Sunday, September 26, 2010


Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden in Claremont displays the ravishing beauty of California's wild plants. But the setting is so operatic, it can be hard to imagine this flora on a smaller stage, say, a patio or apartment balcony.

Unless you happen upon a nook where native plants are potted up for a more intimate performance.

On a foggy morning, a hummingbird swoops in for a sip of Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii, above). Impatiently, it probes the whorls of the petite lavender flowers. This sage is usually a sprawling shrub, but confined to a 5-gallon teal pot, the crisp reiterations of dainty leaves and blossoms have the restraint and precision of a Baroque concerto.

Many of Rancho's pots are tall. Low-growing species are raised 3 to 4 feet off the ground, offering a bird's- or bug's-eye experience of these intricate plants.

Click here to continue reading my LA Times story.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Trumpet Zucchini

What possessed me? Who slipped me the silly pill that made me decide to grow two zucchini plants this summer?

I wanted to add a new kind, while relying on an old standby. It still amazes me that someone--my aunt--could mail me a few innocuous seeds and one would turn into this:

Zucchini rampicante tromboncino. This climber produces gorgeous curved or trumpet-like fruit. Many of mine have little leaves embedded along the side of the fruit, making them especially pretty as gifts. And, yes, I've had a lot to give.

We turned a few into the best-ever zucchini bread. And we've enjoyed endless rounds of ratatouille. (Believe it or not, my kid loves it.) Any recipe requiring 3 or more cups of zucchini gets my attention these days.