Monday, May 23, 2022

In a Vase on Monday: Making use of my cool season blooms

The weather has been bizarre this year - and I realize that this isn't just true of coastal Southern California.  Here, we've had brief heat spells on and off since January but, each time I fear summer is moving in to stay, we flip back to cooler temperatures.  After temperatures reaching 90F the prior week, last week our temperatures remained mostly in the mid-to-upper 60sF and that pattern is expected to hold through this week as well.  Regardless of whether it's hot or cold, though, wind has become a regular feature and, in the absence of rain, that's drying out the soil and plants.  While some of my cool season flowers are clearly on the decline, there are others not yet ready to concede the stage to their warm/hot season replacements.

To clear space in my cutting garden for Dahlia tubers and Zinnia seedlings, I've begun pulling out the scruffier Digitalis and Nigella plants.  Flowers of both inspired my first arrangement this week.

I played off the dark color at the center of the Nigella papillosa flowers in selecting burgundy foliage to fill out the vase

This side of the arrangement was meant to be the back but, when I placed it in my front entryway, it ended up as the front view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey', Fuchsia magellanica 'Hawkshead', Digitalis purpurea 'Dalmatian White', noID Lathyrus odoratus, Plectranthus scutellarioides 'Vino' (formerly known as Coleus), and Nigella papillosa


In the interest of saving a few purple foxgloves that had flopped over in the wind, I used them as the starting point for my second arrangement.

I'd had pink Alstroemeria in mind to combine with the foxgloves but the latter's blue undertones had me abandoning that plan and seeking new partners

Back view: I picked a tall Acanthus stem to add height.  Acanthus mollis was a major feature in my former shady garden but the plant can't take the drier conditions in my current garden.  While refusing to die, the plants disappear as temperatures rise, returning only briefly following our winter rainy season.  At best, I get one or two flowers a year.

Top view: I used a few tall stems of Arthropodium cirratum (aka Renga lily) as a filler

Clockwise from the upper left: Acanthus mollis, Arthropodium cirratum, Digitalis purpurea 'Dalmatian Purple', noID Lathyrus odoratus, Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata', and Scabiosa columbaria 'Flutter Rose Pink'


I expect I'll continue to winnow out the Nigella blooms at a steady rate.  As the sweet pea foliage is looking uglier every day, those vines may go this week.  I've given away cut flowers at intervals over the past few weeks and I may step up the pace there, assuming I can find enough bottles or cups to hold miniature bouquets.


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


All material © 2012-2022 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party


Friday, May 20, 2022

May foliage standouts

After the glut of floral color that was my May Bloom Day post, it seemed appropriate to publish a review of the foliage standouts in my garden as a kind of palate cleanser.  I took a lot of photos but, as some of the same plants were covered in my March foliage post, I eliminated most of the redundancies, which still left me with a fairly hefty list.

This is just one of several spots filled by Abelia grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope'.  It's generally a manageable shrub, although it's prone to throwing up tall upright stems here and there.

I recently cut back some of the Aeonium arboreum and Aeonium haworthii 'Kiwi' here as they were swamping the Agave lopantha 'Quadricolor' planted nearby.  Frankly, I need to pull out all these Aeoniums and replant cuttings but, with summer on the horizon, it's best to wait until fall for that.  The Aeonium arboreum are already curling up, signifying their entrance into dormancy.

Aeonium arboreum 'Velour' adds a welcome splash of color between Festuca californica and its greener Aeonium cousin in my front garden

I've photographed this clump of Agave attenuata before but not perhaps from this angle, showing its long trunks.  When we moved in 10+ years ago, this was the one and only succulent in the garden.

Agave colorata shines even though it's being crowded by an Agave 'Blue Flame' on one side and an Agave attenuata on the other.  I love the pink color it's acquired, presumably due to the stress of growing in this very dry succulent bed adjacent to the street.

I meant to cut back the 3 shrubs that make up this mass of Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' off our south side patio but never got around to it so its pruning has been postponed until fall

I planted 3 small Aloes in pot several months ago and I'm no longer sure I can tell one from another but the varieties include 'AJR', 'Crimson Dragon', and 'Talon'.  They're all far redder in color than they were when I first planted them.

It's the time of year when the trunks of Arbutus 'Marina' look their best

This Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey' is masquerading as a small tree on the edge of our south side patio

This is another tall, rangy Coprosma 'Plum Hussey' on the north end of the garden.  I love the variegated foliage.

I was afraid I might have cut back Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' a bit too far in late fall but it seems to be coming back

Two views of Crassula cormbulosa (aka red pagoda), showing off its color in a tiny pot

Festuca californica is already past its prime but this is the first photo I've managed to get showing its graceful plumes

Common English ivy (Hedera helix) is invasive here but I think it looks nice surrounding this green man plaque sitting on a decaying tree stump on the north end of the garden.  I inherited both the ivy and the stump with the garden.

Helichrysum petiolare 'Licorice Splash' looks its best at this time of year, framing the edge of a mass of Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt'.  I think the Aeonium is 'Cabernet'.

I gave the 2 Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' that flank the walkway leading to the front door a hard pruning several months ago.  They look the better for it now, although they're already working hard on their next attempt at world domination.

Another view of the same shrubs with a closeup of the shrubs' red-tinged foliage

Leucadendron salignum 'Chief' doesn't look so imposing peeking above other shrubs in the photo on the left but the second photo gives you a better impression of its overall girth.  I cut it back twice a year.

The Manfreda maculosa and noID Sedum have been in this pot almost as long as we've lived here.  The plants usually look awful in the summer, leading me to plot their replacement, but they recover before I ever get around to acting on that plan.

I planted 3 small specimens of Mangave 'Frosted Elegance' in the bed of mostly succulents shown on the left last year and they've developed a lovely glow in the partial sun setting.  The photos on the right show the difference between one of the plants in partial sun (top) and the specimen in a pot in the shade (bottom).

Phormium 'Tom Thumb' has done well in this partially shaded area of the front garden

The Yucca 'Bright Star' that emerged from the root of the plant I cut to the ground last year (left) is making steady progress, although it's still less than 6 inches tall.  Meanwhile, the cutting I took during the same operation (right) survives, although it still hasn't developed any significant roots.

Lest you think all is well in my garden, I'll share a couple of foliage specimens that aren't looking all that good.

I underestimate the rapacious  appetites of our now resident rabbits.  After paying Mahonia 'Soft Caress' (left) no attention for almost 6 months, I discovered the plant eaten down to a short stick last week.  Yesterday, I discovered that they'd also done a taste test of the 2 Echium wildpretii (one shown on the right).  I've since covered all 3 plants with wire cloches.

Best wishes for the weekend!  I hope to spend lots of time in the garden to take advantage of the cooler temperatures we're currently enjoying.  After a few days of very warm (90F/32C) temperatures last week, we've had much cooler temperatures since Monday, courtesy of our marine layer.  The marine layer, usually most pronounced in May and June, has become noticeably spotty of late.  The Los Angeles Times printed an article last Sunday stating that our "May gray" and "June gloom" are facing "impending doom" due to climate change.  That's depressing to contemplate as the marine layer helps to keep down the summer temperatures along the south coast of California. 


All material © 2012-2022 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party



Wednesday, May 18, 2022

SCBG's plant sale returns

A friend and I turned up at South Coast Botanic Garden on Saturday morning to attend the garden's first plant sale since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.  On this occasion, the event was held in the upper meadow area, which is near the garden's entrance.  Although we arrived just 45 minutes after the sale opened, there were already people wheeling carts of plants to their cars but at least we had no problem with parking, which has been an issue in prior years.

View of the plant sale area from the entrance to the upper meadow just off the main promenade

The sale plants were widely spaced so there wasn't any of the elbow-to-elbow contact I've experienced at previous sales.  There were also a lot more plants in very large pots (with prices that matched their size).

In prior years, I'd say that the the majority of plants were propagated onsite by SCBG volunteers but the propagation team hasn't been reassembled since the volunteers were furloughed back in 2020.  I'm assuming that these "homegrown" plants were donated by volunteers doing their propagating at home.

There were plenty of succulents, many also in large pots.  As I generally prefer to buy plants in small pots (one-gallon or less), this was something of a disappointment.  The prices were lower than one would pay at local garden centers but not by a large margin.

They had a range of shrubs not commonly found in local garden centers, including Banksia, Cussonia, and Hakea.  I might have caved and taken home a Hakea laurina as I've been looking for that plant for ages but they were all gone!

There was a good supply of large Tillandsias, most unlabeled, but the prices on those ranged from $90-$100 and even my 10% SCBG member discount wouldn't have taken the sting out of that

I've always had a bit of a fascination with Deuterocohnia brevifolia but $25 for a very slow-growing plant in a small pot had me taking a pass

As my friend hadn't seen the garden's topiary menagerie exhibit, we made the rounds of the displays.  In the process we found the one display I missed on my prior visit.

The "Swarm of Butterflies" was of course located near the butterfly exhibit

My friend liked the flamingo display best.  I noted that a couple more flamingos had gotten names (in exchange for a donation to the garden) since my prior visit.  This one stood out.

We stopped by my local garden center to kill some time before heading to an early lunch at a nearby restaurant.  All in all, it was a pleasant day, warm but not broiling.  And I brought home four new plants, all of which I've already tucked into place.

I picked up 3 Mangave 'Pineapple Express', which I've planted in a relatively dry section of my back garden.  Although it's only mid-May, my garden is already very dry and plants in many areas are struggling so you can expect to see me planting more and more succulents.

I repotted the small Lepismium cruciforme, an epiphytic cactus, and I've added it to my lath house.  It's related to Rhipsalis and apparently appreciates protection from hot afternoon sun.

An SCBG representative told us that the garden plans to hold another plant sale in the fall.  I look forward to it but I hope they'll bring in a larger variety of plants in smaller sizes.  Some of my best plant "experiments" have been specimens I've picked up through SCBG sales but I'm unlikely to invest in large plants I've had no prior experience growing.  Experiments are best started small.

All material © 2012-2022 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, May 16, 2022

In a Vase on Monday: Just peachy

On Saturday, I noticed that the Matilija poppy (Romneya coulteri) on our back slope was sporting five blooms.  Although I've tried to remove the thuggish plant twice, even enlisting my husband's help to dig it out once, it inevitably reappears, producing tall, sprawling stems topped with fragile blooms beloved by the bees.  I headed down the slope early Sunday morning hoping for at least three intact blooms and came back with only one but I was committed to a white and yellow arrangement so I persevered.  Some peach colors infiltrated the mix as I tried to fill it out.

Although the Matilija poppy was the inspiration for this arrangement, the 'Golden Celebration' rose assumed the lead role

Back view: I used stems of Argyranthemum frutescens and Pandorea jasminoides to add the touches of white I'd originally hoped to get from the poppies

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', Achillea 'Moonshine', Alstroemeria 'Claire', Romneya coulteri (aka Matilija poppy), Antirrhinum majus 'Chantilly Peach', Argyranthemum frutescens 'White Butterfly', Pandorea jasminoides, and Rosa 'Golden Celebration'


We had another stretch of hot weather late last week, with temperatures reaching 90F (32C).  The seemingly constant pattern of flip-flopping temperatures has stressed many of my plants.  My cool season flowers, like the foxgloves, sweet peas and larkspur, were slow to get going but now seem to be ready to throw in the towel.  The larkspur made an especially poor showing this year and I decided I'd best make use of the remaining presentable blooms before they're gone.

With the addition of a beefy stem of Delphinium elatum 'Morning Light', the arrangement was off to a lop-sided start but I did my best to give it better balance by adding numerous stems of Consolida ajacis (larkspur), Orlaya grandiflora, and Nigella papillosa

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Consolida ajacis, Delphinium elatum 'Morning Light', Lathyrus odoratus x belinensis 'Erewhon', noID white Lathyrus odoratus, Nigella papillosa, and Orlaya grandiflora


Nine of my dahlia tubers have sprouted thus far and I've already moved seven of these from their temporary pots into their summer homes, the raised planters and half barrels that make up my cutting garden.  As I remove the cool season plants, the space they occupy will be filled by other dahlia tubers and the zinnia and sunflower seedlings I've grown from seed in plastic pots.  Summer is breathing down our necks here.  Southern California had its first major wildfire last week and, on the heels of that, there was a smaller fire less than five miles from my home in a nearby park.  Swamped by over 80 firefighters and assisted by water drops from helicopters that flew directly over our house a couple of times, it burned just ten acres before it was extinguished.  Luckily no structures were damaged but it was a stark reminder of the challenges summer poses.

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


All material © 2012-2022 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party