Friday, September 29, 2017

September Favorites

I'm once again joining Loree of danger garden in identifying the plants that earned my favor this month.  The exercise, which has me making the rounds of my garden to see what's doing well, is always useful in providing perspective.  This time, it also led to the discovery that my adversaries, the raccoons, had made their own extensive examination of my garden, in the process of which, among other things, I discovered that they'd dug up some of the bulbs I'd planted only days ago.  But they also left me empty snail shells here and there so I'm trying to see the yin and the yang of my relationship with them.  Everything's been tidied up again and, hopefully, they'll employ their skills elsewhere for a time and give me a break.

On to this month's favorites!

I've presented the large mass of Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' that grows under the peppermint willow in my back border on other occasions but this time I'm sharing the 'Cousin Itt' growing elsewhere in my garden.  All took their time to beef up but I think I can now say they've reached a mature size.  The plant on the left, which sits underneath the Leucadendron 'Pisa' outside my home office window, is almost too enthusiastic and I fear it may someday swallow the plants surrounding it.  The plants in the middle and right-hand photos sit on opposite sides of a flagstone path that extends through the front garden.  If you look closely at the middle photo, you can see an exposed branch, which we were able to attribute to breakage resulting from a battle between 2 of my raccoon friends after viewing video from our security cameras.

As I've recently spent considerable time working on the succulent bed in front of our garage (described here), I'd plenty of time to admire the large, multi-trunked Agave attenuata I inherited with the garden.  Not only is it a beautiful specimen of its species, it's also the source of many of the pups I've cut and relocated to other parts of the garden.  As the photo on the right shows, there are more good sized pups available now, which I may soon move elsewhere.

I planted the 3 Cuphea 'Vermillionaire' pictured here just over a year ago.  They also took their time bulking up but, despite the hot, dry summer, they've finally taken off.  This is the first of the orange-flowered Cupheas I've tried that's done well.

Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick' wins a spot on this month's list just because it's so darn pretty.  It blooms intermittently throughout the year.

I featured Gaura lindheimeri as a favorite sometime this past spring but, as it sprung back this month after a severe haircut in June, it deserves another mention.  Its flowers are among the most noticeable in my front garden at the moment.  In the late afternoon, the flowers tend to look sad but every morning the plants shine once more.

Leonotis leonurus is another plant that I cut back in June only to have it bounce back with a new flush of flowers in September.  The taller of the 2 plants shown here was inherited with the garden but it never before looked as good as it does this year.  I don't know if I can credit the hard pruning I gave it last year for its revival or our heavier-than-usual winter rains but I'm pleased by its rebirth (especially as I'd been close to digging it up and tossing it out).  The shorter plant was added last fall.

I featured Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum' last month and warned that the plant would probably be even better looking in September.  It is so I'm showing it again.  There are 4 of these plants spaced at intervals along the moderate slope facing the street in the front garden.  You can see 2 in this photo.

Plectranthus ciliatus 'Zulu Wonder' is just now coming into bloom.  While I grow the plant mainly for its quilted green leaves with purplish undersides, I love the graceful flowers too.  The mass planted by the back door grew from cuttings I brought from my former garden.  Although I've planted cuttings elsewhere, this is the only spot in which it's done really well; however, I'm trying it once again in a shady spot in the front garden. 

Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-star' always looks its best at this time of year.  I think it responds to the increased humidity we often get in late August and September as a by-product of the monsoonal rains in the desert areas to the east.  The plants do bloom but the flowers aren't nearly as colorful as the variegated foliage.

Salvia elegans, commonly known as pineapple sage, produced only a smattering of flowers all through the summer months but now it's finally blooming heavily.  I wonder if that's because I left the hose running there too long a couple of weeks ago?  In any case, both the bees and the hummingbirds love it.

Trichostema 'Midnight Magic' is a hybrid form of our native wooly blue curls.  The latter is an extremely finicky plant that I've killed twice.  This one is much more at home in a garden setting.  It flowers sporadically.

The 3 clumps of Zephyranthes candida (aka rain lilies) I planted years ago surprised me by blooming earlier this month without any rain.  Since then we've received light rain twice (tallying a whopping 0.15/inch) and the rain lilies have just kept producing new flowers.  Despite the common name linking their flowering to rainfall, it seems more likely that flowering is triggered by seasonal weather or light shifts as a review of old blog posts indicates they also bloomed in September last year.

That's it for this month's favorites.  Visit Loree at danger garden to find her picks.  And, if you'd like to see what's looking good across the pond right now, visit Chloris at The Blooming Garden.

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

Thursday, September 28, 2017

First Fall Garden Project: Succulent Bed Renovation

I haven't been happy with the succulent bed I created in front of our garage since I finished it in March 2016.  After removing all the lawn in that area, we laid a flagstone walk; my husband created a trash path using railroad ties and gravel; and I planted the largest beds with shrubs and perennials, using succulents to fill the remaining bed on the north side of the trash path.  But, as I'd spend most of my budget on shrubs and perennials, I made do with inexpensive (small) plants and cuttings from friends and my own garden to fill the new succulent bed, throwing in some grasses, lavender and bearded Iris in a vain attempt to fill the space.  (You can view the original planting plan here.)

I decided to renovate the succulent bed several months ago but waited until temperatures began to cool to tackle the project.  I got started in mid-September.  Did I take a before shot?  Of course not, although I assumed that I'd find one among the wide shots I routinely take of the garden.  However, the most recent photo featuring this bed I located dated back to early May, which probably speaks to my tendency to ignore the bed once I'd decided to renovate it.

Photo of the bed taken May 5th looking east

My first task was to open the space up to give me more of a clean slate to work with.  I left the large Agave attenuata inherited with the garden in place, as well as many of the succulents edging the path but tossed most of the perennials and many of the smaller succulents that had been slow to bulk up.  The larger succulents I wanted to keep were placed in pots until I could decide how to use them in the renovated bed.  I also appropriated plants from pots and other areas of the garden.  And I went shopping.

Some of the potted succulents I dug up are shown on the left.  The plants on the right are succulents I picked up on various nursery expeditions.

Then I hauled in topsoil and dug in cactus mix to create berms and improve drainage.

3 cubic yards of topsoil was more than I needed for this job and a couple of smaller ones.  I'm still trying to find places for the one cubic yard remaining.

This is the area after I finished spreading the topsoil and digging in the cactus mix.  It still looks rather flat in this photo but I estimate that I raised the soil level nearly a foot at its highest point.

Next, I enlisted my husband's help to pick up another load of rock to shore up my berms.

Most of the 860 lbs of rock we brought home in my husband's pick-up truck went here.  It wasn't quite enough.  Somehow, it never is.

Once I'd replanted the area, I struggled with whether or not to add gravel around the plants.  While gravel adds a finished look as the plants fill out, it also makes it more difficult to make changes to the bed as the gravel works its way into the soil.  I elected to fill in with ground cover succulents, mainly Sedum makoni 'Ogon' and 'Limelight', even though those too will need time to fill out.  I still need to add more ground cover material but the area in front of the Arbutus 'Marina' and the Agave attenuata is mostly done.  Here are views of the newly planted area from different angles:

View of the replanted area looking east, toward the garage

View looking north toward the fence separating our property from that of our neighbor.  That compost tumbler alongside the fence came with the property.

View looking west toward the street

If I enumerated the plant species, the list would be very long but here are some of the larger specimens:

Top row: Agave attenuata (came with the garden), Agave 'Blue Flame (bordered by Echeveria 'Blue Atoll'), and Agave geminiflora
Middle row: Agave 'Jaws' (a pup moved from elsewhere), Aloe plicatilis (a gift from a friend), and Aloe 'Rooikappie'
Bottom row: Aloe ciliaris hybrid, Leucadendron 'Summer Red' (the only new shrub), and Sansevieria trifasciata 'Hahnii'

In addition to filling in between plants with more ground cover plugs, I'm planning to lay another flagstone path behind the Arbutus leading to the shrubs in the corner so these can be reached for trimming without treading on my succulents.  On either side of that path, I plan to add more succulents, bromeliads and grasses.  Some of these are already in place but those displays aren't ready for prime time yet and it'll be awhile before I'll ask my husband to make yet another trip to the rock yard to get more flagstone.

Next up is bulb planting.  What about you?  Do you have any fall projects in the works?

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Wednesday Vignette: Autumn's Darker Side

Unlike gardeners in cold winter climates, Southern California gardeners generally welcome autumn, which is frequently referred to here as our second spring.  Temperatures drop and our winter rainy season draws closer, making it a great time to plant.  I've been working on renovating one of my larger succulent beds and I'd planned to cover that in my next post but the arrival of our Santa Ana winds offered an opportunity to reveal autumn's darker side: the brushfires that all too frequently accompany our seasonal Santa Ana winds.  Unfortunately, what was billed as a "mild" Santa Ana wind event nonetheless fanned a major fire on Monday afternoon, leading to the evacuation of 1500 people at its height.  The latest update is that the fire is just 15% contained.

Monday night's sunset lit up the clouds of smoke in shades of pink that belied the fire's fury

But this early sunrise shot captured by my husband on Tuesday spoke more clearly of the fire's danger

We're fortunate to be 50 to 60 miles from the fire so, other than its impact on air quality, the Canyon Fire hasn't affected us directly.  However, as we do live in a fire danger area, any local fire puts us on edge and has us sniffing the air for the tell-tale smell of smoke.  My in-laws' home went up in flames in the 1993 Malibu Fire and I've never forgotten the heartbreak of that event.  I empathize with anyone impacted by such fires and I react negatively to any thoughtless individuals who put their neighbors at risk with careless behavior like setting off fireworks or tossing cigarettes in tinder-dry areas.

On a less sinister note, two other sightings drew my attention during the twilight hours this week:

I believe this is a red-tailed hawk, the most common bird of prey in our area.  This fellow landed in our mimosa tree Sunday night and just sat there, staring in the direction of our house.  I took this photo from directly below him on our backyard patio.  No hawk has ever allowed me to get that close.

In contrast, this spider (presumably some kind of orb weaver) cared not a whit that I was standing right next to her as she busily created a new web right across an area I walk through every day.  I unintentionally broke her web but I fully expect to see a replacement the next time I round that same corner.

Visit Anna at Flutter & Hum to view other images participating bloggers found interesting this week.

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

Monday, September 25, 2017

In a Vase on Monday: Summer re-run

After 2 pleasantly cool, fall-like weeks, summer is mounting a re-run here this week, with temperatures expected to climb back up into the mid-to-upper 80sF as our notorious Santa Ana winds return.  Those winds can shrivel flowers in record time so I felt only a little guilty about cutting the roses and other flowers that have appeared since the temperatures dropped.

My 'California Dreamin' rose produced 3 blooms on short stems.  This rose has never been robust.

I'm still cutting snippets off the top of my silver Leucadendron as I remain concerned that it's too top-heavy to hold up to strong winds

I finally got a few blooms on the white Japanese anemone I inherited with the garden

Clockwise from the left: Rosa 'California Dreamin', Anemone hupehensis japonica, Leucadendron 'Pisa', and Pentas 'Kaleidoscope Appleblossom'

A dahlia I'd purchased in a nursery pot from a garden center 6 or more weeks ago bloomed for the first time this past week so I created an arrangement around it too.  I'd been under the impression that the bloom would be a lavender/white bi-color but it looks pink with blue undertones to me.  I had a hard time finding suitable companions for it so my choices are a bit of a jumble.

The dahlia is pretty but, with just a single bloom to date, I'm not sure it was worth the purchase

The rear view isn't especially attractive so it's a good thing I've got it facing a wall

Top view

Clockwise from the top right-hand photo, the vase contains: Dahlia 'Veracruz', Zinnia elegans, Pseuderanthemum 'Texas tri-star', noID violet and white Pentas, Ocimum hybrid 'African Blue', Eustoma grandiflorum, Cosmos bipinnatus, and Abelia x grandiflora 'Hopleys' Variegated'

I've become very reliant on photo collages for my IaVoM (and many other) posts; however, this week I discovered that PicMonkey, the collage maker I've been using, has decided to charge for use of the tool.  I may opt in eventually and pay the membership fee but, for now, I'm trying another tool, Be Funky.  I tried one other but found it less than intuitive to use.  If you know of a good free collage tool, let me know!

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden, our "In a Vase on Monday" host, to find more floral and foliage arrangements created by gardeners from materials close at hand.

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

Friday, September 22, 2017

2017 Garden Bloggers' Fling: Final views

I'm wrapping up my coverage of the Capital Region Garden Bloggers' Fling with photos from 2 more venues from the last day of our tour.  The first stop of the morning on June 25th was Merrifield Garden Center.  It was a huge place, chock full of beautiful plants.

This was a great way to show shoppers how various ground covers might be used in their own spaces

Under normal circumstances, I eschew the indoor areas of garden centers unless I need to pick up new garden gloves, seeds or fertilizer but as taking plants of any significant size home in my suitcase was impractical, I chose not to tempt myself by spending too much time in the nursery area.  And there was a lot to see inside, not to speak of the fact that the nice people at Merrifield welcomed us with beverages, fruit and muffins.

This was the first time I've seen wine sold in a garden center.  What a great idea!

I can't remember seeing hats sold in my local garden centers either

There were LOTS of decorative items for the garden

For some reason, I fell in love with this frog, adorning both a magazine stand and a platter, but I didn't purchase either

Toward the end of the last jam-packed day of the Fling, we visited a 170 acre estate garden in a rural area of Middleburg, Virginia, the last private garden on the tour.  The owners purchased the property and its stone farmhouse, built in 1790, in the 1970s.  Upon arrival, we were greeted by the property's goodwill ambassador.

I've forgotten this handsome corgi's name but he did a great job herding 2 busloads of bloggers in the right direction

The downside of presenting this garden nearly 3 months following the event is that my memory of many of the details have faded.  As I recall, my exploration was largely limited to the area behind the house; however, views of the horse country surrounding the house were visible on all sides.

Arbors of various kinds divided up the main garden area around the house, creating more pretty photo opportunities.

There was a pretty pond.

And an inviting pool.

There were comfortable places to just sit and enjoy the garden too.

Decorative details were scattered throughout the garden but all blended in beautifully with the landscape.

The last day of my first Garden Bloggers' Fling was as wonderful as the first 2 days.  Tammy Schmitt (Casa Mariposa) and her team did an excellent job of planning the event and I'm appreciative of how friendly all the Flingers were, as well as the generosity of the hosts who opened their gardens to a hoard of bloggers with their cameras.  I'm very glad I attended and only wish I'd been more strategic in my approach to collecting photographs of each of the gardens we visited so I could have presented them in the best possible light.  If you'd like to view my prior posts on the Fling you can find them here:

Best wishes for a great weekend.

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