Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Wednesday Vignette & Random Year-end Photos

I sorted through my recent photos in search of an image that deserved sharing as a Wednesday Vignette, the weekly feature hosted by Anna of Flutter & Hum.  There was one image I liked even though it's hardly a photographic gem.  The photo is of the rare "Cold Moon" that rose overhead on Christmas, which many people have captured in images much better than mine.  The moon caught my attention just as it was rising over the hills in the distance, with the lights of the Los Angeles harbor and the cities beyond already sparkling below.  My point-and-click camera can't replicate the details of that view but I think it grabbed its essence.

Moonrise over the Los Angeles harbor on Christmas, 2015

I also took a few random bird photos recently that I thought I'd append to this post, none of which represents a vignette.

This hummingbird has assumed ownership of the naked persimmon tree in my dry garden and, unlike most of my hummingbird visitors, he doesn't give a hoot if I'm standing right below him.  However, I do think he was giving me the stink eye here for infringing on his territory.

I threw out bird seed on Christmas morning and this scrub jay immediately claimed it.  While he initially looked a little skeptical about the stone cat sitting nearby, he quickly overcame his reservations.

Visit Anna at Flutter & Hum to see the interesting images she and other bloggers have to share as 2015 comes to a close.  Best wishes for a bright new year!

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

Monday, December 28, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: Blog Anniversary Bonus

Tomorrow, December 29th, is the third anniversary of my blog.  I started it on the fly in 2012, roughly 2 years after we took possession of our current house and garden.  I expected the blog would lend some discipline to the process of recording changes to my garden and it's served me well there.  This year, it's captured my struggles with California's severe drought and our new water restrictions, entailing the removal of our remaining lawn and the selection of more drought tolerant plants, as well as our ongoing effort to meet the challenges of our city's "view conservation" ordinance, which necessitated the removal of yet another tree.  But as much as I value the chronicle it provides, I value the input and support I've received from other bloggers even more.

So, as I considered how to express my appreciation to those who read my blog, I decided to "say it with flowers" using this week's "In a Vase on Monday" post.  I culled all my vase posts for the past year and selected 16 of my personal favorites.  Here they are:

I hope you'll keep reading my blog and offering thoughts and suggestions.  My universe of gardening buddies expanded beyond my wildest expectations when I started blogging and that means more to me than words - or flowers - can say.

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, the host of "In a Vase on Monday" to see what she and other bloggers have put together this week.  Not wanting to break my continuous streak of contributions, here's what I cobbled together from my garden this week:

This week's vase contains: 2 heavy-headed 'Medallion' roses, Leucadendron salignum 'Chief' and Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' which has turned a rusty reddish color, perhaps in response to our unusually cold temperatures

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Wednesday Vignette: It's the little things...

About a week ago, I uploaded photos from my camera onto my PC and found this:

The photo of my cat, Pipig, resting on a folded tree skirt, enjoying the morning sun and the Christmas tree, still nearly bare at that point, was taken early one morning by my husband.  He didn't mention it to me but left me to find the photo on my own.  The cat's utter contentment (note those back paws dangling in the air!) is one of those little things that reminds me that joy can be found in the minutia of ordinary life.  And, as delighted as I was by the picture itself, I was equally stirred by the fact that my husband took the time to take the photo solely to make me happy.

This is my contribution to the Wednesday Vignette, hosted by Anna of Flutter & Hum.  Follow Pipig's example and take some time to enjoy the warmth of the sun as the days begin to lengthen again following the winter solstice! And merry Christmas to those of you celebrating the holiday!

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

Monday, December 21, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: Small Stuff

I had a pre-Christmas family gathering on Sunday for which I created two small vases to add life to areas otherwise bereft of holiday decorations.  With rain coming late Saturday afternoon, I dashed out to cut flowers and foliage.  We didn't get much rain - just 0.21 inches (5.3 mm) - but it came down hard and fast under a darkening sky so I didn't have time to deliberate over my choices.

I crammed most of my selections into a small vase received from co-workers as a wedding present many, many years ago.  I seldom use the vase because it holds relatively little water.  It's 6 inches tall, 3 inches wide at the mouth but less that 1/2 inch in depth.

Front view

Back view

Side view, showing just how narrow the vase is

Here's what I snipped before the rain soaked my clothes:

Top row: Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick', a California native, which is more lavender-blue than it looks in this photo
Bottom row: Achillea 'Moonshine', Artemisia 'Powis Castle', and Lavendula angustifolia 'SuperBlue'

I had a few leftover stems that I couldn't squeeze into the vase shown above, which I used to refresh the 3-inch vase that held pink flowers last week.

The tiny vase contains Salvia 'Marine Blue', Tagetes lemmonii, Gaillardia aristata, and Duranta erecta 'Gold Mound'

The first vase sits in the living room and the second sits by the kitchen sink.

The vase was a good fit for the small glass side table under a lamp

The tiny vase looks good with just about everything

And the succulent vase, created 3 weeks ago, sufficed as the centerpiece for the dining room table.

Despite running the heater much of the time for the past 2 weeks, my most recent succulent vase is still holding up remarkably well

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, the host of "In a Vase on Monday," to find other floral and foliage arrangements.

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

Friday, December 18, 2015

Poinsettias & Other Holiday Decorations

Loree of danger garden posed a "poinsettia challenge" back on December 1st, asking bloggers to do something interesting with that much maligned holiday plant.  As I missed out on the prior ornamental cabbage and kale challenge, I vowed not to let this one pass me by.  Two of the pots next to our front door were sorely in need of replanting so I planned to kill 2 birds with the proverbial stone by using poinsettias in my pots.  Unlike colder parts of the country, poinsettias can survive outside in our climate, at least with some protection.

When I buy poinsettias, I usually get the yellow ones but I decided to shop around this year before making my selection.  I wanted something that would fit in with the the garden benches and other pots by the front door.  So, I dithered.  Then, having reached a decision on color, I returned to the mom and pop garden center that had my selected plants, only to find that the majority had already been cleaned out!  I didn't have time for a project reboot so I picked 2 plants that were similar in color but not identical in shape.  I got the rest of the plants to fill these pots elsewhere, which also resulted in some missteps.  In the end, I had too many plants for the pots and had to simplify.

Here are the 2 pots in a wide shot taken from the front walkway.

I choose coral-colored poinsettias that pick up the color of my door mat and the pillows that accent the nearby bench cushions.  My gnomes usually come out at Christmas time too and, as they're also maligned holiday hallmarks, I thought they made the perfect complement for my poinsettia challenge pots.

Here's a closer view of the pot #1:

This pot contains a coral poinsettia with ivory edges, Coprosma 'Evening Glow', and noID ferns.  A friend gave me the giant grasshopper ornament a few years ago and as its colors perfectly match the plant colors, it went into the mix.  My favorite gnome, riding a tortoise, is on point to go after the grasshopper should it sprint away.

And here's pot #2:

The gargoyle under the bench isn't really intended as part of the vignette - he sits there all year, although he gets a festive red bow at Christmas time

This coral poinsettia has multi-layered curved bracts that give it a rose-like appearance.  I used Coprosma 'Evening Glow' again but instead of ferns added Acorus gramineus 'Ogon' and a few cuttings of Aeonium'Kiwi'.  The gnome was picked up many years ago on a bargain sale, missing the fishing pole he was supposed to have in his right hand.  I gave him a clump of Aeonium arboreum to hold but he still looks disgruntled, doesn't he?  

I can submit only one photo in Loree's challenge.  Should I go with the wide view, pot #1 or pot #2?  Or do you have other suggestions on mixing it up?

The front door pots aren't my only Christmas decorations.  Here's a look at some of the rest:

A faux tree in the entryway is decorated with wood ornaments and glass bubbles meant to signify rain.  A friend gave me the raccoon figure last year as a joke in light of my ongoing struggles with the creatures.  My store-bought wreath is embellished with a bow and cuttings of succulents, Coprosma and Nandina berries from my garden.  Wood letters and snow globes decorate other areas of the house.
The tree's placement was an issue this year my husband won a long-standing argument over the addition of a recliner in the living room, creating tighter quarters.  The tree overlooks the backyard and the harbor beyond.

For me, nothing brings memories of the past to the surface more readily than Christmas ornaments, a point which Anna's Wednesday Vignette post at Flutter & Hum this week drove home.  Much as I appreciate the theme trees I see on display in various venues, my decorations are a mish-mash that includes family ornaments, gifts from friends, and collected items.  I haven't bought a new ornament in years but somehow I always have more than I can use.

The ornament on the top left was on the earliest tree I remember as a child and brings to mind my father, who died in an accident when I was 6.  The ornament on the top right was made for me by my stepfather, now also gone.  The Siamese cat in the middle of the second row was a gift from a friend, acknowledging the loss of my cat Ming last year - I surrounded him with mice angels I'd bought for myself years before.  The Santa gardener to the right was needlepointed by another friend.  The gold ornament on the bottom left was one of a group of ornaments my husband (the original scrooge) and I made in the early years of our relationship.

I know how crazy - and intense - the holidays can get but I hope you're taking time to enjoy them and to digest your own memories.  And, if you have any ideas on my poinsettia challenge submission, please pass them along!

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

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

New Foliage Plants!

For today's foliage follow-up post, I decided to focus on a few of my newest foliage acquisitions.  Most are relatively small, at least by comparison to their projected sizes at maturity, but I expect them to have a major impact on my backyard borders in the future.

The largest of my new purchases is Agave attenuata 'Raea's Gold', which in a break from my usual practice I bought in a 3-gallon size.  I planted 2 smaller specimens of the conventional A. attenuata nearby but as none of these plants grow especially fast, I wanted to give the area more impact with one larger specimen.  I also assume that the raccoons won't be able to dig up and toss about a plant this size as they've already done with one of the smaller specimens (now caged for their own protection).

As the name indicates, 'Raea's Gold' has a more yellow cast than the more common form of Agave attenuata

Several feet away, closer to my new stone pathway, I also put in Agave bracteosa.  Another spineless agave, it's considerably smaller than A. attenuata.  I knew it by the common name of squid agave but I've since learned that it's also called spider agave and candelabrum agave.  This one is a clumping variety and came with a couple of pups, one of which I planted in the same area.

What do you think?  Does this agave look more like a squid, a spider or a candelabrum? Mom and her pup, now separated, are shown in the photo on the right.

To the right of these plants in the same general region at the south end of the backyard border, I added 2 new plants to complement a Leucadendron 'Safari Sunset' I planted this past March: Coprosma repens 'Pacific Sunset' and Leucadendron 'Red Devil'.  The plants form a scalene triangle.

Coprosma 'Pacific Sunset' (left photo), which I was excited to find in a 1-gallon size instead of the 3-gallon size commonly sold locally, will reach 2-3 feet tall and 4-6 feet wide (someday).  Leucadendron 'Red Devil' (middle photo) is a compact version of L. 'Safari Sunset' (right-hand photo) and should reach only half the height and width of the latter plant's 6 foot by 6 foot size.

Roughly in the middle of the main backyard border, I added 3 Hebe 'Purple Shamrock'.  I literally fell in love with this plant.  On 2 separate trips to my local garden center, I picked it up and carried it around for awhile before returning it to its shelf.  The problem is that it requires regular water and I've worked hard to stay away from such plants.  Nonetheless, on the third trip to the same garden center, I picked it up and brought it home, putting it in a section of the border that gets more irrigation than most others.  Planted relatively close to the walkway, hopefully I'll also notice if it begins to suffer from water withdrawal.

Hebe 'Purple Shamrock' is a relatively small plant by comparison to most members of the genus in my garden.  It should keep to a neat 2 feet tall and wide.  

The last new plant I have to feature is also variegated.  I bought 2 Cordyline 'Electric Flash' with the idea of planting them in pots by our front door as part of a combination for the poinsettia challenge set by Loree of danger garden.  They didn't have the effect I was seeking so I abandoned that plan, leaving me with 2 relatively pricey 1-gallon plants to incorporate somewhere in my garden.  With the removal of our last remaining backyard lawn, I have a lot of space to fill so I rearranged an area I'd planted only the week before and placed these 2 specimens on either side of the intersection between the stone pathway and the backyard patio.

Cordyline 'Electric Flash' is a heat-tolerant clumping variety said to grow 3-4 feet tall and 5 feet wide

As an aside, I think it looks remarkably similar to Phormium 'Ed Carman' which I planted this past March about 10 feet away from one of the 2 Cordyline

That's it for my foliage follow-up post.  Visit Pam at Digging, our host for this meme to find more wonderful foliage.

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Bloom Day - December 2015

December in coastal Southern California is generally a lot warmer than elsewhere in the US but this year despite the Northeast getting record enjoying record warm temperatures, we're experiencing a significant chill.  Nighttime temperatures have dipped into the upper 30sF (4C) and yesterday's daytime high was 57F (14C).  Despite the chilly conditions, there are quite a few plants with flowers this Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, although relatively few plants with masses of blooms.  There are a few exceptions:

Arbutus 'Marina' has blooms most of the year but seems to be particularly floriferous this time of year

Bauhinia x blakeana appears to be at its peak

A hedge of Camellia sasanqua (noID) runs along half one side of the house

All my Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy' are blooming but this one is practically exploding with tiny flowers

Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum' is a stalwart performer from late summer through winter here

While the Tagetes lemmonii I planted in full sun perished during the hot spells we got throughout the fall, this shrub planted in partial shade has proved to be strong bloomer

There are also a few genera that are producing flowers in spots throughout the garden, most notably:

The Gazania have returned with new blooms since the heat abated.  Gazania 'New Day Yellow' is on the far left.  The other photos show Gazania from the 'Flame' series.

The larger-flowered Grevillea are also blooming.  From left to right, they are G. 'Ned Kelly', G. 'Peaches & Cream', and G. Superb'.

I'm also pleased that my Thanksgiving cactus has bloomed at last:

I'm wondering if Schlumbergera truncata bloomed late this year due to the persistence of high temperatures here

And here are a few collages showing the bits and pieces in bloom here and there:

Pink flowers include, top row: Arctotis 'Pink Sugar', Argyranthemum frutescens 'Angelic Pink' and Correa pulchellum 'Pink Eyre'
Middle row: Eustoma grandiflora 'Echo Pink', Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl' and Leucadendron 'Blush'
Bottom row: Osteospermum, Pelargonium peltatum and Rosa 'California Dreamin'

Blue & purple blooms include, top row: Barleria obtusa, Duranta erecta 'Sapphire Showers' and Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick'
Middle row: Hypoestes aristata (on its last legs), Lavandula multifida and L. angustifolia 'SuperBlue'
Bottom row: Salvia chamaedryoides, S. c. 'Marine Blue' and Solanum xanti

White flowers incude, clockwise from the left: Leucanthemum x superbum, Argyranthemum frutescens 'Madeira White', Correa 'Ivory Bells', Lantana 'Lucky White' and Pelargonium 'Vectis Glitter'

Yellow flowers include, clockwise from upper left: Achillea 'Moonshine', Eustoma grandiflora 'Borealis Yellow', Gaillardia aristata 'Gallo Peach' and Leucadendron 'Pisa'

Orange flowers include, clockwise from upper left: Aloe 'Johnson's Hybrid', Nandina domestica berries, Papaver nudicaule, and Rosa 'Joseph's Coat'

That's my Bloom Day round-up.  Thanks as always to Carol at May Dreams Gardens, the esteemed host of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day.  Visit her site to find what's happening in her garden and other gardens around the world.

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

Monday, December 14, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: Floral Flotsam

There are only a few plants in my garden producing flowers in significant numbers but, for this week's "In a Vase on Monday" post, I decided to use bits and pieces that haven't received much attention lately.  Carol of May Dreams Gardens, the host of Garden Bloggers Bloom Day, once referred to the flowers present in small numbers as the "flotsam and jetsam" of her garden, which I thought was an apt description of the materials I selected this week.  I started off with a 'California Dreamin' rose.  The shrub recently produced a couple of beautiful blooms but the first shriveled when we got a tiny bit of rain (0.24 inches/6.1 mm) early last week so I clipped the newest bloom on Sunday in advance of the weather system that passed through last night, then went hunting for other blooms to accent its yellowish pink and cream colors.

Front view

Back view

Top view

Here's what I included:

Top: Rosa 'California Dreamin', said to have a strong citrus scent but it's perfume seemed light to my nose
Bottom, left to right: Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', Achillea 'Moonshine', Correa pulchella 'Pink Eyre', and Leucadendron 'Pisa'

I cut a few flowers that I didn't use in my featured vase so I popped these stems into the tiny blue vase that sits near my kitchen sink, where it complements the ceramic pig that holds my tea bags (alas, not cookies).

The 3-inch vase holds Argyranthemum frutescens 'Angelic Giant Pink' and Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl'

For more floral and foliage concoctions, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

P.S. For those of you who expressed interest in how long last week's Bauhinia x blakeana (Hong Kong orchid tree) blooms last in the vase, the answer is 2 days.  Beautiful as they are, they aren't particularly good subjects for a vase.   The buds don't open once the stem is cut either.

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

Friday, December 11, 2015

Slow but steady progress

Late last month I provided an update on my progress with my lawn removal and replacement project.  Work continues and, while I'm making progress, it's slow.  With my former garden, a postage-stamp sized lot, I could bring home a trunk load of plants and utterly transform the space within hours.  My current garden absorbs trunk loads of plants - and hours upon hours of work - and still looks mighty bare.

Not much has happened on the narrow north end of the new backyard space.  The house itself shades much of the area after mid-day so I need plants that can tolerate dry shade.

Thus far, I've planted Seslaria 'Greenlee's Hybrid', a short clumping evergreen grass (shown on the left), and some Aeonium arboreum cuttings.  I want at least a dozen more of this Seslaria but I haven't been able to find it locally.  I have an endless supply of the Arboreum.

If we walk south on the paving stone path we come to the backyard patio, where I've begun installing succulents.  The soil in this area is sandy and plants must be able to handle full day sun.  I've bought a few succulents but I'm also using cuttings from elsewhere in the garden.  With no overall plan, it's a bit of a hodge-podge collection thus far.

In the bed to the north of the path's intersection with the patio (photo on the left), I'm planning to use plants with orange highlights, including Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire', which I clipped from a more mature specimen, and Aloe 'Blue Elf', which I moved from a pot I'd woefully neglected.  The middle photo shows the bed on the other side of the bisecting path, where I've planted Senecio vitalis cuttings and 2 Agave lophantha quadricolor.  Two pots, shown in close-up in the third photo, contain varieties of Kalanchoe and other noID succulents.

Beyond the patio on the right (west) side, I've added a larger number of plants but, as most were planted from small pots, they're not yet having much of an impact.

The fountain bed formerly ended where the Stipa tenuissima (Mexican feather grass) is planted

The left-hand photo shows Santolina chamaecyparrisus (green form), Lavandula x intermedia 'Phenomenal', Lavendula angustifolia 'Superblue' and Gazanias I've moved forward from the edge of the former bed; the middle photo shows Salvia chamaedryoides, Argyrantemum 'Madeira White', Euphorbia characias 'Black Pearl, and Santolina chamaecyparrissus (gray form); and the last photo shows Echium fastuosum 'Pride of Madeira', planted just in back of the Mexican feather grass to replace Coreopsis I've moved elsewhere

On the other (east) side of the path, I've tried to create continuity with the former backyard border by using more of the plants I already had there, most notably Erigeron and Achillea.

I moved Erigeron glaucus 'Ron's Pink' forward, added more Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick' and Achillea 'Moonshine', and introduced a new low-growing Hebe called 'Purple Shamrock' here

Further down the path on the right (west) side, I've picked up on the orange, yellow and lime green tones I've used on the east side of the backyard border.

In addition to the Arctotis 'Pink Sugar', Abelia 'Kaleidoscope and Santolina virens 'Lemon Fizz' I showed in my earlier post, I've added Papaver nudicaule 'Champagne Bubbles' (shown in the photo on the left) and more Gazania from the 'Flame' series (shown in the photo on the right).  I've also moved some of the smaller semi-evergreen Hemerocallis I had in the main backyard border to this area but these aren't readily visible in my photos.

On the left (east) side of the paving stone path, as it connects to the south end side garden, I've added more succulents to link the areas.

The photo on the left shows 2 small Agave attentuata, a somewhat larger A. attenuata 'Raea's Gold' (one of my biggest splurges thus far) and Agave bracteosa in addition to Coprosma 'Pacific Sunset', Leucadendron 'Red Devil' and more Iceland poppies; the photo on the right shows the Furcraea foetida 'Mediopicta' I moved from a pot, 2 Agave 'Joe Hoak' (one a pup I received from Denise of "A Growing Obsession" earlier this year), Agave 'Cream Delight' moved from another area of the garden, and more Aeonium cuttings

I've also been working on changes to the south side garden.

In this area I've added a Agave ovatifolia 'Vanzie' (another splurge), 2 more Aloe Dorotheae, 3 more Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote', an Agave 'Blue Flame' pup, 3 Carex testacea to mirror those planted on the other side of the path, more Gazania, and an Agave americana mediopicta pup (received from Hoover Boo at "Piece of Eden")

Meanwhile, work also continues on our digging and sifting exercise in former front lawn area alongside the street.  My husband spends a little time there early most mornings and I spend a little time there in the late afternoon, usually as it's growing dark.  We're making progress, even if it's slow.  I also put in a few plants mail-ordered from a California native plant nursery late last week in the area left bare by removal of a mostly dead Ceanothus.  They're very small in relation to the size of the area so it also looks a little sorry at the moment but I hope to add some groundcovers before the heaviest rains arrive.

The plant on the upper left is a Garrya elliptica 'James Roof' and the 2 on the right are Salvia 'Celestial Blue'

I took cuttings of Pelargonium tomentosum and Plectranthus ciliatus 'Zulu Warrior' for use in providing cover for the bare soil

I keep reminding myself how bare the main section of the front garden looked last year when I started planting.  Hopefully, next year at this time I'll be as happy with the current project as I am with last year's project.

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