Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Small garden projects

Even as heat blasted parts of the US this season, we've enjoyed a relatively mild summer.  Sure, we've had some temperatures in the mid-90s but they haven't been sustained and we haven't yet had a heatwave that's pushed temperatures above 100F.  That's not true of all of Southern California - the inland valleys have had some truly miserable highs and the Palm Springs area is roasting.  We've been lucky by comparison and I've used the opportunity to tackle some small garden projects.

For some time, Coleonema 'Sunset Gold' has been trying to engulf the Yucca 'Bright Star' in the back border.  I couldn't quite bring myself to pull out one Coleonema entirely but I trimmed it back.

This is the "before" shot.  Although it looks like one uniform mass, there are two Coleonema shrubs planted here and they were encroaching on both the Yucca on the right and the Leucadendrons behind them.

This is the "after" shot.  I shaved off bits of both Coleonema but cut more deeply into the one rubbing up against the Yucca, with the latter plant drawing blood a couple of times in the process.


On the other side of the flagstone path, I faced a decision I'd been contemplating for some time: removal of some or all of the variegated rosemary shrubs (Rosmarinus 'Gold Dust') I'd installed in March 2014.  They'd gotten much bigger than I'd been led to understand they would when I bought them in 6-inch pots.  They'd also gotten leggy because I hadn't pruned them regularly and they were shading out the Lotus berthelotii planted below them.

This is a before shot of the messy rosemary shrubs.  Earlier this year, I transplanted a Leucospermum 'Sunrise' I'd had in a pot behind the rosemary after removing a mass of Bulbine.  While the Leucospermum will grow larger than it currently is, what had turned into a messy rosemary hedge wasn't going to complement it well.

I removed all but one of the rosemary shrubs.  I left one in place in an effort to balance the Grevillea alpina x rosmarinfolia planted behind Leucospermum 'Goldie'.   Both the Grevillea and the remaining rosemary still require some trimming.

Here's a second "before" shot, taken in late June

Here's another "after" shot taken from the same angle as the prior one


I'd initially thought I'd just cover the area with mulch and wait until September or October to replant.  Do you think I'm capable of sticking to that plan?  I'm already debating what to plant.  I looked at the plants on either side of bare area for ideas.

I could emulate what I'd done on the left side by adding more Zinnias as temporary fillers...

Trying for more consistency, I could add another Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' like these on the right to mask the bare legs of the remaining rosemary...


I've also taken care of a few other things, some I photographed and others I didn't.

I pruned this Echium handiense a couple of months ago but was afraid to cut it back harder.  When it started producing new foliage on the thick woody branches I'd cut, I went all in and cut the rest of it back.  I also took some cuttings, although no source I consulted suggested that this plant can be successfully propagated that way.

Cleaning up the Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) is something that needs doing every couple of months here.  Before I "combed" these plants of their seed-laden plumes, they were covering this dirt path behind the back border.


Two other small projects are still staring me in the face but I haven't committed myself to tackling them yet.  Of course, I often make those decisions on the fly.

The Centaurea 'Silver Feather' here are still blocking this flagstone path.  I was clearly delusional when I installed seven plants in January 2019.  The plants aren't blooming any longer so they can come out, although I've no idea what to use to replace them.

This Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire' has been in this strawberry pot since we moved in almost 10 years ago.  I've cut it back several times and I swear it just gets larger.  I think it probably has to go.


The week's not over yet.  Anything could happen.


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

30 comments:

  1. Ok,so now I don't feel so bad about my one Centurea laying over the front path due to my failure to anticipate the eventual size. I'm going to move it this winter -glad I didn't plant 7! I love looking at photo 4 in this post. It has the exact Socal light of June Gloom (the August edition) and gave me a big nostalgia moment.

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    1. I looked up the dimensions of the Centaurea I recorded from the tag and it was most definitely understated, Kathy! I'm glad I could add a little nostalgia to your evening. Although I live on the "hot" side of the peninsula, we have also benefited from the marine layer to a significant extent this summer. It didn't clear until nearly noon here today and, for most of July into August, it's been present during at least the early morning hours. Even when it clears out by 9am, it seems to keep the upper range of our afternoon temperature down.

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    2. Don't move it. Take cuttings, then you get fresh vigorous plants of a polite size.

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    3. I'll try taking some cuttings as a back-up, Diana. However, as I installed way to many plants for that space, some of them have to come out. There are other plants in there (currently invisible) crying for more sunlight and air!

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  2. Things always seem to get bigger than stated on the tag, don't they? I'm dealing with similar issues on several fronts. I imagine that is a gardener's curse - we will never ever be "done". I'm sure you will come up with a fabulous solution to the hole where the rosemary was, but I honestly doubt you'll be able to hold off until fall. ;)

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    1. Spending so much time at home and in the garden does make it hard to ignore empty spaces for any length of time...

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  3. It feels so great to get all these little tasks done, doesn't it? I hope you don't get rid of your sticks on fire as it is so gorgeous. I have a large one and two smaller ones from cuttings. Wish they could go in the ground.

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    1. 'Sticks on Fire' can go into the ground here and in fact that plant in the strawberry pot in my cutting garden has contributed many cuttings scattered through my garden, as well as some I planted in the community space at the entrance of our neighborhood. It's just that plant in that pot has gotten so BIG for the space it's in.

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  4. My drama-loving self really wants to pick up that giant pot and put sticks of fire right in the middle of 'Silver Feathers'. Of course it doesn't help the bare rosemary spots or pathway usability...which may explain some things about my garden :)

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    1. I expect that pot wouldn't be easy to move but you have me thinking whether I should try plunking it in my street-side succulent bed. But then there are already cuttings of the same plant in that bed already...

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    2. Try it out! You'll be the envy of the neighborhood with your magical self-seeding ;) euphorbia, and if it doesn't survive the move no real harm done, you have a strawberry pot for more succulent treasures

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    3. I looked at the space in question this afternoon. There's another 'Sticks on Fire' about a foot away that's already nearly the size - in terms of height if not girth - of the Euphorbia in the strawberry pot. I cut the latter back late this afternoon and plan on putting the cuttings on the street as an offer to neighbors. I've done that before so I'm not sure how many takers I'll get but we'll see.

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  5. No! Not the Euphorbia tirucalli!!! It's so gorgeous.

    Ah rosemary, it always gets bigger than it's supposed to, in my experience. Also it's interesting to me that when I've looked at my accuweather app Los Angeles has frequently been the same temperature or cooler than us.

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    1. That is indeed one very happy Euphorbia. If I get rid of it, I'll offer cuttings to the neighborhood (again).

      It has been one the cooler side this summer but I'm not complaining, Loree. Our temperature is only 68F right now!

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  6. It's funny: my plants get bigger than I expect too! More often than not in fact...
    I've pruned my rosemary quite severely this year; it was either that or pull it out all together. I find it difficult to leave an area bare till planting time in fall, but I get better at it. Maybe because the garden is mature and quite full and a little bit of "mulch only" area is actually kind of nice for a little while. I wish you'd find a place in the garden for Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire'. It is magnificent!

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    1. I've got a LOT of rosemary elsewhere, although this variegated form was a bit more interesting. One shrub of it should be enough. As to the Euphorbia, I thought putting it in a pot would keep it under control - that worked for awhile.

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  7. What about massing a bunch of your red leaf aeoniums in the bare spot? You grow them so beautifully! Color echoes for the leucadendron and flowering Lotus bertholli, plus structure/foil for a fairly wispy foliage area...

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    1. The Aeoniums aren't at their best in summer. This is their dormant period and, even in full shade (which the area in question isn't) they tend to curl up a bit during this time of year. It's a moot point, though, as I planted the area this afternoon. Reveal to follow, probably tomorrow ;)

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  8. Design-wise, have you considered re-routing the flagstone path across the corner of your patio? Now that it's smaller more open space on the edges would open it up, and you could let the centaurea (probably more gymnocarpa than 'silver feathers') have some freedom

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    1. The area between the flagstone path and the patio is already just 2 feet at its narrowest point (i.e. the impassable part of the path). I've got a healthy Agave colorata in that space and I'd rather oust the Centaurea than the Agave. Seven Centaurea there were way too many but I will see if I can keep at least one of them, and possibly more.

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  9. Good improvements! I love Coleonema 'Sunset Gold' but they do get large. Seems like some cutting back is good for them--stimulates new growth from the base. And isn't it fabulous the weather is mild enough to garden in August?

    I've also been in the process of removing my E. tirucalli by the front door--it's 8' tall--any bigger it would be too much for me to remove it. One has to be very careful of the dripping sap, so, taking my time. Most of it went into this week's green waste--the rest awaits. It looks quite strange at the moment.

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    1. Yes, I love this weather!

      I've seen some of those roof-high Euphorbias - they're daunting! I thought a pot would keep this one manageable but it seems that, even in a pot, it needs regular maintenance. I cut it back today. I have a lot of cuttings, which I'll put by the street once the sap stops seeping to see if there are any takers.

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  10. You just never know how things will grow in your garden - sometimes they end up a lot larger/smaller than what the tag says & adjustments have to be made. I've been moving things around here a bit this week too. I actually love "tweaking" the garden. To me, it's just as satisfying as planting up a new space.

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    1. I've some major adjustments to make in my garden this fall, Margaret, and I'm feeling a mix of excitement and dread. One big project I haven't mentioned recently is removal of Liriope spicata I never should've planted, knowing that it had a reputation for spreading with abandon. An out of control native California aster also has to be either corralled or removed - that one was supposed to be manageable under dry garden conditions but, after 2 years of decent rain, it's run amok!

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  11. Thank heaven for the marine layer!
    Garden maintenance is always ongoing, isn't it? It is hard to pull out favorites, but as I age, I get better at it whacking away ruthlessly! I was wondering if you could get away with pulling some, but not all of the Centaurea? It is such a pretty plant.

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    1. I usually feel terrible at the start but quickly come to terms with the change. As the back garden evolved, those rosemary shrubs just didn't fit the scheme and even reducing their size wouldn't have made a difference. With respect to the Centaurea, I'm going to take one plant at a time to see how many, if any, might be appropriate to retain. I'll follow Diana's suggestion and take cuttings too - if the plants don't come in handy in my own garden, I can offer them to neighbors.

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  12. Your home looks like an oasis in the desert Kris. A lovely home surrounded by every beautiful plant imaginable. Still waiting to see some of the inside remodel photos :)

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    1. Thanks Cindy. I published photos of the inside remodel in November, with a few follow-up photos in December. Here are the links:
      https://krispgarden.blogspot.com/2019/11/ready-or-not.html
      https://krispgarden.blogspot.com/2019/12/holiday-updates.html

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  13. Oh decisions, decisions Kris. Have fun ruminating. I just don't know how you manage to work in the garden during the summer in the temperatures you experience. I imagine that most of your activity is early morning or in the evening.

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    1. It's actually been remarkably cooler this summer than usual, Anna. It's mid-day now and it's just 78F (25C) at the moment. We are expecting a bit of a warm-up next week, however. The inland valleys, where I grew up, are toasty but I'm close enough to the ocean to benefit from the marine layer, which has been persistent this year.

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