Friday, January 29, 2016

My favorite plants this January

In contrast to other years, the stars of my winter garden have been relatively slow about showing their stuff this year.  That may be due to the colder temperatures we've experienced since December, the drought, or a combination of the two.  Whatever the case, the situation has changed over the course of the last couple of weeks.  As Loree of danger garden is back from her holiday hiatus with her monthly favorites post, it's a perfect time to show off some of the current stars of my garden.

The first is Helleborus x 'Anna's Red'.  I picked this plant up at the late, great Sperling Nursery last year principally for its pretty foliage.  As I remember, it was the last one they had, my friend having snatched up the only other one on the table.  Frankly, I didn't expect much from it as hellebores don't do particularly well here so, last week when I saw buds on the plant, I was very excited.

I enjoyed the attractive foliage all last year but the appearance of flowers put the plant over the top for me

I love the flowers even if they do insist on pointing their faces toward the ground

And look!  There are more flowers to come!

I've flaunted photos of my Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' in other posts this month but I can't help myself from doing so again.  The plant in the front garden is covered in blooms and buds.  I stopped counting after two dozen.

The buds don't show up well in this sun-saturated photo but, believe me, there are lots of them

The flowers gradually turn peachier as they mature

But that's not the only Grevillea putting on a show at the moment.  Grevillea 'Superb' is also living up to its name.

This Grevillea 'Superb' is loaded with blooms

The mature flowers of 'Superb' are longer but narrower than those of 'Peaches & Cream'

Another plant that's living up to its name is Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder'.  Its winter color is showing with the development of its cones and yellow bracts.

This plant moved here with me from our former house, where it lived in a pot.  Once planted in the ground, it exploded in size.

It looks like a flower, doesn't it?

This is my second 'Wilson's Wonder'.  Planted in November 2014, it's still relatively small.

Before I end this post, I also want to give a shout out to Arctotis 'Pink Sugar'.  Its blooms may be late in arriving but it's quickly making up for lost time.

'Pink Sugar' does a good job of complementing Phormium 'Maori Queen' 

If the flowers didn't close in low light, I'd be using them regularly in vases

Despite our drought, I know I'm lucky to be able to enjoy plants like these in the middle of winter when so many other gardeners are shivering in their boots and digging cars out of snowdrifts.  Thank you Mother Nature!  Now, if you could just see your way to deliver up some rain this weekend...

Visit Loree and danger garden to see her favorite January plants and to find links to other gardeners' choices.

All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A progress report

As those of you who regularly read my blog may remember, we had the last of our sod stripped away in late September.  That was followed by months of digging to remove grassroots and sod netting in the affected areas before we added topsoil and amendments.  I reported progress with the backyard area in late November and mid-December.  I'm finally ready to provide a status report on the front yard area.

As a reminder, here's what the area looked like at earlier stages in the process:

From the left: the area with lawn, the area after the sod was stripped away, and the area while digging was in progress

Here are a the most current photos of the same area:

View looking roughly northwest

View looking in the other direction toward the hedge lining the street

We completed our digging at the end of December.  We then added imported topsoil and amendments to improve soil drainage.  A railroad tie and gravel path was laid to connect the existing walkway to the street and a flagstone path was added to make it easier to work in the surrounding beds without stomping on plants.  Planting has begun but is by no means complete.

The area closest to my neighbor to the north, which is sunny for most of the day, has been planted with lots of succulents.

I used cuttings and ornamental grass plugs in most of this area

The Agave attenuata in the photo on the far left was in place when we bought the property but I've added cuttings of Aeoniums, Senecio vitalis and Sansevieria suffruticosa around them.  In the top row on the right, the photo shows 3 Agave attenuata cuttings, a mass planting of Cistanthe grandiflora (formerly known as Calandrinia) cuttings I received from a friend, and Echeveria picked up on a recent shopping expedition.  The bottom row on the right shows a noID variegated Aloe received from a neighbor, plugs of Festuca glauca, and one of 3 new fernleaf lavenders (Lavandula multifida).

The area on the other side of the gravel pathway, screened to a significant extent by the existing Xylosma congestum hedge, is much shadier.  Planting has only just begun in this area.  This far, I've relied mostly on shade-tolerant plants and divisions of plants from the side garden.

Two Acanthus mollis were moved from this area where, since the removal of the Eucalyptus tree in 2013, they were getting too much sun.  I also dug up and divided the huge mass of Arthropodium cirratum (Renga Lily)  shown here, which netted 27 divisions, some of which I replanted and many which I gave away to friends and neighbors.

Clockwise from the far left: One of 3 Acanthus mollis (2 of which were moved from elsewhere in the garden), Abelia 'Confetti', one of the many divisions I took from a large mass of Arthropodium cirratum I removed from the side garden, one  of 4 divisions I made from 2 recently purchased Dianella tasmanica 'Yellow Stripe', and a mass of wooly thyme planted from flats

This is a working area of the garden rather than one for resting and relaxing.  The railroad tie and gravel path is intended for use in moving our trash cans to and from the street.

We were unable to find a contractor to extend the existing paved area over such a short distance so we made do with a path constructed of railroad ties and gravel.  The ties are placed to allow the wheels of the garbage bins supplied by the sanitation department to roll along them rather over the gravel.

A potting bench, inherited from my mother-in-law, sits alongside the garage near a compost tumbler inherited from the house's prior owner.

Garden accents are few but there are a couple.

The cat figure is an old Christmas gift from my husband that's been hidden behind shrubs for months.  The half barrel was moved from the vegetable garden to this area that's so embedded with tree roots it's otherwise impossible to plant.

The biggest source of frustration with the area thus far is the arrival of the raccoons.  They've ignored this area for the 5 years we've had the house.  Did they dig when the area was covered by lawn?  No!  Did they dig once the sod was removed?  No!  Did they dig at anytime during the time we ourselves were actively digging in the area?  No!  But, 2 days after I planted the area, they've laid their claim.

I came across evidence of the digging here this morning (not to speak of the mess they made in the side garden for 3 days running)

All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, January 25, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: Going tiny

Pansies are the first flower I fell in love with as a child and although the conditions in Southern California aren't optimal for growing them, I inevitably cave in and buy some every year.  This year I at least held off until the summer-like temperatures that persisted through November finally gave way.  I planted plugs of a few varieties in December and, with regular rainwater, courtesy of my rain collection tanks, they're doing well so they were a natural choice for this week's "In a Vase on Monday," the meme hosted by Cathy of Rambling in a Garden.  Their short stems necessitated use of tiny vases.   Of course, going tiny, I couldn't stop at just one vase.

I created 3 coordinated, but not identical, vases 

The vases contain different foliage but the same 3 floral elements:

Viola x wittrockiana was used in all 3 vases - most are from a mix called 'Pandora's Box' but the third vase also includes a cream-colored viola.  In addition, each vase includes Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy' and flowers of a noID Narcissus growing in several areas of my backyard garden.

Here's a closer look at the individual vases, each of which manages to project a slightly different personality.

In addition to Violas, Narcissus and Gomphrena, this vase includes Pseuderanthemum atropupureum 'Texas Tri-star' and Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold'

The extra elements in the green vase are leatherleaf fern (Rumorha adiantiformis) and Abelia 'Confetti'

The only divergent element in the yellow vase is Erysimum linifolium 'Variegatum'

I couldn't find a good place to arrange all 3 vases as a group so they ended up in different spots.

The dining room table

The mantle in the master bedroom

And the desk in my home office

Last week's arrangement held up amazingly well, although the flowers of Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' are now starting the fall apart.  There are still lots of flowers on the shrub but I couldn't bear to cut any more.

Gratuitous photo of my beautiful Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' in the front garden

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to find what she and other gardeners have managed to put together from materials in their gardens this week.

All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Plant Shopping in the San Fernando Valley

Last weekend, I visited a friend in the San Fernando Valley and we toured two local nurseries.  In the past, we'd have spent our time at Sperling Nursery, one of my long-time favorite plant shopping haunts but, sadly, it closed last year.  My friend introduced me to Desert Creations Nursery in Northridge, which opened last year.  (You can find a video on the nursery here.)  It's a small place, located behind a gym and nearly invisible from the street, operating out of what was clearly once a home.

The interior contains a wide range of gift and decorative items, as well as some very nice pottery designed especially to complement succulents.

Among other things, items for sale included an Opuntia-shaped lamp, tiny succulents in tiny pots, and botanical pens

The room in the back was dedicated to pottery

Small plants occupied benches in the space adjoining the pottery room but, behind the building, in what would once have been a backyard, there were larger plant specimens, including display tables with show-quality plants.

My favorite plant was this Cochemiea setispinsus, shown on the left photographed from behind highlighted by the morning sun and on the right photographed from the front

Astrophytum ornatum

Copiapoa kranziana

Coryphantha sp.

Ferocactus sp.

My second favorite: Gymnocalycium tudae

Mammillaria candida

Parodia sp.

The nursery has two sweet dogs, both rescues.

Elrey, on the left, came out to greet us wagging his tail when we arrived before settling back in his bed, and his female companion on the right followed us out to see us off

I left with two pots.

They're not yet planted but that situation won't last long

As usual, I left behind a couple of plants out of concern with the impact their purchase would have had on my pocketbook.

Boophane disticha on the left (I didn't even bother to check the price of that one) and Mammillaria pilcayensis on the right (which I was afraid to buy after having a similar specimen "melt" in last year's rain

Our second stop was Green Thumb Nursery in Canoga Park.  Part of a chain, the Canoga Park location, opened in 1946, was the first of Green Thumb's nurseries.  Although I grew up only miles away, I've probably only visited this garden center a handful of times.  (I don't come from a family of gardeners.)  On my last visit several years ago, I thought the place looked sad and tired, at least by comparison to the vibrancy of Sperling, but it's perked up since.  I understand they've hired several of Sperling's horticulturalists.

Displays near the entrance of the outside area, where driftwood (from the Pacific Northwest no less!) was heavily featured

Green Thumb carries a little bit of everything but I was particularly impressed by the quality of the succulents and the diverse selection of drought tolerant plants.

Clockwise from the upper left: a pristine selection of Agaves, Cordylines in a variety of colors, more varieties of Nandina than I've seen in one place anywhere else, a nice selection of Talavera pottery, bedding plants (also in perfect condition), and orchids tucked among statuary

I didn't leave there empty-handed either.

I found Echeveria agavoides 'Vashon', a plant I'd admired but left behind on my last plant shopping trip because it was available only in a large and very pricey pot.  Combined, the 3 plants shown at the top of the frame on the left cost me only a little more than one in the larger pot would have.  I also picked up 3 more Echeveria and 2 unidentified succulents, as well as the pretty pot shown on the right.

Although, yet again, I left behind a plant I wish I hadn't...

Rhodanthemum hosmariense 'Moondance'

All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party