Monday, April 29, 2013

Southern California Garden Show Season Opener - Part 1 of 2

The Speaker's Area entrance
April. How I wish you were two months, not one. So much to do. Including take in garden shows and tours. The season opener this year: the Southern California Spring Garden Show at South Coast Plaza. 

With all that needs to be done in my own garden and the pile of paper needing personal attention, why leave home? For the same reason God gave man the Sabbath and cultures celebrate. It is good to look up. To commune and to learn. 

It took 3 authors to compile the authoritative California Native Plants for the Garden- Carol Bornstein, David Fross and Bart O'Brien. Don't you just love the serape the Rancho Los Alamitos Historic Ranch and Gardens displayed it on? 

At home, my 'Ida Red' iris  from Greenwood Garden just finished its 5 month-long  extended blooming season. That performance earned it some shopping for companions. At the show, the horticulturist's wife and daughter  were wonderful about helping me choose garden- mates to pretty-up its stand in my garden.  The larger bold pink is a regal  geranium named 'Belinda'. The prom queen will need to be cut back 70% in the fall. Next spring , from her cuttings will spring joyous progeny ):- 

Aurelia from Greenwood garden 
These miniature Martha Washington geraniums - 'Aurelia' - these are simply brilliant defining the waist of a planter box or edging the garden path. 

Fern farmer  Jim Boehme expanded on what belongs in the garden designer's repertoire of California natives- hiking in our local hills and mountains, in the shade along stream beds are ferns. Among his collection sold to collectors and commercial aggregates are the indigenous 'Woodwardia  fimbriata' and the lovely immigrant  Korean Rock fern  'Polystichum tsus-simense'. Deep green and well behaved, it deserves to be in more landscapes. You can check out  the Fern Factory's  extensive collection of specialties  here .

Stay tuned. The handsome young man at the counter of the all soil solutions specialist  ENRECOS  expanded upon the wonders of worm composting- sharing that besides succulents and natives "This is the year of the dahlia." 

The next edition of the blog will tell you more about the  artists who sparked a  garden craze.

Next up-  you will be treated to some plant-envy inducing introductions, garden hints and highlights. Including introducing you to the Fullerton based mosaic artists whose work is shown above. Then it is on to the Fullerton Open Gardens Tour... 

Until then- Take time to do something to make the world more beautiful. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Re-Thinking the Garden- YARDS: Turn any outdoor space into the garden of your dreams

An Open Letter to Billy Goodnick, Author of Yards: Turn any  outdoor space into the garden of your dreams (St. Lynne's Press)

In my study. Could it be the arrangement of  'Betty Boop' roses, Iris, Borage and Valerian  gathered from the garden are admiring Billy's new book?
Dear Billy- 

Congratulations on your influential new book-Yards: turn any outdoor space into the garden of your dreams. It's a difficult thing to construct a book which is useful and desirable across horticultural zones and economic boxes. You did it. With style and fun.

  Your talk at the last   Southern California Horticultural Society inspired me. First to look back at my journey as a gardener. Then, when you implored the audience  to finish the sentence in describing our relationship to our gardens " I like it because..."  the collective nudge of how to structure  renovations was palpable.

 This is where I started, in June of 1989.  

We bought this house. It was brown on brown with brown carpeting and beige walls. It came with a lawn and a view. Our sons were both in grade school. Our family motto back then- The season never ends, only the ball changes- the best asset was the distance from our "field" to the nearest  neighbor's windows. 

It was all I ever wanted in a garden. For about 30 days. 

As a learn-by-doing gardener, over the years my garden has featured lots of mistakes.  Many earned having my mugshot featured on your clever Crimes Against Horticulture: When  Bad Taste Meets Power Tools,   

Having fun at the Tucson Garden Writers Association  Symposium

Long-ago, I was the ax- murderess of an innocent maple. The following spring I read  the poor tree was probably just dormant. 

Not that nature punished me. Nooo, with the assistance of  American Express (who encourages plant malfeasance by throwing in replacement miles towards  future travel), where the maple had only been sleeping there is now firmly rooted  my first flowering tree: a Magnolia x soulangeana (saucer magnolia).

Can we blame the garden lust on  the plants?  The more mistakes I made, the more compost there was to nourish my next victims- er- specimens. 

Which brings me to this time and place. Where the sacrifice of many plants has created an environment of colorful sanctuary.   

I like my garden because the slant of the hillsides make for painterly plantings.

I like that you don't have to see the house to make it stand out from the rest on the block.

I like how flowering plants imbue our former " driving range" with an aura of Eden.

The openness of the garden's original state is more appropriate to a true wilderness setting. We like our privacy. I think of it as our original garden was nude- now it is dressed in layers of finery- with hints of what is special to tempt visual exploration beyond the fence-line. 

I adore the erasure of borders.  For some plants, fruit follows flowers, why shouldn't they live together? Segregation for segregation's sake ought to be considered a sin. In everything. 

From Hummingbirds to Hawks. My vision of Eden is full of birds.


I like that m y garden is an aviary without a net.

 Structure in the garden grounds the garden to its purposes. But the transcendent return of the Orioles in the spring lifts the most important component of American greatness- the imagination. 

The fuzzy orange bumble bee did not stick around long enough to have me find the camera, put on the lens before he buzzed off- but there are always honey bees about to be photographed-  just so I don't try to pet it (like Kenny did in preschool).

Butterflies are the dessert of an abundant garden.

My little Reno isn't much of a hunter.  We do our best to keep her from becoming the hunted. 

My feet, knees and back used to dream of this garden being finished.  I am now convinced.  This can only happen if I stop dreaming.  

Which in a garden such as this- the magic is unstoppable. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

April 2013 GBBD - Preparing Your Garden for a Tour

“We all walk through our neighborhoods wondering what’s on the other side of the fence.”
~Nan Sterman

'Orange Ice' Bougainvillea, Agave bracteosa, Senecio mandraliscae, and Hunnemannia fumariifolia - a heavenly combination! Photo: Nan Sterman
‘Orange Ice’ Bougainvillea, Agave bracteosa,Senecio mandraliscae, and Hunnemannia fumariifolia – a heavenly combination! Photo: Nan Sterman
"Preparing Your Garden for a Tour" is my latest piece in Pacific Horticulture. Only available online, you can read the full article here 

What makes a garden great? Ron Vanderhoff of  Roger's Gardens shared recently how many gardens are "Beautiful in a picture-postcard sort of a way; often for a moment in time. Gardens to look at are fine, but a garden that draws you closer, that plays with your senses and that you can communicate with in a sort of back-and-forth manner – that’s a great garden." 

He continued "Gardens should also sustain a person's interest. Even a picture-postcard garden might engage the participant initially, or even for a brief while. But what if you were around that garden almost every day? Would it still engage you at another season or another year? That's the difference between a great garden and a good garden."

That got me to thinking. A great garden is one you love. 

Welcome to behind my garden's gate. Introduce yourself to the garden I love.

My garden isn't perfect in the trend-setting magazine perfection sort of way.  It however, perfectly suits me.

What it lacks in discipline, it makes up for in enthusiasm.  Watch the bloom-factory rose 'Betty Boop ' petals unfurl as the camera lens moves in ever closer. 

A prolific bloomer, this girl does not know when to stop. In her case, it is a good thing);- 

In maturity, the floribunda rose 'Julia Child' rose grows more fascinating. Some plants get less attractive when you get close in- not this beauty. 

Interior designer, author and lifestyle expert, Alexandra Stoddard recommends a touch of yellow in every room. 

For the color's uplifting psychological effect- I believe yellow belongs in every garden. 

Some plants get less attractive when you get close in- 'Julia Child' is elegant in every season. 

In the background you'll spot this purple  iris. The original plant was dug from my mother's garden. 

Other families pass furniture and jewelry down through the generations. My mother passed on something deeply personal- her plants. I see her smile in every bloom. 

The stake in the foreground remains as a requiem for a tree rose that died of strangulation.  This spot needs a bit of vertical structure to anchor the corner. What, I haven't decided -perhaps something sculpted and classical.  It has taken since 1986 to change what was once a bare corner into this magical mayhem- I can be patient. 

The nasturtium hopped from a nearby sunny spot into where the Mother fern decided it was happy. 

Grasshoppers aren't on my top ten list of favorite critters. They bring out my crueler side. I like to think that I am generally kind- but I do believe the only good grasshopper is a dead grasshopper.  

'Lillian Austin'  is the Maui sunset painted on rose petals. 

'Our Lady of Guadalupe' made its way into my heart courtesy of a niece. A beloved house-guest  of the first order, she brought the first of the triplets which front the herb garden as much for their story as for their delicate color.  This rose was born of a partnership between the United Farm Workers and Jackson & Perkins.  A portion of the sales were dedicated to the Hispanic College Fund. 

A Growing Passion, hosted by California-native Nan Sterman, launches on KPBS, May 2, 2013.

A Growing Passion, hosted by California-native Nan Sterman, launches on KBPS and on May 2, 2013.Find out more and discover how even if all you have in seed money is $1, you can help   A Growing Passion  get growing  through Kickstarter,

Linking to GBBD- Garden Bloggers Bloom Day 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

April bloom- The Roots of My Obsession

Welcome back.   When the garden is in bloom, it is time to share.

Up close, the yellow of  the rose Julia Child is rich like fine Irish  butter

  The roses, iris and and geraniums were pruned from my garden this morning.  I sometimes buy milk in glass bottles- you really can't purchase a more charming vase for less.  The only thing better than how the duo looked on the counter were the smiles on the housekeepers' faces when they left, each with their own. 

 Yes, I own a color wheel. But truth be known, it gets spun more than referenced):-  I don't garden for any intellectual purpose at all. I garden for the glorious hallelujah chorus of birds and bloom.  For exhilaration and  exoneration. All mistakes are forgiven for they become the compost on which future success grows. 

I write with a prayer that this obsession in contagious. 

I confess: when it comes to African Violets, I am a mass murderer. If they unionized, they could refuse to be condemned via my shopping cart.

However, over the years I have amassed a small collection of cache pots and a bit of moss left over from other projects- for $1.99 at Trader Joe's- the table has a centerpiece and the compost pile a future component.   A win-win for everyone. Except maybe the African violet);- 

 I used to be afraid of the bees buzzing over the lavender. Now I live for those moments when they let me into "their" space to take a picture.    

The Roots of My Obsession came home with me from Portland. I read the 30 essays edited by Thomas Cooper like a daily devotional. One very personal essay  a day, I came away thinking the world is a better place for it is full of gardeners.  

Photo by Gene Sasse 
Pacific Horticulture  is featuring a story I am thrilled to share Actively Engaged- The Purpose Driven Garden.