Friday, July 29, 2016

July Favorites

During the dog days of summer, it's hard to get really excited about the garden here.  The heat is oppressive and most of the plants are acting as though they're in a witness protection program, hunkering down and trying their best not to be noticed.  It helps to take one's camera on a stroll just after sunrise, when the garden feels freshest, which is what I did this week.

There are plants that are adept at standing up to the heat.  I got a jump start in calling those out last week with my post entitled "the good, the bad and the ugly."  I complemented the Leucadendrons and showed photos of 'Wilson's Wonder' and 'Safari Sunset' but 'Pisa' also deserves recognition.

Leucadendron 'Pisa' with the sun showing through its silver leaves (left) and the cones decorating its branches (right)

In the bed opposite that occupied by 'Pisa', Melianthus major is also looking good in the early morning light.

Melianthus major is nestled in between Arbutus 'Marina', Grevillea 'Ned Kelly' and Leucadendron 'Jester' where it gets a bit of shade during the hottest part of the day

The ornamental grasses are also coming into their own.

Pennisetum 'Fireworks' also makes the most of the morning light

Seslaria 'Greenlee's Hybrid' mimics the display of Pennisetum 'Fireworks' on the other side of the flagstone path

It's probably too soon to get excited over Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition' as the 5 small plants here have only been in the ground a few weeks (hey, it was on sale and I couldn't resist - and it's drought tolerant!) but I love that they're already sporting the flowers that look like blonde eyebrows

On the back patio, Phylica pubescens (aka Featherhead) has managed the heat thrown at it.

Okay, the 2 plants I put in the bad border were quickly killed by that miserable heatwave in June but this one in a large pot has settled in nicely

On the other side of the patio, also in a pot, I'm amazed that Duranta erecta 'Sapphire Showers' is blooming well on a steady diet of graywater from the kitchen sink.

Anything that can get by on weekly infusions of graywater alone is a winner in my book

Many of the Echeverias are blooming now but Echeveria 'Afterglow' is my favorite.

'Afterglow' has survived in this pot for about 3 years now without complaining and gets watered only every couple of weeks (if I remember)

Out along the street, the last of the three Chondropetalum tectorum (aka Cape Rush) I planted in 2013 has finally come into its own.  Situated in front of the Xylosma congestum shrubs we planted in spring as a continuation of our existing street-side hedge, it's responded to the extra water provided to those shrubs.  I'd like to find a few more of these to add elsewhere in the garden when the fall planting season comes around.

Rush viewed from the street (left) and from the dirt path in the garden with the late afternoon sun shining through (right)

That's it for my July favorite picks.  Visit Loree at danger garden to see what plants she and other gardeners are excited about this month.

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

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Wednesday Vignette: Night View

The marine layer has deserted us, at least for the time being, and it's too hot to do much of anything outside.  I creep out in the early morning hours and again in the late afternoon to sneak in a little deadheading, supplemental watering, and similarly mundane garden chores.  The Sand Fire 60 miles to the northeast is now 40% contained - not great but a vast improvement from yesterday's 10% figure.  The wind has shifted and our air quality has improved but I still look out on a haze that almost completely obscures the mountains to the east.  At times like this the best view is the one we see at night.

This photo was taken on July 21st, the day following July's full moon.  Beyond the line of shipping cranes, you can see the lights of boats anchored offshore waiting their turn to offload their cargo.

When we where in the process of buying the house, the realtor made a big deal of the night view from the house but it wasn't a material factor in the purchase of the house for me.  My focus was the garden space.  I didn't even see the night view until after we'd moved in.  To this day, it always brings to mind what you see as you fly into Los Angeles (or any big city).  With all the lights from the Los Angeles Harbor and the surrounding cities, it's difficult to see any starlight but I thought the big, almost full, moon in this photo created something of a balance between natural and artificial light sources, if only temporarily.  I offer it as my Wednesday Vignette.  Visit Anna at Flutter & Hum to find other interesting images.

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

Monday, July 25, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: More about foliage than flowers

My Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' is at its summer peak now and I wanted to celebrate that by using the foliage in an arrangement for "In a Vase on Monday," the meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

Photos of my largest Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' - in the right light the leaves look like stained glass

I'd originally thought I'd use Grevillea 'Superb' as the floral accompaniment but, although there are lots of buds and fading blooms on those shrubs, there wasn't anything at peak bloom and, as those flowers don't develop much once cut, I decided to look elsewhere for floral color.  What I came up with is more about foliage than flowers.

Front view highlighting Leucadendron and Leptospermum foliage

Back view highlighting Phylica foliage

The top view emphasizes the difference in textures among the foliage elements

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder', Achillea millefolium 'Appleblossom', Coreopsis 'Desert Coral', Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', Phylica pubescens, and Russelia equisetiformis 'Flamingo Park'

The heat was on over the past week and the pink blooms of Eustoma grandiflorum (Lisianthus) are starting to fade but there's still plenty to cut.  I was able to find a couple of "new" elements to change up the composition.

Front view

A lopsided back view

Top view

Clockwise from the left, the vase contains: Eustoma grandiflorum, Grevillea 'Pink Midget', Abelia x grandiflora (recycled from one of last week's vases) and Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy'

As I was tidying up the garden, I cut more of the flopping Eustoma and, while cutting back some of the bedraggled Agapanthus, mistakenly cut one of the fresher Agapanthus stems as well.  So, I created a third vase including both elements.  I used Cuphea ignea 'Starfire Pink' to integrate the colors of the Eustoma and Agapanthus.

Front view: I've previously said that I can't tell the difference between the 'Echo Pink' and 'Mariachi Pink' cultivars of Eustoma grandiflorum but the 2 stems here, cut from different plants, do show some differences

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the left, the vase contains: Eustoma grandiflorum, noID Agapanthus, Coleonema album, and Cuphea ignea 'Starfire Pink'

All three vases found their places, usurping the spent vases created last week.  We had an extended power outage at the peak of our recent heatwave and all of last week's blooms felt the effect of an afternoon without air conditioning.

The first vase sits in the front entry

The second sits on the mantle in the master bedroom (but for how long?)

And the third sits on the dining room table

Visit Cathy to see what she and other gardeners have included in their vases this week.

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

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The good, the bad and the ugly

This morning we woke to hazy skies.  I was initially delighted at the idea that the morning marine layer had returned as that usually brings our temperature down and, after days of highs in the low 90sF, that was welcome.  But the light was peculiar.

This was the view from our backyard, looking out over the Los Angeles Harbor and the Vincent Thomas Bridge leading to Long Beach.  The sepia color isn't a photographic trick but rather the result of a mix of fog and smoke.

Although we couldn't smell smoke here (and still can't), it quickly became apparent that the hazy sky couldn't be attributed solely to fog.  There's another brush fire burning in the Angeles National Forest.  It started yesterday afternoon and has already covered 11,000 acres, necessitating evacuations.  A cool-down is expected in the area this evening, which I hope will help firefighters bring the fire under control.


The hazy, tinted light added a glow to my garden, making things look better than they did in the harsh light earlier this week.

View from the northeast corner of the house looking south

The dry garden on the southeast side of the house is currently getting regular irrigation.  The Leucadendrons ('Ebony' and 'Chief') and Coprosma 'Plum Hussey' add a touch of red color to what is mostly a green space at this time of year.

After more than a year in the garden, Leucadendron 'Safari Sunset' (left) is finally gaining size.  The 3 Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' under the tree continue to thrive after 3 years in the ground.

All the Leucadendrons are looking good.

Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' continues to be one of the stars of my garden

And so is Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid'.

Planted in the backyard border from a one-gallon container just over a year ago, I'm so happy with 'Cane's Hybrid' that I'm wondering where I could put another one.

I refilled the bird feeders, which made the birds happy.

It's fortunate that I picked up birdseed on the way home yesterday as the greedy creatures are going through it at a record rate.  They're also pleased that the fountain is back on - we had an extended power outage yesterday and they kept landing on the fountain, squawking about the water being shut off.


But even taking the lousy air quality out of the equation, all isn't entirely well here.  While I've been hiding inside during the current heatwave, the tent caterpillars took over both my perennial lupines, leaving devastation in their wake.

I thought I had the infestation under control but I clearly did not.  I've been reluctant to use pesticides but today, after cutting back the branches destroyed by the caterpillars and removing all I could find, I sprayed the plant with insecticidal soap.  I'm not sure it'll do anything but I'm worried that the plant may already have trouble recovering from the damage the caterpillars have done.


Meanwhile, despite amping up my irrigation, the heat and drought have continued to take a toll on selected plants, leading me to conclude that more will have to be replaced this fall.

This Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold' showed signs of distress months ago but I wasn't able to uncover the cause.  The plant is beyond help now.

In contrast, this C. 'Sunset Gold', also situated along the driveway, is doing fine 

In other cases, after years in place, a few plants have just proven themselves unsuited to the combination of intense summer heat, low winter rainfall, and restricted irrigation that is currently a fact of life here.

The 3 Hebe 'Variegata' planted in the back border 5 years ago all look like this.  While they generally look better in spring after being cut back, their summer appearance has become unacceptable.

The 3 Phormium 'Dark Delight' in the back border, all of which currently look like that in the photo on the left, are also pale imitations of their former selves, as shown in the photo on the right.  None of the red-colored Phormiums or Cordylines in my garden seem to hold up well under summer conditions here.

I've already begun scouring my garden books for ideas on appropriate replacements.  If you have any suggestions, please pass them along!

Now, having dispensed with the bad and the ugly, I'll end with a more pleasant image of what's good in the garden.

A skipper hanging out on a pink Eustoma grandiflorum bloom

Wherever you are, I hope the weekend brings comfortable temperatures, soft breezes and clean, smoke-free skies.

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

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Wednesday Vignette: Dahlias!

I've never succeeded in growing dahlias.  I tried some fancy varieties in my old garden but, crammed into a small space that offered far too little sun, I got few flowers and lots of mildew.  I tried them in my current garden but fared little better, probably because I provided less water and fewer nutrients than they need.  Last weekend, I visited my local botanic garden, just 5 miles away as the crow flies, and was confronted with a beautiful dahlia display garden, which made it clear that I can't blame the local climate for my failures in growing dahlias.

By way of introduction, I should add that I hadn't gone to the garden to see the dahlias.  I stopped by for a "shop and learn clinic" on Australian plants.  Unfortunately, that event was disappointing.  There weren't many plants and most of those there I already had.  There were 2 Brachychiton acerifolius (Australian Flame Trees) but as it's a fast grower reaching 60 feet in height at maturity I wasn't going to encourage another confrontation with my neighborhood tree hater by planting that, pretty as it may be.  This is a long-winded way of explaining that, because the event placed me in the garden at high noon on a very sunny afternoon, my photos are all overexposed.

But on to the dahlias!  Although the garden was especially busy for a Sunday afternoon, I had the Dahlia Garden all to myself.  It seems that the majority of visitors that afternoon were not there to see the dahlias or to participate in the Australian plants "shop and learn clinic."  They were there to play Pokeman Go.  However, no Pokemon were hanging out among the dahlias.

The Dahlia Garden occupies a relatively small area of the 87-acre botanic garden

The trellises at the entrance are planted with Amaranthus, Datura, and Dolichos lablab (aka Hyacinth Bean)

I tried to pick just one dahlia photo as my Wednesday Vignette but I just couldn't do it.

This daisy-flowered variety may be my favorite, though.  I love that coral color.

I'm sure there were plant tags with cultivar names but I didn't take note of them

Even in partial shade, this bloom shined

I think this is one of the dinner plate variety, although the bloom's size isn't evident in my photo

I didn't like this one much when I saw it in the garden but it photographed well

I loved this one

This one struck me as prim but the geometry of the bloom is striking

I was glad I got a chance to see the dahlias in peak condition and offer these photos as my Wednesday Vignette, in connection with the meme hosted by Anna of Flutter & Hum.  Visit Anna to find the images she and other gardeners found arresting this week.

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