Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The garden that wasn't on the tour (but should have been)

In early May I joined two other SoCal bloggers on a tour of the three gardens included in the Long Beach leg of the Mary Lou Heard Garden Tour.  My previous posts can be found here and here.  The third garden we toured was small, as gardens in beach cities often are, and I took relatively few photos.  It was a sweet space but didn't have the intriguing plant choices of the first two gardens we explored on the tour.



However, we did peruse another garden that was chock full of wonderful plants.  That garden wasn't on the tour but it should have been.  It's the garden created by Denise of A Growing Obsession, the blogger who arranged our excursion.  I've visited Denise's garden once before but that visit occurred in late summer on a very sunny afternoon.  This time I had the opportunity to stroll the space under a more camera-friendly cloudy sky.

This photo evokes the splendor and bounty of Denise's garden for me

This is a wider view of the same space


As you can already tell, Denise's garden is densely planted.  Everywhere you turn, there are interesting vignettes.

Could there be a better pairing than this silvery blue Agave and the deep burgundy Aeonium?

How about this one featuring Yucca desmetiana 'Blue Boy' and an almost-black Aeonium?

Or this one featuring Agave 'Blue Flame' and an Aloe I can't identify with Centranthus ruber making an unexpected cameo appearance?

This photo captures one of my favorite Agaves, A. pygmae 'Dragon Toes', with another Aloe I can't identify, all the more beautiful for blushing under stress.  On the lower left, is Aeonium 'Mardi Gras', a plant I've long coveted but have yet to find.

This Agave vilmoriniana 'Variegata' in a pot also commands attention


There were other plants in containers clustered in groups.

For some reason, I missed the opportunity to photograph the garden's hanging plants but there were plenty of those too


And there were plants that made me green with envy.

These are just three of the plants I coveted: Eucalyptus 'Moon Lagoon', Fatsia japonica 'Camouflage', and Melianthus major 'Purple Haze'


Some of Denise's plants are huge, sending chills down my spine when I realize that I probably haven't allocated quite enough space to the specimens in my own garden.

Denise's garden makes it clear just how large Agave 'Blue Glow', Agave 'Jaws' and Dasyliron can get


Denise also has plants-in-waiting for the day some of her mature Agaves bloom and die.

I think the babies on the right are Agave mitis but I'm not sure of the identity of those on the left (A. 'Cream Spike' maybe?)


But of all the great garden photos I captured on my visit, this one was my favorite:

This is Banksy, who was very happy whiling away the day burrowed in the back garden, diplomatically tolerating my attention


Thanks for opening your garden for our visit, Denise!  Readers can find more photos of Denise's garden on Hoover Boo's blog, Piece of Eden, here.  And, if you want to see the changes Denise has made to her garden since our visit, you can find those in her recent Bloom Day post here.


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

Monday, May 22, 2017

In a Vase on Monday: The heat is on!

Our temperatures soared above 90F (32+C) this past weekend and the Santa Ana winds returned, stressing both the garden and the gardener.  Unlike our earlier bout with heat a few weeks ago, it didn't cool down significantly at night and the marine layer characteristic of this time of year, known locally as "May Gray," was a no-show.  So, instead of an open-ended journey of discovery, this week's Sunday foray into the garden in search of plant material for "In a Vase on Monday" was more of a search and rescue operation.

My biggest concern was the foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) in my cutting garden.  I've already pulled out my sweet peas and Iceland poppies to make room for sunflowers, zinnias, and dahlias.  The sweet peas and poppies began blooming in February so they had a decent run before the earlier heat spell withered them in place.  On the other hand, the foxgloves didn't begin blooming until the latter part of April so I've been reluctant to pull them out, even if they're no longer looking their best.  I chose the stems least marred by the heat for my vase.

The foxglove stems aren't as tall or voluminous as those I cut for earlier vases

The back view is much the same as the front

Top view

Clockwise from the left, the vase contains: Digitalis purpurea, Ocimum hybrid (aka African blue basil), the last of the Matthiola incana (aka stock), and Ozothamnus diosmifolius (aka rice flower)


I had more fun with the second vase, which utilized summer blooms.  The Renga Lilies (Arthropodium cirratum) are all in full bloom now and I had longer stems to play with this week.  My Shasta daisies are also making their first appearance this year, joined by an unexpected flush of flowers I hadn't expected to see until much later.

The blooms on Aster chilensis 'Purple Haze', now classified as Symphyotrichum chilensis, were utterly unexpected  

The gray foliage plant, shown here in the back view of the vase, is a bit of a mystery. Seedlings of what looked like lamb's ear appeared in various spots in my garden in late winter and, although the leaves are narrower than the Stachys byzantina I've grown elsewhere, I concluded that it must be that.  I transferred the seedlings to the cutting garden.  Now I'm not so sure.

Getting a top view of this arrangement was tough.  I had to stand on a chair to get this photo and still wasn't tall enough.

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: Arthropodium cirratum, Symphyotrichum chilensis 'Purple Haze', Globularia x indubia, Leucanthemum x superbum, the plant that may or may not be Stachys byzantina, and Tanacetum niveum

Here's a look at the purported lamb's ear in my cutting garden.  If you have any other guesses as to what it might be, please pass them along.  I don't think its a sage - it has no scent.  It feels like lamb's ear but the leaves have remained narrow.  It's also grown quite tall without developing any sign of flowers.


Our heatwave is expected to last another couple of days but the marine layer is back full-force this morning, which should at least moderate our temperature along the coast.  I can almost hear the garden sigh with relief - or maybe that was just me.

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, our "In a Vase on Monday" host, to see what other gardeners have used in their vases this week.

The finished vases in their places




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

Friday, May 19, 2017

Garden Tour: An English Gentleman's Zen Garden


As previously reported, I joined Denise of A Growing Obsession and Hoover Boo of Piece of Eden on the Long Beach leg of the Mary Lou Heard Garden Tour in early May.  Our second stop after  Dustin Gimbel's innovative space was a garden several miles away and close to the ocean.

The extensive use of shredded bark mulch and decomposed granite in the front garden signaled that what had probably been lawn had been removed in response to California's extended drought and our water restrictions.  The plants were understated but thoughtfully selected.

Coleus (Plectranthus scuttelarioides) and bromeliads were tucked in among the rock surrounding an established tree.  Also spotted: Farfugium japonicum, Itoh peonies, a Leucospermum, and what I think is an Adenanthos.


We moved down a narrow path at the side of the house to the back garden.  I hadn't read the tour guide before we arrived and, as the home was located just off Ocean Boulevard, I expected a small space with more rock and decomposed granite than plants in the back so I was delightfully surprised by what we found.

Wide shot taken from the elevated back patio looking toward the rear of the property


Here's how the garden's owner/creator described his garden in the tour guide:
My goal was to transform a bland space of lawn into an inviting garden. California design concepts encouraged me to reinterpret my desire for an English gentleman’s garden. Existing trees would remain as the border for my new garden which I named “Bisbee”. Instead of fIowers, texture, form and leaf color dominate. Whimsy and playfulness are seen alongside classical elements like a pergola, arches, potted specimens, winding paths and water elements. Benches and seating areas invite you to linger; a subtle Zen is at play here. So please sit, feel the gentle breeze, breathe deeply, and relax. I hope you enjoy Bisbee and maybe, are taken back to a different time.

The gazebo at the back of the property drew my attention first.

Looking toward the gazebo from a pathway running along the right side of the garden

A closer look at the gazebo, which was surrounded by several Japanese maples (Acer palmatum).  The gazebo's supports were wrapped in multi-colored lights. 

This collage gives you a look at some of the details within the gazebo.  Based on the rocks sitting in the bonsai plant container on the lower right, the garden's owner has been a regular participant in the Mary Lou Heard Garden Tour.


In addition to the gazebo, there was a table and chairs set into a back corner.

Given the number of photos I took, I'm surprised I didn't get a better photo of this corner of the garden - this is the best one I had


Once I'd explored the gazebo, I took a more careful look at plant combinations and other details in the center of the garden.

The area along this path was planted with more Farfugium japonicum, Acer palmatum, and what may have been an oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia).  The tree was draped with Spanish moss.

These photos were taken further along the same path, looking first one way and then back the other

This water feature occupied roughly the middle of the garden.  The perfect-looking lawn on the right was synthetic.

In addition to Abelia, Coleonema and Coprosma, I was surprised to see Sambucus nigra in this bed


There were some interesting details along the margins of the garden too.

It may be hard to detect in this photo but there's a mirrored sculptural piece just to the left of the rose bush in this photo, which reflected light and garden elements

This urn sits along the fence on the opposite side of the garden.  The neighbor's bamboo can be seen poking its way between slats in the fence.


Then I took a closer look at the patio attached to the house, which I'd breezed by upon my initial entry into the garden.

I neglected to take a photo facing straight on at the back patio.  This photo picked up the half of the patio containing a spa and lounge chairs.

This photo shows the other half of the patio

And here are close-ups of selected patio features


True to the owner's statement, the garden did indeed have a zen-like feel.  But while it had the restrained, spare aesthetic I associate with Asian gardens, it was still packed with interesting plants, many of which were drought tolerant.  The garden also made effective use of repetition, both in the color of the plant foliage and the color and form of structural elements, like the gazebo and the arbors spaced along one path.

I still have one more post to share from our May garden excursion but it seems that will spill into next week.  Enjoy your weekend!



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

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Foliage Follow-up & Wednesday Vignette - May 2017


The blooms in my garden are very distracting at the moment and frankly I find it hard to see the foliage for the flowers but I took a look around and identified a few foliage specimens that I could get excited about, even if I've featured some of them before.  The first were the Aeonium arboreum cuttings I planted on the front slope, originally as filler after removing several of the Ceanothus shrubs that made up a hedge in that area.  As more of those shrubs failed and were removed, I filled in with more and more Aeonium cuttings until they became a feature.  All originated from a few cuttings a friend gave me soon after we moved into our current house almost six and a half years ago.

All these plants came from a single source of cuttings and all are planted in partial shade on the front slope.  Some are currently redder than others but I expect that's due to slight variations in the timing and degree of sun exposure.


Another early introduction to my garden was Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt'.  My first specimen went into a pot but, entranced with its wispy foliage, I bought more and soon I was trying them in a variety of locations.  I lost one or two along the way (including the one that spent the first part of its life in a pot) but I currently have six of these plants.  After two and a half years, the last of those is finally bulking up nicely.

According to my records, this is the last 'Cousin Itt' I planted, circa November 2014


My oldest specimens, planted between October 2012 and April 2013, are more impressive.  I've featured them before but I thought I'd share before and after shots to show how far they've come.

The photo at top was taken in September 2014.  The photo on the bottom was taken this week.


The next plant that deserves mention is my much maligned mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin).  I inherited this tree with the house and, were not for its size, its placement atop my back slope, and its overall presence in my back garden, I'd replace it.  It's an extremely messy tree and for almost half a year it's bare of foliage.  Its blooms are pretty but they begin littering the patio and garden as soon as they appear.  The flowers are followed by seedpods that perpetuate the litter for another six months and produce seedlings everywhere.  However, when the foliage emerges and before the flowers appear, the tree is attractive.

Flowers will begin to appear within the next month but I'm enjoying the tree for now


It's unusual for me to say I prefer a plant without flowers rather than with them; however, the Albizia isn't the only instance in which that's true.  I'm no Morticia Addams* but I will cut flowers off certain plants.  Here are two examples:

Helichrysum thianschanicum'Icicles' with flowers (left) and after the flowers were removed yesterday (right)

While I don't mind the flowers on the green Santolina, the bright yellow blooms on the gray form (S. chamaecyparissus) bugged me so they got clipped this week too


This brings me to the end of the foliage follow-up portion of this post but visit Pam at Digging, the host for this monthly feature, for more foliage highlights as I segue to my Wednesday Vignette.

My one hesitation about cutting all the flowers off the Helichrysum and the Santolina was that it might disturb the pollinators in my garden; however, the bees seemed to have plenty of other plants to keep them happy, from the Hairy Canary Clover (Dorycnium hirsutum) growing next to the Helichrysum to the Salvia argentea growing near the Santolina.  If I had any remaining concerns about impacting the bees, the following scene unfolding in my garden on Monday afternoon put these to rest:

Early Monday afternoon, I received a message from a neighbor warning me with some alarm that she'd spotted a swarm of bees near the top of the stairs of my back slope.  I went to check and saw this mass of bees, as well as others flying all around the area.  Although the bees showed no interest in me, I still kept about 5 feet away.  I told the neighbor that I was going to leave them alone for the moment but promised that I'd continue to monitor the situation.

When I checked the area four hours later, it looked like this.  Although there were a few confused bees still flying about, there was no other evidence of the earlier swarm.  If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, I wouldn't have known anything at all had happened.


The swarm is apparently a common spring phenomenon, arising when a bee colony divides, which may be the result of overcrowding.  If you're unfamiliar with the phenomenon, as I was, you can read more about it here.  The bee swarm photos are my Wednesday Vignette.  Visit our Wednesday Vignette host, Anna at Flutter & Hum, for images that caught the attention of other bloggers.


*I belatedly realized that I'd featured two members of the Addams Family in a single post - Cousin Itt and Morticia.  Cousin Itt was related to Morticia by marriage through her husband, Gomez.  I'm holding 'Cousin Itt' accountable for my temporary Addams Family fixation.





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

Monday, May 15, 2017

Bloom Day & IaVoM - May 2017

The garden is already switching into summer mode here, although thankfully the toasty temperatures we had in late April and early May have shifted back to spring-like levels in my area of coastal Southern California, if only temporarily.  I recently pulled out my Iceland poppies and my sweet peas, both of which suffered when the temperature soared and winds up to 30 miles per hour battered us for days.  I've planted Dahlia tubers and Zinnia and sunflower seeds in my cutting garden, which I hope will enjoy summer's heat when it returns.

This month, I'm featuring some of my favorite plant combinations for Bloom Day, hosted by Carol of May Dreams Gardens.  I've also added a floral bouquet for In a Vase on Monday, hosted by Cathy of Rambling in the Garden.  I've used collages in most cases but, be warned, this is still a photo-heavy post.

Only one of my large-flowered bearded Iris have bloomed thus far.  Iris germanica 'Haut les Voiles' is shown here with Alstroemeria 'Claire', Euphorbia 'Blue Lagoon', Anagallis monellii, and Lobelia erinus.

The mass of Achillea 'Moonshine' is probably the most dramatic element in my back garden at the moment.  Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick' and Geranium 'Tiny Monster' (photo upper right) provide accents on one side while Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun' and Euphorbia x martinii 'Ascot Rainbow' (lower right) offer accents on the far side.

Clockwise from the upper right, the bed adjacent to the back patio on the north side contains: Anigozanthos 'Yellow Gem', Gaillardia aristata 'Gallo Peach' (shown with blue and yellow violas), Leucadendron 'Pisa', self-seeded California native  Solanum xanti, and Tanacetum niveum

This bed directly across from the previous one contains: a noID yellow-red Anigozanthos, Grevillea 'Ned Kelly', Lantana camara 'Irene', and Lobelia laxiflora.  After more than a year in the ground, Leucospermum 'Brandi' in the same bed still isn't blooming but at least the plant seems healthy.

I took the photo on the left from the dirt path just inside the hedge surrounding the main level of the back garden looking toward the house.  The bed in the foreground contains: the fading flowers of Pelargonium cucullatum 'Flore Pleno', Polygala myrtifolia 'Mariposa' and no ID Scabiosa (row, top right).  The bed in the background contains: Santolina chamaecyparissus, Lobelia valida 'Delft Blue', and Santolina rosmarinifolia (row, lower right).

The floral highlights of this area are (bottom row): Euphorbia characias 'Black Pearl', Nierembergia linarifolia 'Purple Robe' and Ozothamnus diosmifolius

These photos show 2 sides of the arbor between my vegetable-turned-cutting garden and the dry garden on the northeast side of the house.  The vines in flower over the arbor are: dark pinkish-red Pelargonium peltatum, Trachelospermum jasminoides, and Pandorea jasminoides

I don't have a good photo that captures all of the blooms on the steep back slope but, clockwise from the left, the blooms there include: Bignonia capreolata (first 2 photos), a very happy artichoke, Centranthus ruber, Drosanthemum floribundum, Oenothera speciosa, and Romneya coulteri.  I inadvertently omitted photos of Pelargonium 'White Lady' and Euphorbia 'Dean's Hybrid' but they're still in full bloom on the slope too.


There are also some heavy bloomers with a presence in spots throughout the garden.

Clockwise from the left: Dorycnium hirsutum (aka Hairy Canary Clover), Gaura lindheimeri, Gazania 'White Flame', Gazania 'Yellow Flame', Pelargonium peltatum, Pelargonium "Georgia Peach' (one of several of the Regal Geraniums currently in bloom), and noID Violas.


And, as usual, I have a few color collages of flowers I didn't manage to work into the preceding collections.

Top row: Aquilegia 'Spring Magic', Catananche caerulea, and Cynoglossum amabile
Middle row: Eryngium alpinum, Limonium perezii, and skunky smelling Plectranthus neochilus
Bottom row: Salvia 'Mystic Spires', Verbena bonariensis, and Wahlenbergia 'Blue Cloud'

Top row: Cistus ' Grayswood Pink', Cuphea 'Starfire Pink', and noID Dianthus
Middle row: Hebe 'Wiri Blush', Hesperaloe parviflora 'Brakelights', and Lotus berthelotii 'Amazon Sunset'
Bottom row: noID rose, Salvia lanceolata, and Rosa 'Pink Meidiland'

Tow row: Aloe 'Rooikappie', noID Calendula, and thuggish Cotula lineariloba
Middle row: Cuphea 'Vermillionaire, Hemerocallis 'Elizabeth Salter', and noID Lonicera
Bottom row: Rosa 'Golden Celebration', Rosa 'Joseph's Coat', and Tagetes lemmonii


Finally, to close the Bloom Day portion of this post, here's a look at some of the blooms that signal summer's arrival here:

Clockwise from the left: the first of 200+ Agapanthus, Arthropodium cirratum (aka Renga Lilies), Centaurea 'Silver Feather', Globularia x indubia (or what I call "hairy blue eyes"), dwarf Jacaranda 'Blue Bonsai', Leucanthemum x superbum, and recent purchase, Leucospermum 'High Gold'


Visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens for more Bloom Days posts.

Those of you who follow my posts for IaVoM may be surprised that I'm offering only one vase this week.  Last week's yellow vase is still holding up well in my front entry so I've prepared just one vase inspired by the first blooms of the Arthropodium cirratum and Centaurea 'Silver Feather' for my dining room table.

From left to right, views of the vase from the front, back and top.  The vase contains: Arthropodium cirratum, Centaurea 'Silver Feather', Jacobaea maritima, Polygala myrtifolia 'Mariposa', Trachelospermum jasminoides, and Verbena bonariensis.


Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see more vases created from materials on hand in bloggers' gardens.


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