Friday, October 30, 2020

Gone but not forgotten

I had two large trees removed yesterday.  It was a necessity, not a choice, and it was painful.  In fact, it was more painful than the removal of our 60-foot Eucalyptus back in 2013 or the removal of one of our peppermint willows (Agonis flexuosa) in 2015, both of which were initiated in response to a neighbor's complaints about impairments to her view of the harbor.  Thankfully, that neighbor moved in 2018 but nothing can stop Mother Nature when she decides a plant's time is up.  Yesterday, we had both our mimosa (Albizia julibrissin) and the large tree-like toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) taken out.  The impact to the garden seems greater than any of the major changes we've made before.

The mimosa has been featured and discussed here many times but, before I summarize what happened to it, let me share a couple of photos of it at its best.

This photo was taken in June 2013, roughly two and a half years after we bought the house.  We still had lots of lawn and even the snorkel spa inherited with the house (heated by burning wood) back then. 

This photo was taken in July 2017, the last time the tree looked good, at least from a distance.  It was already showing signs of stress at this point when viewed close up.

The tree's decline was readily evident by 2018.  Shot-hole borers had damaged major limbs, which didn't properly leaf out.  After discussion with an arborist, we performed major surgery on the tree in an effort to extend its life.  We gave it almost three more years but, this year when it came time for our annual tree service visit, we decided it was time to let it go.

I took this photo on October 27th

The tree had recently leafed out again along a couple of limbs, almost as if in protest to our plans to take it down

The arborist had pointed out that the remaining trunks were starting to cave in, as shown on the left.  The photo on the right shows where the trunk was cut before when we tried to save it.

It's a tree I've had a love-hate relationship with almost since we moved it.  While it was beautiful when it was in full leaf and flower, it was bare much of the year.  It also created a huge amount of litter and self-seeded with abandon.  Even so, I couldn't bring myself to watch much of the removal process.

I snapped this photo through the kitchen window as the last limb was coming down

The middle of the garden seems very empty to me and, although my husband is currently opposed to putting in another tree or even a large shrub in that spot, I don't personally feel the view that it's removal reveals is worth the feeling of exposure it creates.  But that's a discussion for another day.

This shot was taken this morning from the same angle as the one taken on October 27th

The toyon's case is different.  Although like the mimosa it came with the garden, it's not a plant I gave much thought to until the middle of this year when I noticed that its leaves were turning red and what few berries it had were shriveled.  I found one source that suggested that this could happen with native plants like Heteromeles arbutifolia but by August it was clear to me that the huge shrub was dead.

In light of the toyon's rapid demise, it's likely that the cause was the pathogen that leads to the phenomenon known as "sudden oak death."  Like native oaks, toyon is susceptible to disease due to exposure to this pathogen.

I took these shots on October 27th.  When the evergreen toyon was green, it provided a nice neutral backdrop for the garden area fronting it.  The red foliage of the dying plant actually provided an even more attractive backdrop in my view but, by this month, it was less red than brown.

Like the mimosa, the toyon sat atop a fairly steep slope but in this case it was adjacent to the property line, looming above the driveway of our neighbors on the south side.  There was no question that it needed to be removed but, as grinding the stump in that location was problematic for a number of reasons, I was apprehensive about opening up this particular view.

After they toyon's removal, we have an unfavorable view of the facade of a house down the block, a variety of scruffy trees owned by another neighbor off a spur road, and the street than runs through our neighborhood

I'm thinking of ways to screen out the facade of the neighbor's house and those scruffy trees.  I'll cover that in more detail at another time too.

In the good news category, the other trees we had trimmed look spiffy and the collateral damage associated with their annual haircuts was relatively minimal.  We didn't have any of our peppermint willows trimmed this year, nor any of the smaller trees or the citrus trees.

These two Arbutus 'Marina' occupy opposite ends of the front garden

Two more Arbutus 'Marina' in the back garden were also thinned.  The Arbutus rapidly develop dense foliage and, left unattended, they develop a sooty mold.

Also getting trimmed were, left to right, a hedge of Prunus caroliniana, Magnolia grandiflora, and Pyrus calleryana

That's it for me this week.  There's a LOT for me to do in the garden in the coming weeks (and months).  Unfortunately, our temperatures are slated to rise again with yet another, hopefully less forceful, round of Santa Ana winds in the forecast even as fire crews are still working to fully contain the two wildfires that broke out in Orange County earlier this week.  I'm looking forward to reliably cooler weather - and rain of course - but at present I'm not sure when we can expect either.

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Wednesday Vignette: I've got the blues

It's a weird time.  Election day in the US is less than a week away and, although I voted early, I'm anxious to reach the end of the long, tumultuous period of political grandstanding.  Yet, the election itself may prompt another round of ugliness.  I'm sometimes tempted to take shelter as one does in an earthquake, close my eyes, and pray for it to be over without a tragedy of some sort.  In the garden, I've got two large trees, one dead and one nearly so, scheduled for removal tomorrow, and I'm apprehensive about the impact there.  And it didn't help that this week's latest bout with Santa Ana winds triggered two more vicious wildfires in Southern California, neither of which is anywhere near containment.  A flurry of firework displays last night, sparked by the Dodgers' win in the World Series, intensified my fire-related anxiety.

Despite once again contending with poor air quality due to smoke, I've spent time in the garden off and on since the fires started early Monday morning.  What I noticed in the back garden in particular was the prominence of blue color.

The odd light levels when I took this photo of the back garden near mid-day on Monday reflected the early influence of the Silverado Fire

The bush violets, Barleria obtusa, immediately draw attention.  The plants started blooming a couple of weeks earlier than usual this year and appear to be in full bloom now.

At the time of my mid-October Bloom Day report, this Barleria obtusa next to the backyard fountain had only a handful of blooms

These photos show close-ups of the violets, accented in the area next to the fountain by another strong flush of Lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum) blooms

On the other side of the path that runs through the back garden there's a second large clump of bush violets.  As this one was swamping its neighbors earlier this month, I'd cut it back hard but it's flowering well anyway.

The bush violets aren't the only blues present in the back garden.  In addition to the nice flush of dark blue Eustoma grandiflorum, Salvia leucantha, Trichostemma 'Midnight Magic' and Brachyscome 'Brasco Violet' are still blooming but it's the Chihuahuan Sage, Leucophyllum laevigatum, that's giving the bush violets a run for their money.

This plant seems to produce a new flush of bloom every time the marine layer returns

Duranta repens and Salvia 'Mystic Spires' are also adding light touches of blue color in spots throughout the garden, back and front.

This is one of a number of Duranta I have that sport yellow foliage

This clump of Salvia 'Mystic Spires' has been in this very dry corner of the garden for years, blooming on its own schedule

The front garden has the blues too.

Yet another bush violet, this one backed by Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum'

The chartreuse color of Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold' in the background allows the blue flowers of Lavandula multifida to stand out

This is Hypoestes aristata, aka ribbon bush.  In my former garden it grew into a 4 foot shrub but I've struggled to keep it alive here.  This one is just a foot tall.

Blue in the garden is great.  However, feeling blue isn't.  I'm hoping the change I've been sensing in the country is real and that, once the dust settles, November will mark a positive shift in the national dialogue.

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

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

Monday, October 26, 2020

In a Vase on Monday: Oops!

I hadn't intended to go overboard on floral arrangements again this week but I started clearing out my cutting garden and, rather than dispatching with some perfectly presentable dahlias and zinnias, I cut a lot of them.  When I was done with that, I gathered other materials from the larger garden to serve as fillers and I ended up with this:

My process of composing an arrangement is usually very different.  I pick a bloom as my inspiration and wander the garden to search of suitable companions so, when I bring in a jar of plant materials into the kitchen, all that's left to do is to choose a vase and arrange the contents.  This time, I had a hodge-podge of loosely-connected materials to pull together into something, or rather several somethings.

Vase #1 was inspired by two 'Belle of Barmera' Dahlia blooms and a couple of late blooming roses.

This dahlia bloom and the 'Medallion' roses won't hold up long but they were too pretty to ignore

Back side: The second 'Belle of Barmera' bloom had only just opened and was much pinker in color so I played that up with other pink flowers.  I placed this side facing the wall in the front entry but, when the flowers shown in the front view wither, I'll turn this face forward.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: The older 'Belle of Barmera' Dahlia bloom followed by the more recent bloom, Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Correa pulchella 'Pink Eyre', Rosa 'Medallion', noID pink Zinnia elegans, and Zinnia 'Senora'.  Did you notice the droplets of water on the dahlia and roses?  We got 0.02/inch of rain yesterday morning.  Pitiful, yes, but our first rain since April.

Vase #2 is a rehash of one of last week's arrangements.

There were more blooms on Dahlia 'Gitts Crazy' this week, although once again I had to sacrifice well-developed buds to get stems long enough to work in a vase

Back view, showing off more 'Queen Lime Blush' Zinnias and the first flowers of Senna bicapsularis, another of my favorite fall bloomers

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Dahlia 'Gitts Crazy', D. 'Labyrinth', noID Lonicera, Senna bicapsularis, and Zinnia elegans 'Queen Lime Blush'.  (Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' was included in this arrangement too.)

Vase #3 is also a version of one of last week's vases, fashioned to show off the last 'Iceberg' Dahlia.

The vase itself is different but the contents are the same as last week's arrangement, albeit with somewhat different proportions

Back view: The bush violet shrubs are now densely covered in flowers

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Barleria obtusa (aka bush violet), Dahlia 'Iceberg', Eustoma grandiflorum, and Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata'

Vase #4 was all about the purplish zinnias.

Shown here clockwise from the top left are: front and overhead views of the arrangement, noID pinkish-purple rose, Zinnia elegans 'Benary's Giant 'Lilac' and 'Benary's Giant Wine', and Agonis flexuosa 'Nana'

I expect to have cleared out all the mildewed zinnias and all the dahlias with the exception of 'Gitts Crazy', 'Labyrinth' and 'Rancho' within the the next couple of days.  I'll be sowing seeds and planting bulbs for my cool season flowers soon afterwards but I expect my choices for future flower arrangements will be limited for the next two to three months.

For more IAVOM creations this week, visit Cathy at Rambling in the garden.

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

Friday, October 23, 2020

Fall Stop at South Coast Botanic Garden

I stopped by South Coast Botanic Garden again two weeks ago.  Actually, "stopped by" is a misnomer as advance reservations are still required, along with masks and social distancing.  

This sign is positioned to be viewed as soon as you enter the garden after checking in (from a distance)

My main purpose was to check on the Dahlia Garden but I took a general look around to see what's been going on since my visit in late July.  What follows are the highlights of my one hour tour.

The Japanese Garden was looking neat and tidy

There were lots of blooms in the Fuchsia Garden, leading me to wonder once again what I need to do to get these plants to bloom in my garden.  While they want shade, I think they need more light than they're getting in my shade house, especially when the extra sunscreens are up during the summer months.

This area had been cleared just before our March lockdown.  It's being designed to offer a bright spot for visitors this coming spring.

The Dahlia Garden sits directly to the right of the area under construction shown above.  The area surrounding it has changed dramatically since my last visit.

The photo on the left, taken in June, shows the Dahlia Garden as an intimate enclosed space (even if the storage shed to the rear didn't offer the best backdrop).  I took the photo on the right on October 9th.   

This area to the left of the Dahlia Garden once housed storage sheds, a greenhouse and SCBG's tram buses.  It's been cleared to make way for an exhibition area scheduled to open next year.

Exposed on three sides and now open to the two new areas under construction, the Dahlia Garden struck me as small and almost out of place

Additional dahlias had been planted to fill areas of the raised beds that had been empty on prior visits.  Unfortunately, many of the older plants were well on the road to decline.  I photographed the best of what the Dahlia Garden still had to offer at the time of my visit.

The new plants were enclosed in cages, presumably to protect them from critters

Blooming, top row were: Dahlias 'American Beauty', 'Bahama Mama' and 'Cafe au Lait'
Middle row: 'Emory Paul', 'Kelvin Floodlight' and 'Lisa Lisa'
Bottom row: 'Penhill Dark Monarch', 'Thomas Edison' and a variety I can't identify based on my records

Exiting the Dahlia Garden, I continued my rounds, starting with the Volunteer Garden. The volunteers themselves are still on hiatus, awaiting guidelines to cover their recall.

The Japanese anemones (Anemone hupehensis) were blooming en masse in a few areas

My own bush violets (Barleria obtusa) came from a fall sale at the botanic garden years ago.  If I'd seen how big it can get before I planted it, I might have been more careful about spreading it throughout my garden.

I've never grown Justicia carnea (aka flamingo flower) in my garden but whenever I see it in bloom I always wonder why.  (The short answer is that it needs more water than I give most plants outside my cutting garden.)

However, I did hunt down Tithonia diversifolia (aka Mexican sunflower tree) for my garden, although I haven't planted it out yet.  I'm almost afraid to as it obviously gets very big at maturity.

These photos are from the Vegetable Garden.  The seating area on the left is planted with herbs.  I discovered Helianthus maximilliani (right) growing in one of the raised vegetable beds.

The succulent and fern-planted Living Wall is well-maintained and always looks good

This blue potato bush (Lycianthes rantonnetii) occupies a bed on the edge of the garden's lower meadow across from the Vegetable Garden

Before the pandemic, people could often be found painting in the garden but this is the first time since March I've seen any doing that

The Desert Garden has been well-weeded since my July visit

The Rose Garden was still in serious need of deadheading but I managed a few presentable shots.  From left to right are: Rosa 'Gemini', 'Grauss an Aachen' and 'Sparkle & Shine'.

The plants in the Lavender Field had been trimmed back but the area looked good.  The desert willows (xChitalpa tashkentensis 'Morning Cloud') were still flowering.

The Mediterranean Garden wasn't looking its best but then that's normal for this time of year.  In my opinion, it could use some Australian and South African plants to give it more year-round interest.  I liked the Salvia x jamensis 'Golden Girl' growing there, though.

I only covered the front third of the garden before I ran out of time and headed back in the direction of the exit, snapping a few more photos on my way.

The silk floss trees (Ceiba speciosa) are in bloom throughout the garden right now and I'd be remiss not to show at least one.  The one shown in the top two photos (from two directions) stands along the path between the Rose Garden and the entrance area.  The photos in the bottom row show a closeup of the tree's flowers, as well as the closeups of the Dahlia 'Mystic Spirit' and Salvia leucantha that sit adjacent to the tree.

My last shot was taken in the parking lot as I walked to my car.

I believe this is also a silk floss tree.  I wish my own garden were large enough to support a tree this size.

Best wishes for a colorful weekend!  We have a slight chance of light rain in the forecast at intervals through Monday but it's nothing to bank on at this point (although that doesn't mean my hopes haven't been raised).

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