Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Childhood Memories

Some mothers pass down recipes. My mother passed down flowers.
She probably bought the first iris rhizome of this bi-toned purple circa 1961.

When I became a married woman with a garden of my own, my mother divided off a few of the bearded beauties, packing them in a paper bag, trusting me to give homes to future generations.

Its offspring have immigrated with us from Lakewood, to our first, and now this garden in Diamond Bar.

Iris have a trait that makes them extra valuable in this hillside. Gophers don't care for their taste.

This beauty has multiplied like the bunnies in spring. Clumps form joyful explanation points in front, back and side gardens.

My friend, Trisha Bowler, loved going to the Huntington Library on a field trip as a child with the Parnell School for Girls. Her eyes glistened as she described the magic she felt viewing the English portraiture of of Thomas Lawrence's 'Pinkie' and Thomas Gainsborough's 'Blue Boy' through the eyes of an impressionable child.

So it was reservations for tea at the Huntington, which had recently rewarded my lateness in renewing membership with two extra months membership and two extra guest passes.

You can't see Trish's face in the painting. But you can read her thoughts with how she holds her hands at her heart.

After tea, the feminized artistic rendition of the "All You Can Eat" buffet, Trisha and I barely had time to stroll the portion of the grounds towards the walled Chinese Garden before it was closing time.

I am going to have to make a point to go by Greenwood Daylily Gardens during their annual open house at their growing grounds in Somis. Last year I picked up excellent lemony-yellow Clivia- but these peachy-flowered cultivars would sublimely light up shady corners with their sophisticated coloration. If any one has them in stock, Greenwood will.

Reservations for tea at the The Huntington Library and Gardens can be made Wednesday through Monday between 9a.m. and 4 p.m. by phoning 626-683-8131. There is an on-line reservation service, but it didn't work when I tried to use it. It is recommended that reservations be requested at least 2 weeks in advance of your visit.

Greenwood Daylily Gardens are open to the public every Saturday from April through June, from 9:30 AM to 4:00PM, and by appointment to landscape and nursery professionals. Use their map on http://greenwoodgarden.com/visitus.htm for accurate directions.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009


Easter. Everything else on this list is but an accessory to the holiday.

In years ahead, we don't always know what we will remember most. That is why we should strive to enjoy each moment when it happens. One of my favorite memories was our high school church group helping to serve Passover dinner at the local synagogue.

While their are differences in our faiths, that evening made real the centuries of common tradition and humanity to a girl of an impressionable age.

Eggs. For painting, throwing at picnics, enveloping quiche ingredients for brunch.

Entertaining. Spring time is gorgeous. This copy of an old Polaroid is of my mother's former garden in Whittier. Imagine the egg hunts a child could enjoy in that garden as colorful as the eggs which were hidden among a jungle of bright flowers.

Easter vacation. My family are my best friends. Easter vacations for our young family was a time to bond. My husband traveled extensively throughout much of his career. When he wasn't on travel- he was frequently burning the midnight oil on a proposal. Being rare, family time together was very precious. Easter break was a time we tried to commit as best we could to spend playing together. It might be at the beach, baseball games or horseback riding.
This photo of the very handsome guy with deep dimples and gorgeous hair- that's my husband when he was teaching our oldest son, Trevor, to swim.

Easter Sunrise service has always been my favorite service of the year. Each chapter in our lives had different traditions, but all included worship on this holiest day. The decade immediately past, it was our ritual to worship with extended family in Fullerton, then share brunch. However, life changes and we must adapt. This year we plan to watch the sun rise and reflect on the fulfillment of God’s promise with our own church family here in Diamond Bar.

My father was not a Christian. During the Civil Rights Movement, he was aghast that the Lutheran Church came out in support of the non-violent marches of Martin Luther King. My mother rarely stood against my father. But on this she was adamant. Their girls would go to church. We were free to choose how to worship or not- however we would have the advantage of participation in faith as a part of our early life experience. Even though my mother is not herself a woman of faith, I pray for God’s mercy on her soul, for this action on her part allowed me to become one.

What are some of your favorite things that start with the letter “E”? It would be a blessing to hear from you.
Top photo by Alta Loma photographer Gene Sasse. Used with permission http://www.genesasse.com/
Photo of Gerry and Trevor Plunk by Albert Rossett.

The last image is available from the Archival Research Catalog of the National Archives and Records Administration under the ARC Identifier 542010(Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., Leaders marching from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963. In the front row, from left are: Whitney M. Young, Jr., Executive Director of the National Urban League; Roy Wilkins, Executive)

Easter Sunrise service will begin at 6:30 AM on Sunday, April 12th at Mt Calvary Lutheran Church and School, 23300 Golden Springs DrDiamond Bar, CA. For more information, please to to info@mtcalvarylutherandb.org

Monday, March 23, 2009


Does nature ever leave you speechless- lost in the delight?

The first time I saw the bright yellow feathers I thought it was an exotic bird escaped from captivity.

When I learned these were orioles- I bought a Perky Oriole feeder like this model.

It took two seasons for the orioles to be attracted by the orange nectar. But it wasn't a waste. Hummingbirds are more than happy to share until the orioles pop in for their yearly vacation.

The first migrations came through in May. But the message of hospitality here must be getting around. Every year the orioles come earlier, stay longer, with a bigger entourage. Today I spotted the first oriole of the season. Nothing can spoil my mood while the orioles are in town!

I would like to introduce you to someone very special. Her name is Abigail Alfano. The hummingbird lady.
I have never met the Louisiana Licensed Physical Therapist Assistant. But I feel like I know her.
She was kind enough to allow me to post this
the photo her husband, Sam, took of the fearless little birds as they fed from her hand.

You can drop by her website to read the story behind this image-order a high resolution photo of one of the closeups to inspire you when you are facing impossible odds. Chances are, it can't be harder than getting hummingbirds to feed from your hand.
Just click on http//www.abigailsings.com/hummingbirds/index.html

Friday, March 20, 2009

First Day of Spring

Spring is here. It has been so busy with the garden and regular writing assignments that it has been difficult to come up with time to get in this second installment of the March Garden Blooming Blog Day.
But I promised. Hope better late than never applies here.

My niece, Anka and her husband, Chet, are down from Portland for their spring break. They are the BEST house guests.

This bunny statue guards a patch of alyssum. The late Coberly Neal talked me into a trio to serve as garden art when she was the nursery manager for Sunshine Growers back in the days they had a retail location in nearby Walnut. If you missed their moving, they have consolidated their operations to Ontario, CA.

It wasn't so long ago that the rose foliage of the rose 'Betty Boop' was barely niblets the color of molten copper. Now, as the leaves have grown to the open position, their color is a deep burgundy. By the time the irrepressible flowers burst open, the mature foliage will be clean green for the rest of the year.

Nothing calls the bees faster than lavender. This exposed spot on the lot, sits at the corner of hot and dry. Around Saint Patrick'd Day, long-doormant freesia poke their heads through the lavender wands, adding color punch at the curb.

If you've never experienced the scent of fresh lavender- it is not quite the difference between a fresh steak and shoe leather. But you get the idea.

It will be dark soon. Look how the just opening bud of Brigadoon is a spotlight of happiness in the darkened landscape.

Tonight the family will be meeting up for dinner in Fullerton.
Our sons are taking full advantage of their cousin being here for dinner. They know I will do just about anything for love.
You see- they booked a table at Chomps Sushi and Teppan Grill.
I have never "done" sushi. I call sushi fishbait served in seaweed. I hope I know what Teppan is. If I'm right, I will be happy. If not, I started the new diet a day early.
I know there will be people there I like. No love. So I have opened up to trying a new experience. One never knows when the opportunity to be with someone will be taken away. So when in doubt- go for it.

Nothing lasts forever. I was in Chino Hills last week as the crew was dimantling the sign of The Great Indoors.
The store was a favorite haunt when it first opened. So much variety. Unfortunately, too often the sales force was untrained and unappreciative of what they had to offer the public. Their reputation suffered. With time, The Great Indoors became just another big box retailer in a crowded field.
I will miss it for what it was at first, what it could have been, but not for what it had become. At least in this community.
The 17 acre wholesale/ retail Sunshine Growers Nursery will give the uninitiated a good feel for the Ontario nursery's scope. http://www.sunshinegrowersnursery.com/
The website for Chomps looks promising. http://www.chompfullerton.com/

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Garden Blooming Blog Day- March/ First installment

There is too much blooming now to put it all in one post. So let me highlight the best over the next few days....Starting with orchids

This bright yellow specimen has known to hold its color for up to 90 days. Don't you love a touch of yellow about the garden? It's like growing sunshine.

This delicate coloration is so feminine . Doesn't it remind you of a sea shell with its creamy white petals striped with shell pink and touches of soft yellow? It came from a 2006 jaunt up to the Santa Barbara Orchid Festival. A souvenir of my well-earned vacation while a newspaper editor.

This deep rose orchid was a present from my mother. It usually begins to bloom at Christmastime. It is breath-taking when surrounded by burgundy poinsettias in bloom.

It sent up flower spikes unseasonably late. I forgive it.

It didn't read the newspapers to know- global warming is supposed to make everything bloom early.

What do I believe? I believe that weather changes.
One ice age gave us Stradivarius violins made from wood made of trees of unusual resonance grown within fibrous structure. Unusual weather gave us a new nation because Washington could cross the Delaware River.
I believe our knowledge of the universe is finite. We should always stretch to understand more. However, a little humility on man's part is always in order. No matter what the truth, life is always a struggle with potential for great beauty when we grasp life's fleeting nature.

If you have never been the Santa Barbara Orchid Show- it is on this weekend. Here's an image from 2006. Being there is like being surrounded by a living kaleidoscope.

Thanks very much to tissue-culture propagation, orchids are no longer confined to Beverly Hills.

Eden Garden Center in Diamond Bar has gorgeous blooming plants for under $15.00. They also currently have an unadvertised special on Japanese Maples when I was there earlier this week.

Info on the 64th Annual Santa Barbara Garden Show can be quickly accessed at

Monday, March 16, 2009

D- Lightful

Time for the alphabet exercise! The sweatless routine where pushing-up memories of favorite things builds the happiness muscles. I lead with some of my favorite things- this time starting with the letter “D”- you are welcome to jump in add your own to the collection.

Dogs. Meet Reno and Tahoe. No matter how old they get, they will forever be our puppies.
Weighing in at 10.8 pounds, with a sleek, short hair, Tahoe is a Min Pin- Chihuahua Mix. She was born to be the leader of the pack. She experiences the world through her nose. The one she put right up in the face of the coyote last year. Tahoe is obedience trained. But before she does what “the master” wants, she tries to see if she can negotiate a treat up front.

Reno, weighing in at 8.8 pounds is allegedly half long haired Chihuahua and toy poodle. She is fully in touch with her lap-dog heritage. She doesn’t care what you are doing or where you are going. She wants to be with “her people” at all times. She experiences the world through her mouth. If something can’t be chewed, it must need to be licked. Especially toes.
Their favorite TV program is The Dog Whisperer and yes, we bought Beverly Hills Chihuahua in Blue Ray to watch together as a family.

Diamond Bar. We moved to our first home here on Saint Patrick’s Day, 1979. From our backyard we had this lovely view of a rolling green hillsides. After a time we noticed that large trucks that went up it during the daytime. One day I drove over to see what our view was of. Turns out we had a view of the driveway leading to the dump with the lovely name- Spadra Landfill. When we moved to Diamond Bar, we might have had a signal at Diamond Bar and Grand Avenues. But I don't remember it. Now on a typical day between 32, 425 and 43,135 cross the intersection, which definitely is managed by traffic signals. Not that there aren't parts of Diamond Bar dedicated Open Space where our natural heritage is self-evident.
This last shot was taken from the South parking lot at Summitridge Park. This spot is roughly 3000 foot higher than were I live. From here you can view much of the San Gabriel Valley. The tree with red berries in the foreground is Toyon. Like most canyons in Diamond Bar which are not developed, the plant population is largely indigenous chaparral and oak trees. The snow covered peaks in the background are the San Gabriel Mountains.

Dessert. Just as not all men are the same, not all dairy products are the same. Some cows are better treated, better fed and cared for differently.

If you’ve only dallied with the whipped cream which spurts out the nozzle of a can- you are settling for mediocrity. The Trader Joe’s brand of heavy cream is richer, creamier, dreamier. Whip it up with some baker’s sugar and real vanilla. Serve over fresh strawberries and let the tongue linger over simply luxurious mingling of taste and texture. The secret to Trader Joe’s heavy cream is the attention to detail. The cream isn’t over-pasteurized and is not made from the milk of over-medicated cows.

Dating. One of the secrets to a happy marriage is to keep dating- each other. Huell Howser frequently makes great suggestions of places to go on his PBS program- California’s Gold. His tip led us to The Nethercutt Collection in Sylmar.

Built by the Merle Norman fortune, the price of admission is right. It is free. It features functional art- mostly cars. Extraordinary cars. Some heralding from the days where there were 1,ooo auto makers in open competition for the hearts and dollars of the public through proprietary colors, gleaming brass lanterns and polished woods- sometimes even on the wheel spokes. A Ford with an etched glass floral design caught my eye.

Behind the main building is the fully restored 1912 Pullman Rail car commissioned by E.J. “Lucky” Baldwin’s eldest daughter, Clara, when she inherited her portion of his vast estate. It is difficult to imagine that this gleaming restoration was found in Massachusetts in a dilapidated state, shivering weather sealed away only by a coat of shrink-wrap. If you can find the bell mechanism in the attached 1937 Hudson locomotive- you can ring it. This exhibit does not need a reservation, but it is toured only at certain times, so check open-times in advance or be prepared to be disappointed.

The main building is open without a reservation, however a little advance planning to get a reservation to tour the Collection, opens up the gleaming showroom just across the street to touring with guides, premier examples of meticulously maintained classic automobiles in a setting authentic to the Hollywood glamour in which they were introduced. I am not particularly an auto aficionado. But this collection filled me with awe and understanding why some people are.

This special tour also allows you access to fine music ‘boxes”. Some of the players fit tabletop. One is large enough to fill an entire wall of the ballroom. Many were played. Seeing violins mounted so they struck the bow to make the music go’ round- that was just the beginning of an era meant to bring music to the masses when a traveling troupe of musicians might not work. I listened to the radio on the way home with a new appreciation for all the steps it took to make enjoying music performed for personal pleasure so portable.
Distictis. Loosely translated, that is Latin for the family of trumpet vines. This D. buccinatoria “Blood- Red Trumpet Vine. ” She wasn’t happy where I planted her. The first summer she cooked in the heat. Never thought I would see her again. But about 5 years later- up she sprang. Happy the tree had grown, giving her just enough protection from the sun for her to be healthy in the micro-climate that grew in her absence. She can grow quite large with time – but she’s a hummingbird magnet- and looking up at her from the neighbor’s garden- she’s worth the effort.

Except as noted here- photos are from my personal collection.

Thank you to commercial photographer Gene Sasse for permission to use the photo of the dairy cows. http://www.genesasse.com/
The Photos of the Nethercutt Collection Cars and Train are from their website at http://nethercuttcollection.org/. More information on the Museum and Collection, including hours and how to make a reservation, are easily accessed here.
Toyon is not an easy tree to find for sale. However, the Garrison Foothill Nursery, 679 East 16th St., Upland, usually has both 1 gallon babies for $6.79 and some good sized 5 gallon specimens at $19.50. Larger sizes are available on request. You can call ahead to (909) 949-9878 or go to their website at http://florasouthwest.com/ to learn more about the nursery with the motto, "Preserving California's Water Resources"

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Favorite Things – C here

For as long as I live, I will be a California Girl.
If my nose is “up in the air”- it is because I am gazing at clouds

Or sniffing at a climbing rose.

The frothy 'Lemon Meringue' is one I am considering adding to my collection as it blooms on both new and old wood- I won't have to "think" when pruning. I found it in the Weeks Roses catalog. If my local nursery doesn't have in stock when I can hold back the temptation no longer- I can always ask them to order a pair.

It is time to request a blooming calla lily, the flower of resurrection and rebirth, be sent to church for Easter celebrations.
Like many Californians, the long-stemmed beauty traces her ancestors back to a foreign land and the name changed to something “more American”. With family roots (or in her case, rhizomes) originally springing from South Africa- the calla’s tribal name- her genus- is zantedeschia.
Clothed in elegant, clean lines that are almost sculptural- the calla is a traditional flower with modern appeal. Callas are to flowers what Prada is to plants.

Nigella Lawson commented in her cookbook How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food about how grocery store carrots have turned cardboard in flavor. For all the good things cardboard packages up- flavor is not one.

Some of life’s problems are not so easily fixed. But those we can, should be. Chives, cilantro, cucumbers and carrots will be tucked into open garden spots. When they are “just right”- their just picked flavor will add to the sweetness of life.

Be creative- What are some of your favorite things which start with the letter C?

Thank you to commercial photographer Gene Sasse for permission to use the images in this post. Other than the book cover- they are his work. Go to his site and be amazed http://www.genesasse.com/

Monday, March 2, 2009

Why Garden?

To have a garden is to wake up every day in awe of God's creation.

To create a garden is to be His partner in creation.

You help Him and He teaches you.

About everything important.

To discern what is best forgotten.

To garden gives you a chance to more than look at a garden, you have the opportunity to see the undulating shades of a single color of a petal unfurling as its scent takes your breath away.

Every morning in the garden is a new surprise to open your imagination and keep your mind refreshed.

The more you are with your garden, the more you will love it. You will gaze upon it with ever-fresh amazement. You will discover that green leaves aren't always green. Even those that are- there are a thousand different shades and hues of the one color to enchant the eye.

Gardening holds everything in true perspective. In the house, I forget how small my Reno is. But see how tall the "Sea Lavender" statice behind her is? That is why she is not allowed to play outside on her own.

Gardening makes the best cooks.

Rosemary roots easily from stem cuttings. The trick is to give it full sun, good drainage- and try to ignore it.

Many a late afternoon, I have strolled outside to clip off the tip off an outstretched limb, strip its of its needles, then use it to add a Mediterranean flair to chicken, pork or green beans.

Yellow Clivia doesn't shout like the common prison-orange garbed variety. It simply commands your attention with its simple beauty that is equal parts traditional form and modern simplicity.

Thank you for visiting my garden. Come back soon.

Top Photo is where the freesia has naturalized beside the driveway. Pink blooming trees are Magnolia Soulangiana straight behind and Tabebuia on left.

The silvery pink rose is 'Our Lady of Guadalupe' .

The fiery tinged rose leaves are on the very tall tea rose 'Brigadoon'

The rosemary is an upright variety purchased in a four-inch for less than a cost of jar in the grocery stores.

Reno is eight and a half pounds of LOVE.

Greenwood Daylily Gardens in Somis sold me the divinely shaded yellow clivias. For more info /http://greenwoodgarden.com/