Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Rose Society of Saddleback Mountain ~ Sneak Peak to The Elegant and Enchanting Garden Tour

The Otherworldly Garden

Step through iron gates, patterned in intricate loops and twists as if rendered in European lace. Walk past the densely planted perimeter onto the brick covered courtyard, where a bronze medallion is polished by tires passing over it. Enter the world apart created by Spanish artist Maria del Carmen Calvo and her husband, Dr. Walter L. Henry.

Photography by Gene Sasse
The garden has been child and muse to the European-trained artist. What is now her largest masterpiece began like a gesso covered canvas; the couple’s vision of paradise forming in her imagination. In maturity, there are now remaining but two trees, a vine, and a house rendered as an italicized letter “L” from the once inauspicious landscape.

The orchid room once housed a hot tub 
For the next 30 years, the vision and hands of master artist Calvo sculpted, crafted and made real a garden which regales the senses in a sensual symphony.

The olive allée

Outdoor rooms are strung like jewels along pathways. Two story windows and doors left ajar evaporate the distinction between interior and exterior spaces. 

Even on the hottest days, the air is cool while strolling under the shade of arbors decorated with the muted shades of English-style roses. Their fragrance joined in delicious seasonal waves of perfume notes from wisteria, lavender and Brugmansia x candida (Angel’s trumpet) 'Double white'.

Water features abound. Some days, egrets dive into the lily pond in hopes of catching a koi for dinner. 
The patio fountain was a gift from a friend
A fountain on the patio serves as the headwaters of a rill pointing to the Pacific Ocean. Hummingbirds dart downward from their nests to sip from the arching waters along the length of the Lilliputian canal. Smaller birds- and sometimes the family dog- lap up the shallow waters at the endpoint basin.  

This journey  into the otherworldly beauty of a painting come to life is just one five gardens The Rose Society of Saddleback Mountain is featuring in support of Plant Biology Scholarships and the “Year of the Rose” garden at the Mission Viejo Library. 

Date: Saturday, May 10, 2014
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. 

All images on this post  are by Gene Sasse, used with permission. 

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

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Charley Turns One~ Theme Birthday Party ~ A Petting Zoo ~ Part 1

" What makes a party great is the guests know how much they are loved. The affair can be simple. It can be grand. Taking great liberties with Biblical interpretation-  The disciples were aghast when a woman of questionable virtue washed Christ's feet with expensive perfume- Christ was adamant that we should celebrate life while we have it." 

~ From a letter to a friend

The invitation to Charley's birthday party on the commemorative guest book
Happy Birthday! Our granddaughter  Charley is a year old.  She is just beginning to teach those whose life she touches about what is important. About love, protecting innocence and joyful sharing. 

With as few words as a grandmother who is a writer is capable  of- please enjoy images of the day as recorded by Anne Nguyen- the real person behind the beautiful images on the blog Nikkipolani. 

On my husband's side of our family, there is a great tradition of recreational horsemanship. 

Mama Shannon stayed close by
Charley is now the 4th generation of riders  in the family album.

Papa Kenny is a fortunate man
Her daddy told us when she was born, Charley could have any animal she wanted. 

Let the choosing begin... 

Maybe the soft bunny....

Goats. Ducks. Chickens. So many to choose from...

Time to let the cousins and little friends in. 


Theming the party as a Petting Zoo made the day like the world's best field trip.  But this is just the beginning... Stay tuned... The Morris family our youngest son married into- they know how to celebrate life. 

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

Monday, April 7, 2014

So Cal Hort Garden Tour ~ The Pannell- Waters Garden~ Urban Sanctuary~ Tips for Growing Produce

"Why, land is the only thing in the world worth workin' for, worth fightin' for', worth dyin' for, because it is the only thing that lasts." 

~Gerald O'Hara *

The white weigela was bought at a swap meet for a dollar
 Catherine Pannell-Waters and her husband, Robert , were young and in love, living in Seal Beach, when the urge for land pulled them inland. The time Robert spent commuting to his job in Downey, he dreamed to spend it gardening. For a year, the professional couple scoured real estate listings. 

It was a modest home which captured their hearts. They ignored the house had no storage, a dying furnace and leaking roof. What it had was generous lot. With plentiful outdoor space,  Robert could build a greenhouse for his cacti collection. There was space for gardens and to grow their own food. 

The lawn is a gift of nature, only rarely watered. Generous plantings provide privacy and homes for birds

A licensed landscape contractor, Catherine's personal vision was different from what she designed and built for clients across Los Angeles and Orange counties. The couple was not seeking a showplace so much as sanctuary. 

Pannell-Waters have a bird list of 110 confirmed species
Once the youngest couple in the neighborhood, and now the oldest, the pair continuously collaborates on their mutual vision of paradise.   

There was no grand plan in creating their personal Eden.  Projects, such as the beautiful brickwork, were  mostly weekend projects for a couple whose skills compliment each other.  

With room to grow fruits, vegetables and herbs, Catherine enjoys making relish, jam, pickles and relish  from what isn't eaten fresh. She reports with a smile, except for meat and staples, she spends maybe "$100/ year at the grocery store." 

Some quick tips 

Tip 1: Plant herbs in pots. You'll have less critters to wash out of the leaves when you bring into the kitchen.

Tip 2: Use posts to hang baskets and colanders to carry produce inside. 

Tip 3: Wire fencing gives birds a place to land- but is not firm enough to give cats a place to pounce on them from. 

 Growing up in half a continent apart, both harbored childhood affinities for palm trees. 

Here in LA, Catherine grew up mesmerized by her uncle's photographs  of the Brazilian town of  Belém. Involved in military mapping of the Amazon River, his capturing images of palm trees jutting above the colonial architecture near where the great river emptied into the Atlantic Ocean, left an imprint on her heart.

As a young woman invited to visit Robert's Midwest childhood home, Catherine discovered her beloved's mutually early attraction to palm trees. In the heartland, her then prepubescent future husband had chosen for his own room, palm tree printed wallpaper. 

Staghorn  ferns decorate the trunks of palm trees
Now, Catherine and Robert are fascinated with the acoustical differences  played by wind and rain strumming an instrumentally diverse canopy.

In their working days, visions of retirement were filled with plans to remodel, invest and travel. When the day came,  once again it was the call of the land which won their hearts. 

They didn't know who owned the vacant land next door. More interested in the sounds of symphonies than heavy metal music, the name James Hetfield meant nothing to them. 

What they knew was that a vacant lot for a neighbor in the suburbs was a nuisance. So they took their nest egg, trading it for land which turned out to be owned by the lead singer for Metallica. 

Flowering quince's beauty allowed it to be an exception to the rule that this is a native garden space.

This newest garden space was planned as a passive park. It would be done on the cheap, with native plants, with no supplementary water except from a hose bib used for emergencies. 

A fence at the front was not planned, but proved a necessity. 

Robert and Catherine let the land lead them on where paths should be.

Let light patterns determine where the understory would flourish.

Where cactus would get just the right amount of sun. 

The couple observed that little plants surrounded by imported mulch often failed, so they utilized material onsite for a higher success rate. 

This aloe, blooming near the curb, was one of two snagged from a box brought to a meeting of the Southern California Horticultural Society.  

A big thank you to Robert and Catherine for opening their garden to So Cal Hort and to the Theodore Payne Garden Tours. 

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

*Scarlett's father in Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Life in the land of Earthquakes~ After the shaking stopped ~ Lessons from a Hummingbird

"The Clearest sensation that a human being has when he experiences the holy is an overpowering and overwhelming sense of creatureliness... when we are in the presence of God, we are humbled and become most aware of ourselves." 
~ R. C. Sproul. *

Friday, March 28th. In gentle morning light, spring was flaunting her best assets. Red valerian leading the color parade through the garden. A butterfly floating through, rested long enough to take its portrait.

Is it one of the Lady species? The garden harbors endless curiosity. 

Apple Blossom  amaryllis
 Once upon a time, the amaryllis bulb sat all by itself in a glass jar near my elderly mother's bedside. Rather than throwing it out at the end of its bloom cycle, it was plopped along a garden path. Most of the year it isn't visible. 

When it sends up this blooming salute to spring, it is a reminder that like my mother, just because she isn't seen doesn't mean she doesn't exist. Energy in the universe is constant. 

9:09 PM. The skies were dark. There was a lot of energy pent up somewhere which exploded in a thunderous heave-ho.

The land and house jolted. There was nothing rolling in nature's punch. It was violent. Mercifully quick.

Broken glass was everywhere. Part of the town went dark. Alarms punctuated the sudden stark silence of the night. We gathered our puppies into a playpen, praying that would keep them safe. We shouted over the fences to our neighbors. Did a short phone tree. Posted messages on Facebook. Then threw ourselves into cleaning up.

This scene was replicated in every room of  our house. 
Registering 5.1, near some of my favorite shopping in La Habra, I was thunderstruck. I have lived in the Los Angeles region my entire lifetime - and all the damage from earthquakes over all the decades did not add up to what this single event wrought in just a few seconds. 

For those who have never lived through earth's version of Shake, Rattle and Roll- the difference between a moderate earthquake and a major one is, most of the damage in a moderate earthquake the damage is largely personal in scale.   

An earthquake,  it was once explained, is like a whip wielded by a man. The epicenter may be where the power is unleashed- but the devastation may  be worst at the tip.  The pain felt anywhere along the lash. 

There are isolated spots  where Los Angeles and Orange County hook-up which were badly damaged: if this had been a major earthquake, "isolated damage" would not be part of the conversation.  

What felt like awful devastation at night took on a new perspective in the morning light. 

View of the San Gabriel Valley from Summit Ridge Park in Diamond Bar
Looking at the gorgeous vistas - imagining the power it took to create the undulating geography- from nothing - the creation of the world is testament that there is a God. Man's greatest works and struggles are dwarfed compared to the least of His. 

The last orchid of the season

There is so much to be grateful for.

There is much we should have lost- but didn't.

What was lost is dwarfed by what survived. 

What shattered and cannot be replaced- we don't need. 

Every earthquake which came before helped up better prepare for this one.  

It will be the same for this event (although, my husband is having trouble adjusting to baby safety latches on the upper kitchen cabinets.) 

The air is full of the spring symphony. The orioles are back. And so is normalcy. If a writer's life and any conjugation of normal belong in the same sentence.

The unseasonably wonderful weather we enjoyed all winter has convinced gardens to bloom a month ahead of schedule. This has editorial teams scrambling to coordinate personnel.

Juli, The Wonder Dog of San Marcos Growers - enjoyed the freedom of a desert romp. She deserves a fan club - I will be interviewing her soon. 

Yesterday, Ling Ling Chang spotted a hummingbird with a broken wing. 

She could have left it where it laid. City councilwoman, continuing her education at Harvard, candidate for Assembly, and wife to Andrew Wong, no one would fault someone so busy for passing so "insignificant" creature by. 

Instead, she brought it to me, hoping it could be whispered back to good health. 

The box she brought it in was fitted with a hand towel, made taller by taping the sides up, then tented with cheesecloth. A rolled-up sock served as a nest. When hand feeding sugar water from an eyedropper failed, a flower blossom and spare feeder was set next to the bird. Perhaps, in a private moment, the bird would sip on its own.

There were moments throughout the day, when cradled in my hand, I thought this littlest friend would make it. Alas, at 10:10 pm, it took its last breath. 

The end was not what we wanted. Not what we worked for. Or prayed for. It was still worth the effort. No one should die alone. Unwanted. 

We are all God's creatures.  
Until we meet again, Thank You for all You do to make the world more beautiful. 

* Quote from The Holiness of God found on Good Reads