Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Wednesday Vignette: Love notes

What's your image of a love note?  Is it something written in elegant cursive on scented paper?  Is it a poem, or a declaration of undying affection dripping in metaphors?  Or is it a tweet replete with emojis?  By any of those definitions, it would be hard for me to say that I've ever received a love note.  Here's what constitutes a love note in my household:

Every so often, when I download photos, I find pictures I didn't take.  Beautiful sunrises are the most common but this week it was spiderwebs highlighted with dew left by our early morning marine layer.  There's never any mention of these photos - I discover them on my own schedule in the process of downloading my own photos.  Having linked my life to that of a practical-minded scientist long ago as a college freshman, I've never expected billet-doux, but I do treasure these surprise photos, even when they involve spiders.

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

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

Monday, August 28, 2017

In a Vase on Monday: Dinner is served

Two of my dinnerplate dahlias were finally fit to be cut for "In a Vase on Monday" this week so I'm serving them up today.  The first is Dahlia 'Fairway Spur', which turned out to be remarkably similar in color to Dahlia 'Terracotta'.  The height of the plants and the size and shape of the mature blooms are different, but I'm guessing that those differences wouldn't register for most people after a casual viewing.  'Terracotta' is classified as a semi-cactus form.

There are 2 Dahlia 'Fairway Spur' and 4 'Terracotta' in this arrangement.  The grower described 'Fairway Spur' as "tangerine" and 'Terracotta' as "peachy brown."  The earliest blooms of 'Terracotta' were larger than those included here.

I once again used the prolific blooms of the zinnias in my cutting garden to fill out the back of my vase

Top view

Clockwise from the left: Dahlia 'Fairway Spur' next to 2 Dahlia 'Terracotta'; Abelia 'Kaleidoscope'; Agonis flexuosa 'Nana'; Bulbine frutescens 'Hallmark'; Tanacetum parthenium; and peach and pink Zinnia elegans

The second dinnerplate is Dahlia 'Hakuyou'.  I picked it perhaps a day or 2 earlier than I should have but, as the heatwave that began yesterday could extend through next weekend, I decided I should take advantage of the bloom while I can.  It also functions as a nice counterpoint to the first vase, icy in contrast to the more fiery aspect of the first vase.

For the longest vase life, Floret Flowers, the source of all my dahlia tubers except Dahlia 'Hakuyou', recommends picking the blooms when the flowers are three-quarters open, before the back petals become dehydrated or papery in appearance 

White rain lilies, Zephyranthes candida, made a surprise appearance in my front garden this week, despite the fact that we haven't had any rain since April.  Not sure how well they'll hold up as cut flowers, I cut them at the last minute and then wasn't able to maneuver them into the front of the vase, which was already overstuffed, but they pretty up the back view.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: Dahlia 'Hakuyou' ("hakuyou" is Japanese for "marine" which explains nothing about how the flower was named); Abelia 'Hopley's Variegated'; Aloysia citrodora (aka lemon verbena); leaves of a noID guava tree, which is currently producing a mass of suckers; foliage of Leucadendron 'Pisa'; cones of the same Leucadendron; the mysterious blooms of Zephyranthes candida; and Zinnia elegans 'Envy', which looks more yellow than green

Dahlia 'Otto's Thrill', another dinnerplate variety, appears to be just about to bloom so, if the heatwave doesn't put a quick end to it, I may have it to share next week.  In the meantime, to find more arrangements created from materials on hand, visit our IaVoM host, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

My thoughts and best wishes are with any blogging friends in Texas dealing with the effects of Hurricane Harvey.  Stay safe!

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

Friday, August 25, 2017

Late Summer Favorites

Summer can be tough on plants here.  I've often likened our summer experience to that faced in winter by gardeners in cold-weather climates.  When a heatwave hits, working in the garden is unpleasant at best.  Planting and transplanting is foolish.  And, if a plant isn't well-established, an extended heatwave may be a death sentence, no matter how much water one lavishes on it.  Although heatwaves may extend well into fall, nighttime temperatures generally decline in September, which lessens their impact somewhat.  I usually consider late August the worst part of the year in my garden.  Although this summer has been fairly mild in my area, my garden is still looking haggard so I expected that designating plant favorites could be a challenge this month.  As it turns out, it wasn't as hard as I'd thought - I just had to focus more of my attention on foliage rather than flashy flowers.

Of course, there were a few flowering plants that deserve notice.

This is the first year I've had good luck growing dahlias.  I credit the creation of a cutting garden that allows me to provide selected heat-loving but thirsty plants the extra water they need without watering larger sections of the garden.  Last month, I featured Dahlia 'Loverboy' as a favorite.  This month, Dahlia 'Fairway Spur', a dinnerplate variety, has finally made its appearance.  Its color is remarkably similar to 'Terracotta' in my estimation, although the color of the former was described as tangerine and the latter as peachy brown; however, the shape of the petals, the height of the plants and the size of the flowers are different.

Last month, I featured Helianthus 'Lemon Queen', another of my cutting garden success stories, as a favorite.  This month, as the sunflowers are coming closer to blooming themselves out, I'm featuring this bronzy-petaled beauty, grown from the Helianthus annuus 'Flash Blend' mix.   I expect the bees will be very unhappy when the sunflowers are gone.

The deep burgundy-flowered Pelargonium peltatum (ivy geranium) is also putting on an especially good show this month.  I've several of these plants in a bed running along the southeast side of the house, where they nicely complement the foliage of Alternanthera 'Little Ruby' (left) and Plectranthus ciliatus 'Zulu Wonder' (right), as well as Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-Star' and Ageratum corymbosum.

The grasses put on their best show in late summer/early fall too.

The yellow bits floating above the ground in this photo are inflorescences of Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition'.  The flowers are usually described as resembling mosquitoes or eyebrows.  I'm outside the zone described for this grass but the 5 plants I have in this section of the garden have still put in a decent performance for the past 2 summers.

Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum' is a fabulous performer every year here.  They may be even more robust next month but, as I managed to catch the sun highlighting their plumes just right this week, I couldn't resist including the plant in this month's favorites post.

The foliage plants do all the heavy lifting at this time of year.

This is Ageratum corymbosum.  I featured it in my favorites post in March of this year for its flowers but this month its the leaves that drew my attention.  The photo on the left was taken from inside the living room, where the plant grows in the bed just outside a series of floor-to-ceiling windows.  The photo on the right was taken outside.  The grower describes the foliage as "ever-purple."

Carex oshimensis 'Evergold' is one of those workhorses in the garden that seldom gets much attention.  It does very well in partial shade and has gotten by with less water than I'd expected.  It's been growing in a large pot under a Brugmansia (left) for more than 2 years and below Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' (right) for closer to 3 years.

Helichrysums are also easy to overlook in the garden.  H. petiolare 'Silver Mist' (left) is a great drought-tolerant filler in my garden, if admittedly prone to rampant self-seeding.  H. petiolare 'Licorice Splash' (right) is exuberant but so far hasn't demonstrated a penchant for self-seeding.

Okay, I know I included Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' in my June favorites post but it's looking so great this month that I couldn't resist showing it off again when it's at its summer peak.  The plant on the left is the one I brought from my former garden, where it lived its life in a pot.  Although I pruned it back by a third after its yellow winter "blooms" were spent, it's nearly 7 feet tall now and probably 6 feet wide.  The newer plant on the right is taking off too - it's about 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide now.

And, while I've on the subject of Leucadendrons, here are 3 more I'll throw in to demonstrate how well these plants imitate stained glass in the garden.  I don't have a label for the plant on the left but my best guess is that it's L. salignum 'Blush'.  The variegated plant in the middle is L. 'Jester' (alongside L. 'Winter Red') and the plant on the right is L. 'Safari Goldstrike'.

Phormium 'Maori Queen' also picks up sunlight beautifully.  I planted 6 of these in the front garden in the fall of 2014 after we pulled out the lawn.  I understand that some variegated Phormium will revert to a solid color but I haven't seen signs of this with 'Maori Queen'.

While some succulents go dormant at this time of year, most look great year-round.  Several caught my eye this month.

It's possible that I have more Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' than Agave 'Blue Glow' (which was my first agave addiction).  That's partly because A. desmettiana produce a generous number of pups, one of which you can see here, planted somewhat too closely to the more mature specimen.  This one attracted my attention in part because the plants surrounding it made such a pretty picture.  The Aeonium arboreum have curled up into red-tinged balls as they do during their summer dormancy and that color is echoed in the Euphorbia tirucalli and the new foliage of Xylosma congestum.

The succulent bed I planted along an area of the front slope last fall, a portion of which is shown above, is coming together.  Two Echeveria cultivars, E. 'Blue Atoll' (upper left) and E. 'Blue Sky' (upper right), glow in the sun.

I have Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire' scattered throughout my garden and almost all of those come from cuttings of this plant, housed in a strawberry pot I brought with me from our former house.  Our heavier-than-usual winter rain and spillover spray from water intended for the zinnias and dahlias in the raised planter next to the pot may have prompted the plant to grow fuller this year, despite the numerous cuttings I've taken from it.  Although you do need to be careful to avoid contact with the sap, the seepage stops fairly fast and, here at least, the cuttings can simply be pushed into the soil.

I love the combination of soft orange and blue succulents in this bed along the backyard patio.  I replanted the bed earlier this summer when I became frustrated with how the ugly litter from the mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) clung to the fuzzy succulents I formerly had in this area.  I added more x Graptosedum 'California Sunset' and complemented it with Sedum clavatum 'Aurora Blue' .

For more August favorites, visit Loree at danger garden, who hosts this meme on the last Friday of each month.  For more floral stand-outs, visit Chloris at The Blooming Garden.

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

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Wednesday Vignette: Cat vs Flowers

Like most cats, my cat, Pipig (the name is Swedish for "squeaky"), is generally self-sufficient but, when she wants my attention, she can be very demanding.  If she's ignored, she tends to act out.  When I'm working at my computer, that may involve repeatedly sitting or walking in front of my monitor, or putting her paws on my shoulder and attempting to lick my face.  A few days ago, when I continued to ignore her, she took out her annoyance on the flowers sitting on my desk.

The stems of these blue and green Eustoma grandiflorum (aka Lisianthus) snapped in the wind so they ended up in a tiny vase next to my PC monitor.  This photo was taken after I'd already rebuked Pipig twice for nibbling on the flower.

She stopped nibbling but didn't move away

After a few more repetitions of "NO", she tried to stare me down.  I picked her up off the desk and put her on the floor.

She was back in a flash to retaliate against the flower

After another talking to, she pulled away and gave me the stink eye before curling up behind the monitor

We've had repetitions of the same behavior since; however, there's no sign that she's gone after the flowers when I'm not sitting right there.  Is she simply trying to draw my attention by whatever means possible, or is she actually jealous of the flowers?  If you're a cat behaviorist, let me know what you think.

Visit Anna, our Wednesday Vignette host, at Flutter & Hum to find what captured the attention of other bloggers this week.

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

Monday, August 21, 2017

In a Vase on Monday: Breaking News

We're interrupting our regular "In a Vase on Monday" coverage for a special update.  Despite prior media reports suggesting that the split between Blue Eustoma and Dahlia 'Loverboy' was permanent, it appears the parties have ended their estrangement as abruptly as it began.  They were spotted on Sunday afternoon, cozying up together in a vase.   Surrounded by old friends, it seemed they had eyes only for one another.  Is the reconciliation permanent?  Who knows.  These celebrity pairings are notoriously volatile but we wish them well.

They stood, side by side, as equal partners

Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy', once rumored to have had a relationship with 'Loverboy', was hanging around nearby but keeping her distance

With a tight circle around them, they weren't giving any interviews

Clockwise from the left, the group included: blue Eustoma grandiflorum, Dahlia 'Loverboy', Abelia x grandiflora 'Edward Goucher, Aster x frikartii 'Monch', Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy', Ocimum hybrid 'African Blue Basil', and Prunus laurocerasus

In other news, there's another Dahlia in town.  'Punkin Spice' made a long-awaited appearance on stage last week.  We weren't sure he had any friends in town but he had no trouble assembling a posse.  In fact, the crush surrounding him bordered on becoming overwhelming.

He was mobbed by a variety of bright characters

Leonotis Leonurus, used to being in the spotlight, was unexpectedly shoved into the background, almost lost from view

An aerial view of the mob scene

Dahlia 'Punkin Spice' is in the center.  Surrounding him, clockwise from the upper left are: Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Coprosma repens 'Evening Glow', Cuphea 'Vermillionaire', Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder', various unidentified Zinnias, and Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun'

Almost lost among this flurry of news, last week also saw the return of one of the coolest customers around, Celadon Green Eustoma, Blue's cousin.  Not seen since last summer, she crept into town for what looks to be a very short stay.  She took a tumble soon after her arrival and is keeping a low profile, hanging out with some equally cool friends who don't eclipse her.

The only unexpected member of the company was the intriguing Lotus jacobaeus

This group kept things light

But they sparkled

Clockwise from the left, the group included: pale green Eustoma grandiflorum, Abelia 'Hopley's Variegated', Catananche caerulea (seedpods), silvery Leucadendron 'Pisa', and exotic Lotus jacobaeus

Speaking of eclipses*, I hope everyone in the US enjoys today's solar eclipse.  Los Angeles will experience only a partial eclipse (0.69 magnitude), peaking at 10:21am.  Despite all the hype, we failed to pick up protective eyewear before the shelves were bare so my husband fashioned a pinhole viewer.  We're as ready as we can be but don't expect any photos.

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

*Yes, that transition was a stretch.

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

Friday, August 18, 2017

US Botanic Garden - A national treasure

Last Friday, I picked up coverage of the Capital Region Garden Bloggers' Fling with photos of our visit to the Hillwood Estate.  After lunch at the estate, the bus took us to the National Mall.  I previously reported on my tour of the Mary Livingston Ripley Garden on the Mall.  Another highlight of the Mall tour was the US Botanic Garden.  By way of a disclaimer, I should disclose that the weather in Washington DC had taken its toll on me as the afternoon progressed.  As a life-long resident of Southern California, I'm used to heat but not heat accompanied by the kind of humidity that characterizes summer in the eastern part of the country, and June 23rd in DC was particularly hot and muggy.  By the time I reached the US Botanic Garden, I felt like I was melting.  I took fewer photos than the visit warranted but I offer the best of those I collected.

We entered the garden through the gates shown here, which were surrounded with attractive plantings on both sides

I immediately fixated on the 3 Cercis canadensis 'Rising Sun' shown here.  While I've occasionally seen them for sale in SoCal, those specimens never look as good in my climate as they did here.

A stream ran under this winding boardwalk

This is pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata), which I only know because there was a sign to tell me so

We skirted by a large lawn area bordered by flower beds but didn't linger long.  Daylilies were a highlight here.

This giant planter was positioned along the path leading into the Conservatory.  I don't know who the woman captured in my photo is but she kindly, if inadvertently, provides a sense of the planter's scale.

At this point we entered the Conservatory, starting in the area that housed tropical plants.  Of course, tropical conservatories tend to be warm and moist and we'd already had enough of that so this area got much less attention than it deserved.  Even I'm surprised by how few photos I took in this area.

This area of the Conservatory was 2 stories high.  (Note that you can see the tops of a couple of heads in the lower right-hand corner of my photo.)

I looked all over for a tag to identify the plant in the center foreground here.  I'm fairly certain that it's a Plectranthus as the leaf's veining and underside color is similar to that of one in my own garden but I've never seen one with this kind of metallic sheen.

My tour companions, Kathy (GardenBook) and Sue (Idyll Haven), and I took refuge for a time in an air conditioned educational exhibit at one end of  the conservatory.  The cool air restored us somewhat but the presence of a large number of small exuberant children eventually got us up and moving again.  I must have been feeling better at that point because I took a lot of photos in the World Deserts section of the Conservatory.

Time was running short, so we hustled across the street to Bartholdi Park.  Described as a "showcase of sustainable and accessible landscape design," this area was renovated just last year.

I captured this view of the exterior of the Conservatory from the entrance to Barthholdi Park.  The dome to the right is the US Capitol building.

I didn't process what I saw here until I reviewed my photos.  It looks to me as if the area in the foreground may have once been a fountain, although the park renovation reportedly included work on storm water capture so perhaps this is part of that mechanism.

Vegetable garden

From left to right: Cardoon, Echinacea, and Cotinus

2 of the many plant containers in the park 

The park's centerpiece, the Fountain of Light, created for the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition to celebrate the country's first 100 years

I really wish I'd had more time to see DC.  I've visited only once before and, as that visit was work-related, I didn't have adequate time to see the city that time either.  I hope to get back someday and tour it at a more leisurely pace, perhaps when the White House has a more suitable occupant.

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