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

26 comments:

  1. So green and lush it has been in the slop,full of nice plants that cover the ground, beautiful!
    What a beauti that poppy is !!!
    Have a nice day
    Mariana

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    1. I am very pleased with the poppy, Mariana!

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  2. Nicely done, with the lower portion of the back slope. I hope the poppy proves manageable. You're right about it being finicky. I planted one a few years ago, but for some reason it didn't like the spot I picked, didn't thrive and never returned after our winter. I haven't tried again, I think I decided that was a lucky break.

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    1. The suggestion that the poppy can get 6 feet tall and 8 feet wide IS more than a little concerning, Alison!

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  3. Slopes can be tough to get plants established. I think you've done an admirable job.

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    1. Thanks, Sue. Other than the lemon and fig tree, there wasn't anything but weeds in the area below the current stairway when we moved in so I'm pleased with the way that's filled in. The upper area, covered in a mix of honeysuckle and ivy, has always been an issue but doing anything meaningful there would require clearing out those plants, which unfortunately isn't something I think I can handle on my own.

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  4. I think you've made enormous strides with that slope, Kris - you've had so much to contend with there, not just the slope, but having such a hard summer so soon after the yuccas were removed and new plants put in. I can only admire your determination! Love the looks of the Romneya coulteri; please do keep us posted how it does ;-) It's one of those plants I've really wanted to try but I'll have to discover (make) a good spot for it...

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    1. The Romneya needs lots of room to roam based on what I've seen of it at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden. However, maybe with just the one plant, I can keep it under control...

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  5. Overplanting ? Say it isn't so...I Never do that !

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    1. I thought I'd learned my lesson about giving plants the room they need but somehow I can't help trying to shoehorn in the newest thing that takes my fancy...

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  6. Looking pretty good - a far cry from last summer! I saw one of those Matilija poppies once and was smitten!

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    1. It is a BIG change from last summer, when the slope was hit so hard by that awful heatwave it just about made me cry. For a time, I thought I might lose everything down there, including the lemon tree. Luckily, the plants were more resilient than I gave them credit for.

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  7. Oh to have room for a Matilja poppy! They are so beautiful! I'm so glad you got flowers this year, which I'm sure will increase in years to come. I also covet your Agave attenuata. I bought one last year. I know it's not really hardy here, but I thought as long as I kept it out of the rain in my little garden shed, it would be okay. Oh boy, was I wrong! Maybe it would have survived in a normal year, but with the unusually cold temperatures we've had, that poor thing was a completely melted mess, when I finally made it out there again. Lesson learned - I will treat it better next time!

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    1. Well, I think I'm pushing the envelope a bit on the amount of space I've given the poppy but we'll see. It's too bad you lost your Agave attenuata! We're lucky to have the perfect climate for them, although I've noticed that they do struggle to get established in their first year in the ground even here.

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  8. Your Romneya coulteri is a beauty! I wonder how it's flowers hold up in a vase?

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    1. You know we'll find that out at some point, don't you? Actually, one grower commented to the effect that they're dramatic but short-lived in a vase.

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  9. Considering the steepness of the area, you've done a great job with the planting in this area. The Romneya is amazing, I would let it grow as large as it wants; is it like to make seed?

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    1. It's known for self-seeding, Christina, although the dry conditions on my back slope may help control that, along with ruthless dead-heading on my part.

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  10. Gardening on a slope like that must have required plants with roots that can contain the soil. In 6 years I'd say you and your husband have done a fantastic job. I love the Romneya with the California poppies underneath. Happily natively Californian.

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    1. The upper area of the slope was planted by some prior owner of the property in the days before our last drought and the imposition of watering controls, Sue, so I was lucky there. I planted the lower portion with drought tolerant plants recommended for slopes and weed-like selections, such as the Centranthus, which had already proven their toughness elsewhere in the garden (and were cost-free to transplant).

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  11. Your slope looks great. Good luck with the Romneya--beautiful but kinda scary!

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    1. Yes, I admit to being a little nervous about my ability to control that poppy...

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  12. Congrats on getting romneya established. I think you've found the perfect spot to let it romp away.

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    1. I hope my neighbors won't be perturbed if it chooses to romp into their area too!

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  13. Your garden always looks glorious! Good luck with Romneya coulteri. It's a beautiful thing and I love it but even though it gets cut back by at least half by winter's cold, it till spreads. Fortunately, it pulls fairly easily which is a good thing as it's traveled under the our concrete sidewalk and come out on the other side in several places.

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    1. Gulp! I hope that our water limitations and drier conditions help to keep the Romneya under control here, Peter.

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