Culver City Insider: Q & A With Degen Pener

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The glossy editor with the serious green thumb gives us the inside scoop on his Culver City and offers suggestions on how to make outdoor rental space into your own Garden of Eden.

Name: Degen Pener

Age: 43

Occupation: Editor-in-Chief Angeleno magazine, seedhead.com blogger

Neighborhood: Culver City, CA

Abode: Renting a bungalow with a huge yard.

How long have you lived in Culver City? 3 years

What do you love most about your neighborhood? I love the restaurants. There are many new ones that have opened in downtown Culver City. The ethnic restaurants around here are amazing: Himalayan, southern Indian, Brazilian and Thai. I keep finding terrific stuff just walking around.

Best kept secret in Culver City? There are a lot of them. When it comes to restaurants, Mayura has these amazing dosas, which are buttery and utterly amazing. Surfas, a kitchen supply store and market, is a total candyland. It's got every possible baking pan size you'd ever need. And they have a little cafe that's my favorite place to go and think about cooking things. I'm heading over this morning to find gluten-free pasta for my mom.

Why Culver City? I was open to a number of neighborhoods: To me it came down to finding the place that seemed right. I found my bungalow on Craigslist, believe it or not. The photo didn't show much of the house, but I knew this was a keeper when I walked into the garden and saw the lemon, avocado and fig trees. Plus, it's like 40 x 80, so we're talking about a 3200-square-foot garden.

As the blogger of seedhead.com, gardens are important to you. How do you keep a garden in a rental? I worked it out with the landlord that if I did the work she would pay for a number of the plants. I was able to get a wholesale price and she covered the cost, because the place needed work when I moved in. It had fruit trees but no hedges around the perimeter. Negotiating and talking things out with the landlord is a good idea.

Any easy tips for renters to spruce up their outdoor space? Get succulents that don't need a lot of water. That's the easiest way to get stuff going. Or put in fast-growing ornamental grasses: Cosmopolitan has a nice white striping on them.

I've done some cheap things around here with lavender star flowers, which grow pretty fast. I planted them three feet along the house and put them up the house like a vine and they softened the edges where the fencing is. They're $4 dollars each. As a renter you have to learn how to draw the line, at some point you have to stop.

What makes your home so special? It has a huge yard with eight or nine fruit trees in the back. I have fig trees, which are great because I can share figs with my neighbors in the summer. Plus, I did a lot of canning and made jam last summer for the first time and it worked out really well.

For you it was a garden, but
what advice would you give to renters to find their perfect spot? You gotta kiss a lot of frogs and you have to see a lot of stuff to find your place. Also, be open. You can't always judge a book by its cover.
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