Thursday, December 31, 2020

Seeing 2020 in the rear view mirror

How do you review a year like 2020?  It's truly the most horrible year in my memory.  As if the political scene wasn't bad enough already, it got worse as elected leaders failed to lead and divisions within the country intensified, encompassing even public health and safety issues.  A pandemic that other countries managed well (relatively speaking) spun utterly out of control in the US due in large part to inconsistent messaging and controls leading to a death count of 344,000.  Restrictions both self- and government-imposed kept us from traveling and seeing friends and family in person.  Even basic chores, like grocery shopping, became fraught with complications.  While stocks somehow managed to soar, many parts of our economy tanked as smaller business were crippled and many closed, perhaps permanently.  Millions of people lost jobs and our homeless and food insecurity problems worsened.  Unemployment agencies and food banks struggled to get help to those who needed it and government assistance was sporadic and, in some cases, riddled with fraud.  On top of all that, natural disasters plagued the country, including California, which lost more acres to wildfire than ever before.

For many people, myself included, their gardens became even more significant as we spent more time at home.  Plant shopping, one of my favorite activities, was dramatically curtailed this year, limited almost entirely to my local garden center and mail orders.  Visits to public and private gardens were also severely curtailed.  But my garden was still my main refuge so I've pulled some of my favorites photos of it to share with you, as well as a few photos taken in nearby locations.


Aloe vanbalenii, photographed at South Coast Botanic Garden

The Sun Garden at Sherman Gardens in Corona del Mar, photographed during a visit with a group of South Coast Botanic Garden docents


Ceanothus arboreus 'Cliff Schmidt' in full bloom on my back slope

My north-side dry garden

The succulent area of Seaside Gardens, photographed on the one and only trip I took to this nursery in Carpinteria this year


The Port of Los Angeles after cruise ships were forced to halt operations (viewed from my backyard).  Ships were anchored off-shore for an extended period and still appear in port occasionally to pick up supplies.  Many crew members from foreign nations were not allowed to disembark, leaving them in limbo.

Ferraria crispa bloom, always a welcome sight

View of my south-side garden looking toward the house


My lath (shade) house photographed from the upper level of the front garden as one of several "Coronavirus Tourism" posts

View from the back door, featuring the Dutch Iris in bloom

The back slope looking up from the bottom, another area featured as part of a "Coronavirus Tourism" post


A nice vignette featuring Leucadendrons, Agaves and Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer'

One of several visits peacocks made to my garden this year.  I stopped filling my bird feeders for an extended period to discourage them from visiting but I suspect the coyotes may have had greater influence. 

When a friend stopped by on my birthday, we walked my neighborhood (masked and socially distant of course) to check out the gardens visible from the street.  This one was the most spectacular.


I met this coyote as I was headed out the back door at 9am, startling both of us.  This event ended the short, supervised outdoor excursions I'd previously allowed my cat to take each morning.

I visited nearby South Coast Botanic Garden for the first time since the docents were furloughed in March.  The lavender field looked great even if he absence of volunteer help had a larger impact on other areas.

Leucadendron 'Safari Sunset', surrounded by Acacia 'Cousin Itt' and Nassella tenuissima, viewed from the dirt path between the back border and the hedge that runs the entire length of the upper level of the back garden


One section of the front garden backed by Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' and Leucadendron 'Safari Goldstrike'.  The path adjacent to the hedge leads to the lath house.

This colorful cloud formation, called a "fire rainbow", is a naturally occurring phenomenon unrelated to fire

This vignette featuring Aeonium 'Mardi Gras', Coprosma 'Fire Burst', and Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy' pleases me every time I look at it

I moved this Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' from our former house in a pot.  It became a giant once planted in the ground.  The red foliage is prominent in July, while it flaunts yellow flower-like bracts in January.


View of the front garden looking north from its southern end

This view of the south-side succulent bed highlights the unnaturally red foliage of our giant native evergreen Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia).  The tree-like shrub had been killed off, probably by the pathogen that causes "sudden oak death" to which its also susceptible.  It and the dying mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) in the back garden were cut down in October.

This overhead view of one of my Monday flower arrangements is my nod to my garden's summer bounty

My husband and I paid a late-August visit to Sherman Gardens to see the Sculptura Botanica exhibit created by ceramic sculptor and landscape designer Dustin Gimbel


Agave americana medio-picta 'Alba' surrounded by larger Agaves ('Blue Glow' and 'Blue Flame')

This was one of the numerous giveaways I offered to neighbors during the course of 2020.  I gave away succulents, flowers, strawberry plants, and a variety of citrus fruits.  This one may have been the most popular - the first car pulled up even before I finished putting out the plants.


Agave 'Multicolor'  accented by yellow-flowered Lantana and Graptoveria 'Fred Ives'

The Dahlias in my cutting garden peaked in October, later than usual as I was late in planting the tubers this year

Splashing birds, mostly finches, enjoyed bathing in the backyard fountain


I enjoyed a little fall color in the form of this Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku' and a persimmon tree

I "fluffed" several succulent pots in November but this one required little upkeep.  The centerpiece is xMangave 'Red Wing', which is perhaps my favorite of the intergeneric hybrids commonly available at present

I'd been concerned that moving my bird feeders after the removal of two large trees might put off some birds.  The smaller birds returned quickly but the hawks, like this one, no longer have a great place to perch and eye their prey.  The closest this one got was the neighbor's pine tree.


We experienced a second round of wildfires in Southern California in early December.  We weren't in any direct danger but the air was smoky for more than a week.  It created interesting light effects but mostly kept me out of the garden.

This is a new photo showing the biggest of my fall garden projects.  I cleared the area of overgrown Aeoniums and other succulents; repaired damage by a gopher that built a den under a section of the short stacked stone wall; laid additional stone saved from last year's home remodel to partially level the slope; added soil amendments; and replanted, mostly with small succulent plugs and cuttings.  Nothing's died but it has a long way to go before it's filled in.

That's my haphazard recap of 2020.  I hope that 2021 brings better things for all of us.  Best wishes!

All material © 2012-2021 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Wednesday Vignettes: Changes in the Weather

After weeks of unseasonably warm, dry weather, we had a sudden shift this week with our first real rainstorm of our all-too-short rainy season.  I heard the forecasts for days before the event but chose not to put a lot of stock in the possibility as such chances of rain frequently fail to materialize.  But this storm system gained strength and, just after midnight on Monday, we heard the first deep rumble of thunder, followed shortly thereafter by pounding rain.  Rain continued at intervals, off and on, until Monday night.  In my location, we collected an inch of rain in total.

Every time the rain stopped and splashes of blue sky appeared, I feared that was it.  Late Monday morning, as the skies appeared to clear, I took my camera outside to catch the raindrops sparkling in the sunlight.

Regrettably, my photos don't capture the shimmering light my eyes saw in the Callistemon or the Leucadendrons in my back garden

Even if you can't see the sunlit raindrops, I expect you can tell just how clean the foliage was

The south-end succulent garden also looked clean and fresh

and a few plants, like the Agave 'Blue Glow' and Hymenolepsis parviflora shown here, did glisten

However, the oddest visual effect was the steam rising from the cold, wet surface of this patio chair as the warm sunlight caused the water to evaporate

Within perhaps half an hour of my jaunt through the garden with my camera, the clouds were back, followed by pounding hail, an unusual event here.

I took this photo through kitchen window when I realized that it was hail, not rain, pummeling the roof and the patio furniture outside

The hailstorm lasted maybe three minutes but the ice left behind hung on for considerably longer, even when the sun came out again

The hail wasn't limited to the patio.  I found it all over the garden.

Only one of my three rain tanks, the 50-gallon one, is completely full but the 160-gallon tank is almost 75% full.  In addition to what flowed into the tank from the roof surface on the north side of the house, I collected rain from a chain hung on the east side of the roof in plastic trugs, which I then transferred to that tank.  The largest, 265-gallon tank, is harder to calibrate and is fed off the smallest roof space, our garage, but I'd estimate it's 25% full.  All three tanks were empty when this storm moved in.

If you buy yourself a rain tank, I recommend getting one less translucent than this one.  It had accumulated some algae at the bottom so I added a little bleach to it.  I plan to let the rainwater sit a week or so before using it in the garden.

Yesterday was cold (in terms of how we evaluate "cold" in coastal southern California) and I only did a bit of garden cleanup.  But, to celebrate the clean air, I took a couple of photos, starting with the sunrise.

The clouds on the horizon made this sunrise look almost like a volcanic eruption

I ended the day, with this shot of the mountains to the east, covered in snow, and the last full moon of 2020 rising as the sun set.

The title of this post was inspired by a song that sprang to mind as the result of our weather roller-coaster ride this week, Changes in the Weather by Barefoot Truth.

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

All material © 2012-2020 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, December 28, 2020

In a Vase On Monday: Prelude to rain

Expecting our first real rain of the season, I cut flowers with little chance of holding up well for today's arrangements, not that I had an extensive list of prospects to begin with.  The focal point of the first arrangement are flowers of the Hong Kong orchid tree (Bauhinia x blakeana), which are currently prolific but which don't stand up well to either wind or rain.

I threw in more of my never-ending supply of Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy', as well as several stems of Leptospermum 'Pink Pearl'

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Bauhinia x blakeana, Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl', Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy', and Pelargonium 'Lady Plymouth'

I picked more flowers of the pink powder puff shrub (Calliandra haematocephala) for the second arrangement.  As you can imagine, powder puffs don't hold up well against rain either.  The stems of the frequently sheared shrubs are also annoyingly short and the flowers don't last long in a vase but I admit I'm fond of them anyway.

I used the vase featuring clasped hands with well-manicured fingernails but, as arranged, those are largely hidden by the flowers

I planted snapdragon (Antirrhinum majus) plugs several weeks ago and added a few stems of their first blooms.  Snapdragons are rust magnets in my climate so I could end up pulling the plants out before they have time to make much of a splash.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Antirrhinum majus in burgundy, pink, and white; Calliandra haematocephala, Grevillea 'Scarlet Sprite', and foliage of Leptospermum 'Copper Glow'

I'd cut a few stems of paperwhite Narcissus too but I decided they didn't work well with either of the previous arrangements so the the leftovers went into a small vase to sit in my office.

I've noID for the Narcissus, which came with the garden

If we don't get measurable rain, I'll be mightily disappointed.  I consulted two forecasting agencies online Sunday afternoon, one projecting a 95% chance of rain and the other a 72% chance but it wouldn't be the first time that high expectations crashed due to an unmovable ridge of high pressure air.  Fingers crossed!

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

Update:  It's raining!

All material © 2012-2020 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party