Weekend viewing

The first in an ongoing series of videos on the wide wild world of landscapes and how you can be a part of and engage with landscapes and the natural world in the ways that are meaningful to you. This video looks at how to go from a lawn to a garden and manage what can suddenly seem like an overwhelming number of choices and details. “A landscape comedy,” one person described it as. I’ll take it. Happy viewing.

John Kamp

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

Botanical wonders of Alcatraz

One of the endless plant oddities and delights growing wild on the island of Alcatraz
One of the endless plant oddities and delights growing wild on the island of Alcatraz

Hear the name “Alcatraz” and one most often thinks of criminals swimming across the San Francisco Bay to potential freedom after a horrid extended stay in one of the country’s most notorious prisons. While obviously the prison has long been closed and the island is now a national park and tourist destination, what many still don’t realize is that the island is positively brimming with plants and gardens.

When the prison was still functioning, both prisoners and workers alike tended to gardens around the island. Some of these gardens have been restored, while others have been allowed to become wild again. Yet, rather than try and restore the island back to what it had been pre-settler, the Park Service is allowing these plants to do what they want to do – creeping over crumbling walls, populating rugged hillsides, and in general fixing a toehold on an island of tough conditions and no source of fresh water. At this point, the plants are as much a part of the cultural history of the island as the buildings themselves and the waves of people and animals that have inhabited it.

To find out more about how you can go on a docent-led tour of the gardens and wild spaces of Alcatraz, click here.

Visit this park


Grand Park, Los Angeles. Photo credit: Pure Wow.

There are few public spaces we have been to in recent years that have left such an impression on us as Grand Park in Los Angeles. We knew the space when it was eyesore parking lot and drab civic plaza halfheartedly connecting City Hall to the Music Center on Bunker Hill. If these spaces of yore symbolized anything about the city and its vision, they symbolized a city with little vision. The new incarnation of these spaces, however, signals a true step forward, and a look ahead.

The park’s design is confident and playful, with a color and plant palette that tells the story of Los Angeles circa now, not circa 1855. It contains a combination of bold, plant-heavy spaces filled with groovy future-forward plants (re: waterwise but not drab); swaths of lawn for seating, lounging and gathering; simple architectural structures that sit perfectly within the space; hot pink tables and chairs that are both movable and serve as eye-catching sculpture dotting the space; and interpretive signs that tell the story of both the plants one finds in the space and their provenance.

Above all what is so refreshing about this park is its confidence and what that confidence says about an emerging new city. This is a city that tried (and has tried) for so long to pretend it was something it wasn’t, that it was a sleepy town or one large suburb, or that it was 24-7 New York, that it was tropical, rainsoaked Hawaii, or that it was just one huge disposable movie set. Grand Park in all its confidence and quirkiness seems to say, This is Los Angeles, and Los Angeles is wacky, and weird, and endlessly multifaceted, and that is what makes it both singular and lovable. For more info, check out Rios Clementi Hale (the studio responsible for the design and site planning), and Grand Park LA.

The park site before is shown below: