Another weekend misspent ostensibly holiday shopping (why pretend?), but in actuality just enjoying plants and landscapes, these courtesy of The OC Mart Mix. Although The OC Mart Mix was patterned after the Ferry Building gourmet marketplace in San Francisco, it’s starting to remind me more and more of Cornerstone in Sonoma, Northern California, written about here and here, which hosted The Late Show in 2009, a much-loved garden show that hasn’t made a reappearance yet. Like that garden travel destination, The OC Mart Mix would also be a great location for a garden show. Rolling Greens’ new location is here, there’s more garden-themed retail signing on like Inside Out 365, and the landscaping is a low-irrigation inspiration. Plus it’s 20 minutes away from me, all worthy and compelling reasons for The OC Mart Mix to take my advice to heart.
One of the courtyards
Agave vilmoriniana and Mexican feather grass
succulents in a crenellated-rimmed pot
Tall glazed pots at the entrances to shops were planted with succulents, like these aeoniums. Senecio mandraliscae is the blue dust ruffle planted in the soil around the base of the pots.
Wonderful to see mature specimens of so many familiar succulents like Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, the flapjack plant, its towering inflorescence resembling a leaning pagoda
Blooming aloes were some of the nicest holiday decorations I saw all weekend.
OCMM, think of the garden show idea as my holiday gift to you. You’re welcome.
The tulips are planted, and now the vegetable bin in the fridge is once again restored to its rightful purpose of chilling vegetables. I went beyond the required six weeks of prechilling this year, but overchilling is not the problem that underchilling is. I think this year is a new record, 12 pots in total, not all of them in this photo.
Waiting for the tulips to bloom, I’m noticing how the silver-leaved plants really stand out in December when so much of the garden is a subdued brown. I’ve been binging on them again, especially since there’s so many new ones available to try, like the sideritis from the Canary Islands.
I’m getting these from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials when available.
I think this one with the larger leaf is Sideritis oroteneriffae.
Judging from its blooms over the summer, I think this is Sideritis syriaca.
Glaucium is another one whose rich, silvery leaves are so appreciated this time of year.
You can bank on silver-leaved plants being tough as well as beautiful, insisting on minimal irrigation.
I was glad to find Senecio viravira again at a plant sale last spring. I grew it in the garden for years, renewing it when needed from cuttings, then became exasperated with having to continually trim it back. It is easily capable of covering 5 feet of ground in no time. It wasn’t long before I missed growing it; of course, then I couldn’t find it anywhere. Such a good plant for containers too. Incredibly easy from cuttings.
A silver new to me, found just today, Othonna cheirifolia, a South African succulent from Native Sons. I’ve been reading about this one for years, but sometimes in print they sound too good to be true and just have to be seen in the leaf to be believed.
In person, this little one doesn’t disappoint.
Far Reaches Farm lists it to zone 7a and say they grow it outdoors unprotected:
“A favorite of ours from South Africa. We have this growing in front of our greenhouse and the first winter we mulched it and covered with a tarp. No damage. The second winter we just threw a tarp over it and no damage. Then finally we didn’t protect it at all and there was no damage at 17F – even the flower buds were unscathed. Yellow daisy flowers are lovely over the glaucous succulent foliage.”
Gertrude Jekyll admired it as well, quoted from my beat-up “Gertrude Jekyll on Gardening”:
“A striking and handsome plant in the upper part of the rockery is Othonna cheirifolia; its aspect is unusual and interestig, with its bunches of thick, blunt-edged leaves of blue-grey colouring and large yellow daisy flowers.”
It’s possible to overdo silver, I suppose, but it always arrives on the most tempting leaves, like puya.
Silver sliding into blue in the attenuata hybrid Agave ‘Blue Flame.’ Sometimes the plant namers really nail it.
Backlit by Libertia peregrinans.
Speaking of agaves, Lincoln Avenue Nursery in Pasadena has a 20 percent sale ongoing, and their range of succulents is very good, including
4-inch pots of the spiral aloe, Aloe polyphylla. Best to try this heartbreaker in a small, inexpensive size.
They even had gallons of one of my big agave crushes, Agave parrasana ‘Fireball,’ which I’ve never seen offered for sale outside of plant shows.
As well as another agave crush, Agave lophantha ‘Quadricolor.’
I’ll have to separate these two soon (“He’s touching me!!”)
Some of the stock at Lincoln Avenue Nursery.
I was tempted by some variegated Euphorbia ammak in small sizes, but not small enough to drive home with me.
And I suppose by now all the plant geeks have heard the sad news that the source for extraordinary agastaches and all things xeric, High Country Gardens, has closed. The wonderful blog prairie break has more on HCG’s closure.
I’m still puzzling over the winter exuberance of the nicotiana I sowed from seed early last spring.
Now over 5 feet tall, the seed came from ‘Ondra’s Brown Mix,’ a selection made by Nan Ondra from her garden Hayefield. Annie’s Annuals sells something similar called ‘Hot Chocolate,’ which she feels has some Nicotiana langsdorfii blood in the mix. It also looks a bit like the strain sold as ‘Tinkerbelle.’
Because I’d like to duplicate this success again, it only makes sense that I understand the reasons for that success. At this point, I haven’t a clue. These nicotianas are grown as annuals but can be perennial here in zone 10, albeit short-lived perennials, so that could account for it persisting into winter. But persisting versus thriving are poles apart. Yesterday I tried googling short-day length properties of nicotiana, also known as photoperiodism. A classic example of photoperiodism in plants is the chrysanthemum, which blooms as the days shorten in autumn. Some plants are indifferent to day length, some require long days, other short days to bloom. I found that tobacco is included in lists of short-day plants.
These four plants of ‘Ondra’s Brown Mix’ were planted in part shade, and the two most robust were shielded from the summer sun under the dappled shade of a tetrapanax most of the summer. One plant in particular has the darkest coloring and is also the tallest.
Is it the mild, semi-drizzly weather this winter? Not much rain, just drizzle and fog. I pulled out a lot of my overgrown winter-blooming salvias this year, so these flowering tobaccos are picking up their slack, drawing in hummingbirds several times a day. I never got this kind of profuse bloom from those reputed winter bloomers like Salvias wagneriana, which were invariably more leaves than flowers.
It’s possible that this could just be the fluky year that I had nicotiana in bloom for the winter solstice. Since they reseed so profusely, I’ll have plenty more plants to experiment with next year.
After leaving NYC, MB Maher headed to Iceland. Only a California photographer would want to visit Iceland in December. But Maher says the light there now is “permanent Malick,” that is, what three or four hours of daylight there is this time of year.
Obviously, this is also where all the Christmas ponies are kept. I’m still waiting for mine.
Must I really squeeze in one more post on the High Line in 2012? Have we become bored and cynical already about this dream of a garden on an abandoned railway trestle made real against seemingly insurmountable odds? (Yes to the former and a resounding no! to the latter. Not on my blog anyway.) I don’t know if the hipster doll left on the High Line a few weeks ago was meant to allude to recent controversies revolving around accusations that the runaway success of the High Line park was responsible for “Disneyfying” the surrounding neighborhood.
At least I think it’s a toy. The photographer didn’t say. Left purposely or simply forgotten, I just hope there was no anti-hipster voodoo involved.
MB Maher was in NYC last week and grabbed a quick portrait of the High Line in early winter, including this well-dressed hobo debating whether to ride the rails. (Possible caption: Is relentless pursuit of the hip a train to nowhere?)
More signs of affection for the High Line.
The High Line without Oudolf’s emotional planting would still be worth visiting for the great views, similar to strolling across the Brooklyn Bridge or Golden Gate Bridge.
Giving us access to views previously granted only to birds.
Nourishment for us, nourishment for the birds.
Laying down new tracks in urban garden design: Is it a garden threaded through a city, or is the city now threaded through a garden?
Because urban parks aim for creating utilitarian space, they are oftentimes monocultures, stripped of species diversity. A garden aims for the transformative, urging us to escape into another world. I think the High Line successfully merges urban park and garden, simultaneously intensifying the appreciation of both the built and natural world by immersion in both.
Tidy, formal parks, with their authoritarian focal points, can seem like bon-bons attempting to satisfy ravenous, denatured urban appetites. I find that the shifting perspectives, stark contrasts, and wildly rich plantings make the High Line a four-season feast.
Last post on the High Line for 2012, I swear
Edited to correct photo attribution; photos 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 9 taken by J. Mericle/threadandbones.
With apologies to Abbie Hoffman (’60s radical and author of counterculture best-seller Steal this Book)
Via Desire to Inspire
Literally, sheet mulching for the bookish set.
Scanning my book shelves, I just can’t come up with a book to sacrifice. But that’s what second-hand book shops are for, right?
I had some time late yesterday afternoon so decided to dip my toe into holiday retail.
In truth, all I did was look at plants. And even bought a few. For myself.
This season of giving is off to a roaring start.
But look, Christmas trees in the background. See? I was holiday shopping!
Astelia and echeverias
Agave ‘Blue Glow’
Continue reading how to gift wrap an agave
The inspiration to include some seed pods from the castor bean plant in leftover Thanksgiving vases already filled with chamomile and hypericum came from this photo from thequintessentialmagazine. Nice touch with the alocasia leaf too.
Like a bloody echinops, the ricinus makes striking cutting material. I suppose it’s the awareness of the castor bean plant’s intensely poisonous properties that prevents me from ever considering it suitable for vases. It’s obviously causing me alliterative fits just talking about it…poisonous properties prevent…
Yet that theory doesn’t really hold water, because the hypericum berries are poisonous too, and I brought those home for vases.
I wonder if any guests would even know that either or both of these plants are poisonous, and if so, would close proximity to them arouse mental discomfort or squeamishness?
And over the holidays we’ll be surrounded, as usual, by toxins amongst all the sparkly lights and baubles. That’s not indulging in bah-humbug sentiments, just talking practicalities. Soon homes will be filled with that other holiday plant suspicious for ill effects when ingested, the poinsettia, though that turns out to be mostly urban legend and not medical fact. Still, it’s a euphorbia, with the typically caustic milky sap that euphorbias possess, that’s known to cause skin rashes. Holly and mistletoe also are reputed to be moderately toxic.
Toxicity issues aside, I think the castor bean seed pods would look amazing in wreaths. Ricinus has naturalized in Southern California, and though many of the seed pods are a dessicated brown this time of year, there’s still lots of bright scarlet pods to pick. The seed pods I picked today are Ricinus communis ‘New Zealand Purple,’ that lives over the winter in my garden, but I bet there’s plants in gardens everywhere that, for whatever reason, just aren’t considered vase-worthy and might be due for a second look. Obviously, use care (gloves?) when handling this kind of plant material for holiday decorations, and site them well away from pets and small kids.
Clean, bright simplicity. Agave attenuata underplanted with variegated St. Augustine grass, by garden designer Dustin Gimbel. This tough, subtropical grass works beautifully in holding this slope, and is allowed to grow long and shaggy or clipped and tidy, according to the owner’s whim and schedule. No frost issues for this coastal Southern California garden.
One of the more excruciating projects this past summer involved the tiled patio on the east side of the house, photo taken 10/3/10. The indoor tile left over from a friend’s DIY project was a mistake the day we laid it down almost two decades ago. It was the right price, as in free, but I’ve always hated it. It’s incredibly slippery when wet, which is quite often since I’m always watering the containers here. The fact that it was free blinded me to the obvious distinction in traction between indoor and outdoor tile. Our big Newfoundland Toby used to tear through this space, performing a cartoon-character skid when the tiles were wet, like a goofy Newf on ice skates, madly pumping his paws to regain footing before shooting out the gate.
Like a sore tooth, it was a low-grade source of constant annoyance. The solution had to be cheap, of course, and every time I walked through this space I ticked off possible alternatives. Just lay gravel down over it? I actually saw this done on a local garden tour, the entire concrete driveway left in situ but graveled over, a no-sledgehammer method of transforming a utilitarian driveway into crunchy conservatory terrace for potted plants. But I couldn’t just careen from crazy solution to crazier solution all the time.
Then one morning in early summer when I was home alone (6/10/12 to be exact), I grabbed a hammer and chisel, and with no overarching plan knocked off a tile, just to see if I could. And I could. It was surprisingly easy. At that point, I had a tile patio minus one tile, which is no longer an intact patio but basically a demo in progress. So I kept at it, in secret, until every tile was removed. Amazingly, no one came around to the east patio until it was half finished, at which point it became a fait accompli. Some tips on how to get motivated for onerous, back-breaking tasks: Read a particularly incendiary article on a topic sure to push your buttons, grab the hammer and chisel, and have at it. (Good thing it was an election year.) Swing wide, swing hard, substitute issues for tiles, and shatter them into tiny pieces. Wear protective safety glasses.
And for a brief, bare moment there was triumph. Triumph replaced fairly quickly by dismay. Because, you see, removing tile is actually the easy part. It doesn’t feel like the easy part at the time, oh no, but the real sturm und drang
is still to come. And that’s when you realize that it’s the mastic/glue/thinset stuff underneath
the tile that’s the real enemy. I was pretty handy with the chisel, so I assumed it was a simple matter of patiently, laboriously scraping it off, but it didn’t “pop” off like the tile did. In fact, it didn’t budge at all, so I did some research. Yes, now
, not before I started. It was a shock, to put it mildly, to find there were No Easy Answers. Internet research revealed nothing but desperate people who had stumbled into this same quagmire, all looking for some way out, with the list of what couldn’t be done growing the more I researched it. For flooring, you can’t add new tile or stone until the old mastic is removed. In fact, you really can’t do much of anything except stare dumbstruck at the great, unholy mess you’ve created.
The mastic remained until mid August, when in desperation we attacked it with a rented floor resurfacing machine, a monster that leaped and bucked like a crazed bronco, at one point throwing Marty and slamming him into the side of the house. The diamond blades created a head-splitting noise and produced dust clouds that reached white-out conditions. (And all that long day Marty never once said, “What the hell were you thinking?”)
After a miserable day of dust masks, hearing protection, enduring August temperatures in Dust Bowl conditions, we were left with this — almost all traces of the mastic removed.
Now what? Besides the expense, adding anything on top would screw with the grading. And after that ordeal, staining the concrete seemed like a walk in the park. I briefly checked out estimates with professionals, but opted for DIY once again, and a week later we purchased a cheap concrete stain set from a big box store, about $80. The process included four distinct steps, including a light acid wash to clean the surface, the main color, highlights, then a sealer. My biggest concern was for nearby plants getting residue washed into their soil, because a lot of water is used in the process, but all plants survived the stain application fine.
The sprayer had gummed up by the time the highlights were applied, even after carefully cleaning the equipment, which ultimately gave a stippled, paint-spattered effect instead of more even coverage, and the grid from the tile ghosted through. But by this point, we were so thrilled to have survived the ordeal that any result would have been deemed acceptable.
Photo taken 11/1/12 of the stained (non-slippery) concrete.
Seems like every DIY project has its unexpected twists and turns, setbacks, painful lessons, and this one seemed to have more than most. (Sample painful lesson: some things, like flooring tile and wall paper, are forever
.) What started way back with poor planning, by using the wrong material, ended up, after more poor planning, surprisingly OK. And with Christmas not far off, who knows? There might possibly be some new outdoor furniture under the tree.