Saturday, January 11, 2014

Misgivings

I have a tendency to fall in love with plants, bringing my infatuations home with what is, at best, a fuzzy notion as to where I might put them.  However, during the fall planting season, when I was focused on the design of the side garden and the redesign of portions of the backyard border, I spent considerable effort in selecting plants that I thought would be culturally suited to the areas in question and would also coordinate well with one another. Nonetheless, plant availability factored heavily into the final selection process as leaving empty spaces in a bed for any extended period goes against my nature.  So, for example, when I planning the area surrounding the side yard patio, I specified "orange flowered annual" and gave myself license to pick from the options available in that category at that time.  I selected Ursinia anthemoides 'Solar Fire,' grown by Annie's Annuals, to fill that role.  I liked the bright green ferny foliage and the flowers I'd seen in a demonstration bed at Roger's Gardens.  Annie's site claimed that, in zone 10, no matter what time of year they were planted, these would bloom "shortly thereafter."  After more than 3 months, the first buds are finally opening but, in the meantime, the foliage has gone from lacy to scruffy.  In addition, the first flowers are much smaller than the 2.5 inches they were advertised to be.

The lower portions of the Ursinia have turned a tawny brown

This flower is about the size of a nickel
     


The fault may be entirely mine.  I probably didn't provide enough fertilizer.  The water provided by my irrigation system may have been insufficient.  And maybe Ursinia doesn't like our dry Santa Ana winds.  In any case, despite the fact that the plants are finally covered in unopened buds, I'm sorely tempted to yank them out right now and replace them with either Iceland poppies, which are already flowering in the surrounding area, or more dwarf Anigozanthos (Kangaroo Paws), provided I can find them.


I'm very impressed with this dwarf Anigozanthos hybrid so far



I'll probably hold off another couple of weeks to see if Ursinia blankets its scruffy foliage in orange/gold blooms  - unless I come across more of the dwarf Kangaroo Paws first.

In the good news category, I like the mix of Stipa tenuissima (Mexican feather grass), Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey' and Crassula lycopodioides to the right of the Ursinia.





I also like the nearby combination of Agonis flexuosa 'Nana,' Stipa tenuissima, Iceland poppies, and Alternanthera tenella 'Crinkle Red.'





Unfortunately, I'm also having misgivings about some changes I made to the backyard border.  I admit to being uninspired when it came to replanting the mid-section of that border after tearing out a mass of lavender hiding my Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata' in October.  I ultimately installed 3 Nicotiana alata 'Lime Green' in front of that plant to echo its lime color and added 5 Digitalis x mertonensis in front of those but, from the start, I was concerned that the area looked too flat.  All 8 of those plants hugged the ground.  The Nicotiana is supposed to reach 3 feet and the Digitalis 2 feet so I assumed that time would remedy things.   I may be too impatient but, 10 weeks later, the area still looks flat.  While I'm confident that the Digitalis will be fine, I'm concerned with that the Nicotiana foliage remains utterly prostrate despite the fact that it's already displaying a few short stubby blooms. 


Nicotiana alata 'Lime Green'



It doesn't help that the nearby Alchillea 'Moonshine' and the Itoh peony have yet to put new growth or that I chose the wrong spot to group some bearded Iris tubers I had on hand.  Rather than waiting to see if the Nicotiana gains stature in the next few months, I'm thinking of replacing it with a mass of Lomandra longifolia (recently featured here as one of my current favorite plants).  Any other ideas would be welcome.

The changes I made to the left side of the backyard border turned out somewhat better.  Although the plants still need to fill out a bit, I think the Tulbaghia violacea (Society Garlic) nicely complements the Erysimum linifolium 'Variegatum' and the Osteospermum ecklonis '3D Silver.'





And then there's the bed that I planted last February, after our eucalyptus tree was removed.  I picked Dryms lanceolata to serve as the focal point of the bed.  While I like the plant, I'm not sure it's focal point material.

The Dryms lanceolata (aka Mountain Pepper), said to grow 10-15 feet tall, is currently dwarfed by the nearby Coprosma

and the Mountain Pepper is virtually lost in this larger photo



Ever since I saw the beautiful Japanese maple in one of my neighbor's gardens, I've been thinking of acquiring another one.  It occurs to me that a Japanese maple might be nice to replace the Mountain Pepper if the nearby Arbutus 'Marina' provides enough shade to prevent summer scorch.

Maple with colorful fall foliage in a neighboring front yard, photographed in December



Are you more patient than I am?  How long do you give a plants to fulfill their promise?

14 comments:

  1. I try to give most plants about three years, especially if I started with them as seedlings. But if they are obviously dwindling or not thriving, I do my best to figure out where they might be happier. That said, I am always tweaking as well. I wonder if you should have planted a taller Nicotiana like N. sylvestris. It also strikes me that Nicotiana foliage and Digitalis foliage are very similar. Just a few thoughts. Take it all with a grain of salt.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's good input, Alison. In the case of my more expensive experiments (e.g. a tree peony) in the past I used the same 3-year rule myself. However, I seem to be more impatient with this garden - I waited so long for real space to garden in and now that I have it, I want it to be everything I imagined a garden could be right now. Not very realistic or reasonable, is it? Your point about the Nicotiana and the Digitalis is right on target.

      Delete
  2. I'm very impatient as well. For what it's worth, one of the nicotianas I bought from Annie's started blooming on a short stalk, then the stalk continued to grow as more blooms came on, and it ended up being quite tall. I know she gives her annuals a lot of water, compost, and fish emulsion.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Patience is indeed the core of the problem, Heather. I'll try feeding the Nicotiana and see what happens. The Mountain Pepper might need to find a new home, however, if I find a Japanese maple at a price that doesn't make me choke.

      Delete
  3. Gardeners tend to have themselves as their own worst critic aren't they? Patience wise, sometimes we are, sometimes we're not, depends on the plant and mood.

    Hope you get those orange/gold blooms :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought patience was something a person was supposed to gain with age - in my case, it seems to be the opposite!

      Delete
  4. Hi Kris, thanks for visiting and commenting on my blog.
    I see gardening as a long term project and I think I am perhaps more patient than you are. I often buy plants very small (and cheap) and watch them grow over years and I grow many of my plants myself from seeds and cuttings and for that you need to be really patient!

    Over here in London, a garden has many different stages and seasons, maybe more than where you live, and I am used to seeing my garden change from completely filled to the rafters with plants and almost enclosed in the summer, to wide open and with many empty spaces in the winter. I like all those different stages of the year and would not worry because it looks ‘flat’ for a few months while the plants put on growth and get tall – it’s all part of the process.

    I had a look at a few of your past posts, you have a lovely garden and I envy your climate!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think part of the issue is our climate, Helene. We can literally garden full-bore all year round and there's an accompanying tendency to expect the garden to look great all year, which factors into the impatience I feel. While it may sound like anathema to those gardening under harsh winter conditions, I actually envy those gardeners their enforced downtime - and the fact that snow can hide a lot of garden woes, even if only temporarily.

      Delete
  5. Att ha tålamod är inte lätt! man vill ha stora växter snabbt.
    Är dina bilder tagna nu?
    Det ser så fint ut!
    Hälsningar
    Mariana

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, part of the impatience is wanting big plants and part of it is wondering if I've invested in the wrong plants and need to correct the error.

      With the exception of the picture of the neighbor's maple tree, all the other pictures shown were taken the day before the post was published, Mariana. Southern California is a very different world!

      Delete
  6. Oh, our best laid plans! I tend to be very patient, but if I decide I am wrong, I have no problem immediately changing something. I was too poor to plant mature Japanese maples, and I waited over twenty years for them to grow from seedlings to the magnificent specimens they are today. BUT, Japanese maples are beautiful even when they are small. Be careful. They can be addictive if you have the space!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, the prices of Japanese maples often cause my eyes to roll back in my head. One nearby nursery offered some at a good value on the dollar last year so I'm hoping to find something I like there in the spring. They tend to get burned easily here so the exposure I have in mind is a concern, especially as the Santa Ana winds also rip through there. We'll see...

      Delete
  7. Let me think.....eh, no! I'm not patient with plants either and I do wonder if that is why I'm forever moving things around.
    Over here a shrub often recommended for planting when conditions for Japanese maples isn't right is Sambucus nigra Black lace. It's a bit faster growing that the maple and can be kept in size with pruning and if you don't like the flowers pruning at the wrong time takes care of those!
    Expecting something from your garden 365 is something I don't envy you Kris. Digitalis x mertonensis is a beautiful plant and needs 'showing off', good luck with whatever you choose as it's partner.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That Sambucus is beautiful, Angie. I tried it in my last garden even though I knew it wasn't well-suited to our zone but, sadly, it perished.

      Delete

I enjoy receiving your comments and suggestions. However, with apologies to bona-fide commentators, due to a significant increase in spam, I've eliminated the option to post comments anonymously.