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Under Deadline, Finale: Lights Out

April 15, 2014


NOTE: The final in a series of projects completed for a new local newspaper publication. To read the first post in the series click here.


LIGHTS OUT: Last stop on our 6-part Rancho tour is the area I used to call The Temple. I called it that because it had a symmetrical, altar-like presentation (click here) made up of classical-looking bits of this and odd-looking bits of that. But, if it was anything, it was a shrine to collecting; I loved tracking down pieces and plants to insert into its whimsical mix. In 2011 and ’12, I sold most everything that made up the garden and the Temple was not spared. With everything gone, I decided to turn the spot into an elevated concrete lounge pad (click here), keeping its existing salvaged factory windows and gate as backdrop. I was fine with the completed pad, however my lounge idea stalled … I seemed unable to make a seating/eating/chilling/lounge space materialize. I added a multicolored salvaged wood wall on one end, then dissatisfied, I turned it into a floor … I added, then subtracted, furniture; it seemed exposed and forlorn perched atop the stark concrete. Thinking the pad’s face needed softening, I added stacked cement block planters on either side of its step-up; still not content, I placed white stalagmites in front of them, their organic irregularity finally giving me the softening effect I craved. A bizarro rusted steel BBQ/smoker came next; I centered it on the painted wood floor where it would hold its own and have pride of place. Then: Inertia, brought on by my spinal issues, surgery and recovery … until that fateful editor’s call last month that shook me back into action. Forced to look at the pad as it stood, I decided that what it needed was a sense of enclosure, a wall to finish off the end that looked toward the Evergreen Cemetery. As in the past I searched Craigslist for a solution, finding it in the form of vintage galvanized carts. Complete with plastic liners, these carts probably once held wet uniforms on their way to an industrial laundry … I saw them planted with grass-like succulents, finishing off my outdoor lounge in style. I bought all carts offered and they worked out perfectly! I got my lounge wall without blocking sight-lines to the view beyond (see next photo) …

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Under Deadline, Pt. 5: Style Snaps

April 4, 2014


NOTE: Another in a series of projects completed for a new local newspaper publication. To read the first post in the series click here.


STYLE SNAPS: Think of them as supporting players; these are the moments between the larger — more “important” — designed areas at the Rancho. But that’s not to say these spots are any less essential to the Rancho’s overall look. They’re just as quirky, just as creative, and just as necessary in the overall scheme as those others. True, some may not be as overtly functional as, say, the seating areas, but they are useful … They may not seem like big aesthetic statements at first glance, but all of them sprang from an artistic impulse … Lastly, none of these spots are any less “Rancho” than those others; I lavished the same focus and attention on them and their creation as on all the rest. Like a parent referring to his children, I love them all the same. I hope you will, too!

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Under Deadline, Pt. 4: A Bright Spot

March 28, 2014


NOTE: Another in a series of projects completed for a new local newspaper publication. To read the first post in the series click here.


A BRIGHT SPOT: Above is Point A. Also known as the deck off the kitchen, this seating area is the first stop when one enters the Rancho’s garden. Site of numerous costume changes, it’s been dressed as a dining room, a party zone, a chill-out area, even a succulent pop-up shop. I love greeting new visitors at the gate here, as they never fail to express surprise at the space … I love it even more as they move past it and realize it was just the beginning of the surprises in store. I was happy that the deck was dressed so colorfully for the editor and photographer’s visit(s) and they seemed delighted as well; here’s hoping the photos taken here capture it well. I was pleased that the photog wanted to return and take some night shots as well; I love when it’s lit for night use. It’s just so festive!

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Under Deadline, Pt. 3: Suspended Water

March 21, 2014


NOTE: Another in a series of projects completed for a new local newspaper publication. To read the first post in the series click here.



‘Zuni’, in a photo from 2009

When I finished my “portable mural”, ‘AGUA’ (‘WATER’), at the end of last year, I did so hoping to sell it. But somewhere between its completion and its presentation at the Long Beach Flea Market, I began hoping that no one would buy it (Paul had already expressed that very sentiment early in its creation). Still, despite my ambivalence, I was determined to test the strength of the piece’s appeal; its sale the ultimate positive response. At the flea, reactions to the piece were positive but I don’t think many people bought the idea of its portability … even those who expressed interest in it were heard to wonder how they might get it home. It appeared that even though I’d made the calculated decision to paint the mural on four separate, easy-to-transport panels, it was too large/heavy/unwieldy for its admirers (a fact my booth-mates probably wouldn’t dispute, either). Anyway, it didn’t sell and we brought it home. Weeks passed and it languished in the garage; Paul and I discussing its possible location and display with no great urgency. Everything we came up with seemed overly-complicated, not to mention expensive; his desire to include a water feature a sticking point. That changed once I’d gotten the two-week deadline call. I made the decision: It would take the place of ‘ZUNI’, the rapidly deteriorating painting that had hung outside, and over, a built-in planter since we’d moved to the Rancho (see inset). Now, I just needed a mode of display.

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Under Deadline, Pt. 2: Cracked Pot Jackpot

March 14, 2014


NOTE: Another in a series of projects completed for a new local newspaper publication. To read the first post in the series click here.


CRACKED POT JACKPOT: This project was born from a tragedy-to-triumph type situation. I’d purchased this amazing cast iron cauldron months ago from a local antique shop. Having seen similar pieces with big tickets attached to them, this one was a really good deal; too heavy for a single person to hoist, Paul and the seller teamed up loading it into back of the car. Tragedy struck once we arrived home. Having backed the car inside the fence, and thinking that such a massive vessel was indestructible, Paul pushed it out of the hatch and onto the gravel — whereupon it broke with a dull crack! To say I was not happy with this turn of events is to put it exceedingly mildly. I gathered up the fragments and we set the now-useless piece aside; I didn’t even want to look at it. Fast forward; I see a set of rusted steel steps for sale at Vintique Alley in Riverside and have to have them. Also a great deal at $75, I buy them and we get them home without incident. Next day the wheels start turning in my head: Would the cauldron fit on the top step? I measure and determine that although it will be close, its three little feet will just fit. So, when Stephen Penn and company arrive to to stack the planters featured in the previous post, I have them complete this task as well (hey, I have to optimize my visits by helpful, local strong men!). First, I have them position a very thick, tempered glass table top to act as a level base for the steps; I like the reflective quality it provides. The steps are next, followed by the cauldron. All the pieces fit perfectly and the whole looks amazing; scale-wise it is perfect for the DG-covered berm. The next day I begin to wonder whether there’s something I could plant in it that would look like falling water … it would not only look cool but it would also lend function to the otherwise useless vessel. Sadly, nothing springs to mind … until the day we go to Fallbrook’s Serra Gardens and I see the solution: Dischidia nummularia!

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Under Deadline, Pt.1: Heavyweight Lilies

March 11, 2014

“Lily” pond

Deadline pressure used to be a big part of my life … a part I can’t say I’ve missed much. So, when an editor for the local newspaper called to say that she wanted to talk to me about — and photograph — the Rancho for a new publication focused on the Inland Empire, I hesitated. I knew she was calling based on gorgeous photos taken by Mitch Maher in 2011 (click here) and I explained to her that that garden no longer existed, thinking (okay, hoping) she’d hang up. Unfazed, she looked past my demurral and before I knew it I had agreed to meet her and open our place up to a photographer. Thanking her for her interest, I hung up the phone, a single fact screaming in my brain: Her deadline was two weeks away … I had 14 days to make the Rancho presentable inside and out! Heart racing, I knew I had lots of work ahead of me. First things first, hard decisions had to be made. I got on the phone and the next day my brother, Mario, and my brother-in-law, José, hauled away two trucks-full of items I’d gathered but never used. This served to remove distracting elements from the landscape, making it easier to study unfinished projects. Assessing plant needs, we next made a trip to a nearby succulent nursery (see previous post). At the same time, rain bestowed much-needed moisture upon our area, which forced me to address the Rancho’s interior over four days; inside purging results. At long last the sun reappeared, plants were planted, projects were brought to completion, adjustments were addressed, and final flourishes were hammered down — for better or worse it all got done. And on deadline, too! Of course, all the heavy lifting was done by others and I can’t thank them enough. Thanks, too, go to all those who offered moral and creative support … Love you guys.

Like I said, that 2011 garden is long gone, but I’m happy to report that the new iteration is probably even better! So, beginning with this post, I will be sharing my fave garden projects brought to fruition during the last two crazy/busy weeks. And, when I find out a firm publication date for the article I’ll let you know.


STACKED PLANTER PROJECT: Begun before I got the call, this part of the garden was completed during the two-week deadline period. Photographed from above, it’s hard to tell exactly how large these planters are, right?

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Water Colors

March 2, 2014


Maybe you heard: IT’S RAINING! Lots and lots of water is falling from the clouds right now … and it’s been happening for days. This is fall-to-your-knees-and-shout-hallelujah! news for our drought-parched state and it’s truly wonderful (mudslides, traffic pileups and flooding notwithstanding). I’m really enjoying this wet windfall since I love rain; I love being outside in the rain, too. My favorite rainy day activity of all is going to a botanical garden or nursery and glorying in the heightened color saturation of massed succulents. I swear I feel the same quivering excitement I felt as a kid, when presented with a brand new 64-color pack of crayons, a deluxe pack of watercolors, a 120-count colored pencil set. Opening those boxes and seeing pristine multi-colored faces and perfectly sharpened tips — lined up and waiting for me — always gave me so much pleasure. I also loved that each color was named; I’d always hate it when a philistine classmate asked for mere “red” when the crayon or paint was clearly marked “Flame”! In this post I share with you photos I took one wet day this week at a lovely succulent nursery in Fallbrook  … accompanying color names will serve as captions; feel free to suggest your own.


Colors above: Corn Kernel, Pale Sea Foam, Orange Torchere, Vivid Vermillion, Persimmon Pink, Misty Mauve, Limeade

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