Friday, March 29, 2019

Foliage: Lost among the flowers?

In early Spring even the most foliage-focused gardeners I know can be distracted by the colorful blooms that take the stage by storm.  For someone like me who's a bit flower-obsessed to begin with, it can be difficult to even see the foliage for the flowers.  I recently took time to survey the foliage in my garden in a effort to balance my outlook.  I won't share every one of my foliage stand-outs (I covered many of these back in late December), just those that grabbed my attention for one reason or another this month.

The first one is a new introduction to my garden.

This is Acer shirasawanum 'Aureum' (aka Golden Full Moon Maple), a dwarf Japanese maple I picked up at my local garden center in late February.  It reportedly has requirements similar to other Japanese maples; however, I belatedly discovered that my Sunset Western Garden Book doesn't recommend this species for my area.  So far, it's doing alright in a protected area with morning sun exposure.  I'm crossing my fingers that it'll survive our summer.

As usual, many of my top foliage picks are succulents.

I thought all the Crassula I planted here next to the Aeonium arboreum was C. pubescens radicans but only some of it's developed that variety's characteristic deep red color.  I like the mix of colors in any case.

I grow a lot of Aeonium haworthii 'Kiwi'.  Last year, I added a variety called 'Kiwi Verde'.  I initially considered it 'Kiwi's' duller cousin but I've grown fond of it.  While it doesn't have the pronounced variegation 'Kiwi' is known for, the rosettes still develop attractive red edges and it's an even more robust grower.

Agave 'Blue Flame'  is making quite a statement in my south-side succulent bed this year

A couple of months ago, I added Aeonium 'Zwartkop' to embellish these 'Blue Glow' Agaves but  Lotus bethelotii 'Amazon Sunset' provides a nice accent too

Albuca spiralis 'Frizzle Sizzle' has emerged from its long underground nap

A variety of shrubs also caught my eye.

This is Artemisia californica, a California native as the name suggests.  It looked sad after summer's intense heat and I cut my 2 shrubs back hard.  They're looking great now.

Corokia x virgata 'Sunsplash' adds a subtle note of variegation to this bed in my front garden

Melianthus major has sprung back after I cut it nearly to the ground.  It provides a handsome contrast to Leucadendron 'Jester' and Phormium 'Amazing Red' here.

This is a plant I'd all but forgotten about until I cut back the ornamental grass that had threatened to envelop it.  It's Ochna serrulata, aka Mickey Mouse Bush.  I planted it in November 2014 and, even now, it's only a foot tall at best.  It's supposed to reach 8 feet in height at maturity but it certainly seems to be making a slow start.  It's an interesting plant, though, so I'll give it more time.

This is Pelargonium cucullatum 'Flore Plenum', possibly the most vigorous Pelargonium I've ever grown.  It produces pretty flowers but it's the foliage that originally attracted me.  Despite it's crinkly leaves, it's almost silky to the touch and it looks great when backlit.

I'll close with a succulent combination I'm particularly pleased with at the moment.

Graptoveria 'Fred Ives' and Hesperaloe parviflora make a happy combination

That's it for me this week.  Wherever you are, I hope you're treated to a warm, pleasant, sunny weekend.

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

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Tell the Truth Tuesday: Stumped for Inspiration

The area on the east side of our backyard patio is particularly sandy and, after we removed the last of our lawn there in 2016, I used succulents to fill the narrow area between the patio and the flagstone path.  A few shrubs crept in on a piecemeal basis and, as happens, some plants grew to overwhelm the area while others died out.  Dorycnium hirsutum, now classified as Lotus hirsutum and commonly known as Hairy Canary Clover, did both.  While the clover planted elsewhere in my garden survived our wicked summer heatwaves unscathed, the clump in this bed was badly damaged last year so I pulled it out, leaving an empty patch of dirt.  Dirt doesn't normally remain bare in my garden for long but this area has been the exception.  I just haven't been able to decide what to do with it.

It doesn't look too bad from this angle.  The Aeoniums in foreground and the Helichrysum in the background bookend an empty patch of dirt.

As shown in this photo

The Agave colorata I planted in the center of the bed is finally bulking up and the Aeonium 'Kiwi Verde' surrounding it has filled in nicely.

The Kalanchoe orgyalis growing up through the Aeonium needed to go, though.  What was I thinking when I planted those 2 succulents on top of one another?

I tried filling in the bare area to the right of the Agave with tiny succulent cuttings but it just looks sad.

Those tiny succulents aren't going to fill in any time soon and the Alyssum is already covering many of them as it is

The pots I added to the bed when I first planted it aren't doing much for the space either.

I'd completely forgotten about the half-buried pot, which originally had succulents "spilling" from it.  It'd been swamped by the clover for some time.  The larger blue pot needs replanting too.  On the other hand, I like the combination of Yucca 'Blue boy', Helichrysum 'Icicles' and Santolina virens.

Denise of A Growing Obsession had given gave me another Yucca 'Blue Boy' cutting several months ago.  Now well-rooted, it needed a home in the ground and, since my other Yucca did so well in this location (while I lost 3 others in another area of the garden), it made sense to me to plant it near the healthy specimen.  I pulled out the Senecio vitalis, which I've used to excess because it fills in quickly, and inserted the Yucca but the area still has holes and lacks cohesion.

I added Cotyledon and Kalanchoe orgyalis cuttings but I think this just makes things look worse

The area's in need of a more serious overall

I'm considering a range of options:
  1. Replacing all the tiny succulent cuttings with one or two varieties in larger sizes to fill the entire empty space.
  2. Replanting the large blue pot with a good-sized Agave or Mangave, creating a "stream" of other succulents pouring from the smaller blue pot half-buried in the bed, ending in a "pool" of the same succulents.
  3. Removing both pots and purchasing a third Yucca 'Blue Boy' and more Santolina virens to replace all the small succulents.
  4. Pulling out everything and planting ornamental grass.
What would you do?

Tell the Truth Tuesday is the brain-child of Alison at Bonney Lassie.  Do you have some ugly truths about your garden to share?

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

Monday, March 25, 2019

In a Vase on Monday: Pulling Out the Stops

You may not believe it but I do hesitate about cutting some flowers in my garden to fill a vase.  This week, I decided to go all in with some of my selections.  The first of my Dutch Iris started blooming just over a week ago and I took the plunge and cut two of those tall stems yesterday for my first vase.

My Freesias are fading fast and, as the yellow variety provides a perfect complement to the Iris, I wanted to take advantage of this window when both are in bloom

The small yellow flowers at the back of the arrangement are Ranunculus californicus, our state's native buttercup

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Iris x hollandica, Freesia, Lavandula stoechas, L. multifida, and Ranunculus californicus

My second arrangement involved the sacrifice of an even more precious bloom, the first fully open flower of Leucospermum 'Brandi'.  Last year, the first time it bloomed since I planted it in March 2016, I got only four or five flowers in total.  This year it's produced one and a half dozen large buds so far with signs of secondary buds still forming.

I admit I still shuddered a little when I cut the Leucospermum bloom.  It's so heavy I was forced to add chicken wire to the inside of the teapot to hold its stem upright.

Lotus berthelottii 'Amazon Sunset' and Ranunculus put on their own show in the back view. Like the Dutch Iris, the Ranunculus in the cutting garden have popped into bloom in the last week.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Lotus berthelotti 'Amazon Sunset' and 'Gold Flash', Helichrysum petiolare 'Licorice Splash', Narcissus 'Geranium', Ranunculus, Narcissus 'Katie Heath' and, in the middle, Leucospermum 'Brandi'

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

My vases in their places

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

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Top Ten (New) Blooms - Late March 2019

Chloris of The Blooming Garden posts a monthly top 10 list of what's flowering in her garden and invites others to join in.  I don't routinely participate as what I'd cover would frequently be a rehash of what's covered in my mid-month Bloom Day post.  As my March 15th Bloom Day post was particularly extensive, bordering on obnoxious, another post featuring many of the same blooms might strike readers as overkill.  Hopefully, Chloris will forgive me if I put my own spin on her meme.  The focus of this post will be on my favorites among the newest blooms in my garden.  With a few exceptions, these are flowers that didn't start blooming until the second half of the month.  In Spring, when almost every day reveals a new jewel, it isn't all that hard to come up with 10 candidates.  In fact, I had several that I culled from the list for the purposes of this post.

In my mid-month Bloom Day post, I bemoaned the fact that some of my most flamboyant bulb blooms hadn't yet made an appearance.  That changed in the second half of the month.

I was delighted when the Dutch Iris (Iris x hollandica) I planted around our backyard fountain our first year here bloomed.  I was more delighted still when they came back year-after-year, stronger than they were the prior year.  I've planted more of these bulbs the past 2 years and look forward to seeing similar results from them.

Scilla peruviana (aka Portuguese Squill) was a haphazard bloomer for my first few years here but it's become more dependable the last few years, a sign that I should plant more of these bulbs as well

I planted Ferraria crispa (aka Starfish Iris), a South African bulb, in December 2016.  If memory serves me correctly, the 2 bulbs bloomed for the first time last year.  I was able to get seeds to germinate too but I expect it's going to be a few years before I get those seedlings to bloom.  In the meantime, I'm pleased to see my original plants return to bloom again this year.  The flowers are about the size of a quarter and last only a day but they're spectacular nonetheless. 

I featured a single photo of one Leucospermum bloom in my earlier post, which is all there was to show at that point.  I took a ridiculous number of photos of that one flower as the bloom slowly unfurled.  My obsession has continued since then as more flowers have begun to open.

I planted Leucospermum 'Brandi' in March 2016 after a few prior failures in growing plants in this genus.  This one produced its very first blooms last year.  This year, the shrub's produced more buds and larger blooms.  The mature bloom is roughly the size of my hand.  I have 3 other species of Leucospermums in the garden now, all with buds, but 'Brandi' is the first out the gate.

Narcissi of various types have been blooming in my garden since January but more appeared last week, my favorite of which is the Tazetta Daffodil, Narcissus 'Geranium'.

This one produces as many as 6 flowers on each stem, making each stem look like a bouquet all by itself

I inherited several Phlomis fruticosa (aka Jerusalem sage) with the garden but most of the shrubs have declined significantly in the last few years, presumably due to persistent drought and soaring summer-time temperatures.  I pulled a couple and hard-pruned the others about 2 months ago.  I didn't have high hopes that they'd rebound; however, at least 2 shrubs are making a good go at doing just that.

I love the soft yellow of the flowers, which always strike me as something Dr. Seuss might have drawn

My mid-month post featured a single photo of a Ranunculus, the only one of these in bloom at that time.  The tubers in my cutting garden suddenly got cracking during the second half of the month.

From one bloom to more than a dozen in matter of days

In addition to white and pink picotee varieties I planted a batch labeled "salmon."  I was concerned that the latter would all bloom in exactly the same shade but "salmon" seems to encompass a range of pinkish-orange colors.  I've had problems growing poppies but these strike me as great substitutes.

The next candidate for my top new blooms list is an odd one.  Some of you may find it homely but I find it very interesting.

This is Salvia africana lutea.  I picked up a small plant at my local botanic garden 3 years ago.  It's still a little less than 2 feet tall but it's blooming well this year.  The flower's shape and color is unusual.

My next "new" bloom doesn't really fit the category as I've described it thus far.  It blooms nearly continuously but it's so hard to photograph that I seldom feature it.  I cut it back a month ago and it's looking particularly good right now.  I also managed a half-way decent photo of it for once so here it is:

This is Lavandula multifida (aka fernleaf lavender).  The pale pink-flowered Coleonema behind it helped the thin flower spires stand out in the photograph on the left.  The blooms last a long time and they're very aromatic, although I don't like the scent as well as I do other lavenders.  Its chief values to me are its deep blue color and drought tolerance.

My last entry is a flowering tree I found blooming only yesterday.  Once I noticed the blooms on mine, I noticed the same species in bloom all over town, as if a bell sounded to call them out.

This is Cercis occidentalis (aka Western Redbud).  In my garden it wants to be a shrub, producing a lot of suckers at its base.  If it wasn't for this annual display of flowers, I'd probably pull both of mine out.

That's it for my top 10 blooms for the second part of March.  Visit Chloris at The Blooming Garden to discover what she and other gardeners are celebrating as Spring kicks off.  Check out my Bloom Day post if you want to see what else is blooming in my garden at the moment - our heavier-than-usual winter rains have created magic.

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

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Wednesday Vignette: Winged Visitors

A good stretch of rainy weather and the resulting explosion of flowers brought hoards of visitors into Southern California.  I'm not referring to the humans streaming into our desert areas to see the "super bloom" wildflower displays, although that's still going on.  Unlike that event, the visitors I'm talking about didn't cause traffic jams or crush plants growing in delicate desert ecosystems.  The visitors I'm referring to swarmed across the border from Mexico unencumbered by walls or border patrol agents.  And, according to most reports, they numbered as many as one billion.  The migration in question was that of the painted ladies, a species of butterflies, Vanessa cardui, that took advantage of favorable environmental conditions to disperse far and wide in search of food and mates.  I noticed them in my garden before I heard anything about their mass migration on the news.  They grabbed the attention of the media and that of almost everyone I spoke with last week as we watched them flutter along roadways, in parking lots, and just about everywhere.

This shot was taken in my backyard

and this one was taken in one of my front garden borders.  I saw what looked like a funnel cloud of them at my local botanic garden but didn't have a camera on hand.

That good news story was followed by another, one that hasn't received any news coverage that I'm aware of.  Last weekend, I noticed what I initially thought were tiny hummingbirds flitting through my garden and even buzzing our living room windows.  On closer examination, I realized that they were representatives of one of the so-called hummingbird moth species.  I've seen these featured in the posts of bloggers in other states but this is the first time I've seen any of them in my own area.

This hummingbird moth is also known as a hawk moth and as the white-lined sphinx moth (Hyles lineata).  Like the painted lady, its wingspan is 2-3 inches and it hails from Mexico.

It flaps its wings so rapidly, even when siphoning nectar from flowers, it was hard to get a good photo.  I saw a lizard leap in an attempt to capture this particular moth when it was hovering mere inches above the ground but he failed in his attempt.

My last winged visitor is a regular returnee.  Like the butterflies and the moths, he was particularly attracted to the blue flowers of Echium handiense.

This is the common bumblebee (Bombus), not known as a big honey producer but one of the best pollinators we have

My coverage of these wonderful winged visitors is my Wednesday Vignette.  For more, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.

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

Monday, March 18, 2019

In a Vase on Monday: The Blues

I decided to focus on the blues in my garden this week for In a Vase on Monday, the popular weekly meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  If it has a blue flower and it grows in my climate, I probably grow it or at least have tried to.  Limonium perezii, also known as Sea Lavender and Statice, was the starting point for my first arrangement.

The tall stems of the papery-flowered Limonium began appearing back in January but the flowers took their time to open, which they're now doing en masse

I added a woody stem of Vitex trifolia to the back of the vase as the leaf color picks up the purple color of the Limonium flowers 

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Coleonema album (aka White Breath of Heaven), Dianthus caryophyllus, white and blue Freesia, Osteospermum '4D Purple', Prunus laurocerasus (aka Cherry Laurel), Vitex trifolia 'Purpurea' (aka Arabian Lilac) and, in the center, Limonium perezii

When I prepared my post for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day last week, I noted that some of my favorite bulb blooms had yet to make an appearance.  Then our Santa Ana winds showed up, causing  humidity levels to drop dramatically and sending our temperatures soaring from the 60sF into the low 80s.  Overnight, both the Dutch Iris and the Portuguese Squill began to bloom.  I'm going to give the Iris another week or two to develop but I cut one stem of the Squill (Scilla peruviana) for my second vase.

Scilla peruviana has very short flower stems, calling for a small vase.  I picked up this one almost a year ago but I believe it's the first time I've used it.

The back of this arrangement is a mess.  Whether beaten down by rain or bent by wind, many of my Osteospermum stems are crooked, resulting in downward-facing flowers.

Top view: The tall stem is Aristea inaequalis.  It's blue flowers were open in the sun but unfortunately closed in the lower light of the house.

Clockwise from the upper left: Argyranthemum frutescens 'Mega White', noID Ceanothus, Aristea inaequalis, Euryops chrysanthemoides 'Sonnenschien', yellow Freesia, floppy Osteospermum '4D Silver' and, in the middle, Scilla peruviana (Note: The Squill was mistakenly labeled as "peruviana" because it was transported on a ship called "The Peru" after its collection but it's native to the Mediterranean area of Europe, not South America.) 

Dry conditions are causing my Freesias to wither rapidly and, fearing that my remaining tulip blooms were likely to suffer the same fate, I cut two stems for a bud vase to sit on my desk.

Last week Amelia of The Shrub Queen offered a possible ID for the "two-tone" tulips I purchased as pre-sprouted bulbs from my local garden center: 'Cerise Gris de Lin'

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

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