Monday, February 27, 2017

In a Vase on Monday: Alstroemeria sets the scene but does Freesia steal the show?

The garden may already be waking up to celebrate spring but it's been really cold here.  Not as cold as many of you reading this may be used to in late February but cold by local standards.  Our temperatures are barely exceeding 50F.  Sunday was drizzly, offering more gray clouds than sun and enough of a breeze to make 50F feel colder still so I spent little time outside deliberating on what to use to fill my vases.  I settled on Alstroemeria and Freesia as I walked out the door and made all my other selections to accent those choices.

Vase #1:

After I pulled 3 stems of pink Alstroemeria, I realized it was looking a bit bedraggled but I decided not to second guess the choice and just kept moving

I selected this as the back view but, in retrospect, I think I like it better than the front view

Top view

Clockwise from the left, the vase contains: noID pink Alstroemeria, Coriandrum sativum (or cilantro gone to seed), noID Dianthus, yellow Freesia, noID Narcissus, Pyrethropsis hosmariense, and white Ranunculus asiaticus

Vase #2:

This vase also started with Alstroemeria and Freesia.  A red-flowered Freesia popped up in the middle of plants with pink and purple flowers so it was begging to be cut.

The back view was meant to showcase 3 Leucadendron stems with rosebud-like "flowers" but I think they've been overshadowed by the vase's other contents

Top view

This vase contains: Top row - Alstroemeria 'Inca Husky', Coriandrum sativum, and 'Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey'
Middle row - gold and red Freesia and Leucadendrum salignum 'Summer Red'
Bottom row - Lotus berthelotii 'Amazon Sunset', noID Narcissus, and red Ranunculus asiaticus

The most unusual element in today's arrangements may be the Lotus berthelotii, also known as Parrot's Beak.  The flowers on this plant show up best when hanging down from a pot or other vertical element but most of mine are planted as ground covers.  It's proven effective (thus far) in keeping the raccoons from digging but admittedly the flowers don't show to maximum advantage when the plants are used this way.  It's an aggressive plant and needs regular trimming to keep it from covering everything in its path, although it's still less trouble than the raccoons.

Parrot's Beak just coming into bloom in the a garden bed on the south side of the house

My vases are in place for another week.  Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see what she and other bloggers have assembled this week.

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

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Almost Forgotten February Favorites

On the last Friday of the month, Loree of danger garden presents the plants currently garnering her favor and invites other bloggers to give a shout out about theirs as well.  I usually join in but yesterday I completely blanked out on the fact that February was rapidly drawing to a close, so this morning I zipped around my garden giving it a once-over and snapping some photos.

Here's a quick run through of this month's stand-outs:

My unequivocal favorite this month is Grevillea lavandulacea 'Penola'.  I have 2 of these large shrubs, as you can see in the photo on the left.  One shrub was tied to the fence and has been pruned to allow passage along the narrow stairway that leads down the back slope.  The other was given much more room to spread out but, with all the rain we've had this season (over 24 inches since October 1st!), it's leaning and I'm not sure what to do about that.  At a minimum, I'll probably brace it so it doesn't fall over any further and topple down the slope.  The photo on the right gives you a good sense of how dense the flower clusters are on this plant.

The humble Calla lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica) have started to bloom in earnest on the back slope.  I started to count the number of plants down there but gave that up when I reached 4 dozen - I suspect there are well over 6 dozen plants just in that area.  They're even coming up in an area I was using as an informal compost pile.  There were a lot of these plants last year, even dry as that winter was, but nothing like the number there are this year.  Who knew they spread like weeds?  They disappear when the temperatures soar but return with the winter rains.  I didn't plant any of these - they came with the house.

All the Osteospermum love the cooler temperatures this time of year and they appear to appreciate the rain too.  However, this group of 3 Osteospermum '4D Silver' grab my attention at every pass through the back garden.  Alstroemeria are growing up around and through these plants so things may get crowded in the coming weeks when those flowers start to bloom in earnest.

Front and center is Echium handiense 'Pride of Fuerteventura', purchased at my local botanic garden (the only place I've ever found it).  Planted this fall, it's now sporting its first blooms.  This is a dwarf Echium I've grown before and lost after a couple of years in a drier part of my garden.  This spot is more well-irrigated so I'm hoping the plant has a longer lifespan here (not that I've used any irrigation since early December).  One in a neighbor's front garden is doing spectacularly well so I'm hopeful.  Also, note the plant to the right of the Echium.  I believe this is Aristea inequalis, something I planted in 2014.  There are bloom stalks on it now for the very first time!

Limonium perezii is a very common plant here in SoCal but it's another one that grabs my attention every time I walk by.  It holds up well to both heat and drought but it's looking especially good after all our rain.  The foliage can get ratty after a few years but it's easily and inexpensively replanted from plugs.  The flowers dry well and can be used effectively in arrangements.

Corokia x virgata 'Sunsplash' is one of my more unusual shrubs.  Its stems twist and turn, giving it an airy quality and I love its variegated foliage.  This plant is doing well in the front border although another one, planted only 10 feet or so away, isn't nearly as happy.

And then there are the bulbs.

The gold Freesias, shown on the left, were the first to bloom but the pink, red, blue and yellow varieties are slowly making an appearance.  None of the white ones have bloomed yet, though.  These South African bulbs are the easiest ones to grow in my garden.

Ranunculus asiaticus normally struggle in my garden, probably because I don't give them as much water as they want.  That hasn't been much of an issue this year due to the rain; however, I also planted them in the raised beds in my vegetable (now cutting) garden, where I could give them more attention.  They make excellent cut flowers.

Finally, here's a fuzzy photo of Ferraria crispa, also known as Spider Iris, another South African bulb.  You can see a better photo of it here.  Planted just a couple of months ago, I didn't expect to see any blooms on it this year but this plant surprised me by producing 2 flowers this far.  They don't last long but they're interesting.  I haven't had a chance to get close and smell them - they're reputed to have an odor that some people hate but others appreciate.

That's my quick February favorite wrap-up.  Visit Loree at danger garden to see the stalwart plants that are warming her heart after a particularly nasty winter in the Pacific Northwest.

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

Friday, February 24, 2017

Who got busted?

Squirrels aren't visitors to my garden - they're residents.  Ever since we moved in and I put up my bird feeders, we've been at loggerheads.  I've gradually replaced my "squirrel resistant" feeders with tougher models, marketed as "squirrel busters."  Have I been successful in eliminating bird seed theft?  You can be the judge.

A squirrel tackles the original "squirrel buster" feeder without success

He shifts position and tries another angle, also without success

These close ups of the same type of feeder show it in the open mode (left) and the closed mode (right).  The squirrel's own weight, whether applied to the perches or the cage surrounding the feeder, covers the feeding portal

He moves over to the next feeder, sold as a "Squirrel Buster Plus," nimbly clinging to the feeder pole using his back legs but his paws on the feeder ring close the seed portals

These close-up show the open feed portals (left) and what happens when pressure is applied to the support ring (right)

He moves to the oldest model feeder, covered by a simple cage

Unlike the cage my husband constructed for one of my earlier feeders, he's been unable to break into this one by chewing through or bending the supports

In a creative play, he tries using the third feeder to access the second but pressing the ring surrounding the feed portals once again shuts off his access to the seed

Frustrated, he takes a break sitting on top of the third feeder.  At this point, I assumed he'd given up.

But then he tries a gymnastic move, clinging to the top of the third feeder by his feet and stretching across to the second feeder.  I initially thought this strategy was also unsuccessful until I reviewed my photos and realized that he'd avoided pressing his paws on the feed portal ring.  You can see that the portals aren't closed.  He's busted the feeder's defenses!

It wasn't the fault of the feeder, though.  It was my fault in providing him a platform to access it.  However, I don't think it was easy for him to feed from that angle as he quickly gave up the effort.  I'll probably replace the old, caged feeder eventually anyway but, for now, I'm satisfied that he's not stealing much from the birds.  He mainly makes do with what the birds drop on the ground, which is plenty.

The side garden, which also has 3 feeders, has one that's vulnerable to intrusions too.  I refilled them yesterday and, as I was doing so this fellow showed up.

This is a Western Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma californica), a pretty bird but a bully of sorts.  When he arrives, the smaller birds scatter until he moves on.  He isn't much afraid of humans either. 

He wasn't at all interested in the dried-up toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) berries scattered about.  He wanted bird seed and he wasn't at all afraid to take it with me standing a couple of feet away.  He can't feed from the newer feeders but he has no problem with an old model.  It may be squirrel resistant but it's not Scrub Jay-proof.

The squirrel's weight on the bar the jay is standing on would shut off access to the seed but the jay is light enough  to avoid this.  On occasion, the squirrels manage to lift the lid from the back and dump the seed on the ground.  I haven't seen them do this but I have found the seed covering the ground underneath the feeder.  Having seen their work on the back garden feeders, I now suspect that they may be using the nearby feeders as perches.

Squirrels!  They keep us hopping!

Note: I have no relationship with the companies that make or market the squirrel buster feeders.

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

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Wednesday Vignette: Early Spring Miscellany

There were a few items in the grab bag of photos I'd set aside for the Wednesday Vignette meme hosted by Anna of Flutter & Hum.  I couldn't decide which of these to post this week so I'm presenting all of them.  They bear no relationship to one another, other than that they all sing of early spring.

The first photo is an update of the front garden planted by my brother and his girlfriend.  In January, I shared a photo of the green mass of seedlings sprouted from the pounds of seed they scattered in the fall (which you can see here).  My brother sent me an updated photo last week to show me how things have progressed.

Flowering plants include Dimorphotheca sinuata, Linaria maroccana, Lobularia maritima, Chrysanthemum leucanthemum, Cosmos bipinnatus, Lupinus succulentus, and Eschscholzia californica (Photo courtesy of  Close-ups of individual flowers taken in 2015 can be found at 

Those of you who viewed my last Bloom Day post may find it hard to believe but I inadvertently dropped several of my floral photos, including these of the Aeonium arboreum blooming along my front slope.

There are a total of 8 Aeonium floral spires blooming in this area and a few others scattered elsewhere in the garden

Close-up of one flower cluster

My last photo may not look like much but it represents a major achievement from my point of view: a peony in bloom in my garden.  Just one bloom.  On a plant I don't think is any bigger than it was last year when it also produced just one bloom.  And, yes, I also featured it in a Wednesday Vignette last year (which you can see here).  But, for me, peonies are the holy grail of flowering plants and the fact that this one lived to flower another year is a cause for celebration.

This is Paeonia cambessedesii, a Mediterranean species I planted in March 2014.  The bloom shown here was shattered in our last rainstorm.  There's no sign of another, at least not yet.

Visit Anna at Flutter & Hum for other Wednesday Vignettes.

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

Monday, February 20, 2017

In a Vase on Monday: Conjuring Spring

If I were Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, our host for "In a Vase on Monday," my post title would be properly illustrated with a wizard's wand and maybe a top hat.  Unfortunately, I don't have Cathy's wonderful collection of props and, feeling as I do these days, any conjuring I might do would probably involve a voodoo doll or two anyway, but I don't have those on hand either.  However, even if winter rains are expected to continue at least through this week, spring is definitely in the air.   Sunday brought a welcome break between rainstorms, as well as snatches of warm sunshine.  Birds were all over the garden, pecking at the earth in search of worms, splashing in the fountain, squabbling with one another at my feeders, and building new nests under the house eaves.

The feeders are dominated by sparrows and finches but the front yard had a flock of birds I was unable to identify hopping about

I've cleaned out the nesting material crammed behind this light by the back door time and time again.  In spring, it's a useless exercise as the birds just remake the nest all over again the moment my back is turned.

But on to the flowers.  When I prepared my Bloom Day post last week, I completely forgot about the calla lilies flowering on the back slope.  Spurred on by all the rain we've received this season (now officially triple the total amount we received during the entirety of the last season), the lilies look to be starting off a banner year.  I picked an armful of blooms.

Front view, showing the lilies accented with fragrant Freesia flowers, which exploded into bloom last week

A similar back view

Top view, showing how last Friday's heavy rain discolored some of the white blooms

From the left, the vase contains: Zantedeschia aethiopica, noID Freesia, Pyrethropsis (Rhodanthemum) hosmariense, and leaves of the Zantedeschia

The second vase is a simplified version of an arrangement I created 3 weeks ago.  My Alstroemeria have started to bloom and I'd originally planned to go pink this week but, noticing that I had stems of flowering Ceanothus dragging in the mud, I went with a blue and white color scheme instead.

It's hard to say which is the front and which is the back with this vase

View from the other side

The top view is my favorite

Clockwise from the left, this vase contains: Anemone coronaria, noID Ceanothus, scented Matthiola incana, Osteospermum '4D Silver', and white Ranunculus asiaticus

Can you conjure up something from your garden?  If so, join Cathy's cavalcade of vases at Rambling in the Garden!  Here are mine in their places:

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

Friday, February 17, 2017

Foliage Follow-up - Highlights of my Garden Stroll

With what's reputed to be the most powerful storm of the season to hit Los Angeles in the offing, I took a spin through the garden to see if there were any tasks I should take care of before it arrived.  In the process, I took photos of whatever foliage caught my fancy for this month's Foliage Follow-up post, hosted by Pam at Digging.

I started on my neglected back slope, an area easily overlooked because it's largely invisible.  Accessible only by a narrow (and steep) stairway of  concrete blocks hidden behind a hedge, it's easy to ignore and, since the area was severely impacted by a horrific heatwave on the first day of summer last year, spending time down there has been more of a chore than a joy.  Cooler temperatures and the winter rains have done more than my poor ministrations to improve its appearance and there are now quite a few things to smile about.

The Agave attenuata I planted 2 or 3 years ago looked awful this past summer but they're looking great now.  One has even produced 2 pups (not visible in this photo).  The Euphorbia 'Dean's Hybrid' and Pelargonium 'White Lady' I planted have spread nicely.  The noID Iris germanica I moved from elsewhere in the garden look better than any of the Iris I have in the more carefully-tended areas of my garden.  Only the Carpenteria californica here (upper right) still looks terrible.  I pruned it in the hope of giving it a fuller, more pleasing shape.

The lemon tree was badly impacted by June's heatwave, dropping two-thirds of its fruit virtually overnight.  The rest rotted in place until I removed it.  It recovered well with extra watering through the remainder of the summer and the rains have also given it a boost.  It's loaded with immature fruit now.  Below it are some plants I inherited (Zantedeschia aethiopica, which die back each summer but return with our winter rains), others that moved in on their own (Centranthus ruber), and some I planted (Seslaria 'Greenlee's Hybrid' and Stachys byzantina).

Beyond the lemon tree, closer to the property line, there are more Calla lilies, some just beginning to flower; more self-planted Centranthus; a Romneya coulteri (aka Matilija poppy) I planted last year (upper left), which is fleshing out nicely after the haircut I gave it several weeks ago; and lots of California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) seedlings.  I bemoaned my inability to grow California poppies in a post a month or two ago but the rains have finally germinated some of the seeds I spread in this area so I may get a crop after all.  The raccoons like to dig here so  production is still lower than I'd like but it's a start.

Other foliage highlights on the slope include the almost florescent green moss I've shown before (which I guess isn't really foliage but I hope you'll humor me); an artichoke, which also dies down to the ground in summer but returns annually during our rainy season; and a close-up of some of my lovely poppy seedlings

Heading back up the stairs from the bottom of the slope brings me to my dry garden.  Just a couple of things grabbed my attention there.

Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey', the first one I planted and still the largest and most robust, now about 5 feet tall

Two of my many succulent pots.  The one on the left with Agave titanota 'White Ice' as its centerpiece was recently spruced up with the addition of Graptoveria 'Fred Ives'.  The one on the right is newly planted with Sansevieria parva and noID succulents that appear to be some form of variegated Kalanchoe.

The front garden contains a lot of foliage plants but most of them have received plenty of attention in prior foliage posts.  However, two vignettes drew my attention on my pass through.

Phormium 'Maori Queen' enveloped by Euphorbia characias 'Black Pearl' 

The same Phormium viewed from the other side of the bed with Corokia x virgata 'Sunsplash' to the left

Moving down the dirt path that runs parallel to the street behind a Xylosma hedge to an area below the main section of the front garden, I spent a good half hour pulling seedlings of yet another of my hedges, which consists of Prunus laurocerasus (not shown).  While doing this I discovered a mystery vine, which has clearly sprouted and been encouraged to spread by all the rain we've received this season.

I wondered if it could be a passionflower vine but the way it's spreading (as shown on the right scrambling up the oleanders that run the length of my neighbor's driveway), I fear it could be a morning glory.  In my former garden, I learned the hard way how difficult it is to manage a morning glory growing in the ground.  Any guesses?  The leaves are smooth, not pleated.

Back up on the main level of the garden in the backyard, the Xylosma congestum hedge is still the most compelling foliage feature but I already gave that its due in last week's Wednesday Vignette (which you can see here).  However, there were a few more foliage plants that drew my eye.

Leucadendron 'Jester' with Melianthus major, which a cut back to the ground a few weeks ago

A noID succulent (perhaps a Crassula?) in a deep red color

Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-star', which looks best growing up through another plant (like Ageratum corymbosum here), which hides its bare legs

That's it for my foliage highlights this month.  Visit Pam at Digging for more.

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