Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Wednesday Vignette: Spider Season

It's that time again.  Carrying a stick or a broom as one moves through the garden in early morning is recommended, at least if one wants to avoid getting one's face wrapped up in the silky strands of a spider's web.  The Cross Orbweavers (Araneus diadematus) are out in force.  As spiders go, they're very attractive creatures and an appropriate subject for a Wednesday Vignette, the meme hosted by Anna of Flutter & Hum to share interesting images.

The spider's common name derives from the white spots that form a cross on the creature's abdomen.  The spider is native to Europe but immigrated to North America like so many of our American ancestors.  It weaves an orb-shaped web and is generally found at its center with its head faced downward.  

This female spider initially constructed her bed, considerately I thought, just outside the flow of traffic above a grouping of Stipa tenuissima (Mexican feather grass) adjacent to the outdoor porch we created for our cats, occupied now by just one cat, Pipig.  (To be truthful, our house is Pipig's domain but she does hang out on the porch off and on.)

If you look closely, you can see the delicate spider web with the female spider at the center

She wasn't alone in the area.  Spider webs are everywhere.

This web, still covered in morning dew, was easier to see but I couldn't bring myself to look at it closely to determine if what was caught in it was debris or something else

However, yesterday morning, after finding that the neighborhood raccoons had left their calling card at the fountain, I was stalking through the garden in a mission to determine what damage they had wrought and I found that my considerate spider had moved, weaving a new web across one of our main paths, which I came within inches of walking into.

The web between the pillar and the frame of the cat's porch was nearly invisible

I stopped just in time as I saw her, seemingly hanging in open air in the middle of the path as it transitions from the side porch to the flagstone pathway leading through the arbor to the front yard.

Neither she nor I would have been happy if I'd charged through the space

As gently as I could, I broke the web, allowing the spider to move safely to a nearby potted Copper Spoons plant  (Kalanchoe orgyalis), where she rested for a time.

In this position, the cross on her abdomen is less apparent but this is the same spider as in the preceding photo.  She looks rather pretty against the felt-like brown foliage of the Kalanchoe.

She was gone just a little later when I checked on her but I suspect I'll see her again.  Hopefully, I'll be prepared for our next encounter.

Visit Anna at Flutter & Hum to see what images captured her attention and that of other participants this week.

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

Monday, September 28, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: Three Small Bouquets

I recently bought a collection of five small, inexpensive glass vases, each a different color but with the same tear drop shape.  I filled three of them this week with stems snipped from various areas of the garden.

The vibrant blue Salvia macrophylla in my front garden started me on this path.  It has produced sporadic blooms this summer but this week it's suddenly full of flowers.  The blue color of the Salvia is so bright it makes any most blue or purple blooms paired with it look dull so I kept things simple, adding just a few stems of Abelia 'Radiance' and variegated Caryopteris (noID).

The bright blue flowers even make the cobalt blue vase look somber

It'll be interesting to see if the Salvia macrophylla flowers hold up in a vase - they don't last long in the garden

I constructed the second vase around a few short stems of Clematis terniflora (aka Sweet Autumn Clematis), the only Clematis I've ever managed to grow successfully here.  I added two stems of Erysimum linifolium 'Variegatum' and reused the stem of Eustoma grandiflorum 'Borealis Yellow' from last week's vase.

In contrast to the blue vase, this one has a subdued aura

Thus far, most of the Clematis blooms are sitting in the sun at the very top of the arbor supporting the vine - I could reach only a few of the side shoots

I used flowers with orange tones in the third, amber-colored vase.  Grevillea 'Ned Kelly' is blooming again but its stems are short so a small vase is perfect.  I added Zinnias, Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', and Russelia 'Flamingo Park' to fill it out.

This is my personal favorite out of this week's arrangements

I think the Zinnias steal the show from the Grevillea

Vases this size are easy to tuck into spots throughout the house, which I did.

The blue vase sits in the kitchen window (where the glare made it hard to photograph); the green vase sits on the master bedroom mantle; and the amber vase sits on a side table in the living room

I had some extra stems of Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' left over so I threw together a larger vase for the front entryway starring Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun', which is starting to wane in the front garden.

In addition to the Abelia and Gaillardia, this vase contains Coreopsis 'Redshift' (which has been fried by the heat this summer) and immature fruits of an Arbutus 'Marina'

Meanwhile, the large succulent vase I created two weeks ago is back on the dining room table.

A few succulent leaves have withered since I created this water-less vase but I suspect I stressed it by leaving it sitting in full sun outside for a few hours a week ago

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, the host of the "In a Vase on Monday" meme to find still more flower and foliage arrangements.

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

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Using every last inch of space

This week I had the opportunity to visit the garden of fellow blogger, Denise of A Growing Obsession.  Denise's blog was one of the first I began reading regularly, well before I started a blog of my own in December 2012.  Geographically, Denise is closer to me than any other garden blogger I know of and her Bloom Day posts always provide me with useful input on new and exotic plant selections.  I met Denise in person for the first time at a local flea market in December 2013 but I didn't have a chance to see her garden until this week.

She lives in the historic section of a nearby beach city in a charming bungalow, surrounded by similar homes.  The first thing I saw as I got out of the car was a tree-sized Schefflera across the street.  In bloom!

It isn't unusual to see the tropical Scheffleras, more commonly known to many people as houseplants, in the ground in our climate but seeing one in bloom was a first for me

The street is lined with trees and Denise's front courtyard was mostly in shade when I arrived in early afternoon.  The shade was pleasant as we've been suffering through yet another heatwave; however, it presented a challenge to my limited picture-taking skills.

Upon arrival, Ein, the official greeter met me at the gate.

Ein, a friendly Corgi, barks to announce each arrival, known or unknown, and dutifully escorts the visitor through the garden

As anyone who reads Denise's blog knows, she's fond of foliage and spiky things and her garden has plenty of both.

A good-sized Acacia stands alongside the front gate, underplanted with a diverse selection of spiky, drought-tolerant plants

Two Agave 'Blue Glow' along the front walk

I didn't even try to count the Agaves.

From left to right: Agave 'Blue Glow', A. 'Fireball' and A. 'Jaws' - What startled me most about Denise's Agaves wasn't their number or variety but their size.  The size isn't evident in my photos but many of these plants are huge!  I immediately began to worry about what's going to happen when my relatively diminutive specimens reach the same proportions one day.

Denise also collects Agave relatives.

Two of these are Furcraea foetida 'Mediopicta' and a noID Mangave

It was obvious that I was in the garden of a plant collector who uses every inch of her garden space, as well as making creative use of vertical space.    As a former long-time resident of a beach city myself, I know there's always a premium on outdoor space in these locations.  Denise makes effective use of her vertical space, not only with vines and tall plants, but also by utilizing unique materials as planters.

With the exception of the City Planter from Potted on the top right (given to Denise by a UK blogger who won it at a garden blogger's Fling but couldn't carry it home in her suitcase), I believe all these planters were created by Denise using found objects.  The planters are filled with a variety of succulents and bromeliads.

Working around difficulties with her soil, she also has lots and lots of plants in decorative pots.

I like how Denise organized her potted plants into collections and elevated many to add dimension and interest to the space

Denise even outfitted an area on the back patio with a day bed by going up.

The day bed sits above the heads of any foot traffic below

There were flowers.

In addition to Grevillea 'Moonlight', shown here surrounded by Yucca recurvifolia 'Margaritaville' and Pennisetum setaceum 'Sky Rocket', I saw a Grevillea 'Robyn Gordon' in full bloom, a Plectranthus zuluensis that looks better than mine ever has, as well as Salvia uligisoa and Glaucium grandiflorum that I was unable to photograph in the bright afternoon light

But foliage plants are the stars of her garden.

A few examples, clockwise from the top left: chartreuse elephant ears (maybe Xanthosoma 'Lime Zinger'?), Eucalyptus 'Moon Lagoon', Pennisetum setaceum 'Sky Rocket', and a noID Rhipsalis backed by the Yucca recurvifolia

She has some plants I've long been interested in but have been afraid to add to my garden due to their mature size.  Denise manages to keep those specimens under control.  I'm seriously considering following her example and trying a few of these in my my own garden.

Tetrapanax papyrifer, back-lit by the sun, with Acacia baileyana to the rear

Cussonia in a pot (I'm not sure which species - Denise has a number of these plants)

I didn't know Manihot (grahamii?) produced this cute round fruit

As the intense sun was accompanied by ever-worsening heat, I prematurely gave up my picture-taking and we sat in the shade in the back garden talking, guarded by the ever-vigilant Ein.  As I bid goodbye sometime later, Denise gifted me with succulent pups and bulbils as well as a pot she'd noted was a match to one I already had.  For each plant I've given Denise, I seem to get five in return.

Left: one of 4 small Agave mitis I brought home; right: a Mangave pup in a pot like the one on the right I already had

Thank you Denise for your generosity and for opening your garden to a visitor on a hot afternoon!

Note: Any errors in plant identification are mine.

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

Friday, September 25, 2015

September Favorites

During heatwaves I usually feel as though time is passing very slooowly but despite one heatwave after another this September the month has passed so quickly I feel that I never got my bearings.  Since the last of our lawn was removed last weekend, my husband and I've spent early mornings and late afternoons digging up the soil to remove grassroots, sod netting and rocks.  It's a tedious process but my mind is already skipping ahead to our next steps, including the plants I'd like to add once the soil preparation phase has been completed.  Planting is probably well over a month away but planning has me taking a critical look at what's doing well in my garden for future reference.  And that line of thought brought about the realization that today is the day that Loree of danger garden hosts her favorite plants meme - it caught me by surprise this month.

One of the plants that has drawn my attention over the last couple of weeks is Wahlenbergia 'Blue Cloud'.  I planted 3 of these plants almost exactly 2 years ago in one of the most inhospitable areas of my garden, the dry area with poor soil on the south side of the house that's regularly plagued by raccoon rampages.  Although I'm planning to raise the soil level in that area to improve drainage and plant more succulents, I think the dainty but tough Wahlenbergia will still have a place there.

The plant only grows about 1 foot tall but it has a tendency to ramble and weave itself between other plants given half a chance

As I cruised through the garden with my camera I was surprised to discover 2 orchids in bloom.  I don't have IDs for either, although I believe the first is a Cattleya and the second is a Phalaenopsis.  These orchids get virtually no attention and are watered haphazardly, when at all.  The foliage shows evidence of their mistreatment but, when they bloom, they're always impressive.

The Cattleya on the left was a gift from my husband's former boss whose grandmother brought it back from China many, many years ago.  The Phalaenopsis came home with me when we cleared out my mother-in-law's house when preparing it for sale more than 2 years ago.

The other plants that have drawn my attention this month are ones that have received a lot of attention on this blog but they're worth another shout-out.  The first of these is Plectranthus ciliatus 'Zulu Warrior', which I featured 2 years ago today as my favorite plant of the week.  It's just begun its annual bloom cycle.

I planted 3 cuttings from the plant outside my backyard door (itself the product of cuttings from a plant in my former garden) in a semi-shaded area of the front garden last year

My last 2 selections also appeared in my August favorites post but, as they continue to dominate the garden this month, I've elected to give them their due and include them in this month's post as well.  Plants that perform this well despite heat and restricted irrigation deserve recognition.

Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum'  adds drama to my garden and outshines the P. 'Fireworks' in bloom nearby

And even though they're very, very pink, I can't help but acknowledge the prodigious bloom power of Eustoma grandiflorum 'Echo Pink'

To find other gardeners' favorite plants this September, visit Loree at danger garden.   Meanwhile, it's about time for me to get back to digging up the backyard.

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Wednesday Vignette: Sunrise or Sunset?

Each week, Anna at Flutter & Hum hosts a presentation of images that caught the attention of participating bloggers.  I took a photograph of a scene from my bedroom window across our front garden just after sunrise this morning, meaning to post it in connection with this meme.  For a variety of reasons, I didn't get to it until this evening.

Photograph taken from my bedroom window (My windows are cleaner than I realized!)

The light from the east lit up the garden.  Touches of orange and red warm an area otherwise dominated by green.  One plant, Agastache 'Sunset', ties the whole scene together.

Photograph taken from the garden itself

I hope you'll check out the images Anna and other gardeners found compelling at Flutter & Hum.

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

Monday, September 21, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: The 'Warrior' Steps Aside

Walking through the garden, the only flowers that leaped out at me as prospects for this week's "In a Vase on Monday" post were those on my Plectranthus ciliatus 'Zulu Warrior'.  It isn't the only plant flowering in my garden but it's the only one just beginning it's seasonal bloom cycle.  I thought I'd add a few stems of Eustoma grandiflorum 'Echo Blue' and be done with it but then I noticed one yellow rose and suddenly my vase came together.

Front view

Top view

Here's what I included:

Clockwise from top left: 'Buttercream' rose, Abelia x grandiflora 'Radiance', Eustoma grandiflorum 'Echo Blue', E. 'Borealis Yellow', Plectranthus ciliatus 'Zulu Warrior', and Salvia 'Mesa Azure' (Included but not highlighted: purple Angelonia)

After our temperatures soared again this past weekend, my yellow rose wasn't in perfect condition but it's still pretty and it has a delicious scent.  The blue and yellow Eustoma are also much smaller than they were during their earlier bloom cycle but, again, still pretty.  The Plectranthus took on a smaller role in the vase than I'd planned but it'll undoubtedly get exposure in one or more future vases.  My biggest problem was finding a place to put the completed vase.  Last week's succulent arrangements are still intact.

The larger succulent creation in the white vase (above, left) spent some time in the sun on the back patio on Friday but it's little worse for the wear; however, I've moved it to the coffee table in the dining room.  The smaller succulent arrangement in the stone vase still sits in the front entry.

The dining table got a new vase last Thursday as I prepared for visitors on Friday.  Perhaps you can guess what I used as a centerpiece for that arrangement?

If you guessed pink Eustoma grandiflorum, you'd be correct.  The vase, shown above from both front and back, contains E. 'Echo Pink', Grevillea 'Pink Midget', silver Leucadendron 'Pisa', and variegated Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-star'.

If you think that I've exhausted my supply of Eustoma grandiflorum 'Echo Pink' by now, you'd be wrong. 

There's still an ample supply of these flowers left in the garden despite heat, rain and wind.  Growing the Eustoma from small starter plants set in place in early spring seems to be the ticket.

So the new vase ended up on the mantle in the master bedroom.

For more vases created from materials participating gardeners have on hand, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, the host of this popular "In a Vase on Monday" meme.

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

Saturday, September 19, 2015

One Project Completed and Another One Started

A couple of months ago I commissioned my husband to build me a bench to circle the Magnolia tree in front of the house.  With only bark mulch covering the area, the space felt too empty to me.  Although I already have several seating areas scattered around the garden, including two benches next to the front door, aesthetics seemed as good a reason as any other to add this feature.

Wide view of the completed bench under the Magnolia

The back portion of the bench faces a hedge along the house so I elected to use that portion as plant shelves.  The bench, constructed in six pieces, has two levels with the front being higher than the back.  It was originally three different levels but that looked funky so, to my husband's chagrin, I called for a last minute design change (even though he reminded me that the bench had been built to my personal specs).

Here's a closer look at the completed product:

Front of the bench

Side view showing the difference in level between the front and back portions

The pots I placed on the bench were selected based mainly on the color of the containers rather than the compatibility of the plants in the pots, most of which are succulents.  The pots are in shades of brown and green (as opposed to the prevailing blue colors used elsewhere in the garden).  I expect I'll be tweaking the collection as time goes on.

A close-up of the plant-shelf portion of the bench

The bench's tawny color stands out against the bark mulch and the tree's trunk at this point but it's made of redwood so it will fade over time to a more companionable silvery color.

With that project completed, the next one is already underway.  The remaining sod was stripped away by a landscaping service earlier today.  We are now entirely lawn-less!

Photos showing the main part of the backyard lawn area before and after the sod was removed 

Before and after shots of the front lawn area

Although this crew did a better job than the last one, plenty of sod netting and crabgrass roots were left behind, which I've already started pulling out on my own.  However, rather than spend two months digging up the soil to clear it of debris before adding more topsoil to raise the soil level, I think we're going to pay to get help there this time.  Then we'll face the task of laying more flagstone paths...

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