Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Wide Shots - October 2014

I can't believe it's already October.  People frequently talk about how time flies all but I rarely feel its passage as strongly as I do right now.  Too many balls in the air perhaps, with one or more destined to land upon my head.  Still, I value the record provided by the wide shot posts, inaugurated by Heather of Xericstyle, so I made time to take some quick shots of the garden to keep the chain going.

This month it's all about the front yard.

The front borders are largely devoid of color at the moment but at least they mask the dirt area formerly occupied by lawn

Since the lawn was brown and nearly dead to begin with, perhaps the neighbors haven't noticed that it's gone

The area to the left of the lawn area is unchanged - at least Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' is happy (the climbing 'Joseph's Coat' rose is NOT)

The area surrounding the front walkway will remain a dirt landscape for a while yet.  My husband and I are hard at work removing grass roots, sod netting, and mountains and mountains of rocks from the soil.  I know many horticulturists now recommend leaving the native soil alone to the degree possible but the beds we've created after digging out and screening the top foot of soil, then adding locally-obtained topsoil and amendments have done much better than those we've left alone.  So we labor on.  Only the area under the drip-line of the Magnolia tree will be left alone.  I plan to weed that area by hand, then cover it with a Magnolia-friendly mulch.

The backyard still has most of the holes I lamented in last month's wide shots post, including a few new ones attributable to an extended September heatwave.  I have 2 nursery treks planned and I hope to pick up some plants to begin filling the open spaces soon.

Usual view from the back door looking toward the Los Angeles harbor

Backyard viewed from the right side

View of the backyard from the left side, highlighting the poor condition of the remaining grass pathway.  It'll probably come out next year.

The biggest change in the backyard is the addition of a new bed, dug out from the lawn, across from the "spa bed" I planted in early September.  The new bed has already been screened (by my ever-helpful husband) but I have yet to add the amendments it needs prior to planting.  I'm also still working on the bed's planting scheme, which, taking my cue from the "spa bed," will probably rely on more drought-tolerant Australian plants.

View of the "spa bed" and the new bed from the far side of the backyard looking southeast - did you notice the dead section of Ceanothus hedge behind the Arbutus?  I need to do something about that too.

In the side yard, I replanted the bed once occupied by a large Eucalyptus tree as I discussed doing last month.  I've also pulled out the sad Zinnias and other annuals and planted a Grevillea groundcover, still small, and some succulents.  My ongoing battle with the resident raccoons over dominion of this area continues, complicating matters.

Usual view of the south side garden through the arbor looking toward the harbor

View of the side yard looking in the other direction toward the street showing one of the bare spots in the bed adjoining the patio (outside of view on the right)

View from the side yard patio - the tomato cage in the former "Eucalyptus bed" protects the Grevillea from raccoon intruders.  I cleaned up after yet another overnight raccoon assault shortly before this photo was taken.

The vegetable garden is once again bare of vegetables - nothing did well this year.  Too much heat and too little water.  I did move the Acer palmatum 'Purple Ghost' from the south side garden to the bed along the garage in the vegetable garden but it remains to be seen if the tree will make it.

The vegetable garden is too depressing to discuss further, although the navel orange tree is already developing next year's crop

I cleaned up the dry garden in late August but bare spots remain throughout.  My only new additions were a Leucadendron 'Blush' and a couple of Dorycinium hirsutum.  They made it through the last heatwave so I count myself lucky there.

Still in need of serious work

That's it for this month's post.  Maybe, just maybe, I'll make some progress in the front garden and other areas before November's post.

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

Monday, September 29, 2014

In a Vase on Monday: A Substitute for Roses

I'd planned to feature yellow roses in this week's vase, prepared in connection with the popular meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  One of my 'Buttercream' rose shrubs has been working hard to produce blooms since the weather cooled the weekend before last.  But then temperatures heated up again before cooling once more this past weekend and the roses were left looking rather sad.  So I went hunting for a substitute and ended up with a little of this and a little of that, creating a cheerful bouquet better suited to the start of autumn than the pale yellow roses.

This week, the back view of the vase is almost as pretty as the front view

The jumping off point for the new color scheme was Russelia equisetiformis 'Flamingo Park.'

Russelia 'Flamingo Park' is shown here in a close-up with Grevillea 'Superb'

Once I had my new color scheme, I was able to find a surprising number of complementary materials.  This week's bouquet consists of:

  • Abelia grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope' (3 stems)
  • Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame' (2 stems)
  • Gaillardia  x grandiflora 'Goblin' (4 stems)
  • Grevillea 'Superb' (1 stem)
  • Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' (3 stems)
  • Nandina domestica (1 stem)
  • Russelia equisetiformis 'Flamingo Park' (2 stems)
  • Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Honey Crisp Coleus' (1 stem)
  • Tanacetum parthenium 'Aureum' (5 stems)

The Digiplexis is still producing sporadic blooms - shown here with Grevillea on one side, Gaillardia on the other, and a coleus leaf in the back

It's hard to pick a favorite when it comes to Leucadendron but 'Wilson's Wonder,' my 1st Leucadendron, is the one that most often causes me to stop in my tracks

The unripe berries of the Nandina were the perfect color for this bouquet

The vase is visible when you step through the front door, next to my favorite toad.

You can see Cathy's vase and those of other gardeners by visiting Rambling in the Garden.

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

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Pleated Leaves

I have a few orchid plants of different types sitting alongside the window in my home office.  They bloom sporadically despite receiving little attention.  I usually water them when I dust my office (i.e. haphazardly and not nearly often enough).  One plant, a gift from a friend following my mother's death last year, recently burst into bloom.  Its yellow flowers and soft, sweet scent provide a welcome greeting every morning.

The orchid's most unusual feature may not be immediately noticeable.  It's not the pretty flowers.

It's the leaves.

They're pleated

They unfurl from a cramped mass at the center of the plant 

I'd assumed the accordion-pleated leaves were a normal characteristic of the plant.   The orchid came without a label and, when I first noticed the funky leaves, I couldn't remember what the flowers looked like so I was at a loss to identify the genus.  When the flower buds finally opened, I realized that the orchid is some variety of Miltonia.  When I conducted an on-line search regarding pleated leaves on a Miltonia, I discovered a shameful fact: I've been guilty of orchid abuse.  The Miltonia's leaves aren't supposed to start out crimped.  This occurs as a result of dehydration.  Experts recommend watering twice a week, raised humidity, and regular fertilizer.

I repotted my orchid in a slightly larger pot with new orchid bark, added a pebble tray to increase humidity, and have increased my watering schedule.  This apparently won't help the pleated leaves - that damage is said to be irreversible.  But future leaves should be fine.

Hopefully, the orchid will forgive me and reward me with blooms for years to come.

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

Thursday, September 25, 2014

My favorite plant this week: Salvia 'Mesa Azure'

I've thought of featuring Salvia microphylla 'Mesa Azure' as my favorite plant of the week several times but always passed it up in favor of something flashier and more photogenic.  This plant has had a place in my garden since May 2011, our first year in our current house.  I put in 3 plants in the border tucked into a corner of the front yard usually seen by no one other than myself.  With the exception of a few foundation plants that came with the house, most of the plants in this border have been changed out over the past 3 years but this Salvia has remained in place.  It always looks good, whether in flower or not; it tolerates our heat and drought; and it blooms at least half the year if regularly deadheaded.

Salvia 'Mesa Azure' seated next to Lomandra, Coprosma and Gaillardia in the front yard

I added another plant, purchased with a tag labeling it a "California friendly plant," in early June of this year.  Despite my reduced watering schedule, it settled in just fine in the backyard border.

Salvia 'Mesa Azure' shortly after planting in the backyard border in June 2014

The foliage is evergreen.  The flowers are relatively small and, despite its name, they're more violet-lavender, than blue.

A perennial shrub in my USDA zone 10b garden, I cut it back once a year when it stops flowering.  It's reported to grow 18-24 inches (45-61 cm) tall and almost as wide.   My oldest plants are just under 18 inches (45 cm) tall.  It can be grown in full sun or light shade.  My plants all get some shade until late morning or mid-day, after which they receive full sun.

If you're looking for a long-blooming, drought tolerant plant, this is one I'd recommend you try.  Salvia microphylla 'Mesa Azure' is my contribution to Loree's favorite plant of the week meme at danger garden.

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

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Planting Bed Facelift #2

My first planting bed facelift involved the bed formerly occupied by an unused wood-fired spa.  Last week, I tackled my second facelift, the bed once occupied by a 60 foot Eucalyptus tree.  I replanted the area in March 2013 after the tree was removed at the request of a neighbor.  It looked fine for a short while but the combination of dry soil (made worse, not better by the addition of the woody remains of the Eucalyptus tree), high winds, drought, nightly digging operations by the neighborhood raccoons, and poor plant selections left it looking sad.  The wood chips and shavings left after grinding down the tree stump had formed clumps with the consistency of dry cardboard and didn't hold water well.  I cleared as much of the remnants of that debris as I could and added lots of soil amendment before replanting.  My fingers are crossed that the new plants will fare better than the bed's previous occupants did.

View of replanted bed looking west

View of the same bed from the side yard patio

Two of the 3 original Coprosma 'Plum Hussey' remain in place along the bed's outer edge.  The third, which was struggling to survive, was removed and replaced with a smaller plant of the same variety, moved from the side yard border.

The 2 original Coprosma 'Plum Hussey' bordered by Pelargonium tomentosum (peppermint geranium)

The smaller Coprosma, moved from a shadier bed, hasn't developed 'Plum Hussey's' striking red color yet

Grevillea 'Bonfire' replaced the sad Acer palmatum 'Purple Ghost,' which couldn't hold up to the winds that whip through this area most afternoons.  The Japanese maple was moved to the vegetable garden, where I hope it has a chance to survive.

Newly planted Grevillea 'Bonfire'

Four Agave 'Blue Glow' and one Hesperaloe parviflora were installed both for their looks and the possibility that their prickly leaves will deter the raccoons from digging in the area in their relentless search for grubs.

Agave 'Blue Glow,' still relatively small

Hesperaloe parviflora (aka red yucca)

To complement the gray-foliage of the Hesperaloe, I added Festuca 'Elijah Blue,' tiny cuttings of succulent Senecio mandraliscae, and pink-flowering Cistus x scanbergii.

Cistus x skanbergii

We raised the height of the wall that borders one length of the bed to reduce its slope and support the additional soil amendments I added.  I replaced the mass of gray Helichrysum petiolare that previously occupied that space with 5 Pennisetum setaceum 'Fireworks' and 2 varieties of Rhipsalis.  The Helichrysum did well in the location but it wasn't particularly interesting.

Pennisetum setaceum 'Fireworks' is reputed to be smaller than the standard variety

Five plants line the top of the wall

This was labeled 'mistletoe cactus' - my best guess is that it's Rhipsalis baccifera aka spaghetti cactus

This one was labeled Rhipsalis salicornioides, aka dancing bones cactus

I moved 3 Hemerocallis 'Spanish Harlem' here from the front yard borders to pick up the red tones of the Coprosma and the Pennisetum.  There's less late afternoon sun in this bed but I hope it will be sufficient to keep 'Spanish Harlem' blooming as I love this daylily's flowers.

These evergreen daylilies are a little sad at the moment as I cut them back prior to transplanting 

Here's a reminder of what 'Spanish Harlem' looked like in full bloom

Unfortunately, the Agaves are still small and aren't yet up to the challenge of keeping the raccoons at bay.  The little monsters dug up a few of the smaller plants and pawed around the base of the Grevillea.  I've put down more animal repellent and temporarily caged the Grevillea for its own protection until it's well-rooted in its new location.

Grevillea wearing a tomato cage

Work continues on the denuded front lawn area, as well as a small bed dug out of the lawn in the backyard.  My lawn removers left a lot of grass roots behind, as well as much of that nasty plastic netting embedded in the sod laid by the former owners.  My husband and I are in the process of clearing out what we can before hauling in supplemental topsoil and soil amendments.  It may be quite some time before I'm ready to plant the front area but, impatient as I am, those grass roots need to go and the soil, pure clay in one area and nothing more than decomposing rock in another, needs work.

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

Monday, September 22, 2014

In a Vase on Monday: The Old and the New

The seasonal change is in the air.  After a miserable heatwave, temperatures here in Southern California have returned to more normal levels.  It's possible to work outside without melting and to sleep at night without feeling as though you're roasting on a slow spit.  Days are becoming noticeably shorter.  Fall arrives in Los Angeles at 7:29pm PDT this evening.  The garden is responding.  Even the most robust of my summer flowers are tiring out while the first of my fall flowers are making an appearance.  It seemed appropriate to note the change with this week's floral arrangement, created in connection with the weekly meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

Summer is represented by Eustoma grandiflorum 'Borealis Blue,' which has bloomed off and on since early June.  Fall is represented by Plectranthus ciliatus 'Zulu Warrior,' which has just begun to bloom.

The Eustoma blooms are smaller now but just as pretty as they were at the start of the season

The delicate lavender-pink blooms of the Plectranthus are coming on in a rush now that the heat has abated

I added bits and pieces of other plants to add fullness to the arrangement, including:

  • Angelonia augustfolia (aka summer snapdragon)
  • Leucadendron 'Pisa'
  • Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-star'
  • Salvia leucantha (aka Mexican bush sage), also just beginning to flower
  • Tanacetum parthenium 'Aureum,' which bloomed all summer

An Angelonia stem is seen here poking out to the right of the Eustoma

The silvery Leucadendron is beautiful even without flowers

A Salvia stem can be seen above the variegated foliage of the Pseuderanthemum

Pipig resented the time I spent fussing over flowers, feeling that my time should be devoted to her.  She watched me reproachfully during the photographic process until the vase was in place and she had my full attention.

She doesn't value plants unless she can chew them

Do you feel the change in the air?  Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see what she and other gardeners have put together to usher in the autumnal equinox.

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