Saturday, May 23, 2015

2015 Garden Conservancy Open Days~ Pasadena~ The Parterres

"What I gained by being in France was learning to be better satisfied with my own country." 
~ Samuel Johnson 
(1709- 1784) 

The current owners are caretakers of the home's history

WWI. Katherine Kissinger served our armed forces as an ambulance driver. In France, she met Lt. Colonel Lansing Beach. After the war, the newly married couple settled into happily-ever-after in Pasadena, California. 

It was 1927, the heart of the Period Revival Era. The ambiance of the Arroyo, graced with with craftsman houses and an abundance of trees, was the perfect locale to spend the rest of their lives together. 

The architectural team of David Witmer and Loyall Watson were hired to bring the charm of where the couple fell in love, French Countryside. to the home. Witmer, with military connections, was co-chief designer of The Pentagon.

Imagine looking down on the orderly abundance of the garden from the second story
The simplicity of design is the perfect foil to what my friend Alexandra, who lived in France for several years, describes as modern French  fashion aesthetic. The emphasis of is on the quality of materials, eschewing superfluous  ornamentation.

In 2011, Rhett Judice and Brad Hanson bought the structurally sound home  and set about restoring the homes and gardens. Ever respectful to the past, the home's signature graciousness is ever-modern.

The dining room features hand painted walls by Rhett Judice

Muted colors and views to the garden enhance the friendliness of the living room
A library with a view to the garden

Parterres comes from the French word for "on the ground". This formal style of  largely level and symmetrical gardens designed on axis  where the geometry is defined by gravel paths is largely credited to Claude Mollet.  

That was 500 years ago. The style's straightforward clarity of design makes it relatable across millennia.

The deep blue adds dramatic input to the space
A garden should never be viewed in one go. Like an interesting person, it should have a bit of mystery. Little nooks, such as the walkway toward the guest house, offer delightful diversion.

The Parterres offers several lessons in the opportunities for successful artistic garden expression.

Foreground. Middleground. Background. The elements of this vignette extends the visual size of the scene past the global armillary, through the arch, letting the eye rest on the donkey's tail sedum.  

The grillwork opening in the garden wall allows the garden and home to literally be seen as a framed work of art. 

The service area at the end of the gravel driveway is treated as a destination point. All gardens have storage best kept out of site. The curtains on the right- inexpensive and effective.

In 2014, the City of  Pasadena recognized the ongoing importance of the property with a landmark decision under the Mills Act.

Rhett Judice specializes in Interior Architecture and Design.  He is well-known for his restoration and decoration of church interiors. He can be contacted here

Until we meet again, Thank YOU for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful. 


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Rose Society of Saddleback Mountain~ Sneak Peak of The 2015 Elegant and Enchanting Garden Tour~ Part III

"You can't really have a relationship with God unless you have your hands in the garden."

~ Georgia S. 

The garden is like Georgia, effervescent
Meet Georgia. Once a chef in one of the most celebrated restaurants in the world, it is the San Clemente garden she shares with her husband and two daughters which gives her the most joy. 
Before- a yard
Once a resident of Chicago, while she does not miss the frigid winters, her landscaping aesthetic was honed wandering about dazzling displays at the Chicago Botanic Garden.  When she and her husband, Allan, looked for a home on the southern coastal tip of Orange County- they wanted a home with a decent-sized yard.   When it came time to make the garden their own, her husband said

"Do it right. I don't want you to ever look back with regrets."  

Rhythm and texture  
Down went the block wall, out went the grass. In came the creativity of someone used to creating recipes where the sum is more than the individual parts. 

After- a garden
The look is lush- but the environmental footprint is light.  Georgia believes  "You can't waste water when watering by hand because you have to be honest with yourself about how much is used." 

The lounge chairs were sourced off the Internet. That they were made from wood reclaimed from waters where timber operations once floated lumber to market: a lesson in miracles made real from unlikely sources. 

 A lesson in gratitude courtesy of feathered friends: Birds don't need fancy houses. Use what you have  on-hand.

 A pond features two small waterfalls at each end. Using solar power and managing the hours it runs in daylight to when they are outside reaps the most enjoyment at the lowest cost.    

Roses are selected so even a lazy-man can have
"Pretty is very important." Smart is equally so. The homeowners' obsessive attention to detail makes this garden both. For example- the low retaining wall is more conducive to efficient use of water than slopes.  It also creates a visually cohesive match to the elevation rise required for the waterfall at the garden's edge. 

Locally- Georgia recommends the Lake Forest/ El Toro Green Thumb Nursery  as having the best selection in pond supplies. 

Home-schooling Clarissa and Audrey, Georgia uses the garden to enhance lesson plans and draw the family together. This is a family garden. One where on Sunday pizza is made on the barbecue.

Mandevilla trained beneath barbecue island  

Meet Clarissa. A Renaissance-woman in training. At 4 minutes into the video you'll see the sisters bonding over pizza. 

Little sis' is pretty good with designing fairy garden and cooking. Check out her food blog here

There is more to this garden- but you MUST simply come to the Open Garden Tour to experience what a treasure this family has created. 

Until we meet again- Thank YOU for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful.

This family garden is just one of five gardens The Rose Society of Saddleback Mountain is featuring in support of Plant Biology Science and Horticultural Scholarships at local universities and colleges. 
Date: Saturday, May 09, 2015
Time: 10 AM until 4 PM

To order Tickets for the self-guided tour, or for more information, please click here, or phone (949) 837- 2141. 

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Rose Society of Saddleback Mountain~ Sneak Peek of The Elegant and Enchanting Garden Tour 2015~ Part II

 A tiny hummingbird rests on a gurgling fountain

"There is not a fragment in all of Nature, for every relative fragment of one thing is a full harmonious unit in itself."

~John Muir

European Country architecture embraced in California
Fire~Water. Sunshine~Shade.  Active~ Passive.  Hilltop~ Valley. Walk through a garden of seeming contrasts bound into a harmonious whole.

It wasn't always so. Like Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, this was a garden in need of someone with vision and tenacity to take charge for it to maximize its potential.  

Enter Michel and Jo Faris. They looked past obvious difficulties (steep terrain and ivy strangling gardens composed of hodgepodge plantings) to the lists of assets.  Mature trees- there were already towering redwoods, ancient coast live oaks and monumental eucalyptus. The plant collections (camellias, roses and azaleas) were impressive in number. 

This was a garden meant to multi-task. It was graced with space and a sense of place. The couple decided they wanted to take on the task. They would guide Le Reve (The Dream) to its best possible self.

Here follows a sampling of how they filled weekends for the last eight years:

A gently arched rail echoes the window detail on house
When the rains come, water tumbles down a seasonal stream bed. The element of water is not just liquid- it is an auditory  connection to earth. 

The borrowed landscape has a wildness to it, enhancing the sense of space

It dissipates through a neighboring field of wild nasturtium. 

Existing roses were moved to sunnier locations
Like solving a Rubik's Cube, Michel enacted a plan which respected "what works best in which areas."  He made note of the mini-ecosystems and determined which were friendliest to specific plants, then went to work. Roses,  lingering unhappily in shade, were gathered and moved to higher, sunnier spots. The camellias are happier where  roses pouted. 

The shaded lower elevations are naturally moisture retentive. Filling in along pathways  with groupings of ferns and hydrangeas maximized the potential for long-term success. 

A most delicious groundcover- mints are allowed to run free in one corner of the garden
Mint is a rather loved as shade-tolerant  ground cover to tip-toe through. On occasion,  as Michel shaves them short, the scents of some half-a-dozen varieties  are released into the air. 

Passing by a leptospermum (so large and floriferous I was tempted to ask if the New Zealand tea tree was fed steroids for fertilizer), we paused at one of their fruit trees. Jo handed me a pineapple guava blossom  to taste. Oh, joy! It was like petals infused with cinnamon. 

 Conservationists at heart, not much is torn out of the garden. A tree fern dies: the trunk is reincarnated as snag to hang a lantern from. 

Rocks reclaimed from site enhance the "not too new" ambiance

Jo is convinced. When she told her builder to "clean off the rocks and use them" for the backwall of the pool, "the contractor must have thought I was crazy."

Colorful lanterns add charm 
When an over-shaded spot of  lawn was removed from the vale, much more practical decomposed granite became the flooring for a newly developed greet-and- eat space. 

The table is a braai- the lid lifts to expose a barbecue grill.
For this couple, South Africa is more than an abstraction. It is a place embedded in their hearts. Not only is it where Michel was born, they were married on the shores of the Crocodile River.  Their home and garden are filled with references and remembrances this other land they both love. 

Jo spent months hunting on the internet for a braai- Afrikaans for the favored barbecue in her husband's homeland. This style of casual entertainment fits perfectly in  Southern California. 

We leave you with scenes from where they start the day. On the stoep. The Afrikaans nomenclature for the small porch  where coffee is sipped and the joys of nature marveled at.

What they see~ One day, hummingbirds may be dancing for position at the feeder. Another day, a Cooper's hawk may be nesting nearby. Everyday, there is a good deal to be said of the virtues of a garden such as this.  

Isabella and 'Bandit' at home 
None more important than the values it imparts to a child. 

A shower curtain for a door to playhouse was mom's idea.
By what she sees her parents create, this daughter of good fortune will grow to know that for success, hard work is not an option. Beauty is born of blood and sweat. In patience and pride.

Next up is a totally different, but equally wonderful garden, in San Clemente. 

Until we meet again- Thank YOU for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful.

The Faris family garden is just one of five gardens The Rose Society of Saddleback Mountain is featuring in support of Plant Biology Science and Horticultural Scholarships at local universities and colleges. 
Date: Saturday, May 09, 2015
Time: 10 AM until 4 PM

To order Tickets for the self-guided tour, or for more information, please click here, or phone (949) 837- 2141. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Rose Society of Saddleback Mountain ~ Sneak Peak of The 2015 Elegant and Enchanting Garden Tour ~ Part 1

"There is a serene and settled majesty to woodland scenery that enters into the soul and delights and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations."

~Washington Irving

Add caption(L) Michel was born in South Africa. His education completed in Italy. (R) Jo is a California girl
Once upon a time, not so long ago, in 2007, Michel and Jo Faris were  searching for their dream home when they came upon a property on the end of a cul de sac in San Juan Capistrano.

 A faux bridge of timber extends the sense of space to  their uniquely charming property
The house itself features "good bones." Designed by Brion S. Jeannette, an architect known for location- specific custom homes, he made the most of a difficult lot, one slashed by a steep ravine and heavily wooded. With the garage and main entrance to one side, the couple recognized the unique opportunity to both create their own view, while retaining their privacy.

The roses are in bud. They be in full bloom for the tour.
The garden  would take a lot of work. It was overrun with ivy. Unkempt. The plant collections in disarray. None of which phased this couple.

Perhaps his instincts for guiding the property were formed as a little boy. Michel smiles, remembering "I followed mom with a little shovel."

Side by side, in collaboration with each other, the couple worked tirelessly to release the full beauty and usefulness of the garden setting.

Eight years later, the gates of  'Le Reve', French for The Dream,  will open for the charitable event.

Isabella loves the tree swing
If you come, you will experience the fairy tale qualities to the home and garden shared by Michel, Jo and their absolutely charming daughter, Isabella .

Walking up the driveway, when it is in bloom,there is no escaping the sweet scent of jasmine. Tied to a wooden grid, its practical purpose, to mask the mismatched fencing on the property line, discretely.

Bougainvillea and grapes now entwine a simple arbor. The pots beneath brake balls  in flight before they can escape a small sports lawn.

There is a story on the ironwork above the garage... 

The symmetry of the architecture repeated in matching potted plants at the entrance.
It was repurposed from railing removed when the stoop at the main entrance was made friendlier through enlarging its footprint. 

Every window in the home is oriented towards a garden view. Jo says if one pays attention that even in the mild Southern California climate "There are four distinct seasons."

More about this wondrous garden, and the people who dreamed her into being, in my next post.

Until we meet again, Thank YOU for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful. 

The Faris family garden is just one of five gardens The Rose Society of Saddleback Mountain is featuring in support of Plant Biology Science and Horticultural Scholarships at local universities and colleges. 

Date: Saturday, May 09, 2015
Time: 10 AM until 4 PM

To order Tickets for the self-guided tour, or for more information, please click here, or phone (949) 837- 2141. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Visions of Paradise ~ Southern California Garden Wars- A Call for a Truce

The first view of my garden for pedestrians is of abundance and diversity
"To Create a Garden is to search for a better world. In our effort to improve on nature, we are guided by a vision of paradise. Whether the result is a horticultural masterpiece or only a modest vegetable patch, it is based upon the expectation of a glorious future. This hope for the future is at the heart of all gardening. Anyone who toils away at the soil must think a few weeks ahead or envision next year's garden, for most gardeners are convinced that improvement is on the way. Thus gardening is an exercise in optimism. Sometimes it is the triumph of hope over experience." 

~Marina Schinz 

High color achieved with low water
April 14th. It was scheduled to be a press conference on the drought at the Armstrong Garden Center  in Pasadena. It was more. It was an impossibly beautiful day in paradise. 

Wandering through tree lined streets, on what  was anticipated to be a "shortcut" around traffic, my attention was less on road signs than on the sky so blue, it looked photo-shopped.  Squirrels scampered and leaped about the branches of immense trees. The leafed-out urban forest canopy casting a cooling shadow. Where there were flowers: there were hummingbirds and butterflies.

Birdsong drifted along gentle waves of cooling breeze. My heart fully engaged~ my mood levitated. 

Pasadena anchors a region of gardeners. The diversity of individual visions of paradise reside side-by-side, in peace. Man has been seeking his way back into paradise since he was driven from the Garden of Eden. Living amongst all this beauty, it felt that some of us have been let back in. And I decided "The enemy of one garden is the enemy of all gardens." 

There is a slogan going 'round California "Brown is the New Green." Well, poppycock. Brown is the name of our grumpy Governor- whose major accomplishment on this issue is to sanction the guilting  and intimidation of  people who simply wish to love the gardens they dreamed into being. 

 Brown is a fine color for bark.  For dirt being tilled. For coffee grounds and tea leaves brewing. For chocolate and maple flooring. All of its associations aren't so nice: it is also the self-assigned color associated with the shirts of a certain movement in Munich, Germany back in 1921. A movement founded on arrogance and intolerance. 

A foraging goose 
A garden in fifty shades of brown is monotonous. It is not as inspiring as one growing in even just a dozen shades of green: the verdant color-range from which flowers and fruits and vegetables rise. It is the predominant hue of tree canopies and patches of lawn where birds land to snack on snails and worms. Green is the color of life. 

The "turf" on the left is artificial. While water-efficient- the scene is warm and inviting
This is not a denial of drought. Simply a statement that we are all in this battle together. Waterwise is not a style. It is a collection of strategies, with multiple options, whereby a series of individual actions are the pathway to group triumph. 

The Armstrong's event instilled new hope that the creative spirit lives on in the hearts of gardeners. 
The front of their Pasadena store is redesigned as an attractive demonstration garden to help the lovers of all gardens towards water efficiency.  

Just some of the strategies to rethink our gardens to success shared my host for the event, Darin Engh- 

If you prefer a  turf lawn or succulent ground-cover, consider soaker hoses installed a foot apart, approximately 2-3"  beneath the soil surface. If you are the patient sort, Buffalo grass slowly forms a lawn. It will look barren for a few seasons, but you will be rewarded with a lawn requiring only once a season- mowing.
Front yard seating as captured by photographer Gene  Sasse 
Artificial turf is much improved since first introduced. It is best used in small areas, such as focal points, or where tables and seating are a bother to move for maintenance purposes. The McCann Newport garden pictured above was featured in Pacific Horticulture.  

Amend. Amend. Amend. The better the soil, the better the plants can weather all diversity- including drought. 

Regularly walk through your garden with your hose equipped with a handheld nozzle. Spot watering is far more efficient than turning on your whole irrigation system for a couple dry spots. 

Check out water polymers to expand the water- retention of potting soil.

Credit: Anthony Tesselaar
Sweet Spot 'Calypso' Rose by Monrovia Growers  
Walking through the gardens, the range of plants which give more back than they take is breathtaking. The list includes roses, blueberries, iris and daylilies.  

Like all babies, new plants require more coddling than when they reach maturity. Sure Start is great for settling suckling plants into the garden setting.   As your plants mature, make your go-to fertilizers organic. This lessens the risk of plant burning. 

But perhaps greatest of all for those transitioning their yards into gardens~ low-water is to no-water what low- maintenance is to no- maintenance: a fallacy. Even cactus and succulents, particularly those high on a slope are susceptible to degrading into expensive compost if water is denied them during critical early years. 

The results of a small brush fire last weekend in Fullerton. 

Yes. California's drought is real. But before it came, and long after it is gone, fire danger is a reality to this region. In land use planning, green spaces: golf courses, sports fields and lawns have served as a transition to our flammability- inclined  native scrub.  Glance at the photo. See how the green of the sports complex field helped shield a neighborhood from fire.

Isn't it time to step-back and recognize that both lawn lovers and those who think a lawn is the horticultural equivalent to the Devil Incarnate to recognize that each side has a point? Isn't it time for a truce between gardeners and do what gardeners are experts at? Digging in.

Until we meet again, Thank YOU for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful.