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

20 comments:

  1. A lot of action in your garden. I think my Epiphyllium is Queen of the night too. She hasn't bloomed since I repotted her. She is huge. We have had night parties to watch the blooms open. I have also seen big moths come to her.

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    1. I think I need to put my 'Queen of the Night' someplace closer to the house, Lisa, where I might actually be able to catch the bloom when it opens. I saw signs that the bloom was decaying today so my current guess is that it did bloom within the past couple of days and I simply missed it.

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  2. I love that Drimia, it's so luminous - how tall is it? Looks a bit like Eremurus in shape.
    Sunflowers are supremely cheerful - yours look great in that pot.
    I love that mine self-sow. The deer got a few seedlings early on, but it was only last night that they came to visit again (grrr) to eat some sunflowers, beans and morning glories. I'd put up fencing if it was worth it, but with summer ending soon, hardly worth the effort.

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    1. The Drimia flower reminded me of Eremurus too, not that I've ever seen that anywhere other than photos. According to the bulb supplier, the Drimia flower can get 4 to 5 feet tall. I'd estimate mine was nearly 4 feet yesterday when I viewed it.

      The critters are always wreaking havoc, aren't they? As a hybrid, I suspect 'Sunfinity' won't self sow. I've been cutting many of the small sunflowers that popped up from the seeds I sowed so I expect I'll have to buy seeds again next year.

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  3. I love that you have a Drimia! I had only read about it, and about its massive bulb. I'm happy it's doing well for you, and very much look forward to you getting more of them. I think a grouping would look absolutely fabulous!

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    1. They're pricey bulbs, Anna, but a value when you can get by watering them once when you plant them and leave them be ever after.

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  4. I love the drimea, I'd grow it for the foliage alone. When my Queen ofthe Night bloomed I brought it into the house so I could enjoy watching it open up. The scent is fabulous.

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    1. My bad for failing to realize that the Epiphyllum was 'Queen of the Night' until it was too late, Chloris. As the bloom is now deteriorating, I clearly missed the show. I need to replant it into something I can more readily move as needed.

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  5. That Drimia maritima is just so fabulous, the foliage is stunning and the bloom bizarre. Congrats on the Queen of the Night bloom, even if you didn't get to see it in its full glory.

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    1. I bought the Drimia bulb for its foliage (really!) but the flower is interesting and, when I get more than one bloom, I'm sure I'll get enjoyment out of those too, especially if I can find a way to get rid of the fire ants.

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  6. The sheer size of Drimia bulb is unreal. I love the bloom pattern, where only a small section opens up at a time thus extending the bloom period. Couldn't be any more different than Epiphyllum which is so stingy with it's time... Hopefully you'll catch it next year!

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    1. I just ordered another giant sea squill bulb and a 3 bulb pack of a "petite" version, described by the seller as "only" the size of grapefruits! With as little water as they need, they seem made for my back slope.

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  7. That sea squill has a beautiful flower and more appreciated the closer you get to this. I often find this with plants that have clusters of tiny flowers. As to your Queen of the night. I was given one last year and placed it in its pot under a tree. Of course I missed the first bloom but when I saw another was coming I moved it to the back patio. I was not going to miss the next one. And I didn't. Fortunately the flower does stay open for a few hours in the morning so I did get to see two this week. I hope you have better success with yours. If it is the same as mine no need for 3am jaunts in the garden.

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    1. I'm planning to repot my 'Queen of the Night' into something I can move more easily, Jenny. I don't want to miss the next bloom either, now that I realize that this is a night-blooming variety. I'd mistaken this one for 'Monastery Garden' when the bud first appeared.

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  8. Nice to see your Drimia blooming. Mine has been in the ground for a few years now and so far - no bloom :( I didn't even know what it was to start with and thought I'd killed it when the leaves suddenly died back to nothing!

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    1. I hadn't looked into the specifics of the Drimia's growing habits before I planted the bulb, Hans, so I was also surprised when the foliage disappeared outright. I knew it flowered but I also hadn't realized that the flowers appear after the foliage disappears. I didn't look for the flowers until I saw two posts by others on their flowers.

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  9. That tall spike of Drimia is spectacular. Meanwhile winter has us in its grip and the rain is crashing down!

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    1. Rain "crashing down" sounds serious, Diana, but I still can't help being a little envious that you're getting rain while we're parched and have at least 2 more months before we're likely to see any rain. Stay dry and safe!

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  10. Only in this past month have I ever heard of Drimia maritima! I’m glad you show the beautiful foliage. The flower stalk is impressive.
    In the movie “Crazy Rich Asians” the family has a large elegant party based on the short-lived scented night bloom. I wonder if it is your Epiphyllum?
    The sunflowers were a worthy purchase. They just speak of happiness!

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    1. Our local botanic garden has several Drimia (although they may have it labeled under its former name). A few plants can be found in the Mediterranean Garden and others in one of the outer sections of the Desert Garden. You have to look for the foliage in the late winter/early spring and the surprising flower stalks in or around August. In late spring and early summer, you'll just find an empty space (and probably a tag).

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