Friday, August 29, 2014

My favorite plant this week: Pentas lanceolata 'Kaleidoscope Appleblossom'

When the garden as a whole is not looking its best, the plants that sail through the pressures that beat most down really shine.  At present, one such plant is Pentas lanceolata 'Kaleidoscope Appleblossom.'   This plant is more resilient than any of the other Pentas I've grown.  Pentas lanceolata is classified as a semi-tropical shrub but it's usually grown as an annual.  I planted this one in June 2013 and it's still going strong.

My plant is almost 2 feet (60 cm) tall and wide, which is on the upper end of the spectrum quoted for this variety.  Mine receives partial shade but the species can handle full sun.  However, it can't handle freezing temperatures and is best suited to USDA zones 10a-11.  Although it can tolerate dry conditions, as my plant has, the stress may make it prone to infestations of spider mites.

The flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds.  I dead-head it regularly to keep the flowers coming.  It produces blooms almost year-round.

The flowers also do very well in a vase.

Vase containing Penta lanceolata, photographed in late October 2013

Pentas lanceolata 'Kaleidoscope Appleblossom' is my pick as my favorite plant this week.  Please visit Loree at danger garden to view her choice as this week's favorite plant.

All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Thursday, August 28, 2014

When things come together just right

By mid-summer, most gardeners I know - at least those who garden in hot, dry climates like mine - become discouraged.  I'm no exception.  Most of my grass is dead.  Numerous plants have dropped dead, some seemingly overnight.  An army of disgusting worms attacked my Bush Lupine and ate half the plant before I sent them packing.  The raccoons returned and, in addition to stealing the filter out of our fountain and running off with it, they declared an end to our detente and tore apart the beds in the side yard looking for grubs.  And it's still too warm to begin fall planting - even if that didn't prevent me from indulging in the purchase of a dozen Rudbeckia last week - so I have itchy fingers

I deal with the situation by putting on blinders to avoid seeing the garden as a whole, while focusing on practical problems: modifications to the irrigation system, mulching, hand-watering, pruning, and researching drought-tolerant plants and new ways to thwart raccoons.  However, while planting 3 of the Rudbeckia I couldn't stop myself from buying, I realized just how good at least one of my beds looks right now.

Wide view of the bed

Side view of the same space

This bed seldom shows up in my photos.   On the southwest side of the house, it's partially hidden behind our Magnolia tree.  I've added and subtracted plants from this bed at intervals in the 3 years I've tended this garden.  While some of these are still immature, the bed nonetheless finally feels as though it's coming together.  I love the mix of mid-tone and chartreuse greens, accented by yellow, orange and red touches.  The yellow color is provided by Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' and Coprosma 'Evening Glow' as well as the flowers of Rudbeckia 'Prairie Sun' and Gaillardia 'Mesa Peach.'  Orange and red tones are provided at various times of the year by the berries on the Nandina, 2 varieties of Hemerocallis, and Gaillardia 'Goblin,' which self-seeds freely.

The Calliandra, Coleonema, Nandina and Agapanthus in the background came with the house but I've added most of the rest of the plants.

The Grevillea 'Superb' planted last November is developing lots of new buds

Gaillardia 'Goblin' is flowering less profusely than last year but still provides a lot of color

The new Rudbeckia 'Prairie Sun' mixes well with Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' and Coprosma 'Evening Glow'

Coprosma 'Evening Glow' is a relatively slow grower

One of 5 Lomandra longifolia 'Breeze' in this bed, this plant adds an airy quality

Duranta erecta 'Gold Mound' if the label that came with it can be believed

Salvia 'Mesa Azure'

And a closer look at the Rudbeckia that pulled everything together

Now, my only wish is that the lawn surrounding the bed wasn't so hideous.  I think the answer is to pull the front lawn out.  Plans are underway...

All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Almost Wordless Wednesday - My New Butterfly Magnet

Old butterfly magnet:

My new butterfly magnet - the flowers of Senecio fulgens:

Western Tiger Anise Swallowtail (thanks for the correction, Jane!)

Gulf Fritillary

All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, August 25, 2014

In a Vase on Monday: Recent Acquisitions

I've whined about the shortage of flowers in my garden quite a bit of late.  Last week, thinking ahead about what I could use to create a vase for the Monday meme sponsored by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, I was at a loss.   Although some plants in my garden have begun a second bloom cycle, there was nothing that I hadn't used more than once already this summer.  Then I visited my local garden center, looking for Sedum, and came home with a dozen 4-inch pots of Rudbeckia.  On a second tour of another nursery with a friend, I picked up 3 more Rudbeckia.  So, this week's vase features - you guessed it - Rudbeckia.

This particular Rudbeckia was labeled R. 'Zahara' but I believe it's actually Rudbeckia hirta 'Sahara.'  The 3 plants I brought home went into a pot, filling in a hole in the border around our fountain.  The semi-double flowers range in color from pink to burgundy to caramel.

Here's what went into the vase:

  • 1 stem of Pennisetum glaucum 'Purple Majesty' (reused from last week's vase)
  • 5 stems of Rudbeckia hirta 'Sahara' in a range of colors
  • 2 stems of Solenostemon scuttellarioides 'Fire Fingers Coleus'
  • 2 stems of Solenostemon scuttellarioides 'Honey Crisp Coleus' (reused from last week's vase)
  • 3 sprigs of Thymus serpyllum

The beautiful Rudbeckias, photographed from above

Close-up of Coleus 'Fire Fingers'

Photo of the back of the vase, highlighting the leftover Coleus 'Honey Crisp'

Close-up of thyme

The colors in this vase, which echo those I used last week, have an autumn feel.  I know many gardeners are still holding onto summer, so here's a second vase with a more summer-like disposition, although it also features one of my new Rudbeckias, R. hirta 'Prairie Sun':

Broken stem of R. 'Prairie Sun' in a bud vase with Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' and more leftover Coleus 'Honey Crisp'

Close-up of R. 'Prairie Sun'

And here are the vases in their final positions:

Back in the foyer yet again

Adding sunshine to the living room

What have you brought inside to brighten your household space?  Please visit Cathy, the sponsor of the "In a Vase on Monday" meme to see what she's created.  You'll also find links to other gardeners' creations.

All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, August 22, 2014

My favorite plant of the week: Senecio fulgens

Now that, thanks to Denise at A Growing Obsession, I have a name to attach to the robust succulent planted in a birdbath-style container in my dry garden, I can give it the acclaim it deserves as one of my favorite plants.  It's hard to name a plant as your favorite if you don't even know its genus.

I picked up the unlabeled Senecio fulgens a few months ago because I was attracted to its foliage.    Its leaves and stems are a chalky blue-green color.  Some on-line sources reference a purple flush on the undersides of the spoon-shaped leaves but I've seen no signs of this on my plant.

When I bought the plant, there were no flowers or flower buds.  Flower color wasn't a factor in my purchase decision.  But, when the plant began blooming a few weeks ago, the red-orange color of the flowers was impossible to miss.  New blooms seem to appear daily and there are lots of buds still forming.

Although I had no idea what color flowers it might produce when I planted it, it turned out that the floral color of the Senecio neatly echoes the color of other succulents in the container, most notably Kalanchoe daigremontiana 'Pink Butterflies' and the red edge of Agave 'Blue Glow.'  It also picks up on the foliage color of Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey' in the background.

My plant, which  I purchased in a 4-inch pot, has grown to approximately 12 inches (30 cm) in height.  According to on-line sources, it should get no taller than 18-24 inches (46-61 cm), although specimens as tall as 3 feet (91 cm) have been observed.  Regular trimming is suggested to keep it from becoming leggy.

While it prefers full sun, it can take a little shade.  It needs good drainage and it can't tolerate frost.  Hailing from the eastern areas of South Africa, it's suited to USDA zones 10-12.

Senecio fulgens is my favorite plant of the week.  Please visit Loree at danger garden, our host for the weekly favorite plant post, to see her pick this week and to find links to other gardeners' selections.

All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

If your bathtub is the ocean...

Then you need a really big rubber duck.  The world's largest rubber duck sailed into the Port of Los Angeles this morning.  Created by a Dutch artist, he's the mascot and one of the main attractions of the Tall Ships Festival that kicked off this afternoon in San Pedro.  Although I was watching out for him this morning, I missed his early arrival and he was kept in hiding until noon, when I saw him heading out toward the Angel's Gate lighthouse to meet the incoming tall ships and lead their parade into the harbor.  I have no idea how you hide a bright yellow rubber duck 6 stories tall, 110 feet long, and 85 feet wide but festival organizers managed to keep him out of the view of my binoculars, as well as out of sight of harbor visitors.

The duck appeared, heading toward Angel's Gate, just before noon (PDT)

The duck turns to lead the tall ships assembled just outside the harbor's gate

We counted 6 tall ships in the harbor this afternoon - a total of 12 are scheduled to participate in the festival

Two of the tall ships are shown here moving through the canal beyond the duck

The most visible of the tall ships had red sails, visible just behind the duck in this photo

The pictures shown above were taken from our backyard, about 2 miles from the harbor, using my point and click camera.  The duck and the ships were easier to view using binoculars then through my camera's view-finder but, without the bright yellow duck to orient me, I'm not sure if I could have pinpointed the tall ships as they progressed through the harbor.

The Tall Ships Festival in Los Angeles continues through Sunday.

All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, August 18, 2014

In a Vase on Monday: Floral Accents

There REALLY isn't a lot of floral color in my garden right now.  Yes, there are a few - mostly short - flowers here and there but, with the exception of the Coreopsis 'Redshift,' there's nothing much available in sufficient quantity to make an impact in a vase.  Most of the flowers also don't coordinate well with one another.  I considered constructing a vase solely with foliage material but, after cutting a mass of colorful coleus 'Honey Crisp,' I was able to find a few flowers that provided a nice floral accent to the variegated foliage of the coleus (Solenstemon scuttellarioides).

Close-up of Coleus 'Honey Crisp' showing the peach, yellow and green upper surface and its pink and purple undersides

The first floral accent I hit on was Gaillardia grandiflora 'Goblin,' which is very short.  The taller look-alike Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun' hasn't reappeared this year, which is unfortunate.  After a couple rounds of our property, I also picked up:

  • Gaillardia 'Mesa Peach' (2 stems) - short and barely visible in the photo at the top of the post 
  • Helianthus annuus 'Lemon Queen' (1 stem) - planted late from seed in the vegetable garden, this appears to be the only 'Lemon Queen' to show her pretty face
  • Pennisetum glaucum 'Purple Majesty' (1 stem)
  • Tanacetum parthenium 'Aureum' (2 stems) 
  • Zinnia (2 stems) - planted from seed, I have no record of the small flowered variety that has survived our water limitations

Close-up of Helianthus 'Lemon Queen' and Pennisetum 'Purple Majesty'

Close-up of the 2 small Zinnia flowers, surrounded by Gallardia 'Goblin' in flower and in bud

Once again, the bouquet landed in the front foyer to greet everyone who comes through the door.

Please check in with Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see her floral creation and to find links to photos of bouquets created by other participating gardeners.

All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Foliage Follow-up - The Importance of Good Grooming

"The Importance of Good Grooming" sounds like an article for girls in some kind of high-handed teen publication dating back to the 1930s, doesn't it?  However, the phrase came to mind this week as I was staring at my rather sloppy looking Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima).

Three of my "ungroomed" grasses - some are much worse than these but I don't have photos on hand

I have a LOT of Mexican feather grass in my garden - 34 plants by an off the top of my head count.  I'm sorry that I learned only belatedly that it can be invasive in my climate.  It's a very drought tolerant and spreads easily even in unirrigated areas.  Tufts of grass seedlings have popped up in my garden beds, as well as odder places, like between driveway paving stones.  Keeping in under control requires timely removal of the zillions of seeds the plants produce.  Cutting the grass back eliminates the seedheads but, in my opinion, negatively impacts the graceful appearance of the plant.  Combing the grass by running one's fingers through its strands is one recommended method to clean out the seeds and dead material but I found that this is also hard on my hands, even when I have the foresight to put on gloves before I get started.

So I tried tools originally purchased to groom my cats.  Of these, the flea comb worked best but I think it was rough on the grass.  In the end, I found that a wide-toothed hair comb works well to remove seeds without having them attach themselves to gloves and clothes.

Hands still work best for pulling out dead material from the middle of the plants but tugging the dead blades from the base in small segments was more efficient than simply running fingers through the plant material - and less hard on my hands.

The freshly groomed plants look a lot better.  I'm so pleased with them I thought I'd make them this month's focus for the foliage follow-up post sponsored by Pam at Digging.

Freshly groomed Stipa tenuissima

Only 31 more plants to go.

Why, of why, didn't I plant more Lomandra 'Breeze' instead of all that Mexican feather grass?  No grooming needed there.

Lomandra longifolia 'Breeze'

Please visit Pam at Digging to see her foliage follow-up and to find links to other foliage highlights.

All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, August 15, 2014

Bloom Day - August 2014

Unlike some areas of the world where mid-summer brings a bounty of flowers, summer here in Southern California is a slower, more somber period in the garden.  Although temperatures have been relatively moderate since the early blast of heat we received in May, seldom exceeding 90F (32C), limiting the water we give our gardens in response to our current state of drought has the consequence of limiting the blooms we find there.

The summer stalwarts can still be found in flower although the number and vigor of the blooms is diminished.

The Angelonia planted in an area providing afternoon shade are doing better than those in full sun

Bougainvillea loves the heat (although this particular vine has remained mid-sized, which is a good thing as my husband hates Bougainvillea)

Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold' is still blooming and Gaura linheimeri has come back after a severe haircut

Duranta erecta, in a pot, produces a steady smattering of violet-blue flowers

Gaillaridia x grandiflora 'Goblin' has produced fewer flowers this year

Many of the re-blooming Hemerocallis, including 'Persian Market,' have made strong come-backs

This lavender is happy in the vegetable garden, although little else is

Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' is coming into its glory

Tanacetum parthenium has slowed down but hasn't entirely stopped blooming

Only a few plants are blooming en masse:

The Bauhinia x blakeana (Hong Kong orchid tree) has more flowers than leaves at the moment

Coreopsis 'Redshift' is at the peak of bloom

The thyme in the side yard is keeping the bees busy

However, other plants are putting on a rather disappointing show:

Tibouchina urvilleana has produced only a few flowers and most of its foliage is burned

The Zinnias needed more water than they got and thus failed to flourish 

But there have been some pleasant surprises too:

This Aster x frikartii 'Monch' is small but it's holding its own despite being moved mid-year

My 'Sweet Autumn' Clematis has bloomed despite a horrible battle with aphids and a severe pruning earlier this summer

This Cymbidium is blooming again despite receiving almost no attention 

And this Phalaenopsis, also left largely to its own devices, continues to pump out blooms

Russelia equisetiformis is finally beginning to establish a presence in the backyard border

The hard-to-photograph Salvia discolor seems happy in the extended fountain bed

It probably doesn't come as a surprise that some of the best-looking specimens are succulents:

Adenium obesum, featured yesterday as my favorite plant of the week

Echeveria pulvinata 'Ruby' has produced flowers almost as pretty as her foliage

And this unidentified succulent, identified by Denise as Senecio fulgens (thanks Denise!), continues to produce one bright orange flower after another

That's it for my August Bloom Day wrap-up.  Please visit Carol, the creator and host of the monthly event that is the Gardener Bloggers' Bloom Day at May Dreams Gardens to see what's currently in bloom in other parts of the world.

All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party