Monday, November 22, 2010

Finding inspriation in your garden!

Growing a garden is much more than just landscaping your home. A garden is a form of self expression, it’s an artistic endeavor, and it’s an act that can bring inspiration to many other parts of your life. Recently, we’ve been reflecting on all the different ways that gardening can influence ones approach to living.


Growing a garden can help you eat better. Once you start growing some of your own food - veggies, fruit and herbs - an amazing things often happens: you want to eat it! Barbara Kingsolver wrote a fantastic book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, that captures a year she and her family spent eating only food they grew or raised, or that was grown and raised locally. Her descriptions of the food they grew and the processes they went through to do so are incredibly beautiful, and you can really appreciate how the act of gardening, of farming, really inspired a significant lifestyle shift for her entire family. You don’t need to run out and get a huge plot of farm land to make this happen; growing just a few cool season veggies (spinach, broccoli, eggplant and chard just to name a few) in pots on your patio can be all the inspiration it takes to get you cooking more, eating healthier, and feeling more connected in general.

Growing a garden can inspire you. I am a firm believer that creativity comes in all forms, shapes and sizes; when stuck on a certain aspect of a work or art related project, I’ll often go work in my own garden, trimming, pruning, cleaning, planting - there is something in that motion, in that act of creating that really helps one work through other parts of their life where they might feel a bit ‘stuck’. Gardening is a creative act, much as cooking, knitting and so many other things we take for granted are as well. The process of designing a garden can seem intimidating, but really, its no different than doing some sketching or painting in a worn notebook: yes, a few pages might not turn out all that great, but you can always go back and fix it, change it up, add to it, amend it. Nature is remarkably forgiving! Figuring out what plant will good next other plants, playing with color and texture and shape and even fragrances is an incredibly creative process that can inspire and influence many other aspects of life.

Growing a garden can lead to new hobbies. I was reading the blog of the author Susan Tomlinson recently: It’s a fabulous blog centered around her garden, but is really more about her teaching, her bikes, her travels and her writing - all of which spring from what she creates in her garden. She has written a fantastic book, How to Keep a Naturalists Notebook, which is full of reflections and observations on nature, sketches and the like, all of which, again, came from this passion for gardens. Recently, a friend and I were out on an early morning bike ride on the path in Long Beach, when we encountered a large group of people standing together with cameras with telephoto lenses. We asked them what they were up to, and they excitedly told us about the rare seagull they were hoping to catch that morning. We were struck by the passion they had for what they were doing, and the appreciation they had for the beauty of this bird they seemed to covet. Bird watching might not be your thing, but there is something to be said about living a life with your eyes open, noticing what happens all around you. Gardens are great places to figure out how to do that, as they change every day, with subtle hints given to those that look closely.

Often times, we overlook those opportunities that lie right before us. I like to apply this philosophy to my physical surroundings as well: what opportunities are in the ground, in little plots of land waiting to be planted, to act as a spring board for creativity, or to grow food or to inspire? Somewhere, we all have a garden that is waiting to be planted!

PS: for those of you who live in Southern California, check out the art classes I'll be offering this winter!

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Haven Gastropub and growing your own herbs and veggies

I paid a visit to our friends at Haven Gastropub in Old Town Orange the other day. Earlier this year, we built them a few very cool planter boxes that are arranged behind the restaurant, where they are growing a variety of herbs that are used in their daily preparations. It’s very cool and rewarding to see a client getting so much use from what we helped them create! According the Chef Greg, they use the basil, thyme, and parsley pretty much daily in a variety of dishes (and, apparently deserts - he says they make candied basil!), and the mojito mint (one of my personal favorites) gets quite a bit of use as well, both in the kitchen and the bar! They also have rosemary and dill growing that gets used often too.

Haven is a great example of small steps businesses and people can take towards sustainability. Herbs and veggies are incredibly easy to grow, and by doing so, you sort of shift yourself towards a healthier lifestyle overall - check out my earlier blog post about how growing certain foods can inspire you to cook - action creates more action, and by growing some of your own food and herbs, you become more in sync with concepts connected to eating locally, eating seasonally, gardening and the ecology of your home environment. A great book, btw, on this subject, is Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: a Year of Food Life, we recommend it highly!

Planter boxes for Haven

We’ll be replenishing the Haven boxes in the weeks to come; in southern California, there is never a ‘wrong’ time (well, maybe when it’s a 105 degrees out!) to start and herb and veggie garden. We have a LOT of cool season herbs and veggies in right now - stop by and check them out, or email us for help and ideas in starting your own small ‘good food garden’, we’d love to help you out!

And, if you do pay us a visit, give yourself some extra time and stop by Haven as well - great food and drinks, and good people!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Fall colors

Some photos I took earlier this week - fall is in effect at Johnnye Merle's!

Fall colors

Fall colors





Fall colors

Fall colors

Fall colors

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Happy Saturday - new plants!

A great fall Saturday awaits us - waiting for this lovely light rain to clear so we can get on our bikes, then get in the garden later on this afternoon!

We got some new plants in last week too; some really cool stuff, check it out:

Erica carnea 'Ann Sparkes"
Erica carnea 'Ann Sparkes". Erica is a type of ‘heath’; Heaths have fine, short, needle-like evergreen leaves that vary from deep green to silver, gold, or chartreuse. Tiny, urn-shaped flowers sparkle like hoarfrost, in shades from white to pinks and rosy purples. Though most floriferous in winter and early spring. A beacon of dazzling color, the low-to-the-ground mat is cloaked in distinctive needle-like foliage set aglow with gilded yellow hues and bronzy red tips.

Correa - Australian native, and we LOVE our Australian plants because they are hardy, drought and wind tolerant, and always look so cool and unusual!

Echeveria imbricata
Echeveria imbricata. This popular and vigorous succulent has 4 to 8 inches wide, tight rosettes of flat grey-green leaves that, when mature, forms offsets freely to form large solid clumps 4 to 6 inches tall. It has a branched arching inflorescence bearing clusters of red and yellow flowers in the spring and early summer. Plant in full sun, even in hotter inland garden, to part sun/light shade in a well drained soil and water occasionally to very little. It is one of the hardier of the Echeveria, tolerating short duration temperatures down to 20 degrees F. GREAT color, excellent addition to any garden! Looks great in pots too - perfect way to add some interest and diversity to your garden!

Corokia cotoneaster and Solidago rugosa "Fireworks"
Corokia and Solidago - look at how awesome that yellow and black looks together! Corokia cotoneaster is a plant we LOVE! Has the COOLEST look to it; tiny little leaves on awesome dark dark colored branches, with tiny, bright yellow flowers in the spring! Such a great ‘accent’ plant to add interest to you garden - they look cool in pots too! Solidago rugosa "Fireworks" is another favorite. The bloom you see here is just the start! 3-4' tall, 'Fireworks' is more compact than most of the species and flowers more heavily. A lacy dome of golden flowers looks like exploding fireworks providing nectar and pollen for bees and butterflies in early fall.
It’s also a great plant for the environment: seeds are used by all sorts of species of birds, plant is clump forming so it won't spread like some other species, migrating butterflies use the nectar to fuel their fall migration, and bees rely on the pollen and nectar to build up winter stores. Great cut flower too - grows best in a sunny, moist, well drained site. We only have a few of each, so get them soon!

Houttuynia cordata 'Chameleon'
Houttuynia cordata 'Chameleon'. Look at that color! Variegated Houttuynia cordata is called the Chameleon Herb. It is a very primitive "paleoherb" upon which dinosaurs once nibbled. Multicolored red, yellow and green, heart-shaped foliage distinguishes this vigorous, rapidly spreading groundcover. Likes moisture; can be grown in standing water as aquatic. It can become invasive; consider planting in a container or a raised bed where it can be kept under control. Grows to about 8 inches to a foot high - GREAT plant o add a pop of color to a shady area!

Gunnera chilensis
Gunnera chilensis. So this plant, this crazy dinosaur (yes, we have now referenced 'dinosaurs' twice in this blog post, don't judge us!) looking thing, is quite possibly one of our most favorite plants EVER! We love it! It is a plant species native to southern Chile and neighbor zones in Argentina, and is known as ‘Chilean rhubarb’; you can see the resemblance in the seed cone if forms. Likes to be really moist - so great for that weird, damp area of your yard; we find it does best in shade, burns easily in the sun here, you might be okay with some sun in coastal areas. These massive, leafy plants were recently dubbed Dinosaur Food because of their prehistoric look. Although club-shaped flowers may be hidden at the base of the plant, its the awesome, huge leaves this plant is grown for! If you plant it in a spot where it can be the center of attention and give it plenty of room, Gunnera will be a real conversation piece. Do not mix with other big plants. For maximum size, feed when growth starts in the spring and then twice more during the year. This is one of the few plants that benefits from overhead watering, at least in dry, windy areas or where humidity is low.

Samphire/Sea Fennel
Samphire/Sea Fennel. Rare plant to find & even more difficult to research. Native to British cliffs where it has long been used as a salt substitute and an essential ingredient for pickles. Blue-green, highly dissected fleshy succulent looks really.... WEIRD! We can't wait to plant one in our own garden!

Salvia africana-lutea
Salvia africana-lutea is an aromatic, hardy shrub with unusually colored flowers borne over a long period. It is fairly fast-growing, up to 5-6 feet, and very attractive to wildlife. Flowering begins in early spring, and the bright yellow flowers soon fade to rusty-orange and then reddish brown. After the petals fall, the saucer-like calyx, which becomes papery with age, remains as an added attraction. The flowers are both attractive and a curiosity; REALLY unusual! Salvia’s are a huge family and great addition to any garden - they attract lots of butterflies and bees, good things for your garden! Apart from attracting wildlife, brown sage makes an excellent tea for coughs, colds, bronchitis and the like (google directions!). The leaves are lovely for use in potpourri as they retain their shape, color and much of their fragrance, and mix well with other ingredients. Beautiful plant! Full sun, average to low water. We have nice big ones in five gallon containers right now at a great price!

Callicarpa bodinieri 'Profusion'
LOOK at those berries!!!! 'Profusion' Beautyberry has a largely upright twiggy appearance that can become a vase-shaped shrub in time. Small lilac or purpley-pink flowers occur July & August. These blooms are small & sometimes described as unimportant, but really they're quite pleasing, merely very close to the branches & therefore easily lost amidst the large green leaves. They form clusters of green berries by September, however, it is the tiny fruit that ripen in October that make this a stand-out among ornamental shrubs! When the deciduous leaves have fallen, the Beautyberry fruits cling to the branches in gorgeous clusters. An adaptable shrub, it tolerates wet or dry, sun or part shade, rich or depleted soil, but here in the Northwest, to maximize berry production, it is best placed in full sun with humousy acidic well-drained soil. Great for birds too!

Cool season veggies! And these eggplants already got a head start for you too! Even if you don't like eggplant, totally worth growing them just for the color, and you can give away the actual veggie!

Euphorbia Blackbird
Euphorbia Blackbird. We love Euphorbias as Johnnye Merle’s; easy to grow, they add an interesting element to any type of garden, with their unique looking foliage, unusual blooms and cool colors - we are especially fond of these dark colored specimens! Full sun to part shade, likes well drained soil. Buy one, you need it!

Anemone is a genus of about 120 species of flowering plants in the buttercup family Ranunculaceae in the north and south temperate zones. Greek anemōnē means "daughter of the wind", which is a cool random thing to impress your friends with. Anemones grow best in a loamy soil, enriched with well-rotted manure, which should be dug in below the tubers. These may be planted in October, and for succession in January, the autumn-planted ones being protected by a covering of leaves or or compost. We find they do best in part shade in Southern California; they are great for a ‘woodland’ garden look, and once in the ground will spread out, taking on a very ‘naturalized’ appearance. They are one of our very favorite plants - the way they look in containers just doesn’t do them justice, wait until you get them in the ground!

So, plenty of plants to choose from - come pay a visit to Country Roads this weekend, stick your head out in the garden out back and bring home some new friends!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

New herbs just in!

We got a great selection of herbs in this past week - some really cool stuff!

October is a great time to plant - our winters are mild enough that we don't have to worry about bad cold snaps, and nothing is better for a newly planted garden than some rain! We have some great varieties of the 'standards' that every herb garden needs: basil, oregano, thyme, dill, cilantro and chamomile, just to name a few. We also go in some cool season veggies - yes, you can grow veggies this time of year! - including broccoli, artichoke, eggplant and spinach - nothing beats having some fresh veggies from your own garden in late winter!

New plants!

We also got in about six different varieties of scented geraniums, and if you know anything about us, you know we looooooove our scented geraniums! They are super easy to grow, can be used in baking and teas and they small fabulous! We have some of our favorite varieties in right now, including peppermint and apple.

Scented geraniums and vintage garden accessories

And of course, some unusual plants were included in this order too; check out a few examples below:

Lemon grass
(Cymbopogon citratus), a native of India, is widely used in Thai and Vietnamese cooking. Lemon grass is a perennial, which means once you plant it, the grass comes back year after year. Depending on the area you live in the plant will go dormant in the winter. This aromatic herb is used in Caribbean and many types of Asian cooking and has become very popular in the United States. This is a very pungent herb and is normally used in small amounts. The entire stalk of the grass can be used.  The grass blade can be sliced very fine and added to soups. The bulb can be bruised and minced for use in a variety of recipes. The light lemon flavor of this grass blends well with garlic, chilies, and cilantro.   The herb is frequently used in curries as well as in seafood soups. It is also used to make tea.

Heal All
is a perennial herb found throughout Europe, Asia, Japan and the
U.S., and most temperate climates. Its origin seems to be European. Heal-All thrives in any damp soil in full sun or in light shade.   Heal-All is edible and medicinal, can be used in salads, soups, stews, or boiled as a pot herb. Used as an alternative medicine for centuries on just about every continent in the world, and for just about every ailment known to man.

If you've never rubbed a leaf of lemon verbena it's impossible to explain its lovely scent. Yes, it's lemon, but yet it's also a captivating fragrance that almost instantly relaxes you. To me, it's the ultimate in aromatherapy. If you grow just one lemon scented herb it should be lemon verbena. Although to grow just one lemon herb would be a shame, since they are all so wonderful! Lemon verbena, aloysia triphylla, is a native of Chile and Peru. Unlike some herbs, lemon verbena will retain its scent for years when dried, which is why it's not only a popular culinary herb, but also a potpourri ingredient. You can use lemon verbena in place of lemon zest in recipes. Virtually any fruit salad can be enhanced with its finely chopped leaves. Bury 6 lemon verbena leaves in a cup of sugar that has been placed in a covered jar or container. Use this sugar to top muffins, fruit, or sprinkle on the top of muffin batter before baking.

Curry Plant looks very similar to a Lavender in its leaf stage. But, as the picture to the right shows, it looks totally different in bloom. Curry Plant likes it warm and dry. It is native to Turkey and thrives on sunny slopes where it attracts beneficial insects to its unusual flowers. While not very tasty, Curry Plant smells strongly like Curry spices. But, Curry Plant is not where Curry Seasoning comes from. Curry is actually a blend of many different herbs. The herbs used in real Curry vary from region to region.  When Curry Plant is mentioned with food, it is always used sparingly, a few leaves in a mayonnaise or a sprig tucked in a cavity of a chicken. The flavor is not Curry but is strong. It is also difficult to describe. However, trimming Curry Plant in the garden will leave you pleasantly reeking like an Indian restaurant the rest of the day.

Moujean Tea is a native of West Indian scrublands that grows fairly slowly to about three feet. It produces clusters of creamy white flowers that in warmer zones are followed by tiny dimpled orange fruits. Both leaves and fruits are scented of vanilla which is released when the tea is made. The tiny leaves and fruits may be used fresh or dried. They are quite tough so it is necessary to steep the tea for a longer period of time for fresh use and it is nice to grind or pulverize for dried use. This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds. Flowers are fragrant. Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater. Requires consistently moist soil; do not let dry out between waterings. Full sun to part shade, can grow up to 6-8 feet, but easily contained with pruning.

These are just a few of the interesting plants we have in stock right now - come in and see them for yourself!

Saturday, September 04, 2010

New plants to help you garden this Labor Day weekend!

A quick post before I head out to spend the day at Country Roads working the International Street Fair!

We got some AWESOME new plants in yesterday, with two of our favorite growers, Native Sons and Annie’s Annuals, paying us a visit. A more detailed blog will follow tonight, but some quick picks below - come in and check us out, garden is looking fresh and full right now and we’d love to see you!


New stuff!
Lots of new plants!

Sedums, crassula and succulents
New sedums, succulents and crassula! Great colors and drought tolerant!

Echinacea "Little Magnus" and Verbena
Echinacea and verbena - two of our favorites!

Pholmis aurea
Phlomis - SUCH great color on this one!

Fall displays - black viola!
Black violas are back! Just in time for Halloween!

Lots of new Euphorbias in!
Lots of new, colorful euphorbias and other drought tolerant plants are in!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Summer sale ends soon!

Just a quick reminder to get in and check out some great buys at our big SUMMER SALE! All plants are 20% off right now as we clear out and make room for new stuff; stop by and see us soon, as they sale ends September 1st!

Happy planting!
Osteospermum, Lavander and Phormium

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Summer Sale!

Hey there garden nerds - wanted to let you all know we are having a big summer sale from now until August 31st!

Cone Flower

All plants are 20% off!!!!

We've got some great stuff from Annies Annuals in right now, as well as a solid selection of natives, drought tolerant plants, sedums and succulents - stop in while they are still around!

We're having the sale to make some space for some light remodeling, and most importantly, our big fall selections, so you should also make a note to come see us Labor Day weekend when a whole bunch of new plants will be in!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Getting rid of the lawn

A great blog post by one of my favorite bloggers, Susan J. Tweit, on lawns and why we should get rid of 'em! Check it out!

Direct link:

And of course, if you need some help designing your lawnless yard, get in touch with us!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Heirloom seeds!

If you haven't been in lately, you might have missed on of our newest products:
Baker Creek Heirloom seeds!

Baker Creek seeds

We don't know of any other retailers in Orange County that have these seeds in stock - such a cool product! We've started growing things like "Tomato Great White", "Connecticut Pumpkin", "Eggplant Rosas Bianca" "Squash Red Kuri" and "Watermelon Moon and Stars" - they are suuuuch cool plants!

Come in and check them out - they are right in the front display when you come the the store. We'll be getting some new varieties in later in the summer.

And if seeds aren't your thing, we have plenty of heirloom veggies already started and ready to go home with you!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Spring is on and new stuff is in - heirloom tomatoes!

Sorry for the lack of updates - been super busy out in the garden and working on our garden design projects lately!

This week - lots and lots and lots of new stuff!

Heirloom tomatoes! You've all been asking, and we finally have them back in - they go fast, so stop in and see us ASAP! We have lots of different varieties in right now - some we'd never even heard of!

Heirloom tomatoes

Plus, lots of other new plants too:

New spring plants!

Spring gardens

HUUUUUGE selection of cool and unusual veggies and herbs:

Tons of new veggies and herbs!

About a dozen different varieties of scented geraniums, one of our very favorite plants:

Scented geraniums

Friday, March 19, 2010

Happy Spring!

BUNCHES and BUNCHES of new plants in this week in advance of one of our very favorite days of the whole year: the first day of spring!

Come by and see us soon - lots of great treasures to be taken home...



"Anchor Plant"


Spring display

Spring display

Spring display

Spring display


Spring garden

New Annies Annuals!

Feather Duster