Gardens


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There are books out there that I read so slow, as slow as I possibly can, because I don’t want them to end. Ever. That’s how I feel about the book I’m reading right now by Derek Jarman. Derek Jarman’s Garden with incredibly moving pictures by Howard Sooley, was the last book Derek Jarman wrote before passing from AIDS in 1994. He began the garden in Dungeness, Kent in 1986 and transformed the bleak apocalyptic land facing a nuclear power plant into an inspired garden of plants, sculpture, symbolism and intention.

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The whole book looks and reads like a dreamlike state. I can’t believe I haven’t read this until now. My highest recommendations.

dungeness-28Image by Urban 75
Dungeness_gardenImage from Wikimedia
3280389283_01fd958dbaImage by tanetahi’s flickr

I spent a few hours this Saturday wandering around the botanical garden. It was a perfect autumn day and there were hawks screeching overhead. Lovely. The gardens sit down in a canyon so when you look out from them it feels like you are surrounded by woods which is a great feeling of escape from the city. As I wandered through the sections from China, Japan, Australia, Mexico, Brazil… I realized again how lucky I am to live in this climate where almost anything will grow. Except for the most tropical of the tropicals which I look forward to visiting every time in the garden’s hothouse. I didn’t take a ton of images because I was too busy looking, but here are a few.

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I just bought this book today and am so glad that I did. It’s the perfect size hardback with beautiful book design. Really – all the details are there and I love that. It’s a rare and, ok – i’ll say it- a magical find. It has an A-Z style format that spins dark botanical tales of murder and mayhem. A real plant nerd’s treat. There’s even a resource list for poisonous gardens and further reading. The etchings that are generously found throughout the book are by Briony Morrow-Cribbs. They are perfectly suited and incredibly crafted. Here’s one of the ricinus (castor bean).

castor-beanIf you have the chance to check this one out you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity! I actually linked to an article about Amy Stewart and her personal poisonous garden for my second blog post ever.

IMG_1452Originally I am from NJ, you know – ‘The Garden State’. Now, I’m not knocking NJ there are many, many things I love about it but when I first came to California I could not believe what I was seeing. Nature is huge out here, whether it’s the Pacific Ocean with enormous boulders jutting out or whether it’s plants that are growing wildly in almost every yard. This brugmansia is one of my all time favorites/I-can’t-believe-it exists-it’s-so-damn-beautiful plants. Totally amazing what grows in this climate. This particular plant is growing over the sidewalk around the corner from my house and it forms a tunnel that is intertwined with roses and kiwi vines. A lovely urban arbor. I also have this plant in my yard right under my bedroom window so I can go to sleep and wake up to the amazing scent of its flowers. It’s really very easy to propagate… (more…)

The orchid cactus bloomed today! Look!

porch orchid cactus

Two weeks ago I went to an annual plant sale held by a super cute elderly lady who lives a few blocks over. She has the greenest of thumbs and a subtle charm that made me and my partner load up with as many plants as we could carry home. ‘Sure is slow today’ she would say. Ok, two more succulents added to the pile. A true saleslady. I haven’t had luck with this particular plant before. But I know that this time, since it began with her charm, that this one will grow old with me. And look, behind the upfront drama in this picture there’s another bloom waiting!  I was told that it loves to hang in trees in speckled light and that if it’s not happy it’ll tell you quick by yellowing. She also told me to cut it way back after it flowers but I can already tell I won’t have what it takes.

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Over the last few years the city has cut a hole into the asphalt of almost every other intersection in my neighborhood. They built large planters to serve as traffic circles as an alternate plan to the speed bumps and road blocks they have everywhere. The speed bumps and roadblocks are still there, but hey – now we have these great traffic circles. The city gave some money to neighbors that were willing to plant the circles but they do not do any maintenance or watering. It’s completely up to the neighborhood to keep these circles going. 

 

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Most of the circles have food in them. The first picture has some dinosaur kale and swiss chard and there is even a tiny fig tree growing on the other side. The one above has corn, artichokes and an enormous mullein plant that I’ve got my eye on for harvesting during the smoggy/foggy summer months. The one near my house is planted with tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, corn and oddly – horseradish. The neighbor across the street is hardcore and every morning loads buckets with water onto her little red flyer wagon and hauls it down to the waiting plants. It is a beautiful spectacle.

italian tree tomato      This was the impulse buy at the nursery. You know how it is, you go into the nursery to get something specific and then a plant just suckers you in. Then you’re in line with it. This is how I wound up with the Italian Tree Tomato. I kept reading the tag: ‘Trellis tomato grows up to 25 ft. Prune heavy for tree like appearance. Heavy yielding medium sized red globes’. The skeptical side of me was, well skeptical. The jack-in-the-beanstalk side of me was all for it. And the Italian side of me was hungrily envisioning bowl after bowl of medium sized red globes. 

The picture above is after it had been in the ground for a few days. I have to admit I was a little disappointed. I’d been picturing a foot a day growth. I am secretly hoping that I will have to ask my upstairs neighbor to help me pick the tomatoes.

I suppose the plant should come with a warning that tomatoes just don’t grow that well in the SF Bay Area (damn fog), but I will keep documenting it’s growth with the help of my pal the gnome. Unless of course someone kidnaps the gnome.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Garden_Gnome_Liberationists

Oh, and the crazy lady bamboo sticks surrounding the plant are my feral cat/frenetic squirrel barrier. I am happy to say that with the exception of a few squirrel impasses it is working well.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/21/garden/21poison.html

I came across this article while drinking my coffee and it made me smile. Yes, I’m an herbalist and an acupuncture student and I drink coffee. I am a mass of contradictions, it’s true. I love that she made a writer’s office in the garden and nailed books to the walls of the garden so they would flip their pages with the wind. How beautiful, right?

Years ago my partner and I lived in an old storefront that was wonderful in it’s own right but also had some things going against any kind of substantial garden. It was next to a bar (glass shards), not so far from the I280 freeway (soot) and shook as the BART train rumbled under it (I don’t want to know what kind of bad things rise up from the BART tunnel). So, no food. We made it a poisonous plant garden. I’ll have to hunt around for photos to add. There were a few non-poisonous plants that we rescued from their finicky owners, but there were plenty of bergmansia (angel’s trumpet) and castor bean plants for the feral cats to frolic in. I loved that garden and when I saw this it inspired me to start devising some more sinister plots.