Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Tell the Truth Thursday (Late Edition): Lipstick on a pig

This post poses the question: Can an ugly truth hide behind a pretty exterior?  My garden contains plenty of support for the contention that it certainly can.  My north side garden is looking pretty in pink at the moment.

Leptospermum 'Pink Pearl' is literally covered in flowers, supported by a host of other pink-flowering plants

There's a touch of white to prevent the pink from becoming too sickeningly sweet

The area on the left lining the path that leads down the back slope is dominated by four pink-flowered plants at the moment.

Clockwise from the left: Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl', Centranthus ruber (aka Jupiter's beard), Oenothera speciosa (aka pink evening primrose), and Dorycnium hirsutum (aka hairy Canary clover)

I've allowed the Jupiter's beard, pink evening primrose, and hairy Canary clover to spread indiscriminately.  The first two plants have already crept down the back slope, laying claim to a significant area.

The back slope gets pinker with each passing day

Both the plants are completely out of control, although I suppose the same could be said for the Pelargonium 'White Lady' and the chartreuse Euphorbia's 'Dean's Hybrid'.  

It's become impossible to walk down the slope's concrete stairs without stepping on plants.  Our heavier-than-usual winter rain promoted rampant growth, which I utterly failed to curtail by properly thinning the seedlings.

For a couple of months, the back slope looks pretty.   The camera sees the frothy flowers and almost entirely misses the mass of weeds blanketing the portions of the upper slope that aren't covered in the dead ivy and honeysuckle vines left behind by last summer's horrific heatwave.

The weeds are between one and 3 feet tall but you probably didn't even notice them in the first two views of the slope did you?

I've pulled the weeds I can reach from where I stand on the concrete stairs but I can't reach the large majority of them.  I'm seriously considering investing in knee-pads to see if I can crawl a bit higher to reach at least some of these but I've no illusions I can clear all of them without hiring sherpas.

Meanwhile, in the front garden, I've let a prettier weed take over an area that I could clean up without fear of breaking my neck.

There's a 2-foot wide flagstone pathway in there but you can't see much of it anymore!

I cut back the Acacia 'Cousin Itt' on the left in an earlier effort to clear the path but the clover just moved in the take over the space

I thought I could control the clover but it's advance is relentless.  Thus far, I've rationalized my inaction based on the argument that clover fixes nitrogen in the soil; it prevents the raccoons from digging in areas it occupies; the bees like it; and it has pretty flowers.  In light of those considerations is it so bad that it makes it difficult for me or anyone else to walk through the front garden?  When our remodel starts, I expect it'll get trampled anyway...

Tell the Truth Tuesday is the brainchild of Alison at Bonny Lassie.  Visit her here to discover the ugly truths other gardeners are hiding.

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

Monday, April 29, 2019

In a Vase on Monday: Late Arrivals

This week I was able to cut both foxgloves and sweet peas for my Monday vases.  My impression was that both flowers are late in blooming this year but, after a bit of sleuthing through my records, the reality is less clear cut.  The foxgloves were blooming by mid-March last year but this year the first flowers have only just appeared.  Although the blooms were even later in 2017, I believe this was because I planted my plugs late, as I gradually converted my vegetable and herb garden into a real cutting garden.  A colder winter and cooler-than-usual Spring could be responsible for the delayed blooms this year but, as I also relied almost entirely on rain to water the raised planters until the middle of this month, the beds may also have received less water than they wanted.  Last year, when we received so little rain, I irrigated the beds regularly.

As usual, I crammed more stems than I should have into this vase.  Once I cut flowers, I'm always loathe to toss them directly in the compost heap.

The Orlaya grandiflora grown from seed were meant to have a larger starring role in the arrangement but they're crowded too tight to have the impact I envisioned

Overhead view

Clockwise from the upper left: Digitalis purpurea 'Dalmation White', spent Helleborus 'Anna's Red', Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', Orlaya grandiflora, Pelargonium 'Orange Fizz', and P. cucullatum 'Flore Plenum'

I've planted sweet peas from seed for at least 3 years now and my records indicate that, while this year's blooms are almost a month behind the 2017 crop, they're just a couple of weeks behind the 2018 crop.  However, in prior years, I've also added a couple of specialty nursery-grown seedlings to my planters in late winter, which I didn't do this year so it may be that my own seed-grown plants are right on target.

Although all my sweet pea seeds were sown on the same date in late October, only those that were part of the 'Pastel Sunset' mix are blooming and, of those, most are coral-pink.  Finding other flowers to complement their color took 2 rounds of my garden.

Although it took awhile to select flowers for this arrangement, I was pleased with the final product

Top view: The surprise element here are the seedpods of Nigella 'Transformer'

Clockwise from the upper left: Lathyrus odoratus in coral-pink (shown with Abelia grandiflora 'Radiance'), white sweet pea (also from the 'Pastel Sunset Mix'), Nigella orientalis 'Transformer' seedpods, Rosa 'Pink Meidiland', and Centranthus ruber 'Albus'

Last week's arrangements held up well.  While I tossed out the contents of one, I held on to a simplified version of the arrangement featuring the "pinwheel" flowers.

The Ranunculus blooms may not last another week but the Leucospermum 'Brandi' flowers should

The new arrangements found their spots.

For other IAVOM posts, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

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

Friday, April 26, 2019

A damp day of plant shopping

When my friend and I scheduled a plant shopping trip to Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties for late April the last thing we expected was rain.  But the further north we drove, the darker the sky got.  The windshield wipers were going well before we reached our first stop, Seaside Gardens in Carpinteria.  Although the rain was little more than a drizzle, we had the place practically to ourselves.  I took advantage of the cloudy skies to capture some photos of Seaside's extensive display beds.

The chief attraction in the Asian Garden was the white-flowered tree, which I think is Chionanthus retusus (aka Chinese fringe tree)

The Cottage Garden was in full flower but many of the blooms were looking rain-sodden.  The lavender-flowered Phlomis purpurea and the yellow-flowered Phlomis fruticosa were exceptions.

The Grassland area looked properly moody

While the California poppies had all closed up shop, the Echiums in the California Native Garden laughed at the rain

Part of what I assume was a rain garden meant to channel water under the low bridge shown in the prior photo

I took a lot of photos of the Echiums.  I'm guessing these are two Echium fastousum 'Pride of Madeira' framing a variegated E. candicans 'Star of Madeira'.

Even under gloomy skies, the Succulent Garden was perhaps the most photogenic.

Even when in the background, Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire' glows

A lovely combination of red and blue

I think this is Euphorbia xanti (aka cherry blossom euphorbia and Baja spurge).  It's fragrant flower-like bracts are always surprising. 

Tree aloes (Aloidendron barberae) in the background and blooming coral aloes (Aloe striata) in the foreground

I take a photo of this aloe mass almost every time I visit.  I didn't see a tag for it but one of my prior photos identifies is as Aloe arborescens.  It doesn't look much like the others I've seen, though.

Of course, I did a little shopping.  I only came away with 2 plants from Seaside on this trip but I was sorely tempted by some pricey pots.

I couldn't justify $150 for a pot this size even if each was unique

We made stops at two more nurseries, where I managed to let go of more cash.  I didn't take any photos at Island View Nursery but I bought several succulents, a small pot, and a pretty Rex begonia.  After lunch, we drove to Terra Sol Garden Center in Goleta.  As it was our last stop of the trip, I was freer with my wallet, although none of my purchases was especially unusual.  I stopped myself from going nuts.

This beautiful spiral cactus (Cereus forbesii maybe?) was $425

I've thought of introducing some sea-style features in my garden but this mermaid statue was a bit outside my budget at $289

Here's a photo of most of what I brought home.

From Seaside: Corydalis 'Porcelain Blue' and Cassinia (Ozothamnus) leptophylla.  From Island View: an assortment of succulents, a tiny pot, and a begonia (shown below).  From Terra Sol: 5 Graptoveria 'Fred Ives' (not shown), 2 Mimulus, 3 Osteospermums with spoon-shaped petals, and a 6-pack of lavender.

My noID Rex begonia from Island View, potted up and tucked into my shade house

Like the Corydalis shown here, almost everything I purchased last weekend and during my recent plant sale visits have been tucked into the ground or pots

I REALLY should stop buying plants.  I'm running out of places to put what I pick up on the fly.  Of course, if I manage to clear more of the ivy and honeysuckle from the back slope or redesign the bromeliad bed the raccoons keep digging up, I might be able to find a bit more room...

Have a great weekend!

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

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Wednesday Vignette: Hell's Kitchen

Our home remodel is no longer some generally imagined event set for an indefinite future date.  After nearly a year of myriad delays involving bureaucratic red tape, geological surveys, asbestos concerns, timing conflicts and other drama, it's become a reality.  Once my husband started construction of the temporary kitchen, the plan became all too real.  In the past week, the temporary kitchen, set up on the north end of the house, went from this:

To this:

Our master bathroom, which lies on the other side of that temporary kitchen, was once a light-filled space.  It's now dark as a cave.  The flash of pink you see inside the new space is a reflection of the Leptospermum I can no longer see reflected in the bathroom mirror.

Both shrubs are now in full bloom

I can still see a small portion of the garden, framed by the kitchen's walls, but that view will also disappear as soon as the door is installed.

I never really appreciated this planter backed by lavender until it was the only thing I can see from inside the house

The temporary kitchen will have a camp stove, a refrigerator and a small sink.  During construction the pantry will be in our bedroom.  Our dishes may end up in my husband's bureau.  My friends tell me that the whole experience will be worth it in the end but I have my doubts.  In addition to worrying about the stress on my cat, I'm wondering how much of my garden is going to get trampled.  I already know that I'm going to lose at least a few plants to new HVAC equipment.

Preparations are ramping up.  In addition to the current kitchen, which will be gutted, the living and dining rooms need to be packed up and cleared.  We have to move patio furniture to provide work space for the construction crew adjacent to the kitchen.  And there are purchases that still have to be made.  The compost tumbler near the garage has to be moved (I've forgotten why) and, as the unit has been steadily disintegrating since we moved in, we've decided to chuck it in the demolition bin, so I cleaned it out this week.

I sifted out the remaining contents of the tumbler so it's ready to go

The finished compost went into this raised planter, which I finally cleared of basil, oregano and chives to make room for some of the dahlias that sprouted since I planted the tubers in temporary pots

I piled the material that wasn't yet suitable for use as compost at the bottom of my back slope until I can set up new composting bins.  Who knows, I may spend a lot of time down at the bottom of the slope this summer, seeking peace from the construction process.  Maybe I'll finally get some of the ivy and honeysuckle cleared out down there.

It looks as though I'll have company.  I sighted a bunny hiding out there yesterday morning.

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

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

Monday, April 22, 2019

In a Vase on Monday: Spinning through Spring

Spring has suddenly become very busy.  That's partly due to preparations for (gulp!) an upcoming home remodel; partly to a significant increase in the docent tours I'm conducting at my local botanic garden; and partly due to the demands of my own garden.  I keep hearing there's an uptick in our temperatures on the horizon so I've been trying to prepare my garden for summer; however, thus far, temperatures have remained below average.  Spring often turns into Summer without much warning here but maybe I need to slow down a bit and just enjoy the current season while I can.

Leucospermum 'Brandi' seems to be in a hurry as well.  The shrub's full of mature flowers now so I decided to cut three for use in a vase this week.  The flowers look like pinwheels so they fit the spinning theme.

The arrangement bears some similarities to one I created in late March but it includes an interesting new element in the form of Nigella orientalis 'Transformer'.  (I misidentified the plant as Bupleurum in last week's Bloom Day post but helpful readers of my blog and Instagram posts pointed me in the right direction.)

I planted both 'Transformer' and Bulpleurum from seed in the same raised planter.  The latter has yet to make an appearance but 'Transformer' has a nice display going.

The Ranunculus are just about finished, taken out prematurely after being buffeted by a few rounds of Santa Ana winds

Clockwise from the upper left: Leucospermum 'Brandi', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Lotus berthelotii 'Gold Flash', Ranunculus, and Nigella orientalis 'Transformer'

Last week I admired the Dutch Iris Christina of My Hesperides Garden featured in her IAVOM post, commenting that I'd like to have some in similar colors, only to be surprised by the appearance of two similar blooms in my front garden late last week.  I planted the bulbs in October 2017 and all I remembered about them was that they were pale blue in color but they're actually a mix of blue and white with a touch of yellow at the throat.

According to my records, the Iris is 'Silver Beauty'

I played off the yellow at the throats of the Iris with the addition of Phlomis fruticosa (aka Jeruselem sage)

I added more light blue to the mix with the stems of the same Salvia I used last week

Clockwise from the upper left: Centranthus ruber 'Albus', noID self-planted Cotoneaster, seed-grown Orlaya grandiflora, Salvia heldriechiana, Phlomis fruticosa, Limonium perezii, Westringia fruticosa 'Morning Light' and, in the center, Iris hollandica 'Silver Beauty'

For more Monday vases, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  Best wishes for a happy Earth Day!

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