Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Wednesday Vignette: I'm not ready!

There was a time in my life, not all that long ago, when I somehow managed to prepare for the year-end holiday season in advance even while working 60+ hour weeks.  I kept lists of gift ideas for reference.  I shopped for gifts - in real brick and mortar stores - and tucked them away when I found just the right items.  I hand-wrote letters to include in cards, which I dropped into postal boxes for delivery weeks ahead of time.  I even baked cookies.  (Well, to be honest that really was a long time ago.)  So, how does it happen that now, year after year, the holidays sneak up on me?  I wasn't prepared for Thanksgiving and I'm sure as heck not ready for Christmas.  But there's no hiding from the fact that it's coming...

The second of these 2 trees of lights, erected on nearby properties, appeared last night to taunt me through the window of my home office

I hope you're more organized than I am.

Visit Anna at Flutter & Hum for more Wednesday Vignettes.

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

Monday, November 28, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: Sunshine and Showers

We got MORE rain!  Maybe Mother Nature heard those of you in rainier climes who wished you could send your excess rain to the drought-stricken areas of California.  While I've no illusions that our drought is over, getting rain 2 weekends in a row is an extraordinary blessing and much appreciated.  My garden is thoroughly soaked; the irrigation system will be off for at least another week; and all 3 of my rain barrels are full, giving me 475 gallons of rainwater in reserve.  Even my car got scrubbed clean.  Yay!

The second of two weekend storms crept through Sunday morning, finishing up before noon here.  I strolled the garden and decided that it's time to cut back the massive gold Duranta erecta in the front garden.  I clipped a few stems as the starting point for this week's "In a Vase on Monday."

Sold as Duranta erecta 'Gold Mound', which is described as a shrub 2 feet tall and wide, this nearly 6 foot specimen was clearly mislabeled

I wasn't sure what to pair with the acid yellow foliage of the Duranta and clipped a number of plants before settling on a direction.

Front view: In retrospect, I probably should have clipped the Phylica in front a little shorter and let the Duranta in the back stand taller

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the left, the vase contains: feathery Phylica pubescens, Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', red-stemmed Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Duranta erecta 'Not Gold Mound', and Tagetes lemmonii.   My husband is already complaining about the scent of the Tagetes but I like it.

The extra stems I clipped on my first round through the garden went into a second vase.  I pulled the vase out of the back of my cupboard, where it had been all but forgotten.  I bought it on-line earlier this year or maybe last year, thinking it would work well for succulent arrangements, but I don't think I've used it for those or anything yet.

The vase has an angular geometric shape and a pale green matte finish

It was just the right size to contain the cuttings I had left.

Front view of the leftovers

Back view featuring the graceful foliage of the dwarf peppermint willow

From left to right, the vase contains: Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey', and the berries of Heteromeles arbutifolia (aka Toyon and California Holly)

The sun came out in the afternoon.  The vases found their spots.  And, in the hour before dusk, the clouds moved and revealed snow in the mountains.  All in all, it was a great weekend.

The air was scrubbed clean by the rain and the wind

The first vase sits on the dining room table and the second in the entryway

And snow was visible on the mountains to the east

For more vases, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

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

Friday, November 25, 2016

November Favorites

The whole garden looks better and brighter since last week's rain so it was easier than last month to get excited about a few plants for the monthly favorite plants round-up hosted by Loree of danger garden.

Throughout the garden, the Aeoniums have lost their shriveled summer look and regained their luster.

In summer, Aeonium arboreum curls into balls as if to protect itself.  Even the plants in partial shade look like shrunken vestiges of themselves.  As the average temperature drops, they relax.  All these photos were taken from the stacked stone bed along the front slope.  In the photo on the far left, the Aeoniums mingle with Festuca californica, a native grass.  In the middle photo, they're inter-planted with Agave desmettiana pups.  In the photo on the right, they're embellished by the blooms of Pelargonium peltatum 'Pink Blizzard' and a variety of other succulents.

The Barleria obtusa featured in my Bloom Day post is at the height of its floral glory.

The plant is literally blanketed in lavender blue blooms.  Even the small cuttings of the plant I took less than 2 months ago are blooming.  It's almost scary.  The plant self-seeds readily and, while it takes a year or 2 to bulk up, I'm beginning to wonder if this might be another plant intent on world domination. 

My beautiful Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid' is also blooming, not that it doesn't look good out of bloom as well.

When I planted Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid' in late March 2015, it was barely a foot tall.  It's never been babied or given extra water but, in addition to reaching 5 feet in height in 20 months, it always looks good, in and out of flower.  The photo on the left, taken this week, shows it in flower.  The middle photo provides a close-up of the coral-pink bottle brush blooms.  The photo on the right, taken this past February, shows the flushed color of its new leaves.

Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy' has exploded with tiny blooms since I cut it back by half a month ago.

This Gomphrena is perennial in our climate but it clearly likes some areas of my garden better than others.  It's thrived in the front border, where it gets full sun and regular irrigation.  It's difficult to get a good photo of the entire plant as it has a wispy aspect and the foliage tends to blend in with the plants around it.  The flowers are plentiful but very tiny.  They make nice airy additions to floral arrangements, although the stems can be very difficult to untangle.

All my large-flowered Grevilleas are looking good but 'Peaches & Cream' has flourished since we took out a hedge that blocked its sun exposure on the west side.

Like 'Superb' and 'Ned Kelly', Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' produces flowers all year; however, when a nearby hedge partially blocked its sun exposure, its normal bloom production was a few flowers at a time.  More sun significantly increased its bloom production.

Last but not least, Heteromeles arbutifolia, commonly known as toyon, is at its annual pinnacle, covered in berries.

This drought-tolerant tree-sized shrub sits atop a ridge that dips down to our neighbor's driveway.  Its small white summer flowers are not nearly as splashy as the red berries that appear in fall.  One of the plant's common names is California Holly and it's said that the plant indirectly gave Hollywood its name.  In 2012, it was designated the official native plant of the City of Los Angeles.

For other favorite plant picks this month, visit Loree at danger garden.

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

New Plants!

Fall is widely regarded as the best time to plant in Southern California, although you wouldn't necessarily realize that scanning the stock available in local nurseries and garden centers.  Daytime temperatures are generally cooler and there's a promise of winter rain, both of which help plants get established.  I admit that I go a little crazy with plant shopping at this time of year and, despite periodic spates of ridiculously hot fall weather here and gloomy forecasts of low winter rainfall, this year has been no exception.  I've already featured the results of some of my plant shopping expeditions (see here and here) but there have been more so I thought I'd give you a peek at some of my other recent purchases.

I'd mentioned that I was considering a smoke bush for a difficult area on the south side of the garden, partially shaded by a large Arbutus 'Marina'.  I found one last month.  Although it wasn't in perfect condition when I bought it, it seems to be settling into its spot just fine so far.

Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' is planted in the bed formerly occupied by a very large Eucalyptus (removed in 2013).  The debris around the plant consists of small prickly bits left over from a light pruning I gave our citrus trees, which I've strewn here in another possibly futile effort to deter the raccoons from digging.

I also picked up a Duranta erecta for the partial sun area behind the street-side hedge.

The tag on Duranta erecta 'Lime' (aka 'Gold Mound') says it won't grow taller or wider than 2 feet.  Of course, I believed a similar tag on the specimen on the right.  Planted several years ago, it's now close to 6 feet tall.

The Grevillea 'Scarlet Sprite' I added to my dry garden last year has done well so I decided to add 2 more plants.

I could only find 'Scarlet Sprite' in large (3-gallon) containers but eventually caved and bought them anyway.  At least the 2 new plants shouldn't take too long to catch up in size with the the original plant (shown in the rear of the photo on the right).

The local botanic garden held another of its special fall plant sales, which a friend and I attended the weekend before last.  She left empty-handed but I did not.

I picked up an unusual trailing Salvia, S. cacaliifolia (aka Guatemalan Leaf Sage).  It has ivy-like leaves, no odor, and isn't sticky.  It also needs regular water so it went into a large pot to be watered by hand.

I also picked up this Agave 'Kissho Kan' at a very reasonable price.  The variegation isn't as pronounced as most I've seen but it's still a handsome agave.

On our way home, my friend and I stopped in at a clearance sale held at a small local nursery and I came away with yet another agave.

This agave wasn't labeled and 2 larger specimens of what appeared to be the same species had different labels.  The nursery owner thought it is Agave angustifolia 'Marginata' but I think it may be the variegated form of Agave tequiliana, in which case it'll get too big for its current spot in my garden.  

Late last week, I made a trip to a nursery in Huntington Beach in search of a Mahonia for the vacant spot in the area recently cleared of a dying hedge.  I left with the Mahonia and 2 other plants.

I've wanted a dwarf Jacaranda 'Blue Bonsai' since the plant became widely available last year but I waited to see if the price would come down.  It didn't but I caved.  I didn't get it planted before Sunday's rain but hope to get it in place next weekend.

I picked up this Leucadendron salignum 'Summer Red' to add some height and softer texture to the succulent garden on the south side of the house.

And here's Mahonia x media 'Charity'.  I'd scoured the nursery in a fruitless search for Mahonias, only to have a huge display of these plants set up in the front parking lot pointed out to me as I was checking out with my other purchases.   They were on sale for half-price too.

Is that all, you ask?  Nope.  Plants also arrived by mail!  The first delivery was a complete surprise.

I received a box containing 8 bulbils from Pam Penick's famous Moby, a massive Agave ovatifolia that bloomed earlier this year.  Six of these tiny plants will be passed along to other local bloggers at a meet-up we have planned in early December and 2 will be planted out in my garden when they gain some size.  Moby's progeny have been widely distributed - he's taking over the country, one garden at a time.

I received advance notice of the second delivery.  Loree of danger garden contacted me on election night to say she had a Tetrapanax papyrifer seedling if I wanted it.  The offer, which I gratefully accepted, was the only bright spot in what proved to be a very depressing evening.  Her package arrived this week.

Loree packaged the seedling with expert care and it arrived in perfect condition.  I've tucked the seedling into a pot out of the wind that can buffet plants here while it gains some size.

So, is that it?  No, but this post is long enough so it will do for now.  For those of you in the US, Happy Thanksgiving!

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

Monday, November 21, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: Fleeting Blooms

The big news from my corner of the world is: WE GOT RAIN!  Honest-to-goodness rain, not Mother Nature's spit, which is all we've had of late.  I know that those of you in wetter climates may be rolling your eyes but this is a big deal here.

According to my little weather station, we got almost two-thirds of an inch of rain from yesterday's system.  I captured what I could off the rain chain and in the 3 rain barrels connected to our roof gutters.

Even though rain was predicted, it's hard to put any faith in forecasts when one after another fails to materialize.  I'd planned to spend Sunday in the garden planting recent purchases but, when the skies became auspiciously gloomy, I decided I'd better cut some flowers for "In a Vase on Monday" just in case the forecasts proved accurate for once.

I fixated on 2 flowers that appear only briefly in the garden.  The first is Hypoestes aristata, also known as ribbon bush.  I grew this plant in my old garden, where it was a vigorous fall performer.  I kicked myself for failing to bring cuttings with me when we moved as it took me years to find the plant afterwards.   When I located a mail order source last year, I planted 3 tiny shrubs, only one of which survived the sunnier, hotter and drier conditions of my current garden.  My remaining plant is still small and has only a few blooms but I cut a single stem and then went looking for other plants to complement it.

The ribbon bush stem on the left was eclipsed by the last of the cherry-colored Eustoma grandiflorum (Lisianthus)

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the left, the vase contains: Eustoma grandiflorum, Gomphrena globosa 'Fireworks', Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy', Hypoestes aristata, Leucanthemum x superbum, Polygala myrtifolia 'Mariposa', and Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-star'

The other flowering plant I couldn't ignore this week is Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid'.  This shrub, planted in March 2015, produces periodic flushes of bloom but the flowers disappear almost as soon as I notice them.  I clipped 3 stems and took another spin through the garden seeking suitable companions.

I had a harder time finding flowers to combine with the pale coral-pink blooms of the Callistemon than I had finding matches for the blooms of the pinkish-lavender Hypoestes

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid', Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', Coprosma repens 'Evening Glow', Grevillea 'Superb', Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', and Nandina domestica (berries and foliage)

The vases found their places.  For more vases, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, our host for "In a Vase on Monday."

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

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Retrieved from the cutting room floor

It's gotten so I grab my camera every time I see something I think is pretty or that I find amusing.  Most of these photos never see the light of day but this week, in need of something to cut the edge of gloom that accompanies every newscast, I decided to publish a random collection of images that caught my attention this week.

Sunday, November 13th: Sailboats surrounding the Los Angeles Harbor breakwater

Monday, November 14th: Supermoon rising over the Los Angeles Harbor

Tuesday, November 15th: Sunset viewed looking northeast

The same sunset, viewed looking west

Thursday, November 17th: Pumpkin demolition in process

I hope you enjoy your weekend!

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

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

After the Hedge: A Foliage Follow-up Post

Earlier this month, I posted on the removal of the last remaining portion of the deteriorating Ceanothus hedge we inherited with our garden.  Not one to leave any ground bare for long, I began preparing the area for planting within a week of clearing it.  The first step involved bringing in yet another batch of what the local stone yard refers to as "small boulders" to hold the front slope.  The next step was to dig out and divide the large mass of Agapanthus.  Shopping, mostly for succulents, was also involved.  Although I expect to do some tweaking, I've completed my first pass at redesigning the area.

For reference, here's another photo of the area after the hedge was removed but before it was replanted:

In addition to dividing the Agapanthus, I cleared out a lot of the Santa Barbara Daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus), which is virtually a weed here.  The large plants in the level area above the Agapanthus - Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream', Tecoma stans, and Echium candicans 'Star of Madiera' - were retained.

And here's a look at it after replanting:

I added about 500 lbs of rock to stabilize the soil on this slope, which is steeper than it appears in this photo

View of the same area from the opposite direction

Not all the plants came from garden centers.  In addition to dividing the Agapanthus into 3 smaller clumps, I transplanted plants taken from elsewhere in the garden.

From left to right: newly planted clump of blue Agapanthus; one of 3 divisions of Arctotis 'Pink Sugar' taken earlier in the year; and Leucadendron 'Safari Goldstrike', purchased in early spring and temporarily kept in a pot

I also took cuttings of succulents I had elsewhere.

Clockwise from the left, the cuttings I took from elsewhere in the garden include: Agave attenuata, Aloe 'Rooikappie', Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire', what was sold to me last year as Senecio amaniensis (but may be something else entirely), and Senecio vitalis

And here are the plants I purchased:

First row: Aeonium 'Kiwi', Agave geminiflora, Anacampseros 'Sunrise', and Crassula ovata 'Sunset'
Second row: Echeveria 'Blue Atoll', E. 'Blue sky', Festuca californica, and Kalanchoe luciae
Third row: Pennisetum orientale, Sedum adophii, Sedum haworthii, and Sedum "hybrid"
Fourth row: Sedum rubrotinctum 'Aurora' and 3 noID succulents
(Not shown: both green and variegated forms of Portulacaria afra)

Most of these species were purchased in multiples and I've already picked up a few additional succulents that don't appear in my photos so, as I said, tweaking will continue.  I considered dressing the lower area with gravel but the sloping surface presents a challenge so I'm leaning in the direction of adding more small-leafed succulents as ground cover.  There's a large space just south of the variegated Echium that needs to be filled too but I haven't settled on the right thing to complement the surrounding plants yet.

As we brought home 860 lbs of rock from the stone yard, I still have about 360 lbs of rock to use elsewhere now that I'm mostly done with this area.  I'm waiting for the cricks in my back to smooth out before I get started with that.  The work that's already been done will stand as my Foliage Follow-up post this month.  For more foliage selections, visit our host, Pam at Digging.

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