Monday, December 10, 2018

In a Vase on Monday: Imitation orchids and faux flowers

As both of last week's vases are still in great shape and as the front entry, normally one of two spots I place a vase is currently showing off a Christmas display, I didn't "need" to create any new vases this week.  But, of course, that doesn't mean I didn't.  My Hong Kong Orchid tree (Bauhinia x blakeana) is one of a dozen trees scheduled for trimming next Saturday so it seemed only prudent to cut a few of those flowers while I still can.

The orchid tree was slow to recover after the horrific heatwave that struck in July but it's finally full of flowers again

View from one side

and the other

This overhead view lets you see almost all the elements at once

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: Bauhina x blakeana, Alternanthera 'Little Ruby', Artemisia 'Powis Castle', Hemizygia 'Candy Kisses', Cuphea hybrid 'Starfire Pink', and Persicaria capitata

The new arrangement found a spot in the master bedroom, one of the few empty spaces available at present

With the new vase occupying the bedroom mantle; a Christmas display in the front entry; last week's orchid and Leucadendron arrangement now in the living room, along with a half-decorated Christmas tree; and last week's teapot arrangement still gracing the dining room table, I didn't have space for any more vases.  However, I stumbled across a new Instagram trend involving decorating with succulents Saturday evening and I decided to give it a try and share the results with you.  Although #succiepotinapot is a Instagram challenge, I discovered it via Pinterest.  I relied on materials I already had on hand, which limited my options, but I still had fun with it.

I used an 8-inch ceramic pot and a 2.5-inch clay pot, creating a bouquet of "flowers" using small specimens of the following succulents: Echeveria agavoides 'Red Tips', E. 'Azulita', E. 'Morning Beauty', E. 'Violet Queen', and Jovibarba heuffelii.  I used cuttings of Crassula pubescens radicans to create leaves.  I stole gravel from my cutting garden to cover the exposed soil.

There are many better succulent pots in a pot arrangements posted on Instagram and Martha Stewart has a post on the Instagram challenge too.

For now, I've moved the pot to my lath (shade) house to keep it out of the way of the tree trimming crew due on Saturday.

I used plastic pot feet to display it on a tilt

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see what she and other IAVOM contributors have put together this week.

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

Friday, December 7, 2018

More rain!

I'd planned another post for today but Mother Nature unexpectedly put on a major show this week and it warranted some attention.  Our third rainstorm of the season moved in late Tuesday, slowly built up steam on Wednesday, and finally gave us a thorough soaking on Thursday before moving eastward.  The rain was heavy at times and, for several hours yesterday, it looked as if we were cocooned in a cloud.

The effect was pretty in an eerie kind of way as neighboring houses simply disappeared

The usually bustling Los Angeles harbor was invisible and also silent

Even the birds were silent but then my failure to refill their feeders may have something to do with that

The clouds gradually lifted late in the afternoon, once again revealing the Los Angeles harbor below us.  As sunlight crept in, a rainbow appeared, arcing over the harbor, and I took my camera outside to capture it.

The rainbow created a complete 180 degree arc but I was unable to get a shot long enough to capture all of it

While I was out and about, I noticed what at first looked like smoke wafting over the fence that separates my cutting garden from the back garden.  Intense sunlight hitting the wet fence was causing water in the wood to evaporate in the form of steam.  I tried to capture the effect with my camera but was only minimally successful.

That fuzzy blur above the top of the fence was stream

As the sun began to dip, a second, fatter rainbow appeared.

You can read about what makes some rainbows look wider than others here if you're interested

And, like the end of any good fireworks display, Mother Nature's performance ended with a stunning sunset.

We got nearly 2 inches of rain over the course of the 3 days, with most of it arriving yesterday.  Our seasonal total to date is 4 inches which already exceeds the paltry amount we got last year.  (Our "rain years" are measured from October 1st through September 30th.)  Unfortunately, the rain caused havoc in the areas recently impacted by fire here.  Mudslides precipitated yet another round of evacuations and for a time snow closed the major highway artery between Southern and Northern California.

Highway 5 is open again but the mountains to the northeast of us were dusted in snow this morning

Today's Los Angeles Times included an article speculating on what this storm, much stronger than originally anticipated, signifies about the balance of our rainy season.  NOAA has been predicting a good chance of a moderate El Niño this year.  The Times referred to this week's storm as indicative of a "wanna-be El Niño" and said that the season suggests a "battle between El Niño and the blob," a persistent patch of warm water in the northeastern Pacific that in years past has prevented rainstorms from reaching Southern California, driving our drought.  That sounds like the title of a horror movie, doesn't it?  We'll hope this particular movie is a bust.  For those of you to the east in the storm's path, I hope it treats you gently.  Best wishes for a pleasant weekend.

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

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Succor in Succulents

It's been cold here of late.  No, not cold by the standards of those of you awaking to frost decorating your plants or snow blanketing everything in sight, but cold compared to what we're used to here in my area of coastal Southern California.  The color I seek from my garden is largely lacking now too but, buoyed by recent rain, my succulents offer a bright note.

I was surprised to see several Aeonium arboreum this morning suddenly preparing to bloom

This birdbath-style planter I renovated in August is looking better and better

The same could be said of this one, also replanted in August

We got a little light rain last night and expect more this afternoon and tomorrow and, while every rainstorm brings vague hopes of a flower-filled future, I remain mindful that we're still deeply entrenched in drought and likely to remain so as our world's climate leans toward increasing extremes.  In that vein, I've been steadily increasing my reliance on succulents in my garden.  After meeting a friend for lunch yesterday, I took the opportunity to stop in at a nearby nursery specializing in succulents.  Officially, my objective was to find a few Christmas gifts on my list but you will note that I'm not selfless enough to ignore plants that scream "buy me!"

I've been thinking of creating a feature to hold succulents and bromeliads in one area of my garden so I was immediately drawn to the impressive pieces of driftwood lined up near the parking area.

Can't you just see succulents, airplants and other bromeliads tucked into those crevices?

This piece was wider but shorter

Then I checked the price tags and my dream of using something like this in my garden rapidly evaporated - or, more accurately, exploded.  The $720 price tags on these pieces obliterated my half-formed plans.

You will never see anything like this in my garden

However, I did find 2 of the 3 items I had on my Christmas gift list.  And, yes, I did purchase a few things for my own garden too.

This nursery is woefully short on labels but I think what I brought home included, clockwise from the upper left, Echeveria 'Blue Atoll' Haworthiopsis attenuata (aka zebra plant), a succulent I can't identify, what may be Echeveria 'Violet Queen', and Echeveria agavoides 'Tippy'

Holiday gift shopping can get expensive!

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

Monday, December 3, 2018

In a Vase on Monday: From subtle to vivid

This is my one-thousandth post since starting this blog in late December 2012.  I've participated in several memes in that period but none more frequently than "In a Vase on Monday," which I joined in March 2014, so it seems entirely appropriate that this post falls on a Monday.  As it's December, there's less blooming in my garden than usual but, hey, when you''re lucky enough to live in coastal Southern California, there's always something.  Today's vases may be far from the most unique or interesting I've created over the course of well over 200 IAVOM posts but every week I'm still surprised at just how much I can find to cobble together to fill one vase, if not two or more.

My first vase was inspired by the soft cream-colored blooms of Correa 'Ivory Bells'.

The blooms on Correa 'Ivory Bells' are more profuse than those of any of my other Australian fuchsias and the buttercream flowers of the Mimulus (monkeyflower) I picked up several weeks ago complement them perfectly

I added Moroccan daisies (Pyrethropsis hosmarinese)  to the back of the arrangement

The buff color of the ornamental grass's plumes echoes the underside of the Correa's leaves

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia x grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', Correa 'Ivory Bells', Laurel nobilis, Pennisetum 'Fireworks', Pyrethropsis hosmariense, Westringia fruticosa 'Morning Light', and Mimulus 'Jelly Bean Buttercream'

The inspiration for my second vase came from the vivid colors of an orchid bloom spike.

The orchid is reportedly a hybrid combining genes of Oncidium, Odontoglossum, and Miltonia, now classified as Oncostele. (Orchid genealogy makes my eyes cross.)

I picked up the red color in the orchid using Celosia 'Intenz' (shown here at the back of the vase)

and the red flower-like bracts of two Leucadendrons, but I think the variegated foliage of Leucadendron 'Jester'  did more to pull the composition together

Clockwise from the upper left: Celosia argentea 'Intenz', Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold', Leucadendron 'Devil's Blush', L. 'Safari Sunset', Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', Oncostele 'Wildcat' and, in the center, Leucadendron 'Jester'

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

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

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Terracing a steep slope

Regrettably, this isn't a post on my own back slope, which following the hard hit it took in early July when our temperature reached 110F, is looking uglier than ever.  I took the following photos in my former neighborhood, on a street I pass through each week when I meet friends for lunch.   The retaining walls went in a year or more ago but the area wasn't planted up until this year.  I'd been meaning to stop and snap photos for some time but finally took 15 minutes to do that earlier this week.

This is on a relatively busy residential street, one of main corridors for traffic passing through this neighborhood

The terraced wall has 3 levels, backed by a tall fence behind what I assume is the owner's backyard

I was initially confused as to why the builder omitted grout between the bricks at the base of each tier of the retaining wall before realizing that's probably a strategy to facilitate drainage

I couldn't get close-ups of the trees and plants on the upper tiers of the terraced wall and I was unable to identify most of them, although I believe all are fruit trees.  The 3 trees with wood frames each had wire supports behind them, presumably to espalier the branches as they grow.

I'm assuming this is a fig tree and I'm guessing the other 2 framed trees are also figs of some kind.  The trunks of all 3 were painted white to prevent the cracking and splitting that can allow insects and disease to infect fruit trees.

In addition to this tomato plant, the second tier appeared to have peach and/or apricot trees, as well as another tree I couldn't even make a guess at identifying

The only area I could examine closely was the lowest one.  It featured a wide variety of citrus trees, all neatly labeled.  Herbs, including thyme, rosemary and lavender, were planted between the trees.  A discrete drip system was in place too.

Top row: Meyer and Eureka lemons and a Bearrs lime
Middle row: Key, Finger and Kaffir limes
Bottom row: Cara Cara orange and Yuzu, a hybrid Japanese citrus tree

It's my dream to have something like this in place on my back slope but, as access to that area is very limited, I can't imagine being able to bring in the equipment or materials necessary to create a wall like this, at least one that I could afford.  Still, it's nice to dream!

In other news, rain has returned to Southern California.  It came down in buckets for awhile this morning.  I can only hope that the burn areas received gentler treatment.

I filled these plastic buckets using what poured down the rain chain in about 30 minutes, after first dumping the contents of 2 of them on the plants under the roof's overhang.  I'm planning to move the contents of these to my 265-gallon tank, which is slower to fill than my other 2 tanks, both of which are already full.

More rain is expected this afternoon and, according to one forecast, still more is possible next week.  I'd be ecstatic except that I can't help worrying about how this will affect the burn areas.  Slow and gentle rain is what we need.

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

Monday, November 26, 2018

In a Vase on Monday: Super-sized

The unripe fuzzy peach-pink cones on the Magnolia tree in the front garden got me started on Sunday morning as I assembled materials for "In a Vase on Monday," the meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  I've used these at least once before but I'd forgotten how heavy they are before they dry and fall from the tree.  When I added a couple of branches from the persimmon tree currently sporting brightly colored leaves, I had a mix that tested the capacity and stability of my usual go-to vases.  Out came a vase I've had for well over a decade, which I seldom use.  In fact, I can't remember using it all since we moved into our current home almost 8 years ago.  It created a super-sized display.

Even with glass marbles to help hold everything in place, I had challenges with this arrangement

Back view

People have asked if I stand on a chair to photograph my vases from the top.  Usually, I don't have to but this time I needed both a chair and a more open area of the kitchen to get a clear shot.

Clockwise from the upper left: Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Magnolia grandiflora cone, Grevillea 'Superb', Magnolia leaves, and leaves of what I think is a 'Fuyu' persimmon (Diospyros kaki 'Fuyu')

There weren't many ingredients in the first vase but they were cumbersome and, for once, I gave serious thought to stopping with vase #1.  But I've become accustomed to having fresh flowers in the front entry too so I put together a second smaller vase for that spot, incorporating a bloom that surprised me when it made its first appearance in my back garden last week.

The Camellias that performed so well in a vase last week are back this week but, in my view, the star of this arrangement is the single Nerine

Back view, showing off the Leptospermum currently blooming in abundance, as well as Westringia foliage recycled from one of last week's vases

Top view, once again showing off the Nerine bloom.  As I recall, I planted perhaps a dozen of these bulbs in one area of the back garden 2 or more years ago.  They've previously produced foliage but this is the first bloom I've had.

Clockwise from the upper left: noID Camellia sasanqua, Abelia grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', Westringia fruticosa 'Morning Light', Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl', and noID Nerine

Cutting and arranging flowers gave me a nice break from the garden clean-up activities that consumed much of my time during the extended holiday weekend.  I was aching all over Saturday night and Sunday morning but I feel almost normal again now so I can get back to work.  We had rain early Thanksgiving morning and there's a chance of another storm later this week.  Both major fires in California are finally fully contained and it's possible to take deep breaths again.  Things are looking up here.

For more floral/foliage arrangements, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

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