Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Wednesday Vignette: What says spring to you?

Even in the midst of drought, spring can be an almost overwhelming experience here.  This year, late winter blooms combined with spring blooms to create a floral explosion.  Honestly, it's left me wanting more foliage to put my garden into balance, although summer, expected to be very hot and dry again this year, will undoubtedly correct the problem all too soon - as temperatures rise, the flowers will beat a hasty retreat and the garden will be greener again.

However, now, with so many flowers competing (no, screaming) for attention, it's easier to focus on individual blooms, a few of which left me sighing this week.

This rose is 'California Dreamin'.  The flower is almost the size of my hand.  It was cream-colored with a neon pink edge when it opened but it morphed to what you see here before I made it around with my camera.  The high winds we experienced this week have already left it a shadow of its former self but perhaps the bush will produce another bloom before summer temperatures spike. 

I purchased Leucadendron 'Pisa' for its silvery foliage.  It produced only a few flowers last year, most late in the year, but this spring I suddenly found it covered with these luminescent yellow blooms.

See what I mean?  And this is after I'd cut several stems for different floral arrangements.

This sunflower seedling appeared in one of the raised planters in my vegetable garden after our meager rains (along with some self-seeded borage).  I don't know whether to view it as a pleasant harbinger of summer or a refugee fleeing in advance of the long, hot, dry summer ahead.

For more Wednesday Vignettes, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.

All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, March 28, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: An angel by any name

My roses are starting to bloom.  The beautiful noID lavender rose had two large blooms I couldn't resist cutting for my contribution to "In a Vase on Monday," the weekly meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  I thought I'd match them with some of the other lavender blooms I had in the backyard but the roses have a lot of pink in them and the other flowers looked dull by comparison.  So, I improvised.

Front view

Back view

Top view

The lavender rose came with the house.  Unlike some of my other inherited roses, it had no identification tag.  While its color and scent reminds me of 'Angel Face', the blooms are larger than those of the cultivar I had in my former garden but perhaps this shrub is simply more robust than my former specimen.

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: 2 stems of the noID lavender rose; a noID Alstroemeria; a noID Antirrhinum, shown here with Heuchera maxima, a California native; Argyranthemum frutescens 'Angelic Giant Pink'; Hebe 'Wiri Blush', shown with a peek of Penstemon parryi; and what I think is Prunus  laurocerasus

I REALLY didn't intend to put together a second vase this week.  But then I discovered that one of the Hippeastrum I planted in the succulent bed along the street 3 years ago was in bloom.  I'd been waiting weeks for the bud to open.  I figured it wouldn't be in good shape for next week's vase so I went ahead and cut the stem, then hurriedly collected foliage and flowers to accompany it.

Front view

Clockwise from the left, the vase contains stems of: Hippeastrum cybister 'Emerald', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey', Heuchera 'Bressingham Hybrids', and Leucadendron 'Pisa'

The two arrangements properly dressed up the house to celebrate Easter and the official start of spring.  The lavender rose arrangement sits on the dining room table.  (I finally tossed the Cymbidium and the rest of that vases's contents.)

Last week's pink arrangement in the master bedroom was replaced by the vase with the Hippeastrum.

Speaking of Easter, my brother sent me his own personal Easter greeting, in the form of a photo he took in 2014.

Photo used with the permission of

While I'm sure you wouldn't be happy to find this hare in your garden, the look of annoyance on his face at being caught in the act, "deadheading" flowers, is precious.  My brother is a much better photographer than I am.  His 2015 garden photos can be found here.

For more "IAVOM" posts, visit our host, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, March 25, 2016

March Favorites

Once a month, Loree of danger garden invites us to celebrate the plants in our garden making the biggest impression at the moment.  Most of my selections this month aren't exotic or unusual.   However, in each case, the plant's either at its peak of performance or it's done something to surprise me.

First up is Ajuga reptans 'Mint Chip'.  A very low grower, it fits in nicely alongside the backyard walkway.  Its pretty blue flowers seemed to appear overnight.

Another low groundcover that suddenly burst into bloom this month is Anagallis 'Wildcat Mandarin', a hybrid I planted 2 years ago.  It needs to be cut back after it finishes blooming but that's virtually all the maintenance it requires.

Felicia aethiopica is providing another burst of blue in the backyard.  This variety, called 'Tight & Tidy' by the grower, is just that.  Its projected size, 16 inches tall and 30 inches wide, is shorter than the variety usually offered by local garden centers.  (It's currently in danger of being engulfed by Lupinus propinuus, which is growing larger and faster than I imagined it would.)

The front garden has its own bolt of blue in the form of the noID Ceanothus hedge that is currently near full bloom.  This hedge, trimmed frequently to keep it within the bounds, probably doesn't have a long life ahead of it.  Since we moved in, I've already lost 3 sections of the front Ceanothus hedge and one section of the backyard hedge.  I've considered removing the entire thing but, when it blooms, granting it mercy and letting it exit on its own terms is an easy decision to make.

The garden has also produced some jolts of hot pink this month.  One of the plants providing that bright color is Callistemon 'Hot Pink', a hybrid I acquired last year.  The plant is still relatively small but it does its best to make an impression.  The only problem with it is that its floral color clashes with that of a number of its bedmates so it may have to move.

More hot pink color is provided by Pelargonium cucullatum 'Flore Plenum' (aka 'Golf Ball').  This was one of several Pelargoniums I picked up at a Geranium Society sale at my local botanic garden last year but it appears to be the most vigorous of the lot.  There's a nice red edge to the bright green leaves that complements the flowers well.

A more subdued bloomer sits on the back slope, where it gets little attention.  Carpenteria californica (aka Bush Anemone) is a drought tolerant, native plant that tolerates sun or shade conditions.  It seemed a perfect choice for the back slope when I planted it in 2012 as the area was in shade most of the day but it struggled to adjust to the increased sun exposure when we took out the giant Yucca Elephantipes there early last year.  It benefits from tip pruning, which I neglected to do last year.  Full of round, balloon-shaped buds now, pruning will have to wait.

My last entry, which also grows on the back slope, may be mundane but it falls into the "surprise" category.  It's an artichoke.  It was leftover from 6-pack of plugs I planted a few years ago.  With no more room in the vegetable garden, I stuck the seedling on the slope.  While it hasn't produced any chokes, it's out-lived the other plants I put in that year.  It gets very little water and dies back each summer but it keeps reappearing after our meager winter rains, flaunting its attractive gray foliage.

For more favorite plant entries, visit Loree at danger garden.

All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Who outwitted whom?

I've an ongoing struggle with the resident squirrels that eat more of the seed I put out for the birds than the birds do.  My husband built a cage around my largest feeder but, in time, the squirrels found their way in.

No matter how many times the cage was reinforced, the squirrel inevitably found a way in, usually within a matter of days

As the bottom metal plate on the feeder was disintegrating, I decided to retire the "squirrel feeder" and went shopping for a new bird feeder.  Luckily, the local wild bird food store had a special on squirrel resistant feeders.  (Yes, we have a store catering specifically to the needs of wild birds.)  I bought the top-of-the-line feeder, an improvement on the "squirrel buster" feeders I already had.  It's marketed as "guaranteed squirrel proof."  (You can see how it works here if you're interested.)

Did it work?  You be the judge.

Entry attempted with back legs clinging to the feeder pole but his weight on the bottom section closes the seed ports

He tries to pull the feeder toward him while hanging from another feeder but even the lesser pressure closes the seed ports

He studies the problem from above

Giving up on the new feeder, he tries his luck with an earlier version of the "squirrel buster" feeder but gets only a trivial amount of seed by hanging upside down

After giving me a good stare, he took off

After two days of multiple attempts to crack the feeder, Mr. Squirrel was found sitting dejectedly at the top of the feeder pole.

He appeared to be staring directly into my office window

Is that a look of melancholy?  Or, is he plotting revenge?

The birds seemed happy that they no longer had to share the feeders.

Mr. Squirrel could be seen now and then, eating seed the birds dropped to the ground

It appeared that Mr. Squirrel had come down in the world.  Literally.  Or so I thought.

Then I found that most of the Gazanias in the backyard border looked like this

So, the "squirrel feeder" has been rescued from the trash bin.  My husband affixed a plastic pot saucer to the bottom of the feeder to replace the disintegrating metal one and I filled it with seed.  The squirrels aren't getting the good stuff though - they'll have to make do with the cheap seed mix from the local big box store.

The old feeder has been attached to the pole on the south side of the house, where the squirrels and the scrub jays can duke it out over the lower grade seed and leave the smaller birds - and hopefully, my Gazanias - undisturbed

All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, March 21, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: Stuffed with Spring Blooms

Last week I said I stopped myself from putting together a fourth vase in shades of blue and purple so, this week, I started my search of the garden with purple and blue in mind.  There are still plenty of flowers to choose from but, as I stepped out the back door, I fixated on the Dutch Iris in bloom alongside the fountain and locked into a color scheme from that moment.

Front view with the Iris taking center stage - I couldn't bring myself to cut the second blooming Iris stalk but the one I cut has a second bud about to bloom

The vase looks very lopsided from the back because I couldn't get that wide stem of Limonium perezii to cooperate and chose not to hack it into pieces

The top view highlights the silver and chartreuse colors of the Leucadendron

As the bright purple flowers of Limonium perezii are in bloom in areas throughout the garden, they were a natural choice to fill the vase, as were the gold Freesia blooms that have popped up everywhere.  The silver and chartreuse blooms of Leucadendron 'Pisa' were a wild-card addition.  I'm not sure they really mesh with the other flowers but they did lighten what was otherwise a heavy color mix, especially with the dark vase, so I kept them.

Clockwise from the upper left:  Iris x hollandica, Coleonema album with Solanum xanti, Freesia, Leucadendron 'Pisa', Limonium perezii, and Narcissus (noID)

In the past week, there's also been a surge in the volume of hot pink blooms so I made up a second vase to showcase that color scheme too.

Front view with the Schizanthus stealing the focus from the Callistemon on the left

The top view gives each flower its due

Clockwise from the left, the vase contains: Callistemon hybrid 'Hot Pink' with Alstroemeria (noID), Argyranthemum frutescens, Ixia (noID), Prunus laurocerasus, and Schizanthus  pinnatus

The first vase sits in the front entry.

The second vase sits on the mantle in the master bedroom.

And the vase created around the Cymbidium flower stalk 4 weeks ago, which I refreshed last week, is back on the dining room table.

The Coleonema and Leptospermum stems I cut last week are a bit withered but the Cymbidium looks virtually unchanged

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, the host of this popular weekly "IAVOM" meme, to find what other gardeners have scrounged up to use in their vases.

All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Foliage Follow-up: Fresh Spring Growth

In yesterday's Bloom Day post I bemoaned  the fact that, in spring at least, my garden seems out of balance, with flowers dominating the scene.  That doesn't mean I don't have a lot of foliage plants.  I have 29 trees by my current count and the entire property is surrounded by hedges of various kinds.  While I've taken out all of the lawn, I've added ornamental grasses as well as creeping thyme throughout the garden as ground cover.  And do we even need to discuss my Leucadendron collection?!  In summer, when the heat is on and flowers are in retreat, foliage plays a more dominant role, even if the floral elements demand the central focus in spring.

But, even in spring, some foliage plants command attention.  The Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid' I added in the middle of the backyard border last March is one of those plants.  This shrub, purchased in a 1-gallon container to fill the spot vacated by a tall peppermint willow (removed to address a neighbor's complaint with obstruction of her view of the harbor), was probably one foot tall when I planted it but it's already 4 feet tall.  It does bloom but, at the moment, its the fresh new foliage that caught my eye.

The new silvery orange-toned foliage is especially good-looking when viewed from the dirt path behind the backyard border

But the shrub also looks good when viewed from the flagstone path that bi-sects the backyard

The Callistemon isn't the only foliage plant with orange-tinged spring foliage.

This Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku' enjoys a good deal of shade in its spot in the vegetable garden alongside the garage 

The Calliandra haematocephala produces these flushes of new foliage periodically throughout the year

While my Itoh peony (Paeonia Itoh hybrid 'Keiko'), has refused to rebloom since I planted it in 2013, it does produce pretty foliage in the spring

Other notable foliage this month includes:

Abelia x grandiflora 'Hopley's', which has formed a handsome clump since I planted it in October 2012

Dwarf Acer palmatum 'Mikawa Yatsubusa', which leafed out seemingly overnight

Melianthus major, which I was forced to cut back severely after some creature (I'm blaming the raccoon) badly damaged its main branches, probably when climbing down the Arbutus above it

What I think is Persimmon 'Hachiya', now producing glossy new leaves

The 'Red Flame' seedless grape

I'll end this month's Foliage Follow-up with a different kind of green plant, a spiny hedgehog cactus.

A friend passed this Echinopsis oxygona on to me in December 2014 with just 4 columnar segments.  It's developed all those rounded segments since then and is showing signs that it may even bloom this year.

For views of more flashy foliage, visit Pam, the host of Foliage Follow-up, at Digging.

All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party