Wednesday, May 30, 2018

May: Glory Days in the Garden

March, April and May are the very best months in my garden; however, March is usually the month that I experience my twirl-in-the-garden reaction to the wonders of Spring.  I didn't feel that moment in March this year, nor April either.  That may have been a reaction to the pathetically low rainfall we received during our winter rainy season and apprehension about what the summer would bring.   Flowers bloomed but less profusely than last year and prior years in general.  Fruit trees failed to produce buds.  The mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) has failed to leaf out at all and shows all the signs of infestation by the shot hole borer killing trees throughout Southern California.  The mimosa tree still looks like a goner but a long, nearly continuous stretch of "May Gray" weather has provided relief.  The drizzle that's accompanied it on some days even racked up a total of 8/100ths of an inch of precipitation in this location, 3/100ths of that this morning alone.  That's admittedly not a lot but, when your annual rain total (for the rain year beginning October 1, 2017) stands at 3.78 inches, it's appreciated nonetheless.  So mid-May finally brought that feeling of utter joy I associate with Spring.  I'm celebrating it by sharing a few wide shots of my garden and belatedly joining Chloris of The Blooming Garden in sharing my top 10 blooms for the month of May.

Since I returned from the Austin Garden Bloggers' Fling in early May, there have been only 2 truly sunny days.  This photo of the back garden taken last Friday morning facing the entrance to the Los Angeles Harbor was one of them.  Most days, we get at least a couple of hours of clearing by late afternoon but we've occasionally been socked in all day.

This is the view of the back garden looking north from the main patio area.

Two of my favorite May bloomers, both members of the Protea family, are visible here

The first is Leucadendron 'Pisa'.  Its "flowers" are actually bracts surrounding cones.  They literally glow against the tree-like shrub's silvery foliage.

The blooms of Leucospermum 'Royal Hawaiian Brandi' are still relatively sparse but as this is the first year the plant has bloomed since I planted it in March 2016, I'm thrilled

The views of the back garden looking south reveal other favorites.

The moderate gloom on the morning I took this photo was generally great for photographs, although the yellow flowers of Achillea 'Moonshine' blend in with the foliage of Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold' here

The Achillea shows up better in this photo, taken early yesterday evening

Favorite flowering plants in this area include the following:

Achillea 'Moonshine' lights up the back border in late Spring/early Summer and balances the blue of the Agapanthus, which are just now beginning their bloom cycle

A few Alstroemeria are still blooming but 'Indian Summer' is the most vibrant.  I draws my eye even when I'm inside the house.  Its dark foliage gives is extra zing.

I had the devil of a time time reducing my favorite blooming plants to 10 but Ozothamnus diomifolius (aka rice flower) made the cut.  It looked terrible last year and I debated pulling it out entirely before cutting it back dramatically.  It's made a great comeback.

The front garden is also looking lush.

Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' is living up to its name right now, showing off nicely against the chartreuse foliage scattered about

Dorycnium hirsutum (aka Hairy Canary Clover) is doing a nice job as a ground cover along the edge of the driveway.

Hairy Canary Clover is attractive in and out of bloom.  The flowers are drawing bees now.  The plant self-seeds but it isn't a pest and I've used it widely throughout the garden in areas that are particularly dry.

Looking southward at the front garden from a different angle brings another of this month's favorite blooming plants into view.

The flower spires of Echium candicans 'Star of Madeira'  are just visible behind Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' on the right

Variegated 'Star of Madeira' is blooming about one month later this year than it did last year and well behind Echium webbii in the back garden.  Luckily for the bees, as the flowers on the latter shrub fade, they've been able to move to the fresh flowers on 'Star of Madeira'.

From the south end of the front garden looking north back toward the driveway, you can see not only the Echium but also one of my favorite Pelargoniums.

Pelargonium 'Oldbury Duet' is scattered to the left of the path

'Oldbury Duet' is flowering especially well this year.  In contrast, Eustoma grandiflorum (Lisianthus), also shown in this photo, seem reluctant to bloom at all.  Although Lisianthus has over-wintered for me in prior years, most of last year's plants failed this winter, possibly due to our paltry rain.  I've added lots of new plugs this year but, thus far, I've had just a couple blooms.

The wide shots I shared above hid only 2 of the blooming plants on my top 10 list for May.

Planted in the front garden on the far south side outside the cat's screened porch, I love Salvia lanceolata (aka Rocky Mountain Sage), a South African native, for its quirky flowers.  Its gray foliage has a lovely satin texture.

Pelargonium peltatum (aka ivy geranium) is a very common plant here but it's never sold as the climber it's shown itself to be in my garden.  I brought this plant from my former garden and planted it as a ground cover at the base of an existing vine (Pandorea jasminoides 'Alba') in what's now my cutting garden.  I cut it back hard last year but it's climbed right back this year.

Visit Chloris at The Blooming Garden to see her top 10 list for May and to find links to other top 10 choices.

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

Monday, May 28, 2018

In a Vase on Monday: Better than I'd anticipated

The Agapanthus are making their annual appearance throughout my garden.  Unlike prior years when they've arrived like a stampede of cattle, they're moseying in a few at a time.  However, as I have more clumps of the plants than I can count, that's still a lot of flowers.  The question this week wasn't would I use them in an arrangement for "In a Vase on Monday" but rather how I'd use them.  Although I like the flowers, I've seldom been pleased by how they look in a vase.  As the variegated Echium 'Star of Madeira' is also blooming at last, I decided to see how those two plants would look together.  Frankly, I wasn't too impressed by the combination once the cut stems were in my bucket but adding a few other plants seemed to improve the overall effect.

I tried to keep the arrangement airy but it could perhaps have used more splashes of white

Back view

Clockwise from the upper left, the vase contains: blue and white Agapanthus, Coleonema album, Echium candicans 'Star of Madeira', Consolida ajacis (aka larkspur and Delphinium ambiguum), and Osteospermum '4D Silver'

I managed to take out a small slice of one finger while cutting back the weed-like growth of Erigeron karvinskianus in the course of assembling flowers for this weeks' vases.  This put a damper on my flower arranging exercise but my husband bandaged up my finger and I persevered to create a second vase, using flowers I'd had my eye on since last week.

This was supposed to be the front of the vase but I changed my mind

This view shows off the flowers of Leptospermum 'Pink Pearl' and Dorycnium hirsutum, which were the inspiration for this arrangement.  The vase itself is new, picked up during a weekend botanic garden/nursery trip with a friend to celebrate my upcoming birthday.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left, this vase contains: noID Alstroemeria, white and pink Centranthus ruber, Dorycnium hirsutum (aka Hairy Canary Clover), Jasminum polyanthum (hanging over the fence from my neighbor's garden), and Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl'

Those of you who've included peonies in recent arrangements know I suffer from a severe case of peony envy.  I have 2 peony plants but the Itoh peony hasn't bloomed since the year I purchased it (in 2013!) and the Majorcan variety, which generally produces at least a single bloom, has produced none this year.  So, when my hairdresser told me the market down the street from her shop had peonies, I treated myself to some.  It's an IAVOM cheat but here's my third vase:

The rose may be the queen of flowers but I think the peony is the empress.  This vase is sitting in the kitchen window where I can admire the flowers many times a day but it didn't photograph well there.

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

And best wishes to all of you in the US for a happy Memorial Day holiday!

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

Friday, May 25, 2018

Immersion in Lucinda Hutson's Joyous Spirit (Garden Bloggers' Fling)

Another of the gardens I looked forward to seeing as part of the 2018 Garden Bloggers' Fling was that of Lucinda Hutson.  I'd seen photos of Lucinda's garden a few times on-line and I knew it was colorful, special and unique but nothing had prepared me for the experience of immersing myself in it.  Afterwards, I tried to find words to categorize it for myself and to describe it to friends but I couldn't come up with anything that fit.  An explosion of color?  Yes, but not descriptive of its spirit.  A poetic expression of Mexico's culture?  Yes, but that doesn't capture its effervescence.  Alice in Wonderland, Texas?  Maybe.

Lucinda's house was impossible to miss once our bus pulled onto her street.

Even with a few brightly painted houses nearby, Lucinda's purple house stands out

The front garden was packed with herbs, succulents, and flowers.  There wasn't a blade of grass in sight but there were 2 seating areas.

We'll come back to the front of the house and take a brief tour inside but first let's proceed, as most of the bloggers did, through a gate into the back garden.  Lucinda calls the area immediately inside the gate her "Mermaid Lounge."

That agave is growing out of the top of a stone wall, balanced over a small pond

Mermaids like to hang out in groups it seems

Leaving the Mermaid Lounge, I found another seating area featuring "Our Lady of La Tina" (bathtub).  Chairs for children decorate a bright yellow wall on the other side of the walkway, which also bears a plaque that says "Mi Casa Es Su Casa."

More bright colors can be found in a purple wall nearby, decorated in exuberant detail.

These curio cabinets bookended the stacked benches shown in the photo above

The "Kitchen Garden" picks up the same bright colors.

There's another nice seating area tucked into the corner against the wall (left) but, unlike virtually every other garden we toured during the course of the Fling, I didn't find bloggers sitting there or in any of the other spots available throughout the garden.  Intent on seeing all that there was to see in Lucinda's garden, no one seemed to stop moving.

Nearby, I found "La Lucinda Cantina," a party space.  Unfortunately, I didn't get photo of the area as a whole but I did photograph some of its details.

These included a tree festooned with tequila bottles, a metal mariachi, and an outdoor shower with posted rules.  A table with a bowl of colorful plastic glasses sat in the middle of a table, awaiting use.

Moving over to the other side of the garden, I stepped up on to a wood deck with a large dining table.

As you can see, literally everything was decorated

An office or, as Lucinda calls it, her "cathedral for writing" occupies a small structure next to the outdoor dining area.  Enchanting as the inside of her house is (we're coming to that!), I liked her office even more.  I count myself a quasi-minimalist when it comes to interiors (not gardens!) but this space looked warm and comfortable to me.

Decoration of one kind or another was everywhere in the garden area.

Colorful glass marbles functioned as grout between walkway paving stones.  Mosaic decorated the windows.

But, as well curated as the garden was, the interior of the house was even more so.  Let's walk back through the front door.

And into the house.

These photos show either side of the narrow alcove just inside the front door.  The light was poor for photos but I hope you can see its charm.

This was the front room

This is the dining room

This is the kitchen

And this is the view through the back door.  My cat should be so lucky to have a cat door like that!

As we leave, we bid goodbye not just to Lucinda but also to her companion, Sancho.

Lucinda showed us how she'd carved her cat's name in the pad of an Opuntia.  As the scratched area heals, Sancho's name will be immortalized there.

If you'd like more information on Lucinda and her garden you can find her site here and a great post by Diana Stoll Kirby, one of the 2018 Garden bloggers' Fling organizers, here.  Lucinda has written at least 3 books, the latest entitled Viva Tequila!: Cocktails, Cooking and Other Agave Adventures, which you can find here.

Best wishes for a colorful and adventuresome weekend!

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

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Digging into Pam Penick's Garden (Garden Bloggers' Fling)

After a wet start to the 2018 Garden Bloggers' Fling in Austin, Texas, day #2 dawned sunny and bright.  I don't know if the weather could have been more perfect.  My bus's first stop was Pam Penick's garden.  Pam's blog, Digging, was one of the first I started to read regularly, well before I ever started a blog of my own.  While her climate in Texas is certainly different than mine, we faced some of the same challenges: extended periods of drought, sizzling hot summers, and alkaline soil.  I identify with her interest in drought tolerant plants and her books, Lawn Gone! and The Water Saving Garden, addressed concerns I faced in renovating the established garden I inherited with the house my husband and I purchased in late 2010.  After seeing photos of her garden on-line and in her books, I looked forward to seeing it in person.

Many elements of Pam's garden felt familiar to me when I walked into it.

Pam replaced a conventional lawn with Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa)

The large central bed at the front of her house relies more on green plants than flowers

The wonderful stock tank pond in the back that immediately identifies this as Pam's garden

The sign over the pool announces that we're in Austin!

Touring Pam's garden gave me a greater appreciation for her approach to its design.  I was impressed by the variety of seating areas dotted throughout the property, all in suitably shady settings.

Rustic seating in the side garden

A more contemporary dining set on the back deck

Adirondack style seating next to the pool

Another seating area on the patio featuring blue accents

I can't recall exactly where this seating area was any longer but I remember that it looked like a comfortable place for a chat

I noticed the frequency with which she repeated elements to create themes.

Repetition increased the impact of each element

I noticed how she used red and blue color to lend cohesion to the garden as a whole.

In addition to these decorative elements, red was repeated in the chairs on the deck, the pool umbrella, and the Austin sign next to the pool

Blue color was also used repeatedly.  In addition to the doors and decorative items shown here, it appeared in the bottle tree, an outdoor rug on the patio, and numerous pots

I noticed her use of tables, shelves and even pots to stage plants and collectibles.

I've always admired the Dasylirion longissimum planted in the tall steel pipe planter near her front entry - talk about setting a stage!

Like most gardeners of my acquaintance, Pam has lots of potted plants.  Some on tables, some tucked into corners, and others serving as focal points.  Many of these pots had a personality all their own.

Evidence that she is a proud Texan was also scattered about.

In addition to the Austin sign, I spotted Texas stars here and there throughout the garden.  If you look closely at the (admittedly poor) photo on the right, you'll see steel stars embedded in the gravel path.

The best takeaways from a garden tour are the ideas one brings back to one's own space.  The value of repeating design elements just as one repeats plants was one of these in the case of Pam's garden.

Another was the use of mirrors shown here.  Even though I knew those panels backed the garage, the optical illusion the mirrors created had me double checking to see if I was looking through a window to another garden.  I used small mirrors in my former garden to expand the space and now I'm wondering where I could put some in my current garden.

Here Pam took a relatively small plant, tucked it into a tall planter and topped it with fanciful metal pieces to raise its height still further.  This is another idea I've tucked away in the back of my mind for future use.

I was instantly charmed by this hanging teapot creation.  I'd try something similar except that chimes always "mysteriously" disappear in my garden (courtesy of my husband, who dislikes them in principle).  

Thank you, Pam, for inviting us to parade through your garden!  Thanks as well for all the hard work you, Diana, and Laura put into organizing this 10th anniversary Fling!

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