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Newly Notable

March 24, 2015

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“Oh, hello there”, my octopus agave seems to be saying from its spot between the pepper trees on 14th St. Quite self-effacing coming from a large succulent with a seeming writhing base, with a central stalk that easily extends to almost 20-feet. I had been monitoring my modest friend all last week, waiting for the day the buds that bristled on its stalk’s would open; my secret hope that it might happen on the first day of spring, 2015. Well, disregarding ceremony and my wishes completely, a full 5-inches of the agave’s lowest buds opened the day before that momentous seasonal occurrence . . .

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Spring Overture

March 17, 2015
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Wisteria

Spring is still a day or two away from its official dawning but I figure we needn’t wait. Not while there are wisterias in spectacular bloom. Part of Bill & Hal’s beautiful garden in Riverside, these lilac-colored swags trail upward on decades-old muscular vines.

. . .

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The Tillandsia Show

March 10, 2015

tpalmfullTillandsias, or “air plants” have so many things going for them it’s surprising they’re not more popular. They possess a rare beauty that reminds me more of undersea creatures — or extraterrestrial flora — than jungle plants from Central and South America, the American south or the West Indies. As epiphytes they require no soil to grow, only a friendly host for latching onto, the better to take in moisture and nutrients from the air. Some tillandsia varieties bloom but I don’t seek them out for their flowers. As with succulents I love tillandsia’s for their looks; they have a singular beauty that enhances a display or vignette like no other plant. Still, despite all their positive qualities, tillandsias are not as popular as they could be. And, ironically, I think it’s these very qualities that hold them back. Their beauty is too “exotic”, too strange for most people. And, it seems to me, the no-soil bit causes confusion as well; if no soil is required where is one supposed to place them? One idea is to reference the way they grow in the forest, attached to a host tree. A recent piece in Sunset magazine titled ’11 Secrets to the Easiest Garden Ever” showed a gorgeous example of just that by my friend, garden designer Dustin Gimbel (click here). Inspired by his design I decided to try and come up some other displays for these amazing plants using elements I already had on hand.

O-O

Tillandsia Palm Bow: Long-time readers of this blog will recognize the element at right as what I call a palm “scoop”. Dried and fallen on windy days, these curvaceous scoops are literally gifts from the sky. I’ve used them before, as a centerpiece (click here) and as a hanging succulent garden (click here). This one I found in the Evergreen Cemetery after a storm; it was just too gorgeous to leave for the gardener to discard. And, at more than 5-feet in length, it was much bigger (those previous scoops were about 2-feet long). I hung onto it for months, looking at it and others I’d salvaged, wondering what they might become. In a way it reminded me of Constantin Brancusi’s ‘The Bird’ sculpture (click here) … so I thought of adding a base to it and leaving it at that. But then I decided it could serve as a display for a large tillandsia Oaxacana. I filled a concrete tube with quick-set concrete, standing the scoop upright. My first impulse was to suspend the Oaxacana from a wire at the top of the scoop’s curve; then I decided I’d like the visual (and literal) tension a taut wire from the base to the top of the scoop would provide. This way I could hang the tillandsia from the wire and move it up and down as I pleased. A simple eye hook in the concrete, and another in the scoop’s top, did the job. I’m pleased with this tillandsia display. It’s simple but striking and a great way to elevate something natural that would otherwise be discarded.

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Promises, Promises

February 28, 2015

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Last night they began to move in: Clouds of every description. Sometimes dark, as if overloaded with all the dampness of the sky … other times so light and puffed they epitomized the word “flighty”. I checked through the night for the downpour the clouds promised, but there was no shine on the sidewalks, no glisten on the plants in the Rancho’s front yard. Disappointed, I returned to bed; I was certain the next time I would check there would surely be rain. Still: Nothing. And by morning there was much too much light streaming into the bedroom for rain … looking out the window there was a breeze — and still more clouds — but no rain.

It’s early afternoon now and although I’ve been monitoring them through the day the clouds have stingily held on to their watery bounty. I thought that by taking photos of the clouds they  might be goaded into raining on my one man parade, but no … instead I got glances from people in passing cars, looking up to see what I might be shooting of interest. I could almost see the thought in their faces: “But it’s only clouds.”

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Mother’s Mirth

February 24, 2015

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I love Emerson’s quote, don’t you? A laughing Mother Earth is a delightful idea … but how to define her sense of humor? It’s got to be very refined, how else to explain the grace and beauty of flowers the world over. I cannot come up with a single example of a natural floral display that might be called garish, the result of a belly laugh. Garish is achieved later, with human intervention (visit your local supermarket “florist”). And, I find it hard to believe that Mother is someone who titters, squeals or snorts, and a guffaw would be unseemly. No, Mother keeps it classy, her mirth and the resulting floral output elegant. Have you ever seen a field of wildflowers in the spring? I can think of no more pure example of Mother at her most festive, her laughter ringing and joyful.

—O-O—

Mother’s visited her laughter on the Rancho lately, examples can be found from front to back. Here are some of my favorites:

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V-Day: Hooray

February 13, 2015
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Growing, showing!

Today’s Friday the 13th, but I couldn’t care less. It’s tomorrow, Valentine’s Day, I care about. Reading this, however, you must not be misled into thinking that I’m a romantic. I do not favor hearts chock full o’ chocolates, except as fodder for binge eating. And speaking of emetics, I have no affection for stuffed animals, pink cards or candlelit dinners either. So, if I hate all the usual Valentine tropes, just what is my interest in the day? I love V-Day because I see it as the first real sign of spring … It’s usually about February 14th that I begin to notice changes in my garden, signs of growth, renewal and lots more color. This year I received another sign of that growth when the fun guy who lives at the end of our block rolled down his car window and shouted, “Hey! Nice phallic symbol!” … I was standing next to the plant with my camera at the time so I knew what he was referring to. He didn’t hear me reply as he sped off, “Thanks, which one?!”

—O-O—

You may remember the post before last (click here) that featured my large agave and its brand new flower stalk? Well, that’s it in the photo above; as you can see it’s lots taller two weeks later and it’s got new bud-tipped branches. I don’t think it’s yet at its full height … but it’s not alone.

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Heavy Metal Comeback

February 9, 2015

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