Tag Archives: Asparagus retrofractus

a week in plants, continued

I so rarely document thoroughly, before and after, that I thought for once I’d push back a little against those slacker tendencies.
This small project is an easy place to start. In the last post, there were four ‘Cousin Itt’ acacias added under the fringe tree, and that was theoretically the end of it.
Where we left off, I was going to leave space open to sweep in the leaves and not plant bromeliads because it’ll be messy with the tree litter, etc., etc. I am so full of shit, it still astounds me.
No way can I leave something half-planted like that. In for a penny, in for a pound, always.
So this morning the burning question was: What other dry shade-tolerant stuff do I have lying around?

 photo 1-P1012918.jpg

There’s this huge potted Lomandra ‘Breeze’ that can be sawed into two big clumps. Rough treatment, but I seriously doubt one can mistreat a lomandra. We’ll see.
A potted Asparagus retrofractus to billow between the two lomandras, all kind of hitting the same shade of bright green so the mix of plants isn’t too patchwork.
A few bromeliads for big crazy colorful rosettes, tree litter be damned. As shallow growers, it’s easy to change your mind with bromeliads.
I’ll probably remove them before they get buried in leaves over winter.

 photo 1-P1012908.jpg

Still too bare for my taste, but if the acacias like it here they can get over 4 feet across.

 photo 1-P1012911.jpg

This no ID rhipsalis seems to be growing in an upright clump, so it gets to be the fifth “acacia.” Very root-infested soil in this spot.

 photo 1-P1012912.jpg

A ringer for the acacia, right?

 photo 1-P1012915.jpg

Lost the name of the foreground bromeliad I’ve had for years.

 photo 1-P1012907.jpg

Neoregelia ‘Dr. Oesser Big Spots’ was brought home this weekend from the sale/show at Rainforest Flora in Torrance.

 photo 1-P1012906.jpg

Neoregelia ‘Martin’

Aechmea 'Samurai' photo 1-P1012903.jpg

One of the many gorgeous bromeliads at the weekend show that didn’t come home with me, Aechmea ‘Samurai.’
If only I’d had this planting scheme before the sale. Overplanning has never been my strong suit. It’s always been spontaneity or bust.

 photo 1-P1012921.jpg

I tucked a potted variegated monstera, also from Rainforest Flora, behind the asparagus against the fence, but there may be too much slanting afternoon sun for it.
If the sun isn’t too strong, I’m going to check into espaliering it against the fence.

 photo 1-P1012930.jpg

Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’ marks the new planting for wayward paws that have been used to digging here and kicking up leaves.
I’ll keep you posted on the fate of this little acacia experiment.

the east fence

 photo 1-P1017006.jpg

In case I’ve left the impression my only collection of pots resides on that little table under the pergola, there are more. Lots more.
This group of pots lines the east fence. Morning shade, afternoon sun.

 photo P1014077.jpg

The topmost plant in the iron stand is a ponytail palm, Beaucarnia recurvata, entangled in a climbing onion, Bowiea volubilis.
This photo was taken on a dewy February morning last winter. Both of these plants are incredibly easy in pots and take neglect in stride.

 photo 1-P1017032.jpg

Conserving water and keeping plants in containers might seem to be mutually exclusive aims, but I can vouch that it can be done without spiking the water meter.
These pots of mostly different kinds of succulents are doing very well on the “bucket” water from the shower.

 photo 1-P1017004.jpg

Rather than created especially for summer, most of these pots contain plants I rotate in and out of the garden.
For example, the aeoniums were a big part of the winter garden, dug up and potted in spring to make room as summer plants fill in.
If summer temperatures consistently top the 90s, I’ll probably move the aeoniums again to more shade.

 photo 1-P1017021.jpg

Last year I dug all the eucomis/pineapple lilies out of the garden and dumped them in this pot on the right, which is watered on the succulents’ schedule.
As much as I love eucomis in gardens, mine is planted too tight to allow the pineapple lilies to comfortably unfurl in summer.
Bright green Asparagus retrofractus just above the eucomis contributes that wonderful foamy texture on a miserly amount of water.

 photo P1016803.jpg

Eucomis in bloom July 2013.

 photo 1-P1017026.jpg

Agave attenuata ‘Boutin’s Blue’ with Carex trifida ‘Rekohu Sunrise.’ I love using this carex in pots just for this effect. Both plants are fine in part shade, dry conditions.
I dug up the entire pot out of the garden last week, which you can tell by the darkish color to the pot about 6 inches up from the base.
The potted agave was prominent all winter but slowly became engulfed by early summer. (I wrote about parachuting potted agaves into the garden here.)
I’ve been wanting to try the Korean Feather Reed grass, Calamagrostis brachytricha, so when found locally I pounced and slipped one into that spot.

Neoregelia carolinae photo 1-P1017002.jpg

The wrought iron stand holds a neoregelia still in pretty good shape. Other bromeliads are getting leaf burn as I figure out shifting sun/shade patterns for summer.
There’s another look at that fabulous Asparagus retrofractus again.

 photo 1-P1016997.jpg

Not the best photo, but it shows what a bromeliad nursery Reuben’s wrought iron orb has turned into. The light conditions under the fringe tree are ideal in summer.
Small bromeliad pups and tillandsias all seem to find their way here. Makes it easier to remember to mist them all a couple times a week.
(I’d love to find something similar at Reuben’s upcoming Open Garden on June 20.)

Yes, I do have a lot of pots, but May’s water bill nevertheless brought good news. The three of us used 97 gallons of water a day, and that includes occasional overnight guests.
The average use per person per day is estimated at 80-100 gallons, so we’re way under average.*
Yesterday I visited a couple nurseries, just to check if I felt cheated to be counting gallons, to see if I’d experience a massive horticultural FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).
No, I think I’m good.

*Meaning for the entire household, indoors and outdoors, our water usage was 97 gallons a day.
If average usage is 80 gallons per person a day, the average for our household would be 240 gallons a day.

Notes on Venice Garden Tour 5/1/10

Venice, California, Zone 10, Sunset Zone 24. There was no zonal denial on display on this tour. (What would zonal denial in zone 10 look like? One example I can think of offhand would be massive, stately homes with endless lawn and lavish rose gardens.) This tour was all about zonal rapture. As in flinging the doors wide.

Make that removing the doors entirely and rolling back the walls.


Even amongst the many creative enclaves that dot Los Angeles, a county as big as Baghdad, Venice stands out as a creative powerhouse, with “more acclaimed architects per capita than any other municipality in the United States” (from the tour guidebook “Venice Garden & Home Tour Benefiting the Neighborhood Youth Association’s Las Doradas Children’s Center.)

I shuffled and trudged like a garden tour zombie, part rapture and part poor shoe choice, following the yellow flags flying at tour houses, or just following the crowds. I never once looked at the map and guidebook handed out upon purchasing a ticket ($70 for 30+ houses) and after having the yellow bracelet strapped onto the wrist. For the next four hours, I walked through the narrow streets, head swiveling in all directions, trying to stay out of the way of bikes, taking pictures of non-tour houses, plants, dogs. Venice casts a powerful spell, and I found it impossible to approach the tour in any systematic way, so inevitably missed some houses. MB Maher was also on the tour and thankfully has photos of important houses I missed.

Another disclaimer. I am at the “blind chicken” level of photography, as in “even a blind chicken picks up a kernel now and then.” In perfect light, I manage all right, but this was mid-day, full sun, and many pictures I desperately wanted were simply unusable. So the photos will give an imperfect account for that reason alone. I attempted over and over again to photograph large architectural spaces, sunny garden scenes, and few of these were usable. (Took over 400 photos.)

Fences, gates, privacy. Venice answers these design questions in steel, concrete, wood, lucite, and other obscure, industrial-grade materials, and the designs spread like wildfire and are replicated throughout the neighborhoods. These are tiny lots of former beach bungalows, in many cases less than 1,000 square feet.




Over and over, it’s the solutions to privacy and exploiting every inch of space that are the revelations on this tour. Oh, yeah, and living without walls.


(Speaking of privacy, if you were on the tour and your photo is in my blog, apologies. These were small spaces with boat-loads of people.)


The docent thought it was getting chilly and rolled back this wall. Nice furcraea, huh? (The plant, Furcraea foetida ‘Variegata’)


The above two photos and the next photo depict a house and garden that was a collaboration, with the garden being the work of Jay Griffith, iconic Venetian designer. (Who is a ringer for Derek Jacobi. At first sight of him, standing in a queue behind me, I wondered, What’s Derek Jacobi doing on the tour?) Mr. Griffith wandered through the crowds, fielding questions and tossing bon mots like molotov cocktails in his wake. He seemed to be having a great time. Scanning a seating area, he snorted, “Look at this ‘Do not sit’ sign. Might as well have it embroidered on the cushions. You know, I think they’re just anal enough to do it.” At times, his acerbity rivaled that of Unhappy Hipsters, but less tragic, more playful and mischievous. He’s the kind of guy my deceased mother-in-law, a former kindergarten teacher, would call Kid Mischief.


The vine on the fence is Solandra maxima, the Cup-of-Gold vine. A fence-eater with thick, magnolia-like leaves, huge golden goblets that I seem to remember are bat-pollinated. Good choice for espalier here.



By now you’re asking, There are gardens on this garden tour, right? The line between house and garden, indoor/outdoor, was obliterated, and you’d be as likely to find a small planting of succulents mulched in gravel as you stepped across a threshold into a light-filled house as leaving it. Plants selected for such small spaces were architectural, tough and drought tolerant, rather than players in elaborate planting schemes. I like this high-contrast planting of reed orchids and dark phormiums:


One of the most asked-about plants, and trust me on this because my photo is unusable, was an asparagus fern relative, Asparagus retrofractus. Gorgeous, shrubby, frothy rather than viney. Amazing texture for shade, to Zone 8.

One of my personal favorites was the Madagascar Ocotillo, cleverly planted to take advantage of its silhouette against a translucent fence of some lucite material.


This photo cries out for an Unhappy Hipster comment, so feel free to supply your own.


In this Balinese-influenced garden, an exquisite, obviously hand-made labor of love that was probably the most densely planted on the tour, I overheard a man note dismissively, “Nothing practical or low maintenance about it.” This was the garden’s “opium den.”


Details from the tour:




Snippets of overheard comments:

“Do you live here? (Usually asked of a doe-eyed docent, mostly architectural students.)

“This is sooo Venice.”

“We call them patio homes.”

“How much more??” (Kids, one day you’ll thank your parents that they took you to the Venice Garden and Home Tour rather than miniature golfing.)

“I love how the water in the fountain is pouring toward the house. Perfect feng shui.”

“It’s nice to be in a neighborhood where good design is the norm and not the exception.”

Ah, Venice.




Navigating my way back on tired feet to where I parked my car required the assistance of friendly locals, who’d answer my shout, “Are you a local? Where’s Broadway?” with patience and courtesy.

When I catch up with MB Maher, I’ll post some of his photos too.