Friday, July 31, 2015

My favorite plant this week doesn't photograph well

My favorite plant this week is Corokia x virgata 'Sunsplash', an evergreen shrub originating from New Zealand.  I picked it up last fall and put it in the front garden.  I wish I'd bought more.  I also wish I'd underplanted it with something that played up its wonderful variegated foliage.

Corokia x virgata 'Sunsplash' in situ in my front garden

The problem with capturing its beauty in a photograph is probably mostly the fault of the photographer.  You can't see the shrub's twisty silver-gray stems well in the photograph shown above, although they're readily visible in person.  The plant's shadow may give you a better idea of its shape.

My plant is still relatively small, about 2 feet (61 cm) tall but, in time it may grow more than twice that height and up to 3 feet (1 meter) wide.  It's drought tolerant but it can take regular water as well which will be an advantage if El Niño brings heavy rains to California this winter as more and more forecasters are predicting.

In addition to the lovely contorted silver gray stems, the plant's small leaves are prettily variegated in shades of green, yellow, and pink that play off the Phormium 'Maori Queen' I've placed nearby.  I surrounded the shrub with silver groundcovers but I'm going to look for other plants that will help bring out the colors of the leaves rather than the stems.

The mulch isn't doing anything to bring out the color of the leaves

Loree at danger garden does a better job than I do in photographing her favorite plants.  Check today's post to find her July favorites wrap-up.  Click here if you want a look at my favorite from last week, Campanula primulifolia.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wednesday Vignettes: Sun-power!

Following the unheralded rainstorms we had earlier this month, flowers popped up all over.  Some of them might have shown up with or without the rain but I'm of the opinion that the rain gave the entire garden a boost.  Although my last post lauded the Eustoma grandiflorum blooms in my backyard border, the sunflowers that are blooming virtually in unison in my vegetable garden also deserve attention.  I took a series of photos of some of them in the late afternoon to share their beauty.

I was late in planting my sunflower seeds and feared they might not have a chance to bloom before summer's heat knocked them down and out so I was gratified when they started to flower earlier this month.  The first flower to bloom was so dark I called it the "black-hole of sunflowers."  (I think it may actually be Helianthus annuus 'Moulin Rouge').  The first four sunflowers pictured above came from a "Florist's Sunny Bouquet" mix and the last one is the second bloom from the "Drop Dead Red" mix.   (Individual components of the seed mixes were not identified by the seller.)  The plants in the red series were slower to germinate from seed but are taller and, although only the one plant has produced blooms thus far, all have buds.  I'm hoping to see more blooms before the plants give in to the heat the forecasters say is coming.

The Wednesday Vignette is the brain-child of Anna at Flutter & Hum.  Visit her to find more photographic vignettes.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, July 27, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: Welcome to Eustomaville!

Or, if you prefer, you can call it Lisianthus Lane.

I'd really only planned to make up one vase this week.  The appearance of blooms on the Campanula primulifolia I planted in January (featured as my favorite plant of the week last Friday) cinched the decision to focus on blues this week.  The blue Eustoma grandiflorum, which have been blooming like crazy, picked up the color of the Campanula and made the perfect focus for today's vase, prepared in connection with the meme hosted each Monday by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  However, it was impossible to ignore that the pink and pale yellow Eustoma were also blooming their hearts out.  I resisted but, as the Borg announced in a universe far far away, resistance is futile.  So, here you are: three vases this week, all featuring Eustoma.

I have a hard time choosing my own favorite this week but the first one I put together was the blue one, which is probably the most dramatic of the three.

It includes 4 elements:

From the left: Eustoma 'Borealis Blue' (these in their second year in my garden!), Campanula primulifolia (making its bloom debut), Tanacetum parthenium (which planted itself) and a taller form of Thymus serpyllum

The second vase, smaller than the other two, features the pink Eustoma.

It includes:

From the left: Eustoma 'Mariachi Pink', Abelia x grandiflora, Pentas 'Kaleidoscope Appleblossom' and one small Zinnia that just happened to pick up the color of the Abelia bracts

After finishing those two vases, I considered calling it quits (seriously!), but the yellow Eustoma were bending over under the weight of their blooms.  How could I let their blooms drag in the dirt?

This vase includes:

Clockwise from the left: The pale blooms of Eustoma 'Borealis Yellow', Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt', Achillea 'Summer Pastels', and Grevillea 'Superb'

The sunflowers were calling from the vegetable garden but I tuned them out.  Three vases is more than enough.  The remarkable thing is that I generally struggle to find flowers at the height of summer, when the heat usually beats them all into submission.  That's the difference a little rain makes, I guess.

Here are the completed vases all in place:

The blue vase sits on the dining room table; the pink vase sits on my desk; and the yellow vase sits in the front entry

For more summer vases, stop by and visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  She'll fix you up.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, July 24, 2015

My favorite plant this week: Campanula primulifolia

I have a tendency to get excited about plants early in our acquaintanceship, bubbling over with enthusiasm about a plant when we're really still just getting acquainted.  For that reason, I was hesitant to present Campanula primulifolia as my favorite plant this week.  But, even if I don't yet know whether it harbors a darker side than it's currently exhibiting in my garden, I can't help the fact that it's the plant I'm fixated on at the moment.  It's only just started to bloom too - I expect it may look a lot flashier in another week or two; however, I've been watching and waiting for this plant to bloom for a good 6-8 weeks now so, when I walked through the front garden and saw that it was blooming (finally!), it was settled.  It's my favorite plant this week.

This clump is comprised of 3 plants, situated in partial shade under the peppermint willow trees (Agonis flexuosa) in the front garden
More flowers opened overnight

I purchased these plants by mail order in January.  I love Campanulas but the only one that has bloomed reliably for me has been the diminutive C. poscharskyana.  Although perennial here, I can't claim that it makes a statement.

Campanula poscharskyana, a groundcover plant, is only just beginning to bloom as well

In contrast, C. primulifolia grows 3 feet (0.91 meters) tall and about half as wide.  It produces relatively large (2 inch/5cm) flowers over an extended period (or so on-line sources tell me).

It appears that the flowers generally open along the lower stem first but that doesn't seem to be entirely consistent.

Moreover, the plant is adaptable.  It's reported to grow in sun or shade and, although drought tolerant, it can take regular water as well.  It's perennial in USDA zones 4-10, according to the grower.  Mine produced flower spikes in June and I half expected it to flower for Bloom Day in June.  I was surprised, and moderately annoyed, when it didn't flower in time for Bloom Day in July either.  Perhaps our recent rain tipped the scales as the first flowers showed up soon after last weekend's unexpected thunderstorms.

Campanula primulifolia is my favorite plant this week.  Loree of danger garden hosts a monthly wrap-up of her favorite plants on the last Friday of each month so be sure to check in with her next week.

Quite a few flowers have appeared since Bloom Day in mid-July.  I can only assume that the rain prompted this as July is usually a pretty low-key (if not downright sad) month for blooms in my Southern California garden.  I'll post photos of some of these recent blooms soon but, for now, I'll leave you with a photo of my first ever Plumeria bloom, another big surprise I discovered this week.

A friend gave me 2 Plumeria cuttings earlier this year.  I didn't expect much as I've killed them off before but I followed her advice and left them confined in a relatively small nursery pot and I was rewarded with a bloom. (The other cutting is leafing out too.)

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wednesday Vignettes: Spiky & Soft

Two garden vignettes struck my fancy this week so I'm sharing both as part of the Wednesday Vignette theme hosted by Anna at Flutter & Hum.

The first is a photo taken of an Agave vilmoriniana (Octopus Agave) in my dry garden.  The shot was taken in the late afternoon from the slope side of my dry garden looking back toward the house, an angle not usually viewed by visitors.  I like the way the sun and shadows emphasize the curves of the agave's twisted leaves, as well as the way the colors of the surrounding plants play off one another.

The Agave is backed by trailing Lantana and a Gauva tree.  Coprosma 'Plum Hussey' is on the left and a water-stressed Limonium perezii and pink-flowered Cistus 'Sunset' are on the right.  (My 160-gallon rain tank, now full, can be seen in the distance alongside the house.)

The second vignette features Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' (aka purple fountain grass).  In the first photo, the sun picked up the soft fuzzy qualities of the flower plumes.  It's a gorgeous plant this time of year, when other plants are usually in full retreat from the sun and heat.  Like Stipa tenuissima (Mexican feather grass), this plant has a reputation for being invasive in California but, unlike the former, I've seen absolutely no sign of re-seeding by this species in my own garden.

The Pennisetum is surrounded by silver Jacobaeus martima, currently sporting yellow flowers, with a Ceanothus hedge behind it and the foliage of Agonis flexuosa (peppermint willow) dangling down from above

In my second photo, the sun was fading on the horizon so the plumes don't shine as brightly but the plant in the foreground is nicely echoed by a second Pennisetum in the distance.  I cut the plant in the driveway back hard in winter and it still hasn't fully regained its former dimensions.

For other vignettes, from the garden and otherwise, visit Anna at Flutter and Hum.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, July 20, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: Sunny days are here again

Like last week's vase, this week's creation for "In a Vase on Monday," the meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in a Garden, started with a sunflower.  In addition to seeds in the "Drop Dead Red" mix that produced last week's sunflower, I planted seeds of a more conventional mix, labeled "Florist's Sunny Bouquet."  Like the sunny sunflower this mix produced, everything in the garden is happy right now as we got a thorough soaking from Tropical Storm Dolores this weekend - hip hip hooray!

Back view

Here's what I used:

Helianthus annuus, the first bloom from the "Florist's Sunny Bouquet" seed mix

Gaillardia aristata 'Gallo Peach', which has been producing a continuous supply of blooms since I put in 5 plants back in January

Solanum xanti had to be cut back this week because it's starting to flop over on its neighbors, making it a perfect candidate for my vase

This self-seeded Tanacetum parthenium (feverfew) flowered last week in the vegetable garden

For something completely different, I loaded each of the photos shown above into "Deep Dream" software using technology created by Google to support machine learning.  You can read more about the software here.  I learned of it through an excellent post by Gerhard at Succulents and More, which you can read here.  His images are more extreme (spooky!) than mine.

I think the converted photos look rather like paper cut-outs of flowers (I used Dreamscope's app, which offers multiple options, including the Art Deco one I selected)

What do you think?  Is this interesting or just plain weird?

Meanwhile, the completed vase sits on the dining room table.  I hope this week's sunflower doesn't drop its head within a day like last week's flower did.

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to find more floral creations.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Thank you Dolores!

The weather is so very mild
That some would call it warm.
Good gracious, aren't we lucky child,
Here comes a thunderstorm!

The sky is now indelible ink,
The branches reft asunder;
But you and I we do not shrink;
We love the lovely thunder.

The garden is a raging sea,
The hurricane is snarling;
Oh happy you and happy me!
Isn't the lightning darling?

-Ogden Nash, The Watched Example Never Boils (partial)

Yesterday morning's view of the harbor from our backyard

The poem at the top of the post is the first, and possibly only, poem I ever committed to memory.  My fifth grade teacher required each student to recite a poem before the class and that was my selection, from what may have been the only book of poetry in my mother's bookshelf.  What's most remarkable is that I still remember the first 3 stanzas by heart.  This is possibly because it comes to mind every time there's a thunder storm.    (You can find the rest of the poem here.)

Thunder storms, especially summer thunder storms, aren't common in our area.  This one was brought to us courtesy of Tropical Storm Dolores and I am very grateful.  More rain is due later today but yesterday's downpour brought us 0.42 inches (1.07 cm), filling my 50-gallon water tank and partially filling my 160 and 265-gallon tanks.  I know that's not much rain by the standards of those of you in other areas but it's enough to make southern Californians deliriously happy (so long as it isn't accompanied by floods and mudslides).

My 160-gallon tank went from 10 gallons yesterday morning to 75 gallons by late afternoon 

I filled my plastic garden trugs several times in just minutes yesterday too, capturing the water pouring down the rain chain.  I used the first buckets to water all the pots and beds sitting under the roof overhangs.  I topped off the fountain.  Then I filled 4 more trugs but, with nowhere else to put it, I added the contents to the 160-gallon tank this morning, bringing the total in that tank to just over 100 gallons.

It's incredible how much rain sheets off the average roof.  The problem is capturing and storing it.  So much is lost.

Water streaming down the street in front of our house

More rain is expected this afternoon.  It's sunny, hot and humid now but I'm hoping to get a couple of hours of work in the garden in before the lightning and thunder returns.  I had another 3 cubic yards of mulch delivered a few days ago and more than half of it's still sitting in the driveway under a tarp.  Yesterday, I gave that effort up as the thunder started to rumble.  I've foolishly ignored storm conditions before and kept working but recent newscasts have been full of reports of people injured or killed by lightning strikes so I'm trying to be more sensible.  To be truthful, the biggest deterrent to working outside in this muggy weather has been the mosquitoes.  Even a temporary failure to clip on my insect-repellent fan resulted in another dozen bites.

Apparently the birds are too busy at the feeders to hunt mosquitoes

However you're spending the weekend, I hope good fortune is with you too!

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Foliage Follow-up: Variegated Beauties

I took a hodge-podge of foliage photos this month in preparation for the foliage follow-up feature hosted by Pam at Digging.  After loading them into my PC, I realized that, with just a couple of exceptions, all the plants I photographed are variegated.  I know some people don't care for variegated plants but I'm always drawn to them.  Here are the ones that caught my attention this month:

Okay, this Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' is sporting a few flowers at the moment but it's in my garden because of its multi-colored foliage, not its flowers.  At last count, I have 10 of these plants in the ground and 2 in pots but this one is looking particularly good.

The Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' shown above sits near 2 Pelargonium 'Mrs. Pollock'.  Variegation overkill?  Maybe, but the difference in leaf size and shape prevents the combination from being jarring (at least to my eyes).

This Furcraea foetida mediopicta was getting too much sun in one of the backyard beds so I moved it to a pot where it gets only half-day sun and it seems much happier.  It's underplanted with a variegated Sedum I don't have a name for.

As with succulents, many garden centers fail to label bromeliads but I think this one is an Aechmea orlandiana, possibly 'Rainbow'

I've shown this Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-star' before but, relishing our recent spot of tropical weather, it's looking particularly colorful at the moment

Two non-variegated plants that grabbed my attention were these:

Duranta erecta 'Gold Mound' is striking against other foliage plants in medium green tones

This is Plectranthus ciliatus 'Zulu Warrior', which has pleated leaves with purplish undersides.  I'm featuring it this month because I grew this one from cuttings and it's finally beginning to flesh out, which pleases me greatly.

That's it for this month's foliage follow-up.  To find more foliage highlights for July, visit Pam at Digging here.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Bloom Day - July 2015

July usually marks a decided shift for my southern California garden.  The heat begins in earnest and many plants stop blooming, waiting for the return of cooler temperatures.  However, while we experienced some tropical heat in late June and early July, the temperatures haven't soared anywhere near as high as we'd expect at this time of year (yet).  Nonetheless, the water restrictions instituted in response to California's severe drought conditions are having an effect.  In my garden, while you can find flowers here and there throughout, there aren't a lot of areas with masses of bloom, although there are a few exceptions to that rule.

The most floriferous bed in my garden is this one adjacent to the backyard patio

The flower power in this bed is supplied by Anigozanthos 'Yellow Gem', Gaillardia aristata 'Gallo Peach', Salvia 'Amistad', and Solanum xanti

The other bed that stops traffic is this one along the house in the front yard, which is dominated by masses of Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Arizona Sun' and 'Goblin' (backed up by Grevillea 'Superb')

Two genera doing their best to make an impact elsewhere in the garden are Eustoma grandiflorum (aka Lisianthus) and Grevillea.

I'm growing 4 colors of Eustoma grandiflorum this year: 'Borealis Blue', 'Borealis Yellow', 'Echo White' and 'Mariachi Pink'

The 3 Grevilleas making the biggest splash at the moment are G. alpina x rosmarinifolia, G. 'Superb' and G. lavandulacea 'Penola', the last sporting new blooms way ahead of schedule ('Ned Kelly' was camera-shy this month and 'Peaches & Cream' is still getting ready for her next close-up)

Blooms that have only recently made an appearance include these:

Top row: Achillea 'Moonshine', Anigozanthos (no ID), and Helianthus annus
Middle row: Lilium (no ID), Oscularia deltoides, and Rudbeckia 'Cherry Brandy'
Bottom row: Trachelium caeruleum, Zauschneria 'Orange Carpet', and Zinnia elegans

In addition, some plants that bloomed earlier in the year then took a rest have made a reappearance in small numbers.

Top row: Anagallis 'Wildcat Mandarin', Aster frikartii 'Monch', and Cistus 'Sunset'
Middle row: Globularia x indubia, Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy', and Limonium perezii
Bottom row: Osteospermum 'Blue-eyed Beauty', Phlomis fruticosa, and Tanacetum parthenium

The new arrivals are backed up by plants that are almost perpetually in bloom, as well as others that have especially long bloom cycles.

Plants almost perpetually in bloom include (clockwise from left): Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold' with Cuphea 'Starfire Pink', Abelia x grandiflora, Gazania 'White Flame', Polygala fruticosa 'Petite Butterflies' and Hebe 'Patty's Purple' (shown with more Cuphea 'Starfire Pink')

Other stalwarts include, top row: Bignonia capreolata, Duranta (no ID - blooming continuously on graywater!), and Gaura
Middle row: Jacobaeus maritima, Lavender (no ID), and Osteospermum 'Sweet Kardinal'
Bottom row: Pentas 'Kaleidoscope Appleblossom', Salvia 'Wendy's Wish', and Wahlenbergia 'Blue Cloud'

Some summer bloomers are already exiting the stage.

Clockwise from left: Agapanthus (no ID), Albezia julibrissin, Cymbidium (no ID), Hemerocallis 'Sammy Russell Red', and Leucanthemum x superbum

I'll end this month's bloom report with the biggest surprises to make an appearance.

These 2 may have been prompted to bloom by the earlier tropical weather: Bauhinia x blakeana (aka Hong Kong orchid tree) and Tibouchina  urvilleana

You can find bloom reports from all over the world by checking in with Carol, the mistress of ceremonies for the event known as Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, at May Dreams Gardens.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party