Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Cleaning up isn't pretty

I've spent most of my time in the garden the last few weeks pruning overgrown shrubs, cutting back ornamental grasses, spreading mulch, cleaning up after raccoon mayhem, and performing similar tasks that, although beneficial to the garden in the larger sense, don't offer much in the way of immediate gratification.  On Monday, as evening fell, I was down on the back slope pulling up the ivy that creeps over from the neighbor's property, continuously threatening to engulf everything in its path.  Yesterday afternoon, I went to work on a backyard bed that declined over the winter months.  It was hard to believe that, back in August, it was one of my favorite sections of the garden.

This is what it looked like then, when the bed was filled with blooming Ageratum, Anigozanthos, Lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum), Gaillardia, Lantana, and Nierembergia

Here's what it looks like now, almost bare following my clean-up

The plastic flats are in place to deter the raccoons from digging up the creeping thyme I planted to replace the established thyme they tore up in late fall.  The variegated Lantana didn't respond well to winter conditions and I've cut it back almost to the ground in the vague hope of regenerating it.  I pulled most of the flowering plants, leaving only a few of the stragglers still in good condition.

Agave lopantha 'Quadricolor' had been almost covered by an Aeonium avalanche.  I cut the latter back to give the Agaves more breathing room but this photo indicates I still have more work to do.

Other Aeoniums tried to swallow up this Anigozanthos until I also cut it free

I plan to replant the entire area within the next month, assuming I can find something to inspire me in the local garden centers.  Dare I hope to see any Lisianthus in the garden centers in March?

In the meantime, I took a little time to put together another succulent pot in a pot.  This one is intended for a friend.

I may swap out the orange and red succulents here (Graptosedum 'California Sunset' and a noID Crassula) for more Echeveria 'Violet Queen' before it goes to my friend

Okay, that was it for the pretty stuff.  It's back to work!

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

Monday, February 25, 2019

In a Vase on Monday: New blooms take the stage

With daytime temperatures now in the 60sF, spring is creeping ever closer.  The gold-toned Freesias that have naturalized to form a thick mass on one side of the fountain suddenly burst into bloom.  With the flowers flopping all over one another, they were a logical choice to cut for "In a Vase on Monday" this week.  The challenge was to find something to complement their strong color without being overwhelmed by it.  A couple of calla lilies from the back slope did the job.

The calla lilies still haven't appeared in large numbers but two stems were enough on this occasion

The Moroccan daisies have short stems but they still do a good job of dressing up the base of an arrangement

The velvety leaves of the peppermint geranium provided the foliage accent

Clockwise from the upper left: Freesia, Abelia grandiflora 'Radiance, Pelargonium tomentosum (aka peppermint geranium), Zantedeschia aethiopica (aka calla lily), and Pyrethropsis hosmariense (aka Moroccan daisy)

My hellebores have also produced their first flowers.  I'd been hoping to combine 'Anna's Red' with the flowers of a Cyclamen in a similar shade so I cut both for a second vase.  Unfortunately, the tiny Cyclamen flowers got lost in the vase I'd selected so I ended up starting the arrangement all over again using a different vase.

I love the color of this vase but it has a narrow and irregular neck that limits how much I can shove down its throat.  I had to jettison some of the stems I'd cut as they were either too fragile or too thick to cram in.

Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy's' thin stems were no problem

Top view

Clockwise from the left: Helleborus 'Anna's Red', Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy', Hebe (Veronica) 'Wiri Blush', and Westringia 'Morning Light'

The leftovers, including the tiny noID Cyclamen, two fat stems of noID Alstroemeria and extra stems of the Hebe and Gomphrena were popped into a 3-inch vase

Last week's "tulip" vase is still on the dining room table and one of the orchids I received last week is in the front entry so the new vases ended up in areas that don't get flowers as often.

I pulled 3 stems of Narcissus from last week's vase and added one new stem of the same flower but I was impressed by how well the arrangement held up overall.  The "tulips" are now more green than yellow but the Leucadendron stems are still in good shape.

The Freesia arrangement ended up in the living room and the other two vases landed on the master bedroom mantel

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

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

Friday, February 22, 2019

A Quick Spin through the South Coast Botanic Garden

Monday brought me back to the South Coast Botanic Garden for a meeting.  It remains cold here by our standards, with most daytime highs hovering in the 50sF.  I've spent less time outside than usual so I took advantage of the sunny (but still cold!) morning to take a quick spin of the garden.  The staff and volunteers have spent the last month pruning plants so the garden was relatively subdued but I still found some things to share with you.

I couldn't pass up a shot of these cactus backlit by the sun in the Desert Garden.  I'm not good at identifying cactus but I think the plants in the center are silver torch cactus (Cleistocactus); the plant in the background on the left is Euphorbia ammak; and the plant just barely visible on the right may have been a ponytail palm (Beaucarnea).

Across the road is a huge bottle brush tree (Callistemon) underplanted with succulents

I admire the silvery ground cover called snow in summer (Cerastium tomentosum) in the center foreground here and have tried planting it in my own garden but mine hasn't come anywhere close to forming a blanket like this.  The bright spots of orange-red color in the distance are Crocosmia.

The area around the Living Wall was cordoned off for unspecified work.  It looks as though it's still holding up well.

Those are the only wide shots I took during this visit but, flitting about like a bee, I took a closer look at a variety of flowering plants - and a couple of foliage plants too.  I didn't take time looking for plant tags so any plant names shown here are my best guess.

In the Volunteer Garden, clockwise from the upper left, I found: Crocosmia, borage (Borago officinalis), Calendula, bird of paradise (Strelitzia), a bearded Iris, and Narcissus

In the Mediterranean garden, I found: sea squill (Urginea maritima), California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum), California poppy (Eschscholzia californica), Salvia clevelandii, and Verbena lilacina.   I love the sea squill even when it isn't blooming but I've yet to find bulbs to try in my own garden.  I've put myself on a bulb grower's wishlist so maybe eventually I'll get lucky.

Other plants sighted along my route included: Acacia (perhaps A. cultriformis), noID Magnolia, noID Dudleya, Euryops chrysanthemoides, wild lupine (Lupinus nanus), noID rose and, in the middle, a beautiful mass of Monstera deliciosa

As to my own garden, I'm continuing to prune ornamental grasses and overgrown plants.  I haven't done much in the way of installing new plants even though I have holes here and there.  That's about to change, however.

A late afternoon delivery!  

Best wishes for a great weekend!

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Wednesday Vignette: In the Pink

Rain has continued to fall at regular intervals here and the extended forecast shows the possibility of more into May, which would be extraordinary.  The most recent, relatively brief storm moved through on Sunday.  Monday was mostly clear and sunny, if still colder than normal, but afternoon clouds lit up the sky in pink as evening fell and I took the opportunity to grab a few photos.  Rather than let them land on the proverbial cutting room floor, I decided to post them as a Wednesday Vignette.

I may be deluding myself but it seemed that I could see a bit of snow on the mountains behind the thin veil of pink along the horizon

The Snow Supermoon could be seen rising to the right of the pine tree

The clouds visible on the southwest side of the house were particularly pretty even if the view was obscured by houses and foliage

The clouds visible to the west looked more ominous

For more Wednesday Vignettes, check in with Anna at Flutter & Hum.

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Tell the Truth Tuesday (Late Edition): The Sad State of my Bromeliad Bed

In October 2017, I planted a shady area along our property's northwest boundary line with bromeliads, succulents and other foliage plants to create what I called a pocket garden.  It did alright for awhile but eventually my nemeses, the raccoons, discovered it.  They've dug it up many times since but the combination of heavy rain and renewed raccoon activity this past month has created a downright awful mess.

It appears that some of the plants edging the pathway have simply disappeared, or perhaps been buried

After nearly 48 hours without rain, the area was at least dry enough to pat the soil back in place around the plants that hadn't been ripped apart by the raccoons.

I took this photo after I'd cleaned things up a bit

The dwarf mondo grass I planted hasn't created the impenetrable ground cover I'd envisioned and the wood mulch I used to cover the bare soil didn't deter the raccoons from digging either.  In fact, after multiple rounds of digging, the mulch has been pretty thoroughly mixed into the soil, which, trying to put a positive spin on things, I suppose the bromeliads might actually appreciate.  Most of the bromeliads planted among rocks, even those planted as pups, are fine but the same can't be said for many of the succulents and smaller foliage plants. 

This cluster of bromeliads is relatively unscathed

Before I replant, I think I'm going to bring in more rocks to make future raccoon incursions more difficult.  I may also trade up the small plant specimens I initially planted for larger plants that might he harder to dislodge.

The Dracaena reflexa (aka Star of India) in the pot was suffering as a house plant and may appreciate spreading its roots here

While I'm at it, I'll replant the driftwood piece I covered in succulents over a year ago, as well as a pot I had nearby.

While the raccoons did some digging around the driftwood piece, I think weather is mainly to blame for it falling apart

This pot was in need of replanting when I moved it to this spot in October 2017 and cramming a haphazard collection of succulents into it didn't improve its appearance

I still dream that the area may live up to my aspirations for it - someday.

If you have an ugly area you'd like to come clean about, join Alison of Bonney Lassie for Tell the Truth Tuesday.

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

Monday, February 18, 2019

In a Vase on Monday: Tulips, my way

I regularly complain about my inability to grow tulips.  It's not for lack of trying.  I've purchased tulip bulbs several times, pre-chilling them before planting, only to have large-scale failures on each occasion.  Pre-sprouted tulips have become available here in recent years and I've tried those too but with only nominally better results.  Warm Santa Ana wind conditions are the chief problem; however, those winds don't bother most of my plants.  Looking at my Leucadendron 'Safari Goldstrike' this week, it occurred to me that, with the stems stripped of most of their green foliage, the colorful bracts might create a half-decent facsimile of a tulip.

What do you think?

I filled in with other flowers and foliage in chartreuse tones

Top view

This is what Leucadendron 'Goldstrike' looks like in my garden

I used stems of this mutant Aeonium bloom in the arrangement.  Aeoniums normally produce cone-shaped bloom spikes.

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', Aeonium arboreum, Euphorbia rigida, noID Narcissus, Prunus laurocerasus (aka English Laurel), Tanacetum parthenium (aka Feverfew) and, in the middle, Leucadendron 'Safari Goldstrike'

I created a second vase as usual.  I'd originally intended to put it together for Valentine's Day but as it was sopping wet outside for two solid days I didn't get to it until Saturday morning.  As Sunday was my wedding anniversary, it still seemed appropriate.

The centerpiece is Calliandra haematocephala (aka Pink Powder Puff)

but I think the real star is the pink and white-flowered Grevillea 'Penola'

I added some white Dianthus for contrast

Clockwise from the top: Calliandra haematocephala flower, buds of the same plant, Dianthus caryophyllus, and Grevillea lavandulacea 'Penola'.  The Calliandra flowers don't last long but I'm hoping, perhaps unrealistically, that the buds may open as the full-blown flower fades.

The house is flower-filled at the moment.  In addition to the two new vases, I have two tiny vases containing cast-offs from one of this week's vases and remnants of one of last week's vases, plus an orchid I received from my husband and another pot of orchids received from a lovely family that visited my garden on Saturday.

The two new vases landed in the usual spots on the dining and front-entry tables

Leftover stems from the first vase ended up in my tiny cactus-shaped vase.  I popped the stem of Globularia x indubia (aka Globe Daisy) from last week's arrangement into a tiny blue vase because I couldn't bear to throw it into the trash after so many of the tight buds had opened.

My husband bought me a Phalaenopsis to mark our anniversary.  The other pot was a gift from my visitors.  Both pots will join the other orchids in my lath house once the flowers are spent and temperatures warm.

I hope you find some color to brighten your week too.  Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see what she and her merry band of IAVOM contributors have to share this week.

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

Friday, February 15, 2019

Bloom Day - February 2019

By our standards, we've had a LOT of rain in the past month.  Our current total, calculated from the start of our rain year on October 1, 2018, is over 15 inches!  We've blown past our "old normal" annual rain total with more rain yet in the forecast before our rainy season ends in April.  As I've come to think of rain as having nearly miraculous properties, I'm surprised that the garden hasn't already exploded with blooms.  In actuality, what's blooming now is mostly on par with what I had blooming last year, when we were especially dry.  Flowering bulbs seem to be particularly slow in getting started this year but perhaps that's attributable to the fact that it's been colder here than usual this winter.  No, we can't claim to be suffering under the "polar vortex" that's affected other areas of the country but daytime temperatures consistently in the 50s are cold for us.

Note: It rained steadily for most of the past two days.  Most of these photos were taken before the last round of rain started.

The splashiest plant blooming in my garden at the moment is Echium handiense.

Critically endangered in its native habitat of the Canary Islands, this Echium does surprisingly well here on our peninsula

Much to the delight of the bees, another blue-flowered beauty, Ceanothus arboreus 'Cliff Schmidt', is also blooming in earnest.

Planted in 2015, this Ceanothus is finally taking on the tree-like shape I was seeking in this spot at the bottom of my back slope

The African daisies have also appeared in larger numbers with the cool, wet weather.

Arctotis 'Opera Pink'

Arctotis 'Pink Sugar'

Half of the Gazanias shown here are self-sown

Osteospermums, clockwise from the upper left: '4D Silver', close-up of the same variety, 'Berry White', 'Serenity Pink', 'Spring Day', and 'Sweet Summertime Kardinal'

Camellia hybrid 'Taylor's Perfection' isn't as happy with the cold, wet weather.  Many of its heavy blooms simply drop to the ground each time it rains.

After each rainstorm I've found lots of half-opened blooms dropped on the ground

The ornamental pear, Moroccan daisies, and Breath of Heaven shrubs are blooming right on schedule.

Pyrus calleryana developed fire blight last year.  I had the blight pruned out by professionals in December but there's no guarantee it won't return. 

Pyrethropsis hosmariense (aka Moroccan daisy)

Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold' (aka Breath of Heaven for its scented foliage)

Last month's Bloom Day post highlighted selected Grevilleas and Leucadendrons.  Both genera are continuing to put on a good show this month.

Grevillea lavandulacea 'Penola' is now in full bloom.  The flowers may be small but they're profuse.

The flowers of Grevillea 'Scarlet Sprite' are far more plentiful this month too

I can't seem to allow a month to go by without recognizing my ever-blooming Grevillea 'Superb'

The best of the rest of the Grevilleas in bloom, clockwise from the upper left: G. sericea, G. alpina x rosmarinifolia, 'Ned Kelly', 'Peaches & Cream', and dwarf G. rosmarinifolia

Leucadendron 'Safari Goldstrike' surprised me this month with its luminescent flower-like bracts

I'm showing Leucadendron 'Safari Sunset' again partly because I like how the Arctotis 'Pink Sugar' in the distance (right) echoes its colors from this angle

Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy' may be beaten down by rain but it hasn't stopped producing its tiny flowers.

This is another plant that blooms year-round, except when cut down to a foot tall.  Even then, it recovers quickly.

In the succulent category, Aeonium arboreum is blooming in spots throughout the garden and my Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' have also produced their first flowers.

The Aeonium bloom on the left is an aberrant form.  The one on the right shows its usual shape.

When an Agave blooms, the plant dies but it goes out in style.  The bloom stalk is 5 or more feet tall.  You can see a second one in the background on the left in this photo.

As usual, I'll conclude with collages featuring some of the less prominent flowers in my garden.

Top row: Arabis alpina, Dianthus caryophyllus, and Crassula multicava,
Middle row: Freesia and Geranium 'Tiny Monster'
Bottom row: noID lavender and  Zantedeschia aethiopica (calla lily)

Top row: Begonia x hiemalis, Bryophyllum gastonis-bonnerieri, and Calliandra haematocephala
Middle row: Crassula 'Springtime', noID Cyclamen, and Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl'
Bottom row: Lotus berthelotii 'Amazon Sunset', Lotus jacobaeus, and Ribes viburnifolium

Clockwise from the upper left: Euphorbia rigida, Achillea 'Moonshine', Euryops chrysanthemoides 'Sonnenschien', Phylica pubescens, noID Narcissus, and Senna artemisioides

Thanks for stopping by to see my floral parade.  For more Bloom Day posts, visit Carol of May Dreams Gardens.

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