This month, we've been moving potted plants out of the greenhouses like crazy, not only to decorate our precincts with some early leaf and bloom but to give the plants themselves the healthy dose of fresh, circulating air they've been craving after a long winter of close confinement under glass.
Pots are wonderful for adding an instantaneous and difficult to achieve otherwise swat of hard architecture and contrasting leaf and blossom texture to a garden environment. They fill in empty spaces, flank entries, sparkle up shady nooks, are wonderful grouped around water features, and add a becoming softness to walls and steps. We usually pair them with some other hard architecture like flagged or gravel terraces, stone steps, etc., but have even seen them set on plinths in the middle of perennial borders to great effect, as one would place a rose tuteur or statue.
Many of our most prized potted specimens, including our collection of begonias, find their way down to the stone terraces below the house, overlooking the creek and little milk pond,. Grouped multiply on tables and in corners, they soften all the surrounding stone and add spectacular architecture and punch. For those of you unfamiliar with begonias, they are the perfect houseplant: undemanding, tolerant of low light, offering the most stunning foliage imaginable, and blooming year round with a modicum of feeding.
In the courtyard garden outside the front door, we've placed both a big pot of Conca d'Or lilies with a bamboo rail to help keep then upright, and a handsome glazed pot of variegated acanthus. The former will stun with it's tall, tall stems of sunny, wildly fragrant blossoms, while the former is surely one of the most extravagantly foliaged plants around. Both add just the right complement of form and color to this fern-y, mossy space.
Out in the summer borders, flanking the steps to our Temple Canus, we always place two pots of immense, truly show-stopping tropical furcraeas. Each of these plants is five feet high and wide and it takes a ride in our backhoe to set them in place each year. However, their unique, strappy, sharply pointed tropical form and pale yellow striation makes them the perfect formal foil to the surrounding, decidedly non-tropical perennial plantings.
Further out in the Mediterranean Garden, we enhance the Mediterranean mood by grouping pots of succulents and tropicals around the Italian village fountain at the center. With these unlikely specimens scattered beneath a pair of non-bearing pear standards, true body doubles for the un-hardy olive trees we lusted after for this space, one could well imagine one was somewhere in the Tuscan hills.
But surely our most remarkable potted specimen is the 100 year old bonzai forest we purchased in Little China in Los Angeles over twenty years ago. We bought this miniature grove of eastern red cedar from a family of Japanese nurserymen whose elder, then in his nineties, had been training it for more than 75 years. We had a special table built for it and it is the pride and joy of the summer terrace, where it can be enjoyed by our garden visitors passing through.
Speaking of which, isn't it time you paid us a visit? Do keep in mind, we're open Wednesdays and Saturdays, May to October, 9-4, for self-touring and we'd love to see you!