Monday, September 25, 2023

In a Vase on Monday: Magnificent Mutants

Last week I complained that I thought I was in a rut with my dahlia-based flower arrangements.  In response, my friend HB of Piece of Eden suggested that maybe I could try a minimalist or Ikebana-style arrangement if I felt stuck.  I'm not good at minimalism when it comes to flowers, seemingly compelled to stuff everything I can find into most of my vases.  The last of my dahlias have yet to bloom, although 'Breakout' is close; however, it occurred to me that maybe I could do something with my mutant 'Fairway Spur' Dahlias.  I have two clumps of 'Fairway Spur' in my cutting garden, one of which is producing a large number of deformed - but interesting - blooms.  So I used them for my first arrangement, which was also created as a nod to the early days of autumn.

The form of the mutant dahlias vary somewhat but, in all cases, the inner petals fail to fully develop, and sometimes fail to develop at all.  However, the bees seem to like them as the mutated form allows them to reach the nectar at the flower's central disk more easily.  Thrip damage seems the most likely explanation for the deformities.

Back view: Hibiscus 'Haight Ashbury' provided the autumn flair 

Top view: As I was arranging the flowers a tiny green grasshopper, perhaps 1/2 inch in size, hopped out of a flower.  I tried to catch it but it got away and I couldn't find it.  My husband wasn't amused.

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', Sutera cordata (aka Bacopa), malformed Dahlia 'Fairway Spur', D. 'Summer's End'. Hibiscus acetosella 'Haight Ashbury', and Zinnia elegans 'Queen Lime Orange' and 'Benary's Giant Salmon Rose'


Last week I also swore I'd finally put together an arrangement centered around Dahlia 'Enchantress', which has been blooming for well over a month now without being included in an IAVOM lineup.  Here it is:

Dahlia 'Enchantress' usually grows taller than it has this year but I think it's stems have been held down (literally) by its neighbors 

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: bi-color and white Cosmos bipinnatus, an oddly formed Cosmos specimen that has formed on only one plant (look carefully at its center), Dahlia 'Enchantress', Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', and Zinnia elegans 'Benary's Giant Purple'

It's feeling very fall-like here at the moment, or at least our version of fall with daytime temperatures in the upper 60s to low 70sF (20-23C).  Working in the garden is downright comfortable, although I've earned some aches and pains in the process.  We filled three jumbo-sized green bins last week (and I topped off two of a neighbor's bins as well).  We've already stuffed two of the bins again this week and I fully expect the third to be full by the next waste recycling pickup date on Thursday as well.  In addition, current predictions suggest that the El Niño climate pattern is likely to bring us significant rain again in the 2024 "water year" starting October 1st, perhaps not this fall, but in late winter and spring as was the case in the 2023 water year.  The latest Weather West summary makes interesting reading about changes in the weather in California and the Pacific Northwest.


For more IAVOM creations, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

All material © 2012-2023 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, September 22, 2023

While work was temporarily on hold

As I mentioned in my last post, my end-of-summer cleanup came to a temporary halt when I filled all three of my green bins.  (I even topped off two of a neighbor's bins.)  While awaiting the city's waste pickup, I reviewed what's been done so far and compiled a working list of what remains to be done.

I'm not sure it looks like much but here's a round-up of the efforts made over the past week.

The photo of the north end of the back garden on the left was taken in July and the photo on the right was taken this week.  Can you see the difference?

The changes to the area on the north end of the back garden are more apparent to my own eyes in this view but I couldn't find a good "before" shot taken from the same angle.  I cut the Melianthus major down to the ground.  I also pruned Sonchus palmensis (aka dandelion tree) to a foot in height but I'm not certain it'll survive the treatment.

The changes to the middle of this border in the back garden included pruning 2 Artemisia californica by two-thirds, thinning several Nassella tenuissima (Mexican feather grass), and pruning Salvia canariensis and Salvia 'Pozo Blue'

Once again, I didn't have a recent "before" photo of that part of the back border but this photo, taken in early July, may give you an idea of what it looked like 2 months ago

I tried to yank the Duranta repens on the right out before I thought to take a "before" photo so the Duranta isn't in the upright position poking through a mass of Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' as was originally the case

As yanking out the Duranta didn't work, I cut it down and then dug out the base.  These are the "after" shots from 2 angles.  The Duranta's removal gives Agave ovatifolia 'Vanzie' an opportunity to shine, although few people other than me walk the dirt path behind the border here.  I also cleaned up the noID Kniphofia.

Two days ago I noticed that one of the 3 Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' shrubs on the south side of my garden appeared to be dying,  I think I have a problem with thrips.  It's not readily evident from the shrubs visible in the photo on the left but the third shrub behind them, shown in the photo on the right, was badly damaged.  I cut away the branches that were most severely affected, removed all the leaf litter, and sprayed all 3 shrubs with Neem oil.  Further treatment is needed.

This photo shows the street-side bed after the dead Auranticarpa rhombifolia was cut down.  My husband did the hard work and I was responsible for the cleanup.  He's now in the process of removing the stump (yay!).  It's a lot more challenging than it was in the case of the first 5 of these shrubs we removed when they dropped dead.
The gardeners blow leaves down the front slope covering the succulents below.  Cleaning them out of all the nooks and crannies without taking a tumble in the process is a challenge.  In the process of clearing the leaves, I've also removed several sad-looking Limonium perezii.  I've only just started.


Watering, fertilizing, and deadheading the dahlias is a near daily activity.  I'm closely watching the dahlias that have yet to bloom.  I had a second clump of what was supposed to be Dahlia 'French Can Can' and I held out a glimmer of hope this one might be the read deal but it's blooming now and the flowers are yellow like the other imposter.  In addition, one of the two 'Fairway Spur' Dahlias, both saved from last year's crop, has been producing a steady stream of mutant flowers.

An online source suggests that the deformities in the dahlia flowers may be due to either tarnished plant bugs or thrips.  The latter theory seems more likely as the tarnished plant bugs flourish in leaf litter during the plant's dormant period and my tubers were stored bare root in perlite.  Treatments with insecticidal soap are recommended in both cases, however.


The tasks still on the list to be tackled include:

  • Finishing removal of the Auranticarpa stump
  • Further trimming and treatment of the damaged foliage of all 3 Agonis flexuosa 'Nana'
  • Pruning dead twiggy growth underneath 4 more Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itts'
  • Cutting back the Centranthus and other spent plants on the back slope
  • Removing the remaining leaf litter on the front slope
  • Screening and distributing the finished compost in my bin
  • Replanting the bare spots on the front slope and in the street-side bed


I'll end this post with some of the other photos I took while strolling South Coast Botanic Garden earlier this week.

Gigantic peach-flowered Brugmansia

Equally gigantic yellow-flowered Brugmansia

Combretum farinosum, aka orange flame vine

Justicia carnea
Lagerstroemia sp. (white-flowered crepe myrtle)

Closeup of the plants at the base of the Palm Circle's trees

The rose garden (shown in a wide shot on the left) has added tropical plants in one area that has had persistent issues with drainage (as shown on the right).  The most prominent of these tropicals are Canna lilies and taro plants.

The Salvias were in top form throughout SCBG.  I think this one is Salvia 'Black & Blue'.

Salvia guaranitica is my best guess

Salvia leucantha

Salvia mexicana 'Limelight'


Best wishes for a pleasant weekend.  Happy autumnal equinox to those of you in the Northern Hemisphere and, for anyone in the Southern Hemisphere, enjoy your first day of spring!

All material © 2012-2023 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Puttering about

I've been busy for the past week cutting plants back, tidying things up, and even doing a little planting.  Between taking down the dead Auranticarpa rhombifolia and my end-of-summer pruning activities, we filled all three of our green recycling bins so I felt compelled to take a little break until the waste material is collected on Thursday.  In the meantime, I repotted some succulents and gave myself time off to check out a houseplant sale at the local botanic garden.

These are the spiffed up containers arranged outside the back door

The green pot contains Aeonium 'Jolly Green' and Graptosedum 'Vera Higgins'.  The tall blue pot holds Mangave 'Black Magic' and the small pot holds a Faucaria tigrina.

The green pot shown here is one I planted a couple of weeks ago with a Crassula, Echeveria, Kalanchoe, and a small Sedum.  The wide blue pot containing Aeonium 'Sunburst' and a variety of other succulents is still in need of sprucing up.  I can't remember the name of the Aloe in the Talavera-style pot.

I just upgraded Mangave 'Praying Hands' (left) to a larger pot.  Behind it is Mangave 'Aztec King' and on the right is Mangave 'Falling Waters'.


I also did a little cleanup in one area of the "bromeliad bed" in the front garden.  Only one section of the bed actually contains bromeliads.  The other two sections are filled with succulents.

I cleaned out most of the leaves that were covering this section.  In addition to assorted Echeverias, it contains Aeonium 'Lily Pad', Crassula orbicularis var rosularis, and several Haworthia cymbiformis.

The translucent leaves of Haworthia cymbiformis are tougher than they look, at least when provided adequate shade


Yesterday morning I took a drive over to the local botanic garden to check out the house plant sale they'd advertised on Instagram.  It looked impressive in the video they'd posted but sadly it was underwhelming when I visited in person.

To be fair, they may have sold out a lot of items following the video I saw late last week but the pickings were pretty slim at the time of my visit.  The woman manning the plant stand said she expected another shipment of plants later in the afternoon.

I took home just this unlabeled Vriesea (maybe Vriesea splendens)


After spending all of ten minutes in the plant sale area, I took a walk through the garden.  Here are some of the highlights from the Desert Garden area:

Like this Alluaudia humbertii, a lot of succulents were looking healthy and happy, presumably plumped up by the rain delivered by Tropical Storm Hilary last month

Cyphostemma juttae, aka Nambian grape (It's grapes are NOT edible as they're poisonous.)

The leaf-less Drimia maritima flowers were in full bloom

Two interesting Mammillaria clumps

Pedilanthus bracteatus, aka tall slipper plant, looking better than any others I've ever seen

I've seen Pseudobombax ellipticum 'Alba' (aka shaving brush tree) in bloom many times but I can't remember ever seeing it fully leafed out like this


Just outside the Desert Garden, I also saw something I'd never noticed before:

There's a mass of what I assume are Epiphyllums (orchid cacti) climbing up this tall palm tree.  It'll be an interesting sight when those plants bloom.


I'll be back to pruning later this week.  I really should get to work on the back slope but I misjudged the activity level among the fire ants earlier this week and have already accumulated almost a dozen bites.  I'm inclined to wait until the temperatures fall into the 60sF and the ants become less active.  The alternative is to hose myself down with insect repellent and put on the equivalent of a hazard suit.

All material © 2012-2023 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, September 18, 2023

In a Vase on Monday: Maybe I'm in a rut

It feels as though I'm recycling the same dahlias week after week.  I checked my posts since my first IAVOM post featuring dahlias in mid-August.  I found that I've used Dahlias 'La Luna', 'Mikayla Miranda' and 'Summer's End' three times prior to today's post.  I've used two of those cultivars again this week even though I've ignored Dahlia 'Enchantress' for weeks.  Next week, 'Enchantress' will get her due!  And maybe one or more of the dahlias that have buds but have yet to bloom will come through for me too.


Vase #1:

While I've used Dahlia 'Mikayla Miranda' repeatedly, I've used 'Lavender Ruffles' just once before, even though the latter is more prolific with its blooms.  'Lavender Ruffles' is a dinnerplate type and most of the flowers swamp everything paired with them but this week I found one stem in a more reasonable size.

Back view, featuring aster stems and Leucophyllum laevigatumLeucophyllum usually burst into bloom as soon as we get rain but my plant didn't flower until weeks following Tropical Storm Hilary.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Amaryllis belladonna 'Alba', Clematis terniflora, Dahlia 'Lavender Ruffles', D. 'Mikayla Miranda', Leucophyllum laevigatum, and Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata'.  Also included but not shown in closeup is Symphyotrichum chilense.


Vase #2:

Dahlias 'Summer's End' and 'Labyrinth' mesh together nicely

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Dahlia 'Labyrinth', D. 'Summer's End', Xylosma congestum, Zinnia elegans 'Candy Mix', and Z. e. 'Queen Lime Orange' with Benary's Giant Salmon Rose'


Vase #3:

Dahlia 'Belle of Barmera' also has huge dinnerplate blooms,  It's a prolific bloomer too but one I've only used once before for IAVOM because the size and neon pink color of the blooms overpower just about anything else I include in an arrangement.

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt', Cuphea 'Honeybells', Zinnia elegans 'Candy Mix', Dahlia 'Belle of Barmera', and Leucadendron 'Jester'


We've had clouds and not a ray of sunlight for the past two days.  We even got steady drizzle on Saturday morning, although it didn't amount to much in total.  Morning clouds are expected to be with us all week but a we may get sun Monday and Tuesday afternoons.  Meanwhile, the cooler temperatures have allowed me to make a dent in my end-of-summer garden cleanup.


For more IAVOM posts, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

All material © 2012-2023 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party