Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Summer Succulent Shopping

Two weeks ago, before summer officially began and prior to the June's first heatwave, a friend and I attended the Los Angeles Cactus & Succulent Society's Drought Tolerant Plant Festival at the Sepulveda Garden Center, a community garden run by the City of Los Angeles.  We arrived early under gray skies and and enjoyed blessedly cool temperatures, which isn't something you can generally count on in June in the San Fernando Valley.  I know as I grew up in that inland valley.

I took my time to scope out the plants.  There were some beautiful specimens that were too expensive for my blood.

Left to right: Agave sebastiana, Agave 'Snow Glow' and crested Euphorbia kibwezensis

There were few real deals but, in retrospect, there were many I should have considered more seriously.

Left to right: divisions of Agave 'Blue Flame' (for $5 - why didn't I bring one home?!), variegated Agave gypsophila, and Agave 'Royal Spine'

A nice variety of reasonably priced succulent selections in mostly 4-inch pots from Hannah's Succulents

Other than cactus, succulents and bromeliads, there weren't many other drought tolerant plants but there were a surprising number of pot sellers.  No, California hasn't legalized recreational pot (at least not yet).  I'm talking about clay pots.

Another surprise was an exhibit by the California Turtle & Tortoise Club.

This is "Speedbump," so named because he was run over by a car.  You can see the work performed by the vet to repair his shell when he was rescued by the society.

Succulent guru Debra Lee Baldwin was scheduled to speak so, after making our purchases, we killed time before her talk looking at some of the community gardens.

Most were very neatly maintained

Some focused on ornamental plants more than edibles

This one was very exuberant

This was the most whimsical one I saw

We came upon a plant that intrigued us both but neither of us could identify.

Can anyone tell me what it is?

The Matilija poppies (Romneya coulteri) were blooming too.

My own Romneya coulteri, planted in early spring, didn't bloom this year but at least it's still alive on the back slope where little else is in respectable shape

I didn't go home with a lot but I did make two purchases.

I found a well-priced Agave 'Mr. Ripple', now in place in my dry southeast side garden, where it has plenty of room to spread out.  I also picked up an embellished pot from Hearts of Jade, which operates a succulent art and gift shop in Moorpark. 

If the event had followed our recent heat apocalypse rather than preceding it, maybe I would have purchased more plants but there's always the Inter-City Cactus & Succulent Society Show & Sale.  I may be able to entice my husband to go if August isn't blazingly hot (ha!).

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

Monday, June 27, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: Heat Hardy Survivors

Last week's heatwave proved to be much worse than anticipated in our area.  Our temperature reached 105F (40C) on Monday afternoon.  I can't recall a temperature that high since we moved here and, coming on the heels of unusually cool conditions in May and early June, many plants just couldn't adapt.  I don't think I've ever lost so many plants virtually overnight.  The heatwave was a reminder that drought tolerant doesn't mean heat tolerant.  Some plants died immediately, others were scarred and, as I've heard can be true of winter freezes, the damage took days to show in other cases.  It was a scary start to what forecasters have predicted may be a particularly difficult summer, especially with the simultaneous arrival of aggressive wildfires in California and throughout the Southwest.  Luckily for us along the coast, the marine layer returned last Tuesday, bringing our temperatures back down; however, they're already on the rise again.  So, paraphrasing Bette Davis: fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy summer!

Many flowers retreated when the heat struck but I have some heat tolerant survivors.  My Grevillea in particular took the beating in stride with just a bit of burnt foliage.

Front view

This back view is somewhat nondescript but does highlight the graceful foliage of Agonis flexuosa 'Nana'

Top view

As you can see, I was able to find some heat tolerant companions for the Grevillea.

Clockwise from the far left, the vase contains: Grevillea 'Superb', Achillea millefolium 'Apple Blossom', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Bulbine frutescens 'Hallmark', Gaillardia aristata 'Gallo Peach', Gaillardia grandiflora 'Arizona Sun', and Jacobaea maritima

Most of the Eustoma in bud or bloom also survived the heat, although some of the foliage got toasted.  I noticed that the plants installed last year have far thicker and more succulent leaves and stems than any of the plants installed as plugs this spring, which presumably gave them greater resilience.

Front view

Back view

Top view

From the left, the vase contains: Eustoma grandiflorum (aka Lisianthus) , Heteromeles arbutifolia (a California native commonly known as Toyon, this is the official native plant of Los Angeles County), Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold' (shown here with Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy') and Leucadendron salignum 'Chief'

I've still got Agapanthus in bloom but couldn't find inspiration for any new pairings there.  The dead sweet peas plants went into my green bins but I planted Zinnia plugs in their place.  Zinnias are heat tolerant, if not especially drought tolerant, so I hope they'll provide new options in future weeks.  In the meantime, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, our illustrious "In a Vase on Monday" hostess, to find other floral and foliage creations.

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

Saturday, June 25, 2016

June Favorites: Looking at the Positives

If you read my last post, you know I was upset by the impact our start-of-summer heatwave had on my garden.  It's worse in some areas than others but it's hard to walk through the garden without fixating on dead and maimed plants.  Loree's monthly favorite plants post at danger garden forced me to take a closer look at what's looking good despite the impact of what I've been thinking of as the "heat apocalypse."  On the good side, most of the plants I installed in May and early June, including the 5 Xylosma congestum shrubs planted along the street, survived.  The dry garden doesn't even appear to have registered the event.  The backyard bed I featured in my May favorites post still shines and the garden beds alongside the front walk look good.

So here are a few of the plants that lightened my heart as I roamed my garden yesterday:

This Oscularia deltoides, planted in October 2012 from a 4-inch pot, seems to love growing along the stack-stoned wall at the bottom of the front slope.  The succulent foliage is attractive but the flowers, which blanket the plant when it blooms, are spectacular.  I plan to add cuttings of this plant elsewhere along the wall.

Phormium 'Maori Queen' makes the most of the late afternoon sun.  This Phormium handled the recent heat much better than the darker-leaved varieties in my garden, which generally look sad.  There are 6 'Maori Queen' in the front garden, none of which were damaged by Monday's 105F high temperature.

Sitting next to Phormium 'Maori Queen' is Correa 'Wyn's Wonder'.  It's not in bloom at the moment but its variegated foliage makes a refreshing splash in one of the beds that lines the front walkway.  Because it's done so well here, I've added 2 more of these plants to this bed, one of which replaced a group of Arctotis 'Pink Sugar'.  I love the latter plant too but it gets grubby looking in summer so I'm relegating those plants to areas with less traffic.

Leucadendron 'Safari Sunset' is finally gaining size in the backyard border.  It's backed up here by Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) and a coral-flowered Russelia equisetiformis, which may be the only plant that actually seemed to get a boost from the intense heat earlier in the week.

The red tones of Aloe dorotheae (shown in close-up on the right) and Crassula pubescens ssp. radicans have brightened the succulent bed in the southeast side garden.  Unlike some of the agaves, the Aloes show no signs of sun scorch or the scars of edema.  I can't quite decide whether I like the yellow flowers of the Crassula but I've let them stay for now.

While I've lost a section of thyme in the from garden on the southwest side, the Thymus minus planted from flats last fall in the backyard has done a good job of filling in.  Blooms are appearing here and there too.

My thanks to Loree for nudging me out of my funk.  Visit her to find her favorite plant selections this month and links to posts on the same theme by other gardeners.

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Heatwave Aftermath & Wednesday Vignette

Gardeners in colder climates rue the losses that come from serious freezes.  In my frost-free zone, it's heat that causes damage.  Summer arrived here in Southern California in a fury and my garden felt the impact, despite what I'd hoped were reasonable stopgap measures.  While heat blasts always have an impact, the most recent heatwave, which extended from Friday and culminated on Monday when we reached a 105F (40C) high here, caused far more damage than usual.

I'd expected the sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus) would go from the outset so that wasn't such a surprise.

The first 2 photos show the sweet peas after the heatwave and the photo on the right shows them on Bloom Day

I saw the Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum) withering from my office window on Sunday so I also wasn't surprised by their condition.

The first 2 photos show my dwarf and ruffled Shasta daisies after the heat struck and the photo on the right is another Bloom Day shot

Some plants just aren't hardy enough to handle the heat and dry conditions here to be worth saving so I'll let them go.

Digiplexis 'Illumination Raspberry' (left) requires too much water under even the best of circumstances.  Heuchera 'Bressingham Hybrids' flowered well but they can't handle the heat that left a new planting of Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' (upper right in middle photo) unscathed.  Heuchera maxima is a California native but it always falls apart in summer here so it's out.

I probably never should've tried growing ferns.

The shade in my garden isn't deep enough to allow even western sword fern (Polystichum munitum, bottom 2 photos) to survive

I've always known that planting after April is a crap shoot.

I knew my last mail order delivery was pushing my luck.  Linaria triornithophora (left) may be drought tolerant but it didn't like the heat, although I'm holding out some hope it'll come back.  In contrast, Asclepias cancellata, received with the same order, doesn't appear to have noticed the heat. 

I was a little sick when I saw Alstroemeria 'Claire'.

There was a big, healthy clump with lots of bloom here before the heat struck.  I cleaned out the dead stems immediately because I couldn't stand seeing them.  I hope it'll recover in the fall, if not this summer.

The condition of one of my long-time favorite plants, Plectranthus ciliatus 'Zulu Warrior', which I brought with me 5 years ago when we moved in, was heart-breaking.

The photo on the left was taken Tuesday morning and the one on the right, showing the same plant, was taken last October.  All my Plectranthus, including those in more shade, were damaged by the heatwave.

The Campanula primulifolia I raved about last fall was delivered a death sentence.

This drought tolerant Campanula looked great last September (photo on right) but the combination of reduced water and reduced shade did it in.

My Cordyline 'Renegade' isn't looking good.

The Cordyline as it looks today (left) and as it looked in January (right)

Some plants, while injured, should come back.

As anyone who's grown it knows, Acanthus mollis (left) can't be killed.  The Agave attenuata (middle) on the back slope is sunburned.  Ajuga genevensis (right) looks bad but there are baby plants surrounding it.

Others seem to have suffered but are hanging on, at least for now.

The sunflowers (left) I planted from seed look scraggly but determined to bloom.  While the Phylica pubescens I've got growing in a pot sailed through the heat, the 2 newer plants in the backyard border (middle) look a bit unhappy.  Even Salvia discolor (right) took a blow from the heat but, with some cutting back, it should be fine.  I'm hoping that the perennial Lupinus (not shown), which suffered tip burning, will also recover.

Like freezes, the signs of heat damage may take time to show.  I noticed more this morning than I did Monday evening and Tuesday morning.  Even some of the Agapanthus, which I'd initially thought were unaffected, are looking worse for the wear.

The light blue flowered Agapanthus shown on the left has suffered more than the darker blue and white specimens (right)

All is definitely not lost.  With the exception of the impact to our air quality, the wildfires that are having such a devasting impact elsewhere haven't affected us.  My beloved Grevilleas, Leucadendron, and many other plants weathered this round of heat.  This summer is expected to be tougher than the last one and the early blast in June certainly reinforces the threat.  I'm going to eat into the water budget I've accumulated by my miserly irrigation schedule in an effort to improve the resilience of my plants to handle the next heatwaves.  I may also reconsider my efforts to appease my foliage-hating neighbor and let the tree canopies that so offend her spread to give my garden more shade.  Shade - and the lack of it - was clearly a factor in this heat apocalypse.  I'll haul off the dead, mourn my losses, and move on.

On the positive side, for my Wednesday Vignette, there are grapes ripening in the dry garden - and the raccoons haven't got all of them (at least not yet).

Visit Anna at Flutter & Hum for more Wednesday Vignettes.

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

Monday, June 20, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: Summer Rescue Operation

I went outside to cut flowers for "In a Vase on Monday," the meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, at 8am on Sunday.  The thermometer already read 87F (30C) so it wasn't the optimal situation in which to cut flowers but I knew things were only going to get worse.  The heat is expected to climb to record levels throughout the US Southwest on Monday so I cut a lot of flowers.

Cutting lots of flowers means I have 3 vases to share this week.  The first was constructed to show off my Eustoma grandiflorum (aka Lisianthus).  The pink-flowered varieties planted last year have the largest number of buds but I didn't want to lose a lot of unopened flowers so I turned to another group I planted as plugs in April.  Their color wasn't what I'd anticipated when I submitted my mail order.

Front view featuring Eustoma planted from plugs in April

The back view is very different but I like it too

Top view

If you look very, very closely at the Eustoma, you'll notice faint pink highlights in what otherwise seems to be pale yellow bloom.  The variety is called 'Pink Champagne' but even I didn't see the pink in the flower until it was inches from my face.  At first, I thought maybe I'd mixed up the plugs but I checked my records against the grower's listing and I'm certain now that 'Pink Champagne' isn't as pink as the catalog photo led me to expect.  Maybe the pink will deepen, as has been the case with other of the solid pink selections, but I didn't count on that when I selected its companions for my vase.

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: Eustoma grandiflorum 'Pink Champagne', Achillea 'Moonshine', noID Anigozanthos, Hebe 'Purple Shamrock', Phylica pubescens, and Tanacetum niveum with Santolina pinnata.  Aren't the purple edges and stems of the Hebe wonderful?  I also like the way the variegation in the Phylica echoes that of the Hebe.  I was able to bring myself to cut one stem of the Phylica as it was sticking up above the plant like a feather-duster (and it helps that I now have 3 of these plants in my garden).

I selected sweet peas as the starting point for my second vase.  They were already on the decline and I fully expect that the current heatwave will be the end of them.  Last week I paired blue/purple sweet peas with stems of Lupinus proquinuus in a bouquet for a friend but the lupines were mostly toast already so I looked further afield for companions this week.

Blue and white Agapanthus filled in for the missing lupines

The back looks similar to the front

Top view

I stuck to a blue and white palette.

Clockwise from the left, the vase contains: white and blue forms of Agapanthus, Catananche caerulea, Lathyrus odoratus, Leucanthemum x superbum (ruffled form), Solanum xanti, and Tanacetum niveum.  (Also included, but not highlighted were: Lavandula angustifolia and Salvia 'Mystic Spires'.)

As the heat worsened, I made a last minute decision to cut flowers for a third vase before ducking inside to get out of the heat and the almost unbreathable air tied to the Sherpa fire 100 miles away.  I cut just two stems of pink Eustoma as a starting point.

Front view showing pink Eustoma front and center

From the back, the foliage of Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' makes me think of a dress with a long train (not that I've ever owned or worn one of those)

Top view

This vase balanced floral and foliage elements to a greater extent than the other two.

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: Eustoma grandiflorum, Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt', Origanium 'Monterey Bay', Pelargonium peltatum, Persicaria capitata, and Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-star'

As soon as I went into the house, the birds made a bee-line for the fountain.  The critters have as much trouble with our heatwaves as we do.

This Spotted Towhee enjoyed a refreshing bath once the coast was clear

Sitting at my desk late Sunday afternoon, I could literally see plants withering through my office window.  The Shasta daisies, which looked great Sunday morning, have already shriveled.  I wish now that I'd cut all of them.  Despite a good soaking on Saturday, I fear that some plants may not make it through the first official day of summer.

But my blue and white vase gives a sense of pleasant coolness to the dining room table.

The vase with the 'Champagne' Eustoma adds cheer to the front entry.

And the vase containing the "true" pink Eustoma found a place on the bedroom mantle.

Pipig gets to relax in the air-conditioned comfort of the house as the heat intensifies today.  I have to head off into the heat for jury service, leaving my garden to its own devices.

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to find more vases.

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