Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wednesday Vignette: King of the World!

While dashing into the backyard in connection with garden chores this past weekend, I caught sight of something out the corner of my eye.  Quickly collecting my camera, I got a photo of this fellow:

A western fence lizard playing king of the world, owning everything he surveyed from his perch atop Graptosedum 'California Sunset' in a pot of assorted succulents


I slowly moved in closer for a better shot.

He sees me but all I get is a disdainful stare

He ignores me, after all I'm just the caretaker


Oops!  Too close for comfort.  The king beat a less than graceful retreat, of which I got a fuzzy photo.

It's a good shot of the Graptosedum, though


I offer this as my Wednesday Vignette.  The Wednesday Vignette meme is hosted by Anna of Flutter & Hum.  You can find other interesting images on Anna's site here.


All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, May 23, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: Recycled Materials

Most of the Agapanthus flowers in my garden are opening one by one, clump by clump but one particular clump in the front garden produced a bounty of beautiful blue blooms last week, making it hard to ignore when it came time to select plants for inclusion in this week's vase.  Some of the stems I cut last week were still in fine shape so, rather than toss everything out, I recycled them.

Front view of the vase with the newly cut Agapanthus stems and the recycled Leucadendron 'Pisa' cones

Back view

Top view


I toyed with the idea of including more yellow in the arrangement but in the end decided that sticking with blue and white was more effective, especially given my selection of the dark blue vase.  Here's what went into the final mix:

Clockwise from the upper left: Agapanthus (noID), Lathyrus odoratus, Leucadendron 'Pisa', ruffled form of Leucanthemum x superbum, Myoporum parvifolium, and Tanacetum niveum


Actually, all last week's vases stood the test of time.  Only the Euphorbia used in the second vase began dropping significant litter by the end of the week.  While I tossed the contents of that vase, I held onto the vase I created 2 weeks ago.  Only the stems of Leucadendron salignum 'Chief' were drooping.  I removed those, cleaned up the remaining plants a little, gave their stems a fresh cut, added fresh water and voilà, the vase should be good for another week.

Vase containing flowers of Aeonium 'Kiwi', stems of Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey', and a single stem of Phylica pubescens (added last week)


With the older vase in the front entry, the new vase with the recycled Leucadendron stems landed on the dining room table.

I added the bluebird salt and pepper shakers inherited from my mother-in-law as a simple accent


Visit Cathy, the host of "In a Vase on Monday," at Rambling in the Garden to see what she and other gardeners have cobbled together with makings from their gardens this week.


All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Another Neighborhood Stroll

One of our neighbors expressed concern that the area surrounding the entry to our neighborhood wasn't getting enough water.  Since my husband was involved in re-setting the irrigation in that area, I was asked to check it out and offer comment.  The area gets more than two times the water the most well-watered section of my garden gets, so I was skeptical that there was a problem but I walked up there to have a closer look earlier this week.

One of the issues with the front entry is that all the irrigation runs off one valve so it can't be calibrated for different areas.  Another issue is that, while a large portion of the area has been planted with succulents and other drought-tolerant plants, it also has a small lawn area and plants like azaleas that need more water.  I didn't see any signs of water stress; however, the area does have a pretty serious gopher problem.

Photos taken from around the "gatehouse," which currently serves no purpose other than to house the irrigation unit for the entry area


While I was out on foot, I decided to take a spin around the entire neighborhood to see what's new.  The short answer to that question is "not much" but I thought I'd share some of the highlights.

The lovely maples and blue Alyogyne huegellii that border the front of the house of the neighbor across the street.  I had to wonder if these maples bother my foliage-hating neighbor on our side of the street as her house looks out in this direction.

The gorgeous yellow Leucospermum of the neighbor a few doors down is a constant reminder that I should be able to grow this plant

This neighbor recently had a crew in to clean up their front slope - it looks good, doesn't it?

There's nothing extraordinary about this neighbor's street-side planting bed but I like the combination of the Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima), plumbago (Ceratostigma), and what may be a smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria)

The Jacaranda trees are in bloom throughout the region

The third and last of the huge dead trees along the main route in and out of the neighborhood has finally been removed so I no longer need to hold my breath every time I drive through but the hillside behind certainly looks bare 

Two other trees along that route got the chop.  My husband speculated that this could be the result of another view issue but I suspect it had to do with the power lines.

These neighbors have had their house under construction for over a year now.  I imagine they're getting tired of living in a trailer.

These two tree-sized Callistemon are indicative of just how tall these plants can grow.  (The pine behind them appears to be slowly dying, probably from a combination of drought and the opportunistic pine bark beetle.)

A neatly trimmed palm

My favorite neighborhood garden is now in the hands of new owners, who appear to be doing a good job of maintaining it.  Until I looked at the top photo closely I'd never realized that 3 different materials had been used to control the front slope.  The bottom row shows a tree-sized Buddleja, a giant orange-red Leucospermum, and a Salvia clevelandii.


The front garden of the property across the street deliberately used a simple palette of a few select plants, including the same Salvia used across the street (perhaps S. clevelandii 'Winnifred Gilman') and the only all-white (no touch of pink) Gaura lindheimeri I think I've ever seen.


This may be the largest lawn left in the neighborhood (but the property's backyard lawn, barely visible behind the hedge in the background on the right  appears to be unwatered)

A newly installed vegetable garden

And we're back to our property with the gap in the front hedge discussed in my last post.  (The fifth new Xylosma shrub has now been installed in an effort to close that gap.)


I'll leave you with a photo of a beautiful Hibiscus.  I hope you're enjoying your weekend.



All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Foliage follow-up: Hedging my bets

I'd hoped to get my foliage follow-up post together last night but an extended power failure interfered.  We never heard what caused the failure but it lasted from 5pm to almost 11pm so my blogging activities were curtailed.  However, we did at least get some use out of the portable generator we'd purchased in the event that El Niño's storms knocked us off-line.  We've had numerous extended power outages since moving here and didn't want to push our luck with winter's weather.  Although the expected downpours and related problems never materialized, at least the generator we had stored in the garage allowed us to run some basic utilities last night.

But that's my version of "the dog ate my homework."  This month's foliage follow-up, prepared in connection with the monthly meme hosted by Pam at Digging, is focused on hedges, specifically our front hedge.  Hedges of Xylosma congestum surround our property on three sides.  There are other hedges as well but the Xylosma constructions are by far the most attractive and the most easily maintained.

Xylosma congestum hedge on the northwest edge of our property


While the hedge on the north side of the driveway consists of a continuous stretch of Xylosma shrubs, this wasn't true on the southwest side.  Half that hedge consisted of Xylosma and the other half of Auranticarpa rhombifolia (formerly classified as Pittosporum rhombifolium).  The latter was in bad shape when we moved in and I tried to prune it into shape.  Some of the shrubs succumbed after being cut back and some succumbed later without my help, leaving a huge gap.

The hedge on the southwest side of the driveway, showing the large gap left following die-back and removal of several Auranticarpa shrubs

The same gap shown from the main level of the front garden looking down toward the street


Following my initial pruning efforts, I began planting succulents in front of the Auranticarpa.  They flourished but I didn't like the way the hedge abruptly ended and the area behind the succulent bed was exposed to the street.  I began looking into hedge alternatives and for a time considered having my husband build me wooden screens to fill the blank spots.  Then another Auranticarpa shrub died and still another went into decline.  My husband eventually convinced me that it made more sense to extend the existing Xylosma hedge.  He dug out the huge stumps left behind by the dead Auranticarpa and I relocated some succulents.  I remain concerned that the Xylosma may encroach upon some of the remaining succulents but hopefully we'll be able to strike a balance.

We planted 4 5-gallon Xylosma last weekend at distances of 4 feet, in keeping with the approach used in laying out the original Xylosma hedge.  The grass-like Chondropetalum tectorum sitting in front on the second Xylosma looks awkward now but, as the new shrub gains some height, they should look better together.  If not, I'll move the Chondropetalum.

The new shrubs in place

The stake is a placeholder for the fifth Xylosma shrub, which we have on order with our local garden center
 

Xylosma is reported to be fast-growing.  It can get very big and, had I no prior experience with this plant as hedge material, I'd have been scared off by some of the reports posted on-line but, in the 5 years we've been here, there's been no problem keeping it within bounds with regular pruning.  However, even with the addition of 5 new shrubs, we won't have a continuous expanse of Xylosma along the west side of the property.  Four Auranticarpa remain, at least for now.



You can find more foliage follow-up posts by visiting Pam at Digging.


All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, May 16, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: More Renga Lilies

Collecting photos for my May Bloom Day post gave me an inventory of what's currently flowering in my garden and brought some choices I might otherwise have missed to the forefront when it came time to chose flowers for "In a Vase on Monday," the meme hosted by Cathy of Rambling in the Garden.  I wasn't thinking of another vase featuring Arthropodium cirratum (aka Renga Lily) when I stepped into the garden with my clippers in hand - I was thinking about what I could do with the silvery cones of Leucadendron 'Pisa' and Melaleuca thymifolia, a plant in the back border I'd largely forgotten before my backyard photo safari.  As it turned out, the Renga Lilies made a nice companion for the other two plants.

Front view

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the left, the vase includes: the unusual flowers of Melaleuca thymifolia, which look like a complicated crochet construction to me; stems of the peppermint willow trees (Agonis flexuosa) with their white flowers arranged like peppercorns along their length; more Arthropodium cirratum; the silvery cones of Leucadendron 'Pisa'; and foliage and immature berries of what I think is English laurel (Prunus laurocerasus


In retrospect, I should have thinned the foliage of the English laurel to give the arrangement a more airy feel and trimmed the flowering stems of the Agonis flexuosa a bit more to make the arrangement symmetrical but, by the time I reached that determination, I was done with fussing.

But 'Pisa' wasn't the only Leucadendron I was thinking of when I stepped into the garden.  I was also wondering what I could do with the flower-like bracts of Leucadendron 'Blush'.  With the selection of a few suitable companions, I had a second vase.  (I know you're surprised.)

Front view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left, this vase contains: Leucadendron 'Blush', Alstroemeria 'Claire', Euphorbia characias 'Black Pearl', and Achillea 'Moonshine'

I was hesitant about using the Euphorbia in this arrangement because of the hassle of dealing with the sap.  In retrospect, I should have used disposable gloves when stripping the stems of their leaves as the sap dripped from every leaf juncture.  It didn't cause me any skin irritation but I had a devil of a time cleaning the sticky stuff from my hands.  I seared the entire length of the stripped stems, which limited the seepage but I did have to change the milky water in the vase when the arrangement was complete.

The first vase was too large for any place other than the dining room table.



The second vase landed in the front entry.



All three of last week's vases actually held up well but the two that included cilantro flowers were both heavy drinkers and litterers so I tossed them out when this week's vases were ready for placement.  The third of last week's arrangements was virtually unchanged but I tucked in a stem from one of my March purchases, Phylica pubescens, to change it up a bit.

Phylica pubescens (aka Featherhead) is my latest plant crush but, until it bulks up (or I buy more, which is entirely possible), you probably won't see much of it in my vases


Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to discover what she and other gardeners have put together this week.


All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Bloom Day - Floral Overload

I really had planned to skinny down my Bloom Day posts but it's May!  Drought-stricken or not, there's a surprising amount in bloom in my Southern California garden this month.  Here are the plants making the biggest impact:

Achillea 'Moonshine' has splashed its sunny blooms all across the back garden (shown on the right with Salvia 'Marine Blue')

Anagallis 'Wildcat Mandarin' is at its peak

Argyranthemum frutescens (shown here with Hebe 'Wiri Blush' on the upper left)

Arthropodium cirratum (aka Renga Lilies) are brightening dry shade areas throughout the garden

Bignonia capreolata is giving a color lift to the back slope

Common borage, sprouted from seed, is filling in the empty spaces I had left after removing the last of my lawn

I'm coming to realize that Cotula lineariloba 'Big Yellow Moon' (left) is something of a thug here.  Although not evident in my photos, Cotula 'Tiffendell Gold' (right) is a daintier specimen that forms a nice evergreen mat but isn't intent on world domination.

Cuphea ignea 'Starfire Pink' is back in full force after the severe haircut it received in late winter

Euphorbia characias 'Black Pearl' (shown here attempting to swallow up a Phormium), planted in various areas of the front and back gardens, has taken off

Gaura lindheimeri has a big presence in the front garden

The Grevilleas continue to be mainstays of my garden (clockwise from the top: G. 'Peaches & Cream', 'Ned Kelly', 'Superb' and 'Pink Midget')

The silver cones on Leucadendron 'Pisa' continue to get larger

Limonium perezii (aka sea lavender) is as common as dirt in SoCal for a reason: it produces a mass of long-lived paper-like flowers with very little water

Phlomis fruticosa is finishing up its bloom cycle but no one told this particular shrub


A few other plants are just beginning to make their floral presence known:

The first of the Agapanthus have just opened for business

Two of my tall Anigozanthos have made return appearances 

Phylica pubescens, a relatively new addition, is sporting its first flowers


And, because I can't seem to help myself, here are some other lower-profile bloomers, organized by color:

Top row: Brachyscome, Erigeron 'Wayne Roderick' with Geranium 'Tiny Monster', Erysimum linifolium, and Globularia x indubia
Second row: Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy', Lathyrus odoratus, Lobelia valida, and Lupinus propinquus
Third row: Melaleuca thymifolia, Nierembergia linarifolia, Osteospermum 'Serenity Purple', and Pelargonium 'Rembrandt'
Fourth row: 2 Pericallis hybrids, Salvia leucantha 'Santa Barbara', and Violas

Clockwise from upper left: Leucadendron 'Blush', Arbutus 'Marina', Arctotis 'Pink Sugar', Bougainvillea (noID), Dorycnium hirsutum, seedpods of Cercis occidentalis, Feijoa sellowiana, Oenothera speciosa, Rosa 'Pink Meidiland', and Salvia lanceolata

Top row: Aeonium 'Kiwi', Alstroemeria 'Princess Claire', and white and yellow Argyranthemum frutescens
Second row: Euphorbia 'Dean's Hybrid', Hemerocallis 'Barbara Mitchell', Hoya multiflora, and Jacobaea maritima
Third row: Leonotis leonurus, Leucanthemum x superbum, Lonicera (noID), and
Magnolia grandiflora
Fourth row: Myoporum parvifolium, Pelargonium 'Georgia Peach', Tanacetum niveum, and Tagetes lemmonii


I also had a visit from a colorful character late yesterday afternoon.  I'd left the side gate open and he strode right in.

The side gate, festooned with Pelargonium peltatum and Trachelospermum jasminoides

I looked up from my computer and found this fellow, a juvenile male peacock, probably recently kicked out of the family nest, staring in at me.  He turned away and ducked under a hedge along the upper ridge of the slope soon after I stood up with my camera.  Peacocks were brought to our peninsula in the early 1900s as exotic pets and are now widespread here, although uncommon in my our neighborhood (probably due to the active presence of coyotes). 


You can find other posts dedicated to May's floral bounty by visiting Carol of May Dreams Gardens, the host of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.


All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party