Monday, November 30, 2020

In a Vase on Monday: Strange bedfellows

Finding flowers to fill a vase (much less my usual two or three vases) has become more of a challenge with each passing week.  Only a handful of flower species are currently available in a bountiful supply but of course I try not to repeat myself.  As my Correa 'Pink Eyre' (aka Australian fuchsia) is dripping in blooms, I knew I wanted to use it again but I'd no idea what to pair with it until I tripped over two stems of pink Alstroemeria blooming off-season while doing some pruning.  Unfortunately, one of those stems was no longer vase-worthy when I went to pick them yesterday morning and the second one started to collapse as I began putting my arrangement together so some shuffling was required.

Stems of Camellia sasanqua and a noID orchid I've had for more than 25 years took over as the vase's focal points.  The orchid was given to me by one of my husband's former bosses, whose mother reportedly brought it with her from China.  My best guess is that it's a Cattleya of some kind.

The diminished noID Alstroemeria was tucked into the back of the arrangement

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: noID Alstroemeria, noID Camellia sasanqua, Correa pulchella 'Pink Eyre', the noID orchid that might be a Cattleya, Pentas lanceolata, and Prostanthera ovatifolia 'Variegata' foliage

After cutting one orchid, I decided why not cut another one while I was at it, especially as the orchid in question fit the color mix I'd already selected. 

Both orchids were in my lath (shade) house.  This noID miniature Phalaenopsis has been blooming for two months and was starting to fade so I justified cutting it on that basis.

I dressed up the back of the arrangement with a stem of white Dianthus

The most unusual element is Pelargonium 'Colocho', shown in this view jutting out at roughly the two and eight o'clock positions when viewed from overhead.  It's growth habit is very interesting but this arrangement doesn't show off its shape to its best advantage.  You can find better photos here.

Clockwise from the upper left: noID miniature Phalaenopsis, Polygala fruticosa (aka sweet pea shrub), Pelargonium 'Colocho', Dianthus barbatus 'Dash White', Salvia canariensis var candissima, and Westringia fruticosa 'Morning Light'

For more IAVOM creations, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden who leads this weekly parade.

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

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Wednesday Vignette: The birds are still here

One of my biggest concerns about taking down the dying mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) was that its removal would impact the bird activity in my back garden.  The mimosa was bare for a good portion of the year but it was nonetheless the favorite perch for every avian visitor.  Situated in between the feeders and the fountain, it provided a handy way-station.  I shifted the backyard feeders a few feet after the mimosa came out, hoping that the small birds would seek cover in either the nearby strawberry tree (Arbutus 'Marina') or the tree-like Leucadendron 'Pisa' just outside my home office window.  As it turned out, bird activity is, if anything, greater than it was before.  The small birds appear perfectly happy to use both the strawberry tree and the Leucadendron to provide safe perches.

Leucadendron 'Pisa' is on the left and Arbutus 'Marina' is on the right, several feet behind the feeders.  There's a second, larger Arbutus behind the first tree.

Last week we had white-crowned sparrows too but this week it's mainly house finches and lesser goldfinches.  In less than a week, they manage to empty all three of these feeders and most of the three feeders in the front garden.

The mimosa's removal hasn't seemed to have affected the birds' use of the fountain for baths either.

Again, the visitors this week were mainly finches

The seashells in the fountain's top tier give them a place to perch as they splash about

The raccoons rearrange the shells every few days during their nightly visits

The tree removal may have impacted the larger birds like the scrub jays and hawks somewhat more than the small birds.  The jays still visit the feeders occasionally, scattering the smaller birds when they arrive, but their visits have been less frequent since the mimosa's removal.  I've yet to see jays, crows or hawks perching in the smaller Arbutus or Leucadendron as they formerly did in the mimosa either.  The hawks haven't entirely disappeared, however.

The hawks that regularly visited the mimosa tree now must content themselves with the tall pine tree in the neighbor's garden behind us

Last week I saw one hawk swoop through our garden just over the roof line but generally they're sticking to the pine tree

I caught this one taking flight after scanning the horizon for a good 15 minutes

I can't state definitively whether this is a Cooper's hawk or a sharp-shinned hawk but the rounded tail shape visible in this photo suggests the former

It's been a very tough year on a lot of fronts and there are more challenges on the horizon before this dreadful year comes to a close.  However, on the cusp of our unusual Thanksgiving holiday this year, I can still say I'm thankful for things both big and small, like the company of birds in my garden.  I hope you have things to be thankful for as well.  Have a happy - and safe - Thanksgiving.

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

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

Monday, November 23, 2020

In a Vase on Monday: Bouncy Blooms

My two arrangements this week have little in common.  They're far apart on the color wheel but not actually complementary.  One's small and the other's considerably larger.  Other than that they both feature some daisy-like flowers, the only quality I could think of that they share is a degree of buoyancy often lacking in my compositions.

The first was constructed around leggy Osteospermums I felt compelled to cut back to the ground yesterday morning.  I saved every half-decent bloom and used almost all of them.  However, the arrangement's energy was provided by my bubbly favorite, Gomphrena 'Itsy Bitsy'.

I don't use most of my Osteospermums in arrangements because the flowers close in low light but plants in the '3D' and '4D' series like the 'Berry White' shown here have densely petaled centers that allow them to remain fully open day and night

Back view, much like the front

Top view, showing off the Gomphrena's tiny flowers on almost invisible stems

Clockwise from the top: Osteospermum 'Berry White', Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy', and Leptospermum 'Copper Glow'

My second arrangement was inspired by the bright orange leaves of one of my persimmons (Diospyros kaki 'Fuyu'), which I suspect may be gone by next week.  I initially thought I'd pair the colorful foliage with flowers of Grevillea 'Superb' but, with the nearby Copper Canyon Daisy (Tagetes lemmonii) currently in full bloom, I shifted my palette. 

The long stems of the Copper Canyon Daisies float above the heavier elements below.  Their scent bothers some people, including my husband, but thus far he hasn't said a word about them, although I wouldn't be entirely surprised to find the vase moved outdoors at some point

The back view shows off the grass plumes and grass-like Restio stems that add an airiness to the arrangement

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Tagetes lemmonii, berries of Auranticarpa rhombifolia, foliage of Diospyros kaki 'Fuyu' (aka 'Fuyu' persimmon), Chondropetalum elephantinum, Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun' flowers and seed heads, and Pennisetum 'Fireworks'

As I'd already cut two stems of Grevillea 'Superb', I popped those into a small, narrow-necked vase rather than tossing them out.

The Grevillea blooms do look good with the persimmon foliage.  They just didn't play well with the Copper Canyon Daisies.

Pop over to visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for more IAVOM arrangements created by other contributors from materials they have on hand in their gardens.

For those of you in the US, my best wishes for Happy Thanksgiving.  It may be a much different affair this year with the necessity to keep everyone safe by keeping them at a distance but it's possibly more important than ever to take a close look at what's really important in our lives and provide thanks for what we have, and what we hope to still have next year.

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

Friday, November 20, 2020

Still focusing on the garden

Honestly, I'm not sure how much further my trust in the party currently in power in the US can sink.  The behavior of the White House and its minions in actively subverting the will of the people to gratify the ego of the current incumbent this week strikes me as tantamount to treason and the GOP's failure to stridently condemn it may forever cement this independent voter's position on the integrity of all members of that party.  I grudgingly accepted the court challenges filed by the incumbent but manipulating the electoral college process is beyond the pale.  That said, I'm still trying to manage my blood pressure by keeping my focus on the garden.  The good news is that the physical effort involved helps me sleep (most nights).

I took a good look at my potted succulents this week.  Some look good while others are in serious need of an overhaul.  But let's focus on my current favorites.

A friend passed this fountain base off to me years ago for use as a pot.  I planted the Mangave 'Red Wing' and its companions there almost exactly a year ago and it just looks better and better.

This mixed succulent pot near the front door, planted in June, makes me smile every time I look at it.  It contains Crassula platyphylla, Graprosedum 'Vera Higgins' and Sedum rupestre 'Angelina'.

This Aloe deltoideodonta and Cotyledon orbiculata have been virtually untouched in this pot since 2014

This quartet of pots alongside the front door was unplanned but I like it.  The noID red Aeonium probably needs to be beheaded and started over but I haven't gotten around to it (beyond replanting one broken rosette).  The Mangaves are 'Bad Hair Day' and 'Kaleidoscope', the latter a gift from a friend.  The plant in the small yellow pot is Kalanchoe beharensis 'Minima'.

Another friend passed along a second Mangave 'Bad Hair Day', which I popped into a pot on the other side of the front door.  The taller pot behind it could use a refresh, though.

The Crassula pubescens radicans in this pot could use a refresh too but I love the stressed red color of the scrappy plants against the green frog

I had more Crassula in this pot but it looked pretty sad so yesterday I pulled it out and planted fresh cuttings of the Crassula from elsewhere in my garden along with a small Echeveria hookeri I picked up on the fly on my last trip to the garden center

A friend, a true Mangave aficianado, gave me a pup of Mangave 'Mayan Queen' this summer and I decided it needed a pot upgrade.  I can't even remember what I previously had in this pot but 'Mayan Queen' is a perfect match (until she gets too big).

There are several pots and hanging baskets of succulents that need a rehab but my local garden center has already switched into its holiday season mode so there's not much of a selection to be had, and I suspect that's true of the local stores I haven't visited recently as well.  I expect I'll need to mail order succulents if I want to make major changes now rather than waiting until January.  One pot in particular makes me sad every time I walk by it so I need to do something about it sooner rather than later.

The pot is a rusted wok and I expect it got too much sun and too little water, cooking the contents this summer.  Mangave 'Tooth Fairy' in the center certainly deserves better!

The shortage of succulents in small pots is impacting my ongoing project on the front slope as well.  There, I've been using cuttings taken from other parts of the garden but the result thus far is underwhelming in the extreme.

Everything I've planted looks so small!  With only three exceptions, all the plants in the newly renovated space shown here are transplants, cuttings or divisions from other plants in the garden.

Top row: Aeonium arboreum (rooted cuttings still in their pot), Aeonium haworthii 'Kiwi Verde', and Agave bracteosa
Second row: Aloe striata, Baccharis mangellanica (new), and Graptoveria 'Fred Ives'
Bottom row: Lomandra 'Platinum Beauty' (new), and Pelargonium peltatum (new) with a transplanted Mangave 'Kaleidoscope'

These are two of the three bulbils I harvested from my two bloomed-out Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' in September 2019 and planted out in this bed.  They looked much more impressive in the pots I'd had them in.

I did a little work in the street-side succulent bed as well this week, although it wasn't my own idea.  After I told my husband I needed to cut back another of my 'Blue Flame' Agaves because the mother plant was careening into the street after producing two good-sized pups, he decided to tackle the job on his own.

He'd already started massacring the mother plant before I arrived.  I spent a good deal of time cleaning up the area after he'd finished.  I'll probably plant one of my homeless Agave colorata, and possibly Tithonia diversifolia (aka tree marigold), here after I supplement the soil in this bed.

I did a little work in my cutting garden this week too, though it had nothing whatsoever to do with succulents.  I finally cleaned out the remaining contents of the third of my raised planters to make room for more cool season flowers.  I'd pulled the last dahlias and zinnias weeks ago but a large segment of the planter had been taken over by strawberry plants and those had to go too.

The strawberry plants seemed to put more energy into reproducing than into producing berries in the raised planting bed.  I transplanted many of the plants into two containers and offered the rest to my neighbors.

I've planted some 70 Anemone corms and have sowed sweet pea, larkspur, Orlaya, and Nigella seeds in the three raised planters, as well as adding small foxglove and feverfew plants to provide color during our cool season.  The upturned plastic flats are intended to protect developing seedlings from bird visitors.  Every flat I had is piled up here but I could use several more.

I'd like to find some flower plugs to fill the two half-barrels in the cutting garden but there's little other than pansies, snapdragons, and Iceland poppies available at present.  I do love snapdragons but they're rust magnets here so planting them seems an exercise in futility.  

I planted Iceland poppies (Papaver nudicaule) and Violas in this half-barrel in the front garden in the hope they'll do better here than they've done in other areas of my garden in the past

I received a dozen tulips in lieu of the more climate-appropriate Triteleia bulbs I'd ordered from one mail order provider but they'll be chilling in my refrigerator for another couple of months and, even properly chilled, the likelihood that they'll bloom in my garden is low.  All the other bulbs I ordered, including those that were received nearly two months late last week, are now in the ground or in pots.  Meanwhile, I still have lots of seeds that need sowing elsewhere in the garden but that's a project for next week.

Best wishes for a pleasant weekend puttering in your own garden.

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

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Wednesday Vignette: A touch of fall color

Coastal Southern California isn't known for fall color, and what little we get usually comes closer to winter than fall.  We had a good stretch of cold weather this month until Monday, when summer paid us a return visit.  Despite that blast of heat, yesterday I noticed that my coral bark maple (Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku) had colored up nicely.

I have two other Japanese maples but this is the only one that's thrived probably because, planted against the garage, it's protected from the afternoon sun and the wind

On the other side of the cutting garden, Persimmon 'Fuyu' had also suddenly turned orange when I wasn't paying attention.

I could swear this color change happened in the matter of a day or two.  The leaves on my other persimmon ('Hachiya') never color up like this and most have already fallen.

The ornamental pear in our front garden and a neighbor's noID maple and Gingko trees usually lead with their color displays but for some reason these two trees in my cutting garden are off to an early start this year.

Luckily, Monday's heat was short-lived.  On Tuesday, I woke to the sound of fog horns in the Los Angeles harbor and knew it would be cooler even before weather forecasters confirmed that.

A thick blanket wrapped the harbor, leaving the shipping cranes jutting up above it like prehistoric creatures rising from the sea

Yesterday was a good day for gardening and I hope that will remain true for the balance of the week. Whatever your weather, I hope you're able to get out and enjoy what nature has to offer.

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

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

Monday, November 16, 2020

In a Vase on Monday: The last dance

As "In a Vase on Monday" arrived on the heels of "Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day" this week,  I hadn't planned to put together more than one vase but I expect you won't be surprised to learn I've got two.  Really, the garden dictates these things and I just follow its directions.  The title of today's post comes from the fact that the focal flowers in both vases are the last of their kind for the season.

The first vase was inspired by Dahlia 'Rancho', which produced its first and only bloom last week.  I've dug up and stored all my other dahlia tubers and in that 'Rancho' gave me just a single bloom during the six month period it occupied space in my cutting garden, I won't be saving this tuber.  One bloom wouldn't make an arrangement on its own so I drew on more reliable flowers to flesh this one out.

The large-flowered Grevilleas bloom year-round here so Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' with its yellow and pale orange flowers were a natural choice to play off the dahlia's color

Back view, featuring more Grevillea flowers, as well as the orange berries of Auranticarpa rhombifolia (aka diamond leaf pittosporum).  The berries are plentiful this time of year.

Top view, showing off the yellow flowers of Senna bicapsularis, another reliable fall bloomer.  The warm weather we had in October seems to be hurrying the Senna's bloom season along this year.

Clockwise from the upper left: Dahlia 'Rancho', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Auranticarpa rhombifolia, Senna bicapsularis, Correa 'Sister Dawn', Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream', and Leucadendron 'Jubilee Crown'

The inspiration for the second vase was actually the flowers of Salvia discolor I didn't manage to photograph for Bloom Day but the arrangement fits the "last dance" theme as it also includes what I think is the last flowering stem of Lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum) I'll have until spring.

Three stems of Salvia discolor (aka Andean sage) are positioned toward the back of the arrangement with the blue Lisianthus grabbing center stage.  The Salvia's flowers are nearly black.

I dressed up the back of the arrangement with 'Purple Ruffles' basil (Ocimum basilicum var. purpurescens)

Top view, showing off the still abundant Barleria obtusa (bush violet) used as filler material

Clockwise from the upper left: Eustoma grandiflorum, Barleria obtusa, Salvia discolor, Ocimum basilicum 'Purple Ruffles', and Westringia fruticosa 'Morning Light'

Last week's arrangements held up well.  That was perhaps to be expected in the case of the flower-less arrangement featuring succulents and Leucadendron stems but it was surprising in the case of the second vase.  I down-sized the contents of that arrangement, tossing out the pink Lisianthus that had already seen better days when I cut the stems last week, but retaining much of the rest.

The remaining ingredients in the down-sized arrangement include Caladium 'Debutante', Correa pulchella 'Pink Eyre', Pentas lanceolata, and Prostanthera ovatifolia 'Variegata'

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

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