Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The draw of orchids

If you've viewed more than two of my posts, you probably know that I like flowers.  That said, I've never been strongly drawn to orchids, although I have a half dozen.  However, now that I have my own lath (shade) house, I thought it would be a good opportunity to expand that collection a bit so, when my local botanic garden advertised an orchid show and sale last weekend, I popped in to see what was available.

I've attended this annual show a few times before.  This year's event struck me as smaller in scale on both the show and sale fronts but of course I took some photos.  Everything in the show area was tagged but that doesn't mean it was simple to identify individual plants.  Orchid growers use their own kind of shorthand to distinguish genera and there are a LOT of those.  Orchids comprise the largest family of flowering plants on earth and there are some 30,000 genera and 200,000 hybrids.  I might know enough to distinguish a Cattleya from an Oncidium but classifications that combine two or more genera make my eyes cross.

Cattleya 'Memoria Bluei'

Cattlianthe backtia 'Grape Wax'

Dendrobium subclausum 'Phlox'

Miltonia moreliana 'Surprised'

Potinara 'California Love'

Recchara 'Monument Valley'

Epicattleya 'Rene Marques', Laeliocattleya mini quinee 'Angel Kiss', and Paphiopedilum lowii 'Alba'


In addition to the individual plants vying for awards, there were several display tables put together by vendors.



I can't identify this orchid with the trailing blooms but look at the crinkly texture of those leaves - the plant would be worth growing for those alone

These Phalaenopsis are perfect but plants in this genus have become so common I'm almost immune to their charms

This display won the show award for best display



Many people look at their exotic blooms and assume that orchids are fussbudgets but many aren't much trouble, at least as long as you water them regularly, feed them periodically, and don't allow them to burn to a crisp in full sun.  Most prefer humid environments, which is probably the biggest sticking point for people who try to keep them happy indoors but, lucky for me, my small lath house provides both the air circulation these plants need and the heightened humidity level they want.

I brought home just two plants.  Even at a sale like this, the plants aren't cheap.  The cost for a plant large enough to produce blooms is roughly equivalent to the cost of a bromeliad.

This is Dendrobium 'Samurai'

This is Wilsonara Firecat 'Harmony', or at least it was labeled as such.   Wilsonara is a genus of intergeneric hybrids that combine Cochlioda, Odontoglossum, and Oncidium.  In checking on-line references to the plant, I also found it listed in the Oncostele genus, which includes crosses between Oncidium and Rhynchostele, as well as listings in the genus Colmanara, which combines Miltonia, Odontoglossum and Oncidium.  So now perhaps you have an idea why my eyes cross.


Like bromeliads, orchids prefer tight spaces so the pots are often on the small side, which means it's easy to squeeze them into even a small lath house like mine.  In the long run in my climate I may get more out of growing orchids than some of the other shade plants I covet like fuchsias, which I'm still struggling to placate.  Which plants will earn permanent space in my lath house is still an open question but, if that includes orchids, don't count on me to get their names right.


All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, September 17, 2018

In a Vase on Monday: Otto gets another run

I haven't featured the flowers of Dahlia 'Otto's Thrill' in over a month now.  That's not because the dahlia hasn't flowered but rather because I haven't been inspired by any possible combinations to show it off.  However, this week I took my inspiration from one of the colorful Caladiums in my lath (shade) house.

The pink and white colors of Caladium 'Candyland' set things in motion

I also cut the foliage of a coleus growing in the lath house

and filled in with Sweet Autumn Clematis and stems of Abelia 'Edward Goucher'

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: Dahlia 'Otto's Thrill', Abelia x grandiflora 'Edward Goucher', Caladium 'Candyland', Clematis terniflora (aka C. paniculata), and Plectranthus scutellarioides 'Special Effects' (coleus)


It was a busy weekend and, between joining two blogger friends on a tour of gardens in Orange County on Saturday and popping in at a local orchid show on Sunday, I didn't have time to prepare more than one new vase.

The new arrangement landed on the dining room table


Luckily, two of last week's vases were still in half-good shape so, with a little bit of clean-up and the addition of a few new blooms, I spiffed them up to serve another week in other spots.

The vase on the left, now in the front entry, lost the dahlia and the clematis and got fresh stems of zinnias and abelia.  The vase on the right, now in the master bedroom, is a simplified version of last week's arrangement without either the dahlias or the zinnias.


Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see what she and other participating bloggers have put together this week using what they have at hand.


All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Bloom Day - September 2018

Despite eagerly anticipating the change of seasons, I can't entirely get my head around the fact that it's already mid-September.  We've enjoyed cooler temperatures for the past several weeks on average, although the cool spells are still punctuated by periodic blasts of heat.  The 90-day forecast shows no significant rain until early December but that prediction isn't all that surprising as rain is a winter phenomenon here.  On the bright side, NOAA has announced a 70% chance of an El Niño event this coming winter, which could mean more rain from January through March in Southern California, albeit possibly accompanied by a host of other problems.  It's always difficult to know what to wish for but more than the 3.8 inches of rain we've received at this location since last October 1st would be welcome.

Flowers are less profuse throughout the garden than they were last month but there are still enough to fill my vases on a weekly basis.  The star of this month's Bloom Day post is unequivocally Sweet Autumn Clematis (Clematis paniculata aka C. terniflora).

Planted in May 2013, this is the largest bloom output from this vine to date despite what's been a very dry year.  Although sold to me by a national nursery as Clematis paniculata, I understand that name properly refers to a New Zealand native and what I have is probably Clematis terniflora, which in turn is not to be confused with Clematis virginiana, an invasive species that shares the same common name.  Are you confused yet?  I was, especially as the flower photos posted on-line mix the 3 species.


The ornamental grasses are looking great as usual at this time of year.

Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum' is a star in the front garden.  Pennisetum 'Fireworks' is in full bloom in the back and south side areas.

Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition' isn't as robust as the Pennisetums but I'm enjoying the flowers that dance around Yucca 'Bright Star' nonetheless


Benefiting from more deep watering this summer, my Lantanas look especially good this September.

Lantana camara 'Irene' (upper left) is still my favorite but Lantana 'Lucky White' (upper right) and variegated 'Samantha' (lower right) are giving it a run for its money.  The noID orange and pink forms also deserve "As" for effort.


Some new additions are providing spots of color too.

Echinacea is a pricey annual here but I couldn't resist picking up a pot of 'Cheyenne Spirit' on a Labor Day weekend nursery trip

Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy' (top) isn't new to my garden but 'Pinball Snowtip Lavender' (bottom) is.  Both are providing bright touches of color at the moment.


The dahlias and zinnias also continue to produce a steady supply of blooms.

I'm still waiting impatiently to see if one errant dahlia tuber is going to bloom this season but those that were blooming last month are still blooming now.  Clockwise from the upper left, they include: Dahlia 'Punkin Spice', 'Terracotta', 'Loverboy', 'Strawberry Ice'' and 'Otto's Thrill'.

My hodge-podge collection of Zinnia elegans is blooming but strangely it hasn't attracted the butterflies it did last year


There have been a few surprises.

While a few rain lilies (Zephyranthes candida) were blooming last month, this month I've got 2 good-sized clumps of them (despite the utter absence of rain)

The Mexican tulip poppy (Hunnemannia fumariifolia) has been blooming non-stop since April.  The plant looks a good deal scruffier than it did back then but I'm hoping at least some of the seeds it's shed will produce more plants next year.

Last year I planted 5 globe thistles (Echinops ritro ruthenicus).  If they ever bloomed, I've no recollection or record of it but this bloom and a few buds appeared recently, prompted perhaps by one of my deep watering sessions.  My fingers are crossed that more blooms will follow.  Theoretically, these plants should like it here but they've yet to show that.

I also planted this milkweed, Asclepias physocarpa (referred to as the "family jewels tree" by the grower), last year.  It never bloomed and I thought it'd died but it reappeared this summer.  The blooms weren't impressive but the seedpods that followed are.


As is my habit, I've prepared a few collages to capture what else is in bloom this month.

Top row: Duranta 'Sapphire Showers', Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick', and Eustoma grandiflorum 'Black Pearl'
Middle row: Liriope muscari, Plumbago auriculata, and Polygala fruticosa 'Petite Butterfly'
Bottom row: Rosmarinus 'Gold Dust', Scabiosa caucasica 'Fama Blue', and Aster x frikartii 'Monch'

Top row: Abelia x grandiflora 'Edward Goucher', Allium tuberosum, and Cistanthe grandiflora
Middle row: Gaura lindheimeri, normal Pelargonium peltatum flower, and virus-affected Pelargonium flower (on the same plant)
Bottom row: Pentas 'Kaleidoscope Appleblossom', Pentas lanceolata 'Nova', and Pyrethropsis hosmariense

Clockwise from the top left: Gaillardia 'Fanfare Citronella', self-seeded Gazania, Eustoma grandiflorum 'Mint Cocoa', Grevillea 'Ned Kelly', G. 'Superb', and Russelia equisetiformis 'Flamingo Park'


For more Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day posts, visit our host, Carol at May Dreams Gardens.


All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

My Leucadendron Collection

During the summer months, several Leucadendrons develop beautiful red tones, giving them the appearance of stained glass when they're back-lit.  As my photos of these piled up, I decided it might be a good time to take an inventory of my burgeoning collection.  Frankly, I couldn't have told you off-hand exactly how many of these plants I have until now.  The answer is 19.  Unless I've forgotten one here or there, which is entirely possible.

I picked up my first Leucadendron, 'Wilson's Wonder', years before we moved to our current location.  My former garden was a tiny, shady space behind a townhouse, not at all suitable for this plant.  I put it in a large pot in our driveway, one of the few spots we had that received a decent amount of sun.  There it stayed until we moved to our current location 7+ years ago, when I finally put it in the ground.

This is my original plant, coincidentally assigned a space along the driveway of our current house.  It took off as soon as I put it in the ground.  Although I cut it back hard in late winter after it finishes "flowering," it reaches 6 feet or taller during the summer months when the foliage takes on its lovely red hue.

I planted this one elsewhere in the front garden in November 2014.  It's still smaller than the first but it's working on catching up.

Here's a photo of the same plant back in January.  Its "flowers" are actually yellow bracts surrounding central cones.  The plant has radically different personalities during the winter and summer seasons, doesn't it?


I'm not sure when I planted my first (of 4) Leucadendron 'Devil's Blush', other than that it appears to have been before I started keeping a record.  I'm guessing 2011 or 2012.  Some were labeled 'Blush' and others not labeled at all so my ID is a guess based on their appearance in some instances.

Although a lot of Leucadendrons produce flower-like forms seasonally, those on 'Devil's Blush' produce the most convincing imitation in my view.  They make me think of long-stemmed rose buds.


In 2013, after clearing the northeast corner of our property of lawn, gravel, and a huge expanse of plastic buried beneath the gravel, apparently intended as a weed barrier, I planted 2 Leucadendrons there too.

Although Leucadendron salignum 'Chief' is one of my tallest specimens (despite a hard annual pruning in late winter), it isn't as flashy as 'Wilson's Wonder'; however, I use its slender stems in flower arrangements more often than those from any other Leucadendron.  Like 'Wilson's Wonder', it produces yellow-tinged "flowers" during the winter months too.

Despite its dramatically dark foliage, I almost forgot about Leuadendron 'Ebony' when I conducted my inventory.  It sits next to 'Chief' but it's a significantly smaller plant and now largely obscured by the rampant growth of a Grevillea sericea.


In 2014, after clearing more lawn in the back garden, Leucadendron 'Pisa', originally placed in a large pot, went into the ground.

'Pisa' has lovely silvery foliage that catches the light in all seasons.  Its label said it'd grow 4-8 feet tall but, despite regular tip pruning, mine's an over-achiever.

This is what it looks like in early spring (mid-February 2018 in this case), when it forms silver cones surrounded by luminescent bracts.


More Leucadendron have been installed at periodic intervals since then but I won't bore you with all the details.  The borders in the back garden contain several of these plants.  For example, there's Leucadendon 'Jester' (like 'Ebony', a sport of 'Safari Sunset') and 'Winter Red'.

'Jester' is the variegated Leucadendron' surrounded by 2 'Winter Red' specimens here.  Both of my 'Jesters' have been relatively slow growers.

These are the same plants photographed at a different time of day.  The comparison gives you an idea of low different the plants can appear when back-lit or, as here, not.


And here's Leucadendron 'Safari Sunset', planted alongside another 'Devil's Blush'.

'Safari Sunset' is on the left and 'Devil's Blush' is on the right, photographed in the morning when lit by the morning sun.  'Safari' has larger, deeper-toned "flowers" and, in time, should grow taller than 'Blush'.

These are the same plants, photographed in the late afternoon


Two Leucadendron salignum 'Summer Red' occupy spots at opposite ends of the back garden border.

As you can gather from the cultivar name, 'Summer Red' looks its best this time of year.  All 3 of my plants are relatively young but this variety is among the smallest Leucadendrons I've found.

Here's the 'Summer Red' at the other end of the back garden


One of my most recent additions, and the last one I'll feature in this post, is Leucadendron 'Safari Goldstrike', which sits in a sunny area of the front garden facing west.

That's it in the background on the left.  It's reportedly a compact plant that shouldn't get larger than 4-6 feet high and wide at maturity.

Here's the same plant photographed back in February when it was showing off its glowing bracts.  It forms huge cones.


That's it.  All the plants I haven't featured in photos are duplicates of specimens I've already shown.  Along the way, I count 5 losses, 2 of which succumbed quickly in an area that seems to be a dead zone.  Two others, 'Jubilee Crown' and 'Little Bit' were lost when I didn't provide them the water they needed to become established.  The loss of 'Rising Sun' was a mystery but I speculated that it may have been exposed to a fertilizer containing the phosphorus they can't tolerate.  Will I buy more?  If I find space for them!  At this point, I think only conquering my hideous back slope may provide that.


All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party