Friday, April 12, 2024

African Daisies (A Bloom Day Prelude)

You may have noticed that I generally refer to plants by their botanical names.  Maybe that comes across as pretentious but I do it mainly because those names make the identity of plants clear, whereas common names often confuse matters, even if they're easier to remember and pronounce.   Common names often vary by location and thus may baffle people from different parts of the country or elsewhere in the world.  When I formerly conducted tours of the local botanic garden, the example I used to illustrate this point was Soleirolia soleirolii, a tongue-twister if there ever was one.  I know these plants by the common name of "baby tears" but people in the UK call them "mind-your-own-business."  I asked people on my tours what they would think if they asked someone what that delicate little creeping plant was and the response was "mind your own business."  However, the bigger issue is that many plants bear the same common name, although they may look very different and belong to entirely different genera.

"African daisies" are a prominent case in point.  This common name is used to refer to many plants including those in the genera Arctotis, Dimorphotheca, Gazania, Gerbera, and Osteospermum.  The only things most of them share is that they're native to Africa; they have petals surrounding a central disk; and they belong to the Asteraceae plant family.

Here are examples of those I currently have in my garden:


This is the Arctotis cultivar 'Large Marge'.  It's flowers are particularly big.  They're also even brighter than they appear in my photos - I've joked that they can probably be seen from space.

This is 'Opera Pink', which grows in partial shade in my garden.  All the Arctotis I've seen have grayish green foliage and their flowers have a flat eye at their centers.  I've seen no evidence that they self-seed but they can be propagated via cuttings.

This is 'Pink Sugar', which I've grown for over 10 years.  It and all the Arctotis shown above are hybrid cultivars, none of which are probably found growing as natives in Africa in these forms.  In my experience, all handle sun and heat relatively well.  


I expect that most of the Gazanias in my garden are also hybrids.  Many of those I've planted started out as named cultivars but they self-seed freely in my warm climate and they don't always show up looking like their parents.  Those shown above may have originated from a cultivar called 'Golden Flame'.

Some of these may have started out from plants in the 'New Day' series, which is advertised as being particularly drought tolerant.  Like Arctotis, Gazanias can handle intense sun and moderately high temperatures.  Unfortunately, my rabbit visitors seem very fond of them.

This is a cultivar known as 'White Flame' from the Gazania 'Big Kiss' series.  Like Arctotis, Gazanias close their petals in low light, making them less useful as cut flowers; however, those in the 'Sunbathers' series produce ruffled centers that allow the petals to remain open in low light.  My 'Otomi' cultivar isn't blooming at present but you can see others in the 'Sunbathers' series in my 2015 post here.


I grow more Osteospermums than any other of the so-called African daisies.  I'm especially fond of the varieties with ruffled centers.  Shown above are Osteospermums '4D Silver' and '4D Violet Ice'.

Clockwise from the upper left are Osteospermum '4D Pink', another of my favorites, what I think is 'Serenity Pink', followed by 2 other noID paler pink varieties.  The petals of the plant on the lower left look white in my photo but they're a very pale pink viewed in person.

Osteospermums '4D Sunburst' on the left and 'Double Moonglow' on the right

Osteospermums 'Serenity Bronze' on the left and 'Serenity Coral Magic' on the right, purchased years apart but they look very similar

The 2 Osteospermums on the left are 'Serenity Purple' and the one on the right is 'Purple Spoon'.  I love those with the spoon-shaped blooms but I've found most revert to more conventional petal shapes over time (or when they self-seed).

This self-seeded variety reminds me of Osteospermum 'Berry White'.  I failed to photograph 'Berry White' for comparison purposes but they share similar ruffled centers.  The self-seeded variety has larger blooms and the upper sides of the petals are white rather than pink but the undersides of the petals of both are brushed with bronze color.

The Osteospermum '4D White' on the left appeared in local garden centers just last year.  The simpler white forms shown in 2 different areas on the right are the most common in my garden.  All were self-seeded.

Osteospermums mingle comfortably with one another as shown above.  The plants in general are much more sensitive to heat than either Arctotis or Gazanias.  When temperatures soar, flower production effectively shuts down, only to recover as temperatures decline in late fall.  They're short-lived perennials in my climate but self-seeded plants often replace those that shut down completely.

I don't have any photos of Dimorphotheca or Gerberas to share.  Dimorphotheca flowers look virtually identical to those of Osteospermums to my eyes but the former are annuals whereas Osteospermums are perennials in climates like mine.  Given the frequency with which botanists are reclassifying plants, I'm frankly surprised they haven't been lumped into the same genus.  As to Gerberas, I'm terrible at keeping them alive.  In my experience, they require more water than any of those I'm featured above.

Another thing that annoys me about the frequency with which all these plants are lumped together without distinction under the common name of "African Daisies" is that there's at least one other daisy-flowered African native I can think of that's seemingly never included in that category.


The common names for Felicia aethiopica include "blue daisy" and "wild aster".  The specific epithet "aethiopica" actually means "from Africa."  In my garden it blooms year-round if regularly deadheaded.  Like the daisies described above it's relatively drought tolerant.  It's also in the Asteraceae plant family.

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day officially falls on Monday, April 15th, but I've already collected a record number of photos from my garden.  The heavier-than-normal rain we've had, recently followed by temperatures in the 70s to low 80sF, has led to a floral explosion.  This post carves the "African Daisies" out of that post and I'm considering other ways to pare down the content of my Bloom Day post, which I don't expect to publish until Wednesday, April 17th.

P.S. By coincidence, prior to finalizing this post, I visited a local garden center yesterday and overheard a woman asking a nursery person for a "pincushion succulent."  When the staffer replied that they didn't carry such a plant I interjected that she might mean a Leucospermum, plants that have flowers described as "pincushions" that are drought tolerant although not classified as succulents.  I pulled up "pincushion plants" on my phone, which showed a Scabiosa (commonly known as "pincushion flower"), followed by a Leucospermum (commonly known as a "pincushion shrub").  She identified the Leucospermum as the plant she was referring to.  I pointed her in the direction of those plants in the garden center and identified another local garden center that also usually has a good supply of the plants.  On my way out, I told the nursery person how things had worked out and she told me that she links "pincushion flowers" to Scabiosas, not Leucospermums and therefore didn't make the connection.

All material © 2012-2024 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Wild and Weedy Wednesday: Opportunists and Survivors

As the saying goes, "April showers bring May flowers" but rain in general is guaranteed to deliver weeds.  Some are pretty wildflowers that have simply gotten a bad rap due to their assertive behavior.  Others are bona fide weeds, although it's surprising how often - if you dig deep enough - they have positive attributes you may at least want to recognize as you yank them out and dump them in your green waste bin.

I'm taking advantage of a meme inaugurated by Cathy of Words and Herbs this week to share three different weeds, one that isn't currently in my garden but seems to be moving its way throughout my neighborhood, creeping ever closer, and two others that are well-established in my garden and probably much of the surrounding area.

The first weedy wildflower is Asphodelus fistulosus, commonly known as onionweed.  It's native to the Mediterranean area but it's become an invasive weed in the US, especially in California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.  It reportedly entered the US as an ornamental plant and spread uncontrollably through prolific self-seeding.  I see it in untended areas along the street in my neighborhood, although I've yet to see it pop up in my own garden.

This mass of onionweed was growing in a large empty lot.  The home there burned down years before we moved into the area.  The weeds are leveled annually at the property owner's expense as they're considered a fire hazard.  I noticed just yesterday that these and other waist-high weeds had been leveled.

They remain prevalent in this homeowner's front garden, as well as many others.  

The flowers are attractive when viewed close up.  However, all those black seeds will drop and produce more plants.  The fibrous roots, if cooked, can be eaten as vegetables, or so I've read.  The seeds can also be used as a diuretic and reportedly as a topical treatment to treat ulcers and inflammation (source).

The second weed is prevalent on my back slope.  Its foliage reminded me of certain Geraniums but it was very different from the Geranium incanum I featured in a Wild and Weedy post last year.  My mobile phone's plant identification application identified this one as Geranium pusillum, commonly known as small-flowered geranium, a descriptive tag lacking in imagination.  It's a herbaceous annual native to Europe but now often found in disturbed sites throughout North America.

It's the plant shown growing up through a patch of lamb's ear here

The flowers should be described as tiny rather than "small".  Ignoring the white alyssum (Lobularia maritima, also a weed here), can you make out the Geranium's pinky-purple flowers?

This closeup of the flower was the best I could manage.  Geranium pusillum has been used medicinally as a pain killer, an astringent to treat abrasions, and as a treatment for wounds.

The last weed is Oenothera speciosa, also known as pink evening primrose, which I included in a post last year.  This is probably the best known of the three weeds.  It's a pretty wildflower but its prolific nature has many gardeners pulling it out at first sight.  So far, in my garden, it's present on the back slope and my dry north-side garden, although I've seen evidence that it'd spread further if I was less vigilant.  Mine haven't flowered yet but I've seen seedlings in both of the areas I mentioned getting ready to do so.

They love to plant themselves in the gravel path and at the edges of borders in my garden

The odd thing about it isn't its presence in my garden but that I've spotted what appears to me to be a miniature version of the same plant elsewhere in my neighborhood.  There's an Oenothera minima with yellow flowers but I haven't been able to find any reference to a pink flowered variety.

The closeup of the flowers in a neighbor's street-side border (left) appear to resemble the larger flowers that bloomed in my garden last year (right).  My cell phone application identified the tiny flowers as pink evening primrose too.

This wider shot shows the size of the tiny flowers growing in the neighbor's front border relative to the foliage of Centranthus ruber

I saw the same tiny blooms in the same area last year.  My first thought was that their size might be due to growing under less than ideal circumstances at the street's edge but, given pink evening primrose's proclivity for growing in disadvantaged situations in my own garden, that doesn't seem likely.  Have you seen Oenothera with tiny pink flowers like this?  Or is this another species of flowers you recognize?

Weeds are more interesting than many of us thought!  Cathy isn't posting every Wednesday on this subject this year but you can check her kick-off post here.  I may contribute a future post or two on this theme again as the weeds in my garden continue their annual takeover.

All material © 2012-2024 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, April 8, 2024

In a Vase on Monday: Spring spectacle

I can't help myself.  I've keep cutting flowers for the house.  It doesn't noticeably diminish the flowers in the garden because they keep coming, thanks to the relatively bountiful rainfall we've had.  Our total rain thus far this water year currently stands at 18.53 inches, which is considerably more than the average of 14.25 inches, and there are over five months left before the water year is over.*  Although our rainy season usually comes to an end by mid-April, climate scientists contend that it may continue into May this year.

My first arrangement this week was inspired by the the bearded Irises in bud at the bottom of my back slope.  However, they didn't open on the schedule I'd anticipated so I took another tact.  I cut a few stems of the fragrant Abelia 'Chiapas' growing nearby and sought companions to complement it elsewhere in my garden.

In lieu of the dark purple bearded Irises, I cut the nearly black Dutch Iris known as 'Eye of the Tiger'.  I added two of the last 'Pink Panther' Irises to provide a contrast.

Back view: I used stems of the Abelia 'Chiapas' (syn. Vesalea floribunda, aka Mexican Abelia) and Polygala myrtifolia (aka sweet pea bush) as filler material.  The Abelia, purchased from Annie's Annuals & Perennials years ago, has a delicious scent.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia 'Chiapas', Osteospermum '4D Pink', O. 'Violet Ice', Iris hollandica 'Eye of the Tiger', Phlomis fruticosa, Polygala myrtifolia, and Iris hollandica 'Pink Panther'

I checked the bearded Iris again late Sunday afternoon but the buds still weren't fully open.

I expect they'll be well past their prime by next Monday

It's impossible to ignore the Leucospermum blooms in my garden at the moments so I cut several of those stems for a second arrangement.

I kept flip-flopping between this side and the one shown below to serve as the "front" of the arrangement.  The Erysimum 'Winter Orchid' used as a "spiller" here finally sealed the deal.

The other side of the vase featured 2 varieties of snapdragons

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Antirrhinum majus 'Chantilly Peach', noID Antirrhimum, Erysimum 'Winter Orchid, Leucospermum 'Royal Hawaiian Brandi', Narcissus 'Geranium', Xylosma congestum, Zantedeschia aethopica, and Leucospermum 'Sunrise'

I also cut flowers for a small vase during the middle of last week, then refreshed it on Sunday.  In addition, not able to bring myself to dump all the contents of one of last week's arrangements, I rejiggered it using what was still fresh.

The tiny vase on the left contains Anemone coronaria 'Rosa Tigrato', A. c. 'Mount Everest', Alstroemeria 'Inca Lucky', and Cuphea 'Honeybells'.  The Anemones appear to be headed toward their seasonal exit.  The arrangement of leftovers on the right includes last week's Helleborus 'Anna's Red', noID Alstromeria, Argyranthemum 'Grandaisy Dark Pink', and Heuchera maxima.  The revamped arrangement shows off the form of the clasped hands vase nicely.

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

*Approaches to recordkeeping with respect to rainfall vary.  The US National Weather Service tabulates rainfall by "water year," measured from October 1st through September 30th of the following calendar year and the current average figure of 14.25 inches is calculated based on water year totals over the 30 year period from 1991-2022.  In contrast "seasonal" rainfall for downtown Los Angeles is calculated from July 1 through June 30 of the following year over a span of years from 1887-2022.  The resulting average in that case is 14.75 inches.


All material © 2012-2024 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, April 5, 2024

The search continues...

Within the span of five days, I visited two more garden centers in the search for plants to fill vacancies in the succulent bed I've been renovating.  I can't claim any discoveries that have pulled the entire picture together in my mind but, for me, building a garden bed is a painting rather than a puzzle.  Each decision alters the overall composition.

Armstrong, my local garden center, part of a chain, provided relatively few choices in terms of either agaves or Leucadendrons.  There were more aloes than I'd expected but nothing unusual and the agave selection was very limited.  I considered a few alternatives.

I briefly considered Dasylirion longissima (left), Furcraea foetida 'Mediopicta' (right rear) and Yucca linearifolia (right foreground) but ruled out each for different reasons

I didn't find the Leucadendron 'Summer Red' I'd fixated on, or any Leucadendrons in one-gallon containers for that matter.

Armstrong had Leucadendrons 'Winter Red' and 'Ebony', both of which I already have in my garden

For reasons I can't fathom, I was attracted to one ceramic piece that had nothing whatsoever to do with my shopping list but better sense prevailed.

The Talavera-style ceramic gecko was cute but expensive and I've absolutely no idea where I'd put it

I didn't check off any of my bigger ticket items but I didn't go home entirely empty handed.

I bought 2 small pots of Osteospermum 'Serenity Coral Magic' and one small pot of O. 'Serenity Dark Purple' (because they didn't have any more).  I also bought 3 of each of the Echeverias shown in the bottom row in 2-inch pots (left to right: Echeverias 'Afterglow', 'Mexicano', and 'Serrana').

On Tuesday, a neighbor and I took a trip to Flora Grubb Gardens in Marina Del Rey.  That garden center offered a lot of choices in terms of water-wise plants.

The large area directly west of a freeway exit was loaded with Agaves, Leucadendrons, and Leucospermums among other plants

There were a range of mixed succulent vignettes like these arrayed throughout the garden center too

Clockwise from the left are: a mix of agaves, cactus, and Leucadendrons; Agave gypsophila 'Ivory Curls'; and Agave americana mediopicta 'Alba'

Display of Leucadendrons and pots (left) and Leucadendron 'Red Eye' (right).  I was briefly obsessed with the latter but, as it can grow up to 20 feet tall, I reluctantly turned away.

My friend was focused on Leucospermums.

Closeups of just a few Leucospermum flowers, clockwise from the upper left: L.'Flame Giant', L gueinzii, L. 'Helene', and L. 'Naomi'

Other plants sounded a siren's call but were resisted.

Another Anigozanthos in the Bush Gems Celebration series.  This one is 'Aussie Spirit'.  It was in a larger pot than the 'Masquerade' variety I'd purchased a week before in a one-gallon pot at Deep Roots and more than twice the cost.

The Grevilleas on display included 'Long John', 'Misty Pink', and 'Sandra Gordon'

From left to right are Beschorneria yuccoides, Podocarpus henkelii, and assorted bromeliads

I've been a little obsessed with Beschorneria since my neighbor showed me this specimen in her front garden last weekend.  She says it was planted at least 8 years ago and this is the first time it's bloomed.  I have 2, one older than that but unfortunately almost entirely buried under my ginormous Leucadendron 'Chief'.  The other, a variegated 'Flamingo Glow', is still small after 2 years in the ground.  Planted from a 4-inch pot, I think I have a long wait ahead before it blooms.

This shopping trip was more productive than the last one.  I spotted a butterfly and purchased two large plants, although only one of these was on my original list of prospects.

My phone identified this butterfly as a mourning cloak

I bought yet another Agave 'Blue Glow' but this one came in a 3-gallon container.  I planted 2 smaller specimens of the same agave, picked up last year in 4-inch pots, on either side of the spot intended for the larger one.  In lieu of a Leucadendron, I selected Chondropetalum tectorum (aka small cape rush) to add a touch of softness to the bed.  I have a larger version of this plant, which I love, but it grew far bigger than advertised and overwhelmed its spot.  This one should only grow 2-3 feet tall and 3-4 feet wide.

I haven't entirely decided whether to get a Leucadendron for the succulent bed as well.  Despite its price, I've been reconsidering the Leucadendron 'Startreuse' I saw at Deep Roots.  At the same time, I've begun thinking about alternatives and I've added Phormium to my prospects list.

A Phormium 'Maori Queen' like this one in a garden bed near the front door might be a nice option


I've another local succulent outlet in mind for a visit in the near term.  I'll be sourcing smaller succulents to serve as fillers and groundcovers.  As I'm also considering removing one or two woody Abelias from the area adjacent to the one I'm renovating, I may have even more space to fill before my renovated bed is ready for its reveal.

Best wishes for a wonderful weekend!  It appears that ours may come with at least a little more rain.

All material © 2012-2024 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party