Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Plant of the Week: White Sage

I am hesitant to give Salvia apiana the prestigious title of Plant of the Week.  I've decided that I am designating it to only the plant pictured above and not Salvia apiana as a whole.  At least the ones that have been hanging on for dear life in my yard.  This particular Salvia took to heart the saying "If it doesn't kill you, it will make you stronger" and survived my foggy, hot, more-humid-than-it's-used-to summer and in fact thrived off of it.  Its colleagues.  .  .  not so much.  Out of six plants, one exploded into leaves, two are taking it day by day and the other three kicked the bucket as soon as they could without being too rude about it.

So with this huge grain of salt, let us go through the benefits.  The scent will bowl you over with its overwhelming sage-ness.  Native Americans and some hippies burn the leaves for ceremonies.  Read Las Pilitas' hilarious take here, although I don't quite agree with their allusions to it being stinky.  I like it and so do bumblebees and hummingbirds (well, they prefer the flowers, but I digress).

Here you'll see my humbling moment in native planting.

Soil:  If you are growing it around here, I'd recommend well, well drained since it's used to drier conditions
Sun:  Full-on hot hot sun.  Plant it by the west-facing side of the house where most things dry up.
Plant:  Not at the beginning of summer like I did.  Now might be a good time.
Buy it:  Annie's carries it in 4" pots, and your local nursery might carry it in gallon sizes if you ask them nicely.  You folks down south will find it at Las Pilitas (see link above).  Someday I'll make it down there...
Good for:  Drought-tolerant gardening, ever-gray gardening, sagey scents, and ego boosting if you fare better than I did.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

No Longer Coming Soon!

It's official!  The Idora Design website is up and running!  Give it a click and tell me what you think.

Oh! and Eh! The Oxymoron that is Spider

I'm both fascinated and terrified by spiders.  So elegantly creepy!  So it is with mixed feelings that I share a new sketch- I'm proud of the drawing, but it kind of scares me...

It was drawn from this photograph of an unidentified spider discovered at Bay Worms in Alameda when I took a Vermicomposting workshop.  Maybe if Vanessa cardui flutters by, she'll identify it for us?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Harvest Time! Stringing Acorns

I communed with my inner squirrel the other day and collected acorns from one of my client's oak trees with the intention of making acorn garlands.  I think the first one turned out pretty well.  I strung it on my bulletin board to keep it away from "helpful" felines, but I'd like to run them down the length of a table, Andy Goldsworthy style.  For now, they match the color of a page I tore from a National Geographic.  If you'd like to follow along at home, please make sure to wash your hands and the needle you use to string the acorns as the tannins in the acorns are poisonous and I don't like taking any chances when it comes to poison.  Happy Autumn!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Late Show Gardens: A Bleak and Beautiful Future

This will be the last post on the show at Cornerstone last weekend, and I wanted to share two more gardens that seemed to explore a similar theme.  The main material used:  rust.  They created a post apocalyptic feeling, but with a twist.  As if Mad Max decided to take up bluegrass music.  First up, we have this fabulous "garden" created by Ben and Kate Frey.  I love how they took dinky container plants which typically are stacked on top of each other at garden shows to create a feeling of fullness and spaced them out to make them look even more pathetic.  I hope this was on purpose, because it sounds like I'm insulting them!  It left me feeling that the only thing missing was a harsh wind and tumbleweeds.

The Hermit house comfortably seated about five people and Ben was gracious enough to give a house tour of the approximately 6' x 6' space!  All I kept thinking was, 'How did they find all this cool rusty stuff?!'

Gary Ratway and Mike Lucas's Renewal garden was another one of those 'Where did they find that?!' kinds of experiences, as their rusted propane tanks stole the show with their old-modern look that seems to be so in as of late.  I love how it speaks of bioremediation:  planting specific plants that can help clean toxic soils.  The grasses springing up from the crushed gasoline tanks made me feel as if the garden was found that way after the ocean receded to reveal an old submarine subjected to the whims of nature.


All in all, what a cool show!  I feel so refreshed and ready to spring forward with all my new ideas and inspiration!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Plant of the Week: Berkeley Sedge

Say what you will about Berkeley (insert snarky comment here about the hazards of the Berkeley Bowl parking lot), but they do know how to pick their grasses.  Carex divulsa or Berkeley Sedge (formerly Carex tumicola) is one of those easy grasses that just flops over and looks like it recently started using volumizing shampoo.  Plant a few for that carefree garden that doesn't care if it's shirt is tucked in.  I should note, however that this grass is native to Europe and NOT California for you purists out there.

Soil:  Not too picky, but ideally light clay I think.
Sun:  Part sun, but can take full sun with more water
Plant:  Anytime.  These guys are tough.
Buy it:  Annie's of course carries it and has a great photo to boot.  Your local nursery should carry it and if they don't, ask them to.
Good for:  Filling in spaces in new plantings, adding textural interest among the flowers, creating a dog friendly, lumpy lawn.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Late Show Gardens: Happy Happy Inspiration

Here are a few images I wanted to share from the Late Show Gardens at Cornerstone.  There are some wonderful blogs out there also diligently reporting the show (it's so hard traipsing around pretty gardens, taking lovely photos and showing them off to your friends!  Sigh.) which I link to here:  Michelle's Garden Porn site contains much to see from the show and Alice's Bay Area Tendrils Garden Travel does also!  Check out their photos and play by play of the Grow Melt Project,one of my favorite gardens.  However, I must have been delirious from the heat as I did not capture one pixel of it on my camera!
The photo above I found so sweet, as the hanging balls are pomegranates strung from thin wire.  So simple, so festive!  If it hadn't been 90 degrees, I would have sought out some mulled wine to put me even more in the autumnal mood!

I just couldn't bear to leave out the greyhounds.  So regal!  I wanted to put garlands of roses around their necks and a milkbone at their feet! They were for sale at one of Cornerstone's shops.

The photo is a tidge sun-bleached, but these metal balls inspired me to make a few out of wood and perhaps experiment with the form a bit.  Wouldn't they look great with clematis ligusticifolia climbing over them?

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Late Show Gardens: Future Feast In the Garden of Flow/Accumulation

What an amazing time!  The Late Show Gardens provided a much needed field trip and gave me an opportunity to meet some talented and friendly folks who all seem to geek out over plants as much as I do (in most cases, even more!)  If you are not familiar with Cornerstone, it is a playground of avant gardens designed by some of the most notorious landscape designers and architects of our day.  Among other things, the show featured some new gardens based on the theme of sustainability.  Something about the end of the world really seems to bring out the optimist/pessimist in us, but some gardens really succeeded in composing an aesthetically pleasing, thoughtful composition.  My favorite is pictured here.

Patrick Picard and Suzanne Biaggi created this incredible cor-ten table planted with a 'salad' of lettuces and sage and is set with Heath Ceramics, of course! 

I especially appreciate that they accomplished a fresh and modern aesthetic without having an overdose of grasses, unlike many of their counterparts.  I love grasses, but everything in moderation...

This view looks through the massive stone sculptures at the head of the garden where a water feature splits the table and spills over the edge into a puddle of stones at the other end.

I'll post various bits of inspiration I saw throughout the week.  So much to see!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Hot or Not? New Irrigation Products & Native Plants

Super sweet! I was hanging with Chad at Irrigation Equipment Co. and he showed me this cool new doo-hickey that can possibly be a new alternative for the irrigation of native plants! It's a perforated tube that is buried into the ground near your plant and capped off with only the black top showing on the surface of the soil. The tube is filled with gelled water, which permeates into the soil according to evapotranspiration! It gives the soil moisture only when it needs it.

For native gardens that are usually planted with the goal in mind of becoming irrigation independent, this offers a low-waste alternative to using yards of drip tubes for two years only to discover they're riddled with leaks. Also, unlike a drip system, these puppies can be reused. And... no run-off, no evaporation, no water running up your meter! Apparently, the water needs to be replenished every 30 days or so, but in a native garden it would only apply in the summer and early fall. Sounds like a good alternative to me!

What do you think? Hot or not?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Anniversary of Emperor Norton's Reign on SF

I just learned today about Norton I, Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico, who on this day in 1859 declared his reign. A little off, Emperor Norton wore a stately uniform given to him by the Army stationed at the Presidio and would bristle at police officers that did not salute him as he went by. Penniless, he ate at the finest restaurants in San Francisco for free, whose proprietors would put up bronze plaques establishing his reign. (this guy is giving me ideas...)
This, I feel was his most important decree:

"Whoever after due and proper warning shall be heard to utter the abominable word "Frisco", which has no linguistic or other warrant, shall be deemed guilty of a High Misdemeanor, and shall pay into the Imperial Treasury as penalty the sum of twenty-five dollars."
I couldn't agree more!

Read the wiki on him for the full story. It's hilarious!

Let us celebrate the anniversary of Emperor Norton's reign and the absolute San Francisco-ness support of the preposterous.

Field Trip: Olive-Route Press

I'd been looking forward to visiting Via at her shop for weeks and the day finally arrived yesterday! Via runs Olive-Route Press, a letterpress shop in Berkeley and creates amazing work. I love stopping by her shop and rummaging through all the lovely things she's created for weddings, greeting cards, business collateral (she helped design my logo and website) and just fun, fun prettiness. We're working together to create a special edition of botanically-inspired postcards, which I'll keep you posted on in the future. (unintentional pun!)

I sketched some drawings and she printed away as I was introduced to Jay-Z's new and excellent album, delicious poached eggs made in the microwave (I kid you not) and plopped into tortilla soup by Richard at St. Hieronymus Press next door, and Via's contagious enthusiasm over a very large garden spider we found on an after-lunch walk.

All in all, the kind of work day where you don't feel like you were working.

*Update: I forgot to include a link to Via's very entertaining blog:

Plant of the Week: Monkey Faces

I'm thoroughly convinced that Mimulus aurantiacus will save the world someday. First of all, their happy little laughing faces dare you not to smile. Second of all, this plant will remain as perky as ever after being subjected to the cruel and unusual punishment of a transplant in blasting hot weather. Most commonly you will see orange mimulus, but numerous hybrids and variations have produced creamy white, apricot and my new favorite deep burgundy. The variety pictured here is 'Jack' (I think).

Soil: any as long as it is well-drained
Sun: full to part shade
Plant: as mentioned above plant anytime you like.
Buy it: Annie's has some lovely selections, but not all are native to CA, Oaktown Native Nursery also seems to carry a few
Good for: any problem area you have where you need something to happily work without too much of your help. Also will bring hummingbirds in droves!

One note to anyone wanting to research further: the new Jepson manual recently merged Displacus and Mimulus into Mimulus. If you're having a hard time finding information on Mimulus aurantiacus, try looking for Displacus aurantiacus.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Will I See You There?

I'll be heading out to the Cornerstone gardens in Sonoma this weekend for the Late Show Gardens. Sounds like tons of fun, with many speakers sharing their knowledge of sustainability, gardens as art, and of course using native plants.
If any of my readers (hi, Grandma) and fellow garden bloggers are planning to attend it would be a great opportunity to meet up!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bits and Pieces of Inspiration

These pine cone bits sit on my desk- bringing some nature indoors for constant inspiration. I like the idea of seeing the pieces that make up the whole- in this case the "petals" of the pine cone.

A Bit Sketchy

I love rendering because it allows me to focus on textures and patterns rather than shapes and likenesses (not my strong point). It's an abstract form of order and repetition. When I picked up my sketchbook this morning, I remembered how rusty I am, so I began with a simple rendering sketch that uses shapes, pattern and shading.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Plant of the Week: Scarlet Monardella

What a joy it is for my snobby native gardening sensibilities to discover a plant I've never seen before! I came across this stunner when cruising the nursery and absolutely had to have it! Unfortunately, as I'm researching its care, I'm realizing why I probably hadn't heard of it earlier: Monardella macrantha 'Marian Sampson' is difficult. Las Pilitas says 2 out of 3 will survive transplanting if you're lucky (they're the experts, and they still lost one?). And its part shade requirements don't quite mesh with the full blast of heat in my front yard.
Be that as it may, did you see those flowers?! Hummingbird magnet, right? Sometimes you just have to be an idealist and be willing to take some chances.

Soil: Well, well drained. They must have good drainage and give 'em a mulch of gravel
Sun: They thrive under afternoon shade. Since they're low growing, perhaps shelter them under a large tree or shrub
Plant: I'd say plant in mild weather. I'll wait until the heat wave is over, but I don't think I'd plant in the middle of the rainy season either. They might take more water than most natives, too so pay some extra attention to it when its getting established.
Buy it: I bought mine at a wholesale nursery, so just ask your local nursery if they can find you one. Looks like Yerba Buena Nursery also carries them from time to time.
Good for: a burst of color and a hummingbird oasis. These can help add some color to the summer brown season and will fill in some blank spots between larger plants.

So, wish me luck on getting some survivors out of this and if you're more interested, I found this link to be particularly helpful. Any advice in the comments would be showered with gratefulness!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

An Autumnal Tea

Well, it's officially autumn now and I thought I'd share a very autumnal tea party I hosted a while back that seems to fit the mood of shorter days and crisp mornings. Enjoy!

The menu included rose-flavored meringues and an assortment of tea sandwiches. Calendulas and scarlet freesias added spots of color.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Kitty Blogging

In solidarity with Cactus Jungle's Cactus Blog and their fabulous Friday whippet blogging, I bring you... the cats of Idora Design!

John Ross, our Snowshoe Siamese is keeping an eye on the shop reorganization...

I hope you like your kitties sunny side up! 99, our Oriental Shorthair has taken residence in her favorite spot despite the recent hot weather- sitting on the pilot light on the stove-top*.

* Just a note that we do not condone this sort of behavior, but you have to admit it is pretty darn cute.

Plant of the Week: Dandelions?

I was working on a client's garden the other day and remembered that those pesky dandelions riddling the yard with their long taproots are not just weeds... they're food! If you don't believe me, check this out. This is also a lovely post about their virtues. You absolutely must make sure that you're harvesting from an area that is free of pesticides and other ickies, but by all means cook up a fancy, foraged side-dish!

If you're interested in growing dandelions in your garden, you may be hard pressed to find seed for purchase. You won't have any trouble finding the little buggers in your yard or neighborhood, though! And please, make sure you cut the flowers off before they go to seed in your garden. This will help prevent an infestation in the next year and apparently, the flowers can be made into jelly! As you well know, dandelions will grow just about anywhere so I wouldn't worry about growing conditions or care. I would recommend growing them in part shade so they don't flower right away (in other words, treat like lettuce you are trying to prevent from "bolting"). Harvest in the spring before the leaves become too bitter.

This recipe is quite tasty, although I might add a few red pepper flakes. It's quite an interesting contrast to the undesirable connotations of weeds in the lawn!

UPDATE: From my Grandma:
"Dandelions was the only salad I knew about 80 years ago. Dad and I would go down to the park and pick dandelions and mom would just put vinegar and sugar on them. We didn't know about "salads" until much later. There is a picture in the family room of dad and I collecting dandelions."

Lost and Found in the Landscape

When I added these terracotta drainpipes to the front garden, my intent was to add a visual barrier from the sidewalk to my small front yard. However, they have taken on an interesting purpose: a place to showcase the random and amusing detritus that comes from living in an urban area. The "300" movie button above disappeared soon after I placed it on its pedestal, but the bent bracelet below still sparkles in the afternoon sun. Trash blows down our street regularly and much of it is, well trash. But I like the idea that sometimes there's little gifts to amuse me when I check on the progress of my blooms. Putting them on display creates a sort of discourse with my anonymous litter-bugs, but I'm still trying to figure out what I'm saying by doing it!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

PS on the Last Post

Just finished watering the front yard and I can safely say that the butterfly spotted yesterday was indeed a Strymon melinus missing its tails as I found it's friend flitting about (tails intact).
There's swarms of wildlife in urban gardens! Although sometimes you need to put on your glasses to see them...

You Like Me, You Really Like Me!

Success! Spotted yesterday in my very own front garden a hairstreak butterfly! I can't say which species it is- if it's a Strymon melinus, then it must have left its tail at home that day. I read about which plants will attract what as the day is long, but seeing it in action means a job well done! It's currently enjoying the bounty of eriogonum grande rubescens.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Escape Pods Spotted!

I'm not sure what kind of eggs these are clinging to a manzanita leaf, but I am pretty sure I would crush them if I knew what was in them. However, I'm perfectly contented to admire something beautiful and surprising before it becomes a pesky nuisance. The pattern they create looks so space-age!