From our recent plant-scouting excursions

Photo from scouting out plants at Classic Nursery, in the San Fernando Valley
Photo from scouting out plants at Classic Nursery, in the San Fernando Valley

Snapped this photo when we were out scouting out plants for our lawn-to-garden project in Glendale, CA. One of the challenges of sourcing plants in Southern California is that by and large nothing is labeled, so a Cistus plant is just a Cistus, and a Phlomis is just a Phlomis, even though there are so many varieties of each. As such, it is hard to know what you are getting and what form the plant will ultimately take – not to mention how big it will get. In any case, we really enjoyed going to this Nursery, Classic Nursery, in the San Fernando Valley. Lots of healthy, happy drought-tolerant plants tended to by helpful people. And an amazing view to boot.

-John Kamp

Weekend viewing

Quick post today: watch and marvel at Babylonstoren. While portions of the video are a bit hokey, no big deal, as the history and scale and design and plants and animals of the place are something to behold. After watching, plan a visit your local botanical garden or arboretum. In any season, there is always something to see, discover, and learn. And getting outside never did anyone any harm.

John Kamp

Newer isn’t always better

Patio de los Naranjos, in Cordoba, Spain, with the citrus trees planted using the basin technique (photo courtesy of Cordoba A Pie)
Patio de los Naranjos, in Cordoba, Spain, with the citrus trees planted using the basin technique (photo courtesy of Cordoba A Pie)

Notice how the trees are planted in the 17th-century Patio de Los Naranjos in Cordoba, Spain – in basins and connected by way of channels. No overhead emitters; no automatic sprinkler system. Just plants planted slightly sunken so that water can percolate straight down to the roots of the trees, drawing the roots down with it.

Many a landscape professional has looked on in horror when we have proposed or used this technique in our landscapes; and yet, here it is, time-worn and tested, the trees clearly thriving and growing well.

We need to start rethinking our planting practices and the notion that a landscape must have an irrigation system of emitters and lines and tubing in order to survive. The Patio de los Naranjos is yet more evidence of why this just isn’t so.

John Kamp

The walking tour as sights, sounds, and memory

On the walking tour of South Colton, underneath a huge jacaranda tree
On the walking tour of South Colton, underneath a huge jacaranda tree (Prairieform’s John Kamp pointing out the effect of the canopy on the space)

There’s no better way to intimately familiarize oneself with an environment than through walking. You notice so many more details – both physical, such as the width of a sidewalk, and sensory, such as volumes and kinds of sounds, the amount of sunlight along a particular street, and smells (good and bad). Yet of utmost importance to any walking tour is ensuring that it includes local residents who live and breathe and feel the neighborhood every day.

In our walking tour of South Colton this past Saturday, we didn’t simply focus on pointing out flaws or improvement areas in infrastructure; a large part of the tour consisted of listening to residents about their stories and memories and what has made the place meaningful to them. Seventh Street, said one resident, used to be the “Broadway of South Colton.” Yet, once the 10 Freeway was built and cut the city in half, Seventh Street essentially became a dead-end street, and slowly the vibrant commercial and cultural life that existed on the street died away. Absent this resident’s story and this history, one would have no sense of just how integral the street was to the neighborhood, as today many of the lots along it stand vacant, with the remaining commercial buildings abandoned or locked up. Given the existing conditions now and the memories these residents all hold within them, how could Seventh Street become a new kind of bustling corridor for the neighborhood in which these memories and experiences are woven into its newest incarnation?

These are the kinds of questions and the kind of inquiry that planners and designers need to begin taking on if there is to be any hope of creating meaningful places that are truly unique, place-based, and for all residents and visitors to experience and enjoy.

To see more photos of the tour, click HERE.

John Kamp