Friday, August 23, 2019

August at South Coast Botanic Garden

I attended a docent brown-bag luncheon/discussion session at South Coast Botanic Garden earlier this week.  Afterwards, I made the rounds of a few of my favorite areas and snapped some photos, focusing on two areas I haven't previously featured in blog posts.

The first is the Tropical Greenhouse.  It's not fancy but I almost always haul kids through it when I conduct garden tours, enticing them with the opportunity to see carnivorous plants.  It's warm and humid inside, although I'm not sure the humidity level is high enough to keep the pitcher plants happy as they seem to dry out easily.

This photo was taken from the doorway looking to the back of the greenhouse.  There's a mix of what many people would recognize as houseplants, as well as ferns, bromeliads, orchids, succulents and sub-tropical species.  The purple plant spilling into the central path from the left is Tradescantia pallida (aka purple heart).  The silvery plants hanging from the walls are Tillandsia usneoides (aka Spanish moss).

Clockwise from the upper left, featured plants include: Adenium obsesum (aka desert rose), noID bromeliad, Vriesea, Cordyline 'Miss Andrea', Dracena 'Limelight', and Nepenthes (aka pitcher plant)


The second area is the Banyan Grove, the best place in the garden to visit on a warm day because it's always significantly cooler than the rest of the garden.  It's also a great place to allow kids to run off steam climbing over the massive roots of the Moreton Bay figs (Ficus macrophylla).

Coming down the tram road, you can't miss the Banyan Grove on the left

There are over 20 Moreton Bay fig trees here.  With canopies up to 150 feet wide, they provide dense shade and their fallen leaves blanket the ground, keeping the soil below relatively moist.  In spring, the Clivias planted below the trees are covered in orange flowers.

The tree roots are massive and can extent a foot or more above ground in places.  I've heard kids comment that sitting in the cavities between them feels like a bathtub.

The trees are native to Eastern Australia

Branches continually produce new adventitious roots, which stretch down until they reach the soil to form another leg in the tree's huge root system.  The photo on the left shows a small root stemming from the tree's trunk.  The photo on the right shows a fully-formed root, already firmly connected to the soil below.


On the other side of the road, there's another species of fig the docents fancifully call the Ghost Tree (Ficus petiolaris).

Its yellow bark is natural and it stands out dramatically from the other banyan trees surrounding it


One of the docents has devoted a lot of time and energy to cleaning up the Garden of the Senses so I stopped to check it out too.  This is also a regular stop on school tours because it gives kids an opportunity to touch and smell plants; however, some of the plants had died out and others were so overgrown they swamped everything around them.  Signs no longer matched the plants in many cases. Our industrious docent Kay is working hard to put things right.

She cleaned up one bed of herbs and planted Rudbeckia (coneflowers) to add color and interest (top photo).  She also tidied up plants like the exuberant Aloysia citrodora (lemon verbena, bottom).


I made only a few other quick stops to snap photos before heading home to construction noise.

This Opuntia in the Desert Garden was covered with prickly pears

Floral color in the Volunteer Garden is muted this time of year but, clockwise from the top, I found: Physostegia virginiana (aka obedient plant), Anemone hupehensis japonica, and 2 tree-sized hardy Hibiscus in bloom.  I'm counting the appearance of the Japanese anemones as another sign that fall may be arriving early this year.

Dahlia 'Dark Side of the Sun' is still going strong across the road from the rose garden but what really impressed me here was how well the sweet potato vine (Ipomea batatas) was doing as a groundcover

The Leucadendrons and Aeoniums at the entrance/exit area were also looking good, even in the glare of the mid-day sun


The botanic garden is relatively quiet this time of year and the cooler-than-average summer temperatures make it a great retreat from the chaos of our home remodel, although that's been stalled at several intervals and I'm getting frustrated by that.  While I long for the peace and quiet of a construction-free zone, I also want the other half of our house back before Christmas!

Best wishes for a peaceful weekend.


All material © 2012-2019 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Wednesday Vignette: Who rolled out the welcome mat?

Spiders and insects are a constant presence in our semi-rural area.  Walking through my garden in late September through October without a broom or something to sweep away the nearly invisible spider webs stretched across my path guarantees that I'll get my face wrapped in sticky, silky threads.  I'm not afraid of spiders but I don't know anyone who doesn't find that experience at least a little creepy.  I generally think of October as "spider season" as that's when spiders make their presence known, building webs to capture insects before they lay their eggs.  For some reason, our resident spiders are off to an early start this year.  We've walked into webs at regular intervals for weeks already but last week we woke up to a scene from a horror film - webs were everywhere!

Fortunately for us, the morning marine layer covered the webs in dew, making them much more visible.

This one, stretched across the flagstone path in the front garden, was perhaps 3 feet in diameter - and it wasn't the only one in that area.  Moving through the area without breaking one or more of them would have required limbo skills more advanced than those I possess.

This one in the south side garden also adjoined a path.  There's usually another one across the arbor to the left but I think my husband had already walked through that one.

This photogenic web was woven through a Leucadendron in the back garden.  Smaller webs covered portions of Acacia 'Cousin Itt' in the background.

Another Leucadendron on the other end of the backyard garden was also decorated in fine silk strands

The top of the Xylosma hedges were also covered.  I'm guessing that each of these small webs was the creation of a separate spider.

Other webs hung over the Arbutus 'Marina'


That's a very small sample of the webs we found.  I know spiders are useful insect predators and I don't go out of my way to harm them but I didn't hesitate to clear those strung across my main pathways either.  I conducted a little research in an effort to determine why the spiders have thrown themselves into massive web-building exercise on an earlier schedule this year.  I didn't find any references to our current circumstances in Southern California but comments on similar situations suggest that early web-building may signify an early fall and winter.  If true, that would be great!

Do you have a favorite spider movie?  Mine is Arachnophobia.



For more Wednesday Vignettes, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.


All material © 2012-2019 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, August 19, 2019

In a Vase on Monday: Wispy Blues & Sugary Pinks

The weekend weather carried a hint of fall.  Dare I hope that we'll get through the summer unscathed by another searing heatwave of the type we had last year?  We can't really count summer's heat out of the picture until late October but, with much of the country - and the rest of the Northern Hemisphere - experiencing severe heat at intervals, we can at least count ourselves lucky to have had a relatively pleasant summer thus far.

While the Dahlias are still the flashiest flowers I've got on hand at this time of year, the Delphiniums I planted in early spring surprised me by producing a second round of blooms.  I steered away from Delphiniums (as opposed to larkspur, Consolida ajacis) for years in the belief that they're impossible to grow here.  On a whim, I tried them in my cutting garden last year and they did okay.  This year, I put some plugs in my cutting garden and one of my backyard beds.  The backyard bed didn't get enough water to keep them happy but they've hung on in the cutting garden; however, I never expected more blooms in August.

I'm still stuck using our less-than-optimal temporary kitchen to photograph my vases.  The way things are proceeding with our remodel, my guess is that'll be true for at least a couple more months.

Back view: Along with 2 Delphinium stems, the other main ingredient is the rangy native California aster (Symphyotrichum chilensis)

Last year's heavier rain prompted the aster to spread with abandon.  I like the flowers but, even with our mild summer weather, the stems burn out and look unattractive if not cut back regularly.

Clockwise from the upper left: Delphinium 'Pacific Giant', Abelia grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', Aloysia citrodoa (aka lemon verbena), Symphyotrichum chilensis 'Purple Haze', and Pandorea jasminoides


Of course, I can't ignore the Dahlias while they're still plentiful and, as there are also lots of naked ladies (Amaryllis belladonna) in bloom, pairing them up was a no-brainer.

I paired Dahlia 'Otto's Thrill' and the Amaryllis 2 weeks ago but changed out the accents and the vase this time for a somewhat different look

I selected Caladium 'Tapestry' as the foliage accent this time but the leaves refuse to stand up properly

I'd hoped the dark flowers of Cosmos 'Double Cranberry' would cut the sugary sweetness of the arrangement but I think I needed more of them

Clockwise from the upper left: Amaryllis belladonna, Caladium 'Tapestry', Cosmos 'Double Cranberry', Dahlia 'Otto's Thrill', and Eustoma grandiflorum (aka lisianthus)


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




All material © 2012-2019 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Bloom Day - August 2019

Following our plentiful winter rains, my spring garden was loaded with flowers.  I unrealistically expected that trend to continue into summer, especially as our daytime temperatures have been relatively mild by comparison to prior years.  Instead, the floral display is on par with last year's.  I probably should reevaluate the mix of plants in my garden to put more emphasis on heat and drought-tolerant summer-through-fall bloomers.  On the other hand, more flowers would require more maintenance and sweating under the summer sun isn't particularly enjoyable.  From that perspective, continuing to focus my summer flower fetish on the more manageable dimensions of my small cutting garden may make more sense.

The summer cutting garden got off to a slower start this year, mainly because the cooler temperatures that persisted throughout the spring months continued into June and July, allowing cool season plants like foxgloves and Delphinium to hang on.  The space they took up delayed sowing of summer annuals; however, I planted my Dahlia tubers on a timely basis and their flowers currently reign supreme.

Dahlia 'Bluetiful' is new to my garden this year.  Although more subdued than some of the others, I appreciate both its form and its blue-ish color.

'Enchantress', also new this year, undergoes the most dramatic changes as she matures

I wasn't enamored with this newbie, 'Hollyhill Karen Lee', when she first emerged but her incurved petal have grown on me (pun intended)

I knew 'Labyrinth' was a winner the first moment she began to unfurl her petals.  The tuber I planted last year rotted.  I'm happy to have 2 healthy plants this year.

'Otto's Thrill' is returning for his third season.  I planted 2 tubers, believing the second was 'Loverboy' because I'd messed up my labels.  The actual 'Loverboy' still hasn't produced a single bud but both 'Ottos' are going strong.  This variety has the largest flowers of any of this year's dahlia crop, followed by 'Labyrinth'.

'Punkin Spice' is also on her third run.  I've got one in a large pot and another in one of my raised planters.  The flower shown is in the pot, which sits in partial shade and isn't blooming as heavily as she has in the past.  The second one was belatedly moved from a plastic pot to the raised planter once room became available and is only now budding up.  My recollection is that, given enough sun, her flowers will show as much variability as those of 'Enchantress'.

'Terracotta' is a semi-cactus type, also on his third run in my cutting garden.  This one is also a prolific bloomer.  In addition to 'Loverboy', 2 other dahlias are missing from this line-up: 'Citron du Cap' and 'Diva'.  Both are new to my garden this year.  'Citron' produced a few blooms earlier but only has buds at the moment.  I'd thought 'Diva' was going to blow me off entirely but it seems she's just living up to her name.  She's now developing buds.


Although my sunflower seedlings are still spindly, my Zinnias are finally taking off and, after pulling several foxgloves, I've planted a few other summer annuals from small nursery pots too.

I planted 3 named varieties of Zinnia elegans and 3 mixes in my raised planters.  They're all mixed up and a good many were removed when I thinned the seedlings so which is which will be hard to say.  I think the two on top in this photo are 'Benary's Giant Salmon Rose' and 'Benary's Giant Wine'.  The bottom 3 came out of a 6-pack, purchased when I became frustrated by the slow progress of my seedlings.

I picked up 3 Amaranthus caudatus in small pots a month ago.  They're growing well and I love their unique flowers.

A few Cosmos bipinnatus have also migrated to the cutting garden in small nursery pots over the past month after I failed to sow the seeds I've had on hand for months.  That's 'Double Cranberry' on the left and 'Prom Dress' in the middle.  The white form came without a cultivar name.


  Outside the cutting garden the flowers are fewer but some are worthy of note.

Amaryllis belladonna (aka naked lady) is having a banner year.  Tammy of Casa Mariposa sent me about 2 dozen bulbs she'd dug out of her garden in 2015.  I promptly planted all of them and, although the foliage showed up in 2016 and every year thereafter, I'd previously only had one or 2 blooms each year.  This year closer to a dozen flower stalks have made an appearance.  That was undoubtedly a byproduct of our ample winter rainfall.

Among the succulents, Cotyledon orbiculata has one of the prettiest flowers

The Eustoma grandiflorum (aka lisianthus) have been a bit of a disappointment this year.  Last year's August post showed the broadest collection of the varieties within this species I've ever had, despite the truly terrible heat wave we had in July 2018.  Admittedly, I planted fewer plugs this year but I've also had more losses among the new plants and fewer returnees from prior years.  Could it be that they want more heat than they've had thus far?  More likely, I've simply paid them less attention this year.

Drought tolerant heat-lovers, the Lantanas are doing just fine this month.  The only one that's not blooming at the moment is the 'Lucky White' cultivar in my front garden but I suspect my delayed pruning set those plants back.

Symphyotrichum chilensis 'Purple Haze', a California native aster, has gone nuts.  I knew that it spreads by rhizomes but in "low water gardens" it was said to be manageable.  It was, while we were in a state of acute drought.  The heavier-than-usual winter rains set it running amok.

Trichostemma 'Midnight Magic', a hybrid of California's native woolly blue curls, is much more well behaved


My perpetual bloomers are still blooming as well.

Clockwise from the upper left: Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy', Grevilleas 'Ned Kelly', 'Peaches & Cream' and 'Superb', and Cuphea 'Starfire Pink' (with and without bee) are always in bloom.  The Cuphea and Grevilleas attract hordes of bees and hummingbirds.


Two of the largest blooming plants in last year's August garden burned out earlier than usual this year.  They peaked during the first few days of the month and look a good deal sorrier today than they did in the following photos.

Albizia julibrissin (aka mimosa) bloomed well this year despite literally being cut in half last year when surgery was performed to eliminate limbs infested by shot-hole borers

Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid' surprised me with a mass of blooms in late July.  In my defense, I was distracted by the kick-off of our home remodel.  This tree-like shrub is also a bee and butterfly magnet.


As usual, I've assembled collages featuring the less dramatic blooms August has to offer.

Top row: one of the last Agapanthus, late-blooming Digitalis purpurea, and Platycodon grandiflorus
Middle row: Polygala fruticosa, Salvia canariensis, and Salvia clevelandii 'Winnefred Gilman', finishing out the season
Bottom row: a very purple Scaevola, Tibouchina urvilleana, and Tulbaghia violacea

Top row: late blooms on Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold', Daucus carota 'Dara', and stray flowers on Leptospermum 'Pink Pearl'
Middle row: Leptospermums 'Safari Sunset' and 'Summer Red' and Lotus jacobaeus
Bottom row: Lycoris squamigera, Pentas 'Graffiti Pink', and noID rose

Top row: Abelias 'Edward Goucher' and 'Hopley's Variegated' and Achillea ptarmica 'Peter Cottontail'
Second row: Aloysia citrodora, noID succulent flower, and Gaura lindheimeri's second flush
Third row: Leucanthemum x superbum, Mimulus 'Buttercream', and Myrtus communis
Bottom row: Pandorea jasminoides and Tanacetum parthenium

Top row: Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer' and Coreopsis 'Big Bang Redshift'
Middle row: Gaillardias 'Arizona Sun' and 'Fanfare Citronella' and Lonicera japonica
Bottom row: Sedum reflexum and Rosa 'Medallion'


That's it for my August 2019 Bloom Report.  For more Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day posts, check in with Carol at May Dreams Gardens.


All material © 2012-2019 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party