Monday, October 29, 2007

Live In The Moment

The garden teaches that when a beautiful moment is at hand, stop and savor it.

A few moments after this shot was taken, the indigo had lifted from out of the sky. The display of Indigo Sprires Sage and the red Pineapple Sage is still beautiful: but it doesn't glow quite the way it did at that moment the moon sun first broke open the daylight.

The purple blue Indigo Spires Sage is the result of a happy accident of natural cross breeding. It popped up one day in the 1970's at the Huntington Library and Gardens.It is assumed to be the child of two mexican heritage sages which were growing nearby, S. farinacea and S. longispicata.

Indigo Spires is not a shy plant. It grows in most conditions, but best in full sun with moderate water, where it stretch to a good 5 x 5 floppy bush,with the calyxes reaching out up to another foot. This plant shouts for the attention of butterflies and hummingbirds. If you have room, I highly recommend it.

The Pineapple Sage is fussier about sunshine. It requires lots of it to bloom like this. However, its greatest attribute is its sweet smell. Plant it where you can enjoy the aroma when you brush against it. While the variety in the picture is the standard type, there are smaller cultivars readily available.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Beauty is Not in Perfection

If you can't read the words on the picture click on it, reading the words will bring back memories and uplift. If not, then perhaps your heart has problems not of the type solved by a cardiologist.

Beauty is not in perfection.

It is in friendship.

This engraved stone monument reminds me to be grateful that I have not had to journey through life alone. I owe so much to other people who have entered my life. Some on purpose. Some quite by chance. Some stayed. Some ran out quickly.

There is a companion quote by the Roman orator, Cicero.

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

It is an irony of life that from this vantage point, I know there are those wonderful individuals that can never be repaid directly. The ones that when I stumbled showed forgiveness, love and a helping hand back up.

One of the beauties of having a garden is that when I am alone in it, I get lost in thought. Sometimes in the wonder of anonymous freindship. Of happenstance meetings that changed my life for the better.

When I am in my garden, I thank God for all of you. And pray that when I come upon someone in need of a hand up, that I will follow your example.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Offer Holiday Cheer to Families of Fallen Heroes

¯Ralph Waldo Emerson said,“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, and to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

I would like to refine that statement a little. When you are honorable, compassionate and generous with whatever you are able to, that creates happiness within.

My son's mother-in-law got permission to share this letter. Please consider participating in any way you are able to. This is a very organized effort and is first-come best choice on assignments. The organization has a web site for any who need more information

Dear Family and Friends,

If you are a proud American and want to give back to those who defend our freedoms please read this and forward it on to everyone you know. We need your support and your help to get the word out and get people involved!!!

Dan and I volunteered for an organization called Snowball Express in 2006. We had such a wonderful and touching experience that we are now on the committee for 2007. Their mission is to reach out to the surviving children and parents of our fallen heroes, specifically the US service men and women killed during the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Snowball Express, a non-profit 501c3 organization, provides these families with a fun filled, all expenses paid weekend in Orange County. Between November 30 and December 2 they will attend an exclusive concert at the Grove in Anaheim, a spectacular party at Oakley headquarters in Foothill Ranch and a day at Disneyland. Many mothers who attended last year said this was the first time they saw their children feel joy since the passing of their father. Also, in bringing these families together it connects them to others who share and understand their difficult reality.

These families have made the ultimate sacrifice and their lives have changed forever. Because of these service men and women’s heroism we continue to enjoy the lifestyles and freedoms we have grown accustomed to and sometimes take for granted. I became part of this organization because I felt that we should all do more to show our gratitude, give service to these families and let them know their loved ones have not been forgotten. I’m hoping others will get inspired and get involved too.

We are looking for donations of money, toys, or time from many people and companies. No gift is too small, every dollar helps. Please talk to your friends, neighbors, family and employers about this wonderful program and get on board with us. We have specific volunteer needs and we are open to your ideas as well. Share your talents and special skills or lead a fundraiser at your work or school. Please join us and help make a difference in these families’ lives!!! If you would like to donate or learn more please visit If you are interested in becoming a volunteer please e-mail me at

Best Regards,

Michele Barto

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Xotx Tropico

Need something Tropical for your garden and can’t find it here in the suburbs? Xotx Tropico is an amazing corner nursery not far from the old Farmer’s Market in Los Angeles. In terms of biodiversity per square inch- this is the most diverse and exciting an adventure as you are going to find without needing a malaria shot administered.

The hibiscus in the picture is in front of my home. It is a RARE weeping hibiscus. How rare is it? Xotx Tropico is the only place in California I have seen them for sale. To see a mature weeping hibiscus in full bloom is to understand that a weeping cherry tree can appear understated in the landscape. If you miss the opportunity to see the examples for sale at Xotx Tropico, then the next closest specimens of this floral cascading bouquet in shades of pink cotton candy may be in one of two places. Hawaii. Or Florida.

With the spelling of the Xotx- I was a little concerned that behind the jungle would be a strip joint. The owner- he looks like he could play a bouncer for someone really important. He spouts Latin better than a priest.

Now, as the daughter of George of the Jungle. I know something about tropical surroundings. True story. My father was named George. My mother, from the tropical island of Puerto Rico, was afraid to go home because of hurricanes. So she brought the jungle to where we grew up in Whittier.

When I was in high school, the whole jungle thing mortified me. If someone wanted to know where we lived, all one had to say was “go to the jungle” and everyone knew where our house was. No further instructions were needed

So, take it from me. This is one AWESOME place to seek out the unusual. Not just thirsty tropicals- but lots of bulbs from South Africa, where the weather is hot and the rain doesn’t fall any more than it does here.

Xotx Tropico
900 N Fairfax Ave
West Hollywood, CA 90046
(323) 654-9999

Monday, October 1, 2007

Summer Crossing Autumn's Threshold

Living on an oversized hillside lot is not without its challenges. But it presented the opportunity to create a rare convergence of different ecosystems. We have trees providing everything from deep to open shade. We planned for understory, forest opening, field and chaparral conditions. By providing food, water, nesting, and shelter: nature entertains, educates and fulfills.
I have come to observe that summer crosses the threshold of autumn when the large owls start return to roost in the neighborhood’s mature trees. When the sun turns in for the night, these avians equipped with night vision spread their giant wings and start patrolling the neighborhood to stop any mischief. When their hooting echoes in the dark, the mockingbirds understand they should not entertain with an all-night jam session. Besides quieting noisy mockingbirds, the owls like to eat mice and rats and snakes. But not pets. So I love owls. I wish they would do like the hummingbirds. Decide that the living here is easy, the food ample and free: why migrate?
We also have a very handsome coyote who has taken up residence nearby. Long legs, well-muscled, thick coat. Likes to show off his luxuriant coat on his morning jog. He’s quite the dandy. At least he’s not a vampire. Daylight does not seem to bother him at all.
Picked the first apple off my tree! Nan Sterman, the gal who wrote the recently released California Gardener’s Guide, Volume II, recommended I try Sundowner. This Western Australian variety crisps up nicely without much chill. Light texture, low acid, delicious right off the tree. You can’t imagine the thrill that went through me as I took that first bite. I was so happy to beat the squirrels to it. Thank you, Mr. Coyote.