We have a very kooky, wonderful old friend I shall call Madame A. Let me be precise: she’s not all that wonderful to everyone — there are many, in fact, who will refer to her only as “that awful woman” —  but she’s always been lovely with us. For five years she was our upstairs neighbor in Silverlake. Over that time we became extremely close. Madame A is elderly, eccentric, and incredibly cantankerous, but she is also marvellously intelligent, quite funny, and absurdly creative. She is — among other things — a painter, an opera expert, a poet, a docent at two local museums, a six-day-a-week swimmer, and a prodigiously talented — you guessed it! — gardener.

When we moved to our new home we were saddened indeed to leave our friend behind. I hoped, though, that as we were not far away from each other, she would visit us often. Maybe she would even become a gardening mentor to me? After a series of events, however, led to an estrangement between us, I sadly let go of that idea. But now — Christmas miracle!  — the estrangement has ended (I don’t know how — we never really understood what had caused it in the first place) and our old friend is back in our lives. She hasn’t been over here yet (her driving is terrifying, so I’m just as happy to spare the world her presence on the roads) but she promises she will. In the meantime, MJ and I have just come from her house, where we were the recipients of a bounty of horticultural generosity.

The fact that I don't have yucca leaves protruding from my retinas as we speak is due solely to luck, an extremely vigilant right arm, and sunglasses.

We pulled into our driveway with literally a carful of plants to unload. Everything Arlene gave us she either found thrown away after the recent storms, (“you wouldn’t believe what people kick to the curb, dear”) or wrenched from the soil of her own garden (“succulents are so hardy — they’ll never notice”). It’s a couple hundred dollars worth of flora, all in great health, and it’ll be amazing when planted. I now have so much more incentive to get that damn terrace cleared…

Another Agave Americana, and a bunch of Crassulae (sp?)

A long-coveted Blue Agave -- "A perfect specimen," according to Madame A

random cactus

I hope this is the beginning of a long and fruitful horticultural exchange. Provided I can stay on Madame A’s good side. Wish me luck.

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