Monday, January 30, 2017

In a (New) Vase on Monday

A friend and I took off on an excursion to our favorite Orange County garden center on Saturday.  This particular garden center has a wide selection of indoor decor, which I usually steer clear of, preferring to invest every dollar I have to spend on plants.  But my friend enjoys checking out all the store has to offer and this time I broke from my standard operating procedure.  As it turned out, we both bought plants but I was the only one who bought anything inside the store.  I brought home a vase.  The store carried 3 vases of the same size and shape in different but coordinating finishes and I was sorely tempted to bring home all 3 but I reeled myself under control.  This is exactly why I try to stay out of such stores - limited will power.

In any case, the new vase called out for blue flowers.  Finding a single stem of Ceanothus already in bloom sealed the deal.  I'd planned to stick to a blue and white palette but, although the vase is relatively short (about 7 inches tall), the stems I collected were generally shorter still.  So I ended up adding bright yellow Iceland poppies to the mix to get the extra height the arrangement needed.

Front view showing more yellow and white than blue

The shorter blue flowers feature more prominently in the back view

The yellow poppies hog the scene when the vase is viewed from the top

I stuffed a surprising number of plant stems down the 2.5 inch throat of this vase:
Top row - Anemone coronaria (a cheat as the stems came from newly purchased plants), noID Ceanothus, and Globularia x indubia
Middle row - Lavandula multifida, Osteospermum '4D Silver', and Papaver nudicaule
Bottow row - Ranunculus (the first one to bloom), Pyrethropsis hosmariense, and Salvia cacalifolia
(Included but not highlighted - Chrysanthemum paludosum, now classified as Mauranthemum paludosum)

There's a second vase (of course).  Two of my largest Leucadendrons are going nuts and it's almost impossible to ignore them when passing through the garden.

Front view

The back view could have used some dressing up but I ran out of time

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left, this vase contains: Leucadendron salignum 'Chief', L. 'Wilson's Wonder', noID Narcissus, and Zantedeschia aethiopica

That's it for my interior decorating this week.  For more Monday vases, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

The new vase sits in the front entry, accompanied by blue bird salt-and-pepper shakers inherited from my mother-in-law, and the second vase sits on the dining table, having evicted the only somewhat bedraggled vase with the Leucadendron stems created 2 weeks ago

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

Friday, January 27, 2017

January Favorites

After 4 inches of rain on Sunday, the sun reappeared on Monday, offering an opportunity to give the garden a thorough once over.  With heavy rains at intervals over the past 2 months, the season-to-date rain total in my area is more than twice what we got during the entirety of the October 2015-September 2016 season.  According to the US Drought Portal, my area now is now classified as in "severe drought."  Does that sound bad?  Well, maybe it's not exactly great but it's MUCH better than the "exceptional drought" designation we had when our winter rainy season began in October.

I spied a rainbow peeking out below the exiting rain clouds earlier this week

There are weeds popping up all over.  (I had remarkably few issues with weeds last year - apparently, even weeds didn't like our drought.)  But, in addition to weeds, California poppy seedlings are popping up in several locations, mere weeks after I complained about the difficulties I've had growing those flowers from seed.  It also wasn't hard to find plants to get excited about for the monthly favorite plants post hosted by Loree at danger garden.  Instead I had to winnow my list down so as not to be obnoxious.

So here's what made this month's cut, starting in the back garden:

Agonis cognata 'Cousin Itt' probably gets more than it's fair share of attention in this blog but doesn't it look good here under the tree?  Maybe I'm imagining things but I swear it grew a few inches in height in the past month.  This mass is comprised of just 3 shrubs, all planted in fall 2012.  I have plants in a few other areas but none have done quite as well as these.

Directly opposite the Acacia on the other side of the flagstone path, Rosmarinus officinalis 'Gold Dust' is coming into its own.  I planted 5 4-inch plants here in March 2014.  Variegated leaves are responsible for the gold cast to its foliage.

Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' is a dwarf version of the peppermint willow trees I have elsewhere in the garden.  The foliage has the same light peppermint scent and new growth emerges in a pretty reddish-orange.  The growth spurt visible here is attributable to the rain.  I used 3 shrubs to screen the small patio on the south side of the garden, a job it's done effectively.

This is Westringia fruticosa 'Morning Light' (aka coast rosemary).  Like the Acacia and the Agonis, this plant hails from Australia.  I planted 4 of these last year to add some sparkle to the backyard border.

The steep upper section of the back slope still looks awful and now weeds punctuate the empty spaces between dead ivy and honeysuckle vines but there are some stars to be found in the lower section:

The 3 Ribes viburnifolium (aka Catalina Perfume), planted in 2011, are in full bloom.  It isn't a flashy plant most of the year but it holds the slope and it tolerates dry shade conditions.  The leaves are glossy now that they've been cleaned by the rain.

This is one of 3 Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Silver Magic' we planted at the boundary line of the property after we took out the invasive Yucca elephantipes forest that had previously grown there.  These plants, which are outside our irrigation zone, have struggled, in part because the massive Yucca roots continue to decay and the ground here has slowly sunken in response.  However, this shrub looks as though it nearly doubled in breadth overnight in response to January's heavy rain.

Out in the front garden, I found a couple more plants to crow about:

Agave impressa, a solitary growing species, bore the red stripes of a bad sunburn during the summer but it's a healthy green now, surrounded by Graptoveria 'Fred Ives' and other  happy succulents.  The raccoons have been digging in this bed, even through the gravel cover, but they haven't bothered the agaves.

Rhodanthemum hosmariensis (aka Moroccan daisy) is producing loads of white flowers.  Although I love daisies, I almost prefer the pretty buds that stand out against the silvery foliage.  Formerly classified as Chrysanthemum and more recently reclassified as Pyrethropsis hosmariense, the former genus Rhodanthemum is what's still stuck in my head.

Finally, although it already featured prominently in my January Bloom Day post, I have to mention Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' as January is its month to glow - literally.

I have 2 of these plants now.  The first, shown at the top of this collage, is one of the few shrubs I brought with me from our old house, where it'd been confined in a pot.  I put it in the ground in the front garden shortly after we moved in 6 years ago and it exploded in size.  I haven't properly measured it but I'd guess it's about 6 feet tall and wide now.  It's bracts turn red in summer but winter is all about the yellow cone flowers.  I added a second shrub, shown on the lower right, in November 2014.

I'll cut the list there this month but visit Loree at danger garden to discover what she and other gardeners have pulled out of the hat during what's been a very difficult winter in many regions.

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

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wednesday Vignette: A Beautiful Day

This is a garden blog but I'm going to stretch its boundaries to share photos of last Saturday's Women's March-Los Angeles, as it was a beautiful day in all respects.  After days and days without the sunny skies Southern California is known for, we got a welcome pause in the rain on the day of the march.  Blue sky, clear air (not something Los Angeles is known for!), and cool temperatures were perfect for a walk through the streets of the city with a few hundred thousand other people.  Our bus was forced to drop off me, my 3 companions and 53 other South Bay residents a couple of blocks from Pershing Square, our destination, because the surrounding streets were already teaming with people when we arrived before 9am.  A young girl dressed as an early suffragette greeted us at 6th and Olive.

The crowd was already thick and people were stacked all over Pershing Square, making it impossible to reach the speakers' stage there.  We lined up on facing Hill Street in the understanding that was the direction the march would take to the Civic Center just over one mile away.  And that's where we stayed for the next 90 minutes, as the crowd continued to grow.

Scenes from 6th Street within the crowd.  Observers hung from windows and waved encouragement.  A rubber ball representing the world was propelled through the crowd from one participant to another.  Signs and pink "pussyhats" were everywhere.

The organizers expected 70,000 people but unofficial estimates of the number of participants have ranged dramatically from 350,000 to 750,000.  We heard snippets of speeches in the distance but the only thing that came through clearly was the Star Spangled Banner.  The crowd sang along and chants broke out with regularity: "this is what democracy looks like"; "say it loud and say it clear, immigrants are welcome here"; and "love trumps hate," to name but a few.  As time went on, spontaneous chants of "march, march, march" sprang up but, with no forward movement, the crowd began moving out in all directions around 10:30am.  As soon as we moved into adjoining streets, the reason for the quagmire became abundantly clear: all the streets between Pershing Square and Civic Center were jammed solid with people, making movement along one designated route impossible.

The view as we walked westward and looked up Grand Avenue in the direction of the Civic Center

My friends and I turned and walked south before heading east to Spring Street, then north to 1st Street and the Civic Center.  People carrying signs were everywhere, representing the diverse causes that drew them to the march.  Some, like mine, contained a laundry list of concerns with the initiatives endorsed by the new government administration, while others were more specific.

These were a few of my favorite signs but there were many great ones, like "Let's talk about the elephant in the womb" and "Election Day 2016: the day sexual assault became acceptable" and "When should I start my Russian language lessons?"

Although concerns varied from person-to-person, the crowd was united in opposition to the policies expressed by the new administration and its representatives.  Individuals will undoubtedly coalesce around the issues most important to them but I anticipate that they'll remain supportive of most, if not all, of the causes supported by their fellow marchers.  I haven't actively participated in a political rally before but, if this experience is indicative, I can't speak more highly of the process.  There were no arrests.  There was no violence.  Despite the density of the crowd, there was no pushing or shoving, no unkind words.  There were chants but no screaming - I never even heard a baby cry and there were lots of babies.  We were an assembly of multiple generations - parents, grandparents, and children.  We were an assembly of multiple faiths, ethnicities and races.   Things didn't go exactly as planned.  They went better than could have been planned.  It was a beautiful day - and a perfect antidote for the dismay and dread I felt after the dystopian inaugural address.

This compilation of photos is my Wednesday Vignette, a stretch of the concept perhaps, as well as a deviation from my usual focus on gardens and gardening.  For more Wednesday Vignettes, please visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.

P.S.  For the record, there are gardens in downtown Los Angeles.  Here's one:

Spring Street Community Garden

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

Monday, January 23, 2017

In a Vase on Monday: It had to be pink

I spent Saturday in downtown Los Angeles.  Just after 7am, with 2 friends, I boarded a bus filled with 55 women and 2 men for a 45-minute trip to Pershing Square to join the Women's March-Los Angeles.  Seventy thousand marchers were expected but, on the way there, we heard that the number of marchers had more than doubled to 150,000.  But the numbers grew steadily.  There are no definitive counts of the actual size of the crowd but current estimates place it between 500,000 and 750,000 participants.

Men were well-represented but the march had a distinctly female vibe.  Knitted pink "pussyhats" were everywhere.

Wedged in among thousands of marchers, it was difficult to get any good photos but this one may give you some impression of the ubiquitous pink color

So, Sunday morning when I darted out in the rain to pick materials for "In a Vase on Monday," pink was on my mind and, luckily, still abundant in my garden.  I didn't spend much time deliberating on my choices and, as the rain came down more and more heavily as the day proceeded, I made do with what I gathered on my first mad rush around the garden.

Front: The flowers are packed into a vase rather like my fellow marchers and I packed the streets of Los Angeles

Back: But I like to think the varied materials support one another as well as thousands upon thousands of strangers supported one another on the streets of LA

Top view (You can find an aerial view of the Los Angeles march crowd here)

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: Argyranthemum frutescens, Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold', Coprosma 'Fireburst', Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl', Pentas 'Kaleidoscope Appleblossom', and Rhodanthemum hosmariense with noID Dianthus

The few extra stems I couldn't cram into my selected vase were popped into a tiny vase.

Camellia williamsii 'Taylor's Perfection' with another noID Dianthus

These two vases found places, while the presentable leftovers of last week's vases were consolidated and found a spot too.

The tiny vase sits near the kitchen sink; the larger vase sits on the dining room table; and the mash-up of last week's vases sits in the front entry

The rain continued all day.  It was more rain than I think we've had on any single day in the 6 years we've owned our current house.  The daily total exceeded 4 inches.  While I realize that may not seem like a lot to those of you in wetter climates, it is a LOT for us.  Probably not a drought-buster, but things are looking up there.  Unfortunately, SoCal's honeymoon with rain also appears to be over with the onset of mudslides, fallen trees and flooded freeways.

View through my kitchen window on Sunday at 4pm

For more vases, visit our host, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

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

Friday, January 20, 2017

A Visit to Eden

I recently had an opportunity to meet up with some of my favorite bloggers not too far away from home.  Loree of danger garden paid a brief visit to Southern California and had made arrangements to visit the gardener who blogs as Hoover Boo at Piece of Eden.  Denise of A Growing Obsession and I were invited to join in on a tour of both Hoover Boo's garden and that of her neighbor.  Unfortunately, Denise was pulled away at the last minute but I arrived right behind Loree with my camera at the ready.

My photos don't do justice to either garden, both of which looked stunning in the after-glow of the rain we've enjoyed on and off for over a month now, but I'll share them with you anyway.

The weather was perfect - sunny and cool by our standards but warm by Loree's.  We started out in the neighbor's garden just a short walk down the street.  The garden is large by SoCal standards and fairly steep.  As befits our climate, there were lots of succulents and, as the gardener has worked the same property for decades, many of the specimens are huge.  My largest Agave 'Blue Glow' would look like a pup beside some of those in this garden.

Succulents were on display from the moment we stepped through the gate.  (Do you see the tiny frogs supporting the ceramic pot to the right of the bench?  I missed those until I viewed my own photos.)

There were agaves everywhere.  The photos don't clearly show just how large some of these were but, trust me, they have me reconsidering the spacing of the much smaller specimens I have in my own garden.  If I've got them identified correctly, clockwise from the upper left, they are: Agave vilmoriniana 'Stained Glass', A. 'Blue Glow', A. desmettiana 'Joe Hoak', A. macroacantha 'Pablo's Choice', A. 'Mr. Ripple', and A. 'Sun Glow'.

I didn't do at all well committing the names of the Aloes to memory.  The one on the upper left is Aloe chabaudii (I photographed the tag).  I think the one one the lower left is Aloe ferox and the one on the lower right may be Aloe cameronii but I'm adrift as to the identity the other one and Hoover Boo has identified the one on the upper right as A. 'Moonglow'.

There were other succulents too.  That's some kind of Euphorbia on the left.  The middle plant is a Kalanchoe and the one on the right may also be a Kalanchoe or a relative.

Returning to Hoover Boo's garden, we began our tour in the front garden in an area the gardener renovated in the fall of 2015 and further refined in 2016.  It's come together well.

Aloe 'Hercules' has pride of place in the central bed with a lovely Agave gypsophila 'Ivory Curls' nearby.  Grevillea 'Superb' flanks the driveway on two sides of the central bed and Agave 'Joe Hoak' is used repeatedly among other succulents both along the street and fronting the wall.  I believe that huge agave in the area atop the wall is also a 'Joe Hoak'.  The lawn substitute is Dymondia margaretae.

Moving to the other side of the front driveway, there was more to love.

The crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia) are dormant but the silvery blue color of the Agave ovatifolia and Maireana sedifolia (aka pearl bluebush) Leucophyllum 'Thundercloud' sets an appropriately icy tone for a winter landscape in SoCal 

The colors get brighter as you move along to the right of the tall Leucadendron linifolium.  I love how Yucca 'Bright Star' plays off the Agave lopantha 'Quadricolor' to the left.  I think the orange-flowered Aloe is Aloe cameronii.

To the far right, where Hoover Boo's property intersects with her next door neighbor, there are a few huge Agave 'Blue Glow' and a handsome yellow-flowering Aloe vanbalenii

There were more beautiful specimens than I could count but here are some of my favorites:

Clockwise from the left: Leucospermum 'Yellow Bird' (which I covet), Agave 'Blue Glow' (all huge), A. marmorata, A. titanota, and Aloe marlothii

As it's winter, rose pruning was well underway so we missed out on a show there.  I got a few more shots in the back garden before we began surveying the steeper parts of Hoover Boo's property and I tucked my camera away for safety's sake.

In the back garden, a choice variegated Agave attenuata and fuzzy red Echeveria 'Ruby Slippers'

We also had a chance to visit with some of the property's other residents: Samoyeds Boris and Natasha, who wished for little more than to join us outside (or, perhaps, treats) and the koi fish, who were a little wary of visitors

It was a great visit and I thoroughly enjoyed the gardens and the company.  Many thanks to Loree for setting things in motion and thanks to Hoover Boo and her neighbor for showing us about and answering question after question.  Hoover Boo even sent us on our way with succulent pups!

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

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Foliage Follow-up & Wednesday Vignette Mash-up

For a variety of reasons, time has gotten away from me this week.  However, as I didn't want to let two of my favorite memes go unacknowledged, I thought I'd address both in a single post using photos taken on a sunny morning earlier this week.

Foliage Follow-up, hosted by Pam at Digging, serves to highlight the value of foliage in the garden.  The rain we've received over the past several weeks scrubbed everything in the garden clean, allowing plants to glow in the sunlight.  I thought I'd share just a few examples.

Agave 'Blue Glow' with Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire'

Phormium 'Maori Queen' fronted by Euphorbia characias 'Black Pearl'

Phormium 'Tom Thumb'

Yucca desmettiana 'Blue Boy' with Graptosedum 'Darley Sunshine'

The succulent bed I planted back in early September using a collection of mostly cuttings and plug plants, including Aeoniums (A. arboreum, A. 'Sunburst',  and A. haworthii 'Kiwi'), Crassula lycopodiodes and Kalanchoe gastonis-bonnerieri

For more foliage stand-outs, visit Pam at Digging.

Wednesday Vignette, hosted by Anna at Flutter & Hum, focuses on the images that grabbed participants' interest this week.  Mine is a photo capture of a cloudless sulphur butterfly (Phoebis sennae).  These butterflies gravitate to the large Senna bicapsularis in my dry garden, which serves as a host plant for both the butterflies and their larva.  The butterflies flitted through my garden in large numbers throughout the fall months but, although I spent considerable time stalking them, I couldn't get a single decent photo - they never sat still for a second.  However, as I was taking the photo of the succulent bed shown above, one landed on a nearby rock and stayed there for several minutes, allowing me to get several half-way decent shots.

Maybe it thought it blended right in.  If I hadn't seen it land, I might have missed it.

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

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

Monday, January 16, 2017

In a Vase on Monday: Contrasting textures

The inspiration for today's "In a Vase on Monday" post came from yesterday's Bloom Day post.  While viewing the photos I'd taken for that post, I was struck by the similarity in the colors of my Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' and Phylica pubescens, as well as their contrasting textures, and wondered how flowers of the two would look together.

Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder', planted along the driveway in the front garden (left), and Phylica pubescens in a pot on the back patio (right)

Sunday morning, under gray skies, I cut stems from both plants and assembled several possible companions.  When I found I wasn't pleased with the result of squeezing everything into a single vase, I split the contents into two separate vases.

Vase #1:

Simplifying the contents of this vase gave each element a chance to stand out and emphasized the textural contrast of the Leucadendron and the Phylica

I used just a few stems of Abelia to fill in around the base of the Leucadendron stems in the back

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left, this vase contains: Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder', Phylica pubescens (aka Featherhead), yellow and orange forms of Papaver nudicaule, berries of Nandina domestica, and Abelia 'Kaleidoscope'

Vase #2:

Even though the Grevillea I cut had a nice long stem, it got lost in the first vase so I reduced the stem by half and popped it into a smaller vase

Top view

Clockwise from the left, this vase contains: Grevillea 'Ned Kelly', Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun', G. 'Arizona Red', and more Nandina domestica berries

Unlike many of my weekly creations, these two vases would complement one another.  I separated them in the house but you can view them side-by-side.

The larger vase sits on the dining table and the smaller one sits in the front entry

For more Monday vases, visit our host, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

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