Gardens are my happy place, a refuge from the news, traffic, noise, and security checks. I embrace the blooms, the design, the human touch on a patch of the planet. It is a piece of heaven right under my feet.
A creative gardener transforms a strip of land into a magical garden
Gardeners today have less space, less water and seem less able to lavish time on their patch of ground. Yet ask nearly any gardener and they have no less desire for a beautiful garden outside their door. Inspired, creative thinking coupled with a fascination of the world of succulents enabled Lisa, a member of the Laguna Beach Garden Club in CA to transform a 15’ wide side yard strip of ground into a magical mix of low water use plants and artful touches, creating two thematic gardens.
“Signs, Signs, everywhere there’s signs,
messin’ up the scenery, breaking’ my mind.”
(The Five Man Electrical Band)
Public gardens welcome curious visitors from all over the world. They enter eager to learn about the land, plants, trees and rocks of a particular place. Many gardens proudly highlight the entrance with an eye catching sign, often nestled among a beautifully landscaped bed of flowers. Once inside, posted signs act as the voice speaking directly to visitors. When it comes to signs everywhere, some are creative offenders and a few are just plain offenders.
Ruth Bancroft’s succulent and cactus garden in Walnut Creek, CA has been growing since 1972. This was before prolonged drought conditions introduced gardeners to such interesting plants as Aeoniums, Agaves, Aloes, Euphorbias, Sedums and Yuccas.
This year is a celebration for the 100th anniversary of the signing of the law founding our National Parks Service. In February a 3D IMAX film, National Parks Adventure, narrated by Robert Redford was released. The film flies viewers over canyons, red rock arches, and walks them into ice caves near Lake Superior. Highlighting 30 of the 58 national parks, there are moments where you feel the urge to reach out and touch the ice crystals and rock walls. Seeing the film will inspire you to “Find Your Park” which is the theme for the yearlong celebration.
“To many people, a cactus is the tall, spiny plant that they have seen in films of the Wild West.” (Miles Anderson, Cactus & Succulent Guide)
When I first moved to Phoenix, AZ I purchased a package of saguaro cactus seeds from the gift shop of the Desert Botanical Garden. As a transplanted Midwesterner I was eager to grow these curious and fascinating plants. Reality gradually set in – the seeds didn’t survive and I’ve not considered growing cactus from seeds since. This was not the case for Merritt “Sigs” Dunlap, also a transplant, from the Midwest to California. An engineer by training he clearly like figuring things out, and his after work focus was growing cactus, especially from seed.
In the wonderland that is California, Madame Ganna Walska’s Lotusland is as Walska herself put it: “out of this world.”
Ganna Walska was a fascinating, exotically beautiful opera singer. Born in Poland in 1887, her mother died when she was only nine, she lived with relatives until she fled Poland for Russia. By age 20 she had married a Russian Count. She began singing opera to gain the attention of another very wealthy Russian. She created her stage name “Ganna” a Russian form of Hannah, added “Walska” for her love of waltzing, and Madame came as a title given to known opera singers and actresses of the time. The first half of her life was devoted to her singing, her marriages, (six in total), a career which included her very own theatre in Paris, her own special scent and a spiritual quest for personal fulfillment. Men pursued her and her many marriages added to her fortunes.
Sitting on a Paris bench in May I was enjoying a view of the Eiffel Tower. The beds of the park had been freshly dug exposing the rich dark soil and I knew colorful summer plants would be arriving soon. An elderly woman came walking through the grass pulling her shopping cart. She stopped at the flower bed. In the bright light of day she removed her red trowel and a plastic shopping bag. Bending over she began carefully filling the bag with fresh soil.
The season changes and the leaves of summer’s lovely shade begin to fall, prompting a collective groan as gardeners from the east coast to the west reach for the rake. Falling in red, yellow and brown, the leaves float down, crackling underfoot as you walk along. Yet you might count yourself lucky if leaves are all your trees drop.