May 31, 2013
Our world is full of contrast—light and dark, black and white, stop and go. The world of plants is no different. From fuzzy to smooth, rubbery to rough, blunt to sharp, plants have evolved their leaves and architectures as survival mechanisms for an ever-changing world. Coming at a time when succulents and cacti are considered hot and trendy, our newest exhibit aims to make a point of using plants that contrast with their surroundings.
In this exhibit called Sharp, we explore and celebrate pointy plants—both sharp to the eye and to the touch. Against a backdrop of lovegrass (Eragrostis elliottii ‘Wind Dancer’) intended to evoke the coastline, seed-grown agaves aren’t far from home—in fact, they are the next generation of plants from our own desert collection. But there’s more to this garden than agaves, even if you’ve fallen in love with the handsome specimen of Agave desmettiana potted in a blue ceramic. Two curve-leaf yuccas (Yucca recurvifolia) gracefully explode as accents to a colorful, texturally exciting layer of smoky black New Zealand flax (Phormium ‘Black Adder’), bell-flowered kalanchoes (Kalanchoe ‘Mirabella’) and steel-colored Astelia ‘Silver Shadow’, a brand new asparagus relative from the Netherlands. We even staged an aloe (Aloe vera)to look as if it tipped out of its pot. To play up the obviousness of sharp texture, several glass globes accent each of these colorful vignettes, including three antique Bordeaux demijohns on loan from West End Architectural Salvage. Imagine yourself relaxing on an airy summer day, reveling in garden abundance while sipping Bordeaux poured from those green bottles. It’s worth a day at the coast, right?
If you’ve ever explored the California coast, you know it offers some amazing gardens. Though tormented by salt spray and an always blowing ocean-side breeze, these gardens effuse beauty through the flowers and textures of tough plants. I’m inspired by an image forever imprinted in my mind—a colony ofAgave attenuata, the lion’s tail agave, nestled amid stones and grass, backlit by the evening sun setting over the seaside horizon. The design forSharp attempts to capture that imagery, employing sharp textural contrasts between the windy blades of lovegrass, the pointed leaves of agaves and yuccas, and the bell-shaped flowers of Mirabella kalanchoes. We hope you’ll get lost studying the details and inspired to try a few agaves in containers, even if they aren’t hardy or permanent.
Our sharp, coastal garden will be on display through June 30, after which we will close for two months of renovation and expansion. We will open in September to begin an inaugural year celebrating our new and expanding facilities. Always check in with our page on Facebook for updates and photos on our progress, exhibits and events.