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

Thursday, February 15, 2018

What's blooming during SoCal's drought? (Bloom Day, February 2017)

Last year's drought recovery was short-lived.  Southern California is considered back in a drought status and the situation in Northern California isn't much better.  According to weather-watchers, SoCal has had just one real rainstorm since February 19, 2017, the January 2018 storm that caused the horrific mudslides in Montecito.  We got light rain this week but it was spotty and not every area benefited from it.  According to our personal weather-station, we've racked up only 1.45/inch of rain since our short rainy season began on October 1, 2017 and, as reported in the Los Angeles Times this week, the outlook for more isn't especially promising.  Our irrigation system helps of course, as does the gray water system attached to our washing machine, the water I collect in our shower and our kitchen sink, and the accumulation in my 3 rain barrels.  The situation makes me all the happier that we removed our lawn years ago and began swapping our thirsty plants for more drought-tolerant specimens but it's still downright depressing.  Still, I realize that I've got a lot more going on in the garden this month than most areas in the Northern Hemisphere, many of which are still shivering under snow and ice.

Most of the plants that bloomed last year at this time are also blooming this February, if not as abundantly.  This Bloom Day, I'm presenting what's blooming by area, starting in the back garden.

Arctotis 'Pink Sugar', under-planted with gold-flowered Lotus Berthelotii

Bulbine frutescens

Echium handiense, beloved by bees

Clockwise from the upper left, other warm-colored blooms include: Arbutus 'Marina', Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun', the first Sparaxis bloom, Russelia equisetiformis 'Flamingo Park', Lobelia laxiflora, Lotus bethelotii 'Amazon Sunset', Hunnemannia fumarifolia, and, in the center, Grevillea 'Ned Kelly'

Clockwise from the upper left, cooler-colored blooms in the back garden include: Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick', Geranium 'Tiny Monster', Ipheon uniflorum, Osteospermum 'Berry White', O. '4D Silver', and noID Viola

Flowers blooming on and around the back patio include: Aloe striata, yellow Freesia, Argyranthemum 'Mega White', Lotus jacobaeus, Lobelia erinus, and Osteospermum 'Lavender Frost'

The garden on the south side of the house consists mostly of succulents but there are some blooms.

More pale pink blooms appear on Cistus x skanbergii every day

Clockwise from the upper left, other blooms in this area include: Cistus 'Grayswood Pink', Bryophyllum fedtschenkoi, Grevillea alpina x rosmarinifolia, Metrosideros collina 'Springfire', and a noID trailing Osteospermum

The southwest corner of our property, occupied by the lath (shade) house my husband built me for Christmas, has some blooms inside and more in the area surrounding the structure, which has been my main focus over the past month.

Clockwise from the upper left: Euryops 'Sonnenschein', white and pink Cyclamen (both inside the lath house), Violas, Nemesia 'Sunshine', and Salvia 'Mystic Spires'

The front slope, which parallels the street and curves on the south side to face the lath house, also has a few blooms.

Clockwise from the upper left: Pelargonium peltatum 'Pink Blizzard', Crassula multicava, Rosa chinensis 'Mutabilis', Echeveria agavoides, and Aeonium arboreum

The front garden, facing west, is the most floriferous.

Bauhinia x blakeana (aka Hong Kong orchid tree) is still blooming!

Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold'

Cuphea x ignea 'Starfire Pink'

Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy' is a tangled mess but loaded with flowers

Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' (left) and G. 'Superb' (middle and right) are always in bloom

The luminous flower-like bracts of Leucadendron 'Safari Goldstrike' stood out this month

Since last month, the bracts of Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' have turned from yellow to reddish-pink

Other blooms in the front garden include, top row: Coleonema album and white Freesia
Middle row: Gaillardia 'Sunset Flash', Gazania 'White Flame' and self-seeded form
Bottom row: Lavandula multifida and Lantana 'Lucky White'

The area in front of the garage responded to the cooler temperatures we've had the last couple of weeks by producing some new blooms too.

Osteospermum 'Violet Ice'

I like the buds of Pyrethropsis hosmariense as much as the daisy flowers

Clockwise from the left, other flowers in this area include: Kumara (formerly Aloe) plicatilis, Calliandra haematocephala, Crassula 'Springtime', and Pyrus calleryana.  The last is blooming even though it still hasn't shed the majority of last year's foliage.

The cutting garden is relatively short on flowers at the moment.

Poor Camellia x williamsii 'Taylor's Perfection' (left) was dropping blooms as quickly as they opened during our extended spell of warm, dry weather in January.  On the right are: Calendula 'Bronzed Beauty' (top) and Ocimum hybrid 'African Blue Basil'.

The garden on the northeast side of the house has a few more splashes of color.

Grevillea lavandulacea 'Penola' is covered in small flowers

Trailing Lantana montevidensis creates a froth of color at the base of Agave ovatifolia and A. vilmoriniana (top).  At bottom are: Grevillea sericea (left) and Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl' (right).

This brings us to the back slope.  Spring is usually the only time the area is really colorful and, even though January was unusually warm, the slope hasn't gotten a jump start on the spring season yet.

Clockwise from the upper left are: Bignonia capreolata, Ribes viburnifolium, Ceanothus arboreus 'Cliff Schmidt', and the first blooms of Centranthus ruber 'Roseus' and  Zantedeschia aethiopica

My garden usually peaks between March and April.  How will it do if we don't get any more rain?  That remains to be seen.  The driest year on record for Los Angeles was 2007, when the annual total was 3.21 inches.  I really hope we don't break that record this year.

That's it for my Bloom Day report.  For more, visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens, the host of Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

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

Monday, February 12, 2018

In a Vase on Monday: Valentine's Day Pinks

I don't have many red flowers in the garden but I have quite a lot of pink so, thinking ahead to Valentine's Day, I fixated on the pink flowers, starting out with the flowers of Grevillea sericea (aka pink spider flower), blooming for the first time since I planted it in November 2016.  I soon realized that there was a blue undertone in those Grevillea flowers, which complicated the selection of suitable companions.  As last week's chartreuse vase was still in perfect condition, I'd intended to create just one big Valentine's Day vase but, as some of what I cut clashed with the rest, I ended up with 2 vases (as usual).

The flowers of the Hong Kong orchid tree (Bauhinia x blakeana) weren't the starting point for this vase but the smaller, softer flowers called out for a strong floral contrast and the ivy geranium flowers (Pelargonium peltatum) I'd cut for that purpose didn't fit the bill

Back view, dominated by New Zealand tea tree flowers (Leptospermum scoparium) and the dried berries on the Auranticarpa rhombifolia foliage I'd cut while pruning on Saturday

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: foliage and berries of Auranticarpa rhombifolia, Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold'. Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy', Grevillea sericea, Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl', Hebe 'Wiri Blush', and, in the center, Bauhinia x blakeana

The leftovers went into the vintage vase I found back in January while shopping with a friend in Ventura.

The vase is a woman's manicured hands with flowered ruffles at her wrists

Side view

Clockwise from the left, the vase contains: Pelargonium peltatum 'Pink Blizzard', Cuphea x ignea 'Starfire Pink', and Iresine herbstii 'Brilliantissima'

Last week's vase with the chartreuse Aeoniums still occupies the dining table so the big Valentine's Day vase landed on the front entry and the smaller vase sits on the bedroom mantle.

Putting the big vase on the entryway table with a chair next to it is somewhat risky on my part.  The bobbly bits of Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy' could be awfully tempting to a certain cat.

She just looks innocent!

For more Monday vases, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  Have a happy Valentine's Day!

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

Friday, February 9, 2018

Visit to Madrona Marsh Preserve

Did you know that much of Southern California's coastal area used to be marshland?  I didn't.  My husband and I visited the Madrona Marsh Preserve in nearby Torrance for the first time this week.  Hidden in plain sight, surrounded by condos, gas stations, retail stores and a stone's throw from a major shopping mall, neither of us knew much of anything about it.  I knew that it offered birds a sanctuary within this urban area, mainly because my mother-in-law, an avid birder, used to visit there to observe migrating birds.  I learned that it was scenic from a friend who visits seeking inspiration for her paintings.  But, despite passing the area more times than we can count during the years we've lived in the South Bay, neither of us had ever visited the Preserve.  Of course, visiting a marshland in the middle of the driest rainy season I can remember probably wasn't the best choice for our first visit but one takes these opportunities when they present themselves.  If nothing else, with the weather here still on the unseasonably warm side, it was a pleasant day for a walk.

The wetland preserve is comprised of 45 acres in the middle of the City of Torrance (see map here)

There were many signs within the gated Preserve to remind you of the fragility of the space.

This sign, posted on the back of the metal gates through which we entered, had me double-checking that I had my phone with me.

The Preserve boasts 9 vernal pools but with rainfall at record lows during this year's rainy season it wasn't surprising that they all looked like this:

The vernal pool areas featured sticks to measure the water level.  As best as I was able to tell, all measured zero.

We passed a biofiltration system before heading toward the wetland area.

This biofilter system is set up using a perennial grass from India to filter contaminants (heavy metals, pesticides, and other chemicals) carried into the area by urban runoff  before directing the water to other areas of the wetland.  It was dry at the time of our visit.

The flags along this path signify new native plantings.  Very little is currently in flower so you won't see my usual splashy flowers in this post.

As we approached the wetland area, we saw the grass-like tule first.  Tule (Schoenoplectus acutus) is a giant species of sedge native to the freshwater marshes throughout North America.

Some of those condos surrounding the Preserve are visible in the distance here

We could make out ducks from a distance but the paths kept us from getting too close and some areas were fenced off to protect them from being disturbed.

The reflections in the water showed me why the area attracts my painter friend

The Preserve's website has much better photos of the many birds known to migrate through the area, including hummingbirds, woodpeckers, hawks, egrets, and herons.  The Preserve's winged visitors even featured in a float at this year's Rose Parade.

This was my best duck photo.  My husband spotted 2 geese sunning themselves on a berm in the middle of the pond but my photo is too fuzzy to share.

When water levels are higher, I expect that many of these trees sit right in it

As we headed back toward the entrance, we spotted the on-site nursery, where native plants are grown to be planted out within the Preserve.

There are much better photos available on the Preserve's website, taken during greener periods.  We'll definitely visit again, hopefully after there's been some rain.  (I still have hope!)  There's ample parking outside the Nature Center across the street and entrance is free.

The Nature Center is surrounded by a more manicured garden featuring native plants

Although flowers were in short supply during our visit, I was attracted by a couple of natives and may hunt these down for inclusion in my own garden.

Bush sunflower, Encelia californica (left) and hummingbird sage, Salvia spathacea (right), are both low water use plants

Best wishes for a pleasant weekend!

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