Amazing photo collection of Southern California gardens (and more) at turn of 20th Century

I came across mention of this new online collection from the Library of Congress via this Metafilter post — The Lantern Slides of Frances Benjamin Johnston. What immediately caught my  attention were all the shots of Southern California, including some areas I visit on a regular basis. It is amazing to see what was once there and, in one case, still remains.

There are many shots of lovely gardens and more.

Johnston photos

Johnston (Frances Benjamin) Collection

Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952) was one of the first American women to achieve prominence as a photographer. Trained at the Académie Julian in Paris, she studied photography upon her return to Washington, D.C., in the mid-1880s and opened a professional studio circa 1890. Her family’s social position gave Johnston access to the First Family and leading Washington political figures and launched her career as a photojournalist and portrait photographer. Johnston turned to garden and estate photography in 1910s. [To learn more about Johnston, see the Biographical Overview and Chronology.]

Read more about and view this collection


Project: Straw bale raised garden bed

I came across this straw bale project on Pinterest the other day and it made me think again about the possibilities of some raised beds here in my garden. I don’t need anything this large, but I am faced with large areas that are totally infiltrated by tree roots to the extent that little else can grow there. Straw bales seem to last for a long time outdoors here in near-desert Los Angeles, but wetter areas would probably find themselves replacing at least some of the bales every other year or so.

Something this large would also take a LOT of soil to fill and would probably be out of my budget, but smaller area might work.

It does go to show, though, that you can garden nearly anywhere given enough energy.


Source: via Douglas on Pinterest


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Photo: Toon Daffodils

Here is the previous Daffodil picture after it has been processed by the Toonpaint app on the iPhone.

Straight B&W\

Spot Color

Photo: Daffodils still holding on

Daffodils, originally uploaded by dewelch.

The daffodils I planted this year (75 in all) seem to be a later blooming variety, and those in the shady parts of the garden area lasting much longer than those in full sun. These have been in bloom for nearly 2 weeks now and are still going strong.

Project: Homemade Potting soil project

I have been wanting to make my own potting soil for months now, but I have been slow to get off the mark. I have found may recipes online, but I needed to get to my local nursery to get some supplies. Today I picked up what you see below. On the left is coconut coir. This material is a more sustainable replacement for the more limited peat moss. I have found that many recipes have switched over to this.

Recipe #1Recipe #2Recipe #3Recipe #4

Potting Soil Ingredients

My goal is to use my own homemade compost as the main organic material and combine that with the coconut coir and some perlite. I tried using my compost alone as a potting medium, but it is very hydrophobic, which means it sheds water and resists wetting. I think by combining the materials I will end up with something that works better as a potting soil.

I am not sure yet what my ratios are going to be for my mix, but I am looking at 3 parts compost to 1 part coir and 1 part perlite. I will play around with this mix until I feel I have something that works, though, so this ratio could change greatly once I start mixing. Once i get something I like I will also show you some re-potting I need to do and maybe even use it to start some seeds.

If you have any advice on making your own potting sol using these ingredients or others, leave a comment on this post. I would love to hear about your experience. What it comes to projects like this, I am far from an expert and will take any advice you have to offer. This is all a part of A Gardener’s Notebook — trying and learning together.

It fig-gy time again!

The figs are showing up on our volunteer fig again. What treats will we make this time?

It's fig-gy time again

Click for larger image

TV/Web: Beechgrove Garden from BBC Scotland

Here is another great gardening show from the UK, Beechgrove Garden.

Beechgrove Garden is basically the Gardener’s World for Scotland. If you have similar climate and planting conditions, there could be some very useful information here for you, even if you aren’t in the UK. Unlike Gardener’s World, there are a few video clips here and “Fact Sheets” in PDF format that you can download directly from their web site.


I love seeing gardening shows from other parts of the world. I even caught one from BBC Cmyru (Wales) done entirely in Welsh, with English subtitles. That was a mind bender. (LAUGH)

What are your favorite gardening-related shows, whether on mainstream TV or via the Internet? Share a link in the comments so everyone can enjoy them!

Free Garden Wallpapers for April 2012 – Passiflora

Here is a selection of free wallpapers for your computer desktop or smartphone. Right-click and select Save Image As… to download them to your own computer.

Desktop Wallpaper

Passiflora wallpaper desktop


iPad Wallpaper

Passiflora wallpaper ipad

iPhone/Smartphone Wallpaper

Passiflora wallpaper iphone

Photo: Tomatoes in HDR

Another 2 HDR (High Dynamic Range) photos from the garden. These look very similar, but the way the HDR stick program merges the 3 pictures cause slight differences in each.


Click for larger image


Click for larger image


Shared Gardening Items for March 2012

Here are my I Like This Shared Gardening Items for March 2012.

Please let me know in the comments if you find any of the particularly useful. I’ll keep my eye open for similar items — Douglas