Tag Archives: Leonotis leonurus

planting details at the Reid garden

I went through my Reid garden photos again, looking for clear examples of the subtly layered plant communities that rose up around my feet as I followed the paths, scanning the garden like a hungry predator, looking down then quickly back up to trace the changing treeline, the alternating pools of light then shade, the understory of shrubs surrounded by blankets of ground-hugging sedums, bergenias, hardy begonias, grasses. Immersed in the garden, it feels as though the enfolding landscape continually builds up then releases great dramatic tension, holding charged breaths filled to bursting, then exhaling in a pool of sunlight, or a vista over fields and distant stands of trees. Heady stuff.

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Filling over two acres, plants are allowed to contribute the full breadth of their character and are seen in all their dimensions.

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The Lion’s Tail, Leonotis leonurus, was a dazzlingly exotic beast to American Conifer Society members on the tour.
I heard languages from all over the world amongst our group excitedly conferring over the Lion’s Tail.

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Remember, this is a California garden in September, in a mediterranean climate (theoretically winter wet/summer dry) under water restrictions due to our cursed, ongoing drought.

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On the path alongside the serpentine wall.

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Their terraced landscape covers two and a half of the 140 rolling acres they bought outside Occidental in 1989.
A few miles east of the Pacific Ocean and south of the Russian River, the garden overlooks farm fields, apple orchards, and fir forests
.” — (“A Passionate Pursuit”)

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Now on the semi-parched lawn atop the wall.

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Leucadendron, Rosa mutabilis, and Salvia involucrata.

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Cussonia paniculata on the left, in the distance behind the veil of Stipa gigantea, white oleander on the right.

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Up against the house, tibouchina and abutilon.

There is a new book out, that I haven’t read yet, entitled “Planting in a Post-Wild World: Designing Plant Communities for Resilient Landscapes,” by Thomas Rainer and Claudia West, that describes this kind of “ecological landscape design.” If you have a nearby garden to study that follows these principles, consider yourself fortunate, because brilliant examples like the Reid garden in Northern California are not often seen. Gardens attached to nurseries, like nearby Western Hills in Occidental, are often good places to study this kind of planting, because detailed plant knowledge is the key.

the Leonotis leonurus down the street

This Lion’s Tail is thriving in the front garden of a neighbor who took advantage of the first wave of lawn removal rebates offered a few years ago by our local water department.
I”ve been personally characterizing the latest round of lawn rebates after April 2015 as the second wave, just to distinguish between the two, because I have noticed some differences.
The first wave of rebates resulted in front gardens filled with natives and other dry-adapted plants like this leonotis from South Africa designed around paths, berms and swales.
The work and planting in the first wave was mostly done and/or directed by the homeowner. This Lion’s Tail garden also includes, among others, ceanothus and the Indian Mallow, Abutilon palmeri.

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In contrast, I’ve noticed that a lot of the second-wave designs include far fewer kinds of plants, and quite often are entirely of smallish succulents.
Widely spaced succulents bedded in gravel or mulch and laid out in a horizontal grid.

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Now that actual water restrictions are in place as of April 2015, the second-wave gardens are being executed in more haste and less planning than the first wave.
Less planning and haste seem to be hallmarks of a well-known company which leaves its sign in the newly planted grid advertising free lawn removal in exchange for the rebate.
Not that there’s anything wrong with seizing an entrepreneurial opportunity.
But results from the second wave are almost a throwback to that time when a dry garden meant a kitschy collection of cacti, bleached cow skulls, and wagon wheels in white rock mulch.

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Hopefully, there will be some fine-tuning of these second-wave gardens by the owners now that the heavy lifting part of the job has been done.
The Lion’s Tail doesn’t mind pruning, dry conditions, and will roar in full-throated tawny bloom spring through fall. For full sun.