Monday, May 30, 2016

Thoughts on Memorial Day 2016

Rejoice! The blessings that shower this nation were not given to any faction, but to the whole of its people. 

Both my parents served in the Navy during WWII
If my mother were alive, she would have liked her memorial service. It was held in our garden, the flag presented under the lacy shade of the  Persian silk tree. It began its life as the seedling offspring of a tree in her garden.

Born and educated in Puerto Rico, she was the child of the jungle. My father's first name being George- that make me Lydia, the daughter of George- of- the- Jungle. 

My parents were studies in contrasts. Mom was a liberal Democrat. Dad was a conservative Republican. They enthusiastically shared  passionate opposition. But their biggest fight wasn't over politics. It was about when my dad helped "trim" the bougainvillea- to within an inch of its life.  

A clumping bamboo- Borinda angustissima. Image by Monrovia

What they did agree on, was that the United States is the greatest country on earth. Ever. They believed military service was virtuous. 

They did not share the same belief in God's existence. Yet they agreed that bamboo, stripped of its leaves, make fine flagpoles. Every year, before Memorial Day, a new pole was cut from the expanding backyard jungle. Frugal, in the nature of children of The Great Depression, my parents hung the same 48 star cotton flag from a homemade bamboo flag pole, until long after 2 more states joined the union.

If you haven't looked at bamboo lately, it's time to put aside prejudices.Take a second look. Great oxygenators- new varieties are less inclined to attempt a hostile take-over than the Vietnam war-era varieties which were endlessly attemptint escape from my parents' backyard. 

Ethel's Garden is dedicated to my mother's vision of Paradise
While both my parents were gardeners, after the Battle of the Bouganvillea, truce required a division of labor. The treaty required my father to tend the dibles, while my mother focused on blooms,birds and butterflies. ence, when the transom window of my shed was dedicated, it was to my mother. Ethel. 

Memorial Day will begin here with a candle lit. 

I shall pray that the sanctity of Memorial Day will be honored by a day free from gratuitous insults volleyed between fellow citizens. 

I shall offer a prayer to those I know who are under stress, and pray they know some measure of peace and tranquility in knowing 

    When life is hard- pressure is how Diamonds are formed.

     When depression rains down- understand that the tears of heaven quench the forests.

     Whatever life brings- embrace that you are alive. Thank God for that. 

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

For the Love of Roses~ Huntington Off-Hours ~ Wedding Carrot Cake

Is there anything more romantic than a view framed by roses?

In the companionship of roses, my body may sway, but my soul holds still. A rose doesn't need to ask anything of me. I give to its garden willingly, for  I am flush with love. In Paul's first letter to the Corinthian Congregation (vs. 4-8), the Apostle describes what a great rose garden teaches, simply through its presence

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails."

Tom Carruth is THE rosarian for the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Gardens Rose Collection. Before "retiring" to the Huntington, his illustrious career for Weeks Roses included creating more than 100 rose bybrids to beautify gardens and interiors. In just 14 years, 11 of his "progeny " were chosen as All-America  Rose Selections (AARS), an achievment  not matched by any other living hybridizer. 

'Cinco de Mayo' is one of  Tom's AARS winning roses.
In 2009, photographer Gene Sasse requested copy for 'Cinco de Mayo'. I wrote

Cinco de Mayo ™ stands out with the confidence of a woman who knows who she is and t afraid to show-off. This floribunda flaunts its flirty fiesta flowers. The colors of its petals swirl like the clouds of a thunderstorm at sunset. Russet reds, mellow lavenders: they layer and mingle like the colors of sunset on the Mexican Riviera just as brightness succumbs to seductive darkness. This is a rose which is the floral equivalent of Salma Hayek."

Image courtesy of Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens
Last spring, Pacific Horticulture published my article The Huntington Rose Garden~ Restoring a Gilded Beauty. Within the text, Tom shared his secret formula for show-stopping roses in a climate that seldom lets them rest. Each spring, new growth gets a kick-start with an application of granular Scott’s Natural Lawn Food. Now on a watering schedule reduced by 60 percent, the plants thirst is quenched in the early morning. What the plants do appreciate is a periodic foliar feeding. Tom recommends a “cocktail” he learned visiting Sacramento gardens under the care of T.J. David: a nutritious brew of Grow More Jump Start Plant Tonic and Seaweed Extract spiked with dissolvable mycorrhiza and nitrogen." 

'Flower Girl' rose spills from faux baux tree trunk
 There are no people in the pictures of one of the most popular gardens in the world. That is because, as a press-pass carrying journalist, security lets me through on days closed to the public. These photos are "behind the scenes" peaks at some of what we can learn to bring home to our home gardens.

Cimbing rose 'Golden Sun' climbs the trellis without over-powering it. 

Roses require respite to gather strength. Tom has interspersed bulbs as companions to delight visitors  during the winter break. Think of their role as like the opening act at a major concert. 

Our part of Southern California rarely has snow. But the blonde meadow registers a similar visual aura of easiness.

 The architectural majesty of these plants is set off by the negative space offered between specimens. 

The aptly named 'Celebration Garden' is a tapestry of color. The minimalistic linear water feature straddles modern and traditional, with grace. 

Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' overflows the edges of a large urn.  It serves as a sentry to one of many seating areas.

Think diversity. Intensely planteds waths of color offer visual rhythm, discourages weeds and encourages pollinators. 

Always choose plants with significance. The first time I noticed hesperaloe parviflora  (Red Yucca) was on assignment for a cover story on the home of an anonymous billionaire in Sedona. I see this nearly carefree plant- and my heart skips a beat. I have some 'brakelights' variety just waiting for my garden helper's wrist to climb the back canyon where they will enchant from the distance.

In the parking lot  are stands of blooming Romneya Coulteri,( Matalija poppy).  A California native, the outsized flower, oft compared to fried ostrich eggs in appearace, when it is in bloom, it commands attention.

Two very lovely young women, one from San Diego, the other from Los Angeles had planned a day at the gardens. It is something hard for us in mild climates to imagine gardens not being open 24/7.  (I did the same thing in England. I showed up at the Gardens of the Rose one week before 10,000 roses were to burst in to bloom.) 

Image by Gene Sasse, who introduced me to Tom Carruth
For all Tom has done for me- his generous spirit - in my first baking adventure in ever so long, I took him a carrot cake from a family recipe. It really is GOOD. 

Carrot Wedding Cake

From Collection of Lydia Plunk
Makes Three 9” Cake Layers
Butter and flour (or use Parchment paper) Cake Pans
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F
2 Cups Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 ½ tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Salt
2 tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp Nutmeg
2 Cups Sugar
Sift dry ingredients thoroughly.
Set aside.

1 ½ Cups Vegetable Oil
4 eggs
2 Cups Grated Carrots
8 Ounces Crushed Pineapple
½ Cups chopped Walnuts
Emulsify vegetable oil and eggs.
Mix in carrots, pineapple, and if desired, walnuts.
Make a well in dry ingredients.
Pour well blended wet ingredients into dry- gently turning until well blended.
Bake for 40 minutes.
Let cool for 10 minutes longer, then turn out.
When thoroughly cool, frost.
Cream Cheese Frosting
½ Cup Butter, softened
8 Ounces Cream Cheese, softened
2 tsp Vanilla
Cream together
1 Box Powdered Sugar, sifted
Whip into cream cheese until fluffy
Half and Half (Small amount)
If necessary for a lighter consistency, add a Tblsp at a time

 My "Secrets"- Freshly ground spices are amazing. Use glazed walnuts instead of regular (throw more on side if you think not enough is just right).  If available, use fresh pineapple instead of canned. Golden raisins are sublime addition when adding walnuts to batter.

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


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Leaders in Garden Renaisance~ Village Nurseries Open House~ Nicholas Staddon~ Part 3 or 3

"Brothers, what we do in life... echoes in  eternity. " Russell Crowe, as Maximus, in the film Gladiator

Image of the Road leading home for the Gladiator. Image by Greg Weeks on YSVoice
Elysium. In Greek and Roman literature, this was home in the afterlife. Paradise. Nicholas Staddon teaches how to live in Paradise. Here. Now. 

Nicholas Staddon honed his brand of ode- to- garden -joy in his lifetime of travels and adventures putting him in continuous contact with nature. He's not a man to shrink in challenging horticultural times. He says " Truth be known, I've never seen more interest in gardening since I've lived here." 
Nicholas Staddon, 
Nicholas's specialty is studying the evolving American Vision of Paradise. Then sharing it with eager audiences eager for heaven while still here on earth.  This is a quick history, of how the shadow of one man was shaped to influence this generation of gardeners. 

Cottage Garden with pet. Image by Tesselaar USA
His horticulture education began under Grannie Staddon. She  told him, when he was a wee lad, that "Plants are like people. Very social." 

Detail of The Art of Hunting with Birds, by Frederick II, 1240
As a young adult, during the height of the cold war, Nicholas found a job putting the ancient art of Falconry to modern use. He explains "I was under contract to the USAFE … United States Air Force Europe. Working on the front line base to keep the runways clear of birds,
We were using falcons and other means to scare the birds away. At that time, jet fighters and bombers in the area were suffering numerous bird strikes, most of them happening during takeoff and landing." 

He reports "Within three years of the falconry project commencing, zero bird strikes were being reported in the confines of the base perimeter."  

A beach landscape. Image by Nicholas Staddon
It was time for Nicholas to do what Englishmen are known to do. Become a sailor. "I was working on privately owned ships, working the summers in the Mediterranean, then coming across to the Caribbean for the winter months. " 

He was in Ft. Lauderdale when he found and fell madly in love with the woman he calls his bride.  The couple wasn't anchored to the Eastern coastline. Nicholas began his true horticultural calling by working in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico.  His understanding of the range of plant materials, climate- and differing desires by every category of people- Nicholas's brain is a catalog of what is possible. 

New Mexico Curb appeal. My own image
Landing in the Southwest, it was a time when it was trendy to uproot traditional gardens, replacing them with zeriscapes. Gardens became sparsely populated plots of ground with native plants whose stick-like in appearance flopped over.

The metamorphosis of gardening over the next 5 years yielded wisdom so helpful in our age of challenged resources. A garden is sustainable only if it is loved and loves you back.

 Residents began to put back more traditional- feeling gardens. Growers were helpful in developing blowsier, bloomier- climate appropriate cultivars.  Expectations were more reliably met by brand name labels. Landscape designers and installers developed techniques to squeeze every inch of performance out of micro- investments in time, cost and sweat-equity. 

Village Nurseries installed several demo gardens to demonstrate lush-low water gardens.
Fast forward to now. The world has changed, but the desire for emotional satisfaction from a garden will be with us as long as there are gardens. 

Nicholas sees this as a golden age of great opportunity. Gardens are not merely beautiful, but personal. They are ever more reflective of the enhanced value Americans insist from our outdoor spaces. Flowers are not just to be seen, they are to perfume the air and call in pollinators. We've relaxed a bit as consumers, we've learned to be okay with a few munched leaves if it means we can use less chemicals.  

This trend  away from perfection is reflected in high -end dinnerware by Anna Weatherley. A single plate retailing for in excess of $500 each, the leaves are painted with  signs of bugs having dined on foilage. 

Whether your taste is like this  shaded side yard in Sierra Madre, or the golden tones set off by green cypress on the top image (we'll chat about a truly marvelous one for today's gardens shortly) shout to heaven that we live here. Now. Where most problems have solutions so that personal gardens can be places that will live on after us, shaping generations to come. 

Speaking of cypress. Here is the closing scene from Gladiator, when the classic tale of good vs evil ends with the centurions lift the dying general for his trip to meet his family in Elysium. A scene that as the general's hand sweeps through the wheat field... when Nicholas' bride began to weep ... Nicholas did what plant geeks do. Express astonishment that she was weeping when, by golly, there was this astonishing stand of 150' high Italian Cypress on the screen.

Thank you to the entire crew at Village Nurseries Landscape Centers, which made this 3 part series possible. 

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


Friday, May 6, 2016

Leaders in the Gardening Renaisance~ Village Nurseries Open House ~ Anthony Tesselaar ~ Part 2 of 3

"What a desolate place would be a world without a flower! It would be a face without a smile, a feast without a welcome. Are not flowers the stars of the earth, and are not our stars the flowers of the heaven. "
~A. J. Balfour  

Anthony Tesselaar is his name. Easy care roses  are his claim to fame. With distribution planted around the globe, the firm he and wife Sheryl, branded with his name ,is headquartered in Australia. His team is dedicated to pleasing the new generation  of gardeners who demand high -end beauty for for the thriftiest time-stressed gardeners. 

Flower Carpet Roses now come in a rainbow of colors
The horticultural titan works hard so gardeners don't have to. Tesselaar Flower Carpet Roses look  deceptively dainty; but they are no sissies. 

At the Village Nurseries Open House, he explained the rigorous testing process- the years devoted to creating plants which land on the market in "over-night" success. Then he served a course  on what it takes to garden successfully in sun-challenged climates. 

The test gardens are in Silvan, roughly an hour's drive outside Melbourne. Here, distinctive plant varieties are trialed over a multitude of seasons. Peak performance under harsh conditions of hot weather and little water, with nary a blemish, is what elevates a contender to a winner worthy of wearing the company logo. One planting of  Flower Carpet roses was dug in a 108 F day. Successfully.

Mr. Tesselaar smiled as he shared what is needed to boost performance in the hotter, drier weather of recent years.
  • Most gardens are traditionally over-watered. Many are as luxurious when consuming 35% less water. 
  • Don't let trees die. In a real pinch- trees can survive on 25% of normal irrigation.
  • Watering systems timed to drip intermittently allow for water retention where intended. 
  • Be generous with mulch. 3 "  is most effective to insulate soil moisture and temperature.

Tesselaar's Carpet Flower Roses marries beauty with efficiency. Most are self-cleaning bushes, blooming up to 10 months out of 12, with only periodic pruning. If size isn't an issue, it is said some go as long as 3 years between heavy prunings. Grown on their own roots, it is asserted that some landscapers (don't faint)  mow with tractor blades set on high.

Glenda Bona, Master Gardener transplanted to Henderson, Nevada- as Red Carpet Roses thrive in full-sun at the Adelaide, Australia  Airport- Mr. Tesselaar suggests this could be the rose for you. Their two-tier root system promises high hopes to make it through desert conditions. Just like your grandchildren, baby them at first- then wean the water as they are ready.  These roses are as rugged as a cowboys.

Beautiful Rose. Happy Bee.

A shout-out to Diane Blazek, Executive Director,  the National Garden  Bureau. 

She is on a campaign for us to"Bee aware". Join the movement to heighten awareness of habitats for pollinators. Learn more and register  here. 

City of Diamond Bar Residents- watch the gestation of the Red Carpet Roses filling in our NEW water-wise median plantings, the miracle of growth as catalogued  in Ladera Ranch:

From stubs

To toddling roses

To buxom beauties.

The beauty of roses is more than their petals. They are problem-solvers.

Municipalities take note. Planting groundcover roses en masse may save lives. Not more than waist high, is there any more beautiful way to discourage jay-walking than fear that roses might scratch? In their 2004 report, the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that just over 4,700 pedestrians were killed and another 68,000 injured in pedestrian- vehicle incidents that year.

Golf courses  and event centers, take note. Roses are crowd-control experts. Here a mixed planting of Carpet Roses pleasantly guides strollers down the pathway, while simultaneously providing an effective border between ambling and splashdown.

Homeowners, take note.  Flower Carpet roses are beautiful, non-invasive groundcover. Requiring mininal water, pruning or chemical feedings- these are first in class back-friendly slope holders.

Next up-  Notes for the talk by  Nicholas Staddon, Plantsman and  Living Saint of US Gardeners. 

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


* A special thanks to  Judie Brower, fellow GWA member, who expedited the images from the Tesslaar Image Gallery . 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Leaders in the Gardening Renaissance ~ Village Nurseries Dry-Lush Open House Part 1 of 3

CL Fornari "gets it". Landscapes nourish body, mind, heart and soul. 
Writing from the opposite corner of our country, one of my personal heroes is CL Fornari. She says

"Many of us see a gardening revival going on. Maybe it's a response to our oh-so-digital world where we are all connected and working all the time. Or maybe it's a reaction to the fact that there aren't many places where we can be in touch with the natural world on a frequent basis. It could be that we're all longing for simpler times...I don't know. But I do know that there's a new 'back to the land' thing going on. People want to create healthy, restorative environments. They long for safe, flavorful food. And they want to be creative inside and outside. All of this adds up to people of all ages putting hands in the dirt."

Strawberries with flowers displayed together at event. 
CL's spirit was with me when I opened the invitation to Village Nurseries Customer Appreciation Day. This amazing company's commitment to providing quality plant material is matched by their generous spirit. These events are always informative, joyous celebrations tailored to those fortunate enough to make a living spreading the gospel of gardening. In California, this means promoting plantings dry in thirst, yet lush in look.

For the event, a series of low-water lush plantings was assembled 
Village Nurseries Garden Centers  Customer Appreciation Day gathers the galaxy of horticultural business interests; branded labels,  garden designers, installers, big box retailers, public garden maintenance crews. And some very fortunate garden communicators.

When the invitation announced  the open house would feature two bright stars in the plant galaxy, men who believe in can-do attitude, Anthony Tesselaar and Nicholas Stadddon.... I could barely contain the anticipation...
Suzie Weist and Nicholas Staddon happily announced prize winners
It was secondary that the firm was offering good odds that attending meant guests would come home with plant and soil amendment samples... possibly even a 50" flat screen TV.

Libations flowed to a full  Italian lunch served by Carolina's Italian Restaurant . Before the program, seated at umbrella shaded tables, over 100 guests traded stories of an industry on the upswing.

Jim Peterson, editor of the swoon-inducing publication, Garden Design Magazine was on hand. With no advertising, printed on high quality paper, with images and stories which are both timely and evergreen, this truly is one of the best investments a person with interest in U.S. gardens can make.

The Reigning Queen of Succulents, surrounded by her subjects. Image by Josh Endres .

In the current issue is a feature on one  of the first people I met through GWA (Now the Association for Garden Communicators), Debra Lee Baldwin.

Village Nurseries success was earned the old fashioned way. Vision, hard work and building relationships.To learn more about the California Garden Centers, please link here.

Next up-  Notes for the talk by Anthony Tesselaar, the man responsible for low maintenance roses which will thrive in hellstrips.

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


* A special thanks to Garden Design Magazine for allowing us to share the last 2 images in this post.