Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Wednesday Vignette: An Incongruous Pairing

I'm never particularly happy with my garden in late summer and, even though this summer has been milder than some, it's no exception.  Everything looks dry.  Plants that were flowering beautifully one week are withered beyond recognition the next.  It doesn't help that construction tools and debris related to our ongoing home remodel clutter much of the area surrounding the house and dust covers everything, including plants.  I've responded by developing selective vision.  To the extent possible I focus on what's looking good, ignoring what's dusty, dying or dead.

This week, my selective vision had me focusing on the "blooms" of Leucadendron 'Blush' in my front garden.

This Leucadendron's colorful bracts always make me think of rose buds

Can you see it?

While inspecting the Leucadendron, I noticed the Phormium tucked into a corner next to it.  It was one of the very first plants I installed in my new garden after moving in more than 8.5 years ago.  It's in bloom!  None of my Phormiums have ever bloomed so I count this as a special event.

I planted it sometime during the first quarter of 2011.  I wasn't keeping records of my plants then but I think this is Phormium tenax 'Atropurpureum'.

The flowers appear in clusters at intervals along the tall bloom spikes

But what's the blue thing just visible in the first photo of the Phormium above?  Here's the larger picture:

A port-a-potty set up for the use of construction workers sits directly next to the Phormium at one edge of our driveway

It's unfortunate that the Phormium doesn't have an opportunity to shine as part of the landscape on this occasion as it should.  On the other hand, who knows?  Maybe the port-a-potty provided the favorable conditions it needed to bloom.

Before I close this post, it seems appropriate to include an unrelated postscript here.  I've featured the mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) in our backyard garden in at least two prior Wednesday Vignettes.  The tree's future has been in question since we removed half its limbs last year following an infestation by shot-hole borers.  It was late to leaf out and late to bloom but here it is at last in all its glory:

There are still a few dead branches that could be pruned out but, all in all, the tree looks like it has some life left in it yet

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

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

Monday, July 29, 2019

In a Vase on Monday: In with the New and Out with the Old

Dahlias have brightened up late summer and fall for me since I first began growing them in 2017.  As summer progresses, flowers become harder to come by here as higher temperatures and our long dry season take their toll.  At the moment new Dahlias are unfurling their flowers each week.  'Punkin Spice' and 'Hollyhill Karen Lee' opened last week but for today's "In a Vase on Monday" post I went with 'Terracotta', which is now blooming in earnest.  I've been growing this variety since 2017 and it's one of the most prolific.

I lost one window and part of a wall in my home office last week, which eliminated the space I'd been using to photograph my vases since our kitchen was gutted.  I set a board on top of our spa on the north side of the house for these photographs.  Not optimal but it'll have to do for awhile.

The back of this vase is a mess but I didn't have the patience to fuss with it.  Heat makes me cranky.

Top view

Clockwise from the top left: Dahlia 'Terracotta', Amaranthus caudatus, noID Cotyledon, Abelia grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope', and Leptospermum 'Copper Glow'.  After admiring the Amaranthus Cathy and other IAVOM contributors grow, I grabbed 3 plants I spotted on a recent garden center visit.  Next year, I'm committed to growing some from seed.

Our temperatures jumped dramatically last week, quickly withering more flowering plants than I can count.  My Agapanthus are on their last legs so I hunted down the last presentable specimens I could find for a second vase to enjoy inside the house, where it's nominally cooler, at least when we have ours fans running at full speed.  Because half the house is torn up, we can't run our house's air conditioning system so it's been warm even inside.

At least the pale blue Agapanthus made me feel cooler

After putting on a good show since early January, the sea lavender (Limonium perezii), shown here at the back of the vase, is on its last legs too

Top view, showing off lavender-streaked flowers of white lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum)

Clockwise from the upper left: Agapanthus, Abelia grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', Auranticarpa rhombifolium, Eustoma grandiflorum, Limonium perezii, and Trichostemma 'Midnight Magic'

Both this week's vases found places in our master bedroom, the coolest room in the house, which we've managed to keep in the low 80sF with the help of a portable AC unit.

A certain cat opened up new space on the bedroom bureau for the Dahlia arrangement by pushing a lamp I've had for nearly 20 years to the floor.  We didn't use it often but it had sentimental value.  My husband has promised to try gluing it back together but neither of us have high hopes for its restoration.

Meanwhile, the culprit has forgotten all about her transgression

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

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

Friday, July 26, 2019

Trees make the difference

I heard a report on the news yesterday that this month has been the hottest on Earth since recordkeeping began in 1880.  I know people have been suffering with the heat in Europe and much of the US this month.  Here in coastal Southern California, we had relatively mild conditions until this week.  While we still haven't had a horrific heatwave of the sort we experienced in early July last year, it's been toasty the last several days.  We used to be known for "dry heat" but we've been getting more monsoonal moisture in recent years.  Yesterday we were even spattered by rain for about half an hour, too little to register on my roof-top weather station but enough to make it uncomfortably muggy all day.  Which brings me to trees.  Earlier this month, a study published in the journal Science contended that planting masses of trees globally might be the best opportunity we have available to combat the negative impacts of climate change.

I put a high value on trees.  If you've been reading my blog for years, you may recall that, after moving here in December 2010, I was distressed to discover that my local community put a premium on views over trees.  In an effort to accommodate one neighbor, we removed 2 large trees but, when she persisted with her complaints, I threw up my hands and told her she could take it up with the city, declaring that I'd fight her every step of the way.  Luckily, she moved!  None of my other neighbors have made complaints, although I've gotten wind of conflicts among others in our neighborhood.

That's a long-winded way of saying that this post celebrates the trees and tree-sized shrubs in my garden, appreciated all the more this time of year when it gets so bloody hot.  With our remodel underway and half the house literally torn open, we're unable to run our house's air-conditioning system so we're even more dependent than usual on nature's cooling systems.

This is the view of my front garden looking from the south end toward the garage on the north end.  The Magnolia grandiflora and peppermint willow (Agonis flexuosa) trees were here when we moved in but the rest of this area was mostly grass.  (Note: I skipped my quarterly wide shots post this month due to the remodel activity that's spilled into nearly every area of the property.  I've tried to shoot around what I could for this post but, barely screened in the distance of this photo, you may be able to make out the storage pod and port-a-potty sitting in our driveway.)

Two peppermint willows form a lacy screen on the west side along the street.  One of our four strawberry trees (Arbutus 'Marina' ) peeks out on the left side of this photo's frame.

There are 2 Western redbuds (Cercis occidentalis) serving as understory trees in the front garden, one shown here to the left of Echium 'Star of Madeira'.  Another peppermint willow, as well as a Callery pear tree (Pyrus calleryana) can be seen nearer to the garage.  A hedge comprised of Xylosma congestum shrubs, about 5.5 feet tall, lines the street.

This is a closer look at the area next to the garage occupied by the peppermint willow and the Callery pear.  This area was also mostly covered in lawn when we moved in.  There's a pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana) on the inside of the area bordered by the Xylosma hedge here.

Just beyond the area shown in the last photo, along the northwest boundary of our property, there's yet another peppermint willow and another Arbutus 'Marina, offering a degree of shade to one of my succulent beds.

In the cutting garden, there are 3 citrus trees, a Mandarin orange, a navel orange and a lime bordering the fence, as well as a persimmon tree and 2 small Japanese maples (not visible in this shot)

On the northeast side of the house, in addition to a guava tree, another persimmon, and 2 large New Zealand tea trees (Leptospermum scoparium), large shrubs of Coprosma 'Plum Hussey' and Leucadendron salignum 'Chief' line up against another stretch of Xylosma hedge

Turning the corner and moving into the back garden, there are 2 more strawberry trees, currently sporting their scaling bark

Beyond those strawberry trees is Leucadendron 'Pisa', the size of a small tree, and, in the distance the largest of our peppermint willows

There was another peppermint willow in the spot now occupied by the Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid' shown here.  The willow was one of the trees we took out in a misguided effort to satisfy our neighbor.  The Callistemon will never achieve the same stature but it's now a good-sized specimen and still growing.  The pine tree in the distance sits on a neighbor's property.

There's yet another peppermint willow on the right in this photo with a huge toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) sitting at the edge of our property on the south side, atop a slope.  I planted the purple smokebush (Cotinus coggygyria) shown in the foreground a couple of years ago.  It sits roughly in the area formerly occupied by a 60 foot Eucalyptus, cut down at our neighbor's request (and arguably too close to the house for comfort).

This photo of the southwest side of our property brings us roughly full-circle of our property (with the exception of the back slope).  On this moderate slope, between the peppermint willow on the left and the strawberry tree on the right, there's another pineapple guava (positioned half-way down the slope) and, bordering the south property line, a row of cherry laurels (Pyrus caroliniana).  The latter provide additional shade to the plants in my lath house on the lower level.

I didn't capture all our trees in this post but I picked up a good many of them.  I probably can't get away with adding any more without running afoul of our community's "view conservation" ordinance but don't be surprised if you find me planting more tree-like shrubs wherever I can shoehorn them in.

Best wishes for a pleasant weekend!

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

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Tell the Truth Tuesday (Late Edition): Ladybugs needed

I was pleased when two of my Hesperaloe parviflora produced bloom spikes this year.  They weren't nearly as floriferous as those I saw in Austin, Texas last year but I felt my small collection of plants was headed in the right direction.

I took this photo of the Hesperaloe blooms in late June

The flowers still looked fine when I took photos for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day in mid-July

Then this week I noticed that the smaller bloom spike didn't look right.

I took this photo yesterday.  Notice the bloom spike on the left.

From a distance, the flower spike on this plant seemed to have turned gray

But it was actually covered in tiny green sap-sucking beasties

Within little more than a week, when I wasn't looking, the aphids covered the entire flower spike.  It seems that the warmer weather brought them out.  I dealt with smaller infestations on the Gaura in my front garden in early spring but it was nothing like this.  I cut the entire spike and deposited it in the trash, then doused the Hesperaloes with insecticidal soap.  At present, the flower spikes on the adjacent plant don't appear to have any bugs at all.

After I'd cleaned up the aphid problem (at least for the moment), I noticed a nearby bed was in need of grooming.  It too had looked great in June.

Succulents comfortably mingled with purple-flowered Limonium perezii (aka sea lavender) here

As the Limonium started to fade I cut out the flower stems that no longer looked good.  One thing led to another and, after pulling some of rattier Limoniums, I cut back an overly exuberant trailing Osteospermum, rampant stems of asparagus fern (an inherited weed here), and some sickly pale stems of Senecio vitalis, revealing other plants I'd entirely forgotten about.

My clean-up is by no means complete but my knee can only handle so much time working on even a moderate slope like this one

I planted this Aloe striata x maculata early last year, along with Aeonium cuttings, then lost track of it entirely when it was engulfed by the Limonium.  There's another variegated succulent  just beyond it I haven't even identified yet. 

More clean-up - and perhaps a new planting vision - is needed to whip this area into shape, but that's a project for a cooler day.  The heat seems to have caught up with us at last.

Tell the Truth Tuesday is hosted on a periodic basis by Alison at Bonnie Lassie to keep things real by showing the less-than-Instagram-perfect features of our gardens.   Is your garden harboring any nasty bugs or hiding any lost treasures?  Do tell.

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

Monday, July 22, 2019

A Bevy of Dahlias

Five of my dahlias have now produced blooms and 4 others have buds.  Only one, 'Diva', living up to her name, has failed to produce any buds as yet.  Caving to their siren calls, I ended up with 3 vases this week despite limitations on places to put them while living in half a house during our remodel.

The impetus for my first vase wasn't actually one of the dahlia blooms but rather the interesting blooms on a succulent.

It took me awhile to formally identify this succulent as Sedum reflexum 'Blue Spruce'.  Although I recognized it as a Sedum, I'd listed it in a bed other than the one in which the blooms appeared this weekend.  I planted it from a 6-pack in 2015 but I think this is the first time it's bloomed.  The flowers appear at the top of an 8-inch stem in an interesting  snowflake configuration.

I picked Dahlia 'Citron du Cap' as its companion

I dressed up the back of the vase with ruffled Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum) and the fading stems of Sideritis cypria

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Dahlia 'Citron du Cap', Abelia grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', Lonicera japonica, Leucanthemum x superbum, Sedum reflexum 'Blue Spruce', and Sideritis cypria

Dahlia 'Enchantress' was the first to bloom in my cutting garden this year and she continues to produce a steady series of flowers.

I used a couple new pink-tinged white lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum) to bring out the white touches in 'Enchantress'

I used Abelia "Edward Goucher' to dress up the back of the arrangement

Top view

Clockwise from the top: Dahlia 'Enchantress', Abelia grandiflora 'Edward Goucher', Eustoma grandiflorum, and Tanacetum parthenium

Dahlia 'Bluetiful' produced her first 2 blooms this weekend.  I'd intended to tuck one into my second vase with 'Enchantress' but I decided that wouldn't do justice to either.

While not nearly a true blue, 'Bluetiful' leans further in that direction than 'Enchantress'

Polygala fruticosa 'Petite Butterfly' is a near color match for the Dahlia

Top view: I'd ignored Melaleuca thymifolia too long and finding flowers fresh enough to include in this arrangement was a challenge

Clockwise from the left: Dahlia 'Bluetiful', Polygala fruicosa 'Petite Butterfly', and Melaleuca thymifolia

I managed to find spots for all 3 vases.  For more IAVOM arrangements, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

Good light inside the house is hard to find these days! 

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