Monday, December 31, 2018

In a Vase on Monday: Welcoming the new year!

I've got just one vase to offer this week.  The holidays have been busy and floral material is also in short supply.  My Grevilleas are still the main source of flowers so it's no surprise that another of these set the color scheme for this week's arrangement.

The big, bold flowers of Grevillea 'Ned Kelly' kicked things off this week and last week's featherhead (Phylica pubescens) came along for the ride

The flower-like bracts of Leucadendron 'Safari Sunset' took over the stage on the other side of the vase

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Antirrhinum majus 'Bronze', berries of Heteromeles arbutifolia, Leucadendron 'Safari Sunset', Lotus berthelotii 'Amazon Sunset', Phylica pubescens, Russelia equisetiformis 'Flamingo Park', and, in the center, Grevillea 'Ned Kelly'

It's been cold and, of late, exceptionally dry here and, after running our heater virtually non-stop most of the month, our Christmas tree dried out in record time so I stripped the interior of the house of its Christmas decorations this past weekend, leaving a lone snow globe sitting in the front entry as a nod to the winter season.

This snow globe formerly belonged to my mother-in-law, an avid birder.  Mrs. Cardinal seems to have faded over the years.

The new arrangement occupies the usual place of honor on the dining room table.

For more IAVOM posts, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  Best wishes for a beautiful, floriferous new year!

All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, December 28, 2018

Flourishing Foliage

While not entirely absent, floral color is subdued this time of year, even in my part of the world.  It's foliage that makes a statement.  I did a circuit of the garden to scope out what needs to be cut back (a lot!) and took some photos in the process.

If you read my posts this past July, you may remember how distressed I was following the horrific heatwave when our temperature reached 110F/43C.  Among other things, my Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' were scorched, those shown here in particular.  They recovered and, with just a little cosmetic pruning, they're looking better than ever.

The 'Cousin Itt' in the back garden also recovered.  The 3 plants here are so robust I've had to cut them back just to keep them from swallowing everything around them.

Agave ovatifolia 'Vanzie' was one the plants nearly engulfed by 'Cousin Itt'.  I cut her free this week.

This is a long view of the succulent bed on the south side looking west from the back garden.  This area of the garden is still very much a work in progress but I'm gratified to see that several of the 'Blue Glow' and 'Blue Flame' Agaves have finally gained substantial size. 

This is one of 3 Agave americana medio-picta 'Alba' given to me as pups by Hoover Boo of Piece of Eden in 2016.  This one is nicely accented by a silvery Maireana sedifolia in the background.

The bed opposite the south side succulent bed shown above is dominated by Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' sporting touches of red in its new growth.  It had effectively blanketed the small Aloes and Aeoniums under its skirts until I cut it back.  The feathery blue foliage of Lotus berthelotii 'Amazon Sunset' is still battling with Aeonium 'Kiwi' for space here.

In the front garden 2 varieties of Centaurea edge Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum'

Along the west-facing front slope, Aeonium arboreum, Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' and various other succulents spill out around another Pennisetum 'Rubrum', framing a peek-a-boo ocean view in the distance

A heavy marine layer, sometimes enveloping us in a morning cloud of moisture, has given the fuzzy leaves of Pelargonium tomentosum (aka peppermint geranium) a frosted look.  When dry, the leaves are an emerald green.  The close-up on the left shows the effect of my finger's touch on one leaf.

In the dry garden on the northeast side of the house, Agave vilmorinana and Agave ovatifolia are still cohabiting peacefully but there may come a time in which they'll be locked in a battle for space

I like how Westringia fruticosa 'Morning Light', Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick' and Hebe 'Purple Shamrock' have combined here.  However, this angle doesn't show the damage wrought by some creature in the center of the massed Erigeron.  (I suspect my arch nemesis, the raccoon.)

Tomorrow, December 29th, is my 6-year blogging anniversary.  I'm not planning a special post to recognize the occasion but I do want to take the opportunity to thank those of you who read my blog and those who comment, if only periodically.  You invited me into a world of garden enthusiasts I hardly knew existed and made me feel a part of it, for which I'm more grateful than I can put into words.  Thank you!

All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Christmas Surprises

Christmas Day at our house was blessedly low key.  And the day even began with a little light rain.  Totaling 0.04/inch it certainly wasn't a drought-buster but we've come to appreciate whatever we get.  It left behind the clearest sky we've had since our last real storm in early December.

Without even any cruise ships in port, the Los Angeles harbor was quiet too

I took time to take photos of my currently subdued garden, finding a few surprises in the process.

Hippeastrum 'Giant Amadeus', planted as a bulb in early November bloomed nearly 7 weeks later on Christmas Day

The noID Crocus received as a gift with purchase over a year ago produced a few tiny blooms.  Largely hidden by the weedy foliage of Erigeron karvinskianus, I almost missed them.  I love Crocus but I gave up on them years ago as my climate isn't hospitable.

I found my first "spring" bloom of Alstroemeria buried under a robust clump of Artemisia californica.  Even in the land of early spring, this is an early appearance.

I had smorgasbord leftovers for lunch and spent much of the afternoon breathing clean air while pruning out-of-control shrubs before my husband and I sat down to a Cornish game hen and roasted vegetables for dinner, then watched a movie based on an Agatha Christie novel.  A perfect day!  I hope yours was as pleasant.

All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, December 24, 2018

In a Vase on Monday: Merry Christmas!

Each year before Christmas, my husband and I host an annual smorgasbord, a tradition I took over from my mother years ago.  The food selections have become less traditional over time - even my mother never served lutefisk and I've abandoned the stewed prune dessert she insisted on serving.  (Warning: the lutefisk video may not be suitable for all audiences.)  My husband, who isn't Scandinavian, made Swedish meatballs.  Other than salads, I picked up everything else from a local deli and bakery.

Our family is smaller than it once was but now includes friends who feel like family.  As our current home is a slog for most of our guests, we held this year's celebration on Saturday so everyone could avoid long commutes and the worst of the holiday freeway traffic.  I prepared floral decorations for the dining area on Friday evening, although as the light was terrible, my photos were taken on Sunday.

The Grevilleas were meant to be the stars of this arrangement but I think the Phylica pubescens (aka featherhead) steals the show

Back view, showing off the large flowers of Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream'

Top view

The vase contains, top row: Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', and noID Cotoneaster
Bottom row: Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream', G. 'Superb', and Phylica pubescens

I reused the stems of Westringia 'Morning Light' (aka Australian rosemary) I cut last week in my second arrangement, along with a stem from the poinsettia I bought a few weeks ago.

The poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) occupies my outdoor shade house but I also wanted to enjoy it inside the house

The back view is boring but it faces a stone wall

Left to right: Leucadendron salignum 'Chief', Euphorbia pulcherrima 'Ice Punch', and Westringia fruticosa 'Morning Light'

For more IAVOM arrangements, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas to those of you who are celebrating!

I skipped the succulents I usually add to my store-bought wreath this year, just adding stems from my recently trimmed Magnolia grandiflora, Heteromeles arbutifolia berries, a bow, and a tiny gnome

It took awhile but I finally finished decorating the Christmas tree

Can you tell that Pipig is in a snit?   Presents have overtaken most of the area under the tree she'd claimed as hers.  I've explained to her that the tree will be hers again after Christmas morning but she's not mollified.  Oh well, I'm not sure it's ever possible to please a cat.

All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, December 21, 2018

Tree Trimming Trauma

As views of the Los Angeles harbor are valued here, good neighborly relations dictate annual tree trimming.  I don't have all our trees trimmed each year but we tackle at least half of them annually.  While we've done some of the trimming ourselves, especially in our early days in residence, I now hire all or most of the job out.  I trust the crew we use each year but I still dread the collateral damage that routinely accompanies the process.  This year, two specific areas were also of particular concern.

If you read my blog regularly, you may know that our mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) has posed challenges.  It's a messy tree to start with, dropping litter in the form of flowers, leaves and seedpods almost continuously.  It's bare of leaves for at least 4 months of the year and, in 2018, it didn't leaf out at all until late June.  Of even greater concern, half the tree never leafed out at all.

This was the tree in late January this year, after its last trimming.  It was showing signs of damage due to shot hole borers and, in response we took out a few good-sized branches but left the tree's vase-like shape intact.

This was the tree in late July when it finally flowered.  You'll note that while the back half of the tree looks normal, the front half was largely bare.

I consulted an arborist in October and made the hard decision to remove three major limbs on the front side of the multi-trunked tree.  I was afraid the tree would look freakish after major surgery like that but I'm not ready to cut the whole tree down quite yet.  As it turned out, the tree doesn't look too bad when viewed from the front, although I can't say it looks entirely normal either.

View of the front of the tree from the back door after surgery
When viewed from the side, it's much more apparent that half the tree is gone

This cut makes me nervous.  I hope it heals over quickly.

The other big change was made on the south side of the house, where I elected to take out one of the two tree-sized Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) and thin out the second.  Both sat along our property line at the top of a sharp slope.  We also cut down an extremely tall leader on an adjacent shrub (Auranticarpa rhombifolium).  My main concern in this case was to avoid any damage on our next door neighbor's side but, happily, that didn't prove to be a problem.

The photo on the left was taken in January and the photo on the right was taken this past weekend after the smaller Toyon was cut down and the larger one was thinned.  The smaller tree was growing almost on top of its parent, which wasn't good for either in the long run.  The neighbors across the street had also expressed concern that the mass of foliage impaired their view.  The upside of thinning the foliage is more light for the plants in my succulent bed and, as this area sits atop a slope, there's no significant loss of privacy.

The rest of the tree trimming was relatively straightforward.

All 4 of our Arbutus 'Marina' were thinned, which helps improve air circulation and prevents the sooty mold that can sometimes afflict these trees

The Hong Kong orchid tree (Bauhinia x blakeana, left) received a light trim to remove the dead twiggy stems and a limb trailing over the roof.  The trimmers managed to leave most of the flowers alone.  The Magnolia grandiflora (right) looks pretty bare at the moment but I know from experience that it'll quickly fill out.

The ornamental pear (Pyrus calleryana) was suffering from fire blight.  They trimmed out the affected leaves and thinned the foliage.  I'll need to inoculate it against blight in the spring.  This can be a messy tree too but regular trimming helps and, under current drought conditions, I'd prefer to avoid losing a mature shade tree I might not be able to easily replace.

Other than a laurel hedge, that's everything that was touched in this round of trimming.  I've spent a couple of hours every day this week cleaning up the affected areas.  The crew does a good job at picking up the debris but they never get everything.  Wind also shakes down branches that were cut during trimming but didn't immediately fall to the ground.  Pots and garden furniture moved out of the way has to be put back.  A lot of mulch gets picked up during the tree trimmers' clean-up too so I spent time replenishing that.  (Next year I'll remember to hold off on mulching until after this annual exercise.)  And of course some plants below the trees, particularly those sitting atop slopes, get squashed and must be either removed, replaced or cut back to allow them a chance to recover.  I'm mostly done...

It'll be a busy weekend for me as Christmas is just around the corner and we're hosting family and friends on Saturday.  However you're spending the weekend, I hope it's a good one.

All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Tell the Truth Tuesday (Late Edition)

Alison of Bonney Lassie recently encouraged fellow garden bloggers to let go of the pretty faces we tend to present to the world and share some of the uglier sides of our gardens.  Last week, I shared photos of my sad (and largely hidden) back slope.  This week, I have a collection of ugly little vignettes.  Two of these hit me in the face this weekend after the tree service finished its annual trimming exercise.

My half-dead mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) received a severe pruning (to be reviewed in a future post).  One of the results was to highlight the mass of messy foliage in front of the tree, all of which came with the garden.  It's a hodge-podge of Asparagus densiflorusErigeron karvinskianus, ivy and other weeds.  I've no illusions about getting rid of the Asparagus fern - that's virtually impossible.  However, I've already cut it back by more than half and I plan to reduce it further, with the understanding that this will be a perpetual exercise.

A stretch of Ceanothus hedge sits adjacent to the mimosa tree.  It's hard to grow anything but weeds in the area in front of it so I've placed potted succulents there.  When I moved the pots out of the way for the tree trimmers, I decided it was a good time to cut back the Ceanothus.  I got carried away and now you can see through the hedge down into the ugly back slope.  I'll try to clean up the twiggy mess I created before the pots are moved back into place and hope the Ceanothus forgives me by producing new growth.

The next vignette is the area behind our garage.  Many gardeners have dump zones for empty pots and the like and I'm no exception.

The area doesn't look too bad on the east end, which is dominated by my 265-gallon rain tank

The view on the east end isn't so good.  I should note that I've already cleaned this area up at least twice this year, reducing my empty plastic pot collection to a third of what it once was.  And much of what's here is my husband's mess.

Why we've held on to the tiki torches left behind by the prior owner, the remains of 2 screen doors replaced years ago, old hoses and the benderboard edging we took out when we removed our lawn I can't explain.  My husband says we can dump it all when the construction dumpsters are in place for our kitchen renovation but I'm arguing for getting rid of what we can in batches as part of our weekly trash pick-ups.

Two other sad sights sit at each end of the garage.

A friend gave me this topiary cat years ago.  She'd partially planted it and handed it off to me for completion.  I added some succulents but never finished it.  The moss has dried up and needs to be supplemented or replaced before I give it another go.  The poor thing has been just standing in this bed, waiting for attention.

Too big to move easily, this compost tumbler was also left behind by the prior owner.  I've used it but it doesn't really produce compost on an accelerated basis as suggested in sales ads.  Now it's disintegrating.  It'll probably go in the construction dumpster too.

Finally, here's the stump on the south side of my garden near the property line.  I tried to prettify it earlier by planting its open center but I've been thwarted by visiting raccoons.

Sick of the raccoons using the stump as their toilet, I planted it with a spiky Yucca and aloes but that hasn't deterred the raccoons.  Raccoon poop can carry disease so cleaning it isn't something I want to do on a regular basis.  I'm wondering if planting something really big in the stump's decaying center will work.  It's worth a try.

My new year's garden resolutions will include addressing each of these issues.  Stay tuned!

Do you have some ugly truths to share?  This meme is gaining traction with other bloggers and I encourage you to jump on the bandwagon - coming clean is good for the soul!

All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, December 17, 2018

In a Vase On Monday: Purples and Pinks

This week's vases aren't particularly Christmas-y but I'm holding back the flowers in more seasonal colors for an upcoming holiday celebration.  Once again, I walked into my garden thinking I didn't have much that would be useful to create an arrangement only to be surprised at just what I found.

The jumping off point for my first, purple-themed vase was an unusual Abelia I recently rediscovered on my back slope.  I planted it in 2012 but I've got no photographic record of its blooms in any year since.

While down on the back slope to cut the Abelia, I was surprised to find several stems of noID paperwhite Narcissus in bloom so I cut those too.  I didn't plant these bulbs and they don't get anything other than rainwater, yet they bloom most years.  The only real question is: why haven't I planted more of them?

Back view: I also cut a few stems of the Pittosporum we planted to mark the property line between us and one of our neighbors at the bottom of the slope

Top view: The oddest element in this arrangement may be the unripe berries of the asparagus fern I added.  These plants, which came with the garden, spread with abandon despite my best effort to contain them; however, the glossy berries mutate from celadon green to bluish white to greenish-purple before turning red.  I've thought about using the green ones in an arrangement before but never got around to doing so until now.

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia 'Chiapas'Asparagus densiflorus berries, noID Narcissus, Osteospermum 'Berry White'Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Silver Magic', and Polygala myrtifolia 'Mariposa'

The blooms of my pink Camellia sasanquas are still plentiful but they're showing signs of wear so I decided to cut a few stems for a second vase while I still could.

I tried combining the Camellias with stems from 2 colorful coleus varieties but the Camellias cried out for more refined foliage

Back view: The silver vase is a nod to the upcoming holidays

Top view

Clockwise from the left: noID Camellia sasanqua, Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-star', and Westringia fruticosa 'Morning Light'

The orchid and Leucadendron arrangement I created 2 weeks ago is still in good shape and currently sitting on a side table in the living room.

The front entry table is occupied by a faux Christmas tree and decorations I've had for a decade or more

The first of this week's new arrangements sits on the dining table and the second sits on the stone structure next to it, along with a silvery raccoon a friend gave me a couple of years ago as a nod to my ongoing struggle with those furry pests

For more IAVOM arrangements, visit our host, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  Best wishes to all this holiday season!

All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party