Tag Archives: Hesperaloe parviflora

the new courthouse

Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse, Long Beach, California

The old, crumbling, brutalist-era courthouse where I did a lot of jury duty time was finally, mercifully shuttered, its broken escalators never to confound us again, and the new courthouse went up a couple blocks from the old one, officially opening last September 2013. It’s a massive building, meant to absorb the judicial business of many other tributary courthouses in the Los Angeles Superior Court system that have been closed due to budgetary cutbacks. (All these closures have reminded many again of the truism that “justice delayed is justice denied.”)


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The only public entrance, with its jutting promontory, the ipe-lined overhang, facing east on Magnolia, photo via here

For months I admired the new courthouse from a distance, as I whizzed by in the car to and from the nearby freeway onramp. Compared to the dreary old courthouse, this gleaming glass facade seemed to have more in common with an opera house. Driving on the south side of the new courthouse on Broadway a few weeks ago, I noticed the parkway in bloom with hesperaloe and made a mental note to walk the perimeter that weekend. When I finally did a few laps around the courthouse late in the day on a Saturday, I was so impressed with the landscape architecture that I spent the next week researching the LA responsible, a straightforward-enough question that proved surprisingly frustrating to find an answer to. It turns out the answer was buried in the question. I couldn’t find a name for the landscape architect because the multidisciplinary engineering firm that designed the courthouse, AECOM, is headed by a landscape architect and urban planner, Joseph E. Brown, FASLA. That the building seemed to me so thoroughly integrated with the landscape architecture was because it was conceived that way, literally from the ground up. AECOM’s chief executive, Mr. Brown described his vision for AECOM in a 2009 interview published by ASLA’s The Dirt, Uniting the Built and Natural Environments; “Peering into the Future: An Interview with Joseph E. Brown, FASLA.”*

As a landscape architect and urban designer, I’ll be in charge of the entire set of capabilities including architecture, building engineering, design, planning, economics, and program management. I’ll be leveling the playing field among disciplines as opposed to the current cafeteria-style model of practice, which is inflexible and hierarchical. In our future, engineering and architecture will be calibrated with science, counterbalanced with the fields of ecology and landscape.”

As the comments to the interview show, not everyone agrees with Mr. Brown’s opinion that it will take mega, multidisciplinary firms like his to handle the complex design challenges of 21st century projects. It’s an intriguing proposition guaranteed to piss off principals of boutique firms. And there will be built-in suspicion for any corporate entity that proclaims their enormous size will be both to their benefit and ours (society’s). All matters for future reading and investigation. All I know is what I’ve linked here. And that the courthouse was delivered ahead of schedule.

Continue reading the new courthouse

saturday’s clippings 5/12/12

Quote of the week: “I can’t believe I burned down a tree older than Jesus,” philosophized a 26-year-old woman who torched a 3,500-year-old bald cypress known as The Senator last January, one of the 10 oldest trees on earth, while smoking a meth pipe in the tree’s hollow trunk. Orlando Sentinel story here.

Update on car jack stand planters written about here in Succulent Experiments. The repurposed window screen may cause the soil to dry out too quickly even for succulents. Growth seems to be in reverse gear rather than forward, so time to try something else. The pale green Crassula expansa never regained that lovely fluffiness. Full disclosure is in order because that post still gets an amazing number of hits. (Almost as many as The Tree Collard. Who knew?)

Artichokes were everywhere on garden tours this year. These chokes were growing in a hell strip devoted solely to artichokes.
(Doesn’t that make it a heaven strip?)

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Is it me, or does the subject of gardens and landscapes seem overly weighted down with polemics? Fashion, music, cooking, design — there’s controversy and sustainability subtext in some of these areas as well, and rightly so, but with gardens it seems to get especially overwrought. Be prepared to stand your ground among the welter of categories used like accusations: design-driven, plant-driven, natives, non-natives, edible, ornamental. Granted, with a garden comes responsibility for the health of the soil, creatures, finite resources — but after that’s been reasonably sorted out, I say let it rip. How to describe this approach? Maybe a good analogy to this unapologetically flashy kind of gardening I love is pop music — changeable, not meant to last, absorbing influences from all over the globe, interested in color and rhythm, no purpose other than to get your toe tapping and your eye dancing. Not monumental but fleeting. Riffing on the seasons. Pop gardening? Maybe I just need a break from garden tours for a while.

At home, summer’s jungle quickens. This castor bean plant which lives over frost-free year to frost-free year is already a small tree in May, about 8 feet high. With the trunk growing thick and woody, this will be its last summer then I’ll start over with some of the progeny that sprout around its base. The deep color of the castor bean seedlings has been true to its namesake ‘New Zealand Purple.’ Barely room enough for two in the back garden.

I love to see it with the amber grass Stipa arundinacea* More thinning on the to-do list this weekend. Tender Salvia wagneriana is an iffy bloomer, very sensitive to temperature and day length, and hasn’t had more than a dozen blooms at any time. Its saving grace up to now is its ability to throw sporadic blooms throughout a zone 10 winter, but that hardly earns it space for summer. Its fate will be decided this weekend. In fact, looking at these photos has me convinced it’s gotta go. (A few hours later, and Salvia wagneriana is gone, destined for compost, its absence barely causing a ripple in the jungle. A few nicotianas from the seeds Nan Ondra shared last winter, ‘Ondra’s Brown Mix,’ will be a much better fit here.) Another nicotiana, N. mutabilis, lived over the winter and is sending up bloom trusses to the left of the stipa/New Zealand Wind Grass. (Edited to explain that description was left even though photos are inexplicably no longer available.)


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Strappy leaves are eucomis, and the little daisy is Argyranthemum haouarytheum.

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Salvia canariensis was very nearly pulled out a few weeks ago for its sprawling, ungainly ways, but I’ve always had a soft spot for this huge salvia.
As an interim solution, lower branches have been thinned out, with lots more taken out today, pruning it into a vase-like shape as for a buddleia.
In a couple weeks it will lose that surprised “What a bad haircut I got” look. This is generally a short-lived shrub. Always grow it dry and lean.

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The pale yellow hesperaloe is blooming this year, kind of a photographic moot point against all those golden kangaroo paws.

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Longest-lasting bulb for pots has been Ornithogalum dubium, in bloom on the front porch over a month. More, please, for next year.

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An easy nasturium species for summer containers, Tropolaeolum peregrinum, the Canary Creeper.

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I know, I know, what a lot of plants. You’d think I just moved out of an apartment and finally got my own garden. But that happened over 20 years ago, and I’ve been gardening this way ever since.

*This grass is now known as Anemanthele lessoniana, but I’m just slow to adapt to the new name

July in the Front Garden

The Spanish poppies, P. ruprifagrum, are still blooming, but if I pull out the wayward stalks with their seed capsules leaning every which way, I can manage to get some photos of the other plants that live here. This narrow garden is just two planting beds flanking the main walkway to the front door (you know, where the lawn usually grows…)


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The red yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora, has such long-lasting blooms, you’d think I’d occasionally get a photo of them.

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Weeding the poppies, I noticed that agave Mr. Ripple is offsetting, throwing some pups quite a distance away from the mother plant. That’s a little scary.

This little agave, ‘Blue Glow,’ is much better behaved.

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From further back, with the little Pelargoniun ionidflorum to the right, a very tough customer. The burgundy-flowered Pelargonium sidoides also thrives here in almost xeric conditions.

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Another ‘Blue Glow’ agave tucked in close to phormiums and the Brachysema praemorsum ‘Bronze Butterfly,’ the nasella grass, and poppy seedpods, of course. A little more thinning might be in order.

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Ornamental oreganos flourish in the bone-dry conditions.

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Even though every plant in this photo is green, what different texture each brings to the garden. The Euphorbia nicaeensis, on the left, has gotten a little too happy here.

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