Monday, August 31, 2009

Grass is not bad.

I’m not the type of person who suffers fools. Stupidity and I do not get along too well.
Last week on the blog Garden Rant a guest rant was published about the evils of lawns and why the entire public should rip out their lawns and replant it with vegetables.
Link :

Oh dear Heloise Horticultural Helpful Hints Not.

A lawn is a perfectly viable choice as a ground cover, especially when it is maintained with sustainable practices with an eye towards organic fertilization, water conservation and energy efficient mowers and irrigation systems.

In my arid Northern California climate choosing a site specific lawn variety is crucial , if not a matter of law and code compliance.
This requires some research and in-depth calculations, but by choosing a variety of drought tolerant grasses or a mix of drought tolerant grasses and perennials along with an advanced technology irrigation system ( matched precipitation rate rotor heads and an ET timer ) and properly mixed soil amendments, one can achieve a very energy efficient lawn.

There is no reason why you cannot have both, a lawn and a vegetable garden, unless space is a consideration and then you should have the freedom of choice.
There certainly should be no reason why one has to get all militant about it and dictate that armies of volunteer gardeners should march upon private lands and demand that these properties be converted into farms.

Yes, hunger is a problem in this nation but taking over the lawns of churches and private business parks by an army of community gardeners is not the rational way to solve this challenge.
There are far better and more legal ways to achieve a community farm and feed the needy.

Besides providing a nice flat area for a picnic, a game of kickball or an outdoor community gathering place a grassland can also be a viable economically and environmentally sound planting option.

Consider the environmental technology of the grass planted bio swale or the erosion control aspects of a red fescue rough. A crop of tomatoes or swiss chard would not provide the same solutions to these problems that a grass species will.

Knee jerk militant callings for the removal of all lawns in favor of vegetable gardens is just plain stupid.
And I don’t do stupid well.

Front yard vegetable garden coexisting with a small mixed lawn of crabgrass, oxalis, clover, achillea and chamomile
From Potager Gardens

A small compact lawn adjacent to a childrens play yard - Vegetable garden on lower terrace
From Kids Play Space

A ground covering of heathers , ornamental grasses and conifers spill across a two acre hillside bordering the Pacific ocean
From portfolioMay08.jpg

Erosion controlling grasses and a drought tolerant hillside planting
From R E D

Native wild mustard growis in the foreground while native wild grasses grow on the hills beyond.
From Alexander Valley

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Pull the plug

I'm trying to stay upbeat , but it is becoming increasingly difficult, especially after seeing Deborah Silvers spectacular planting :

From garden tours.

My Buddhist training has been helpful but still it is a hard pill to swallow.

Two weeks ago I went to a garden that I maintain and found half the plants that I had planted in containers ripped out and stripped of its foliage.
The shriveled up foliage was tossed next to the gardeners work shed, lying there like some sort of Freudian masochistic message.

My client obviously did not like the plants.
When asked if she wanted the containers replanted with something else she replied she wanted what she has had for the past half century, pink petunias. .. Thank you very much.
She also asked me to cut off all that 'cascading' foliage so that she could see the containers.
So I cut back a beautiful snow white cascade of flowering bacopa to the top edge of the containers . - What a waste.

It was also a waste to see dead salvia plants lying on the ground next to a mound of Helichrysum ( if it doesn't have pink petunia looking flowers its a No-No.) And the gorgeous grouping of ornamental grasses that I drove an hour north to purchase were desiccated and lifeless as they lie thrown to the ground.

It's just so disheartening to see plants ripped out and left to die on the ground.
All your efforts done for naught.
But the biggest disappointment is to have to return week after week to work in this garden and see crappy pink petunias pruned back to the edges of the pots .

From garden tours.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

In lieu of flowers, please vote for health care reform

I think that Ted Kennedy , my home state hero would happily concur,
In lieu of flowers please vote for health care reform.

From Favorite 5 Plants

With much appreciation for your long years of dedicated service ,
Thank you Mr. Kennedy.

Monday, August 24, 2009

San Francisco Bromeliad Tour 2009

On August 23, 2009 the San Francisco Bromeliad Society had its annual garden tour and pot luck luncheon.

This year we concentrated our tour in the city of San Francisco and visited 4 gardens.

Ted Kippings garden was the first to be explored.
With the help of landscape designer Harland Hand ( now deceased but not forgotten ) Ted has terraced his steep hillside garden into a series of undulating terraces that support his incredible collection of plants.
From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

A favorite of mine was this climbing bromeliad .
From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

There were lots of cactus and succulents too. Many were in pots throughout the garden, as seen in this photo leading up to the back door entrance to the garage.
From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

Of course there were lots of bromeliads
From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

At Stacey’s garden we were treated to a lovely city garden under the canopy of a fruiting pear tree
From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

There was a prolific small veggie garden being overlooked by Buddha
From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

The entry stairwell to Stacey’s two story house was clothed with Tillandsias and Bromeliads
From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

The last stop on our tour was at our treasurer’s house , Harold Charns.
We had our pot luck feast out in amongst his incredible garden.

I found a seat on the dining terrace just outside the kitchen next to a wonderful planter box garden.
From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

A wall mount fountain
From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

A fabulously large staghorn fern in the lower garden spanning about 5 feet in length
From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

Bromeliads galore

From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

Along with some wonderful succulents
From Bromeliad Society Tour 2008

Friday, August 21, 2009

Mosaic Work - Tons of tiny pieces of fun.

I’m working on a new mosaic project.
I can’t say much about it because it is part of a competition.
! shusssssh. it’s a secret !
( bet your curious now ! )

But I can say I am having a lot of fun in the studio once again.

I’ve completed several mosaic projects in the past.
All of them were fairly modest in scale.
The one that I’m working on now is about 4 times the size.
( bet your really curious now ! )

Here’s some photos along with some descriptions of some of my past mosaic projects:

My front entry path to my house.
Photo by Saxon Holt for Sunset Magazine.

From Pina Colada

The blue field is a full body porcelain tile.
The leaves were made from 12 x 12 inch tiles of China slate that I cut into 1 x1 inch squares.
The thistles are made of green Thai river rocks, porcelain tiles, amethyst and turquoise pieces.

Photograph below by Lee Anne White for Fine Gardening Magazine
From Pina Colada

The second modest sized piece was made for the San Francisco Garden Show.
It is a tempered glass mosaic , which is quite complex in comparison to regular tile and stone mosaic construction.

From San Francisco Garden Show 2008

Photo below by Angela Pratt for her blog Garden Bliss / Sacramento Gardening and the S.F. garden show blog
Link to Angela's blog :
From San Francisco Garden Show 2008

From San Francisco Garden Show 2008

This summer during the Economic Cone of Doom, aka The Recession, I took on a part time sculpture job for a fabulous company called Interplay.
Interplay designs and crafts incredibly innovative play structures for childrens playgrounds.
Below are some projects that I worked on together with the totally awesome Interplay team:

A water feature that was set in a beach side setting in San Diego
From Interplay Project

Check out the embedded fossils in the lower side of the sculpture.
From Interplay Project

The mosaic on this project was mostly stone pebbles with some porcelain tiles
From Interplay Project

This volcano looking object is actually an armature to hold up a large commercial style umbrella.
It too will be set in a bed of sand next to the Pacific Ocean.

Glass tiles, pebbles and hand carved nautilus.
From Interplay Project

Below is the original nautilus that I carved out of sculpture clay.
A fiberglass mold was made of it and it was cast in concrete .
From Interplay Project

The color coat of stucco was being applied.
I usually got more stucco on my clothes than on the structure, ... but sure had a lot of fun doing so !
That’s Eric , the head artist of the studio . He is a Rhode Island School of Design Graduate and is one of the finest artist’s I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with.
From Interplay Project

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Before and After & Seven years later

Today I stopped by a front yard project that we designed and installed about 7 years ago.

After taking measurements for the upcoming new back yard project I couldn’t help myself and whipped out my pruning shears and pruned some of the overgrown shrubs and trees into submission.

I am particularly fond of this project due to its amazing transformation and tight spatial layout.

The front yard is a mere 12 feet wide and borders a private road, so fortunately there is not much traffic except for the few other neighbors who live off of this narrow street.

We did a whole exterior architectural remodel when addressing the landscape project, another reason why I like this project so much.

This is what I had to start with :
From Raised Garden Beds


This is the front entry garden a few days after we finished construction ( during the rain )
From Raised Garden Beds

Next are a few photos showing the garden with about 7 years of growth
From Raised Garden Beds

From Raised Garden Beds

From Raised Garden Beds

From Raised Garden Beds

Steps to the back yard
From Raised Garden Beds

One of the Japanese Maples that I pruned today
From Raised Garden Beds

Street side entry - such a narrow front yard.
From Raised Garden Beds

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Biblical Garden in the S.F. Botanical Garden

The San Francisco Botanical Garden located in the Golden Gate Park is undergoing some pathway reconstruction.

Because of this construction my normal route around the garden was revised and I found myself visiting a part of the garden that I haven’t been to in awhile.

The following few photos were taken in the Biblical Garden.

Passion Vine Flower - actually this photo was taken a few hundred feet before the Biblical garden but I thought it was
appropriate to this post.

From s.f. botanical garden

Entry pathway
From s.f. botanical garden

Beautiful lime stone walls within and surrounding the garden
From s.f. botanical garden

From s.f. botanical garden

In the name of the father , son, and holy ghost.
From s.f. botanical garden