Friday, June 11, 2021

As spring transitions into summer: Another spin through South Coast Botanic Garden

A friend and I took a spin through South Coast Botanic Garden this week.  With summer heat expected to move into the area soon, I suspect I may not be making more trips there until fall.  Frankly, the garden already wasn't looking as spiffy as it did back in April, although some areas were tidier than others.  I'll start with my favorite views.

Jacaranda trees are in bloom throughout the area but it's easier to photograph the trees at the botanic garden than it is to pull the car to the side of the road as I head down the hill into town.

Jacaranda trees signal the beginning of summer for me

I was also drawn to what I think of as the lavender field, located in the grass garden area.

Mingling with the lavender, clockwise from the upper left, are Lagerstroemia (crape myrtle trees), Salvia canariensis, and Romneya coulteri (aka Matilija poppies)

There are all sorts of critters in the garden - including birds, lizards, and squirrels - but the sheer number of rabbits we saw was a surprise.  We seemed to come across one or more at every turn.

The Desert Garden was looking pretty scruffy but some plants still stood out.

Aloe elgonica was blooming.  Few other Aloes were at this time of year.

This mass planting of Aloe vanbalenii is attractive even when it isn't blooming

Cussonia paniculata (aka mountain cabbage tree)

This was labeled as organ cactus but I'm not sure it's what's commonly called organ pipe cactus (Stenocereus thurberi).  I can't read the scientific name on the label but I think this could be Pachycereus marginatus (aka fence post cactus).

There were some interesting succulents outside the Desert Garden as well.

A dark-toned Aeonium arboreum with a noID blue-flowered Salvia made a nice combination

The white orchid cactus on the left (presumably Epiphyllum) was growing in the Desert Garden but we came across the pink one on the right was in another area laying alongside a path.

I had decidedly mixed feelings when I saw this.  The oddly pruned Kalanchoe beharensis (felt plant) was located in the children's garden.  As a representative of its species it looks terrible but the bare stems made me think of a dinosaur skeleton - it would be interesting as a structure to display Tillandsias or other succulents.

The new installation of succulents along the promenade running from the garden's Palm Circle to the rose garden appears complete but it looks a bit bare to me. Personally, I think it could use a little color in the form of drought tolerant flowering plants or gravel to help the succulents pack more punch.

Toward the end of our rounds we stopped in the shade of the Banyan Grove, one of my favorite areas of the garden, partly because it's always at least ten degrees cooler than the rest of the garden.  Although the late morning temperature was fairly pleasant the day of our walk-through, we nonetheless appreciated the area's cool shade.

The Moreton Bay Figs (Ficus macrophylla) create a massive shade canopy

As we headed toward the rose garden, we passed the Mediterranean Garden.

I cringed seeing kids were crawling inside the Fuller sculpture, which isn't intended as a play structure.  Their mothers appeared to be having difficulty getting them out.

The sun was exceptionally bright and the few photos I took in the rose garden were badly washed out but I'll offer an assortment of other random photos taken in spots throughout the garden that stood up better under the harsh light conditions.

Brugmansia (aka angel's trumpet)

Fuchsia Garden specimens

Salvia mexicana 'Limelight'

What we guessed is Sambucus mexicana

On our way out, we saw a passionflower vine (Passiflora incarnata) in full bloom, attended by a host of Gulf Fritillary butterflies

That's it from me this week.  Enjoy your weekend!

All material © 2012-2021 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Stepping back in time: The evolution of the back garden

We moved into our current house in mid-December 2010.  I started making small changes almost immediately but family concerns prevented me from taking on any major projects well into 2013.  I didn't begin documenting changes in my garden until I started this blog in late December 2012.  Taking a stroll down memory lane, I thought look at the evolution of my garden, starting with the back borders, one of the first areas I tackled.  I trolled through my photographic records but found I'd taken no proper "before" shots of the area.  The best I could come up with is a photo I retrieved from Zillow some years ago, showing the back garden in 2009, when it was put up for sale by the prior owner.

The photo's resolution is too poor to make out much detail but, given that the mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) and the Agapanthus were in full bloom, I expect the photo was taken that summer

Until I started taking wide shots in the summer of 2013, the vase majority of my photos were closeups that don't do a good job of telling the story of the garden.

This photo was taken for my first wide shots post on September 1, 2013.  It reflects the first extension of the back border in 2012, which nearly doubled its width by taking out a large stretch of lawn.

From 2014 through 2016, I took wide shots of broad areas of the garden on a monthly basis, making it easier to track changes.

June 2014 - By this time, my husband and I'd removed another large section of lawn, significantly expanding and extending the border surrounding the fountain.  Mexican feather grass (Nasella tenuissima) had been added there to mirror clumps of the same grass previously planted in the back border.  The orange daylilies (possibly Hemerocallis 'Sammy Russell') are the only plants, other than the trees, the Agapanthus and the hedges, that remain of the those that came with the original garden.

June 2015 - Our drought was in full swing in 2015 and water restrictions were in effect that year, which may account for the subdued color in the following three photos.  The Mexican feather grass was making the biggest statement.  You may note that we'd also "lost" a large peppermint willow (Agonis flexuosa) since the prior year's photos.  It was removed in response to a neighbor's claim that it blocked her view of the harbor.  After its removal, she continued her campaign for further tree removals and, at that point, I refused further cooperation, committing only to have our trees trimmed annually.  I replaced the willow with a Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid', still too small to be noticeable in the following photos.  I was putting increased emphasis on drought tolerant plants at this point, reflected in the introduction of three small 'Bright Star' Yuccas, just visible on the right in the third photo.

June 2016 - The biggest change between 2015 and 2016 was the removal of the remaining lawn and the introduction of flagstone paving stones interspersed with creeping thyme (Thymus serphyllum 'Minus').  My husband and I handled these tasks entirely on our own.  The Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid' I'd planted to replace the peppermint willow we'd removed was already well on its way to making a statement in the back border.  I'd planted more drought tolerant plants, including the Echium webbii next to the fountain.  Santolina virens made a major splash that summer, as shown in the second photo.  For some reason, I've no photo of the back garden viewed from the south end looking north during this period.

In late 2017, I switched to a quarterly schedule for wide shots so the time-table for comparisons varies in some cases.

July 2018 - In the next shots, the garden looks very similar to its appearance in 2017, although the third photo clearly reflects a decline in the health of the mimosa tree in the distance.  The front half of the multi-trunked tree never leafed out that year.  We discovered that it'd been attacked by short-hole borers.  In an effort to prolong its life, we had a large portion of the tree removed.  It also became clear to me that a native California aster (now classified as Symphyotrichum chilense) was taking over, although I still thought it was controllable at that point.

May 2019 - We undertook a major home renovation in 2019, starting in late June, and the garden took a back seat.  In the third photo, you can see what was left of the mimosa tree after it was cut almost in half in late 2018.  Although it's still bare in this photo, it did leaf out and flower in 2019.  We got good rain in the "water year" of October 1, 2018 through September 30,2019 and, in general, the garden thrived.

July 2020 - The pandemic kept many people, including me, close to home.  I did less plant shopping and less planting, at least by comparison to prior years.  I tackled other areas of the garden that had been bugging me but I didn't make many significant changes to the back garden.  I removed the large white-flowered Ozothamnus diosmifolius in the fountain bed shown in the photo above because it had gotten woody but, looking at the June 2019 photo, I'm feeling a bit regretful about that decision.  (Pulling out that blasted native aster would've been a smarter investment of my time.)  The evergreen native Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) shown in the second photo, draped in reddish leaves to the rear right of the peppermint willow, died suddenly, probably due to the same pathogen than cause sudden oak death.  The mimosa tree (in the distance in the third photo) declined further and I ended up having both it and the Toyon taken out in late October 2020.

June 8, 2021 - I took the last three photos yesterday.  The mimosa and the Toyon are long gone.  The mimosa was replaced by a Ginkgo biloba 'Autumn Gold' and the Toyon by a still tiny Olearia albida (aka tree daisy, not visible in the following photos).  I cut back the bloomed-out Echium webbii next to the fountain on Monday.  The orange daylilies surrounding the fountain have bloom spikes and should begin to open within days.  Before the mimosa tree was cut down last October, I dug up many of the Agapanthus skirting it, divided them, and replanted the best bulbs.  They're just starting to bloom but their summer show will be less splashy than in prior years.  Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid' continues to get bigger and is currently covered in peachy-pink blooms.  That California aster must come out this year, even if I have to dig up half the fountain bed to be rid of it.

I hope this post wasn't too repetitive or boring for the reader.  It helps me track the garden's progress and provides some food for thought about changes that might be useful moving forward.

All material © 2012-2021 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, June 7, 2021

In a Vase on Monday: Under gray skies

As much of the northeastern and mid-Atlantic areas of the US experienced scorching heat this weekend, coastal Southern California was comfortably cool, thanks to our seasonal "June Gloom."  The gray clouds usually move out by early afternoon but that morning cloud cover keeps our afternoon temperatures down.  Today's expected to be especially gloomy, even offering the opportunity of light drizzle.  I'm not holding my breath over the prospect of real rain but even the high humidity that accompanies our June Gloom often causes the roof to shed some moisture into my rain barrels, which is always welcome.

View looking toward Angel's Gate, the entrance to the Port of Los Angeles, from my backyard late Sunday afternoon

My garden is slowly shifting from its cool season mode to its warm-hot season mode in anticipation of summer.  My cool season annuals are dying off quickly while many of my summer-flowering plants have been slow to get started but there's still plenty of color to be found.  The inspiration for my first vase this week was three gladiola stalks that surprised me with blooms in my cutting garden.  I thought I'd dug all the gladiola corms out of my raised planters last fall but apparently I missed a few.

I recently planted a package of orange gladiola corms and I have another collection yet to plant but the early arrivals of the dramatic purple Gladiolus 'Vuvuzela' were appreciated

Back view: As usual, I picked more than I actually needed to fill my vase, much of which got stuffed to the rear of the arrangement 

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', Arthropodium cirratum (aka Renga Lily), Coriandrum sativum (aka cilantro/coriander, which is popping up all over my garden), Gladilous 'Vuvuzela', white and lavender Consolida ajacis (aka larkspur), Penstemon digitalis 'Onyx & Pearls', and Nigella 'African Bride'

My second arrangement was inspired by the first flush of blooms on the tree-sized Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid' in my back border.

The appearance of a few short stems of Digitalis 'Dalmatian Peach' in my cutting garden sealed the peachy-orange color scheme.  I couldn't help myself from cutting one stem of Leucospermum 'Brandi' as it's nearing the end of its season and as the squirrels polished off the majority of Leucospermum 'Goldie'

Back view: The foliage of Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' picked up the raspberry undertones evident in some of the flowers

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid', Digitalis purpurea 'Dalmatian Peach', Grevillia 'Peaches & Cream', G. 'Superb', Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', and Leucospermum 'Brandi'

With the usual touch of sadness, on Saturday I tore out the sweet peas that occupied most of one raised planting bed in my cutting garden.  It always seems that they forever to grow from seed to flowering plants, only to be gone all too soon.  I met three friends for lunch (at a restaurant!) last Friday and I'd hoped to bring each one a small bouquet of sweet peas but there weren't enough presentable flowers left to do that.

I managed a small vase for the kitchen island and my office from what was left.  The very short stems came from Lathyrus odoratus 'Sir Jimmy Shand','Blue Shift', and 'High Scent'.

For more IAVOM creations, check in with our host, Cathy of Rambling in the Garden.

All material © 2012-2021 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party