Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Things are looking up (Wednesday Vignette)

Last weekend, I took a trip down my back slope to do a little watering and decided that the area I've been wringing my hands over since we moved in 6 years ago wasn't looking too bad at all.  Of course, it's spring and spring tends to sugarcoat things.  Flowers can divert attention from an area's deficiencies.

Before we take in what's looking up, let's start by looking down.

This is the view from the upper section of the cement block stairway my husband built to provide easier access to the lemon tree at the bottom of the slope.  The area to the right of the stairway is still weedy and rife with bare spots created when last summer's horrific early heatwave burned everything up but it's filled in some.  The harbor, partly screened by fog, is just visible in the distance.

Here's a look back up in the opposite direction.

The color provided by flowers is more readily visible from this direction

Our winter rains gave everything a boost, from the Agave attenuata at the bottom of the stairs to the prostrate rosemary growing in the upper section to the fig tree and artichoke in between

There's a LOT of floral color and even fruit and vegetables, as the following collage shows.

Plants of interest include: Top row -  an artichoke complete with chokes, Bignonia capreolata, and Carpenteria californica
Middle row - Centranthus ruber, Eschscholzia californica 'White Linen', and Euphorbia 'Dean's Hybrid'
Bottom row - Lots of lemons! (still not quite ripe), Oenothera speciosa, and Pelargonium 'White Lady'

Even the area formerly occupied by a massive Yucca elephantipes is looking pretty good, although I think I may have over-planted there.

The 3 Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Silver Magic' we planted as a fence of sorts between our property and that of our neighbor to the south is finally filling in.  The California poppies are on the wane but I'm allowing them plenty of time to self-seed this year.  Most of the Calla lilies are done blooming and the plants are beginning the slow process of dying back but the Centranthus ruber that self-seeded last year are providing alternative floral interest.  The Ceanothus arboreus 'Cliff Schmidt' I planted 2 years ago from a 4-inch container is hidden by other foliage here but gaining girth and could eventually reach 15 feet tall.  (Last year I considered it a goner.)

But the thing I was most happy about and the focus of this week's Wednesday Vignette, is this:

Romneya coulteri aka Matilija poppy and California tree poppy, planted last spring, is blooming for the first time

The huge flowers are often likened to fried eggs, which I think denies their beauty.  The plants are said to be hard to establish but, once established, hard to control.  It's native to Southern California and said to be beloved by birds, bees, and butterflies.  I look forward to it spreading its stems and remain hopeful that I can keep it to a manageable size by cutting it back hard each winter.

For more Wednesday Vignettes, visit Anna of Flutter & Hum.

All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, April 24, 2017

In a Vase on Monday: An Exercise in Restraint

I had plants in mind when I stepped into the garden on Sunday to select flowers for "In a Vase on Monday," the meme hosted by Cathy of Rambling in the Garden.  For a change, I stuck pretty much to my original intent.

Vase #1 was arranged around the foxgloves that finally bloomed in my cutting garden.  I grew these plants from plugs, not from seed, but for a while I thought they weren't going to do much of anything.  On Friday, I also feared that weeks of high winds, followed by a spike in our daytime temperatures and a sharp drop in our humidity levels, was going to put a premature end to the sweet peas I'd earmarked to accent the foxgloves.  However, a 10 degree drop in our temperature and a substantial increase in humidity gave the sweet peas a reprieve on Sunday.

Front view: the mottled white vase, decorated with a ribbon-like painted overlay, was a gift my mother brought me many years ago after a trip to her parents' Finnish homeland 

Back view, showing off the maroon sweet pea stems and my weed-like Centranthus

Top view

From left to right, the vase contains: Centranthus ruber (pink and white forms were used), Digitalis purpurea, and Lathyrus odoratus

Vase #2 was constructed around my white Alstroemeria, which is looking especially pretty right now.  I allowed myself 2 last minute additions to the vase in this case.

Front view: the last minute additions were the rose and the Grevillea stems.  I got the rose, a David Austin selection, from my favorite mail order nursery last November and have been growing it in a pot - this is its first bloom.  The Grevillea blooms sporadically.

The back view is all about the Alstroemeria

The top view highlights the flowers of the humble dusty miller plant (Jacobaea maritima)

Clockwise from the left, the vase contains: Alstroemeria 'Claire', Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', Grevillea alpina x rosmarinifolia, Jabobaea maritima, and Rosa 'Golden Celebration'

On my final round through the garden, I latched eyes on another recent bloomer I want to use in a vase but I stopped myself at 2 this week.  Hopefully, the other plant will still be vase-worthy next week.  For more vases, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

My vases in their places

All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, April 21, 2017

Nasturtiums & Leucospermum

What do common nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) and exotic Leucospermum have to do with one another?  Nothing really, other than that they're both plants.  However, today I took a short hike through my neighborhood and down the nearby trail I explored in a March post to check on the nasturtiums I'd seen tumbling down the slope along the trail behind my next door neighbor's house.  On the return trip, I took some photos of another neighbor's yellow pincushion plant and thought I'd share both in a single post.

First the nasturtiums.

I took this photo, included in my earlier post on the trail, on March 3rd before the plants bloomed

This is the same area, photographed from the other direction, taken earlier today.  I waited longer to get back to the area than I should have but, with temperatures reaching into the upper 80sF this afternoon, I didn't think I should put it off any longer.

Closer view of the mass of nasturtiums

I spent several minutes staring at this small tree, thinking that the flowers looked very familiar.  After checking photos on-line, I concluded that this is probably a lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora).  If it looks this good on an untended trail, watered only by run-off from the neighbor's property, I think I may have to try growing it in my own garden.

In another March post, I shared a photo of the huge noID orange Leucospermum growing in one neighbor's front garden.  The yellow Leucospermum grown by another neighbor wasn't blooming at that time but it is now.  I can't help admiring it every time I drive by so I wanted to give you an opportunity to admire it too.

This plant has bloomed reliably in a brick planter at the top of the neighbor's driveway every year we've lived here

The neighborhood specimens, as well as the beauties featured by another SoCal blogger, Hoover Boo at Piece of Eden, led me to invest in 2 Leucospermum, despite the fact that I've previously killed two of these plants.  As the saying goes, the third time's the charm!  Both my plants are alive and both continue to produce new leaves but there's no sign of flowers yet.

The non-blooming Leucospermum x 'Brandi', planted in March 2016, can be seen in the foreground on the right.  Grevillea 'Ned Kelly' and noID Anigozanthos on the left seem to be taunting the Leucospermum to bloom already!

I planted Leucospermum 'Goldie', shown front and center in the photo above, in my front garden earlier this month.  Its tight leaf buds initially had me thinking it was about to bloom but, no, it too seems intent on taking its time.

Hopefully, they're just investing their energies establishing the deep root systems necessary to make it through our hot, dry summers.

Enjoy your weekend!  I'm off on yet another plant shopping expedition.

All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Wednesday Vignette: Our rain is cut off

The last couple of rainstorms that hit Northern California didn't quite make it our way.  Last week, forecasts showed a 50% chance of light rain Monday night but Monday night the clouds looked like this:

Isn't that cloud weird?  It looked like a huge scissor to me.

Here's a broader view

And here's a close-up showing the "blades" of the scissor just off shore

While the lighthouse at Angel's Gate, the entrance to the Los Angeles Harbor, may have received a little rain, we didn't.  Clouds reappeared on Tuesday, flirting with us, but the romance never moved beyond that.  Fog moved in late Tuesday afternoon, but it too pooled over the harbor, leaving the sky clear at our level, some 800 feet above sea level.

The fog covered the harbor like a blanket, leaving just a few shipping cranes barely visible

As night fell, the fog thickened and the lights of the harbor, our usual nighttime view, blinked out.  In the end, we got one one-hundredth of an inch of rain according to our roof-top weather station.  Our luck with rain has run out, I think.  Although the local extended AccuWeather forecast shows two possible light rain events in May, the earlier predictions for April weren't realized so I'm not counting on it.  That scissor-shaped cloud looked like a sign to me.

For more Wednesday Vignettes, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.

All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, April 17, 2017

In a Vase on Monday: A tad simpler

I tried to stop my vase stuffing ways this week by being more selective about what I cut during my stroll through the garden in pursuit of plants for "In a Vase on Monday."  That's hard to do with spring in full swing!  I'd nothing specific in mind when I headed out with my clippers and, somewhat to my own surprise, the first plant I focused on was Festuca californica, a native California bunch grass.  It's been in my garden for almost 4 years but I don't remember ever seeing it in bloom prior to this year, another side-effect of ample winter rain perhaps.  In any case, use of the delicate grass required that I stick to the plan to allow my plant materials space to breathe in their vase so the grass wouldn't be lost.

While I limited the types of flowers for this vase, I think I should have used fewer stems of each

or trimmed the foliage a bit more

The grass didn't photograph well from above

Clockwise from the left, the vase contains: Phlomis fruticosa, noID Alstroemeria, Festuca californica, Pelargonium peltatum 'Pink Blizzard', and Prunus laurocerasus

The inspiration for the second vase was one of my favorite Pelargoniums, 'Oldbury Duet', which made its appearance in the front garden several weeks ago.  I've been wanting to do something with it ever since.

Front view, showing the rippled side of the small crystal vase

Back view, showing the vase's clear side

Top view with the sweet peas hogging the scene

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: Hebe 'Wiri Blush', Lathyrus odoratus, Pelargonium 'Oldbury Duet', and Stachys 'Lilac Falls'

There are more flowering plants in the wings.  My Gaura lindheimeri began to open the moment my Bloom Day post was in the can and it appears that Centaurea 'Silver Feather' may bloom for the first time this year.  The pleasures of spring continue to unfold but warmer weather is in the offing so it remains to be seen which plants will realize their potential.  You'll probably see whichever do in future vases but here are this week's efforts in their places:

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

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see what she and other bloggers have "In a Vase on Monday."

All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Foliage Follow-up - April 2017

I usually try to link my Foliage Follow-up selections together with some kind of theme but, after the intensity of my Bloom Day post, I'm just too dazzled by the glory of spring at the moment to bother with anything more than a hodge-podge series of photos of what caught my fancy on recent spins through the garden.

Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku', one of only 2 Japanese maples in my garden, was late to leaf out this year so I was very pleased when it suddenly sprang to life

I'm also happy to see that at least 3 of my Artemisia versicolor 'Seafoam' are doing well (A few others, purchased as plugs, are struggling)

I continue to be tickled by the artichoke growing below a fig tree on the steep back slope.  It disappears during the height of summer but comes back with the winter rains and this year it's huge.  And now it has 2 chokes!

I'm also pleased with this Origanum 'Norton Gold', which I prefer out of rather than in bloom

Fuzzy gray seedlings grew up through the gravel and in other obscure places in the garden and, once I determined that they probably weren't weeds, I moved them to the cutting garden.  I'm fairly certain these are Stachys byzantina, although the leaves are thinner than those I've previously grown.  I'm not sure where the seedlings came from as the only place I've had Lamb's Ear for years is at the bottom of the back slope.

This is a mix of succulents growing in the sandiest soil in the garden, located next to the back patio.  Although the Agave colorata (right foreground) is still very small, I like how the rest of the plants, grown from cuttings and plugs, have filled in. The mix includes Aeonium haworthii 'Kiwi Verde', Crassula mesembryanthemodies, Graptosedum 'California Sunset', Kalanchoe orgyalis and Senecio scaposus.  The Kalanchoe was intended to complement Cordyline 'Electric Flash' but it perished.  They'll eventually be too big for this area but I'm enjoying them now.

For more foliage photos, visit our Foliage Follow-up host, Pam at Digging.  Best wishes for a happy spring!

All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Bloom Day - April 2017

I thought that my blooms were plentiful in March but April is really ridiculous!  It's amazing to see what a difference real winter rain can mean to a garden.  I took a ludicrous number of photos in advance of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day but I've done my utmost to winnow them down.  This month, I organized my photos by garden area, focusing on the plants that had the biggest impact in each.

I'll start in the front garden with a humble plant that one might even call a weed.

Erigeron karvinskianus (aka Santa Barbara Daisy and Mexican Daisy) blooms all year here but it goes crazy in spring.  Most of these planted themselves.  I probably couldn't get rid of them if I tried.  They're everywhere but I thought they looked particularly photogenic here.

Gazania 'White Flame' self-seeds freely but I can't call it a weed, unlike the sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) surrounding it.  I vaguely recall transplanting an Alstroemeria division here years ago but this is the first time I recall seeing it flower.  Rosa 'Pink Meidiland' is just beginning to flower behind the Gazanias.

Lavandula stoechas 'Silver Anouk' is happy here, tucked behind Euphorbia charcacias 'Black Pearl' and Arctotis 'Pink Sugar'

Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' also blooms year-round but not so profusely as it's doing now (Grevillea 'Superb' can be seen blooming in the background)

Here's a closer look at Grevillea 'Superb'.  If I had to give an award to one plant for continuous flowering, it would be this one.

Echium candicans 'Star of Madiera' is just now starting its annual bloom cycle

Surrounding the front driveway, some of the few roses I have left are also coming into bloom.

From left to right are: 'California Dreamin', 'Joseph's Coat', and 'Medallion'

Past the driveway, in what used to be the vegetable garden, the raised planters now used as a cutting garden have produced a generous supply of poppies and, more recently, sweet peas.

I should have thinned my sweet peas (mixed cultivars of Lathyrus odoratus) more than I did, as they're now tumbling all over the place.  The high winds we've experienced for several nights now have loosened their hold on the metal grid intended to support them and also turned the Coriandrum sativum plants on their side.  However, somehow, the Iceland poppies (Papaver nudicaule) continue to produce more and more flowers despite the wind.

The dry garden on the north east side of the house is subdued now that the Grevillea there have bloomed out and I've cut the Osteospermum back.  The biggest splash of color there comes from the New Zealand tea trees that recently produced a new flush of bloom.

Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl', planted a little too close to a guava tree but making the best of things

A gravel path through the dry garden leads down a cement block stairway to the back slope, which is looking remarkably good at the moment, even if the upper section of the slope remains scarred by the damage caused by last year's horrific first-day-of-summer heatwave.

Clockwise from the upper left, April bloomers include: Euphorbia 'Dean's Hybrid', mingling with Pelargonium 'White Lady'; the uncontrollable Bignonia capreolata inherited with the garden; hard-to-photograph Carpenteria californica; self-seeding Centranthus ruber; Eschscholzia californica 'White Linen', grown from seed; and Oenothera speciosa, just stepping onto the stage

Back on the main level of the backyard garden, there's plenty in bloom.

Leucadendron 'Pisa' with its luminescent flower-like bracts

Cotula lineariloba 'Big Yellow Moon' is moving in to surround Echium webbii.  Felicia aethiopica echoes the blue color of the Echium on its other side.

Here the violet color of Polygala myrtifolia 'Mariposa' (left) echoes the more vibrant tone of Pelargonium cullatum 'Flore Pleno' (right).  Alyogyne huegelii adds a bluer note in the background.

Alstroemeria are blooming all over the back garden at the moment.  The white form (left) is 'Claire' and the red variety (upper right) is 'Inca Husky'.  The others are unnamed varieties that came with the garden.

Ozothamnus diosmifolius has small but plentiful white flowers

Arctotis 'Pink Sugar' isn't blooming as heartily as it did last month but Anagallis 'Wildcat Mandarin' is making up for the deficit

Ageratum corymbosum, an evergreen (or ever-purple) shrub, is at the peak of its bloom cycle

The garden on the south side of the house has a large number of succulents, none of which are delivering much in the way of floral color at the moment but there are a few blooming plants.

From left to right: Cistus x scanbergii, Phlomis fruticosa, and the delicate flowers of Wahlenbergia 'Blue Cloud' (in front of a second Echium 'Star of Madiera')

Moving back down to the partially shaded area at street level on the southwest side of the property, there are still blooms to be found.

Clockwise from the left: Pelargonium peltatum 'Pink Blizzard', backed up by Prostanthera ovalifolia and Limonium perezii; Prunus laurocerasus; noID lavender Pelargonium peltatum; and Rosa chinense 'Mutabilis'

And, along the street, masses of noID Delosperma

Finally, as the photos above didn't capture all the flowers I'm proud to flaunt this April, here are a few more I couldn't bear to leave on the cutting room floor.

Top row: Grevillea 'Ned Kelly', Heleborus 'Anna's Red', and Iochroma 'Mr. Plum'
Middle row: Ixia, Lotus berthelotii 'Amazon Sunset', and Mimulus 'Jelly Beans Crimson'
Bottom row: Pelargonium 'Oldbury Duet', Pelargonium 'Tweedle Dee', and Salvia lanceolata

Are you still in need of a floral color fix?  Visit Carol of May Dreams Gardens, our Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day host to find what's blooming elsewhere in the US and around the world this April.

All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party