Friday, May 29, 2020

My latest project

After we removed our front lawn in 2014, I elected to cover the area underneath our Magnolia tree with mulch rather than place plants there to compete with the tree's extensive root system.

Photo taken in December 2014 after the lawn was removed, the flagstone path was laid, and the front beds were planted.  I covered the entire area under the Magnolia grandiflora with mulch for lack of a better idea.

My husband subsequently built a bench surrounding the tree to occupy some of that bare mulched space but I always thought that I'd attempt to plant at least a portion of it someday.  What better time than when I'm stuck at home during a pandemic?  My original thought was to replace the mulch with more creeping thyme but I couldn't really get excited about that, and then the start of the summer season isn't great for establishing thyme plugs anyway.  So, when my husband asked me what I wanted for my birthday, I suggested three half barrels - and that's just what he got me.

In addition to the three barrels, he bought planting soil specifically made for large containers and raised beds.  I played around with alternative placements for the barrels before deciding to line them up along the western edge of the mulched area.

Thursday morning, I grabbed my face mask and made a trip to my local garden center, which reopened its doors to customers on May 1st after shutting down for over a month.  I spent the entirety of a gift card given to me by a friend and more on plants to fill the barrels and got to work.  In addition to the bagged soil my husband had purchased, I mixed in compost and a dry slow-release fertilizer.

I filled one half-barrel mainly with vegetables, a second with flowers (heck, you really didn't think I was going to change my stripes completely, did you?), and the third with mostly herbs

This one has buttercrunch lettuce, Swiss chard, carrots and sweet alyssum.  I also sowed baby carrots here.

The purely decorative flower barrel contains Gomphrena, Prostanthera ovatifolia 'Variegata' (aka mint bush), a Penstemon mexicali, three Scabiosa columbaria 'Flutter Rose Pink', a burgundy-flowered Pelargonium peltatum, and more sweet alyssum

The third barrel contains sage, three kinds of basil, and a chocolate-colored pepper plant, as well as alyssum

I'm hoping this area will provide enough sun for these plants despite the partial shade offered by the Magnolia early in the day.  At least the gopher (still here!) shouldn't be a problem.  The raccoons pulled one plant during their overnight visit but they don't usually make a habit of poking around in raised planters here, and I'm hoping that'll remain the case.  The peacock that popped in the week before last hasn't returned, which is good news for my new plants.  However, some new visitors have made an appearance.

The first tiny bunny showed up in the back garden this week.  As long as he limited himself to the weedy yellow-flowered Cotula lineariloba and the rampant Gazanias I'm not too worried.

Baby doves showed up in my cutting garden yesterday but, seemingly ignored by their parents, I think their main focus is just staying alive

We've been lucky to have milder weather than projected this past week.  Forecasters are saying June is likely to be toasty but my fingers are crossed that the marine layer we've had in place most mornings this week will continue to keep our daytime temperatures on the low side.  I can hope that, anyway.  May your weather be more pleasant than anticipated as well.  When the daily news brings nothing but sorrow and grief, we all need as much time in our gardens as we can get.

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Wednesday Vignette: Some chores have to be put off

While my garden came through the heatwaves in late April and early May relatively unscathed overall, a few plants didn't fare well at all.  Those in the latter category included the two Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl' in the dry garden on the northeast side.  They usually produce sporadic blooms during the winter months, reserving their heaviest showing for spring; however, they bloomed more heavily than usual this winter.

These photos were taken in January

They flushed out again in April following the rain but the first heatwave in late April left them looking sad and May's follow-up made things worse.

They were sticking out like sore thumbs against rest of the greenery here

I decided I couldn't stand looking at them like that and started cutting the prickly foliage back on Monday.  I noticed that a couple of birds seemed especially agitated by my presence.  I guessed they might have a nest nearby but I hadn't expected to find it buried in the interior of the dense, needle-like foliage of the Leptospermum, until I came close to cutting into it.

This is the best photo I was able to manage.  The nest is crammed in among the dried foliage and dead flowers and I had difficulty getting the camera to focus.  I also didn't want to disturb any inhabitants by moving branches that might dislodge it.

Here are the worried parents, California Towhees I think

I believe there's at least one nestling in it as I'm sure I saw an open beak.  Much as I'd have liked to confirm that with a closer look, I gave up the effort to get a better shot as my presence so distressed the adult birds.  At least California Towhees aren't as fierce as the local mockingbirds.  The mockingbirds don't hesitate to attack intruders threatening their nests; I see them go after both hawks and crows daily and I've no doubt they'd swoop at a human intruder as well.  Needless to say, I decided the task of trimming the Leptospermum could wait a few weeks.

I may have a hard time photographing the birds in my garden but lizards are much easier.  I can't walk a foot without a lizard zipping across my path.  And, when they're happily baking on a warm rock, they don't hustle to seek cover either.

This is a western fence lizard, aka the blue-belly.  That blue glow you see here on the lizard's stomach and neck isn't an optical illusion.

That's my Wednesday Vignette this week.  For more, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.

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

Monday, May 25, 2020

In a Vase on Monday: Spoiled for choice

Despite heatwaves in late April and early May, I still have a supply of what are considered cool-season blooms here even as my summer bloomers have begun to appear.  Overwhelmed with choices, I tend to go overboard with floral arrangements.  I had Matilija poppies on my mind when I stepped into the garden yesterday but, when I trooped down to the bottom of the slope, I discovered there were no open blooms available at the moment.  Easily distracted, I started deadheading spent Centranthus blooms and ended up cutting several pink and white flower stems even though a pink arrangement wasn't something I'd consciously planned.

Luckily, the unexpected rain we got last week had prompted new blooms from the pink Alstroemerias, which pair well with pink and white Centranthus

Back view: I used the dark foliage of Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' to ground the arrangement

Top view: I added three of the shaggy Shasta daisies (Lecanthemum x superbum) that just started their annual bloom cycle
Clockwise from the upper left: noID pink Alstroemeria, Centranthus ruber, Dorycnium hirsutum (aka hairy Canary clover), Hebe 'Wiri Blush', Lathyrus odoratus, Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' and, in the middle, noID 'Leucanthemum x superbum

Cutting a few stems of Cuphea 'Vermillionaire' led to the creation of an arrangement with orange and yellow flowers.

While the Cuphea provided the impetus for this arrangement, Leucospermum 'Brandi', now waning, provided the focal point

Back view: The unusual red stems with green calyces are Sideritis cypria, which produces tiny yellow flowers inside the green cups

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer', Cuphea 'Vermillionaire', Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun', Hymenolepsis parviflora, Leucadendron salignum 'Chief'', Sideritis cypria, Lobelia laxiflora and, in the middle, Leucospermum 'Brandi'

With more heat on the way this week, Digitalis 'Dalmatian Peach' begged to be cut before its blooms were scorched.

This arrangement was a little too restrained in terms of the color mix, even by my standards, so I added the Achillea 'Moonshine' to give it a bit more energy

Back view:  I wouldn't normally include the Nigella stems I threw into this vase but Dahlia 'Gitt's Crazy' has sprouted and is already demanding more room so some of the Nigella stems had to be pulled

Top view

Top row: Achillea 'Moonshine', Alstroemeria 'Claire' and A. 'Inca Husky'
Middle row: Calendula 'Zeolights', Digitalis 'Dalmatian Peach', and Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream'
Bottom row: Leucadendron 'Jester', Nigella papillosa, and Orlaya grandiflora

Many of my dahlia tubers have sprouted and I've sown some sunflower and zinnia seeds so there's pressure to clear out the fading cool-season blooms to make room for summer flowers in my cutting garden.  The sweet peas will probably be the first to go.  They took a hit during our two heatwaves and haven't been able to rebound.

For more IAVOM creations, visit our bandleader, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

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

Friday, May 22, 2020

Projects, big and small

Well, actually most of the projects I've addressed in the past ten days or so have been relatively small.  The biggest project in my household was launched by my husband: removing the weeds growing between the paving surrounding the house.  I remove weeds here and there all the time but only occasionally tackle an entire area.  In contrast, he approached the project like a military campaign.

This gives you some idea what we contend with.  These paving stones surround the entire house, make up both our back and side patio areas AND fill our driveway.

I'd estimate he's cleared more than half the paved area, scraping out the weeds by hand, vacuuming them up, then filling in the cracks with a special sand intended to seal them

My projects have been both smaller in scale and more varied.

The clumping Aloe 'Johnson's Hybrid'  (left photo) I planted at the edge of this bed adjacent to our small south side patio years ago looked alright when the dwarf Agonis flexuosa shrubs covered most of the bed but, once those shrubs were pared back, the Aloes just looked sloppy to me.  I dug them out and replanted the area with cuttings of succulent Aeonium 'Kiwi'  to extend the edging already in place to the right.  They'll take awhile to fill in.

The gopher that took up residence in an area of the front garden on the southwest side hasn't decided to leave of his own volition.  Following advice by some commentators, I tried filling his main tunnel with dryer sheets but that didn't work.  Still hoping to push him out rather than set traps, I'm trying two repellents, granules soaked into the ground and four solar-powered sonic stakes than emit 5-second pulses at 20-second intervals.  The stakes have been in place for a week now but I'm only on day 2 with the granules.  They're added at intervals in one area after another to "push" the animal to move along.  We shall see if the combined impact yields results.

Cool season flowers still occupy significant space in the raised planters that make up my cutting garden but, as the weather gets warmer, the seeds of my warm season annuals need to be sown.  Several dahlia tubers are already in temporary plastic pots and this week I resurrected the self-watering plastic tub I bought more than a decade ago to grow tomatoes in my old garden for use in starting sunflower and zinnia seeds.  At least one piece of the plastic tub was missing but I hope it'll serve its purpose anyway.  I noticed the first sunflower seed breaking the surface this morning.

I've planted a few things here and there elsewhere in the garden as well.  Clockwise from the upper left: sunflower seedlings coming up through flats laid over the soil to protect them from critters; Ammi majus 'Dara' picked up on a whim on a brief stop at a nursery to hand off plants to a friend; and Lavender 'Anouk', a 'Purple Beauty' pepper, and an 'Early Girl' tomato picked up on my visit to Armstrong Garden Center 3 weeks ago.

In addition, I've been on a tear deadheading and cleaning up the garden.  Spent succulent flowers were a major focus this week.  The bees love the flowers of Aeonium haworthii 'Kiwi' and 'Kiwi Verde' but the top-heavy stems had toppled all over the garden and most of the flowers were looking scruffy so it was time to move on. 

I didn't take an "after" photo of the 'Kiwi Verde' succulents but this before shot taken in early May gives you an idea of what I started with.  These succulents are spread all over my garden.

I also cleaned up the front bed torn asunder during last year's remodel.

Here it is, ready and waiting to be planted.  All that was missing was plants to fill the space.

Those arrived at last, late this afternoon.

So I'll be spending Saturday planting.  I hope you find something pleasant to occupy your time this weekend too.

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Wednesday Vignette: A bird's eye view of the garden

Last Wednesday we had an unexpected visitor.  We'd heard him, or one of his kin, kicking up a fuss, several days before but we didn't see him and, when he was silent for several days, we figured he'd moved on or run afoul of one of the self-appointed vigilantes that patrol our area every night.  I thought I heard his tell-tale squawk Wednesday morning but dismissed it as a figment of my imagination.  But, as I headed out the door to collect my car for a pet supply run, there he was, standing in front of the open garage door.

Peacocks can be found all over the peninsula we live on but they're seldom seen in our immediate area due to the aforementioned vigilantes, aka coyotes.  Peacocks were brought here around 100 years ago, reportedly as a gift to a wealthy landowner.  They thrived, much to the chagrin of some present-day homeowners.  They have their advocates and their detractors.  I periodically come across one on our main road but I've only seen them in our neighborhood twice in nearly 10 years.  Both those birds were juvenile males, presumably tossed out of their family compounds as they matured.  They were generally gone within a day.  This is the first time I've ever seen a mature male here.  It's peacock mating season and apparently he was looking a little further afield to find his peahen.  I grabbed my camera and followed him through my garden, observing proper social distancing of course.

He spent no time at all in my cutting garden, heading toward the patio on the north side of the house (Yes, if you noticed the doorstop tucked to the side of the path on the left, it IS missing its head.  I'm not sure how it came off but I still have the head too.  I'm debating whether to glue it back in place or toss it out.  The doorstop was the last birthday present my mother gave me, saying it reminded her of me as I was always reading as a child.  I'd been using it to hold the gate open when it's windy.

Neither the spa nor the north side garden were of interest to the peacock.  Meanwhile, I focused on that loose feather he was trailing, thinking that my cat Pipig would appreciate a new one to play with but he stayed just beyond my reach.

He's crossing the back patio here

and here he's headed down the walkway in the direction of the south side patio

I got too close for his comfort and he crossed the bed to take the flagstone path to get away from me, still heading south.  Despite his prior cries seeking female attention, he remained utterly silent through his entire visit to our garden.

He rounded the curve into the succulent area on the south side

But then he hustled down the moderate front slope to the area in which my lath shade house sits, moving at a good clip

He paused here along the property line before deciding he'd had enough of me

When he moved onto my neighbor's property, I gave up my paparazzi assignment and got back to my pet supply run.  That took about an hour.  When I returned home, I asked my husband if the peacock had returned while I was out.  He said he expected it was long gone, just as I looked out our kitchen window and spotted him on the back patio looking in our direction.  Scooping up my camera, I followed him once more.

He paused under the Arbutus 'Marina', considering his options

He jumped onto the narrow dirt path used when trimming the Xylosma hedge, preparing to head south but I circled around on the other side and he chose to turn around

He headed back to the garden on the north side, which he'd passed through on his first tour of the garden

Here he is underneath the Kool-aid bush (Psoralea pinnata), evaluating his route once again

He took the gravel path through the dry garden area, looking back as if thinking "Is she STILL following me?"

He scooted around the corner and down the concrete stairway through the back slope

He crossed the property line, landing on the neighbors' stairs looking down into the canyon

He hugged the wall of the neighbor's house, moving behind the flowering Centranthus ruber, headed in the direction of the canyon.  If he was lucky, he found himself a mate.  If he was unlucky, he found himself facing a coyote.  In any case, we haven't heard plaintive cries of any sort in the past week.  Our only surprise this week was rain, which is unusual in May to say the least and, for me, even more exciting than a visit by a peacock.

We got over 1/3rd of an inch of rain when the forecast was for little or nothing.  My 50-gallon tank, which was empty, is now full.  The 160-gallon tank shown above, which was down to 20 gallons is now just short of full, and amazingly, my 265-gallon tank (which started out partly full) is now also full.

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

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