Friday, August 1, 2014

Wide Shots - August 2014

It's the "dog days of summer" here.  Although our daytime temperatures haven't soared above 95F (35C) since May, it has been unusually muggy, which has made the heat more uncomfortable.  It cools down most nights, which helps, but my garden still looks somewhat ragged, probably because I've continued to restrict my water usage in response to our drought.  Careful as we're trying to be about managing our water usage, it was upsetting to hear about the water main break in West Los Angeles that flooded the campus of UCLA and the surrounding area with 20 million gallons of water earlier this week (and infuriating that the media seems more interested in the impact on UCLA's basketball season than the state's ability to manage its water issues).  In addition, the Bay Area uncovered a water leak that has caused the loss of 25 gallons of water per minute over the past 4 years.  Clearly, individual homeowners aren't the only ones that need to work on their water delivery infrastructures.

My monthly wide shots, undertaken in connection with the meme started by Heather at Xericstyle, continue to be useful to track the changes I've made to my garden, as well as in assisting me in planning future changes.  As usual, I'll start with the back garden, which is looking subdued now that the Agapanthus and the red-orange daylilies have finished blooming.

Back garden, photographed from the back door

A shot of the back garden from the left side, showing the lawn heading into dormancy

This photograph of the back garden from the right side shows the mimosa tree, still in bloom and dropping floral debris everywhere


In the side yard, much of the color is supplied by foliage.

Side yard, photographed from the dirt path running behind the backyard's main border, where Coreopsis 'Redshift' is putting on a show

Zinnias, some planted from seed and some from a pony-pack, provide some floral color but they're struggling

The Amaranth in the middle background provide a pop of red color, mirroring the foliage of Coprosma 'Plum Hussey" on the right and Phormium 'Amazing Red' in the foreground of this photo taken from the side yard patio

Side yard, photographed from the front lawn area looking toward the hazy harbor view



In the front yard, the Magnolia is still blooming in the middle of the dormant lawn and the Bauhinia, barely visible on the left, has few leaves but lots of flowers.




In the vegetable garden, the sunflowers have withered and the corn is struggling despite regular water.  However, the pole beans and the herbs are doing fine.

Vegetable garden, photographed from the driveway



My husband did some work on the irrigation system in the dry garden in July and I've begun removing plants that didn't perform well this year, both of which have left holes in this area of the garden.  However, I'm looking forward to adding more drought-tolerant plants, like Leucadendron salignum 'Blush,' in the fall.

Dry garden, photographed from the entrance to the gravel path looking toward the stairway that leads down the slope

Dry garden photographed from the backyard lawn



The lower portion of the slope looks truly awful.  The drought-tolerant plants I put in down there clearly aren't drought-tolerant enough.  The area needs a major overall.

Ugh!



While waiting for the cooler days of fall, I'm laying down more mulch to keep the soil as cool and moist as possible.  My husband has replaced the sprinkler system along one street side boundary with drip irrigation and we have future plans to convert other areas of the garden to drip irrigation as well.  I also plan to remove more lawn, starting with a section in the front yard.   And, I've got a running list of plant swaps I want to make in the fall on the assumption that this drought will be with us for awhile.  Meanwhile, the birds have no problems with the garden as long as the fountain's running...



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


Thursday, July 31, 2014

My favorite plant this week: x Graptoveria 'Fred Ives'

As I seem to be fixated on succulents this week, it's only appropriate that I feature a succulent as my favorite plant of the week.  Since planting a new succulent bed last weekend, I've had my eyes open for succulents elsewhere in my garden that I might use to provide cuttings to fill in some of the bed's empty spaces.  I quickly fixated on x Graptoveria 'Fred Ives,' a hybrid mix of Graptopetalum paraguayense and Echeveria gibbiflora.  I've got 'Fred Ives' in at least 4 pots, as well as my backyard border.

A single rosette in the decorative pot I picked up at the Spring Garden Show at South Coast Plaza 

2 rosettes in a pot marking the transition from the side yard to the backyard

A clump of 'Fred Ives' in the backyard border



After looking into 'Fred Ives' parentage, I realized that I also have the parent plants in my garden.

This Graptopetalum paraguayense was part of a 6-pack I planted in my new succulent border

I believe this is an Echeveria gibbiflora, although it didn't have a label when I purchased it



I love the various hues 'Fred Ives' takes on based under different growing conditions.  It can handle anything from full sun to partial shade.  In semi-shady spots, like the one occupied by the pot in the picture at the top of the post, grayish-green and turquoise tones dominate but, in sunnier settings, like those shown in the second and third photos, pinkish-bronze tones appear.

Most of my plants are between 6 and 8 inches (15-20 cm) tall but one, in a large pot receiving morning shade and afternoon sun, is more than a foot (30.5 cm) tall and wide.




I discovered that this plant had produced an elongated stem that reached down behind the pot.  It detached easily when I tugged it upward.  Even by succulent standards, the plant has a reputation for easy reproduction.  The piece I removed already had lots of hairy pink roots.




I was more surprised to find a tiny plant developing on a shriveled leaf that had fallen off the plant in the backyard border.




The succulent flowers too.  My largest plant produced sprays of small yellow flowers on long stems earlier this year.

The flowers are shown in this picture taken in late April



Like most succulents, it's drought-tolerant, although some on-line sources claim that it grows faster with extra water.  It's said to handle over-watering well, which allows it to be combined with plants with greater water needs, as in the case of the plant in my backyard border.  According to San Marcos Growers, it tolerates low temperatures in the 25-30F (-3.9 to -1C) range.

x Graptoveria 'Fred Ives,' a native of Mexico, is my contribution to the favorite plants meme hosted by Loree of danger garden.


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

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Succulent Curb Appeal

My friend Lynda and I have made a few trips in search of succulents over the past few months.  While my own objectives on these occasions were relatively ill-defined, Lynda was very focused.  She'd decided to pull out the shrubs, perennials and annuals from the brick planters that serve as her front garden and replace them with succulents.  She became enamored with (a better term than "addicted to," don't you think?) succulents after replacing the herbaceous plants in the window boxes on the upper level of her townhome with these heat and drought tolerant plants.  An artist, she loved their sculptural qualities, which she's also featured in her canvases.  However, like me, she discovered that it took a lot of succulents to fill an area, even when she bought good-sized specimens to start with.

Photo of the back of Lynda's SUV after our nursery trip to OC Succulents and Roger's Gardens at the end of May

Photo of the cargo area after our most recent trip to OC Succulents this month (before we stopped by Roger's Gardens)



I recently visited her place to see how her succulent garden was coming along.  It looks great already!

The large bed at the front of the house, photographed from the house's second level

The partially shaded bed directly behind the one in depicted above, also photographed from upstairs

Photograph of the same area from the street level looking toward the house

Side bed, photographed from above

A segment of the same bed, photographed from the driveway



Here are some close-ups of her choicest selections:

Aloe cameronii surrounded by Euphorbia 'Sticks on Fire' and Dyckia

Agave parryi, which is producing pups like crazy

Echeveria subrigida

Close-up of a portion of the side yard bed showing Agave desmettiana, more Euphorbia 'Sticks on Fire,' Dudleya, Graptoveria 'Fred Ives' and an assortment of other succulents


The Abelia x grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope,' which have different watering requirements, will probably be coming out of these beds to make room for more succulents.  That means we have more trips to the nursery in store for us, which is great as I also have spaces to fill in my new succulent bed.

I failed to get a shot of Lynda's window boxes but I did get a few photos of the pots she has along the stairway leading up to her front door.  They look great too and, as she has LOTS of steps, she's got plenty of room for more pots, which of course will support still more trips to the nursery.  (Lynda, if you show this post to Dave, be sure to remind him that none of this shopping is my fault.)






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

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New Succulent Bed

Some things look better viewed in close-up rather than from a distance.  This can definitely be said of my new succulent bed.  Although I bought what I thought were scads of succulents on a shopping trip with a friend last week, the space overwhelmed them and they look, well, puny in situ.



This space runs along the street on the southeast side of our property.  Those spindly shrubs you may be able to make out in the photo above are Pittosporum rhombifolium (I think).  They were in horrible shape when we moved in 3 years ago.  After years of being sheared from the top and sides, they were a thicket of dead wood with chlorotic leaves.  I cut one back last year and, when it responded by putting out healthy new growth, I cut them all back hard in January of this year.  Two were beyond saving and were removed.  The remainder have been slow to fill in.  I may eventually pull more - or possibly all - of them out as they don't match the Xylosma hedge that surrounds the rest of the property but, at present, I'm trying to work with what remains.  I cleared the weeds and thinned out the small-flowered ice plant at the base of the shrubs, leaving a lot of bare soil exposed.  As this is a relatively dry, sunny area, I thought planting it with succulents would be a good idea, especially given our worsening drought conditions.  (My wonderful husband is helping out by installing a new drip irrigation system here so we can eliminate all risk of sprinkler runoff.

I finished planting my newly purchased succulents on Sunday but there's still a lot of bare soil.

3 Agave 'Blue Glow,' Calandrinia spectabilis (aka Cistanthe grandiflora), Portulacaria afra and miscellaneous small succulent cuttings are planted here with 3 struggling Chondropetalum tectorum (aka Cape Rush)

Agave Impressa is surrounded by Dudleya (noID) and Senecio cuttings here

Agave desmettiana provides the centerpiece among Aeonium 'Kiwi,' Aeonium 'Sunburst,' Aeonium nobile, cuttings of the noID Aeonium given to me by a friend, and more Portulacaria afra

Agave 'Blue Flame' is surrounded by Aloe (noID), Sanseveriera (noID), Graptopetalum paraguayense, my noID Aeonium, and another noID succulent



While the slow-growing succulents will get larger over time, I think I need more to fill in some of the emptier spots.  Before I undertake another shopping expedition, however, I'm going to see what I can do with succulent cuttings from elsewhere in my garden.


Monday, July 28, 2014

In a Vase on Monday: Stargazer Lilies

I have only 2 varieties of lilies in my garden, one is an unnamed light pink variety that bloomed exceptionally early this year and the other is Lilium 'Stargazer,' which I planted from bulbs the first year we lived in our current house.  In the border, the plants have a very formal appearance that make them look a bit out of place, which may explain why I'm not particularly hesitant about cutting them for a vase.  I'd hoped that their bloom period would coincide with the appearance of white roses or white Lisianthus, but this didn't happen so I had to look further afield for suitable companions.




Here's what I used this week:

  • 2 stems of Lilium 'Stargazer'
  • 3 stems of Asparagus 'Sprengeri' (at least I think that's what it is)
  • 3 stems of Cuphea ignea 'Starfire Pink'
  • 2 stems of Pentas lanceolata 'Nova'
  • 2 stems of Tanacetum parthenium 'Aureum'
  • 1 stem of Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Kong Jr. Green Halo'


The 'Stargazer' lilies are smaller this year than last - too little water perhaps

The asparagus fern I inherited with the house works well in bouquets if you can put up with its tiny thorns

Cuphea ignea 'Starfire Pink' has proven to be drought tolerant as well as pretty

Pentas 'Nova' grows taller than other varieties, although I think it wants more water than it has been getting

'Kong Jr. Green Halo' coleus is doing well in a pot in partial shade



My bouquet ended up on the dining room table this week, as part of a possibly fruitless effort to keep my cat from chewing on the asparagus fern.  She doesn't jump on the dining room table (at least I've never seen her do so) but she does like to hang about in the foyer.




I had some floral rejects again this week, which ended up in my small pink glass vase.  I cut more of the Amaranth I featured last week and, while it linked with the color of the lilies, it added a somber note to the combination that I didn't care for.  The Amaranth was paired with 3 more stems of the Echinacea 'Cheyenne Spirit' and the 'Inky Fingers' coleus from last week, which was still in good condition.  I placed it on the foyer table even though it's small in scale.




These are my contributions to Cathy's "In a Vase on Monday" meme at Rambling in the Garden.  Visit her webpage to see what she's put together this week (while traveling) and to find links to other floral concoctions.

Friday, July 25, 2014

My favorite plant this week: Coreopsis 'Redshift'

I'm attracted to plants with yellow flowers.  I've grown Coreopsis grandiflora with its prolific yellow flowers at periodic intervals but I was never really satisfied with it.  It needed regular dead-heading to look good and, in my garden, it was prone to powdery mildew.  I discovered the hybrid Coreopsis 'Redshift' in 2012 and it quickly became one of my favorite plants.  My original 3 plants are currently blooming their hearts out in the backyard border along the hedge that separates our property from the neighbor below us.  Five additional plants, added to the new backyard border we created as an extension of the small bed around our fountain in early spring, are just beginning to bloom.

Coreopsis 'Redshift' bordered by a hedge on one side and a mix of shrubs and perennials on the other side


My only complaint about the plant is that the blooms tend to face the rising sun, which means that the 3 original plants don't show their faces to greatest advantage, a problem I complained about last year.*

The same 3 plants photographed from the path along the hedge, looking back across the garden toward the house


C. 'Redshift' is part of the "Big Bang" series bred by hybridizer Darrell Probst, who crossed 8 species of Coreopsis to create 'Redshift' and the other plants in this series.   The plants are reportedly more winter-hardy than other varieties of Coreopsis and many, like 'Redshift' produce flowers with colors that vary with the temperature.  According to most descriptions, the flowers open in summer with pale yellow petals and a dark red disk surrounding a yellow button center.  Red streaks extend from the center along the petals of some flowers.  When temperatures cool in the fall, the flowers may turn entirely red.   In my own garden, the temperature fluctuations we experience in the fall, often punctuated by our worst heatwaves, seem to make flower color more unpredictable.

Photo taken earlier this week

Photograph taken for Bloom Day in August 2013

Photo taken in mid-September 2013, probably after an earlier shearing


The plants grow about 3 feet (1 meter) tall and 1.5-2 feet (46-61 cm) wide.  They require little in the way of maintenance and have no serious disease or insect problems, although the crown can rot in moist, poorly-drained soil.  With a late summer shearing, the plants will bloom through fall.  They need full sun.  They're heat tolerant and somewhat drought tolerant and they attract butterflies.

Predictions as to the plant's winter hardiness vary, with some sources stating that it can survive in USDA zone 4 but most claiming hardiness to zone 5.  I can make no personal testimonials on the subject as we don't get freezes here.  However, Allan Becker's discussion of the plant contains some interesting feedback from the breeder on both winter hardiness and how to produce sturdier stems and better flowering, which you can find here.    

Coreopsis 'Redshift' is my contribution to Loree's favorite plants post, which you can find at danger garden.  I'm sufficiently enthusiastic about the plant to be on the look out for other plants in the "Big Bang" series, most notably C. 'Cosmic Evolution' and 'Star Cluster.' 


*My references to the location of the rising sun relative to my garden have created confusion on the part of readers of earlier posts so I thought I'd attempt an explanation here.  Although I'm located on the West Coast and my backyard garden overlooks the Port of Los Angeles, the backyard actually faces roughly southeast.  I live on a peninsula which juts into the South Bay.  The ocean visible in some of my pictures is part of the bay, not the open ocean to the west.  If it wasn't always so hazy, you could see Long Beach stretching along the distant side of the bay.