Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Some Like It Hot (and Dry)

This is the time of year I'm most unhappy with my garden.  Despite the unexpected rain we received earlier this summer, most everything in the garden is turning crispy, if not dying outright.  What's left of the lawn literally crunches underfoot.  Still coloring within the lines laid out by our new water restrictions, I haven't done much of the supplemental watering I usually do at this time of year and that's now having an impact.  I've been metering out my stored rainwater, perhaps at too stingy a rate, but I'm worried about running out before the winter rains return and I'm reserving some of it to ensure that the most valuable and vulnerable of my plants make it through the toughest part of the summer.

However, there's one large group of plants that's holding its own: the succulents.  I thought this would be a good time for a closer examination of the succulents in the hottest, driest areas of my garden.  I showed a wide shot of my street-side succulent bed in a recent post but, as context, here's another view:

The bed really does slope downward as shown here - none of the streets around here are flat


Here's a closer view of the bed in segments:

The area shown on the left sits just beyond the abrupt end of our Xylosma hedge; the next photo shows the area roughly in the middle of the bed, partially shaded by one of the remaining Auranticarpa rhombifolia shrubs that formerly made up a separate hedge; and the last photo shows an area near to our neighbor's driveway


There are a LOT of agaves in that bed.  In fact, agaves provide focal points in all of the segments I featured above.

Three Agave 'Blue Glow', still relatively small, surround a Chondropetalum tectorum (the only one of the 3 I planted 2 years ago to survive) with a couple of immature A. desmettiana, planted as pups, in the background

Two of the larger Agave desmettiana planted in the bed - the one on the left was photographed from the street and the one on the right from the dirt path behind the bed

Two views of Agave 'Impressa', surrounded by a few Dudleya (currently dormant) and Graptoveria 'Fred Ives' cuttings among other things

Two views of my 2 Agave 'Blue Flame', now co-located, and surrounded by a variety of other succulents, including Cistanthe grandiflora and Graptopetalum paraguayense

Behind the street-side bed is a stacked stone wall.  After losing a couple of Ceanothus shrubs in that area earlier this year, I filled in with Aeonium cuttings, which are always available in ample supply.  Even though the Aeoniums go dormant at this time of year, they've created the beginnings of a nice green space in that area.

Most of what I've planted above the wall is Aeonium arboreum (I think) but there are Aeonium 'Kiwi' cuttings too, as well as a few Oscularia deltoides


For the most part, I've put a stop to new plant purchases until temperatures cool.  Succulents are the key exception.  I used some of my recent purchases, as well as cuttings from elsewhere in my garden, to plant a low berm in the area I call the glen, just behind the street-side bed.

All but 7 of the plants in the sparsely-planted area bordered by the stone rubble are cuttings from elsewhere in the garden 


In addition to 3 Echeveria agavoides, my new purchases here include Agave 'Mateo', a variegated offspring of A. bracteosa (shown at left) and 3 Sedum kamtschaticum 'Variegatum' (shown in the middle and right photos)


I also used cuttings to fill a hanging planter I got from Potted at a mail-order discount because it was labeled as imperfect.  (It looked good to me!)

The hanging planter needs a larger specimen in the middle - I'm planning to replace the 3 cuttings of Crassula capitella 'Campfire' with a larger version of the same plant and will add some gravel as a filler

Some of the succulent pots in this and other areas of the garden could really use a trip to rehab so you can expect to see more succulents in future posts.  I have to have some outlet for my itchy fingers - I can only spend so much time in my garden spreading mulch and doling out emergency water.

How do you spend the hottest days of summer in your garden?


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

24 comments:

  1. I spend these days sitting in the shade catching up on blog reading. I was out there for a while hacking down a spent Agave. Whew! Had to retreat.

    Your streetside bed is looking good, also the stacked stone wall with all the Aeoniums. Reminds me of the old wall at the Huntington with the masses of Aeoniums. Nice!

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    1. I don't remember the wall at the Huntington with the Aeoniums but perhaps the image imprinted itself deeply in my memory, influencing me somehow. Or maybe it was just that I seem to have a never-ending supply of Aeonium cuttings, which root so easily.

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  2. Great to see your succulents doing well. They're proving their garden worth at the moment, looking good when the weather is adverse to other type of plants.

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    1. Succulents are slowly and inexorably taking over my garden.

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  3. Hi Kris, your succulents looks truly amazing in the summer heat. They are certainly plants that are well suited for our climate. I love the architectural shapes of the agaves and I am tinkering with the idea to plant some in containers in my own garden. I have to be very careful where to place them though and make sure our dog doesn't get injured when he runs through the back yard.
    In this heat I spent my free time mostly indoors and turn to interior design projects to give my creativity an outlet other then playing in the garden :-).
    Stay cool, warm regards,
    Christina

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    1. You may want to look at some of the soft-tip agaves, Christina, like Agave attenuata (aka foxtail agave) and its offspring, which includes Agave 'Blue Flame'. They shouldn't bother your energetic dog, even if he runs into them on a tear through the garden.

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  4. We're having some cooler weather right now, so I really should haul my butt out in the garden to cut back and tidy up some of my crispy plants. I just can't seem to get up the energy to do it though. I'm planning to add more succulents and drought-tolerant plants to my garden this fall. Unfortunately, none of yours are hardy here. They're fabulous, though! Love the new hanging dish from Potted!

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    1. Tidying up crispy plants is discouraging so I understand your reluctance to get to work doing that, Alison. Gerhard (Succulents & More) provided frost ratings on a wide variety of agaves - you might want to take a look at those if you haven't already.

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  5. Your succulent gardens are very inspiring! We are finally getting a break from the hottest heat but sadly no rain in the forecast...granted our heat and lack of moisture do not compare to yours. Today I cut back some crispy dudes and trimmed some shrubs. It felt great to be out there.

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    1. I'm glad to hear that the heat has abated up there, Jennifer. We have another tropical system moving through here today but it's not expected to bring us any measurable rain, just muggy air. I'm not really expecting any of the wet stuff until October or thereabouts but I am SO looking forward to El Nino - if the predictions don't bear out I'm going to be horrifically disappointed.

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  6. Don't hate me when I say that I spent the hottest days here watering, or at least doing so in the morning hours. I've ratcheted the water use up a bit this year for that darn tour, can't have people paying to see a bunch of crispy plants. I am fearing the water bill.

    Thank you for this expanded look at your wonderful succulent plantings, so many gorgeous agaves! Hoov is right too about the Aeoniums and the Huntingon, it reminded me of something but I couldn't put my finger on it.

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    1. I don't blame you at all for getting out the hose, Loree. I can imagine the pressure to get your garden ready for the tour. I don't think I've ever heard of a late summer or fall tour here - even before the faucets were turned off, most gardens here aren't at their best this time of year.

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  7. The new stacked stone walls really complement the succulents and the whole area looks great! I really love those aeoniums: they look so fresh and green.

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    1. Aeoniums are an easy solution to filling space here as there's a plentiful supply, Matt. I'm concerned they may look boring, though, so I may at least fill in some of the nooks and crannies with smaller succulents.

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  8. It's been close to 100F here in the inland foothills for the last few days, and tomorrow is supposed to be even hotter. I water some of my gazillion container plants first thing in the morning, pot or repot a plant or two, sweep up, then collapse under the shade of the patio roof with gallons of ice tea. My garden actually seems to be loving the heat and the rains we've had lately -- go figure :~/

    Your plants look terrific, and I love your tree trunk plant stands. (Results of that episode with the unpleasant neighbor? If so, a fine example of making lemonade when life gives you lemons!)

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    1. It's been unusually tropical in SoCal this summer - perhaps that's what your plants are responding to? I'm hoping that, when my garden is more well-established (and my plants are more deeply rooted), it'll handle the summer challenges summer brings with more aplomb.

      You're right about the sources of tree trunk plant stands ;)

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  9. Succulents to the rescue! They thumb their nose at the heat and don't need much water. Water? What's that?

    Like yours, my garden is at its worst right now (in your case that's relative because I think it looks great). Succulents are keeping me sane because they still look great when other things are crisping or frying.

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    1. It sounds as though you're even drier up there than we are. I hope the plague of fires is abating and that El Nino hurries up and finds both our gardens.

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  10. When I look at the bad parts of my garden in mid summer I wonder why I garden at all; then I look at other parts and feel differently. Like you I water very sparingly and allow plants that will become dormant to do that, just giving some water to the plants I really want to keep. I always try to water deeply but only when the plants are showing stress so that the water will penetrate and keep the roots going down to search for water rather than remain at the surface.

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    1. Given the degree of difference between how the front a back gardens are faring, I think soil is also a factor in how well the plants handle the heat and dry conditions here, Christina. I hope to do some more work on soil improvement in the back after the remaining lawn comes out.

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  11. In this heat (80 degrees before it was even 8AM and going nowhere but up) I try to get out first thing to prune a bit, gather seed heads for fall planting, and put a little extra water on pepper plants and a few plants I foolishly bought/planted towards the end of July. I know better than to plant past mid June and I did it anyway. I am my own worst enemy some days.

    I'll join the chorus - my eyes were drawn back again and again to the Aeonium masses. Honestly on that scale I think they'll be stunning. Boring? Not one bit!

    As to that sharp plants and dog concern voiced above? I very carefully clip the sharpest tips off of several large agave that grow close enough to the curbing to present a "threat" to careless pedestrians or canines. It does not seem to harm the plant and though the ends are still "poky" they are much less lethal.

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    1. It's awful when it gets hot that early in the day, Deb. We've been lucky to see a return of the morning marine layer here, which at least keeps things cooler early in the day. I have a bad habit of breaking my own rule against summer planting too (as demonstrated by my purchase of 2 new Grevilleas this past week). But sometimes you gotta get what you want when it's available!

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  12. O my, I don't know what I would do if there were water restrictions in UK??? I don't think it will ever happen :)
    But in your case I guess growing the succulent is the best option.
    I love my flowers and veggies and have to water them regularly.
    I hope you will get rain soon.

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    1. There are alternatives to succulents for a drought-tolerant garden, Aga, like many of the Mediterranean plants, but succulents can handle the immediate stress that comes with summer planting while many of the others need more water to get established.

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