Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Wednesday Vignette: Intruders

It's Halloween but I'm not in a proper mood to celebrate.  Added to that, my pumpkin monster, created more than 2 weeks ago, developed a bad case of mold and had to be tossed in the compost bin a couple of days ago, when my husband declared that it wasn't even a suitable gift for the squirrels.

Instead, the sight of a trespasser sneaking through a fence, captured on camera, set the theme for this week's Wednesday Vignette.

This ornamental banana leaf managed to squeeze through the fence undetected.  I've been lopping stems like this off at periodic intervals for a year or more now so I guess it's time to ask the neighbor to cut it back on her side of the fence.

Another form of trespass was detected in the backyard garden.

The scrub jay is once again chasing away the smaller birds to steal seed from the feeders.  His weight on the feeder's perch closes the seed portal but that doesn't stop him (or the resident squirrels) from trying.

However, the most disconcerting intrusion in my garden of late was this one.

I walked into the house and saw this thing flying around outside.  It took me a moment to realize what it was.

Can you make it out?  Here's a closer view.

I'm trusting that last intrusion was an isolated event and probably utterly innocent.  The drone's operator, a visitor next door, may have been intent on capturing photos of his children.  In any case, it was shut down shortly after I charged outside and began stalking it with my own camera.  Ugh!  While I might enjoy employing a drone to photograph my own garden from above, I think any user needs to be hyper-sensitive to other people's privacy concerns and diligently avoid unsanctioned incursions.

Preventing a drone from flying over our property is difficult but last weekend I took some low-tech steps in the hope of preventing the local critters from ravaging the raised planters in my newly planted cutting garden.

After noting that the local botanic garden uses empty plastic flats to cover seedlings, I began saving these last year.  I used every one I had plus various cloches I purchased last year after rabbits made their first invasion to cover the soil in these raised beds in order to protect the seeds, tubers and plugs there.

I used metal pins to anchor the flats and cloches but I've no illusions that will be sufficient to hold off a determined raccoon.  If birds become an issue, I may need to add netting.  Rabbits aren't currently an issue as the coyotes appear to have eliminated that problem for the time being.

I hope your only intruders are trick-or-treaters.  Happy Halloween!  For more Wednesday Vignettes, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.

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

Monday, October 29, 2018

In a Vase on Monday: Time to move on

We had another difficult week in the US.  Fourteen bombs delivered to prominent critics of the President.  Eleven more people gunned down in a house of worship.  The frequency of such unimaginable, intolerable, and heart-wrenching events has become overwhelming.  Those who call for unity after each new tragedy only to immediately turn around and attack those who disagree with them with vitriol and hyperbolic claims are beyond comprehension.  The only thing that keeps me from moving into a cave somewhere is the hope that next week good, sensible people will vote to move the country back in the direction of civility, reasoning based on facts, and a shared sense of humanity.

My garden is less colorful at the moment since I pulled the spent summer bloomers from my cutting garden last week.  I've sown seeds and planted bulbs and plugs with the expectation of having my first cool season blooms there within the next couple of months.  In the meantime, I have to scout other areas of my garden to find vase-worthy materials.

Yellow-flowered Senna bicapsularis has a brief bloom period but it's at its peak right now

Finding suitable companions for the Senna's flowers wasn't easy, however; hence my use of unripe guavas as a less than satisfactory feature at the back of the arrangement.  The guavas here are consumed only by the resident squirrels and I don't expect they'll miss these.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Senna bicapcularis, noID guava fruit, dried flower stems of Leonotis leonurus, foliage of Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', and feathery plumes of Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum'

The bush violets (Barleria obtusa) are also plentiful at the moment, providing the focal point for my second vase.

Violet buds open at regular intervals but the spent flowers also drop continuously so using the flowers in a vase is a mixed bag

I clipped Moroccan daisies (Pyrethropsis hosmariense) to dress up the back of the vase/mug

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Barleria obtusa, Correa 'Ivory Bells', Erysimum linifolium 'Variegatum', Osteospermum '4D Silver', and Pyrethropsis hosmariense

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

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

Friday, October 26, 2018

This week in my garden

Last Friday I wrote about new plants.  This week, I did a little planting and a lot of garden clean-up.

I had the most fun with my first project, replanting the window boxes attached to my lath (shade) house.  The boxes I'd planted in early July looked worn by late October so I decided they needed an overhaul.  I found a colorful Coprosma at my local garden center and when I discovered a new Lisianthus that picked the deep pink tones in its variegation, the contents for my boxes came together quickly.  There are 2 boxes and I used the same selection of plants in each.

Coprosma repens 'Inferno' (left) provided the inspiration and the new-to-me pinkish red Lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum, right) sealed the deal.  I love the buds on the Lisianthus as much or more than the flowers themselves.

In addition to the Coprosma and the Eustoma, each box contains Nemesia 'Snow Angel', Alternanthera 'True Yellow', Viola 'Red Blotch', and Lobularia maritima (aka sweet Alyssum)

The second box is the same as the first

My biggest project this week was emptying the raised planters in my cutting garden to prepare them for planting winter bloomers.  This entailed pulling out the mildewed zinnias, all of which were still flowering, and digging up the dahlia tubers.  Most of the dahlias had been knocked out by last week's Santa Ana winds but 'Punkin Spice' was still producing new blooms, even after I'd cut 7 blooms on Sunday.  I cut all the mature blooms and used them to refresh the flowers in one of my vases before lifting the tubers for cleaning, division and storage.

As you can see I didn't quite pull everything out.  I have plans for the yellow zinnias in the middle planter but they'll be pulled this weekend.  A lemon verbena and a few stray plants are left in the planter in the foreground, as well as some herbs in the planter in the background.  I'll plant around those.  That exuberant Euphorbia 'Sticks on Fire' is in a strawberry pot - I've no idea what to do with it.

After pulling the majority of plants in each planter, I cleaned out the left roots and other debris, mixed in some fresh planting mix and a light dusting of fertilizer, then covered the soil with compost

My other tasks were less time-consuming.  I mulched the front garden bed I showed in last Friday's post after adding a few more ground cover plants.

I resisted my inclination to squeeze more large plants into this area and made do with ground cover plants like Alternanthera 'Joseph's Coat' to fill the space between the large shrubs (2 Leucadendron and a Grevillea), which will eventually spread substantially

While I'm hoping for decent rain this winter, I've applied more mulch this year to retain soil moisture (micro-bark in this instance).  I'm relatively happy with how this area is shaping up but there's still more work to be done, including additional planting (a mail order plant delivery is due next week!).  I also need to order flats of creeping thyme so I can fill in between the paving stones, which were overrun by clover last year.

I finally got around to pruning the 2 large Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' on either side of the walkway to our front door too.

I love these shrubs but they'd gotten a bit larger than I'd planned while I wasn't paying attention

This weekend I hope to get seeds sown and ranunculus tubers planted in my cutting garden.

I've got more seeds than space already

That's a summary of my week in the garden.  Fall's a busy time here.  What are you up to in the garden this weekend?

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Visit to the Los Angeles County Arboretum

I admit I haven't been to the Los Angeles County Arboretum in many years.  Fifty miles to the east of my current residence, getting there takes more than an hour and requires navigation of 4 freeways.  However, enticed by notice of a fall plant sale, I convinced my husband to join me in a visit on a hot, dry October day.  We arrived a little over an hour after the garden opened.  Maybe a lot of sale plants moved out the door during that first hour but I was disappointed by both the volume and range of plants available as I remembered more robust plant sales in the past (although conceivably, those were held in the spring).

I think the stock at my local botanic garden's recent sale was larger and more varied, although I still managed to pick up a Salvia 'Bee's Bliss', which I'd had on my wish list, and several small succulents

Having made the drive, we weren't about to pack up and immediately head for home so we weathered the heat and began exploring.

I think this is another Silk Floss Tree (Ceiba speciosa), like those I showed in a recent post on the South Coast Botanic Garden near me.  Both gardens are operated by Los Angeles County and many of SCBG's plants came from the Arboretum.

From the entrance area, we wandered into the Prehistoric Forest, which featured many mature cycads

The forest sits adjacent to Baldwin Lake, which is slated for restoration.  The dragon is part of a "Moonlight Forest" event scheduled to kick off on October 26th and continue through January 6th.

While the dragon and his pals are temporary, there were also plenty of regular lake denizens on hand

Our next stop was Crescent Farm, created by the Arboretum a few years ago to help Southern California residents reimagine their landscapes, saving precious water in the process.

I was intrigued by the Farm's motto: "Water is our Crop."  The farm's guidelines for reinventing landscapes for the drier future we face included many of my own areas of emphasis: use climate-adapted plants; build soil to retain moisture; Irrigate efficiently; and capture rainwater.  The Farm also promotes the use of edible plants from arid climates.

The Farm was constructed using sheet mulching, hugelkultur, and swales to collect and direct water

There were a lot of signs to gently prod people to think differently about their own gardens

As temperatures continued to rise, we headed into the African and Australian Gardens.  Signs pointed out that South Africa and parts of Australia have Mediterranean climates like much of Southern California, suggesting the value of using plants from these areas of the world in our own landscapes.

African Garden

Australian Garden

Cordyline and Xanthorrhoea (aka Australian Grass Tree)

As we rounded back in the direction of the botanic garden's entrance, we stopped by the Tropical Greenhouse, which was probably my favorite part of the garden, at least at this time of year.  By contrast with the hot, dry conditions outside, the humid space was also far more pleasant!  I took a lot of photos there, some of which I previously posted in Instagram.  (Now seems as good a time as any to mention that I finally succumbed to the lure of Instagram and set up an account in July, which you can find here.)

While we were in the greenhouse a large family came through, some of the children talking excitedly of peacocks.  I ran into the first of many of those soon after we left the greenhouse.

As much as I tried, I was unable to encourage this fellow to flash his tail

Further proof that peacocks don't do what they're asked!  Glare made the sign hard to read from my photo but it says "Please do not climb on fountain." (This photo is my Wednesday Vignette.  For others, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.)

The Arboretum is worth a visit, although I recommend selecting cooler conditions.  I appreciated the emphasis on educating the public and its recognition of the need to adapt to the demands of a changing climate.

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

Monday, October 22, 2018

In a Vase on Monday: Bidding adieux to my dahlias and zinnias

I'd hoped that I could keep the dahlias and zinnias in my cutting garden going until the end of the month but last week's Santa Ana winds, also known as "devil winds," knocked out the blooms of all but one variety of the dahlias and badly dried out the zinnias.  That's not to suggest that these plants were looking great before the wind arrived.  The dahlia blooms had steadily decreased in size; weak stems caused most of the flowers to flop; and leaf-miner had begun to badly mar the foliage.  The zinnias' foliage has mildewed and foraging raccoons have already trampled some of the plants.  So, with one possible exception, I expect to pull all those plants this week to make way for my winter cutting garden.  It's already running late to sow sweet pea seeds here and I have a number of other seeds I'd like to direct sow, as well as ranunculus corms that need planting.

I'll store the dahlia tubers for use next year but I want to bid them a fond farewell for the season.  Despite the hot, dry winds that blew all last week, Dahlia 'Punkin Spice' manged to produce another bumper crop of flowers.  As the foliage I used in last week's vase was still in good shape, I've reused it for my first vase this week, simply refreshing the floral elements.

'Punkin Spice' was the best performer among this year's dahlia crop in my cutting garden

Last week's vase containing these dahlias had landed on my dining table so I'd planned to move this week's version to the front entry but, as the back view looks so good, I had to give it a position where it can be viewed from all sides

This view from the top highlights the variations in the dahlias' petal color

Clockwise from the upper left: Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', berries of Auranticarpa rhombifolium (now splitting to reveal the seeds inside), Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder', gold Zinnia elegans (looking just a little like sunflowers), an assortment of other Zinnias, and 2 views of Dahlia 'Punkin Spice' (again showing off its color variations)

The berry and wine-colored zinnias were also still blooming well, even if the foliage looks horrible, so I cut most of those for a second vase.

In retrospect, these flowers might have looked better in a vase that allowed a looser arrangement

The back view shows off the Leptospermum flowers that began blooming in earnest again this past week

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Zinnia elegans, Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey', Gomphreana decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy', Pentas 'Kaleidoscope Appleblossom' and Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl'

The bush violets (Barleria obtusa) began blooming last week so I decided to make use of them and my beloved Plectranthus 'Zulu Wonder' before their relatively short bloom periods are over.

I had a few more lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum) make an appearance following our recent rainstorm

The bush violets drop continuously but luckily those in bud continue to open

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Barleria obtusa, 4 varieties of Eustoma grandiflorum (the darkest one is 'Black Pearl' but I don't have cultivar IDs for the others), Symphyotrichum chilense, and, in the center, Plectranthus ciliatus 'Zulu Wonder'

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to find other IAVOM arrangements created from materials on hand.  Have a colorful week!

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