Friday, September 28, 2018

Revisiting my gardening past

Almost two weeks ago I participated in a tour that included 4 private gardens in Newport Beach.  Three of these were very small.  Their size reminded me of my former garden in another beach city but they were otherwise very unlike that space.  I gave up that garden more than 7 years ago when we moved into our current home and I haven't looked back since but this tour had me drawing comparisons to my memories of that first garden, which subsequently had me pulling up old photos.  Sadly, there are less than 100 of those even though I gardened there for nearly 20 years and, of those, most were of poor quality; however, they made it clear that my recollections were accurate: the space was all about plants and I filled nearly every inch available to me.  Taking you down memory lane with me, I'm sharing a scattering of the best of that paltry collection of photos with you.

As background, our former home was a 2-story townhouse on a split lot.  The area was (and still is) crammed with similar townhomes and condominiums.  Because of building density my garden was shaded by houses on all sides.  And it was tiny.  I'd estimate that my total garden space, including a narrow strip that ran along the driveway, totaled about 700 square feet.

Some of my photos were taken in the spring of 2002 and some in the spring of 2010 so they don't all flow neatly one from another.  For unknown reasons, other than that I was a complete workaholic and not much of a photographer, there were almost no photos between those two years.

After my husband pulled out the Bougainvillea that originally lined the narrow border along the driveway (because it scratched the old RX7 he'd painstakingly transformed from gas to electric power), I planted roses, bulbs, vines and shrubs there (2002 photo)

The driveway border was all of one foot wide (2002 photo)

The gate at the end of the driveway led into the east end of my garden (2002 photo)

This 2010 photo shows the same area but, in the 6-year interim between the 2 photos, I'd changed out many of the plants and my husband had built me a new fence that allowed in more sun

Closer view of the area immediately inside the gate (2010 photo)

2010 photo showing the very small concrete patio slab off the house and the area on the east side of the garden beyond

I couldn't resist including this 2002 photo of a vignette on the northeast garden wall showing a tree peony bloom.  As I recall, the plant produced 2 or 3 blooms during the 4+ years I had it.  It was gone well before 2010.

This was the view from the back door.  The bench was the only seating my garden offered, other than 2 chairs given over to my cats on the west side of the house.  The cat shown here was not mine, although she may have thought otherwise as she had free run of my garden.  (2010 photo)

This 2002 photo shows the west end of my alley-like garden.  Most of the plants I used, which included Camellias, Fuchsias, Plectranthus and Pericallis (cineraria), preferred shade.

Regrettably, most of my 2010 photos of that same area, like this one, were taken in glaring sunlight.  But look how bountiful my Fuchsias were!

The narrow west side strip of outdoor space along the house was occupied in part by what would now be called a "catio" (enclosed patio for cats), which contained 2 chairs for my boys, Max and Ming, and their litter box (2002 photo)

Even the "catio" had plants.  As I recall, the plant barely visible on the right was an espaliered Camellia.  There's a dwarf Japanese maple and a Hydrangea in a raised planter on the other (discolored) wall.

On the other side of the enclosure there was a potting bench and more plants (2002 photo)

The same area as shown above but looking in the other direction (2002 photo)

I crammed a lot of garden into some very small spaces!  I couldn't have held a dinner party in that garden if I'd tried but at least the space had soul and it gave me joy every day of every year I lived there.  I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy your own garden this weekend.

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

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Wednesday Video Vignette: Wrangling with a drip irrigation system

Alternative titles for this post might be: "A raccoon's version of tug of war" or "The raccoon takes umbrage".  Regular readers of my blog know that the local raccoons visit my garden, and more specifically our backyard fountain, quite often.  When we were away for 3 days in August, one pulled the fountain apart.  Late last week, I found some of the rubber tubing from the drip irrigation surrounding the fountain discarded several feet away.  After verifying that my husband hadn't pulled it out for unknown reasons, we checked our security video and caught the culprit in action.

The raccoon's visit started as usual with a check on the contents of the fountain but, on his dismount, it appears that a paw was caught by the irrigation tubing and he took offense.  A battle ensued (interrupted by a very brief fixation on a seashell).  View in full screen for a clearer picture of the battle.

Last night, after I'd drafted this post, my husband and I heard a funny noise.  I assumed that cat was up to no good in the kitchen but, having also heard the noise, she was staring out the window into the back garden.  A moment later, 2 large raccoons strolled by the living room windows headed out of sight as she hissed at them from the safety of the house.  Had the first raccoon called on his brother to help in the next game of tug of war?  Who knows.  I suspect they'll be back soon in any case.

This is my Wednesday Vignette.  For more images that captured the attention of bloggers this week, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.

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

Monday, September 24, 2018

In a Vase on Monday: Two Vases in One

I had thought that the dahlias were winding down here but they surprised me last week by blooming like crazy, at least with the exception of Dahlia 'Penhill Dark Monarch', which has yet to produce a single bud.  I wasn't prepared to make up 5 separate vases (even I'm not that fanatical) but, after deadheading the flowers that were past their prime, I cut blooms for 2 vases.

Vase #1 contains both Dahlia 'Punkin Spice' and 'Terracotta' but I arranged the flowers in such a way as to give each side what I think is a different look.  You can be the judge as to whether I succeeded.

Side #1 highlighting 'Punkin Spice'

Side #2 featuring 'Terracotta'

The overhead view shows the vase's split personality

Clockwise from the upper left: Dahlia 'Punkin Spice', D. 'Terracotta', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder', Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum', and Plectranthus scutellarioides 'Salsa Verde' (coleus)

Dahlia 'Loverboy' produced 6 blooms last week.  I tossed 3 as past their prime but cut the other 3 for a second vase.  There was no blue Eustoma to pair with 'Loverboy' - it seems she's packed up and left town for the season.  But there were plenty of other suitable companions.

A stem of 3 white Eustoma grandiflorum (lisianthus) blooms provided a nice counterpoint to the vivid 'Loverboy'

The back view is dominated by Abelia 'Edward Goucher', which has proven to be an amiable mixer for a range of splashier flowers, and bubbly Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy', also a good mixer

The overhead view reveals Leptospermum 'Pink Pearl''Pink Pearl' had little influence over the group as a whole but then she's always been a bit prickly.

Clockwise from the upper left: Dahlia 'Loverboy', Abelia x grandiflora 'Edward Goucher', Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy', Alternanthera 'Little Ruby (shown with Hebe 'Wiri Blush'), Eustoma grandiflorum (lisanthus), and Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl'

The zinnias were clamoring for attention too but I ignored them this week.  Maybe next week I'll be inspired to do something with them.  In the meantime, visit Cathy in Rambling in the Garden to discover what she and other gardeners have found to fill their vases this week.

The first vase on the dining table showing its 2 different faces

The second vase in the front entry

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

Friday, September 21, 2018

Getting a peek at Newport Beach gardens

I worked in the Newport Beach area of Orange County for several years more than a decade ago and still visit the area periodically, most often to visit Roger's Gardens, one of my favorite garden centers, but also to visit friends.  However, I've never had an opportunity to take a good peek at gardens in Newport Beach so, when blogger friend Denise of A Growing Obsession alerted Hoover Boo of A Piece of Eden and me to a tour sponsored by the Southern California chapter of the Mediterranean Garden Society, I jumped at the chance to join in.  Our tour took us to six different venues, ending with a talk at Roger's Gardens.

For those of you unfamiliar with California's real estate market I should mention that, even in an state known for ridiculously expensive home prices, Newport Beach is pricey.  The closer to the ocean, the higher the price and, generally speaking, the smaller the lot size.  We probably shouldn't have been surprised that many of the garden spaces we visited were tiny.  Our first stop was a perfect example of the use of a garden as a room.  As a space to entertain, it was wonderful but the space to garden was scanty.

There was lots of seating space for gathering and dining.  A grilling station and bar area was off to the right of the dining table and there was another table and chairs around the other corner of the house.

These raised beds were the only true garden space.  My former garden in Redondo Beach was similar in overall size but, other than a wooden bench, it offered no seating.  I planted nearly every inch, leaving just a narrow path to move between beds.

Our next stop was the Environmental Nature Center, a five-acre parcel dedicated to providing the community, especially children, with exposure to nature.  I'd never heard of it, much less paid a visit.  After a long, hot summer following an unusually dry winter, the outside area looked tired but there were still spots of color.

This Isomeris arborea (aka bladderpod) and the noID aster were found in the butterfly enclosure

There were a number of tables like this under the trees, great for picnicking and educational activities

The indoor nature displays were wonderful.  This one featured a coyote and a skunk (stuffed of course).

Our third stop was another private garden, only a bit larger than the first.

Although this area is at the front of the property, the picket fence separating it from the street made it feel private.  The focal point is a large but shallow fountain, which included ceramic koi fish.

A nice Tillandsia wreath decorated one wall

The back of the house featured a clear view of the beach and seating to allow one to check out the view

Like the emerald green grass lining the beach in the prior photo, the grass between the paving stones here is artificial.  It may be the one and only example of fake grass I've seen that I've liked.  It not only looked good enough that I had to touch it to verify it wasn't real but its use in shady narrow spaces like this between paving stones was perfect.

Our next stop was Sherman Gardens, a public garden I've visited several times, most recently this past June.  It's only 2 acres but, unlike the first gardens we visited, it's packed with interesting plants.

This is the view from the back entrance, showing the fountain planted with seasonal annuals including Celosia 'Intenz'

After the subdued spaces we'd visited that morning, all this color was a sheer joy.  The plants in front are a Gomphrena mix.

If I remember correctly, this area is referred to as the Mediterranean Garden, featuring plants suitable to California's coastal area.  The lath (shade) house behind it is what inspired construction of my own lath house.

We had to have a quick look inside the tropical conservatory of course

We had lunch on the patio off the Cactus and Succulent Garden.  The Furcraea foetida 'Mediopicta' in the photo on the left is blooming!  It's a huge plant and monocarpic so I'm wondering what they're going to do with that area when it's gone.

A gorgeous noID passionflower growing on a humongous vine (left) and a noID Medinilla (right)

And here's the garden's famous otter, dutifully attending to his pond, which is currently sporting blooming waterlilies 

After lunch at Sherman Gardens, we headed for a nearby private garden.  Not far from Pacific Coast Highway, it was also on a small lot.

I photographed the main area of the garden from the upper deck

This speaks of the challenge of gardening in tight spaces.  There were roses and tomatoes in half-barrel containers next to the street too.

The last private garden was by far the largest.  It was broken up into 3 distinct areas.

The front garden outside the walls was the best example of a Mediterranean garden we saw that day in my view

Other than green, there wasn't much color in this street-side space, however.  Part of that was due to the the fact that it's late summer (not the time I'd ever want to schedule a tour of my own garden!).  There were large Echiums, which would have bloomed earlier in the year but I think there was an opportunity here for more silver foliage, or variegated succulents - or flowering Grevilleas!

Beyond the walls surrounding the garden,we stepped down past terraced beds and a pool to approach the front of the house

There was a fountain with waterlilies near the front entry

and comfortable seating areas on both sides of the doorway

The back garden is a very formal area featuring box hedges.  This photo was taken from the upper deck of the house, more clearly revealing the ocean in the distance.  The view was great but, once again, I couldn't help wishing that there was some color in those back garden beds.

One of the tour participants at this last stop was kind enough to let me photograph her earrings, decorated with real succulents.

Shirley, who has a landscape business, Unique Garden Environments, made the earring herself using tiny bits of succulents

We returned to the Newport Beach Civic Center to pick up our cars.  If I'd arrived on time when the tour started, I'd have had an opportunity to explore the Center's expansive succulent garden but I didn't have time for that either upon arrival or prior to our departure for Roger's Gardens.  As it took me awhile to find a parking spot in the garden center's jammed lots, I didn't have time to take photos there either.  I enjoyed Ron Vanderhoff's talk entitled "The Other Side of the Fence" about what natural environments can teach us when designing our own garden spaces, although I had to duck out a little early there and still had no time for photos.

Garden tours are often a mixed bag but there's always an opportunity to learn something and I enjoyed spending time with Denise and Hoover Boo.  (You can find Denise's post on the tour here.)  I don't expect I'll ever be a gardener who sacrifices the collection of interesting plants for entertaining space but I can nonetheless appreciate why others want to use the restricted space available to them for that purpose.  To each his/her own!

For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, enjoy the last day of summer and the first day of fall!  For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere, happy spring!

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

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The draw of orchids

If you've viewed more than two of my posts, you probably know that I like flowers.  That said, I've never been strongly drawn to orchids, although I have a half dozen.  However, now that I have my own lath (shade) house, I thought it would be a good opportunity to expand that collection a bit so, when my local botanic garden advertised an orchid show and sale last weekend, I popped in to see what was available.

I've attended this annual show a few times before.  This year's event struck me as smaller in scale on both the show and sale fronts but of course I took some photos.  Everything in the show area was tagged but that doesn't mean it was simple to identify individual plants.  Orchid growers use their own kind of shorthand to distinguish genera and there are a LOT of those.  Orchids comprise the largest family of flowering plants on earth and there are some 30,000 genera and 200,000 hybrids.  I might know enough to distinguish a Cattleya from an Oncidium but classifications that combine two or more genera make my eyes cross.

Cattleya 'Memoria Bluei'

Cattlianthe backtia 'Grape Wax'

Dendrobium subclausum 'Phlox'

Miltonia moreliana 'Surprised'

Potinara 'California Love'

Recchara 'Monument Valley'

Epicattleya 'Rene Marques', Laeliocattleya mini quinee 'Angel Kiss', and Paphiopedilum lowii 'Alba'

In addition to the individual plants vying for awards, there were several display tables put together by vendors.

I can't identify this orchid with the trailing blooms but look at the crinkly texture of those leaves - the plant would be worth growing for those alone

These Phalaenopsis are perfect but plants in this genus have become so common I'm almost immune to their charms

This display won the show award for best display

Many people look at their exotic blooms and assume that orchids are fussbudgets but many aren't much trouble, at least as long as you water them regularly, feed them periodically, and don't allow them to burn to a crisp in full sun.  Most prefer humid environments, which is probably the biggest sticking point for people who try to keep them happy indoors but, lucky for me, my small lath house provides both the air circulation these plants need and the heightened humidity level they want.

I brought home just two plants.  Even at a sale like this, the plants aren't cheap.  The cost for a plant large enough to produce blooms is roughly equivalent to the cost of a bromeliad.

This is Dendrobium 'Samurai'

This is Wilsonara Firecat 'Harmony', or at least it was labeled as such.   Wilsonara is a genus of intergeneric hybrids that combine Cochlioda, Odontoglossum, and Oncidium.  In checking on-line references to the plant, I also found it listed in the Oncostele genus, which includes crosses between Oncidium and Rhynchostele, as well as listings in the genus Colmanara, which combines Miltonia, Odontoglossum and Oncidium.  So now perhaps you have an idea why my eyes cross.

Like bromeliads, orchids prefer tight spaces so the pots are often on the small side, which means it's easy to squeeze them into even a small lath house like mine.  In the long run in my climate I may get more out of growing orchids than some of the other shade plants I covet like fuchsias, which I'm still struggling to placate.  Which plants will earn permanent space in my lath house is still an open question but, if that includes orchids, don't count on me to get their names right.

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