more shelves

I don’t have any travel plans this summer, so July’s rhythm has been work, work, work, decompress in garden, shower, repeat. And I don’t really mind because the garden is so absorbing this time of year. At least once a day I stand as close to the center of it as possible, on a rapidly disappearing access path, like Moses parting the Red Sea, to study the fleets of winged insects that visit. They’re the perpetual fireworks of the July garden. The air space is thrumming with the familiar bees, bumblebees, wasps, lawn skippers, hoverflies, but there’s so many that are nameless to me. Like the British research ship-naming contest, they may as well be Buggy McBug Faces. I was even convinced the other day that the tiny and rare El Segundo Blue butterfly paid a visit. Since its only known remaining habitat is under the flight path of LAX, that’s unlikely. But when your identification skills are sketchy at best, anything is possible, even rare blue butterflies.


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I did get out to the CSSA show at the Huntington last week. Here’s a splendid Gymnocalycium friedrichii as proof.

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I brought home just a couple plants, an Agave colorata and Euphorbia multifolia, but like clockwork, every summer I become convinced I need more shelves.
So Marty helped me rig a new shelving system, which gets lots of the pots up off the ground.

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Not that I have anything against pots on the ground, but I like options for closer, eye-level inspection too.

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Sturdy potted plants are fine at ground level.

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Last summer I massed lots of sturdy stuff against the east (blue) fence.

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But the little treasures have a better chance of survival if they’re right under my nose.
Little side tables and shelves, a garden needs them too, right?

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I found these shelves at Building REsources in San Francisco last spring. They reminded me of old ironing boards.

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The diamond perforations looked ideal for drainage. I saw great potential, but Marty wasn’t convinced with any of my early design proposals.
This arrangement suits everybody.

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Euphorbia multifolia is temporarily cached in that lime green swirly pot.

I’ve seen this exact pot sitting on a neighbor’s porch a couple streets away, but have never seen it anywhere else, flea markets, etc.
A collecting friend gave me this one when it became chipped. What are the odds of there being two in my neighborhood?

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The shelves are hung against the bird house/bath house. I like this corner for its morning sun/afternoon shade.
The ferny plant is a young Acacia cardiophylla. I thought the parakeets would appreciate something leafy to look at.

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Now that they’re hung, I’m wondering if they shouldn’t have been painted first.

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The shelves are rigged so that unhooking them for painting would be incredibly easy.
And the spray paint has really been flying around here lately. Someone cleaned out a garage and unloaded boxes of spray cans on us.

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Marty has done all the painting. I come home from work, and there it is, the marvel of fresh paint.
For someone who has had a lifelong tolerance for rust, I’m growing alarmingly fond of fresh paint.
I can’t seem to move beyond black though. Marty had repainted this metal jardiniere in its original orange, and it was gorgeous.
But my eye kept stuttering and tripping over it. I guess that’s called a focal point, right? I needed it black, and Marty reluctantly repainted it again. What a guy.

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And this old aquarium stand with those great hairpin legs got some fresh black paint too.
The marble top also came from Building REsources a few years ago.

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Fresh paint is great, but some old finishes are too good to cover. I found this galvanized table really cheap at a great shop in San Pedro.

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This shop is so good, with such great prices, that I’m hesitant to name it.

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Okay, that would be incredibly selfish. It’s House 1002 on Pacific Avenue.

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So the question remains, to paint or not to paint? If we do repaint, I’m leaning toward repainting the shelves their original color, not black, but I’m open to suggestions.


things to do in the Bay Area after a garden show

or any other preposition that fits your schedule — before the show, between visits to the show.
Of course, you don’t have to wait until the next garden show in 2013 for a visit.

Building REsources, discussed before here and here, with its ever-changing selections of kaleidoscopic, polished glass mulch and salvage of infinite variety.


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Big Daddy’s new store in San Francisco, a visit to the Los Angeles store discussed here.

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Flora Grubb Gardens, discusssed here.
The last time I visited was around Valentine’s Day 2012, and the store was a mesmerizing tableau vivant of happy, busy people making themselves and their loved ones things like this. Glass, tillandsias, moss, lichens. (Magic.)

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UC Berkeley Botanical Garden, discussed here. Aloe castanea in bloom in February 2012.


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Cornerstone Sonoma. Over the Golden Gate Bridge and north into Sonoma County you’ll find this outdoor collection of shops, salvage, statuary, with gardens designed by Topher Delaney, Roger Raiche, Suzanne Biaggi.

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Annie’s Annuals & Perennials. So many of the plants I grow are from Annie Hayes, written about here, for example. For this recent, brief visit to the Bay Area, I had time for only one side trip. It had to be to Annie’s nursery.

Homoglad hybrids (Gladiolus tristis X Homoglossum watsonium)
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Annie’s geum selection…sigh. Some of the species are surviving, if not exactly flourishing, in my Los Angeles garden.
Geums are not dry garden candidates.

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Senecio glastifolius, written about here.

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Some of my favorite plants from Annie’s are the Mediterranean subshrubs like sideritis, whose ghostly white, subtle beauty is hard to capture in a photograph but is devastatingly gorgeous in a garden.

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Euphorbia characias and Eupatorium sordidum.

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Also, The Dry Garden in Berkeley, discussed here.

The San Francisco Botanical Garden.

Restoration Hardware’s flagship store is a huge space upon which the RH fantasy is writ large. Nice little formal outdoor courtyard too.

Consider also a 25-mile side trip to the legendary Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, discussed here.

And in this horticultural mecca, that’s just for starters.

Outdoor Rooms Need Shelving

Outdoor furniture, kitchens, fireplaces. Outdoor fabrics have come a long way for dirt and UV resistance.
But anyone else notice something lacking? Maybe I’m just not looking in the right places, but it seems to me that for sturdy outdoor shelving, pickings are mighty slim. If what I needed was for sale, reasonably priced, capable of some serious load bearing, and not made of wood, I’d put it at the top of the Christmas list. In the past I’ve accumulated all manner of tables and high plant stands to hold an ever-increasing collection of containers. Like repurposing my youngest son’s old aquarium stand, fitted with a slab of stone from Building REsources. Time for some sanding and a little paint this winter on this one.

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Continue reading

Blue Bottle & Finial

I cleaned out my garden shed the other day and found this blue bottle buried under twine and dirty garden gloves dried into angry fist shapes. There was apparently attraction enough at one time for me to squirrel the bottle away into this very tiny shed, the door clasp of which has long since buckled under the strain imposed on such a magpie’s closet. Maybe at some point I was thinking of building a bottle tree. I did throw out a lot of the junk in the shed, but hesitated with the cobalt blue bottle. I didn’t put it back in the shed, but left it out on a table, hoping to force a final decision. Then, ahem, out of the blue, it occurred to me that the rusty finial lying around with the wine cork shoved into it for a previous incarnation as the crowning glory to a candelabra might just fit in the bottle. And so it did.

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There would seem to be a resident flying squirrel in the garden, judging by the reflection in the bottle just under the neck in the photo below. Or, to indulge in a paranoid cliche, possibly a UFO silently glided over the garden when the photo was taken. Or, as a smarty pants in the family opined, it has something to do with a parabolic effect. I’m going with the flying squirrel. I like the M.C. Escher funhouse distortion in the bottle, the bowed ribs of the pergola against the blue glass sky.

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The perfect fit of the bottle and finial started a binge into blue which was to last the next few days. Because didn’t I have some tumbled blue glass somewhere in the garden brought home from Building REsources? Yes, indeed, which I had used to outline nerine bulbs, so I wouldn’t inadvertently stomp on the bulbs in their dormant phase. I checked the gravel garden, and sure enough, there was a scattering of blue glass shards, no longer in neat outline around the nerines but strewn about and half buried in gravel. I picked up every shard and gave them a good wash. In my defense, I plead summertime. It’s long, it’s hot, and it can make eccentric activities seem like seriously worthwhile pursuits.

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The blue glass mulch was left soaking in water for several days on a table in the kitchen, with no greater purpose or plan in mind. Then I became distracted redoing some plantings in the front gravel garden, moving agaves a few feet over, removing the one-off succulents and adding bigger swathes of a particular favorite, the Mexican Snowball, Echeveria elegans. For a fresh gravel surface, I cheaped out on the gravel, which is approximately the same light grey as the echeverias instead of the pricier warm buff color I had used in the past. All that work for a fairly disappointing result. Something else was needed to draw definition to the white echeverias against the grey gravel. Which just happened to be soaking in a bowl in the kitchen, freshly washed, bright and shiny.

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Once the echeverias grow in a bit more, the blue glass will disappear, so it is a bit of mid-summer silliness. I do know it’s not easy to throw away a cobalt blue bottle. I couldn’t do it. But for the sake of blue glass mulch, I’m glad not everyone squirrels bottles away in their garden sheds.

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Succulent Experiments

Crassula expansa subsp. fragilis was planted this past May in these car jack stands, using window screening to hold the soil in, first pictured here near the bottom of the post.

Unlike my mossy experiments, this crassula is growing much faster and really seems to be thriving rather than barely hanging on. Tiny, starry white flowers are just starting to erupt. Love the delicate, thyme-like texture on this one. Soon it will engulf the entire structure.

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I like it so much that a new one has been created using Crassula pellucida var. marginalis. So much of this crassula was broken in the process!
Someone really adept with their hands and eye could get some beautiful folds out of the window screen as a feature in the open spaces of the design. It’s nearly as pliable as a stiff fabric.

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Hanging on branches temporarily to grow in the dappled light under the Chinese fringe tree, Chionanthus retusus, the simple abstract shapes are not a glaring intrusion here. I have no doubt that this idea for multiple, nearly identical hanging planters was inspired, consciously or unconsciously, by the inventive hanging succulent creations seen this spring at Lotusland. The strips of rusty metal used for hangers, about 2 feet in length, are salvage from Building RESources in San Francisco, California.

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Plant Show Weekend/Weakened

I vaguely remember promising not to post any more photos of tulips, so in my weakened state I’m violating that oath with one more photo of tulips ‘Queen of the Night,’ taken just before heading north for the San Francisco Flower & Garden Show. The tulips have no doubt been flattened by the serial storms which have been queuing up offshore like circus elephants all week. Good thing I brought wellies on this trip, because it’s been nothing but squelchy ground underfoot. Could it be this inveterate traveler is slightly homesick? Sitting in a little kitchenette motel in San Francisco nursing an Anchor Steam, grey and drizzly outside, a car brimming with plants, including the legendary Mathiasella bupleuroides, (what fabulous good luck to stumble into this one, a propagator’s nightmare, found at The Dry Garden in North Oakland), and some rusted bits salvaged from Building REsources, I’m ready to swing homeward and plant, shuffle pots, shuffle photos, and write a bit about what I’ve seen. What a homebody I’ve turned into. Funny how that happens every spring.

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Salvage

“Captain, your ship is salvage!” Possibly the most chilling words any ship’s captain will ever hear. Maritime law dating back to Byzantine times allows a ship and its cargo to be claimed by anyone, acting voluntarily (not in an official capacity), who rescues a disabled ship from serious peril from which the vessel or property could not have been rescued without such assistance. The laws of salvage will be dusted off and scrutinized to clarify the horrific event now unfolding in the aftermath of a Chinese coal freighter running off course over 40 miles and slamming full speed into Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Must be why I have salvage on my mind today. Well, that disaster and the recent San Francisco Flower & Garden show, where salvage was a big star.

The Garden Route Company’s prize-winning garden “Re-Generation The World Without Us” has provided a possible solution to my currently trellis-less grape vine:

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The grape vine needs trellising to reach the top of the pergola. When the trellis is in place, I can’t see the garden beyond the grape vine. Some years I like this sense of enclosure, but this year I want to try something new. I’m thinking lengths of chain hung from the pergola might be the answer. The grape vines clamber up the chains but won’t obscure the view of the garden beyond. The vine is leafing out and won’t wait for a trellis much longer. I’m excited to find out if the rusted chain and grape leaf have anything interesting to say to each other.

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The use of salvage at the SF garden show was tied to themes of repurposing, recyling, and as a reminder that although it is our dreams that give raw materials shape and purpose, cut stone and forged steel will outlive us and become infused with new dreams. It is this latter use of salvage that brings such pathos to a garden. The bilge pump of a ship scuttled long ago now cradles a votive candle:

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San Francisco has an excellent salvage yard, Building REsources, which we paid a visit the week of the show. They tumble glass and old pottery on site, so buying in bulk from them if you can haul it away is ideal.

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I didn’t bring home any tumbled glass this trip. What really floats my boat are the discarded cuts of marble and stone that make wonderful table tops.

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The shape, color, and texture of salvage will draw your eye, but the layers of history and half-remembered story will feed your garden’s soul and set it dreaming.