a garden by Urbafloria

It’s a rare opportunity for me to be able to provide before-after photos of a dramatic garden transformation
Garden designer Jacky Surber of Urbafloria sent me this “before” photo after touring this garden on the Greater Los Angeles APLD Garden Tour 4/17/16.

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With the kids grown and the backyard no longer needed for their activities, it lost its importance in the family universe and looked like this for a while.
(There’s a very nice desert tortoise that lives in that igloo against the fence.)

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And now, garden despair happily averted.


This tour impressed me on many levels, one of which was the amazing results possible when there is a strong bond of trust between designer and client.
Living day in and out with this barren lunarscape, the owner still managed to dream big. She asked the designer to transform it into a small piece of the Arlington Garden in Pasadena, a strolling, dry garden of seasonal sights and sounds filled with California natives and mediterranean climate-appropriate plants. And within that alchemical bond that can sometimes — not always — form between designer and client, Jacky grasped her longing and made manifest that vision. The owner said she still walks her garden in wide-eyed wonder, in a “pinch me, I’m dreaming” state.

I grabbed just this one photo before racing off to other gardens on the tour. Several seating and napping areas are tucked in throughout the garden, and a small grove of the Catalina Ironwood, Lyonothamnus floribundus, are planted beyond the rose arch. If I remember correctly, the rose is ‘Social Climber.’
Rest assured, the desert tortoise is still there, a little bleary-eyed coming off of winter hibernation, but he tore into his first meal of lettuce with gusto.

Notes on this garden from the tour:

This backyard garden was inspired by the client’s love of the Arlington Garden in Pasadena. The garden features numerous seating nooks, an informal decomposed granite bocce ball court, as well as a mix of natives and other climate-appropriate plants. The main design challenge was remediating a yard that flooded every time it rained. The design solution was to create a large rain garden that is working fabulously! Planted in late 2014, the garden is growing in nicely and a small front yard was also recently installed.”

Saturday’s Clippings 4/28/12

I enjoyed this article very much earlier in the week, well worth a Sunday read:

Any patch of earth, large or small, turns out to be a mad surprise party of species — fluid, unpredictable and wild — and a microcosm of what is happening and has always been happening around the corner and around the globe.” — NYT 4/24/12 “Counting Species on a Little Patch of Earth,” by Carol Kaesuk Yoon.

Off to do some species counting myself at the Huntington Botanical Garden plant sale tomorrow, Sunday, April 29.

Catching up on this week but still counting species, what a nice touch it was for Dustin Gimbel, of Second Nature Garden Design, and Laura Dalton, of Agave Coast Landscapes, to include our native Catalina Ironwood, Lyonothamnus floribundus, in their display garden for South Coast Plaza’s Spring Garden Show which I attended on Thursday and which is still open Sunday, April 29. The Catalina Ironwood was in one of three enormous pots, the other two holding agaves in bloom, all three plants towering high into the atrium ceiling — a grand gesture impossible to capture by photo at a crowded garden show held in a mall, so I very sensibly didn’t even try.

Lovely Fermob chairs were featured, too, pale celadon green, from Potted. Burnt orange arctotis and chartreuse Agave attenuata, maybe ‘Kara’s Stripes’ or “Raea’s Gold.’


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And there you have it, proof that garden show display gardens don’t have to be all that complicated. Nice chairs, cool plants, and I’m satisfied.

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And there was some beautifully executed stonework to admire in the display garden by Sarah Robinson

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This show held at the South Coast Plaza shopping mall has room for just a handful of modest exhibits and is really about the plant vendors. Disconcerting though it may be to find yourself hemmed in on all sides by the Apple store, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Crate & Barrel, etc., the mall’s atrium ceiling has a unique advantage over the typical dark, cavernous settings of most garden shows.

Natural light.
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Orchids, bearded irises, succulents, lilies, African violets, sinningias, Japanese maples. The specialty growers are always generous with their time and knowledge.

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Agave ‘Felipe Otero’

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A special thanks to the nice gentleman at B&D Lilies who spent several minutes explaining why he felt the lily ‘Lankon‘ was the most exciting lily he’s encountered in 35 years in the business. (I tracked ‘Lankon’ down last fall, and it’s now forming buds.)

And it was very moving to find the late Gary Hammer’s nursery, Desert to Jungle, selling plants at the show, with an impromptu shrine to Gary consisting of his photograph, paperclipped to which were cards with the names of the many plants he introduced. The mystery Ecuadorian knotweed I bought from his nursery many years ago still grows in our parkway.


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