Tag Archives: Monrovia

Occasional Daily Weather Report 2/11/16

While it seems everyone else is diligently topping off their water table with generous rainfall and/or snowfall, there’s no use denying it’s already chair cushion season here.
Los Angeles in February decided to go high 80s, tipping into the 90s. It feels like a Peanuts/Charles Schultz setup, with Charlie Brown (me) trusting Lucy (weather people) not to pull the football (El Nino) away again as he winds up for a mighty kick of faith, only to fall on his ass for the umpteenth time. But it’s hard to be grumpy about the lack of rainfall when it’s so gosh-darn beautiful outside. When the drought-driven apocalypse comes to Southern California, we will all be wearing flip-flops and T-shirts and sipping the latest artisinal cocktail. Like the last days of Pompeii, we won’t know what hit us.

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Aloe ‘Safari Sunrise’

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Aloe conifera

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Leucadendron ‘Wilson’s Wonder’

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Euphorbia atropurpurea

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Leucadendron ‘Winter Red’

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Glaucium grandiflorum

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Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’

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Helleborus argutifolius

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Bocconia frutescens

N.B. This seems like such a sensible idea. Maybe it’s been around for a while and I just haven’t noticed.
It goes like this: We get the special-order plants we want while avoiding the heavy shipping costs that mail order often entails, sometimes costing more than the plants themselves.
I just noticed that Monrovia is accepting online orders of their plants, which are delivered to a nursery near you for pickup.
However, since I haven’t tried it out yet, I’m not sure if there is a handling charge involved.
Now, if other wholesale growers like San Marcos Growers, Annie’s Annuals, and Native Sons jumped on this train, my plant budget would grow by leaps and bounds.

N.B.B. For spring plant orders, Chanticleer’s gravel garden plant list 2015.

Alstroemeria ‘Rock & Roll’ (consider yourself warned)

A mind-numbing, eye-hemorrhaging, variegated alstroemeria has been unleashed at Southern California nurseries this spring.
I reached for the camera phone when I saw big displays at two nurseries over the weekend.
Alstroemeria ‘Rock & Roll.’
The tag predicts that it will be “Sure to attract attention.”
Ya think?

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But I suppose if we can’t grow those crazy, high-contrast hostas, why not a variegated alstroemeria? This one needs a frost-free winter to be happy; otherwise, container culture only.

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It’s not like I’m immune to the charms of the variegated. Alstroemeria psittacina spent some time in my garden in years past.

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Introduced by Tesselaar International of Victoria, Australia, in 2011, for sale at local nurseries under Monrovia’s label.

If you dare…

seeing double

At Yamaguchi Bonsai Nursery in West Los Angeles yesterday, I was surprised to find double blooms on a couple of popular summer tropicals, abutilon and mandevilla, something to keep in mind for next summer’s containers. (Abutilon for shade, mandevilla for sun.)

Abutilon ‘Victorian Lady’


Perfect for those who enjoy grooming containers after a long day, secateurs in one hand, glass of wine or mixological concoction du jour in the other. I didn’t find a label on the mandevilla, but it’s most likely Monrovia’s ‘Tango Twirl.’


Aging double flowers famously do not go gently into the night, and like Norma Desmond they stubbornly cling to the stems of their youth whether on roses, daylilies, abutilons, hibiscus or mandevillas. So like all divas, they do require some extra maintenance. Personally, I put up with very few diva tantrums in the garden, but I concede there is something undeniably sumptuous about all those petals, especially as the buds swell.


Yamaguchi Bonsai Nursery, despite the name, is an all-around general purpose nursery, with fine selections in pottery, annuals, perennials, shade plants and succulents. Bonsai allows for close-up appreciation of a ginkgo’s leaves turned buttery yellow in autumn.


This little block of Sawtelle Boulevard had me seeing double in nurseries too. Right across the street from Yamaguchi’s is The Jungle, which has one of the best succulent selections around town. And just down the street is Hashimoto Nursery, but dwindling lunch break time prevented a visit. Tucked in among multistory office buildings, all three nurseries are enduring examples of neighborhood nurseries, each as useful as a Swiss Army knife and all worthy of a nod at the tail end of Support Your Independent Nursery Month. I’ve blogged about these West LA nurseries before here.

Journal July 6, 2011

The garden saw some frenetic activity over the long holiday weekend. Over the long, extremely hot holiday weekend.
Not since Nixon has a face dripped such copious amounts of sweat. Under these sticky, squalid conditions, one reverts to a feral state of being and savagely pushes on until the next cleansing shower rinse, emerging cooled and civilized once again, ready to attend holiday soirees. (For about five minutes.) Checking a weather map indicates that a good portion of the U.S. was taking frequent showers too this past weekend. I don’t know how plants manage to keep looking so cool.


The big ‘Hawkshead’ fuchsia had to go. A Dan Hinkley introduction for Monrovia, a selection of the shrubby Fuchsia magellanica, it has proven to be nonresistant to the fuchsia mite and was getting the typical leaf deformation. Flowering doesn’t seem to be affected. I’d highly recommend this fuchsia to any mite-free fuchsia gardens.


The 8-foot Coprosma ‘Beatson’s Gold,’ I decided Saturday, also had to go. My love for this shrub was blinding me to how big and out of scale to the rest of the garden it had grown despite increasingly frequent pruning interventions. Arguments against removal included evergreen “winter interest” and as a support for the winter-blooming Clematis cirrhosa ‘Wisley Cream.’ To hell with winter interest. Time to realize this idea has grown stale, that waiting for the clematis to decide to bloom has become a tiresome winter ritual of disappointment, i.e., in spite of rampant growth, it’s never bloomed and has decided its sole purpose in life is to thwart my desire for its mid-winter blooms. A ‘New Zealand Purple’ castor bean plant was also removed. Taking out that beauty really hurt, but what’s the point of throwing kniphofias into the mix if there’s no room for them to grow and bloom? A seedling from this ricinus thrives elsewhere in the garden.


For a brief moment the entire area vacated by the coprosma and ricinus was simply left mulched, the bone-dry soil watered in, and I contemplated its serene emptiness, leaning toward resting the soil until fall. When I snapped to from this novel and unfamiliar state of being, a Melianthus ‘Purple Haze’ was being hauled out from elsewhere in the garden and planted to replace the coprosma, which has already been turned to mulch, and shade rigging erected over the honeybush. The melianthus can stay if it grows no taller than 6 feet. Loree’s (Danger Garden) generous gift of variegated London’s Pride, Saxifraga umbrosa, was moved here too.

Potted agaves were depupped, pots shuffled and reshuffled, begonias seared by afternoon sun dug up and moved to shade.
Tables and chairs were moved into the shade. Under the punishing sun, everything with means of locomotion moved to the shade.
But amidst all the demolition, the mud, the blood, and the beer, summer still works its magic.



A forgotten verbascum, started from seed in 2009, pushed up its candelabra of buds about to bloom. Eucomis are blooming.


After the jump, I’ve updated the garden journal of February, mainly for my own record-keeping purposes.

Continue reading Journal July 6, 2011

Unnamed Future Garden Project

Yesterday started out great. I won a pair of boots from Plant Talk.
I’m purposely avoiding my typical over-reliance on hyperbole because there are simply no words to adequately describe this event.
Thrilling? Way beyond thrilling. In this case, thrilling is a ridiculously puny word.
In celebration, I hung around at Venice Daily Photo yesterday afternoon and imagined wading in my new boots through the Piazza San Marco this winter.
Not that I’m really going anywhere.


The middle of the day sagged a bit. My seatmate on the Metro Blue Line, who I assumed, via his unseen phone earpiece, was discussing an annoying co-worker that he’d had “enough of” and wanted to figuratively “slaughter,” was not on the phone at all but staring glassy-eyed into the middle distance of the train and affectlessly recounting what he wanted to do about his disappointment with all humanity.

But the day ended on an upbeat note. Again, I’m resisting hyberbole, such as The day ended on a stupendously deafening note of jubilation.
I’ve blogged before about the lack of inspiring planting displays in my home town. After much hand wringing and procrastination, just two days ago I took a flying leap and wrote this email. I’m leaving off identifying information for the present time until this plan firms up.

Dear ___________,

With Christmas just weeks away…there could not be a more auspicious time for the local horticultural community to ‘gift’ a garden to _____. The long borders that run alongside the sidewalk in front of ______, backed by the brick clinker walls, would be an ideal, high-profile space to display the wonderful range of drought-tolerant plants that can be grown in Long Beach’s unique frost-free, Mediterranean climate.

We may not have $15 million to donate, as the late Frances Brody has bequeathed to the Huntington Botanical Garden, but there is a wealth of local horticultural resources to draw upon in the form of designers, nurserymen, neighborhood groups, and City College horticultural students.

There is incredible momentum building with regard to recognizing the role landscapes play in water conservation, yet there is a sore lack of local display gardens to help the public conceptualize the aesthetic possibilities of a less-thirsty landscape. Orange spears of winter-blooming aloes from South Africa would greet…attendees as they enter…., flanked by the boldly architectural massing of soft-leaved agaves in vivid chartreuse and deep blue. A riches of water-wise plants such as these can only be grown in the celebrated mild climate of coastal Southern California. Planting these borders which are visible from ________ would solidify in the public’s mind ________ identity as not only a destination for cultural and artistic events, but for cutting-edge garden design as well, much as the Robert Irwin-designed garden at the new Getty has become such a popular feature of that museum.”

The recipient of the email wrote back the next day, saying they were “delighted” with this proposal. There may yet be unforeseen details that sink the project, and though it is still the faintest of green lights, for this brief moment I am beyond delighted that they are delighted. More details will be forthcoming as the project matures.

Reading Gardenrant yesterday about the financial woes of the wholesale grower Monrovia, along with the illuminating comments by many in the nursery industry about the truly dire state of affairs, has me convinced that there is no better time than the present to promote gardens, garden designers, and the nursery industry in every way possible — even, as in this case, practicing a form of Guerrilla Gardening Lite, where you ask permission first. Whatever works.

(For more information on the entire Brody bequest to the Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens, you can read here.)

Laughter in the Distance

Not a title to a pulpy romance novel but a snippet of Hinkley’s hilarious prose from his infamous Heronswood nursery catalogues. (The nursery was opened in 1987, bought by Burpee in 2000 and closed by them in 2006.) The catalogues unfortunately haven’t survived office purges, but the context I remember for the quote is that he’s awaiting dinner party guests at Heronswood, working frantically in the garden around twilight, when he hears guests arrive. As the sounds of laughter and tinkling glasses begin to waft over the garden, he becomes morosely suspended in that moment before he leaves the garden and joins the guests. He lingers at his garden tasks, brooding over the distant merriment, and stuck in that moment as pure but isolated observer he writes, “I hate the sound of laughter in the distance.” I could be entirely wrong about the context, of course. But that was the magic of Hinkley’s writing, how it transported one to states of being and places beyond plant catalogues.

Hinkley’s talk, “The Dry Lush,” was sponsored by Roger’s Gardens of Orange County, held in the Newport Coast Community Center on 5/28/10. I had heard Hinkley joined forces with Monrovia as a venue for introducing worthy plants discovered on his plant-hunting trips, and I assumed this talk would be highlighting some of these new plant introductions. Not so at all. Most of the plants he spoke of during the hour talk and accompanying slide show were old friends. (The link to Hinkley’s website provides a plant list from a talk he gave under the title “The Dry Lush” in Utah recently, and the plant list for our talk varied slightly but has the same general outline.)

While Heronswood was a thirsty shade garden, Hinkley’s new garden, Windcliff on the Kitsap Peninsula, is an open, sunny 5 acres frequently strafed by roaring winds, which he says keeps the crowns of plants dry. Rainfall is under 40 inches a year. Summer is overcast but not rainy, as many people assume is the case for the Pacific Northwest. There was a mad scramble for pens and paper when he stated that upon arrival at Windcliff, weed removal was accomplished by spraying undiluted, distilled vinegar. Temperatures have to exceed 75 degrees for this method to be effective, and applications may have to be repeated, but with diligence vinegar will remove even bermuda grass, and is especially good for graveled areas.

Some gleanings from the talk. The plants he profiled for drought-tolerant plantings are many familiar structural beauties: opuntia, yucca, agave, aloe, nolina, beschorneria. He warmly recommended Aloe striatula for its bloom both in spring and fall. Shrubs discussed included acacia, genista, members of the proteacea. Grevillea victoriae blooms nearly year-round at Windcliff, for which hummingbirds give grateful thanks, nectar being just as sweet whether sipped from native or non-native plants. Ceanothus thrysiflorus var. griseus ‘Kurt Zadnik,’ a rich indigo blue, selected by Roger Raiche and passed from hand to eager hand for years, will soon be introduced by Monrovia. Grasses were difficult at shady Heronswood but are a natural for the new windy site, such as Stipa gigantea.

No one in the U.S. ever mentions the New Zealand daisy bushes, the olearias, so it was gratifying to see them profiled in his talk. Olearia x mollis seems to be Hinkley’s favorite. (Mine repeatedly succumbed to scale.)

Olearia ‘Henry Travers’ from the UK’s Garden Cottage Nursery:


Readers of his catalogue will remember his enthusiasm for restios, which still get him excited. The huge, frothy Rhodocoma capensis is a giant restio he particularly admires. I can testify to the restios’ many virtues. Thamnochortus insignis puts up with much abuse in the front gravel garden, not only droughty conditions but the effusive summer bloom of a lespedeza, and does it in typical restio style. Nothing fazes them. And if you don’t crowd them and allow them to display their graceful, fountain-like shape year-round, so much the better.


Hinkley seemed almost abashed to bring up agapanthus in a room crowded with zone 10 gardeners who see them daily in municipal plantings, but he strongly admires their toughness and late summer bloom and has amassed 65 species at Windcliff. I’ve never grown agapanthus myself but admit to recognizing their potential. That shape, for one, like a giant allium. I’ve been keeping an eye out for cultivars and species that do something a little different, and Hinkley has found the drooping petals of A. inapertus particularly exciting. The dark cultivars are more alluring than the familiar washy lilac blues, but I remain uncommitted. Once a plant acquires a civic/municipal identity, it’s difficult to overcome that bias.

Yet this year I’ve selected this reliable roadside grower and moved it from ubiquitous status to prime pot status, Limonium perezii, vigorous waste area colonizer, so why limonium and not agapanthus? Just find the statice more interesting, I suppose, and less thirsty in a pot. So sometimes the mundane does deserve a closer look. But then I daydream about taking the mundane statice and engineering an even wavier, possibly chartreuse leaf and deeper blue flower. The agapanthus I’d want to make more purple and allium-esque, only because the allium is the difficult rarity in my garden. What an exasperatingly conflicted group gardeners can be.


Hinkley asked, Who grows dierama? My hand stayed clamped at my side. Raising it would surely jinx blooms this year. He then teased the zone 10 audience that there was a plant he grew that we could not, Embothrium. (He may have been referring to Embothrium coccineum, the Chilean Fire Bush, but didn’t give a species.) Moving along to his next plant, Hinkley was interrupted by a hand rising up from the audience, and a possibly slightly petulant voice asked, “Excuse me. Why can’t we grow embothrium?” Too much zone 10 summer, apparently.

I now have Hinkley’s word of honor that Melianthus ‘Purple Haze’ will stay a dwarf, saints be praised, to 2 feet for him so at least double that for me. But with the species looming 12 feet and higher, that’s great news. This is a large, cut-back shrub for me, and lately I’ve felt unequal to the task of growing this monster and haven’t done so for a few years. Next year’s plant list grows longer and longer, and it’s still early June.

Naturally, I began a mental inventory of what Heronswood plants remain in my garden. Practically none. Perhaps a single beschorneria. This Begonia grandis ‘Heron’s Pirouette’ just waking up in June was probably bought from Plant Delights.


And then I remembered the perpetual rebuke that comes in the form of Clematis recta ‘Purpurea,’ the selection ‘Lime Close,’ sulking just on the other side of this Salvia verticillata ‘Purple Rain.’ There is very little to show of the clematis other than a crispy, very green leaf.


Since I’ve owned it, it’s undergone a name change to ‘Seriously Black.’ Whatever its name, it’s having a very long sulk of, oh, about eight years or so, during which time it was moved at least once, so you figure allow three years to recover from that insult. At this point, I can’t be bothered to care anymore, and it’d be too much trouble to dig out. (Did you hear that, C. recta of the seriously black leaf? I just don’t care!!) I would say it’s obviously not a zone 10 candidate, but many gardeners get good results from clematis in this zone, so my experience is by no means definitive.

Hinkley relayed an anecdote similar to Vita Sackville West’s experience with garden visitors gushing over robust plants: “How lucky you are to have these old walls; you can grow anything against them!” The point being, unless one lives in a tent, we all have walls. Many of Hinkley’s woody lilies are grown protected from excessive wet under eaves, and/or on a south-facing aspect, and visitors will often comment on how fortunate Hinkley is to have this prime southern exposure. (Again, unless one lives in a tent, we all have south-facing exposures, even if they have to be exhumed from under overgrown shrubs.)

The love of plants is transformative, a truism exemplified by a community college teacher from Michigan who became the creator of a world-famous rare plant nursery, then morphed again into plant explorer and lecturer, and it can bring a world seemingly without walls…if occasionally some irksome laughter in the distance.