Under the Spell of Cactus

 

I admittedly am a flower fan…perennials, roses, vines and anything “Wildflower-ish”, but…this fall on a trip to Ojai, I saw a large Opuntia with red round fruits on large oval pads near an adobe style home as we were taking a walk.  The combination was breathtaking.  I always take my camera to capture a delightful or unique moment.  I felt drawn into another dimension entirely as this adobe courtyard compelled me to enter… and tiny ground-hugging wildflowers garnished the setting.  The ambiance was enticing…almost hypnotic in the warmth of the afternoon sunshine.

Sometimes I go out for a walk through the nursery just as the sun is beginning to set and the light catches the spines on the vertical cactus giving it a soft glow.    Before long I’m on the ground, sitting, lying down in the dirt (whatever it takes) with my camera to catch the spell the setting sun casts on the cactus spines.  I watch as it lowers on the horizon…and I catch a shot of the Cacti as they softly radiate a silver or golden glow of gentle radiant light.  It gives them a romantic glow as evening approaches.

I’m also finding the beauty of patterns, shapes and markings… contrasting color of black or brown edging & thorns transform cacti into living art.  As I explore my new found interest in these unique specimens, it feels like a trip through a gallery….paintings, sculpture, creations of beauty.  It strikes me that landscaping with cacti is like painting with plants, gravel, and rock… you just create your masterpiece with a different media.

Agaves are extremely varied in leaf shape and size, and color.  They can be rigid or sprawling, wavy or straight but all bring their own dimension to the landscape.   When combined with verticals and orbs the drama of your “painting” unfolds like the curtain opening for a performance.

Some verticals are silver and slender, others blue with a top-knot of fuzz, and some others deep green with ripples and ribs, but they all have a part to play …adding height, casting shadows or catching the spell of the setting sun, while orbs, like Echinocactus grunsonii, the Barrel Cactus…with spines glowing like you’ve captured the sun itself look absolutely celestial in your landscape, while the green dotted pattern of the Echinopsis hybrid adds the intrigue of its subtle, quiet charm.

I now view a Southwest garden with splendor.  Mixing these astounding architectural cacti with drought tolerant perennials and soft succulents is an art that creates a “masterpiece” in the landscape.

As much as I delight in flowers, love how they dance in the breeze and make bouquets, I think I have found a new secret love.  I’ve become one of those girls who are attracted to the dangerous, good looking, mysterious type…the “Bad Boys” of the cactus world.  I know they are “armed and dangerous”, but I can’t help myself…I’m hopelessly under the “Spell of Cactus”!

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More than Driftwood

 When I see a piece of driftwood, I think of the sea…but there is more to it than that. Driftwood is a survivor of the storms. It gets tossed, carved, polished and punished by harsh forces before it gets to shore. Even then it survives sun, wind, and more storms. I’ve often overlooked the journey of a piece of driftwood…only admiring the smooth, beautiful twists and turns…colors and shapes of the end result.

Some of them still look rough and worn…even battered, but others fair better and the beauty is brought about by their trials. The qualities of the wood from which they derive play a part in their journey, as well. Softer wood will show the ravages of a storm in a different way than hard wood and the intrinsic values of each wood…color, growth patterns, and density will be a part of the end result.  In any case, every piece of driftwood has a story.

I love to see driftwood used in the landscape, or used as a container for planting. It can be a wonderful patio or home décor accent, adding a touch of nature to your environment. I’ve seen it used as a base for tables or displayed on walls, even hung by rope or chain from beams…both inside and out. We can only guess the story of each piece as we place it, or plant it or hang it, but to be sure it will bring a story to your home, and no doubt be a conversation piece.

We are not that different from the driftwood, are we? We have trials, and storms to weather…we have certain characteristics handed down through generations…we have strengths, and weaknesses that can tear us down…or give us a hurdle to jump. We have stories too. Sometimes I see dozens of beautifully different faces, laughing, talking, playing or working…however, once in a while I catch a glimpse of someone I’d love to draw, or write about. Their face has character…lines and wrinkles that hold a smile…eyes that shine despite the creases around them, weathered hands that are gentle, or a raspy voice that carries soft encouraging words.

The next time I plant a piece of driftwood, or choose one to display…I will wonder where it has been, what is has experienced, and admire the intrinsic qualities of the wood…and I hope I can give more grace to the difficult people I encounter…or encouragement when I have a chance. There just might be a hurdle in their path, after all…we are all on our way to becoming “beautiful”.

Come by and take a look at our wonderful display of driftwood from Larry Bourget’s “Sea Foam Driftwood” here at Waterwise Botanicals. There might be a piece you identify with…a soulmate from the sea…an intriguing accent for your home or garden waiting for you!

Perennials that dance in the wind have a “wild” quality that is so appealing. They express grace and softness in the landscape becoming the “music of the garden” as they sway. I love to see a variety of color playing host to one another, creating a whimsical, inviting appearance. Let’s take a look at a few favorites that attract Butterflies and some that attract Hummingbirds, as well… adding an extra dose of joy!

            Salvia Amistad is in the mint family with deep green foliage on long graceful stems. Its blossoms of purple line the top of the stems in the summer and fall. I like to keep mine at about 3’ tall by simply snapping the stems down to maintain the overall grace and width of this gorgeous perennial. Its water needs fall into the medium range, and likes cool sun to light shade.                               * Attracts Butterflies and Hummingbirds

            Gaura lindheimeri has long stems lined with little flowers that resemble Butterflies and blooms spring through fall, taking a break in the winter. It comes in both white and pink & will need pruning to the ground a couple of times a year to refresh the foliage and flowers. It grows to about 3 ½ feet tall and wide. My personal preference is the white…it seems wispier and a bit taller than the pink. Gaura is deer and rabbit resistant and attracts Hummingbirds and Butterflies.

            Lavendula heterophylla, or Sweet Lavender produces soft, wispy, blue-purple flowers that rise up above the foliage almost year-round. It exudes a sweet lavender scent that adds a nice touch of aroma therapy to your garden, and doesn’t like a lot of water. To keep them thriving by giving them a diet of low water and sunshine. They grow to a nice size of about 3’ x 3’ tall & wide, love cool climates, attract Butterflies, but do struggle in the hot summer.

           Tagetes lemmonii is a soft shrub forming a loose rounded form with fern-like green leaves and golden yellow daisy-like flowers. Its herbal foliage gives it a scent of Marigold…something one loves or strongly dislikes, but its overall bloom appeal is like sunshine in your garden, attracting Butterflies, as well! It needs little water, and loves the sun, blooming mostly in the fall/winter and sometimes into spring depending on the weather. It will need a good pruning after blooming to insure new growth and flowers.

            Centranthus ruber is another eye-catcher with its pink, reddish or white flowers on 2-3 foot slender stems. It spreads by re-seeding aggressively, but can be controlled by weeding out new growth & pruning. I often just chop and pull randomly to keep a nice, wild impression. Centranthus makes an absolute beautiful haze of color spring through fall. It is deer and rabbit resistant, attracts Butterflies and is easy to grow!

           Heuchera sanguinea blooms winter through spring on slender stems about 18” tall lined with bell shaped coral flowers deriving from a cluster of low green rounded leaves at the base. These “Coral Bells” add graces and color as they dance in the breeze. They like filtered sun or partial shade to full sun along the coast, like regular garden watering, and attract Butterflies and Hummingbirds!

Lobelia laxiflora has slender stems with small tubular orange/red flowers at the tips spring through fall, and grows to about 2 ½ feet tall, but spreading to about 4+feet wide. It’s very graceful habit is beautiful in a “Wild Perennial” garden as well as water-wise. It loves the sun to partial shade and takes a little pruning to keep its flowers freshened. It attracts Hummingbirds and Butterflies!

Salvia clevlandii is a bit more of a shrub, but one with some great aroma therapy going on! Between it’s whorls of sweet smelling lavender flowers and the herb scented foliage it carries an amazing scent and wonderful impact when planted in your garden. Its long stems still sway in the breeze and it blooms from spring to mid-summer. It loves good drainage, is water-wise, a California sun-loving native, and attracts Butterflies!

*As an added note, I’d like to suggest scattering California Poppy seeds in with your graceful perennials. They add a wonderful “wild” grace like a spring bloom in the desert, as well as attracting Butterflies with a punch of orange color.

Summertime Projects…An Infusion of Joy for your Garden

We all like to spend time outdoors with family and friends in the summer, which leads to giving some attention to our outdoor living space. I have found that I love to spend some early evening time outdoors snipping, planting and dreaming up ideas for my garden area.

As I made my mental notes of fun ideas, I thought I’d share them with you. If outdoor decorating & creating brings you joy, as it does me, I hope I can pass along some positive energy and smiles to you.

    • I love “Market Lights”!  They are fun and inviting. Look for places you might want to try them.images1XP7PQQM

 

 

 

    • Plant a succulent, or perennial chair to place in your garden, porch or patio area. I go to vintage, antique barns, or second hand stores to find one that have some charm & remove the seat. You can give it a coat of chalk or spray 028 (2)paint first, if it needs some first aid. Staple or tack soft screen in the seat area leaving enough droop in the seat for soil. Fill your soil enough to give it a gentle mound to plant on. Then just plant with succulents or small assorted perennials!
    • Try adding some sand and smooth stones to create a dry stream bed. This is good for difficult areas to grow plants (too shady, hot or uneven) and gives a new dimension to your outdoor space. Be sure to give it soft sides and look at pictures of mountain streams first, to avoid a ring-around-the rosy look with your larger rocks.   This will avoid the “after-thought” look.
    • Add soft nature music to your outdoor entertainment area. Bird song, rivers, rain, breeze…will make you feel relaxed and transport you to the mountains or sea right in your own backyard.
    • Move some softness outside with overstuffed pillows and throws for evenings with friends on the patio.14 Mullen

 

 

  • Luminaries in the garden or patio tables make me “light –up” with joy! They are unexpected and your guests will feel transported to a delightful get-away…so will you. 
  • Shade sails are great for summer fun in your outdoor spaces where it gets too hot to sit, swim or entertain. They are readily available on the internet & Sunbrella makes them in several colors!imagesR7TT8R25

 

  • Find a place for a double-seated swing or glider… I love the ones that look vintage and can be hung from a beam. Just picture a nice summer evening gliding back and forth… feeling the evening air, reading, talking …or just dreaming as you sip that iced lemonade or coffee.images[8]

I enjoyed sharing my “wish list” with you…now have some fun making one of your own. I hope I gave you new vision as you look at your familiar space with new excitement. If you have some shady areas that need a punch of color, come and visit WB’s Shade House full of exotic Bromeliads, potted & hanging Succulents, decorative Driftwood and more.

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Have a Joy-filled summer in your Garden,

Jackie Jesch

Cactus Flowers Abound in glorious Beauty and Color

Opuntia basilaris Durango l-s 

        I’ve often said that cacti are “Armed and Dangerous”, but when they bloom, they produce some of the most exquisite blossoms I’ve ever seen. At this time of the year, they are “On Stage” and I get a front row seat as they explode in beautiful colors, and some in tremendous sizes!

       Our Opuntias and Tricholobivia hybrids are breathtaking, and only a photo can do them justice…or coming to see them for yourself. They are always surprising us…one day the white will be spectacular…two days later, the brilliant red…or pink; Before long, another joins the chorus of color.

       What is astounding to me is how these pads and columns of sharp spikes that keep us at a safe distance, can deliver such an alluring flower. Obviously, like us, they hold unseen treasures deep within.   Only at the right moment can they be observed and appreciated to their fullest. There is a time for all seasons…and very shortly will be the season to experience the “treasure” of the Cactus Flowers…You are Invited to the Show.

       Tom Jesch, of Waterwise Botanicals has devoted the last few decades to developing a line of winter-hardy cactus, some of his own hybrids, some out of horticulture, and some collected from secret places in the high mountain forests. Now for the first time, he is releasing and presenting them to the public!

       Come and see thousands of incredible landscape Cactus in full bloom, staged for your enjoyment and delight at Waterwise Botanicals! Bloom time starts in March, and extends through early May.

       On April 8th, 2016, world renowned succulent guru and author, Debra Lee Baldwin will co-host a flowering cactus event with Tom at Waterwise Botanicals. Join us for a day that you will never forget…among the cactus flowers!

Winter Blooming Aloes

Aloe-ciliaris-hyb
Aloe ciliaris hybrid

Winter is the season when leaves have fallen from the trees… when we clean the rain gutters, and prune back our roses & shrubs. Gardens and landscapes seem a bit lifeless as they wait upon spring. I still love the winter garden. As I prune and rake, I find delight in the plants that are still full of color, either in their foliage, or in persistent blossoms they continue to share.
The Aloe blossoms are like torches of hope and beauty. While we are lighting our fireplaces, wearing our scarves and sweaters and pulling on our boots and beanies,

Aloe ferox
Aloe ferox

Aloes are budding and blooming, each with their unique shape and size, but most with a brilliant orange blossom…a color of energy, fire and warmth.  Aloes can have a variety of foliage color, as well as, varying sizes and shapes making them extremely desirable in the landscape. Their structure and growth habits range from ground

Aloe striata hybrid
Aloe striata hybrid

 

hugging rosettes, to tall and stately trees, and when they bloom; their blossoms are lush with color.  As an added attraction, Hummingbirds love them.
The foliage of the Aloe can range from deep greens to variations of gray or opalescent tones, and from soft grey/green to red or plum-like colors. Some of these colors are unique to certain Aloes, while others are

Aloe rudikoppe
Aloe rudikoppe

affect color change with temperature change or stress from drought.
After years of observing Aloes, I can say they provide a powerful impact to the landscape through both structure, and color.  The uniqueness of their vast and wondrous varieties almost seems endless. The Aloes shown are just a few of your choices. Explore & discover more options on our website with descriptions and photos. This winter, light up your landscape with “Amazing Aloes”.  Come for a visit here at Waterwise Botanicals soon.  We are here for inspiration in the garden.

Aloe vera
Aloe vera