Monday, August 31, 2020

In a Vase on Monday: Sunny Blooms

The heat "on" switch here has blessedly been turned off, at least for a time.  We had beautiful weather this past weekend and it's expected to hang on through Thursday, after which another heatwave is expected to descend upon us.  I'm going to make the most of the cooler weather while it lasts.

With the exception of  'Labyrinth', the dahlias have been stingy with their blooms thus far.  I followed the advice offered by Nicholas Gitts (owner of Swan Island Dahlias) in the latest issue of Fine Gardening and applied a bloom booster fertilizer a week ago but it hasn't has a material impact as of yet.  However, I do have one arrangement featuring dahlias this week.

Dahlia 'Labyrinth' is once again stealing the show but 'Candelight' made its first appearance this week as a supporting actor

I used what may be the last of the "green" gladiolas to dress up the back of the vase, along with a few stems of my sweet autumn clematis

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Dahlias 'Labyrinth' and 'Candlelight', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Alstroemeria 'Inca Sunshine', Clematis terniflora, Cuphea 'Honeybells', Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid', and Gladiolus 'Green Star'

I made use of some of my limited collection of sunflowers for a second vase.

I mixed the sunflowers with Rudbeckia and Cosmos

The back view features a couple of mutant sunflowers (below the larger sunflower).  I sowed seeds of Helianthus annuus 'Greenburst' and 'Ruby Eclipse' and these don't look like either but they do look much like the mutant blooms that appeared in my garden last year.  Apparently mutant sunflowers are relatively common as described here.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Rudbeckia hirta 'Denver Daisy', Helianthus annuus 'Delta Sunflower', mutant sunflowers, hybrid Helianthus 'Sunfinity', Cosmos bipinnatus, Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', and Chondropetalum elephantitum

A few leftover blooms landed in a tiny vase on the kitchen island.

I cut two stems of pink Eustoma grandiflorum (aka Lisianthus) for the first vase but they weren't a good match so they and a few extra stems of Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid' ended up here

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

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

Friday, August 28, 2020

Another perspective on the garden

In July, Tamara of Chickadee Gardens published a post by her "facilities manager" featuring his favorite flowers.  Earlier this week, Loree of danger garden provided a list of her husband's favorite plants from their garden.  With a degree of trepidation, I asked my spouse if he'd identify his favorite plants in our garden.  After a roll of his eyes and my assurance that he could limit his list to ten plants, he laughed and signified general acceptance of the request (after I agreed that we could skip the back slope).  As background, my husband has always been very willing to help me with all the heavy lifting in the garden, including the removal of all the lawn that came with it, laying flagstone paths, and constructing a stairway of concrete blocks down our steep back slope.  He also built an arbor for our grapevine, a dining table for our back patio, a lath house for my shade plants and, most recently, compost bins.

In addition to designing and building the lath house, including internal shelving and external window boxes, he also created custom-fitted shade-cloth screens to cover the ceiling and top two shelving areas to increase the shade quotient during the hot summer months 

That said, he shows little to no interest in what I plant, except to occasionally express concern that one plant or another may impact his view of the harbor.  He's also severely color blind, so much so that I'm regularly required to advise him as to the colors marking electrical wires when he's wiring anything. I periodically invite him into the garden to look at plants I'm particularly pleased with but the best I usually get out of him is "uh huh, that's nice."

He walked through the garden before making any selections.  Then he started pointing to things but he left the camera work to me.  I asked if he could tell me what he liked about the plants he identified and he responded to the effect that I hadn't said that was necessary so "no" and we proceeded with him pointing and me clicking the camera.  Here's his list in order of selection:

Pyrus calleryana, aka ornamental pear : This tree admittedly provides good shade cover in the front garden but it's also extremely messy; however, I'm the one that deals with the leaf litter and falling fruit

Phormium 'Maori Queen': One of my favorite plants as well.  He noted that we had several and his praise encompassed all of them.

Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum': He took note of two of them but there are others.  He looked up at Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' as we walked by the area on the right but made no note of that plant.

Helichrysum petiolare 'Licorice Splash: I was confounded by this choice, especially as he completely ignored Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt'

Arthropodium cirratum, aka Renga Lily (not currently in bloom): This selection startled me too.  I love the plant, which handles dry shade conditions well, but he passed by a couple of dozen of these plants elsewhere in the garden without noting them.  The two plants here receive more sun and are a bit sun-bleached by comparison to others in shadier areas.

Zinnia elegans: The first flowers he acknowledged, although he waved at them and said "these chrysanthemums or whatever they are."  In retrospect, I wondered if he noticed these because this area was recently covered with scrappy looking rosemary shrubs.  I added the Zinnias as a temporary filler after pulling the shrubs out.

Yucca 'Bright Star': Another plant we agree on

Polygala fruticosa, aka sweet pea shrub: Although I've got a few of these in the garden, the most I can say about it is that it's a tidy shrub when young

Lantana 'Samantha': Another flowering plant, this one with variegated foliage.  There was no mention of the lovely sunflower in a pot nearby that echoed the yellow flower color.

Pelargonium 'Lady Plymouth': His selection of this one had me thinking that he's drawn to variegated foliage that stands out among the surrounding plants

Gladiolus 'Green Star': A total surprise

The Mandarin and navel orange trees: In this case, he specifically mentioned that he appreciated their excellent fruit.  There are still a few orange spots visible near the top of the Mandarin orange tree on the left but most of those are just shells left by the rats after they ate the remaining fruit in place.

If you've counted, his list included twelve plant species rather than ten as we'd both lost track.  Like Loree, I suspect the list might be very different at another moment in time.  No succulents were identified.  I was moderately surprised there weren't more trees on the list (I'm certain the lemon tree would've been included if we'd gone down the back slope) and almost as surprised that he included any flowers at all.  I'm not sure what I can take away from the exercise about his preferences other than perhaps that he shows some preference for variegated plants.

Online sources are predicting a nice drop in temperatures over the weekend and although they've consistently underestimated our daytime highs I'm nonetheless hopeful they're right this time.  I hope you enjoy a safe and comfortable weekend as well.

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

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Wednesday Vignette: Rare Sightings

Although our temperatures have fallen a few degrees this week, it's still been very warm here and humidity has been unusually high, which continues to make working outside uncomfortable.  California is known for dry heat but this tropical bent has become increasingly common year-to-year.  I've still managed to get in a little time in the garden but I haven't tackled any new projects or planted anything new, with the exception of a large sunflower I popped into a pot on the patio to replace a plant that had seen better days.

I've continued to take photos in the garden, though, and my Wednesday Vignette this week focuses on some unusual sights.  The first is the flower of Drimia maritima, aka sea squill (formerly Urginea maritima).  I've admired the foliage of this drought-tolerant plant at my local botanic garden for some time but had the devil of a time finding the bulb at a reasonable price.  I finally succeeded last year and, even though I'd understood the bulb was large, I was surprised by its nearly bowling ball size and how heavy it was.  I planted it in the driest area of my dry back slope, an area that receives no irrigation, and somewhat to my surprise it produced foliage over the winter months.  The foliage died back in the spring but a flower stalk appeared this month.

I snapped this photo of the plant's foliage on New Year's Day.  The plant should get much larger with more years in the ground.

The flower stalk was just beginning to emerge in mid-August.  I hadn't expected flowers at all this year but checked on it after reading a couple of posts from others who had flowers.  Because of run-ins with fire ants, I've been avoiding my back slope this summer but I suited up to protect myself and checked on the flower stalk again on Saturday.  It had grown taller but was light on open florets.

I checked it again yesterday.  It's even taller and florets are opening at a steady pace but the lower flowers are shriveling as new ones appear.  The bees love it regardless.  It's not a display like the one you see here but I have high hopes for it in the future and I'm seriously considering buying one or two more bulbs.

The second surprise in my garden came in the form of a bloom on one of the Epiphyllums growing in my lath house.  I have three plants, only two of which are identified in my records and I originally thought the one with the flower bud was 'Monastery Pink' but, as the bud developed, I realized I was wrong.

I subsequently concluded that this is Epiphyllum oxypetalum 'Queen of the Night'

I'd been checking on the bud every couple of days, looking for a full-blown bloom, but once I correctly identified it, I realized I was going to have a hard time getting a photo of it in bloom.  According to online resources, it rarely blooms and, when it does, it opens only at night and, once that happens, it wilts.

The referenced resource says it may be seen in bloom as early as 8pm but the best hours to catch it are between midnight and 3am!  I took this photo at 8pm, and checked it again at 9pm and just after 11pm.  There was no sign of any change.  Conceivably, it's already bloomed and this is it in its wilted state but I see no sign of it shriveling; however, I'm not sure how many nights I'm prepared to trot down to the lath house in the dark with a flashlight and camera.

So a photo of the 'Queen of the Night' cactus flower may not materialize this year but, as I was passing through the cutting garden late yesterday afternoon, I caught a rare photo of one of the many hummingbirds that buzz through my garden all day every day.

This little lady (I suspect it's a female but I'm not sure) had just chased away a competitor seeking access to "her" cutting garden and was still on guard watching to see if it returned.  It did and she set off on a chase.

Little things like these add elements of joy to days that often feel mundane and repetitious (or infuriating) these days.  I'll end this post with another thing the brought me joy this week, the new pot of sunflowers on our back patio.

Although I have sunflowers growing elsewhere, I couldn't resist a pot of Helianthus 'Sunfinity' on my trip to the garden center for fertilizer last Friday.  I evicted the sad plant that had occupied the pot and replaced it with this, photographed here through my kitchen window.

Here's another view from the garden, where the sunflowers echo the bright color of Lantana 'Samantha' in the foreground

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

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

Monday, August 24, 2020

In a Vase on Monday: Bright spots within a smokey haze

California is on fire again.  The current estimate is 560 active wildfires.  Over one million acres have burned, which is already roughly four times the number of acres burned last year.  Two large fires in Los Angeles County have been burning since August 12th and 13th respectively, and although both are quite a distance away and now over 50% contained, their smoke has left us with hazy skies and poor air quality.  However, the fires in the northern part of the state, most caused by lightning strikes, are far worse.  Members of my family living up north have been dealing with the threat of evacuation since last week.  Two hundred thousand people state-wide are presently under evacuation orders. 

Under the circumstances, wandering through my garden putting together materials for floral arrangements seems almost ridiculous but there's nothing my husband and I can do from several hundred miles away but worry.  Cutting flowers is a distraction.

Dahlia 'Labyrinth' provided the centerpiece of my first arrangement.

I replaced the 'Labyrinth' tuber I used last year after I mistakenly allowed it and many other dahlia tubers to dry out.  The new tuber produced blooms more in keeping with the color the flowers are supposed to have rather than the pale blooms I had last year.

I fleshed out the arrangement with seed-grown Zinnias and sunflowers.  The blooms of the latter are small and aren't readily visible in any but my close-up photos.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Dahlia 'Labyrinth', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Zinnia elegans 'Queen Lime Blush', Helianthus annuus 'Ruby Eclipse', and Zinnias from the 'Northern Lights Blend'

Two other dahlias provided the focus for my second arrangement.

Dahlia 'Loverboy' got pride of place at the front of the arrangement

Two stems of Dahlia 'Mr Optimist' dressed up the back of the arrangement

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Dahlias 'Loverboy' and 'Mr Optimist, Alstroemeria 'Claire', Clematis terniflora (aka sweet autumn clematis), Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey', Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', and Leucanthemum x superbum

It's nominally cooler than it was last week but the gladiolas aren't going to last much longer so I cut more of those stems this week.  The arrangement is nearly identical to one I created last week.

Different vase and no lisianthus but otherwise the same as arrangement #2 last week

Back view: Still, I couldn't let those purple gladiola stems go to waste

Top view

Clockwise from the left: Cosmos bipinnatus, Abelia grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', Gladiolus 'Vuvuzela', and Symphyotrichum chilense

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

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

Friday, August 21, 2020

Mostly Foliage

The heat switch has been stuck in the "on" position for over a week but we're expecting to move back into the 80s starting today.  I haven't been doing much more than watering the garden during the past week but, as I wandered about in the morning hours checking for evidence of heat stress, I took my camera with me.  After a Bloom Day glut of flowers, I focused most of my attention on foliage.  I thought I'd share some of what looks good, as well as a few recent losses.

After focusing my camera on the Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' in the center of this shot, I pulled back for a wider view of the area, which may be the greenest section of my garden at present

When it's really hot I pay more attention to the plants that provide shade.  My initial focus was the peppermint willows, Agonis flexuosa.  There are six of these trees in the garden, four of which filter the sun on the west side, providing a lacy curtain.

I was trying to get a good shot of the wispy Agonis leaves here but the trunk of the strawberry tree, Arbutus 'Marina', ended up front and center

I couldn't ignore that flashy bark even though I showed the bark of another Arbutus in a July post

I had the peppermint willows in the front garden cut back last year.  I may leave them alone during this fall's pruning cycle to get a better curtain next year.

The only annoying thing about these trees is that two of them are planted in the middle of the path that leads from the lower level of the front garden to the driveway

I have to squeeze along the path but, combined with the Xylosma hedge, the trees do a good job of screening us from the street

This peppermint willow stands on the northwest side of the property.  It was thinned last year too but I'll leave it alone this year as well.

Relatives of the peppermint willow trees, Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' provides some privacy on the south side of the house, although the dwarf shrubs offer little in the way of shade.  However, an overgrown Coprosma adjacent to the patio has helped out a bit in that regard.

I cut the three shrubs down to nearly a foot tall this past winter.  They're less than half the height they once more but they recovered well.

Pulling down the shades in our living room (in an effort to keep the house from heating up) allowed me to get a halfway decent shot of this Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey'.  It's an exceptionally pretty mirror plant with glossy leaves that range from lime green to burgundy.  I frequently use the stems in floral arrangements.

Grasses and grass-like plants also caught my attention.

I love this Pennistum advena 'Rubrum' combined with Centaurea 'Silver Feathers', especially when the grass sports its graceful plumes as it's doing now

This is Lomandra 'Platinum Beauty', shown in two different areas of my garden.  Lomandra isn't a true grass but it creates the effect of one.

I admire foliage that adds color to the garden when my flowering plants start to take a step back.

I've previously grown Caladium in pots here but this year I planted the bulbs in the ground in semi-shaded areas by the front door.  The plant on the left is 'Creamsicle' and the one on the right is 'Debutante'.

This plant goes by the cumbersome name of Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-star'.  It develops a tall, woody stem as it ages, even when periodically cut back.  I usually replace it when it gets this tall but my nursery rounds have been drastically curtailed this year and I haven't found starter plants.  When it's cooler, I'll try taking cuttings.

Other foliage stood out on account of its sheer resilience against the heat.

I've actively worked at ridding my garden of Asparagus densiflorus 'Myers' and its thick masses of bulbous roots but I'm somewhat more favorably disposed to this 'Sprengeri'. The stems have an attractive foxtail form and it doesn't seem quite as invasive as 'Myers'.  It's also the only plant that's survived in this extremely dry spot, where even succulents struggle.

This is Phormium 'Tom Thumb', shown here mingling with Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' on the left and Cordyline 'Renegade' on the right.

Of course, not all is well.  Late yesterday afternoon, I noticed that one of my Helichysum 'Icicles' has suddenly turned a sickly beige, although the others look fine.  Heat contributed to the demise of a couple other plants as well.

This was Echium wildpretii.  I planted it in early February and it was looking good until about 2 weeks ago.  It was probably too dry for it here even though I made an extra effort to give it extra water.

Phylica pubescens (aka featherhead) has been in this bed for two and a half years, although I can't say it ever really thrived 

I don't think the heat had anything to do with the loss of the tree-sized Toyon, Heteromeles artbutifolia, on the south end of the garden but there's no longer any denying that it's dead.  The only question is whether I can continue to put off dealing with it until the fall when I usually have a tree-trimming service in for our annual pruning exercise.

It turns out that Toyons are sensitive to the same pathogen that causes sudden oak death.  It was a rapid transition from first notice that it was in trouble to this state of red-leafed suspended animation.

To conclude on a more positive note, I'm including a photo of my Yucca 'Bright Star'.  These plants get a lot of coverage in this blog and I hadn't planned to share another photo this month, until I noticed a new development.

The Yucca on the right bloomed months ago and now the largest of the trio planted in this area has a flower spike too

And, even though I intended to focus this post on foliage, I'm closing with photos of the latest dahlias to make an appearance in my cutting garden because I simply can't stop myself from doing so.

Clockwise from the top are Dahlias 'Labyrinth', 'Loverboy' and 'Enchantress'

I'm looking forward to cooler temperatures but poor air quality, the product of the mass of wildfires that have sprung up all over California, may still limit my time outside.  It looks like we're in store for another difficult summer season after all.

Best wishes for a safe and peaceful weekend.

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