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Monday, June 21, 2010

Lotusland - a sustainable garden and more sustainable projects

Lotusland is the realized dream of an extraordinary woman, Mme. Ganna Walska. Ganna Walska was a Poles, a beautiful opera singer who enchanted 5 husbands, four of them very rich. Ganna Walska used the money from her marriages and her fabulous collection of jewels  to create one of the first sustainable gardens in the U.S.

She was mad about cactus and succulents before the rest of us had given them a thought. She sold a million dollars worth of jewels to create the Cycad garden which is unrivalled of it's kind. She had her clothes designed by Erte'. ( See Erte's Theatrical Costumes )  She designed both  herself  and her garden to  her own standards with enormous confidence and panache. Everywhere you turn in Lotusland, there's a wonderful story attached to the garden you are looking at.
(All the photo's are from the Lotusland brochure and literature)

Ganna Walska  had beauty, brains, taste, courage and luck . See the picture below of the koi pond. Mme. wanted some fish for her pond; she thought koi looked pretty, so she ordered a number of them. When she received the bill, she was horrified, having no thought of paying thousands for some pretty fish. "Send them back!" So, the koi were returned to the koi farm......but while they were swimming in Ganna Walska's lovely pond, they had spawned. Mme. had a fine hatch of baby koi--- free.

Stay tuned for the next episode on Lotusland.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

This is for those of you -especially urban gardeners---who are considering back yard chickens.This Hattie Carnegie among fowl is a Golden Polish hen.  Had a Polish rooster once--a prince among  fowl. Polish chickens  have lovely dispositions. Sweet! Feather Foot never  learned to crow quite right. He produced a noise that sounded like a rusty wheel barrow and fooled a visiting fireman into thinking he was a mountain lion on the prowl. When you are less than18 inches tall--that's panache!

This month's issue of Organic Gardening has an excellent article on Backyard chickens. Look for the cover girl--an Appenzeller Spitzhauben pullet. She also wearing a chic chapeau and spangles. Project Runway, are you paying attention? This girl is a Swiss breed (Appenzell is a place, Spitzhauben means "pointed hood". Thank you W.) She lays white eggs . W avers she's "flighty", but Organic Gardening gives her a cover, so take your chances. Hand-raised chicken are extremly friendly. My bantam hen insisted on raising her progeny in a nest situated in a flowerbed right outside the backdoor. Four  German Shepherds and two cats were  going in and out all the time. The hen  liked the commotion,  the company. A Gemini, perhaps? 

Monday, June 7, 2010

Colour, Wisteria and Stormy Weather

Reading Penelope Hobhouse (lest you think I have been goofing off)  Colour In Your Garden. The word to describe this book is “magisterial”. Mrs. Hobhouse does not make many concessions to readerly lightmindedness—this here is , solid prose. How-sum-ever…she's  really good on color. Her chapter on the Nature of Colour (chapter II) is about the best thing I’ve ever read on the subject. Her description of the white wisteria in Monet’s garden “Sunlight pierces the panicles of wisteria like the prisms of a chandelier” speaks for itself.
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Can't compete with that, but here's Stormy Weather blooming as a memorial to the late great  Lena Horne (see  Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne.) "Intense" on the color  scale, intense as the lady herself. Absolutely memorable.Once met her---she had charm that could knock you sidewise. See the film  Cabin in the Sky in which Lena Horne sings Stormy Weather . Hasn't got  much to do with gardening, but the plants would like it if you sang  to therm!  Horne was a resident of the Central Coast  (Montecito) for many years so we count her as one of our own .  And  I'll bet she loved succulents, hummingbirds and butterflies.....

          (photo of epiphyllum, from Lotusland about which you will hear More Later.)