Saturday, April 25, 2015

Rose Society of Saddleback Mountain~ Sneak Peek of The Elegant and Enchanting Garden Tour 2015~ Part II

 A tiny hummingbird rests on a gurgling fountain

"There is not a fragment in all of Nature, for every relative fragment of one thing is a full harmonious unit in itself."

~John Muir

European Country architecture embraced in California
Fire~Water. Sunshine~Shade.  Active~ Passive.  Hilltop~ Valley. Walk through a garden of seeming contrasts bound into a harmonious whole.

It wasn't always so. Like Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady, this was a garden in need of someone with vision and tenacity to take charge for it to maximize its potential.  

Enter Michel and Jo Faris. They looked past obvious difficulties (steep terrain and ivy strangling gardens composed of hodgepodge plantings) to the lists of assets.  Mature trees- there were already towering redwoods, ancient coast live oaks and monumental eucalyptus. The plant collections (camellias, roses and azaleas) were impressive in number. 

This was a garden meant to multi-task. It was graced with space and a sense of place. The couple decided they wanted to take on the task. They would guide Le Reve (The Dream) to its best possible self.

Here follows a sampling of how they filled weekends for the last eight years:

A gently arched rail echoes the window detail on house
When the rains come, water tumbles down a seasonal stream bed. The element of water is not just liquid- it is an auditory  connection to earth. 

The borrowed landscape has a wildness to it, enhancing the sense of space

It dissipates through a neighboring field of wild nasturtium. 

Existing roses were moved to sunnier locations
Like solving a Rubik's Cube, Michel enacted a plan which respected "what works best in which areas."  He made note of the mini-ecosystems and determined which were friendliest to specific plants, then went to work. Roses,  lingering unhappily in shade, were gathered and moved to higher, sunnier spots. The camellias are happier where  roses pouted. 

The shaded lower elevations are naturally moisture retentive. Filling in along pathways  with groupings of ferns and hydrangeas maximized the potential for long-term success. 

A most delicious groundcover- mints are allowed to run free in one corner of the garden
Mint is a rather loved as shade-tolerant  ground cover to tip-toe through. On occasion,  as Michel shaves them short, the scents of some half-a-dozen varieties  are released into the air. 

Passing by a leptospermum (so large and floriferous I was tempted to ask if the New Zealand tea tree was fed steroids for fertilizer), we paused at one of their fruit trees. Jo handed me a pineapple guava blossom  to taste. Oh, joy! It was like petals infused with cinnamon. 

 Conservationists at heart, not much is torn out of the garden. A tree fern dies: the trunk is reincarnated as snag to hang a lantern from. 

Rocks reclaimed from site enhance the "not too new" ambiance

Jo is convinced. When she told her builder to "clean off the rocks and use them" for the backwall of the pool, "the contractor must have thought I was crazy."

Colorful lanterns add charm 
When an over-shaded spot of  lawn was removed from the vale, much more practical decomposed granite became the flooring for a newly developed greet-and- eat space. 

The table is a braai- the lid lifts to expose a barbecue grill.
For this couple, South Africa is more than an abstraction. It is a place embedded in their hearts. Not only is it where Michel was born, they were married on the shores of the Crocodile River.  Their home and garden are filled with references and remembrances this other land they both love. 

Jo spent months hunting on the internet for a braai- Afrikaans for the favored barbecue in her husband's homeland. This style of casual entertainment fits perfectly in  Southern California. 

We leave you with scenes from where they start the day. On the stoep. The Afrikaans nomenclature for the small porch  where coffee is sipped and the joys of nature marveled at.

What they see~ One day, hummingbirds may be dancing for position at the feeder. Another day, a Cooper's hawk may be nesting nearby. Everyday, there is a good deal to be said of the virtues of a garden such as this.  

Isabella and 'Bandit' at home 
None more important than the values it imparts to a child. 

A shower curtain for a door to playhouse was mom's idea.
By what she sees her parents create, this daughter of good fortune will grow to know that for success, hard work is not an option. Beauty is born of blood and sweat. In patience and pride.

Next up is a totally different, but equally wonderful garden, in San Clemente. 

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

The Faris family garden is just one of five gardens The Rose Society of Saddleback Mountain is featuring in support of Plant Biology Science and Horticultural Scholarships at local universities and colleges. 
Date: Saturday, May 09, 2015
Time: 10 AM until 4 PM

To order Tickets for the self-guided tour, or for more information, please click here, or phone (949) 837- 2141. 

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Rose Society of Saddleback Mountain ~ Sneak Peak of The 2015 Elegant and Enchanting Garden Tour ~ Part 1

"There is a serene and settled majesty to woodland scenery that enters into the soul and delights and elevates it, and fills it with noble inclinations."

~Washington Irving

Add caption(L) Michel was born in South Africa. His education completed in Italy. (R) Jo is a California girl
Once upon a time, not so long ago, in 2007, Michel and Jo Faris were  searching for their dream home when they came upon a property on the end of a cul de sac in San Juan Capistrano.

 A faux bridge of timber extends the sense of space to  their uniquely charming property
The house itself features "good bones." Designed by Brion S. Jeannette, an architect known for location- specific custom homes, he made the most of a difficult lot, one slashed by a steep ravine and heavily wooded. With the garage and main entrance to one side, the couple recognized the unique opportunity to both create their own view, while retaining their privacy.

The roses are in bud. They be in full bloom for the tour.
The garden  would take a lot of work. It was overrun with ivy. Unkempt. The plant collections in disarray. None of which phased this couple.

Perhaps his instincts for guiding the property were formed as a little boy. Michel smiles, remembering "I followed mom with a little shovel."

Side by side, in collaboration with each other, the couple worked tirelessly to release the full beauty and usefulness of the garden setting.

Eight years later, the gates of  'Le Reve', French for The Dream,  will open for the charitable event.

Isabella loves the tree swing
If you come, you will experience the fairy tale qualities to the home and garden shared by Michel, Jo and their absolutely charming daughter, Isabella .

Walking up the driveway, when it is in bloom,there is no escaping the sweet scent of jasmine. Tied to a wooden grid, its practical purpose, to mask the mismatched fencing on the property line, discretely.

Bougainvillea and grapes now entwine a simple arbor. The pots beneath brake balls  in flight before they can escape a small sports lawn.

There is a story on the ironwork above the garage... 

The symmetry of the architecture repeated in matching potted plants at the entrance.
It was repurposed from railing removed when the stoop at the main entrance was made friendlier through enlarging its footprint. 

Every window in the home is oriented towards a garden view. Jo says if one pays attention that even in the mild Southern California climate "There are four distinct seasons."

More about this wondrous garden, and the people who dreamed her into being, in my next post.

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

The Faris family garden is just one of five gardens The Rose Society of Saddleback Mountain is featuring in support of Plant Biology Science and Horticultural Scholarships at local universities and colleges. 

Date: Saturday, May 09, 2015
Time: 10 AM until 4 PM

To order Tickets for the self-guided tour, or for more information, please click here, or phone (949) 837- 2141. 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Visions of Paradise ~ Southern California Garden Wars- A Call for a Truce

The first view of my garden for pedestrians is of abundance and diversity
"To Create a Garden is to search for a better world. In our effort to improve on nature, we are guided by a vision of paradise. Whether the result is a horticultural masterpiece or only a modest vegetable patch, it is based upon the expectation of a glorious future. This hope for the future is at the heart of all gardening. Anyone who toils away at the soil must think a few weeks ahead or envision next year's garden, for most gardeners are convinced that improvement is on the way. Thus gardening is an exercise in optimism. Sometimes it is the triumph of hope over experience." 

~Marina Schinz 

High color achieved with low water
April 14th. It was scheduled to be a press conference on the drought at the Armstrong Garden Center  in Pasadena. It was more. It was an impossibly beautiful day in paradise. 

Wandering through tree lined streets, on what  was anticipated to be a "shortcut" around traffic, my attention was less on road signs than on the sky so blue, it looked photo-shopped.  Squirrels scampered and leaped about the branches of immense trees. The leafed-out urban forest canopy casting a cooling shadow. Where there were flowers: there were hummingbirds and butterflies.

Birdsong drifted along gentle waves of cooling breeze. My heart fully engaged~ my mood levitated. 

Pasadena anchors a region of gardeners. The diversity of individual visions of paradise reside side-by-side, in peace. Man has been seeking his way back into paradise since he was driven from the Garden of Eden. Living amongst all this beauty, it felt that some of us have been let back in. And I decided "The enemy of one garden is the enemy of all gardens." 

There is a slogan going 'round California "Brown is the New Green." Well, poppycock. Brown is the name of our grumpy Governor- whose major accomplishment on this issue is to sanction the guilting  and intimidation of  people who simply wish to love the gardens they dreamed into being. 

 Brown is a fine color for bark.  For dirt being tilled. For coffee grounds and tea leaves brewing. For chocolate and maple flooring. All of its associations aren't so nice: it is also the self-assigned color associated with the shirts of a certain movement in Munich, Germany back in 1921. A movement founded on arrogance and intolerance. 

A foraging goose 
A garden in fifty shades of brown is monotonous. It is not as inspiring as one growing in even just a dozen shades of green: the verdant color-range from which flowers and fruits and vegetables rise. It is the predominant hue of tree canopies and patches of lawn where birds land to snack on snails and worms. Green is the color of life. 

The "turf" on the left is artificial. While water-efficient- the scene is warm and inviting
This is not a denial of drought. Simply a statement that we are all in this battle together. Waterwise is not a style. It is a collection of strategies, with multiple options, whereby a series of individual actions are the pathway to group triumph. 

The Armstrong's event instilled new hope that the creative spirit lives on in the hearts of gardeners. 
The front of their Pasadena store is redesigned as an attractive demonstration garden to help the lovers of all gardens towards water efficiency.  

Just some of the strategies to rethink our gardens to success shared my host for the event, Darin Engh- 

If you prefer a  turf lawn or succulent ground-cover, consider soaker hoses installed a foot apart, approximately 2-3"  beneath the soil surface. If you are the patient sort, Buffalo grass slowly forms a lawn. It will look barren for a few seasons, but you will be rewarded with a lawn requiring only once a season- mowing.
Front yard seating as captured by photographer Gene  Sasse 
Artificial turf is much improved since first introduced. It is best used in small areas, such as focal points, or where tables and seating are a bother to move for maintenance purposes. The McCann Newport garden pictured above was featured in Pacific Horticulture.  

Amend. Amend. Amend. The better the soil, the better the plants can weather all diversity- including drought. 

Regularly walk through your garden with your hose equipped with a handheld nozzle. Spot watering is far more efficient than turning on your whole irrigation system for a couple dry spots. 

Check out water polymers to expand the water- retention of potting soil.

Credit: Anthony Tesselaar
Sweet Spot 'Calypso' Rose by Monrovia Growers  
Walking through the gardens, the range of plants which give more back than they take is breathtaking. The list includes roses, blueberries, iris and daylilies.  

Like all babies, new plants require more coddling than when they reach maturity. Sure Start is great for settling suckling plants into the garden setting.   As your plants mature, make your go-to fertilizers organic. This lessens the risk of plant burning. 

But perhaps greatest of all for those transitioning their yards into gardens~ low-water is to no-water what low- maintenance is to no- maintenance: a fallacy. Even cactus and succulents, particularly those high on a slope are susceptible to degrading into expensive compost if water is denied them during critical early years. 

The results of a small brush fire last weekend in Fullerton. 

Yes. California's drought is real. But before it came, and long after it is gone, fire danger is a reality to this region. In land use planning, green spaces: golf courses, sports fields and lawns have served as a transition to our flammability- inclined  native scrub.  Glance at the photo. See how the green of the sports complex field helped shield a neighborhood from fire.

Isn't it time to step-back and recognize that both lawn lovers and those who think a lawn is the horticultural equivalent to the Devil Incarnate to recognize that each side has a point? Isn't it time for a truce between gardeners and do what gardeners are experts at? Digging in.

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


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Southern California Horitculture and Karen England Serve Enthusiasm and Good Taste

Karen serves the eager line with an easy recipe for tasty water freshly run over fresh flowers and citrus slices.
 Karen England was hooked on gardening at the tender age of 12, when she began helping her cousin at  the family business Sunshine Gardens.  She honed additional skills at college, took three intensives at the Ballymaloe Cookery  School. She has provided demonstrations on the wonders of cooking with herbs to guests visiting The Lavender Fields of Valley Center. Teaching how to cook with a single electrical cord in a garden taught her to simplify- a  lesson her admirers appreciate. 

On one side of cards with the names of Herb of the Year
The Year a Herb was designated for honors is on the reverse.
 Karen was also a board member of the International Herb Association and is a current member of the Vista Garden Club. She tends 2 acres of lucky herbs surrounding her home. 

There was no lack of people lining up to taste the samples.
Knowledgeable and enthusiastic, Karen is fairly described as high-energy. People pushed forward to taste the samples and say thank you for the extraordinary effort she went to.

  • English and French Thyme are the same plant. Thymus vulgaris. 
  • Dried lavender- as long as they have scent, they have flavor. The little sachets in your drawers- squeeze 'em from time to time. This releases the oils, revitalizing the space with the scent of fields of flowers in bloom.
  • For a twist on deviled eggs, grind Herb Provence finely to season the yolks.
  • One of the best reasons to grow your own edibles, including herbs to flowers, is you have control how they were grown. The floral stems at the grocery florist- chances are they have been treated with some unpronounceable chemical before being put on display.  Be as organic in your practices as you can. 
  • Sweet Bay (Laurus nobilis)  is similar to California Bay (Umbellularia californica) . The former will grown in most gardens almost unchanged for about 5 years. On the 5th year, it reaches for the moon. The latter is not as refined in taste- but when I was confirming the facts for this post, I  read the blond wood is valued by woodworkers for its fine myrtle lumber.

  • Sweet Bay leaves are delicious simmered in long-cooked oatmeal. WARNING: fish the whole leaves out before you partake. Every year, a few poor souls end up in the ER when a whole leaf gets stuck in the throat.  

SoCal Hort meetings always feature plant sales, with a portion of the proceeds used to support the organization. Some of the recent temptations include

Salvia 'Love Child' 

Dwarf Angel Pelargonium 

Peach tone clivia from Greenwood Gardens

Greenwood Gardens also grows one  of the most pleasing yellow clivias on the market

This tree-form sea lavender, I've only seen it for sale two places. At the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Garden  gift shop- and at SoCal Hort Meetings. 
To learn more about SoCal Hort meetings, where people share the love of gardening, click here.

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

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Every plant a memory~ Bell Shaped blossoms ~Gluten-Free Easter

My garden is not so full of plants as it is of memories. 
~ Me

Fuchsia Fulgens translates to Brilliant Fuchsia

Bell shaped flowers are the dangling earrings of horticulture. They sway with the plant, bidding hummingbirds to visit. 

I remember the moment when I first spotted the seductive Mexican fuchsia. It was on a pilgrimage to to Annie's Annuals and Perennials in Richmond. I could not take my eyes off this bush ornamented as tho' a beaded ball gown  She came home in my suitcase. Tucked between our his and hers sheds, it would be easy to ignore her if her slender salmon-pink- flowers, accented with green, weren't so darn flirty.   
As brugmansia flowers fade-away, they are pinched off for the next wave to set faster
The angel's trumpet started off as not much more than a rooted stick. My late mother - who loved all things tropical - picked it out for me at a plant sale at California State University, Riverside. 

On cool nights, the hanging peach blossoms of Angel's trumpet fill the air with intoxicating fragrance, calling the large moths to pollinate. My study is just to the right of where I pointed my camera- and on nights when I type into the night- sometimes the clicking of moths bumping into my window joins the drumming of the my fingers on the keyboard for a percussionist jam session of sorts.  

Our Easter destination was to share Easter with my mother-in-law.  Our oldest son picked her up to meet us at  Crossroads Church in Corona, where she is a congregant. We saw many things there I don't see in our church (we are Lutherans, who are old school traditionalists). There were spotlights scanning into the audience. Black and white paisley graphics swirling on the back wall. A rousing sermon. And loads of people being dunked fast at donuts. The music- what I remember of Rolling Stone and Led Zeppelin concerts in the 70's- the rock music of my heyday reached no further up the decibel meter.   

Then to her home. She is gluten intolerant: it is one of my great pleasures to cook for her. 

If my husband has any angst in my Bible studies, it is that I found in the definition of a noble wife, 

Proverbs 31:14~ "She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar."

Orchard's Fresh Foods in Whittier is our butcher/deli of choice. It carries  a vast selection of Boar's Head Products. Ham, turkey breast, horseradish  cheddar cheese- there was enough to either feed a battalion- or have leftovers and not cook for  a week. 

Diamond Fresh Farmer's Market, the busiest parking lot in Diamond Bar, was the source of most of the produce- purple potatoes and fresh garbanzo beans are just not carried in the name-brand grocery stores.

Ros Creasy's Lavender- tinted Vichyssoise recipe from Recipes From the Garden, when you squeeze in the lemon, it really does turn this lovely color. 

Fresh garbanzo beans are quite seasonal. Their taste is more like fresh artichoke than what we know from the can.

Checking the Old Wisconsin site on my i-pad confirmed their summer sausage is gluten free. How did we shop before Apple became as known for electronics as the Garden of Eden?

Coleslaw's flavor  is pumped up with pineapple. Peanuts are pretty good, too. 

This is California. Even though it was just for vegetables marinated in lemon and orange juice and a light shaking of seasonings- grilling outdoors is our way to celebrate living in the best climate on earth. 

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