With Silver Bells & Cockleshells

I’m accidentally on purpose in just the right place. Everything grows here.

In the garden all morning, I admit to realizing that I made this and it’s good!

Especially now that so much is taking shape and filling in blank places. There are new things popping up that haven’t seen the light of day in ages, ancient transplants, accidental seeded soil. A small-headed but tall daisy suddenly made itself known out of weedy looking foliage (which I have learned to leave be and observe because some surprise is always in it). The center of the bud was very dark, almost black, wispy little pointed projectiles out of it. It’s starting to bloom now, one main flower and several new buds, and it is deep purple with lighter near fuscia dots on the inside, I still don’t know what the petals will turn to but WOW.

Birth of the Garden

Oil on Canvas

The gardens, the old cabin of the Jardine Ranch was a miracle to live in. Probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever lived. The bed was set into a bay window, quite high up, Cecil Bruner pink roses lapping and climbing the cabin redwood, a pond only a dozen feet away with waving grasses and yellow iris and cattails, a river behind me, Pfeiffer Beach five minutes down the road. They had exquisite, roughhewn but spectacular landscaping. My God the color and variety! An orchard with pears and plums and cherries, and all of at the road bordered by the huge famous black green cypress trees. The horses, cats, dogs, pig named Wilbur. I miss so much of it. But the intrusion, the sense of excluding was pervasive. I thought of all that this morning, not a new thought, that I have more privacy here than anywhere in California so far. And I can do whatever I choose to the landscape, not so with the rock and roll legend [Al Jardine of the ‘Beach Boys’] and his family. I’m beginning to see as well that this is probably a very special climate and land for the kind of garden I want. Farther east to the mountains it is dry and hot. You struggle with gardens and the flowering varieties are limited. I love thinking of your video in that field of yellow flowers, way to go!

I’m accidentally on purpose in just the right place. Everything grows here. Wet enough from ocean fogs, the air heated by the big open meadow just beyond my garden and moisture in the air from the Carmel River at that border. Carmel-by-the-sea has exquisite, old established gardens. We’ve the same climate as the Riviera, as South Africa’s coast. Plants grow here that do not in other parts of America. I’d still like a house on the coast and maybe someday will again.

Carmel is a crappy snooty place to live in, but finds can be had. It’s dreadful that some of the most beautiful places are populated with idiots.


War of the Roses

You see what gardeners go through. It’s a whole fucking planet whirling through the solar system and I can only hope for daily gravity.

I have two of the most interesting trees here, they are evergreen, never shed, slim black trunks -so rare- growing like a kind of Aspen but in one tight group. They reach about twenty feet or more, one at the corner of the side wall by the rock wall, below the general walkway. The other by the same rock wall across the patio, about fifteen feet apart, sweet sentries. The second is also alongside the steps leading up, lightly touching the banister. The leaves are like a spearmint shape, pointed, but green inside, a kind of yellowed pale green, with a full white border on each leaf!  They’re very unusual, I have no idea what they are and can’t find them referenced.

Well like most things here they’d grown down to the ground in a nightmare of dead branch and bramble inside.  I’ve been working on clearing them out. They’ve been trimmed and pruned previously to a huge elongated barrel shape, which, with clearing the bottom, I am changing. In the process the beautiful stone wall is revealed and exposed to sun which makes for more plantings! So the tree shape is changing. Sort of round popsicle-y stemmed. They’re very round. I pruned to about three and a half or four feet up from the bottom, in a kind of swaying, gentle curve, but primarily flat across on the bottom. Then I thought I’d see how high the top went if left to its own devices, but wasn’t liking it much. The tops are visible from the walkway and parking lot. I’d say up to a good twenty feet so far and spurting higher.

Well I got back to the bungalow and Caesar was leaving with all his tools looking pleased with himself and we said hello and I went down the steps and I’m seeing all the green and white leaves and thinking what the hell!!!  Like previous mentioned raccoons, or rutting deer at war in my garden!  Leaves and branches everywhere! What the hell….and then I look at the tops and Caesar had cut them — flat off.

Now a gardener, I have discovered or anyone fitting the bill despite qualities, is no more someone to have truck with than a chef before dinner is served.  You have no idea what you might be in for after starting a war. So I recovered from the invasion, which had me screaming YOU CAN’T DO THIS HOW DARE YOU to nobody at the top of my lungs, and which offended me greatly, swept up and took another look.

I’m very fond of Dr Zeus’s landscapes, they are in fact all over this area, trees pruned into balls and pyramids and inverted who knows, and all delightful. And I was looking at these trees over the past year, knowing I wanted some whimsy to them and had decided about a week ago I’d go for the African veldt silhouette, that kind of wide spread oval high up where growth stays beyond the reaching neck of the giraffe and its large teeth.

But I hesitated doing anything quite so dramatic at the walkway, because the tops of my trees kind of, well, belong to the property in general more than my own garden. (Let anybody try telling ME that). And then tonight Caesar did the work unannounced.

The funny thing is there’s already a history, a delicate first week boundary war.  I saw what he did to everything in the place, square cut and Mohawks, and FORBADE his entering my garden.  I knew it ruffled but I stood my ground and I am quite sure it ruffles every time he’s here when he looks down and instead of geometry sees rambling chaos he cannot understand or like.  In trade I am solicitous, warmly greeting, and sing his praises to all who’ll listen including the landlord with whom he is very close.

So here as if by magic it was almost as if I’d asked him, or whispered the thought. He is now wearing a sense of triumph, and I will be quiet about mine, which arrived sans repercussion. And sweep up the rest of the mess in daylight. And not ask for my bicycle back. I might even try looking slightly wounded for effect.

Caesar and crew are ruthless in gardens. They just trimmed back a daisy hedge near Saddlemaker Bob’s, the size of three buffalo and filled with yellow daisies to the limit. It’s now a smaller green ball. THE FLOWERS ARE GONE. So I don’t even know how they think except as a tenant here said, These are more Aztec invaders than Mexican gardeners.

If he TOUCHES my cherry tree, which he had sawed down to a five foot collection of six and four and eight inch stubs and which, left alone at last, has, since last summer, sent out twelve foot shoots. If Caesar touches that he will pay dearly, et tu Brute all over again.

I may be up to asking Moses to describe to Caesar in their native tongue that I am doing drawings and paintings of the garden, my garden, AS IT IS!!!!! and it greatly disturbs my artistic nature and temperament when things are altered or moved about.  But I’m not convinced Moses could pull it off, he has a limited artistic eye, and then they’d be talking the mother lingo which I could not amend or adjust to my specifications, and it might start a war after all.

You see what gardeners go through. It’s a whole fucking planet whirling through the solar system and I can only hope for daily gravity.

The Mystery of Plants

“Now I am becoming a gardener and every day is a revelation.”

 I had another splendid garden day. I’m in a place that has risen and fallen via occupant, and they have been legion. What’s stayed are some brilliantly designed for the place fifty years ago, very old established plants. The huge Pride of Madeira, the very old gnarled lavender which were trimmed into trees, huge patches of tall reedy African Lilies, dozens of plants I’ve never seen. And every couple of days, something brand new rises out of the ground, stirred to life, introduced long ago by some former planter and which lay dormant. Now here is me, clearing out the underbrush, ridding old bushes of dead branches, exposing the soil to light and air and water that was held captive, and everything in sight starting to cry in a unisonous voice of exuberant joy.

The Mexican Aztec destroyer gardeners have done a nasty job of such severe pruning it’s heartbreaking. I mean, you see the base of things like a jade plant that is so huge it has to be maybe fifty years old and only allowed to grow three feet high! The cherry tree with a ten inch plus trunk was maybe seven feet when I got here. I’ve forbidden the gardeners to come back down here (very sweetly, “Oh, I’ll Do That!”) and the cherry tree, like the others, is now reaching for the sky, some shoots up to eighteen feet, waving deliriously in the sun and wind.

The hedges which are all flowering were reduced to short boxes. And now it’s all hoopla and blooms. The gardeners must be very annoyed when they look down here.

And John, I look around me now and it’s only been a few months, less than a season, and I say aha, that’s me. There I am, in greens and reds and yellows and blues. Time to start painting it.

I’ve landed somewhere I didn’t intentionally head for. It’s taken me more than a decade to begin to unravel the mysteries of plants. I had one garden experience as an eleven- or twelve-year-old somewhere. My mother introduced me to flower seed packets and I dug up a patch of land and grew fabulous zinnias and somethings. But never picked up on it in Brooklyn, except for house bound geraniums I loved, some spider plants and ferns, and nasturtiums I had growing year-round in my studio window, street-level, that used to stop passersby in their tracks routinely.

Now I am becoming a gardener and every day is a revelation. So there’s something more than I knew in being led here, to this place, where gallery is important, house too miniscule to consider much, and garden is critical to life. I never know where the hell I’m going or why but learning to trust myself that there’s an attached purpose in it.