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Satori Blog

An adventure in Permaculture

an illustration on permaculture (from Chico Permaculture Guild)
an illustration on permaculture (from Chico Permaculture Guild)

Anyone who knows me, knows I love to learn new things.  I am the perennial student studying not only perennials but arboriculture, irrigation design and now I’m adding Permaculture.  I’ve been dipping my toe in this subject for some time and now I’ve finally dived into an intensive certification course at the LA Arboretum.  Permaculture is essentially the use of sustainable design principles in the creation of human habitats.  The design process takes it’s cues from the natural world were systems are self-sustaining and abundant.  This illustration shows elements of Permaculture:  food production, water reclamation and diversion, harnessing of the sun’s energy and the thoughtful placement of crops based on micro climates.  There’s actually a lot going on under the soil too! 

I think what I’m most excited about is the amazing sense of community in this movement.  In fact, you cannot practice Permaculture alone – it requires you to tap into the community.  At my first 8 hour class, I found myself surrounded by people who want to make a difference in our world of global warming, mass food production and lack of exposure to nature and it’s abundance.  I really don’t know where this will lead me but I’m just so thrilled to be on this path because I know it’s a positive one.  I’ll keep you posted ūüôā

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Perrrrr-fect container plant

Cotyledon orbiculata
Cotyledon orbiculata

There are few plants better suited for a spectacular, long lasting, ever tidy-looking container planting than Cotyledon orbiculata.¬† This beauty is from South Africa and as with most succulents best suited for mild climates.¬† C. orbiculata will form a tidy mound of fat opposing leaves.¬† Ultimately the plant will get about 2 to 3 feet tall and wide, softly drooping over it’s container.¬† The long lasting summer flowers will float above it in a coral and yellow display.¬† So pretty!

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The Undeniable Effects of the Sun

Artemesia pycnocephala 'David's Choice' demonstrating how important the sun's rays are

Artemesia pycnocephala

Okay, I’ll admit it…sometimes when I’m designing a garden I’ll have in mind the perfect plant for the perfect spot.¬† In fact, I’ll get so fixated that I’ll want to fudge a little on what I know that plant wants in terms of water, sun, space, etc….¬† There are so many ways to fudge, I’m afraid.¬† Fortunately, I usually do snap myself back into reality and quickly get “unwedded” to my choice if it’s just not working.¬† Thomas Hobbs calls this condition “Zonal Denial.”¬† I love that!¬† Pretty much anyone who has planted a citrus tree in shade or a Hydrangea in full blasting sun has fallen prey to Zonal Denial.¬† We’ve all done it and it’s okay – after all it’s only human to want to grow something even if we don’t have the right spot for it.

I thought I’d share this photo of my California Native front yard to illustrate why we should generally listen to those experts of Sunset Western Garden Book and all those other great references.¬† This garden went in about 4 months ago.¬† That’s a buffalo grass lawn (not native, but very low water using) and behind it are little fluffy mounds of Artemisia pycnocephala ‘David’s Choice’.¬† Artemisia is a sagebrush and it appreciates the sun.¬† Due to my roof line the plants to the left get at least an hour or more of hot afternoon sun (this photo was taken at 2:30pm, late September).¬† With each plant getting incrementally bigger as you look to the left, you can see the undeniable effects of the sun.¬† Now I have a visual reminder right out my front door whispering “right plant in the right place.”

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In Praise of the “old-fashioned”

Camellia japonica happily hugging a partly shady wall

Camellia japonica happily hugging a partly shady wall

I’m reading a book right now called the “Paradox of Choice.” ¬†As you can probably guess, it’s premise is that we now have tremendous choice in our lives about virtually everything and this is not necessarily a good thing. ¬†In landscape design it’s no different, there is an exploding array of new plants and materials to choose from. ¬†It’s thrilling to discover a new variety of something, and instantly one thinks “hmm, where can I use this?” ¬† But time and time again, I am reminded about how some “old timers” like the Camellia are still as relevant and appropriate as ever. ¬†For some, the Camellia just seems like something out of grandma’s garden and it definitely does reside there next to the twisting juniper and overgrown jade plant. ¬†Just because the Camellia is at home in the garden’s of yore doesn’t mean it’s not a super performer in today’s garden. ¬†Let me count the ways…..Camellia’s bloom when not much else does (mainly winter), Camellia’s are generally easily espaliered saving ton’s of “floor space” and providing a nice wall of glossy green leaves and blooms, ¬†Camellia’s have limited pest problems and once established are surprisingly thrifty on water and Camellia’s can brighten up a shady area like few other plants. ¬†The right Camellia can fit in with many different garden styles…cottage, Mediterranean, Japanese, formal, etc…

For an excellent selection of Camellias check out Nuccio’s nursery in Alta Dena.¬† They sell retail and wholesale and are very helpful in getting you the perfect Camellia for your location and design.¬† Here are some helpful care tips for Camellias.

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