Posts tagged garden

About a year ago I began a post with this photo, accompanied with plans for growing a “lush, overflowing garden of kitchen ingredients” intended for backyard backyard fêtes. All photos: Jennifer Salazar.

Ah, yes…summer officially arrived a week ago on June 20th at 9:24pm. It was at that exact moment the sun reached its most northern apex from the equator. Given the passing of the season into the next, alongside the extreme temperatures torching across the entire southwest United States recently, I found myself inspired to offer an update about my kitchen garden.

Sadly, I begin with a bit of disappointment: some of the strawberries have not survived, and I have yet to see any fruit. The sugar snap peas and sunflowers sprouted without any problems from seed, while my tomatoes – old standbys like Early Girl – are thriving as well, and filling up the bottoms of their cages. Thyme and fennel continue to thrive, while the hot colored marigolds bloom and dry out in a continuous floral cycle of bloom and bust (the flower even coordinate with my orange gardening Crocs!).


Surprisingly, the basil plants which I always have trouble keeping alive are doing ok. The hot pepper bush, cilantro, and a couple Italian parsleys are withstanding the heat, continuing to grow.


A couple of squash plants are spreading their vines out confidently, my fave being this watermelon’s variegated and highly articulated leaves – its expanse creating a pleasing flat carpet of green over one of the beds.


The large pomegranate shrub at the back of the beds continues to set fruit, so I hope that will produce a bounty of pomegranates to enjoy this autumn.

Another favorite is the Geranium (though not the botanically correct Pelargonium species) – a favorite because their constant bright blooms appear even during drought conditions, and also because of the everlasting memories connected with my grandparents’ Inland Empire backyard growing up.


Unfortunately I had to install a set of plastic green stakes with fencing to keep our 2 dogs from digging up the beds before we planted. It was the least visually obtrusive solution, though I cannot say I am a fan of it.

Who knows, there may still yet be a chance my backyard will one day produce a summer harvest to meet my goals of this ideal backyard feast!

I find the allure of the Luxembourg Gardens is its incredible beauty that the Parisian people share and use as a community. I love the Garden’s elegance revealed in the sum of its details: long rows of large, mature Horse Chestnut Trees with high, shady canopies overhead; large expanses of decomposed granite in a gold color or expanses of green turf (this is NOT Southern California of course) on the ground plane; and the multitude of iconic mobile chairs that are beautiful and comfortable. There are simple, yet stunning water fountains that are both sculptural and areas of play.

Boats at Luxembourg gardens

The Garden’s large expanses allow visitors to enjoy their park as they like, and this openness provides a framework for various activities. Young people dash around large tree trunks, while children sail toy sailboats in the large fountain during the summer. Groups and couples can gather chairs together to enjoy the park and socialize, while lone visitors are left to read a book or enjoy the sunshine in solitude. There are areas of deep shade, full sun, and every sun exposure in between to enjoy.

Details add to the beauty: the very low foot rest that encircles the lawn areas; the wood box containers for the trees; and the lovely edges of the water fountains as the water spills off into the basin below.

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We may not be able to build high maintenance, high water use public spaces such as those found within the Jardin du Luxembourg here in Southern California, but the beauty of its design can certainly inspire our work as designers, even on the smallest scale.

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“Even though there is a lot going on, there’s this incredible sense of calmness – the garden never excludes the landscape, it’s always welcoming.”

Filmmaker Howard Sooley has been visiting author Anna Pavord’s residence, Sunnyside Farm, in the Southwest English countryside for a decade, noting how the author’s garden gently transitions into the surrounding natural landscape to the effect of “a series of doors leading you from one room to the next with signs telling you to drink the potion.”

Pavord, the author of The Tulip: The Story of a Flower That Has Made Men Mad, a horticultural love affair with the wild flower, created her garden dictated by the rhythms and forms of foliage, flowers, and ferns to shape what she believes is a person’s best defense against the worst of the outside world – the garden as an idealized landscape of the “world that we wished we lived in”. She invited Sooley to film her in this space for NOWNESS and their excellent Great Garden series.

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7 ways to skip a shower: The premise behind the “campaign” is a plea for pledgers to skip 26 showers for every 4-ounce hamburger consumed in order to offset the vast amounts of water used when turning cattle into food. And while the idea of skipping 26 showers per burger may seem unrealistic, the figures are real.

How Much Rain Would End the Drought?: What’s the best way to get people to stop watering their lawns? Why aren’t we investing in desalination? Will we ever get used to the idea of drinking our own (recycled) pee? And most importantly, when will this drought be over?

The New Creativity: Man and Machines Curated by Sylvia Lavin with the UCLA Curatorial Project
From the first house R.M. Schindler designed using a drafting machine to contemporary architects who design digital drawing devices instead of houses, The New Creativity: Man and Machines examines creative practices in relation to the social and technical complexes that support and constrain them.

Once illegal, watering the garden with drainage from the washer or shower is gaining favor: Costanzo is among millions of Californians who, amid the state’s fourth punishing year of drought, are increasingly turning to gray water – from the clothes washer, shower or bathroom sink — to keep trees and other plants hydrated.

California’s Drought Changes Habits in the Kitchen: Across California, home cooks and restaurant chefs are adjusting to a new reality in kitchens where water once flowed freely over sinks full of vegetables, and no one thought twice about firing up a big pot of water for pasta.

Aspirations and admiration of a garden as beautiful as this one from Lou Murray has motivated me to search for supplemental water sources for my garden.

Aspirations and admiration of a garden as beautiful as this one from Lou Murray has motivated me to search for supplemental water sources for my garden.


With California residents experiencing a record breaking dry season, many landscapes are feeling parched, while garden caretakers are feeling pressure to conserve water. When Los Angeles receives any rain, I feel a sense of relief for my small backyard garden (although this much needed rainfall seems to come and go all too quickly), but realize we can’t rely upon rain alone for our gardens. So I’ve been trying to find ways to efficiently save water during these drought years and take care of my garden, and my research has brought me to the conclusion rain barrels are an essential rainfall collection solution.

Gardening With Soul's DIY rain barrel project.

Gardening With Soul‘s DIY rain barrel project.

Collecting rain using catch barrels and utilizing the water for garden irrigation is a water wise strategy, and the practice is even supported by many city organizations. For instance, the City of Los Angeles offers great incentives for residents who choose to install rain barrels through their “Keep Los Angeles Beautiful” program, periodically offering rebates which bring down the cost of rain barrels to the subsidized price of “free”.

While readymade rain barrel catchment systems are occasionally available for free or for sale online, anyone can build their own rain barrel system quite easily following these steps using parts available at local hardware stores or big box home improvement retailers:

Step 1: Gather required parts and materials (all equipment is available at most home improvement stores)

  • Large catchment basin of your choice; a plastic garbage can or wooden barrel work equally well
  • Mesh fabric to keep debris out of basin
  • Plumber’s teflon tape
  • Washer and nut fitting for spigot
  • Drill
  • Cutting tool

Step 2: Determine the best placement for your rain barrel
Locate an area in which you a redirect the rainfall from your gutter into your container and safely situate a large container without the worry of it tipping over (remember, water is very heavy, so a stable base is mandatory). If the ground isn’t stable, you might need to lay a foundation or build a raised platform.

Step 3: Cutting the inlet and outlet for your rainfall
With the gutter source directed toward your container, cut an opening at top of the basin and secure a fabric mesh over it. This mesh will keep debris out of the basin. Afterward, drill and cut a hole on the bottom of the basin, matching the opening to the ring size of your spigot.

Step 4: Installing the spigot
Attach the spigot into the drilled and cut hole and secure it into place with a washer and nut.

Step 5: Start collecting
Now the hard work is done! Position the barrel directly under the gutter downspout. The next time it rains you’ll enjoy the rainfall even more knowing the water you’ve collected in helping conserve water and benefitting your garden!