Altaflora


Pop your head into yards in Altadena and there’s no telling what you’ll find. Sunday, Altadena Heritage held its Golden Poppy Awards Sunday at the home of Kazi Petelka and John Steinmetz, on Mar Vista. And in their yard you’ll find a few dozen chickens among the crops of fruit and vegetables. Part orchard and part farm, this urban spread is what people mean when they say “urban farm.” Pumpkins are even growing on the roof.

Kazi, a first violist with the L.A. Opera, gave teaching tours of the property to dozens of eager students drooling over the packed avocado trees. I was sorry to learn she offs the poor squirrel who gets in her way, but we all have our own karma to deal with said my unusually understanding pal, who has been known to keep an orphaned baby squirrel warm in her bra until she could get it to a rescue center.  Farming is a sometimes brutal business.

I’d say about 100 Altadenans enjoyed the cooler early evening atmosphere, grateful the event was moved back from 4 p.m. when all would have wilted.

Four residents were chosen to receive the Golden Poppy Award, this year given to those with sustainable gardens. Chair Mark Goldschmidt explained the new criteria, which also resulted in an $11,000 grant from Edison to promote sustainability. Mark also presented the awards. I was unable to get all the names, but I’m attaching a number of photos. One couple, Jennifer and Ham, live just down the street from me. They’re the ones with the farm in their front yard that I’ve been meaning to visit. So now we’ve met. I’ll be getting down to see their yard up close very soon.

Patrick Reagan was out touting the benefits of having a co-op in Altadena. And in gardening spirit, bags of iris rhizomes were out for the sharing. Richard Davies promised a major event in late October at the Mosoleum, so stay tuned. Hoping it doesn’t involve the dead, being so near Halloween.

 Here’s my new blog in Digital Photographer Magazine on Politics and Photography…the Power of the Picture.
And here’s the magazine cover, with my photo of a glorious Orient Express epiphyllum that bloomed recently in my backyard. Bought it at the Huntington cactus sale about 4 years ago. Got first bloom last year, and three this time around, two simultaneously. What a sight.
Go ahead, subscribe! It’s an online publication delivered through www.Zinio.com
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Dozens of nurseries and growers once inhabited the hills of Altadena. And if it wasn’t for Pasadena fighting to have the 210 freeway go thru their town, our last remaining nursery would have disappeared long ago. Thankfully, Nuccio’s famed camellia and azalea nursery on Chaney Trail does still remain, and today hosted the Altadena Heritage Society’s Breakfast of tea, coffee and treats, featuring Julius “The Nuch” Nuccio and friend and Altadena historian Michelle Zack.  

In their beautiful location since 1946, “The Nuch” told a gathering of more than 50 flora and history buffs how his family came to start the nursery in 1935.  It was all because his father and nephew gave their gardening obsessed mother a camelia. “She got them interested in plants. She didn’t care if there were dirty dishes in the sink, she’d be out in the garden,” he joked. Their initial nursery was kept in their grandparent’s yard during the war, cared for by the women of the family. Once that was over, grandfather said it was time he got his house back. “When we first got this property we thought we’d go broke,” said Nuccio. “I hated it. Worked here since I was 12. Tried another job for a month, but came right back.”

Wisely, his dad and uncle saw the trends in the nursery business and decided to specialize. They carry more than 500 varieties of both flowers, just a drop in the bucket of the thousands of varieties exist. Their two most famous are the Nuccio’s Bella Rosa and Pink Pearl. They still hand water and fertilize each plant because watering systems killed too many of them.

The soil secrets of both plants: Camellias take 1/3 soil, 1/3 peat and 1/3 pearlite. Azaleas take 2/3 peat and 1/3 pearlite. When the plants are blooming, they’re dormant. That’s when to move them if you need to. Prune right after blooming is complete.  

Nuccio’s has never advertised — yet last summer The Nuch said it was their best summer ever. That’s what growing a business is all about.

 More to come on this. Here are a few pix of the day…

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Michele Zack

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Don’t miss a chance to talk with the Nuccios about how your camelias and azaleas are doing. It’s a joy to have such a resource in our own backyard.

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The Scripps Home closed in November as owners prepare to tear it down and replace it with a more modern and spacious home for elderly residents. Today was their plant giveaway and dozens of people and local gardeners showed up to help themselves to Scripps flora. My husband and I did too, just as the day was winding down. You can see from the scars in the land that plenty of greenery was had by all. I’ll chronicle the evolution of the home here.

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Soon all of Scripps will be demolished

What will happen to her?

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