Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Wide Shots - September 2014

Fall is officially 3 weeks away but, with Labor Day behind us, my fall planting plans are moving into hyper-drive, despite the fact that our daytime temperatures remain in the mid-to-upper 80sF (27+C) and no significant rain is expected until November.  I reached an agreement with a local landscape service on a price to remove my front lawn, which will make a dramatic change in the garden's overall look and feel.  While waiting for that work to begin, I've been researching landscaping ideas for lawn-free front yards and drought-tolerant plant selections in general.  I've started scouting the local nurseries too.

The birds aren't concerned about fall planting so long as the fountain keeps flowing

The wide shots of my garden, undertaken in connection with a meme started by Heather of Xericstyle last year, have been useful in my planning process.  In the case of the backyard, most of what I'm planning to do there involves filling in the holes in the borders created by the summer's heat- and drought-related plant losses.  The wide grass pathway between the borders will remain in place for now but I expect it'll go next year.  I couldn't face pulling it out this year given the expense and work associated with the overhaul of the front yard.

There are several pots sitting in the backyard borders, like the one with Rudbeckia shown here in front of the fountain, as temporary replacements for plants that fell prey to the heat and drought 

I have a working list of the plants I'd like to introduce in the extended fountain bed (described here) when the weather cools

There's an empty space under the peppermint tree (Agonis flexuosa) at the mid-point of the border on the right I need to fill but I've yet to be struck with inspiration

In the south-side garden, I'm focusing most of my attention on replanting the bed alongside the arbor.  When we moved in, this bed was occupied by a 60 foot (18m) Eucalyptus tree, which was removed at the instigation of a neighbor as it blocked her view.  The soil in that area is very dry, fast-draining, and light.  It's also the prime focus of the raccoons that pay me regular visits, perhaps because it's so easy to dig.

The arbor and most of the plants along the exterior edge of the bed on the right of it will be kept

The plants in the center of the bed as well as the Helichrysum, shown in this picture in the background on the right,  are slated for replacement.  I've already picked up a Grevillea 'Bonfire.'  Other plants on my shopping list include Agave 'Blue Glow' (I'm hoping it'll deter the raccoons), Lomandra longifolia, and Correa 'Dusky Bells.'

The sad Zinnias on the right side of the pathway in this picture will be pulled.  I've already added Grevillea juniperina 'Molonglo' and, while it's small, will fill in with some low-growing succulents.

I have to admit that I'm VERY nervous about pulling out the grass in the front yard.  I'd originally planned to take out only a portion of grass up front this year but, given our ongoing drought, as well as the current condition of the front lawn, it seems appropriate to bite the bullet and take it all out now.  We're going to cover the area surrounding the Magnolia tree with decomposed granite, expand the existing borders a bit, and add stone pathways.  I'm also considering the addition of boulders and large plants to create a visual break between the Magnolia and the south-side garden.

The lawn on both sides of the front walkway will be removed all the way to the side yard path

The vegetable garden remains woefully neglected.  Rather than filling the raised planters with vegetables, I may use them as temporary holding areas for plants to be installed elsewhere in the garden during the fall.  At the moment, the only concrete plan I have for that area is to move my Acer palmatum 'Purple Ghost,' presently in the bed I intend to renovate in the side yard, to the bed alongside the garage.  Acer 'Sango Kaku' has thrived there so I'm hopeful that the new location may be hospitable to 'Purple Ghost' as well - although it's not dead, it's barely hanging on in the side yard.  (I've blamed the raccoons for its condition but the Santa Ana winds that blow through that area are part of the problem.)

Acer palmatum 'Purple Ghost' is intended to fill the blank area below the garage window to the left of 'Sango Kuku'

I cleaned up the dry garden a bit in August, clearing out plants that weren't doing well to make room for the ones that remain.  I've replanted the statice (Limonium perezii) and added more hairy canary clover (Dorycinium hirsutum) and a few succulents.  The Cuphea 'Starfire Pink' badly needs to be cut back but I'm waiting until the weather cools.  I'll probably add more succulents and another Leucadendron salignum too.

A somewhat neater dry garden

The hummingbirds continue to visit the 3 Cuphea shrubs at the front of the front of this border despite their drought-stressed appearance

I've no specific plans for the back slope, which I'm currently letting get by on its own.  On the other hand, I'd planned to do some work in the lower area running along the street before my attention shifted to the front yard.  Time, energy and funds permitting, I'd still like to extend the dry stacked wall down there but my guess is that it'll be spring, at earliest, before I get to that.

For unknown reasons, the prior owners left the stacked stone wall along this slope half-finished.  As a temporary measure, I extended it with stone picked up here and there in the garden but I need to haul in stone and properly complete the wall as a precursor to replanting the slope.

That's it for this month's wide shots.  I expect I'm going to be quite busy.  I'll keep you posted on my progress!

All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, September 1, 2014

In a Vase on Monday: Summer Reruns

Today is Labor Day, officially a date to observe the advances made by workers or, more specifically, the achievements of labor unions on behalf of workers.  For most people here in the US, the date is more closely associated with the end of summer than with the labor union movement, which I personally find sad.  But that's not a topic for this blog or this post, which celebrates bouquets assembled from what's available in the garden.  In my garden, some of the flowers that bloomed earlier this summer have produced a fresh flush of blooms, including the beautiful Eustoma grandiflorum 'Borealis Blue,' which I've used as the centerpiece of this week's vase.

I've combined the Eustoma (aka Lisianthus) with other summer reruns, some of which are also enjoying a new flush of blooms:

  • 4 stems of Angelonia augustifolia
  • 3 stems of Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold'
  • 2 stems of Hebe 'Wiri Blush'
  • 2 stems of Pelargonium peltatum (ivy geranium)
  • 5 stems of Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum'
  • 3 stems of Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-star'

White Angelonia, from a mix purchased as part of a 6-pack in June

Variegated foliage of Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-star' in close-up, accompanied by Coleonema and Pennisetum plumes

Vase photographed from the back

Hebe 'Wiri Blush' is still flowering, although the blooms are fewer and smaller than those produced earlier this summer

I brought this trailing ivy geranium from our former house but have no ID on the variety

The vase I selected this week didn't keep the blooms in place, even after an inordinate amount of fussing, so I used a rubber band to tie the heavier stems together.  I placed the Pelargonium and Angelonia stems in separately so I can remove them easily when they tucker out.  I've previously discovered that the Pelargonium petals fall apart after a few days in a vase.

As usual, I ended up with a vase of leftover elements.  The stems of these materials were either too stiff or too short to work in the larger vase.

The leftovers include Cuphea 'Starfire Pink,' a bee and hummingbird magnet, Pentas 'Nova,' Salvia 'Mystic Spires,' and Plectranthus zuluensis

The vases are in position.

The larger vase sits on the dining room table

and the smaller vase ended up in the guest bathroom

I hope you have a great day, however you're spending this Monday.  Please visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see her vase and to find links to the creations of other gardeners.

All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, August 29, 2014

My favorite plant this week: Pentas lanceolata 'Kaleidoscope Appleblossom'

When the garden as a whole is not looking its best, the plants that sail through the pressures that beat most down really shine.  At present, one such plant is Pentas lanceolata 'Kaleidoscope Appleblossom.'   This plant is more resilient than any of the other Pentas I've grown.  Pentas lanceolata is classified as a semi-tropical shrub but it's usually grown as an annual.  I planted this one in June 2013 and it's still going strong.

My plant is almost 2 feet (60 cm) tall and wide, which is on the upper end of the spectrum quoted for this variety.  Mine receives partial shade but the species can handle full sun.  However, it can't handle freezing temperatures and is best suited to USDA zones 10a-11.  Although it can tolerate dry conditions, as my plant has, the stress may make it prone to infestations of spider mites.

The flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds.  I dead-head it regularly to keep the flowers coming.  It produces blooms almost year-round.

The flowers also do very well in a vase.

Vase containing Penta lanceolata, photographed in late October 2013

Pentas lanceolata 'Kaleidoscope Appleblossom' is my pick as my favorite plant this week.  Please visit Loree at danger garden to view her choice as this week's favorite plant.

All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Thursday, August 28, 2014

When things come together just right

By mid-summer, most gardeners I know - at least those who garden in hot, dry climates like mine - become discouraged.  I'm no exception.  Most of my grass is dead.  Numerous plants have dropped dead, some seemingly overnight.  An army of disgusting worms attacked my Bush Lupine and ate half the plant before I sent them packing.  The raccoons returned and, in addition to stealing the filter out of our fountain and running off with it, they declared an end to our detente and tore apart the beds in the side yard looking for grubs.  And it's still too warm to begin fall planting - even if that didn't prevent me from indulging in the purchase of a dozen Rudbeckia last week - so I have itchy fingers

I deal with the situation by putting on blinders to avoid seeing the garden as a whole, while focusing on practical problems: modifications to the irrigation system, mulching, hand-watering, pruning, and researching drought-tolerant plants and new ways to thwart raccoons.  However, while planting 3 of the Rudbeckia I couldn't stop myself from buying, I realized just how good at least one of my beds looks right now.

Wide view of the bed

Side view of the same space

This bed seldom shows up in my photos.   On the southwest side of the house, it's partially hidden behind our Magnolia tree.  I've added and subtracted plants from this bed at intervals in the 3 years I've tended this garden.  While some of these are still immature, the bed nonetheless finally feels as though it's coming together.  I love the mix of mid-tone and chartreuse greens, accented by yellow, orange and red touches.  The yellow color is provided by Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' and Coprosma 'Evening Glow' as well as the flowers of Rudbeckia 'Prairie Sun' and Gaillardia 'Mesa Peach.'  Orange and red tones are provided at various times of the year by the berries on the Nandina, 2 varieties of Hemerocallis, and Gaillardia 'Goblin,' which self-seeds freely.

The Calliandra, Coleonema, Nandina and Agapanthus in the background came with the house but I've added most of the rest of the plants.

The Grevillea 'Superb' planted last November is developing lots of new buds

Gaillardia 'Goblin' is flowering less profusely than last year but still provides a lot of color

The new Rudbeckia 'Prairie Sun' mixes well with Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' and Coprosma 'Evening Glow'

Coprosma 'Evening Glow' is a relatively slow grower

One of 5 Lomandra longifolia 'Breeze' in this bed, this plant adds an airy quality

Duranta erecta 'Gold Mound' if the label that came with it can be believed

Salvia 'Mesa Azure'

And a closer look at the Rudbeckia that pulled everything together

Now, my only wish is that the lawn surrounding the bed wasn't so hideous.  I think the answer is to pull the front lawn out.  Plans are underway...

All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesday - My New Butterfly Magnet

Old butterfly magnet:

My new butterfly magnet - the flowers of Senecio fulgens:

Western Tiger Anise Swallowtail (thanks for the correction, Jane!)

Gulf Fritillary

All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, August 25, 2014

In a Vase on Monday: Recent Acquisitions

I've whined about the shortage of flowers in my garden quite a bit of late.  Last week, thinking ahead about what I could use to create a vase for the Monday meme sponsored by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, I was at a loss.   Although some plants in my garden have begun a second bloom cycle, there was nothing that I hadn't used more than once already this summer.  Then I visited my local garden center, looking for Sedum, and came home with a dozen 4-inch pots of Rudbeckia.  On a second tour of another nursery with a friend, I picked up 3 more Rudbeckia.  So, this week's vase features - you guessed it - Rudbeckia.

This particular Rudbeckia was labeled R. 'Zahara' but I believe it's actually Rudbeckia hirta 'Sahara.'  The 3 plants I brought home went into a pot, filling in a hole in the border around our fountain.  The semi-double flowers range in color from pink to burgundy to caramel.

Here's what went into the vase:

  • 1 stem of Pennisetum glaucum 'Purple Majesty' (reused from last week's vase)
  • 5 stems of Rudbeckia hirta 'Sahara' in a range of colors
  • 2 stems of Solenostemon scuttellarioides 'Fire Fingers Coleus'
  • 2 stems of Solenostemon scuttellarioides 'Honey Crisp Coleus' (reused from last week's vase)
  • 3 sprigs of Thymus serpyllum

The beautiful Rudbeckias, photographed from above

Close-up of Coleus 'Fire Fingers'

Photo of the back of the vase, highlighting the leftover Coleus 'Honey Crisp'

Close-up of thyme

The colors in this vase, which echo those I used last week, have an autumn feel.  I know many gardeners are still holding onto summer, so here's a second vase with a more summer-like disposition, although it also features one of my new Rudbeckias, R. hirta 'Prairie Sun':

Broken stem of R. 'Prairie Sun' in a bud vase with Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' and more leftover Coleus 'Honey Crisp'

Close-up of R. 'Prairie Sun'

And here are the vases in their final positions:

Back in the foyer yet again

Adding sunshine to the living room

What have you brought inside to brighten your household space?  Please visit Cathy, the sponsor of the "In a Vase on Monday" meme to see what she's created.  You'll also find links to other gardeners' creations.

All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, August 22, 2014

My favorite plant of the week: Senecio fulgens

Now that, thanks to Denise at A Growing Obsession, I have a name to attach to the robust succulent planted in a birdbath-style container in my dry garden, I can give it the acclaim it deserves as one of my favorite plants.  It's hard to name a plant as your favorite if you don't even know its genus.

I picked up the unlabeled Senecio fulgens a few months ago because I was attracted to its foliage.    Its leaves and stems are a chalky blue-green color.  Some on-line sources reference a purple flush on the undersides of the spoon-shaped leaves but I've seen no signs of this on my plant.

When I bought the plant, there were no flowers or flower buds.  Flower color wasn't a factor in my purchase decision.  But, when the plant began blooming a few weeks ago, the red-orange color of the flowers was impossible to miss.  New blooms seem to appear daily and there are lots of buds still forming.

Although I had no idea what color flowers it might produce when I planted it, it turned out that the floral color of the Senecio neatly echoes the color of other succulents in the container, most notably Kalanchoe daigremontiana 'Pink Butterflies' and the red edge of Agave 'Blue Glow.'  It also picks up on the foliage color of Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey' in the background.

My plant, which  I purchased in a 4-inch pot, has grown to approximately 12 inches (30 cm) in height.  According to on-line sources, it should get no taller than 18-24 inches (46-61 cm), although specimens as tall as 3 feet (91 cm) have been observed.  Regular trimming is suggested to keep it from becoming leggy.

While it prefers full sun, it can take a little shade.  It needs good drainage and it can't tolerate frost.  Hailing from the eastern areas of South Africa, it's suited to USDA zones 10-12.

Senecio fulgens is my favorite plant of the week.  Please visit Loree at danger garden, our host for the weekly favorite plant post, to see her pick this week and to find links to other gardeners' selections.

All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party