Blogs for July, 2014
checkout the archived city farm blog articles to learn about our takes on farm & city life
checkout the archived city farm blog articles to learn about our takes on farm & city life
As we say goodbye to a July filled with grey California mornings (challenging Angelenos to re-rhyme June Gloom to July ____ ?), we embrace the August heat that is due to descend upon Los Angeles. The long hot days make the city livable out-of-doors right around 9pm, exactly the right time to drink in night blooming jasmine.
A fellow transplant to Los Angeles once told me that a friend had worried about moving to L.A. from the east coast, having heard horror stories of a cement-laden city marred by traffic-clogged byways, air filled with smog that smelled of exhaust. She soon realized instead that, “L.A. smells like flowers!” Why wouldn’t you want to live in a place where hot summer nights are scented in jasmine?
Night blooming jasmine is Latin-ly known as Cestrum nocturnum, or by its common name, Raatraani, which translates from Hindi as “queen of the night.” A fact which, naturally, flashed me back to 1992 and Whitney Houston’s performance in The Bodyguard, and subsequently, me at 16 losing my emotional stability, SOBBING in the mall theater’s parking lot in my dad’s car, trying to get over the doomed love affair between Whitney and Kevin.
I clearly had questionable taste as a teen, but thankfully I’ve moved on, drinking in better movies and the real queen of the night, night-blooming jasmine, also known in Manipuri, a language spoken in parts of India, as “moon flower.” Now, walking on a warm night, a waft of sweet-scented jasmine makes me feel at home, and happy to have planted myself in a place that smells like flowers.
The queen of the night is an evergreen shrub that is rather unassuming for its name, its plain, glossy, green leaves balancing how it flaunts its perfumed flowers that only open at night. If you want to add the shrub to your garden or yard, it thrives in containers as well as in the ground, with sandy, well drained soil. Starting from seed could takes months of prep, so it’s best to buy a rooted stem cutting from your local nursery. Choose a spot with at least six hours of sunlight, but avoid placing your queen in excessive direct sun. Check out DesignGreenIndia’s blog post for more info on fertilizer and pruning. Originally from the West Indies and South America, Cestrum nocturnum grows best in hardiness zones 8 – 11.
SFGate notes that night-blooming jasmine also attracts moths and butterflies, so if you want to bring even more butterflies to your yard, to check out my previous post, Butterfly Ambassadors, and read up on how growing a bio-diverse garden can change the world.
(Photo Credit: Portland Nursery)
My friend and I had set out to hike a hidden staircase route around 6 that evening, in order to be bathed in golden hour light. We were greeted instead by a cloud cover that made the walk more San Francisco than L.A., which was perhaps a better fit for the hills and overgrown gardens of this section of Silverlake. Secret Stairs, our book guide, told us one street was so bucolic, you might find lawn chairs in front yards. Sure enough, the homeowners complied. Befitting Hollywood, in a neighborhood rumored to have housed Lily Tomlin, it seemed a bit staged, and we didn’t linger long.
We were so outdoorsy, gazing not at our phones but the printed map in the book, as views of downtown Los Angeles or the Hollywood sign surprised us at various twists and turns. A woman walking her dog stopped to recommend another set of stairs, and a man slowed to make sure we weren’t lost. Towards the end of the climb, we rounded a corner to stroll along a street filled with envy-inducing architecture, rambling Craftsman homes mixed with California bungalows, an old growth magnolia tree shading an open second-story window, its roots overpowering the yard. In the midst of a sculpture garden that looked straight from the sands of Burning Man, a succulent garden caught my eye – especially the Echeveria ‘Afterglow,’ its pink flowers blooming bright against its muted purple, waxy leaves.
I want. And thankfully, with my porch-steps-potted-garden, they thrive as potted plants, as well as in your garden in coarse, well-drained soil, that is allowed to dry out thoroughly between drinks. Most echeverias are generally best in Sunset zones 8, 9, 12-24 (USDA hardiness zones 8-11). Originally from Mexico and Central America, they won’t survive in a freeze. If you live in a cold climate, move them indoors to winter, then slowly, a few hours a day, reintroduce them to the sun come spring. Though they love full sun, Echeverias don’t like harsh afternoon summer sun, so choose a home for them that receives some shade later in the day.
I highly recommend the Hidden Stairs hiking guide, or if you’re not an Angeleno, simply getting lost in your city, to wend your way through streets you may have never noticed before. What plants have you discovered while out on a walk in your world? Talk to us on Twitter @TheCityFarm & @RebeccaSnavely.
This time last year, I was working on the movie Godzilla on the island of Oahu in Hawaii. I spent the whole summer on the island and had a magnificent time. In the past I had visited and worked in Hawaii many times, each time the wheels would turn in my head and I would ask my self how I could manage to live here. It never occurred to me that I could do my regular job here (training animals for movies and television) even though Hawaii does get its fair share of films.
Here I am, on the set of Godzilla.
The pigs were in a very small part, but unfortunately cut out of the movie.
Some work acquaintances (now, very good friends) who worked on Godzilla suggested I move here and start my own company. At first I kind of just chuckled to myself and walked away at that suggestion – but it kept nagging at me. I gave it a lot of thought and decided that I needed a bit of a change in my life, so I did it! A year later here I am living in Oahu.
I was very lucky to get another movie to work on right when I moved here, so that was a huge bonus. I continue to go back and forth to Los Angeles, I am still very involved with my pet line here at The City Farm. And I still love doing all their photography for the website. So its a win/win for me. I love it here, I feel like its my home and my dog was just shipped out so it feels especially like home now.
My local beach is a 7 minute walk and the best part is you are allowed to take dogs on the beach! I cannot tell you how amazing that is! Its just wonderful. I go nearly every morning and walk Jesse (I am taking care of him while his parents are out of town) and my dog Dennis Hopper. I feel very fortunate.
Not only am I still doing studio training here in Hawaii, I am also branching out to offer some local pet services, like dog sitting and also helping people get their pets here to the islands from the mainland. I will be writing a post about that shortly – it seems like a very daunting process, but with planning your dog never has to set foot in quarantine in order to live on a tropical island in the middle of the Pacific!!
“The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.” Tennessee Williams wrote in Camino Real. And in some tellings of the myth of Attis, the Phrygian god of vegetation, violets were thought to have grown from his suicidal blood-letting, driven mad after his nymph mistress was killed by his jealous lover Cybele, also, in some accounts, thought to be Attis’ mother.
How did a flower with such a storied past become the representative of the reticent and shy? The origin of the phrase “shrinking violet” is debatable – while Merriam Webster claims it was first used in 1915, there are citations to its use as a figure of speech to describe a shy or introverted person from 1870, as found in the Pennsylvania newspaper The Titusville Herald. The Phrase Finder describes its use in a “rather sarcastic article is about the New York businessman William Tweed, who was widely believed to have stolen large amounts of public money: ‘…deputations of the tax payers of New York waiting upon Mr. Tweed with the title-deeds of their mansions and the shrinking violet Tweed begging them to pardon his rosy blushes. Can it be that he is a humbug?’”
(Can we talk about the origin of “humbug” next?)
If you plan to grow violets in your garden, find a lightly shaded spot, with moist soil, and deadhead often to keep the flowers blooming as long as possible. Plant in the spring, as they thrive in cooler weather, and again in the fall.
Violets add gorgeous color to your garden or windowsill, and can be used as a garnish or to add flavor to certain foods. I just learned that “the flowers and leaves of the cultivar ‘Rebecca,’ one of the Violetta violets, have a distinct vanilla flavor with hints of wintergreen.” Have you ever used sweet violets in your kitchen in cakes or to make jam? Ever tried to make violet extract with vodka? If you’re ready to play with your pansies, take a look at the recipes for for candied violets, simple violet syrup, and violet martinis on What’s Cooking in Your World. Share your stories and recipes over on Twitter: @RebeccaSnavely & @TheCityFarm!
(Photo Credit: What’s Cooking in Your World)
The Budweiser commercial “Puppy Love” was just nominated for an Emmy! So proud to have been the puppy trainer on this spot. Fingers crossed to director Jake Scott, production company RSA and ad agency Anomaly – it HAS to win!!
When you ask me about sweet peas, I’ll tell you two stories. (You may be wondering, ‘Why would I ask Rebecca about sweet peas?’ Just go with it.)
I discovered sweet peas through my lovely friend Tricia, a woman at my childhood church in Oregon who lived with her husband, two kids, and her “girls,” chickens that roamed about and roosted in a coop at their house just outside Oregon City. Tricia would bring us eggs from the girls, a feather tucked inside each carton that identified them as farm-fresh. She grew food and flowers in their yard, and when I house-sat one summer, I received my first lesson in caring for the climbing, delicate sweet peas growing along her fence. I love flowers that grow best when picked often — bringing in the beautiful blooms to add color to your house also allows the annual to put its energy into new blooms. They’re a gorgeous addition to an outdoor table setting: check out a few suggestions on how to make the most of your summer outdoor space over at the Enjoy Blog!
I fell in love with sweet peas, and the stories they’ve told me: memories of Tricia and her abundance of love and care, seen in her family, friendships, and garden, and of Jonathan, one of my closest friends, whose green thumb changes whatever corner of L.A. he lives in into a greenhouse. One spring morning he dropped off a bunch of sweet peas at my apartment, the bright riot of reds, purples, yellows and stark whites off-set in a dark blue tea pot. Car-free, I walked through the streets of West Hollywood on my way to work, balancing a laptop bag on one shoulder and spilling water from my teapot o’ flowers, proudly flying my floral freak flag.
If you want to plant sweet peas for your summer and you don’t have a fence or trellis to train them up on, Jonathan suggests a tomato cage, which you can buy in a variety of sizes to suit your space. When your seeds sprout into tendrils, use ribbon or twist ties to train as many as possible to grow up the inside of the cage, so that they will spill out as they flourish. They just need a little guidance, and overnight the tendrils will latch on, even to each other. Some plants grow 6 or 8 feet tall.
Though it’s an annual plant, sweet peas keep on giving for years to come. That’s what is especially great about the flower, says Jonathan. While cutting them makes gorgeous, fragrant bouquets, if you leave some of the blooms on the vine, they will turn into green pea pods. Once the pods are brown, snap them off, save them in a brown paper bag, and next spring, open the pods to find between 2 to 8 seeds to replant.
Mark your calendar to plant your sweet pea seeds in the spring! Originating in Sicily, they love full sun and well-drained soil. Check out The Old Farmer’s Almanac for more tips on growing, and Austin Wildflower’s post on the romantic history of the flower, and how to grow winter-flowering sweet peas, if your climate is right.
(Photo Credit: Sunset.com)
I owe a post explaining how I ended up here – but the above photo is a sampling of what July 4th looks like in Waikiki, Oahu.
Oh yes, that IS a pig! He is quite famous here in Oahu. His name is Kama The Surfing Pig. You can follow him on Instagram at: http://instagram.com/kamathesurfingpig
You can also follow me on Insatgram at: http://instagram.com/tailsticks
And The City Farm: http://instagram.com/thecityfarm
I am a lemon addict.
I am out of lemons.
This lemon-less dilemma would not feel quite so tragic were I not home-bound the past few days with a summer cold, an energy-sucking nuisance that I have been treating with my best friend, the lemon. Squeezed into a cup of tea with two heaping spoonfuls of The City Farm’s Avocado Honey, or simply prepared, on its own, with steamy water from the kettle, a tisane I started making part of my morning routine after reading about its many health and detoxing benefits. And that skinny people do it. I’m not above vanity rituals, especially ones that offer to balance my pH levels, aid digestion, and seem so easy.
So easy, until you’re housebound without a lemon in sight. Car-free, there is no quick drive down to the store for me, there are running shoes and sweat is involved, which sounds exhausting to my cold-addled mind. I *could* order delivery from my local, spendy shop with their cute, city-sized vans and adorable wanna-be actors making a living bringing lemons to shut-ins. But that seems extravagant. Instead, I’ve decided it’s time to grow my own lemons. I live in Southern California, after all. The fact that I DON’T have a lemon tree is probably grounds to revoke my citizenship.
I’ll have to grow a container tree, as I don’t have any green space, but if you do, and want to add a lemon tree to your yard, according to SFGate, the hardy citrus tree is among the easiest to care for, demanding little attention, as long as you live in zones 8b – 11.
For those who don’t live in a lemon-growing green space, or want to plant in a pot to save space, Canadian gardener and author of Growing Wild C.E.E.D.S. has tips to start one from seed, eventually producing citrus that can survive and thrive indoors with the northern light of a place like her home of Toronto. It may take three to six years to produce fruit, so, if you’re like me and need a lemon fix from your front stoop, stat, pickup one that has already been started at your local nursery.
The National Gardening Association suggests you choose a smaller fruit, Meyer lemons are a favorite both for space, and for their level of acidity that grows well indoors. When looking for a lemon variety for your limited space, consider choosing one that is grafted to Flying Dragon (Hiryu) rootstock, as it “will be significantly dwarfed, thereby extending its useful life in a container.”
Do you already grow your own lemons? Have you had any trouble growing them inside, or from seed? Share your story in the comments, or tell us @TheCityFarm and @RebeccaSnavely.