The veggie garden is ankle- to calf-deep in miner’s lettuce this time of year. It began with a single generous packet of seed a few years ago, and now it comes back reliably–if by “reliably” you mean “with a vengeance.”
It’s spread onto walkways, in cracks of concrete next to the house, even in the scrappy little patch of green that’s left of the much larger lawn. But hey, it’s a California native. It’s edible. It’s pretty.
It has perfoliate leaves–leaves that when mature can completely encircle the stem, making it appear as if the stem pierced the leaf. And it pulls up easily enough from where you don’t want it. Definitely easy to like.
If you don’t want it to re-seed, just pull (and eat) the greens by the time they begin to flower. But if you want to encourage the plant’s spread, let a few of the plants bloom, set seed, dry and then crumble the dried plants wherever you want plants next year. It’s not a super-meticulous method of propagation, but it works as long as you don’t cultivate the soil too intensely.
Calflora shows Claytonia perfoliata to inhabit many coastal valley to foothill locations statewide. And there’s a herbarium sample that was collected just down the block from me. It can get by with no added water, but will give you a nice kitchen crop when kept just-moist. Sun exposure: full sun to dappled shade. It’s pretty adaptable and just about the easiest thing to grow.
Edit, March 15, 2023: In the 5 years since I wrote this appreciation the colonial name of “miner’s lettuce” is being retired for the less colonial name of “indian lettuce,” or, probably better, “rooreh,” its name in the language of the Ohlone people, one of the peoples to have used (and to currently use) this plant. “Rooreh” is now the common name you’ll find listed in many sites, including the Jepson e-flora.
Are gardeners terrorists? You’d think so looking at the sign posted outside the San Diego County Fair.
This gardener took advantage of the “Furlough Friday” deal for state employees (free admission!) and checked out the offerings of the fair for the first time in half a decade. I guess the rationale of free admission was to get more people in the gate to partake of the rides and stunt food–you know, the bizarre offerings that often involve impaling something on a stick, sticking it in batter, and then deep-frying it. I searched all over for the worst of the worst stunt food but the best (worst?) I could find was a stand offering “fried Twinkie lattes”–really nothing more weird than a vanilla latte–and this trailer selling chocolate covered bacon. Neither dish really seemed to be deep fried, so I guess they’re getting with the health-conscious kick…
My main destination was the outdoor garden displays, where the main point of each display seemed to be either attracting new customers to the landscape firms there or–in the case of the non-profit institutions and garden clubs–education. The fair’s never been about landscape design as a high art, but there’s always interesting stuff there.
If there was theme to the displays this year, “edibles” seemed to be the word, keeping up the health-conscious theme of the not-deep-fried chocolate-covered bacon. This display by the San Diego Botanic Garden in Cooperation with the San Diego Water Authority won the prize for the best edible landscape. The display also won an award for the exhibit that arranged plants in a way that demonstrated “good taste.”
It featured food crops and ornamentals of all sorts as long as they fit into the purple-pink-green-silver palette, and demonstrated that a garden with veggies could be as pulled together as any other garden. In its combination of cool-weather crops (such as purple cabbage) with warm-weather ones (like basil and squash) it was also a reminder that this is a garden show than a real-world garden.
Here are a few more photos of displays that played with the edibles theme:
I kept my eye out for uses of native plants, but there were almost none. Part of that is probably because the majority of the charismatic flowering natives do their thing at the end of winter or during spring. The one main exception was a small display by native plant specialist Tree of Life Nursery.
Inside, in the adjacent exhibits building, there was a flower show going on, with roses and dahlias and gladiolus and lots of cubbies with flower arrangements. And that’s where I saw a few more natives, where they had a category for cut native flowers. So there was more monkeyflower here, along with one of the bush poppies (Dendromecon) and some matilija poppies.
Really, who doesn’t love these matilijas? The last photo is of one of them. Next post I’ll share some other sightings.
From my desk at work it’s less than a fifteen minute stroll to this viewpoint, which has got to be one of the most famous places to stand in all of modern architecture.
The view is of the central plaza of the Salk Institute of Biological Studies, which architect Louis Kahn designed for his client, polio vaccine pioneer Jonas Salk. The plaza features this simple water feature that pulls your eye towards the water, 400 feet below, and to the horizon and the sky. The materials of the plaza are reduced down to water, travertine marble and the angled concrete walls of the research buildings.
“I would not put a tree or blade of grass in this space. This should be a plaza of stone, not a garden.” I [Kahn] looked at Dr. Salk and he at me and we both felt this was deeply right. Feeling our approval, he added joyously, “If you make this a plaza, you will gain a facade–a facade to the sky.”
As much as I love plants, I have to agree that this was the right decision. There’s an unphotographably joyous experience of pure space that settles into your mind as you stand or sit to contemplate the view.
If you can pull your eyes off the horizon–not an easy thing to do–you start to notice, however, that plants do figure in the plaza’s final realization. Immediately to the east are some steps, and planting beds on either side of the steps. As with a lot of modern planting design, the planters feature one kind of plant and one kind only. Considering the planting design was executed many years ago, probably in the late 1960s or early 1970s, long before the current focus on edible landscaping, it’s surprising that the plant of choice was orange trees, at least four dozen of them. (Maybe it has something to do with the environmental ethic that was developing while the Salk was being designed, an ethic that we’re finally rediscovering today.)
Below is a 360-degree panorama from the top of the steps. Just imagine walking west towards the horizon, at dusk, on a calm evening, as the orange trees begin to flower and scent the air.