Thursday, November 29, 2018

Terracing a steep slope

Regrettably, this isn't a post on my own back slope, which following the hard hit it took in early July when our temperature reached 110F, is looking uglier than ever.  I took the following photos in my former neighborhood, on a street I pass through each week when I meet friends for lunch.   The retaining walls went in a year or more ago but the area wasn't planted up until this year.  I'd been meaning to stop and snap photos for some time but finally took 15 minutes to do that earlier this week.

This is on a relatively busy residential street, one of main corridors for traffic passing through this neighborhood

The terraced wall has 3 levels, backed by a tall fence behind what I assume is the owner's backyard

I was initially confused as to why the builder omitted grout between the bricks at the base of each tier of the retaining wall before realizing that's probably a strategy to facilitate drainage

I couldn't get close-ups of the trees and plants on the upper tiers of the terraced wall and I was unable to identify most of them, although I believe all are fruit trees.  The 3 trees with wood frames each had wire supports behind them, presumably to espalier the branches as they grow.

I'm assuming this is a fig tree and I'm guessing the other 2 framed trees are also figs of some kind.  The trunks of all 3 were painted white to prevent the cracking and splitting that can allow insects and disease to infect fruit trees.

In addition to this tomato plant, the second tier appeared to have peach and/or apricot trees, as well as another tree I couldn't even make a guess at identifying

The only area I could examine closely was the lowest one.  It featured a wide variety of citrus trees, all neatly labeled.  Herbs, including thyme, rosemary and lavender, were planted between the trees.  A discrete drip system was in place too.

Top row: Meyer and Eureka lemons and a Bearrs lime
Middle row: Key, Finger and Kaffir limes
Bottom row: Cara Cara orange and Yuzu, a hybrid Japanese citrus tree

It's my dream to have something like this in place on my back slope but, as access to that area is very limited, I can't imagine being able to bring in the equipment or materials necessary to create a wall like this, at least one that I could afford.  Still, it's nice to dream!

In other news, rain has returned to Southern California.  It came down in buckets for awhile this morning.  I can only hope that the burn areas received gentler treatment.

I filled these plastic buckets using what poured down the rain chain in about 30 minutes, after first dumping the contents of 2 of them on the plants under the roof's overhang.  I'm planning to move the contents of these to my 265-gallon tank, which is slower to fill than my other 2 tanks, both of which are already full.

More rain is expected this afternoon and, according to one forecast, still more is possible next week.  I'd be ecstatic except that I can't help worrying about how this will affect the burn areas.  Slow and gentle rain is what we need.

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

Monday, November 26, 2018

In a Vase on Monday: Super-sized

The unripe fuzzy peach-pink cones on the Magnolia tree in the front garden got me started on Sunday morning as I assembled materials for "In a Vase on Monday," the meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  I've used these at least once before but I'd forgotten how heavy they are before they dry and fall from the tree.  When I added a couple of branches from the persimmon tree currently sporting brightly colored leaves, I had a mix that tested the capacity and stability of my usual go-to vases.  Out came a vase I've had for well over a decade, which I seldom use.  In fact, I can't remember using it all since we moved into our current home almost 8 years ago.  It created a super-sized display.

Even with glass marbles to help hold everything in place, I had challenges with this arrangement

Back view

People have asked if I stand on a chair to photograph my vases from the top.  Usually, I don't have to but this time I needed both a chair and a more open area of the kitchen to get a clear shot.

Clockwise from the upper left: Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Magnolia grandiflora cone, Grevillea 'Superb', Magnolia leaves, and leaves of what I think is a 'Fuyu' persimmon (Diospyros kaki 'Fuyu')

There weren't many ingredients in the first vase but they were cumbersome and, for once, I gave serious thought to stopping with vase #1.  But I've become accustomed to having fresh flowers in the front entry too so I put together a second smaller vase for that spot, incorporating a bloom that surprised me when it made its first appearance in my back garden last week.

The Camellias that performed so well in a vase last week are back this week but, in my view, the star of this arrangement is the single Nerine

Back view, showing off the Leptospermum currently blooming in abundance, as well as Westringia foliage recycled from one of last week's vases

Top view, once again showing off the Nerine bloom.  As I recall, I planted perhaps a dozen of these bulbs in one area of the back garden 2 or more years ago.  They've previously produced foliage but this is the first bloom I've had.

Clockwise from the upper left: noID Camellia sasanqua, Abelia grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', Westringia fruticosa 'Morning Light', Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl', and noID Nerine

Cutting and arranging flowers gave me a nice break from the garden clean-up activities that consumed much of my time during the extended holiday weekend.  I was aching all over Saturday night and Sunday morning but I feel almost normal again now so I can get back to work.  We had rain early Thanksgiving morning and there's a chance of another storm later this week.  Both major fires in California are finally fully contained and it's possible to take deep breaths again.  Things are looking up here.

For more floral/foliage arrangements, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

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

Friday, November 23, 2018

Rain, wonderful rain

It rained during the wee small hours of Thanksgiving morning.  It wasn't a lot, just 0.65/inch, but it gave my garden a good soaking, scrubbing away the dust and dirt left by several rounds of Santa Ana winds and freshening the air, without causing significant problems for the areas burned by the Woolsey and Hill Fires.  It was just our second rain of the season, which is measured from October 1st to September 30th each year, and it brought our total to date to a whopping 1.2 inches.  There's another storm forecast for the end of next week but it's still much too soon to say whether this season's prospects will be an improvement over last year's total, which at under 4 inches for the year was the lowest I can remember.  Do I sound like I'm complaining?  I don't mean to.  I'm only trying to modulate my expectations. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the stroll through my own garden yesterday after the rain spruced it up.

View looking toward the harbor as the storm moved out.  We played peek-a-boo with the sun all day yesterday and still are doing so today.

Does the garden look cleaner and fresher to you?  It did to me but then there were rain droplets all over the foliage.

My husband recently refinished the patio table to help it stand up to moisture.  It works! 

The birds were back at the feeders, greedily consuming the seed I put out a couple of days before.  Right now, as I type, I can see the squirrel is also back, working hard to bypass the feeder's "squirrel-proofing."

Two of my 3 Yucca 'Bright Star' were still acting uptight.  I'd thought this might have been a natural strategy to protect their cores from excessive heat but our temperatures are cool now.

It turns out that the sharp points on the unfolding leaves had pierced the tips of other leaves as they unfolded, keeping all of them stuck in place.  I freed them yesterday.

Raindrops decorating Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt'

Both Agave 'Blue Glow' and the Coulter Bush (Hymenolepsis crithmifolia) behind it were also covered in liquid diamonds

The last remaining leaves of Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' shined too

The front garden looked fresh and clean as well.

The rain even erased the bird plop on the pavement I'd failed to clean up

The area in front of the garage is finally beginning to look as I'd intended it to

I'm pretty pleased with this area behind the hedge lining the street too

And the moss covering the dirt path leading to my lath (shade) house is filling in after a tough summer

For once, I didn't have any watering I needed to do.  Even the plants in the lath house were well-watered without any help on my part.  Like my cat, all I needed was to find a spot in the sun to enjoy the day.

Pipig was stretched out with her paws above her head as I approached but she took umbrage with my interruption of her sun bathing

Whatever your weather, I hope you get the opportunity to get out and enjoy fresh air this weekend.

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

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

November spin through the South Coast Botanic Garden

A Monday morning meeting brought me back to the South Coast Botanic Garden, approximately 5 miles from my home, this week.  As it'd been a month since I'd walked the garden and the docents had a tour scheduled for 110  middle school students the following week, another docent and I decided to take trek through the garden to pick out the highlights in preparation for that event.

I was most interested in checking out the vertical garden, which was under construction at the time of my last visit.

Here's what the vertical garden wall looked like when I visited in mid-October.  According to the garden's winter newsletter, the wall was constructed to hide the tram shelter and equipment on the west side of the garden.

The space, now dubbed the "Living Wall Lounge," was being embellished with an expanse of decomposed granite when we checked it out on Monday.  Unfortunately, I was unable to get up close enough to the wall to identify all the plant materials.

I'd originally assumed that it was being constructed entirely of succulents but that's clearly not the case.  In addition to lots of Aeonium, Crassula and Portulacaria, there are a number of fern species, what appeared to be rubber plants (Ficus elastica), and other plants I couldn't identify from a distance.

The wall was constructed of 2 layers of felt mounted on the garden's equipment storage containers.  Plants were inserted into slits in the felt and then stapled in place.  No soil was used.  The vertical garden will be sustained using a hydroponic watering system.

Even before we reached the vertical garden, my attention was grabbed by what I quickly realized was a tree dahlia.  I'm sure this plant has been growing in the garden for a long time but it was the first time I'd noticed it.

This Dahlia imperialis with the flowers far above our heads was in the Volunteer Garden

I subsequently found more in the Lower Meadow.  The flowers were bee magnets.

Although my docent friend and I walked from one end of the 87-acre garden to the other, almost all my photos are of areas located in the front area of the garden, where most of the color is concentrated at the moment.  As usual, there was a lot going on in the Volunteer Garden and the adjacent areas, which includes the Vegetable Garden, the Lower Meadow area, and the Discovery Garden.

This is a panoramic view of a portion of the Volunteer Garden.  The new vertical garden is just barely visible in the background.  I should note that the garden avoids trimming the fronds of the tall palms as these provide shelter for birds and other critters.

An Abutilon was blooming here, as well as many other areas of the garden.  This was one of the smaller specimens.

The area sports the largest Brugmansia I've ever seen

Justicia aurea were also in bloom in spots throughout the garden

This Salvia elegans is in full bloom in the Vegetable Garden

This is one of at least two tree marigolds (Tithonia diversifolia) in the garden.  The plants were cut down nearly to the ground not very long ago and have already regained their tree-size stature.  I'm seriously considering planting one of these from seed in my own garden - after my annual sunflowers failed this year, this looks like a better bet.

This cup-and-saucer plant (Holmskiodia sanguinea) is another I've never noticed until now

Senna (formerly classified as Cassia) shrubs were in full bloom last month.  Most are fading now but this one  in the Lower Meadow was an exception.  The foliage and flowers look a lot like my own Senna bicapsularis but this one was pruned into a neat (if huge) mound.  Senna is a host plant for sulphur butterflies, which I saw flitting about throughout the garden.

This large gold-flowered shrub looked familiar but I couldn't identify it by name

That last shrub wasn't the only plant I couldn't identify on our rounds.  I was also perplexed by one of the flowering shrubs in the tropical greenhouse.

We couldn't spot a label for this lovely specimen.  Could it be some species of Rhododendron?

This is the only photo I took beyond the front area.  It provided one of the few spots of fall color I saw.

When I took this photo, I assumed this vine in the Garden of the Senses was a grapevine.  Now I'm less sure but, if it isn't a grape, I'm not sure what it is.

That's it for my spin through my "neighborhood" botanic garden this November.  As I headed to the front entrance, I couldn't help pausing to peruse the plants for sale outside the gift shop.  As usual, I fell prey but at least I just brought home one plant this time.

This is Haemanthus albiflos, a shade plant native to South Africa

The docent-led tour for 110 students was subsequently cancelled but at least I got a healthy walk out of our exploratory trek, as well as some photos and a plant.

Best wishes for a happy Thanksgiving to all of you in the US!

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

Monday, November 19, 2018

In a Vase on Monday: Simpler

I've got a tendency to cram too much into the arrangements I create for "In a Vase on Monday," the weekly meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  This week I kept things simpler.  Of course, that was partly out of necessity as the volume of blooms available for cutting has diminished.  Still, I know I'm lucky to have something in bloom year-round.  Freezes and snow aren't an issue here.

My first arrangement was inspired by blooms on the snapdragons I planted as plugs in my cool season cutting garden a few weeks ago.  I'd initially thought I'd play up the yellow color in those blooms with the gold flowers of Tagetes lemmonii but my husband dislikes their scent and as he wasn't feeling well to begin with I shelved that idea.  However, I was surprised to find that the pink Camellias growing nearby didn't look half bad paired with the snapdragons.

The "bronze" snapdragons contain a lot of pink in their petals, which play off the vivid pink of the noID Camellias

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: noID Camellia sasanqua, Antirrhinum majus (shown with Correa 'Dusky Bells'), Correa 'Wyn's Wonder', and Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold' (showing off a scattering of tiny pink flowers)

The bush violets (Barleria obtusa) are still the most abundant blooms in my garden but finding plants to accent them was a challenge, especially as there's a shortage of white flowers in my garden at the moment.  In this case, bringing in a strong foliage accent made the difference.

With few white flowers in the garden, variegated coast rosemary (Westringia 'Morning Light') helped to brighten the arrangement

This Westringia sports small white flowers but most of these withered away during our last round of high winds

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Barleria obtusa, Fuchsia mangellanica 'Hawkshead' (new to my garden), Osteospermum hybrid '4D Silver', and Westringia fruticosa 'Morning Light'

For more IAVOM creations, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

My thanks to all of you who expressed concern about our wildfires last week.  By way of an update (assuming your news providers aren't reporting on the fires nearly non-stop as ours are), the largest fires in Northern and Southern California, the Camp and Woolsey Fires, aren't fully contained yet but the brave firefighters have made substantial progress and the prospect for rain mid-week could aid them further, provided it doesn't come down too hard and cause mudslides in the burn areas.  The air quality here in the south has improved but I understand that the situation in the northern part of the state is terrible.  Hopefully, rain will help there too.  Sadly, it seems that it'll be awhile yet before we know the full extent of the lives lost in the Camp Fire, now given the dubious title of California's most destructive wildfire.

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