Friday, April 29, 2016

April Favorites

On the last Friday of the month, Loree of danger garden celebrates her current favorite plants and encourages other gardeners to follow suit.  April is usually a high point in my garden but the lack of rain this season (after unrealistically inflated hopes of ample rain associated with El Niño), early heatwaves, days of freakishly ferocious wind, and a neighbor's threat to contact the city about the height of my trees have had me viewing my garden through jaundiced eyes.  I had to force myself to blink to see the beauty in my garden.  Fortunately, the exercise of looking at plants individually helped me shake off my doldrums and see what's good about my garden right now.  I offer just a few examples.

Globularia x indubia (aka globe Daisy), which I personally refer to as my hairy blue eyeball plant, is in full bloom.  I added it to my dry garden in October 2012 and it is finally bulking up in size.  A second plant, added last July, survived last year's hot summer and this season's limited rain but it's still small.

I originally bought this plant for its foliage and wasn't sure what to make of the flowers when they first appeared but they've grown on me

In the front garden, two Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', planted a month apart in the fall of 2014, are reaching maturity.  I was afraid they might get too big for their spots but so far I think they're fitting in nicely.  The shrubs are supposed to produce white blooms but have yet to do so.

This specimen, planted in December 2014, is the larger of the two shrubs

This one, on the opposite side of the path leading to the front door, was planted in November 2014 after we'd cleared the area of lawn

The two shrubs can be seen in juxtaposition in this view

Close-up of the Leptospermum's foliage, which I often add to vases

In the backyard, it's impossible to ignore Achillea 'Moonshine'.  Despite cutting numerous stems for vases, the flowers continue to dominate the backyard border.  The first of these perennials were planted in 2012 but I added a few more in 2015 after removing the remainder of our lawn.

The foliage is grayer than it appears in this photo

Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' has a more low-key presence in the backyard border but it never ceases to amaze visitors.  Three of these shrubs, planted in part-day shade below a tall peppermint willow (Agonis flexuosa) in the fall of 2012, have created a sea of fluffy green foliage despite dry soil and competition from tree roots.

I've planted more of these shrubs elsewhere in the garden but none have done as well (to date) as these three

To conclude, I'd like to shine a spotlight on Leucadendron 'Pisa'.  This silver-foliaged beauty has surprised me this year.  Planted in 2014, it produced a mass of "blooms" in March.  Since then, it's developed lovely silver-tinged cones.

Photograph taken in March

The enlarged cones photographed this week

If you've got some plants deserving of special mention this month, jump onto Loree's bandwagon at danger garden.

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

So, I've been shopping...

Fall and winter is absolutely the best time to plant here in coastal Southern California.  It's cooler and we get rain - not a lot of rain the last few years but some.  Frost is virtually unheard of so that's not a danger to infant plants.  The only problem is that many of the plants on one's wish list are unavailable.  Nurseries and garden centers find it easier to sell plants when they're in bloom or about to bloom so their fall/winter stock is limited.  Many also clear the shelves to make room for Christmas trees and decorations.  Mail order nurseries, many of which operate out of colder climes, either close down entirely or carry limited inventory.  So, like it or not, plant shopping continues well into spring and often beyond.  Early spring usually isn't too bad a time to plant as cooler temperatures persist even as rainfall dries up but our traditional "cool season" has been distinctly less cool the last few years.  This year, February was downright hot and we didn't get a drop of rain in what is normally our wettest month.  March was better but April has been a mixed bag, offering just a touch of rain, significant heat, and frequent, plant desiccating winds.

Despite the downsides of planting under such conditions, I did quite a bit of plant shopping in late March and April.  After taking out the remainder of our lawn last year, I still had a lot of empty ground to cover come spring.

The first big plant shopping expedition in late March with a friend took me north into the counties of Ventura and Santa Barbara.  I left without my camera so I've no photos of the three nurseries we visited that day but I'm focused here on my purchases, not the nursery grounds.

First up was Seaside Gardens in Carpenteria.

This photo was taken in March 2015.  You can find other photos of prior visits here.

My most exciting purchase was Phylica pubescens.  I first saw this plant in 2013, offered in a large pot for $400.  This trip I found it in a 1-gallon pot at a reasonable price and snatched it up.

From left to right: my new Phylica pubescens tucked into a large patio pot; a close-up of its flower; and the $400 plant I first spied in 2013

Pacing myself, I bought just 3 other plants at Seaside.

My other purchases at Seaside were a Cistus 'Sunset' and 2 Leucadendron salignum 'Winter Red'

After lunch, our next stop was Terra Sol in Santa Barbara, where I picked up a few more things.

This photo of Terra Sol's front entrance was taken in May 2015.  You can find other photos taken during a prior visit here.

My haul from Terra Sol included, clockwise from the left: Leucadendron 'Jubilee Crown' with Leucospermum 'Brandi', Alstroemeria 'Princess Claire', Echium webii, and Plectranthus ecklonii.  The last two plants came to Terra Sol from Annie's Annuals & Perennials, my go-to mail order nursery.

On our return trip south, we stopped at the Australian Native Plants Nursery in Casitas Springs.

This photo was taken in March 2015.  You can find photos from that prior visit here.

I was hunting for a green-flowered Callistemon and I found one - maybe.  Callistemon pinifolius may bloom green, or red.  Although my plant was germinated from seed taken from a green-flowered parent, Jo, the nursery owner, explained that the flower color is a crap shoot.  I deliberated at length but, as I only get up that way twice a year at best, I brought the plant home.  For now, it remains in its nursery pot until it shows its true color.

Clockwise from top left: Callistemon pinifolius, the tag showing the hoped-for green flower, Eremophila hygrophana, and Kennedia prorepens

Just a few days after my northern nursery expedition I received a delivery of plants from Annie's Annuals & Perennials.

The delivery included: Felicia aethopica, Agave gypsophila, Agave stricta rubra, Deschampsia flexuosa and Euphorbia atropurpurea

Three days after that delivery, I received an order of 36 Eustoma grandiflora (Lisianthus) plugs I'd placed with Burpee back in December.  April was the earliest delivery date I could get.

With one exception, the plugs were in good shape when they arrived

The mix of blue, green and yellow-flowered varieties were planted in the area shown on the left and the mix of pink and white-flowered varieties were planted in the area shown on the right

Although April's heatwave and wicked winds took a toll on my plant plugs, I'm looking forward to seeing Eustoma blooms in my garden within the next month or two.  A number of last year's plants are poised to make a comeback.  It remains to be seen how the Burpee plugs will do as the heat ramps up but I remain hopeful.

Photos of Eustoma in a variety of colors taken last year

I barely got all these plants (minus the Callistemon) in the ground before I trotted off to the South Coast Botanic Garden's spring plant sale.

The Lego exhibit was still going on and I took another photo of the gardener (You can see more photos of this exhibit here)

My big find at the sale was a Salvia africana lutea.

My new plant is shown on the left.  Photos of the botanic garden's plants are shown in the next 2 photos.

But I also brought a few other things home.

Clockwise from the left: Aloe vanbalenii x ferox, Aeonium leucoblepharum, Agave 'Kissho Kan', Rhipsalis baccifera, and Veltheimia bracteata

I was back at the botanic garden the following week for the Cactus & Succulent Society's Show & Sale but I'll cover that event in a future post.  I'll end here with the plants I brought home from my most recent trip to Roger's Gardens 2 weeks ago.

Another view of my cart before I removed that expensive Leucadendron laxum

My big find here was a Hymenolepsis parviflora (left), a plant prominently used in The Getty's Central Garden (right)

In addition to the Gazanias and Gaillardias shown on my cart, my other purchases included (clockwise from top left): Artemisia californica, Buddleja 'Buzz Purple', Lunaria annua 'Rosemary Verey' and Maireana sediflora

Other than the Callistemon and the Maireana sediflora, which I keep moving about in its nursery pot, everything is planted.  I really should stop the plant buying now but I'm not foolish enough to make any promises.  What about you?  Have you been on any plant shopping binges this spring?

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

Monday, April 25, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: Too much yellow?

Last week, I reported on an effort to adjust an excess of yellow color in my back garden.  It certainly seems that everything is coming up yellow right now, vases included.

This week the front and back views are nearly identical

Top view, dominated by the flat florets of Achillea 'Moonshine'

My original plan was to use purple Solanum xanti as my focal point and yellow touches as accents but, while the Solanum is flowering well, it can't match the yellow flowers in abundance, as a look at my garden demonstrates.

This bed contains Solanum xanti and Cotula lineariloba, among other things.  I tucked a few cuttings of Cotula in the bed late last summer, without even rooting them beforehand, not really expecting them to survive.  The plants spread quickly, crawling through and over everything in their path.

The Solanum self-seeds freely, tucking itself between the patio and Senecio vitalis here, but it isn't nearly as aggressive as the Cotula

And Achillea 'Moonshine' is currently dominating the back border

Without enough purple color to temper the screaming yellow, I looked for bright green foliage in an effort to achieve balance.  The grapevine planted along the fence with my neighbor to the north is also scrambling over everything in sight at the moment, so I took the clippers to it.

The arbor that my husband built to support the grapevine isn't sufficient to contain it.  It's already reaching into the persimmon trees planted on either side of it.  Yes, cutting the vines will reduce the grapes the vine produces but the birds, squirrels and raccoons usually take the grapes before they're ripe anyway.

Here are close-ups of what went into the vase:

Clockwise from the left: Achillea 'Moonshine', Abelia x grandiflora 'Hopley's', Cotula lineariloba 'Big Yellow Moon', grapevine foliage, and Solanum xanti

The yellow color is still dominant but the curves of the grapevine give the vase a graceful quality, rather like a woman wearing a flashy designer evening gown.

The vase sits on the dining room table

For the bedroom mantle, I sought out softer colors, stealing a little Dorycnium hirsutum (aka Hairy Canary Clover) from the bees as my starting point.  The clover's foliage feels like cashmere to the touch.

From the left, the vase contains" noID pink Alstroemeria, white and pink forms of Centranthus, and Dorycnium hirsutum

The finished vase on the bedroom mantle

I had floral and foliage leftovers from one of last week's vases and plants cut during my sojourn through the garden so I popped these into a third vase.

More yellow!

Clockwise from the upper left, this vase contains 'Alstroemeria 'Princess Claire' (left over from last week's vase), Abelia x grandiflora 'Hopley's', noID Antirrhinum, a noID sunflower seedling, Phlomis fruitcosa, and Trachelospermum jasminoides

This vase is heavy so I hope it'll withstand any wind gusts that blow through the front door.  I tucked my over-used ceramic frog away this week in favor of a ceramic mouse riding a butterfly, mainly to add a color other than yellow to the arrangement.

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see more flower and foliage arrangements.

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

Friday, April 22, 2016

Earth Day Celebration

Today marks the 46th celebration of Earth Day.  In recognition, I thought I'd take you on a short stroll through my garden, the place where I feel closest to the earth and its needs.

We enter through the gate on the north side, where a dark pink ivy geranium (Pelargonium peltatum) has wended its way up the arbor to merge with the white bower vine (Pandorea jasminoides) and star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)

The Hairy Canary Clover (Dorycnium hirsutum) has burst into bloom to the delight of the bees

A few specimens of our state flower, the California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), have finally bloomed on the back slope from the seeds I scattered prior to one of our few rainstorms

The slope marking the loosely defined division between our property and that of our neighbor is awash in ice plant blooms (Delosperma cooperi)

Back up on the main level of our backyard, the Easter lily cactus (Echinopsis oxygona) has more blooms

Sunflower seedlings are popping up here and there throughout the garden, presumably planted by the birds

The birds, in this case a Black-headed Grosbeak and a Mourning Dove, have made a lot of use of the fountain through our latest heatwave

I think this fellow may be a Spotted Towhee

Achillea 'Moonshine' is enjoying a banner year in the backyard borders

I hope you've had time to enjoy Earth Day in your own way.  Listening to the news, it's hard not to worry about the earth's future but at least one report offers a positive slant today.

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

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Tarnished Gold

Yellow is my favorite color but I've gone way overboard in its use in my backyard garden.  While I have several swaths of yellow color, the one that seems most jarring to my eye is that created by a mass of Gazania 'New Day Yellow'.  Despite the pathetically low rainfall we've had this season, limitations on irrigation, and bursts of unusually hot temperatures in what is supposed to be our cool season, these plants are very happy in my garden.  The clumps are large and continuously covered in bright gold flowers.

The gold-toned Gazanias, like taxi-cabs, draw one's eye but stand out in too stark a contrast to some of the surrounding plants

I decided I needed to tone things down a bit in this area so I went shopping for Gazanias in a softer color last weekend.  It's already getting late to plant anything new here - the month of February was the hottest (and among the driest) on record and we're in the midst of another heatwave now.  If I'm going to plant anything more, I thought I'd best get it done this month.

My shopping trip took me to Roger's Gardens in Corona Del Mar.  The garden center is full of lovely plants but it was hot so I only took a few photos.

Photos taken from the mid-section of the garden center

Left to right: Monkey puzzle trees (Araucaria araucana), which I can't remember ever seeing for sale locally; a lovely orange Leucospermum; and a beautiful Yucca 'Bright Star', which don't seem to be available in 1-gallon sizes anymore

A few of the many succulent displays - I fell for those succulent-planted purses but they were really pricey so they stayed on the shelf

I found the Gazanias and Gaillardias I was looking for fairly quickly, which doesn't mean I didn't scour the place for other plants I didn't need.

They had Itoh peonies but I've sworn I won't buy another until the one I have blooms again.

Left to right: 'Bartzella' (I think), 'Keiko', and 'Takara'

Here's my 'Keiko' Itoh peony - the foliage looks healthy but there's not a bud in sight

What I found extraordinary about the peonies for sale at Roger's was this tag:

I don't get how Itoh peonies can be considered "water-wise" so I was surprised to see this tag affixed to the pots.  I checked the grower's own webpage and saw only instructions to "water regularly - weekly, or more in extreme heat."

No peonies landed on my cart but I did pick up a plant I had a hard time leaving behind.

My cart, featuring a new-to-me Leucadendron laxum in front.  The plant sat on my cart for 20 or more minutes while I deliberated (and took photos).

More views of the Leucadendron

I finally decided Leucadendron laxum looked a lot like a bigger version of the Leucadendron 'Jubilee Crown' I bought several weeks ago on a trip to Seaside Gardens in Carpenteria so I reluctantly put L. laxum back.

The small Leucadendron 'Jubilee Crown' planted in my garden has feathery new growth similar to that of the L. laxum but it has yet to produce any flowers or cones

It turns out that the two plants aren't classified as part of the same species but, for now, I'll wait to see how 'Jubilee Crown' does - and whether L. laxum becomes available in a 1-gallon size pot.

I pulled up some of my gold Gazinias and planted five of the white and yellow Gazanias I selected in their place.  I'll probably add a few more if I find some in my local garden center.  I'm in the process of dividing the gold plants I pulled out and searching for spots in other corners of the garden to plant them.

The white and yellow Gazanias will take awhile to catch up with the gold ones in size

I've collected a LOT of plants over the past two months but I've been lazy about putting posts together to show them off.  I'll try to correct that omission soon.

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