Tag Archives: Ein the corgi

Ethan Hawke fondles switchgrass at the High Line

There’s an attention grabber. No, that’s not a recent tabloid headline and, yes, I am being facetious, but I find it amazing that the High Line (and switchgrass!) is casually slipped into a bit of puffery about the current goings-on of Ethan Hawke.

From the May 13, 2013, issue of The New Yorker: “Ethan Hawke traipsed the High Line with his hands in his pockets, his blue-gray eyes wide in the strong morning light…Knifing through a bed of switchgrass, he observed…”

No further explanation of what the High Line is, or what switchgrass is for that matter (panicum). It’s just assumed we’ll know — or should know.

In the land of public opinion, the High Line has been an idea in transit, moving relatively swiftly from an impossible feat to a controversial instigator of gentrification, now coasting and settling into a beloved space mentioned in articles about film stars. I’ve been a fan every step of the way. Will the High Line be the impetus for plants and landscapes to begin to share a little space in the collective cultural mind, alongside film stars and cat videos? Wouldn’t that be something? Can headlines like “Autumn crocus now in bloom at the High Line!” be far off?

I’ll always read any piece on Ethan Hawke, because of all the Chekhov plays he’s been doing, because of the Before Sunrise/Sunset movies and Gattaca, and because of the film version he made of Jack London’s White Fang, in which at 21 he costarred with the incomparable Klaus Maria Brandauer and that equally incomparable actor Jed, the wolf mix that played White Fang. The scene where Jed rescues Ethan from a mine collapse is especially riveting, as is the scene when Jed dispatches the bad guys.

But I had no idea Ethan Hawke had narrated a history of the High Line. I suppose his movie Chelsea Walls was a tipoff to his involvement in the neighborhood.

There is something so emotionally satisfying about moving through a landscape — which is why I think there’s something uniquely American about the High Line and its contribution to landscape design. Footfall after footfall expectation builds, scent and sound are stirred, memories too. Memories like walking to and from school on paths through empty fields, an interlude of intense freedom bracketed by responsibility at both departure and arrival. Even in a tiny garden like mine, moving through a landscape is embarking on a journey of discovery. Cutting a little path through the main border and scaling the plants down to knee-high at the path’s edge has been an interesting and rewarding experiment this year.

Where the bricks end is where the new path begins, maybe 8 feet in curved length. It’s really just a dog track in width now that summer growth is spilling onto it, fit for corgi-sized adventures.

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Summer gardens and parks, coming soon to a neighborhood near you.

dog days of summer take toll on local nursery

I’ve been scouring local nurseries for calamint recently and stopped by Brita’s Old Town Gardens in Seal Beach, California, last week as the likeliest possible local source for Calamintha nepeta. Brita always has interesting stuff, the kind of plants the chain nurseries don’t even know exist. No calamint this time, but there were some gallons of the Achillea ‘Terracotta,’ which I’m planning for large drifts next year. I grabbed a couple gallons of the yarrow, at which point Brita informed me she’d be having a big sale this weekend, and to come back then for a better deal.

Which says it all about Brita: knowledgeable, great eye for plants, scrupulously honest and fair.
There were also a couple large, ever-spendy Albizia ‘Summer Chocolate’ that I was hoping to catch marked down.

photo found here.

Saturday was busy all day, but I returned early Sunday, to find a huge banner on the fence with the icy words LIQUIDATION SALE, along with this little note attached to the fence:

“I love what I do, I enjoy all the reasons you come to visit this
nursery, but this summer’s heat has kept most of you at bay.

To stock for the next season;
Everything and Anything that is not tied down is on Sale.

This is a Liquidity Event!!!

Iron display stands, the Old Metal Gazebos are up for grabs. Amazing pots can be yours!

Many ‘One of a Kind Items’ so come early for the best selection.”

Last week Brita hadn’t mentioned the sale was anything but a routine end-of-summer sale. As soon as the gates opened (yes, I was that early), I rushed up to Brita and stammered, “You know, for a minute there, seeing that banner, I thought you might be…I thought this was…but when I read the little note I realized you’re just clearing stuff out for the new season. What a relief!”

Brita replied, “Actually, no. If this sale doesn’t do the trick, I’m done. On top of the recession, with the extreme heat of the last two months and everyone just staying home, I can’t buy in new stock for fall. We sold about one-sixth of what we needed to sell yesterday. Tell your friends.”

My stomach hurt all day Sunday after hearing this news. Sure, there’s always mail order sources for rare and hard-to-find plants, but there’s no substitute for browsing at a good nursery. For example, I’ve read catalogue descriptions of Phylica pubescens before and been intrigued, but it was only after seeing it at Brita’s yesterday that I became truly smitten with this tender South African shrub for zones 9 and 10. (The unsuspecting ballota that had this spot in my garden Saturday had become woody, so it was about time to remove it anyway. Both the ballota and phylica are wonderfully textural and fuzzy, though the phylica may get taller, possibly up to 5 feet.)


Brita’s prices are going to continue to drop until…well, the future is uncertain at this point, and let’s not dwell on that. If I had any shade left, I’d have brought home Bergenia ciliata, which I’d only read about before, and if I had any more room for trees that dark-leaved mimosa would be mine. There’s tree aloes, more South African shrubs, huge agaves, a wonderfully curated succulent selection, ironwork, enormous pots. This is my selfish appeal to supporters of independent nurseries to get over to Brita’s ASAP!

Brita’s Old Town Gardens
225 Main Street
Seal Beach, California 90740
Monday – Saturday
9:00 AM to 5:00 PM
10:00 AM to 5:00 PM

(562) 430-5019

It’s not as easy for small, independent nurseries to recover from the dog days of summer as it is for…well, small dogs.


Update 11/4/12 – The “Liquidation” sign has been removed. Noted was a small sign advising “Christmas trees available November 23.” Fingers crossed…