Friday, February 26, 2021

Early Spring Blooms at South Coast Botanic Garden

Yesterday, I paid my first visit to South Coast Botanic Garden after an absence of four months.  They've been advertising a "superbloom" event but it's not a superbloom in the conventional sense of the term, which describes a broad-scale wildflower display in desert areas following an unusually wet rainy season.  Our rainy season has been anything but wet this year and this particular bloom fest focused not on wildflowers but on flowering bulbs planted en masse last fall to provide visitors a welcome jolt of color as spring approaches.

The unusual bed arrangement shown here featuring tulips was designed to mirror the shape of the metal sculpture in the background on the left, which is known as Soller 1

Tulip beds viewed from the other direction

The red tulips are the most prominent

but the mix contains flowers in shades of purplish-pink, pink, and orange

While I couldn't miss the tulips upon entering the garden, I wandered a bit before I found the daffodils (Narcissi).

This was my first view of them, visible in the distance

These two beds consisted mainly of daffodils with a few tulips mixed in

The lawn adjacent to the garden's amphitheater also offered a mix of flowering bulbs but I failed to get a closeup photo of the area

 Other flowers could be found in spots throughout the garden.  I photographed only a few.

Top row: Arctotis, Bryophyllum fedtschenkoi, and Crocosmia
Second row: Eschscholzia (California poppy), Osteospermum, and Salvia lutea
bottom row: noID Salvia, Strelizia nicolai, and noID flowering succulent

There were a variety of trees in flower too, including Erythrina caffra (coral tree), Handroanthus heptaphyllus (pink trumpet tree), and Magnolia x Randy

The garden is in the process of constructing a new event space that will feature a butterfly pavilion, scheduled to open in April, so a large area was cordoned off.

I had time to visit only the front half of the garden on this occasion.  Weather and circumstances permitting, I hope to wander further afield on my next visit.

Best wishes for a colorful weekend.

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

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Sometimes it's best to just jump in

There are a lot of projects in the garden that I never seem to get to, even these days when there's arguably more time available to focus on such tasks.  Recently, I launched two such projects without any forethought about what I was getting myself into, and my husband initiated another one.  Once again, I didn't take "before" photos, although I scoured my digital files to come up with what I could.

The first project involved clearing an area that was infested with asparagus ferns and their nasty bulbous roots.  I inherited this problem with the garden and had previously only chipped away at the ever-expanding ferns.  Some prior owner apparently decided that asparagus ferns were a good way to cover a lot of ground fast - and added dozens of the plants throughout this garden.  Admittedly, they're evergreen, produce berries for the birds, and can tolerate dry conditions that even succulents can't handle.  However, the berries are toxic to cats and dogs, and birds spread the plants everywhere.  They also produce masses of bulbous roots, which mingle with the roots of more desirous plants, making them difficult to remove.  I previously removed large masses of them in front of our mimosa tree to make room for other plants, a process that took days.  (It felt like weeks.)  I personally feel that real estate sales should be required to list asparagus ferns as hazardous substances.

This is the best "before" photo I can offer.  There were tree separate masses of asparagus fern here (one behind the blue trug).  What you see above ground belies the extent of the roots below ground.  The roots were also mingled with ivy that's crept up from the back slope (another species planted en masse by a prior owner) as well as the roots of other surrounding plants (probably including that strawberry tree).

Removal is a long, slow process.  Experts recommend removing all bulbous roots, as well as any berries.

Here's the cleared area.  I planted a variegated Lycianthes rantonnettii (blue potato bush) purchased by mail order, as well as transplanting Agapanthus bulbs obtained in the process of another project.  I'll have to remain vigilant about pulling asparagus fern seedlings as there's no way I got all of them.

While I was working on that project, my husband started one of his own, into which I got sucked.  You may recall that, after years watching it decline, we removed our mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) late last year.  After negotiation, my husband agreed to replacing the mimosa with a Ginkgo tree but, with the mimosa's massive trunk still in place, we needed to clear a spot for it.

The tree service cut the mimosa tree's stump as close to flush with the surface of the soil as they could manage without damaging the hedge behind it or destabilizing the slope that plummets down just beyond that hedge 

My husband decided to cut back the remaining trunk further so we could relocate a nearby mass of Agapanthus to clear a space for the new tree.

He dug out soil surrounding the stump and used a chainsaw to slice it up

After repairing the chainsaw mid-way through the process, this was what the area looked like when he finished cutting back the stump

His next step was to remove the boards originally placed on diagonals around the mimosa tree, replacing them with new boards to level that area for planting.

When that was done, he added 9 cubic feet of top soil purchased from a big box store

Then he proceeded to remove the large clumps of Agapanthus you can see on the left in the previous photo.  That's when I got involved.

Having previously done this myself, I know there's no way to dig up well-established Agapanthus clumps without damaging a lot of the bulbs.  Many of these went straight into the green bins but I put aside a lot of them to see what I could save.

Like asparagus fern, Agapanthus produces huge masses of roots.  In addition, this area had asparagus fern roots mingling with the Agapanthus roots.  I pulled out the screening system we used when we cleared our property of lawn and used it to separate roots from soil.

It works well but it's still time-consuming

One of many trugs filled with roots

When I'd removed what I could, my husband added three more cubic feet of top soil and yesterday I dug in planting mix and compost, removing more asparagus fern roots as I went.  Our native soil is very sandy so I'm hoping that the additives, well mixed, will provide a good foundation for the new tree.

This is what the area currently looks like.  I replanted some of the Agapanthus bulbs I'd cleaned up here and in the area I showed earlier. 

I've got eight or nine more bulbs but, unless I find a spot for them somewhere else in the garden today, I'm going to put them on the street as another of my giveaways

Until the Ginkgo biloba 'Autumn Gold' (ordered yesterday!) arrives, further action is on hold on this project.  Yet, still in garden clean-up mode, on the fly I decided to tear out an overgrown mass of peppermint geranium (Pelargonium tomentosum) I'd managed to ignore for a long time.

This photo from April 2020 is the best "before" picture I could find.  The peppermint geranium was planted below and around the pineapple guava (Acca sellowiana) in the background on the right.

This photo shows the area after the Pelargonium was removed.  I also cut back a large clump of asparagus fern here but I still need to get in there with a trowel to see how much of the fern's roots I can remove without damaging the tree.  (Can you hear my sigh?)

I took sixteen small cuttings of the Pelargonium to root should I be unable to find anything more interesting to plant below the pineapple guava

Now, the main issue is finding plants to fill the vacant spots.  I made my first trip in over two months to my local garden center yesterday, mainly to pick up planting mix but I took a spin to see what plants are available.  There were a lot of the usual early spring options but I didn't get excited about much other than a Banksia spinulosa.  In another month I should be immunized and expect I'll feel better about wandering further afield in search of plants.

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


Monday, February 22, 2021

In a Vase on Monday: Sunny with blue skies

Although I've complained aplenty about the lack of rain this year, I know we're far luckier in the weather department than people in a good percentage of the United States at present.  We haven't been buried under snow or ice; we haven't lost power or had frozen pipes; we're not struggling to keep warm or heating snow to have water.  We're starting off the week with sunny skies and unseasonably warm temperatures.  We could reach a high temperature of 80F (26C) today.  Hopefully, some of that warmth will blow eastward.

It definitely feels like spring even if that transition is still officially a month away so I chose flowers that reflect that vibe.

The second stem of Hippeastrum 'Lemon-Lime' bloomed last week so I cut it, knowing that it wouldn't hold up well against the warm Santa Ana winds we're expecting

I added little bits of this and that to complement its soft yellow color

Top view

Top row: Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Coleonema 'Album' (aka Breath of Heaven), and Euphorbia rigida
Middle row: Euryops chrysanthemoides 'Sonnenschein', Hippeastrum 'Lemon-Lime', and Isopogon anemonifolius
Bottom row: two noID Narcissi and Pyrethropsis hosmariensis (aka Moroccan Daisy)

The arrival of the blue-flowered Freesias last week and the abundance of blue Anemones in my cutting garden prompted the second arrangement.

The "blue" Freesias read more lavender/purple to my eye but the paper-like flowers of Limonium perezii (aka Sea Lavender) did a good job of linking them to the Anemones

Back view: I noticed that the Auranticarpa rhombifolia shrubs (aka Queensland Pittosporum) had begun to bloom when I wasn't looking and, after cutting off the leaves to expose the flowers, I added a couple of those stems to lighten up the arrangement

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Anemone coronaria 'Lord Lieutenant', Argyranthemum frutescens with lavender/blue Freesia, Auranticarpa rhombifolia, white Freesia, Limonium perezii, and Xylosma congestum (sporting blue/black berries)

For more arrangements created from material gardeners have on hand, visit the creator of In a Vase on Monday, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

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

Thursday, February 18, 2021

The Wonderful World of Aeoniums

A few years ago, another garden blogger asked readers what they'd call their garden if they were to assign it a name.  As I recall, I blithely responded "Lizardville" or possibly "Aeoniumville" but actually, while lizards are present year-round, they're most invisible during the cooler months, while succulent Aeoniums are always readily evident.  When collecting photos for my recent February foliage post, I found myself snapping a lot of photos of Aeoniums.  I decided they deserved their own post so here it is.

I've often described Aeonium 'Kiwi' as my "gateway succulent" and indeed it was the only succulent I grew in my former tiny garden but I'm going to start off this post with Aeonium arboreum, a larger and more varied group introduced to my current garden soon after we moved here in December 2010.  A good friend brought me a few, as cuttings if I recall correctly.  I wasn't immediately sure what to do with them so those first specimens went into what I now call my Aeonium nursery.  From a few rosettes planted beneath three citrus trees, they grew into large clumps.

I recall thinking that they all looked alike, with large solid green rosettes, but they currently show some minor variation, which may be due to nothing more than the degree of sun exposure.  I call this my Aeonium nursery as I cut rosettes from these plants regularly, both for my own garden and to give away to others.

As my husband and I pulled out lawn and later dying shrubs, creating new beds, Aeonium arboreum cuttings gradually migrated into one spot after another.  In fact, they became my go-to plant to fill blank spots for which I didn't have more specific plans.

This stem, with a rosette larger than my head standing outside my office window, explains its species name.  It develops tall stems with many branches.

The plants flower too, although I can't say I like them much.  The rosette from which a flower springs dies back, although the other rosettes in the clump live on.

Aeonium arboreum can be found throughout my garden but my front slope is home to the largest mass of them.  They're well suited to the partially shaded conditions and dry soil there.  Aeoniums go dormant in summer here but, in partial shade with a little irrigation, they don't dry up into balls as they do under harsher conditions.

This area along our driveway shows the impact of harsher growing conditions.  The plants here survive mainly on rain and, even though this is currently our "rainy season," we've had less than 3 inches thus far and the Aeoniums here haven't entirely recovered from their long period of dormancy.

I've even stuck rosettes into pots.  These cement shoes have very small cavities to contain soil but, as you can see, they survived and even branched.

I've also mixed Aeonium arboreum with other Aeonium species, as well as other succulents.

This vignette across from my shade house contains Aeonium arboreum, A. 'Kiwi', and Crassula lycopodioides 

Aeonium arboreum and 'Kiwi' flourish on the moderate slope here.  I lot of the Aeonium rosettes were stuck directly into the dry stack wall.

One blogger told me that it looked like the Aeoniums were climbing up the side of a low wall here alongside our back patio but actually they've simply formed tall clumps

Like the plain green Aeonium arboreum, I use a lot of Aeonium haworthii 'Kiwi', partly because it's prolific and partly because it contributes a little yellow and red color to the mix.

Close up of 'Kiwi'

If 'Kiwi' doesn't get much sun, it doesn't develop red edges

It works particularly well planted along the edges of beds as shown here in the dry garden on the northeast side of the house

A few years ago, I picked up a handful of Aeonium haworthii 'Kiwi Verde' in 4-inch pots and discovered that it's even more vigorous than its 'Kiwi' cousin.

It develops a red edge like 'Kiwi' but it's otherwise green in color

It forms large clumps very fast!

Its vigor and speed of growth led me to pepper small cuttings of 'Kiwi Verde' in this newly planted area of the front slope.  The cuttings weren't rooted but just stuck straight into the ground.  Most experts recommend allowing the cut stem ends to callous over before planting but I don't even do that.

As I have a ready supply of 'Kiwi' and 'Kiwi Verde' to provide cuttings, I used these when I planted this cat topiary

As much as I love the color green, splashes of other colors are always welcome.  If you like red, there are lots of red-toned Aeoniums, many of which are hybrids of Aeonium arboreum

This is Aeonium 'Zwartkop', perhaps the most popular and readily available dark-colored Aeonium

I think this one is Aeonium 'Cyclops'

Aeonium 'Garnet' in a pot by our front door

I believe this one is Aeonium 'Silk Pinwheel', purchased by mail order in 2019 in a 2-inch pot

Aeonium 'Velour' is mostly green at present because it's in a shady spot

Aeonium 'Cabernet' develops red edges later in the season when it gets more sun

I bought this Aeonium 'Jack Catlin' by mail order 2 years ago but it's so well shaded between large Agaves and a Metrosideros it hasn't developed 'Jack Catlin's' characteristic color so I'm going to take cuttings to place in a sunnier setting

The conditions in which Aeoniums are grown often have a significant impact on their color.  This seems particularly true in the case of those with large rosettes - or at least that's been my experience.

I believed that the Aeonium arboreum cuttings I used here when I replanted the succulent bed in front of the garage were a plain solid green variety and I was startled when I found them changing color soon after I put them in

Aeoniums also come in variegated forms.

Aeonium 'Sunburst' is one of the most dramatic of the variegated forms

Aeonium 'Mardi Gras' may be the flashiest one I've seen.  Unfortunately, it's very slow to produce offset rosettes.

My Aeonium 'Fiesta' lost its characteristic variegation in the shade of a tree stump so I probably need to move it

There are a few other Aeoniums in my garden that are harder to find.

I believe this one is Aeonium canariensis, sometimes referred to as a "tea cup" variety.  The rosettes are very large and slightly fuzzy.

These are Aeonium nobile, which develops a rusty orange color and large, thick-leaved rosettes.  I recently rescued these from areas in which they'd been squeezed and shaded by other succulents.  It develops an interesting flower but, as it's monocarpic, I'm in no hurry to see it.

This is Aeonium leucoblepharum, which I found at a succulent society sale years ago.  It's in a small pot so it hasn't gotten very big.

In the front here is Aeonium 'Lily Pad', a relatively small specimen with flatter rosettes

That's my collection.  I may have missed one or two varieties but this is as complete a run-down as I can provide.  If you've found an Aeonium you love, let me know!

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