Saturday, December 16, 2017

Foliage Follow-up - December 2017

I usually try to come up with a theme for my Foliage Follow-up posts but this month all I have is a handful of photos of foliage plants that just happened to catch my attention during the course of the past week.

I picked up this Aloe, labeled as a hybrid of A. vanbalenii  and A. ferox, at my local botanic garden's spring plant sale in 2016.  I recently moved it to prevent it from being overrun by Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt'.  I was worried that it wouldn't appreciate the move but it seems to have taken the experience in stride.  I've no idea how big this plant may get as no dimensions were offered by the hybridizer and the 2 parent plants vary dramatically in size.

Leucadendron 'Safari Goldstrike' is developing some impressive cones

Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' is also developing cones.  The photo shows the smaller of my 2 plants.  Unfortunately, the larger plant got hacked by the gardeners when they trimmed our hedges this week.  It was my fault for not paying attention and trimming back the plant myself as I usually do when it stretches into the driveway.

The 3 Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Silver Magic' we planted near the boundary line along the back slope after the giant Yucca elephantipes that formerly occupied the spot was removed in 2015 are finally beginning to form the screen we'd intended.  Meanwhile, the Yucca periodically reappears in a vain attempt to retake the area.

With the wind blowing, I caught a photo highlighting the pretty undersides of the leaves of Vitex trifolia 'Purpurea'.  The plant flowers but these are relatively insignificant in my view.  Its leaves are its primary attraction.  It's said to be fast-growing to 10-15 feet tall and wide but my plant has been in place more than 3 years and is currently less than 3 feet tall.

I'll end with a gratuitous photo of my lath (shade) house, still under construction.

This photo was taken from the street with the temporary structure my husband is using during installation of the roof partly obscuring the lath house.  The roof is almost done, with just a few more lath pieces needed in the area above the door.  Then the door will go in, followed by the interior shelving.  We're getting there!

Visit Pam at Digging, our Foliage Follow-up host, to see what foliage caught her attention and that of other garden bloggers this month.

All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, December 15, 2017

Bloom Day - December 2017

I pushed off my holiday preparations this year and, as I'm now feeling the crunch, I didn't have as much time to commit to my usual Bloom Day recordkeeping this month.  The exceptionally dry, windy weather we've been experiencing didn't help matters either.  In the interest of expediency, I relied in large part on photos I've taken here and there during December and have thrown a lot of these into collages.

I'll start off as usual with the plants delivering the biggest or most unexpected punches of color.

While the Hong Kong orchid tree (Bauhinia x blakeana) has been producing flowers since September, I don't think I've ever seen it covered by as many flowers as it has this month.  I'd thought it preferred moist air but, given that this month has been anything but moist, I guess I was wrong.  I took the photo on the left on Sunday when a sunset set the clouds aglow.  The close-up photo on the right was taken under sunny skies 2 days ago.

Camellia sasanqua does NOT appreciate single-digit humidity levels.  While blooms shrivel in record time once they open, it's a testimonial to the protection provided by this area tucked against the north side of the house that they bloom at all.  I've no IDs for these cultivars, which came with the house.

I picked up this new-to-me shrub, Dermatobotrys saundersii, at the Huntington Gardens fall plant sale based solely on its leaves and the description on its plant tag.  Within weeks of planting it in this large pot, it began dropping all its leaves.  I was sure I'd killed it until the lovely coral flowers and new set of leaves shown here began to appear.

Lotus jacobaeus has grown dramatically since I planted it from a 4-inch pot in July.  I've been surprised at how well it stood up to the dry winds we've experienced over the past 2 weeks.

Metrosideros collina 'Springfire' surprised me by blooming in December, when I expected blooms in, well, spring!  Planted in February of this year, it's still small.  At maturity, it should reach 12 feet tall (or taller).

A few plants paid unexpected return visits this month too.

My Lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflora) pooped out earlier than usual this year but a few blue blooms and a single pink one offered unexpected encores in December

I've also had a smattering of rose blooms this month.  From left to right: 'Joseph's Coat', 'Medallion' and a noID white variety

Here are some collages, organized by color, of other plants that managed to produce blooms despite our unusually warm, windy and arid December weather.

Top row: Erigeron glauca 'Wayne Roderick', Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy', and Helleborus 'Blue Lady'
Middle row: Lobelia erinus 'Crystal Palace', Ocimum hybrid 'African Blue Basil', and Osteospermum '4D Silver'
Bottom row: Polygala myrtifolia 'Mariposa', Tibouchina urvilleana, and Viola 'Matrix Midnight Glow'

Top row: Arbutus 'Marina', Arctotis 'Pink Sugar', and Argyranthemum frutescens
Middle row: Correa pulchella 'Pink Eyre', Cuphea 'Starfire Pink' (with a monarch butterfly), and Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl'
Bottow row: Osteospermum 'Berry White', Pelargonium peltatum 'Pink Blizzard', and Pentas 'Kaleidoscope Appleblossom'

Top row: Argyranthemum frutescens 'Go Daisy Mega White', flowers of Asparagus fern, and Gaillardia 'Fanfare Citronella'
Middle row: Lantana 'Lucky White', Leucanthemum x superbum, and Mandevillea 'Sun Parasol Apricot'
Bottom row: noID Osteospermum, Tagetes lemmonii, and primrose yellow Viola

Top row: Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer', Bignonia capreolata, and Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun'
Middle row: Grevilleas 'Ned Kelly', 'Superb', and 'Peaches & Cream'
Bottom row: Grevillea alpina x rosmarinifolia, G. 'Scarlet Sprite', and Hemerocallis 'Spanish Harlem'

Various succulents are also throwing up blooms, including (clockwise from the upper left): Aloe deltoideodonta, Aloe 'Johnson's Hybrid', Bryophyllum fedtschenkoi, Echeveria 'Serrana' and Faucaria tigrina

I'll close with a shot of my largest Pennisetum, no longer at its prime but still showing off its inflorescences.

Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum', still catching the sunlight beautifully in the front garden

Visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens for more Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day posts.

All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday Vignette: Sunset & smog effects

We haven't had many vivid sunsets of late but, when I looked out my office window just after sundown on Sunday night, the sky was looking decidedly pink.  Although the Los Angeles County fires were nearing containment at that point, I thought maybe residual dust and particulates in the air might intensify the color show as I'd heard that smog creates great sunsets.  I grabbed my camera and took photos of the clouds from different vantage points.

This was the view looking roughly southeast toward Angel's Gate, the entrance to the Los Angeles Harbor

This is a wider view looking approximately northeast

And this photo, taken from the front driveway, looks west

Does smog, something Los Angeles has in abundance even without the contribution of massive wildfires, actually intensify sunsets?  The answer seems to depend on which source you consult.  National Geographic says that dust and air pollution only mutes a sunset's colors.  Scientific American, on the other hand, contends that smog simply alters the colors.  Believe what you'd like, the colors captured by my camera were especially pretty.

The news last night was also pretty incredible.  I was prepared to be let down by the results of yesterday's special election back east but my faith in the integrity of American voters just got a major boost.  Dare we hope that the days when truth can be drowned out by cries of "fake news" are ending?  I don't know but the political horizon looks rosier to me this morning.

For more Wednesday Vignettes, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.

All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, December 11, 2017

In a Vase on Monday: Faux frost & a bit of bling

I've been struggling to get into the holiday spirit.  Since last Tuesday morning when I woke to news of wildfires, the situation in Southern California has been hellish.  If you've seen any news coverage of the devastation, you probably won't consider that an exaggeration.  For days, every morning brought news of yet another major fire.  In total, there were 6 major fires, stretching from Ventura County to San Diego County with 3 in Los Angeles County.  Only one has been fully contained thus far.  The worst, the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, was only 10% contained Sunday night and it's now headed for Santa Barbara County.  At their height, 200,000 people were evacuated in response to the fires.  Over 250,000 acres have burned thus far.  More than 800 homes and structures have been destroyed.  Miraculously, only one human life has been lost but scores of horses have been killed.  Yet, my family and friends have been lucky.  Even though my own area is considered to have a higher-than-average fire risk, there have been no outbreaks here.  Only our air quality was affected, although we're still on edge as red flag (fire danger) warnings remain in effect until Monday night.  We're used to Santa Ana winds and wildfires but I can't recall a sustained wind event like this one, nor as many fires burning across such a widespread area.  And I've lived in Southern California all my life.

I thought I'd be posting photos of a Christmas wreath today.  With humidity levels in the single digits, I've put off purchasing a wreath, garlands and a tree but, trying to work up some enthusiasm for the holidays, on Sunday I picked flowers that mimicked the frosty images I saw posted by bloggers in Texas and the Eastern US who found their gardens dusted with snow late last week.

I used icy blue and white flowers, variegated foliage, and threw in my last (?) 2 purplish-blue Lisianthus blooms

Back view: My blue, brown and cream mug picked up nicely on the floral and foliage colors

Top view: I don't think I've had Lisianthus blooming in December before but then summer's blooms burned out earlier than usual this year so perhaps the plants are making up for lost time

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: Eustoma grandiflorum (aka Lisianthus), Rosmarinus officinalis 'Prostratus', Osteospermum '4D Silver', and Westringia fruticosa 'Morning Light'

While doing some Christmas shopping, I picked up a small inexpensive vase for myself to provide the house with some holiday bling.  I'd originally planned to use the mirrored glass vase with the blue and white flowers but decided it complemented my pink Camellias better.

The trick in photographing this arrangement was avoiding taking an inadvertent selfie

Back view: You may recall that I combined Camellia and Leptospermum stems in a vase on November 20th.  I didn't like the effect on that occasion but I think the shorter scale of this arrangement improved the pairing.  The addition of Alternanthera foliage that echoes the burgundy centers of the Leptospermum helps tie the elements together too.

Top view: The Camellias have suffered in the low humidity of the past week so I had no hesitancy about cutting them

Clockwise from the left, the vase contains: noID Camellia sasanqua, Alternanthera 'Little Ruby', and Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl'

I've started pulling out small (non-perishable) decorations here and there.  When the winds die down and humidity levels start to rise, I expect I'll jump into holiday preparations.  For now, I'm making do with my faux frost and a bit of silver bling.

For more "In a Vase on Monday" posts, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, December 8, 2017

What's new in the neighborhood?

I haven't taken a spin through my neighborhood since March so I took a stroll a little before lunch yesterday to see what's new as we head toward the end of the year.  The short answer is "not much."  My timing wasn't optimal.  While temperatures here remain on the cool side despite the Santa Ana winds fanning fires throughout Southern California, the sun's intensity wasn't optimal for photographs and it was so dry I felt as though my skin was being stretched across the bones of my face.  Our household weather station read 3% humidity at mid-day.

As a whole, I was struck by how parched most of the front gardens in my neighborhood looked.  Of course, back in March, we were coming off the heaviest winter rainy season we'd had in years.  In contrast, we've had only a trivial amount of rain since the new rain year tally began October 1st, less than a fifth of an inch in total.  Worse yet, the current extended forecast doesn't show any rain until mid-January.  Under these conditions, I probably shouldn't have expected to find much color but I did find some.  Here are the highlights:

Succulent bed with flowering Aloe arborescens beneath a canopy of red Bougainvillea

More succulents, along with Phormium, Strelitzia reginae (Bird of Paradise), Tagetes lemmonii, and ornamental grasses

A noID  Cordyline, highlighted by the sun.  This neighbor recently replanted her front slope, adding pops of this red Cordyline, yellow Euryops, and Pelargoniums to her prior collections of red Bougainvillea and blue Agapanthus

Hibiscus in bloom across the street

Blooms on this Bougainvillea weren't surprising but blooms on Agapanthus aren't the norm this time of year

I don't know what this plant is.  Do you?  I discovered several of these huge shrubs covered with pink buds lining both sides of the street near the entrance to our neighborhood.  This area isn't irrigated so the profusion of buds - and the fact that I've no recollection whatsoever of these plants in bloom in prior years - was a surprise.

More Aloe arborescens, this clump sited below a Heteromeles arbuitfolia (toyon) covered in red berries

My favorite neighborhood garden (next to my own), sporting more blooming aloes

I knew the former owner of this property and I'm sure she identified this Salvia for me but I can't remember what it is.  It's covered in small blue flowers, although they're somewhat difficult to make out in my photo

The massive Leucospermum in the same garden has loads of buds but no blooms yet.  I didn't even notice that the Leucospermum had virtually swallowed the orange tree in front of it until I viewed this photo.

So as not to hold you in suspense, here's the photo of the same Leucospermum I took in March

There are quite a few Schinus molle (California pepper trees) in the neighborhood and most are producing berries

There were a LOT of dead plants too, despite last year's heavy rain and the subsequent loosening of water restrictions.

The dead tree on the left sits just outside one neighbor's wall, probably easy to ignore, but the one on the upper right sits  at the street entrance to that property.  I can't even identify the shrub in the middle right.  At first I thought it was the remains of a tree someone had cut down but the base was anchored in the ground.  It looked as though some of the plant's roots had tried to escape by pulling themselves out of the ground.  The Aeoniums on the bottom right are beyond sad - they've always looked as though they were just hanging on but now I think they've given up.

A few houses have changed hands but their gardens largely have not.

The house renovation that took 2+ years was completed some time ago but there's no landscaping yet other than 2 lonely cycads 

The huge empty lot is still empty

But one can only see so much from the street.  My own garden doesn't look that different from the street either, with one notable exception.

The dead oleanders that lined our neighbors' driveway on the south side have been replaced with Pittosporum 'Silver Sheen' and my lath (shade) house is coming together just inside our laurel hedge

As the holidays approach, I hope you have time to take in and enjoy your surroundings.  I'll be spending my weekend writing to Santa requesting more fire fighters - and rain.

All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Wednesday Vignette: Light, sound and space

My Wednesday Vignette this week pulls together events that have nothing whatsoever to do with one another, other than that all grabbed my attention for different reasons on Monday.

On Monday the news was full of stories and photos of the "supermoon," which looks especially large and bright due to its close proximity to the earth.  I'd taken several photos of it from our backyard Sunday night but moisture in the night air blurred the image.  I got my best shot on Monday night soon after the moon rose.

The light of the supermoon was bright but it might have been more impressive still without competition from the harbor and city lights

Monday was also marked by ear-shattering noise that started in the morning and continued ALL day.  Noise is common in my semi-rural community.  Houses always seem to be in the process of being built or renovated.  Tree trimming occurs on a nearly continuous basis.  Sirens routinely set legions of neighborhood dogs howling.  But this noise was worse than all those combined and it just didn't stop.  It didn't take long to pinpoint the source with my camera.

Fortunately for you, I didn't record the sound associated with this photo of sandblasting in process on this house's exterior

The next photo provides an update on the status of my lath (shade) house, currently under construction by my husband.  He and the neighbor across the street put up the walls on Monday.  They expect to raise the roof today.

Soon I'll have space for all sorts of shade plants!  (Photo taken from the main level of the front garden looking down into the area bordering the street)

Unfortunately, Tuesday morning brought news of wildfires in Southern California, brought on by a combination of exceptionally low humidity and high winds.  As the day closed, there were 4 significant fires, the worst of which was the Thomas Fire burning in Ventura County about 2 hours to our north - it's burned 65,000 acres, destroyed more than 150 structures, and is still 0% contained.  This morning, I woke just after 4am and smelled smoke.  At the time, I thought the wind must be blowing smoke from the Creek Fire in Sylmar our way but this morning brought news of yet another fire, this one near the Getty Center.  If the TV news coverage is accurate, this one has already destroyed homes as well.  The fires have also prompted widespread evacuations and multiple freeway closures.  It's a mess here and utterly heartbreaking for those directly affected.

For more Wednesday Vignettes, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.

All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party