Friday, February 23, 2018

Winter Visit to The Huntington Gardens

I was lucky to win a one-year membership to The Huntington Library & Gardens in a drawing conducted by Denise at A Growing Obsession back in December but I didn't have an opportunity to activate the membership until this month, when my husband and I visited the gardens to celebrate our anniversary.  As timing goes, it wasn't the best time to visit as it coincided with Huntington's Chinese New Year celebration and the venue was packed with people, but we enjoyed our visit anyway.

The noise and loud music near the entrance was bothering my husband so we dashed through the area relatively quickly but I did manage to snap a few shots.

The Celebration Garden features plants suitable to coastal California's Mediterranean climate

While some elements remain in place, this area seems to be tweaked on a regular basis

Plants spotted as we passed through the California Garden included: Grevillea 'Moonlight' (left), a noID Leucospermum in bloom (middle), and what I assume was Salvia clevelandii or a hybrid (right).  I didn't notice the mass of what appears to be Phylica pubescens in the last photo until I reviewed it.

We headed off in the direction of the Desert Garden, briefly stopping to admire the Palm Garden.

As both my husband and I grew up surrounded by palm trees, we tend to ignore them but they were looking particularly good during this visit

We also admired this mass of what I think was creeping wire vine (Muehlenbeckia axillaris).  I've never seen it used in this fashion and, while I don't generally like artificially pruned plants, I did like this.

The Desert Garden was blissfully quiet, with the buzz of hummingbirds producing the only sounds.

I can't even imagine how many years it took for these plants to form this wonderful composition

Another wonderful composition, this one featuring golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) and silvery twin-spined cactus (Mamillaria geminispina)

Two perfect specimens of Agave ovatifolia surrounded by the cacti shown in the prior photo

I think this mass of spiky silver foliage is Puya venusta, although I couldn't find a label

Two attractive small-scale aloes, an Aloe aculeata hybrid on the left and A. virens on the right

Two very different Euphorbias, Euphorbia atropurpurea on the left and E. canariensis on the right

Two noID agaves.  The one on the left has the widest leaves relative to its size I can remember seeing on an agave.  Does anyone know what it is?  The agave on right had produced its classic asparagus-like stalk but hadn't yet begun to flower.

We were somewhere between the Australian and Subtropical Gardens when my husband called my attention to a wildlife visitor.

It was nearly 11am when we spotted this coyote, who was on a fast trot away from another group of human visitors.  That's late in the day to come across these nocturnal predators but perhaps he'd extended his prowl to take in the Chinese New Year celebration.  It is the Year of the Dog after all.

After the brief moment of excitement over the coyote, I snapped a few more photos as we made our way toward the Japanese Garden.

I didn't recognize this tree but its twisted shape was captivating

I snapped the Justicia leonardii on the left because it was one of the most colorful plants in this subdued area of the garden.  I snapped the Plectranthus argentatus on the right because I thought the use of this plant as a low ground cover was interesting.

The Japanese Garden has always been one of my favorite places at the Huntington.  Even through anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I adore flowers, I also appreciate the quiet restraint of the Japanese Garden.  Created in 1912, it's also one of the oldest segments of the gardens.

We entered the Japanese Garden through its towering bamboo forest

I have mixed feelings about bonsai.  On the one hand, I appreciate the artistry of these creations, but on the other I don't think I could bring myself to torture plants in this way, even if I had the patience.  From left to right, the subjects are a Japanese Black Pine, a Chinese Elm, and a Foemina Juniper.

There were some flowers in bloom!  The azaleas surrounding the pond outside the ceremonial teahouse added a bright spot of color.

More azaleas and a pretty magnolia were in bloom a short distance from the pond

A wide view of the Japanese Garden's central area

We took a break for lunch, merging back into the New Year celebration crowd so I could buy something to eat.  (My husband had packed his lunch.)  Afterwards, we shirted through the rose, herb and Shakespeare gardens.

The rose and herb gardens weren't yet ready to celebrate spring and the Shakespeare Garden was planted mainly with bedding plants but this meadow-like display of foxgloves and grasses was interesting. 

We swung through the Chinese Garden, another of my favorite places, but as expected it was crowded with celebrants so we didn't stay long.

I was surprised to see the dead Lotus flowers still standing proud in the lake but they made an attractive display

Musicians and dancers were entertaining New Year's celebrants in this open air structure

The weather was perfect for our visit even if the gardens were more crowded than we'd have liked.  Unfortunately, the freeway traffic through downtown Los Angeles on our way home was particularly awful due to the closure of a major exit and the trip was made even more nerve-wracking by a near accident when a driver in a lane alongside of us inexplicably slammed on his brakes and spun his pick-up truck nearly 180 degrees, narrowly missing us.  Further proof that Los Angeles freeways aren't for the faint of heart.

Best wishes for a pleasant weekend, full of only good surprises.

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

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wednesday Vignette: Hail!

Believe it or not, late Monday afternoon we got a touch of hail here on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.  Our temperatures plummeted on Monday (by our standards) and everywhere I went all day people complained about the cold and the strong wind, which made it feel colder still.  A chance of rain had been predicted but we really didn't expect any.  We certainly didn't expect hail.

That's not just rain beading up on the backyard patio table

It was tiny pellets of ice, already melting as it landed

Our weather station showed a temperature reading in the 40sF at our elevation, some 800 or so feet above sea level, and the tiny ice pellets didn't last long

It was fun while it lasted!  I've lived in Southern California all my life and I don't think I've seen even half a dozen hailstorms.

The hail flurry lasted less than 15 minutes and the precipitation wasn't enough for our weather station to register.  We remain woefully dry, although there's a 40% chance of rain currently showing in the forecast for Thursday.  The amount of rain expected from that system is trivial but maybe we'll get another weather surprise.

Visit Anna at Flutter & Hum for more Wednesday Vignettes.

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

Monday, February 19, 2018

In a Vase on Monday: Simply honest

I almost skipped In a Vase on Monday this week.  Since I started participating in late March 2014, I think I've missed just one posting, and that because I was out of town.  I wasn't out of town or too busy to put together a vase this week.  Rather, when I went into the garden with my clippers, my head and heart were elsewhere.  After watching yet another newscast on the shooting in Florida that took 17 lives, I couldn't stop crying.  Each mass shooting in this country, too many to count now, has made me viscerally sick.  After Sandy Hook in 2012, I was sure human decency and common sense would prevail and we'd finally do something to implement reasonable gun controls.  Not only did that not happen but trolls emerged from the muck to accuse the families who'd lost children and the entire community of a hoax.  Nothing happened when a gunman killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando in 2016.  Nothing happened when another gunman killed 58 people attending a concert in Las Vegas in 2017.  So will the loss of 17 more lives at a Parkland, Florida high school make any difference?  Maybe.  The honest grief and anger of those directly impacted by the Parkland assault weapon-enabled murders is palpable and very, very focused.

Clockwise from the upper left: Argyranthemum 'Mega White', Erysimum linifolium 'Variegatum', Freesia, and Nemesia 'Sunshine'

A lot of people have spoken up in response to this latest shooting.  Most of the politicians have made their classic canned, meaningless responses to the tragedy.  However, many of those closest to the events of February 14th, including not only parents of the children caught in the line of fire but also the local sheriff, have demanded action on gun control.  But no one has spoken as clearly, honestly, and forcefully as the teenage students of that high school.  Students just one to three years away from becoming voters are speaking up.  I've been impressed by how articulate they are; how well they've stripped the issues down to their core elements; how brave they've been in calling out the powerful people who've historically bowed to the power of the gun lobby in this country.  Perhaps the best of these statements is that by Emma Gonzales, which you can find here.  Listening to her speak, her grief, her anger, and her focus is as clear, honest and simple as can be.  I have hope.

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to find other vases.  Those of you interested in the March For Our Lives scheduled for March 24th can find more information here.

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

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Foliage Follow-up: The return of the ring of fire

Last February, in a Wednesday Vignette, I featured the "ring of fire" that periodically appears to surround my backyard borders.  It's back, shining brighter than any of the nearby flowers, so I thought it warranted coverage in this month's Foliage Follow-up post, a feature hosted by Pam of Digging following Bloom Day to demonstrate the valuable role foliage plays in every garden.

My "ring of fire" is created by the new growth on the Xylosma congestum hedge that borders the beds in the backyard garden

This hedge gets trimmed 3-4 times a year to maintain its height and, while the new growth that follows a trimming always takes on a bronze tone, it's particularly vivid in early spring

The red in the new spring foliage growth is prominent in other plants too.

The new growth of Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', a dwarf peppermint willow, also takes on a red tinge

Speaking of red tones, some of my Aeoniums, green rosettes when I planted them, have colored up nicely this year too.

Weather conditions and reduced water (in other words, stress) probably account for the color change from green to red in the case of these Aeonium arboreum.  However, I've grown Aeoniums in this spot for years and this is the first time they've assumed such a deep color.  Pretty, though, aren't they?

Other Aeoniums drew my attention for a less positive reason.

When I saw damage to my Aeoniums along these lines last year, I assumed I had a problem with snails or slugs

This year the culprit responsible for the damage revealed himself.

The white-crowned sparrows migrate through here during the winter months.  Apparently, they like Aeoniums!  They're creating a lot more damage this year.  Our backyard fountain sprung a leak and is currently shut down for repair so perhaps my fine-feathered friends have become dependent on the succulent leaves to quench their thirst.

That's my Foliage Follow-up for February.  Visit Pam at Digging for more.

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

Thursday, February 15, 2018

What's blooming during SoCal's drought? (Bloom Day, February 2018)

Last year's drought recovery was short-lived.  Southern California is considered back in a drought status and the situation in Northern California isn't much better.  According to weather-watchers, SoCal has had just one real rainstorm since February 19, 2017, the January 2018 storm that caused the horrific mudslides in Montecito.  We got light rain this week but it was spotty and not every area benefited from it.  According to our personal weather-station, we've racked up only 1.45/inch of rain since our short rainy season began on October 1, 2017 and, as reported in the Los Angeles Times this week, the outlook for more isn't especially promising.  Our irrigation system helps of course, as does the gray water system attached to our washing machine, the water I collect in our shower and our kitchen sink, and the accumulation in my 3 rain barrels.  The situation makes me all the happier that we removed our lawn years ago and began swapping our thirsty plants for more drought-tolerant specimens but it's still downright depressing.  Still, I realize that I've got a lot more going on in the garden this month than most areas in the Northern Hemisphere, many of which are still shivering under snow and ice.

Most of the plants that bloomed last year at this time are also blooming this February, if not as abundantly.  This Bloom Day, I'm presenting what's blooming by area, starting in the back garden.

Arctotis 'Pink Sugar', under-planted with gold-flowered Lotus Berthelotii

Bulbine frutescens

Echium handiense, beloved by bees

Clockwise from the upper left, other warm-colored blooms include: Arbutus 'Marina', Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun', the first Sparaxis bloom, Russelia equisetiformis 'Flamingo Park', Lobelia laxiflora, Lotus bethelotii 'Amazon Sunset', Hunnemannia fumarifolia, and, in the center, Grevillea 'Ned Kelly'

Clockwise from the upper left, cooler-colored blooms in the back garden include: Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick', Geranium 'Tiny Monster', Ipheon uniflorum, Osteospermum 'Berry White', O. '4D Silver', and noID Viola

Flowers blooming on and around the back patio include: Aloe striata, yellow Freesia, Argyranthemum 'Mega White', Lotus jacobaeus, Lobelia erinus, and Osteospermum 'Lavender Frost'

The garden on the south side of the house consists mostly of succulents but there are some blooms.

More pale pink blooms appear on Cistus x skanbergii every day

Clockwise from the upper left, other blooms in this area include: Cistus 'Grayswood Pink', Bryophyllum fedtschenkoi, Grevillea alpina x rosmarinifolia, Metrosideros collina 'Springfire', and a noID trailing Osteospermum

The southwest corner of our property, occupied by the lath (shade) house my husband built me for Christmas, has some blooms inside and more in the area surrounding the structure, which has been my main focus over the past month.

Clockwise from the upper left: Euryops 'Sonnenschein', white and pink Cyclamen (both inside the lath house), Violas, Nemesia 'Sunshine', and Salvia 'Mystic Spires'

The front slope, which parallels the street and curves on the south side to face the lath house, also has a few blooms.

Clockwise from the upper left: Pelargonium peltatum 'Pink Blizzard', Crassula multicava, Rosa chinensis 'Mutabilis', Echeveria agavoides, and Aeonium arboreum

The front garden, facing west, is the most floriferous.

Bauhinia x blakeana (aka Hong Kong orchid tree) is still blooming!

Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold'

Cuphea x ignea 'Starfire Pink'

Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy' is a tangled mess but loaded with flowers

Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' (left) and G. 'Superb' (middle and right) are always in bloom

The luminous flower-like bracts of Leucadendron 'Safari Goldstrike' stood out this month

Since last month, the bracts of Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' have turned from yellow to reddish-pink

Other blooms in the front garden include, top row: Coleonema album and white Freesia
Middle row: Gaillardia 'Sunset Flash', Gazania 'White Flame' and self-seeded form
Bottom row: Lavandula multifida and Lantana 'Lucky White'

The area in front of the garage responded to the cooler temperatures we've had the last couple of weeks by producing some new blooms too.

Osteospermum 'Violet Ice'

I like the buds of Pyrethropsis hosmariense as much as the daisy flowers

Clockwise from the left, other flowers in this area include: Kumara (formerly Aloe) plicatilis, Calliandra haematocephala, Crassula 'Springtime', and Pyrus calleryana.  The last is blooming even though it still hasn't shed the majority of last year's foliage.

The cutting garden is relatively short on flowers at the moment.

Poor Camellia x williamsii 'Taylor's Perfection' (left) was dropping blooms as quickly as they opened during our extended spell of warm, dry weather in January.  On the right are: Calendula 'Bronzed Beauty' (top) and Ocimum hybrid 'African Blue Basil'.

The garden on the northeast side of the house has a few more splashes of color.

Grevillea lavandulacea 'Penola' is covered in small flowers

Trailing Lantana montevidensis creates a froth of color at the base of Agave ovatifolia and A. vilmoriniana (top).  At bottom are: Grevillea sericea (left) and Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl' (right).

This brings us to the back slope.  Spring is usually the only time the area is really colorful and, even though January was unusually warm, the slope hasn't gotten a jump start on the spring season yet.

Clockwise from the upper left are: Bignonia capreolata, Ribes viburnifolium, Ceanothus arboreus 'Cliff Schmidt', and the first blooms of Centranthus ruber 'Roseus' and  Zantedeschia aethiopica

My garden usually peaks between March and April.  How will it do if we don't get any more rain?  That remains to be seen.  The driest year on record for Los Angeles was 2007, when the annual total was 3.21 inches.  I really hope we don't break that record this year.

That's it for my Bloom Day report.  For more, visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens, the host of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

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