April Fish

The origin of April Fool’s Day is mysterious. My favourite version is that until the 18th century the New Year was celebrated in some places on March 25th (the feast of the Annunciation), with a week-long party ending on April 1st. When the church changed the official date to January 1st in 1654, people began to make fun of the “fools” who stuck to the old ways. Whatever the reason, jokes have been played across Europe on April 1st since at least the 17th century.

In France and Italy the tradition is to try to stick a fish (usually made of paper) on a person’s back without them noticing and I think this is much nicer than some of the more slapstick pranks played elsewhere.

One of my favourite craft blogs had this



{click on the image for its link}

a few years back and it inspired me to look for other craft-y fish. Why not let these inspire you to try some gentler and more creative April Fool’s this year?




 {click on the image for its link}

 My version of April Fish? We’re going to have sushi for dinner…

Friday I’m in Love: Mystery Fruit

A true mystery this week…I picked up these


in the car park of Descanso Gardens this week, some of the few not destroyed by being run over by cars. Clearly some kind of seed pod, and from a tree since that’s all that grow in the car park, but I couldn’t identify which tree they’d fallen from. They are cuboid, approximately 1.3cm or 1/2 inch per side, and the longest one is almost 40cm or 16 inches long. Very hard, and they rattle when shaken so obviously full of seeds! Does anyone have any idea what they are?

Friday I’m in Love: Bluebells

Bluebells are one of my top ten favourite flowers. There is nothing more evocative of an English spring than a woodland carpeted with these fragile beauties.


When we first moved here I planted several hundred bulbs under the liquidambar trees and azaleas as a taste of home. Despite suffering a trampling when we redid the irrigation earlier this year they are beginning to put on a show…


…my own little patch of England!

Terrace Garden

When we bought our house, one of the main attractions was the view. It’s beautiful, day or night.


But the main garden – a terrace that wraps the house to the south and west – was uninspiring. Serviceable, but fractured and a bit boring.


And in remodelling the new kitchen and porch, much of it got trashed.


So once the main building work had quietened down we started landscaping. We wanted a space for entertaining which was water-conscious and wildlife-friendly, in a Mediterranean style to match the house. Pinterest was a great source of inspiration!


The old spa bit the dust when we extended the porch so we began by getting rid of the old pink concrete.



Luckily a friend of Contractor John needed exactly that to build a wall, so it went to a good home! Then we marked out the beds, put in a drip system for irrigation, and edged them with salvaged roof tiles, an idea I’d seen at the Old Mill in Pasadena.


The main part of the terrace is a boules piste (bocce ball court to Americans).


John had never made one before but I found instructions here. Since we didn’t have oyster shells we used the tiny loose stones from erosion control bags. I can see it getting a lot of use once we start entertaining properly this summer!

The planting is a mixture of drought-tolerant aloes, euphorbias and succulents, California natives and Mediterranean plants. They’ve been in about six weeks now and are filling out nicely.



The seating area is positioned for the best views. It’s high desert flag, a greeny-grey stone already in use elsewhere in the garden, interspersed with gravel. I’ve planted Corsican mint in some of the gaps, which gives off a wonderful smell when stepped on. The seat can accommodate eight when separated, or pushed together becomes a massive lounger for when we feel like lying around.


Beyond that, at the back of the house, is the spot of the – future – pool or spa. Currently overflow storage for garden equipment and building detritus!


And at the other end of the piste is my kitchen garden.


Have you designed a garden for yourself? What are your inspirations?

Friday I’m in Love: Pussy Willow

“Pussy willow is a name given to many of the smaller species of the genus Salix (willows and sallows) when their furry catkins are young in early spring. Before the male catkins of these species come into full flower they are covered in fine, grayish fur, leading to a fancied likeness to tiny cats…” Wikipedia

Pussy willow is the perfect floral decoration for early spring. The leafless stems hark back to winter while the little furry buds remind me of baby rabbits or lamb’s tails. Growing up in the country we’d cut stalk from the hedgerows each spring to take home. As an adult I’d buy the cut flower version to remind myself that there are still seasons in the city. I haven’t seen them here before, though – until now.


And suddenly I’m a child again…

Signs of Spring

After the first major rainfall of the year I’m hoping the seasons will return to a bit more like normal. It has been an unusually warm winter and many things in the garden are more advanced than I expected.

Orange blossom.


Leaf shoots on the apple, aprium, grape and kiwi.


Mulberry catkins.


My first figs.


And the first shoots on the globe artichokes.IMG_3819

Friday I’m in Love: Mystery Plant

About this time of year the most delicious scent perfumes our whole street…somewhere between jasmine and orange blossom. My neighbours ask me every time what it is, as it seems to emanate from our garden. And every year I am stumped. It’s not from the camellias or azaleas, and there was apparently nothing else in flower in enough profusion to produce that much fragrance. I even wondered if the smell was coming from our eucalyptus trees or from the live oak next door.

It turns out that it’s neither, but an internet search of what live oak blossoms smell like produced this hint:

“Ray Charles Live Oak: A garden to smell and touch…These tiny blossoms emit such a fragrant scent that it can easily be smelled dozens of feet away…”

which sounded like what I was looking for so I followed the link and was led to the fragrant olive or osmanthus fragrans. There is no picture on the Facebook page so I did a bit more googling…et voila! It’s easy to see how I missed it as the flowers are pretty insignificant:


but the plant itself is very handsome


and the seeds are pretty too.


Definitely a keeper!

February at Descanso

Technical issues and too much to do were my enemies this month but I managed to carve out some time for my favourite botanical gardens. The camellias are still going strong,


although are being carried off…


And I spotted this little beauty I’ve not seen before:


Unfortunately not labelled. Can anyone identify it?

The lilacs already got a page all to themselves…


And I love that the gardeners allow the leaves to stay on the ground so that nature can do its thing!