Friday, July 31, 2020

Dahlias! (but they're not mine)

I made a reservation to visit South Coast Botanic Garden again this week, prompted mostly by curiosity over the progress of the Dahlia Garden.  I collaborated with two other docents and the then head gardener on restoring that area earlier this year.  We'd prepared the beds, ordered the tubers, and agreed on a layout before all volunteers were furloughed in March and the head gardener transferred to another LA County garden.  We handed everything over to other members of SCBG's paid staff and that was that.  During my June visit, I noticed that approximately half the tubers had sprouted but there were no blooms yet; however, recent newsletters sent to members revealed that some blooms have since appeared.

This is a view of the three raised planters that make up the Dahlia Garden.  I didn't manage to get a good shot of the semi-circular bed on the right (west side) so I've shown separate front and rear shots of the bed, regrettably shot from different angles.  The rear half of that bed apparently was never planted.

But let's focus on the pretty flowers.  We'll start with the plants in bloom in the left (east side) bed.

This is 'Totally Tangerine', an anemone-type dahlia

'Lifestyle' (not labeled by the garden) is another anemone-type dahlia.  I expected the flower to be more yellow than lavender-pink so it doesn't blend as well with its neighbors as I'd hoped when we created our plan.

'My Little Sunshine', a so-called cactus-type dahlia

This is 'Cafe au Lait', currently very popular in dahlia circles

'Bahama Mama' is in the decorative class, which frankly seems to be a type that encompasses a lot of dahlias that aren't easily classified in another category.  Unfortunately, this one was past its prime.

'Penhill Dark Monarch' may be the most flamboyant of the group currently in bloom.  It's one of many included in the Dahlia Garden described as a "dinnerplate dahlia."  That description isn't actually a dahlia "type" but refers generally to the large size of the blooms.

Only two of the plants in the central bed  were blooming and many still seem to be no-shows.

'Magic Moment', a cactus-type with incurved petals

I believe this is 'Lisa Lisa', mistakenly labeled as 'Einstein', which has a deep purple color and larger flowers

The semi-circular bed on the right (west side) wasn't completely planted for some reason.  With the volunteers gone, I suspect the shortage of garden help left the paid staff seriously stretched in addressing the needs of the 87 acre botanic garden and the ball on this project just got dropped.  A gardener I spoke to during my visit on Wednesday morning told me that some of the tubers had been planted in pots, which are currently in the greenhouse.  Here's what was blooming among the plants in the ground:

'Kelvin Floodlight', a dinner plate dahlia in the decorative group.  This one stands out for both the flower's size and nearly florescent color. 

In contrast, 'Cherry Drop' (which was also unlabeled) has a more diminutive flower.  It's classified as a waterlily-type dahlia.

Pom-pom type dahlias aren't among my personal favorites but 'Kasasagi' is an excellent example

This was mislabeled as 'Ginger Snap', which is a collarette type dahlia.  I believe it's actually 'Crazy Legs', a decorative dahlia with similarly sized flowers.

Because our planning group wanted to show the visiting public the wide variety of flower shapes, sizes, and colors available within the genus, the layout of the dahlia beds was a dicey proposition.  Our layout called for a zig-zag line-up based on gradations of color and size.  With many plants still no-shows, the rainbow effect we sought to create hasn't been realized, at least not yet, and the range of flower shapes isn't represented in the breadth we'd planned due to the number of plants still missing.  Plants grow at different rates and their mature sizes are subject to variation, which also complicates the planned symmetry of the beds.

Oh well, the handful of people I spoke to during my brief visit seemed to enjoy the flowers.  I think the informational posters we'd originally planned would still be helpful as I encountered a few people who'd guessed the flowers were chrysanthemums!

My own dahlias, which were planted MUCH later than last year's crop, are slowly budding out.  Hopefully, I'll have at least a few flowers soon.

'Sellwood Glory' seems intent on leading the parade in my own garden

I only spent an hour in total at the botanic garden.  Even though I arrived earlier this time, it was more crowded than it was during my prior visit.  It wasn't a problem to maintain social distancing and, with the exception of some small children, visitors and staff were all wearing masks but I felt on edge anyway.  However, I did cover a few other areas of the garden before I left.

The Mexican sunflower tree (Tithonia diversifolia) has fully fleshed out and was covered in blooms.  The heaviest concentration of flowers was on the tree's west side but that angle didn't photograph as well as this one.

The seating area between the Vegetable Garden and the Living Wall was looking good

Backlit cactus in the Desert Garden

Grapevine-covered bench in the Garden for the Senses

The flowers in the lavender field were fading but the area still looked good

The Brazilian orchid tree (Bauhinia forficata) in bloom

A bright pink-flowered Callistemon in lieu of the usual red version

That's it for me this week.  I hope you enjoy a pleasant weekend!

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Wednesday Vignette: Bright Spots

It's hard to remain hopeful these days when every newscast brings new reasons for worry - or anger.  I've tried to limit my news consumption but I still read and digest more than may be healthy on a daily basis.  My garden remains a refuge and, whether walking through it to water, pull weeds, deadhead flowers, prune rampant growth or simply snap photos, it manages to distract me, bringing my blood pressure down and clearing my mind, if only for awhile.

I thought I'd share a few of the casual distractions that caught my attention this week as my Wednesday Vignette, rather than enumerating the circumstances that had me climbing a wall.

For some reason, a Gulf Fritillary landed on this Agave americana medio-picta 'Alba' and spent enough time there to allow me to get a couple of decent shots

Agapanthus 'Stevie's Wonder', planted as bulbs last year, produced their first blooms.  I arguably don't need any more Agapanthus but I couldn't resist its dark blue color when I saw it in a catalog last year.

I planted a handful of Crocosmia last year and promptly forgot all about them. I've no record of how many I planted or where I put them but this one made a surprise appearance in the back border.

This unusual Sisyrinchium called 'Quaint and Queer' was in full bloom this week but I had a devil of a time photographing its tiny flowers.  This was my best shot.

The seedpod of my Moroccan peony (Paeonia cambessedesii) ripened and burst open to reveal shiny dark blue seeds against a bright red background

I cut the peony's seedpod and planted those seeds in pots in the hope that at least one or two will produce a new plant.  

I couldn't find any references describing the requirements for growing these peonies from seed but I thought I'd give it a try anyway.  Each of these pots got 3 seeds and I planted the the last one directly in the ground.

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

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

Monday, July 27, 2020

In a Vase on Monday: There's always something

While I wait impatiently for my traditional summer blooms (dahlias, sunflowers, zinnias) to make an appearance, I shifted my focus to the flowers that make up the backbone of my garden.  Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' is having a really good year and it provided the inspiration for my first vase this week.

Last week, I speculated that I might end up using succulents in this week's vase.  As it turned out, that wasn't necessary but I did add succulent flowers in the form of Cotyledon orbiculata, commonly known as pig's ear (based on the foliage, not the flowers).

Back view: I'm in the process of cutting back Leucadendron 'Safari Goldstrike' so I used stems of that as my foliage element

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream', Abelia grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope', Cotyledon orbiculata, Leucanthemum x superbum, Lantana 'Lucky Yellow', and Leucadendron 'Safari Goldstrike'

Speaking of plants having a good year, the Amaryllis belladonna I introduced last week is having its best year ever.  Last year I think I had three bloom stalks but this year the flowers are dominating my back border.  This time I paired them with some of the last stems of Agapanthus.

Pink and blue isn't a common combination for me but the Cuphea 'Starfire Pink' I used as filler material led me in that direction

Back view, featuring Cuphea 'Starfire Pink' and Pandorea jasminoides

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Amaryllis belladonna, Alstroemeria 'Inca Vienna', noID Agapanthus, Cuphea 'Starfire Pink', and Pandorea jasminoides

Can you believe that July is almost over?  How is it that time still seems to pass so quickly even when each day feels much like the day before?  The future is still murky but I'm trying to focus on what I can control in my small corner of the world, like renovating a couple of garden beds to prepare for replanting this fall.  I'm hopeful that, in addition to changes to the garden, the new year will bring new leadership to guide the US out of the mess it's in and, if we're all lucky, a viable vaccine.

In the meantime, for more IAVOM arrangements created from floral and foliage material on hand, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

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

Friday, July 24, 2020

Summer planting rules & gopher curbs

As I mentioned in a post earlier this month*, I try to avoid planting anything but succulents during the summer months.   I usually end up making some exceptions but this year I've thrown my "rule" out the window.  After all, I need to do something to keep myself sane.  This week I planted what I received in my latest order from Annie's Annuals & Perennials (my second this month), as well as plants I picked up from my local garden center.

One of the plants in Annie's box literally popped up as soon as I opened the box.  That's Tithonia diversifolia, aka Mexican sunflower.  When I failed to get seeds to germinate, I jumped at the chance to buy the plant during Annie's summer sale.

I fleshed out my Annie's order with a Mimulus, Aristea major and 3 'Silver Anouk' lavenders
I fleshed out the order by adding one Mimulus, an Aristea major, and 3 'Silver Anouk' lavenders

I stopped by by my local garden center to pick up planting mix and to look for a flat of creeping thyme.  I left with more than I'd bargained for.

As you can see, I found the 'Elfin' thyme.  I also picked up a Plectranthus, 2 Echinaceas, 3 new-to-me Penstemons, six-packs of Zinnias, Ajuga, Nierembergia, and Lobelia, as well as an odd little plant I'd never heard of.

This is Pterocephalus depressus, aka Moroccan pincushion.  The fuzzy bits shown in this shot appear to be the spent blooms of the pink flowers the plant produces.

With one exception, I amazed myself by getting everything into the ground or into pots on a timely basis for a change.  I'll start with what went into pots.

This is the Tithonia diversifolia, which straightened up nicely once it was potted up.  My plan is to plant it in the succulent bed lining the street in the fall in anticipation of our rainy season.  I want it to bulk up and develop a more robust root system before I install it in what is my version of a hell strip.

Aristea major may eventually go into the ground but I decided to try it in this pot in my cutting garden first.  Half of the Lobelia six-pack went into the pot as well.

I thought I'd picked up two Echinacea 'Cheyenne Spirit' for this pot but one plant turned out to be E. 'Wild Berry'Echinacea doesn't usually survive longer than one season here but I couldn't resist its beautiful flowers.

With no prior experience growing it, I put the Pterocephalus depressus in a pot (minus its fuzzy bits) so I could give it more careful attention

Everything else went into the ground.

Ajuga reptans 'Chocolate Chip' went into the narrow soil space surrounding the concrete pavers that form the floor of my lath (shade) house

The three Lavandula 'Silver Anouk' went into the top level of the moderate slope that leads down to the lath house, surrounding the Phlomis purpurea I planted a couple of months ago.  I'm planning to add creeping thyme along the edge bordering the mulch-covered path.

The white monkeyflower, Mimulus bifidus, was planted near another one I installed after receiving a prior order from Annie's

Seven plugs of Nierembergia 'Purple Robe' were added here in the back garden as filler

Five more Nierembergia plugs were added here, joining the Salvia x jamensis 'Ignition Purple' and Verbascum phoenuceum 'Violetta' received with my prior Annie's order 

Plectranthus  'Velvet Elvis' was planted just outside the dining room window near another perennial Plectranthus'Velvet Elvis' was labeled as an annual but many are short-lived perennials in my climate.

The Zinnias were used to fill in for some of the sunflowers I'd seeded here.  Some of the sunflowers germinated but most didn't get the water they needed to thrive here.

I'd absolutely no idea where I was going to put the Penstemons but finally settled on adding them to the back border.  The area I chose had recently been the resident gopher's favorite and, as I began digging, I dug right into one of his tunnels.  Because my sandy soil dries out quickly, I usually water the hole before placing a plant.  When the water disappeared immediately without ever filling the first hole, I realized it was running right through a gopher tunnel.  I decided it was time to try a new strategy.

I'd been using granule deterrents watered into the soil and solar-powered sonic devices like the one shown here to redirect the gopher.  He does respond by moving but I haven't yet succeeded in moving him out in the direction of the canyon.

I originally bought several gopher cages like this to use above ground to shield new plants from raccoons but I decided it was time to try them as intended to deter gophers from eating the roots of my new plants.

The upper green section of the cage is intended to sit above soil level while the bottom section is buried.  I planted all three Penstemon digitalis 'Onyx and Pearls' in these cages.

So all that's left is to plant the creeping thyme, a time-consuming project (pun intended).  Hopefully, we'll continue to get a good morning marine layer to keep the temperatures down next week.  For July, we've been very lucky in the weather department. 

Stay safe and enjoy your weekend!

*My earlier post entitled "Pandemic Planting" was originally posted on July 9th.  In trying out "New Blogger," I ended up republishing that post on July 24th.  Every new platform presents challenges and missteps it seems.   The current post took twice as long as usual but I got the hang of most things, except how the labels are supposed to work.


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