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.

 photo P1011955.jpg

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.

 photo P1011960.jpg

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.

 photo P1011947.jpg

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

 photo P1011968.jpg

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

 photo P1011964.jpg

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

 photo P1011980.jpg

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?

 photo P1012009.jpg

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.

 photo P1012007.jpg

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.

 photo P1011992.jpg

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.


Bloom Day March 2014



 photo P1013739.jpg

Typical for March, the reseeding poppies are the biggest showboats in my garden at the moment.

 photo P1013827.jpg

Anticipating where and against what backdrop another loopy-necked bloom will open each morning is a huge part of their appeal.

 photo P1013766.jpg photo P1013763.jpg

Summer-dormant Pelargonium echinatum has been so easy to rouse from its dormancy. Always in a pot, I keep it dry from late spring/early summer until around Novemberish.

 photo P1013784.jpg

No blooms here, but to me it’s just as exciting to see the manihot leaf out again in March.

 photo P1013769.jpg

Long, pale green, fading to buttery yellow stems send out these shocking pink flowers. Silky petals against furry stems, the rat-tailed cactus really nails it for me.

 photo P1013775.jpg photo P1013885.jpg

Two of the three clumps of the digitalis/isoplexis union, Digiplexis ‘Illumination Flame,’ are throwing rainbow sherbert-colored spikes.
This summer will be the first garden trials for those of us plant geeks enthusiasts who chased down this literally brand-new perennial.

 photo P1013796.jpg

A self-sown Solanum pyracanthum wintered over and is early to bloom.

 photo P1013824.jpg

One of the three Phlomis lanata I planted in fall.

 photo broughton-grange_1729872i.jpg

After seeing a photo by Andrew Lawson of Tom Stuart-Smith’s use of phlomis at Broughton Grange, I knew I wanted phlomis back in the garden. I’ve tried lots of kinds of phlomis over the years, and if this P. lanata lives up to its reputation for compactness, it just might be the one. Bigger gardens than mine can tackle the oversize, leafy ones like russeliana and fruticosa.

 photo P1013876.jpg

But Phlomis lanata doesn’t grow up, it grows out, bulging sideways as much as 4-6 feet across while topping out at about 2 feet in height.
(Maybe I’ll eventually need just one of the three I’ve planted…)

 photo P1013860.jpg photo P1013863.jpg

I think it’s no secret that we’re all attracted to Pelargonium ‘Crocodile’ because of those gold-fretted leaves and not its flowers.

 photo P1013834.jpg

But I suppose the flowers are tolerable when there’s not much else blooming. And blue oat grass in the background makes anything look good.

 photo P1013872.jpg

A lot of the self-sowers like Orlaya grandiflora are just getting revved up.

 photo P1013893.jpg

Nasturtiums are mostly pulled out and composted to give some of the other volunteers runnning room.

 photo P1013883.jpg

Not for lack of trying, but this is the best photo I could get of a very promising salvia, what Annie’s Annuals & Perennials sold as Salvia flava. The photo on her website is much better.
I really, reeeally hope it likes my garden.

 photo P1013747.jpg

The front garden has very little but dyckias in bloom, which is actually reassuring since if any of the agaves bloom, it means their demise isn’t far behind.

 photo P1013779.jpg

For the butterflies, Verbena lilacina

 photo P1013866.jpg

Euphorbia rigida, claiming quite a bit of the roadway just outside the kitchen door, also claims all the bees’ attention. Always lots of good bee watching here.

May Dreams Gardens to thank for inducing us to keep these monthly records of our gardens. I can now easily check back to March 2013 and see what plants I’ve since killed or evicted, not to mention potentially discover some sort of pattern to the erratic blooming habits of Scilla peruviana, which seems to have taken this year off after blooming in 2013.

reprising a visit to the Huntington Desert Garden

The recent storm surprisingly coaxed a bloom from my 6-inch Euphorbia atropurpurea, whose acquaintance I first made at the Huntington in 2011. That visit prompted a frustrating summer of scouring plant sales and nurseries for this rare, ruddy-bracted Canary Islander, until Annie’s Annuals & Perennials put me out of my misery by offering it at her nursery just last year. She’s still the only source that I can name at the moment. And although the euphorbia is not currently available, it’s offered intermittently. So it does pay to keep an eye on availability which updates frequently. My image hosting site isn’t cooperating this morning, which is just as well, because now I have to rely on MB Maher’s images of the original object of my affection from May 2011. I couldn’t resist adding a few other photos from that visit too.


First, Euphorbia atropurpurea.

Photobucket

The wine-colored bracts are such a surprising twist on the typical chartreuse, which are fabulous enough in their own right.
After all, it’s those blowsy chartreuse mopheads, like a hydrangea for dry soil and full sun, that first turn an ordinary, respectable person into a helpless euphorbophile.

Photobucket

It’ll be a while before mine grows into a sight like this, but at least it blooms at a young age.

Photobucket

Other scenes from the Huntington in May. Dyckia, golden barrel cactus, with palo verdes in bloom.

Photobucket

Dyckias in bloom

Photobucket

Nolina interrata

Photobucket

Shimmering golden warmth.

Photobucket

Quite the contrast to a grey, rainy weekend, another rarity I’m thoroughly enjoying today.


Bloom Day November 2013

By November my garden has turned into a curiosity shop of oddities and seedpods.

 photo P1010568.jpg

Like the racks of antler-like blooms on tetrapanax, seemingly more blooms than leaves this years after I clipped away some of the sunburnt foliage.

 photo P1010570.jpg

Limbing it up allows for maximum shovage of other plants.
(I may have just invented that word shovage, but if you’re participating in Carol’s Bloom Day in November, I know you’ll understand the concept.)

 photo P1010510.jpg

Such as shovage of this mangave, a gift from Dustin Gimbel, which is just about at the base of the tetrapanax near the path

 photo P1019898.jpg

And indoors the rooms become altered in November too. The house is beginning to look like a natural history museum, with vases filled with stalks of nubby stuff like dyckia seedpods

 photo P1010563.jpg

A tender salvia new to me, Salvia curviflora, was brought home from Annie’s Annuals this summer. Many of the Mexican salvias just grow too large, so their time in my garden is often limited to a couple seasons. And from what I read, this one won’t like very dry conditions. But when they bloom this freely at a small size, it’s worth growing as an annual.

 photo P1010564.jpg

Besides, it’s my job to trial every hot pink salvia I come across.

 photo P1010566.jpg

Just like last fall, Nan Ondra’s strain of chocolate-colored nicotiana is roused to life by the cooler temps.

 photo P1010581.jpg

Pennisetum ‘Sky Rocket’ and the yellow form of the firecracker plant, Russelia equisetiformis, are keeping things bouncy and fluffy outside the office.
A lot of the various succulent offsets are finding their way here, as have most of the potted agaves, which I can view from my desk. (More shovage.)
Just occasionally there’s more gazing at plants than working on the computer.

As always, profuse thanks to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting our Bloom Days each and every month.

Cross-Pollination July 2013

Garden designer Dustin Gimbel hosted another of those fabulous mid-summer rave-ups that he calls “Cross-Pollination” at his home and garden, where “hikers, nursery professionals, beekeepers, home brewers, crazy plant people, artists, architects and designers” gather for food and conversation, slipping away occasionally from the outdoor tables for periodic forays into the surrounding garden that nourishes as much as the food and conversation. A trifecta of sensory input. Think a slightly more design-centric Roman bacchanalia and you’ve got the basic idea. (And in case there’s any doubt, I fall into the “crazy plant people” category on the invitation.)

 photo DSC_0002.jpg

photo by Dustin Gimbel


Maybe another attendee will post photos of the tables groaning under bowl after bowl of fresh, summery food and the friendly group that assembled to partake of the potlucked largesse.* This will be my typically monomaniacal plant reportage. For me one of the stars of the party was the Aristolochia gigantea vine in full, jaw-dropping bloom against the mauve wall of the garage. Various parts of the human anatomy were offered up as visual analogies for these bizarre, fleshily gorgeous flowers. (A non-profane example would be lungs.) The colors here in this corner of the back garden make up a tangily delicious concoction. The golden, feathery shrub is Coleonema pulchellum ‘Sunset Gold.’ On the left is Dodonaea viscosa. Euphorbia cotinifolia is directly behind the central variegated number, which is either a ponytail palm or a cordyline. Or something else entirely. In Dustin’s garden, always expect to be confounded and surprised.

This is Dustin’s photo and description: “Giant dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia gigantea) is reveling in heat AND humidity. Usually if it gets hot and dry these comically large blooms get seared by the heat and often don’t even open, burnt crisp by the sun.”

A horticultural event of immense drama — but then that pretty much describes Dustin’s garden any time you visit.


 photo P1017577.jpg

Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ and Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’

 photo P1017544.jpg

Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ with Dustin’s hand-made totem towers

 photo P1017575.jpg

Cotyledon orbiculata var. flanaganii with mattress vine

 photo P1017584.jpg

Peachy Russellia equisetiformis and a golden Agave attenuata, possibly ‘Raea’s Gold,” with I think Sedum rubrotinctum

 photo P1017588.jpg

Dustin was way too busy hosting the soiree to be coralled into extended plant ID sessions like I normally do. So I’m hazarding that the shaggy beast in the far left container is Acacia cognata ‘Cousin Itt,’ with firesticks, Euphorbia tirucalli, and bowls of echeveria. A visit to Dustin’s garden always reminds one to go large. No itty-bitty gestures, please.

 photo P1017550.jpg

The Acacia pendula arbor over the main diagonal path in the front garden, seen from the front porch, to which the path runs roughly parallel.
The golden, glowing strip in the background lining another path to the back gate is variegated St. Augustine grass. Dustin recently pulled out assorted plants here to go for a bigger impact with this grass. A wise man, that Dustin.

 photo P1017558.jpg

Silvery ribbons of tillandsias and Spanish moss have been tied to delicately drape from the rebar arch.

 photo P1017595.jpg

The Acacia pendula, an Agave ‘Blue Glow’ surrounded by Frankenia thymifolia, a walkable ground cover Dustin uses to such good effect in creating quiet pools of visual rest. Possibly Leucadendron argenteum and burgundy dyckias in the background. The privet hedges enclosing the front garden are maturing and filling in, screening the garden from the busy street.

 photo P1017590.jpg

I have to admit I wasn’t too excited about the Gainey ceramic pots on pipes when I first saw them, but with the simplified planting underneath of Myer’s asparagus fern and variegated St. Augustine grass, I’ve become an enthusiastic convert.

 photo P1017552.jpg

The Crested Ligularia, Farfugium japonicum ‘Crispatum,’ and an equally crested ivy, pairing the frilly with the frillier.

 photo P1017553.jpg

 photo P1017571.jpg

Agave gypsophila and the Woolly Bush, Adenanthos sericeus. The silver trailer might be Lessingia filanginifolia.

 photo P1017566.jpg

Bocconia and Frankenia thymifolia engulfing circular stepping stones

Thanks to Dustin, after such a magical evening one can’t help but leave feeling…well, pollinated and fertile with new-found energy and ideas. And just a little hung over the next morning.

*And Annette’s marvelous post can be read on Potted’s blog.

Upcoming CSSA show at the Huntington

I won’t be able to attend the Cactus and Succulent Society of America show to be held at the Huntington Botanical Gardens June 28-30, 2013. But you should definitely go, for reasons photographed below. You will very likely find many of the same vendors I pestered with questions and be able to ogle the same plants I did last weekend at the Los Angeles Cactus and Succulent Society’s Drought Tolerant Plant Festival in Encino. If you can’t make it to the Huntington in June, don’t despair. There’s still the InterCity show and sale held at the Los Angeles Arboretum August 17th and 18th.

Reasons to attend:

 photo P1013916.jpg

The scrolled leaves on this bromeliad drew lots of attention.

 photo P1013936.jpg

But attention swiftly gets snagged on something else, such as the jagged leaves of a deep burgundy dyckia. And so it goes at a plant show.
Attention ricochets around the show room like protons in a Hadron collider.

 photo P1013915.jpg

Chartreuse leaves, burgundy thorns = love

 photo P1013917.jpg

From the bromeliad table

 photo P1014001.jpg

 photo P1014006.jpg

 photo P1013930.jpg

 photo P1013927.jpg

 photo P1013889.jpg

 photo P1013883.jpg

 photo P1013941.jpg

 photo P1013954.jpg

The aloe tables

 photo P1013955.jpg

 photo P1013957.jpg

 photo P1013947.jpg

A Stonehenge of lithops

 photo P1013961.jpg

Yes, even in the plant world there are winners and losers. Well, actually, the caretakers of the plants are the winners/losers.
Plants don’t care much about contests (except in the big, Darwinian sense).

 photo P1013944.jpg

The signage and information at this show was incredible.

 photo P1013968.jpg

 photo P1013980.jpg

A section of the show was devoted to engaging kids, and it was beautifully done

 photo P1013988.jpg

 photo P1013963.jpg

Kelly Griffin’s Agave ‘Snow Glow’

 photo P1013962.jpg

I should know this agave…(fingers drumming desk). Is it a cross of ferdinand-regis with scabra like ‘Sharkskin’?

 photo P1013897.jpg

 photo P1013987.jpg

Cactus and succulent shows have a unique pottery vernacular

 photo P1013893.jpg

 photo P1013925.jpg

 photo P1013894.jpg

There were a couple of these agaves for sale. ‘Blue Flame’ is one of my favorite agaves, so I lingered over this one.
It is beautiful, but I think I prefer a cleaner variegation. So nice to occasionally walk away from temptation.

 photo P1013994.jpg

A show with succulents and pelargoniums — what’s not to love?

> photo P1013902.jpg

 photo P1013899.jpg

 photo P1013900.jpg

 photo P1013890-001.jpg

Here is where I got into trouble, a display in the plant sales area of dyckias and hechtias

 photo P1013879.jpg

First off, I always mispronounce dyckia, like “dike” when it should be “dick.” You can probably imagine an easy mnemonic device for that one.

 photo P1013870.jpg

Second, I seriously coveted a plant that was off limits, display purposes only.

 photo P1013871.jpg

Hechtias, Mexican terrestrial bromeliads, are new to me, foreign and intriguing.

 photo P1013873.jpg

Bromeliad of desire, Hechtia glomerata.

 photo P1014018.jpg

Plant people understand such infatuation all too well and are more than willing to work something out.
A pup of the display-only Hechtia glomerata was removed, tagged, and bagged for a very reasonable price.

 photo P1013914.jpg

Last look at the one that got away, Agave ‘Streaker.’ I don’t think I’d have the strength to pass this one up again.


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.

 photo P1019965.jpg

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.

 photo P1019960.jpg

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

 photo P1019973.jpg

Agave americana ‘Variegata’

 photo P1019954.jpg

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. .

 photo P1019976.jpg

No ID aloe, crassulas, Senecio radicans

 photo P1019955.jpg

 photo P1010095.jpg

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.

 photo P1010957.jpg


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.

 photo P1019012.jpg

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

 photo P1010970.jpg

Echeveria agavoides

 photo P1011117.jpg

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.

 photo P1011119.jpg

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

 photo P1011132.jpg

Echeveria agavoides at the show

 photo P1011128.jpg

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


melianthus at the getty and other controversies

The incomparable Herb Ritts and Titian were also at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, and some of Marie Antoinette’s hand-me-down furniture too. I think it can be safely said that gardeners are connoisseurs of the perfect moment, and last Sunday was that most exquisite of summer days, not too hot, just senusally warm and breezy, appreciated even more today for the fleeting rarity it was now that this week has brought the first real heat wave we’ve had this summer, along the coast at least. I’ve had such a strong itch to get to a museum lately. Must be all the press about the new *Barnes museum that’s been trickling in since its unveiling this spring in Philadelphia, which I hear includes a garden also, though there’s been little press so far about that. What few photos I’ve seen of the new Barnes’ garden depict a contemplative, austere space, the antithesis of Robert Irwin’s kinetic, kaleidoscopic maze at the Getty Center (to distinguish it from the Getty Villa in Malibu). But the controversy surrounding the new home of the Barnes Foundation reminds me of the raging controversy that Irwin’s garden for the Getty provoked at its unveiling in 1997.

And then there’s art controversies of the compound leafy kind. Here’s the melianthus in question. With those narrow leaflets, it’s definitely not M. major, and I’m inclined to think it’s M. comosus.


Photobucket

One of the lazy assumptions I’m inclined to make, and unfortunately there are many, has been to assume that the other species of melianthus are not really worth growing if you can have M. major, but this one at the Getty might be changing my mind. Slimmer leaflets, not as lush but a little more succulent in feel, create an even stronger rhythmic pattern. I’m pretty sure the dense effect must have been obtained by cutting it back hard, because although it’s reputedly smaller in size than M. major, it does tend toward lankiness. (San Marcos Growers: “This plant looks best if pruned hard and is often treated more like a perennial than a shrub.”)


Photobucket

The melianthus was planted at the top of the walkway leading down to the maze. This sylvan walkway flanking a tumbling stream is redolent with the fragrance of the London Plane trees lining either side, that strong scent of sycamore which to me will always be the perfume of summer and rivers.

Photobucket

The stream hidden by the London Plane trees runs the entire length of the garden, ending in a dramatic spill into the azalea labyrinth.

Photobucket

At the top, under the dappled shade of the sycamores, the Cor-Ten-bounded walkway plantings are filled with the strong leafy shapes of succulents, begonias, hellebores.

Photobucket

Hirsute Echeveria setosa, silvery dyckias, paddle plant Kalanchoe luciae, and a few blades of ophiopogon, the Black Mondo Grass.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Begonias and variegated ginger

Photobucket

Astelia and persicaria

Photobucket

That lovely sycamore scent eventually gets supplanted by the overpoweringly skunky notes of variegated tulbaghia as you descend down the walkway toward the Central Garden. The mass planting of society garlic shimmering in the shifting light amidst the slender trunks of crepe myrtle trees is an undeniably powerful effect after the complex plantings of the upper walkway.

Photobucket


The improbable azalea maze in blinding full sun. Cotinus ‘Golden Spirit’ on the left. Purple blur in the distant background on the left is tibouchina, the princess flower, whose leaves were burning in the strong sunlight. The maze garden started looking its best towards closing time at 5:30 p.m. During the summer, this Getty is open til 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

Photobucket

I can’t say the summer plantings of mostly dahlias were my favorite part of the garden, probably because I had just seen dahlias grown to perfection under the kinder skies of the Pacific Northwest. The effect was more of a shabby cutting garden, but the public seemed happy enough with the results. Irwin’s design calls for these labor-intensive, concentric borders surrounding the azalea pool to provide a triumphant and dizzying swirl of shape and color under a strong Mediterranean sun, and that’s a tall order. I think it’d be fantastic as a semi-desert garden, but the public might call foul. Art critic Christopher Knight had this to say about Irwin’s “folly” when it faced a barrage of criticism at its unveiling over a decade ago, and not for the plantings but for its very existence and the exuberant, almost comic contrast it presented to Meier’s stark, monumental architecture: “The great thing about a garden folly is that it’s, well, a folly. In a world of practical decorum, rationalism suddenly doesn’t apply. When the folly is conceived as the garden itself, rather than a discrete structure within a garden, then be prepared to suspend every expectation.” (Quote obtained here.)

On the path behind the massed society garlic, overlooking brugmansias, cannas, and a pomegranate tree to the giant bougainvillea rebar arbors.


Photobucket

Always fascinating to uncover the multiple, shifting perspectives in Robert Irwin’s garden.

Photobucket

Photobucket

This visit I was struck by the sensitive treatment of trees, whether silhouetted against Meier’s exquisite travertine limestone or weeping into clean-swept expanses of decomposed granite, like these California pepper trees.

Photobucket

Photobucket

On the upper terraces closer to the museum, a bank of large pots massed together were planted simply and effectively with tough, scrubby stuff like helichrysum and Pelargonium sidoides.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Museum fatigue usually hits me after an hour or so, but not this day. Even after five hours, I had to be reminded by security guards that the museum was closing and it was time to get a move on. The Herb Ritts photography exhibit closes September 2, 2012.

*Christopher Knight, art critic for the Los Angeles Times, is one of the diehard defenders of Albert Barnes’ original vision for his art collection. His review of the relocation of the collection to a new building in Philadelphia includes some helpful context for some of the timeless issues encapsulated in the debate over the Barnes collection: “Typical museums juxtapose art objects according to traditional knowledge categories like period, style or place. Not Barnes. His irreverent inventiveness used formal qualities — physical context, color, line, composition, texture, scale, space, etc. — to jump-start imagination. The result demanded that a visitor look and look hard.”

For more background on the Barnes, here’s a trailer to the controversial documentary entitled “The Art of the Steal.”

A Memorable Day at the HBG

Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino (Pasadena), California.

With the Palo Verde in bloom among golden barrel cactus, I felt like I’d stumbled onto the gardens of the Lost City of Coronado.

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Orange and gold. Forests of orange dyckias in bloom. Towering chartreuse plumes of Nolina interrata.

PhotobucketPhotobucket


Reasons for making a visit this weekend: The Huntington’s new sustainable urban agriculture exhibit, The Ranch, was opening this weekend, only to be open to the public thereafter the fourth Saturday of every month. The exhibit “Three Fragments of a Lost Tale; Sculpture and Story,” by John Frame, was ending this month. The puyas were in bloom (more photos to come). What other reasons can one possibly need?

MB Maher was in town to finish a project and came along with his camera. These are all his photos and bear his watermark. We saw everything but The Ranch — which seems as mythical to me now as The Lost City of Coronado, (a New World city rumored to be built of gold somewhere in New Mexico, a fatally alluring myth to conquistadors who’d recently looted what the Inca had wrought in gold. Small plot point in third Indiana Jones movie.) When asked, no guide knew where it was. It was not indicated on the hand-out maps. I knew it was near the Children’s Garden, which I circled endlessly. At one point, I found a small sign at knee level lettered with “The Ranch” and an arrow which pointed towards an orange grove just beyond the Children’s Garden, a grove currently being irrigated. We wandered in said orange grove dodging sprinklers for quite a while, until frustration overtook us. MB Maher napped under a tree while I tried asking different docents, circled the Children’s Garden again, wandered off pathways past “No entry” signs, etc., until my feet could take no more. Irritating, yes, but some fourth Saturday of the month I will return and find The Lost Ranch of the Huntington. My niece graduated this weekend with a degree in sustainable agriculture, and I wanted to write her a letter with an account of what sounds like an exciting new addition.

Warming Up

Edging into the high 80’s the next couple days here at the coast, about a mile from the Pacific, in the 90’s for the inland cities like Pasadena.
The castor bean plant and Salvia canariensis are reveling in the heat, leaving little ground uncovered.

Photobucket

Salvia canariensis should be in bloom in a couple weeks.

Photobucket

The annual quaking grass, Briza maxima, self-sown, ripening in the heat.

Photobucket

Grapevine already past the top of the pergola. Beans, squash, and kale in the silver circular containers (air vents).

Photobucket

Solanum marginatum, about 4X4 feet of undulating leaf.

Photobucket

Unlike me, dyckia welcomes the heat, sending up a half dozen bloom stalks, this photo a couple weeks’ old.
This garden has been thinned a bit since this photo was taken. Stipa gigantea leaning in on the left.

Photobucket

The leeks undulating even more wildly in the heat.

Photobucket

This spring I’ve craved pots of wispy, diaphanous annuals like linaria, anagallis.
This is Linaria ‘Licilia Peach’ with potted agaves and Senecio medley-woodii.

Photobucket

Photobucket

As a kid, I loathed summers in Los Angeles. It’s taken decades for me to warm up to the prospect each year.
Having a garden of my own is probably solely responsible for changing my mind. Plants like these make it…bearable.