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

26 comments:

  1. We were so sad to miss seeing Denise's garden in person; now you've taken me on a personal tour! Your pictures are great, in spite of that darn sun. I love all those succulents - and that you ID'd them all - I might have to check out one or two I don't have.

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    1. I'm glad I could share a sense of Denise's garden with you, Diane. However, she has a MUCH broader variety of succulents than I photographed.

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  2. Thanks for this look around Denise's garden. I was supposed to meet Denise on our trip to California, but had that terrible migraine, and ended up staying in the hotel room for the day. It looks like a fascinating place.

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    1. I'm sorry you missed Denise's garden on your last visit, Alison. Next time, we can ensure you cover both in the same day - we're only about 20 minutes away from one another.

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  3. Hi Kris, I so enjoyed the tour through Denise's garden. I found her blog just recently and it is so nice to see her garden through your lens. The first photo with the blooming Schefflera is quite stunning and I admire her mature agave collection. These plants are so impressive with their clean architectural lines. And, of course, I love her Corgi!
    Warm regards,
    Christina
    PS. I think you did a wonderful job identifying her plants!

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    1. I was thrilled by that blooming Schefflera too, Christina. It's amazing that I've never seen one in bloom before.

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  4. There's some wonderful mixes of plants that you seldom get to see growing near each other...it's all lovely!

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    1. Yes, it is, Matt. Denise is always experimenting with new plants and combinations.

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  5. I'm so glad you were able to visit Denise's garden, it's terribly inspiring isn't it? Seeing Diana's post on your garden has me even more determined to get there myself someday soon.

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  6. What a lovely time we all have when a gardener chronicles another gardener's spaces. The affection and delight of discovery build right in.

    Kris, you are right to be wary of the mature size of agaves. I reluctantly reached the conclusion all of my agave Americanas must come out - they are simply growing too large and pupping too prolifically for me to keep up. Now I'm paying the price for my dithering - not only do the spines make the removal process difficult, the sap is an irritant so homemade hazmat gear must be worn (in the lingering heat) and the up to 4 foot in diameter plants are HEAVY... It is a real mess. Keep any agaves that pup and will get huge in pots or in well contained areas is my takeaway. I'm learning and relearning that lesson in spades here!

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    1. Thanks for the warning about agave sap - I wasn't aware it could irritate the skin. Be careful, Deb!

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  7. Denise's garden is full of great plants and creatively used materials! I love it and her blog. It's cool to see her garden through your lens. OMG that Schefflera in bloom across the street is glorious and Ein couldn't b cuter!

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    1. Ein is a charmer! I've always wanted a dog and, specifically, a corgi. My husband gave in on cats (much to his own dismay years later) but he hasn't budged on adding a dog to our household.

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  8. Kris, it was such a treat to have you over for a visit. The big cussonia against the fence is Cussonia spicata. The variegated spiky number near Grevillea 'Moonlight' is Agave sisalana. If you decide on more of the varieg Agave mitis for your slope, you know who to ask!

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    1. I might take you up on more Agave mitis, Denise. I planted the first ones in one of the backyard borders for now but adding more "soft" agaves to the slope is a goal.

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  9. What a cool garden! :o) Most of these plants are completely foreign to me but I love that day bed! What there a ladder to access it?

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    1. As I recall, there is ladder access, Tammy.

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  10. An exciting tour - thanks to both of you, Kris and Denise :) I can see that I need to think UPwards as well as onwards in the garden... She makes it look easy to handle all those containers!

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    1. I didn't count the number of containers either but there were a LOT of them!

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  11. I had no idea that Schefflera bloomed! Your friend's garden is a delight. Of course, I love foliage, too. It is fun to see plants I never see around here.

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    1. I knew Scheffleras bloomed in concept, Deb, but I didn't think that happened outside the tropics. Of course, SoCal is feeling more and more like the tropics lately...

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  12. Meeting with other bloggers has been an unexpected pleasure about blogging. Denise's garden looks like she has your belief in minimum use of water, it is so encouraging to see beautiful gardens being created taking account of the tough climate you have.

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    1. These days, the minimal use of water is more a mandate than an option but I think Denise was ahead of the curve in that area.

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  13. I love this post! Like you, I know Denise's garden from her blog, but it looked so different seeing it through your eyes. It belongs in a book on how to create a masterful garden on a postage-sized lot.

    That schefflera is something else!

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    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the post, Gerhard. My photos don't do it justice.

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