Tag Archives: Second Nature Garden Design

checking out Dustin’s pottery

As soon as work let up a bit, for a treat I’d been promising myself a trip to Dustin’s to check out his new concrete pottery.
I don’t know how it happened that Dustin’s concrete work became an exact match for the containers I crave.
It’s a mysterious case of convergent design evolution. He makes them and I want them. I want them all.
As always, I arrive with plant questions I’ve saved up for him that usually get knocked out of my brain the minute I step into his restlessly creative, ever-changing garden.
I forget everything else and commence pelting him with new questions rapid-fire as I tour the garden. He takes this annoying habit of mine with incredible good nature.
For example, this visit there was the headless stump of a ‘Hercules’ aloe/aloidendron plunged into the front garden, reaching about chest-high, mixed in among the “totems.”
I did find the head of ‘Hercules’ in the back garden. Some mishap had befallen the tree aloe at a client’s garden, so Dustin brought the wounded ‘Hercules’ home for surgery.
Two of them, in fact. He assured me rooting the massive things again wouldn’t be a problem.
He truly is the Willy Wonka of the plant world. Nothing fazes him, anything is possible, and pure imagination always triumphs.
Despite such absorbing distractions as headless aloes, I did manage to remember to ask about a dark brown Sticks on Fire I had heard about recently.
Had he ever heard of such a plant? Of course, he had.

Dustin: Yeah, it’s right over here. You want a piece?

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Chocolate Sticks on Fire in Dustin’s vase.

After exhausting him with questions, I moved on to checking out the pottery and selected several pieces to bring home.
Marty feels this one holds a remarkable resemblance to One World Trade Center. I’m not sure if that was intentional.

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For the moment, some of the pieces have been strewn on the ground.
The two pyramidal shapes are hollow and can be hung and used as vases or planters.

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For now they’re a helpful physical reminder for wandering corgi paws to navigate around Leucospermum ‘High Gold’ brought home from Seaside Gardens last weekend.
For inquiries on his work or custom orders, Dustin can be reached at: dustingimbel@mac.com.

concrete containers by Dustin Gimbel

Dustin’s Facebook feed is showing lots of new work, and I just had to pop over to see what he’s been up to, even if it was almost too late in the afternoon for photos.

Invariably, whenever I post on Dustin, I get inquiries about his work, running the gamut from private individuals to public garden directors.
If there’s any questions, you can contact him at: dustingimbel@mac.com.

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If I understood correctly, the concrete is a special formulation with some kind of fibers that allows him to play with a range of shapes.

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Not made by Dustin but in keeping with the theme.

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Of course I had to check out his plants too, because there’s always something new.
For example, a client didn’t like this variegated Italian Buckthorn (Rhamnus alaternus), so Dustin brought it home.
Thank goodness he has lots of other creative outlets to balance out the occasional disagreeable client.

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The always envy-inducing variegated ponytail palm

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The hulk of the cherimoya tree, painted a cheery yellow, now supports a hanging garden of rhipsalis, tillandsias, bromeliads.
When the tree was alive, it rained down vast amounts of messy, fly-attractiing fruit. In its afterlife it’s become one of my favorite things in his garden.

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The fading light reflecting off the pond.

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I love how Dustin teams up extravagantly beautiful plants with containers made of simple geometric shapes.
The plain geometry of the containers is a wonderful counterpoint to the complex, exuberant geometry of plants.

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what Dustin Gimbel does with gazanias

The humble gazania, that kaleidoscopic daisy from South Africa overused in years past as the go-to municipal ground cover, is undergoing a minor local revival. I included a few for this summer in my full-sun back garden, the LA Times did a brief writeup on them, and Los Angeles-based garden designer Dustin Gimbel designed an industrial business park frontage around their free-spirited contributions to the horizontal plane. Three examples hardly make a trend, but I think we’re all tapping into a retro-daisy zeitgeist. LA’s once ubiquitous, overplanted “freeway daisies” are sexy again. A tough, waterwise, vibrant daisy gets a new look when joined by a few well-chosen succulents and really brightens up a business park.

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Above photos by MB Maher

In Dustin’s gazania revival, he includes agaves like ‘Blue Glow,’ Aeonium ‘Schwarzkopf,’ Euphorbia tirucalli, and a stunning pouf of a euphorbia that breaks up and redirects the gazania’s silvery leaves like boulders in a river, Euphorbia mauritanica.

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I carefully stepped into the plantings, almost in full shade from the building by mid-afternoon, to catch the wave of silver as it undulates, pools, and swirls around the succulents.

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And to get a closer look at South Africaner Euphorbia mauritanica, also known as the Pencil Milkbush.
Dustin describes this shrubby euphorb as “cushiony, noodle-y goodness.” I so agree.

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As seen on the far right, Euphorbia mauritanica is just beginning to bloom in typical euphorb, acid-yellow style. Dustin also planted a few young Acacia stenophylla trees in this large industrial park rectangle, which measures approximately 12 feet wide by at least three times that in length, and the design can be easily tweaked over time to accommodate the growth of the trees.

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Dustin shows how gazanias, when treated with invention and respect, don’t just cover the ground but make it memorable.

For similar plantings, that other multi-colored, tough daisy with silvery leaves, arctotis, has been stealing gazania’s thunder lately, but arctotis quickly builds up and sprawls into a taller, bulkier plant. For a low, horizontal effect, gazania is the one. Perennial and evergreen here in zone 10, grown as annuals in colder zones. Choose the silver-leaved varieties, not the green-leaved, to get that glaucous base coat for other colors and shapes to play against. Some species of gazania, like G. linearis, have shown moderate potential for invasiveness and should not be planted close to wilderness areas.

Plant portrait; Agave attenuata and St. Augustine grass

Clean, bright simplicity. Agave attenuata underplanted with variegated St. Augustine grass, by garden designer Dustin Gimbel. This tough, subtropical grass works beautifully in holding this slope, and is allowed to grow long and shaggy or clipped and tidy, according to the owner’s whim and schedule. No frost issues for this coastal Southern California garden.


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.’



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.


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


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.

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


Agave ‘Felipe Otero’


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.


Winter Whites

The gift of Solanum marginatum from Dustin opened a chilly-looking bloom yesterday.


For a solanum from Abyssinia, the White-Edged Nightshade really knows how to dress for winter.

(Labeled from the grower as S. marginata, but my trusty Hortus Third says S. marginatum.
Not many references to its use as an ornamental, but lots of treatises on its pharmaceutical importance.)

And what a handy chart from the USDA on this solanum’s place in the plant hierarchy:

Kingdom Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Subclass Asteridae
Order Solanales
Family Solanaceae – Potato family
Genus Solanum L. – nightshade
Species Solanum marginatum L. f. – purple African nightshade

The USDA considers this plant a noxious weed in California. If I was less urban and more rural, I’d be concerned. Still, I won’t be freely passing seedlings, if any, of this one around in California.

Folly Bowl

Another garden preview for the upcoming Gardening Under Mediterranean Skies symposium to be held this September 23rd to the 26th through Pacific Horticulture.

Photographer MB Maher and designer Dustin Gimbel of Second Nature Garden Design visited artists Sue Dadd and James Griffith at their home and garden which will be on the upcoming tour. Since I wasn’t there for this preview, I wouldn’t presume to attempt an approximation in words. These amazing images more than suffice. If the tour isn’t already sold out, I’d make the effort.

What could be more evocative of the Mediterranean than to have your own amphitheater, where every summer, when the sun sets and the stars and twinkly lights start to glimmer, artists of your invitation entertain you and friends for a summer evening?


Dadd and Griffith dragged and carted all the soil, all the broken concrete into this steep ravine, materials found strewn about their street when the civic plumbing lines were refurbished, to make this extraordinary place, what they call the Folly Bowl. Dadd and Griffith have said they had no particular plan in mind when they began the project after buying the property in 1999.


I am at a complete loss for words.


Apart from the astonishing physical creation of the steep amphitheater, the planting is sophisticated, appropriate, gorgeous, and flourishing.


More photos at MB Maher’s slideshow.

Second Nature Garden Design

MB Maher paid a visit to the home of Southern California landscape designer Dustin Gimbel of Second Nature Garden Design, as part of an ongoing series of photographic house calls to landscape designers.


Dustin has an amazingly stellar background in horticulture, including stints working with John Greenlee, at Heronswood, Great Dixter, and taking a diploma from the Royal Horticultural Society’s main garden at Wisley (or “Wizzers” as the locals call it).



His recently purchased home serves as both nursery and design laboratory.




I actually bought plants from Dustin when he was no more than a kid working at the late Mary Lou Heard’s wonderful nursery in Westminster, California, over a decade ago, and even then it was obvious that this was a person clearly besotted with plants.