Welcome to our gardens.
In the posts and pages here, you will witness the growth of a garden and its gardeners. This site started as a project for a class at UCLA, Introduction to Horticulture, that Michael took in the summer of 2011. Prior to taking the class, Michael knew very little about plants or how to keep them alive (he certainly knew how to kill them, however). One would have thought the scientific background and approach required in Michael’s prior profession as a geologist, and the current analytical demands of business lawyering would lead to an instinctively methodical and scientific approach to gardening. Wrong. His was a completely haphazard gardening technique. However, with the introduction provided by the class, and a bit of practice, we are beginning to see some changes. For more of what Michael has learned this summer and applied to the gardens, follow this link “Intro to Horticulture“.
When we purchased our current house, the landcaping consisted of over 300 different types of plants. In a single 20′ x 20′ planter bed, there were 27 different types of succulents. Throughout the gardens were annuals, perennials, fruit trees, grasses, succulents, volunteer trees and shrubs, uncontrollable vines, and numerous weeds and weeds in disguise. The grass was dying, the irrigation systems were a mess, the trees had been very poorly pruned (killing a few), and there was generally no rhyme or reason to the plant selections in terms of shade versus sun, water needy versus drought tolerant, low maintenance versus high maintenance, etc.
Early attempts to rectify the situation failed. After spending too much money on a “professional” re-do of certain parts of the gardens in 2010, we decided to get personally engaged in the gardens and be more thoughtful about how we interacted with them. We first gave thought to the “garden ethic” or “philosophy” that we want to achieve. Michael was turned onto this concept by Sarah Hayden Reichard’s book “The Conscientious Gardener: Cultivating a Garden Ethic“. Native plants are an obvious path in this regard. So, Michael dove into the native gardening literature and visited many of the native plant nurseries throughout California (the best in his opinion are Tree of Life and Theodore Payne Foundation). The native plant movement is fascinating and Michael is clearly drinking the kool-aid. One fundamental dilemma however — he loves certain plants that are not natives, he thinks turf has certain functionality and aesthetic appeal, but yet he hates half measures. So, he is constantly balancing the inevitable (and arrogant) scorn for non-natives, with his love of, for example, Callistemon and Pittorsporum. It is a struggle.
Notwithstanding these conflicts, a garden ethic has begun to emerge. The gardens are slowly returning to a more natural aesthetic. Massing of plants, hydrozoning (relocating and grouping plants with similar water needs) and incorporation of region-appropriate plants has begun to make a difference (we think). Follow this link for a “Quick Tour“.
One final thought — In the garden, as in other facets of life, we tend to the “clean, orderly” aesthetic (i.e., we are anal). Some might suggest that such an aesthetic is inconsistent with a garden filled with chapparal native plants. We disagree. While we respect native plant enthusiasts who simply plant and let nature take its course — that is not our preference. We relish nature and its wonders and are advocates for all-things environmental, but we simply need some order on the chaos of our immediate surroundings. In this context, we are reminded of something we recently read in “Founding Gardeners” by Andrea Wulf (great book, highly recommended):
“[At Monticello, Thomas] Jefferson had combined beauty with utility, the untamed wilderness of the forest with the orderly lines of apples, pears, and cherries in the orchard, and colorful native and exotic flowers with a sweeping panorama across Virginia’s spectactular landscape. If nature had been dominated by man, it seemed it was only in order to celebrate it.“
With this spirit of celebration (and order!), we hope you will enjoy the site and visit often…. as this garden and its gardeners continue to grow.