Pedaling my bike through the neighborhood, taking Pao for his twice-daily run, I see a lot of gardens. There are many beautiful ones to enjoy, filled with roses and hypnotically green lawns and attractive, mature trees. I like looking at the the not-so-beautiful gardens, too, and daydreaming about how I'd fix them up and make them better.
Some of my favorite gardens, however, are what I call "pocket gardens." That is, little spots of greenery so small they barely qualify as garden. Some are planted on purpose; some have sprung up on their own. But all are equally charming.
This one, below, is on the large side for a pocket garden. It's on an alleyway, and unless you're taking out the trash or parking your car in the adjacent apartment building's first-floor lot, you'd never know it was there.
It is almost entirely made of succulents. I love how the varied colors and shapes make this little patch almost look like an underwater garden.
In between all the various shades of green, from bluish green to almost black, somebody has placed a single, painted decorative concrete brick:
The brick's angular lines and jaunty yellow color contrast perfectly with the arch-shaped, multi-leafed plants surrounding it:
A thoughtful hand has carefully placed a single piece of driftwood in the garden, underscoring the watery allusions in this space:
A few feet away from this well-planned pocket of succulents is a happy accident-of a-garden:
A very cheerful flower--a Lazy Susan?--thrusts forth from a tiny crack in the pavement:
I admire this plant's tenacity. Clearly nobody planted it, and nobody waters it, but it has the energy to thrive and push out the most adorable flowers:
Do you think it knows how wonderful it looks, next to the brick-red fence and the bright blue trash can?
On another street, next to an empty lot and a bag of discarded trash, an arresting plant grows in splendid isolation:
Not watered, not fed, not trimmed, and certainly not ever lovingly talked to, this vine nonetheless thrives.
And it produces the most glorious, gigantic, ethereal flowers. They are at least five inches across:
The shape, size and five points of the flowers resemble a Brugmansia, but these blossoms don't hang down; they face up toward the sky, and they have no fragrance that I can discern.
Even its galls are otherworldly looking:
Can anybody tell me what this plant is? In the meantime, I'll just enjoy it.
A good place to look for pocket gardens is anywhere near a water source. This tiny patch of moss forms every spring and summer underneath the drip outlet to our home's air-conditioning system:
People go out in the forests to gather mosses like this; I've got a micro-patch in my driveway!
Hiding underneath a large Hydrangea bush in our front yard, a tiny patch of blue caught my eye the other day:
It's Lobelia, and it must have traveled some distance to volunteer in my garden, because I have never planted this.
But based on how well it's thriving, and how much I love this color of blue, I may plant some. I've noticed pocket gardens often tell you what wants to grow, and where.
My friend and neighbor C. has a low point in the street in front of her house. There is always standing water there, which drives everyone crazy. Standing water attracts mosquitoes, which can carry the West Nile Virus. The city of Los Angeles has been out several times to try to fix the situation. They've improved it a little, but the problem persists.
That's the bad news.
The good news is, it's a beautiful little watery pocket garden. I love how the the red-painted curb behind the blades of grass almost looks like a sunset behind tall, sculptural trees:
Turns out, I'm not the only one who enjoys this little mini-marsh:
Apparently, there's a lot of us who appreciate a sweet pocket garden.