Tag Archives: Senecio mandraliscae

a garden visit with bixbybotanicals

It all started with a very sweet and generous offer of some foliage for vases. Via bixbybotanicals Instagram, I learned that his Leucadendron ‘Wilson’s Wonder’ was in full winter dress, and he was willing to share some of the largesse with anyone in Long Beach. The South African conebushes are prized for their long vase life, and since my leucadendrons at home are too young to pillage for vases, I jumped at the chance to pick up some ruddy-leaved branches.

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The Leucadendron ‘Wilson’s Wonder’ in question, so you’ll know in case you’re ever offered some branches. Just say yes. And you never know — not only did we leave with a bucket stuffed with cone bush branches, but also some delicious duck eggs, which were ravenously consumed for dinner that night.

Okay, great taste in shrubs and garden fowl — who is this guy anyway?

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The shorthand answer to that question? Just an Italian Renaissance art scholar/teacher and incredibly busy father of two with a big love of dry garden plants and a strong affinity for garden design.

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Of course, I immediately began pestering Jeremy for a return visit with the AGO crew (Mitch), and he graciously agreed to let us explore.

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And on an average suburban lot, there is an incredible amount to explore. The parkway is filled with California natives, including milkweed and self-sowing Calif. poppies, making a plant-rich corridor between the hell strip and the front garden.

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And here’s where Jeremy’s garden and other front-yard lawn conversions part ways. Just behind that thick band of plants bordering the sidewalk is this surprisingly private piece of serenity, just feet from the street. I don’t think I’ve seen a river of blue chalk sticks/Senecio mandralsicae used to better effect. And, yes, Jeremy says they do require a stern hand to keep them in check. A ‘Creme Brulee’ agave peeks through salvia, the red echoed by callistemon in bloom opposite.

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All anchored by the shiny simplicity of that lone stock tank. (There’s another one in the back garden.)

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I love how he took featureless, flat panels of lawn and sculpted the space into a multi-faceted garden that works for the family, wildlife, and the neighborhood. A strong sense of enclosure without a fence — who knew? My own street-side (and mangy) box hedges are striking me as unnecessarily claustrophobic now.

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Jeremy seems to have effortlessly managed balancing the broad strokes that strongly lead the eye with the detailed planting that rewards closer inspection. I counted a total of three Yucca rostrata, but there may be more.

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The front garden was started in 2012, when it was nothing but a flat expanse of lawn and a couple palms. Not a trace of either is left. (Those are a neighbor’s palms in the background.)

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Now there’s nooks to watch the kids chase butterflies.

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That Salvia canariensis on the corner of the house behind the nasturtiums is going to be stunning in bloom.

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Mixed in amongst the nasturtiums is the charmingly nubby Helenium puberulum, a Calif. native.

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And opposite the chairs and table is another gorgeous bit of planting, deftly angled to screen the house on the driveway side. Obviously a collector of choice plants, nevertheless his design instincts are manifest in subtle screening and massing for privacy balanced by openness/negative space. A sentinel arbutus stands apart, with the strong afternoon sun blurring the outline of a 5-foot Leucadendron discolor ‘Pom Pom’ to the arbutus’ left, one I’ve killed a couple times. Jeremy admitted to lots of failures, too, but his successes are envy-inducing.

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Encircling ‘Pom Pom’ is a detailed planting of aloes, yucca, golden coleonema, senecio, Euphorbia lambii. Like me, he browses for plants at local H&H Nursery as well as flea markets.

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Detail of arbutus bloom.

But where are those ducks? we asked, hoping to steal a peek into the back garden. The ruse worked.

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To visit the ducks, we were led behind a sleek black fence at the end of the driveway guarded by Acacia cognata.

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And a dombeya, the highly scented Tropical Hydrangea. Jeremy said he chased this small tree’s identity for years.

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All was finally revealed during a visit to Disneyland, where the dombeya was growing, and labeled, in Toontown. In an instant, the silly and the sublime converged.

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Meet the ducks. Mural in the background was done by Jeremy’s brother.

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I want ducks!

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I asked how the gardens were handling the recent (relatively) heavy rain, and Jeremy said the front garden came through like a champ. But there has been a bit of flooding in the back garden.

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I’m sure I was told but can’t remember who built the duck enclosure. What duck wouldn’t obligingly lay as many eggs as possible in such cheerful digs?

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There’s a serious container fanatic at work here too…

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A termite-infested pergola attached to the house had to be knocked down when they moved in, leaving this low wall along the driveway as the perfect spot for staging containers.

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In case you bloggers are feeling that it’s all about Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook, Jeremy is a faithful reader of blogs.

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Melianthus major

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Winter-blooming Dahlia imperialis, after several moves, in a spot obviously to its liking.

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For the leucadendron branches, the duck eggs, and the inspiring garden visit, thank you so much, Jeremy!

All photos by MB Maher.

green walls around town

The Smog Shoppe, a special event venue in Culver City owned by Woolly Pocket creator Miguel Nelson, famously deployed the pockets on its cinder-block facade in 2009, which has since been regularly reported on by local media and blogs. I’d previously only seen Woolly Pockets at garden shows, with always more pocket than plant visible, and filed the product away as a novelty for the garden deprived. Green walls have only gained momentum since 2009, and are famously curtaining the buildings in many cities around the world, with spectacular examples in the city state of Singapore, which has dubbed itself the Garden City, but these are highly engineered, soil-less, hydroponic affairs. (And why wouldn’t Singapore take advantage of their approx. 2,300 inches of rainfall a year? I’d love to some day take a “rain” vacation there.) The modular, soil-based Woolly Pockets I remembered from garden shows were targeting interiors and exteriors of homes and small offices, the DIY version of green walls. How were the Woollys faring in arid Los Angeles? With admittedly low expectations, traveling through Culver City on La Cienega Boulevard enroute to the Pacific Design Center back in March, as I drove by The Smog Shoppe, I was taken aback at the five-year-old plantings, with nary an edge of Woolly Pocket in sight, just undulating greenery.

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Above photo from the Woolly Pockets website. I didn’t dare risk stepping into La Cienega’s brutal traffic.
The linear band of plants dramatically envelopes the corner-lot building on the three street-facing sides, linked to the ground plane by many similar plants in the narrow border below.
These WPs have no reservoir, so plants in the ground benefit from the runoff.

With the plantings mature, this little corner in Culver City has the exotic air of a lost Mesoamerican jungle temple. A neatly maintained lost temple.

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And what a surprise to see the big, fleshy rosettes of Agave attenuata both in the ground and on the wall.

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The pink foamy flowers I believe are Crassula multicava, which reseeds like mad and doesn’t mind shade on the northern exposure. The blue succulent is Senecio mandraliscae

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Aeoniums, Agave attenuata, Senecio vitalis, Erigeron karvinskianus, and possibly rosemary too.
The naturalistic blue-green palette would take on an entirely different character if, for example, deep burgundy or variegated ‘Sunburst’ aeoniums were used, or the chartreuse and variegated forms of Agave attenuata. On such a broad wall, the visual flow would be jumpy and interrupted.

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Senecio vitalis is dominant in this photo. Drip irrigation is used on big projects like The Smog Shoppe.

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Even maidenhair ferns were mixing it up with the succulents

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I subsequently contacted Woolly Pockets with some basic upkeep questions regarding the plantings at The Smog Shoppe.

We have a team of professionals that maintain our gardens twice per month. Our plants our thriving which means they need a bit of maintenance to trim them back. There’s a lot of growth! Trimming them back is our biggest challenge. Also it took some trial and error initially selecting the right plants since our interior exterior living wall is over 120ft x 15ft and faces north south east and west! Basically, we had to determine different plant mixes for 4 different aspects of the wall which also shift slightly depending on the season.”

Gina Goesse, Customer Service, Woolly Pockets, also confirmed that these are the original Woollys from 2009.

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And out to dinner with my mom this week, a new restaurant on Pine Avenue in downtown Long Beach was swagging their doorway with what looked like Woolly Pockets.

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In this installation, there seems to be emphasis on the pockets themselves as living drapery, accentuating the architectural lines of the facade. Many of these plants, such as aeoniums, have no trailing capabilities, and are instead geometrically spaced at rhythmic intervals.

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Woolly Pockets were also featured recently in an interior in Apartment Therapy

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This might be my favorite, and what really has me convinced that the Woollys have left novelty behind and are all “grown up,” the “Wally One” in camel in Mad Men actor Vincent Kartheiser’s Hollywood home, as seen in Dwell.

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At Ramekin’s in Los Feliz, from Woolly Pocket’s blog.

It’s pretty obvious that my dated view of Woolly Pockets hasn’t kept pace as this business adds new products and customers continue to engage and innovate with the Woollys.
Why, if our concrete wall wasn’t already shrouded in creeping fig…


The more successfully a city mingles everyday diversity of uses and users in its everyday streets, the more successfully, casually (and economically) its people thereby enliven and support well-located parks that can thus give back grace and delight to their neighborhoods instead of vacuity. ” ― Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities

I would just respectfully amend Ms. Jacobs’ wise words with the happy addition of a suffix — “well-located parklets” — because parklets are making quite the difference in street life here in Long Beach.

What is a parklet, you ask?

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This is a parklet. Maybe you’ve already brunched or sipped a margarita in a parklet in your hometown, if home is New York, San Francisco, or Philadelphia. San Francisco started the parklet boom in 2009, and Seattle is including plans for parklets in 2014. This is one of the first parklets in Southern California, installed back in 2012. You’d think in the land of eternal sunshine we wouldn’t have to hack the streets to shoehorn in places for people to congregate, that it’d be understood that sunshine and blue sky are our most important local commodities. But it’s well known that Los Angeles long ago ceded the street first and foremost to cars at the expense of neighborhoods, which has always infuriated me about my hometown, so every little victory counts.

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The idea is as basic as it gets. After obtaining a permit from the City, a couple of parking spaces are commandeered, a deck/platform laid down to extend the pavement grade, and the perimeter bulwarked with planters. The initial expense is covered by the business, as is the maintenance. Other than some low-key grumbling about loss of parking, they’ve been instant successes, with multiplier effects rippling through the neighborhood. More dining, more shopping, more slow feet on the street instead of fast wheels. Gossiping and laughing among agaves, phormiums, cordylines, and bamboo will always be my preference.

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About a mile away from the parklets, closer to the old downtown, Marty is driving his bus past a “bulb-out,” planted with phormiums and blue chalk fingers. Unlike the parklets, which are temporary and relatively cheap to undertake, with the cost carried by the local business, this involves construction crews and a much bigger budget to widen the sidewalk and extend the curbline farther out into the street.

Whether parklet or bulb-out, it’s been so refreshing to see the needs of pedestrians considered for a change, not just cars.

Studio One Eleven is the design firm that spearheaded these local parklets and offers a downloadable parklet toolkit here.

the new courthouse

Governor George Deukmejian Courthouse, Long Beach, California

The old, crumbling, brutalist-era courthouse where I did a lot of jury duty time was finally, mercifully shuttered, its broken escalators never to confound us again, and the new courthouse went up a couple blocks from the old one, officially opening last September 2013. It’s a massive building, meant to absorb the judicial business of many other tributary courthouses in the Los Angeles Superior Court system that have been closed due to budgetary cutbacks. (All these closures have reminded many again of the truism that “justice delayed is justice denied.”)

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The only public entrance, with its jutting promontory, the ipe-lined overhang, facing east on Magnolia, photo via here

For months I admired the new courthouse from a distance, as I whizzed by in the car to and from the nearby freeway onramp. Compared to the dreary old courthouse, this gleaming glass facade seemed to have more in common with an opera house. Driving on the south side of the new courthouse on Broadway a few weeks ago, I noticed the parkway in bloom with hesperaloe and made a mental note to walk the perimeter that weekend. When I finally did a few laps around the courthouse late in the day on a Saturday, I was so impressed with the landscape architecture that I spent the next week researching the LA responsible, a straightforward-enough question that proved surprisingly frustrating to find an answer to. It turns out the answer was buried in the question. I couldn’t find a name for the landscape architect because the multidisciplinary engineering firm that designed the courthouse, AECOM, is headed by a landscape architect and urban planner, Joseph E. Brown, FASLA. That the building seemed to me so thoroughly integrated with the landscape architecture was because it was conceived that way, literally from the ground up. AECOM’s chief executive, Mr. Brown described his vision for AECOM in a 2009 interview published by ASLA’s The Dirt, Uniting the Built and Natural Environments; “Peering into the Future: An Interview with Joseph E. Brown, FASLA.”*

As a landscape architect and urban designer, I’ll be in charge of the entire set of capabilities including architecture, building engineering, design, planning, economics, and program management. I’ll be leveling the playing field among disciplines as opposed to the current cafeteria-style model of practice, which is inflexible and hierarchical. In our future, engineering and architecture will be calibrated with science, counterbalanced with the fields of ecology and landscape.”

As the comments to the interview show, not everyone agrees with Mr. Brown’s opinion that it will take mega, multidisciplinary firms like his to handle the complex design challenges of 21st century projects. It’s an intriguing proposition guaranteed to piss off principals of boutique firms. And there will be built-in suspicion for any corporate entity that proclaims their enormous size will be both to their benefit and ours (society’s). All matters for future reading and investigation. All I know is what I’ve linked here. And that the courthouse was delivered ahead of schedule.

Continue reading the new courthouse

driveby garden; LAPD headquarters, Downtown Los Angeles

The first five months of this year were the driest on record in California, with reservoirs in the state at 20 percent below normal levels.” – Arid Southwest Cities’ Plea: Lose the Lawn, The New York Times, August 11, 2013

I stumbled onto another forward-looking example of civic landscaping in Downtown Los Angeles this week. Little did I know that in attempting to communicate my simple admiration for this landscape, I was also stumbling into an LA Confidential-style quagmire. The more I read, the more complicated this landscape became. Briefly, for reasons explained in depth in links* at the end of this post, the plantings at the Los Angeles Police Department’s new headquarters have been beset by controversy over maintenance failures since unveiling in 2009. This side of the building seems to be either a later or revised planting that appears to be in beautiful shape. So putting all that aside for now, here’s what’s visible today on the Spring Street side of LAPD’s new HQ.

I know architects love sweeps of lawn to show off the lines of their work (and thereby obstruct views of it as little as possible), but if you want that shiny LEED certification for your new building, the lawn has to go. I find it ironic that it took restrictive water supply issues to finally shake up staid and predictable plant choices. There’s no way this landscape would be as visually arresting had the new LAPD HQ’s clean lines and alabaster, horizontal planes been complemented by the standard repertoire of plants in use even ten years ago. Which means a glass-half-empty problem has been transmuted into an exciting landscape brimming with form and color.

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It was these colors, deep burgundy and icy blue, that prompted the detour from my intended destination, the Metro Rail station, heading home yesterday.
Dark red aeoniums dotted through the blue chalk sticks, Senecio mandraliscae. I swung around quick for a closer look.

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The aeonium will need some help getting established, to gain some height, or the senecio will handily win the space-invader competition. But it’s doable if anyone pays the slightest bit of attention.*
Bees were all over the senecio’s modest blooms. In this case, modest blooms are a good thing. Nothing to interrupt the strong shapes and colors, and much less upkeep too.

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Decomposed granite walkways weave in and out of a repeating grid of low-walled planters that also serve as benches, each punctuated with a dark-leaved Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’

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Which pick up the aeoniums’ deep color and send it skyward to contrast with and warm the building’s creamy facade

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The cercis are planted in a double row, seen when standing at the back of one of the low walls/benches.
The pork and beans plant, Sedum rubrotinctum, fills the back of the planters. Blue Dianella tasmanica are massed behind the chalk sticks.

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Some of the trees may have been the straight species, since they don’t have the deep coloration of ‘Forest Pansy’

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Beyond the planters, what I first thought were Beschorneria yuccoides ‘Flamingo’ turned out to be furcraeas massed amongst silvery Cerastium tomentosum.
Dianella tasmanica in the foreground

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Furcraea foetida ‘Mediopicta’ or Beschorneria yuccoides ‘Flamingo,’ either one is a great choice here, though the beschorneria’s exotic bloom spikes would require more upkeep.
Sedum rubrotinctum can be seen behind the furcraea, a warm-colored ground cover anchoring the building.

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The sedum is filling in slowly.

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While the cerastium romps and will need to be regularly kept in check.

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*As I mentioned above, there’s more to this story than meets the eye. All human interventions in ecosystems, be it a potted plant or a civic landscape, have to be looked after and maintained. And please don’t roll your eyes at this absurdly obvious fact, because it seems to escape some reasonably intelligent folks and therefore needs repeating. It’s obvious to us, the garden makers, but apparently maintenance wasn’t budgeted and appropriate funding allocated when this landscape was installed in 2009. I think my photos may depict a more recent installation or possibly a revision. Not long after the 2009 install, trees were collapsing, literally caving in because the soil mix was all wrong. More on the LAPD HQ’s landscape controversy can be read here and here. Reuben at Rancho Reubidoux has posted on the LAPD HQ several times, not including the above planting, which has me wondering if it’s possibly a revision of an earlier problem area.

driveby gardens; more on the disappearing lawn

I got a very late start on the self-guided Lawn-to-Garden tour Saturday, thirty gardens from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., just because Friday was an unusually odd workday and I lingered and wallowed far too long in the glory of being home Saturday morning.

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There might have been some extended Saturday morning puttering with hanging tillandsias on maritime salvage.

Continue reading driveby gardens; more on the disappearing lawn

the disappearance of summer lawns

Lawns are vanishing all over town. The chief ringleader and instigator is the Long Beach Water Department, with their irresistible Lawn-to-Garden Turf Replacement Program. Quite a few of my neighbors have already taken advantage of this program the past couple years, and more applications for the $3K rebate are being accepted now. There will be an upcoming tour May 18 to showcase some of the gardens that have taken up LBWD’s offer. Last evening I snuck a driveby look at one of the houses on the tour.

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Close to the house, behind the potted orange tree is a tall, diaphonous Pittosporum tenuifolium. In back of the Tibouchina urvilleana, center, is an olive tree.

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Blue Chalk Fingers, Senecio vitalis, Festuca glauca, lavender, and a glimpse of Verbena ‘Homestead Purple’
There were Iceberg roses, gaillardia, aeonium, daylilies — lots of blooms to come for summer.
Lots to interest people, birds, insects.

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The parkway has been deturfed too.

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And losing the lawn seems to be going viral in this neighborhood. Dark green ceanothus swirls around an aloe and Salvia chamaedryoides

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A fountain of the firecracker plant, Russelia equisetiformis

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Cylindropuntia and echeverias

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When lawn is removed the fun begins, and these garden makers really seem to be enjoying themselves.
I’m guessing this little bulb is a babiana. (Dustin Gimbel confirmed in a comment Triteleia ‘Ruby’)
This lawn is being nibbled away at the margins, but I’m predicting it won’t be long before it vanishes completely too.

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Agave potatorum nestled up against verbena.

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I noticed this intriguing beauty growing in the parkway a couple houses away.
Not the sago palm, but that foaming, pencil-stemmed wonder with the wax flower-like blooms. The Baja spurge, Euphorbia xanti

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Try to imagine it not squished against a telephone pole.
There were three of these euphorbias in the parkway, one around the corner.

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Everyone’s love affair with Calandrinia spectabilis continues. A couple blocks away, an entire lawn was replaced with this plant.
The landscape cloth used around the crowns of the young plants was too hideous for a photo

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An interesting contrast to these personal gardens lies diagonal across the street from them.
Just four months ago, architects Abramson Teiger finished a major renovation of the Temple Israel, including the landscape.
Long sweeps of feather grass, a problematic self-sower, and nepeta anchor the front of the temple.

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With the prominence succulents continue to enjoy for their evergreen, year-round good looks, it’s unusual for new landscaping projects to include perennials, even evergreen shrubby ones like Verbena lilacina, a California native. I love the needlepoint detail against the concrete work and their billowing effect. Despite their many attractions, billow is one verb that can’t be used with succulents.

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Though succulents are included here too: Senecio mandraliscae, aloes, aeonium. Meyer’s asparagus fern in the back.
What looks like red-dyed mulch are fallen petals from the callistemon bottlebrush trees overhead in the parkway.

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Anigozanthos, the kangaroo paws, in the foreground.
I couldn’t get close enough to these trees for an ID, but they had an Australian look to them.

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In the fading light, against the building can just be seen the slim outline of more anigozanthos, the shrubby Teucrium azureum to the left.

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Feather grass, phlomis, with Teucrium azureum in the rear. All these plants are as drought tolerant as succulents, though their upkeep and cutback needs differ.

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A few streets away, a front lawn has been usurped by Achillea ‘Moonshine.’
All over town, whether commercial projects or residential, the hissing of summer lawns during the hot, dry days of summer is becoming a relic of the past.

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And another lawn vanishes under succulents, pennisetum, and a cloud of Gomphrena decumbens.

OC Mart Mix needs to host a garden show

Another weekend misspent ostensibly holiday shopping (why pretend?), but in actuality just enjoying plants and landscapes, these courtesy of The OC Mart Mix. Although The OC Mart Mix was patterned after the Ferry Building gourmet marketplace in San Francisco, it’s starting to remind me more and more of Cornerstone in Sonoma, Northern California, written about here and here, which hosted The Late Show in 2009, a much-loved garden show that hasn’t made a reappearance yet. Like that garden travel destination, The OC Mart Mix would also be a great location for a garden show. Rolling Greens’ new location is here, there’s more garden-themed retail signing on like Inside Out 365, and the landscaping is a low-irrigation inspiration. Plus it’s 20 minutes away from me, all worthy and compelling reasons for The OC Mart Mix to take my advice to heart.


One of the courtyards

agave vilmoriniana and feather grass - oc mart

Agave vilmoriniana and Mexican feather grass


succulents in a crenellated-rimmed pot


Tall glazed pots at the entrances to shops were planted with succulents, like these aeoniums. Senecio mandraliscae is the blue dust ruffle planted in the soil around the base of the pots.

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Wonderful to see mature specimens of so many familiar succulents like Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, the flapjack plant, its towering inflorescence resembling a leaning pagoda

tree aloe bloom OC mart

Blooming aloes were some of the nicest holiday decorations I saw all weekend.


OCMM, think of the garden show idea as my holiday gift to you. You’re welcome.

bringing it home

Visiting first-rate plant nurseries necessarily involves purchasing plants, or so I’ve always believed — even if the purchaser is thousands of miles from home and has to shove the pots into an already bursting suitcase and then into the cramped overhead compartment of an airplane. Even if the nursery offers the sensible alternative of mail order. This is a long-standing, deep-seated compulsion of mine, and no trip is considered a success without some newly discovered plant settling its roots into my garden the day after I return. A gardener’s equivalent to trophy refrigerator magnets with images of the Grand Canyon or the Eiffel Tower, I suppose. During the recent visit to the Pacific Northwest, under the mistaken impression I wouldn’t be able to fly plants back into California, I fought off this compulsion and resisted many fine plants. After being repeatedly assured that it was safe/legal to fly plants home with me, I caved on the last day, at Far Reaches Farm. We had been urged everywhere we visited that we absolutely must squeeze in a trip to Port Townsend to check out Sue Milliken and Kelly Dodson’s nursery Far Reaches Farm, where rare plants abound, like this very cool, black-eyed Aster souliei in their display gardens.

Aster aff. soulieu

As luck would have it, Far Reaches Farm had stock of the fabulous Alstroemeria isabellana that Sean Hogan had pointed out to me in a display garden at his nursery Cistus earlier in the week. Meeting some plants for the first time can be like making the acquaintance of that person with whom you have an instantaneous, natural rapport, and so it was with this alstroemeria: Thick, succulent, pleated leaves and dangling, aloe-esque flowers — we were instantly best friends. It’s already throwing out a bloom stalk and, knock wood, I should have a photo in a week or so. This photo was found here, the ebay plant seller Strange Wonderful Things.


Following the timeworn, axiomatic advice “In for a penny, in for a pound,” it made sense at that point to add seven more plants into the bargain, mostly shrubby stuff like corokias and olearias but also the hardy ginger Cautleya gracilis and this ruddy form of Saxifraga stolonifera named ‘Maroon Beauty.’


The description on Far Reaches Farm’s alstroemeria plant ID tag dredged up decades-old memories of stuffing our Honda Civic with loot from Western Hills Rare Plant Nursery in Occidental, California, pots sandwiched in between an always-drooling Newfoundland, two kids, two adults, and assorted other gear:

“We got this from Maggie at Western Hills some years ago as an Alstroemeria x Bomarea hybrid called ‘Fred Meyer.’ Thanks to Martin Grantham at UC Davis, we finally have the correct name. This is a rare and surprisingly hardy species from Brazil which does great outside for us. Pink corolla with green petals and yellow throat…Average to drier. July-August. Zone 7. Sun/part sun.”

(Garden Conservancy writes about the recent change in owners of Western Hills here.) Sean Hogan, who is related to one of the new owners of Western Hills, says he has high hopes for the garden now, with much work already accomplished in clearing out the overgrowth of brambles and cataloguing the garden. What an interconnected, supportive and generous world plant nursery people inhabit.

What else did I bring home? The now unshakeable conviction that a water garden must be next on the list. The Little & Lewis garden, which is not at all a large space, seamlessly incorporates many water containers and gardens. George Little described how this water garden rimmed in baby’s tears has been in existence a mere three months, starting out life as a stock tank, which was painted on the interior a dark green to minimize the shine from the new tank, then surrounded with dry-stacked rocks filled with little pockets of soil for plants to colonize, in keeping with their naturalistic approach. And plants do colonize swiftly in the advantageous growing conditions of the Pacific Northwest! Summer-dry, Mediterranean climates like mine, whether in Southern California or Greece, the source of much of Little & Lewis’ inspiration, have long relied on water gardens to convey a sense of lushness and plenty via this most precise and controlled use of water. Their book “A Garden Gallery” also gives lots of reassuring advice on starting a water garden, as well as being a photographic journal of their celebrated first garden, which is just next-door to their current garden.

The waterlily ‘Ultraviolet’ was just beginning to bloom. We were maybe only hours too early.


(Kathy at Gardenbook has a great post on our visit to the astonishing garden of these warm, generous artists.
Anyone with even a passing interest in archaeology will immediately recognize kindred souls in George Little and David Lewis.)

Some of the best souvenirs are the memories of meeting plants I’d only read about before, like this anemonopsis at the Bellevue Botanical Garden.


Or this celmisia just about to bloom at Dunn Gardens. There wasn’t a name tag, but it couldn’t be anything but a member of the tribe of New Zealand Daisies. I don’t really have an Actor’s-Studio favorite swear word, but upon seeing a huge celmisia for the first time, an involuntary eff me escaped my lips — luckily, the docent wasn’t around.


Edited to add possible ID: Pachystegia insignis

At Linda Cochran’s renowned garden on Bainbridge Island, I discovered what a 15-year-old stand of Lobelia tupa looks like.


After years of gardening for mainly foliage effects, Linda said her interest in photography is increasingly drawing her towards flowers.


Lilies were another signature plant in bloom everywhere we visited. Regal lilies at Dunn Gardens.


Melianthus was also widely planted, seen here at Linda’s garden with potted Japanese forest grass hakonechloa.


Hostas of course were everywhere.


And brilliantly planted containers, like this one at Dunn Gardens. Acid yellow, corrugated leaves of Pelargonium ‘Golden Lemon Crispum’ against the smooth blue chalk fingers of Senecio mandraliscae. I’ve outright stolen this bit of genius, no doubt the work of curators Charles Price and Glenn Withey, and have already found the pelargonium at a local nursery. Senecio mandralsicae is too rampant here, so I’m trialing the similar but more restrained Senecio serpens.


The same pelargonium, like bolts of zig-zagging, foliar electricity, used elsewhere at Dunn Gardens.


Potted lewisia at Dunn Gardens.


More potted beauties at Dunn Gardens. No idea what these are.


Linda Cochran prefers clay pots for spiky plants, which she simply shatters when it’s time to move on to a larger pot size instead of struggling to remove the plant, risking gashes and scratches.


I also discovered that all nursery dogs are unfailingly good-natured. One of the Blue Heeler cattle dogs at Dragonfly Farms.

Dragonfly's Blue Healer

I hadn’t seen perennials grown this well since visiting England. The colors gleam and remain vibrant under overcast skies. From the display garden at Dragonfly Farms.



To everyone whose nursery and/or garden we toured, the warmest thanks for the generous gifts of your time and knowledge.

221 North Figueroa Street, Los Angeles

From the tenth floor looks like this:


And at ground level.


Aloes, furcraea, Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, Senecio mandraliscae, Dichondra argentea.

One of the most successful public plantings of succulents I’ve seen around town. It’s been at least five years since I last visited this address and saw the early stages of these plantings, and it was a delight to see them again today, still beautifully maintained, obviously the work of an adoring plant geek. This type of detailed planting is so easily overrun by the vigorous spreaders like Senecio mandraliscae and S. vitalis, but there’s a watchful eye at work here keeping the mature plantings in balance and proportion.


Incredible variety and detail for for intimate revelation.




But in large enough swathes to read as gorgeous, abstract ribbons of color from upper stories.



With hidden ponds and streams to discover throughout the labyrinthine gardens.


An exciting, energizing view, whether at ground level or from a tenth-story window.


Really brightens up a workday.