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Garden Magic, Germinator Style

by germinatrix | April 22nd, 2009

climb the stairs - there's beauty waiting!climb the stairs – there’s beauty waiting!

Long ago, there was a garden club …The Germinators. We met at each other’s houses and had drinks ate and laughed and talked about our fabulous plants and ate and drank some more. And then we drank some more and talked about fabulous plants we wanted to buy. Two of the OG’s (Original Germinators) were Nick and Laura, and their garden was our prize, the jewel in our collective crown.

Well, they just had a little party and guess who was invited! Come with me and see the gorgeousness!

the garden grew a house!the garden grew a house!

It was (and is) a magical place, where plants grow bigger, flowers are more plentiful, butterflies and hummingbirds hold raves – and if there are faeries … this is their home base.

is it a mystical creature, or a clapping boy?is it a mystical creature, or a clapping boy?

The living room opens onto a clearing in the garden, and a few feet away is an arbor draped with Lady Banks roses; a perfect place for morning coffee, afternoon tea, or anything … anytime!

Lily's pretty pink playhouseLily’s pretty pink playhouse

Lily Isabel lives in this magical garden, too – and has the best playhouse I’ve ever seen. I can imagine how fun it would be to have a sleepover with all my friends here… lucky Lily!

we love talking plants; Laura holds court firstwe love talking plants; Laura holds court first

There is also an amphitheatre in this garden! Nick and Laura built it out of recycled concrete, and it truly looks like ancient ruins. You might think you would never really need an amphitheatre, but when you have one it really comes in handy. All the sudden, you might have a play you need to perform, or an urge to have impromtu music festival… let’s go to Laura’s! She has an amphitheatre!

gardens everywhere! even on the walls...gardens everywhere! even on the walls…

When you live in a place like this, plants and planting works it way into every aspect of your life. Both Nick and Laura are artists and also teach art here in LA. Nick’s drawings of bugs and plants are amazing, especially this one of an Amorphophallus. (And no, I didn’t prop that baguette there to add an extra phallic symbol to the mix. It was totally accidental. But I probably would have if I’d thought of it…)

oooh... aaaah... thorny tree... agaves... gulpoooh… aaaah… thorny tree… agaves… gulp

There are so many incredible moments in this garden, I can’t point to just one! I remember when this Ceiba was planted, and it became one of my favorite trees. The common name is Floss Silk Tree, and the green thorny trunk is its hallmark. If this isn’t a tree to be reckoned with, I don’t know what is. I love cool green-ness of this shot. The Otatea acuminata in the background lends a weepy softness that makes a perfect backdrop for the dramatic trunk of the Ceiba and the rubbery Agave attenuatas. Nasturtiums are ubiquitous here at Nick and Laura’s; they make for a happy, unpretentious underplanting to all the dramatic specimens.

mmmm... smells like peanut buttermmmm… melianthus smells like peanut butter

This garden is so big and so full of detail that it is impossible to encompass it in one post, so we’ll have to come back and re-visit – different things in bloom and different light makes for a different landscape. Gardens are mercurial by nature, but when one plants as freely as these two do – thinking more about love and the visceral experience of space than the mundane rules of ‘landscape design’, then plantings are given carte blanche to do what nature intended. They combine and create new relationships; the plants themselves become an active participant in the design process. We’ll be seeing more of this place in the future!

big plants, lots of dramabig plants, lots of drama

I’d like to give a big thanks to Nick, Laura, and Lily for inviting me and my blog to the lovely garden party, so we can all share in the wonder. There is still SO much more – but maybe we can return when the cardoons are blooming and then I can show you the chickens, the bunnies, the fountain … Oh MY!

a chicken gives me the stink eye...a chicken gives me the stink eye…

See you later, Germinators!

21 Responses to “Garden Magic, Germinator Style”

  1. Oh. My. God. What a truly amazing, fantastic garden. I want to live there. Do you think they’d notice if I moved into the playhouse? (And what a playhouse!) Lucky you to have such friends!

  2. germinatrix says:

    Hi Andrea! I know, right? They are really lovely … and ditto on moving into the playhouse! Knowing them, they would fold us into their lives and we’d all start a merry garden commune. Either that or they’d plant us…


  3. Am I crazy, or do I remember an article in a magazine about The Germinators several years back? I seem to remember a line like “Nick and Laura live plants.” What a beautiful space!

  4. germinatrix says:

    Yes, Megan you are right – The Germinators were in Garden Design way back in the late 90′s … I think it was 1998 (omigod, 11 years ago – time furiously flies) We were SOOOO proud! I mean, our little garden club in a big garden mag – wow. They featured a few of our gardens, and Nick and Laura’s was definitely the hot tamale of the bunch. Or should I say ‘top banana’ of the bunch, so as not to mix a metaphor …
    And these two really DO live plants, as you can plainly see. Theirs is a ‘garden lifestyle’ – they exemplify outdoor living, and not in a hokey way. It’s just natural for them to dine outdoors, to gather around an outdoor fireplace in the cool evenings; to really occupy these marvelous spaces they have so lovingly crafted. I’m so glad you enjoyed the post, and that you remembered us!
    You are NOT crazy!

  5. Wow. Beautiful, thank you for sharing your friends and their garden with us. I am going to have to look at my old Garden Design mag’s and see if they go back that far! I know pathetic huh? But I just can’t part with them! Sometimes when it’s the middle of winter and I am depressed grabbing a stack and reading thru them again is the perfect antidote.

  6. germinatrix says:

    It’s not pathetic, Loree – at least not to me. I just CAN’T part with old mags … I don’t know what it is. Jan has to force me to do a purge every once in a while by telling me that if I don’t stop hoarding magazines I will end up like Big Edie in Grey Gardens. What a thing to say! Of course I would be LITTLE Edie! I’m a MUCH better dancer than I am a singer!
    I find it really interesting to look at old issues and see how fashions in gardens are cyclical. But with all the folding in publications, I just hope there will be garden magazines left to collect!
    Hey, I just found an AMAZING agave beginning to bloom on my walk! Taking pictures as soon as my battery charges up – you’ll love it…

  7. Oh my gosh! I need to meet these people. Chickens, vegetables, a play house. And warm weather. This is a dream garden. Thanks you so much for sharing. I love, love, love it!

  8. Intheory says:

    Germi you have the most amazing friends they all have so much to offer! What a beautiful home, it looks unreal, like a fairytale! Thanks for sharing with us.

  9. I’m weeping with joy looking at this beautiful garden! OK, not really, but I am feeling joyful as I look at the pics again and again. It’s all gorgeous, but that photo with the Ceiba and the Mexican weeping bamboo and the Agave attenuata! Love it! I just saw my first Ceiba in person last weekend at Big Red Sun. Wow, what thorns on that trunk. It put me in mind of the medieval racks for torturing people.

  10. It’s such an artists pallet! I’d love to see how it all began.

    The amphitheater is the best. My kids would absolutely love it. As it is they stand on the deck benches and perform but a space that was intentionally made for such performances would be so much better. I feel rejuvenated in my attempt to create an exceptional yard. Thanks.

  11. germinatrix says:

    Willi, I knew you’d be into Nick and Laura’s garden! This place is SO up your alley … I told Laura about you and sent her your link so that she can know the wonder. You guys are going to start a mutual admiration society, I can feel it!

    Hey Theory! I must admit, I DO have some pretty incredible people in my life. Most of my friends are dead set on creating worlds of one kind or another, and I love that. This place IS a fairytale – it really has that energy when you step inside the gate. I’m so pleased you feel it, too!

    Pam, it’s okay to weep! Weep like an Otatea! Isn’t that image wonderful? I wish you could be in this garden, because your photos would REALLY capture the sense of wonder in it. Someday, yes? Oh and seeing your first Ceiba – that is a big moment… it was for me! Some of them have thorns growing on their thorns! Another one of the Original Germinators has two of them in her garden, and I have never seen a more frightening (yet somehow alluring) sight. We’ll visit her later in the summer.
    I can’t WAIT to visit Big Red Sun! I love them…

    CoCo! (yes, I guess I’ve settled on it!) This is a very mature garden; Nick started it when he bought the house about 20 years ago – he was just a whippersnapper. He put in many of the structural details and specimen succulents/cactus – and then when Laura came into his life, well, she brought the magic. And the AMPHITHEATRE! I was around to see it built, and it fit into the landscape like it was always there. Children LOVE it. If you have any extra room at all – go for it!
    Your last sentence gave me shivers, because that is my overarching mission here at The Germinatrix – to show my online friends that their ARE NO BORDERS, not really. We can make out outdoor spaces into our own visions of paradise – so I know your exceptional yard is right around the corner!

  12. Hi.
    That chicken WAS giving you the stink eye! without a doubt… If looks could kill, that bird would be a feathered Ted Bundy. We are toying with the idea of a few urban chickens ourselves for the patch, figure it will buy a little more time before we are pressured to getting another dog, (we used to have two springers). I grew up around chickens, and occasionally my parents!

    What a great place and garden! I really enjoyed your tour through it, look forward to more. The Floss Silk tree is amazing! I now wonder what it looks like above the trunk? A trunk, that I must say, looks very Jurassic Park! It reminds me of the stalk on a Hoja Santa plant, (on a much larger scale naturally).

    The playhouse makes me want to convert my shed into something kid friendly, oh wait, the dead rats from last year! What am I thinking! I shudder to think what would crawl over you sleeping in my Texas shed, situated near my brush pile and compost bins! Brrrr (feels the slightest of knee twitches).


  13. The Germinators article in Garden Design was also where I first discovered you. I think I still have the magazine, too. (I’m a total magpie, and the only difference between me and Little Edie is that I am missing a few raccoons. I had these rogue morning glories that had grown through some cracks in my plaster and my ancient wall heater. I thought it looked kind of cool, but I cut them anyway.) What happened to the Germinators club? Was this the garden with the outdoor tub?

  14. germinatrix says:

    ESP – you must KNOW this chicken. It was definitely a sociopath. The other chickens were innocently pecking around, but this one seemed to really have it in for me. I was nervous.
    I am thinking of chickens, too! I finally got Jan to agree, so I want to get a move on before he changes his mind. But I know nothing about them, and they intimidate me! You are a leg up on me, having been raised by chickens.

    I’m so glad this garden struck a chord, because I think it is a very special place. And there is so much more to see…

    I don’t know the Hoja Santa! I’m going to look it up – I’m sure it will become my new favorite plant (as if I need one!)

    And we all know the secret of every cool garden – there are always rats. Somewhere…

    Julesschroom!!! Old pal! I remember when you first started commenting on the Domino blog you said that you remembered me from Garden Design and the Germinators … we are all still around, but we only get together about once a year. Everybody is so busy, and I am the only one who didn’t have kids, so busy really isn’t the word. I don’t know how they do it, because most of them have kids, dogs, AND beautiful gardens. I feel like such a slacker in comparison!
    Yes, this is the garden with the outdoor tub! Maybe I can get a shot of the three of us in it next time I visit … FUN!!!

  15. Suasoria says:

    I have some of those plants around here…but I think I need an amphitheater!

  16. germinatrix says:

    Of COURSE you need an amphitheatre, Susa!

  17. I can see an amphitheater being just the thing.

  18. I’m telling you, ChuckB – you never know how much you needed one until you have one!
    Do you think one can be shoehorned into your 40 feet?

  19. Nick and Laura’s place is indeed magical. I took Laura’s class on the History of Gardens and was sooo fortunate to have visted so many of these gems in So Cal, including their own garden. Thank you for sharing these fantastic photos!

  20. Do you have a problem with chickens eating your flowers, or do you keep them in? Mine are totally free range, but come spring they munch on all the best flowers in the garden!

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