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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?


View homeward

They’re actually massive; way too heavy for either of us to budge. Helpfully, Stephen Penn and an associate were able to come by and help with their assembly. Each planter is made up of a concrete pipe base topped with a rusted plowing disc (largest diameter: 3-ft.), then topped again with a vintage concrete planter. The two cup-shaped planters in the foreground were found for very little money in Orange, via Craigslist. The larger one in the background we’ve had for some time, was found at Stephen Penn’s Garden Shop in Riverside. Once stacked I felt they needed something that would link them visually … Paul suggested one day that they reminded him of water lilies, and wouldn’t it be nice if they had ripples at their bases, and that triggered the solution: Cast iron manhole covers. Stephen Penn again came to the rescue, not only delivering five of his best examples, but placing them as well. I love ’em! Deciding only large, sculptural succulents would complement the planters’ bulky massiveness, I went with large agaves for two, one variegated. The shortest of the three I planted with a spotted mangave that had broken off into many smaller plants; soon after planting it sent up multiple flower stalks that make it the tallest of the three at over 5-ft. I love how this area feels resolved now; the overall effect is architectural, sculptural, industrial, yet still, natural. Plus, it includes all my favorite materials: Concrete, rusted metal and succulents. In a word, perfect!


Next: Cracked Pot Jackpot.

30 Comments leave one →
  1. March 11, 2014 3:50 am

    I love the planters and I’m excited for you and the garden!

  2. March 11, 2014 3:59 am

    LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE, can hardly wait to see more!!!!!!!!!………and if I may ask what kind of potting soil do you use in your pots???

    • March 11, 2014 4:07 am

      Thanks, Guida! … I use the most basic cactus mix from the nursery here in town, or from Lowes or Home Depot; whichever I happen to be at. I always include a thick layer of gravel in the pots’ bottom, though, just for additional drainage.

      • March 11, 2014 4:05 pm

        When I’ve used cactus mix it seems to turn so hard…..with your recommendation I think I’ll give it another try. Thanks…happy day..

      • March 11, 2014 4:29 pm

        Hmmm, maybe you could mix in some additional vermiculite to keep the soil loose? I do that sometimes when the pot in question is really deep. If that makes sense at all!?

      • March 11, 2014 4:55 pm

        I’ll try that……I like mixing up concoctions….I use quite a bit of pumice….

      • March 11, 2014 4:58 pm

        Yes! Pumice I use, too … I’m with you, I hate when the soil hardens and becomes so compacted. Good luck, Guida!

      • March 11, 2014 5:17 pm

        Thanks Reuben.

      • March 11, 2014 5:22 pm


  3. March 11, 2014 3:41 pm

    I saw these last night while cruising through pinterest before falling asleep…they’re even better with a little back story!

    • March 11, 2014 3:44 pm

      Thanks, Loree! I’m a just-before-sleep Pinterest cruiser, too … I’m totally addicted.

  4. socogrl permalink
    March 11, 2014 3:47 pm

    I’m totally blown away. This speaks to me more than I can express. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Luisa permalink
    March 12, 2014 4:25 am

    Thank you so much for this! What an eye you have [shakes head in wonder and delight]. My little band of succulents and I just moved to a house with a yard that consists of patio, pavers and gravel/river rock… Believe me, you have NO idea what an inspiration you are. Can’t wait to see the next posts!

    • March 12, 2014 4:28 am

      Awesome, Luisa! … Sounds like you have the raw — and very bare bones — necessary for coming up with something interesting … stay tuned, more inspiration coming!

  6. March 12, 2014 11:58 am

    I didn’t notice these when I was at your house, but then it was dark. I agree, they’re perfect and I can’t wait to see more.

  7. AlgaRythums permalink
    March 14, 2014 2:57 am

    absolutely love, love, love!!

    • March 14, 2014 4:14 am

      Hey, stranger! Thanks for stopping in and for commenting; I’ve missed you! 😉

  8. Sharon permalink
    March 14, 2014 2:38 pm

    I love what you’ve done!

  9. March 17, 2014 3:00 am

    Very creative and I found the water lily comparison intriguing, especially for such water-thrifty plants as these.


  1. Under Deadline, Pt. 2: Cracked Pot Jackpot | Rancho Reubidoux
  2. Under Deadline, Pt. 3: Suspended Water | Rancho Reubidoux
  3. Under Deadine, Pt. 4: A Bright Spot | Rancho Reubidoux
  4. Under Deadine, Pt. 5: Style Snaps | Rancho Reubidoux
  5. Under Deadline, Finale: Lights Out | Rancho Reubidoux
  6. It's A Dry Heat | Rocking the Patio

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