Monday, August 31, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: An Experiment

The heat that plagued us last week is slowly ebbing away.  Other than my pink Eustoma grandiflorum and Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun', there's not much in bloom that looks good right now.  As both those flowers have already received lots of exposure in my vases this summer, I looked around for an alternative and came up with succulents.  While I've used succulent flowers in prior vases, I haven't created an arrangement using succulent plants so I tried my hand at this on Sunday when I had time to futz.

Here's the finished product:


I looked at a couple of on-line videos about how to construct a floral-style succulent arrangement before I started.  (You can find one of these here if you're interested.)  Unfortunately, I didn't have all the specified materials on hand.  My husband had wire in a variety of gauges in his workshop but all were either bigger or smaller than prescribed so I improvised by cutting up a few wire hangers we got with our dry cleaning and one of the lighter gauge wires from his workshop.  I had no floral tape to make tidy succulent "stems" either but, as I selected a vase that hid these, that wasn't enough of a problem to send me to the store in the heat.

I used the wire from the hangers on the succulents with beefier bases and the lighter wire with the smaller succulents.  Two of the succulents I used had long, thin woody stems so I simply inserted pieces of those plants as is.

As shown in these photos, I inserted 2 lengths of wire crosswise through the base of the heavy-headed succulents, then bent the wires downward to form stem-like supports.  I skipped this step with the 2 succulents shown in the bottom row in the left and center photos.

 I arranged the plants in the vase without any water in the basin, starting with the largest succulents and adding the smaller ones as fillers.  I used the following plants:

Clockwise from upper left: Graptoveria 'Fred Ives', Aeonium arboreum, Aeonium 'Kiwi', Graptopetalum paraguayense, Kalanchoe fedtschenkoi 'Marginata' and a no ID succulent  (Also used but not highlighted here were stems of Oscularia deltoides)

I cut a few Aeonium and Sedum I didn't end up using but I just stuck them in the ground in the garden to root when I cleaned up.  Unlike my usual compositions, this arrangement involved no waste.

The arrangement is sitting on the dining table.

The textured white vase was a birthday gift from a friend last year.  It has an irregular opening which is perfect for supporting the heavy succulent "flowers."  My friend gave me the vase with a Tillandsia, which I managed to kill with neglect earlier this year.  Fortunately, my friend painted the vase and the Tillandsia and gave me that as a gift last Christmas so the Tillandsia has been properly memorialized.

In its position on the dining table, the vase can be viewed from multiple angles, which is good as it looks very different from each side.  I haven't been able to decide which view I like best.

The arrangement should last at least a couple of weeks but I can take it apart at any time and plant the component parts in the garden if I'd like.  I can't say that about any of my prior arrangements.

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see what she's got "In a Vase on Monday" and to find links to other gardeners' creations from materials they have on hand.

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

Friday, August 28, 2015

August Favorites

On the last Friday of each month, Loree at danger garden hosts a roll call of her favorite plants.  I usually participate but I admit I'm having a hard time getting excited about my garden right now.  In the midst of our second heatwave this month, I'm feeling disillusioned with its performance.  When I go out there, I see dead things.  I lost an Agastache 'Summer Glow', my Grevillea 'Bonfire', both of my Philotheca myoporoides, most of my Fuchsias (which I frankly had no business planting under current conditions), and 1 of my 3 Pittosporum 'Silver Magic', among other things.  Additional plants seem to be hanging on by a thread.  Of course, it's not all bad.  The plants I raved about in my Foliage Follow-up post earlier this month, are still looking great.  But beyond those drought and heat tolerant stalwarts, I had to look more closely to find plants I could declare my favorites this August.

With that long-winded disclaimer, here are my August 2015 favorites:

Agastache 'Sunset': Grown in partial shade, it responded well to being cut back by half shortly after I put it in the ground

Dorycnium hirsutum (aka hairy canary clover): It didn't produce more than a few blooms this year but its foliage is fabulous and it has self-seeded like crazy

Duranta erecta 'Sapphire Showers': It's spent its entire life (5 years thus far) in a pot but it has bloomed prolifically since I put it on a steady diet of graywater collected from the kitchen

Eustoma grandiflorum 'Echo Pink' and Yucca 'Bright Star': With apologies for the sun-drenched photo and the over-exposure both plants have received on my blog, the appeal of these plants can't be denied.  The nearby Gaillardias are looking haggard but look at those Eustomas!

Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy': The heat seems to have coaxed the plant into full bloom.  Its flowers, floating like satellites on wiry stems, are tiny but numerous.

Grevillea 'Superb': If my other Grevilleas bloom as well when they reach maturity, I'll be a happy camper.  Summer heat or not, I just added 2 more of these plants to my garden after finding 1-gallon plants in a local garden center.

Lemon (no ID): I inherited this tree, sitting at the bottom of our back slope, with the house.  It's ALWAYS laden with fruit.  I seldom give it any supplemental water.  It survives on our meager rain, run-off from the slope, and the graywater fed by our washing machine (a system we didn't know we had until the Yucca elephantipes was removed earlier this year).

Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum': The undisputed star of my late summer garden

Phyla nodiflora (aka Lippia): Its flowers are tiny (about 1/4 inch/6.35mm) but profuse and colorful

Salvia 'Amistad', S. lanceolata and S. 'Mesa Azure': I've had spotty luck with Salvias but these 3 appear happy in my dry soil

It's supposed to begin cooling off beginning tomorrow and the marine layer is expected to return next week.  There are no signs of fall yet that I can see or feel but the cooler temperatures will be welcome.

Visit Loree at danger garden to see what plants have found favor with her and other bloggers this month.

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Wednesday Vignette: Cactus Garden at Lotusland

Lotusland is one of the most famous - and unique - gardens in Southern California.  On land purchased in the Santa Barbara area in 1941, Madame Ganna Walska, a Polish-born opera singer known as much for her scandalous love life as her singing ability, created a garden that reflected her varied plant interests.  Denise of A Growing Obsession has written about the garden several times recently, which tugged at my own recollections of the place.  My last visit, in 2008, was underwritten by a friend as a birthday present.  If I took photos, they've long ago disappeared.  However, by happenstance, I came across a file containing photos taken by my friend during that visit.  She prefers anonymity but she approved my use of her photos so I thought I'd share a few selections featuring Lotusland's cactus garden for today's Wednesday Vignette post, sponsored by Anna of Flutter & Hum.

This photo, taken at the entrance of the cactus garden with tall cactus looming in the distance and one of the garden's many fountains in the foreground, is among my favorites

Our tour was scheduled mid-day so many of the images are sun-drenched, but I still love the contrast here between the delicacy of the cactus flowers and the prickly cactus and stone mulch


Admittance to the garden is permitted by reservation only.  There is a significant entrance fee but the garden is well worth a visit if you're ever in the area.

Visit Anna at Flutter & Hum to discover what images have caught her fancy and the attention of other bloggers this week.

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

Monday, August 24, 2015

In a vase on Monday: Summer and Fall

The pink Eustoma grandiflorum are putting on an encore of their jubilant early summer performance with almost every plant bursting into bloom at once.  Although I'm usually loathe to cut stems when most of the flowers are still in bud, I made an exception this week as there are so many stems coming into bloom.  Also, as temperatures are expected to ramp up again mid-week, I thought it just as well to bring some flowers inside rather than risk having the heat shrivel the buds in their garden beds.

I combined the Eustoma (aka Lisianthus) with some coral-toned flowers for a summery arrangement.

Front view

Back view

The back view almost looks like an entirely different arrangement, doesn't it?  Here's what I included:

Clockwise from top left: Eustoma grandiflorum 'Echo Pink', Abelia x grandiflora 'Confetti', Agastache 'Sunset', Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy', Grevillea 'Superb' and a mix of pink Zinnias

I'd planned to stop at just one vase this week (maybe I need to join flower arrangers anonymous) but the sunflowers called out for attention again.  Although some secondary buds are developing here and there on stems I previously cut, the whole lot is starting to look sad so I cut most of what was in full bloom.  I'm going to clear my raised planters to plant sweet pea seeds soon for early spring blooms anyway - as this year's sweet pea crop perished in a wave of extreme heat in March, planting for blooms very early next year seems my best bet.

You may note that the sunflowers this week are not the usual deep dark red my mix of "Drop Dead Red" seeds has previously produced.  They're brown!  Or, as my seriously color-blind husband surprisingly informed me, "rust."  Although there are no clear signs of fall in my garden thus far, this bouquet does evoke the feeling of fall.  Here's what I included:

Clockwise from upper left: Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', Helianthus annuus, Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun' seedheads with stems of Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' and cream and orange Zinnias

The two vases were consigned to distant areas of the house as they look awful near one another.

The summery pink-coral number sits on the dining table

The rust and yellow mix sits in the living room

For more floral displays, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, the host of this increasingly popular meme.

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

Friday, August 21, 2015

The State of the Lawn (in my neighborhood)

I took a walk recently to check the status of the lawns in my neighborhood.  Since June, my area has been required to reduce residential water use by 36% in response to California's severe drought.  As they require a lot of water to maintain, especially during our hot, dry summers, lawns are the major target when it comes to meeting that goal.  I began eliminating my own lawn in increments shortly after my husband and I bought our house in December 2010 but I have 2 segments of the lawn left, both slated for removal this fall.

The remaining lawn segment in the front garden, just behind the hedge on one side of our driveway, currently dormant (and ugly)

The swath of half-dead lawn that, for the time being, serves as a pathway through the backyard garden

Walking through the neighborhood, I found some lawns still in relatively pristine condition.

Inexplicably, this includes a small patch of lawn at the entrance to the neighborhood

This homeowner and his next door neighbor had the most pristine lawns in the entire neighborhood - I initially thought they might be synthetic grass

This garden is mostly lawn
This neighbor loves his lawn but I know he's watching his water usage closely

Other homeowners, like us, have allowed their lawns to die back.

Some homeowners are maintaining small lawns, while using more drought-tolerant plants elsewhere in their front yards.

This homeowner has small sections of lawn in between wide planting beds filled with drought-tolerant plants

This homeowner has been replacing thirsty plants with succulents, while allowing the lawn to turn brown

Some homes have been lawn-free (or virtually so) since we've lived in the neighborhood.

I guess lawn could be lurking behind the shrubbery that hides this house but the shady conditions make it unlikely

This huge property spills down into a canyon but most everything at street level behind the gate appears to be concrete 

This neighbor replaced a mass of Vinca along the street with more drought-tolerant Dymondia

This terraced garden, still my favorite in the neighborhood, recently changed hands but they retained the former owner's gardener, which I see as a sign of commitment to maintaining the garden.  That's a Leucospermum on the right - the largest one I've ever seen.

This home has lots of palms and plants with a tropical feel

Many of the homes in our neighborhood, like this one, are "flag lots" with only a driveway fronting the street

One home is lawn-free because it's been gutted to make room for a larger house.

And one has a front yard full of dirt because the septic system is undergoing replacement (which is taking a long time).

There are more than 50 homes in the circle that makes up my neighborhood so what I've shown here is only a sample of what's out there but I think it's fairly representative.  I've seen only some of the backyards associated with these homes but enough to conclude that they're a mix too.  It'll be interesting to see whether lawns continue to die off and disappear, or if the expected arrival of El Nino this fall will hold the trend at bay.

I'll leave you with a few of the brighter spots from my neighborhood walk.

There are masses of Agave attenuata throughout the neighborhood - these are 2 of the best ones

I find it comforting that this plant, a form of Borage I believe, is growing wild through cement pavement without any supplemental water whatsoever in this empty lot

Clockwise from top left, plants growing with little or no supplemental water: Lagerstroemia (no ID but mildew-free), Agave (americana?), Bougainvillea, Cassia didymobotrya, Plumbago, and Solanum ratonnetii

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

Monday, August 17, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: Precious little

While there are lots of plants in flower in my garden, there are precious few blooms suitable to show off in a vase, if that makes any sense.  For most of the last week, the heat bore down and, with the heat, flowers shrivel quickly.  With a few exceptions - the Gaillardia, the Coreopsis and the sunflowers - nothing much is blooming en masse either so this week I focused on small vases.

Using just a few stems of 3 different plants, I created a peaceful blue arrangement in a 4-inch tall cut-glass vase.

Front view

Top view

The vase includes (from left): Campanula primulifolia, a variegated no ID Caryopteris and a no ID Duranta (probably D. erecta 'Sapphire Showers'

This vase landed on the mantle in the master bedroom

A selection of pink flowers, starring the Eustoma grandiflorum that began its second round of bloom as the heatwave kicked off, filled a stem-less wine glass.

This vase contains (clockwise from the left): Eustoma grandiflorum 'Echo Pink', Abelia x grandiflora, Grevillea 'Pink Midget' (a recent acquisition), Zinnias and Leucadendron 'Pisa'

This vase is sitting in the front entryway

The flowers too small for the wine glass were tucked into a tiny 3-inch vase

As the red sunflowers in the vegetable garden are still coming on strong I cut some of those again for the dining room table.

This arrangement is virtually identical to the one I created last week except that I tucked in some orange Zinnias with the Abelia

The marine layer returned this morning which should keep today's temperatures down.  If we're lucky, the pattern will hold throughout the week, making everyone around here less cranky and giving my flower supply a chance to recover before I face the garden next week to identify what I have befitting a vase.

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see what she and other gardeners have found in their summer gardens.

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