Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Nature's air conditioner

It was sunny at our elevation when I stepped outside just before 7:30am on Monday but a heavy marine layer had created a wall of clouds between us and the Port of Los Angeles below us.  Starting the day with a marine layer is a good thing as it helps to keep our peak afternoon temperature down.

The cloud cover topped out below our elevation, which is about 830 feet above sea level.  The garden glowed in the sun's filtered light.

This is the view looking northeast

And this was the view looking southeast.  The harbor below was invisible.


I assumed that the marine layer was moving out but less than half an hour later we were socked in.

This is roughly the same view as shown in my first photo.  The blue sky was gone and the sun's glow wasn't discernible but my plants stood out against the pale gray clouds.

The house across the canyon, visible in the second photo above, could no longer be seen

A fuzzier view looking southeast

The fog wasn't so thick that I couldn't see in front of me so I proceeded with my morning walk, twice around the large circle that makes up our neighborhood.  This is the view as I walked up hill toward a neighbor's 2 large trees, recently pruned.

The longer the marine layer remains intact, the lower the afternoon temperature is likely to be.  Unfortunately, this one cleared relatively quickly.  Our temperature later that afternoon peaked just below 90F/32C.  Yesterday, with no visible marine layer, it was over 80F by 8am and the afternoon temperature peaked at 94F/34C.  It remains to be seen what today will bring.  All things considered, we've been luckier this summer than many other areas that historically run cooler than we do.

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

Monday, August 8, 2022

In a Vase on Monday: You can't rush Mother Nature

Once a handful of dahlias began to bloom last month, I thought the remainder would be close behind but it seems that their schedule and mine aren't in sync.  Three of the stragglers have buds, while five other plants - all healthy - still show no signs of these.  A possum (or raccoon) dug through the raised planters in my cutting garden on Saturday night, compromising the health of yet another plant, the last to sprout.  While I wait out all the slow-pokes, I'm making the most of the six dahlias willing to offer flowers.

I've featured the yellow-flowered Dahlia 'Calin' in IAVOM posts twice already but this week I decided it was past time to show off Dahlia 'Summer's End'.

'Summer's End' is classified as a water-lily dahlia.  Beautiful as it is in form and color, I think Zinnia 'Queen Lime Orange' may have stolen the show.

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Grevillea 'Superb', Dahlia 'Summer's End', and Zinnia elegans 'Queen Lime Orange'

I've used Dahlia 'Southern Belle', the first of my dahlias to bloom this year, once before in a Monday post.  This week I chose to pair it with Amaryllis belladonna flowers while they last.  Our temperatures climbed into the mid-90sF/35C this weekend and the Amaryllis quickly showed signs of stress.

Dahlia 'Southern Belle' helps ground the sugary sweet pale pink blooms of Amaryllis belladonna

I dressed up the back view with some of the last Daucus carota 'Dara' (wild carrot) blooms, which are quickly going to seed.  Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy' has reappeared to add liveliness to the arrangement.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia grandiflora 'Edward Goucher', Daucus carota 'Dara', Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy', Amaryllis belladonna, Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', Pelargonium schizopetalum, and Dahlia 'Southern Belle'

As usual, there were leftovers among the flowers I cut.  The humidity that accompanied the monsoonal weather in the desert areas to the east of us prompted another flush of bloom from Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid'.  I'd planned to add the peachy flowers to the first arrangement to pick up the peach tones in Dahlia 'Summer's End'; however, the Callistemon's peachy-pink flowers didn't combine well with the Zinnia 'Queen Lime Orange' so the Callistemon was bounced, ending up in a small vase on the kitchen island.

Left to right: Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid', Zinnia elegans 'Carmine Rose' and noID pink Zinnia


It looks like temperatures may drop slightly over the course of the week but humidity will remain high.  Southern California's reputation for "dry heat" seems to be but a memory.

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

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

Friday, August 5, 2022

Too warm to linger long

My blood pressure has been running a bit high and, as I don't want to take medication to control it, I've started making it a point to walk each morning.  Earlier this week, instead of walking my own neighborhood, I drove to South Coast Botanic Garden about five miles away to walk there.  I took photos of some of the highlights.

The Japanese Garden doesn't change remarkably from one season to another but it always starts my tours of the garden off on a peaceful note

This area still shows up on the garden map posted online as the Volunteer Garden but I don't know how much involvement the volunteers have with it anymore.  This particular area was packed with Salvias and, as a result, it was also the site of lively hummingbird activity.

There are a variety of Agaves in the mix, one of which was sporting a bloom stalk

Closeup of one noID Salvia and a hummingbird.  I'd considered bringing a telesphoto lens with me to the garden but I didn't want to tote that around so the hummingbird photo was the best I could manage by cropping a photo taken from several feet away.

The area adjacent to the Living Wall has been undergoing changes off and on for some time.  In the past, anyone who wanted to eat at the garden had to use one of the picnic tables set up in the parking lot.  Small tables with seating appeared in 2021.  A refreshment stand was set up near the plant stand for a time, although I don't remember seeing it during my last two visits; however, refreshments are periodically offered in connection with various events.  I understand that the garden has been planning to make more formal arrangements for onsite food service and it looks like they're getting closer there, although I don't remember seeing an announcement about this in their monthly newsletters.

This certainly looks like the entrance to a food service area

Plants on all sides provide the area with a sense of enclosure

The Living Wall provides the backdrop for the area

The sign shown on the upper left is the clearest evidence of an official refreshment stand, although I saw no signs that it was open for business yet.  There's no menu inside that frame but it's obviously intended to hold something.  The lights and roll-up windows are further evidence that something's in the works.

 I checked in on the rose garden next.

The roses could use deadheading but I expect that's true all the time at this point in the season.  As this is a wedding venue, I suspect deadheading happens on a schedule linked to those events.

One vantage point showed a gardener mowing the grass in the meadow below around the flamingo topiaries, moving them as he worked


The Banyan Grove was my next stop.  It was closed for a month from mid-June through mid-July for the "pre-construction phase" of an undisclosed project.  It's one of my favorite places in the garden so I was curious to see what evidence of the new project  might be evident.

Everything looked normal on the surface here

But then I noticed that the soil level was higher in one area and that a protective cover had been placed over the surface-level roots of at least 2 trees

Other areas have now been impacted by the ongoing project as evidenced by the broad area now screened off by signs and yellow caution tape.  The lavender field is obviously affected.

My suspicion is that all this marks the start of the development of the new children's garden.  The current children's garden is almost as old as the botanic garden itself.  Built by volunteers around nursery rhymes, it doesn't resonate as well with children today, or at least that was my experience when I conducted tours as a docent.  Even so, I love this vignette of a child-sized house in the distance framed by the massive tree in the foreground.  Whatever they do with the old children's garden, I hope the tree is preserved.


By the time I got to the Desert Garden it was warmer and, with humidity also rising as a byproduct of the monsoonal moisture to the east of us, I decided to end my walk after a spin of that area.

View looking at the front of the Desert Garden a short distance from the Rose Garden

A large but well-kept Kalanchoe beharensis (left) and a giant grass tree (Xanthorrhoea sp.) in bloom (right).  What looks like yellow flowers on the grass tree's left flower stalk is actually the flower stalk of an Agave a distance behind it.

This extension to the Desert Garden, focused largely on Aloes, is still relatively bare in terms of plantings but this section looked good

It being August, the garden has fewer flowers than usual but I snapped some photos as I moved from one area to another.

I noticed a smattering of flowers on this very large Barleria obtusa (bush violet).  Mine don't generally have any blooms until late September at best (but I also don't allow my plants to get this big).

Bahinia galpinii (aka red orchid bush) I think

A vigorous noID Fuchsia

Clockwise from the upper left: Amaryllis belladonna, Crinium (I think), Cassia leptophylla (aka gold medallion tree), Drimia maritima, Gomphocarpus physocarpus (aka hairy balls milkweed), Pandorea jasminoides 'Rosea', and Passiflora


I spied the most interesting flowers I've seen in a long time as I exited the garden and entered the parking lot.

After a little digging, I discovered that this is Combretum fruticosum, aka orange flame vine.  Via Instagram, landscape designer David Feix let me know that San Marcos Growers, a wholesale nursery, grows this plant.  A comprehensive description of the plant can be found on SMG's site here.


That's it for me this week.  There's a very slight chance of a stray thunderstorm here but, as the weather forecasters have teased that possibility for over a week, I consider it highly unlikely.  At least the cloud cover has been keeping our temperatures in the low 80sF/27-28C but it's muggy.  Historically, Southern California has been known for its dry heat but, like many things climate-related, that seems to be changing.  I hope you enjoy a pleasant weekend wherever you are.

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

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Holding Pattern

I've been buying new plants at the worst time of the year to place them in the ground here.  Last week I received my most recent order from Annie's Annuals & Perennials.

On a sale offer, I ordered 2 Agave ovatifolia 'Vanzie' and 2 Agave 'Blue Glow' in 4-inch pots, knowing that they'd be tiny but, given local prices for even moderately-sized specimens, I considered it a prudent move

I usually make exceptions for succulents when planting during the hot, dry summer months but these are just too small to be planted out now.  I expect they'll need a good year or two in a pot before they can be safely added to any border.

This is the larger of the 2 'Blue Glow' Agave pups set next to some of the more mature specimens in my south-side succulent bed

And this is one of the Agave ovatifolia 'Vanzie' pups shown in relation to a more mature 'Vanzie' specimen in my south-side bed.  (The Agave ovatifolia on the north end of my garden is nearly double the size of the larger 'Vanzie'.)

With the exception of the 4-inch succulents shown in last Friday's post, I've potted up the recently acquired plants pending the return of cooler temperatures when fall arrives.

In addition to the 4 new Agaves, I potted up 3 new Mangave 'Blue Dart' received as bare-root plants

In addition to the Fibiana imbricata (false heather) and Agastache 'Black Adder' obtained in an earlier Annie's order, I've added Agastache 'Morello' and Lomandra 'Platinum Beauty', obtained locally, and 2 seedlings of Polygala fruticosa pulled from my own back border.  The Lomandra is destined for a spot in front of our backyard fountain.  The placement of the Polygala is yet to be determined but, as the plant is so vigorous, I've decided to work with it so long as I can place it where I want it as opposed to where it's self-sown.

I made a few exceptions for plants I thought might be better able to make it through the remainder of the summer in the ground.

As the succulent cuttings are taking their own sweet time filling in here, I added 8 Lantana plants from 6-inch pots to give this bed along the back patio some color

I've been gradually adding more succulents to this bed to replace groundcovers (like Cerastium tomentosum, aka snow-in-summer) that struggle to survive in this bed on the northeast side of the house.  The latest additions are Aeonium 'Lily Pad' and Echeveria 'Mira'.


I was drenched in sweat just planting the Lantana yesterday morning, even though the temperature had only reached 83F/28C by the time I'd finished around 10am.  I'd completed a brisk walk of two rounds of my neighborhood before I started so that may have been a contributing factor.  On my walk, I snapped a few quick shots of a neighbor's blooming Agave 'Blue Glow'.  Its progress from the first sign of the developing bloom stalk to its flowering stage has been very fast, at least by comparison to the blooms I got from Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' several years ago.

This one isn't tall enough to tumble over onto someone's car

Fellow blogger Hoover Boo of Piece of Eden has reminded me that those of us in the Northern Hemisphere have just fifty days to go until the Autumnal Equinox.  If only summer would pay attention to the calendar!

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

Monday, August 1, 2022

In a Vase on Monday: Mismatched companions

When I create floral arrangements, whether utilizing complementary colors or analogous colors, I look for color echoes to link the elements.  I fumbled in that endeavor this week.

I used two varieties of dinnerplate Dahlias, 'Iceberg' and 'Lavender Ruffles', in the first arrangement but had difficulty finding companions to play off the latter's pinkish-lavender color.

Abelia 'Edward Goucher' subtly reflects the color of Dahlia 'Lavender Ruffles' but as most of the flowering stems are short it doesn't have much impact

Back view

Top view: When I squint I think I can made out a very faint pink blush in the Eustoma 'Balboa Blue Rim' (aka Lisianthus) but I'm pushing there

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia grandiflora 'Edward Goucher', Coleonema album, Eustoma grandiflorum 'Balboa Blue Rim', Dahlia 'Iceberg', and D. 'Lavender Ruffles'

Zinnia 'Giant Carmine Rose', blooming in earnest in my cutting garden, called out for inclusion in a vase.  I love its vibrant color but it turns out there isn't much in my garden that pairs well with it, at least not at present.  Cuphea 'Honeybells' was the best match.  I played off the touch of yellowish-ivory at the tips of the Cuphea in an effort to bridge the gap between the Zinnia and the arrangement's other dominant element, Dahlia 'Calin'; however, I think the bridge is a bit wobbly in this case.

I guess I can also claim that there's a touch of yellow at the center of the Zinnias

Back view, showing off the stems of Cuphea 'Honeybells'

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Cuphea 'Honeybells', Westringia fruticosa 'Morning Light', Dahlia 'Calin', and Zinnia elegans 'Giant Carmine Rose'


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


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