Friday, May 31, 2013

A side benefit of taking pictures

We had hazy skies this morning so I took advantage of the partial gloom to take pictures of the garden.  My goal was to document what's new in bloom.  During the course of snapping photos, I discovered that my malicious raccoon neighbors had paid yet another visit.

An Adenophora potaninii (Bush Ladybells), moved a few feet yesterday to give it more sun in the hope it might yet bloom, had been yanked out

Dichondra 'Emerald Falls', added earlier this week as a foil for the nearby Coprosma 'Plum Hussy', had also been uprooted

Fortunately, this time, unlike the occasion I documented earlier, no plants were destroyed as a by-product of the raccoon's pursuit of grubs.  However, I realized that I need to reinstate my morning raccoon damage reconnaissance exercises.

On a more pleasant note, there are plenty of plants putting on a show now that weren't blooming yet at the time of the mid-May Bloom Day post.

Achillea 'Moonshine'

Agapanthus (no ID), now with open flowers

Calandrinia grandiflora, a transplant from my old garden, blooming at last

Catananche caerulea (Cupid's Dart), added recently to complement a grouping of lavender plants

Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow' seems to like this spot much better than the one on the other end of the garden I chose for it last year
Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Goblin'

Hebe 'Wiri Blush'

Inherited dormant daylily (no ID), one of 40 of the same type scattered about the property when we moved in

Unfortunate color clash between the red/orange daylily and an alstroemeria, both inherited with the garden

Hemerocallis 'Cordon Rouge'

Hemerocallis 'Frank Gaylord', happy in its new location after a move last fall

Hemerocallis 'For Pete's Sake', blooming in my dry garden

Leucanthemum x superbum 'Snow Lady'

Leucanthemum x superbum, tall ruffled variety (no record of variety)

Lupinus cruickshankii 'Sunrise'

Magnolia (no ID), inherited with the house and standing proud in the middle of the front lawn

Scaevola 'Suntastic Yellow', returning to bloom a 2nd year

Tanacetum parthenium 'Aureum'

Trachelospermum jasminoides (Star Jasmine) with Disticis laxiflora (?) aka Vanilla Trumpet Vine, climbing on an arbor over the fence between the dry garden and the vegetable garden

Monday, May 27, 2013

Thieving Squirrels

When I noticed that my 3 potted blueberry bushes were full of ripe berries, I suspected that the squirrels would soon shift their attention from the bird feeders they usually focus on (as previously described here) to the blueberry pots.

Sure enough, I caught one in the act soon afterward.

Too bad he isn't willing to work for his berries by pulling some of the weeds between the paving stones.  After his snack, he returned to the bird feeder for his main meal.  Is he smirking?

And he chewed me out from the safety of the tree when I sent him scattering.

But I got the last word.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Trouble Spot: Shade to Sun Transition

In February, the large Eucalyptus tree that dominated our side yard was removed for reasons I detailed here.  At the time, I worried about collateral damage to the surrounding garden areas.  The area most directly impacted by the loss of the tree was the bed directly adjoining the one in which the Eucalyptus formerly stood.  Instead of nearly full shade, it now receives full sun - in fact, it became the sunniest bed in my back yard.  While the tree service people did a great job of protecting the plants in that area, the plants suffered under the full sun exposure.  Within weeks of the tree's removal, the ferns had yellowed, the Pericallis (Florist's Cineraria) was burned and stunted, and the Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-star' was all but dead.  I added some sun-loving annuals like the Nemophila menziesii (Baby Blue Eyes), shown in the picture below, and, later, Layia platyglossa (Tidytips) but, as time went on, the bed looked worse and worse.  Only the pansies seemed to enjoy the change in sun exposure.

Former shade bed in March

The plants in the former shade bed also didn't blend particularly well with the plants I'd selected to fill the adjoining bed formerly occupied by the Eucalyptus.  I probably should tear out all the plants in the former shade bed and start from scratch but I'm giving the largest ones, 3 Acanthus mollis and 2 Arthropodium cirratum (Renga Lilies), a reprieve to see if they can adjust.  Both varieties are said to handle full sun but it remains to be seen if that's true when the sun is accompanied by high summer-time temperatures, low humidity, and regular Santa Ana winds.  I've relocated the ferns and some of the other shade plants that weren't already dead.  This weekend, I filled some of the empty spots with new plants, including Aster novae-angliae 'Skyscraper', Briza media, Teucrium betonicum, and Verbena lilacina 'De La Mina'.  In addition, I moved a Salvia leucantha 'Waverly White' from the back border to this one.  All of these plants are reported to be drought and heat tolerant.

Former shade bed after replanting

Newly planted Aster novae-angliae 'Skyscraper', said to get up to 5 feet tall and wide

Briza media (Quaking Grass), which grows 12-18 inches high

Teucrium betonicum, which should form a 3 foot mound at maturity

Verbena lilacina 'De La Mina', said to grow 2-3 feet tall and wide
Salvia leucantha 'Waverly White'

The Baby Blue Eyes I planted in February took a beating under our relentless Santa Ana winds so I pulled them out and filled in with more Ajuga repens 'Catlin's Giant' along the pathway that separates the former shade bed from the former Eucalyptus bed.  I also added Pratia pedunculata (Blue Star Creeper) between the flagstones, which is already filling in nicely.

Replanted pathway

I think the plants on the 2 sides of the path now blend together somewhat better, although I'll have to wait until some of the new plants grow up and flower before I draw any final conclusions.

Broader view of 2 adjoining beds

The next major project is to remove some of the nearly dead "lawn" surrounding these beds.  This section of grass (weeds) wasn't in good shape to begin with as it was riddled with tree roots.  When the Eucalyptus came down, it took a thorough beating because the tree service guys used it as a staging ground when they cut up the branches and trunk of the tree.  My plan is to extend the existing flagstone path to the side patio and also through the arbor toward the path that leads to the lower section of the front garden.  I'll probably fill in around the expanded path with other low-growing groundcovers.

Damaged lawn area

Instead of collateral damage, I'm trying to see all this as a new opportunity but, in any terms, it's still a lot of work.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Close-ups

Agapanthus (no ID)

Anagallis monelli 

Calliandra haematocephala foliage

Clarkia amoena 'Aurora'

Hemerocallis 'Elizabeth Salter'

Hemerocallis 'Russian Rhapsody'

Hemerocallis 'Spanish Harlem'

Dorycinium hirsutum (Hairy Canary Clover) in bloom

Arthropodium cirratum (Renga Lily)

Rose 'Joseph's Coat'

Rudbeckia 'Cherry Brandy'

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Agapanthus are coming

Does that post title strike you as an exultation - or a warning?  Whether or not you celebrate the bloom period of these perennials may depend on where you live.  Here in Southern California, Agapanthus are found just about everywhere.  Shopping centers, road medians, new housing developments.  Agapanthus in Southern California are looked on as I imagine Rhododendrons are in the Pacific Northwest or Crape myrtles in some areas the South.   Sure, they're nice but they're so common it's hard for many people to get excited about them.

I happen to like Agapanthus, even if they are as common as dirt here.  That's a good thing as I inherited a large quantity of these plants with our current house.  As the clumps tend to merge into one another, I can't even count them very accurately but I'd estimate that I have between 50 and 60 clumps - and all are just about to bloom.

They bloom in partial shade

They bloom in full sun

They fit into my backyard scheme

And occupy a prominent place in my front border

The buds seem to pop up overnight, appearing en masse, standing like soldiers.  The plants require little in the way of maintenance, the foliage looks good even when the plant isn't in bloom, and the flowers make a statement - what's not to like?  Some buds have already opened, although the petals have yet to fully unfurl.

I have a few of the white variety but most are shades of light to medium blue - regrettably, I have none in the dark blue color.  In a few days, I expect to be seeing blue all over the place.  In the meantime, other blues have made their appearance in my garden.

2 pots of 'Bountiful Blue' blueberries now have ripe fruit, which means I will soon see more squirrels on my back porch

Iris germanica 'Versailles' bloomed just after May's Bloom Day

What's so common in your area that its beauty tends to be overlooked?