Tag Archives: Dustin Gimbel

a holiday visit with Dustin Gimbel

Now that garden designer Dustin Gimbel has branched off into ceramics, I can buy a few holiday presents and visit his incredibly inspiring garden.

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Coming in the little side gate, there’s this silvery vision of Acacia pendula, faced down by a mature leucospermum loaded with flower buds. A new planting of aloes catches the light.
I still get palpitations every time I visit.

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Acacia podalyrifolia on the opposite side of the porch has replaced the Arbutus ‘Marina’ that stubbornly failed to thrive here.
It was uncharacteristically windy today, the first real “weather” we’ve had in Los Angeles, starting off with the previous night’s measurable rainfall.
Note the Acacia podalyrifolia bowing in the wind.
The totem sentinels seem to have proliferated since my last visit, accentuating a really strong, syncopated flow he’s been working on in the front garden with octagonal pavers and festuca.

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The view under Acacia pendula, trained beautifully on a rebar arbor, looking down the main path at the front of the house toward the driveway

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In this view, to the right of the main path, is where his signature totems congregate.
The small pavers allow for a “custom” journey through the garden, an intimate, immersive engagement with the plants.
Dustin uses berms to build topographical interest into the front garden. The stones to the left rim the berm containing the leucospermum.
At the far end is a berm built up with “urbanite” aka broken concrete, which abuts the driveway. Of course, drainage in the berms is excellent too.

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The berm by the driveway, planted with echium, adenanthos, centaurea, kalanchoe, and lots of other treasures.
The dark green ground cover is Frankenia thymifolia.
Luminous Yucca ‘Bright Star’ needs no introduction.

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We played around with his new “tinker toy” ceramic pieces in the front garden.

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I continually nag him about getting a shop website up for his ceramic pieces. He promised it will happen in the new year.
Wonderful shapes and texture from box balls, grasses, Agave mitis var. albidior through a scrim of dripping acacia.

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The Gaudi-esque tinker toys among pavers, grasses, small succulents.

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I’m always impressed by the captivating visual power of Dustin’s garden, the compounding effect of the pure geometric, organic shapes and forms he favors.
Just beyond that hedge, it’s almost a shock to the system when the magic quickly dissolves into ordinary sidewalk, street, cars, etc., etc.

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Everywhere you look the planting is almost unbearably gorgeous.

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In the back garden, I was able to check on the progress of the wood screen which hides the propagation tables.

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I gathered my holiday purchases (which must remain a secret for now), very pleased with myself for combining business and inspiration in one visit.
You can find more of Dustin’s ceramics and garden designs on his Instagram feed.
Have a great weekend.

checking out Dustin’s pottery

As soon as work let up a bit, for a treat I’d been promising myself a trip to Dustin’s to check out his new concrete pottery.
I don’t know how it happened that Dustin’s concrete work became an exact match for the containers I crave.
It’s a mysterious case of convergent design evolution. He makes them and I want them. I want them all.
As always, I arrive with plant questions I’ve saved up for him that usually get knocked out of my brain the minute I step into his restlessly creative, ever-changing garden.
I forget everything else and commence pelting him with new questions rapid-fire as I tour the garden. He takes this annoying habit of mine with incredible good nature.
For example, this visit there was the headless stump of a ‘Hercules’ aloe/aloidendron plunged into the front garden, reaching about chest-high, mixed in among the “totems.”
I did find the head of ‘Hercules’ in the back garden. Some mishap had befallen the tree aloe at a client’s garden, so Dustin brought the wounded ‘Hercules’ home for surgery.
Two of them, in fact. He assured me rooting the massive things again wouldn’t be a problem.
He truly is the Willy Wonka of the plant world. Nothing fazes him, anything is possible, and pure imagination always triumphs.
Despite such absorbing distractions as headless aloes, I did manage to remember to ask about a dark brown Sticks on Fire I had heard about recently.
Had he ever heard of such a plant? Of course, he had.


Dustin: Yeah, it’s right over here. You want a piece?

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Chocolate Sticks on Fire in Dustin’s vase.

After exhausting him with questions, I moved on to checking out the pottery and selected several pieces to bring home.
Marty feels this one holds a remarkable resemblance to One World Trade Center. I’m not sure if that was intentional.

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For the moment, some of the pieces have been strewn on the ground.
The two pyramidal shapes are hollow and can be hung and used as vases or planters.

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For now they’re a helpful physical reminder for wandering corgi paws to navigate around Leucospermum ‘High Gold’ brought home from Seaside Gardens last weekend.
For inquiries on his work or custom orders, Dustin can be reached at: dustingimbel@mac.com.


concrete containers by Dustin Gimbel

Dustin’s Facebook feed is showing lots of new work, and I just had to pop over to see what he’s been up to, even if it was almost too late in the afternoon for photos.

Invariably, whenever I post on Dustin, I get inquiries about his work, running the gamut from private individuals to public garden directors.
If there’s any questions, you can contact him at: dustingimbel@mac.com.

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If I understood correctly, the concrete is a special formulation with some kind of fibers that allows him to play with a range of shapes.

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Not made by Dustin but in keeping with the theme.

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Of course I had to check out his plants too, because there’s always something new.
For example, a client didn’t like this variegated Italian Buckthorn (Rhamnus alaternus), so Dustin brought it home.
Thank goodness he has lots of other creative outlets to balance out the occasional disagreeable client.

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The always envy-inducing variegated ponytail palm

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The hulk of the cherimoya tree, painted a cheery yellow, now supports a hanging garden of rhipsalis, tillandsias, bromeliads.
When the tree was alive, it rained down vast amounts of messy, fly-attractiing fruit. In its afterlife it’s become one of my favorite things in his garden.

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The fading light reflecting off the pond.

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I love how Dustin teams up extravagantly beautiful plants with containers made of simple geometric shapes.
The plain geometry of the containers is a wonderful counterpoint to the complex, exuberant geometry of plants.

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Bloom Day June 2015

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I documented the extent of the back garden earlier in the month. It’s pretty clear it’s a battle for inches here.
Relatively cool, overcast June means I’m still shifting plants around and planting some new stuff too.

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I’ve been playing around with the idea of a small patch of dry summer meadow the past few years, on a frustratingly small scale of course.
Threaded around all the big evergreen stuff is what’s become a rainbow sherbert meadow this year in raspberry, orange, lemon, lime.
Leucadendron ‘Ebony’ on the left, Lomandra ‘Breeze,’ euphorbias, Arctotis ‘Flame.’ Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ is perennial here, in its third year at least.

Continue reading Bloom Day June 2015

friday clippings 4/24/15 (SoCal Spring Garden Show weekend)


Southern California’s Spring Garden Show started yesterday, 4/23/15, and continues through Sunday, 4/26/15.
It’s always held in the enclosed “Home Store Wing” of the South Coast Plaza.
This wing includes, among many other stores, Anthropologie, West Elm, Z Gallerie, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware — you know them by their envy-inducing catalogues.
Scuttlebutt at the show today suggested that these stores, while appreciating the customers the show has historically driven to their doors, decided this year to thin that plant-mad traffic out a bit.
Fewer plant vendors were allowed to participate so there would be more breathing room around the stores.
In another twist, the stores partnered with local designers to create the show gardens.
How did it all pan out? Judge for yourself.

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And, relax, of course there were still tillandsias! There just weren’t multiple vendors with tillandsias. Redundancy was verboten this year.

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And there was still a sexy agave or two (Agave guiengola ‘Striata’)

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Orchid lovers still had lots to ogle. The epidendrums, or reed orchids, never miss a show.

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A very lush and happy Abutilon megapotamicum grown on standard was in attendance.

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As were a few bromeliad tables. This vendor had their flowers cut for a bouquet.

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Succulents were fairly well represented. I’m always surprised at how beautiful a gasteria is in bloom.

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Pottery

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But where were the really cool plants, the juicy show stuff?
I was on the prowl for the Flame Pea, Chorizema cordatum, which I had just seen at the Disney Concert Hall garden yesterday.
Up and down escalators to three floors, and no Flame Pea. Fine, I’ll just head over to the B&D Lilies table…okay, maybe not this year.
Admittedly, I was a bit let down at first at the reduced number of plant vendors.

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So I headed over to Dustin Gimbel’s collaboration with Crate and Barrel and immediately cheered up.
So much of what I see in his own garden and shapes he’s been mulling over in his work came through in this display…if not my photos.
People, these are plant show photos, weird light, funny angles, arms and legs blocking shots, etc.
That’s a tiny glimpse of a majestic, over 10-foot Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’ on the right.

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I loved people-watching through this view

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More of that blue/green screen, carefully sanded to let paint and wood bleed into each other.

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Like stories within stories, Dustin always plays with visual framing devices.

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Wands of hesperaloe weave through the octogon frames, some of which looked off kilter and precariously balanced.
Just another trick of the eye. All were sturdily fixed in place.

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A hesperaloe to keep an eye out for, with heavily textured leaves and frothy blooms, ‘Pink Parade.’

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Land Workshop’s collaboration with West Elm.
By and large, the designers all used simple materials, clean shapes.
And studying the materials used to build the displays was a crash course in effective screens and fencing sourced straight from the hardware store.
The corner is formed by pallets on end, the open top used as a planter.
The slapdash screening woven with wooden slats reminded me a bit of Stephen Glassman’s work with bamboo.

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Behind the gentleman was a short flight of stairs leading to a small sitting area

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A screen of aluminum pipes, painted in pastel shades, planted with Senecio vitalis.

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Another crazy angled overhead shot to show how this small area fit together.

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At ground level was a sweet mosaic table, potted plants, and a raised bar/dining area out of frame
This display garden was opposite the Apple store, and foot traffic was very heavy around the perimeter.

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Another display I liked was designer Camille Beehler’s collaboration with Pottery Barn.
I was particularly interested in the walls, the puzzle-fitted cement backer boards behind the couches for one wall, corrugated siding for another.

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Potted palo verde tree, couches, bar cart, corrugated screen

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Multiples of blooming Aloe striata in square black planters on pavers edged in river stones

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My humble critique? While this show may have stinted on plants, the designers came up with loads of good ideas to fool around with at home.
And, mercifully, there was a welcome absence of over-the-top outdoor kitchens/saunas/fireplaces, etc.
Next year I’m hoping that a better balance can be achieved that accommodates space for plant vendors, good design, and the needs of the stores themselves.


compound interest

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Image found here


I don’t have a lot of botanical vocabulary at my fingertips anymore, but I do know a compound leaf when I see one*, since I’ve always had a pronounced weakness for them. If you’ve got a potted Fatsia japonica tucked in against the baseboards near a south-facing window, chances are you do too. A compound leaf guarantees a lushly dramatic presence. Aralia, tetrapanax, angelica are some examples that come quickly to mind, all with great shaggy leaves that unleash heaps of transverse, horizontal energy into the garden. I’ve got some good examples at the moment, three that I’ve planted almost on top of each other.

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Palmately compound Not compound, but palmate leaves of tetrapanax with that jagged, horizontal energy I was trying to describe.
Edited to add: See Saucydog’s comment below.

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Tetrapanax overhanging melianthus, starting to invade each other’s spatial planes

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Pinnately compound, Melianthus major ‘Purple Haze’**

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And completing the compound trifecta this spring, an umbellifer from Maderia, Melanoselinum decipiens, its trial run in the garden this year.
(All those umbellifers we love to cut for vases, like Queen Anne’s Lace (Ammi majus) are characterized by compound leaves.)

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For floating, hovering, shadow-making mystery suspended mid-air, go compound.

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Dustin Gimbel brought his buddy, photographer Joshua McCullough, over recently, and as we both stood before the melanoselinum, or “Black Parsley” as it’s also known by, I mentioned, possibly a little nervously, that I hear it gets pretty big. Joshua responded that he’s seen it growing in the wild, and big might be an understatement. Huge would be getting somewhat closer to the truth. I’ve already started removing some of its lower leaves to reduce some of the congestion and crowding as it flings those great leaves wide.

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I keep the tetrapanax limbed up, too, so I can plant every square inch around its trunk.

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The filtered light is perfect for things like bromeliads.

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If I had a larger garden, I doubt I’d choose to plant this much complicated, jagged beauty in such close proximity.
But I really don’t think it’s possible for a garden to have too much compound interest.



*except not really. See Saucydog’s comment re tetrapanax’s palmate leaf, not palmately compound leaf.
**(And I just noticed another example, the golden tansy Tanacetum vulgare ‘Isla Gold’ in the lower right.)

flea market 101

Getting to our first ever flea market as buyers sellers last Sunday was a journey of just five miles. Still, it was epic in scope and had all the hallmarks of a serious expedition: Not sleeping the night before, endless mental checklists, thermoses, camp chairs, rising before dawn, no breakfast. It was a good thing Dustin fed us all the night before when we stopped by to load up his stuff. (Were the butterflies in our stomachs due to flea market jitters or Dustin’s roasted chilis?)

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Marty was my loyal sherpa for a day. His ’70 bus carried it all. Strapped to the roof were most of the tables and Reuben’s murals. (see Reuben’s magisterial account here.)
Mitch was in town and managed to find time between packing and unpacking to snap some photos.

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Every inch of the bus was dragooned into flea market duty.

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And then, still before breakfast, it’s time to unpack it all.

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The unexpected juxtapositions are pure flea market, like the hot plate/Mr. Peanut thingy from Dustin’s grandmother sharing table space with his concrete buddha. (Mr. Peanut found his buyer late in the day.) Reuben’s two smelt pots, one seen just behind the armillary sphere, attracted interest early from the “pros.” It was a fine introduction in flea market economics to observe how Reuben set and finessed prices. The heavy smelt pots eventually sold late in the day for very close to Reuben’s initial asking price, to the same gent who couldn’t live without Mr. Peanut. I’m telling you, every transaction could be the basis for a short story.

The story arc to Dustin’s concrete gems alone was worth the price of admission. Our carnival barking became more aggressive as the day progressed, as the concrete was handled, the facets examined then returned to the tables. “Charm your friends! Harm your enemies!” And all morning they went unsold. Not one sale. It seemed a thundering judgment had been made: We loved them, but nobody else did. And then in an instant, everything changed, and Dustin was mobbed with buyers. A florist wanted dozens. A bride-to-be wanted them for tables for her wedding in September, and could Dustin paint them white? People were drawn in by the frenzy, and more gems sold. (And what a great idea the future bride had. Diamonds=wedding. Get it?)


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The displays became more refined throughout the day — mostly because there’s lots of down time between buyers. The whole lot of these old pharmacy jars were bought early in the day at one go, all eight of them. The smaller “monkey fists” about the size of billiard balls (which hold the center) sold only when we came down in price by quite a bit. Lots of people just took photos, spun around, and dove back into the crowds. The stuff on our tables was endlessly fondled and caressed, sometimes followed by a sale, just as frequently not. Watching the interaction between people and objects was so very, very interesting, who was attracted to what and why. I expected the why to remain a mystery, but loved when people tried to articulate it, offering stories of their longing. I had experienced how sellers weave narratives around their stuff for sale, but it was a surprise to find it works both ways. Buyers do this too, like the girl who wanted the lab beakers for her budding scientist brother. I fell hard for these stories and came way down in price. I did discover that my source for industrial salvage is charging me too much. I brought these metal trays back home, since I couldn’t break even with them.

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The buyers were fascinatingly unpredictable. People wanted to buy Marty’s bus, our display tables, including this tool cart. Dustin’s grandmother’s tchotchkes sold well. What we called Dustin’s “tostadas” sold late in the day. Just a few people noticed these were made of a unique, very lightweight, sculptural concrete formulation, but those that did notice were intensely interested. Same thing with Reuben’s smelt pots, which are sculptural, fused-glass byproducts of molten industrial processes. Those whose eye they caught immediately recognized their complex provenance. Watching objects work their magic on people was the best part of the day. Dustin’s “ficus tree root with superimposed grapevine” sculpture found its adoring owner late in the day too.

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I was secretly hoping Reuben’s conical, heavy lanterns wouldn’t sell, so I’d be forced to make a decision on them, but sell they did.
Dustin was fiendishly delighted when the glass vase he found abandoned in his alley went to an appreciative buyer.

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By 4 o’clock we were home, and it was all unpacked. We were entrusted temporarily with Reuben’s stuff, which was all carefully put away — after I had a good play with it.

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Would we do it again? We’re thinking maybe February, if there’s any spaces still available. Was the money good? I thought so, although Reuben thought this flea’s attendance wasn’t the best he’s seen. We were prepared to accommodate big transactions with Square, and it did come in handy. Some people wanted bags to carry off their purchases, and we had none, but we did have a wagon that we loaned out all day to carry off the heavier items, which was always faithfully returned. Was the explicitly garden-related stuff a hit? Not really. The only one to even give the garden books and magazines a glance was Kris, who wrote about her adventure here. (Such a treat to meet you and your friends, Kris.)

Reuben, Dustin, Mitch, Marty, I’d flea-market again with you in a heartbeat, just name the time and place. The only caveat is there must be breakfast next time.

a very merry flea


Where & When: Find us Sunday, December 15, 2013, at the Long Beach Antique Market. It opens early (6:30 a.m.!), so it won’t take too big of a bite out of your day.

Who: Me, garden designer Dustin Gimbel (non-secateur), and graphic artist Reuben Munoz (RanchoReubidoux) will be manning the stall for a winter blogger meetup and pop-up shop at one of the best flea markets in Southern California. Our little flea market just became even merrier, now that Reuben has joined the festivities.

Why: Holiday shopping at the malls has always been a no-go zone for me, and online shopping can get a little…well, sterile. I’ve made it a tradition to hit the fleas in December, for the people watching, for the serendipitous flea-bagging, for the sheer spectacle of it all. I can’t wait to find out what it’s like on the other side of the table, not that I won’t be squeezing in a good browse too…

What: There’ll be some industrial salvage, pots and plants, along with some hand-made stuff created just for this flea, including mural pieces by Reuben.


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Dustin’s concrete gems continue to proliferate, short and squat gems, elongated pyramidal gems, sea urchin gems…
(Diamonds are an agave’s best friend.)

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And I’m coaxing more and more sailor knotwork out of Marty now that his summer job on the Catalina Island ferries is on hiatus, the huge doorstops that take incredible muscle to tighten (I can’t do it yet, dammit!) as well as smaller sizes for bookshelves, paper weights — wherever the eye would like to trace the lines of a briny, ropy orb, or a computer-fatigued hand needs to grasp and weigh something reassuringly solid, or a reminder is needed that fresh breezes and adventures are on the way. The office is more rigging loft now, with rope strewn everywhere. We found some beautiful vintage line at a marine salvage yard in Newport Beach, including some lovely honey colors and subtle variegateds.

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I can hardly bear to sell any of it, so even if I have to reload the car with it all, it’s a win/win. At least we’ll get the chance to meet up with some of you, our comrades and fellow devotees of the impeccable design work done by the plant kindgdom. We’re gathering up simple textures and shapes that people with an eye for beautiful plants would like to have nearby, especially in winter. I can’t speak for Reuben, though — no telling what he’s up to! And I have no idea how we’re going to fit it all into one stall, especially since Dustin wants to bring some big specimen plants. But it promises to be a very merry flea indeed, if slightly shambolic as the best fleas are, with hot cider and cookies. We’d all love to meet up with you there. (Marty dared me to fit in the word shambolic. He should know I never back away from a dare.)

in the news

Since the government shutdown, I’ve been checking in with The New York Times at an increasingly feverish pace, several times a day, (and doing little else, it seems), so it was in real time that the story on James Golden of the blog View From Federal Twist scrolled across my screen last night. What a welcome frisson of surprise and affection it provided, immediately displacing all that news-glut irritability. Anything Michael Tortorello writes is worth dropping what you’re doing to read, but here he was focusing on our beloved blogger from Federal Twist. Read the sumptuous article here. The article coincides with the inclusion of Federal Twist in the Garden Conservancy Open Days this weekend, October 19, in Stockton, New Jersey. If only…

One of MB Maher’s autumnal photos of New York’s Battery Park from 2010 helps me remember what the East Coast looks like in fall.

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New York’s Battery Park in fall

But wait, there’s more. Also hot off the blogroll (non-secateur) and into the presses comes a piece on blogger and garden designer Dustin Gimbel in the Orange County Register. Journalist/blogger/impresario and constant gardener herself, Cindy McNatt, penned a warm tribute to Dustin entitled “The constant gardener.”


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From Dustin Gimbel’s home garden, Long Beach, California

There you have it. Two nice reads on the profound effects of gardens and plants and the places they take us, proving that it’s not all been entirely wretched news lately.

the Climbing Onion, Bowiea volubilis

It must be pretty obvious by now that I’m refusing to look at the big, end-of-summer picture. So I’m offering another micro plant portrait, the South African Climbing Onion. Logee’s calls Bowiea volubilis “an old favorite.” If so, this old favorite seems to have fallen out of favor and tumbled back into obscurity. The first time I clapped eyes on it was this year’s Venice Home & Garden Tour 2013, and neither I nor the garden owner had a clue to its identity. The climbing onion I saw in the Venice garden was grown as a hanging plant, a mysterious cascade of bright green, filigreed leaves spiraling out of its pot. Lush, ferny and utterly drought tolerant. I grabbed the owner’s elbow and inquired after its identity. He led me to another one, planted in the ground.

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And there it was, improbably geysering up a tomato cage. The garden owner found a small bulb near this plant and gave it to me. (Again, thank you!) That little bulb has yet to sprout.
A winter-growing houseplant in colder zones, the Venice climbing onions I saw in May were obviously thriving outdoors through a zone 10 winter and early spring.

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Dustin Gimbel, with his Sherlockian knowledge of plants, is the one who identified this mystery as the climbing onion, and then later found a couple enormous bulbs which he left on my porch. There didn’t seem to be much shaking with the climbing onion for the longest time after I repotted it, and I stopped checking it daily. All I had to remember it by was the tomato cage photo. Maybe it wasn’t so special after all. Meanwhile, the climbing onion got busy.

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The climbing onion was waiting for the end of summer to resume growth. When I next took notice, it was putting on quite the performance.

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I’d always intended to grow it as a hanging plant, but now I’m not sure if I want to interrupt this dialogue its having with the rusty table.
If anyone would like to try the little bulb that was gifted to me, I’d be happy to send it on. A time-lapse video and more cultural information can be found here.