Monday, May 30, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: Coral Color

My May favorites post focused on the coral and red colors in one of by backyard beds and I found I couldn't shake my preoccupation with that color palette when it came time to select plants for this week's vase.  I had friends over for lunch on Saturday so my vase was prepared Friday night and photographed Saturday morning this week so it'd be in position to greet my visitors when they arrived.

Front view

Back view

Top view

I didn't actually use any of the plants featured in my May favorites post.  There's plenty of material in the same color range scattered through other areas of the garden.  Here's a closer look at the individual elements:

Clockwise from the upper left: Grevillea 'Superb' (framed by Abelia 'Kaleidoscope'), Achillea 'Moonshine', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Bignonia capreolata, Euphorbia 'Dean's Hybrid', and Tanacetum niveum

And here's the finished product stationed opposite the front door:

For more flower and foliage creations, constructed from materials at the fingertips of participating gardeners, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, the host of "In a Vase on Monday."  For those of you in the US, best wishes for a wonderful holiday and the unofficial start of summer.

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

Friday, May 27, 2016

May Favorites

On the last Friday of the month, Loree of danger garden hosts a meme focusing on favorite plants.  In preparation, I took photos of all sorts of plants but my attention kept coming back to one bed.  I call it the "spa bed" because at one time it contained a "snorkel spa" we inherited with the house.  The spa was heated by firewood and very inconvenient to use so, after living with it for a few years and using it only a few times, we took it out and used the spa's top to build a patio table.  (I'm using the royal "we" here as my husband really did all the work.)  I planted the spa bed in March 2014 and have modified my plant choices several times since.  I feel it's finally coming together now and, although the plants are still immature, I love the combination already so I'm featuring the occupants of this bed as my May favorites.

Wide shot of the bed formerly occupied by the snorkel spa

Another view of the same bed

The tree on the left, an Arbutus 'Marina', was in place when we moved in, as was the clump of Agapanthus on the right and the hedge behind.  Everything else is a more recent introduction.  After a brief flirtation with some other plants, I took my color cues from the Arbutus with its red trunk and its coral pink flowers.  Here's a closer look at the present bed.

The bed echoes some of the colors in the dry garden beyond

Melianthus major, Leucadendron 'Jester' and Grevillea 'Ned Kelly' started the ball rolling.

A current photo showing the chandelier-like flowers of Arbutus 'Marina' dangling above Melianthus major, mirroring the colors of Leucadendron 'Jester' below and Grevillea 'Ned Kelly' on the right

A broader view picks up the red of Pennisetum 'Fireworks', Lantana camara 'Irene' and Leucadendron 'Blush'

Pennisetum 'Fireworks', Leucadendron salignum 'Blush', a yellow Anigozanthos and a host of smaller plants were later introductions.  Most recently, I've added  Agastache 'Kudos Mandarin', Leucadendron 'Jubilee Crown' and Leucospermum 'Royal Hawaiian Brandi'.  I love each of these plants individually but it's their synthesis that makes them my favorite selection this month.

Top row, from left: Agastache 'Kudos Mandarin', noID yellow Anigozanthos, and Arbutus 'Marina'
Middle row: Grevillea 'Ned Kelly', Leucadendron 'Jester' and Leucadendron salignum 'Blush'
Bottom row: Pennisetum 'Fireworks', Origanum 'Monterey Bay', and the two newest additions, Leucadendron 'Jubilee Crown' and Leucospermum 'Brandi' (still babies)

Visit Loree at danger garden to see the plants she and other gardeners are most excited about this month.

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Wednesday Vignette: King of the World!

While dashing into the backyard in connection with garden chores this past weekend, I caught sight of something out the corner of my eye.  Quickly collecting my camera, I got a photo of this fellow:

A western fence lizard playing king of the world, owning everything he surveyed from his perch atop Graptosedum 'California Sunset' in a pot of assorted succulents

I slowly moved in closer for a better shot.

He sees me but all I get is a disdainful stare

He ignores me, after all I'm just the caretaker

Oops!  Too close for comfort.  The king beat a less than graceful retreat, of which I got a fuzzy photo.

It's a good shot of the Graptosedum, though

I offer this as my Wednesday Vignette.  The Wednesday Vignette meme is hosted by Anna of Flutter & Hum.  You can find other interesting images on Anna's site here.

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

Monday, May 23, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: Recycled Materials

Most of the Agapanthus flowers in my garden are opening one by one, clump by clump but one particular clump in the front garden produced a bounty of beautiful blue blooms last week, making it hard to ignore when it came time to select plants for inclusion in this week's vase.  Some of the stems I cut last week were still in fine shape so, rather than toss everything out, I recycled them.

Front view of the vase with the newly cut Agapanthus stems and the recycled Leucadendron 'Pisa' cones

Back view

Top view

I toyed with the idea of including more yellow in the arrangement but in the end decided that sticking with blue and white was more effective, especially given my selection of the dark blue vase.  Here's what went into the final mix:

Clockwise from the upper left: Agapanthus (noID), Lathyrus odoratus, Leucadendron 'Pisa', ruffled form of Leucanthemum x superbum, Myoporum parvifolium, and Tanacetum niveum

Actually, all last week's vases stood the test of time.  Only the Euphorbia used in the second vase began dropping significant litter by the end of the week.  While I tossed the contents of that vase, I held onto the vase I created 2 weeks ago.  Only the stems of Leucadendron salignum 'Chief' were drooping.  I removed those, cleaned up the remaining plants a little, gave their stems a fresh cut, added fresh water and voilà, the vase should be good for another week.

Vase containing flowers of Aeonium 'Kiwi', stems of Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey', and a single stem of Phylica pubescens (added last week)

With the older vase in the front entry, the new vase with the recycled Leucadendron stems landed on the dining room table.

I added the bluebird salt and pepper shakers inherited from my mother-in-law as a simple accent

Visit Cathy, the host of "In a Vase on Monday," at Rambling in the Garden to see what she and other gardeners have cobbled together with makings from their gardens this week.

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

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Another Neighborhood Stroll

One of our neighbors expressed concern that the area surrounding the entry to our neighborhood wasn't getting enough water.  Since my husband was involved in re-setting the irrigation in that area, I was asked to check it out and offer comment.  The area gets more than two times the water the most well-watered section of my garden gets, so I was skeptical that there was a problem but I walked up there to have a closer look earlier this week.

One of the issues with the front entry is that all the irrigation runs off one valve so it can't be calibrated for different areas.  Another issue is that, while a large portion of the area has been planted with succulents and other drought-tolerant plants, it also has a small lawn area and plants like azaleas that need more water.  I didn't see any signs of water stress; however, the area does have a pretty serious gopher problem.

Photos taken from around the "gatehouse," which currently serves no purpose other than to house the irrigation unit for the entry area

While I was out on foot, I decided to take a spin around the entire neighborhood to see what's new.  The short answer to that question is "not much" but I thought I'd share some of the highlights.

The lovely maples and blue Alyogyne huegellii that border the front of the house of the neighbor across the street.  I had to wonder if these maples bother my foliage-hating neighbor on our side of the street as her house looks out in this direction.

The gorgeous yellow Leucospermum of the neighbor a few doors down is a constant reminder that I should be able to grow this plant

This neighbor recently had a crew in to clean up their front slope - it looks good, doesn't it?

There's nothing extraordinary about this neighbor's street-side planting bed but I like the combination of the Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima), plumbago (Ceratostigma), and what may be a smoke bush (Cotinus coggygria)

The Jacaranda trees are in bloom throughout the region

The third and last of the huge dead trees along the main route in and out of the neighborhood has finally been removed so I no longer need to hold my breath every time I drive through but the hillside behind certainly looks bare 

Two other trees along that route got the chop.  My husband speculated that this could be the result of another view issue but I suspect it had to do with the power lines.

These neighbors have had their house under construction for over a year now.  I imagine they're getting tired of living in a trailer.

These two tree-sized Callistemon are indicative of just how tall these plants can grow.  (The pine behind them appears to be slowly dying, probably from a combination of drought and the opportunistic pine bark beetle.)

A neatly trimmed palm

My favorite neighborhood garden is now in the hands of new owners, who appear to be doing a good job of maintaining it.  Until I looked at the top photo closely I'd never realized that 3 different materials had been used to control the front slope.  The bottom row shows a tree-sized Buddleja, a giant orange-red Leucospermum, and a Salvia clevelandii.

The front garden of the property across the street deliberately used a simple palette of a few select plants, including the same Salvia used across the street (perhaps S. clevelandii 'Winnifred Gilman') and the only all-white (no touch of pink) Gaura lindheimeri I think I've ever seen.

This may be the largest lawn left in the neighborhood (but the property's backyard lawn, barely visible behind the hedge in the background on the right  appears to be unwatered)

A newly installed vegetable garden

And we're back to our property with the gap in the front hedge discussed in my last post.  (The fifth new Xylosma shrub has now been installed in an effort to close that gap.)

I'll leave you with a photo of a beautiful Hibiscus.  I hope you're enjoying your weekend.

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

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Foliage follow-up: Hedging my bets

I'd hoped to get my foliage follow-up post together last night but an extended power failure interfered.  We never heard what caused the failure but it lasted from 5pm to almost 11pm so my blogging activities were curtailed.  However, we did at least get some use out of the portable generator we'd purchased in the event that El Niño's storms knocked us off-line.  We've had numerous extended power outages since moving here and didn't want to push our luck with winter's weather.  Although the expected downpours and related problems never materialized, at least the generator we had stored in the garage allowed us to run some basic utilities last night.

But that's my version of "the dog ate my homework."  This month's foliage follow-up, prepared in connection with the monthly meme hosted by Pam at Digging, is focused on hedges, specifically our front hedge.  Hedges of Xylosma congestum surround our property on three sides.  There are other hedges as well but the Xylosma constructions are by far the most attractive and the most easily maintained.

Xylosma congestum hedge on the northwest edge of our property

While the hedge on the north side of the driveway consists of a continuous stretch of Xylosma shrubs, this wasn't true on the southwest side.  Half that hedge consisted of Xylosma and the other half of Auranticarpa rhombifolia (formerly classified as Pittosporum rhombifolium).  The latter was in bad shape when we moved in and I tried to prune it into shape.  Some of the shrubs succumbed after being cut back and some succumbed later without my help, leaving a huge gap.

The hedge on the southwest side of the driveway, showing the large gap left following die-back and removal of several Auranticarpa shrubs

The same gap shown from the main level of the front garden looking down toward the street

Following my initial pruning efforts, I began planting succulents in front of the Auranticarpa.  They flourished but I didn't like the way the hedge abruptly ended and the area behind the succulent bed was exposed to the street.  I began looking into hedge alternatives and for a time considered having my husband build me wooden screens to fill the blank spots.  Then another Auranticarpa shrub died and still another went into decline.  My husband eventually convinced me that it made more sense to extend the existing Xylosma hedge.  He dug out the huge stumps left behind by the dead Auranticarpa and I relocated some succulents.  I remain concerned that the Xylosma may encroach upon some of the remaining succulents but hopefully we'll be able to strike a balance.

We planted 4 5-gallon Xylosma last weekend at distances of 4 feet, in keeping with the approach used in laying out the original Xylosma hedge.  The grass-like Chondropetalum tectorum sitting in front on the second Xylosma looks awkward now but, as the new shrub gains some height, they should look better together.  If not, I'll move the Chondropetalum.

The new shrubs in place

The stake is a placeholder for the fifth Xylosma shrub, which we have on order with our local garden center

Xylosma is reported to be fast-growing.  It can get very big and, had I no prior experience with this plant as hedge material, I'd have been scared off by some of the reports posted on-line but, in the 5 years we've been here, there's been no problem keeping it within bounds with regular pruning.  However, even with the addition of 5 new shrubs, we won't have a continuous expanse of Xylosma along the west side of the property.  Four Auranticarpa remain, at least for now.

You can find more foliage follow-up posts by visiting Pam at Digging.

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

Monday, May 16, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: More Renga Lilies

Collecting photos for my May Bloom Day post gave me an inventory of what's currently flowering in my garden and brought some choices I might otherwise have missed to the forefront when it came time to chose flowers for "In a Vase on Monday," the meme hosted by Cathy of Rambling in the Garden.  I wasn't thinking of another vase featuring Arthropodium cirratum (aka Renga Lily) when I stepped into the garden with my clippers in hand - I was thinking about what I could do with the silvery cones of Leucadendron 'Pisa' and Melaleuca thymifolia, a plant in the back border I'd largely forgotten before my backyard photo safari.  As it turned out, the Renga Lilies made a nice companion for the other two plants.

Front view

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the left, the vase includes: the unusual flowers of Melaleuca thymifolia, which look like a complicated crochet construction to me; stems of the peppermint willow trees (Agonis flexuosa) with their white flowers arranged like peppercorns along their length; more Arthropodium cirratum; the silvery cones of Leucadendron 'Pisa'; and foliage and immature berries of what I think is English laurel (Prunus laurocerasus

In retrospect, I should have thinned the foliage of the English laurel to give the arrangement a more airy feel and trimmed the flowering stems of the Agonis flexuosa a bit more to make the arrangement symmetrical but, by the time I reached that determination, I was done with fussing.

But 'Pisa' wasn't the only Leucadendron I was thinking of when I stepped into the garden.  I was also wondering what I could do with the flower-like bracts of Leucadendron 'Blush'.  With the selection of a few suitable companions, I had a second vase.  (I know you're surprised.)

Front view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left, this vase contains: Leucadendron 'Blush', Alstroemeria 'Claire', Euphorbia characias 'Black Pearl', and Achillea 'Moonshine'

I was hesitant about using the Euphorbia in this arrangement because of the hassle of dealing with the sap.  In retrospect, I should have used disposable gloves when stripping the stems of their leaves as the sap dripped from every leaf juncture.  It didn't cause me any skin irritation but I had a devil of a time cleaning the sticky stuff from my hands.  I seared the entire length of the stripped stems, which limited the seepage but I did have to change the milky water in the vase when the arrangement was complete.

The first vase was too large for any place other than the dining room table.

The second vase landed in the front entry.

All three of last week's vases actually held up well but the two that included cilantro flowers were both heavy drinkers and litterers so I tossed them out when this week's vases were ready for placement.  The third of last week's arrangements was virtually unchanged but I tucked in a stem from one of my March purchases, Phylica pubescens, to change it up a bit.

Phylica pubescens (aka Featherhead) is my latest plant crush but, until it bulks up (or I buy more, which is entirely possible), you probably won't see much of it in my vases

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to discover what she and other gardeners have put together this week.

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