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Gimbel Laboratory

April 24, 2011

Casa Gimble

A happy byproduct of the garden tour was meeting fellow bloggers Dustin and Denise, both of Long Beach and both with encyclopedic recall of plant names **sigh**. Dustin, in his travels, had found two metal towers he thought I’d like (I did!) and he kindly offered to truck them over to his place for safekeeping. Saturday we drove up to pick up the towers, and also to see his garden (amazing!) and for dinner (delicious!). Paul and I lived in Long Beach for over 30 years, and although we don’t visit often, we do enjoy seeing friends and the ol’ neighborhoods there. Dustin’s place is in one of those nabes, an ethnically diverse, densely populated part of the city with a combination of single family homes and apartment buildings (and a lively street scene). His Craftsman-style house is typical of many of the homes in Long Beach, but his front garden is decidedly not typical … it’s a lovely, varied, wildly colorful and energetic patch he calls his laboratory. Literally a testing ground for ideas and techniques, this garden is anything but the chaos he referred to it as at one point; rather it’s the physical manifestation of a lively and creative mind …


One of the first things I noticed in Dustin’s garden was a variety of spherical forms — tiny ones on the ground to define areas, larger orbs that provide punctuation here and there, and most notably, stacked on rebar poles.


These stacked spheres add a chunky vertical element to the scheme that’s organic and graphic at the same time. Made of lightweight hypertufa and threaded on rebar uprights, they’re ingenious and fun.


Lots of recycled and repurposed materials are used in the garden, and they provide structure and visually define spaces. Here, chunks of broken concrete create a low curvy wall, perfect for echeverias to rest their huge pretty heads upon.

Color push

Color is a hallmark of Dustin’s garden and amazing color contrasts abound. A mismatched selection of pavers add geometric oomph to the riotous mix; I particularly love that turquoise-glazed diagonal tile!


Such a concentration of foliage types and colors, to me, doesn’t seem chaotic. Rather I get the feeling of a collage or tapestry. Low groundcovers have the look of a perfectly faded antique carpet, something in a cool blue color palette.


One of my favorite features is this rebar arbor — rearbor? — made of arched rebar simply joined with wrapped wire. Both rebar and wire have that rusty look I love so much and I’m thinking I really have to try my hand at a similar structure at the Rancho. The slatted boardwalk and wooden path are made from repurposed materials and are well-executed.


More visual rhythm in the form of cylindrical planters perched atop metal poles. I was delighted by the juxtaposition of the modern planter next to the leaf-cast bowl and garden duck, as well as the colorful succulents in the pots.


Leading up to the front door I spied an attractive tangle that looks like a bizarre root form. Dustin explained it was actually two plant fragments joined together and I think it makes perfect sense. I love a good mashup.

All smiles

Dustin served a delicious dinner of salad, couscous and Middle-Eastern spiced turkey, and we shared champagne and a serendipitous array of Middle-Eastern desserts I’d bought earlier at the farmer’s market before I knew the menu. Getting to know both Dustin and Denise better over dinner, seeing his garden and home, was terrific. Ultimately we decided the towers were too large overall to fit in our car, so Dustin has offered to bring them out for us later — for the right enticement … I’m thinking this might be the beginning of a garden supper club!

I admired the many cast faces that appeared randomly in Dustin’s garden, and he gave me one just like the one above. Thank you, Dustin!

Click here for Dustin Gimbel’s non-secateur blog; and here for Denise’s A Growing Obsession blog.

17 Comments leave one →
  1. April 25, 2011 12:14 am

    Very cool. I’ve been reading about Dustin’s garden on his blog so it is fun to see it through another persons eyes. Actually I read about your garden on his blog so I guess now I’ve come full circle. Look forward to seeing them in person some day.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      April 25, 2011 12:15 am

      Thanks, and welcome… we enjoyed Dustin’s garden immensely!

  2. April 25, 2011 2:40 am

    Having just looked at pictures of Dustin’s garden on his blog today it was great to also come across this post, and be able to compare to get a full(er) picture. That rearbor is fabulous! And I really like the mash-up all around. Now I need to go ask Dustin what the fabulous plants are in the picture with the turquoise-glazed diagonal tile. The artichoke shaped succulent. I am in love!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      April 25, 2011 2:53 am

      I know, Dustin’s garden is truly an earthly delight …

  3. April 25, 2011 2:41 pm

    A garden supper club — I like that idea! If only I could cook like Dustin. Can’t wait to see what the towers transform into at RR. Such a pleasure again to see you and Paul.
    (Loree, I believe that succulent is Echeveria agavoides, but it’s the best form of it I’ve ever seen. Dustin had a little story behind it maybe he’ll tell one day. Mine at home looks nothing like his. Of course, admire something in Dustin’s garden, and it goes in a little to-go pile to take home so now I can admire it in my garden!)

    • reubix1 permalink*
      April 25, 2011 2:51 pm

      Hey, Denise, needless to say we had a great time too! Think about the supper club idea, it sounds fun and a great way for, well, us, to get outta Dodge more often… Reuben

  4. April 25, 2011 4:14 pm

    a. The plant is sometimes sold as E. agaviodes ‘Hot Lips’, though I’m not sure if that cultivar has really stuck. It is by far the strongest, most prolific of its type.

    b. I will one day tell the story of how I have these Echeverias

    c. Supper club is a done deal as far as I’m concerned

    d. Thanks Reuben for such a sweet post about the garden

    • reubix1 permalink*
      April 25, 2011 4:33 pm

      My pleasure, Dustin! Where’s supper next?

  5. April 25, 2011 5:00 pm

    Great garden visit! And a delicious vicarious meal, too.
    Can I adopt the use of … ‘reabor’ in my vocabulary? A great material to work with:
    I used to weld it – oxy-acetylene – for use in sculptures, but it sooo lends itself to garden elements.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      April 25, 2011 5:03 pm

      ‘Rearbor’ doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to the world ; ) … I’m jealous you’re a welder… maybe I’ll do the same post-retirement; and I agree, it looks great in the garden. Thanks for commenting!

  6. April 25, 2011 5:31 pm

    I’ve been thinking of using rebar for small trellises in my garden, and like what Dustin did with the gentle arch. It’s got my gears spinning!

    Why haven’t I been here before!? I’m an avid follower of Dustin’s and Denise’s blogs and love them both. I can tell I’m going to have going back through the archives here.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      April 25, 2011 5:33 pm

      Yeah, where’ve you been, Ryan?! Welcome and have a look around …

  7. April 25, 2011 11:26 pm

    I haven’t been to Dustin’s in a while…the garden is really growing in. It’s hard to believe a short time ago it was just ghetto. Count me in on the Garden Supper Club!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      April 25, 2011 11:48 pm

      Hey, Annette, you’re in!

  8. April 27, 2011 4:35 am

    Annette! You have been suppered by me many times! You are an original member of the supper club silly!


  1. In the Gimbelgarten | Rancho Reubidoux

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