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Friday, August 18, 2017

Weekly Post: My Life in the Garden of Eden by Robert Glenn Ketchum

My Life in the Garden of Eden
by Robert Glenn Ketchum

As part of paying the bills in my professional career, I photographed a number of significant gardens. I helped create several pretty amazing ones as well. Some of these pictures have been published in various books, but most have never been seen. In this blog, I will show you all my best garden images AND discuss garden design.









Friday, August 18, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #59:
Garden, #59: To thoroughly rebuff the attack of dune grass in my garden redesign, it is tenacious and I need to get rid of the central root. After cutting off all water (it is summer, so it is not presently raining), and applying an organic, systemic herbicide, the sun has finally fried the grass to its core, so now, I am digging 6”-8” down into the sand dune, extracting the weed root core, AND replacing the dune/sand with AN EVEN DEEPER LAYER OF CHIP. (With REALLY persistent grass/weed problems, you can also put plastic down before the chip, but I do not like to use plastics in my garden.) Doing all of this is where gardening becomes the workout to which I was referring. I do NOT have a team of gardeners and landscape designers doing this for me. As a consequence, and given my elder years, the progress is slow, but steady. Most importantly, it is a daily engagement that, like having pets: greets you every morning; takes a good bit work and exercise everyday; makes you happy by giving you something of beauty to care for and appreciate; rewards you by having contact with living things while contributing to the diversity and well being of the universe; and the exchange of all of this makes both parties healthier. As I have said before, watering your garden is a form of prayer. An exercise that actually gives life.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Friday, August 11, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #58:
Garden, #58:  If you laugh when you read that I “work-out” by gardening, try this. Where have all the flowers gone ? To the left, one of my watering islands in full bloom this spring. To the right, the same island presently. If you follow this blog, you will know that this garden I am building was formerly a lawn. Last fall I deep-chipped the lawn and cut off all water. The lawn died, BUT the rains came. Manhattan Beach is formerly an aggregation of sand dunes, and I live at the foot of one of the tallest. Before the beach had homes, the dunes had dune grasses. This year’s spring rains brought up those dune grasses, regardless of the mulch/chip layers. With the water still cut off, and no rains feeding further growth, I have let these grasses die back. Now the work begins, Or should I say, the work-out.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Friday, August 4, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #57:
Garden, #57:  After the peak of the bloom, some of the Hippeastrum lilies that I used to stabilize my hillside garden path system in West Los Angeles, would still send up random flowers during the following weeks and months of summer. The lilies were mostly a dense clusters of broad, dark green leaves by mid-summer, that was more like a hedge wall, and it served as a perfect foil to radiant cactus and aloes blooms of the hotter season. Every once in awhile, however, some bulb clusters would just send up a “late season" shoot, and I ALWAYS WELOME MORE COLOR to my gardens, so the occasional lily joining the view, only added to the over-the-top nature of my plantings.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Friday, July 28, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #56:
Garden, #56:  On the southern end of my former Bel Air property, the hillside became much steeper. Here, my wife also planted an extensive herb garden. For maintenance and accessibility, on these slopes we needed some steps. An artist friend from college, D.A. McIver, suggested he could create a mold for me, and pour concrete steps that could then be interlinked. He also felt he could decorate the surface of each step with impressions of different palm fronds, which unfortunately you cannot see the details of here. You can see, however, that the steps were trapezoidal, with the “tip" of each sporting a “peg.” The overlain bottom of the next step up had a depression into which the peg fit, thus keeping the steps from shifting apart. Very simple, and worked great! Nonetheless the steps were inclined to slide downslope as well, so once again, I used the huge bulbs of the Hippeastrum lilies, planted on the downslope side of the stone steps to stabilize them, just as I had done with the cross-hillside chip trail system that terminated at this point (posts #52-55).
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Friday, July 21, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #55:
Garden, #55:  Using the Hippeastrum lilies to create a “natural” retaining wall for the paths on hillside of my former home in west Los Angeles was a stroke of unintentional genius (AND it saved a LOT of money). The huge bulbs of the lilies completely eliminated the incentive of the chip path to slip downhill, and as the new leaves / new bulbs grew, the “wall” became ever more dense. Deep layers of chip stayed in place, killing off weeds and the remaining invasive plants that might have grown through, and as the chip deteriorated organically, it created soil conditions in which the lilies thrived. Even with limited watering, the lilies seemed to survive the VERY hot summers on west-facing slopes with virtually no shade, and in the winter, when viewed from the house, they were so lush, green, and uniform in height they had the appearance of a hedge. Along about Easter, however, the lily “hedge” was an entirely different show. Not your average retaining wall !!! AND they make great cut flowers in the house (as you see, we had enough to use in that way - LOL).
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Friday, July 14, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #54:
Garden, #54:  Using the Hippeastrum lilies lilies to create a “natural” retaining wall for the paths on hillside of my former home in west Los Angeles was a stroke of unintentional genius (AND it saved a LOT of money). The huge bulbs of the lilies completely eliminated the incentive of the chip path to slip downhill, and as the new leave/newbulbs grew, the “wall” became ever more dense. Deep layers of chip stayed in place, killing off weeds and the remaining invasives that might have grown through, and as the chip deteriorated organically, it created soil conditions in which the lilies thrived. Even with limited watering, the lilies seemed to survive the VERY hot summers on west-facing slopes with virtually no shade, and in the winter, when viewed from the house, they were so lush, green, and uniform in height they had the appearance of a hedge. Along about Easter, however, the lily “hedge” was an entirely different show. Not your average retaining wall !!! AND they make great cut flowers in the house (as you see, we had enough to use in that way - LOL).
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Friday, July 7, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #53:
Garden, #53:  The hillside of my family home on Stone Canyon Road in west Los Angeles was built in three tiers that supported vague paths connecting a large number of citrus trees. The “paths” were only there because someone occasionally went and picked fruit off the trees, other than that most of the hill was covered with invasive ivy, honeysuckle, or lantana - all needing water, and not especially fire resistant. The rising berms separating the rows of planted citrus trees, each rolled upward 10-15ft, so as I began to replace the invasives with more drought tolerant and fire-resistant, cactus, aloe, and a WIDE variety of succulents, I did so in increments, stripping the span of one berm, than another, to the ground and replanting. You can see the first wave of that in the middle of this picture. To get this far, I needed “real” pathways to work from and I began building them through weeding and the use of DEEP chip. Over time, however, what would start as level paths, would eventually end up shedding chip downhill and starting to slope that way as well. I had contractors offer to build me retainment walls, the costs of which were in excess of $100,000 to complete all three tiers entirely across the property. AND THEN, digging up the Hippeastrum lilies my mother had randomly planted in the rose garden, I realized they had MASSIVE bulbs - like the size of a softball, but then one bulb fosters others, so they cluster. Over many years of her NOT throwing these out after they bloomed, but putting them in the yard, we now had them coming out of our ears, so I tried an experiment with them. I dug them all up, separated clusters that were too large and I replanted them to line the downhill side of the paths I was trying to create. You can see the dark green leaves of the lilies to the left and right sides of this image. Those will remain green all year long, and become ever more dense as the lilies divide.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Friday, June 30, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #52:
Garden, #52:  In posts #32-35, I spend time discussing various paths and how their design adds to the enjoyment of the garden. As you can see in those posts, all from Lotusland, every one of those pathways is distinguished with a decorative border, sometimes just arranged stones, or in other instances, “rocks” of colored glass slag. These borders are used to separate differing “textures” in the garden, but the border to a path can also be used in another VERY interesting way, where it becomes structural, as well as part of the decorative design. I may have invented this idea in my previous garden in Bel Air, as I have never seen this used elsewhere, but boy, does it work well. In my case, it all began when I was much younger and hardly interested in the garden. Often my mother would be given Hippeastrum lilies on Mother’s Day or Easter. (NB: These are often commercially labeled incorrectly as Amaryllis) These lilies are a colorful flowering plant that springs from a large bulb with broad, flat, dark-green leaves, and they have been cultivated as HOUSE plants. After the flowering was over, however, my mother did not like to have “just leaves in a pot” around the house (year after year, and often several in any given year), so she took them out to the rose garden and planted them randomly there. The picture before you is the hillside I reconfigured at my Bel Air home. As I have said previously in this post, part of what I did was to get rid of invasive ivy and honeysuckle, while making the garden more drought tolerant and fireproof. Most of what you are looking at are cacti, aloe, and succulent, except rather notably, the blooming, striped flowers in the upper-left. Those are Hippeastrum lilies.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Friday, June 23, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #51:
Garden, #51:   Because of the drought in California over the last 7yrs., water restrictions have been quite significant. As previously noted in this blog, going back to my garden in Bel Air, the gardens I have designed are fire-resistant, drought tolerant, and as minimally water consumptive as I can make them. When I began designing my new garden at the beach, I incorporated those concepts, AND I was also maturing my thoughts about how important the natural world and the garden are to our lives and those of our children. I am only “allowed” to water on two days of the week for a total of 10mins, and so that is the water diet upon which this garden has been grown. Today was a watering day, and I was doing my rounds, when I realized in this garden design I made another conscious decision intended to FORCE ME into the garden in order to keep it alive and thriving. Although my garden “islands,” and my shady corners under trees have automatic watering systems, I left numerous hanging pots and some large borders out of the watering cycle, LITERALLY so I WOULD have to hand water them. They will NOT survive if I forget or fail to do it, AND when I am watering, it is a meditation that clearly is about connecting with other things that depend on me, and bringing them the thing they need to thrive. Does this look like it is working? I water to honor and support the creation of EDEN, and my garden(s) are just a tiny part of that. I “water” in other ways as well, to help keep our habitat sustainable.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Friday, June 16, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #50:
Garden, #50:   If you look out your windows and see the walls of other buildings instead of this, your withdrawal from contact with the natural world is well underway. I realize not everyone can have a garden or a yard, but even caring for potted plants helps to sustain what I believe is a necessary connection THAT WE MUST MAINTAIN if we expect to continue to exist! When we do not remain connected, the symbiotic understanding we have of the planet withers away. Our mind builds worlds of its own, and slowly loses respect/forgets to respect our habitat that, eventually, it arrogantly believes it can control. I have gone to great lengths to see that my children have experienced, not just nature, but wilderness, numerous times throughout their lives. Still, they are hard to pry away from their screens, and they show little interest in the garden. I feel they will grow their awareness as they get older, but the disassociation worries me, and other children of their generation have never had any kind of exposure. I wonder if our current President ever went camping? Or, is being on a golf course as close an encounter with nature as he has ever had? It does not surprise me that as a child of my generation, surrounded as he is by walls and towers, buy now he has lost any connection he may have once had as to why the natural world matters. That will prove to be unfortunate for all of us. Teach Your Children Well - get them digging in the garden and fondling plants.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Friday, June 9, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #49:
Garden, #49:   I write this garden blog, in part, because I am concerned that MOST people are losing interest in having gardens and doing the work required to make them vibrant. As we build our homes larger and make our yards/gardens smaller, we are losing our contact with the planet and the other beings that inhabit it. As was suggested in the book, “Last Child in the Woods,”, NOT having consistent exposure to the natural world creates a condition called Nature-Deficit-Disorder THAT IS NOT GOOD FOR US. While it would be best to, literally, go walk in the wild woods, admittedly, not everyone can, or wants, to find the time to do that. However, a garden offers a variation on walking in the woods, one in which you can get dirty, wet, and actually touch and fondle other living things that are happy to have you engage with them. My garden provides me with purposeful work nurturing biodiversity, contact with the REAL world (definite relief from news television), a host a plants and animals that welcome and engage my presence, and at the end of the day, beauty to behold. It does not have to be an epic garden, either. This is the balcony of my bedroom. My “sun” chair is in the shadows of the background. I have some 35 different plants in various colorful pots decorating the balcony rail and some modest tiered stands. On a beautiful day, this is my “happy” place, and when I am am sitting here the hummingbirds visit and tweedle at me.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Friday, June 2, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #48:
Garden, #48:  Previously I mentioned that epiphytes seem to bloom in a sequence with new flowers opening as old ones are closing and beginning to droop. Every once in a while, however, one plant or another explodes with a profusion of simultaneous blossoms. This one is near my garden door, and one of my favorites because of its salmon-pink color. For whatever reason this year - perhaps the immense amount of rain we have had - this one has decided blow up and put on this brief, but beautiful show. Interestingly, for all their delicate elegance, these flowers are quite ruthless. On any long leaf there might be numerous buds as the flowers are forming, sometimes as many as ten. Once one or two of those bloom, though, the others buds die, dry up, and drop off. It would seem the plant sacrifices these undeveloped flowers to assure the open ones have all their needs met.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Friday, May 26, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #47:
Garden, #47:  Again, another moment of fleeting sunlight in my new garden. As you have seen, I have a lot of epiphytes in hanging baskets draped from tree branches and porch eaves. The one in this picture is a mixed pot. One of the two planted here has a small-blade leaf and puts out the tiny pink flowers. The other has a VERY broad leaf blade and puts out BIG flowers. Those “delicate” pink blooms are as large as my open hand, and some of my white “Queen of the Night” are twice that size. Unfortunately, these blooms are also fleeting. They usually open late in the day because they pollinate at night and in the early morning hours with moths and bees. At first opening they are dazzling, and their petals spread to their fullest expanse. By midday of the first day, however, you can begin to see the petals wilt a bit. The flower may last another two days, but in obvious decline. There are usually numerous other flowers, so the bloom on any one plant may last a week or more. This plant is easily hybridized so it has 100’s of varieties and colors, and it takes a real minimum amount of care and water. It is just not freeze-friendly. When it is not blooming, the large blade versions twist around in the breeze in their baskets like fantastic organic sculptures. I have one (Virginia) that is 25-yrs. old, and has a span across the broadest arms of more than 6ft!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Friday, May 19, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #46:
Garden, #46:  Regardless of the unusual “objects” we may put in our gardens to adorn them, for me the individual plants are “the show.” Admittedly, it is a passing show, extremely fleeting because it is as much about the light as it is about the plants, but if you spend time in your garden, there are a LOT of those moments. Working in my garden is part of my exercise regimen. I have always hated gyms and since I am not as active in the field as I once was, I spend a good deal of time gardening. (Trying to weed out the dune grass is as physical a job as you may ever want - LOL) I also keep my iPhone in my pocket while I am working. Because I truly AM out in the garden every day, I am visited by a variety of birdlife that recognizes me, and several hummingbirds that “follow” me to observe what I am doing at VERY close range. For that reason, regardless of my task at hand, I am always looking around, and when something “goes off,” I jump up and take yet-another picture. A friend of mine, photographer Jim Brandenburg did a feature for National Geographic magazine, in which he attempted to make one significant picture every day for one year in the proximity of his general property. Perhaps I should explore that idea. This IS my “Buddha” garden, but this is “the show” that both Buddha and I are watching.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Friday, May 12, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #45:
Garden, #45:  Most “objects” that find their way into a garden are relatively small, like broken pots, glass slag boulders, colored vases, or small statues of frogs and buddhas, etc. Buried bicycles, and abandoned basket ball standards (post #43) are NOT the norm. However, in large gardens, well placed, large objects can have a near mystical presence, and this is one of my favorite “accidental” discoveries from the gardens at Lotusland. I did not know this was in the larger garden area, as I spent most of this day during my photography of the estate in the cactus gardens and down by the aloe-surrounded, clam-shell-waterfall swimming pool. As the waning sun left my location, I followed it through the rambling paths and found myself entering the “Japanese” garden. I walked around the pond to approach a spot of last light in the red maples (background), when I unexpectedly encountered this. It is quite large and assertive, and the longer I stood there taking it in, the more it seemed to gain in resonance with the surrounding space. I have seldom seen anything so complimentary to its location, even garden sculptures commissioned for a specific site.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Friday, May 5, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #44:
Garden, #44:  In my last post you saw a basketball standard that was left in my new home/garden by the former owners, and rather than removing it, I incorporated it into the garden remodel. Perhaps I should say that I “built” some of the garden around standard, it is not as though I actually placed it there intentionally. It would seem to me that there are two kinds of garden “objects:” ones that are placed in the garden to enhance a particular setting; or, objects that the garden is literally built around. Besides my example, here is another from a garden in Florida. Clearly the carved stone dragon-balls are objects in this garden, but the owners/designers have then constructed this entire garden to compliment the balls and emphasize their placement. I am going the other way with my design. I am trying to hide the basketball standard, but either purpose, the result is the same, our gardens more interesting because we have added these unusual details.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Friday, April 28, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #43:
Garden, #43:  OK! Now I am just showing off. This is my garden and I took this picture this morning. The point of this, however, is to bring up the idea of unusual objects incorporated into the garden. History has seen many garden “gnomes” and various brightly colored frogs or turtles decorating garden niches. The new garden I am designing incorporates broken pots, and recently I saw someone has been partially burying old bicycles and using them as planters. This image, though, may be one of the more unusual items. When I bought this house from a family with 3 children, the backyard served as a small basketball court, and they had installed an adjustable hoop and backboard of professional quality. I had no intention of using it, but the cost of its removal was bid at around $1,500. That seemed like a lot of money just to throw something away, so instead I went out and spent $15 of a VERY PARTICULAR climbing rose, “Joseph’s Coat,” so called because every flower is a different color. Furthermore, it is incredibly heat-hearty and blooms for months if manicured. It has taken 3-years to train it around the basketball standard, but now it is fully established and truly “going-ff.” As tall as it is, this is a “flower-tower,” and clearly a notable part of the garden (like you could miss it, LOL).
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Friday, April 21, 2017
My Life in the Garden of Eden, #42:
Garden, #42:  This is the more finished part of my new garden, and the spring rains have brought the islands of planting alive. As you see, I have mixed pots and ground plantings in clusters that allow viewing and access from 360-degrees. This post, however, is really about the plant blooming those lavender, cone-shaped flowers in the upper left - a Pride of Madeira. This is a beautiful flowering plant as you can see. It is also drought tolerant. In California, it is considered an invasive species in the wild. In my garden it will just try to take over. MORE importantly, there are few other plants I know that attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds like this one does. It brings the entire garden to life. Things are literally, buzzing! If you are a insect biologist and reading this, perhaps you can help me here. One other element is attracted to this plant, and I can only describe it as a “crazy moth.” It is seldom around during the day, and if they are here at night I do not see them, but for about 3hrs. every morning, several of them arrive in the yard. They do not often land, but rather fly around VERY fast in crazy patterns that seem to have little meaning. Occasionally they chase each, but mostly they just rocket around nearly missing things, and they are as fast as hummingbirds. I think they are moths because I saw one dive into a planter, and when I investigated it looked moth-like with camouflage wing colors. Any ideas?
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Friday, April 14, 2017
My Life in the Garden of Eden, #41:
Garden, #41:  My love of Clivia I inherited from my mother and her use of them at my former home on Stone Canyon Road. Clivia is viewed today as “old school,” but it transcends garden “style” periods. For me, one of its most important assets is that it prefers a good amount of shade and blooms profusely, so it is a GREAT addition to “dark” areas of the garden where it is often hard to get anything to grow, let alone something that has color. It also lasts when cut and used in floral displays for your house. Best of all, Clivia is VERY low maintenance. The garden you see above was planted in the early 50’s by my mother. She was trying to add some color and texture to a very shady area under large, mature trees with dense canopies. When these Clivia were first planted, they were several feet apart. Often gardeners dig Clivia up regularly, and split the bulbs to control size and spread. My mother wanted these left alone. Fifty years later these “domes” of Clivia are stunning when they bloom. Each of the original plantings is now hundreds of bulbs clustered in a large leafy mass. EACH bulb throws off deep green leaves and starbursts of flowers, so there are hundreds of flowers coming from any one cluster of bulbs. These plants now stand about 4ft. high, and in many case are at least that big around, if not larger. NOTHING is ever done to this garden except to weed. How great is that?
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
SOCIAL MEDIA by #LittleBearProd: http://www.LittleBearProd.com
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Friday, April 7, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #40:
Garden, #40:  Spring has sprung. “Cali" got LOTS of rain this year, and my new, emerging garden design is beginning to coalesce. This is my “Buddha” corner (look carefully) and it also reflects the diversity I have tried to incorporate in my planting. This niche has a little bit of everything - clivia (orange flowers), camelia, a large variety of bromeliads, star jasmine, epiphytes in hanging baskets, tillandsia, numerous tropicals, and ALL under the shade of a plum tree. I also have mourning dove that particularly like this part of the garden, and they are “carrying on” quite a bit when my dog, LiLi, is not guarding. The spacing/paths between the planted areas has been designed to maximize water exposure for the plantings, AND AT THE SAME TIME provide access to all parts of the garden that need to be regularly maintained. Often landscapers create great initial designs in terms of “the look.” BUT, as the garden evolves, sprinklers get blocked by tall plants that should never have been placed so close, and areas become unruly to maintain because they are hard to reach. In SLOWLY building this new space, I am trying to give all of those things some consideration - nonetheless, ALL gardens are an ever-continuing evolution. Just ask the indigenous tribes of the Amazon!
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photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, March 31, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #39:
Garden, #39:  THIS is the gardner’s version of a chef’s “farm-to-table.” This IS in my kitchen, and it is “garden-to-the-table.” If you have been following, you already know, all of these flowers have been “harvested” from my backyard. As you saw in the last post, I am having a profuse bloom of orange and yellow Clivia at the moment, so here some of those flowers are joined by the graceful, arching strands of Billbergia. All of these flowers will keep well if their water is renewed daily. As this display is on my kitchen counter, I should also relay something I just learned recently: Putting floral displays near fruit accelerates their aging, so if you want your display flowers to keep, ESPECIALLY ROSES, do NOT put them in your kitchen. I know! Weird, right? Look it up! For what it is worth, I spend a great deal of time in my kitchen, so I put flowers there regardless. ____________________________________________________
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, March 24, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #38:
Garden, #38:  In the last post I said my Clivia were blooming, and actually it is more like they are exploding,..EVERYWHERE. I have two different shades of orange mixed with yellow ones. The orange ones in this image are in deep shade and they are surrounded by a great variety of bromeliads that I will show you in future posts. Here, to the right, are clusters of my yellow Clivia, and they are separated by a dense “forest” of Billbergia. If you look just above the whale bone on the left, you can see one of the draping, graceful pink flowers this particular Billbergia produces. These are GREAT flowers to use in displays, and planted like this, there will dozens of blooms from every grouping. I have recently added quite a few new species of these to my new yard plantings and as they establish and bloom I will post more of those pics as well. Come back next week and I will show you what I do with these flowers in the house. It is “old school” Hollywood, and you do not see these flowers in florist displays much anymore. Their loss! ____________________________________________________
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, March 17, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #37:
Garden, #37:  Starting with that last post, you are going to have to indulge me for a few weeks. Not only have I been transforming the garden at my home, but the huge amount of rain we experienced this winter has driven both old and new plants into a frenzy,..albeit a beautiful frenzy! The last post was a corner of my yard that would be to the right in this picture. This POV has the morning light gracing three of my garden “islands.” My gardens have eccentric design and intentionally mix species that vary greatly. You can barely count the diversity in this one image. Many things here are native, and most are drought tolerant. As I use flowers in my home, it is also important to have a LOT of flowering in the garden. At the moment, one of the cactus (to the left) is showing some slender red blooms, and my Pride of Madeira, the leafy green plant in the center of the picture, is “stretching its neck,” and everyone of those stalks will be festooned with huge, cone-shaped, blue-purple flowers that are a nectar superfood for bees and birds. That is another two weeks away, though. At the moment it is my Clivia (orange flowers in left background) and my Camellias (red flowers right background) that are blooming profusely and have been doing so for the better part of one month.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, March 10, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #36:
Garden, #36:  This is a corner of my new, emerging garden at the beach. A chip path bears off to the left and I am using a large chunk of blue glass slag to demarcate the path AND as an accent to the pot and surrounding planting. To the far right there was a strip of lawn that I have replaced with a beautiful row of orange and yellow clivia interspersed with billbergia - you can see one tiny pink flower strand in the lower right corner. Although you cannot see this, there is a large stone planter built against the wall, behind the tree. The senecio (blue ice plant) now running wild, was originally planted there, and now I am letting it “roam” selectively. It has long sturdy tendrils that eventually plant themselves to expand their territory, and the blue color is sensational in the shade and after the rain. Those are two different tillandsias hanging in the tree, and also an epiphyte basket. In killing off the lawn, I have tried to use areas of the tree’s bared roots as part of the sculptural forms in the garden.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, March 3, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #35:
Garden, #35:  On Another path in Lotusland, the use of the blue slag glass to line the path is more visible. As this path does NOT lead to the “blue” garden, these gardens feature an extremely varied planting of “greens," but the blue boulders still add both color and texture to make the path more engaging. These shards of recycled blue glass reflect the light in dramatic ways as well, and based on the angle of the sun, sometimes they even appear to be internally illuminated. I have found a supplier that has LARGE shards for sale in LA, and so I will admit to borrowing this idea from Lotusland and applying it to my own garden. As yet I have not lined any paths because my shards are large and my paths are small, but I do place them around to demarcate the mouth of a path, or to set off some other planting in the garden. Check in next week and I will show you.
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Friday, February 24, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #34:
Garden, #34:  As in the previous posts, this is a simple path of gravel/sand. Again, this path plays on a variety of textures and Ganna has enhanced that by using the red volcanic rock again to define the garden areas. Textures are only part of Ganna’s design ideas, however, and by creating such a large garden, she could dedicate entire sections of it just to color. This path will eventually lead to a “blue” garden featuring blue palms and blue iceplant. Notably here, as we approach the blue garden, we are being drawn in by the marking of this path with blue color. It may not be obvious, but besides the blue succulents/sedum that grow besides the path, the path is actually lined with large chunks of blue glass slag. These chunks come in both green and blue colors, and are the result of melting down recycled bottles. Very large slag pieces are broken into these fragments, and many stores that specialize in stone paving and outdoor gardens, have bins with these glass blocks in them. Ganna uses their striking blue color to offset the red rock very effectively, and then she hints at where this path is going by introducing a variety of blue grasses and succulents along the way. The world gets “bluer” as you proceed. Glovey and the Apple Bonkers would be very happy. LOL.
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Friday, February 17, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #33:
Garden, #33:  Lotusland also has garden paths that distinguish themselves in other ways. Rather than unfolding with drama, these paths are like design experiments along their entire length. Ganna used a lot of textures to set things off, and this shot is a good example. The main path is simple gravel/sand and is NOT leading you to some dramatic point along the route. This garden “island” is set of by a border of large rocks, and the island, itself, is covered with red volcanic rock. Most startling to me, however, is the odd gardening juxtaposition of dark, shady redwoods, with a cactus garden beneath them, comprised of a selection that only has hoary, white shades. These are very strange bedfellows (one needing a lot of water, the other, not) and there are numerous, similarly eccentric plantings all along this path as it meanders. Ganna had many other paths featuring unique border design ideas, and next week I will show you one featuring recycled glass “slag."
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Friday, February 10, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #32:
Garden, #32:  Ganna Walska, the creator of Lotusland, was a dramatic actress and she carried her sense of drama through into the design of her huge garden. There are many paths, and many unique niche gardens that they lead to, and they are full of mystery with surprising reveals. As an example of what I mean, in the last post I showed you a very dense and vegetated path through a fern/oak forest. The path, itself, was not especially remarkable, but where it led you was. Here is another beautiful “reveal” from the Lotusland gardens. The brick path is obvious and relatively ordinary, but after it passes through more lush gardens, it emerges into a cactus-aloe environment, and brings you to this overview at the top of a small rise. Now the garden has opened up to showcase the giant-clam-waterfall pool, which sits like a blue jewel surrounded by exotic desert plants. This is a VERY dramatic path because of where it takes you.
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Friday, February 3, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #31:
Garden, #31:  So far I have spoken about various plants and their appropriate application to various garden styles, and I have shown you a few of those ideas integrated into gardens I have designed, or am designing. Most recently I have been talking about islands, both because they can be concentrations of interesting, inter-related plants, but also because they can be specifically water-targeted, leaving their surroundings dry. Most islands have common elements that define them - they are connected to, or surrounded by a path, and there is usually an identifiable border between the island and the path. Paths can take innumerable forms and can be made in some very creative ways. A GREAT path is the essence of a garden because it has character and presence, providing surprising “views” along the way. Here in Lotusland is the first I will present. This is actually quite a non-descript path of sand contained by sunken retaining borders, but this path is about the surroundings, and not the path itself. Vegetation of every scale is profuse from ground-covers to huge trees. Variations of ferns abound. Baskets of epiphytes hang from the branches of a massive oak. Most remarkable of all, but a bit “lost" until you stand beneath it and realize how large it is, near the middle of this image is a tall tree fern and immediately to its left is a HUGE BALL of staghorn fern that has grown completely around the trunk of another big tree. This thing is the size of a small car!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, January 27, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #30:
Garden, #30:  I, personally, enjoy a more random and less organized garden, but I still appreciate the beauty of formal ones that are well planned and cared for. This is Florida, and water usage is not such an issue as it is with the CA gardens I have been showing you, but even so this homeowner/designer concentrated various plants in specific “islands,” so that when it does not rain and they do water, it is done so in appropriate proportions, NOT just “turn on the sprinklers and water everything.” Within the square of the box hedge there is a brilliant flower garden blooming, but in the foreground is a much drier planting with some equally spectacular blooming trees. Note in both gardens the use of chip/mulch which involves at least an annual re-application but completely changes the health of your soil and your plantings. In the case of the sand dunes that I am working with in the garden I am currently building in CA, the chip will create a true soil where there presently is very little, or none.
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Friday, January 20, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #29:
Garden, #29:  Mature “islands” in a large garden can be quite spectacular and provide interesting textural juxtapositions because you can have plants that need very regular watering next to ones that thrive in dry habitats. Given the pictures I just posted on this blog of the garden I am building, here is the manifestation of those design ideas playing out on a much larger and more mature scale - this is Lotusland. Starting with the chip path, to its left is an island of things that like it wet, bromeliads of several varieties including billbersia. Receding into the distance on the left are other bromeliad islands that create depth in the garden view. This, then, is further accentuated by the spiky, blue cluster (middle frame, left) of very large, blue agave BUT they are part of a DRY island. The most dramatic island here, however, is clearly surrounding the large oaks. There are bromeliads, and clivia on the ground, but Ganna also took advantage of the massive oak limbs to grow some gigantic hanging plants, notable in this shot is the “ball” of staghorn fern, a plant I especially love because it needs no soil base and feeds out of moisture in the air. You can also see smaller staghorns attached to branches of the trees. Now, garden middle-right, I have saved the most unusual for last. The thin, bluish, grass-like blades that form the island on the right are Puya, but bear the common name, “Sapphire Tower” - that tower would be the very tall stalk and flower that you see rising above the spikes. This is a massive, brilliantly blue cluster of flowers that every flying thing in the garden loves. It is an awesome plant, BUT when I said “spikes,” I meant it. Those leaves are NOT grass blades, they are vicious, thorny-edged, and cactus tough. This plant also grows large and spreads. It is a wonderful addition to any garden, IF YOU HAVE THE ROOM FOR IT - but beware, this one is SO defensive, I declare it another of the “unweedables."
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Friday, January 13, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #28:
Garden, #28:  My last post was a view from my balcony looking down on the new garden I am creating. Besides “chipping-out” the water-guzzling lawn, I said that I was creating “watering islands” so I could better use the water and still have an attractive garden. This is a view of the first island I have finished. It is an elongated ellipse that is covered by two sprinklers. There is almost no watering that falls on the chip. It is all concentrated “within” the island. The island is VERY diverse and includes a banana tree, numerous pots, and ground plantings as well. There a variety of succulents (purple, lower left) that give me year-around color; there are dudleya; sedum (blue, bottom middle); two variations of blue ice plant (in background); and roses. There is also one of the “gigantea” gene schwarzkopfs ( schwarzkopf succulent ), that will grow almost tree-like as it ages.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, January 6, 2017


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #27:
Garden, #27:  Welcome to the New Year! This is what I did for my Holidays. As I have mentioned in this post, I am “rebuilding” a garden at my present home, adopting the best of what was already there, and getting rid of the rest in favor of a more drought tolerant landscape. This garden is being built on a sand dune in Manhattan Beach and there is literally no real soil on the ground. Tropical plants and trees adopt decently, but everything else struggles. Consequently, the previous owners had children and a dog, so they did the easiest thing, and this was ALL heavily watered lawn. I stopped watering 2yrs. ago (the green shoots are because of spring rains), and my Christmas present this holiday was that Santa left one of his largest sacks in my driveway and it was full of wood chip. Since then I have labored a little every day to spread it and craft my new design that involves concentrated “islands” of low-watering, planted primarily with cactus, succulents, and bromeliads. You can see two of those islands beginning to take shape here.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2017, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, December 30, 2016


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #26:
Garden, #26:  I thought I would start the New Year reflecting on the joy of a past garden as I ponder what I am doing with my current one. This is also a cautionary image. This is the hillside of my former home in Bel Air. If you follow this blog, you know that I tried to fire-proof and drought-proof this property and in so doing removed some very invasive groundcover plants like English ivy. I replaced that with succulents, cactus, and agave (among many other things as well), and in a yard previously dominated by greens, I used these plants to introduce color. This image suggests my wild mixture, but the overall effect was spectacular. Of note in this image is the beautiful, variegated agave asserting itself from frame-right. A few posts back I warn you should always ask how large something might grow when you are purchasing a new plant. This started out the size of my hand. With room to spread out, it not only grew huge, but it spread out rapidly, and EVERY new “pup” grew to be huge as well. I will have to exercise greater caution on my present property. Happy New Year!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, December 23, 2016


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #25:
Garden, #25:  Aloe bomb! As we approach the New Year I am just reminding you that there is quite bloom going on. You should work off the overindulgences of the Holidays and get up from in front of the TV. If you live in LA, go take a long walk in this garden. Many people love the Huntington because of the spectacular rose garden which is an epic spring event when it blooms. For me, however, it is in these few weeks of winter that I find the agave and cactus gardens equally stunning. I think most everything in this picture is sporting some kind of flower. Starting in the New Year, I will bring you back to the garden I am currently building and show you some of the ideas I have borrowed from the various other gardens I have been showing you like this one. Have a Happy New Year, and I hope you will continue to follow this and my other blogs in 2017. Peace2rth.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, December 16, 2016


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #24:
Garden, #24:  Here is another piece of garden magic, to some degree made more impressive by scale. In the last few posts I have offered up some examples of large aloes and agaves in various gardens that have the room to grow them. The Huntington certainly does have the room and many plantings that involve large scale species. Above is one of my favorites given the way the last light of the day plays with the subject matter. Behind these “reeds” you will recognize several large, variegated agave, similar to ones I have previously posted. They are both taller than I, and they have a much wider spread of their enormous leaves/blades. This “thing” in front of me, however, is even larger, and it’s array of “leaves?” creates a shimmering current of light that shifts any time their is the slightest breeze. Happy Holidays!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, December 9, 2016


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #23:
Garden of Eden, #23:  As promised, it is December - I am aloe bombing you from The Huntington Gardens once again. Actually, this is a combination aloe-agave bomb - I am sure you noticed the delicate little agave in the foreground. Apparently this agave is friends with the aloes behind it and it is using its formidable leaves to create an approach barrier so no one picks to flowers. Seriously! I love this gigantic thing and think it is beautiful, but CANNOT imagine trying to manage it. If the leaves look blue and velvety here, you should see some agave after the rain. As dangerous as their armor is, those same leaves have such amazing color and texture. Go take a holiday stroll in the garden. I just planted an “aloe wall” in the garden I am presently designing but I will probably have to wait until next Christmas to enjoy it.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, December 2, 2016


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #22:
Garden of Eden, #22:  As long as I am having a visual lament about not having enough space in my new garden to accommodate really large aloe, I am going to whine about large agave as well. Like aloe, there are a huge variety of agave, and of widely varying sizes and rate of growth. As a gardner, agave to me feels more aggressive than aloe. Most agaves require some space just so you can move around them without getting stabbed by their spine-like needles. Some agaves are not just large, they also spread aggressively. On the hillside of my former Santa Monica Mtns. property, I planted a blue-and-white variegated, much like the one above but not as large. Within the first year, there were about 10, all close enough to each other to make weeding dangerous. Within 5 years, they had taken over most of the hillside. They looked beautiful, but required “cautious” gardening.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, November 25, 2016


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #21:
Garden of Eden, #21:  Aloe to you! Between now and December, I am going to occasionally bomb you with different aloe pictures, many of which will feature the beautiful gardens at The Huntington. I am doing this for two reasons: one, the aloes I will feature are large ones and are too big for me to grow in the garden I am presently designing, so I am postings these pictures to savor what I cannot have; secondly, most aloes bloom spectacularly in the winter season. Here in LA that is usually December and January, SO as the season arrives, give up your chores and the television for one day and go take a walk in the garden (of Eden).
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, November 18, 2016


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #20:
Garden of Eden, #20:  It has been said that big things can come in small packages, so here is my $4.99 aloe purchase two years later. It is about 4ft tall and 10ft in diameter, and apparently just getting started. It has leaves like leather that are viciously armed with thorns and it is clearly one of the most intimidating plants in the garden. Then it blooms those brilliant golden stems of flowers and the dinner bell goes off for every hummingbird within ten miles. Watching them swarm around this plant and fight each other off to sip its nectar, I was struck by how this gigantic aloe so carefully protects the flowers from anything else other than those that arrive by air. AND, having just seen an AMAZING hummingbird special on public television, I learned that some flowers and some hummingbird beaks have evolved so specifically for each other, that NO other pollinator has interaction with the plant.
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Friday, November 11, 2016


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #19:
Garden of Eden, #19:  At Lotusland, Ganna Walska also had gardens devoted to aloe that gave color to the landscape in winter months. Gana also built a fantasy pool that you could swim in, but I doubt anyone ever did. It was not especially deep, and was fed by a whimsical waterfall created with giant clam shells. The approach to the pool was framed on two sides by VERY dramatic aloe gardens that really showed the astounding variety and possible size of this species of plant. In this setting the pale blue pool served more as a counterpoint to the surroundings then some place you might go to swim laps. With regard to buying aloes for your garden, BE SURE to inquire about mature size, because aloes can grow to be tree-sized as I found out at my previous home in Bel Air - fortunately, on that property I had the space. For $4.99, I bought a 6” pot with no label, but I loved the thick, deep green leaves and I knew it was a species of aloe. I planted it on the large hillside I was re-landscaping, and you will see it next week.
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Friday, November 4, 2016


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #18:
Garden of Eden, #18:  At my former home in the Santa Monica Mtns. of Los Angeles, our property was on a corner. That corner section of the yard sported several different gardens, a pool, and a small poolhouse apartment. A road to other homes above us on the hillslope ran behind the pool. We had an 8ft chain-link fence at the curb of the property and it was densely interwoven with Trumpet vine to create a privacy screen. From that fence, a short steep slope ran down to our pool deck. The slope faced directly west and was blazing hot during the three months of summer. It was also steep enough that winter rains brought mud down into the pool. Over the years we attempted to grow many things in this spot, but it was always difficult. When I began to redesign the garden, I wanted this embankment to be drought tolerant, dirt-stable, and fire resistant. The aloe ( aloe hot poker ) commonly referred to as “red hot poker” served perfectly - it had deep, tough roots; it could be groomed and shaped easily; AND - it was an awesome winter bloomer. This is Christmas day and there are over 100 blooms on the aloe “hedge."
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Friday, October 28, 2016


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #17:
Garden of Eden, #17:  In post #8, I point out that succulents, especially planted in dense clusters, add color to a garden year-round even when they are not blooming, because the PLANTS, themselves, offer so many shades and colors. Another GREAT addition to bring color into "winter" gardens is the use of aloes. There are over 500 hundred species of aloes, but they feature many different leaf shapes. What they have in common is that they all bloom in December-January sending up tall, woody stalks that crown out with a spectacular display of flowers usually, red, orange, or golden yellow in color. HUMMINGBIRDS LOVE THIS FLOWERS! Some aloe grow slow and low to the ground like cactus. Others grow (or can be cultivated) into being almost hedge-like, as I will show you next week with a "wall" of aloe I created at one end of the pool yard at my former home in Bel Air. If you have the room, some aloe are tree-like. The Huntington Gardens DO have the room, and so you see before you and orgy of aloe - I believe there are a dozen or more different species here, all enjoying the last rays of the fading winter sun. If you live in Los Angeles, you should visit this garden as a New Year ritual. It is a great way to inspire your next plantings to be something different (oh yes, drought tolerant AND fire resistant, too).
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Friday, October 21, 2016


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #16:
Garden of Eden, #16:  Regardless of garden size, "islands" of plantings allow concentrated and selective watering, and exposure to sunlight. Paths between the islands provide the access to weed and cultivate, not to mention, enjoy the view. Islands offer something to observe from every viewable direction, and they also dimensionalize a landscape, as one island behind another accents the depth in a garden. Here in the beautiful sprawl of the VERY LARGE gardens of Lotusland, islands of bromeliads flourish beneath the shade of massive oak trees, and paths wander through. Precisely as I suggested, the paths and the islands give this landscape as sense of deep space and scale that adds to the fact it is already as large as it is. Walking into the shady canopy to view this expanse is, quite literally, breathtaking.
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Friday, October 14, 2016


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #15:
Garden of Eden, #15:  Back in Florida, here is another kind of "island." This is a place on an estate where there is a round-about in the driveway. Most of the property is tropical and is shaded by a lot of palms and other trees, but the center of the round-about was left without trees, exposing it to some considerably hot days and withering direct sun. Boulders were used to define the edge of the round-about circle, and then the center garden was planted with an array of cactus and agave. Given enough room and sufficient water, some agave can become quite large. The "arms" on the variegated one in the lower, center of this image are several feet in length, so this plant has a considerable "reach." Just to the right and behind the variegated agave is some huge, green "thing" looming up and adding to the textures. THIS is an agave gone wild!! This collection of plants now blended together contrasts nicely with the surrounding palms and trees, and stands out vibrantly with its distinctively different looking "leaves."
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Friday, October 7, 2016


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #14:
Garden of Eden, #14:  Like some of the Florida gardens I present, Lotusland in Santa Barbara has considerable acreage as well, and they use "islands" in similarly dramatic ways by clustering groups of plants in concentrated areas. Here you see several "layers" in the view of the garden going from cactus to bromeliad, and then back to cactus/agave. In designing gardens like this, plants with similar habitats of shade, hot sun, little water, or more water can be managed within each individual island. Trees and their shade are always changing things, but a garden is also NOT a fixed entity and I believe they should "shift" when conditions do, such as maturing plants creating shade, or crowding out others; or, drought and fire-proofing change the landscape in order to survive.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, September 30, 2016


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #13:
Garden of Eden, #13:  In the "drier" garden I am trying to build at my current home, I am creating "islands" - clusters of plants AND potted plants that can all be watered at once, in a focused way, with no indiscriminate watering of the path. You will see images of that as it evolves. In the meantime, I return to a private garden in Florida that serves as part of my inspiration for the islands concept. This is an EXTRAVAGANT and VERY large garden with wonderful whimsical elements. The island here is surrounded by a circular path, and features bromeliads, a huge pot of tropical varietals, and a white ceramic hand. Color is elegantly thought out in these plantings and placements with the ochre walls of the structure, and the red leaves popping bright accents into an otherwise "green" garden. A final touch, the brilliantly glazed blue pot is just for design and has nothing in it.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, September 23, 2016


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #12:
Garden of Eden, #12:  This is the Huntington Library again, giving big cacti the space to get bigger, AND mixing the planting up with some succulents, grasses, and agave. This part of THIS garden is one of my favorite places. I find it inspirational and things I have seen and learned here have transformed my gardens. I am also honored by the Huntington, as along with the Amon Carter Museum in Texas, they hold the largest two collections of my prints in North America. Of equal importance to me, when time came to rebuild and restore these gardens, my friend and Huntington board member, Robert Wycoff called upon me to take the pictures for the first fundraising brochure, of which this was one of the featured pictures. He also loved the succulent/cacti gardens and I had MANY great pictures from there so the "brochure" became lavish with multi-pages and many images. In the first leg of the campaign, it helped to raise over $30,000,000 dollars, so I feel great to have helped. Now if I could only get current curator of photography, Jennifer A. Watts, to even acknowledge ANY of my work, it would be a miracle. Go figure!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, September 16, 2016


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #11:
Garden of Eden, #11:   Of course, the ultimate drought tolerant, low-water-use garden is cactus. It has taken me awhile to get used to them as I killed quite a few with too much water AND I found them prickly to manage (pun intended). However, the more I saw them in great settings, the more I came to appreciate their striking appearance. As you saw in post #3, the huge draping cactus at the entrance to the main residence at Lotusland is more like a fantastic piece of sculpture, than a plant. Part of that drama is scale, as many cactus can grow to considerable sizes if you have the room to let them. The Huntington Gardens has the room and conditions that has allowed many species to become colossal. Those dark "trunks" in the middle-ground are NOT trees, those are ALSO cactus as large as trees. 
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, September 9, 2016


My Life in the Garden of Eden, #10:
Garden of Eden, #10:   The current garden I am creating is in pieces. Some of it much more finished, and other parts of it undergoing transformation as you saw in post #4. Here is a "mature" corner that is especially well accented by the use of epiphytes. In this case, I have numerous wire baskets lined with coconut fiber mats into which the epis are planted. They grow slowly, take a minimal amount of care, and do not need much water. They can also live for a VERY LONG TIME! I have ones that are more than 20yrs old. The colors and shapes of the flowers are quite varied. I have flowers with shades that range from subtle to explosive. Against the green of the background, I would say the bloom above qualifies as one of the latter. This corner is in the shade of a cherry tree and the understory is a mix of tropicals, calla lilies, clivia, and camelias, all quite green and dark. The epiphyte baskets are hanging from various branches, filling out what I call the visual "mezo-story" - the area between the understory plants and the first branches of a tree - and when they bloom they add a "pop" of brilliance. There is a lot of "air" room within that space to have a fun with a garden of hanging, shade-liking plants.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, September 2, 2016
My Life in the Garden of Eden, #9:
Garden of Eden, #9:   Another group of plants I have come to love over the years and incorporate into my gardens are epiphytes. I am not especially good with orchids although I do love them as flowers, but bromeliads and the "tree cactus" have appeared all over my gardens and house. Here you see succulents in the foreground, a variety of agave in the background, and in the fading sunlight on the branches of the tree, a huge "epi". I now have (and will show you) epiphyte baskets in my trees with 5ft arms. These plants are SO amazing, PLEASE read the link! They are a perfect SYMBIOTIC organism. Living and feeding "out-of-the-air," and doing no harm to their neighbors. Oh yeah! Did I tell you the flowers are off-the-chart. Follow this post next week to see what I mean. (If your curious, that is the Huntington gardens above.)
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, August 26, 2016
My Life in the Garden of Eden, #8:
Garden of Eden, #8:   Much of what I did in the remodel of the garden at my families Stone Canyon home (when the tour reaches the Hotel Bel Air, my family home is the one that is passed on the right - this guides dialogue is HILARIOUS) and that I will do on my new garden in Manhattan Beach are ideas I have borrowed from gardens I photographed professionally. Above is a small section in the garden at Lotusland that very effectively uses succulents and kalanchoes. The latter are the "fuzzy" brown and whitish leaves you see here in the foreground. Mixing these two provides a great variety of textures as well as color. For me, the beauty of a good mixed garden that uses succulents is that succulents come in an amazing array of colors OTHER than green, so in the garden they add color whether they are blooming or not - year round color, AND they are drought tolerant and fire resistant.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, August 19, 2016
My Life in the Garden of Eden, #7:
Garden of Eden, #7:   Please excuse this terrible cell phone image, but it is pertinent to my story of remaking the hillside garden of my families Bel Air home. As noted in my last post, I sought to reduce water, eliminate invasive species, and create greater fire resistance. Here you can see the upper reaches of the hillside smothered by ivy which we had not yet begun to remove. However, you also see something else critical to fireproofing and removal of non-native species: this hillside supported numerous eucalyptus. Although a visible signature of the LA landscape, the eucalyptus is a non-native, water-sucking tree, that in a big fire acts like an explosive torch because it is a tree rich in oils. Our property had many, most of them HUGE and more than 50yrs. old. Because they throw-off "widow-maker" branches in high winds, they needed to be trimmed constantly and it was stunningly expensive. I cut 9 of them down. Cutting them down was pricey BUT the cost doubled to remove the root, and if you did not, the tree would sprout back. SO, we cut deep holes into the heart wood of the standing tree trunk. Then, I filled those holes with soil and turned the stumps into planters full of intermixed succulents. The slow rot of the wet soil killed the tree regrowth, and although these will slowly disintegrate, they are so large that it will take years and years. In the meantime they are a VERY dramatic and unexpected addition to discover as you walk around in the garden
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, August 12, 2016

My Life in the Garden of Eden, #6:
Garden of Eden, #6:   Part of this blog features gardens I have photographed professionally. The other part will feature a garden I transformed which matured, and one I AM working on which is raw (as you saw in post #4). Above is the one I created/transformed and this is the BEFORE, so clearly I had a great base on which to build. This was my family home in the Santa Monica mountains and as you can see the back "yard" ran up a hillside in a series of terraces. No one "used" this hillside except to harvest the citrus trees, and although it may look green here, it was overrun with English ivy, honeysuckle, and lantana that climbed into the trees and had to be cut back to the ground EVERY year. It housed a huge population of rats, took an immense amount of water to support, and offered little fire resistance, so as I began to care for this property, I decided to change ALL of that. Of course, that would require taking out all of these invasive vines. Ever try to get rid of ivy or lantana? I would type LOL if I thought that was funny!
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, August 5, 2016

My Life in the Garden of Eden, #5:
Garden of Eden, #5:  Now take a hot desert-like garden and add really high humidity - then you can grow some very different types of plants all on top of one another and they will thrive. This garden is back in Florida and it is both a spectacle of texture AND color. The mix here includes ferns, agave, bromeliads of amazing size, palms, crown of thorns, and variegated tropicals, some almost tree-like. This large estate had "islands" of these that were constructed around the grounds of the home, and they have served as an inspiration to me in building my new garden at the beach because I am going to adapt the concept of the islands as a water-saving method. Mine will NOT look this lush, but wait and see.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, July 29, 2016

My Life in the Garden of Eden, #4:
Garden of Eden, #4:  Not all Edens are equal, or at least they do not start that way. This is my current backyard in Manhattan Beach and as part of our California water-saving effort, I have killed off the lawn. The temporary space has been used for beer-pong (not me, my son) and over the course of this blog, I will attempt to create a garden here and explain my ideas for fire-resistant and drought-tolerant landscapes. To give you some sense of what this MIGHT eventually look like, next week I will post an image from the garden I created at my former home in Bel Air. When I began that one, VERY large sections of the terrain looked like this, but NOT after I was through.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, July 22, 2016

My Life in the Garden of Eden, #3:
Garden of Eden, #3:  Moving in an ever-drier direction, this would be a dry and hot desert garden. Not as lush or diverse as the previous post from the Huntington, this is one of numerous and varied gardens that comprise the now-public Santa Barbara / Montecito estate of Ganna Walska. Please follow the link and read about her. She was quite a "unique" individual, and nowhere did that show more clearly than in the large, wandering plant fantasy she created, called Lotusland. Lotusland has many specific gardens but some of the oldest are cactus, and they are VERY dramatic. This is a side garden of the main house and the planting is a perfect compliment to the Spanish-style architecture.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, July 15, 2016

My Life in the Garden of Eden, #2:
Garden of Eden, #2:   I have always been a fan of garden weirdness, rather than formal design. While I do appreciate an amazing formal garden, I personally prefer one that acknowledges sun/shade relationships as the designing principle and shows of the biodiversity of this EDEN (our planet) to the fullest. As Los Angeles/Southern California qualify as a Mediterranean Climate Zone, that particular zone can support a greater diversity of species than almost anywhere else, so why would you not feed that frenzy. One of my favorite public gardens that certainly does that is the the Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens. What is especially wonderful about the Huntington is that it is an "old" garden with mature specimens that have grown to sizes you might not ever see anywhere else. This IS the potential of a "desert" garden in a dry, Mediterranean climate.
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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Friday, July 8, 2016

My Life in the Garden of Eden, #1:
Garden of Eden, #1:  This blog is going to offer you a myriad of garden pictures from around the US, many of which I photographed professionally. Two of them are actually gardens I created. I will offer some garden design advice occasionally and would also welcome any that YOU might want to add. If they are public gardens, I will probably tell you, but the private ones will stay private unless they are mine. For instance, this is from a home in Florida. I thought it a great way to start this bog because it is so vibrant, AND very creative. Clearly this is NOT a formal planting. So often a pool is THE centerpiece of any yard, but here, the pool is simply there as a water feature of the garden (although they do swim in it). What IS on display here is the amazing array of textures and colors, including the pots as well as the vegetation. This is a spectacle of tropical biodiversity at its very best. Can you say "Tillandsia"?  Do you see it?
photograph(s) © copyright, ROBERT GLENN KETCHUM, 2016, @RbtGlennKetchum @LittleBearProd #LittleBearProd
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