Tag Archives: Aloe plicatilis

Portland Pots It Up

There’s so many reasons for plants to spend some or even all of their lives in containers.
Aside from the practical reasons — fine-tuning sunlight, better drainage, more moisture, less moisture, special soil mixes, protection from chewing and digging creatures, the ability to shuttle plants indoors where a cold winter will be inhospitable and/or deadly — all these good and sensible reasons aside, containers provide strong graphic and framing opportunities that many of us find hard to resist. And it’s not like our infatuation with pots is new — the oldest pottery found in China dates back almost 20,000 years, so I’d argue that we’re just yielding to an age-old, irresistible impulse that impels us to seek out empty vessels brimming with so much potential. The gardens of Portland we toured exploited this graphic potential like nobody’s business.


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Euphorbia ammak would not survive the Portland winter were it not for the portability of the freckled chartreuse pots in Craig Quirk & Larry Neill’s Floramagoria garden designed by Laura Crockett.
A perfect example of the gorgeous joining hands with the practical. I love this soft color that blends so well with plants. (A year or so ago I found a pot with this same glaze at Rolling Greens in Culver City.)

Continue reading Portland Pots It Up

streetside: succulent garden 6/24/14

Another gem of a garden found via a traffic shortcut.* I’ve been admiring it for some time and stopped by last night for photos. Driving by, the tall succulents, a Furcraea macdougalii about the size of mine, Euphorbia ammak and ocotillo, were the first striking outlines to capture my attention traveling at the speed of a car, all three plants being good enough reasons to later investigate on foot. Maybe I’m biased, but from a purely aesthetic point of view, to me some of the most successful lawn-free front gardens I’ve seen locally have featured succulents. Their strong outlines are perfectly suited to conform to that tyrannical template we all inherit with these small houses — the path slicing through the middle of a geometric grid enroute to the front door. Succulents have an inherent formalism of structure that suit the rigidity of these ubiquitous layouts that were designed to be horizontally dominated by smooth turf, but their diversity, supercharged dynamism, strong colors and shapes subvert the traditional notion of a staid front garden. All while still managing to be neat and tidy 365 days a year (here in zone 10) and incredibly easy on the monthly water bill. A love of beautiful plants and a strong eye for design can produce startling effects even within this typical suburban design framework. I’ve tagged most of the agaves but leave the ID of the opuntia and other cacti up for discussion.


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Agaves included are ‘Blue Glow,’ desmettiana ‘Variegata,’ macroacantha, parryi, stricta, bracteosa.

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My own Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ bloomed this year, its space already taken by smaller, if less dramatic agaves.

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I’m blanking on this writhing, silvery mass with serrated leaves. Dasylirion? Puya? Nolina? Silvery shrub in the background is a westringia.

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Along with the Pelargonium sidoides, pollinators can find something of interest in flowering ground covers and a big native buckwheat near the front window, St. Catherine’s Lace (Eriogonum giganteum).

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The pencil stems with orange flowers on the far left looks like a pedilanthus.

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Small-scale ground covers eloquently underplant the rosettes including this Agave potatorum.

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Aptly named squid agave, A. bracteosa. The strewn leaves are from a neighbor’s parkway magnolia.

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Agaves nestled snugly into the well-placed rocks.

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Ocotillo and a pencil euphorbia, possibly E. leucodendron.

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I mostly avoided taking photos of the house, but the Furcraea macdougalii was smack in the middle of a front window, backed by eriogonum.

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Wreathed in aloes at its base.

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The parkway/hell strip was all helichrysum silver.

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Except for this one, which I’m pretty sure is a sideritis, the first I’ve seen locally outside my own garden.

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Front gardens like this always beg the tantalizing question: What on earth did they save for the back?


*Once again a traffic jam forced me into taking a lesser-traveled route. So I’ve been admiring this newly found garden since spring, during the recent Stanley Cup playoffs and final series, driving en route to watch the games with my mom. After my dad died, we all took up the one sport he never followed, initially as a means to get together frequently during the week. I’d never been a fan of any sport before but knew that televised sports had been an important part of their marriage. I caught an Olympic hockey game in 2010 and admired the speed and athleticism, and thus we started following the fortunes of our beleaguered, star-crossed local team. At first we were unable to even keep an eye trained on the whizzing puck and found the unspoken rules mystifying. But then the Los Angeles Kings did the unimaginable, winning their first Stanley Cup not long after we became fans, keeping their diehard fans waiting over 40 years. In 2012 we still barely understood the concept of icing the puck. This last season, stretching from October to June, was an endurance test for the fans, too, but astonishingly ended in another Stanley Cup. Unlike me, my mom can recite the jersey number and stats on every team member, and she now finds golf and baseball unbearably slow to watch. Go Mom! Go Kings!

summer in Judy Horton’s garden

A couple weekends ago, the Southern California Horticultural Society hosted another “Coffee in the Garden,” and included was a garden that I had been advised not to miss should it come up for tour. (Thank you, Shirley Watts!) For her own home, Los Angeles garden designer Judy Horton has made a plant-rich garden that is inextricably linked to its little house in Beechwood Canyon, Hollywood, behind tall hedges on a winding, busy street. Small urban gardens interest me perhaps more than any other type, the intimate, personal kind that enfold a home and are capable of a mood-altering effect when one returns from, for example, brutal freeway traffic. The kinds that are made as though your very life and sanity depend on it. I’ve never thought of a garden as a luxury but, rather, a necessity, and these are the kind I also love to visit. A brief description will have to take the place of the layout photos I always neglect to take when touring gardens, because I generally talk too much and become far too absorbed in details. In my defense, only an aerial photo could do justice to the layout of this garden, which managed to be both densely planted and quietly spacious. It is a relatively young garden, started in 2005, but already full of mature trees and shrubs. Tall ficus hedges ensure complete privacy from the street, and Judy planted hedges of silvery, fast-growing germander, Teucrium fruticans, to enclose and separate the front garden from the driveway, as seen in an old photo below from SCHS.


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Decomposed granite paths encircle the house in the front garden, where lawn would traditionally be planted. One of our natives, a large toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia, was in bloom in the corner of the hedges. A deep blue chaste tree also was in bloom here (Vitex agnus-castus). Pictured in this old photo to the left of the cypress is Arbutus x marina. Judy’s love of woody plants was everywhere in evidence. Not pictured but just beyond the Aloe plicatilis an enormous Grevillea ‘Moonlight’ flanked the entry steps to the front door.

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I admit a big reason I tour gardens is a plant-specific form of FOMO, a fear of missing out on a beautiful, worthy plant that I’ve somehow overlooked. Judy’s garden was filled with FOMO rarities like this South African bulb (possibly a haemanthus) alongside classic mediterranean plants like grape, acanthus, olives, citrus, hellebores, and mediterranean-adaptive succulents, aloes and agaves. (The plant list she handed out was nine pages.)
I loved her catholic taste in plants.

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photo from The Los Angeles Times

Her driveway hidden behind the teucrium hedge was repurposed into a staging area for the countless pots now parked along its length.

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I was especially taken by the many woody things she grows in large containers (even a Cotinus ‘Golden Spirit’).
Being a designer’s garden, it’s also a laboratory for trying out plants before using them in clients’ gardens.

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Alongside the driveway, in a bed against the house, an orange tree is underplanted with aloes, maculata and striata hybrids.

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photo from The Los Angeles Times

If Judy’s garden had one overriding lesson, it would be to always keep in mind the relationship between house and garden.
Every window and doorway frames an iconic view, for every season, whether of camellias, citrus, grapes, bougainvillea.

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Steps to the back patio, massed with aeoniums.

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In the background is another potted tree, Acacia boormanii, underplanted with Kalanchoe thyrsiflora. A cane of the single scarlet climber ‘Altissimo’ arches into the frame.

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Pots of hydrangeas on the back patio, blued with aluminum sulfate. A portion of the fence is painted deep Moroccan blue.

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Every exposure is exploited, whether sun, dappled shade, or even the deeper shade that gathers in the narrow spaces that run alongside neighbor fences. Perfect for begonias.

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photo from The Los Angeles Times

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And ferns. Blechnum brasiliense, the Red Brazilian Tree Fern

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More of the innumerable potted plants, another reason I instantly admired this garden.

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I asked Judy one “interview” question, something that’s been on my mind. How much does she plan for summer in her garden? Without the marked contrast of an extended winter and the mad race against a short growing season, not to mention continuing record drought, what is a summer garden in Southern California? Summer is “quiet,” was her word.
Stunningly beautiful, full of interest and intricate plays of texture would be my words.

Garden Bloggers Fling 2013; Matt Gil Sculpture Garden

Second garden on Friday, designed for a work/live fabrication studio and sculpture display space in a light industrial neighborhood of San Francisco. We are an avid bunch, craning necks, snapping cameras, firing off questions (my bad habit). I have to constantly check an impulse to blurt out a question and query myself first: How would I feel if this were my garden and I came face to face with me as a garden visitor? God forbid. But it is just so exciting to see these special gardens that questions tumble forth. And by special I mean wholly individual responses to climate, topography, and the space one has to work with — all the really important variables. After all the ink spilled on formal/informal and all the other garden principles drilled into us by books and public parks, seeing the imaginative responses of garden artists to the circumstances they find themselves in is unbelievably refreshing. And liberating. Bay Area gardens whisper seductively: Do what you want, where you want, how you want, and as best fits available resources and how you live, work, and play.

Amen. And then let us come visit, please.

Or, alternatively, bring in a talented Bay Area garden designer, as artist Matt Gil and his wife Lesa Porche did, when they asked Dan Carlson of Wigglestem Gardens to create a garden in which to display their sculptures, all of which are for sale. (And then let us come visit, please.)

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This blurry photo is the best I had looking at the upper deck from the garden, the office at ground level under the corrugated awning.
On the Fling we were split into two groups, so no more than 40 visited each garden at a time.

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The dining room window, light flooding in from the deck

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The hillside just visible through a scrim of backlit container plantings

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The view from the deck down into the garden with its low retaining wall holding back the plantings at the base of the steep, rocky hillside

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Descending the stairs, fountain at the bottom, bamboo against the hillside

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Colocasia growing in the fountain at the base of the stairs

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And stepping into the sculpture garden

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The steep hillside, which the owners eye nervously during the rainy season. San Francisco averages around 20 inches of rain per year, usually in the winter, but I was told there were two solid days of rain just before the Fling began.

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Succulents planted into the slope, shown draped here with mahonia

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Protea, Agave ‘Blue Glow’, Geranium incanum, echeverias, aeoniums, yuccas

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Further back, Geranium incanum spilling over the retaining wall, tall yellow kangaroo paws, aloes, California poppies, silvery dudleyas

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Using the Agave americana var. medio-picta ‘Alba’ as a visual pivot point. Kangaroo paws just behind. Aloe plicatilis almost out of frame in the top left-hand corner

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With grasses, aeoniums, poppies, and Agave parryi var. truncata

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Mangave and California poppies

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A potted cussonia streetside as we leave the sculpture garden and head back to the bus for lunch and frivolities at Annie’s Annuals & Perennials.
There will be no photos about the visit to AA&P, because honestly all I did was shop after lunch and the demonstration of nifty hose nozzles put on by a Fling sponsor, Dramm. Matt at Growing With Plants has a nice post on the visit to AA&P here.