Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Small garden projects

Even as heat blasted parts of the US this season, we've enjoyed a relatively mild summer.  Sure, we've had some temperatures in the mid-90s but they haven't been sustained and we haven't yet had a heatwave that's pushed temperatures above 100F.  That's not true of all of Southern California - the inland valleys have had some truly miserable highs and the Palm Springs area is roasting.  We've been lucky by comparison and I've used the opportunity to tackle some small garden projects.

For some time, Coleonema 'Sunset Gold' has been trying to engulf the Yucca 'Bright Star' in the back border.  I couldn't quite bring myself to pull out one Coleonema entirely but I trimmed it back.

This is the "before" shot.  Although it looks like one uniform mass, there are two Coleonema shrubs planted here and they were encroaching on both the Yucca on the right and the Leucadendrons behind them.

This is the "after" shot.  I shaved off bits of both Coleonema but cut more deeply into the one rubbing up against the Yucca, with the latter plant drawing blood a couple of times in the process.


On the other side of the flagstone path, I faced a decision I'd been contemplating for some time: removal of some or all of the variegated rosemary shrubs (Rosmarinus 'Gold Dust') I'd installed in March 2014.  They'd gotten much bigger than I'd been led to understand they would when I bought them in 6-inch pots.  They'd also gotten leggy because I hadn't pruned them regularly and they were shading out the Lotus berthelotii planted below them.

This is a before shot of the messy rosemary shrubs.  Earlier this year, I transplanted a Leucospermum 'Sunrise' I'd had in a pot behind the rosemary after removing a mass of Bulbine.  While the Leucospermum will grow larger than it currently is, what had turned into a messy rosemary hedge wasn't going to complement it well.

I removed all but one of the rosemary shrubs.  I left one in place in an effort to balance the Grevillea alpina x rosmarinfolia planted behind Leucospermum 'Goldie'.   Both the Grevillea and the remaining rosemary still require some trimming.

Here's a second "before" shot, taken in late June

Here's another "after" shot taken from the same angle as the prior one


I'd initially thought I'd just cover the area with mulch and wait until September or October to replant.  Do you think I'm capable of sticking to that plan?  I'm already debating what to plant.  I looked at the plants on either side of bare area for ideas.

I could emulate what I'd done on the left side by adding more Zinnias as temporary fillers...

Trying for more consistency, I could add another Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' like these on the right to mask the bare legs of the remaining rosemary...


I've also taken care of a few other things, some I photographed and others I didn't.

I pruned this Echium handiense a couple of months ago but was afraid to cut it back harder.  When it started producing new foliage on the thick woody branches I'd cut, I went all in and cut the rest of it back.  I also took some cuttings, although no source I consulted suggested that this plant can be successfully propagated that way.

Cleaning up the Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) is something that needs doing every couple of months here.  Before I "combed" these plants of their seed-laden plumes, they were covering this dirt path behind the back border.


Two other small projects are still staring me in the face but I haven't committed myself to tackling them yet.  Of course, I often make those decisions on the fly.

The Centaurea 'Silver Feather' here are still blocking this flagstone path.  I was clearly delusional when I installed seven plants in January 2019.  The plants aren't blooming any longer so they can come out, although I've no idea what to use to replace them.

This Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire' has been in this strawberry pot since we moved in almost 10 years ago.  I've cut it back several times and I swear it just gets larger.  I think it probably has to go.


The week's not over yet.  Anything could happen.


All material © 2012-2020 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, August 3, 2020

In a Vase on Monday: Do you prefer pastel or bold colors?

Dahlia 'Sellwood Glory' didn't quite make it to the gate in time to be featured on "In a Vase on Monday," the popular meme hosted by Cathy of Rambling in the Garden but I'll be surprised if it doesn't bloom within the next few days.  

Photo taken Sunday afternoon


Meanwhile, 'Mr Optimist' is sprinting, followed closely by 'Enchantress', 'Labyrinth' and 'Loverboy'.  The rest of my dahlias currently seem content to produce more and more leaves but I'm reasonably sure they'll come through eventually.  The first of Zinnias I pinched back are finally budding up too, a self-seeded Amaranthus has made an unexpected appearance, and more than half a dozen Gladiolas have bloom spikes so things are looking up in my cutting garden.  However, this week I once again made do with what my larger garden had to offer.

My first vase was inspired by the light pink Scabiosa in the front garden.

While the pink Amaryllis belladonna are still dominating my backyard border, a few white specimens finally showed up.  At the same time a few white Lisianthus blushed with pink also popped up in different areas of the garden.  Serendipity!

I dressed up the back of the vase with stems of Abelia 'Edward Goucher', Ammi majus, and Salvia canariensis.  The Salvia is more bracts than flowers now. 

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Amaryllis belladonna (aka naked lady), Abelia grandiflora 'Edward Goucher', Eustoma grandiflorum (aka Lisianthus), Scabiosa columbaria 'Flutter Rose Pink', Ammi majus 'Dara', and Salvia canariensis var candidissima


The second vase is comprised of more foliage than flowers but includes stems of some of the Leucadendrons with bracts that mimic flowers.

There are no actual flowers visible in this front view.  I used two stems of Caladium to pull the colors together.

The back view offers just two real flowers, those of a white-flowered Crassula pubescens and a red-flowered Penstemon mexicali

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Leucadendron 'Devil's Blush', Crassula pubescens ssp radicans (aka red carpet stonecrop), Helichrysum petiolare 'Licorice Splash', Caladium 'Creamsickle, Penstemon mexicali 'Red Bells', and Prunus caroliniana (I also used Leucadendron 'Safari Sunset', not shown in close-up)






All material © 2012-2020 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, July 31, 2020

Dahlias! (but they're not mine)

I made a reservation to visit South Coast Botanic Garden again this week, prompted mostly by curiosity over the progress of the Dahlia Garden.  I collaborated with two other docents and the then head gardener on restoring that area earlier this year.  We'd prepared the beds, ordered the tubers, and agreed on a layout before all volunteers were furloughed in March and the head gardener transferred to another LA County garden.  We handed everything over to other members of SCBG's paid staff and that was that.  During my June visit, I noticed that approximately half the tubers had sprouted but there were no blooms yet; however, recent newsletters sent to members revealed that some blooms have since appeared.

This is a view of the three raised planters that make up the Dahlia Garden.  I didn't manage to get a good shot of the semi-circular bed on the right (west side) so I've shown separate front and rear shots of the bed, regrettably shot from different angles.  The rear half of that bed apparently was never planted.


But let's focus on the pretty flowers.  We'll start with the plants in bloom in the left (east side) bed.

This is 'Totally Tangerine', an anemone-type dahlia

'Lifestyle' (not labeled by the garden) is another anemone-type dahlia.  I expected the flower to be more yellow than lavender-pink so it doesn't blend as well with its neighbors as I'd hoped when we created our plan.

'My Little Sunshine', a so-called cactus-type dahlia

This is 'Cafe au Lait', currently very popular in dahlia circles

'Bahama Mama' is in the decorative class, which frankly seems to be a type that encompasses a lot of dahlias that aren't easily classified in another category.  Unfortunately, this one was past its prime.

'Penhill Dark Monarch' may be the most flamboyant of the group currently in bloom.  It's one of many included in the Dahlia Garden described as a "dinnerplate dahlia."  That description isn't actually a dahlia "type" but refers generally to the large size of the blooms.


Only two of the plants in the central bed  were blooming and many still seem to be no-shows.

'Magic Moment', a cactus-type with incurved petals

I believe this is 'Lisa Lisa', mistakenly labeled as 'Einstein', which has a deep purple color and larger flowers


The semi-circular bed on the right (west side) wasn't completely planted for some reason.  With the volunteers gone, I suspect the shortage of garden help left the paid staff seriously stretched in addressing the needs of the 87 acre botanic garden and the ball on this project just got dropped.  A gardener I spoke to during my visit on Wednesday morning told me that some of the tubers had been planted in pots, which are currently in the greenhouse.  Here's what was blooming among the plants in the ground:

'Kelvin Floodlight', a dinner plate dahlia in the decorative group.  This one stands out for both the flower's size and nearly florescent color. 

In contrast, 'Cherry Drop' (which was also unlabeled) has a more diminutive flower.  It's classified as a waterlily-type dahlia.

Pom-pom type dahlias aren't among my personal favorites but 'Kasasagi' is an excellent example

This was mislabeled as 'Ginger Snap', which is a collarette type dahlia.  I believe it's actually 'Crazy Legs', a decorative dahlia with similarly sized flowers.


Because our planning group wanted to show the visiting public the wide variety of flower shapes, sizes, and colors available within the genus, the layout of the dahlia beds was a dicey proposition.  Our layout called for a zig-zag line-up based on gradations of color and size.  With many plants still no-shows, the rainbow effect we sought to create hasn't been realized, at least not yet, and the range of flower shapes isn't represented in the breadth we'd planned due to the number of plants still missing.  Plants grow at different rates and their mature sizes are subject to variation, which also complicates the planned symmetry of the beds.

Oh well, the handful of people I spoke to during my brief visit seemed to enjoy the flowers.  I think the informational posters we'd originally planned would still be helpful as I encountered a few people who'd guessed the flowers were chrysanthemums!

My own dahlias, which were planted MUCH later than last year's crop, are slowly budding out.  Hopefully, I'll have at least a few flowers soon.

'Sellwood Glory' seems intent on leading the parade in my own garden


I only spent an hour in total at the botanic garden.  Even though I arrived earlier this time, it was more crowded than it was during my prior visit.  It wasn't a problem to maintain social distancing and, with the exception of some small children, visitors and staff were all wearing masks but I felt on edge anyway.  However, I did cover a few other areas of the garden before I left.

The Mexican sunflower tree (Tithonia diversifolia) has fully fleshed out and was covered in blooms.  The heaviest concentration of flowers was on the tree's west side but that angle didn't photograph as well as this one.

The seating area between the Vegetable Garden and the Living Wall was looking good

Backlit cactus in the Desert Garden

Grapevine-covered bench in the Garden for the Senses

The flowers in the lavender field were fading but the area still looked good

The Brazilian orchid tree (Bauhinia forficata) in bloom

A bright pink-flowered Callistemon in lieu of the usual red version


That's it for me this week.  I hope you enjoy a pleasant weekend!


All material © 2012-2020 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Wednesday Vignette: Bright Spots

It's hard to remain hopeful these days when every newscast brings new reasons for worry - or anger.  I've tried to limit my news consumption but I still read and digest more than may be healthy on a daily basis.  My garden remains a refuge and, whether walking through it to water, pull weeds, deadhead flowers, prune rampant growth or simply snap photos, it manages to distract me, bringing my blood pressure down and clearing my mind, if only for awhile.

I thought I'd share a few of the casual distractions that caught my attention this week as my Wednesday Vignette, rather than enumerating the circumstances that had me climbing a wall.

For some reason, a Gulf Fritillary landed on this Agave americana medio-picta 'Alba' and spent enough time there to allow me to get a couple of decent shots

Agapanthus 'Stevie's Wonder', planted as bulbs last year, produced their first blooms.  I arguably don't need any more Agapanthus but I couldn't resist its dark blue color when I saw it in a catalog last year.

I planted a handful of Crocosmia last year and promptly forgot all about them. I've no record of how many I planted or where I put them but this one made a surprise appearance in the back border.

This unusual Sisyrinchium called 'Quaint and Queer' was in full bloom this week but I had a devil of a time photographing its tiny flowers.  This was my best shot.

The seedpod of my Moroccan peony (Paeonia cambessedesii) ripened and burst open to reveal shiny dark blue seeds against a bright red background


I cut the peony's seedpod and planted those seeds in pots in the hope that at least one or two will produce a new plant.  

I couldn't find any references describing the requirements for growing these peonies from seed but I thought I'd give it a try anyway.  Each of these pots got 3 seeds and I planted the the last one directly in the ground.


Fingers crossed.  For more Wednesday Vignettes, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.


All material © 2012-2020 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, July 27, 2020

In a Vase on Monday: There's always something

While I wait impatiently for my traditional summer blooms (dahlias, sunflowers, zinnias) to make an appearance, I shifted my focus to the flowers that make up the backbone of my garden.  Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' is having a really good year and it provided the inspiration for my first vase this week.

Last week, I speculated that I might end up using succulents in this week's vase.  As it turned out, that wasn't necessary but I did add succulent flowers in the form of Cotyledon orbiculata, commonly known as pig's ear (based on the foliage, not the flowers).

Back view: I'm in the process of cutting back Leucadendron 'Safari Goldstrike' so I used stems of that as my foliage element

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream', Abelia grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope', Cotyledon orbiculata, Leucanthemum x superbum, Lantana 'Lucky Yellow', and Leucadendron 'Safari Goldstrike'


Speaking of plants having a good year, the Amaryllis belladonna I introduced last week is having its best year ever.  Last year I think I had three bloom stalks but this year the flowers are dominating my back border.  This time I paired them with some of the last stems of Agapanthus.

Pink and blue isn't a common combination for me but the Cuphea 'Starfire Pink' I used as filler material led me in that direction

Back view, featuring Cuphea 'Starfire Pink' and Pandorea jasminoides

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Amaryllis belladonna, Alstroemeria 'Inca Vienna', noID Agapanthus, Cuphea 'Starfire Pink', and Pandorea jasminoides


Can you believe that July is almost over?  How is it that time still seems to pass so quickly even when each day feels much like the day before?  The future is still murky but I'm trying to focus on what I can control in my small corner of the world, like renovating a couple of garden beds to prepare for replanting this fall.  I'm hopeful that, in addition to changes to the garden, the new year will bring new leadership to guide the US out of the mess it's in and, if we're all lucky, a viable vaccine.

In the meantime, for more IAVOM arrangements created from floral and foliage material on hand, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.



All material © 2012-2020 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party