Our whiskey barrel pond has been feeling a little bit Monet, a little bit Midcentury Modern. It’s our first season growing water lilies, and these amethyst blooms are STUNNAS. These Nymphaea ‘Midnight’ flowers are compact, about six inches in diameter, with stems that eek less than two inches above the surface of our mini pond. Round, notched water lily leaves plaster the surface of the water.
They might be modest, but man — water lilies are bewitching in person. The plant pops next to the kidney-shaped black acrylic platforms that Ryan designed as a side-table and also to protect our fish (currently absent due to a night-stalking chupacabra and pending additional shielding).
Nymphaea ‘Midnight’ blooms are small and so are their pads, making them a perfect lily for a patio whiskey barrel pond.
Diving into the fearless works of ‘The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories’ edited by Tobias Wolff.
Meanwhile, our epidendrum orchid is bangin’ out delicate scarlet flowers. (It blooms throughout the year, leading to pods that release impossibly tiny, fiberglass-like seeds.) Ryan refinished his original living table and installed an entirely new plant arrangement using many of the succulents we acquired from the big drought tolerant show earlier this year. I’m in the (I hope) last semester of my Warren Wilson MFA studies, so I’ve been reading and writing, pen to notebook, a lot in our outdoor living room. We’ve had some friends come over. Shoe-wise, I picked up a pair of summer-to-fall transition sandals so perfect — down to the iridescent patent straps — that I may never take these babies off.
Around the perimeters of our garden, the climbers rule. Most are still babies, including three varieties of Dutchman’s pipe, a jade vine, and a new favorite, Black Gold philodendron. We’ve fully entered passion fruit season here as our first-ever juicy harvest from the Passiflora edulis vine has us blissed out. Move over, pomegranate — there’s a new “caviar of fruit” in town.
Look closely on the tallest trees in our yard and you’ll see passionfruit strung along the line like dangling ornaments. The fruit turn purple on the vine before falling to the ground.
We’ll let the passion fruit continue to ripen off the vine. When they start puckering, that means they’re ready to eat.
We’re exploring different ways to eat passion fruit this year. Here, we’re eating them straight up. The taste and texture combine tart, sweet and crunchy.
Passion fruit over club soda: excellent. It’s also a great garnish on a classic Tom Collins.
We have one single blessed tomato from our ‘Patio Tomato’ plant, which kinda reminds us of this recent story in The Onion. But our jalapeños? Our jalapeños are en fuego.
Read on for the latest photos! We’re going to be taking a week (or so) off, but we’ll be snapping photos of our wanderings, so be sure to join us on Instagram. And in the meantime, check out footage from the current state of our garden…
My favorite place to study.
Ryan freshened up the outdoor living coffee table earlier this summer with a new arrangement of succulents. The first arrangement of succulents was in the table for over five years and some had outgrown the table. So we transplanted the old succulents to other parts of the garden and some went to the neighbors.
The new arrangement! Stay tuned for a guide to these new plants and why we chose them!
These Helmut Lang platforms are the lovechild between a sandal and a boot. (They look merlot here but they’re actually an iridescent patent that shimmers in greens and violets.)
Euphorbia leucodendron (cat tails euphorbia).
A late-summer mindmeld with my BFF, Justin Britt Gibson.
BTW, that hedge is rosemary.
We rotated the rolling arbor 90 degrees this summer.
‘Trusty Rusty’ is back in full force.
Over to the vertical bog home of the carnivores…
Our hands-down favorite flytrap is this Dionaea ‘Green Dragon.’ It’s our second feeding season with the plant as it awoke aggressively from winter hibernation.
Meet our family of pitchers lurking at the lower level of the bog garden. Sarracenias lure in flying insects along a one-way path down their enzyme-filled vessels.
Sarracenia purpurea, or purple pitcher plants.
An assortment of Cape, pigmy and fork-leafed sundews mostly to eat smaller gnats and fleas.
Our newest vertical garden is just filling in against our north-facing fence. The top plants receive full sun while the lower plants enjoy full shade throughout most of the year. We’re still in the process of filling in the top row of plants. The top left planter contains a young tropical clematis and on the right are two Dutchman’s pipe vines.
This hidden treasure is a climbing Black Gold philodendron (Philodendron melanochrysum). With enough space to grow, the leaves can reach up to two feet long.
This L-shape vertical garden is also home to native California wildflowers. Polka dot plants enjoy north-facing shade in a planter below the wildflowers.
Hypoestes phyllostachya, street name polka dot plants, grow on the second shelf.
Behind the arbor is the nepenthes habitat and outdoor shower. Can you spot the four passion fruits making a cameo?
Nepenthes ‘Miranda’ are thriving in this location. We have more pitchers this year than we could have ever hoped for. Stay tuned for an in-depth look into how we created a perfect environment for this vining carnivorous plant.
Rinsing off sand from the beach among the nepenthes.
A young Nepenthes ‘Miranda.’ The rims of these pitchers change dramatically through maturation.
Our pink melaleuca tree (Melaleuca nesophila) is planted in a container; we fell in love with this plant because of the leaf structure and the pom-pom blooms.
Those pom-pom blooms went gangbusters for the first time in years.
Our air plant collection is a bit out of control right now.
We pulled out the three clumps of Tillandsia strictas as an impromptu centerpiece.
This Aeonium has finally found a home. Thanks, Warren!
Trading sips with our friend and LA babe Angela Demo.
One taste of this plant’s leaves and you know it’s stevia (Stevia rebaudiana).
Summer is a tricky time for our vertical herb garden, as a large China doll tree blocks most of the sun June through July. But the oregano is hanging in there. Come September, we’ll bring in a new crop of herbs.
Our five-year-old burro’s tail (Sedum morganianum) flows freely over the edge of this garden utility table Ryan built in 2010.
Euphorbia ingens. Someday it’ll bud.
We had record rainfall this summer in San Diego. This along with a strengthening El Niño event might bring temporary relief from the current drought.
Ryan trains the young jade vine up along the side of the outdoor theater arbor.
We’re training with thumbtacks and gardening wire until the jade vine starts forming its canopy above the arbor.
Can you spot the ‘Patio Tomato’ fruit? It’s first-ever tomato plant we’ve had success with in our garden. But that’s a story for another post.
We haven’t been able to keep up with our jalapeño crop, the essential ingredient in our spicy paloma cocktails.
Our friend Jackie checks out the elkhorn ferns under the citrus trees.
Elkhorn fern in the headlights.
Mounts by Ryan Benoit Design.
Up top in the hanging basket is a lipstick plant.
Here is a closer look at the lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus radicans) blooms.
The purple wings vine (Dalechampia dioscoreifolia) swirls up and around our prized Terra Trellis sculpture.
Our voodoo fuchsia exploded this summer in blooms. See more here.
Above the voodoo fuchsia, our ‘Thai Pink’ lipstick plant is beginning to make a second round of blooms this summer.
Pink lipstick plant (Aeschynanthus ‘Thai Pink’).
Post brunch, pre-beach garden hangs.
Hoya obovata: its sculptural leaves and three-foot-long horizontal vining stems are blowing our minds.
Our mighty feijoa tree (Acca sellowiana) is now producing fruit. This pineapple guava tree pumps out over twenty pounds of fruit a year. If you’ve ever seen a larger tree of this species, let us know — because this is the biggest we’ve seen!
We use pineapple guava to make jams, gin infusions, and dried chips… And they’re very good raw or thrown on a gorgonzola salad.
Here’s a preview of Ryan’s new acrylic windowsill planter.
Hoya carnosa ‘Krinkle 8.’
And check out the spurs are re-budding. Be careful never to prune off old spurs because flowers reuse them every year.
Our wax plants are not short on blooms. This Hoya carnosa had three blooms already this summer. Hoyas love bright shade or dappled sunlight.
Here is the trunk of that guava tree with our first vertical shade garden behind it (DIY here). This tree has always been a natural inspiration within the garden.
Fernleaf cactus (Selenicereus chrysocardium).
We measured this stem at 56 inches!
No blooms yet on the variegated Hindu rope wax plant…But we’re always fascinated by its colorfully twisted foliage.
It’s the end of growing season (May through August) for our flowering cacti, which include species of Epiphyllums and Selenicereus, among others.
During several heat waves, the fireside room provided a place to cool off. Most tropical cacti also prefer less hot afternoon sun.
Our pitaya plant is a vining tropical cactus. Here we are training it up and along our flowering cactus wall. Roots form along its leaves to grip against the wall.
The epiphyllum is fruiting.
The book you must read this fall: ‘Bright Lines,’ the debut novel of my dear friend and Hi Wildflower founder Tanwi Nandini Islam. (Here’s our Q&A with her.)
Weekday double date with Tim and Marisa.