Archive for the ‘garden’ Category

the desert garden at huntington

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

A rainy day in Providence seems like a good time to revisit sunny southern California. We stopped by the Huntington Botanical Gardens in Pasadena two Fridays ago…


There wasn’t time to explore all 120 acres, but being fond of thorny, spiky, alien-looking plants, I definitely didn’t want to miss the 100-year-old Desert Garden. My friend John will appreciate this post.

Before I share some of the “ow! my eye!” plants, take a look at this massive bamboo just inside the entrance…









































And now, without further delay, I bring you glorious blue skies, oppressive heat and where’s my water bottle?

(As always, click to biggify)…













In case you didn’t catch it in the shot above, please note: some aloes can grow to become trees? Really? I had no idea…





















There’s no sense of scale in this shot. Those plants are at lease 2′ to 4′ across…













What the… euphorbia also grows like trees here? 6′ tall. So unfair…









































I love this sea of happy aeoniums…

























And these octopi…

































And these starfish…



































I’ve seen radio towers shorter than this thing! That’s easily 50′ tall…





















And the agaves are crazy huge, as you might imagine. Do not hug them…













I have no idea what this bizarre specimen is but look closely — green lily-like blooms and it’s about to launch missiles…





















Crazy. Who designs these things anyway?

Do yourself a favor and take a quick 360 spin around the Desert Garden. It’s wondrous. Better yet, go there in person because my pictures do the collection no justice. Bring protective eyewear.


Mediterranean planting inspiration

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

You don’t think I’d go to southern California without snapping a few pictures of plant combinations I find inspiring, do you? Nah. Didn’t think so.

(rollover pics for occasional plant ID, click to biggify)

Los Feliz neighborhood, L.A.: Nassella tenuissima, agave, festuca glauca, salvia and, hmm, something else











Los Feliz neighborhood, L.A.: Nassella tenuissima again, festuca glauca and succulents











Los Feliz neighborhood, L.A.: succulents in a mailbox!


Lodge Torrey Pines, La Jolla: rosemary and 6-7' tall Echium can­di­cans “Pride of Madeira” covered in hummingbirds



















Los Feliz neighborhood, L.A.: agave, rosemary, phormium. i wonder what that silvery stuff is?











sunny hillside at Lodge Torrey Pines, La Jolla: rosemary and lavendar











Lodge Torrey Pines, La Jolla: better shot of the tufted grass securing the hill below the lavender



















Hillcrest neighbood, San Diego: yucca, agave and lots of succulents and cactus I can’t identify



























house we rented in Palm Springs: festuca glauca and lavender, purple lantana underneath the palo verde tree


















Legoland: ricinus (castor bean plant) grows into tall, hard-trunked trees here!











Legoland: blooming succulents, yucca, euphorbia, cyprus papyrus alternifolius (in the pond) and an awesome blue swath of festuca glauca



















Legoland: gorgeous waving sea of Nassella tenuissima












Also stopped at a few botanic gardens, so I’ll share more planties with you soon!

hillside planting underway

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Sorry things got quiet again at modremod. We escaped to the west coast to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary. Just before we left, the plants I ordered back in January started arriving for the front hillside.

Then Shiva arrived yesterday with a carload of plants for the walkway section of the hill…

hillside planting: laying out the plants













Nassella tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass). 85 of them in all…

hillside planting: only 50 more to go











So guess what I did yesterday?

hillside planting: mexican feather grass in













More planting happening soon — the arrivals are beginning to stack up. Thanks for helping get it started, Shiva! goteamfight.

heckle and jeckle

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

Somebody’s been pulling up the burlap I put down last fall to hold the seed and soil in place on what would become our sloping lawn…

burlap destruction




















It took a few days but I finally caught the thieves — two giant crows who must be building a nest somewhere nearby. They lopped off a 4′ x 2′ section and started a few other smaller sections before I scared them off. Not that it really matters much now — I don’t really have to worry about the ground washing away any more.

So I trimmed the ratty ends of the burlap and life goes on. Crows.


espresso lawn

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Last October, I planted the lawn. Once it grew in, I sprayed it with fish goo and molasses. Now that spring is here, it’s time to  baby the grass again, especially since didn’t get much time to thrive before the cold arrived at the end of last season. My latest experiment…

coffee grounds for the lawn




















Coffee grounds.

coffee grounds on the lawn




















I pick up 5 lb. bags of used coffee grounds — sometimes still warm — from Seven Stars, my local coffee shop. Starbucks also has had a Grounds for Your Garden program since 1995. In season, check your local store for free grounds. (I wanted to try the coffee ground trick last fall but coffee shops were done putting them out for the season.) Check often, because gardeners snap them up quickly.

My neighbors may think I’m crazy when they see me sprinkling java on my lawn, but who cares? It turns out that coffee grounds provide slow-release nutrients to your lawn that green it up, encourage beneficial microbes and attract worms which loosen compacted soil (good for the roots). Bonus: coffee also deters slugs and snails. If you’re skeptical, you can read the research here and find out how to do it here. Poke around online and you can find scads of articles on the subject.

I’ll be scattering some soil and compost over the patchy spots in the grass as well, and then over-seeding. Will let you know how it all turns out. If you drive by and smell espresso, now you know why.

spring prep

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Temperatures are unusually warm for March in New England — 72 degrees yesterday! So of course I put on my shorts and started prepping the garden for spring. I actually cut my grasses back last week…

spring prep: cut back the grasses




















My Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ and Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Avalanche’ grasses were already sending up green shoots. Doh!

The Nassella Tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass) actually looked like this the entire winter…

spring prep:  the nassella tenuissima is still green!




















Green in the center! That just goes to show you how oddly mild it was here.

Cut back all the Hakonochloas, as well. They likely won’t show growth until some time in April.

I won’t bore you with more grass cutting — I’m sure that was more than enough to do the trick. But did I mention that last August I bought a Mission Black Fig? Oops, sorry. I protected it the same way I did the Musa basjoo banana last December, and uncovered it yesterday.

White tarp (to reflect rather than retain heat) came off…

spring prep: wrapped fig tree




















That revealed the crazy cylinder that David’s going to sink out back in the ground to cover the pond pump…

spring prep: tarp removed from fig




















Then I pulled out the straw I stuffed in around the branches…

spring prep: fig wrapped in straw




















And lookie dat! There’s my tiny fig tree!

spring prep: fig is unveiled




















Doesn’t look like much, I know. And it’s not, yet. I’ll have to reposition this to give it more room, actually. Given its southern position against a warm wall, it should be able to make it through in a New England winter — theoretically, and if I protect it every year. We shall see.

I’d better get out there and uncover the banana.

plants + math, the big finale

Monday, February 6th, 2012

A few weeks back, I posted the first two Doodling in Math videos — a fascinating look at spirals and Fibonacci numbers in nature. This time we finally get an answer for why plants grow the way they do. (If you haven’t seen these yet, I recommend starting with Part 1)…



I should have doodled more in math class.


what winter looks like

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

The view out back this weekend…

snow on the pond




















We got about 6″. I wonder what the fish are thinking under there? (click to biggify…)

snowy out there












As soon as the deck gets rebuilt, the outdoor furniture will go back where it belongs. Until then, it will continue to collect snow on the patio and look like a really miserable spot for dinner.


path lighting decision

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

After much haggling back and forth over something as silly as angled or L-shaped path lights, David and I finally settled on one…

hinkley path light in titanium |















Does any of this really matter? Not much, no, but L-shaped it is. That’s the Atlantis 1518TT-LED by Hinkley Lighting. David turned his nose up at the Bronze finish. So I ordered the Titanium and Hematite finish samples from Hinkley. Not only were they FREE, they arrived just a few days later.

We looked at them against the granite (Titanium top, Hematite bottom)…

samples against granite




















Titanium is clearly more reflective. Hematite would blend into the background better, as I assumed.

Then we checked them against the galvanized steel we have on some of the steps, the veggie garden planter boxes and our steel cable railing…

samples against galvanized steel




















We’re not trying to match the galvanized, mind you. But the various finishes outside have to play friendly. Out back there’s also that rusty Corten steel drama queen of a fire pit/grill vying for your attention. So rather than have another dark finish nearby competing with the Phoenix, we settled on Titanium.

Done. Ordering!

it has begun

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

I’m weak. I started ordering plants for Spring last night. That is all.