If You’re Heading to….Santa Barbara

  • 8th October 2013

A walk through Lotusland is not far away…..



The iconic Blue Garden in Madame Walksa's Lotusland.

The iconic Blue Garden in Madame Walska’s Lotusland.


Lotusland, close to Santa Barbara, was once home to Madame Ganna Walska, a renowned Polish opera-singer, who upon moving to California devoted more than 40 years to amassing the most unique collection of plants from all corners of the world.  In order to allow them the presentation they deserved, she commissioned the most innovative designers to help her with the more than 15 individual gardens within.


Spanish Moss adds silvery elegance to many trees.

Spanish Moss adds silvery elegance to many trees.



Lotusland is in the heart of a residential area, so reservations are required to visit.  Even if you cannot plan your trip for when the legendary lotus’ are in bloom in early summer, there are many many spectacular plants that are well worth a trip.





If you are not heading to the Santa Barbara area anytime soon, here are some of our favorite tips we discovered at Lotusland, that could even apply to a backyard (with a few fewer than 3,000 plants).


The Beauty of Spanish Moss:

Also called ‘Air Moss’ this air plant can hang from anything from trees to statues.  It takes all the substances it needs to survive straight from the air with specialized hairs called trichomes. Their beautiful silvery leaves are thin, elegant and threadlike.



Air Moss decorates a tree in Lotusland.

Air Moss decorates a tree in Lotusland.




Lion statue with a Spanish  Air Moss Mane.

A lion guarding the house gets a unique mane.



Nonconventional Arbors:


Veering away from the traditional (Grapes, Wisteria, or the climbing rose), two arbors at Lotusland celebrate the more atypical starting with Austalian Tea Tree and then citrus.


The Australian Tea Tree Arbor at Lotusland.

The Australian Tea Tree Arbor at Lotusland.



Australian Tea Tree works beautifully because it can be easily trained into many differing formations.  Young plants can be planted very close together and lower growth easily pruned away.  It does best in full sun to partial shade.  Once established it is both drought tolerant and salt tolerant.  It’s weeping branches and shaggy trunk offer both texture and personality to the garden.



The citrus arbor at Lotusland.

The citrus arbor at Lotusland.




Citrus trees can work beautifully in an arbor because they are medium to small trees and can also be trained.  Beyond providing an abundant supply of succulent fruit they add the most beautiful pop of color.  Citrus trees require frost-free climates with rich and loamy soil, full sun and regular water.



Hang an Orchid Cactus in Dappled Shade:



Orchid Cactus hanging in the shade at Lotusland.

An Orchid Cactus hanging in the shade at Lotusland.



The Orchid Cactus is native to the tropical forests of Mexico and Central America.



Orchid Cactus Blossom up close.




They make beautiful hanging baskets especially from other trees and many varieties flower often throughout the year.


Orchid Cactus at Lotusland.



They like filtered sunlight with heavy morning sun that is bright but not as strong as afternoon sun.  The Orchid Cactus is an Epiphyte, meaning they can grown on other plants directly.



In Part Two we will delve right into Madame Walksa’s Blue Garden….



Ganna Walksa






Peony vs. Piaget

  • 28th July 2013

Peonies are the undisputed ‘reine des fleurs,’ at the moment.  Every celebrity from Holmes to Paltrow sings their praise and calls them their ‘must have’ flower.   They are center-stage in floral displays from quaint English teas to lavish weddings to chic catwalks.



Yves Piaget up close

Mimicking the intense hue, ruffly petals and large blooms of the peony, Yves Piaget is a must-have rose.



But, except in the most perfect climates peonies can be challenging to grow (Southern California folks, forget it!  We’ve tried 3 varieties made for our climate and have not succeeded in producing more than one bloom!).


Yves Piaget Bud

Even the Yves Piaget bud seen in the middle has the same tight ball-like configuration as the peony bud.



Peonies require staking and a whole crop can be easily damaged with one hard spring rainfall.

Peonies only bloom once a year and for a few limited weeks.

They are difficult to locate at florists and extremely pricey purchased out of season.


……Enter Yves Piaget—a rose whose buds and blooms mimic those of the peony, but that also carries the most arresting aroma!



Peonies in a vase.

Peonies in a vase.

Yves Piaget growing in the garden.

Yves Piaget growing in the garden looks very similar to the peonies on the left.





Also very difficult to find at florists (in Los Angeles we have only found Yves Piaget stems at Botany in Brentwood), it is a gardener’s delight.  Yves Piaget flourishes in most climates.  It is a repeat bloomer and very hardy after its first year in the ground.


While peonies suffer from a truncated vase life (especially when exposed to any heat or direct sun), Yves Piaget will stay fresh looking for days.


Yves Piaget in a bouquet.

Yves Piaget slightly opened bud on the right. Peony in the background.



Its ruffly petals, high petal count and huge blooms mimic that of the peony, the prime difference is that it comes with the most divine perfume.  A bouquet with just 2-3 blooms could scent the entire room, whereas a peony has no aroma at all.



Yves Piaget in the garden up close.

Yves Piaget in the garden up close.




If you are going to invest in a new rose bush this fall, we will have many recommendations in the coming months in time for January planting.  But, please keep Yves Piaget top-of-mind.  Especially, if you are amongst the many peony devotees.


Piaget follows the same basic principles of any rose in that it  grows best in direct morning sunlight.  As the rose plant gets established, make sure to water it regularly and deeply once a week.


Yves Piaget was named after the man behind the namesake watches after he developed this hybrid tea with double-blooms and intense color and fragrance.  The watches that honor the flower are below in the ‘la vie en rose collection.’




La Vie en Rose Piaget Watches




The Big Blue Giant

  • 3rd July 2013

There are many ways to add a touch of blue to your garden, but none with the rich vivid hue of a delphinium and the graceful majesty specific to the Pacific Blue Giant.


Pacific Blue Giant Unopened

Pacific Blue Giant Delphinium Unopened

Blue Giant In Bloom

Pacific Blue Giant In Bloom


The tall spears do require a touch of work as they often need to be staked, but the hummingbirds and butterflies they attract do the rest for you and they continue to bloom from early spring to the last days of summer.  In warmer climates they last two years, re-appearing the next spring with even more vigor (not needing to be staked as often in their second cycle).



Pacific Blues with Foxglove

Pacific Blues in their second year amongst lavender foxglove


Like other delphinium they come in a variety of colors varying from white to pale lavender, periwinkle, (stunning!), pink, violet, indigo and royal blue.


Delphinium Chelsea Flower Show 2009

Delphinium at the Chelsea Flower Show 2009



We requested our local nursery to source Pacific Blue Giants and purchased them as seedlings about 9 inches tall.  They were planted in the fall (this is Southern California remember), grew rapidly and bloomed the next two consecutive spring-summer seasons.


While the tallest spires bloomed for weeks and were left untouched, there were many, many smaller off-shoots to trim for floral arrangements.  The rich indigo is the perfect complement to any other colors our garden was putting forth.


Stunning arrangement

Delphinium among other garden flowers: Double Delight roses, Rainbow Sorbet, anemone, carnations, hydrangea and lavender.

Floral Fantasy

  • 13th June 2013

In reading about the Spring Collections recently we came across this picture in the UK InStyle showcasing the “couture” garden creations which popped up at Chanel, Dior, and many of the major fashion houses.


Spring Collection 2013 Florals

Photo Courtesy of: InStyle UK


Yes, these lush pieces are gorgeous, but if you break them down the flowers are not that extraordinary and it got us thinking about a few specific roses and one signature green flower that your garden requires in order to create truly bespoke, and unique florals.  


Let’s start with the three roses that are simply for your cutting garden.


1.) Scentimental is not new by any means.  But, you will be hard-pressed to find this unique, paint-splattered rose in an arrangement done by your local florist.  It’s a floribunda that will keep producing throughout the season.  It will not add pop or much interest to your garden in general, but as a cutting-rose it creates standout arrangements with the most amazing perfume.


Scentimental Rose Up Close

Close up of ‘Scentimental’ in an arrangement

Scentimental in the yard

Scentimental in the yard



Scentimental,, $18.95

2.) Blue Girl  is also not a new comer.  This hybrid-tea bursts into bloom in silvery, bluish lavender with long hardy stems.  Again, for the same reason it is not a knockout in the yard, it is perfect for singular arrangements.  The color is unusual, subtle and not replicated by any flower-shop finds.  A fantastic bonus is that the perfume is second-to-none.


Blue Girl Rose and Scentimental in a gorgeous flower arrangement

Blue Girl Rose and Scentimental in a gorgeous flower arrangement

Blue Girl Rose in the yard

Blue Girl Rose in the Yard


Blue Girl Rose,, $17.50


3.) Koko Loko is an absolute rookie!  This newcomer has the color of the creamiest latte.  It is amazingly rare to find a flower this attractive that is a beautiful, nutty light brown.  It gives any arrangement a vintage look and a true elegance.  It carries no perfume.




The Light Brown Koko Loko up close

The ‘latte brown’ Koko Loko Up Close



Koko Loko,, $19.95


We have nothing against hydrangeas, but in the spring you can achieve a much lacier and delicate effect by substituting in young Viburnum (also called Japanese Snowball) into your florals.  Viburnum flowers prolifically and while it comes on a sturdy woody stalk the weight of the flower ball allows it to drape just perfectly over the side of your vase.


Viburnum in a floral arrangement with roses, poppies and tulips

Viburnum is the green ball on the lower right side

Viburnum amongst hyacinth, peonies and roses

Viburnum amongst hyacinth, peonies and roses





We recommend picking the viburnum while it is still green otherwise it matures into a snow white flower.  Unlike the roses mentioned above, viburnum looks truly lovely in your yard and brings a night garden to life.


Mature Viburnum in the garden

Mature Viburnum in the garden





Last Look Florals


Green Powder Room with Gorgeous Floral Appliques

Powder Room with Hand Painted Aluminum Flowers Created by designer Katie Ridder. Photo Courtesy of: Elle Décor

Dolce&Gabbana Floral Earrings

Dolce & Gabbana Floral Earrings and Pendant

Long, Lanky and Gorgeous

  • 24th May 2013

Summer tall arrangements need not look like bad wedding florals from the ’80s.  They also do not need to be comprised of the same white Casablancas or Stargazers.  The key often is using unexpected flowers that are available only seasonally…specifically right now!




Arrangement of Irises, Gladiolus and Lilacs



The above arrangement of Lilacs, Irises and Gladiolus is as fragrant as it is beautiful!


Lilac in the yard

The last lilac bloom of the season.



If you have a small patch of green, and invest the time to grow a few of these favorites you will not be disappointed.  All three of these flowers come in varieties that will re-bloom come late summer or fall.  While you might be hard-pressed to find Lilacs, Irises and Glads at your local Farmer’s Market or grocery store, many varieties will re-appear in your backyard as summer comes to a close.  Glads pop up again in mid-late August, Irises and Lilacs in end-of-September early October.



Lilac is one of the easiest plants to grow and is now available in a re-blooming variety called Josee Reblooming Lilac.


Josee Reblooming Lilac

The color of Josee Reblooming Lilac is slightly more pinkish then lavender.


Josee Reblooming Lilac,, $6.95


Contrary to common belief, Lilac can be grown and thrive in Southern California.  However, there is a specific variety that does best in a climate that never freezes.  ‘Lavender Lady’ is a favorite for Southern California dwellers.  


Lavender Lady

Lavender Lady, Photo Courtesy of: Monrovia

Lavender Lady

Lavender Lady, Photo Courtesy of: Monrovia


Some tips for growing Lavender Lady in Southern California include:

• Stop watering them after mid-September allowing them to survive solely on rainfall

• Allow the plant to go dormant (it looks almost dead, don’t be surprised)

• Resume watering when the first leaves and buds appear in the spring

• Keep them from growing too tall by pruning thereby stimulating the younger heartier canes that produce more flowers



There are a tremendous number of Irises out there and you really cannot go wrong with any.  Planted in well-drained soil they multiply and provide more and more pleasure in years to come.  One of our favorites from Dutch Gardens is: the Florentine Silk Iris.


Florentine Silk Iris

Florentine Silk Iris from Dutch



Florentine Silk Iris, $17.96 for 3 plants


Winner of multiple awards with 6 to 8″ flowers it is one of the tallest bearded irises and is a rare repeat bloomer.  The color combination is stunning and it is a perfect cut flower for arrangements.


Finally, the gladiator Gladiolus, impossible to do wrong or kill!


Gladiolus Blooming in the front  yard

Gladiolus blooming in the front yard


Gladiolus are amongst the absolute easiest flowers to grow.  They simply require some simple staking.  Once the bulbs are in the ground you can expect a riot of blooms just 90 days later.  The best time to plant bulbs is anytime after the threat of frost passes in the spring.  Gladiolus will always re-bloom as summer draws to a close.



Coral and Cream Gladiolus

Coral and Cream Gladiolus

Mixed Color Gladiolus

Mixed Color Gladiolus


In the past we have purchased both a sak of one color, or a jumbo sak of multi-colored gladiolus and randomly distributed them along the border of our yard.  The results are always surprising and beautiful.


Coral & Cream Gladiolus,, $11.99 for 8 bulbs

Deluxe Glads Mixture Super Sak,, $29.99 for 80 bulbs

Receive Our Latest Posts Via Email - It's Free!