Monday, October 30, 2017

In a Vase on Monday: Nothing to be scared of

Tomorrow is Halloween but I couldn't get myself to do much in the way of decorating this year.  Turning on the morning news is enough to send chills down my spine so I don't need to add anything else to set nerves on edge, be it mine or anyone else's.  Our neighborhood doesn't attract many trick-or-treaters anyway.  It's off the main road; houses are a distance apart; and some have long driveways or locked gates.  Last year no one rang our bell.  In the years before, we've never had more than five costumed visitors here.  The candy I bought last year is still in the cabinet but as its "best by" date has come and gone, I'll give away single serving bags of popcorn if any kids show up.

I bought a few pumpkins and thought about decorating one with succulents as I did last year but I foolishly left the big one outside, where the squirrels took responsibility for carving it.  I was unable to find inspiration in the dead foliage left by last week's heatwave either so I kept things simple and created a vase using warm, autumn-hued flowers and berries.

To give the vase a little something different, I added a large succulent rosette front and center, anchoring the heavy cutting above water level using a wire "stem"

Rear view

Top view

I used just 4 elements: (top row) Grevillea 'Superb' and (bottom row, left to right) Correa 'Wyn's Wonder', Graptoveria 'Fred Ives', and Nandina domestica

I made up a second arrangement for the front entryway using Camellia sasanqua flowers.  Even though these plants are cozied up against the house on the north side, they surprised me by producing flowers during a week that delivered temperatures of 100F with humidity below 10%.

All the Camellia blooms had ants, which I don't remember being an issue in prior years.  I had the devil of a time getting rid of them before I put together my vase.

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: noID Camellia sasanqua, Abelia 'Edward Goucher', Lotus jacobaeus, Alternanthera 'Little Ruby', and weed-like Helichrysum petiolare 'Silver Mist'

Even with the addition of dark elements in the form of the Lotus and Alternanthera stems, I can't claim the vase says "Halloween"

The autumn-toned arrangement landed on the dining table with the still intact mini-pumpkins.

I didn't entirely give up on Halloween decorations, though.

A skeleton hovers above the dining table arrangement from our chandelier.  My cat and rat skeletons sit outside the front door.  They had no impact whatsoever in scaring off the squirrels who destroyed my large pumpkin within 3 days.  I tossed what was left of it into the green bin for pick-up last week.

I hope your Halloween is a pleasant one, whether you're observing the event or not.  For more vases, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

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

Friday, October 27, 2017

October 2017 Favorites

This week's heatwave has tried my patience and once again made it difficult for me to look at my garden without a jaundiced eye.  Nonetheless, I found plants that stood out and I'm joining Loree of danger garden once again to celebrate this month's favorites.

The first are the 2 tardy bloomers I mentioned in my October Bloom Day post.  Mid-month they were showing only a handful of blooms but, despite this week's miserable heatwave, both are now blanketed with flowers.

Barleria obtusa, aka bush violet, is a low-water shrub native to South Africa.  I picked up 2 in 1-gallon pots in 2014 at my local botanic garden's fall plant sale.  The one in the middle photo sits in a bed next to the fountain in the back garden, where it has plenty of room to stretch out.  The one in the photo on the right is squeezed into a space between 2 other shrubs in the backyard border, where despite pruning it threatens to swamp its neighbors.  It grows about 3 feet tall and 5 feet wide.  Its evergreen foliage is attractive all year.  I was told that the parent plant blooms off and on year-round but mine have only bloomed in the fall.  It self-seeds readily but the plants are easy to pull out and transplant if desired. 

I planted this Senna bicapsularis 'Worley's Butter Cream', aka Winter or Christmas Cassia, in December 2011, unfortunately deciding to squeeze into a narrow spot between the fence at the northern boundary of our property and the cement stairway leading down to our back slope.  It'd probably look better grown in a tree-like form as its lower branches are bare of leaves.  The summery flowers arrive each October here.  It's a host plant for the cloudless sulphur butterfly and attracts them in large numbers every year.

This month I can't ignore the large-flowered Grevilleas.  These plants are true garden workhorses.

All 3 of the large-flowered Grevilleas are blooming but I've only shown 'Superb' (left) and 'Peaches & Cream' (right) here.  'Peaches & Cream' and 'Ned Kelly' (not shown) bloom at regular intervals throughout the year but 'Superb' blooms continuously all year, at least in the case of this mature specimen I planted from a 1-gallon container in 2013.

Another workhorse, Lantana camara 'Lucky White', also deserves a shout-out.

Lantana is often dismissed in the same way that Agapanthus is here, where both plants are common, but you can't beat it for handling hot and dry conditions.  The butterflies love it too.

When the heat is on, you can't help but admire the succulents in the garden.  They don't shrivel under the intense sun and near-zero humidity.

The 3 Agave americana var medio-picta 'Alba' shown on the left were given to me 2 years ago as pups by Hoover Boo of Piece of Eden.  I understand that they're the dwarf variety.   (HB, please tell me if my recollection is accurate.  If it's not, I need to move them further apart!)  I've tried planting the area between them with a couple of different groundcovers and, as the last selection, Lessingia 'Silver Carpet', is disappointing, I'll be looking for another soon.

There are other plants that stand up to the heat too.

This is one of the smaller Leucadendrons, L. salignum 'Summer Red'.  This one has been in place for a year now.  It's looked good since the time it was planted.  I have 2 more of these plants elsewhere in the garden, as well as 2 'Winter Red', which are substantially similar except for the time of year they get their "red" on.  They're all neat, compact, drought-tolerant plants.

This is a 2-fer listing as I couldn't show one plant without referencing its companion.  The Phormium is 'Ed Carman', which I picked up at Seaside Gardens in Carpinteria in March 2015.  It's fared well in partial shade despite encroachment by Aeonium arboreum on one side and Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' on another side.  The Aeoniums are finally coming out of their summer dormancy.  These, in partial shade, look pretty good all year but even they flesh out when the nighttime temperatures drop in the fall.  Some of those rosettes are as big as my head.

I've also got a couple of unusual flowering plants to share.

This is Asclepias cancellata, aka wild cotton, a South African milkweed.  It's reported to be perennial in my climate.  I planted it in July 2016 and this is the first time it's flowered.  It's supposed to be a host plant for Monarch butterflies but, thus far, I've only seen a crab spider (hidden in one of the blooms in the photo on the left) and bees visiting it.

This is Lotus jacobaeus.  Frankly, I was worried about whether it would survive the summer when I planted it in this pot in July but it's handled our rolling heatwaves well.  The tiny, almost-black flowers are hard to photograph, especially under Santa Ana wind conditions, but I persevered.

I'll close with plants belonging to a next door neighbor but readily visible from my garden.

The red Bougainvillea on the left peeks over the hedge that lines the back of the backyard border, atop a steep slope.  It literally glows in the early morning sunlight but my photo doesn't capture that.  A mix of pink and orange Bougainvillea spilling over an arbor in the same neighbor's garden (right) can be seen from the stairway down our back slope.  The peach tree on the lower left and the ivy mess on the lower right is part of our property.  We've got a single Bougainvillea on our property but it's small and unobtrusive, which is fortunate as my husband hates these plants.  He calls them "evil," a term I reserve for serial killers and certain politicians.  At least I can enjoy them in our neighbor's garden.

Visit Loree at danger garden to see what favorites she and other gardeners are flaunting this month.

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Help or hindrance? (Wednesday Vignette)

The raccoons are back.  They've left pilot holes all over the garden as they continue their relentless quest to remove the grubs from my soil.  The lawn we inherited with the garden is long gone but the grubs aren't so I guess they consume more than just grass roots.  If that's the case, I suppose I should be grateful that the raccoons still pay me regular visits, even if this means that I spend a half-hour several mornings a week filling in the holes they leave behind and replanting any bulbs they uncover.  I notice more empty snail shells and fewer live slugs and snails too, even though I haven't applied snail killer in months.

Like the raccoons, snails leave calling cards.  I found an interesting one this week.

Doesn't that look like a heart?  Was the snail thanking me for providing it with a nice, juicy Agave attenuata leaf?  It's never a positive to find a hole in an agave but it took some of the sting away when the hole looks more like art than vandalism.

The squirrels have also returned.  I left the bird feeders empty all summer and the squirrels virtually disappeared.  But earlier this month, I noticed their sudden return.  Although the bird feeders remained empty, they somehow knew that it was time to harvest the persimmons.  They also seem to think I need more guava trees as they've been planting the unripe guavas they don't eat.  One also thinks I need another lemon tree.  But nowhere have they been more helpful than with my preparations for Halloween.

Like the snail, the squirrel preferred to work on his art in private.  He attempted camouflage when I interrupted him.

He worked on his carving for days.  Who needs Martha Stewart's help in carving pumpkins?

Last year, I placed skeleton rats around my pumpkin and, for a time, they kept the squirrels at a distance.  Or, perhaps that was just a coincidence.  This year, I was unable to find the rats and so left the skeleton cat in charge.  He wasn't very effective.  I found the rats earlier this week and added them to the mix but the squirrel wasn't deterred.

The rats had cleverly hidden in a box

The cat looked more impressive with his rat friends by his side but the squirrel wasn't put off

The human skeleton just lay about doing nothing

But why did I think I could do better decorating the pumpkin than the squirrel?  Really, is there a scarier pumpkin than this one?

Gross, isn't it?  It even has bugs.  Unfortunately, it won't last until Halloween.  It's going in the green bin today for pick-up tomorrow.

When you think about it, it's just a matter of perspective.  Who needs garden fairies when you've got raccoons, snails, and squirrels working for you?  Whether they're a help or a hindrance is all a matter of attitude.

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

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

Monday, October 23, 2017

In a Vase on Monday: No shortage of flowers now

In my bloom day post, I bemoaned the absence of some of my usual October blooms.  Well, those blooms may have arrived late to the garden party but they're making up for lost time now, even if it feels more like summer than fall here.  Temperatures have soared again, our Santa Ana winds are back, and the red flag warnings signaling heightened fire risk are up once more.

I was prepared to create 3 vases but as usual one thing led to another when I set out looking for flowers and foliage to cut and I spent time pulling weeds and cutting plants back.  By the time I finished, it was too hot to spend much more time outside so I settled for 2 vases.  The first features Senna bicapsularis, also known as Winter or Christmas Senna.  As it always blooms in October here, neither of those common names is meaningful to me, but I expect it must bloom in winter in the northern areas of South America, from which it hails.

I hadn't any idea what to use to accent the Senna but luckily Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' offered some fresh blooms

Back view, showing Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' and Abelia 'Kaleidoscope'

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left are: Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream', Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', Coprosma 'Evening Glow', Senna bicapsularis 'Worley's Butter Cream', unripe berries of a noID Cotoneaster, and Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder'

I created a second vase featuring Barleria obtusa, the bush violet I used last week.  This week I paired it with late blooming stems of Eustoma grandiflorum 'Black Pearl'.  The latter is prettier than I gave it credit for earlier but not nearly as robust as the other Lisianthus cultivars I've grown.  Of the 24 plugs I planted in spring, only about half a dozen produced flowers and many of the plugs simply withered and died.

This photo shows how much smaller the flowers of the purplish-black Lisianthus are in comparison to the larger white cultivar

I used Artemisia ludoviciana, a self-planted weed, to add light to the back of the vase

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: Barleria obtusa, Artemisia ludoviciana, Erigeron glacus 'Wayne Roderick', 2 cultivars of Eustoma grandiflorum, Hypoestes aristata (aka ribbon bush), and Leucanthemum x superbum

For more Monday vases, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

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

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Too much of a good thing? (Foliage Follow-up)

I featured Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' in May's Foliage Follow-up post, crowing  a bit about how well these plants were doing in my garden, particularly the cluster of 3 plants underneath an Agonis flexuosa (peppermint willow) in a very dry section of the back garden.  Here's what the area looked like in May:

Acacia in mid-May

Now, if you consider that photo, you'll note that the Acacia was already starting to enroach on the succulents in front of it.  Last week, while trying to find a spot for a new Aeonium nobile, I realized that the Acacia had climbed right over a good many of those succulents when I wasn't paying attention.  By the time I got around to cleaning up the area a few days ago, I'd already partially uncovered 2 of 3 Agave 'Joe Hoak' but these photos give you an idea of the "before" state:

The Aeonium arboreum and ceramic fish had all but disappeared.  The Aloe vanbaelenii x ferox was half-covered.  The smallest 'Joe Hoak', a gift from a fellow blogger, was still nearly invisible and even Agave ovatifolia 'Vanzie' had been engulfed.

I removed a large amount of the encroaching Acacia foliage but I suspect it won't be long before the succulents are swallowed up by 'Cousin Itt' again.

After photo #1: If you look closely, you may notice that the Acacia is still covering up other plants close to the trunk of the peppermint willow.  Those are Agapanthus.  I'm leaving them to their own devices.  The Phlomis in the background seems safe - for now.

After photo #2, showing all 3 "rescued" 'Joe Hoaks'.  I'm not really concerned with the Aeoniums - I have a nearly endless supply.

I haven't decided whether to relocate some or all of the succulents and simply let 'Cousin Itt' do its thing, or to just put the Acacia on a quarterly pruning schedule.  What would you do?

This is my belated Foliage Follow-up post.  For others, visit Pam at Digging.

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

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Sunrise (Wednesday Vignette)

I was out and about early yesterday morning as I had a dentist appointment and wanted to take care of a few things in the garden before I made my 50-minute schlep to the dentist's office.  (I love my dentist but I need one with a closer office.)  I caught the sun as it was coming up over the Los Angeles Harbor.

7 minutes prior to sunrise

The official moment of sunrise (7am)

Six minutes after sunrise with the sun still partially obscured by clouds but mirrored in the waters of the harbor

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

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

Monday, October 16, 2017

In a Vase on Monday: The last dahlia

While there are yet a few buds on the dahlias, most of these dry up in no time during the hot, dry weather we've been experiencing.  Dahlia 'Punkin' Spice' surprised me by producing one beautiful, albeit small, bloom, which I elected to cut now as a final hurrah to the summer season.  Honestly, after last week's fires throughout the state we're more than ready here to see the end of summer dry conditions.  Red flag warnings signifying a high fire risk were in effect for much of the weekend in Southern California.  With all the sad and terrible stories stemming from the fires in Northern California and last Monday's fire here in Southern California, I couldn't help watching the horizon with a degree of anxiety.  Shortly after 4pm on Sunday, I glanced out my home office window and noticed this:

My husband got out a telescope and placed the fire near the Harbor Freeway's end point in San Pedro, less than 5 miles away.  Although we never heard sirens, the fire was out within 20 minutes.  However, our hot and dry conditions aren't expected to break until Friday.  Our humidity level here has been running below 15%.

But on to happier topics!  I let the color of 'Punkin' Spice' dictate the palette of my first vase.

This vase turned out better than I'd anticipated when I collected the hodge-podge of materials from my garden Sunday morning

I still haven't pulled all my remaining Zinnias but I'm trying to use up the last blooms - the plants look terrible!

The top view reflects the narrow profile of the vase

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: Dahlia 'Punkin' Spice', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', berries of noID Cotoneaster (recycled from last week's vase), Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun', Leonotis leonurus, Oncidium 'Wildcat', Tagetes lemmonii 'Compact', and Zinnia elegans

Barleria obtusa (bush violet) produced its first flowers just before Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day and more flowers have opened continuously since.  I cut a few stems as the starting point for a second vase.

I can't recall how well the bush violets hold up in a vase or whether the buds will open once the stems are cut

I added pink Zinnias to the back of the vase as a last minute change.  This gave the 2 sides of the vase (or rather mug) distinctly different personalities.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left, the mug contains: Barleria obtusa, Cuphea 'Starfire Pink', Salvia 'Mystic Spires', Leucanthemum x superbum, and Zinnia elegans

I'd picked up a few pumpkins at the market last week and used the small ones to dress up the 'Punkin' Spice' arrangement on the dining room table.

I was going to retire the mouse to the cupboard but he looked quite happy there atop the pumpkins so I let him stay

I left my largest pumpkin outside the front entry, nestled in a pot in an attempt to keep the squirrels from tunneling through it before Halloween.  Despite this precaution, I caught one in the act of chewing it Sunday morning and the cheeky creature had the audacity to cuss me out when I sent him packing.  I put my skeleton cat out next to the pumpkin in what is no doubt a futile effort to keep the squirrel away.  I'm still looking for my skeleton rats, which seem to have disappeared.

The violet vase sits in the front entry

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to find more "In a Vase on Monday" posts.

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