Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Birdwatching in Huntington Harbor Memorial Day Weekend.

To share the wonders of nature with a child is a fine path to happiness. For both of you.

Egret landing
Fleeting beauty memorialized at the speed of a camera shutter.  Is there anything so beautiful or miraculous made by man which compares with the works of God?  

An egret guarding its nest- but what kind of egret- please share 
Measured in the number of driveways and across the lane from from where my granddaughter lived since she was born, her new home is a world away.  Where she lived before there were tweeties and dove. Now there are large birds she can watch from the family deck. Why?

 Just as your girlfriend might prefer a broad meadow with a shade tree and a swing to read under, while you prefer the lower maintenance of a balcony with geraniums, different creatures find happiness in different ecosystems. 

If you want big birds, plant big trees
Charley now lives closer to the mini-park where dogs play and do their 'business'.  Instead of  small patio gardens, there is a pocket park  hugged on two sides by a hedgerow of broadleaf paperbark trees (melaleuca quinquenervia). Australian immigrants, the tree's appearance is distinguished by  uneven layers of deciduous bark peeling back in layers of tan and white from branches reaching up to 30 foot tall and twice as tall. 

Listen closely: the sound of wind whispering through fine leaves is joined with the call of large birds nesting high above the reach of predatory mammals known to hop the neighborhood's fences in search of small pets and poultry for dinner.  

Okay, bird aficionados- send over your bird ID's.* Especially that bird on the right. It is shaped like a hummingbird, but the size of  a small turkey.   

Charley just started walking and wants to know "What is up there?"
Until we meet again, Thank YOU for all YOU do to make the world more beautiful. 

* Thank you to Tom and Joan Bolton- and to Catherine Pannell Roberts. The white bird is a snowy egret and the other is a black-crowned night heron. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

South Pasadena is Beautiful ~ Part III ~ A Hillside Family Garden

 Welcome to Southern California. The day this picture was taken, half the country was shoveling snow.  Here: we were touring gardens and taking pictures to send to our relatives in upper latitudes. 

Surrounding the mid-century traditional home built in 1948 on the crest of of a .34 acre lot, Stella Binns, proprietress of Barristers Nursery  conjured up a soft landscape palette of muted greens and purples. Accents of contrasting bursts of precocious California poppies and roses dressed in pastels provide visual oomph. 

Nearly to the summit, a bit of a flagstone landing juts through the sea of plantings, providing a place for garden tourists to  safely dock. If I had clippers, I might have (with the owner's permission) fished for flowers to fill a vase. 

The Marengo area of South Pasadena is noted for mature trees 
I caught my breath, admiring the picturesque hillside garden of Jenny Hertz- Newman and Brian Newman.  A few more steps up the steep incline, and I would be behind the main garden gate. 

A rule of all design: practical items should be equally useful
When there are small children living on a hillside, a strong gate which can be locked closed is a safety must.  

Cross-fencing a playard  close to the house makes this an outdoor playroom. 

Strolling past from the house,  the playful lightness of the front gives way to tell a slightly different story. One where darker, richer colors encrust a forested garden, appearing as if fine gemstones  surrounding a giant Mother Nature's eternity ring. 

Ferns, low hedges and a fountain add definition

Paths of decomposed granite meander to where the real magic begins.  Under the shade of an old oak. 

 Can't you hear the laughter of little children, their imagination soaring on the arc of a disk swing? If you have a big tree- there are no excuses not to have one now. The are everywhere. Even Walmart  carries a similar model.  Check the weight limit- I've seen some which are rated to carry up to 250 lbs- even us bigger kids can come out to play):- 

Both red and lime green outdoor furnishings are hot fashion trends 

When setting up a child's area- don't forget your own adult comfort.  Placing the lime and red seating at the back corner, the parents elevates the the enjoyment of supervising children at play.  

One of the best features of the garden may be how it demonstrates that moderate water needs does not have to mute an aura of lush retreat.Once established, roses and begonias are more drought resistant than most people imagine.  How the giant flax punctuate the boundaries- simply masterful.  

Farewell, fine garden. We hate to leave. But there are more gardens to see. 

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

Monday, May 19, 2014

South Pasadena is Beautiful ~ Part II ~ I Brake for Gardens

First the dirt gets under the fingernails, then it seeps into your blood. That is how gardeners are born. Through contagion. Once addicted to gardening, there is no cure. None is sought. 

Warning. . Tailgaters beware: I brake for gardens.  

On days gardens are open, this obsession is not contained to the map provided by tour sponsors. This is one garden which reeled me in from an officially open garden down-street.

Houses don't have to look-alike to be good neighbors
This California cottage modeled a place-specific modern turn to the vernacular. Its charm is not from being pasted with artifice, but through carefully curated details. Gracefully aging swaths of shredded bark provide negative space to appreciate the  demure peeks at the rich terra cotta stucco home

A white rose planted where the porch meets the garden serves as a beacon to the entrance
 The simple iron handrail. Natural color wood doors and window frames. The spectacular subtlety. Like a well-tailored suit- this front garden transcends eras and fads. 

A couple banded barrels filled with greens to clip for the kitchen. I wonder if there are studies proving gardeners eat better, are healthier and live longer than a neighbor who does not? 

This garden has me hooked. 

I left my card. Said a writer's prayer. Let the owners be interested enough to read some of my writing. Trust me to be respectful.  May they want the story of their creation told to a larger audience.  And if I am so fortunate as to be contacted by them- let me exceed expectations. 

Until we Meet Again, Thank you for All you do to make the world more beautiful. 

Saturday, May 17, 2014

South Pasadena is Beautiful , Part 1

Gardens are the link between man and the divine. 

Walking Open Gardens is like strolling through heaven. 

2014 Garden Trend Report- People are providing for bees 
With this first glimpse of of a bee snuggling his muzzle deep into a frond of  'African Blue' basil- the sound, scent and sight put smiles on visitors to the first garden on the South Pasadena Open Garden Tour.   

Two trees and a hammock. A simple pleasure.
All good gardens start with a sense of place and people. 

Homeowners Wendy and Bob Darby, called upon Cornell University trained Landscape Architect Amy Nettleton, Principal of Elemental Landscapes , to create a serene escape from city life on their smallish lot, one with trees intensely knitted into the soil.

We value shade in Southern California. Even when the homeowners are not attached to their trees, mature specimens of certain species are frequently protected by the local government. Such is the case in South Pasadena

Rather than bemoan what deep shade and deep roots preclude the private landowner from installing, the canopy of leaves is celebrated as a place of comfort. A natural spot to lay the head down for a nap on a hot California afternoon. 

Posted in the shade of a heritage tree, a simple nesting box waits for residents 
Open spots, where sunlight floods the ground, vegetables and herbs are raised in organically tended beds, quenched by a drip watering system.

This is no mere fence. This is the South Pasadena is beautiful way of storage.  Built in the trinity of good design, it is solid, as beautiful as useful.   

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

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Charley Turns One ~ Theme Birthday Party ~ Part II

Wherever time flies, it definitely goes by jet plane. 

Our youngest son, Kenny, is one lucky man. I remember his toast at their engagement party, when he turned to his beloved and said "Shannon lights up every room she enters." Their daughter's first birthday party is a shiny example of how a person's special aura can be made real in the rooms they touch.

It was a sunny California day when Gerry and I pulled up to the house we know so well from the celebrations which were steps leading up to this day. This is where decorated fishing rods dangled about as props for Kenny's college graduation. Moroccan details for their engagement party. This time a child's first birthday party. Each event a study in how to levitate a gathering into an affair to remember .

As always, the front was spotless. Hot pink decorations signaling "this is the house." 

I remember this sign said something else at the baby shower.
Chalkboards hung as handy signage- which can be relettered for any occasion. 

An overscaled ruler, personalized with Charley's name was one of many decorations that shouted who was to be honored this day. 

A pinwheel snuggles with geraniums in a burlap covered pot  
The Morris clan is known for a self-service brand of hospitality. One where guests for a large gathering might be welcomed by a sign offering they are welcome them to walk right in. 

Organization ahead of time is key. Getting ready for a successful party of any size takes a ton of preparation. So the hosts can have as good a time as their guests, every detail is charted and checked.  Knowing whom is responsible for what, when and where saves allot of unnecessary stress.

 My daughter-in law, Shannon , her sisters and mother worked on decorations in spare moments since the start of the year. The husbands put in days of heavy lifting. 

Many of the decorations have been collected over time from other celebrations.Friends kicked in baubles. Stuffed animals in baskets multiplied  the country ambiance.

A framed picture of the birthday girl eating her first dessert made adult indulgences even sweeter.

The pinwheel fans work like long lasting flowers. Everywhere- their repetition in the decorations gave a consistent look throughout the party areas. Their homemade character keeping the tone of  what was a veritable feast down- home friendly. 

"Charley" was spelled everywhere. Reinforcing who was guest of honor.

The variety of food... 


More pink.... 

With a specific  party in mind, picking a color makes it easy to shop from home . 

Since Charley has been born: in our family, pink is the new black. 

There is more to come on how Shannon and family consistently pull off parties with all the polish of a magazine stylists working with event planners.

Thank you to Nikkipolani for taking on photographer duties for the day.  

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