Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Beginning of Winter in Southern California

For me, the winter season starts with Thanksgiving.  This is probably because year-end holiday preparations crank up in earnest at this time.  It certainly has little to do with the weather here in southern California or the seasonal demarcations on the calendar.  Although the days are shorter and the nights are colder, we don't get the freezes that signify the onset of winter elsewhere and our days are still relatively warm.  It was in the mid-70s today, perfect for running pre-Thanksgiving errands and doing a little gardening.

November also usually brings the start of our short rainy season.  While we got some drizzle in October, those events barely registered on the rain meter.  We got our first "real" rain last week, three quarters of an inch according to my rain meter.  That was enough to justify turning off the automatic irrigation system, at least temporarily.  It filled my rain barrel too.

Rain flowing down the rain chain outside the dining room window

I caught an unexpected rainbow over the LA harbor at the end of last week's rain

Another rain event was predicted for Thanksgiving but, unfortunately, that forecast has been rescinded.   I fear we may be in for another dry year.

To put myself in a winter mood in spite of warm dry afternoon, I constructed 2 winter-themed pots to stand immediately outside the front door.   I can't say that the idea was original - I copied winter scenes created in containers by the staff at Roger's Garden.  I even picked up my "trees" there on my brief visit last weekend.

Here's Roger's creation:

And here are mine:

Pot #1, planted with 'Goodwin Creek' lavender, white cyclamen, Cuphea 'Itsy White', Alyssum 'Snow Crystals', and Senecio cineraria 'Silverdust' (Dusty Miller)

Pot #2 with the same plants

I even gussied up my gargoyle for the winter season with a collection of Magnolia leaves and seedpods gathered from the front lawn:

The gargoyle will get a red satin ribbon around his neck when Christmas gets close and a gnome (or 2) may appear with the pine boughs but, for now, this is it for my winter decorations, unless you count the Christmas cactus I found in full flower in a neglected area of my garden today - it's now on the side patio where it can be properly admired.

Schlumbergera x buckleyi (aka Christmas Cactus)

Best wishes to all for a happy Thanksgiving!  I hope you enjoy the start of the winter season, no matter how winter is served up in your area.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Succulents Galore!

A friend and I made a trip to OC Succulents in Irvine, California this weekend.  We'd been there once before, about a year ago.  It's a schlep but worth the effort as the variety and price of the succulents in stock can't be matched elsewhere in our area.  They're also very good about labeling their stock, which can't be said for most nurseries that sell succulents, at least in my experience.

The following pictures provide a sense of what you see when you step out of your car.

There are planted pots.

Sadly, these weren't exactly bargain priced

And empty pots.

A wide assortment of varieties in 6 and 8 inch pots sit under a net canopy.

Example of their helpful signs (Note: the 6 inch pots were $6.40, not $640)

Even the prices on some of the larger plants were reasonable.

These Agave 'Quadricolor' were $28

And the Yucca gloriosa were $24

Inside the store to the back, constructed of what appear to be old Quonset huts, there were smaller (mostly unlabeled) succulents, houseplants, decorative pots and baskets.

Although my friend was the primary instigator behind this particular trip, I did have one planned purchase in mind.  I sought - and found - 3 reasonably priced Agave attenuata for my slope.

Agave attenuata, also know as Fox Tail Agave, has soft leaves - I didn't want anything with sharp spikes on the slope where falls are possible

What I didn't plan on were these purchases.

From the top, Graptoveria 'Fred Ives,' 2 Echeveria 'Ruffles', and 2 Aloe aristata on either side of an unlabeled 4-inch plant
I fell hard for this unlabeled succulent, some form of Crassula I think (maybe C dubia), for $2.90!

I also picked up the makings of one Christmas present but I'm not going to spoil the surprise for the intended recipient and show that here.

As I was checking out, the salesperson asked me if I was buying on behalf of a company.  Apparently, they discount wholesale purchases.  Given my current rate of spending, maybe I need a wholesale license...

All in all, it was a productive trip.  We even snuck in a brief stop at Roger's Gardens on our way home.  I really do need to stop shopping for anything other than holiday gifts, however...

Friday, November 22, 2013

Botanical Doppelgängers

I've heard it said that everyone has a doppelgänger, a virtual double who may be mistaken for the original.  In fact, a couple of weeks ago, as I was flying through the supermarket, a guy I didn't recognize called to me.  I thought he'd addressed me by name so I stopped.  When I greeted him with a hello and a confused look, he introduced himself as Bob Someone, my former neighbor in San Pedro.  But I've never lived in San Pedro.  I subsequently learned that he'd called me "Pris," not Kris - the name similarity had contributed to my confusion, if not to his.  In any case, he claimed that I have a near double somewhere here in the South Bay.

The existence of botanical doppelgängers was raised by readers of my recent blog post on Erysimum linifolium 'Variegatum.'  I posted a picture of this:

Erysimum linifolium 'Variegatum' in my back garden

And a few people commented that they initially mistook it as variegated Euphorbia like this:

Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow' in a pot on my back patio

The foliage form and coloration is similar.  Clearly, these are the elements that drew me to both plants.

I started to wonder if I had other doppelgängers in my garden.  Discounting plants in the same genus, the only other pair that came remotely close were Arthropodium cirratum and Beschorneria yuccoides.  The former is also known as Renga Lily while the latter is commonly known as Mexican Lily.  My Beschorneria is still a relatively young plant but the similarities are more apparent when the Arthropodium is compared to a more mature Beschorneria.

Mature Arthropodium cirratum in the border on the southeast side border

Relatively new Beschorneria yuccoides in the dry garden

Wikipedia's image of mature Beschorneria yuccoides

Do you have any doppelgängers lurking in your garden?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Favorite plant of the week: Erysimum linifolium 'Variegatum'

I'm once again joining Loree of danger garden in sharing my favorite plant of the week.  This one isn't remotely exotic or unusual.  However, it is a good, reliable performer in my garden.  It's Erysimum linifolium 'Variegatum,' a variegated form of the common wallflower.  I value it because it's resilient and attractive in and out of flower.  At present, it's not flowering but the leaves shine bright, even on the gray mornings that have greeted us for the last few days.

I have 4 of these plants circling the square fountain in our backyard.  All but one are doing well there with just a little judicious pruning following bloom cycles.  The fourth stands between our raccoon visitors and their preferred path to the fountain, where they regularly snatch sea shells from the top tier.  I recently added repellent around the base of the plant in an effort (probably hopeless) to keep the raccoons at bay.

Erysimum linifolium 'Variegatum' planted at the base of the fountain

Erysimum on the other side of the fountain bordered by scraggly Cuphea hyssopifolia

This Erysimum has faced frequent raccoon stompings

There are 3 more Erysimum in the back border.  They're not quite as full as those surrounding the fountain right now but they also get somewhat less water and attention.

None are flowering at the moment but they do produce small lavender/mauve flowers, as shown in the picture below taken last winter.

Erysimum liniformium 'Variegatum' photographed in flower in early February

Erysimum grows in full sun or light shade.  This variety is hardy in USDA zones 3a-9b (Sunset zones 4-6 and 14-24) and grows to 2 feet tall and 2-3 feet wide with moderate water.

To see Loree's favorite of the week and connect to other gardeners' favorites, click here to visit danger garden.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Fragile Fall Bouquet

Senna (Cassia) bicapularis 'Worley's Butter Cream' is still putting on a flower show in my garden. When I wrote about the plant at the end of October, most of the flowers were still buds but now they're open and the plant shines like a beacon along the fence.   I figured that I could snip some for a bouquet without making a dent in the display.

I did my usual walk-about through the garden to find proper accompaniments for the soft yellow blooms.  This is what I came up with:

Back view

And this is what I included:

  • Senna bicapsularis, 2 stems (3 was overkill)
  • Argyranthemum frutescens 'White Comet'
  • Leucanthemum x superbum
  • Nandina foliage
  • Pennistetum setaceum 'Rubrum' plumes
  • Rosa 'Buttercream'
  • Russelia equisetiformis 'Yellow'

I referred to this bouquet as fragile because of the mess that resulted during its creation.  The Senna flowers fall apart easily and left tiny petals all over the kitchen counter and floor.  However, once complete, it seems to be holding up fine.  In fact, I think it looks better 2 days after it was created.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Tongva Park

My husband and I recently visited a new park in Santa Monica, California, a place we called home for several years while making our respective sojourns through graduate school.  I still have fond recollections of living in "The People's Republic of Santa Monica," although, as gentrification of the area has proceeded full-speed in the years since we left, it doesn't have quite the same quirky sensibility it once had.

This visit was prompted by articles announcing the opening of Tongva Park, named after the native American population that once occupied the area, and designed by James Corner, who was also responsible for the famous High Line development in New York City.  The park was formally dedicated in mid-October.  Built at a cost of $42.3 million on a 6-acre plot of land formerly occupied by the Rand Corporation, the park sits across the street from Santa Monica's City Hall on Main Street and stretches to Ocean Avenue.

Santa Monica City Hall photographed from across the street at the entrance to Tongva Park

It was fairly quiet the morning we visited.  We were able to find metered parking along Main Street.  We were met by this sign.

Park rules

The sign, with its list of prohibited activities, has received criticism but I have to say the park was remarkably well cared for.  Paths, as well as picnic areas, were completely clear of debris.  We saw 3 or 4 gardeners at work and a woman in park ranger gear on patrol.

A fountain greeted us at the Main Street entrance.

There were some warning signs there too.

We headed off to the right, past another sign, through an area called Garden Hill.

Wide paths cut through the space, which is heavily planted with climate-appropriate grasses, succulents, trees and other plants.

The off-white tubes you see in the pictures above are part of an LED lighting system.

There were small touches of color but various hues of green foliage dominate the landscape.

Coral tree blooms

Blooming aloes

Alstroemeria, in pink and peach tones, could be found in spots throughout the park

Oxalis in different colors was also found throughout the park

As were rain lilies (Zephranthes, I think)

Wending our way in the direction of Gathering Hill, we found good-sized Plumeria trees still in bloom and lots of Canna.

Gathering Hill has a picnic area with a view of a huge Moreton Bay fig tree (Ficus macrophylla), locally referred to as "Morty," and 3 other large rusty figs (Ficus Rubiginosa) referred to as the "Three Amigos."  Morty had been part of the old Rand Corporation campus but the other 3 fig trees were moved 550 feet from the intersection of Main Street and Olympic to join Morty in the picnic area (as described here).

Benches and tables are made of non-tropical hardwoods

Morty, the Moreton Bay fig tree, is reportedly over a century old

Morty has very big feet

We ate lunches we'd brought with us in the picnic area, then proceeded along the north side of the park toward the area called Observation Hill.

Ocean Avenue entrance to the park

Plants at the base of Observation Hill

There's another fountain, larger than the one I showed earlier, on this end of the park.

The Ferris wheel on Santa Monica pier can be seen in the distance in the upper portion of this picture of the west-end fountain

Both fountains are lined with large rocks

There are 2 view points at the top of Observation Hill.

Stairs beyond the fountain area lead up to Observation Hill

Stairway leading down from the top of Observation Hill

Clematis vines are being trained to grow up the wall enclosing the restrooms.

The restroom area is located roughly in the middle of the park near a large expanse of lawn containing a massive sculptural piece.

The restroom is on the left and the sculpture is on the right

The restrooms are lit by skylights installed at the top of Observation Hill

Ampitheater-style seating on the left faces the open lawn area


Beyond the lawn area and the sculpture is Discovery Hill, designed as a play area for kids.


Asters were blooming all around the play area.

There were a large number of Arbutus 'Marina' and other trees in the area.

A construction project is underway on the south side of the park.  It looks suspiciously like a large condo complex will soon occupy the space on this end of the park.  With views of the ocean, pier and the new park, as well as an upscale mall close by, I expect that's going to be very expensive housing, even by southern California standards.

All in all, Tongva is a great park.  Should you find yourself in the area, I suggest a visit.  You can find additional information here.