Friday, October 30, 2015

My Favorite Plants This Month

I've been so fixated on clearing the area formerly covered by sod in the backyard that I'm barely attending to the rest of the garden.  I probably bit off more than was realistic with this project.  I'm racing to beat the arrival of the El Niño weather system and I still have a small section of soil to clear of rocks and debris.  I have a topsoil delivery arriving early next week that needs to be dug in before we can lay flagstone and begin planting.  El Niño isn't operating on a specific timetable but the likelihood of arrival increases as the calendar progresses into November.  However, prompted by Loree's favorite plants meme at danger garden, I did take some time to appreciate the plants that are looking particularly good right now.

First up is Barleria obtusa, a cousin to Barleria cristata, a plant I've long admired in the posts of Texas gardeners.  B. obtusa is shorter than its cousin but the flowers have the same vivid color and shape.  I picked up two of these plants last year at my local botanic garden's fall plant sale.  The evergreen plants hadn't done much of anything since last fall but they suddenly burst into bloom a week ago.

Barleria obtusa, photobombed by Eustoma grandiflorum 'Echo Blue', which is returning for another round of bloom as the nighttime temperatures cool down

Echium fastuosum 'Star of Madeira' is also on my favorites list this month.  I acquired it by mail order late last year and mistreated it badly before finally planting it in my front garden in December.  It hasn't bloomed yet but it's grown steadily, albeit slowly, forming a round mound of attractive variegated foliage.  The flowers almost seem beside the point, although I'm sure I'll celebrate when it blooms.

Placement seems to be key for this plant - another specimen planted in my drier, south side garden remains a fraction of the size of this one even though it was planted just a few months later

Since I cut back the flower stalks, my Euphorbia characias 'Black Pearl' is producing new growth.  I've been so impressed with this Euphorbia that I put in six more plants elsewhere in the front garden.

The original plants have produced some seedlings I'm hoping to use in the backyard when it's ready to plant

I added three Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy' to my garden early this year.  While all have survived, only the one receiving the most sun and water has thrived.  It has a very loose shape and it's difficult to photograph but I love its tiny violet-purple flowers.

Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy' mingling with other plants in the front border

Grevillea 'Peaches and Cream' also deserves a shout-out.  It's managed to flower just outside the regular Bloom Day cycle for the last few months and it still isn't blooming as heavily as either G. 'Superb' or G. 'Ned Kelly' but its flowers are bigger and always fabulous.  My largest specimen in the front garden happens to be blooming right now.

I replaced the Argyranthemum that formerly crowded this Grevillea 'Peaches and Cream' with lower-growing Carex oshimensis 'Evergold' and I think it likes the improved breathing space

Last but certainly not least is Hypoestes aristata (aka ribbon bush).  I grew this shrub in my former garden and it's the one plant I most regret having left behind, even though it only shines in the fall.  I finally found it on-line and planted three specimens in different areas of the garden in mid-February.  Two of the plants remain very short and relatively unimpressive thus far; however, they have survived the heat and drought and one is flowering well.

The plant on the left sits in the backyard border in an area that has killed numerous other plants.  The plant on the right sits in a similarly unfavorable area in the front garden.

In contrast, the last of the three has taken off and is already more than twice the size of the other two.  I suspect the difference is the amount of water it enjoys.

I almost missed the Hypoestes aristata here as it has cosied up to Cuphea ignea 'Starfire Pink' but as the Hypoestes grows taller it should hold its own with the other shrub

Oh, I almost forgot Senna bicapsularis!  I recognized it earlier this week in my "In a Vase on Monday" post but it certainly deserves recognition here too.  It's a beautiful plant that literally lights up my dry garden this time of year.

In addition to being gorgeous, Senna bicapsularis is a host plant for sulphur butterflies.

Visit Loree at danger garden to see what plants have found favor with her and other gardeners this month.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Trick or Treat?

I'd say this was both a trick and a treat - a trick on me and a treat for a squirrel on a pre-Halloween binge.  When I put two pumpkins out by the front door, I knew there was a risk that the critters would go after them but last year they waited until the pumpkins had been sitting around for a few weeks.  I hadn't even gotten around to putting out any other Halloween decorations when I discovered the pumpkin carnage shown above.  My skeleton is literally still in the closet.

The smaller, undamaged pumpkin has been moved into the house.  A clean-up crew arrived to take care of the mess by the front door.

I moved the gutted pumpkin to the backyard, placing it under the bird feeders to allow the backyard inhabitants an opportunity to finish it off.  I saw the squirrel return to the scene of the crime this morning.

I can almost hear his exultation: "King of the Pumpkin!"

I hope you get more treats than tricks this Halloween!

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, October 26, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: Pure Sunshine

This week the garden itself selected the flowers for "In a Vase on Monday," the meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  Senna bicapsularis, one of my favorite fall bloomers, suddenly burst into flower.

Senna bicapsularis, aka Winter Cassia, generally blooms in October here.  It's positioned along the fence with my neighbor to the north.  Her yellow Brugmansia sits behind it on the other side of the fence.

The Senna serves as a host plant for sulphur butterflies (Phoebis sennae)

My 'Buttercream' roses are also blooming, perhaps in response to our cooler nighttime temperatures.  The roses pair beautifully with the Senna, making them the obvious choices for my vase.

I kept the plant selection relatively simple, adding just 2 other plants, one to provide foliage support and the other to pick up the brown tones at the center of the Senna flowers.

Top: 'Rosa Buttercream'
Bottom, left to right: Senna bicapsularis, Pittosporum tobira, and Pennisetum 'Fireworks'

But the peach 'Medallion' roses have also produced a few new blooms and, as our daytime temperatures are back in the upper 80sF (30-31C), I decided they'd last longer inside the house so I have a second vase this week.  The roses have weak stems that don't do a good job holding up the blooms.  I probably should have left the roses alone in the vase but the Zinnias in the vegetable garden have also produced an abundance of new blooms, demanding attention, so I stuffed them into the vase as well.  The arrangement makes me think of a flamenco dancer with a flouncy skirt.

Front view with roses (left); back view featuring the Zinnias alone (right)

Top: Floppy-headed Rosa 'Medallion'
Bottom, left to right: Nandina domestica berries (reused from my 2-week old Monday vase), more Pittosporum tobira, and Zinnias grown from seed

The first vase sits in the front entry, providing a cheerful welcome.

The second vase sits on the dining room table, partly because it 's a better match with the table runner and partly because that location allows it to be viewed from 2 sides.

Last week's vase is still intact, although I've removed some of the Eustoma's dried up blooms.  One of the 2 Magnolia cones has dried and turned brown but it hasn't yet dropped.  The 6-week old succulent vase has finally been dismantled.  I planted most of the cuttings, tossing a few, not because they were unusable, but because I already have plenty of those varieties.

Original water-less succulent vase shown in September 14th post (left) and vase immediately prior to dismantling on October 25th (right).  The plants did change over the course of 6 weeks.  Color changes in the Graptosedum 'California Sunset', the Graptopetalum paraguayense, and the noID Rhipsalis are the most obvious but most cuttings lost volume.

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to find more vases created by gardeners celebrating what's "In a Vase on Monday."

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Thursday, October 22, 2015

So what happened to the persimmons this year?

I inherited 2 persimmon trees with the house.  They were planted by the guy we bought the house from, which means they're relatively young trees as he owned the house just over a year.  They didn't produce much in the way of fruit during our first years here but they did have pretty fall foliage.

2013 fall foliage

This year, the foliage looks terrible but the trees produced a lot of fruit.  While many of the immature fruits dropped early on, quite a bit was left to ripen on the trees.

Ripening fruit earlier this month

It disappeared rather rapidly.  The fruits nearest the fence top in the vegetable garden went first but these were quickly followed by the fruits on the tree in the dry garden.  I initially held the raccoons responsible for knocking the fruit to the ground, even when I found a squirrel polishing off a decaying persimmon.

I've heard that persimmons are best when they're over-ripe; however, this guy took that message to the extreme

But the squirrels don't need help from the raccoons.  After all, they have the run of the place during the day.

Squirrel eating a persimmon right from the tree

There are no persimmons left on either tree.  Meanwhile, the squirrels are also running off with the guavas, hiding some and eating others.

Guava crumbs

Really, our backyard offers squirrels a full range of amenities.

A comfortable seat at the birdseed bar

Flowers for the picking when fruit and seeds gets same-old, same-old

Fresh water at the fountain

Scenic locations to hang out

Squirrels, they own the place.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, October 19, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: The Last of the Eustoma (maybe)

The pink Eustoma grandiflorum (aka Lisianthus) in my garden got an extended period of bloom with its last flush when 'Mariachi Pink' returned as 'Echo Pink' was finishing up.  In recognition of its stellar performance this season - despite heat, wind, and water restrictions - I thought it deserved one last vase.  If the temperatures ever drop, the pink, yellow, blue and/or white Eustoma may be back for yet another round before the year is out but I'm not counting on major floral displays from any of them.

View from overhead

I kept my vase relatively simple this week so as not to upstage the Eustoma.  Here's what I included:

Clockwise from upper left: Eustoma grandiflorum "Mariachi Pink', Magnolia grandiflora seed cones and leaves, Pennisetum 'Fireworks', and Pentas 'Kaleidoscope Appleblossom'

The vase is sitting on the dining room table, once again displacing the water-less succulent vase as I still haven't gotten around to disassembling it.

Thanks Eustoma for providing me months of blooms and, by my count, 23 vases this year (so far), 12 of which have featured one of the pink varieties.

I thought 'Eustoma' 'Echo Pink' and 'Mariachi Pink' were identical except for their stem length but 'Mariachi' seems a bit deeper in color

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, the host of "In a Vase on Monday," to find more vases containing locally-collected flowers and plants.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, October 16, 2015

Foliage Follow-up: Hedges

I've got hedges on my mind, in part because the Strelitzia nicolai (giant bird of paradise) that formed a visual barrier between us and a neighbor on our north side was recently cut to the ground and in part because the Ceanothus hedges on our property are slowly dying.  When I considered topics for today's Foliage Follow-up, the post-Bloom Day celebration of foliage sponsored by Pam at Digging, hedges seemed the obvious topic.

We inherited a LOT of hedges with the house and garden we acquired almost 5 years ago.  In fact, I hired a garden service for the first time in my life after we moved into our current home mainly because I realized it was going to be difficult to maintain all the hedges on our property (with or without my husband's help).  By my count, 6 different types of hedges surrounded us: Auranticarpa rhombifolia (aka diamond leaf pittosporum), Ceanothus (no ID), Laurus nobilis (aka sweet bay or Grecian laurel), Prunus caroliniana (aka cherry laurel), Xylosma congestum, and Yucca elephantipes.  We even have hedges next to hedges.

This view from the backyard shows the Ceanothus hedge running alongside the Xylosma hedge.  There's a path approximately 1 foot wide in between, which gives the gardener (or landscape service) space to maneuver in maintaining both.  In the distance you can see another sort of hedge consisting of some kind of manicured shrub belonging to a homeowner in a neighborhood below us.

Another set of hedges (Ceanothus on the left and Xylosma on the right) runs along the front of the property on the south side of the driveway

Some hedges have held up better than others.  The Yucca at the bottom of our backyard slope may have been intended serve as a tree but it had turned into an impenetrable multi-trunk mass long before we moved in.  Fearing that it had become almost uncontrollable, my husband had it removed, leaving a gap I'm currently trying to fill with Pittosporum tenuifolium.  I cut into the Auranticarpa hedge along the street on the southwest side myself in an effort to rejuvenate it but lost several of the component shrubs leaving gaps in the screen these plants once provided.  However, I subsequently planted a succulent bed in this area so I'm not inclined to restore or replace this hedge, especially as the Auranticarpa tends to suffer from a permanent case of chlorosis.

The best of the hedges are those comprised of Xylosma congestum, a plant that seems to have no common name.  It forms a relatively dense boundary but air and light easily pass through it.  It takes regular trimming in stride without developing a thicket of dead interior twigs.  It also has glossy leaves with orange-tinged new growth.

Close-up of the new growth on Xylosma congestum

A hedge made up of Xylosma lines the main backyard border, providing a frame for our view of the Los Angeles harbor.

View looking southeast toward Angel's Gate, the entrance to the Los Angeles harbor

View looking northeast

The hedge neatly blocks our view of the neighbor's property from the backyard.

This taller portion of the Xylosma hedge, which divides my dry garden from the steps leading down to the back slope, also blocks my view of the neighbor's property

This is the view that lies beyond the Xylosma hedge.  The hedge in the foreground is comprised of Laurus nobilis, which lines our side of the neighbor's metal fence.

 A Xylosma hedge also lines the front of the property, giving us some privacy from the street.

In addition to shielding us from the street, this section of hedge currently hides one of the 2 areas recently stripped of lawn

The worst of the hedge materials used on our property is Ceanothus.  While I love Ceanothus in virtually all its incarnations, I don't think it should be used for hedges, at least not of the type created here.  When combined with plants that are regularly irrigated as these shrubs were, they struggle.  Worse yet, the regular trimming they're subjected to to keep them tidy and low creates and mass of dead growth below the surface and appears to undermine the plants' overall health.  Or that's my theory anyway.

The Ceanothus hedge after a recent shearing to allow passage along the path between it and the Xylosma hedge in the front garden

One by one, within the last year, the Ceanothus shrubs making up the hedges in my front and back gardens have been dying.  Their removal leaves large gaps.

The death of one section of the Ceanothus hedge here left a gap of more than 12 feet.  With no particular plan in mind, I filled in the space with Aeonium and Pelargonium tomentosum cuttings.  Although there's still a lot of soil showing, I'm rather pleased with how the space is filling in.

However, the next section of Ceanothus hedge is about ready for removal.  The photo on the left shows its best side but it looks sad when viewed straight on as in the photo on the right.

Rather than try to recreate the Ceanothus hedge behind the Xylosma hedge at the front of the house, I think I'm going to fill the area in with other plant material.  I like the look of the Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum' with Pelargonium tomentosum  (peppermint geranium) and Aeoniums below and may continue that approach but I'm open to other suggestions!

What I'm going to do in the backyard is an open question.  Although I've lost one section of Ceanothus there, overall those shrubs are doing better than the ones in the front so I have some time to formulate a plan.

There was a Ceanothus shrub adjoining 3 others here to form a hedge directly behind the Xylosma hedge at the top of the slope.  I'd like to plant something to fill in the space but I need to leave room to move behind the Xylosma for maintenance purposes.

Got any ideas?

Fortunately, the Laurus nobilis along the eastern border with the neighbor on one side and the Prunus caroliniana on the southern border with the neighbor on the other side are holding up just fine.

For other views on foliage of all kinds, visit Pam at Digging.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Bloom Day - October 2015

It's been hot and, despite unexpected rain in July and September, after 4 years of drought and watering restrictions, the garden is also very dry.  However, after looking back on my October Bloom Day posts for 2013 and 2014, I find I'm not doing as badly in the bloom department as I thought I was.  There are some no-shows but these are counter-balanced by blooms on plants like the Grevilleas and the Gazanias, which weren't introduced to my garden until last year.

The star of this month's garden is Plectranthus ciliatus 'Zulu Warrior', which did have a prominent place in my garden in prior years.  I brought cuttings of this plant with me from my former garden.  I now have it in 2 areas of my current garden and plan to try it in other areas as well.

Plectranthus can handle a little sun but does best here with shade during the hottest part of the day

In terms of plant combinations, 3 areas are looking good, at least relative to the rest of the garden.

Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun' could use some dead-heading to neaten it up and Agastache 'Sunset' is getting a bit ragged but both are still looking pretty

Hebe 'Wiri Blush' is surrounded here by Pentas 'Nova' and Celosia 'Intenz'

New-ish plantings of Polygala fruticosa 'Petite Butterfly' and Euphorbia 'Breathless White' are combining nicely with older plantings of Tulbaghia violacea (aka Society Garlic) and Eustoma 'Echo Blue', returning for another round of bloom (I hope)

Selected genera are also putting on a good show at the moment.

Eustoma grandiflorum 'Mariachi Pink' (right) and 'Echo Pink' (not shown) have been blooming heavily for 2 months after an earlier spring flush; 'Echo Blue' (left) and 'Borealis Yellow' (middle) have been less floriferous but have still put on impressive performances

Despite becoming the newest salad bar for the resident squirrels, Gazanias 'New Day Yellow', 'White Flame' and 'Golden Flame' still have some unmolested blooms

Grevilleas 'Ned Kelly', 'Pink Midget' and 'Superb' have flowered continuously for a good part of the summer. G. 'Peaches & Cream' (not shown) has produced flowers sporadically but seems camera shy whenever Bloom Day comes around.

Pennisetum 'Fireworks' (left) is smaller than Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum' (right) but no less impressive in bloom this summer. (Yes, I know it's officially fall but apparently Mother Nature's local representative hasn't gotten the message.)

During the past month, roses have appeared here and there, although not in significant numbers.  'Californa Dreamin' (left) and 'Pink Meidiland' (right) are currently making appearances in the front garden.

The Salvias soldier on, with the exception of 'Amistad' which appears to have given up the ghost.  From left, Salvia discolor, S. 'Mesa Azure' and S. 'Mystic Spires'.

And here are the best of the rest, organized by color groupings.

Orange, yellow and white flowers include, clockwise from upper left: Portulaca 'Carrot', Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', Clematis terniflora, Coreopsis 'Redshift', Gaura lindheimeri 'Snow Fountain', Hemerocallis 'Double Impact', Lantana 'Lucky White' and Leonotis leonurus

Pink and magenta flowers include, clockwise from left: Bauhinia x blakeana, Angelonia 'Archangel Raspbery', Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy', Nerium oleander, and Pentas 'Kaleidoscope Appleblossom'

Also my noID Hoya carnosa with what I thought was a bee making a casual visit (left).  She turned out to be the prisoner of an unidentified white and black spider which is still on hand waiting for its next victim (right).

The blue flower group includes, from the left: Aster frikartii 'Monch', Duranta 'Sapphire Showers', Felicia aethiopica "Tight & Tidy', and prostrate rosemary

That's it for my Bloom Day post this month.  I'm hoping that summer, which is apparently loathe to let go of Southern California, will come to an end this month and cooler weather will bring the "second spring" we usually enjoy during the autumn months.  Some rain would also be nice.  (Do you hear me El Niño?)

For other Bloom Day posts, please visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens, the esteemed host of the monthly event that is Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party