Tag Archives: Dymondia margaretae

Pepper Tree courtyard

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Spotted locally around dusk, a front-house courtyard with Pepper Tree (Schinus molle), stone paving “grouted” with Dymondia margaretae.

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Planting includes euphorbias, agaves, phormiums (or dianella) a small Cercis ‘Forest Pansy,’ and purple irises in bloom near the side gate.
There may possibly be bauhinias as well (pink flowers at roof height).

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Plantings are repeated the length of the entrance garden, including a cercis on either side of the front walkway, another pepper tree at the far end.
Aeonium-filled black urns flank the arched entranceway.

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It struck me as such a vibrant example of reimagining the space from the front door to the sidewalk.
Imagine how dreary and perfunctory the same images would be if replaced with lawn.
Private yet still inviting, full of interest but mindful of an overall quiet balance, showcase and shady retreat in one stroke. Nailed it!


streetside; rainy day house & gardens

alluding to Joni Mitchell’s Rainy Night House
I recently read that Taylor Swift wanted the part in a movie on Mitchell.
I see Swift’s photo all over the Internet, but it wasn’t until Sunday that I finally heard one of her songs on the car radio.
Yes, I do live in a pop culture-free bubble, not always by choice. All I’m going to say is, thank god Mitchell refused. (Oh, the travesty!)

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Rainy day house’s front garden in Venice; dymondia, agaves, sticks on fire, with a hedge of Acacia iteaphylla on the chimney side

I just had one of those Sunday afternoons where an absurd number of destinations are optimistically crammed into a 4-hour window.
The forecast was, again, possible showers.

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The clouds did open at Big Daddy’s

The itinerary:

1. Check out International Garden Center near LAX (done)
2. On to Culver City and Big Daddy’s (I became lost for quite some time but eventually found that weird intersection near National)
3. Cruise the streets of Mar Vista, which has an excellent garden tour coming up this spring.
(I got tired of driving aimlessly and gave up. I’ll have to wait for the tour map. See Dates to Remember for upcoming tour April 25.)
4. Stop by Big Red Sun in Venice (too much traffic on Lincoln Blvd., gave up.)

And did I mention it was raining? Los Angeles drivers, whenever challenged by the smallest drops of moisture from the sky…oh, never mind.

International Nursery had a $30 protea in a one-gallon in bloom, simply labeled “Orange Protea.” Tempting.
And not a bad price for the plant, seeing that 7 stems of proteas go for $100 as cutflowers

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Merwilla plumbea nee Scilla natalensis.
I always plant new stuff out within a couple days. I hate waking up to the rebuke of homeless plants in nursery gallons.

I eventually dropped the protea for this South African bulb, Scilla natalensis. San Marcos Growers says it’s rarely dormant. The leaves are wide, almost eucomis-like.
My problem with Scilla peruviana has been placement that allows for its dormancy needs, which means having a big gap in summer.
The peruviana have ended up against the fence under the lemon cypress, not optimal conditions for a sun-loving bulb. It’ll be exciting to watch this one’s performance.

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International’s Annie’s Annuals section is by far the best I’ve seen at SoCal nurseries.
I grabbed a couple Asphodeline luteas again, though I think I’ve established beyond doubt the asphodels will only curl up their toes for me.
I can’t remember if I’ve tried spring planting before though.
The asphodel is now rivaling dierama for number of kills in my garden.
But memory is still fresh of Asphodeline lutea in Portland, Oregon last summer, photo above.

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Pots on spiral staircase at Big Daddy’s

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Though there’s plenty of the ornate, BD has a nice selection of unadorned but aged-looking planters.

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I’ll take all three of these metal tubs, please.

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Giving up on fighting traffic enroute to Big Red Sun, I drove through a couple streets in Venice.
Thundery skies and bright orange, thunbergia-covered walls.

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And fabulous streetside succulent gardens like this one.

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Big clump of the slipper plant, Pedilanthus bracteatus

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The long parkway was dotted with multiples of the Mexican Blue Palm, Brahea armata

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I once came very close to painting my house these colors, an agave grey-blue and mossy green.

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Aloe marlothii

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The coral aloe, A. striata

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I may not have made it to every stop on the itinerary, but it was still a fine rainy day in LA.

streetside with grasses and succulents

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Because of this house, I spent a good part of yesterday afternoon trying to source a flat of Sesleria autumnalis or Sesleria ‘Greenlee.’
No luck yet, but I will not be deterred.

Continue reading streetside with grasses and succulents

garden notes 12/30/13

Over the holidays, daytime temps have been hovering around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Considering my sister-in-law’s flight into Los Angeles from Cody, Wyoming, was delayed by storms for four days, it seems churlish to complain about the warm weather. I’ll just say that it was intensely exciting to see wisps of fog begin to blow in from the ocean Saturday afternoon, starting out thin, like faint smoke signals, then quickly bulking up into billows large enough to trigger the foghorns. At this dessicated point mid winter, I gladly welcome moisture in whatever form it chooses to come.

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Cussonia gamtoosensis as fog-catcher

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Still young, crooked, and gawky, the canopy should broaden substantially by next winter.


I transplanted both of my South African cussonias, C. paniculata and gamtoosensis, into the garden over the summer. These evergreen mountain cabbage trees are stunning in containers and are worth the trouble of hauling in for the winter where not hardy. Odd that they are seen more often as conservatory plants in colder climates than they are here in Los Angeles, where they need no protection during winter. I’ve become less inclined to water containers all year, so the cussonias were planted in the garden when each had attained enough size and height so as not to appear absurdly puny in the landscape. The paniculata inexplicably declined almost overnight, with the caudex collapsing and turning to mush. Full sun too strong? Clay soil too heavy? Because of its caudiciform ways (swollen base of main stem for water storage), I may have mistakenly assumed it preferred dryish soil after transplanting it into the garden, because now I’m finding lots of references that say otherwise. Not that I’m shirking blame, but the paniculata was a weak grower even when pampered in a pot. The gamtoosensis has been much easier, steadily gorgeous every inch of its growth, whether in container or garden, and now is almost 5 feet tall. (Please, please don’t try anything inexplicable now, okay?) Mine was found in a remaindered section at a local nursery but was grown by Annie’s Annuals & Perennials.

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Something else new for pots, a dwarf, very blue form of Agave guadalarajana with burgundy teeth and spines named ‘Leon.’ Monterey Bay Nursery’s label says ultimate size 2X2 for this “Maguey Chato.” From tissue culture by the wizards at Rancho Soledad. Cyrus Pringle collected this agave near Guadalajara for the Smithsonian in 1893. A devout Quaker, Mr. Pringle is one of the “top five historical botanists for quantity of new species discovered,” with quite a lot of his collecting done in Mexico. Winter is the perfect time to read about Tintin-like botanist adventurers. Which reminds me that finding a comfortable pair of hiking boots is resolution No. 1 for the new year.

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Also from Mexico, Echeveria agavoides is unsnaking bloom stalks to dangle its tiny flower rattles. When a group is in bloom, the various twisting, goose-neck stalks are charming contrast to their solid, ground-hugging attributes. This echeveria was given the RHS Award of Garden Merit in 1993 as “suitable for growing under glass.”

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In the last week of December, Agave desmettiana opened its pollen pop-up shop for the bees. The bloom stalk is approx 15 feet tall. Not at all sure what to plant here, if anything, when it dies after flowering. I’m leaning toward a low and silvery carpet of Dymondia margaretae to show off the acacia that will take over here.

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And there’s been lots of puttering with odds and ends collected from plant shows over the summer.

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And experiments with catching the amazingly luminous, low-angled light these last days of 2013.

history of my garden, part VIII

I decided last year that I needed to break up the big border that covers most of the back garden and carve a narrow, oblique path through part of it. Nothing formal and really just an access path, curving probably not more than 10 feet in length. As I’ve mentioned frequently before, this is after all a small urban garden, really just a small patch to experiment and play with plants. And the plants I wanted to grow now and walk among in summer were tough things like nepetas, yarrows and eucomis, of just the right stature for lining a little path, with bigger plants like melianthus further back. There once was a relatively broad, bricked path that arched through the whole back garden like a terracotta crescent moon, that the boys used to pull wagons and race scooters on, but I began pulling it up, small stretches at a time, when the scooters were put away for good and I had an itch to claim more ground to grow big plants that grew head-high by late summer, so the garden would undergo dramatic, seasonal transformations, just like the rest of my life seemed to constantly undergo. Lately I’ve wanted to scale most of the back garden to knee-high or no more than thigh-high by mid-summer, punctuated by tall grasses and mediumish shrubs. It’s all very vague, isn’t it, these intimations about how we want to feel in a garden/landscape? At least for me it is. But I love to see the changes in spatial character and how the different plants relate to each other with these constantly shifting strategies.

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This new little path’s progress interests me very much. Half of it was planted with foot-tolerant dymondia as an experiment, which has performed so well that now the other half has been completed with plugs of dymondia pulled from the established plantings. A couple salvaged street grates/manhole covers serve as stepping stones.
Seedlings are coming up everywhere, including the ribs/interstices of one of the grates.

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Salvia canariensis var. candissima seeded into the dymondia, where it most certainly cannot remain, as it will eventually tower over 7 feet in height and width.

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Closeup of this salvia’s bloom from May 2011

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Geranium maderense ‘Alba’ seedlings are coming up in profusion. I potted a few up for the flea market.

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And what this geranium will look like in bloom in its second year, after which it dies off but flings its progeny in all directions.
Maturing to a rotund 5 by 5 feet, only a couple seedlings of the multitudes it sends forth can be kept.

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Just barely glimpsed in the top left of the photo with the grate is one of several Echeveria agavoides I planted along the path mid summer, now almost completely overgrown. The bright red edge brought on by the cold nights betrayed their hiding place this morning, alerting me to the need to move them soon before they’re completely engulfed and forgotten.

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Also along this little path is a crassula (is it Crassula perforata?) that has taught me something interesting. In a pot, it was constantly neglected and forgotten, and I became increasingly exasperated with it, to the point that I removed it from its pot and sat the rootball on a shallow depression in an old concrete footing. I liked the way it looked at the path’s edge and at that point didn’t care that it would soon die from such treatment, or so I assumed. The succulent surprised me by actually rooting into the concrete, and now the two are one. It survived the past summer with next-to-no water. And now I’m much more interested in this heroic performance than I ever was growing it in a pot.

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Not far from the crassula, under this blanket of Plectranthus neochilus the stump of the smoke tree ‘Grace’ quietly decomposes. The stump sent out shoots all last spring, but the plectranthus eventually smothered it entirely. ‘Grace’ turned out to be way too much tree for this tiny back garden, and I think my neighbors on either side would emphatically agree.

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A couple feet more down the path, recently planted Coprosma ‘Plum Hussy’ gets even plummier as the nights grow chillier

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All those bricks that have enabled my whims concerning changing the size and scale of hardscape over the years were recently put to use at the front of the house, on the west side, dry laid on a bed of sand to fill a wide border between the house and driveway, where I used to grow, among other things, a Magnolia liliflora ‘Nigra.’ It hated the strong western exposure and dryish soil, and protested by always looking like a white-fly-infested abomination, except for February when the those exquisite eggplant-colored goblets covered the shrub. And recently banishing plants from close proximity to the crumbling foundations has become an urgent priority, so the entire border between the driveway and house has now been bricked over. Bricks aren’t my preferred color or style for paths and patios, but they’re cheap and versatile when dry laid on sand, make a permeable surface, and are about as close to hardscape Legos as one can get. I can always do these small projects myself quickly and with minimal assistance.

I was being facetious of course with the title of this post, but after proofing it, it turns out not by much. I meant to write about just the crassula but got a bit carried away with that little path’s back story…

scenes from the garden 7/6/13

There’s an unspoken Upstairs/Downstairs, front garden/back garden dynamic at home, as I suspect there is with most hands-on gardens. Most of the front garden isn’t tinkered with much anymore, needs little attention, more of just keeping an eye on sizes. I rarely think to chronicle the front garden, and the dyckias bloomed this year without a single photo. But the light was especially burnished last night. Just to the right of the phormium there once grew an enormous leucadendon, something I’ve been mulling over since touring Bay Area gardens full of members of the wonderful Proteaceae family such as leucadendrons, leucospermums, banksii, proteas. There was once a large leucadendron in the back garden too. I miss them both. In the front garden the leucadendron grew much too large for its position, but in the back garden it was removed for a different reason. That reason revolves around the constant tension between the tantalizing beauty of shrubs and other big, long-term plants and wanting to retain space for the spontaneity of ephemeral self-seeders, new plant enthusiasms and acquisitions. One approach produces eventual boredom and the other always brings some regret. For now, I seem to prefer regret to boredom, but that could easily change.


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Phormium ‘Alison Blackman,’ Agaves ‘Blue Glow,’ Furcraea macdougalii, assorted sotols, aloes, dyckias, succulents. Not much work or attention is needed with the front garden. (Kind of an “empty nest” feeling here.)

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At the site where the leucadendron once grew to a size of 6X6 feet in the front garden, Echeveria agavoides and Dymondia margaretae are covering the ground on a much smaller scale and injecting some breathing room into the plantings. I did tuck in a tiny Euphorbia atropurpurea here, just brought home from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials. All last summer I chased this plant locally from cactus show to cactus show after seeing it at the Huntington. I’d given up on finding it but then there it was at Annie’s, bless her exotic plant-loving heart.

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The back garden is where I change things up every year, try out new plants like this tall, sticky-leaved Cuphea viscosissima, started from seed this spring, or combine familiar plants in new ways.

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Remember that tree that toppled mid-June? This green aeonium and a couple ‘Blue Fortune’ agastaches were just moved into the vacuum.
Even aside from falling trees, the back garden is in constant flux and frequently gets churned up with new plantings.

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The small purple buds mingling with the agastaches are from Calamintha nepeta ‘Gottlieb Friedkund.’ I’ve grown calamints before, but I don’t remember them having the dark purple flower buds as on this one, Calamintha nepeta ‘Gottlieb Friedkund.’ I keep breaking off a leaf and sniffing it, expecting it to smell like a mislabeled oregano, but it’s the unmistakably minty scent of a calamint. Digging Dog is where I ordered mine last fall. I’m smitten by this one and would love a bigger swath of it.

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Eucomis have started to bloom, another plant designated for the back garden so its leaves can die back gracefully.

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Never pretend that the things you haven’t got are not worth having.” – Virginia Woolf, The Diary, Vol. 2: 1920-1924

In writing those words, Woolf was probably thinking of the children doctors advised her not to have, but I always find them useful in any situation requiring critical honesty.

I never like to pretend that things I haven’t got are not worth having. A bigger garden, for example, would be very much worth having, but I think I can hum along just fine as things stand, with very little boredom and manageable regret. Travel for me always results in turning over choices and tapping them for soundness. But coming home I’m always reminded that to have any garden at all is such an amazing gift.

driveby gardens; more on the disappearing lawn

I got a very late start on the self-guided Lawn-to-Garden tour Saturday, thirty gardens from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., just because Friday was an unusually odd workday and I lingered and wallowed far too long in the glory of being home Saturday morning.


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There might have been some extended Saturday morning puttering with hanging tillandsias on maritime salvage.

Continue reading driveby gardens; more on the disappearing lawn

driveby garden 11/2/12

Bicycling past this house a couple days ago, I made a hard U-turn to check out the swath of silvery groundcover running alongside the sidewalk underplanting a couple shrubs. It’s probably a variety of Gazania rigens. As an inveterate plant collector who tends to overly complicate things, I love to see simple ideas executed so well. (See and admire them, not necessarily live with them. I’d probably require extensive psychoanalysis if I couldn’t continually mess around and complicate things in the garden.)


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Parking the bike is when I noticed the nice detail of the two mustard-colored, square ceramic containers holding a collection of various orbs flanking the pathway.

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The flagstone/decomposed granite pathway runs through what would traditionally be the front lawn, bisecting the silvery gazanias adjacent to the sidewalk on one side and low-lying grasses and other ground covers adjacent to the house on the other side, taking one to the main front walkway. This is a corner lot, which allows for lots of scope to build up the simple rhythm of rivers of silver, shrubs, and a couple small crepe myrtle trees on either side of the front walkway.

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The shrubs underplanted with gazania might be Melaleuca nesophila. Further down can be seen the bark of crepe myrtles.

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Large pots planted with succulents including Kalanchoe luciae and Senecio radicans, flank the steps to the front door.
The container harmonizes with the beautiful bark of the crepe myrtle.

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That same day, at a different house, I found a parkway squared away with Dymondia margaretae and succulents. Marty has complained bitterly about the feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) I’ve planted in our parkway, whose seedheads completely engulf and attach to lower legs exiting cars. Clever seed dispersal tactic, but really annoying when you’re dressed for work. The gazania or dymondia are definitely being considered as replacements, but the dymondia has the edge since it can tolerate light foot traffic.


Venice Garden & Home Tour 2012 (street view)

A little prelude to upcoming posts on this tour held last Saturday in Venice, California. None of these homes were on the tour. They just happened to be located in the neighborhoods we toured through. Venice oozes a love of plants and gardens. This is the third year I’ve posted on this tour for the blog, and previous posts can be found here and here. The few photos not bearing photographer MB Maher’s watermark were taken by me.

The weighty symmetry of two large agaves flanking the walkway to this front door we passed slowed me down. Agaves look a lot like A. salmiana, possibly ‘Green Giant’ or ‘Mr. Ripple.’ Dark red leaves from Euphorbia cotinifolia. Also with Euphorbia characias and coral aloes.


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Euphorbia cotinifolia at another house, cut back hard or “stooled.” In my back garden a 15-foot Euphorbia cotinifolia is given the space to grow as a tree and is just now leafing out. With Agave attentuata and Mexican feather grass, Stipa tenuissima.

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Same house. Chartreuse shrub is the common tender bedding plant Helichrysum petiolare ‘Limelight.’ Silvery succulents probably dudleyas.

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Concrete pavers outlined in Dymondia margaretae. A front-yard lawn in Venice is a rare sight.

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Graveled-over front garden. Pirate foot locker for seating on the porch.

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More dymondia, which tolerates light foot traffic.

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Some of the sidewalks almost required a machete to navigate. Orange blur at the end is Thunbergia gregorii.
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Echiums in the parkway/hell strip.
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Agaves underplanted with succulents and gazanias.

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Must be an acacia.

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Lots of Euphorbia characias on the tour. This one in a hell strip looked like it might be the selection ‘Portugese Velvet’

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More posts later this week on houses and gardens on the tour. Out of 32 houses on the tour, we saw maybe a half dozen. Some we just couldn’t bear to leave. Like Molly Reid and Cliff Garten’s home and studio, up next.


Walk the Walk

Long Beach Water Department is leading by example to gently ease citizens out of the mindset that wants to seed or unroll mowable turf grass as the default landscape. Who else is better positioned to educate the public on alternative landscapes for those expansive lawns that just won’t cut it anymore on Southern California’s average rainfall of 15 inches a year? At their own offices, this is exactly what they’ve done. Nothing fancy, no prohibitively expensive hardscape to dash low-budget hopes, just old-fashioned, solid plantsmanship.

During some errands yesterday, I stopped by their offices on 1800 E. Wardlow in Long Beach, which are tucked quite a ways back from the road.
If it wasn’t for this Agave vilmoriniana waving at me, I might have driven right on by.

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Thyme interplanted among pavers and possibly a yellow gazania. Unlike thyme, Dymondia magaretae tolerates foot traffic. Here bordered by grasses and gaura.

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Dendromecon rigida with the beach aster, Erigeron glaucus, in the background, a line of newly planted dudleyas barely visible to the left.
Decomposed granite paths weave among the plantings.

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C’mon, men. Don’t mow your landscape, play with it. Drop the mower, put on a loincloth and build a cairn. You know you’ve always wanted to, but cairns just look silly on lawns and need to be surrounded by something windswept. Now grab a Guinness and admire your handiwork.

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In the first photo above, grasses are a blue fescue and Stipa tenuissima, the latter getting the haircut treatment my husband gives ours in the parkway. Many Southern California designers are no longer utilizing this potentially invasive stipa, but you have to give it credit for its role as a gateway grass, building further interest in bunch grasses. As far as I can tell, it is universally beloved by all who see and touch it.

Second photo above: Ocotillo, Fonquieria splendens underplanted with Sedum rubrotinctum (‘Pork and Beans’) and Graptopetalum paraguayense (‘Ghost Plant’).

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The plantings were a mix of natives and exotics, including the Chilean Calandrinia grandiflora, magenta flowers in the above photo, as well as the New Zealand sedge, Carex testacea not pictured. Some native plants that were not photographed included toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia (fronted by a big planting of Lobelia laxiflora), Salvia clevelandii, Salvia spathacea, Agaves shawii and deserti.