Friday, March 31, 2017

Too Many Favorites!

It's the final Friday of the month, the date Loree at danger garden hosts favorite plant posts.  I really tried to winnow down my list to a reasonable level but every trip through the garden presented a challenge for me.  Our heavy winter rains have given us the gift of a truly splendid spring and I can't help but use every opportunity to present it in all its glory.  (Watch out for my wide shots post next week - I expect it's going to be very photo heavy!)

So, here we go with my current (dozen) favorites:

I showed a similar view of dwarf Echium webbii a few posts ago but I can't resist showing the plant as it looks now.  It fits this space next to the back patio much better than the Lupinus propinquus I had in this spot last year (before it was consumed by tent caterpillars).  The Felicia aethiopica at its feet and the over-achieving Lobelia valida 'Delft Blue'  to the right complement it well too.  The Echium is drought tolerant and should get no larger than 3x3 feet.

Given that I live in California, you might think that growing California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) from seed is no mean feat but between the interference of raccoons and inadequate rain in prior years, I've had no end of trouble getting them to bloom.  This year I got a good turn-out from 'White Linen' on the back slope.  They look nice with the Calla Lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) that came with the garden too.  The lilies die down every summer but return following our winter rains.

Leucadendron 'Pisa' has produced its cone "flowers" right on schedule this year.  The foliage is a wonderful silver color.  The luminescent yellow "flowers" are actually bracts surrounding a silvery cone.  This plant started out life in my garden in a pot in 2014 and moved into its current location in late winter 2015.  It needs moderate water and can grow to 8x5 feet.  Mine is closer to 6x4 feet.

My last remaining stretch of Ceanothus hedge is in full bloom.  As with the Ceanothus hedge I removed from the front garden when the shrubs began to fail, it's backed by another hedge of Xylosma congestum.  Inherited with the garden, I have no ID for the species or cultivar.  I lost one of the shrubs making up this hedge in 2015 but, so far, the remaining shrubs appear healthy.  Sitting at the edge of the steep back slope, perhaps they have better drainage than the ill-fated specimens that were planted on the front slope.

Cistus x skanbergii responded to warmer temperatures by covering itself in pale pink blooms.  Planted in September 2014, it took our drought in stride.  I think I'm really going to like how it looks with the smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple') I planted in the same bed last November.  The latter began leafing out this month.

Hellebores aren't common here so I'm really pleased to have 2 varieties bloom for me.  The variety shown at the top of this collage is Helleborus 'Anna's Red'.  It produced its first burgundy red bloom a month ago but it has several buds now.  I love its foliage too.  H. 'Phoebe' (bottom row) was added to my garden soon after I moved in, probably in 2011.  It didn't bloom in its original location and I moved it a couple of years later.  It sulked for a long time.  It produced one, maybe 2, flowers last year but it has close to a dozen blooms and buds now.  'Anna's Red' died down completely last summer but 'Phoebe' was evergreen.

In contrast to the hellebores, ivy geranium (Pelargonium peltatum) is very common here but I still want to share what a terrific show P. 'Pink Blizzard' is putting on along the raised wall we extended last year.  I suspect it likes the improved soil and drainage and of course the winter rains didn't hurt.  It's winding its way around and through Aeonium arboreum and Rosa chinense 'Mutabilis' here.

Here's another common plant, albeit one in a relatively uncommon color.  Anagallis 'Wildcat Mandarin', planted in 2015, is returning for a third run.  It makes a good low-growing ground cover in this partial shade setting and nicely echoes the orange tones in the Arctotis 'Pink Sugar' next to it.

Lotus bertholdii 'Amazon Sunset' is aggressive to say the least but it has been effective in keeping out the raccoons who regularly tore up this bed on the south side of the house.  It seems to take regular trimming in stride but I've found I have to keep at it to prevent the vine-like stems from covering the flagstone path.  I'd thought that the flowers would be less showy when used as a ground cover rather than hanging from a pot but I was wrong!

After months of flaunting buds, Ageratum corymbosum finally burst into bloom just after Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.  This plant is an evergreen shrub or, as the grower describes it, an "ever-purple" shrub.  It needs afternoon shade in my climate.  When it's done with its spring bloom period, I cut it back hard and the attractive, velvety-textured foliage refreshes itself within a month or so.

Okay, you've made it to the last plant on my list!  This is Acer palmatum 'Mikawa Yatsubusa', a dwarf Japanese maple.  I unceremoniously moved it to a border in the vegetable/cutting garden in December after I replaced it in its former backyard location with a dwarf Jacaranda I'd coveted.  Frankly, I didn't have high hopes for its survival - Japanese maples can struggle here - but it's come back strong, probably aided by all that rain we got.

I'm lucky that my climate has positively affected my garden.  My only complaint at present is with the persistent high winds, which are drying things up quickly now that our winter rains are over.  I know other gardeners, including our host, have faced far more serious weather challenges.  Visit Loree at danger garden to discover what's stood the test of the tough winter she and others have had to face down.

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

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Wednesday Vignette: Dry Days Ahead

Last week, we got a little rain.  Although it was a smidge less than a quarter of an inch, it was enough to top off my rain barrels.  Of course, I hoped for more.  The clouds that greeted me last Wednesday morning looked promising.

View from my backyard looking east

But the clouds blew east and took the rain with them.  No more rain for us.  While the long-range forecasts I'd viewed back in February suggested that we could look forward to rain at intervals through April, those predictions have evaporated - there's not a drop of rain in the forecast for the next 90 days and, as our rain is largely limited to the winter months, we can probably expect the dry spell to continue until fall.

NOAA's 90-day precipitation forecast for the US

Today's weather forecast is for summer-like temperatures.  Will the summer be miserable?  The forecast doesn't look great for large swaths of the country but most of Southern California seems to have an equal chance of warmer or cooler temperatures, at least over the next 90 days.

NOAA's 90-day temperature forecast for the US

What are the prospects for the country in managing global warming?  Gloomy indeed, based on the President's action yesterday rolling back environmental regulations.  The federal government's failure to assume responsibility shifts the burden to the states, some of which are stepping up to the challenge but it remains to be seen how individual states and cities - or individual countries for that matter - can combat the problem when federal officials deny scientific evidence and act with reckless abandon to advance short-term political goals.  But maybe the President has a plan he hasn't shared?

Is this the President's escape plan when his policies help destroy the earth's environment?  Despite slashing support for environmental and social programs in his proposed budget, he DID sign a bill allocating billions for exploration of Mars.  (Image provided with permission of a source who chooses to remain anonymous)

These images are my Wednesday Vignette.  To see more of the images that captured the bloggers' attention this week, visit our host, Anna of Flutter & Hum.

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

Monday, March 27, 2017

In a Vase on Monday: Spring Bloomfest

My garden is a little overwhelming at the moment - in a good way.  True to predictions, our heavier than usual (even by pre-drought standards) winter rainfall has produced an abundance of spring flowers.  It's tempting to flit from plant to plant, cutting a little of this and a little of that.  For this week's vases, I focused my efforts by selecting 2 color schemes before heading out the door, one centered around the magenta color of a particular Pelargonium and the other around the color of my pink Freesias.

The first color scheme produced this:

Front view, which points out that not all "white" Freesias are the same.  The bulbs for these two Freesia were acquired from the same source and planted in the same location but the flower on the left reads as ivory by comparison to the bright white of the one on the right.

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the left, the vase contains: Pelargonium cucullatum 'Flore Pleno' (aka 'Golf Ball'), Ageratum corymbosum, Coriandrum sativum, ivory Freesia, white Freesia, lavender Freesia, and Polygala myrtifolia 'Mariposa'.  I love the red blushed leaf edges and flower buds of the Pelargonium and the lavender streaks on the back of the white Freesia.

The second color scheme provided more of a challenge.  The pink Freesias have a blue undertone and many of my pink flowers have yellow undertones.  Here's what I ended up with:

Front view: I added soft yellow notes with the Narcissi and the Leucadendron to pick up the subtle yellow in the Alstroemeria

Back view: The pink tones of the Freesias and sweet peas are louder here

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: noID Alstroemeria, Argyrantemum frutescens, Centranthus ruber, Erigeron karvinskianus, Freesia, Lathyrus odoratus, Leucadendron 'Pisa', and Narcissus 'White Lion' and another noID Narcissus.  The Erigeron and the Centranthus are virtually weeds here, albeit ones I allow to spread within limits.  Most of the Narcissus died off following a warm spell the week before last and, as temperatures are expected to climb again this week, I thought I might as well cut what was left.

I had some leftover stems, which I threw into a tiny vase:

A few short stems of Freesia, Argyranthemum, and Erigeron were tucked in here along with 2 slender stems of Ixia (aka African corn lily), which is currently blooming in the wrong place

Last week's vases held up relatively well but I tossed out their contents anyway to make way for the new arrangements.

The first vase sits in the front entry and the second on the dining room table.  The third sits on the desk in my office.

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

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

Friday, March 24, 2017

Bloom Day Postscript

One of the glories of spring is that each passing day brings new revelations.  While some of the new arrivals may still be around to celebrate April's Bloom Day, others may not so I'm going to go ahead and share a few (well, maybe more than a few) now.

Echium webbii (a dwarf) is now blooming alongside Felicia aethiopica

Ajuga hybrid 'Mint Chip' has appeared with the first blooms of Anagallis 'Wildcat Mandarin'

Aristea inqualis, planted in 2014, has finally produced its first blooms

Iris douglasiana 'Santa Lucia' is in bloom along the driveway.  I've had a remarkably difficult time getting Pacific Coast Iris to bloom here but this winter's rain appears to have provided the help I needed.

Ageratum corymbosum has had buds for months but, the day after March Bloom Day, they finally began to open

This noID Delosperma has appeared in spots all along the street-side succulent bed.  I thought it made the pretty Agave 'Blue Flame' shown here look even prettier.

Polygala myrtifolia 'Mariposa' produces a smattering of flowers most of the year but now it's really blooming!

The 2 Cercis occidentalis (Western Redbuds) that came with the garden just burst into bloom

The first Eustoma grandiflorum (Lisianthus) of the season has appeared!

Higher than normal temperatures last week knocked out most of my daffodils but Narcissus 'White Lion' seems to be a sturdier sort

The Prunus laurocerasus hedge is blooming on the southwest side of the garden

A few noID Calendulas, presumably from seeds I scattered 2 years ago that never germinated, have bloomed, nicely complementing Bulbine frutescens 'Hallmark'

This is a poor photo of a relatively new addition to the garden, Verbascum arcturus

I've had California fescue (Festuca californica) in my garden for a few years but this is the first time it's flowered like this

There are blooms on fruit trees too!

Blossoms on the navel orange tree (left) and peach tree (right).  Both trees came with the garden but the noID peach was invisible until we removed the giant Yucca elephantipes at the bottom of the back slope a few years ago.

And more of the Pelargoniums are blooming.

Clockwise from the left: Pelargonium 'Tweedle Dee', noID, 'Golf Ball', 'White Lady', and 'Vectris Glitter' 

I even have my first rose bloom, appropriately perhaps, 'California Dreamin'.

I've been fighting an onslaught of aphids on all my roses and it looks as though I need to leap into the fray again

I hope this post isn't too obnoxious.  Spring does come very early in coastal Southern California.  Unfortunately, summer's heat does as well so we have to celebrate when we can.

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Desert Super Bloom (& Wednesday Vignette)

Approximately once every 10 years, the deserts of Southern California experience a "super bloom" when they receive enough rain during the winter months to carpet the normally hard-baked ground in flowers.  Last week I joined 2 friends for the long drive to Borrego Springs in northeast San Diego County to catch this year's show before soaring temperatures bring the curtain down.  The trip south on the freeways was made easier by my friends' express pass but, when we turned further inland, it was far slower going on a one-lane highway, which slowed still more as we wended our way along the final leg of our journey along a steep, winding road into the 600,000 acre desert state park.

Because the drive was so long, we didn't have hours to hike trails into the desert so we caught only a small portion of the wildflowers.  A more thorough exploration probably would have required at least an overnight stay.  Temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90sF also limited our exploration but here are some of the highlights:

Scene near the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park's Visitor Center

The majority of the blue, white and yellow flowers in this area were clustered around cactus or, as here, skeletons of cactus

My guess is that the cactus skeleton shown above was what was left of what I think is a Teddy Bear Cholla (Cylindropuntia bigelovii), which, both dead and alive, were plentiful in the area

If I've identified the yellow, white and blue blooms correctly they are Desert Dandelion (Malacothrix glabrata), Desert Pincushion (Chaenactis steviodes) and Blue Phacelia (Phacelia distans)

This shrub, which I think is Creosote Bush (Larrea tridentata), was also prevalent

As were these shrubs, Brittlebush (Encelia farinosa) and what I tentatively identified as Desert Lavender (Hyptis emoryi)

Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) could also be seen everywhere but they appeared to be just starting their bloom cycle

Concerned about how much longer our trip home might take on SoCal's famously congested freeways if we didn't get a lead on rush-hour traffic, we had to turn around and head home all too soon.   We tried to capture snaps of the California poppies and lupines as we whizzed along the highway but there was nowhere to pull over.

There were lupines here and there in Borrego Springs but nothing like this mass of purple we saw from the highway

Masses of orange poppies could also be seen as we whizzed along Highway 15

Near Lake Elsinore in western Riverside County, we finally pulled off the road to take another flurry of photos of California's official state flower in all its glory.

Massive traffic jams were reported in this area over the past 2 weeks and, even in late afternoon mid-week, it was hard to find a spot to park.  I'm offering this photo of the area near Walker's Canyon as my Wednesday Vignette - for more photo vignettes, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.

Once again, we didn't have the time to hike far but we got our fix of California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) anyway

If you're interested some of the wildflowers we missed, additional photos can be found here and here.

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