Sunday, October 30, 2011

Halloween 2011

I'm not dressing up this year... I know I'm boring.  But it doesn't mean I'm not thinking about Halloween.  In fact to prove it to you I want to share one of my favorite "evil" plants Dyckia 'Black and Gold'.  With beautiful ox blood rosette leaves it's a lovely addition to the garden for sure. But it has an evil side, covered with fishhook spines that could make a grown man weep.  And pardon my French but it is the kind of plant that screws you on the way in and on the way out, if you can get out. And honestly I haven't found gloves that could make the job of working with this plant much safer, I usually as the English say "grasp the nettle". In any case one could argue that this Dyckia resembles an evil octopus or squid dripping in blood...Waa ha ah ah ah (evil laughter).

What's your favorite evil plant?  Here's mine.  Happy Halloween!

Second spring

Today pottering around the garden I realized it's pretty hard to tell autumn from spring in Southern California.  With the exception of a little fall color from liquidambars it's just difficult to distinguish the seasons, even my early dormant apricots are trying to fool me with some fresh springy growth.

I wanted to share a favorite friend of mine again, a plant which at the moment embodies the our second spring... Agastache 'Acapulco Pink and Orange'. At the end of August I cut back a few of the still flowering Agastaches just to see how they would respond.  The new growth was tight and beautiful.  Now I have the treat of fresh blooms for probably months to come, I will certainly be repeating next year to see if I can achieve the same effect.

Here's this morning's Agastache

Defining moments backside

I had a question about how I finished the backside of the dining room screen.  I thought it best to answer with a photo. I'm not sure which I like better, the front or the back.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Defining moments

Maybe you think it's cliche or overdone but I love the sense of space and boundary in gardens. I love garden rooms, I love screens, fences and hedges.  Veils, pergolas and allees all create interest in the garden.

In the backyard I have been trying to carve out a beautiful dining area.  Defining the space from the rest of the garden was important to me as much for the pure esthetics as it was to keep myself from filling yet another area with plants.  I have to be strict with myself ("no Dustin, NO, BAD"),  because you see even though I love the look of spare landscapes I have a NEED for plants.  I also have a need to cook and entertain for friends, so the priority of the dining area has been mounting.

For months and months I have been designing and sketching different permutations of walls and screens to define the outdoor eatery. I wanted it to be a bit contemporary but also fun.  Finally about two or three weeks ago I settled on a design that would not only define the space but would allow for views into the other areas of the garden.  Voids in the screen would frame various "pictures" of the adjacent gardens depending on where you might be standing. This allows me to have my plants and have order (at least in one area of the garden). And to extend the permeable feeling I decided to have spaces between the slats of wood so that the area didn't feel too closed in.  Upon finding a great mark down at "the box store which must not be named", I went from 1" x 6" cedar to 1" x 4" redwood planks.  Just nailing the slats took two people 3/4 of a day, and that's with the help of a nail-gun. My buddy Jay likes punishment.

Oh and before you ask... yes I am trying to kill that tree.

I'm toying with the idea of painting the panels different colors, but for now I will enjoy the natural hues of the redwood.

                                                   The design, a bit rough but it worked

                                             Here's a few shots of the screen going up....

Here's some other perspectives

And the final product! Hooray!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Turning over a new Leaf... magazine

My garden lab made it into the first edition of Leaf Magazine!  Check it out. Blushing...

You can skip right to page 45.  ;-P

click here to see for yourself Leaf Magazine

Friday, October 7, 2011

Plant of the week: Aristolochia gigantea

Ever thought of getting a Brazilian?  Vine I mean...

This not so weekly plant of the week features Aristolochia gigantea or giant Dutchman's pipe, Brazilian Dutchman's pipe.  The largest Aristolochia I know of, it doesn't really resemble a pipe as some of the others in the genus, like our native A. californica does.  What it does resemble is fairly appropriate for the month of October and Halloween. Large fleshy inflated liver looking blooms swell until they pop,  when they turn from lifesize livers and to open lungs. The flower's bloody color and veiny appearance really elicit opposing impressions from visitors of either wonder or disgust. I measured the blooms today, incredibly they are 11 inches wides and a whopping 15 inches long! The vine itself has pleasant heart shaped leaves.

I've written about this plant before, but I felt it was time to mention it again.  It's hard to get the real A. gigantea, as opposed to A. littoralis which is more available and often listed as the former.

Notice my tiny hands next to this gentle giant

Monday, October 3, 2011


Hey there,

Sorry I have been away for so long.  I won't bore you with the details why I've been gone.

Progress has been in fits and starts but moving forward in general.  Here's a little update on glorious glorious boundaries.   You of course remember my post thinking outside box on fencing and how I was looking directly in on the four units to the north of me here is the new fence and a freshened up garage wall. Then I needed a front fence and gate.  And I wanted to improve the growing conditions for my smaller plants! (a big thanks to my buddy Jay for all his help with these)

                                      My other bit of progress for boundaries is the new front gate!

And finally two grow tables to keep my plants tidier!