Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Itchin' To Blog

It's coming fast and furious this week. Today is only Wednesday and the week already seems gone. Tomorrow night is band practice (check out the link on the sidebar to your right - it's my blistering rock band - King Bee) and we're playing at SOhO, our favorite Santa Barbara club Friday night. Six new tunes to roll out - Mirror in the Bathroom (English Beat), Let's Dance (Bowie), Da Do Do Do (Police), I Feel Good (James Brown), Middle of the Road (Pretenders) and You Really Got Me (Kinks).

Right after practice, we're off to the newly restored Granada Theater for a live performance of my favorite NPR game show - "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me." It's a hilarious hour of current event from the previous week and some brilliant comedians. We get Paula Poundstone as one of the trio of talents!

That alone would have me on cloud 8.5, but on Sunday my family and I leave for a week in Portland Oregon, and being a slug by nature, I'm relishing a bit more rain. Santa Barbara had a great early winter with well over our average, but March has been bone dry. Need my H2O fix now!

So before I sign off and miss my Green Thumb Sunday posting, I thought I'd upload these luscious shots I took on Easter Sunday at Alice Keck Park Memorial Garden (our jewel in the crown).

This tree is Tabebuia chrystotricha (Golden Trumpet) and I happened to catch it at peak bloom. It's pretty subtropical, only taking low temps of about 24 deg. F., but when it kicks in this time of year, it's unbeatable.

It's not fussy regarding soil, takes full sun and average water, and grows about 25' x 25'. If it'll grow for you, jump on it. It's briefly deciduous and has a great network of branches.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

A Simple Play of Greens

11:30 is way too late to be starting my Green Thumb Sunday blog contribution, but I just finished watching 'Fractured' on a DVD and I felt compelled to throw something out there. So I'll keep this short and sweet.

I took this shot last week at a design client's garden. Ophiopogon japonicum (Mondo Grass) growing next Lysimachia nummularia 'Aurea' shot with a macro lens.

This intentional juxtaposition of ground covers is intended to play light against dark, round against linear, bright against dull. It doesn't need flowers - it's just one of those simple treats.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

You can't have a flower with these colors, can you?

This beautiful flower is Billbergia nutans, also known at Queen’s Tears. It’s named for Swedish botanist Gustaf Johan Billberg (thank you, Wikipedia). I have this growing at my favorite client’s house in a few locations. I just took my landscape design class on a tour of a few gardens, and this was in full bloom.

Billbergia is in the Bromeliad family (Bromeliaceae), and if that seems foreign to you, just open a can of Dole pineapple and you’ll be eating a bromeliad.

Back to this stunning gem. It grows in part shade, likes to be a little moist, and needs no special care or fertilization. What absolutely stuns me is this amazing floral color scheme. When you get up close, you see these perfect blue stripes juxtaposed with the crisp green, yellow stamens and pink outer layer.

If a child whipped out they’re crayons and created a flower like this, they’d probably have some grown-up tell them, “That’s not what real flowers look like.”

Anyway, spring has really hit us in Santa Barbara. If it’s not showing up on the arrivals board near you, it’ll be here soon. Hope springs eternal.

UPDATE - I'm getting lots of comments about growing it as a house plant, so I just went to Google, typed in "Billbergia houseplant" and it looks promising. I suggest that all who are interested in trying this one out do the same search. I hope you have great success. Now I feel guilty for being able to grow it using benign neglect.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Wands of Delicate Color

It's Green Thumb Sunday and I just got to visit a garden I started designing just before Christmas. The sun has been out and these two gems are having a grand time of it.

The intent of the combination was not unlike other compositions I try to create balancing subtle contrast and harmony. In this case, the delicate vertical wands blend together, while the lavender flowers and ivory blooms provide the contrast. Lavandula 'Provence' (my favorite Lavender) and a California native perennial, Heuchera maxima (Island Alum Root) do the trick. There are more shots of this garden at my Flickr site. Look to the sidebar to the right for a link to my photos.

Happy Sunday. If spring hasn't hit where you live, trust that it's on the way.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Your Miranda Rights are on the Label

The professor in me is always looking for “teachable moments.” I ran into the images below in my slide collection. Here’s something for Green Thumb Sunday that should strike a chord with many gardeners. Raise your hand if there’s a little of you in this parable.

It’s Saturday morning, you’ve just handed a bit to much money to the barista for a foaming espresso drink, and on the way home you stop at your favorite nursery. Retailers being who they are, put the best looking, most colorful plants right at the entrance and the next thing you know, out comes your Visa card and that new plant is on its way home.

With no time to read that little plastic label in the pot, and certainly not enough time to look the plant up in a reliable reference book, it’s off the shed for a shovel. Your design process consists of “where should I put this?” and the last remaining open space in the garden becomes the place of rest for that spiffy newcomer.

I tell my classes that if there’s only one thing they learn from 18 hours in my classroom, it’s (everyone say it with me in a confident tone), “Right Plant – Right Place.” That means that you understand the preprogrammed genetic baggage that comes with every plant, and try to find the best place for that plant to thrive with as little life support and coercion from pruning shears that you can achieve. No wishful thinking, or “Oh, I’ll just trim it.” You’ve got better things to do with your time.

Here’s how I watched this scenario unfold in Santa Barbara a few years ago. The gray plant pictured below is Santolina chamaecyparissus (this is easier to pronounce - Cotton Lavender).

It gets about 3 feet across, and I’d guess there are four in this bed. Each plant gets about 18” tall and 36” across. These were spaced perfectly and create a beautiful, natural mounding form. Left at least 18” from the edge of the planter, they’ve grown to their mature size without ever needing pruning.

Here’s the same plant in another situation.

Some numb-nut decided to space them eight inches apart and start the first row about 2 inches from the sidewalk. Anyone see what’s coming?

Yep – it’s pruning time, and don’t these babies just look lovely?

But here’s the icing on the cake (and realize that the owner of this property was actually paying the gardener to do this).

Each plant, pruned individually into a rounded cylinder. Can you imagine the labor? Can you smell the fumes from the gas-powered hedge trimmer? The only thing I can imagine is that it was intended to be a topiary tribute to Marge Simpson’s hair.

Read the label – you’ve been Mirandized!