Friday, January 30, 2015

My favorite plant this week: Solanum xanti 'Mountain Pride'

It's a gray day here in coastal Southern California.  On such days, spots of bright color are especially appreciated and, on rounds of the garden with my sister-in-law, here for a brief visit, I found my eye drawn to Solanum xanti 'Mountain Pride.'  I picked up 2 containers of this native California selection in October and popped them into a bed we carved out of lawn in the backyard this fall.  The low-growing sub-shrubs settled into the space without difficulty and have begun to spread out.

The 2 Solanum shrubs are surrounded by Leucadendron 'Pisa,' Salvia 'Amistad,' and Furcraea foetida, among other plants 


My plants are currently just over one foot tall and close to 2 feet wide.  If the predictions of the grower are correct, they should reach about 2 feet tall and 3 feet wide at maturity.

The plant's sprawling growth pattern is evident in this photo


A member of the nightshade family, all parts of the plant are reportedly poisonous.  The flowers have a pleasing but light fragrance and the plant is attractive to pollinators.  I tried - and failed - to catch a photo of a busy bumble bee flitting among the flowers this morning.

Close-up of flowers, which tend to face downward


The leaves and stems are fuzzy as shown in this poorly-focused photo:



The plant has low water needs but will tolerate some irrigation, which makes it a good choice for mixing within my borders.  It's said to be tolerant of most soils as long as the area in which it's planted is well-drained.  It's also reported to be hardy to 15-20F (-7C to -9C).

It grows in sun or shade, it's drought tolerant, and it's loaded with fragrant purple blooms so there's a lot to love about it.  It's semi-deciduous so it may look a bit shabby by late summer but hopefully a good pruning will keep it in shape.  Solanum xanti 'Mountain Pride' is my favorite plant of the week and my contribution to Loree's favorite plants monthly wrap-up at danger garden.


All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Talisman or Attractant?

For Christmas, one of my friends gave me this:

She painted the features of a raccoon on a smooth black rock


Last week, another friend gave me this:

She found it during a post-holiday sale and thought of me


The question is: are they talismans or attractants?

This morning, in a brief stroll around the garden, I found this:




There was a lot more but I think the evidence is in.  Cute they may be but my raccoon effigies aren't talismans.  Pipig wasn't impressed either.

Pipig found the raccoon in "her" spot (where she likes to sit and stare at me while I'm at the computer) so she bit Rachel Raccoon's ear


 All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, January 26, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: Like Sunshine on a Summer Day

Last week, I featured a Leucadendron as my favorite plant of the week so that plant's flowers came to mind when the time came to prepare this week's vase for the meme sponsored by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  The Leucadendron's flowers, made up of colored bracts surrounding a central cone, are pink and yellow.  I wanted some pink to play up the color of the bracts but the color I was looking for needed a coral cast.  I remembered seeing some pink blooms on an unidentified Heuchera at the bottom of the slope and, on my trip down there, decided to include several stems of one of the Ribes currently in full bloom there as well.  To balance the small flowers of the Leucadendron and the tiny flowers of both the Ribes and the Heuchera, I cut 2 rose stems from a climber I've yet to prune to add a focal point.  I ended up with another sunshine-inspired bouquet.



Included in the vase are:
  • Argyranthemum frutescens 'Butterfly'
  • Heuchera (no ID, possibly one of the Canyon series)
  • Leucadendron salignum ' Chief'
  • Ribes viburnifolium, aka Catalina Perfume, an evergreen form
  • Rosa 'Joseph's Coat'


The unidentified Heuchera inherited with the house

A fuzzy photo of the Leucadendron blooms (you can see better ones here)

The tiny flowers of Ribes viburnifolium are hard to photograph and close-ups like this one make it appear they have some kind of white fuzz but these flecks are part of the stem's structure

The 'Joseph's Coat' rose, accompanied here by the yellow Argyranthemum, is a deep coral pink at its peak

Earlier stages of bloom - these 2 flowers are on the same stem


I tried the vase in a couple of settings.

Too busy

Much better


Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to discover what she's arranged or, as she prefers to put it, "plonked" in a vase this Monday.  If you've assembled a vase from materials in your garden, link up!


 All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, January 23, 2015

My favorite plant of the week: Leucadendron salignum 'Chief'

While doing some work in our dry garden last Sunday, I suddenly noticed how nice my Leucadendon salignum 'Chief' was looking.  It's a good-looking shrub when viewed from a distance.

Photographed looking north toward my neighbor's fence

Photographed looking southeast


But, when I looked at it up close, I was surprised to see that it was blanketed in small yellow and pink "flowers."  The flowers are actually colored bracts surrounding a central yellow cone.  I don't remember it flowering like this last year.

The tag that came with the plant described the flowers as blonde and pink

It also has beautiful red stems


Like many other Leucadendrons, its winter color is dramatically different from its summer color.

Summer foliage (photograph taken in early August 2013)


Leucadendron in the salignum species or with salignum parentage seem to fare particularly well in my garden.  I planted 'Chief' in January 2013.  It's currently about 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide but it may eventually reach 6-8 feet tall and wide.  Native to South Africa, it has low water requirements but it needs full sun.  It's said to be hardy to 30F (minus 1C).

Still fixated on the "flowers," I compared it to Leucadendron Wilson's Wonder.

Current photo of Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' in my front garden


Although, at maturity, the shrubs should be roughly equivalent in size, their flower size is dramatically different, as you can see here.

A stem of 'Wilson's Wonder' is on the left and 'Chief' is on the right


Leucadendron salignum 'Chief' is my favorite plant this week (even if 'Wilson's Wonder' is one of my favorite plants of all time).  This post is offered in connection with Loree's favorites meme at danger garden.  Loree presents her monthly favorites wrap-up on the last Friday of the month.


 All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, January 19, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: A Moment in the Spotlight

Even when I have quite a few flowers in the garden, I struggle with decisions about what to cut for a vase.  I don't like to duplicate the prior week's selections or color scheme if I can help it.  And some flowers are just poor candidates for life in a vase - either the flowers close up in low light or they don't survive long.  This week, the Primula obconica were calling.



They're pretty enough and may have combined well with the deep blue Anemone coronaria in my backyard but my skin reacts to the small hairs on their leaves, resulting in a nasty, itchy rash.  This problem has been bred out of some P. obconica but, as I learned after planting these unlabeled varieties, this group isn't rash free.

So I went with Plan B.  In my Bloom Day post, I complained that my beautiful Bauhinia x blakeana tree had been loaded with flowers before our last rainstorm but it was in a sorry state when Bloom Day came around, with its pretty petals all over the ground.  It has since recovered some so, even though the blooms don't last long in a vase, I decided they deserved a moment in the spotlight.

Front of vase, featuring Bauhinia flowers

Back of vase, featuring Pelargoniums


The vase contains:
  • Bauhinia x blakeana (aka Hong Kong orchid tree)
  • Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold' (aka Breath of Heaven)
  • Cuphea x ignea 'Starfire Pink'
  • Pelargonium peltatum (aka ivy geranium), 2 varieties (no IDs)


Close-up of orchid-like Bauhina flowers

Close-up of the small, light pink Coleonema flowers

Close-up of the cigar-shaped flowers of the Cuphea (loved by hummingbirds and bees!)

2 unknown varieties of Pelargonium, one a double form


The arrangement ended up on a glass end table in the living room.  (Last week's vase with the Leucadendron stems still occupies the area by the front door, where, with the exception of some of the Narcissus flowers, it looks as fresh as it did last Monday.)



The Bauhinia flowers are likely to drop within a couple of days and the buds left behind are unlikely to open but, assuming they don't, I can turn the arrangement around and position the Pelargonium to face outward.  Maybe next week, I'll put on surgical gloves and try doing something with the lavender primrose...

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see what she's got in a vase this week and to find links to other gardeners' creations.


 All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, January 16, 2015

Foliage Follow-up: Favorite Foliage Combinations

For this Foliage Follow-up, the monthly celebration of foliage sponsored by Pam at Digging, I thought I'd focus on some of own favorite foliage combinations.  In time, I hope the foliage in the front garden will top my list but planting in that area is still incomplete and the plants currently in place need time to mature.  Planted in the fall of 2013, the garden bed situated along the side yard patio is closer to realizing my original vision for it.

Bed photographed looking east toward the harbor

Bed photographed from the other direction, looking west toward the arbor entrance to the front garden

Plant detail, clockwise from top left: Agonis flexuosa 'Nana'; Alternanthera tenella mingling with creeping thyme; x Graptoveria 'Fred Ives' and Graptosedum 'California Sunset'; and Aeonium 'Kiwi' with thyme


Other areas where my foliage selections are making a difference include these:

The area across from the side patio bed, dominated here by Arthropodium cirratum and Acanthus mollis, both beautiful even without blooms

The area surrounding the pathway leading down into my "glen," bordered on each side by Pelargonium tomentosum and punctuated by Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey' on the left and Prostanthera ovalifolia and Aeonium (no ID) on the right

The bed running along the lower side of the slope

Some of the plants along the slope include (clockwise from upper left): Agave attenuata mingling with weed-like Geranium incanum and Euphorbia 'Dean's Hybrid'; Pelargonium 'White Lady' mingling with Euphorbia; a Centranthus ruber seedling implanted in the wall adjoining the steps (with weeds I didn't see when the photo was taken); and moss with ivy 


While I was taking these photos, I made a sad discovery.

This Monarch butterfly was alive when I found it near the side patio this morning


Despite a torn wing, I'd hoped the butterfly would recover.  It did shift position but, as it hasn't moved since this morning, it appears it isn't going to fly away.  Then, after I'd returned to the house, I heard something strike the living room window and found a tiny hummingbird on the ground.  Birds occasionally hit those windows but most recover so I left it alone.  Happily, in this case, the bird recovered.

Seconds after I snapped this photo, before I could try to get another, this little bird flew off


Visit Pam at Digging to check out her foliage picks this month and to find links to other gardeners' foliage highlights.


 All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party