Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Christmas Wreath

On a recent shopping trip with friends to Roger's Gardens in Orange County, I checked out the wreaths on display.

Wreath with Banksia - I thought the flowers were fake at first

Most years I buy an inexpensive Christmas wreath from the local garden center or tree lot.  Although they may have a few pine cones and a mix of greens, they're pretty plain.

This year's purchase, hung over the flagpole holder that came with the house

But I always add my own touches, usually a bow and Christmas ornament odds and ends.  This year, Sunset magazine featured wreaths with proteas and I thought maybe I'd use natural materials to embellish my wreath too (even if I didn't make the base from scratch).  Loree of danger garden added Leucadendron to her tree and I thought that was a good idea, especially as I have several of these shrubs in my garden.  I tucked in some Aeonium, Pennisetum setaceum and Heteromeles arbutifolia berries too.

My embellished wreath

In addition to a bow I've reused for years, I added succulents, berries and grass plumes cut from my garden as shown in close-up here

This close-up of the wreath's lower portion shows 2 varieties of Aeonium, stems of silvery Leucadendron 'Pisa' and cuttings of L. 'Wilson's Wonder' (I also used a few stems of L. 'Chief')

Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' isn't as red as it was in summer or as yellow as it'll be later this winter but I was still pleased with the effect.  And, despite our recent rain (another inch from the storms yesterday and last night!), the wreath has held up well in a largely unsheltered area.  Do you use garden material to decorate for the holidays?

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Foliage Follow-up - December 2014

This month's foliage follow-up post is a bit of a grab bag.  The plants I've selected to highlight have little in common but for the fact that they're all looking very good at the moment.  Some are new and some have been in place for awhile.

First up is Phormium 'Maori Queen.'  I added 3 of these to the new bed along the front walkway, created as a byproduct of the recent removal of the front lawn.  I looked for more to add on the other side of the walkway when it was finally ready for planting but I've yet to find more locally.

Phormium 'Maori Queen' looks especially good when backlit

Another variegated selection is Erysimum linifolium 'Variegatum.'  This plant and the others surrounding the backyard fountain have been in place going on 3 years now.  They looked scraggly in the heat of mid-summer and I'd planned to replace them all this fall but light pruning, the cooler weather, and rain seem to have snapped them back into shape.

Erysimum linifolium 'Variegatum' also makes the most of the light

I planted Melianthus major in early spring and it sat like a lump doing nothing until recently when it suddenly produced new growth.  It, too, may be responding favorably to the cooler weather and rain.  We're due for more rain today - in fact, we've already had some light rain this morning.

The hanging succulent basket by the front door I planted in late summer has begun to overflow as the individual plants grow larger, earning it the attention of passers-by.

Sedum 'Lemon Ball' is taking over, although the Kalanchoe and Senecio are holding their own

Despite receiving regular watering, the unidentified Kalanchoe has turned a delicious burgundy, mirroring the red stems of the variegated Portulacaria afra

Photo taken from above the basket showing some of the succulents almost buried behind the Sedum

But my very favorite succulent at the moment is Agave gentryi 'Jaws.'  I've seen photos of this plant elsewhere and thought it was attractive but I was unprepared for the effect it had when I saw it in person.  I scooped it up (carefully) and took it home after seeing it last week while on a shopping trip with friends.  It's currently situated in the front garden near my new Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder,' where its orange and red spines echo the Leucadendron's foliage color.  It's said to get 3-4 feet tall and 4-6 feet wide at maturity and to be suitable for placement in either sun or shade.  I hope the latter information is correct as it gets only partial sun where I've placed it, at least this time of year, but I'll keep a watch on it and move it if necessary.

Look at the size and color of those spines!  The leaf imprints are wonderful too.

The emerald green leaves show tinges of blue at the base

Pam at Digging hosts this monthly foliage follow-up.  You can find her foliage picks and links to other gardeners' selections here.

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

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bloom Day - December 2014

We got our second solid rainstorm of the season last week, a so-call "Pineapple Express," which did indeed roar through our area like a freight train, complete with lighting effects in the form of blown electrical transformers visible on the horizon.  We were lucky, though, and didn't either lose power or suffer the mudslides that caused significant damage elsewhere.  It did leave some flowers in shambles but it was welcome nonetheless, even if we're still far from ending California's drought.

A few plants took the downpour in stride, most notably the Arbutus 'Marina,' still blanketed in blossoms (but no berries).

2 of our 5 Arbutus 'Marina,' all loaded with blossoms

The Arbutus blooms attract bees, hummingbirds and even butterflies

Other pink-flowered plants that held up well included:

Arctotis 'Pink Sugar'

Coleonema 'Sunset Gold' and Cuphea ignea 'Starfire Pink,' which seem impervious to all weather conditions

Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl'

There were troupers among the blue, yellow, orange and white-flowered plants as well.

Ageratum houstonium 'Blue Horizon'

Anemone 'Mona Lisa Deep Blue,' a Bloom Day cheat as it and several others were planted shortly before our last rainstorm

Angelonia augustifolia

Aster x frikartii 'Monch'

Polygala fruticosa 'Petite Butterflies'

Solanum xantii, a California native

Argyranthemum frutescens 'Butterfly'

Gaillardia aristata 'Gallo Peach'

Gazania 'New Day Yellow'

Osteospermum 'Blue-eyed Beauty,' another new acquisition

Aging blooms of Gomphrena haageana

Orange-flowered Osteospermum (no ID)

Cyclamen (no ID)

Hibiscus trionum, not blooming as profusely but still producing new flowers daily

Lantana 'Lucky White,' yet another new introduction

Osteospermum ecklonis '3D Silver'

Some plants were beaten down by the rain but are too pretty to entirely ignore this Bloom Day:

Camellia sasanqua (no ID)

Eustoma grandiflorum 'Borealis Blue'

Rudbeckia 'Cherry Brandy'

Schlumbergera truncata

That's it for this year-end Bloom Day wrap-up.  Visit our Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day hostess, Carol, at May Dreams Gardens to find what's blooming in her Indiana garden and links to other bloggers' posts.

It's also time to post a photo of what I have "In a Vase on Monday," in collaboration with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  As multi-tasking is mandatory during the busy holiday season, I'm including blooms picked from my garden in today's Bloom Day post.  Visit Cathy to find what she and other participating gardeners collected for their vases this week.

Today's vase contains 'Buttercream' roses, an Anemone, Aster x frikartii, Solanum xantii, and Erysimum linifolium

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

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Do I need this?

Maybe.  I can't decide.  I saw Metrosideros collina 'Springfire' (aka as Ohia Lehua in Hawaii) on a recent shopping expedition with friends and backtracked to take a closer look at it.  Would I have looked at it twice if it wasn't for those wonderful orange-red flowers?  Possibly not, although there's nothing wrong with the gray-green foliage.

I DO still have a lot of space to fill in the front garden.  It's drought tolerant.  It's suited to my zone (USDA 10b, Sunset 23/24).  It can handle placement in full to partial sun so it would work in the area alongside Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' and provide that plant with a very nice color echo.  The biggest issue is its projected size.  Monrovia projects growth to 6-8 feet (1.8-2.4 m) tall and 3-4 feet wide, which is already pushing things a bit for the placement I envision, and, complicating matters, San Marcos Growers says that, left unpruned, it it can grow to 15-25 feet (4.5-7.6 m) tall and 6-8 feet wide, which is way too big.

But look at that flower:

Even the buds, which Flora Grubb's site describes as "kitten toes," are wonderful.  Can I resist?  Too bad Santa is already done with his shopping.

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

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The best laid plans

As the saying goes "the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry."  In my last wide shots post, I mentioned my husband's desire to dispatch the Yucca elephantipes (aka Y. gigantea) sitting along our back slope and bordering our neighbor's property.

View of Yucca elephantipes from the top of the stairway leading down the slope

View of the Yucca from my home office window showing its extension above the hedge behind the backyard border

The Yucca was more than 20 feet tall and still growing. Wherever a branch touched soil, it took root, which over time allowed the Yucca to extend the entire width of the slope.  The neighbor obtained  a cost estimate for cutting it down to 2 feet (61 cm), which we agreed to cover despite some misgivings on my part.   Last Friday, the work began just after 7am.

The process viewed from my office window after the chainsaws started up



Gone.  With the Yucca out of the picture, I could see the Vincent Thomas Bridge from my office window even through the fog

After the main branches were cut, the workers attacked the stumps; however, after a time I noticed that they'd been silent for awhile.  I was surprised to discover that they'd left without touching base with me or the neighbors.  Here's what I discovered when I tromped down the slope.

The stumps left behind are well over 4 feet (1.2m) tall and greater than 8 feet (2.4m) wide, with additional stumps extending up the slope

I knew the stumps would be a problem but it looks even worse than I'd anticipated.  My husband had planned to drill holes in the stumps and cover them with mulch to encourage decomposition but, at their current height, that would be difficult.  We knew we were going to need to plant the area around the stumps to restore privacy for both us and our neighbors but, at the moment, we're not even sure how to proceed.

In the short-term, the neighbor who contracted the work has asked the tree service to return to see what they can do to clean up and level the stumps.  Assuming that can be done, I expect we'll proceed with the plan to promote decomposition.  (These plants are notoriously difficult to kill.)  I may try planting groundcover in the cavities between the stumps and one or more trees or shrubs alongside them to create a visual break but selection will need to involve the neighbors.  My husband is willing to install a fence but we're not yet sure how the neighbors feel about that option.

Meanwhile, the neighbor on the other side of our property at the bottom of the slope is ecstatic because her vegetable garden now has plenty of sun.  We've got a lot more light too, albeit at the cost of privacy in that area.  The neighbors also took out 2 pine trees and cut back a variety of shrubs, giving us a broader view of the harbor both from the bottom of the slope, my office and the backyard patio.  So, there are some pluses to accompany the minuses.

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