. Hasn’t self-sown yet, so I keep bringing in a few plants in fall.
I have just a few clumps of the Corsican hellebore, which is all the space I can spare, though I could have lots, lots more.
It carpet-bombs the garden with seedlings.
Lots of emerging gardens to explore at May Dreams Garden,
where Carol is to be congratulated for hosting Bloom Days for seven years this February.
This Pacific Palisades garden was the final garden we visited 1/24/13 with Lili Singer via the LA County Arboretum Thursday Garden Talk series. Despite being firmly in the grasp of winter this January morning, or as firm a grasp on winter as Los Angeles can manage, all three of the gardens sparkled on this rainy-day field trip. Posts on the other two gardens can be found here and here. Being born and raised in semi-arid Los Angeles means I doubt I’ll ever view a rainy day as an inconvenience. Rain is always a godsend, like an unexpected kindness. True, traffic becomes even more awful, if that’s possible, but then I generally expect the worst where that’s concerned.
This last garden celebrates water in true mediterranean fashion, with water gardens and fountains. Richard Hayden is the designer here, and I note from his site that we both attended the same UCLA horticulture certificate program. (Some of the excellent instructors for this program in the past have included Lili Singer.) The owner/client is a huge fan of not only Dan Hinkley, meaning she continually brings up new plant enthusiasms for the designer to consider, but also the garden antiquarian and salvage porn king Big Daddy’s. The full complexity of planting in any garden isn’t visible in the dormant month of January, but it’s an excellent opportunity to clearly appreciate the structure and layout. Listening to the client and Richard banter throughout the tour about some of this garden’s old projects, new projects, abandoned projects, was a fascinating peek into the close relationship that develops between client and designer.
It can only quicken anticipation of what’s further down the garden path when an enormous Leucadendron ‘Wilson’s Wonder’ greets you at the front door.
Continue reading exploring a coastal garden with Lili Singer
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.)