Saturday, July 23, 2016

The good, the bad and the ugly

This morning we woke to hazy skies.  I was initially delighted at the idea that the morning marine layer had returned as that usually brings our temperature down and, after days of highs in the low 90sF, that was welcome.  But the light was peculiar.

This was the view from our backyard, looking out over the Los Angeles Harbor and the Vincent Thomas Bridge leading to Long Beach.  The sepia color isn't a photographic trick but rather the result of a mix of fog and smoke.


Although we couldn't smell smoke here (and still can't), it quickly became apparent that the hazy sky couldn't be attributed solely to fog.  There's another brush fire burning in the Angeles National Forest.  It started yesterday afternoon and has already covered 11,000 acres, necessitating evacuations.  A cool-down is expected in the area this evening, which I hope will help firefighters bring the fire under control.

THE GOOD

The hazy, tinted light added a glow to my garden, making things look better than they did in the harsh light earlier this week.

View from the northeast corner of the house looking south

The dry garden on the southeast side of the house is currently getting regular irrigation.  The Leucadendrons ('Ebony' and 'Chief') and Coprosma 'Plum Hussey' add a touch of red color to what is mostly a green space at this time of year.

After more than a year in the garden, Leucadendron 'Safari Sunset' (left) is finally gaining size.  The 3 Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' under the tree continue to thrive after 3 years in the ground.


All the Leucadendrons are looking good.

Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' continues to be one of the stars of my garden


And so is Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid'.

Planted in the backyard border from a one-gallon container just over a year ago, I'm so happy with 'Cane's Hybrid' that I'm wondering where I could put another one.


I refilled the bird feeders, which made the birds happy.

It's fortunate that I picked up birdseed on the way home yesterday as the greedy creatures are going through it at a record rate.  They're also pleased that the fountain is back on - we had an extended power outage yesterday and they kept landing on the fountain, squawking about the water being shut off.


THE BAD

But even taking the lousy air quality out of the equation, all isn't entirely well here.  While I've been hiding inside during the current heatwave, the tent caterpillars took over both my perennial lupines, leaving devastation in their wake.

I thought I had the infestation under control but I clearly did not.  I've been reluctant to use pesticides but today, after cutting back the branches destroyed by the caterpillars and removing all I could find, I sprayed the plant with insecticidal soap.  I'm not sure it'll do anything but I'm worried that the plant may already have trouble recovering from the damage the caterpillars have done.


THE UGLY

Meanwhile, despite amping up my irrigation, the heat and drought have continued to take a toll on selected plants, leading me to conclude that more will have to be replaced this fall.

This Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold' showed signs of distress months ago but I wasn't able to uncover the cause.  The plant is beyond help now.

In contrast, this C. 'Sunset Gold', also situated along the driveway, is doing fine 


In other cases, after years in place, a few plants have just proven themselves unsuited to the combination of intense summer heat, low winter rainfall, and restricted irrigation that is currently a fact of life here.

The 3 Hebe 'Variegata' planted in the back border 5 years ago all look like this.  While they generally look better in spring after being cut back, their summer appearance has become unacceptable.

The 3 Phormium 'Dark Delight' in the back border, all of which currently look like that in the photo on the left, are also pale imitations of their former selves, as shown in the photo on the right.  None of the red-colored Phormiums or Cordylines in my garden seem to hold up well under summer conditions here.


I've already begun scouring my garden books for ideas on appropriate replacements.  If you have any suggestions, please pass them along!

Now, having dispensed with the bad and the ugly, I'll end with a more pleasant image of what's good in the garden.

A skipper hanging out on a pink Eustoma grandiflorum bloom


Wherever you are, I hope the weekend brings comfortable temperatures, soft breezes and clean, smoke-free skies.


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

36 comments:

  1. Oh, gee, you had a power outage, too? No AC? No automatic irrigation? We're living in the 21st century in the richest nation in the world, right?

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    1. Power outages are ridiculously common here, Jane. In all the years living 15 miles away from here in a beach town we had maybe 2 power outages but here we get several a year, some planned, many not. They tend to last much longer than the power company projects too. Last year, when there were all those warnings about El Nada, we purchased a portable generator. It doesn't run everything (e.g. not the AC or the irrigation) but at least we don't lose everything in our refrigerator on a regular basis anymore.

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  2. I hope the smoke clears and you get some cooler weather, Kris. I know other people in the PNW have been missing the sun the last couple weeks, but I've been loving the cooler weather. We're set to go back into the high 80's or more and I'm not happy about it. Maybe some of our cool weather will make it down your way. Good luck in your search for replacements. I've never been able to find a satisfactory replacement for phormiums, though my problem is the occasional cold spell, not drought.

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    1. The temperature dropped dramatically late yesterday afternoon, which allowed me a little time outdoors. We're back in the mid-80s today, which wouldn't be bad except that the humidity also climbed.

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  3. I love that view looking south from the northeast corner. The path looks lovely.

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    1. My wonderful husband is responsible for laying the stone pathway there and in the front garden spaces as well, Susie. It was hard work and I appreciate it every time I look at the garden.

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  4. Oh those smokey garden photos! Last summer when the bloggers went on a pre-tour for our Garden Conservancy Open Days the skies were the same as there were several wildfires raging in the state. I hope this one is under control soon. Anyway...your good is very very good!

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    1. Sadly, the Sand Fire has doubled in size again since yesterday afternoon and is only 10% contained at the last report. We're tinder dry here, unfortunately.

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  5. We hit 111º just as the fire became "breaking news" on Friday. Aside from watering plants we've stayed inside. Yesterday a silver car parked across the street appeared to be copper colored. A new cloud of smoke is rising off in the distance right now and this is what it looked like from the back yard yesterday. http://ericnp.net/sand-fire-072316-1a.jpg

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    1. That looks horrible, Eric. I heard that the Valley was getting a lot of smoke and ash from that fire. I hope you and D and laying low and avoiding breathing any of that in.

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  6. That isn't the usual picture of your garden that we are used to. Gardens do suffer from pollution as well as humans. Sorry to hear about the forrest fires. I'm afraid it won't be long before they start burning around here too. It has been so hot and no sign of relief.

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    1. I'd hoped the forecasters would be as wrong about the tough summer they predicted as they were about the path of El Nino but it looks as though we may not be that lucky. I hope that your area stays smoke-free, Jenny.

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  7. Sorry about the fires. Hope they stay far away from you.
    We're heating up, and very dry here in Central Texas. That makes everyone nervous.
    It does take its toll on the garden.
    Stay safe, and cool.

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    1. Thanks Linda! I send the same wish back to you.

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  8. I thought of you when the fires started making the headlines here. I hope they can be rapidly extinguished. It is not a pretty sight and I feel for all those who have been evacuated. The impact of the heat on your garden is horrible too. Climate change really does have its teeth into us it seems.

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    1. Fires scare the heck out of me, especially as we now live in a high risk area (where stupid people insist on setting off prohibited fireworks). My in-laws lost their dream home in Malibu in a fire many years ago and I still remember the horror of that experience. I know exactly how those evacuees feel.

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  9. Wildfires are anyways scary. That sky of yours looked very ominous. And we still have several months of summer left...

    I've lost two plants so far this summer: a variegated Daphne and a Banksia. They needed more water than I was giving them in the previous heatwave. More room for new plants in the fall.

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    1. I was surprised that so many plants got through the heat, drought and water restrictions relatively unscathed last year but I think their resources for resilience have been used up. It's time to really face facts about the impact of climate change in my garden I think.

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  10. I never have any luck with cordylines in the ground, not for long anyway. My latest dark phormium 'Black Adder,' planted in February, is holding up in full sun, with soaker hoses. As hot as it's been, at least it's always been breezy here in LB.

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    1. I originally bought Phormium 'Dark Delight' because I couldn't find 'Black Adder'. I've seen the latter periodically at my local garden center in the last year but I'm a little wary of the dark varieties now. Maybe I'll try one in partial sun to see how it does. Oddly, I don't have the same problem with 'Atropurpureum', 'Maori Queen' of any of the other variegated forms.

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  11. Tried Bt for the caterpillars? Non-toxic! Glad you did not have to inhale that smoke. Bad stuff.

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    1. For whatever reason, I've never tried Bt but I will! I guess lupines must be a host plant for whatever species these caterpillars belong too. The other perennial lupines I tried were similarly consumed.

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  12. Definitely good, bad, and ugly, Kris! Your "Cane's Hybrid" Callistemon is very, very good - I wish my shrubs/small trees would speed up growing a little! It's tough to see plants that took two or three heatwaves in stride unable to keep up over the long haul. As of this morning I suspect I will lose my Leonotus soon though I think it was weakened by spider mites, grrr... Glad you mentioned your difficulties with dark-leaved Phormiums. They're widely sold here, but there's a big difference between growing things in a shaded patio by a pool and plonking them out in my garden!
    The fires are very upsetting, and I know my dear aunt in SD is worrying more as the fires there have been burning much further into urban areas over the last few years. Please stay safe!

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    1. That Callistemon really is a fast grower - and it looks as though it's going to produce another round of flowers too! I'm sorry to hear that you're also dealing with bug problems. Spider mites are among the worst!

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  13. I've been seeing the fires on the news - scary stuff. Air quality must be horrible.
    Are you familiar with the CA Native Plant Society? They might have some good choices for your garden that could take the heat and drought. http://lasmmcnps.org/index.php/native-plants/native-nurseries-and-botanic-gardens

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    1. Air quality was worse this weekend - the wind has shifted but, while good for us, that's not good for people north of the fire. There's still a gray haze over the LA Basin. At last report, the Sand Fire is 25% contained.

      I'm familiar with CNPS. I've had mixed results with natives, even those identified by the as "local" by the regional conservancy group. It all comes down to finding the right microclimate here.

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  14. I remember well my first experience of a California fire season in 1970 (not until August in those days). At first, I couldn't figure out what all the fuss was about a "brush fire" in the hills; I had just arrived from New England where a "brush fire" usually means the grass in someone's back yard is on fire and can be taken care of with a garden hose -- no big deal. By the second day when it looked like dusk at noon and ash was falling like rain, I realized this was a different kind of "brush fire" altogether. -Jean

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    1. The fires here are indeed horrible, Jean. Although I can remember fellow high school students being pulled from classes because homes near theirs were threatened, I never had a a personal experience with the threat until the 1990s when my husband's parents lost their dream home in Malibu to fire.

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  15. A beautiful light over the garden!
    Terrible with both droughts and fires that affect you!
    Not much to whine about our drought, here it has not rained for several weeks but only 15 minutes away dert has rained so much that it became a short flood.
    Hope it rains over both of us soon.
    Mariana

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    1. Rain here would be a miracle, Mariana! We do not expect any until October.

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    1. No apologies are necessary, Mariana. I appreciate that you write in English as I know only a few words of Swedish.

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  17. The quality of light through the smoke is lovely. Sorry about the bad and ugly parts. Sorry I have no idea about heat and tolerant plants other than aloe, agave, cacti. I wish you a more comfortable weekend. It'll be in the 70's here. Want to come up for a visit?

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    1. Temperatures in the 70s would be lovely. Unfortunately, our relatives from Washington are headed down this way. Apparently, they don't know a good deal when they have it!

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  18. Catching up - I do hope the fires are out by now?

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    1. The Santa Clarita fire is out but a fire to the north in Big Sur (Soberanes Fire) is still only 50% contained and there's a new fire in the San Bernadino Mountains. Traditionally, fire season here is associated with Santa Ana wind conditions in October through April but there are now contentions that California has 2 fire seasons, the first starting in early summer. It appears that one may blend into the other.

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