echinops lateritia in bloom at the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens

With all the rain this year, the cacti at the UC Berkeley Botanical Gardens are putting on quite the show right now. If you have never been, now is the time to go. Not only do you get to see these insanely huge cactus flowers live and in the flesh, but you get to experience sweeping views down a canyon and out into the Bay, with the Golden Gate Bridge just shy of the horizon. And there are newts o plenty swimming in the pond in the Asian Garden area. You will be stupefied by their gentle cuteness. What’s not to love?

John Kamp

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“Did it ever occur to you that light creates landscape, so that the world itself is created daily, in a sense? In my sense,” says one character to another in Ross MacDonald’s noir classic, The Ivory Grin.

So often, the role of light is forgotten in the composition of a landscape. By light, we do not mean lighting, but rather, that particular light from the sun that reads differently from place to place. This Foothill Palo Verde (seen at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum) shown above positively glows in the stark Sonoran sunlight; whereas in many parts of Los Angeles, the same tree loses its brilliance, as the light is simply more washed out there. Same goes for Bougainvillea – so brilliant in the stark desert light of Palm Springs; somewhat drab in much of Los Angeles. When thinking of borrowing plants you have seen in other regions of the country and world, try to imagine how that plant might look in the particular light that shines where you live. Adding this much-overlooked criterion to your landscape composition process will invariably result in a more spectacular, show-stopping landscape.

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