LA in BLOOM
May 6th, 2010
During the weekend of April 30-May 2, the 127-acre Los Angeles Arboretum & Botanical Garden presented “Living Green: Essentials for the Home Gardener,” an outdoor flower and garden show that was an essential place to welcome the spring growing season.
The LA Garden Show seems to expand in size and style each year, adding exciting and informative speakers on topics ranging from sustainable design (“Green Architecture: Volume and Shape in the Mediterranean Garden,” by Gary Jones) to edible gardening (“Ten Trees in One: Grafting Citrus and Avocados,” with Darren Butler).
There are al fresco-style gardens, planted in or on top of real soil, just like Chelsea and other outdoor garden shows, which I think is a vast improvement over those dark, fluorescent-lit caverns that house indoor displays.
And of course, while the somewhat aggressive male peacocks are strolling and squawking, the two-legged garden show-goers are chatting with designers, snapping pics, waiting in line for lunch (I loved my chicken tacos, served with fresh cilantro), and, of course, doing some plant- and art-related retail therapy!
I mention shopping because as far as I’ve been able to discern, the marketplace at the LA Garden Show is one of the very best stops for plants, garden art, accessories and other must-have items for the horticulturally-inclined.
I only wish it lasted longer than 3 days because I didn’t get around to all the plant-sellers, horticultural societies, garden accessory purveyors and other vendors. I learned that efforts by the Arboretum’s volunteer marketplace managers resulted in nearly twice the number of exhibitors this year over last. It was a well-curated lineup of offerings (thankfully, no schlocky stuff).
I checked in with a few of my favorite folks including Pacific Horticulture Magazine, Southern California Horticultural Society, Leslie Codina Ceramics and TerraSculpture.
A new discovery: Smallweeds, which designs miniature tablescapes and also sells miniature accessories for making your own tabletop and fairy gardens.
I did a lot of browsing and gabbing with old and new friends, a little shopping, and a lot of note-taking while spotting new products, themes and trends. One of my very favorite picks of the weekend is the powder-coated obelisk series, created by Annette Gutierrez and Mary Gray. The women own Pot-ted, an eclectic, must-visit garden shop on Los Feliz in Los Angeles.
As experienced and artistic film industry veterans, the women sure know how to create high style on a shoestring. They also know that it’s often easier to design something themselves rather than wait around for the marketplace to catch up with a need or opportunity.
Thus, the colorful objets for the garden, seen at left. Can’t you just imagine how elegant and artful these spherical shapes would look, grouped one, two, or three on a lawn, a gravel patio, or even tucked into a perennial border with stems and petals weaving in and out of the openings?
Annette and Mary aren’t claiming to have invented the ringed orbs (some of the earliest ones were made from leftover steel straps used to hold wine caskets together). But they do love the way the steel shapes take to easily to the powdercoated color. And since aqua and orange are the Pot-ted purveyors’ two favorite garden colors, they started with this palette. You can visit the shop or call to inquire about shipping. There are three sizes and boy do they look awesome: 30-inch ($169); 24-inch ($139) and 18-inch ($98).
In all, the 11 Designer Gardens featured all sorts of Southern California-style spaces, with plants, décor and furniture reflecting how we live here. I met some new designers via their creations and revisited other favorite talents to see this year’s design expressions. Here are some of the Designer Gardens that captured my imagination:
The New California Garden, designed by Association of Professional Landscape Designers, Greater L.A. Chapter.
Laura Morton, Joel Lichtenwalter and Stephanie Bartron chaired this project that “shows homeowners exactly how wonderful a sustainable landscape can look.” The featured elements, each of which was designed by an APLD member or team, demonstrated various planting styles and techniques to live sustainably.
Of course, the central element wowed me because it is shed-like. Designed by artist Gregg Fleishman, the “Puzzle Prefab Shelter DH1,” is a whimsical shelter in the heart of the garden, complete with walls, ceiling and openings to offer and invite views of the sky and the garden (see photo at the top of this post).
Among many idea-packed elements, the garden featured a modern-style succulent wall, left, designed by Linda Estrin of LE Garden Design. As a freestanding green element, it graced the permeable paving-and-gravel patio designed by Shirley Kost.
Just beyond the patio, a pathway led to another planted wall. Described as a habitat wall, designed by Stephanie Bartron and Mayita Dinos, using the Woolly Pockets planting system, the installation overflowed with plants providing nectar, larval food, forage and nesting spots for local butterflies, bees and birds, right.
Just beyond the wall, a small opening between two hedging plants provided entry to Marlene Breene’s Meditation Garden, a special space for quiet contemplation, to sit and observe nature around you. The design included artwork, as well. “Tempest,” a sculptural element, was designed by Jennifer Gilbert Asher of TerraSculpture.
It just happens to be the same piece I have in my backyard, so I’m a biased observer. I love it! Another fun feature in this collaborative garden was designed by Laura Morton.
She created a polychromatic dog shelter with a green planted roof. “Dogs love a cool place in the shade,” she says. By planting a miniature green roof overhead, she not only captures rainwater and heat, but cools the pets underneath (also seen at the top of this post).
Reduce, Recycle, Repose, designed by Libby Simon, Libby’s Vintage Home & Garden
Libby, another talented designer and new LA friend, created her first show garden this year. Her 30-by-30 foot outdoor living environment was designed with abstract lines and angles, yet it feels intimate and inviting because of the way Libby divided up each segment of the garden with a specific purpose. “I love to mix styles and admire, in particular, the clean lines and simplicity of the 1950s and 1960s design, especially for the small urban garden,” she says.
This attitude is reflected in the retro-style cactus garden juxtaposed with areas for growing vegetables, dining and entertaining. Most impressive is Libby’s use of reclaimed materials, salvaged from the Arboretum’s own “bone yard,” including pea gravel, variously-sized concrete pavers, plus old fencing and gates (used as at-grade decking). One of the most popular features of this garden were the 3-, 5- and 7-foot long raised vegetable planters, which Libby’s boyfriend constructed using inexpensive timber. The organic stain finish is ideal for the edible plantings.
Terra Cotta Garden, designed by Sally Farnum of S.E. Farnum and Associates for Eye of the Day Garden Design Center
Pasadena-based designer Sally Farnum teamed up with Carpinteria-based Eye of the Day to create a spare, open Mediterranean landscape ideally suited for Southern California. Sight, sound and scent are the intangible features that enhance the design concept, with the bubbling terra cotta saucer of water as a central feature, with aromatic Mediterranean herbs and citrus trees lending fragrance.
The eye-pleasing trellised and shaped trees are both functional and sculptural. A pair of oversized Italian terra cotta vessels held magnificent olive “cages” — each is formed by four olive trees shaped and espaliered over a weathered steel frame — that garnered everyone’s attention, right. To echo the terra cotta materials palette, Sally created a garden floor of salvaged chipped terra cotta embedded with recycled green glass bottles. Lollipop-shaped topiaries added a touch of whimsy to the garden’s formal lines. To contact Sally: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Small Scale Sustainable, by Steve Gerischer of Larkspur Garden Design
Earlier this year I wrote a short piece for the Los Angeles Times HOME section about Steve Gerischer’s repurposed driveway. On top of a dirt-and gravel drive, Steve installed a beautiful, botanically-pattered tapestry using broken concrete, recycled bricks, sand, and rock. Pretty and permeable, the artful drive captured a lot of reader attention, inquiries and emulators.
That design reappeared in the central patio element of Steve’s design for the LA Garden Show. He wanted to share ideas for the gardener of average skill to take home and put into practice, ideas that allow anyone to be “green” and use less: less water, less materials, less maintenance. I loved the feeling of walking on Steve’s “patterned” mixed media carpet where a small water feature, planted containers, and comfy seating were arranged. It is only a matter of time before his attractive and easy-to-recreate idea begins to appear all around LA’s backyards. To contact Steve: email@example.com.
Styling the Urban Kitchen Garden, by Julianna Roosevelt and Kevin Mack of An Edible Garden
At last year’s Garden Show, I was blown away by Juliana and Kevin’s edible “frames” planted with herbs, edible flowers, and salad greens.
This year, in an expanded display, the duo presented two distinct edible gardens: one with a contemporary feel and the other slightly formal.
Juliana and Kevin created a garden pavilion where they demonstrated that with the benefits of a Southern California climate, “you can turn any backyard, your back steps, a cement patio, or a sunny balcony into a refreshing spot for dining or simply relaxing.”
They included all sorts of small but abundant ideas, including container groupings, raised beds and (back by popular demand!) the hanging edible frames. I was especially impressed at the way Juliana and Kevin use principles of design in their vegetable gardens. They showcased important outdoor-room concepts, such as using lighting and reflecting pools to add drama and enhance a small space. But they also demonstrated smart organic practices, including healthy soil preparation, organic fertilizers, the use of beneficial insects, and heirloom vegetables and seeds. Enough to make anyone want to plant and grow something to eat this summer!
There was so much more I missed, because as it turns out, one needs more than a half-a-day to take in this show.
I didn’t mention that during last weekend, I was leading a four-day LA Garden tour for 32 members of the Northwest Horticultural Society. We took in the LA Garden Show as part of “day two.” I’ll share more about our weekend in my next post, but wanted to separate out the wonders of Southern California’s best garden event, including the people, designs, plants, and products of the moment. Maybe you can attend next year’s show. It is always held the first weekend in May. I’m sure I’ll see you there!