Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Hey, face forward!

After what seems like two months watching three Coreopsis 'Big Bang Redshift' in my back border develop a mass of buds, they've finally come into full bloom.  However, what do I see when I stand on the backyard lawn and face the border?  This:

It's a nice enough picture but most of the 'Big Bang Redshift' blooms in the back portion of the bed are turned away, pointing toward the hedge, the neighbor's yard, and the morning sun.  To see the flowers as they should be seen, I had to march along the narrow dirt path that runs along the back of the border.  Here's what you can see from that vantage point:

They don't turn their faces around as the sun moves west either.  It's rather disappointing.  However, as I wrote about here, sometimes you have to check out the b-side of the garden for the best view.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

They'll be back (maybe)

It appears that my daylilies have finished blooming, at least for now.  Prior to moving to our current home 2.5 years ago, I'd grown only one daylily.  Planted in a pot in my mostly shady backyard, its performance was unimpressive.  Our new garden came with loads of daylilies - forty or more clumps at my count.  All the same red-orange variety.  All of which went dormant in the fall, leaving empty spaces throughout the garden until the foliage returned in late winter.  I pulled out some of these last year, passing them along to friends, neighbors and family, but the majority remain in place.  Nell Jean of the Seedscatter blog offered me a possible ID: 'Sammy Russell Red'.  I think that's a good guess.

Inherited daylily blooming with agapanthus in May

Even though I didn't love this daylily, I credit it with promoting my interest in the Hemerocallis genus.  I got on-line to look at what was available and soon I was hooked.  In fact, for a newbie daylily grower, I think I went a little crazy.  The majority of the daylilies I've purchased since 2011 are evergreen varieties so they don't leave holes in my garden beds once they finish blooming.  A significant percentage also are reputed to be rebloomers, although not all have lived up to that reputation yet.  Sizes and bloom times seem to deviate from the specifications quoted by the growers in many cases but that could be attributable to our ever-changing climate or the fact that my plants are still in the process of establishing themselves in the garden.

Here's a review:

'Cordon Rouge', an early-mid season evergreen rebloomer (bloomed May through June in my garden)

'Dallas Star', a mid-season semi-evergreen gift plant (bloomed in June on my dry slope)

'Double Impact', a mid-season, semi-evergreen rebloomer (a few blooms in June; much shorter than reported; no evidence or rebloom yet)

'Elizabeth Salter', a mid-season, evergreen rebloomer (bloomed in May in my garden; no evidence of rebloom yet)

'For Pete's Sake', an early-mid season evergreen spider (bloomed May-June in my dry garden)

'Frank Gladney', a mid-season evergreen plant with large blooms (bloomed in May in my side yard)

'Pandora's Box', an early-mid season plant reputed to be evergreen (bloomed in June in my back border; died back last year contrary to "evergreen" status; slated to be moved to my dry slope in the fall)

'Persian Market', a mid-season evergreen rebloomer, received as a gift with purchase (bloomed June-July in my back border; rebloomed in 2012)

'Russian Rhapsody', an early season evergreen rebloomer (bloomed in May in my dry garden; no evidence of rebloom yet)

'Spanish Harlem', an early-mid season evergreen rebloomer (bloomed May-July in my front border; previously bloomed both last spring and again this past winter)

Two daylilies, 'Blythe Belle' and 'Prairie Blue Eyes' didn't bloom at all this year.  'Blythe', a very short reblooming variety, bloomed once last year but hasn't bothered to make an appearance this year.  I'll move her if she's a no-show next spring.  'Prairie Blue Eyes', another gift with purchase, has been moved twice so it may be in a snit.

My favorite Hemerocallis for color, size and reblooming quality is 'Persian Market'.  Last fall, I moved three small clumps from spots in my front and dry garden beds last year, where they bloomed heavily, to my back border.  Although all three rebloomed after their moves, they produced fewer blooms this spring than they did last year, which may be attributable to either the move or to the somewhat shadier location in which the plants now sit.  They may require another move if they don't recoup their former glory.

'Spanish Harlem' is my second favorite.  It is vigorous!  It bloomed heavily over a relatively long period from early May into early July despite an earlier bloom cycle in January.  It's also much taller than the 27 inches projected by the grower, with spikes reaching well over 3 feet.

My hope is that 'Persian Market', 'Spanish Harlem', 'Elizabeth Salter' and my color-favorite, 'Russian Rhapsody', will rebloom this year.  I know 'Cordon Rouge' will - it's already putting out new bloom spikes.

New spikes and flower buds on 'Cordon Rouge'

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Bouquet: Pretty in Pink

I'm generally loathe to cut any flowers which are in short supply, which is the reason many of the bouquets I've posted about week after week feature the same flowers.  I have only two kinds of lilies in my garden - the older variety, which I think is 'Stargazer' is just coming into bloom but a newer, pale pink variety, has been blooming for a few weeks now.  Only one unopened bud remained and more than half the flowers had already given up the ghost so I thought "what the heck" and cut the remaining flowers.  Sadly, this unnamed lily, received as a gift with a purchase of other bulbs, has no scent whatsoever.

I immediately identified Pentas 'Kaleidoscope Appleblossom' as a good companion but I was stuck as to what else to include.  The lily and the pentas, while pretty together, are very similar in color so the bouquet needed something to add punch.  I considered a dark pink oleander (Nerium oleander).  The oleander is part of my neighbor's hedge but heavy, flower-laden branches are now hanging over into our side yard.  The dark pink provided a good accent to the lighter pink but all parts of the oleander are poisonous and I couldn't help worrying that one of my two cats might choose to take a nibble.  Despite the fact that I provide them with nice organic wheat grass, both have a tendency to chew on houseplants even when these are coated with a nasty "no chew" spray.  I couldn't risk it.

Chief offender, Ming

I tried adding bluish purple statice (Limonium perezii) but I thought it detracted from the combination rather than contributing to it.  I tend to prefer harmonious combinations to stark contrasts so I decided to keep to pink tones.  Here's what I came up with:

In addition to the unnamed lily and the Pentas 'Kaleidoscope Appleblossom' I included:

  • Pentas lanceolata 'Nova'
  • Cuphea ignea 'Starfire Pink', of which I always have a plentiful supply
  • Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold'
  • Echinacea 'Magnus'
  • Hebe 'Wiri Blush'

The Coleonema (aka Breath of Heaven) picks up the lime green center of the lily (not readily visible in the picture above).  I also found that one of the three plants in my front border is currently sporting tiny pink flowers.  This winter/spring flowering plant bloomed in late winter so it's a surprise to find it in bloom again in the middle of summer.

Bad photo of the Coleonema's tiny pink flowers

The Echinacea and Hebe are bit players in the arrangement.

Stems of Hebe 'Wiri Blush' and Echinacea 'Magnus'

That's it for this week's contribution to the Garden Appreciation Society, hosted by Erin at The Impatient Gardener.  If only I could construct a bouquet from mimosa tree foliage and flowers...

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A quick pre-sale garden spiff up

My husband is handling the sale of his parents' home on behalf of his siblings.  During our initial meeting with the real estate agent, she said that the back garden felt overgrown and expressed concern that prospective buyers might see it as smaller than it actually is.  My husband agreed and, as the family gardener, I was assigned the task of sprucing up the backyard. Complicating the situation was the short timetable set to get the house on the market, the fact that there was still a lot of packing and clean-up required inside the house, and my conscription for jury duty.

Frankly, the idea of doing anything to my mother-in-law's garden struck me at first as something close to sacrilege.  While she'd spent less time personally tending to the garden as she got older, in my view the garden was very much her creation and fiddling with it felt, well, like an intrusion.  A professional designer put together the original design and oversaw the installation and subsequent maintenance but she was very involved in the initial plant selection and all later decisions about the garden.  I can still remember some of our early discussions about plant choices.  Her focus, then and always, was on utilizing plants that supported the birds she so loved.  While she certainly considered color, shape, size and texture, what was really important was whether the plants served the birds - by providing food, cover, nesting material, and the like.  Earlier this year, months before she became ill, I wrote a post about her garden (which you can view here).

As we cleaned out and emptied the house, it came to feel like a shadow of the family home it once was.  I accepted my assignment to spruce up the garden and, once I was sprung from jury duty, I got to work.  My husband and I spent one full day just trimming back trees and shrubs.  It's a good-sized yard as backyards in Southern California go but the volume of foliage diminished the sense of its size.  Among other things, we took out 3 scraggy mid-sized Artemisia and a misshapen 'Iceberg' rose.

Before picture of bed adjacent to the main patio

After selected plants were removed and the bed was replanted

More sun-exposed "after" picture

Our real estate agent wanted to create an open flow from the patio to the raised area beyond the planting bed so I selected plants that didn't obscure the low stacked wall (created from concrete cut from the front driveway during the original garden installation).  The plants I added here were Trachelium 'Lake Michigan Violet' with purple, dome-shaped flowers and reddish foliage; low-growing annual Cuphea purpurea  'Firecracker' with red and purple flowers that will coordinate with the existing red-flowered Callistemon (bottlebrush) nearby; Vinca 'Cora Cascade Polka Dot', a very short, trailing plant with white flowers accented by a reddish pink dot at their centers; and white Alyssum.  I'm afraid it still looks bare but then I've noticed this is common in the gardens of newly listed houses.

I also cleaned up and added color to the large circular bed that previously held a solar-powered fountain.  My mother-in-law liked it so much that she got others for my sister-in-law and for me.  My solar control burned out and the base of by sister-in-law's fountain was damaged by some large night-visiting creature so she and I each took pieces of my mother-in-law's fountain, which left an empty hole in the middle of the bed.  I cut the large Coprosma back, moved a succulent planter my mother-in-law had created to the center of the bed, and added plants to address the real estate agent's request for more color.

Before picture

Fuzzy "after" picture with succulent planter and new plants

On both sides of the succulent planter I added Echinacea 'Pow Wow Berry', Lantana camara 'Lucky Sunrise Rose', and a few Coreopsis grandiflora 'Early Sunrise' as filler material.  This Lantana is supposed to be a low-grower.  I like the way the Echinacea picked up the color in the existing Loropetalum on the right and may try the same combination in my own garden.

I also added some color to a shady area off to the side under the canopy of a large pine.  I trimmed and neatened the existing orange-flowered cigar plant (Cuphea ignea) and added 9 New Guinea Impatiens (Impatiens x hybrida 'Painted Paradise Pink Improved'), as well as Scotch moss (Sagina subulata 'Aurea'), along the path.


After, still a bit bare

The rest of the work in the backyard consisted of trimming to open up the space, clear pathways, and improve the general appearance of existing plants.  We could have cut many of the shrubs and trees back further but we didn't have space in the green bins to dispose of additional garden debris before the start of the open houses.  The plants also didn't have sufficient time to recover from a hard pruning at this stage.

Before picture of Arbutus unedo and Leptospermum

Picture of Arbutus after it was limbed up and the Leptospermum was cut back

Before picture of overgrown shrubbery (Camellias, Pittosporum and Raphiolepsis) below the kitchen window

After relatively light pruning used to create nominal separation between the varieties of shrubs

I feel as though I should have done more to make the backyard shine but there just wasn't time.  And, as my husband cynically commented, the new owners are likely to yank out everything I added, as well as my mother-in-law's established bird-friendly plants, to put in grass.

In the front yard, all I did was to add 2 pots by the entrance to the front door.  Both pots were planted up with the same mix: Cordyline 'Renegade', Pelargonium peltatum 'Pink Blizzard', Calibrachoa 'Cherry Star', and Alternanthera 'Yellow Joseph's Coat'.  The Cordyline is a particularly nice plant and, as I could find only 2, I'm planning to take at least one of the pots home with me once the house is sold.

Front doorway with new matching pots

Close-up of one pot 

The listing went up on Friday night.  The first open house was held yesterday and another is scheduled for today.  It's currently a seller's market in this area and we're hoping for a quick sale.  It will be a relief for both my husband and myself to shift our focus back to our own home.  However, on a sadder note, the sale also marks the end of an era in the family's history.  

Friday, July 19, 2013

Bouquets: The 'Red Dragon' Rises

The Persicaria 'Red Dragon' I planted from a cutting I brought with me from my old garden has filled out since the hard pruning I gave it in late winter.  Now that its stretched to 3 feet tall and more than 3 feet wide, I finally felt I could afford to cut some to use as a foliage accent in a floral bouquet - or two.  I started out composing a bouquet with Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun' as a centerpiece.  I thought I'd add Coreopsis 'Big Bang Redshift', which is just coming into flower, but, after cutting the Coreopsis, I decided that the red tones in the two flower varieties don't mix well - one red has an orange cast while the other has a purplish burgundy cast.   So, instead of one bouquet, I created two.

This is the bouquet based on the Gaillardia:

In addition to Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun' and Persicaria 'Red Dragon', this bouquet contains Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow' and Echinacea 'Pow Wow White'.  Although the red in the Persicaria leans a little closer to burgundy than orange, I think it effectively reflects the color at the center of the Gaillardia.

The second bouquet using Coreopsis 'Big Bang Redshift' is made of Persicaria 'Red Dragon', Tanacetum parthenium (aka feverfew), and a couple of 'Buttercream' roses.  I added the roses because the composition looked too wispy without a more substantial floral or foliage element.  The short-stemmed yellow roses were all I could find in the right color range.

That's it for the bouquets offered this week as a homage to the Garden Appreciation Society sponsored by Erin at The Impatient Gardener.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

July Foliage Follow-up

The focus on flowers during the spring and summer months can relegate foliage to the role of a bit player, at least when it comes to nursery shopping.  However, even if colors are carefully coordinated, buying too many flowering plants can create a sense of chaos in the garden, as I've learned from personal experience.  Now that I've had a larger garden to play in for 2 years, I think I've finally curbed my flower fixation.  When I plan revisions to a planting bed, I'm paying more attention to foliage than I did in the past.  I can't say that I've done an 180 degree turn but I think I can claim to be a recovering flower fanatic.

Since the beginning of this year, I've added several new foliage plants to the garden, including:

Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt', the 3rd added to my back border

Ajuga reptans 'Catlin's Giant', added around the flagstone pathway in the side yard (Sure, it flowers too, but I grow it mainly for the textured, purple-infused foliage)

'Florida Sun Jade' coleus (Solenostemon scutellariodes), currently the star attraction in a pot also containing a Japanese maple and a fuchsia

Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey' and peppermint-scented Pelargonium tomentosum, merging together prettily in the side yard

3 Hypericum x moserianum 'Tricolor', slowly spreading in my back border

Strobilanthus dyeranus (aka Persian Shield), used to replace flowering plants in 2 large pots
Stipa tenuissima (Mexican feather grass), added to the 3 placed in the back border last year

I added Rumex to the vegetable garden mainly to add foliage interest to a bed otherwise dominated by rather common vegetables:

Rumex 'Raspberry Dressing'

I also recently also picked up an interesting Chinese Evergreen for the living room.  Maybe a house plant shouldn't count for the purposes of a foliage follow-up post but it's too pretty to exclude.

Aglaonema (no ID on the variety but it may be 'Siam Pearl')

As a play on blending the inside and the outside, I also took some pictures of foliage visible from inside my living room.  Unfortunately, they didn't turn out very well - in addition to finding a way to manage window glare, I seriously need to spend some time cleaning my windows.

Persicaria 'Red Dragon', photographed from the inside of a dirty window

You can see foliage highlights of other gardeners' foliage selections on Pam's blog, Digging.  Thanks for visiting my blog.