Two rather surprising living Christmas trees are at nurseries this season, one that should stay small for many years, and one that definitely won't. The small contender is an upright variety of rosemary with the tantalizing name of "Tuscan Blue." Sold in bright red pots, these have been trimmed into the classic pyramidal shape and after the holidays they can probably be kept that way in a container, or in the ground, with regular shearing. Out in the garden "Tuscan Blue" would make a handsome accent and the sight and smell will remind you of the formal villas in Tuscany. With time, "Tuscan Blue" can grow to 6 or more feet.
The other surprising living Christmas tree is California's own giant sequoia, Sequoiadendron giganteum . In time this one will grow to 300 feet with a trunk 30 feet across! However, it grows slowly (2-3 feet a year) and makes a handsome tree, especially in inland areas. Many elegant specimens grow in the Inland Empire. The hold their lower branches a long time so become too wide for small gardens, but they need less water than the coast redwood. As baby trees, they have a perfect Christmas tree shape and the foliage is a very pretty, pearly gray.
Don't keep either "tree" indoors for more than a few weeks and when you do bring them back outdoors, put them in shade for a few days to acclimate.
Tour Villa Narcissa
Elin Vanderlip's remarkable Tuscan-inspired Villa Narcissa overlooking Portuguese Bend on the Palos Verdes Peninsula will be available for group tours this February and April. Any group is welcome but garden groups will especially appreciate the large formal gardens that were featured in the "Los Angeles Times Magazine" of June 18, 1989. A charge of $5 per person goes to benefit Friends of French Art. Call (213) 377-4444 for further information and group reservations.
The Urban Farmer Store, 2833 Vincente St., San Francisco, CA 94116, offers a remarkably useful and thorough mail-order drip irrigation catalogue. It is available for $1.
Garden Gates by Mail
Garden gates are tricky to build yourself and homemade gates tend to be rather flimsy affairs that sag or stick. The Garden Gate is a new company that makes several very handsome, and extremely hefty, gates that are sold through the mail. There are low and tall gates and several styles including one with a sunrise motif and others with little heart or conifer cutouts. Write to P.O. Box 1117, Cedar Ridge, CA 95924, or telephone (916) 272-8109 to request a color brochure.