Saturday, August 31, 2013

Clouds everywhere

The morning sky looking southeast was full of puffy clouds tinged with gray.

More clouds to the northwest.

The desert and mountain areas to the east are under flash flood watches but not a drop of rain has fallen here.  It's just hot, muggy and uncomfortable.  A good time to check out garden blogs, plan fall planting schemes, and maybe order some plants by mail.

Or maybe just rest.

Ming in a rare period of repose

Pipig enjoying a spot of sun - and the air conditioning

Thursday, August 29, 2013

My favorite plant this week: Euphorbia 'Dean's Hybrid'

The return of summer heat in our area has taken a toll on the appearance of a lot of my plants, especially the flowering ones.  My roses look downright sad, with the blooms withering almost as soon as they open.  Even Coreopsis 'Redshift,' which has been blooming heavily for weeks, looks a little wilted.  It may be that I've been too stingy with the water this summer but, if you saw our last water bill, I'm sure you'd understand.  We discovered two leaks the week before last, which may account for the stratospheric charges on this month's bill but, until I can be sure of that, I'm metering out the extra water very carefully.

Strolling through my garden, I wasn't sure there was anything I could call my "favorite" this week - until I walked down the stairs of my slope and saw Euphorbia 'Dean's Hybrid.'  Nothing on the hot, dry slope looks particularly good at the moment - except this plant.  It's thriving even though none of the plants down there are irrigated automatically and they recently went a good 2 weeks without water when I was preoccupied with other tasks.

I put 5 of these plants in on the slope last year.  I lost one but it self-seeded nearby.  I cut back a few of these last week when their blooms turned tawny and they're already producing new foliage.  The foliage of this Euphorbia is soft and fern-like with a blue-ish tint.

New foliage is coming in at the base of this plant which I cut back just a week ago

The one plant I haven't yet cut back has turned into a behemoth, overwhelming the Ribes viburnifolium 'Catalina Perfume Currant' next to it.

The seedling hasn't bloomed yet but it looks healthy.

I planted a few of these Euphorbia in my backyard border as well back in May.  They haven't assumed the size of those on the slope but perhaps they just need more time in the ground - or maybe this plant actually prefers the abuse it received on the back slope.

Euphorbia planted in May next to Coreopsis 'Tahitian Sunset'

'Dean's Hybrid' grows up to 30 inches tall and 2 feet wide.  It's hardy in USDA zones 7a-10b.  It makes do with occasional water and needs full to partial sun.  Removing the stems when the flowering bracts become tawny will keep new foliage coming.  As with any Euphorbia, you need to be careful of the milky sap produced when a stem is cut as it causes skin irritation.

In addition to the ferny foliage, the plant produces bright, acid yellow blooms in spring and again in mid-summer.  The bracts gradually fade to a light yellow, eventually taking on a muted tan/orange shade.

'Dean's Hybrid" sporting its signature chartreuse bracts in May

Euphorbia 'Dean's Hybrid' is my contribution to the "favorite plant of the week" meme sponsored by Loree of danger garden.  You can see Loree's current favorite plant and find links to favorites posted by other gardeners here.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Good looking inside and out

I've been whining off and on for the last few weeks about the state of my garden.  Even my old garden, situated in an area with a strong marine influence, suffered during the mid-to-late summer months and the heat is 10 degrees higher on average at our current location.  Although we had a few weeks of cooler than normal summer temperatures this year, it still gets hot.  Many of the roses produced new blooms only to wither within a day.

Still, there's an area of my garden that's looking especially good right now, at least by comparison to the rest.  It's the area along our living room window, which looks out onto the backyard and, in the distance, the Los Angeles harbor.  That bed is long and skinny, about 3 feet wide and 23 feet long, which makes it difficult to photograph.

Here are photos taken from the backyard facing the bed, by segment, starting on the right side.

From the far right, the major plants here are Plectranthus ciliatus, Arthropodium cirratum, and Eupatorium sordidum with some ferns, Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-star' and Alyssum thrown in

The middle of the bed is dominated by a tall Calliandra haematocephala with Persicaria microcephala and Eupatorium sordidum on the right and Arthropodium cirratum on the left

The left side of the bed contains the 2nd Arthropodium cirratum, Liriope muscari, and Plectranthus zuluensis with Campanula and Alyssum thrown in

My side view photos may show it better.

I took a couple of photos from inside the house too but their clarity is somewhat obscured due to the fact that I haven't tackled window washing in a few months.

This bed relies heavily on foliage; however, several of the plants do flower.  The Plectranthus ciliatus (variety unknown) came here as a cutting.  It has grown very large in 2 years.  The leaves are textured and purplish burgundy underneath.  The plant produces delicate lavender flower sprays in the fall.

Plectranthus ciliatus

There are 2 Arthropodium cirratum in the bed, placed on opposite ends.  This plant, commonly known as Renga Lily, also blooms, although I grow it mainly for its foliage.

Arthropodium cirratum (aka Renga Lily)

Renga Lily in bloom in May

Next to the Renga Lily on the right side are 3 Eupatorium sordidum (formerly known as Ageratum corymbosa), which have knitted together.  This plant has velvety green leaves with purplish edges and veins.  It flowers heavily in spring but it's producing a lighter crop of ageratum-like flowers now.

Eupatorium sordidum in bloom in August

Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon', also grown from a cutting, sits behind the Eupatorium.

Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon'

The middle of the bed is dominated by a 4+ foot tall Calliandra haematocephala (aka Pink Powder Puff).  This is the only plant left of those originally in this bed.  It's an unusual choice in the middle of a span of windows but the prior owners positioned their TV in front of the space and we have followed suit as it's the most logical placement to ensure that the main seating is positioned to face the view.  If money weren't an issue, I'd love to have a TV that raised up out of a hidden cabinet but that's not going to happen so we rely on shrubbery to make the TV's placement more presentable from the exterior.

Calliandra haematocephala (aka Pink Powder Puff)

This Calliandra doesn't get enough sun to bloom but the reddish color of the new foliage provides sufficient interest.

On the left side of the Calliandra, there's another Renga Lily, 3 Liriope muscari, and a Plectranthus zuluensis.  This spring-flowering Plectranthus hasn't done as well here as it did in my old garden, where it grew to more than 3 feet tall and wide.  It may simply need more time to mature but I think the drip irrigation system in this area also needs work as the space has been the hardest to keep full.

All in all, it's a nice bed.  I add pansies and other seasonal bedding plants that can manage with only morning sun to fill in but the plants featured above carry the show.  And, it looks good both from the garden and from inside the house.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

My favorite plant this week: Brugmansia

My favorite plant in the garden this week isn't actually mine.  It belongs to my neighbor but its bright yellow blooms hang over our shared fence.

It's a Brugmansia (probably B. aurea), commonly known as Angel's Trumpet.  I wasn't really aware it was there until it bloomed and then it couldn't be ignored.  The plant is over 7 feet tall.  The blooms hang about 15 inches from their leaf joints and the trumpet-shaped flowers are about 8 inches long.  Despite the minor ownership issue, it's my contribution to the favorite plant meme sponsored by Loree of danger garden.

I had a peach colored Brugmansia many years ago in a large pot on a small side yard porch.  As I recall, I got rid of it when we screened in the side yard as an outdoor space for 2 trouble prone adolescent cats I'd adopted.  All parts of the Brugmansia are poisonous if swallowed and these cats were not to be trusted.

Max & Ming, the troublesome cats in question

After seeing my neighbor's plant in bloom, I'm thinking of getting a Brugmansia to put in a large container in what is currently a rather dull area of my garden, a partially shaded section bordering the street, which thus far has received limited attention.

This area still needs serious work

The Brugmansia is native to the tropical areas of South America.  Most are fragrant, especially in evening hours when they attract pollinating moths.  They can tolerate a range of sun conditions, from full sun to partial shade but they require regular water.  They're hardy in USDA zones 8-11 and Sunset zones 12,13, 16-24, and H1-2.

You can view Loree's favorite plant this week and link to other gardeners' favorites at Loree's danger garden blog.

Monday, August 19, 2013

South Coast Botanic Garden

This is my 100th post.  When I started this blog at the end of December 2012, I wasn't sure if I'd keep it up.  My husband was late getting home from work, it was raining, and I just started fiddling around with Google's blog application.  And here I am 100 posts later.

I'm more than a little fed up with my own garden at the moment.  While there are a few things that look really good, like the foliage plants I wrote about here, a good part of my garden is looking sad at this point, despite the relatively cool weather we've been experiencing this summer.  Therefore, I decided to take myself off to the nearest botanic garden, the South Coast Botanic Garden (SCBG), to collect material for this post.  My husband accompanied me, which is a good/bad thing as his patience for plants and photo-taking has its limits.  We had business to attend to in the morning so we also got a bit of a late start but, as it was socked in at our place, I figured that conditions would still be good for taking photos at the garden a few miles away.

Fog sitting over the LA harbor

Unfortunately, I was wrong on this count.  About a mile from home, the skies were clear and the sun was shining bright.  As a result, my photos of our excursion aren't particularly good.

When we arrived at the SCBG, I took the opportunity to buy a membership, something I've been planning to do for the past 2 years.  My husband was impressed to learn that membership earns us access to 29 other California gardens under the American Horticultural Society Reciprocal Admission Program.  Personally, I was impressed to find that I'll get preview access to the garden's annual plant sales and discounts at a few local nurseries.  The Fall Plant Sale is scheduled for September 14th so I don't even have to wait long to take advantage of my new benefits.

I've toured SCBG several times, dating back years.  It doesn't approach the caliber of the LA Arboretum, Descanso Gardens, or the Huntington Garden but it has aspirations.  Created on the site of a sanitary landfill in the 1960s, SCBG adopted a "Vision Plan" in June of this year with the intent of transforming it into a "world class garden."  A friend once suggested that the garden could bring in a lot more money if it installed a zip line on the premises but that doesn't appear to be part of the new master plan.  (Sorry MS!)  The plan has a 25-year timetable so we'll need to be patient about changes.  More immediately, I expect I can learn more about what will grow and thrive in my area by visiting there more regularly.

In August, I'm afraid that much of the garden looks as bedraggled as my own, despite the efforts of staff and 150+ volunteers; however, it does cover 87 acres so upkeep isn't a simple matter.  The garden is divided into several different areas, including areas specializing in cactus, fuchsias, edible plants, Mediterranean plants, roses, waterwise plants, and dahlias.  There's also a Japanese garden, a children's garden, a "Garden of the Senses," and a lake area.  Tech-friendly signs were available to guide the visitor.

We toured the Japanese Garden first:

Then the fuchsia collection:

We passed an area dedicated to the garden's volunteer staff:

I zipped into the small dahlia garden while my husband moved along on his own:

Dolichos lablab

Datura metel, I think

Most of the dahlia foliage was marked by mildew, which made me feel less awful about the condition of my own dahlias.  We've had a lot of foggy mornings this year so maybe there's hope that next year I'll be able to grow dahlias that look better than the ones I produced this year.

The vegetable garden had some healthy tomatoes and grapes that hadn't been consumed by birds like mine (despite the fact they weren't covered by nets), as well as some developing pumpkins.

This arbor was very short, maybe 4 feet tall at best

These pumpkins and tomatoes were planted in the middle of hay bales

We passed through the Garden for the Senses, which consisted mainly of dead herbs.  The lavender, although considerably past its peak, was still nice.

We briefly toured the rose garden, which I understand is a hot spot for weddings.

The roses sit within a bowl-shaped area

There's a fountain in the middle

My favorite rose was this one, 'Walking on Sunshine', a 2011 AARS award winner

From the rose garden, we headed to the "lake," which is now more of a marsh.  Apparently, a crack appeared in the lining of this man-made creation following an earthquake in 1971 and the problems created there were further complicated by mud flows following various El Nino rain events.  As a result, the lake is filled with mud and the water is only a few inches deep.  Tules and papyrus have taken over the margins but ducks and other birds, as well as insects and crawdads, still inhabit the area.

This duck swam toward us, probably looking for something to eat, but there are signs all over telling visitors not to feed the wildlife

This dragonfly just wanted me to leave him alone

An example of the foliage clogging the boundaries of the lake/pond/marsh

What's left of an old lake pier

On the way back toward the entrance, we passed through the cactus and succulent garden.

2 flowering agave backed by a yucca identical to the one that sits at the bottom of our own slope

Crassula falcata

Aeonium arboreum

I snapped a few pictures of the Children's Garden on the way out:

Overall, my favorite plants at the SCBG were the trees and tree-like shrubs, even though few were flowering at this time of year:

Mildew-free Crape Myrtles (Lagerstroemia)

Cassia bicapsularis, blooming well ahead of my own

Lycianthes ratonnetii, grown as a tree

Ornamental plum

And there were lots and lots of mimosa trees, reinforcing my belief that, left to their own devices, they'd take over this section of the planet.

Albizia julibrissin, already producing an ample supply of seedpods