Thursday, June 30, 2011

Spa Water

There is no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved. It is God's finger on man's shoulder. ~Charles Morgan

When the weather is hot, don't we all appreciated simplicity in a way that escapes us on winter days? We need to stay hydrated both for physical health and beauty.

This summer in particular, I find we are all looking for refreshments that are light, refreshing, and inexpensive.

At an interview on the history of Diamond Bar, long time community activist Sue Sisk served me this spa water that her massage therapist introduced to her. It is simply

In a crystal pitcher add a handful each of 
  • Mint
  • Cucumber
  • Lemon
Gently pour ice cold filtered water and allow to steep. Refill with more water as needed.

I could not get enough. I can't wait to serve to Gerry. It is so good in and of itself, I'm looking for company to fix it for.

Cottage Flora Thursday- Diamond Bar Edition

A home is not a home without a garden. Since I was a child and began to dream about gardens, my imaginations were filled with color. Is it the same for you?

Rosa 'Betty Boop'

The  last week of June is finishing. The race to beat the heat with major garden chores is fast approaching the finish line. Since attitude is everything, think of pruning as a chance to rescue clippings.  Sort of a really green reduce-reuse- recycling.

Which is the story of how the leggy trio of Betty Boop roses that front the dining patio became the base for this arrangement. I love how well the colors repeat with bell shaped trumpet vine (campsis radicans)- their golden sleeves and red-orange throats  held within the arms of the roses. A bit of variegated Swedish Ivy peeks out like a lacy slip.

Still, the arrangement lacked structure. A quick lopping off the succulent heads of Aeonium 'Sunburst'

Tall arrangement belong on sideboards- or in this case, a window ledge
Treating an outdoor space as a room is through subtle touches. On the wall hangs a vintage wooden platter, a memento of my Californian upbringing. Holiday weekends were filled with feasting. My mother would heap that platter with grapes and fruits for her daughters to grab from while we waited for the 'main event' - the barbecue, to finish.

The variegated ficus, potted up so she doesn't take over or lifted up. See how she sits in the corner- like a drapery treatment tied up?

Thank you to Fishtail Cottage for hosting this Open House. Due to technical difficulties, I almost thought this post was lost. Hooray for my hero husband. It paid to marry my handsome geek. 

Justin case the system upgrade going on downstairs takes a few days- please have a safe celebration this coming Independence Day

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Outdoor Room featuring Jamie Durie

An audience of hundreds on a June-gloomy morning
 The world of gardening has a reputation for staid reserve. Enter Jamie Durie to kick the energy up several notches.  This man knows how to move and hold an audience's attention.  A GOOD attribute for a man with a mission: as humans we are intrinsically drawn to gardens: we should give in. With intent and intelligence.

Once upon a time, Jamie originally entertained crowds as a member of Australia's Manpower.  Think Australian Chippendale revue on a goodwill tour. The Australian of Sri Lankan descent also trained with the of the cast of Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas from 1994 to 1996, and mastered a specialised trapeze movement, the Russian flying act. Forget toastmasters, more speakers should learn to dance and fly through the air before standing in front of an audience.  Dressed this day in his signature plaid work shirt, denim and boots at where Roger's Gardens, featured him as a speaker, I can't say I remember a "talk" ever feeling so delightfully  choreographed. Drop in some music, and this event had the entertainment value of a Broadway production.

What Jamie learned as an entertainer, he now puts to use as is a serious horticulturist and landscape architect  with a TV show. The Outdoor Room is one of the few "G"( for garden) shows left on the HGTV Network.

Jamie admires the copper wire wrapped rain chains

The former scout and forever outdoor adventurist is on a mission to help people create gardens that will draw them outside. Gardens that are cohesive, sustainable, diverse and appropriate to the people and setting.
 Ron Vanderhoff, Roger's Gardens General Nursery Manager, explains the product mix of the Costa Mesa gardener's Mecca as  50% plant material and 50% life-style supporting products- making Roger's Gardens simply the best venue to hear the ideal Jamie preaches.   

The Outdoor Room is a book you can read- or even just look at the 200 pictures and absorb what Jamie has learned about what makes garden a memorable  draw.

Below are some of the images that morning that underscored Jamie's landscape design philosophy- to draw people outside and hold us there-

Gardens need destinations. Places to set and enjoy both company and the surroundings. The most romantic dining rooms I have ever encountered had candlelight and a fireplace. Here, a candle lit chandelier and propane tank dressed as a fire feature make for an absolutely seductive setting.


Seating should never be lined up against the wall. It should be arranged for conversation. Note: sheared shrubbery creates a soft curtain of privacy.  Within it, a micro climate is created that would allow you to expand your plant palette.

Above, a Great Room in the great outdoors. Note the focal points- the architecture  and amenities are both manufactured and grown -creating a more interesting balance than if only one or the other had been used to design the seductively functional space.
A simple urn shape covered in a highly geometric and textured finish

Alone, planted or as a fountain, a touch of time-worn elegance
The sculptural qualities of the seaside rain chains

locally crafted by Sunstones of  stone and glass to suit your personal color preference 
A group of 3 or more on the house have the effect of multiple strands of jewelry

Fired Scenic Tile provides nearly indestructible artwork

Imagine the tile surrounded with glowing red and green tropicals

Turned wood Mushrooms - wouldn't they make a wonderful statement standing up in a tray of moss?
 Be still my heart. A Typhoon Polished Green Jade Table, an organically shaped 36'" x48", with natural edges, is surrounded by 4 stump chairs. What a conversation piece this is. If it were for occasional use- I love the stumps appearance. However, if this was for frequent meals, for comfort's sake, I would pair the table with cushioned forged iron chairs. If the budget allowed- the stumps could be worked into the landscaping for party seating.

I am hoping the $4,999. combo finds a home in Diamond Bar and I can write more about it

Jamie looks terrific and I have a serious case of bed-head hair
My one question of the only man I've met who has had experience with both. Which is more interesting to garden with- deer or kangaroo? 

Debra Prinzing has a wonderful post with pictures of Jamie's own personal space.

Oh, yeah, before I forget. Kangaroos are more "interesting" than deer.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

June is For Loving

"Where we love is home, home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts."

-Oliver Wendell Holmes

My wonderful hubby rebuilt the post better than the builder every thought of

"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart."
Helen Keller

Swallowtail Butterfly Nectaring on Agapanthus
What lies behind us, and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

~ by Ralph Waldo Emerson

Erigeron Glaucus Up Close
Monrovia Nurseries  donated a choice of growing material for those of us entertained at Roger's Gardens at the Jamie Durie event last weekend.  The lovely erigon posing- I decided to give it a try. But before it goes in the garden- it is a little live bouquet at rest in a cache pot on our patio set.

The 4" Nursery Pot as Table Decoration

It was after a wedding in Pacific Grove that we decided to live our lives as we did that weekend. Gerry and I wanted our home to be our personal bed and breakfast. We wanted the house and garden to blend into each other in a romantic embrace.

This ideal focused our efforts here for- can it really be 25 years?

The advantage of these little flowers is my husband and I can see each other as we dine. Much more romantic that a bigger bouquet that would act as a hedge to try to peak over and around during a conversation. Don't you agree? 

Top 2 images by Gene Sasse.

Next image courtesy of Billie Baldwin at Roger's Gardens.  

Saint Francis and The Garden

The Chapel at Saint Jude's Hospital in Fullerton, CA
Sometimes you have to set down the day planner. Forget what you have scheduled to do. Instead, you do what needs to be done. When those plans include a spontaneous need to visit the hospital- you go. You pray.
It all worked well. Although you must wait a bit for my review of  HGTV's Jamie Durie and his newest release, The Outdoor Room.  Trust me. That will be worth waiting to read. First, a few words of thanks to "The Man" Upstairs.  
Sunny Yarrow and shades of red Valerian perk up a parking strip

The visit to the hospital could have gone the other way. But it didn't and I am thankful for so many things that a week ago I took for granted.

Jackmani clematis mingles with trumpet vine

This week it doesn't bother me, the time it takes to untangle the vines with tendrils wrestling for the upper hand.

The fragrant 'Betty Woods'  Daylily is forgiven for not establishing sooner.

The spike of common Lambs Ear rubs against the cement bench. The one I laid my first mosaic on for an anniversary long ago- which number it was now forgotten. More important was those days earlier this month when I thought perhaps my 35th Anniversary might have been my last.

It's a strange mix of tired that comes with the unknown when really good news follows.
My concentration is not quite as disciplined - and it doesn't seem to matter compared to the fact that there is every reason to believe the husband of my youth will be my partner in old age.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

A View to Garden Romance

If a June night could talk, it would probably boast it invented romance
~Bern Williams

When Chuck and Sandra Price lean over the wrought iron fence, this is what they see. The stained glass rooster watching over the little rows of vegetables. Joining it are a trio of tuteurs (3 -dimensional trellises) holding up tomatoes ripening on the vine now that the roots are mature enough for adult-onset hormonal changes which allow fruit to set.

Beyond, blooming scented plants surrounding the ultimate romantic accessory: the lawn. Green year-round here, mine may be the last lawn left without a golf course or cemetery attached. 

Don't all romantics love lawns? I love the birds picking worms to take their children, the bunnies sunbathing mid-day.  The freedom and coolness of a lawn simply cannot be replicated by outdoor carpet. No matter how lovely it looks in the showroom, no matter how hard the retailers centers and water conservation hawks try to make it, it does not hit the same note in the garden.    

Albizia julibrissin adds an oriental grace
One of my favorite features of the garden is the well shaped and trimmed Albizia. Not just for the romantic lacy shade it creates, it represents a bit of my heritage. My mother didn't care much for housework- but she loved to garden.  So much so that in 1960 they chose to live in Whittier rather than Downey because she thought the neighbors in Whittier were less likely to look down upon her doing her own garden chores. 

Roughly 4 decades later, it was not much more than a whip of a tree. My parents had raised it in a black plastic nursery container and delivered it my mom's Ford Focus.   Now its majestic trunk is large enough to carry carved initials.  

The canyon- the blooming mass of Matalija Poppy mark the property boundaries
Their view of the canyon- in the culvert you can see where my husband went a little overboard when I asked him for a bridge to cross over to the hinterlands safely when   Agriculture Department okay ed nursery-ing bare root roses from Peter Beales in the UK- IF they were kept in pots away from the landscape.  

Spa areas should be private
The spa we installed at our first home was at the back of the lot,  under the open stars. Romantic, yes. However, this little spot, offers more privacy. In inclement weather, it is more usable.  The garden side planter is under-planted in strawberries. 

Picking ripe strawberries from the spa is romance that you will not find on travel. If your home is not the romantic place you've ever been- make it your goal.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Garden Blooming Blog Day GBBD- June, 2011

The fire season broke out today at 2:40 pm today, Flag Day. It had warmed to 83.7 with flags whipping about in the drying breeze when the helicopters started circling not far to the south of here. Kudos to Darren Fishell over at  for swift and accurate report. I swear he must have police and fire notification implants. He is everywhere breaking news is. And he prints my local history column. This week on the earliest days of education

Thanks to the swift action of the fire department, I am able to keep my monthly date with my fellow garden bloggers. Without further adieu, WELCOME to my garden. This month's highlights

 The Fuchsia continues to go for the Guinness record for continuous bloom. Today it got fed a banana peel (for potassium) and egg shells (for calcium) tucked into a few shovels of potting soil for nourishment.

Carnation  D. caryophyllus and Graptopetalum paraguayense ‘Pinky
The fuchsia is planted in this Vietnamese glazed pot set within a minimal planting area the builder provided for a long ago discarded poodled- plant. At its feet there is barely enough space between it and the hardscaping for the dianthus (carnations) and succulent cuttings to be tucked in.

However, what this slim edging cannot offer in mass is made up for by scent. Walking up to the front door as the sun lies down for its evening nap-the spicy fragrance of the pinked-edged carnations is magnified in the tight space, offering a welcome that bids the biding of time.  

Time + Trees = Dappled Shade
The flat space that is my front garden may be minimal in size, it is not minimalistic in style. When Gerry and I first moved in with our sons, this area was regularly scorched under summer sun. Now that the trees have matured- both ours and our neighbors- I am  pleased to find the sun-loving sea lavender (Limonium latifolium) and  coral pink Peruvian Lily ( Alstromeria) bloom despite the changes in their micro-climate. 

The slightest turn of the lens focuses on this angel wing begonia. I forget her name, but never that I planted her the day before my niece Alison died in an accident. It is impossible to see these dainty flowers without thinking of the tragedy that befell the family. Nothing is so tragic or of comic senselessness as the death of a child.

Begonia close-up. A reminder of our angel, Allison.

The reflected sunshine on driveway is put to good garden-use

Visitors chummy enough to come to the back door pass where red Valerian self-seeded with lemon verbena and nasturtium...

Ripe snack-style tomatoes ...

underplanted with a rose related to the romantic 'Renae'

There are many more flowers blooming which I could drop here, but I think you'll find these more interesting.

In a few weeks strawberries may be plucked while enjoying a hot soak in the spa.

The trumpet vine and I are in a battle for dominance as she tries to wiggle her way through the lemon-loaded Meyer tree.

There is much more to share, but as Aussie cum California transplant Jamie Durie teaches, the best garden experiences do not come at once, but reveal themselves a glimpse at a time.

So I leave you with a scene that is quintessential California. The June gardens here celebrate flower and fruit. Here,  exemplified in this side yard- where the bougainvillea and ripe kumquats embrace.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wildflowers, Wildlife and Wine

"Imagination is air of the mind."
-Philip James Bailey
English Poet 1816-1902

Deceased over 100 years- even he has a Facebook Page

There is no place like home to work. Just outside my study window, wildflowers and wildlife beckon my imagination to come play. Or at least take a picture. 
Wildflowers or Flowers Gone Wild?

How does one work amidst such beauty? With great tugs of temptation and joy.  With assurance that with patience and hard work, all things are possible. Even swooningly romantic gardens in the center of suburbia.

Cupcake Chardonnay - At under $15/bottle- Affordable and Elegant

In a perfect world, everyone would have neighbors like Chuck and Sandra Price. Last weekend Sandra leaned over the fence to invite me to a mostly- family gathering in honor of son Charlie's graduation from Diamond Bar High School. Hurrah!

 Chuck knows my fondness for wine and my husband's adoration of a bargain. Which we all agree equates with good value. 

Perhaps this is eccentric- but I am a writer- so it should be more than excused- it should be expected. The Cupcake Chardonnay had me running back to my house to grab my little wine notebook and pen.  From my notes:

"Straw color with a light greenish tinge when introduced from bottle to glass. Light and luscious. Buttery, yet piquant."

What menu to pair with?  Why an ode to summer simplicity. Something to share on the patio with friends you really like.

Open with heirloom tomato slices arranged in rainbow sequence- red, orange,  yellow. The bright discs cushioned with the ultimate creaminess of  fresh mozzarella cheese. 

 The main course- A lemony chicken breast decorated with ribbons of grilled crookneck and zucchini squash atop a fluffed bed of rice pilaf, all finished with freshly snipped  sweet marjoram suspended in a quality extra virgin olive oil. 

As an herb of ancient lore, Sweet marjoram  is tender outside Mediterranean climates. Related to oregano, but with subtler charms,  embrace  her in your garden and learn why the Greeks and Romans revered her as a symbol of happiness.  

Sweet Marjoram image discovered at

The cartwheeling flower colors include-

The magenta-purple mass entrancing the hawk is an angel faced geranium which sprang from a cutting of the mother plant.

The pink flower puff was named by someone color blind as it is officially not pink, but red valerian. 

Lavender-ish balls - Society garlic

Daisy like path straddlers- Feverfew

Yellow Rose- Julia Child