Friday, June 28, 2019

Summertime Blues

The title of this post has nothing to do with my mental state, even through the month of June has been a turbulent to say the least.  The focus of my post is entirely on the blue-flowered plants in my garden.  I'll try growing just about any plant with blue flowers that has the slightest chance of surviving in my climate.  Of those that I've successfully established in my garden, it seems that the largest number of them flower in summer.  Here's the current line-up:

The Agapanthus (aka Lily of the Nile) came with the garden.  I've never had an accurate count of them and over time I've pulled out some clumps, dividing bulbs and replanting some of them, but I'd guess there are at least 40 clumps spread throughout the property.  Those shown in this photo are a portion of what's in the back garden.

These are in the front garden

I don't have any of the midnight blue varieties of Agapanthus, nor any bi-colors.  Mine range from medium blue to light blue to white.

Catananche caerulea (aka Cupid's dart) has self-seeded freely here

Several years ago I fell in love with the rose-like double-petaled form of Eustoma grandiflorum (aka lisianthus).  It's a short-lived perennial in my climate.  Breeders have recently introduced a broad variety in different colors, many of which I've tried.  Still, the blue cultivar is one of my favorites.  It's the first and thus far the only one to bloom to date this season.

Globularia x indubia (aka globe daisy) hails from the Canary Islands.  I originally bought it for its foliage but I love its flowers too.

I planted this lavender my first year in this garden and I don't have any record of its name but I think it's a Lavandula angustifolia.  I put in just one plant here but it cleverly encircled the birdbath, which is filled with glass marbles rather than water.

Lavandula multifida, a hybrid commonly known as fern lavender or California lavender, is difficult to photograph.  I cut this one back just last week but it's already got lots of bloom spikes. 
Limonium perezii (aka sea lavender) has been blooming for months.  It's in the final stages of its annual bloom cycle now but still has a significant presence in my garden even though I've cut much of it back.  This plant is also a native of the Canary Islands.

This is another plant I have difficulty photographing.  It's Plectranthus neochilus (aka lobster flower) and it stinks, literally.  The foliage smells like a skunk's spray and the warmer it is the more it smells.  But, if you can get past that, it's a great plant.  It flowers nearly continuously, makes a good groundcover, and gets by with very little water.

Salvia clevelandii 'Winnifred Gilman' is also aromatic but not in a bad way.  This is smaller version of the native California sage with deeper blue flowers.

I got Wahlenbergia 'Blue Cloud' from Annie's Annuals & Perennials by mail order several years ago.  I've never seen anything else in this genus offered elsewhere.  It spreads freely and rather boisterously but it's easy enough to pull it out when it gets out of hand.  It creates a meadow-like effect, even when growing among succulents.

But wait, there's more!  These are blooming as well, albeit as bit players in the garden:

Ageratum houstonianum (aka flossflower) has a long bloom season if dead-headed periodically

Until last year, I steered clear of Delphiniums and warned my friends to do the same.  I planted a 6-pack of a 'Pacific Giant' variety in my cutting garden last year on a whim and was shocked and delighted that it flowered.  Treated as an annual, it can't handle our summer heat but I appreciate it in the late spring/early summer.  In my cutting garden it's well-watered.  I don't think it could handle the drier conditions elsewhere in my garden.

I planted Nigella papillosa 'Starry Night Mix' (aka love-in-a-mist) from seed this year in my cutting garden and it did well.  This is the last of it.

I planted several Platycodon grandiflorus (aka balloon flower) in a semi-shaded area of the front garden a couple of years ago.  They didn't handle summer well and I thought I'd pulled all of them but this one returned unexpectedly last year and it's done so again this year.  Despite their reputation for requiring "regular water," I may try adding a few more if I find them in my local garden center.

I photographed this Salvia cacaliifolia (aka Guatemalan sage) from an odd angle, making it look like an alien insect.  Its flowers are a gorgeous shade of blue.

I'd all but forgotten about planting bulbs of Triteleia laxa (aka Ithuriel's spear) last year.  They didn't bloom then but I discovered a few blooms 2 weeks ago.  They're shorter than they should be but welcome nonetheless.

May your weekend proceed under a bright blue sky!

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

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Succulent Stars

I've been spending a lot of time in my garden, partly to escape the pandemonium associated with our remodel, but also in an effort to manage the garden's explosive growth following the best stretch of rain and moderate temperatures we've had in a long time.  I could probably spend several hours a day for a solid month just cutting back Erigeron karvinskianus and even then might have to start all over again with a fresh round of haircuts as soon as I finished.  I've also spent gobs of time deadheading flowering plants, pulling weeds, and cleaning out ripened bulb foliage.  In the midst of the last exercise, I took time to admire my sleek and always tidy succulents.

This is Aloe labworana, native to Uganda.  I picked it up last August because I loved its wavy shape.  Once I cut back the dead daffodil foliage surrounding it and uncovered the Echium debris that had nearly covered it, I noticed that it'd taken on a pretty red tinge.

This Yucca gloriosa 'Variegata' had been nearly smothered by Erigeron karvinskianus (aka Santa Barbara daisy) and was partially hidden behind a tall mass of Gaura lindheimeri.  I purchased the plant in a 4-inch pot about 18 months ago and it's still relatively small but someday it'll be big enough to hold its own in that spot against all comers.

This Agave is sold under a variety of names but now is commonly known as Agave mitis 'Multicolor'.  This is the largest of the 3 I have, given to me as a birthday gift 3 years ago.  It's beefed up dramatically in the past year, presumably in response to the extra rain we received this past winter. 

There are several nice 'Blue Glow' and 'Blue Flame' Agaves here but what dials this vignette up a notch is the mass of Crassula pubescens ssp radicans in full bloom among the Agaves.  The smaller succulent's red foliage nicely echoes the red edges of the 'Blue Glow' Agaves most of the year but the cream-colored flowers light up the bed in early summer.

The same grouping from another angle.  Please ignore the crabgrass I missed during my clean-up.

Some succulents have joined the floral parade.

My Hesperaloe parviflora aren't as exuberant as the plants I saw at last year's Garden Bloggers' Fling in Austin, Texas but I'm pleased with the statement they make here and I'm hopeful that, in time, my 3 plants will form large clumps.

I fell in love with Oscularia deltoides (aka Lampranthus deltoides) several years ago based on its foliage alone.  Its red stems are covered in icy blue-green leaves.  Like many succulents, it's easily grown here simply by sticking a cutting in soil.  This one is happy trailing down a low stacked stone wall in partial shade.  I have others growing in full sun but in my location they look best with some afternoon shade.

The bloom spikes on the 2 Agave desmettiana growing in my street-side bed formed in October.  The plants were in full bloom in March.  It appears that bulbils are finally forming, although thus far most are well above my head and therefore hard to photograph.  Meanwhile the mother plants' foliage has taken on a pretty reddish color.

The 3 Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' growing on the slope here are also progeny of the 2 plants currently in bloom.  I planted 5 pups in this area (not all visible in this photo) several years ago when I put the original plants in the street-side bed.  They also got a major boost from our winter rains.

Blooms are a mixed bag when the blooming plant is monocarpic, as most Agaves are.  But, if the Agave desmettiana produce a host of baby plants, that'll take the sting out of the loss of the 2 large specimens.  I only hope the bulbils develop fully before those 2 bloom stalks fall into the street.

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

Monday, June 24, 2019

In a Vase on Monday: From Spare and Simple to Frou-frou

I've been thinking about using stems of Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' in a vase since my shrubs began sporting their pretty summer blooms a few weeks ago but I'd no idea what to use with them.  When the ruffled Shasta daisies started to bloom, it struck me that they'd make a good accent for the Leptospermum's deep burgundy foliage but a vase with just two elements seemed too simple to me.  On my first pass through the garden, I cut a few stems of foxglove and considered adding a bronze-edged Calendula too before concluding that spare and simple was the way to go.

I can't remember creating a vase this streamlined since I started participating in "In a Vase on Monday"

Back view

Top view

Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' (left) and Leucanthemum x superbum (right)

In viewing the above photos, you may have noticed that something's off with the kitchen space I use in photographing my vases.  After dealing with almost a year's worth of bureaucratic red tape, we finally kicked off our long-awaited remodel last Wednesday.  The current focus of work is outside as a team creates a new footing to support our five by nine foot kitchen extension but my husband is getting a head-start on taking apart our existing kitchen.

He's built us a temporary kitchen, which our contractor has referred to as the "Taj kitchen" (as in Taj Mahal).  He commandeered one set of upper cabinets from the existing kitchen for the temporary kitchen while I was out to lunch with friends last week.  The oven disappeared yesterday while I was working in the garden.  The refrigerator, microwave, toaster oven, and a supply of dishes and utensils will move this week.  And (ugh), two pantry cabinets will be relocated to our bedroom for the duration of the project.

I've yet to determine where I'm going to go to prepare and photograph future vases so I used the kitchen this week while I still could.  We expect the contractor to cut off water to the space later this week so I'll be grappling with that problem head-on next week.  The contractor told me that I was also going to lose some of my Agapanthus this week when they pour a footing for the new HVAC system so I had to rescue those flower stalks for a second vase.

It occurred to me that Agapanthus may look best on their own but one simple vase is all I had in me this week

Back view, featuring the last of the Nigella

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: noID Agapanthus, Globularia x indubia (aka globe daisy), Helichrysum petiolare 'Petite Licorice' (another virtual weed here), Salvia clevelandii 'Winnifred Gilman' (a California native), Nigella papillosa 'Starry Night Mix' (aka love-in-a-mist), and self-seeded Tanacetum parthenium (aka feverfew)

I hadn't planned a third vase but, rather than toss the foxglove stems I'd cut for first vase, I decided to use those in another vase featuring stems of Dahlia 'Enchantress'.  That plant produced nine new blooms this week and ignoring her output seemed a crime.

The vase ended up being a modified version of last week's dahlia arrangement

Back view, featuring the famous Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy' and the last of my Arthropodium cirratum

Top view

Clockwise from the left: Dahlia 'Enchantress' (shown with Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey'), Arthropodium cirratum (aka Renga lily), and Digitalis purpurea (foxglove) with Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy'

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, June 21, 2019

Welcoming the Summer Solstice

Today marks the the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere.  Summer can be unpleasant here so this isn't something we normally celebrate.  This summer may live up to its negative reputation with more of the horrific heatwaves that have become increasingly common in recent years but, given that the day started out with a touch of rain, unseasonably pleasant temperatures, and a smog-free horizon, I'm feeling good about our prospects at the moment.  Even with jackhammers ringing in the background, the season started off on a positive note.

The rain scrubbed the air clean and left the horizon clear of its usual gray-brown tinge
View looking across my front garden

Although the clouds moved in as evening fell, the chance of more overnight rain evaporated; however, the morning marine layer is expected to keep us cool for the next several days at least

I hope your summer is off to a good start too.

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

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Finally, it begins...

We began to talk seriously about a home remodel almost a year ago.  On the table was gutting our existing kitchen, an earthquake retrofit, new flooring, and installation of a new HVAC system.  After discussion with a contractor and a designer, my husband proposed a plan that, among other things, involved expanding the kitchen's tiny footprint by pushing out the exterior wall by 5 feet into the back patio.  Perhaps that doesn't sound like that big a deal but we live within a designated open spaces hazard zone.  In fact, the boundary of that zone runs diagonally through our house.  Obviously, that designation didn't exist in 1951 when the house was built but we were aware of it in vague terms when we bought the house.  The thing is, the city proposed pushing that boundary well beyond our property line in 2012, a couple of years after we bought the house.  However, in 2018 when my husband paid the first of many visits to the city's planning office, he discovered that, while the proposed change "could" happen by the end of that year, it wasn't yet in place.  Rather than wait and see, we went ahead with the city's required evaluation process.  After a geological survey, securing approvals from parties including the local school board and the fire department, and outlays amounting to several thousand dollars, we finally got general approval to proceed last December.  To date, the city still hasn't moved the hazard line.

Discussions with an architect, the contractor, the designer, a cabinetmaker, and construction specialists of all kinds followed.  More approvals, including one from the Air Quality Management District, were required before, at the end of May, we finally got our construction permit.  In the meantime, my husband had begun his own preparations, starting with construction of a temporary kitchen tacked on to the back of our house.

By mid-April, he had the temporary kitchen framed out and partially walled in

The structure has been ready to move into since mid-May

Yes, it even has windows - with screens - and open cabinets.  It's just missing the refrigerator, slop sink and kitchen equipment we won't move until the last minute.

A week ago we started clearing areas for the construction workers, including both our patios.

I don't have any good before photos of the back patio but we had a bench with a coffee table, a large dining table, and dozens of potted plants here

We had another set of table and chairs and more pots here on the side patio

All that stuff had to go somewhere.

Some of it's lined up along this path

But my husband piled most of it up in my cutting garden, with no attention to sun requirements.  I spread the pots elsewhere throughout the garden, emptying quite a few of them for the duration of this project.  Our chimnea, one rainwater tank, cement blocks and other paraphernalia are tucked around the citrus trees.

Even the rain gutters on the back of the house came down, temporarily stored on a hanging system my husband rigged up on the fence behind the garage.  The disintegrating compost tumbler was dismantled and consigned to the trash.

The driveway is now outfitted with a storage pod and matching port-a-potty.

Some outdoor furniture got stored behind the port-a-potty

A construction dumpster was delivered late yesterday afternoon.

And the long-awaited construction began today with the removal of the portion of the back patio necessary to create a footing for the kitchen extension.

The pavers came out quickly

I don't know what we're going to do with the extra pavers.  Only a small number will be relaid.

The digging has only just begun

Our contractor estimates that it'll be 2 weeks yet until the kitchen wall comes down.  The city requires that the depth of the new footing extends 2 feet below the existing foundation.  As we're sitting on bedrock, that means a lot of digging and jackhammering before the concrete can be poured.  It's going to be a long 4 to 6 months.

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