One more day!

Tomorrow I move!  I’m so excited but also a bit nervous. I suffer from all sorts of fun anxieties so always imagine the worst will happen.  The good news is that when it actually does happen I am usually pretty calm about it because I have already played out ever nightmare scenario in my head.  So I’m just like “Yup. That happened.”

On Tuesday I drove up to pick up the keys and drop off my plants. I am having movers pack up and move all my furniture and the rest of my belongings but obviously I don’t trust them with my plant collection. I brought up my camera and took a few photos of the new place.

One last look at my plants in their own home. It doesn't really look like much but they still filled my Volkswagon. In anticipation of my move I haven't bought any plants the past year. Of course that just means this next year I am going to go crazy.

My Conophytums and seedlings packed up and ready to move.

My new side yard. I am envisioning lots of plants from the restio and protea families. And maybe a little greenhouse.

The front yard. I've already received permission to remove all the lawn. This will be my first project if I can afford it. There are a few things I would like to do in the front. The part in the foreground will probably be some large succulents or natives or other xeric plants. The central section in front of the fence I plan on doing some trial beds so I can try out new plants that I want to use in designs I am doing, and the area in the front out of the house will be very flowery (think trip to Annie's Annuals). Lots of native wildflowers up near the street and then some beds of poppies and other very floriferous things and maybe in the shady area right by the front door some neat Fuchsias. The fenced in side yard is where the septic tank is so I will leave that alone.

This field is at the end of my street. I bet it is full of flower eating bunnies.

Before I headed back I drove up to admire some of the views in town. To the west is the bay and the Morro Bay sand spit. The Pacific Ocean is on the other side of the Morro Dunes Natural Preserve.

On the north side of town you can see the town of Morro Bay and Morro Rock. Well you can see them now. I expect there will be a lot of foggy days in the summer when they will be all but invisible behind a wall of grey.

The Morro Bay Estuary separating Los Osos from Morro Bay. There is an elfin forest at the north end of town that I haven't checked out yet.

So as you can see I have a lot to be excited about. Hopefully everything will go smoothly and I will have internet at my new place next Tuesday.  One of the things I am most excited about is how quiet it was when I was up there. A welcome change from living in West Hollywood and being subjected to noisy neighbors, sirens, traffic noises, drunken club goers, and circling helicopters. And hopefully in the coming months I will have lots of great new garden photos to share.

Plants I NEED

Christmas seems like a good day to set up a wish list for plants that I need to grow someday.  Either in my new garden (I’m moving on Friday!) or a future garden or just a wish list of amazing plants that I would love to grow.

I’ll probably try to do this as a long running series and hope to fill it with new plants I learn about or just plants that I love.

The first is Crotalaria agatiflora. I spotted this Chartreuse beauty at the Kula Botanical Garden on Maui (well worth a visit if you are ever in Maui). Both Annie's and San Marcos Growers have sold this plant in the past and no longer do. I don't know if that means it is difficult to grow or just not very garden worthy but I want one. I NEED one!

Sticking with a Chartreuse flower theme for a moment the next plant on my list is Puya chilensis. This is a plant I first learned about from one of my gardening mentors, Lily Ricardi, at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden. The only one I saw at that time was already finished blooming but I never forgot Lily's description of the vivid green blooms. Remember when I went to England last May but then didn't share many pictures with you because I suck at blogging? Well I'll try to remedy that with future blog posts and this is the first of them. I was very excited when I visited St. Michael's Mount near Penzance and got to see this impressive specimen in full bloom. I had seen photos of course but nothing beats seeing a plant in real life. I'm not sure if I will grow this in my new garden as it a huge plant (this one must have been at least 20 feet across) and is rather prickly (it is believed that Puya's may be carnivorous because animals get trapped inside the prickly tangle of leaves) but it is on my "some day" list.

This plant was so big that this was the closest I could get to capturing a photo of the blooms.

And now for something a little less rare but still spectacular. I grew Lupins in my first garden in the mountains (OK hills) of northern New Jersey. There is something about the way the leaves push up out of the soil in late winter and early spring that is magical. They look like dewy green fingers. And then the flowers are these wonderful phallic spires of pillowy bi-colored pea flowers! My first plants were all seed grown Russel Hybrids so it was always exciting to see what interesting color and bi-color combinations you would get. Once my garden moved to my father's place I could no longer grow them as they prefer cooler summers, but California has many native Lupines, and the cool climate of Los Osos should be perfect for them. This picture was taken at Hidcote where they had an entire border filled with Lupins.

Isoplexis is a foxglove relative endemic to the Canary Islands and Madeira. They are very common growing under glass in English gardens but in coastal California they should be quite happy growing in the yard. This one was growing in the glasshouse at Hidcote.

The spectacular spiral leaved Aloe polyphylla, coveted by many, but tricky to grow. It grows at a high altitude in its home in South Africa so doesn't do well with heat and humidity. Luckily the central coast of California seems to have the perfect growing conditions and it is quite common there. I have even seen a row of them planted in a hell strip in San Luis Obispo!

Quite by accident the next plant I chose was another with the polyphyll specific epithet (it means "many leaves"). This one is Tropaeolum polyphyllum. Regular garden Tropaeolum or Nasturtium has escaped into the wild and is a fairly common weed here in California but there are also many unusual species in the genus. Many of them are tuberous or climbers and most are somewhat tricky to grow (especially compared to Nasturtiums). I feel like the cool coastal climate may be just what they want so I am going to give a few of them a try. This tuberous blue leaved beauty was growing at Beth Chatto's garden.

As I have said in earlier posts I am eager to learn more about the Protea family and definitely want to grow some in my new garden. But there are so many. Which ones should I grow? I don't even know where to start! Luckily I saw this beauty while driving in Maui and stopped to take some pictures. It is Leucospermum reflexum. This impressive silver leaved bush is growing along the road that leads to Haleakala Crater and the Kula Botanical Garden so I'm sure I'm not the only person who has stopped to take pictures.

The flowers of Leucospermum reflexum start out with the usual pincushiony greatness! I think this one looks like a phoenix.

Then the petals all bend back on themselves and the look changes to a fiery shuttlecock. Very cool. I NEED one.

The last plant on my list today is one I am not likely to ever grow but I was just excited I got to see them in person. It is the Haleakalā silversword (Argyroxiphium sandwicense subsp. macrocephalum) a rare and endangered plant endemic to Maui (two other endangered species of silversword grow on the big island of Hawaii). All the ones I saw were basically planted in the parking lots at the top of Haleakala Crater. It was so cold, foggy, and rainy that we didn't go hiking about looking for them out in the wild (in fact my father and brother stayed in the car when I got out to photograph these). On a nice day the views from the top of the crater must be spectacular but all we could see was a wall of grey. But it was worth the cold, and rain, and my father crying in the back seat, as we drove up the crazy 18 mile windy road to the summit 10,000 feet above sea level (he is terrified of heights and complained the entire time that he had not given informed consent when he agreed to take the trip with us to the top).

Sadly the flowers were all finished on this silversword (they are purple!). But the spent inflorescence is still cool. The plants can live up to 50 years but they are monocarpic. Once they bloom and set seed they die. So this guy won't be around much longer.

That’s it for this installment of Plants I NEED.  Have a Merry Christmas everyone!

Rainbows Every Day

I got back from my trip to Hawaii Monday night.  I’m moving next week so I have been a bit busy but I just wanted to give a quick update.  The trip was great.  Hawaii was even nicer than I thought it would be and it was really nice seeing my father and brother.  My sister was not pleased that she was too busy with school to come on the trip so she sent my brother a series of angry e-mails and texts.  This of course encouraged me to send her lots of pictures of waterfalls and rainbows.  Aw…what are big brothers for?

More to come if I have time this week or if not I will have a lot to say after my move (which hopefully will be on the 31st).  But I’ll leave you this picture of our view from the aptly named Hilton Rainbow Tower where we stayed the last few days of our trip.  Multiple rainbows every day and in fact if you look closely you can see that this one was a double rainbow.

What does it mean? (sorry couldn't help myself)


Good Stuff

Exciting things happening! (skip to the end if you just want to look at pretty pictures)  First of all I found a place to live when my lease is up here in West Hollywood!  I was a bit nervous as I wasn’t really having much luck in the house hunt but I found a great 2 bedroom house to rent in Los Osos.  Finding a suitable house to rent was more difficult than I thought it would be.  It seems a lot of rental houses just pave over their entire yards.  Understandable as a lot of renters probably don’t want the bother of a garden but that wasn’t going to work for me.  An apartment was out of the question as well.  I’ve lived in apartments (for the most part) since 1999 and having a garden of my own was on top of my non-negotiable list. No neighbors above or below me or drunkenly running around on the streets outside at 3 in the morning was important to me as well.  This place has a nice big yard and the landlord seems excited that I am a garden designer and want to go a bit crazy with it.  It is in a very pretty part of Los Osos right near the  Morro Coast Audubon Society Sweet Springs Nature Preserve.  So yay!  I’ll be moving sometime in the week between Christmas and New Years day.

The other big news is I am going to Hawaii on Saturday for 10 days.  My brother is applying to medical schools and has an interview in Honolulu so we decided to make a trip out of it. My father will be joining us for 5 days as well. My poor sister is left out because she will be doing an internship in NYC.  So this trip added a bit of stress to my house hunt as well because I needed to find a place before I left but now I am looking forward to a nice relaxing trip. I’ve never been to Hawaii.

Some other good news is one of my recent garden designs is being installed this week and next. It is a fairly large property with several separate garden areas with pretty widely varying styles of gardens.  A large Mediterranean garden featuring a lot of lavenders, a small succulent garden, a lawn area with a border of papyrus, Cordylines, and lemon trees and then a guest house with a cottage garden.  I cant wait to see how it turns out.

And the clients really liked my design for the garden I talked about in my inspiration post.  So installation will begin in January on that one.  Thrilled about that as it was a fun project and I will probably be using a lot of the plants and combinations for my own garden.  Los Osos is just south of Morro Bay and has a cool foggy climate similar to that of San Francisco’s Sunset zone 17.  I’ll be able to grow a lot of interesting plants that like being in the fog belt.  The only thing that might not work is plants that require a lot of heat. I think I can live with that.

So my posts may be a bit sporadic until January.  I stayed with friends Gabe and Maggie while I did my house hunt so enjoy these pictures of Gabe’s backyard nursery to tide you over in the meantime.

Super amazingly cool variegated Agave 'Blue Glow'. I want to steal it!

Orange leucospermum blooming. I definitely want one of these babies in my new garden.

I want some Leucadendrons too. I believe these plants are destined for that garden I designed.

Not sure what this tuba is about. Kind of neat though.

Agave gypsophila becomes a sort of candelabra/octopus shaped plant with wavy leaves with curled ends. It is hard to get nice specimens in big pots though because they are easily damaged. So Gabe saw these young plants and snatched them up for future designs. For some plants it is better to plant small and let them grown into their space.

Double flowered Helichrysum bracteatum. This was an impulse buy from my trip to Annie's Annuals and is going in the garden that is being installed next week. I saw it in bloom and fell in love so grabbed a few and subtracted a few other plants. I'm currently involved in a secret obsession with everlastings and straw flowers.

Gabe had a neighbor build him a little greenhouse in his backyard for propagating more tender plants and for a few of his own personal collection. I think I need a greenhouse too!

Protea blooming in Gabe's front garden. I have to find out what species or cultivar it is.