Tag Archives: bromeliads

Tillandsia Tuesday

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* Tillandsia duratii has the most fragrant flower over the longest period of time. There is currently more demand than supply.
* Tillandsia xerographica’s inflorescence can last up to a year. It has been overcollected in its home of Guatemala.
* Tillandsia aernanthos is the most common, the least expensive, and comes in lots of forms.
* Tillandsia brachycaulos’ deep leaf color lends that trait to colorful hybrids.
* Tillandsia tectorum was used as a model by James Cameron for jellyfish-like creatures in his movie “Avatar.”
* Tillandsia hybrid ‘Curly Slim’ is too beautiful to keep in stock.

I’m a mistress of tillandsia facts after listening to the recording of Paul Isley’s lecture given at our local Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific last year, link here.

Tillandsias, the so-called air plants, have a leaf structure and surface evolved to handle a drenching amount of moisture without rotting.
The most common mistake made growing them indoors is insufficient moisture. (Care instructions here.)

I felt immediate kinship with Mr. Isley upon learning that he inaugurated his adventure in tillandsias 40 years ago in a Jeep Wagoneer which he drove to Guatemala, bringing back seeds and plants to sell at the Pasadena Rose Bowl flea market. We never drove our used Jeep Wagoneer anything close to that distance, but it carried all four of us plus two Newfs for quite some time before the sagging headliner became too irritating to endure. (Next time you see a vintage Jeep Wagoneer check it out — I bet its headliner is sagging. We never could get ours to remain attached.)

Mr. Isley’s nursery in Torrance, Rainforest Flora, is now the largest grower of tillandsias in North America. No longer based on collecting, since 1993 the company has become entirely self-sufficient in producing this notoriously slow-growing bromeliad. A large part of their growing is done in Northern San Diego County.

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Tillandsia Tuesday — today’s micro-meme. Grab a drink and a comfy blanket and settle in. The lecture is a soothing 40 minutes’ long.

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Again, the link to the lecture can be found link here.
There’s an intro of about 2 minutes, where the word “bromeliad” is mispronounced more times than I would have presumed possible, so you can skip that and go straight to the lecture.


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?

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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.

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

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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.

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A ringer for the acacia, right?

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

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

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Neoregelia ‘Martin’

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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.

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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.

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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.

bromeliads for hanging planters? (yes!)

A lot of my bromeliads swing from on high now.

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And it all started with an act of generosity back in January of 2014.
A gift from Reuben, after our joint flea market venture.
(It’d be fun to plan another flea market escapade for winter, or maybe a pop-up shop. But these are plans for cooler weather.)

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At first a single bromeliad, Aechmea recurvata ‘Aztec Gold,’ made its home here.
(Nice to see that yucca and coronilla again, both plants that have moved on, leaving behind progeny that pop up from time to time.)

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I bet you know where this is going. When have I ever left well enough alone, or been a one-bromeliad-per-sphere person, so to speak?
By April 2014 there were two.

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By June of 2015, there was lots of company.

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It’s actually been thinned out a little since 2015. Some of the bromeliads grow too large and get moved out into pots.

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There are terrestrial, ground-dwelling bromeliads, which can get enormous like the alcantareas, and epiphytic, tree-dwelling bromeliads.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, that first aechmea was a good choice, being an epiphytic bromeliad, with roots adapted to clinging to trees.

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Now you know as much as I do about these plants with the fabulously plasticine, kaleidoscopic leaves and flowers as colorful as tropical birds.
Like succulents, these are forgiving plants that don’t punish ignorance.
A more organic approach than my sphere is an option, as seen in this example in the cloud forest section of the Huntington Botanical Garden’s conservatory.
Bromeliads are mossed and fixed to the branch by florist wire or fishing line (further instructions here).

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There are thousands of species of bromeliads, pretty much all of them native to Central and South America (the neotropic ecozone.)
Some of the more familiar are the ones we make upside-down cakes with (pineapples) and the wildly popular air plants/tillandsias.

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Some enthrallingly kinetic examples of tillandsias from local nurseries and plant shows.

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Rest assured, there are great minds out there applying themselves to devising methods for displaying tillandsias.
Above is the Airplantman Josh Rosen’s Airplant Frame seen at Big Red Sun in Venice.
Seth Boor in collaboration with Flora Grubb designed the Thigmotrope Satellite.

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Another hanging arrangement with tillandsias from my garden. I incorporated most of these into the sphere.

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The takeaway here is, this growing arrangement has legs. The plants thrive on very little input from me.
For truth be told, for all my enthusiasm, I am not the most technically gifted plant caretaker.
Requiring little soil, mostly just moss, tolerant of dryish conditions, appreciating a refreshing spritz with the hose once a week. And that’s it.

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In fact, the care for shade-tolerant succulents and bromeliads is so similar that I combine them in shallow planters.

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As rain forest understory plants that can absorb nutrients and moisture through their leaves, I’ve always assumed, for Los Angeles, shade is the safest best.
But some bromeliads can tolerate a surprising amount of sunlight, as long as it’s not strong afternoon sunshine. I’m trying out a few under an acacia tree with grasses.
The best leaf color is obtained by exposure to as much sun as can be tolerated without leaf burn.
There are surer ways of sorting out light requirements for the different species, of course, like consulting a reference book.
Bromeliads for the Contemporary Garden,” which I haven’t read, looks promising.

Nice-sized specimens, however, do not come cheap. I like looking for deals on small pups at bromeliad shows, like the upcoming show August 6th & 7th at Rain Forest Flora in Torrance.

You don’t happen to have a sphere lying around? What the heck, it’s mid summer. Go ahead and treat yourself. Salvage yards are full of interesting possibilities.
And Terrain offers a very similar Hanging Planter here.
Potted’s Hedge Hanging Planter would work just as well.
Or get to work with a branch and some fishing line.
I’ve got an empty hayrack that I’d love to see overflowing with bromeliads.
More images of bromeliads from AGO can be found here.

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some upcoming events this weekend 4/30-5/1/16



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Tillandsias can perch just about anywhere with the right conditions, including on other plants.

This weekend brings the Mary Lou Heard Memorial Garden tour.
I don’t think I’ll be able to make it, so if you go, link back here maybe, so I can catch up.
(Spring has been so hectic that I actually made a dry run to one of the properties last weekend, mistaking the dates…oy!)

One of my jobs this week was located across the street from Rain Forest Flora (oh, sweet serendipity!)
I popped in just before closing and nabbed a couple tillandsias.
(T. bulbosa gigante and T. caput-medusae)

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A flier at the checkout counter of Rain Forest Flora was a handy reminder that there will be a bromeliad show this weekend
It will be presented by La Ballona Valley Bromeliad Society, held in conjunction with Sunset Cactus & Succulent Show and Sale.
Both shows and sales will be held at Veterans Memorial Auditorium, 4117 Overland Avenue, Culvery City, CA. (323) 294-9839.

Happy weekend!


N.B. My Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ is producing prodigious amounts of seed this year. Let me know if you want to practice your propagation skills on some.

bromeliads for winter

Hot enough for you? It’s over 100 degrees in Los Angeles today, so hot that even the devil has left town.
(That’s the best “It’s so hot” line I’ve heard all summer, spoken by a gentleman from El Paso, Texas.)
And our winters just keeping getting warmer, too, so I’m thinking it’s probably best to face that reality with…more bromeliads. You don’t see the connection? Hear me out.
In temperate Southern California, unless your garden sits in a frost pocket, bromeliads don’t need to be hustled indoors for winter like they do in colder climates.
I’ve never been one to get really excited about pumpkins and gourd displays for fall, but I could easily adopt a tradition of filling the garden with bromeliads for winter.
Their juicy, saturated colors and starburst rosettes would be a huge boost in the shorter (but most likely still warm) days of winter.
If we’re strolling the garden in shirtsleeves and flip-flops in December, then let’s have something sexy to look at. And bromeliads are indisputably sexy.
They’re also incredibly easy to care for, needing about as much water and attention as succulents. Like agaves, they die after flowering but always leave some pups to carry on.

Here’s some glamour shots from local plant shows and sales over the years with IDs if I have them:

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Alcanterea ‘Volcano Mist’

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Aechmea nudicaulis in the center

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Aechmea ‘Loies Pride’

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Okay, so they make dramatic specimens for containers, but what about massed in the frost-free landscape?

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I’m so glad you asked.
This is what Lotusland, an estate garden in Montecito, California, does with bromeliads in an admittedly fantastical and over-the-top landscape:

Continue reading bromeliads for winter

thinning dyckias

If you asked me what I planned on doing when I woke up that morning a couple Saturdays ago, tackling the enormously overgrown clump of dyckias in the front garden was as remote a contender as washing the windows, which never ever cracks the top 20. To be honest, there were no ambitions at all that hot Saturday morning, the end to an even hotter week. (This week brought the Santa Ana winds, warm temperatures, not hot, but very, very dry.) I started off early Saturday morning with no real plan, so just grabbed a broom and began to sweep. Sweeping is always a good default until a plan formulates out of the post-Friday fog. I can’t remember the progression from sweeping to intimately grappling with this most dangerous of terrestrial bromeliads, but I’m sure it had something to do with being unable to sweep under the many rosettes spilling onto the bricks that catch all the duff from the jacarandas, the rachis and such. (If I didn’t have jacarandas in the parkway, there’s no way I’d be familiar with that term rachis, the main shaft of a compound leaf, in the jacaranda measuring about about a foot long.) Jacaranda detritus piles up in drifts, clogs the crowns of plants, burrows deep in the dasylirions, and is especially inaccessible in this spiny clump of dyckia. The dyckia came home as a solitary rosette from the first Western Hills Nursery in Occidental, California (now under new ownership), a very long time ago, and boy howdy has it prospered and multiplied. Whenever I see gorgeous varieties of diminutive dyckias in 4-inch pots on offer at plant sales, I have this barbed, cautionary tale at home to remind me to just walk on by.

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Those stiff, barbed leaves really mean business.
So many ways to inflict pain: poke, puncture, scratch, embed, scrape, stab, infiltrate. And with the hot, dry weather, my hands were hurting before I even started.

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The clump has sprawled onto the bricks, making it impossible to sweep up the prodigious jacaranda debris that accumulates year-round. Leaflets, rachis, flowers, the occasional branch.
Instead of ignoring the piled-up debris sticking out from under the dyckia like I always do, I grabbed a shovel to loosen and pull out three largish rosettes off the bricks.
Vast amounts of dead, dried leaves were then able to be tugged and pried out of the interior of the clump.

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I wasn’t sure how far I would go with the shovel. Complete removal has crossed my mind many times.

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While I wrestled with the dyckia, others opted to polish their rims.

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Or watch the Saturday morning parade of dogs on leashes passing the gate.

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Seeing how beautiful the single rosettes were, I decided not to remove the clump. For now.
The three rosettes had very little root attached but were cleaned up anyway.
Because doesn’t it just look like a plant with a will to live?

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A couple were potted up in a shallow container with extra grit.
With a mature clump, you get the wands of Starburst-orange flowers, but to me dyckias are just as impressive as single rosettes.
Wonderful container plants, able to take temperatures down to 15 to 20 degrees. Here in zone 10 they grow into these massive clumps.
I really should bring more varieties home — but it will be for containers only.

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The third was wrapped in moss and stuck in the opening to this pedestal I found cleaning out the garden shed.
It’s been around for so long, I forget when, where and why I brought it home. It nearly made it to the curb earlier in the week in a garage purge.
I checked this cutting today, and it hasn’t rooted yet but is still firm. If it doesn’t root, no big loss.

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The trick to thinning out a dyckia clump is, first of all, obviously, wear gloves, long sleeves. And, secondly, move with slow, purposeful movements.
And not thinking about it too much beforehand helps too.


blue fence

Double-sided, dog-eared redwood fence, you win. Smug, aren’t you? You know I can’t afford to replace you.
Over the years I’ve stained you blue (twice), stenciled you in scrolls, but to no avail.
There you stand, a blue, stenciled, dog-eared redwood reminder of the stark boundaries of my garden.

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Granted, you make a dramatic backdrop for chartreuse, a theme I work pretty hard.

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And sturdy support for Potted’s City Planter too.

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In some light you’re almost black.

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I’m not sure I’d want to replace your insistent vertical lines with horizontal lines though.
Last year I was certain that the answer was to affix smooth Hardiebacker cement board to you and paint that an exciting color.
I’m sure I had that plan in fall, which is when the energy for projects usually arrives — in a narrow sliver of a window before the holidays devour all that excess energy.
But the weight of the cement board might cause sag, which would only be exchanging one irritation for another.

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This eastern boundary is all hardscape until we get to the row of lemon cypresses.
Which is why I’m always on the lookout for some huge Euphorbia ammak or fence post cactus to grow in large pots along your exposed fenceline.

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Ghostly remnants of the stenciling project. I didn’t exactly stencil your whole length but kinda ran out of steam after 5 feet or so.
I’ll blame that on the holidays too.
(Pots hold two newish members of my ever-expanding cussonia collection.)

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I will say that your homespun rusticity doesn’t mind sharing space with a little industrial chic.
A sleek new fence might strenuously object.

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Blue fence, you win fair and square. (Until I nail some Hardiebacker board on your ass, that is.)

Saturday clippings 7/26/14


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Melocactus matanzanus

The Orange County Cactus & Succulent Society sale is this weekend, where the buzz and gossip amongst the sales tables might very likely entice you into bringing home your first melocactus.
It’s possible that the recent visit to the Huntington’s Desert Conservatory is behind this atypical impulse buy.
(I also snagged a small Agave ‘Tradewinds,’ with lovely blue-green stripes and a couple bromeliads, much more typical of my usual succulent show purchases.)
I’m going to designate the melocactus my favorite plant in the garden this week, because if you go to Loree’s blog, the post prior to favorite plants references a great deal on the Personal Recollections of William Hertrich, the man who made the desert garden for Huntington. And here I just bought socks on Amazon for my youngest son and forgot to add Hertrich’s recollections to my basket. Damn.

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Eulophia petersii at the sale

Plant shows are so helpful in filling in gaps in understanding the life cycle of these often very slow-growing plants. I’d never heard of eulophias before this week, a desert-adapted orchid, so would normally walk right by these pleated green leaves with the bulbous bases, which I’m sure I’ve done dozens of times before at succulent shows.

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But I had just seen eulophia in a staggering full-bloom display earlier in the week at Solana Succulents, on consignment sale for hundreds of dollars.
So what those underwhelming leaves were capable of producing was still very fresh in my mind. Pots about one-sixth the size of the above container were selling for $50 at the show.

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The eulophia fit neither my wallet nor the Mini Cooper, so the only purchase I made at Solana Succulents was this smooth-leaved Dyckia ‘Naked Lady.’

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I’m compulsive about planting something as soon as I bring it home. I tend to forget to water seed trays and cuttings, but if it’s in the garden I know I’ll keep an eye on it.
I planted the new dyckia as a ringer amongst a couple Yucca aloifolia ‘Purpurea.’
Maybe I’m just kidding myself, but I’m thinking this placement kind of minimizes that rank plant show impulsivity I fall victim to, as in Nothing to see here, just a disciplined repetition of key plants..
I have an enormous clump of barbed dyckia to tackle one day, so this Dyckia nudum had instant appeal.

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Pachypodium namanquanum

This pachypodium at the show reminded me of the verbascum I once grew and can’t seen to find again.
(The verbascum was sold as V. undulatum. Furry, chartreuse leaves, it could have been Verbascum epixanthinum.)

Lastly, in case you’re in need of more bromeliads, and who isn’t, Rainforest Flora in Torrance is having a 20 percent sale this weekend and next weekend too.

this is my brain on spring

Spring is such a massive distraction, and that’s coming from just my own little garden, which apart from work* I rarely want to leave. For the first time in my adult life, I drove by a multiplex theater on Sunday and wasn’t familiar with a single movie title on the marquee. I can’t keep plant show dates straight and nearly missed attending the Spring Garden Show over the weekend, which always has great vendors like B&D Lilies and Franchi Seeds of Italy, though if they were at the show this year, I didn’t find them. I had no idea there were speakers or who they would be (Dan Hinkley). Spring, I give up. You win. I know by summer the infatuation will have cooled.

At the show I speed-walked past the display gardens and headed straight for the plant vendors. My overall impression was that a neo-19th century orchid mania has gripped this show. But since these plants are born scene-stealers, it’s hard to tell if the show has a creeping orchid bias or not. High-dollar orchids bobbed out of shopping bags, rode up and down escalators in the arms of their new, terribly excited owners. Masses of orchids in exquisitely perfect bloom added a concentrated and disorienting “In The Realm of The Senses” mood to the show.

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Every color of epiphyllum, the orchid cactus, was on offer.

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Every color of epidendrum, the reed orchids

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The techno-hobbyists also had plenty to admire, like a bonsai’d boug

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As usual, the bromeliads were my biggest temptation. I’ve really wanted an alcantarea, but this lovely thing had just won some award and so carried a trophy price.

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One of my favorite vendors at the show carried exotic bulbs and gorgeous tropical seed pods, like this entada species.

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Cerbera odollam, the Pong-pong tree, also know as the “Suicide Tree,” once used in Madagascar in the ritual “trial by ordeal” to prove guilt or innocence.
Justice was irrelevant because, guilty or innocent, the tree is invariably lethal (related to the oleander).

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The succulent tables are always worth a browse.

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I wrote about this succulent not long ago, Graptopetalum superbum. This one has slight variegation to the leaf and has been named ‘Cotton Candy.’ $50 for a one-rosette plant.

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I spent a lot of time with the tillandsias and hanging plants, trussed with fishing line, performing delicate aerial ballets.

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What did I buy? More rhipsalis, of course, that shaggy, mop-headed epiphytic cacti. Andy’s Orchids had a nice selection.

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And being on a hanging plant binge, you know there was some experimenting yesterday on some old topiary forms.

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After the show I had a craving for simplicity and found these ‘Yellow Garden’ cosmos at a local nursery.

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I don’t know how those orchid people stand the excitement.

*In this video ‘Verbatim: What Is a Photocopier?’ the NYT recreated a scene from my day job. My stand-in is the woman at the end of the table with the shocked expression, writing it all down. Which partly explains why I like plants so much…

soon now

Some visual encouragement from my garden today and gardens I’ve visited in the past. Just in case spring still seems impossibly far away.


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private garden, Los Angeles

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private garden, Los Angeles

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private garden, Los Angeles

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private garden, Los Angeles

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private garden, Los Angeles

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private garden, Los Angeles

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