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

29 comments:

  1. Everything looks so neat and tidy. Love all the different foliage and that handsome bark. I have read where you have to battle the asparagus fer ever so often but I like thos big fluffy tails sticking up. They seem so other worldly. I have tried to grow that one here. I can't keep it alive overwinter so it doesn't get much larger than when I buy it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have another of the foxtail asparagus ferns in a pot, which is probably the safest place to grow it here, Lisa. I've got at three spots in my garden (at least) with soil deeply riddled with bulbous 'Myers' roots. I keep planning to dig out one particular area to recover more usable garden space but I estimate that would takes days, if not weeks. It's also zero fun so I've yet to tackle it.

      Delete
  2. Never enough Dahlia pictures!

    Your garden looks wonderfully lush while still being water-wise.

    87F here...87 would be manageable if it would just cool down at night.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We were about the same temperature here at today's peak. Tomorrow's temperature is supposed to be lower but I've noticed that both Weather Underground and AccuWeather consistently understate the peak, or maybe they're quoting an average figure. Cooler temperatures at night and better air quality would be nice.

      Delete
  3. I feel bad for your fires and poor air quality. It rained here in Seattle today, and I would gladly send a few drops your way if I could. The size of your strawberry tree is astonishing: I could never tire of the shape and color of its peeling bark. You are lucky to have those 6 peppermint willows: they add great texture and much needed dappled shade to the garden.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'd have more trees if I could. I originally had 7 peppermint willows but one was taken down with the retrospectively foolish intent on our parts of assuaging a neighbor who claimed that it (and before it, a huge Eucalyptus tree) interfered with her view of the harbor. My city has a "view conservation" ordinance that protects views over trees, ecosystems and climate concerns. When she pushed for me to remove still more trees, I called it quits and told her to take her argument to the city if she chose and promised I'd fight her with everything I had. Luckily for me, she moved.

      Delete
  4. Sorry that you have lost plants to the heat, it must be so disheartening. I guess it comes with the territory... you're always pushing the envelope in your climate.
    Plants here are beginning to look really stressed as we haven't had decent rain in a month and nothing in the forecast for the next couple weeks. I'm glad I laid down soaker hoses in the sensitive areas of the garden. The next few days are going to be really hot.
    Take care, I hope the smoke drifts away to less habitable places.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I've never seen Echium wildpretii for sale locally, which I accepted as a clue that it might be less resilient than other Echiums that do well here, but Sherman Gardens in Corona del Mar (coastal Orange County) had it growing there and I became enamored with it. I ordered my plant from Annie's and crossed my fingers. I'm not sure why it failed 6 months after I planted it - maybe it just didn't like my sandy alkaline soil.

      Delete
  5. I would say out recent heatwave was the worst I've experienced since moving to Norcal in 1986. I have used the AC this year probably more than the last 3 years put together. It's nice that you created that nice green space you show in the first photo. At least it can give you the illusion of cool !

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The weather gets hotter and more extreme with each passing year. My sister-in-law was packed and ready to evacuate her place in Grass Valley for more than a day earlier this week before firefighters got the fire near her under control - it got within half a mile of her home. Now my niece and her partner are poised to leave Santa Cruz in response to a different fire. I freak out every time I hear some idiot shooting off fireworks here (where fireworks have been illegal for years).

      Delete
    2. The fire threatening Santa Cruz (and UC Santa Cruz) has impacted our son as well - a student there (a virtual student these days). He was hoping to rent an apartment w/some friends in town for the Fall qtr - but the fires / smoke have made that even more difficult!

      Delete
    3. Wildfires scare me more than earthquakes, Hans. I'm a native
      Californian but I'm shaken by the fact that the fires get worse with each passing year, and our ability to combat them is more difficult this year as well. I hope your son stays safe, and that he's able to work something out once the fires are under control.

      Delete
  6. Wow ! stunning greenery ...It would be pleasure if you join my link up party related to gardening here http://jaipurgardening.blogspot.com/2020/08/garden-affair-home-grown-veggie.html

    ReplyDelete
  7. Your garden photos are always inspiring. What strikes me most about your garden is how neat and tidy it all looks, just waiting for it's own magazine photo shoot. I envy you that as by now mine is looking decidedly messy. The Bright Star yucca deserves to be the poster child of your blog. It's stunning!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think the perceived tidiness is assisted by using selected camera angles, Elaine, but I do try to keep it neat!

      Delete
  8. I love your patch of Asparagus densiflorus 'Sprengeri', I remember seeing an entire front garden full of it in the bay area, such a cool effect.

    Sad Echium wildpretii!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I thought I had a good chance with the Echium wildpretii, Loree. I never cared much for its flower but I really liked the foliage when I saw it at Sherman Gardens. It's rather sudden decline came as a surprise. I may try cutting it to the ground to see if by some miracle it comes back. It does look very dead, though.

      Delete
  9. I love all your foliage Kris and the gorgeous bark of the arbutus. It is amazing how lush it all looks despite the heat. These fires are heartbreaking.I read about the 2000 year old redwoods being destroyed and all the people having to flee their homes. It must be terrifying. All this to cope with, as well as covid and Trump. Keep safe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The fires have covered over one million acres of the state this year (four times the acreage of last year) and many were touched off by lightning strikes. Northern California is in worse shape than we are in Southern California at the moment but nerves are on edge here, even if my own area is only contending with severe air quality issues. I live in a high fire risk area.

      Delete
  10. Shade and filtered light! so important here in CA during the hot days of summer. I truly wish I'd planted a few trees for some of my own shade. I'll have to settle for looking at yours :) I did take a play out of your garden earlier in the year and plant a "Wilson's Wonder" - which hopefully in a few years will get big enough to provide a little shade of it's own.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That Leucadendron is a magnificent plant, Hans. The older and larger of my two (not shown in this post) gets a good eight feet tall - and that's with hard pruning twice a year - so it may indeed provide you a bit of shade.

      Delete
  11. I am still working on closing the gap at the bottom of the garden, where we felled trees for that neighbour. Halfway there.

    Have been reading about your fires. It does look and sound daunting. Stay safe, you and yours.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, although we may sometimes wish it otherwise, gardens are never done. The fires are impossible to ignore at present but we're currently safe here even if no one wants to take a deep breath of the dirty air. My greatest concern is for family up north.

      Delete
  12. I'm new to your blog and love your focus on foliage -- this is my plan for redesigning my own. But I still love color. Can you tell me how you manage the dahlias? Do you dig 'em up each season or leave them in the ground? Does Enchantress (the dark red?) get very tall?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Welcome Nikki! I've long been considered a flower addict but I've come to respect the value of foliage. I grow all my dahlias in my cutting garden so I can manage the larger amount of water they need to thrive without lavishing water in the more drought tolerant areas of my garden. Because I change out the contents of my cutting garden seasonally and water it regularly if it doesn't rain (i.e. most of the time) I pull up the tubers in the fall (late October or early November) when they stop flowering and store them before replanting them in the spring. 'Enchantress' is the purple/white/yellow one in my collage. The deep red one is 'Loverboy'. Both are supposed to get about 4.5 feet tall but, based on prior experience, 'Loverboy' doesn't get quite that tall. It's currently on the order of 3 feet in height.

      Delete
  13. Sorry -- meant Loverboy (the dark red dahlia).

    ReplyDelete
  14. Your garden is looking lush and green Kris, for being so hot. Your heat wave has reached us for another round of continued hot and dry and I'm really over it all. Ready for some cooler September air, and hopefully rain.
    I love your peppermint willows, and have never heard of them. I love willows in any form really. They add such a lovely swaying motion to the garden.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We had tropical humidity here last week and I'd hoped we might actually get a rainstorm, although it's perhaps better we didn't as thunderstorm-related lightning strikes are responsible for touching off many of the fires currently burning in Northern California. As to those peppermint willows, they're native to areas of Australia with Mediterranean climates like mine so a good choice for our climate. I'm pleased we inherited them with the garden.

      Delete

I enjoy receiving your comments and suggestions!