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May 25, 2015


Isn’t this flower gorgeous? It’s the first of several that will appear on a snakelike succulent Paul planted in our hypertufa mini-volcano. A gift from garden designer Dustin Gimbel, the handmade volcano has played host to this plant for a couple years now. It’s been well-behaved in its spot against the fence, contentedly growing and sending out ever-lengthening sinous arms dotted with small but prickly prickles. While puttering around a week ago I saw something on the plant that I could only describe as surreal. If you’re someone not fluent in artspeak, the word surreal can be attached to things that are dreamlike, bizarre or disorienting in their strangeness. So, what was this strange thing, you ask?

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Succulent Show Stand-outs

May 19, 2015


My reason for attending the Gates Cactus & Succulent Society‘s show and sale this weekend was not to buy plants, I didn’t need any; rather it was to take in the juried plant show. Held in a separate tented area the show was very well-attended and there was no lack of entries. But I had notes, exacerbated by the fact that I was not feeling tip-top upon arrival. First, the show tent was very dark. Saturday was already overcast, so an opaque tent only added to an overall dim/dank feel. Second, entries were presented too closely together; making photography difficult. This caused viewers to be on top of each other as well, something I did not relish. Also pain-inducing: A winner in several categories expounding on her entries in a voice that channeled both Truman Capote and Angelica Pickles. Try though I might, I could not shake this winner and her entourage, nor could I shake the lady in a fuchsia bedazzled sweatshirt who insisted on inserting herself into my photos! As I said, I was not feeling well. So, I took a deep breath and shot when I could find an opening, moving quickly. Honestly I didn’t have much hope for the photos. But whattaya know, they weren’t bad — hooray for auto-whatever digital cameras! What didn’t work out were my efforts at shooting the entry labels next to individual plants. Hence this post will not contain plant names; rather it will feature photos of the plants I found most interesting, in categories of my own devising. Let’s get started, I’ve got a lot to show you.



At least three of the plants above were overall winners; in fact, the tallest of them (lower left) was the Oddball Plant winner. I’m not sure I would’ve picked it since there were far odd-er entries under the tent but no one asked me. Still, it’s pretty bizarro, kind of like a tall root wearing a feathered hat. Moving clockwise from it: A seeming snap-off, -on puffball cactus; what appeared to be an ancient and lovely gnarled bonsai; a perfect dome of albino rosettes; a brainy offering surpassed only by the vessel that contains it. Let’s keep it moving, there’s more  . . .

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May 9, 2015


Succs-apalooza?! Oh-kay, how about The Gates Cactus & Succulent Society’s 40th annual Show & Sale?! If that works for you you’ll want to be at Landscape Southern California Style in Riverside on Friday and Saturday, May 15 and 16. This historic two-day event will have literally thousands of succulents for sale by local growers, along with hundreds of beautifully staged exotic plants in a juried show on Saturday. It is also a great learning experience, with opportunities to meet and learn from growers of our favorite plants. Plus, it’s a terrific chance to score one-of-a-kind pottery in which to display your prized succulents. Best of all this event is free and open to the public!

You do not want to miss this event. See next page for full details …

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An Exploding Blue Surprise & More

May 5, 2015


I’m often asked why I prefer hand watering to drip or some other irrigation system. The short answer is that I prefer to water everything myself because I’m afraid I might miss something. See, if I entrust the watering needs of my garden to someone — or something — else I might miss the baby’s first step, its first word, its first exploding tassel-topped purple turban. Okay, so I mixed things up there a bit but what I’m referring to is shown in the photo above. While watering I looked up at my favorite super-tall blue cactus and noticed that its fruit had somehow . . . exploded?

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The Return of Vickie

April 24, 2015

Vickie’s most wanted

 What can I say about Vickie Perez? Let’s see, she’s friendly, knows how to spin a good yarn, is a dog lover and a loyal friend to those lucky enough to call her one. Oh, and she’s talented, really gosh darned talented. Of course if she were here watching me type these words she’d become all shy and aw shucks-y … but that modesty is just another part of her appeal. Vicky has become something unexpected around here: She is a break-out Rancho Reubidoux star! This means that no matter what else is going on, no matter what’s being posted (or not, due to medical hiatus on my part), the post where I introduced Vickie to RR readers will have visitors (click to read it here). They come for photos of her planters for their own blogs, websites or Pinterest pages, where they are picked up again, and so on … So, while she’s had thousands of viewers here, who even knows how many other thousands have seen her projects elsewhere? Aside from driving up RR’s stats, Vickie’s also done something priceless for me: She unlocked my creativity. How? By letting me in on her artistic process, and by sharing her innovative problem solving decisions. Without Vickie I would not have come up with the palm scoop planter, the TV-front planter, even the fan screen planter!

If there’s a negative quality Vickie and I share, it’s an artistic sensitivity that keeps us from ever being referred to as prolific. We require so many variables be aligned before we embark on a project that we can be immobilized when they’re not just so. So, I’m very happy to report that the planets have aligned and all conditions are optimum because Vickie’s back! She’s been hard at work creating tons of new succulent gardens that will be for sale at this weekend’s Riverside Flower Show and Garden Tour event held at the Elks Lodge. Here’s a look at just some of the quirky-ingenious pieces Vickie will have for sale (full show information will be at end of post).

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Cross-Pollination Opportunity

April 21, 2015



Landscape designer and non-secateur blogger, Dustin Gimbel, hosted the latest version of his Cross-Pollination Garden Party in Long Beach recently. And, as usual, it was a lively event featuring delicious food and drink, stimulating conversation and the chance to catch up with talented folks from a variety of creative disciplines. This iteration I collaborated with Gimbel on the invitation for the party — his concept, my artwork — and when it was finished we agreed it was pretty awesome. So why not share? To that end I’ve applied the design to both tee-shirts (shown above on local chanteuse and model, Alexandra) and on prints (framed and unframed), both available now at my Society 6 shop. Click over to find links for both. Proceeds from all sales will go toward future Cross-Pollination events.

And you can catch Dustin at South Coast Plaza this weekend at the Arts & Leisure Show Garden, part of its Southern California Spring Garden Show. Find out more by clicking here, or by going to his Facebook page: click here.

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Down the Street and Out of the Ordinary: Joe’s Place

April 18, 2015


Down the Street and Out of the Ordinary is a series that will acquaint Rancho Reubidoux readers with singular local gardens and their creators.


Joe’s place is literally steps away from the Rancho on Redwood Drive. Ironically, it was because I couldn’t see it that I took notice of it at all. From street level, a ground-covered slope and tall bamboo fence choked with vines, hid the house completely. I’d see an elderly gentleman out front occasionally; I made it a point to say hello. Then came a time I stopped seeing the man and I feared the inevitable. For a while, nothing, then: Changes. Big ones. The bamboo fence and vines disappeared and the ground-cover was stripped away completely. I could see the house, finally, and the front yard was now a blank slate. I was intrigued; what would happen next? I feared another lawn might be added to the already lawn-heavy area. Then I embarked on my latest surgical adventure and had to wait until I began walking again to catch up with the yard and its changes, a period of almost 8 months. Walking down the street again for the first time, I got chills: The house that had been obscured behind a green veil now faced a vision from prehistory, or maybe a desert planet. I had to meet the person behind the transformation …

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