P71105Main Street and Santa Cruz Avenue are the two main streets of downtown Los Gatos. They are the main shopping district, and the part of town that everyone sees. As much as things have changed, a bit of the familiar remains. Gilley’s Coffee Shoppe is still next door to the (rebuilt) Los Gatos Cinema. The brick La Canada Building miraculously survived the Earthquake. The simple deco Park Vista Building across the street is just as elegant now as it was a century ago. There are still concerts in the Town Plaza in summertime, shaded by the Town Christmas Tree that gets lit up in December.

Both Main Street and Santa Cruz Avenue are outfitted with big planter boxes that give the downtown a more relaxed and colorful ambiance. Each planter is elevated about a foot and a half, and contains one or two Indian hawthorn trees. A low wrought iron railing protects the contents of the planter boxes. Irrigation s automated. That is about all that the planters have in common.

Each planter box is ‘adopted’ by a member of the community, or a community group, each with different styles and different ideas of what we should plant in our boxes. Some like things neat and trim. Others believe that bigger is better. Some like plenty of foliage. Others like lots of colorful flowers. Some planter boxes even get adorned with seasonal decorations.

My little planter box is on the northwest corner of Nicholson Avenue and North Santa Cruz Avenue. It has a brass plaque with my name on it. It is my little garden space downtown, where I get to express my simple gardening style for everyone to see, even though I grow a few flowery things there that I would not actually waste space on in my own garden.

The trailing rosemary that cascades over the wall so nicely was there when I got the planter. So were the montbretia and liriope, which I did not want to remove because someone else had gone through the effort of planting them. When there was more space available, I planted a few inexpensive flowering annuals, like pansies and calendulas. As things grew, there was less space for annuals. Besides, I wanted to make a point of doing this planter nicely with sustainable plants that I propagated myself.

The two largest features are common aeoniums. The two original cuttings were on the dashboard in the car for weeks before I finally stuck them in the planter. They came from the home of a friend’s mother in Monterey. We emptied the home out after she passed away. It was gratifying that they found a home in my planter box, and even more gratifying that they grew so well and provided countless cuttings for copies all over town, including in other planter boxes. Between the two big aeoniums, there is a small bronze aeonium. It is the same age as the two big ones, but grows slower, and is regularly set back by people breaking off and taking the stems as fast as they grow.

These three aeoniums were not alone on the dashboard. They arrived with another related succulent, which I believe to be an old fashioned echeveria, and some sort of compact aloe. The echeveria has spread out over much of the area between the big aeoniums. The aloe is still confined to one corner.

To contrast with all the pale green foliage, I added two bronze ‘Australia’ cannas. They cost only a few dollars, and were probably my biggest expense in this entire project.

The most impressive feature of the planter box are the nasturtiums. Yes, common, simple and cheap nasturtiums. I wanted to get straight yellow nasturtiums for compatibility with the signs of the neighboring bicycle shop, but could not find any at the time. I instead started with the common ‘Jewels’ mix, which is still my favorite. After self sowing, the subsequent feral nasturtiums are only orange and yellow, with only one or two red blooming plants. What made them so excellent is how they grew! They overwhelmed the trailing rosemary (which is fine since they die back in summer when the rosemary takes over), and cascaded onto the walkway and curb. They filled the space between the railing and an adjacent bench, and even started growing through the bench. There was so much bright orange and yellow that no one seemed to mind that it was nasturtium.

After a long and warm summer, the aeoniums need serious grooming, and the nasturtium need to be replaced. I really hope that the planter box will be as impressive as it was last winter. The picture here is not very good. Perhaps I will get a better picture in a few months.


31 thoughts on “My Tiny Downtown Garden

    1. Yes, some of us use it for advertising. We should not work in them on weekends when downtown is crowded, but some council members make a big scene of working on theirs at the busiest times, and blocking off parking spaces so that everyone sees them out there.


  1. What a really good idea and it is so colourful. Nasturtiums are such good value they flower for so long and then reseed for ever. Love the way they are growing through the back of the bench. We have community gardens over here, like the allotment plots my dad had in England. They are very popular and you have to go on a waiting list to get one.

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    1. I actually do not like the ones downtown because they make the main streets look more like a shopping mall. However, since they are there, I had to get mine. It took more than a year to get it. Some people must wait longer.

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    1. I do not actually like them, but since they are there, I had to get mine. I am pleased that mine is set back behind the sidewalk on Santa Cruz Avenue, where all the traffic is. There is not much traffic on Nicholson Avenue.

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    1. My colleague calls the ‘dago pansies’. I wrote about it. I don’t care. I really dig them. I even try the weird varieties. Even I can not believe that I pay actual money for nasturtiums! They eventually revert back to the orange and yellow anyway, so it is all okay. (I do not want the weird ones to stay forever.) I do not grow the trailing types, or ‘Empress of India’ because they do not revert. Trailing ones revert to yellow and orange, but they are still trailing. The problem with the planter box downtown is that one of the neighbors picks the flowers. I asked her about it once, and she just reminded me that they are edible. I got angry and told her that just because they are edible, she does not need to eat ALL of them! Seriously, there is no way she could have eaten all the flowers she took! Beside, one should not eat flowers from the side of the road downtown, with all the dogs and everything else that goes on down there.


  2. In our old place I had planted nasturtiums on our balcony along with marigolds and calendula flowers. One summer I even had sunflowers in a pot. I loved how the balcony bloomed in bright orange every summer. In our new place we have no balcony, but I think I’ll plant some marigolds inside anyway for the color. I have to check out what plants grow well inside because I miss my plants.

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    1. Ours are variable. Most are smaller than mine. Only a few are bigger. Mine happens to front on the side street. Almost all of the others are on the two main streets. I really like those that are paired. However, they have been so popular that the paired planters are tended to by different people, so they never match. I really did not like the planter boxes. The old redwood boxes were removed a few years after the earthquake; but then replaced with these new concrete planters. Even though I do not like them, I figured that if they are there, I want one!

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      1. Before I got mine, I would have preferred a pair. They are not assigned in pairs though. Now, I would not want to give mine up, even if a better one became available.


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