Monday, April 30, 2018

In a Vase on Monday: Springing toward summer

I'm already looking at my cutting garden with an eye toward what I can remove to make room for summer bloomers.  I've cleared out some of the Ranunculus and I think the peach foxgloves and the Calendula will be the next to go as both were badly burned by the brief heatwave we experienced in early April.  However, despite their ugly foliage, the foxgloves and Calendula have continued to produce bloom spikes so I cut several of each as the starting point for this week's first vase.

The garden provided plenty of other blooms to add zing to the soft peach flowers

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Calendula 'Bronzed Beauty', Digitalis purpurea 'Dalmatian Peach', Grevillea 'Ned Kelly', and Lantana camara 'Irene'

The bearded Iris on the back of the slope I'd hoped to use last week bloomed last Monday afternoon.

The blooms are violet, not the deep purple I'd expected based on the color of the buds.  I don't know the variety as the bulbs were planted by a prior owner.  I believe this is the first time in the 7 years we've lived here that they've bloomed.

Fortunately, our weather turned a bit cooler again last week (upper 60s to low-70sF) so there were still viable blooms available to cut this week.

There are 2 more bloom stalks still in bud on the back slope but, with warmer temperatures expected to return this week, I thought this might be my only chance to feature the Iris in an arrangement.  Thus far, none of the other bearded Iris in my garden shown any indication that they're preparing to bloom this year.

The back view is remarkably similar to the front view this week

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: noID Iris germanica, Lathyrus odoratus, Coriandrum sativum, Cerinthe major purpurascens, and Polgala myrtifolia 'Mariposa'

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to find more "In a Vase on Monday" posts.

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

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Domino Effect

Last week I published photos showing the removal of a large Grevillea in the dry garden area on the northeast side of our property.  At that time, I commented on the domino theory and how one change can precipitate another.  Well, further changes were made this week.  The sad little non-blooming cherry tree came out and so did one of my two guava trees.  The latter change made the biggest difference in the area.

Here's a before shot showing the guava tree in question, which largely obscured the Leptospermums behind it

and here's the area after the guava tree, which we inherited with the garden, was removed

The flower and leaf-less cherry tree can be seen here, to the right of a persimmon tree that's in the process of leafing out

and here's a shot of the same area after the cherry tree was removed

I made the changes (with my husband's able assistance) despite the fact that I haven't yet decided what will go into the empty spaces.  I don't plan to put anything large into the space formerly occupied by the guava tree.  I want to give the 2 Leptospermums in that area a chance to fill out and I expect I'll just add ground cover plants beneath them, or possibly fill in with more Centranthus ruber, which is a virtual weed here.  Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl' is one of my favorite plants and it deserves an opportunity to shine.

The 2 shrubs need shaping but I'll handle that after the current bloom cycle.  They have a long bloom period, heaviest in spring with a light repeat bloom during the fall.

While I'm talking about favorite plants, I thought I'd join Chloris at The Blooming Garden and share my top 10 favorite bloomers for the month of April.  As I've got a flower fixation and as April is possibly the most floriferous month here, restricting myself to 9 other favorites wasn't easy but here we go:

Echium webbii is my current favorite in the back garden.  It's a bee magnet.  I don't think I'd be exaggerating to say that there are at least a hundred bees swarming about the plant during the sunniest part of the day.  It's bloom cycle is well ahead of variegated Echium candicans 'Star of Madeira' this year.

Most of my Freesias are done blooming but this batch of blue Freesia in the back garden is still going strong.  In this case, I bought the plants in bud to replace the pink, red and orange Freesia that came up in place of the blue blooms I expected from the bulbs I planted last fall.  I'm much happier with the blue blooms here and, given my luck (or lack of it) with packaged bulbs, I may have to make it a practice to buy such bulbs in bloom in the future to ensure I get what I want.

I've bemoaned the failure of my bearded Iris to bloom over the past few years so I was delighted when this noID Iris germanica on the neglected back slope produced 3 tall bloom stalks this year, despite our truly pathetic winter rains. 

I look out at this Hunnemannia fumariifolia (aka Mexican tulip poppy) from my home office window and smile every time I see it

I featured Leucospermum 'Goldie' (top row) in my Bloom Day post.  Planted late last year, it represents my first real success with the genus; however, 2 other Leucospermums, 'Spider Hybrid' (lower left) and 'Brandi' (lower right, planted in March 2016) are also blooming and still another plant has buds.  I'm thrilled to think I may have finally overcome my problem with this genus.

While all my Alstroemeria are blooming, 'Indian Summer' is the most striking of them all.  In addition to the attractive flowers, its dark foliage is also attractive, especially when backlit.

These are the same photos I used for my Bloom Day post but I cut the Lotus berthelotii 'Amazon Sunset' here back dramatically a week ago so it doesn't look quite this good at the moment.  However, past experience suggests that it'll come roaring back.  It's a very vigorous plant and makes a great ground cover.  Its only fault is that it'll swamp anything in its path if allowed free rein.

Gazania blooms year-round here but it's at its flashiest in the spring.  The 2 top photos feature 'White Flame'.  The photo on the lower left is 'Strawberry Shortcake' and the bloom on the lower right is a noID self-seeded form.

Coleonema album (aka breath of heaven) adds white froth to the garden at this time of year

One plant that didn't make the cut this month is Festuca californica, a native California grass that's currently blooming.

It's hard to capture its beauty unless it's backlit

The grass adds an airy feeling to the garden and, rather than plant a tree in the area formerly occupied by the Grevillea and the cherry tree, I'm considering adding a mass planting of this grass and perhaps another large agave in that area rather than a tree.  My husband has made it clear that he really wants a tree to screen his view of the newly renovated house up the hill from us and I don't want to place two trees in such close proximity.

Enjoy your weekend and do check in with Chloris at The Blooming Garden to see what blooms gained her approval and that of other participating gardeners this month.

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Wednesday Vignette: Rescue Operation

I was wandering the back garden with my camera on Saturday sometime near noon.  I saw a wire cloche I'd left sitting along the flagstone path after removing it from a plant I'd been trying to protect from my bunny visitors.  As I went to pick it up, I immediately noted something odd stuck in the wire framework.

The lizard's head was down when I first saw him.  My first reaction was a sense of wonder that he'd turned a metallic bluish color, blending in with the color of the wire.  I've seen the western fence lizards that populate my garden turn from striped brown to almost black but never blue.  Then I saw he was seriously stuck.  I jiggled the cloche a bit to see if I could help him get loose.  He didn't budge and that's when he looked up at me, his mouth open with an expression I interpreted as extreme distress.  Whether he was crying for help or expressing abject terror that this human looming above him was going to finish him off, I don't know.  I ran and got my garden snips and, as gently and carefully as I could, I snipped the wire clamped around his hind legs.  He was still unable to move so I clipped a little more.  Then he was away like a flash without a backward glance.

This is my Wednesday Vignette.  For more, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

In a Vase on Monday: Ensemble Casts

I had ideas for 2 vases this week, each with a specific flower assuming a starring role.  However, as is often the case (at least in my universe), my vision didn't materialize as planned.  The first arrangement was constructed with Pelargonium 'Oldbury Duet' in mind as the centerpiece.

The Pelargonium's variegated foliage is its principal attraction in my view  but I enjoy the flowers too

As pretty as 'Oldbury Duet' is, it was quickly put in its place by the blooms I selected to accompany it, creating a mix that can more accurately be described as an ensemble cast.

'Oldbury Duet' set the color palette but both the snapdragons and the burgundy ivy geranium are splashier

Back view, showing off white Centranthus and the blooms of bolting cilantro, as well as some of my first sweet pea flowers

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: Antirrhinum majus, Centranthus ruber 'Albus', Coriandrum sativum (aka cilantro), Helleborus 'Anna's Red', lilac and violet Lathyrus odoratus, burgundy Pelargonium peltatum (aka ivy geranium), and, in the center, Pelargonium 'Oldbury Duet'

The second arrangement was intended to feature the tall bearded Iris on the back slope.  The back slope is invisible to all but the most intrepid visitors and even my husband and I only visit the space a couple of times a week on average. 

I took this photo last Thursday, thinking one or both of the Iris stems shown here would be flowering by Sunday; however, only one very small stem (not shown) had an open flower

As the 2 taller Iris stems failed to bloom on my schedule, I ended up with another ensemble case.

Blue and purple flowers are abundant in my garden at the moment and I made liberal use of them in putting together this arrangement, adding a few white flowers for sparkle.  If I'd found more unblemished Matilija poppies on the back slope, I'd have given them the starring role.  Ditto for the silvery Dutch Iris.

Back view, featuring white breath of heaven and borage

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: Borago officinalis, Bulbine frutescens, Coleonema album, Consolida ajacis (aka Delphinium ambiguum), Echium webbii, Iris hollandica 'Silvery Beauty', noID Iris germanica, Lathyrus odoratus, Osteospermum '3D Silver', Scabiosa 'Fama Blue', and, in the middle, Romneya coulteri

With the exception of the arrangement in the clasped hands vase, last week's arrangements were relegated to the compost bin.  Before I tossed the one containing the white Delphinium, though, I snapped a photo showing how that pristine white flower evolved during the course of the week.

As the week progressed, the formerly white Delphinium slowly turned a medium blue, starting at the bottom and gradually extending upwards.  Is that normal for Delphiniums?  I've had little prior experience with them.

For more "In a Vase on Monday" posts, visit our host, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

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

Friday, April 20, 2018

So now what?

One of the two Grevillea lavandulacea 'Penola' in the dry garden area on the northeast side of our property has been looking unhealthy for some time now.  I first noticed dying branch tips on the formerly robust shrub last spring.  I pruned off the sections that looked bad and waited to see if it'd recover.  While it produced some new green foliage and it bloomed on schedule, it looked worse overall this spring.

This is the healthy Grevillea 'Penola'

and this is the unhealthy specimen.  If you look at the base of the plant, you can see it's leaning.  I wondered if the heavy winter rains of 2016-2017 combined with the high winds that routinely rip through our area combined to compromise the shrub's root system.

This isn't the best photo but it gives you a good idea of what the branch tips looked like

I enlisted my husband's help in taking out the afflicted Grevillea this week.

This is a wide shot of the area immediately before the Grevillea was removed

And this is approximately the same view after the Grevillea was removed.  The bare tree in the center of the photo is a cherry we inherited with the garden.

This is the same area, viewed from the concrete steps that lead into the area from the back slope

So now what do I do with this area?  The status of that cherry tree alongside the stairs to the back slope is still in question.  Inherited from a prior owner, it amazed me by producing a handful of cherries for several years in a row, despite the fact that getting the recommended 800-900 hours of winter chill is a virtual impossibility here.  However, I don't recall seeing any fruit last year and thus far this year it hasn't produced leaves, much less flowers.

There are lots of buds like these but they show no signs of opening

If  we pull out the cherry tree, I might try another tree in that location.  A crape myrtle maybe.  Whatever I select, it can't be too tall as I don't want to risk the ire of my next door neighbor, whose spa sits on the other side of the fence.  I still haven't planted the Arctostaphylos 'Louis Edmunds' I picked up at a discount at my local botanic garden a couple of weeks ago either, so that's another possibility.

Meanwhile, other parts of this garden area also demand further consideration.  I never designed this part of the garden so much as just plunked plants there.  My husband said he'd like to add a tree to block the view of (and from) a house up the hill that's currently in the latter stages of construction.

The owners of the house I've circled in this photo more than doubled their space, adding an entire floor on top of the existing structure.  It's been under construction for over 2 years now but it finally looks as though they're getting close to completion.

If I positioned a tree to screen the area my husband identified, it'd mean removing the Salvia clevelandii 'Allen Chickering' I circled here

There was an apricot tree in the general location of that Cleveland sage when we moved in but it died soon afterward.  If I put a tree in the Grevillea's former spot, that'd probably be too close anyway.  As the spot gets a considerable amount of shade from a mature Arbutus 'Marina' nearby, maybe another New Zealand tea tree (Leptospermum scoparium) would be a better choice to address my husband's request.

That question had me considering the placement of the 2 Leptospermum I currently have in this area.  The 2 shrubs sit beside an inherited guava tree.  I don't hate the guava but it's not something I would've planted either and it doesn't look at all great next to the Leptospermum.  Maybe the guava needs to come out.

The guava tree (left) and the Leptospermum (to the right) don't do anything for one another.  The second Leptospermum is largely hidden behind the guava from this viewpoint.

There's another guava tree on the other side of the gravel path running through the area.  Guavas are self-fruitful so it doesn't require a second tree to produce fruit but fruit production is said to be heavier when there are others in the same species nearby to promote pollination.  However, no one here eats guavas except the squirrels and I wouldn't be distressed if they had fewer fruits to bury in my garden borders.

And then there's the problem of what to do about the Cordyline 'Renegade' I planted last fall.  They looked great - until our temperature unexpectedly soared into the 90s a couple of weeks ago.  What happened to them doesn't bode well for their fate this summer.

Here's what the Cordylines look like after a week of temperatures above 90F

A friend recently told me that, when remodeling a home, the domino theory comes into play, with one change precipitating another.  It looks as though the same can be said for gardens.

Any and all suggestions will be gratefully considered!  In the meantime, I'll leave you with a pretty picture of one of the Matilija poppies now blooming on the back slope.  Enjoy your weekend!

I may not have any California poppies at the bottom of the slope but Romneya coulteri had no problem returning for a second year

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