Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wednesday Vignette: Delightful Discoveries

We've been riding a weather roller-coaster of late.  Our rainy season, which generally begins in October and ends in April, has failed to deliver much in the way of precipitation thus far.  January's high temperatures made it feel as though we'd fast-forwarded into summer.  Then a blast of arctic air sent temperatures plummeting in February, even serving up a brief flurry of hail last week.  We finally got a bit more rain Monday night, 0.15/inch at this location, enough to warrant turning off the irrigation system, at least temporarily.  According to our roof-top weather station, our seasonal total, measured from October 1, 2017, now stands at 1.6 inches, which may end up being something for the record books, albeit not in a good way.  Under the circumstances, it's not surprising that the garden isn't as floriferous as it was last year at this time, when it benefited from heavier-than-usual rain.  But, when I look carefully, there are still beautiful flowers to be found.

This is Ferraria crispa (aka Starfish Iris), a South African bulb.  I planted at least 2 of these in December 2016 but this is the only one that survived as far as I can see.  It's not supposed to bloom until late summer or fall in this hemisphere but it bloomed last February and here it is again.  The blooms are small and short-lived but precious nonetheless.

Scilla peruviana is blooming again too!  It's a finicky bulb, which has gone years without blooming in the past but this is the second year in a row it's made an appearance.  Despite its name, it's native to the Mediterranean areas of southwestern Europe.  Apparently, it was sent to England on a ship named "The Peru," which is how it came by its name.

Ipheion uniflorum, a South American native, has produced a flower here or there for the past month but now the tiny bulbs are blooming in earnest

The noID Narcissus I planted my first year here are starting to bloom

And the Narcissus tazetta 'Geranium' bulbs I planted this past fall have produced their first flower too.  It's known for producing multiple flowers on a single stem and you can see that other flowers are preparing to push their way toward the sun in this photo.

Veltheimia bracteata, another South African bulb, has also returned to flower this year

While I may not have the blooms I had last year at this time, I know I have a larger head-start on spring than many areas of the country so I'm not complaining.  More rain is expected tomorrow night too.  My fingers are crossed that this will help keep 2018 out of the record books as the driest year on record for Los Angeles.

To close, here's a shot of a second Ferraria bloom, which opened just this morning.

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

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

Monday, February 26, 2018

In a Vase on Monday: Soft color

The cutting garden is finally yielding a few blooms suitable for use in my Monday vases.  The first foxglove flower stalk provided the starting point for this week's other flower and foliage choices.

The foxglove flower stalk might have benefited from another week in the garden but I couldn't resist cutting it

The back view isn't one of my best efforts

And the kitchen cabinets above the peninsula here prevented me from getting a good top view

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: Digitalis purpurea 'Dalmatian Peach', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Calendula officinalis 'Bronzed Beauty', Grevillea 'Superb', Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey', and Lobelia laxiflora

As usual, I'd picked a few flowers I elected not to use in the vase shown above; however, they were perfect for the small vase I picked up when my husband and I visited The Huntington Gardens just over a week ago.

All this vase needs are a few slender stems

The back view shows off its cactus shape

The vase contains 2 stems of yellow Freesia and 4 tiny stems of Pyrethropsis hosmariense (aka Moroccan daisy), as well as a stray stem of Agonis flexuosa 'Nana'

The vase I created 3 weeks ago for the dining table containing Aeonium blooms was finally retired to make way for the first vase, although the Aeoniums were still in surprisingly good shape and probably could have held up another week, if not longer.  Despite its diminutive size, the second vase landed in the front entry, where the scent of the Freesias can greet us as we walk in the front door.

Other than the light touch of hail we got last Monday afternoon, which our roof-top weather station didn't even register as measurable precipitation, we're still dry as dust here.  There's another chance of rain later tonight but, after more unrealized forecasts than I can count, it's hard to get hopped up about it (although I will be doing a rain dance later this afternoon).  Dry as this rainy season has been, spring is marching in.  In addition to the Freesias, the first daffodils and Sparaxis flowers are making an appearance here and there.  Yesterday afternoon, I was surprised to see even my temperamental Scilla peruviana producing blooms.

To see what blooms are popping up in vases elsewhere, visit our "In a Vase on Monday" host, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

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

Friday, February 23, 2018

Winter Visit to The Huntington Gardens

I was lucky to win a one-year membership to The Huntington Library & Gardens in a drawing conducted by Denise at A Growing Obsession back in December but I didn't have an opportunity to activate the membership until this month, when my husband and I visited the gardens to celebrate our anniversary.  As timing goes, it wasn't the best time to visit as it coincided with Huntington's Chinese New Year celebration and the venue was packed with people, but we enjoyed our visit anyway.

The noise and loud music near the entrance was bothering my husband so we dashed through the area relatively quickly but I did manage to snap a few shots.

The Celebration Garden features plants suitable to coastal California's Mediterranean climate

While some elements remain in place, this area seems to be tweaked on a regular basis

Plants spotted as we passed through the California Garden included: Grevillea 'Moonlight' (left), a noID Leucospermum in bloom (middle), and what I assume was Salvia clevelandii or a hybrid (right).  I didn't notice the mass of what appears to be Phylica pubescens in the last photo until I reviewed it.

We headed off in the direction of the Desert Garden, briefly stopping to admire the Palm Garden.

As both my husband and I grew up surrounded by palm trees, we tend to ignore them but they were looking particularly good during this visit

We also admired this mass of what I think was creeping wire vine (Muehlenbeckia axillaris).  I've never seen it used in this fashion and, while I don't generally like artificially pruned plants, I did like this.

The Desert Garden was blissfully quiet, with the buzz of hummingbirds producing the only sounds.

I can't even imagine how many years it took for these plants to form this wonderful composition

Another wonderful composition, this one featuring golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii) and silvery twin-spined cactus (Mamillaria geminispina)

Two perfect specimens of Agave ovatifolia surrounded by the cacti shown in the prior photo

I think this mass of spiky silver foliage is Puya venusta, although I couldn't find a label

Two attractive small-scale aloes, an Aloe aculeata hybrid on the left and A. virens on the right

Two very different Euphorbias, Euphorbia atropurpurea on the left and E. canariensis on the right

Two noID agaves.  The one on the left has the widest leaves relative to its size I can remember seeing on an agave.  Does anyone know what it is?  The agave on right had produced its classic asparagus-like stalk but hadn't yet begun to flower.

We were somewhere between the Australian and Subtropical Gardens when my husband called my attention to a wildlife visitor.

It was nearly 11am when we spotted this coyote, who was on a fast trot away from another group of human visitors.  That's late in the day to come across these nocturnal predators but perhaps he'd extended his prowl to take in the Chinese New Year celebration.  It is the Year of the Dog after all.

After the brief moment of excitement over the coyote, I snapped a few more photos as we made our way toward the Japanese Garden.

I didn't recognize this tree but its twisted shape was captivating

I snapped the Justicia leonardii on the left because it was one of the most colorful plants in this subdued area of the garden.  I snapped the Plectranthus argentatus on the right because I thought the use of this plant as a low ground cover was interesting.

The Japanese Garden has always been one of my favorite places at the Huntington.  Even through anyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I adore flowers, I also appreciate the quiet restraint of the Japanese Garden.  Created in 1912, it's also one of the oldest segments of the gardens.

We entered the Japanese Garden through its towering bamboo forest

I have mixed feelings about bonsai.  On the one hand, I appreciate the artistry of these creations, but on the other I don't think I could bring myself to torture plants in this way, even if I had the patience.  From left to right, the subjects are a Japanese Black Pine, a Chinese Elm, and a Foemina Juniper.

There were some flowers in bloom!  The azaleas surrounding the pond outside the ceremonial teahouse added a bright spot of color.

More azaleas and a pretty magnolia were in bloom a short distance from the pond

A wide view of the Japanese Garden's central area

We took a break for lunch, merging back into the New Year celebration crowd so I could buy something to eat.  (My husband had packed his lunch.)  Afterwards, we shirted through the rose, herb and Shakespeare gardens.

The rose and herb gardens weren't yet ready to celebrate spring and the Shakespeare Garden was planted mainly with bedding plants but this meadow-like display of foxgloves and grasses was interesting. 

We swung through the Chinese Garden, another of my favorite places, but as expected it was crowded with celebrants so we didn't stay long.

I was surprised to see the dead Lotus flowers still standing proud in the lake but they made an attractive display

Musicians and dancers were entertaining New Year's celebrants in this open air structure

The weather was perfect for our visit even if the gardens were more crowded than we'd have liked.  Unfortunately, the freeway traffic through downtown Los Angeles on our way home was particularly awful due to the closure of a major exit and the trip was made even more nerve-wracking by a near accident when a driver in a lane alongside of us inexplicably slammed on his brakes and spun his pick-up truck nearly 180 degrees, narrowly missing us.  Further proof that Los Angeles freeways aren't for the faint of heart.

Best wishes for a pleasant weekend, full of only good surprises.

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

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Wednesday Vignette: Hail!

Believe it or not, late Monday afternoon we got a touch of hail here on the Palos Verdes Peninsula.  Our temperatures plummeted on Monday (by our standards) and everywhere I went all day people complained about the cold and the strong wind, which made it feel colder still.  A chance of rain had been predicted but we really didn't expect any.  We certainly didn't expect hail.

That's not just rain beading up on the backyard patio table

It was tiny pellets of ice, already melting as it landed

Our weather station showed a temperature reading in the 40sF at our elevation, some 800 or so feet above sea level, and the tiny ice pellets didn't last long

It was fun while it lasted!  I've lived in Southern California all my life and I don't think I've seen even half a dozen hailstorms.

The hail flurry lasted less than 15 minutes and the precipitation wasn't enough for our weather station to register.  We remain woefully dry, although there's a 40% chance of rain currently showing in the forecast for Thursday.  The amount of rain expected from that system is trivial but maybe we'll get another weather surprise.

Visit Anna at Flutter & Hum for more Wednesday Vignettes.

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

Monday, February 19, 2018

In a Vase on Monday: Simply honest

I almost skipped In a Vase on Monday this week.  Since I started participating in late March 2014, I think I've missed just one posting, and that because I was out of town.  I wasn't out of town or too busy to put together a vase this week.  Rather, when I went into the garden with my clippers, my head and heart were elsewhere.  After watching yet another newscast on the shooting in Florida that took 17 lives, I couldn't stop crying.  Each mass shooting in this country, too many to count now, has made me viscerally sick.  After Sandy Hook in 2012, I was sure human decency and common sense would prevail and we'd finally do something to implement reasonable gun controls.  Not only did that not happen but trolls emerged from the muck to accuse the families who'd lost children and the entire community of a hoax.  Nothing happened when a gunman killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando in 2016.  Nothing happened when another gunman killed 58 people attending a concert in Las Vegas in 2017.  So will the loss of 17 more lives at a Parkland, Florida high school make any difference?  Maybe.  The honest grief and anger of those directly impacted by the Parkland assault weapon-enabled murders is palpable and very, very focused.

Clockwise from the upper left: Argyranthemum 'Mega White', Erysimum linifolium 'Variegatum', Freesia, and Nemesia 'Sunshine'

A lot of people have spoken up in response to this latest shooting.  Most of the politicians have made their classic canned, meaningless responses to the tragedy.  However, many of those closest to the events of February 14th, including not only parents of the children caught in the line of fire but also the local sheriff, have demanded action on gun control.  But no one has spoken as clearly, honestly, and forcefully as the teenage students of that high school.  Students just one to three years away from becoming voters are speaking up.  I've been impressed by how articulate they are; how well they've stripped the issues down to their core elements; how brave they've been in calling out the powerful people who've historically bowed to the power of the gun lobby in this country.  Perhaps the best of these statements is that by Emma Gonzales, which you can find here.  Listening to her speak, her grief, her anger, and her focus is as clear, honest and simple as can be.  I have hope.

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to find other vases.  Those of you interested in the March For Our Lives scheduled for March 24th can find more information here.

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

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Foliage Follow-up: The return of the ring of fire

Last February, in a Wednesday Vignette, I featured the "ring of fire" that periodically appears to surround my backyard borders.  It's back, shining brighter than any of the nearby flowers, so I thought it warranted coverage in this month's Foliage Follow-up post, a feature hosted by Pam of Digging following Bloom Day to demonstrate the valuable role foliage plays in every garden.

My "ring of fire" is created by the new growth on the Xylosma congestum hedge that borders the beds in the backyard garden

This hedge gets trimmed 3-4 times a year to maintain its height and, while the new growth that follows a trimming always takes on a bronze tone, it's particularly vivid in early spring

The red in the new spring foliage growth is prominent in other plants too.

The new growth of Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', a dwarf peppermint willow, also takes on a red tinge

Speaking of red tones, some of my Aeoniums, green rosettes when I planted them, have colored up nicely this year too.

Weather conditions and reduced water (in other words, stress) probably account for the color change from green to red in the case of these Aeonium arboreum.  However, I've grown Aeoniums in this spot for years and this is the first time they've assumed such a deep color.  Pretty, though, aren't they?

Other Aeoniums drew my attention for a less positive reason.

When I saw damage to my Aeoniums along these lines last year, I assumed I had a problem with snails or slugs

This year the culprit responsible for the damage revealed himself.

The white-crowned sparrows migrate through here during the winter months.  Apparently, they like Aeoniums!  They're creating a lot more damage this year.  Our backyard fountain sprung a leak and is currently shut down for repair so perhaps my fine-feathered friends have become dependent on the succulent leaves to quench their thirst.

That's my Foliage Follow-up for February.  Visit Pam at Digging for more.

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