Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Top 10 January Blooms (& a Blood Moon Wednesday Vignette)

I'm joining Chloris of The Blooming Garden with a top 10 list of January blooms.  There's admittedly overlap with my Bloom Day report but in this case I've whittled down what's blooming in my garden to my current favorites.  As it was hard enough to pare down the list to 10 plants, I'm not going to even try to prioritize my choices so here they are in alphabetical order:

I use Aeonium arboreum to fill in empty spots all over the garden.  The plant is easily grown from cuttings and offers wonderful textural contrast for a wide variety of foliage plants.  As the plants age, some produce stalks bearing clusters of glowing yellow blooms.  The rosettes producing the flower stalks die afterwards but the non-blooming rosettes live on.  Right now, the yellow spires are popping up throughout my garden.

Arctotis 'Pink Sugar' is off to an unusually early start this year.  I suspect this is due to our exceptionally warm winter temperatures.

Bauhinia x blakeana (aka the Hong Kong orchid tree) has been blooming almost continuously for almost 3 months now.  To my recollection, this is its best performance yet.  The only time it was without a mass of blooms was a brief period following our one and only winter rainstorm in early January.  An inch of rain stripped the tree of its open blooms but not its buds and within days of the storm's passage it was in full bloom again.  While I'm unhappy about the lack of rain, the tree is making the most of the dry conditions.

Calendula 'Bronzed Beauty' may be an odd choice for a favorite plant.  It's an annual; it's produced only a half dozen or so flowers thus far, all on short stems; and the flowers themselves are relatively small.  But I absolutely love the subtle colors of its petals.

Camellia 'Taylor's Perfection', a hybrid of C. williamsii, isn't happy about this week's high temperatures or the repetitive bouts of Santa Ana winds we've been experiencing this month but it's still pumping out blooms.  The curling dark pink edges of the petals are a response to the hot, dry conditions.  Unfortunately, I've seen this happen before.

I've long admired the delicate flowers of Saxifraga but I've never been successful in growing plants in that genus in my climate.  The sprays of tiny pink and white flowers of succulent Crassula multicava scratch that itch.  

While many of the large-flowered Grevilleas bloom year-round here, Grevillea lavandulacea 'Penola' blooms for a few months beginning in winter.  The blooms are small but profuse.

I planted 3 Hippeastrum papilio bulbs in a hanging basket in November.  Two of the bulbs produced bloom stalks.  (I think the third was planted too high.)  After  they've finished flowering, my plan is to transplant the bulbs to a bed outside our living room window.  I was successful in getting the bulbs to naturalize in my former garden and I'm hoping they'll appreciate this spot, where they'll be exposed to morning sun.

The colored bracts surrounding central cones of many Leucadendrons do a good job imitating flowers.  I think L. 'Wilson's Wonder' is perhaps the best of the bunch.  The green bracts turn yellow and, with sufficient sun exposure, eventually take on a pink tinge.  Last week's tree trimming provided this plant the increased sun exposure it needed to get its pink on.

After resting for several months from late summer through fall, all the Osteospermums are waking up.  While I love them all, this one, O. 'Summertime Sweet Kardinal', with its magenta flowers, is producing the most noticeable flush of bloom.

For more January bloom favorites, visit Chloris at The Blooming Garden.

Early this morning before the moon set, my husband and I got up to view the Super Blue Blood Moon.  The lunar eclipse that accompanied the supermoon began at 4:51am PST.  We were concerned that our view might be spoiled by the hills to the west of us as the moon dipped lower in the sky.  Added to that complication is the fact that, when it comes to taking nighttime photos, I've no idea of what I'm doing.  However, I did get one half-way decent photo at 5:22am before the moon disappeared from our viewing spot in the front driveway.

This is the moon setting over a house above the main road.  The large white structure always makes me think of city hall but it's a private home.  The orange cast to the moon's color, which gives it its name of "blood moon," is an effect of the eclipse.

And, since I was up, here's a bonus sunrise shot from the backyard garden:

The blood moon shot is my Wednesday Vignette.  For more Wednesday Vignettes, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.

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

Monday, January 29, 2018

In a Vase on Monday: That summer feeling

Many of my recent In a Vase on Monday posts have led commentators to remark that my flowers conjure images of summer.  Well, this week it feels like summer here.  Our temperatures have veered into the 80sF, some 20 degrees above what's "normal" for this time of year here - we're expecting a high around 85F (29C) today - and it's as dry as dust, with red flag (fire) warnings once again in effect.  So, if you see summer when you look at my vases, I won't argue with you.

Grevillea 'Superb' set the color palette for this vase

In retrospect, the vase could have used more splashes of the gold color provided by the Lotus berthelotii featured in the back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Calendula 'Bronzed Beauty', Grevillea alpina x rosmarinifolia, Leucadendron 'Blush', Lotus berthelotii (gold form), Pyrethropsis hosmariense, and, in the center, Grevillea 'Superb'

Once again, my second vase features colors at the other end of the spectrum.

New blooms on the Osteospermum 'Violet Ice' in my front garden set the stage for this vase

The back view shows the brownish red color on the back sides of the flowers of Osteospermum 'Berry White', which is echoed in the flower spikes of the 'African Blue Basil'

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left, this vase contains: Osteospermum 'Berry White', O. 'Violet Ice', Lobularia maritima, Lotus jacobaeus, Ocimum hybrid 'African Blue Basil', and Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick'

Much as I'd like to see cooler weather and rain, it's probably a good thing that it's warm and dry.  My husband has a project going, one that involved drilling a hole through the wall at the front of the house.

All I said was that our upright vacuum is very heavy to use and now my husband is installing a central vacuum system that involves tearing into walls and ceiling soffits

There may be some rain coming in mid-February.  Hopefully, the project will be done by then.

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see what other IaVoM contributors have got in their vases this week.

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

Friday, January 26, 2018

Tree Trimming Trauma

I had our trees trimmed this week.  Not all of them but 9 of the largest specimens plus 5 shrubs that make up what's supposed to be a hedge along the property line on the southwest side.  As the tree-hating neighbor that formerly made a fuss about perceived obstructions to her view moved last year, I'd considered leaving all the trees alone this year but my husband invoked the good neighbor card so I scheduled it.  I asked the arborist to go lighter in thinning the trees this year and overall I'm pleased with the results.

Work started in the back garden.

The peppermint willow (Agonis flexuosa) was nicely laced and the plants below should benefit from greater sun exposure

The 2 strawberry trees (Arbutus 'Marina') still have enough flowers to keep the hummingbirds happy while giving my husband the view he wanted from the spa

The big ticket item in the back wasn't so much a trim but rather tree surgery.  Three large limbs of the mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) were removed.  Since I scheduled the tree surgery back in November, the tree sprouted new foliage here and there, months prior to its usual schedule.   This week, when the arborist and his crew showed up, I asked if the growth signified the tree's decline or if it was simply a response to the yo-yo weather conditions we've had this winter.  While the arborist couldn't answer that definitively, he said he's been seeing trees behave oddly all over this year.  He did a quick check for signs of the shot hole borer, an insect that's currently causing a lot of problems in Southern California, but he didn't see any signs of that.  I gave the okay to go ahead with the surgery.

The tree's shape looks better to my eyes and my hope is that the removal of the 3 large limbs will diminish the litter dropped by the tree, especially over the patio

The rest of the trimming, all in the front garden, was relatively straightforward.

The ornamental pear (Pyrus calleryana) was lightly thinned

As was the Magnolia grandiflora

The 2 peppermint willows (Agonis flexuosa) along the street were the biggest shock.  The willows have provided a filmy screen, which was substantially diminished.  If only the shrubs we added nearly 2 years ago to extend the street-facing hedge would hurry up and grow!

The "hedge" on the south side behind the lath house got a neat trim.  I'd assumed these plants were English laurels but the arborist identified them as cherry laurels (Prunus caroliniana).  I'm still not sure of the ID.  The fruit fits the former description better than the latter.

The strawberry tree (Arbutus 'Marina') in the front was also thinned, giving more light to the plants below

Of course, there was collateral damage.  There always is, no matter how well I think I've cleared the areas around the trees to be trimmed or how careful the crew tries to be.  I was most concerned about any damage to the lath (shade) house my husband built but thankfully that was untouched.  A recently planted Lotus berthelotti disappeared, presumably swept up with debris dropped from the peppermint willow in the back.  A number of succulents were up-ended and knocked about but, with a 7-person crew, that was to be expected.  The area around the strawberry tree in the front garden, which sits atop a moderate slope, suffered the most damage.  Frankly, I'd completely forgotten that this tree was on the list until I checked it 2 days before the work was scheduled.  Most of what was lost were plants that are easily replaced with cuttings, Aeonium arboreum, Euphorbia tirucalli, and Senecio vitalis.  An Agave desmettiana was crushed.

This was a pup.  Sad but not a significant loss.

My biggest mistake was installing some new plants on the slope.  My heart ached when I saw what'd happened to the Crassula falcata I picked up at the local botanic garden last week.

The photo on the left shows the plant in its pot the day I purchased it.  Part of the plant was missing entirely when I found it and part of what remained was crushed (middle photo).  The photo on the right is what I salvaged.  An Agave 'Joe Hoak' pup I'd planted near this one was also damaged.

I'm still picking up debris but that's normal fall-out of the tree trimming process.  Wind will shake out bits and pieces of foliage for weeks yet.  Another round of Santa Ana winds is on the way, which may expedite that process.  The good news is that I can now work on stage 2 of my planting plan for the area surrounding the lath house.  It doesn't appear we'll be getting any rain interruptions.

Mother Nature spit on us for awhile yesterday, dampening the pavement and returning my hair to its natural poker straight state, but it failed to register as measurable precipitation

This was the view a couple of hours later as the storm bid adieu.  The rain that was showing in the extended forecast for February has also disappeared, making the picture for this rainy season look bleaker even as the skies look glorious.

I hope this weekend brings you sunny skies.  If Mother Nature shows up with rain, please redirect her to Southern California (with a caution to be gentle with the burn areas).

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

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Wednesday Vignette: Bloom Day Postscript

Isn't it always the case that, as soon as you post your photos for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day, a wonderful something or other pops into bloom?  For today's Wednesday Vignette, I have photos of 2 plants that deserve their moment of glory.

The Hippeastrum papilio (aka Butterfly Amaryllis) bulbs I planted in a hanging basket in late November are blooming!  Or at least 2 of the 3 bulbs are.  One has a second bloom stalk too.  The Lotus berthelotii I planted with them aren't flowering on the same schedule but I'm still thrilled.  I'm going to plant these in the ground after they've faded to see if I can get them to naturalize.

These aren't actually new blooms but rather blooms that have shifted in color within the last week.  This is the larger of my 2 Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' shrubs.  The yellow bracts surrounding the cones have taken on a decidedly rosy color.  The color shift is more pronounced than in prior years and more evident in this plant than its smaller counterpart.

Visit Anna at Flutter & Hum for more Wednesday Vignettes.

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

Monday, January 22, 2018

In a Vase on Monday: Caught between seasons

Is it winter or spring in Southern California?  The calendar says it's winter but it's feeling more and more like spring.  Unlike gardeners in many other parts of the Northern Hemisphere, we don't like to rush winter here.  Winter is our rainy season, or that's supposed to be the case anyway.  Now I'm not wishing for heavy rain - the folks in the burn areas don't need any downpours.  But some nice, gentle rain parsed over a period of days would be very, very good.  We had a chance of such rain last week but we got nothing.

When the last storm moved out late Friday afternoon, my season total (measured from October 1st) remained stuck at 1.27/inch

At least the haze over the Los Angeles Harbor cleared, giving us a better view.

Saturday morning's view looking from my back garden toward Angel's Gate, the entrance to the Los Angeles Harbor

My vases for IAVOM this week are as schizophrenic as the weather.  Winter blooms dominate my first vase.

This vases features the red and pink blooms characteristic of January here, including the splashy flowers of Calliandra haematocephala (aka Pink Powder Puff)

I used the small silver glass vase I picked up in December

Leptospermum 'Pink Pearl' hogs the limelight when the vase is viewed from above

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: Calliandra haematocephala, Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey', Crassula multicava, Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl, and Grevillea lavandulacea 'Penola' (Lobularia maritima aka alyssum was included but not shown in close-up)

In contrast, my second vase screams spring, even to my eyes.

The starting point for this vase was the foliage of the variegated Hebe 'Purple Shamrock'

The rain in early January prompted Euryops 'Sonneneschien' to produce its almost florescent yellow blooms

A stray Lisanthus bloom complemented 2 Anemones growing inside my lath house

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: blue and purple Anemone coronaria, Argyranthemum 'Mega White', Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick', Euryops chrysanthemoides 'Sonnenschien' , Eustoma grandiflorum, Nemesia 'Sunshine', and, in the center, Hebe 'Purple Shamrock'

There's another slim chance of rain later this week but, as the odds are even lower than they were last week, I'm not counting on it.  The good news is that Northern California is getting somewhat more rain than we are down south but, without a February or March miracle, the rainy season here is looking like a major bust, with rain totals prospectively even lower than they were at the height of the drought in 2015.

The new vases ended up in the front entry and the master bedroom.  Last week's vase featuring Leucadendrons is still in good shape on the dining room table, needing only new stems of Lotus berthelotii to refresh the arrangement.

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

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

Friday, January 19, 2018

What's up at South Coast Botanic Garden?

Curious to determine the status of the new rose garden at South Coast Botanic Garden and finding nothing on the garden's webpage or in its weekly newsletters, I decided to drop by and check things out for myself.  The garden is about 5 miles from my home and factors into my commute at least a couple of times each week so it wasn't hard to fit a visit into my schedule.

The rose garden's been under construction since last June at least and was originally targeted for completion in the fall.  The last time I dropped by in late December, it looked as though it was nearly finished but, as it turns out, it's still a work in progress.

The hardscaping appears to be complete but the area is not open to visitor traffic.  I asked a worker if he knew when the garden would be open and he indicated it would probably be sometime in April.

This is the center of the new garden looking down from a viewing platform

There's a rose-inspired metal railing with a fountain below

View to the right: there were at least 3 of the pergola structures, presumably geared to wedding ceremonies

View to the left: workers are still preparing beds and planting out roses

With the visit to the rose garden a bust, I took a wider look around.  I didn't bother to check the lake, which has been drained for some time now, but there were pretty flowers here and there.

However, the desert garden stood out as the most impressive at the moment.

The Alluaudia procera (left), aka Madagascar Ocotillo, always fascinates me.  I was also drawn to the variegated Agave vilmoriniana (upper right, aka 'Stained Glass').  Aloe arborescens (lower right) was in bloom throughout the desert garden.

The desert garden is expanding.  It seems that it's at least doubling in size but I couldn't find anything on the garden's webpage with a status or details of its development plan.

While my visit was relatively brief, I didn't leave without checking out the nursery area surrounding the gift shop.  And, as the plants are always a deal, especially with my member discount, I didn't go home empty-handed.

My purchases (left to right): Agave deserti, Crassula falcata, and Aloe striata x maculata.  My total was less than $22 with tax!

Three new plants isn't a bad way to get the weekend off to a good start.  I hope you find some treasures to take home this weekend too.

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