Culver City Cactus Tower

Yes, it’s true, I’ve been prowling craigslist, hoping to stumble upon dream listings like “free fence post cactus!” or “unwanted cactus, you dig and haul away.”
I want to line the east fence with large containers of mature succulents, none of which I possess at the moment, but then that’s what craigslist and Sunday afternoons are for.
No luck so far, but somehow my search led me to the Cactus Tower in Culver City created by the firm Eric Owen Moss Architects.
A warehouse was stripped to its steel beams and used as a support for hoisting cactus into the sky. If only my little project could just as successfully get off the ground…


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stripped back to expose its original steel framework, the tower has been repurposed as an outdoor meeting area
for the production company who occupies the abutting building. once enwrapped in a corrugated metal,
the unit has been reconceived as an open web of steelwork and plantlife
.” — Design Boom

Photos from Eric Owen Moss Architects and Design Boom.

green walls around town

The Smog Shoppe, a special event venue in Culver City owned by Woolly Pocket creator Miguel Nelson, famously deployed the pockets on its cinder-block facade in 2009, which has since been regularly reported on by local media and blogs. I’d previously only seen Woolly Pockets at garden shows, with always more pocket than plant visible, and filed the product away as a novelty for the garden deprived. Green walls have only gained momentum since 2009, and are famously curtaining the buildings in many cities around the world, with spectacular examples in the city state of Singapore, which has dubbed itself the Garden City, but these are highly engineered, soil-less, hydroponic affairs. (And why wouldn’t Singapore take advantage of their approx. 2,300 inches of rainfall a year? I’d love to some day take a “rain” vacation there.) The modular, soil-based Woolly Pockets I remembered from garden shows were targeting interiors and exteriors of homes and small offices, the DIY version of green walls. How were the Woollys faring in arid Los Angeles? With admittedly low expectations, traveling through Culver City on La Cienega Boulevard enroute to the Pacific Design Center back in March, as I drove by The Smog Shoppe, I was taken aback at the five-year-old plantings, with nary an edge of Woolly Pocket in sight, just undulating greenery.

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Above photo from the Woolly Pockets website. I didn’t dare risk stepping into La Cienega’s brutal traffic.
The linear band of plants dramatically envelopes the corner-lot building on the three street-facing sides, linked to the ground plane by many similar plants in the narrow border below.
These WPs have no reservoir, so plants in the ground benefit from the runoff.

With the plantings mature, this little corner in Culver City has the exotic air of a lost Mesoamerican jungle temple. A neatly maintained lost temple.

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And what a surprise to see the big, fleshy rosettes of Agave attenuata both in the ground and on the wall.

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The pink foamy flowers I believe are Crassula multicava, which reseeds like mad and doesn’t mind shade on the northern exposure. The blue succulent is Senecio mandraliscae

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Aeoniums, Agave attenuata, Senecio vitalis, Erigeron karvinskianus, and possibly rosemary too.
The naturalistic blue-green palette would take on an entirely different character if, for example, deep burgundy or variegated ‘Sunburst’ aeoniums were used, or the chartreuse and variegated forms of Agave attenuata. On such a broad wall, the visual flow would be jumpy and interrupted.

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Senecio vitalis is dominant in this photo. Drip irrigation is used on big projects like The Smog Shoppe.

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Even maidenhair ferns were mixing it up with the succulents

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I subsequently contacted Woolly Pockets with some basic upkeep questions regarding the plantings at The Smog Shoppe.

We have a team of professionals that maintain our gardens twice per month. Our plants our thriving which means they need a bit of maintenance to trim them back. There’s a lot of growth! Trimming them back is our biggest challenge. Also it took some trial and error initially selecting the right plants since our interior exterior living wall is over 120ft x 15ft and faces north south east and west! Basically, we had to determine different plant mixes for 4 different aspects of the wall which also shift slightly depending on the season.”

Gina Goesse, Customer Service, Woolly Pockets, also confirmed that these are the original Woollys from 2009.

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And out to dinner with my mom this week, a new restaurant on Pine Avenue in downtown Long Beach was swagging their doorway with what looked like Woolly Pockets.

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In this installation, there seems to be emphasis on the pockets themselves as living drapery, accentuating the architectural lines of the facade. Many of these plants, such as aeoniums, have no trailing capabilities, and are instead geometrically spaced at rhythmic intervals.

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Woolly Pockets were also featured recently in an interior in Apartment Therapy

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This might be my favorite, and what really has me convinced that the Woollys have left novelty behind and are all “grown up,” the “Wally One” in camel in Mad Men actor Vincent Kartheiser’s Hollywood home, as seen in Dwell.

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At Ramekin’s in Los Feliz, from Woolly Pocket’s blog.

It’s pretty obvious that my dated view of Woolly Pockets hasn’t kept pace as this business adds new products and customers continue to engage and innovate with the Woollys.
Why, if our concrete wall wasn’t already shrouded in creeping fig…

Sunday clippings 12/8/13

(baby, it’s cold outside…)

The cold front that’s been scaring the bejeezus out of Central Valley citrus growers hit new lows last night. The back garden temperature gauge registered 40 degrees at 7ish a.m., but that’s our moderating coastal influence looking after us. I can remember maybe once in 25 years at this house waking to a skin of ice on the cats’ outdoor water bowl, and that was the year the bedded-out ‘Zwartkop’ aeoniums turned to blackened mush at the Huntington. A salutary effect of the colder temps is getting to play-act at enduring a real winter, which means I don’t go out without my brown corduroy trench coat and have even taken to wearing Marty’s Kangol/Samuel L. woolen cap. (That would be me channeling Samuel L. in Pulp Fiction, not Snakes on Planes.) The cold weather has been liberating in the sense that we can pretend we’ve finally joined the clan of the cold-weather tribes, even if those hardy tribes would probably scoff at what they’d consider still shirt-sleeve and flip-flops weather.


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The first hellebore flowers in the back garden this morning

Yesterday we mapquested ourselves to Big Daddy’s in Culver City, not that far away but always tricky for me to find on La Cienega Place and not on the boulevard. Remodelista was hosting a holiday market at Big Daddy’s, and it was wonderful to see it so well-attended. I’d been noticing among friends and family that holiday cheer is at best tepid this year. My mom is the ultimate holiday cheer barometer and uncharacteristically hasn’t unpacked any of her boxes and boxes of decorations yet, though I noted last night her little collapsible tree had finally been shaken from its box, string of lights intact and ready to glow. My haircutter’s theory yesterday is that having a Thanksgiving so late in the month is to blame for any holiday fatigue. Taking my own holiday-cheer pulse, I seem to feel the same about this holiday as I do every year, which is generally positive towards a seasonal celebration that endorses bringing trees and branches and cones and seedpods indoors, with one notable variation. I seem to want to go, get out, see stuff this year, and have even bought tickets for a Nutcracker ballet. I’ve also bought tickets for the Peter Pan-inspired play Peter and the Starcatcher, so for me there seems to be a definite childhood regression theme to the holidays this year.

A few photos from Big Daddy’s yesterday:

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airplantman

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We had to park a couple blocks away, and on the way back I noticed a thick, overgrown stand of horsetail reed planted in a narrow band between a commercial building and sidewalk, a common urban deployment of this linearly sculptural but invasive rush. I grabbed the pen knife from the glove box and cut as many of the cone-producing stems as I could shove into a grocery bag. I find the new, dark brown/black cones on the forest green stems, punctuated by black bars at regular intervals, exceptionally beautiful. From those cones, spores will be launched to further the survival of this aggressive, expansionist, eons-old plant, so cutting it back when in early bloom is a public service, the way I see it.

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And, boy, do they look great in a vase, in a holiday-cheerful sort of way.


succulents around town

I’ve been accumulating photos of the ever-present succulent arrangements I see all over town.
All over town might be an exaggeration. It’s just possible that I tend to gravitate to places where there will be succulents.
But there’s no denying that they are still the Edie Sedgwick of the horticultural world, the It plant of the moment.
And from a glass-half-full perspective, they dovetail so nicely with the warmer, drier summers we’ve been having.

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Aeoniums, Portulacaria afra, graptoverias, and the trailing Senecio radicans, the fish-hook senecio.
Rolling Greens, Culver City
This seemed to be a staging area for presold arrangements.

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Agave ‘Blue Glow,’ echeverias, Sedum ‘Angelina,’ Sedum morganianum.

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Agave americana ‘Variegata’

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I’m seeing lots of wood and natural-looking containers this spring.
Dark red aeoniums, Portulacaria afra, Aeonium ‘Kiwi,’ Senecio radicans, Euphorbia tirucalli.
These have more in common with floral arrangements, packed for maximum impact, but will have to be broken apart fairly soon.
Portulacaria afra and Euphorbia tirucalli each have potential to become shrublike in Los Angeles. .

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No ID aloe, crassulas, Senecio radicans

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Furcraea macdougalii at Inner Gardens, also on Jefferson Boulevard in Culver City
I finally got my F. macdougalii out of its pot and into the garden, not an easy thing to do with a 5-footer brandishing leaves studded with hooked barbs.
Spectacular plant.

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To give a sense of the length that Senecio radicans will grow, this is my old lamp stand, which has lost quite a bit of detail since this post. It had to be replanted a few months ago when Marty bumped it and sent it flying, rolling and bouncing, which it withstood amazingly well, considering. I patched it back together and added the trailing fish-hook senecio. Once it reaches the ground and I start trimming the ends, it loses that lovely, loose draping effect and thickens up, just like any plant that’s pinched back. Yes, for a change, I did try to style the photo a bit, which is incredibly hard to get right. Kudos to the pros for making it look effortless. After dragging benches and teapots out of the house, shifting things micromillimeters to the left then right again, I was exhausted. The “turk’s head” was a gift, brought home from the souks in Morocco, and the reason I’m asking Marty to teach me traditional seaman’s knot work. He’s always made “monkey fists” and these “turk’s heads,” but never ones this big. I want to make lots of them but in slightly smaller sizes, to hold down the canvas canopy over the pergola this summer, clip on tablecloths to keep from blowing in the wind, etc. We’ll see how many I make. Plans are always the easy part.

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These two, Aeonium ‘Kiwi’ and Echeveria prolifica, fill in incredibly fast.

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Echeveria agavoides

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Echeveria cante at the Spring Garden Show at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.
This show will be open through the weekend.
I found this opalescent beauty in a 4-inch pot.

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An unnamed dyckia hybrid going for $75. I left it at the show, waiting for the dyckiaphiles.

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Echeveria agavoides at the show

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Echeveria subsessilis ‘Variegata’ (synonymous with E. peacockii). Beautiful but pricey.