Friday, December 30, 2016

Year-end Retrospective

Yesterday marked my fourth blogging anniversary.  Although it feels as if I've been blogging for no time at all, a lot has changed in my life and in the garden within that period.  I was amazed to find that I've published 690 posts, registered over14,000 comments, and racked up 597,965 views since I began.  I'm not about to slog through the garden's entire history here (much less my own!) but I thought a 2016 garden retrospective might be an appropriate way to recognize the anniversary.

More than any other subject, water - or the lack of it - dominated my focus in the garden this year.  In June 2015, after 4 years of drought, California adopted restrictions on water use.  The restrictions varied by location and water agency but my area was one of those faced with the severest limitation: a 36% reduction in water use vis-à-vis our 2013 rate.  As we started removing lawn and replacing thirsty plants almost immediately after moving in December 2010 and as we'd managed to reduce our water use 25% during the prior year in response to the governor's call for voluntary reductions, we had a head start in tackling the target.  In addition to adding 2 large rain tanks to the smaller one we already had, the last remaining strips of thirsty lawn went in January 2016.

This area in front of the garage and adjacent to the street was the last to be stripped of lawn.  It's shown here in late January after I added plants.

Having done extensive replanting following the removal of the last of the lawn in both the front and back gardens, I'd hoped that the heavier-than-normal rains we'd been led to expect with the arrival of El Niño would help my new plants get established before summer's heat made life more difficult.

Arthropodium cirratum after a rain shower in January 2016, when doubts began to emerge about El Niño's impact on Southern California

Despite all the warnings to prepare for a "Godzilla El Niño," it proved to be a total bust for Southern California, although Northern California received its benefits.  A stubborn ridge of high pressure kept the rain at bay here.  Our roof-top weather station registered only 5.65 inches of rain for the October 2015-September 2016 period (as opposed to "normal rain" near 15 inches).  Still, we were successful in staying well below our monthly water budget.  I used up the water collected in our rain tanks and I continued to replace thirsty plants with drought tolerant ones, flaunting some of my favorite combinations in blog posts.

Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' with Cotyledon 'Silver Storm' and Pelargonium 'Mrs Pollock'

Agave ovatifolia with Dorycnium hirsutum and trailing Lantana

Phormium 'Maori Queen' with Coprosma repens 'Inferno' and Gazania 'White Flame'

The garden and I limped along fairly well with minimal rain and irrigation for months.  Then a horrific heatwave hit us on the first day of summer.  Minimal water meant that roots of recently introduced plants didn't go as deep.  The onset of intense heat after a relatively cool spring seared tender foliage.  We're used to heat but this heat was as devastating to us as the ice storms that afflict gardens in colder climates.  I lost some plants virtually overnight and others more slowly.

Campanula primulifolia, left, after and right, before

Plectranthus ciliatus 'Zulu Wonder' after and before

Most distressing of all, our lemon tree, which had provided an abundance of lemons continuously since we'd moved in, dropped two-thirds of its fruit within days.  What didn't drop rotted in place.  Fortunately, the tree has recovered since that heat apocalypse, although we've picked only one ripe lemon since June.

Although we had other heatwaves over the course of the summer and well into November, nothing was as awful that first event in June.  I focused on removing dead and dying plants, which included several Ceanothus shrubs that had made up a hedge running along the front slope.  I inherited these shrubs with the garden and they'd been in decline for some time - winter drought and summer's heat just moved things along.  Situated within feet of another hedge that runs along the street, they also created a funny tunnel of sorts.  In addition to removing the dying remnants of the Ceanothus hedge, I enlisted my husband's help in extending a dry-stack wall in the same area in late August.  When the final Ceanothus shrubs came out in early November, we brought in still more rock to stabilize the front slope.  Succulents and other drought tolerant plants went into the newly created beds.

The dry-stack wall's extension after planting

The front slope after removal of the last 15 feet of Ceanothus hedge and replanting

In late October, I learned that a tree-hating neighbor who, despite our removal of 2 large trees and annual tree trimming, regularly threatened me with action under the city's "view conservation ordinance," had put her house up for sale.  She accepted an offer but, unfortunately for all concerned, it now appears the sale may be off.  For her sake and ours, I hope it's just a glitch in the escrow process.

In December, Christmas came early as Los Angeles recorded the wettest December in 6 years.  Although lower than "normal rain" (whatever than means anymore) was predicted this winter in connection with La Niña conditions, some forecasters have speculated that the stubborn ridge of high pressure that has prevented rain from reaching us in Southern California finally may be breaking down.  I don't want to get too excited yet, but I'm hopeful.  (It's raining again this morning!)

Despite the dry conditions and heat, my garden continued to pump out blooms, which I've shown off on my regular posts in connection with the weekly "In a Vase on Monday" meme hosted by Cathy of Rambling in the Garden.  Averaging 2 vases a week over 52 weeks, I've produced over 100 vases this year.  (I couldn't bring myself to actually count them.)  I'll close this retrospective with some of my personal favorites as they reflect my garden as well, or better, than any of the photos above.

If you're a regular participant in the "IaVoM" meme, you may have noticed that none of the vases shown above contained Eustoma grandiflorum (aka Lisianthus), a plant I've become well known for using.  I didn't ignore those - I just thought they deserved their own collage.  Lisianthus bloomed in my garden from June through December this year.

Thank you for doing me the kindness of reading my blog posts and for commenting when moved to do so.  It's you out there in the blog-sphere that really keep this blog going.  I hope you enjoy a wonderful New Year's Day holiday weekend!  What the future holds in 2017 seems unclear but I hope that peace, good sense, and kindness toward our fellow human beings will prevail.

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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Fishing for feedback

For Christmas, my husband gave me 3 ceramic fish for the garden.  I've been trying them in various locations in an effort to find the best spot for them.  I remain undecided.  Here are some of the options I've tried so far:

Swimming through Stipa tenuissima (aka Mexican feather grass) near the back patio

Wading through Lotus berthelotii (aka Parrot's Beak, not in flower at present) alongside the side patio

Drifting through Limonium perezii (aka Sea Lavender) and assorted succulents along a path

Lost in Aeonium arboreum on the front slope

Exposed in a mix of small succulents and grasses in the newly planted front slope

Twisting through Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' and succulents in the backyard border

Do you have a favorite?  Of course, I suppose I could just move them around as the mood strikes.

Note: My fish came from Fish in the Garden.

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

Monday, December 26, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: Going Pink

I got a new vase from a friend for Christmas so I had to use it but, between holiday festivities and the cold temperatures outside, I didn't spend a lot of time collecting materials to fill it.  The celadon green of the vase called out for a pink complement so I headed to the Leptospermum in full flower in the dry garden and clipped away.

Front view

Back view

Top view

From left to right, the vase contains: the stiff stems of Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl', the truly tiny flowers of Ribes viburnifolium (aka Catalina Perfume), and the foliage of Salvia lanceolata (aka Rocky Mountain Sage)

I overestimated just how much I could cram down the throat of the new vase so out came vase #2 to contain the rest of what I'd cut.

This vase contains more of all 3 of the elements contained in the first vase as well as blooms of: a noID Camellia sasanqua, Camellia williamsii 'Taylor's Perfection', and noID Narcissi

My biggest problem this week was finding spots for 2 fresh vases.  Christmas decorations take up a lot of room!  Last week's second vase wasn't long-lived but the other one was still in pretty good shape; however, I tossed out its contents anyway.  The vase on the dining room table, the one containing the orchid stem I constructed 2 weeks ago, was moved to my office.  The new vases ended up on the bedroom mantle and the dining table respectively.

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

Enjoy the remainder of your holiday, however long that may be.  Our daytime temperatures are expected to warm from the mid-50sF into the mid-to-upper 60s by mid-week so I hope to get outside to do some gardening.  We have another good chance of rain on Friday.  Last week's storms have already given Los Angeles the wettest December in 6 years so another storm is icing on the cake.  Speaking of icing, here's a view of the mountains to the east from our back garden on Christmas morning.

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

Friday, December 23, 2016

Best Wishes for a Merry Christmas!

Christmas came early to Southern California with an unexpected rainstorm beginning Wednesday afternoon and continuing through Thursday morning.  Our roof-top weather system recorded 1.14 inches of rain but there's evidence it's reading low - our neighbor's system directly across the street consistently records more and my no-tech test tube rain meter recorded almost 2 inches.  Whichever total is correct, that's the most rain we've received from any weather system this year and heavier rain is expected today!

The house is decorated outside.

The Magnolia leaves and the orange berries shown in this photo blew away in the storm but the rest of my additions to my purchased wreath, the succulents, the Toyon berries, the gnome, and the ribbon remain intact

The gnome and the gargoyle extend their holiday greetings

And the inside is decorated too.

Pipig has staked herself out a snug spot under the tree.

And my husband is occupied with a new project, calibrating our weather system's rain measurement accuracy.

Don't ask me to explain it - I'm not the scientist in the family

Cards have been sent, presents are wrapped, the pantry is stocked, and I have a holiday lunch scheduled with friends this afternoon.  Despite the gloomy political scene, all seems merry and bright at the moment.

However you're spending the holiday weekend, I hope good cheer finds you too!

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

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Wednesday Vignette: Moss

Moss makes me happy.  I don't know why that is but I'm always delighted when it appears in our garden.  Maybe it's a reminder of the rain that inevitably precedes its appearance.  Maybe it's that it asks nothing of me.  Or maybe it's that it covers bare stretches of dirt in bright, beautiful green.

Moss forming on the area above the concrete "stairs" my husband put in to provide safe passage down the steep back slope, some of it an almost florescent green

It temporarily fills in the cracks between the paving stones that make up the large, otherwise barren space that is our driveway.

Moss adds life to the permeable paving without interfering with its function

Moss isn't as common here as it is in rainier climates and it doesn't develop fat clumps as it does elsewhere.  It largely disappears once our cool, rainy season is over, although it hangs on in one spot in the front garden.

This dirt path used to be entirely in shade with hedges on both sides, providing a perfect environment for moss year-round.  Now that the hedge on the left has been removed, I wonder if the moss will hold up to the increased sun exposure during the warm weather months.
Ming, who I lost to long-term illness in 2014, loved this area of the garden

Ultimately, maybe it's just that moss heralds the new plant growth that comes with cooler weather here.  Even as winter has only now arrived, the appearance of the moss has me scouring the garden for the first signs of the promise of spring.  And there are some!

From left to right, all at the bottom of the back slope previously devastated by the heatwave that kicked off the summer of 2016, fresh foliage of:  Zantedeschia aethiopica and Centranthus ruber; noID Narcissus; and self-seeded Pelargonium "White Lady' 

More on the wonders of moss can be found here and here.  Visit Anna at Flutter & Hum for more Wednesday Vignettes.

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

Monday, December 19, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: A different palette

With the holidays in full spin, time was at a premium this weekend so I didn't dilly-dally over the selection of flowers for "In a Vase on Monday" this week.  A little tired of the color palettes I've used the last few weeks, I focused on flowers in the violet-purple range and started snipping.  When I assembled everything in the kitchen, I decided that the materials I'd cut looked best separated into 2 separate groups so, once again, I have 2 vases.

Here's the first one:

Erigeron glacus 'Wayne Roderick' was meant to be the star of this arrangement but I think it's more of an ensemble cast

The back, featuring Rhodanthemum hosmariense, has a different feel

The top view highlights the Limonium perezii.  I may have erred in cutting this flower while still in bud - it remains to be seen whether the tiny flowers will open fully on a cut stem.

Clockwise from the left, the vase contains: Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick' (aka seaside daisy), Hebe 'Purple Shamrock', noID lavender, Limonium perezii (aka statice or sea lavender), Matthiola incana (aka stock), Polygala myrtifolia 'Mariposa', and Rhodanthemum hosmariensis (aka Moroccan daisy, formerly classified as Chrysanthemum hosmariense and which I vaguely recall may have been reclassified again)

And here's what went into the second, smaller vase:

This vase is about 6 inches tall but less than 1/2 inch wide so it doesn't hold much and the back and top views aren't particularly interesting

Clockwise from the left, this vase contains: Osteospermum '4D Violet Ice', another of the new breed of Osteospermums that remain open in low light; Vitex trifolia 'Purpurea' (aka Arabian lilac), which has leaves that are olive green on top and velvety purple below; silver seed heads of Catananche caerulea; and Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy'

The first vase landed on the bedroom mantle.

The second sits on my desk, where it received some unsolicited attention.

Pipig appeared on my desk to protest my husband's decision to turn off the little space heater she'd been sleeping in front of.  Attacking the springy stems of the Gomphrena was a way to express annoyance at her mistreatment.  (Those of you who have read my complaints about the cold weather here in SoCal may note that even SoCal cats are wusses when the temperature drops below 60F.)

In any case, Pipig eventually got her heater back.

Best wishes to all of you gearing up for the holidays.  For more vases, visit our IaVoM host, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

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

Friday, December 16, 2016

Foliage Follow-up: 'Tis the Season

As I'm in the middle of Christmas holiday preparations, red and green are front and center so it seemed only appropriate to focus on foliage in those colors for today's Foliage Follow-up post.

Some of the red-green color contrasts in my garden are simply the product of new growth.

Reddish orange tips decorate the ends of every stem on Agonis flexuosa 'Nana'

Every time Calliandra haematocephala (Pink Power Puff) is trimmed, the new growth comes in red

Color changes in other plants seem to be associated with colder temperatures.

This noID guava produces red-green leaves every fall

The pinkish-purple color at the tips of Hebe 'Purple Shamrock' is also more prominent during cold weather

Leucadendron salignum 'Chief' develops stronger red coloration in winter, while the reddish tones of Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey', present all year, become more prominent.  Not all Leucadendrons turn red during the winter months, though; some, like 'Wilson's Wonder' (not shown here) develop yellow tones in winter and turn red in summer.

This Leucadendron 'Jester' showed deeper red color during the heat of summer.  Our cool season temperatures have brought out more variability in the foliage, which now shows the red, green and yellow variation for which the plant is known.

Leucadendron salignum 'Safari Sunset' develops red flower-like bracts this time of year

Trachelospermum jasminoides (aka Star Jasmine) develops red-green leaf color in winter

Many succulents turn redder as temperatures drop.

Sedum rubrotinctum has turned mostly red as the weather cooled and even the Aloe vanbelenii x ferox and Aeonium arboreum sharing the space have turned a little red around the edges

Crassula ovata 'Hummel's Sunset' has developed redder edges too

However, some succulents that turned red under summer stress shift back to green.

Aloe wickensii is shown here during summer's heat (left) and currently (right)

That's it for my seasonal foliage highlights.  Visit Pam at Digging to find more foliage follow-up posts.

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