Cross-Pollination July 2013

Garden designer Dustin Gimbel hosted another of those fabulous mid-summer rave-ups that he calls “Cross-Pollination” at his home and garden, where “hikers, nursery professionals, beekeepers, home brewers, crazy plant people, artists, architects and designers” gather for food and conversation, slipping away occasionally from the outdoor tables for periodic forays into the surrounding garden that nourishes as much as the food and conversation. A trifecta of sensory input. Think a slightly more design-centric Roman bacchanalia and you’ve got the basic idea. (And in case there’s any doubt, I fall into the “crazy plant people” category on the invitation.)

 photo DSC_0002.jpg

photo by Dustin Gimbel


Maybe another attendee will post photos of the tables groaning under bowl after bowl of fresh, summery food and the friendly group that assembled to partake of the potlucked largesse.* This will be my typically monomaniacal plant reportage. For me one of the stars of the party was the Aristolochia gigantea vine in full, jaw-dropping bloom against the mauve wall of the garage. Various parts of the human anatomy were offered up as visual analogies for these bizarre, fleshily gorgeous flowers. (A non-profane example would be lungs.) The colors here in this corner of the back garden make up a tangily delicious concoction. The golden, feathery shrub is Coleonema pulchellum ‘Sunset Gold.’ On the left is Dodonaea viscosa. Euphorbia cotinifolia is directly behind the central variegated number, which is either a ponytail palm or a cordyline. Or something else entirely. In Dustin’s garden, always expect to be confounded and surprised.

This is Dustin’s photo and description: “Giant dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia gigantea) is reveling in heat AND humidity. Usually if it gets hot and dry these comically large blooms get seared by the heat and often don’t even open, burnt crisp by the sun.”

A horticultural event of immense drama — but then that pretty much describes Dustin’s garden any time you visit.


 photo P1017577.jpg

Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ and Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’

 photo P1017544.jpg

Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ with Dustin’s hand-made totem towers

 photo P1017575.jpg

Cotyledon orbiculata var. flanaganii with mattress vine

 photo P1017584.jpg

Peachy Russellia equisetiformis and a golden Agave attenuata, possibly ‘Raea’s Gold,” with I think Sedum rubrotinctum

 photo P1017588.jpg

Dustin was way too busy hosting the soiree to be coralled into extended plant ID sessions like I normally do. So I’m hazarding that the shaggy beast in the far left container is Acacia cognata ‘Cousin Itt,’ with firesticks, Euphorbia tirucalli, and bowls of echeveria. A visit to Dustin’s garden always reminds one to go large. No itty-bitty gestures, please.

 photo P1017550.jpg

The Acacia pendula arbor over the main diagonal path in the front garden, seen from the front porch, to which the path runs roughly parallel.
The golden, glowing strip in the background lining another path to the back gate is variegated St. Augustine grass. Dustin recently pulled out assorted plants here to go for a bigger impact with this grass. A wise man, that Dustin.

 photo P1017558.jpg

Silvery ribbons of tillandsias and Spanish moss have been tied to delicately drape from the rebar arch.

 photo P1017595.jpg

The Acacia pendula, an Agave ‘Blue Glow’ surrounded by Frankenia thymifolia, a walkable ground cover Dustin uses to such good effect in creating quiet pools of visual rest. Possibly Leucadendron argenteum and burgundy dyckias in the background. The privet hedges enclosing the front garden are maturing and filling in, screening the garden from the busy street.

 photo P1017590.jpg

I have to admit I wasn’t too excited about the Gainey ceramic pots on pipes when I first saw them, but with the simplified planting underneath of Myer’s asparagus fern and variegated St. Augustine grass, I’ve become an enthusiastic convert.

 photo P1017552.jpg

The Crested Ligularia, Farfugium japonicum ‘Crispatum,’ and an equally crested ivy, pairing the frilly with the frillier.

 photo P1017553.jpg

 photo P1017571.jpg

Agave gypsophila and the Woolly Bush, Adenanthos sericeus. The silver trailer might be Lessingia filanginifolia.

 photo P1017566.jpg

Bocconia and Frankenia thymifolia engulfing circular stepping stones

Thanks to Dustin, after such a magical evening one can’t help but leave feeling…well, pollinated and fertile with new-found energy and ideas. And just a little hung over the next morning.

*And Annette’s marvelous post can be read on Potted’s blog.

Bloom Day March 2013

If it weren’t for the few stems of Scilla peruviana in bloom I’d feel completely out of step this March Bloom Day, when so many participating gardens are sending forth crocus and iris and so many other traditional spring bulbs and blooms. We may have flowers every month of the year, as Carol’s Bloom Day muse Elizabeth Lawrence declares, but we won’t all necessarily have the same flowers.


 photo P1018250.jpg

I’ve been trimming away the lower leaves from a Geranium maderense to let some sun in on this patch of scilla.
Even in perfect conditions this bulb takes some years off and refuses to bloom.

What I’m most interested in this year is a little meadow/chaparral experiment that I’m hoping will bloom through summer in full sun, fairly dry conditions. It’s really begun to fill in the past couple weeks.

 photo P1018172.jpg


Diascia personata is part of this experiment, three plants, two planted in fall and a cutting struck from one of them that has already made good size. Thanks go to Annie’s Annuals & Perennials for being the only U.S. source, via Derry Watkins’ extraordinary nursery in England. In the 1980s I reverently brought new diascia species and varieties home from Western Hills Nursery in Occidental, California, the only source at that time. Now all the local nurseries carry them as bedding plants every spring, and of course being a plant snob I don’t grow them anymore. But diascias can be very good here along the coast in the long cool spring and early summer, dwindling off in the heat of August. This Diascia personata’s height to 4 feet is a very intriguing asset.

 photo P1018180.jpg

Also in the little meadow is Anthemis ‘Susanna Mitchell,’ and self-sown poppies, probably Papaver setigerum.
I like calling it my “meadow” when in truth it covers as much ground as a large picnic blanket.

 photo P1018210.jpg

Blue oat grass, helicotrichon on the left, borders one side of the meadow/chaparral.

 photo P1018223-001.jpg

Bordering a pathway elsewhere there’s a big swathe of this silvery gazania, maybe five plants, which counts as a swathe in my garden. In full sun they’d be open and you’d see what a shockingly striped and loud harlequin variety I chose last fall. Can’t fault those beautiful leaves though.

 photo P1018219.jpg


More beautiful leaves to shore up what few flowering plants I actually grow. Senecio leucostachys is the big silvery sprawler. Small flashes of color from the Moroccan toadflax, Linaria reticulata, and the saffron-colored blooms of Salvia africana-lutea picking up speed, especially in recent temps in the high 80s. The phormium was bought misnamed as the dwarf ‘Tom Thumb.’ Whatever it’s true name, it’s stayed fairly compact and seems to have topped off at about 3 feet.

 photo P1018176.jpg

Closeup of the salvia bloom.

 photo P1018239.jpg

Euphorbia lambii began to bloom this week.

 photo P1018233.jpg

The tree euphorbia really grew into its name this year.

 photo P1018227.jpg

Kind of amazing to write that Nicotiana ‘Ondra’s Brown Mix’ has been in bloom all winter.
I’ve been cutting off old branches as the flowers go to seed. The brick paths are full of its seedlings.
Fresh basal leaf growth is coming in strong.

 photo P1018188.jpg

Salvia chiapensis backed by Melianthus ‘Purple Haze’

 photo P1018185.jpg

And a different view against a backdrop of sideritis and a big clump of Helleborus argutifolius.

 photo P1018171.jpg

The yellow-flowered form of Russellia equisetiformis is just so very cool.

 photo P1018203.jpg

Nasturtiums are ruthlessly thinned, but this climbing variety was allowed to fill in the bottom of a tuteur that supports the coronilla, which is still in full, aureate bloom.

 photo P1017801.jpg

The coronilla with the nasturtium growing at the base of its support

 photo P1017477.jpg

The seductive little species geraniums/pelargoniums are at their very best in spring

 photo P1018195.jpg

Also beginning bloom is one of my favorite sedums. S. confusum.

Thanks again to Carol of May Dreams Gardens and all who participate in opening their gardens on Bloom Day.

Bloom Day February 2012

February is a very exciting month. So much to take note of, I rarely make it through a hot cup of coffee on a February morning. The anigozanthos is growing in leaps, now almost chin-high. This is ‘Yellow Gem.’

Photobucket

Tulips started to bloom over the past couple days. But tulips don’t impress Evie; birds impress Evie.

PhotobucketPhotobucket

Love having the pots of tulips sited next to Sedum nussbaumerianum, now blooming too, with pearly white broccoli florets.

Photobucket

The six-pack of linaria was a solid winter investment. Ditto Pelargonium echinatum for intense pink.
Not as much of a craving for pink in summer as in winter, though.

PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket

Red-flower Russelia equisetiformis continues in bloom, though a yellow variety took the winter off.

Photobucket

Lots of other odds and ends in bloom, including aeoniums, euphorbias, salvias, S. macrophylla, chiapensis, karwinskii, wagneriana. This silvery-leaved Lotus jacobaeus from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials continues to impress. Its cascading habit would be seen to great advantage draped over a retaining wall. Here it leans on an aeonium.

Photobucket

For spring bulbs, snowdrops and crocuses, camellias, and who knows what else this warmish winter, check Bloom Day’s host site, Carol’s blog May Dreams Gardens, for a peek at what February brings to gardens all over the world. The new hardiness map should make this Bloom Day interesting, as more gardens are carved off into alphabetical subgroups. Over and out from zone 10b.

Bloom Day December 2011

An unexpected afternoon cloudburst visited the garden this Bloom Day.

Photobucket

In five minutes it was over, leaving enough time to collect some photos before sunset.
Self-sown Orlaya grandiflora, the Minoan Lace.

Photobucket

Rose ‘Bouquet d’Or still in a flush of blooms.

Photobucket

Nicotiana alata ‘Lime Green’ and Thunbergia alata, one of the lighter, peachy shades.

PhotobucketPhotobucket

Salvia wagneriana

Photobucket

Russellia equisetiformis

Photobucket

Begonia ‘Paul Hernandez,’ Pedilanthus bracteatus

PhotobucketPhotobucket

Tulbaghia simmleri, Salvia madrensis

PhotobucketPhotobucket

Helleborus argutifolius

Photobucket

Merry Bloom Day!

Bloom Day arrives unfailingly the 15th of every month courtesy of Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Cue the Ice Cream Man

The twilight opening of the door to the enchanted photographic realm of “magic hour” is announced by the canned tunes of the ice cream man plying his cold confections 365 days a year. If I’m home when that tinny music floats down our street, around 5:00 o’clock this time of year, I make a mad dash for the camera and head outdoors.

Rusellia equisetiformis spilling off the back porch
Photobucket

Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’
Photobucket

Erysimum linifolium ‘Variegatum’
Photobucket

Queen Anne’s Lace
Photobucket

more tulips budding
Photobucket

There’s no time to grab an ice cream and photos, it’s strictly either/or, before the door has swung shut on another fleeting magic hour.
If only the truck sounded like this Ice Cream Man. But then I’m sure I’d chuck taking photos and head straight for the ice cream truck.