Monday, May 31, 2021

In a Vase on Monday: Pungent Scents

Since last October, I've participated in an online meeting with other gardeners on a roughly monthly basis to discuss selected garden books.  Last week, we discussed The Scentual Garden: Exploring the World of Botanical Fragrance by Ken Druse.  I'd recommended the book based mainly on its fabulous photographs; however, the general consensus was that it's a "coffee table book."  Druse addressed the science of scent, how it can be captured and preserved, and how scented plants can be presented in a landscape but his central focus was on classification.  I for one was disappointed there wasn't more emphasis on how to use fragrant plants in association and how to carry fragrance through the seasons.  The book nonetheless spurred a lively discussion about how each of us respond to the scents in our own gardens, which fragrances we like and which we don't.  That exchange emphasized points Druse made in the introductory section of his book: scent is in the "nose of the beholder" and, in many cases, how we feel about a scent depends a lot on the long-term memories associated with them.

I didn't set out to select plants for this week's "In a Vase on Monday" post based on scent but, as it turned out, I ended up with two arrangements this week each of which included stems of particularly pungent scented plants.  The first arrangement was inspired by the Agapanthus just now beginning to bloom in my garden.  If Agapanthus has a scent, my nose is incapable of detecting it but two of the other plants I included in the mix did register, one very strongly.

My theme was color, not scent, based.  I chose blue and white colored flowers.  The scent was supplied by Salvia clevelandii 'Winnifred Gilman', another Salvia hybrid, and the minty foliage of Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata'.

Back view:  The mint scent of the variegated Prostanthera is light and very pleasant.  I expect I could tuck a few stems in my pillow case and have nothing but sweet dreams.  In contrast, the Salvias have a heavy, musky scent.  I expect that they would bother me with prolonged exposure in an enclosed space.

Top view: The other elements had little or no noticeable scent

Top row: noID Agapanthus and two of the varied colors of Consolida ajacis 'Summer Skies' mix
Middle row: noID Delphinium, Gilia tricolor, and Globularia x indubia
Bottom row: Phacelia tanacetifolia, Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata', and Salvia clevelandii 'Winnifred Gilman'
(Included but not shown in close-up is Salvia leucophylla x clevelandii 'Pozo Blue')

I should note that Druse is based in the northeastern part of the US.  His book emphasizes the plants with which he's most familiar and there's relatively little overlap with the plants I grow in the Mediterranean climate of my coastal Southern California garden.  The inspiration for my second arrangement this week was the Matilija poppies (Romneya coulteri) blooming on my back slope.  This genus isn't mentioned in Druse's book.  I can detect a only a light scent from the flowers but bees love the plant.

I took this photo in the California Natives display garden at Seaside Gardens Nursery just over a week ago.  The bees really do swarm the blooms like this but, as the blooms in my garden are generally well over head-height, I don't manage to catch photos like this here.

The Matilija poppies established a color theme for this arrangement as well

Back view: The only flowers with scent I can detect in this arrangement are those of the Achillea 'Moonshine', which has a marigold-like scent I find unpleasant when sniffed close up, and Tagetes lemmonii, which I like in moderation but I know some people detest

Top view

Top row: Abelia grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', Achillea 'Moonshine', and Alstroemeria 'Inca Sundance'
Middle row: Alstroemeria 'Claire' and Centranthus ruber albus
Bottom row: Romneya coulteri and Tagetes lemmonii

My husband is more sensitive to scent than I am.  He's objected to the smell of Tagetes lemmonii in the past so I use it sparingly in arrangements.  I can't remember if he's complained about Salvia clevelandii before but I personally find it a heavy scent so I'm waiting to see if he says anything.  What scents do you prize in your garden?  Are there scented plants you grow despite finding their fragrance objectionable?

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

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

Friday, May 28, 2021

On the road again...

A friend and I had gotten into the habit of visiting Ventura and Santa Barbara about twice a year, usually in the fall and early spring when summer heat isn't an issue.  We both spent our undergraduate years in Santa Barbara and the original trips were mostly exercises in nostalgia, until plant shopping gradually became our focus.  Our last joint trip before the pandemic changed things was in late February 2020.  My friend, who lives closer to Ventura County than I do, dropped into Seaside Gardens a couple of times without me but we made our first return visit together last Saturday.

Seaside Gardens in Carpinteria was our first stop.  In addition to offering great plants for sale, it has a collection of  large demonstration gardens to provide inspiration.  We spent less time dawdling than usual, possibly the result of residual pandemic anxiety on my part.  The demonstration gardens were also looking less than their best, probably due to the exceptionally dry winter and spring we've had. 

This Salvia 'Big Swing', located at the juncture of the Cottage Garden and the Mediterranean Garden, grabbed my attention.  The blue flowers were intense.

The Grasslands area

This photo marks the transition between the Grasslands area and the California Natives area.  The purple-flowered plants on the left are Salvia clevelandii.

Just beyond the bridge is a virtual forest of Echium candicans.  Like those in my own garden, most of the flowers were spent.

There was a healthy stand of Romneya coulteri (aka Matilija poppies) opposite the Echium.  As I've learned the hard way, this plant demands a lot of space.

The Succulent Garden is colorful even when there's nothing in bloom

Almost all the Aloes were well past their bloom stage

The South African Garden was also short on flowers but, like the Succulent Garden, offered colorful foliage

When I visited in February 2020, this area was covered in blooming Osteospermums but there were few to be seen during this visit.  Meanwhile, the Leucospermums were finishing up their bloom cycle.

This Protea 'Pink Ice' in the South African Garden had only spent flowers.  Even dry, they draw one's attention but I'd have liked to see the plant in full bloom.  I've had a 'Pink Ice' in my dry garden for over 2 years and have yet to see it bloom.

Of course, I did shop the nursery as well.  It was well-stocked but, other than than Salvia 'Big Swing', there wasn't much new and different that I "needed."  Unfortunately, the Salvia wasn't in stock.

View of some of the sale tables

This photo shows only about half the succulents available for sale

My friend and I used to visit the Australian Native Plants Nursery in Ventura but it's no longer open on weekends; however, Seaside stocks a small number of ANPN's plants.  I purchased a Correa glabra 'Coliban River' that sports green fuchsia-like flowers from this display.

We stopped for lunch, eating on the patio at the Garden Market in Carpinteria, then headed to Island View Nursery just up the road.  My friend was in search of a few small succulents and their prices are good.  As usual, I fell prey to a Rex Begonia in the houseplants section, also well priced.  I grabbed a flowering Gloxinia as well just because I couldn't resist.

Indoor plants selection

Small succulents

Outdoor plants display (Island View has a larger wholesale plant selection)

The photo on the left was taken in November 2019, when a cannabis growing and sales operation was under construction.  Construction is now complete, as shown in my more recent the photo on the right.

Next, we headed into Santa Barbara County to visit Terra Sol Garden Center, located in Goleta.  It's a relatively small garden center but always loaded with the plants in the smaller pots I favor.

Sale tables

There are always decorative items that draw my attention

I noticed this fellow as we were getting into the car to leave.  He was reminding people to mask-up before entering.

We hit traffic on the way back to my friend's place in the San Fernando Valley and my slog from there home was even worse but it was still a good road trip even if my purchases were relatively mundane.  Here's the photo of the trunk of my car before I unloaded it.  My most interesting purchase, the Correa glabra, isn't even visible.

Other than the GloxiniaRex Begonia and Fuchsia intended for my lath (shade) house, most of what I bought were small plants like Lantana and Brachyscome to fill in some bare spots.  

The Blogger platform had a major hiccup yesterday, preventing me from loading photos for an extended period so I'm wrapping up this post while I can.  I hope you have a pleasant - and hiccup-free - weekend!

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

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Wednesday Vignette: What the heck?

 I made a puzzling discovery last week when I came upon the following scene:

It took me only a moment to recognize the debris left on this stump as the remnants of the flowers of Leucospermum 'Goldie' but why they were consumed and by what was a mystery

The responsible party apparently shredded the flower to get to something at its core

Whatever creature did this carried the flowers some 10-15 feet away from the shrub's position in the south side border before going to work.

Here's the shrub in question

Leucospermum flowers break away from their stems very easily once the flower is spent and many of the stems of this species tend run along the ground so "collecting" the flowers isn't difficult

Leucospermum flowers produce a nut-like fruit at their core.  Many birds, especially those in the plants' native habitat, consume the nectar but other than hummingbirds, I've never seen birds pay much attention to LeucospermumsProtea flowers in general, including those in the Leucospermum genus, are reportedly poisonous to humans, dogs and cats.  I found a reference online to rodents and squirrels eating the nuts contained within the flower of one Leucospermum species.  It wasn't this species but the most likely hypothesis is that the culprit responsible for the mess left behind on the tree stump in my garden was a squirrel, even if I've seen few of those critters since I stopped filling the bird feeders in February due to the salmonella outbreak among songbirds.  If eating the nuts contained within the spent Leucospermum flowers is the price I pay to keep the local squirrels away from the blueberries on my back patio, I'm happy to share the flowers.

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

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

Monday, May 24, 2021

In a Vase on Monday: Garden Gems

At this time of year, it's uncommon for me to step into the garden on a Sunday morning without some notion of what I'm going to cut for "In a Vase on Monday," the weekly challenge posed by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to uncover something in one's garden to use in a flower and/or foliage arrangement.  However, yesterday I had nothing in mind, other than a desire not to repeat myself.  When I scanned my back border for plants I haven't featured in a vase this year, I immediately lighted on two suitable prospects.

The first was Penstemon digitalis 'Onyx & Pearls'.  I put in three plants last July after purchasing them on a whim.  I usually avoid planting anything other than succulents during the summer months as doing otherwise is generally a self-defeating exercise.  To make matters worse, last July I was still engaged in an ongoing battle with gophers.  But the label on the Penstemon claimed that it required only occasional water, which differentiated it from most other Penstemons I've tried to grow here.  The foliage color was also unusual so I threw caution to the wind and went ahead.  I did plant all three with their roots inside gopher cages, though!

I took this photo about ten days ago when the plant was just starting to bloom but, as the "onyx" color of the foliage is mostly hidden in my arrangement I wanted you to see it.  Not only is the foliage a dark blackish-purple in color, it feels leathery to the touch.

The Penstemons were flowering heavily on tall stems on Sunday so I cut three and went in search of appropriate companions.

I've used the purple foxglove before but there were two new spikes begging to be cut in my cutting garden.  The flower front and center is the first of the seed-sown Daucus carota 'Dara' to open fully.

Back view: Salvia canariensis and the sweet peas are making return appearances

Top view: I used one of my tallest crystal vases for this arrangement and had to stand on a chair to photograph it overhead

Top view: Abelia x grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', Consolida ajacis 'Splish Splash', and Daucus carota 'Dara'
Middle row: Digitalis purpurea, Lathyrus odoratus 'Sir Jimmy Shand' (with 'High Scent'), and Nigella papillosa 'African Bride'
Bottom row: Penstemon digitalis 'Onyx & Pearls' and Salvia canariensis var candidissima

The second plant that caught my eye on the initial scan of my back border was a coral gladiola.  It stuck out in part because its color is completely out of keeping with the surrounding plants.  According to my records, I planted a dozen Gladiolus nanus 'Nymph' bulbs on May 2018.  The flowers were supposed to be white with pink markings but those that survived to bloom in 2019 and 2020 are coral-pink with hot-pink markings.

It was surprisingly difficult to find flowers to complement the unusual color mix in the gladiola

Back view: I used some of the remaining snapdragons with rust-encrusted foliage.  I think I'll be pulling all the remaining snapdragons this week.

Top view

Top view: Aeonium haworthii 'Kiwi', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', and noID Antirrhinum majus
Middle row: Clarkia 'Salmon Princess'* and Gladiolus nanus 'Nymph' (or a relative)
Bottom row: Melinus nerviglumis and Rosa 'Pink Meidiland'
*The Clarkia was sold as C. unguiculata but it looks to be C. amoena

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

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

Friday, May 21, 2021

It can be hard to find the foliage for the flowers

It's the time of year when almost everything seems to be blooming and, under those circumstances, it can be hard to see the foliage elements in the garden but they're there.  They manage to make a statement on their own, sometime subtly and sometimes not.  As the flowers practically shout "look at me," it seems a good time to give some of the foliage standouts in my garden a closer look.

In general, the Abelias in my garden aren't shy about showing off.

Abelia x grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated' would probably swamp the Leptospermum next to it if I allowed that

Abelia x grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope' is only somewhat less intent on world domination

In the case of Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt', it's its texture and sheer size that commands attention.

I planted a variegated Helichrysum petiolare next to this 'Cousin Itt' to give it a little extra pep

This combination of 'Cousin Itt' and two varieties of Aeonium, A. arboreum and A. haworthii 'Kiwi' , wasn't really planned on my part but it's now one of my favorite foliage combinations.   These particular Aeoniums form tight clusters, making it look as though they're climbing up a wall.

Aeoniums creep into my photos with regularity as they're one of my go-to plants to use en masse as fillers but some demand notice all by themselves.

This is Aeonium 'Jack Catlin', which I originally saw at The Huntington Gardens and finally managed to procure by mail order a couple years ago

I picked up Aeonium 'Velour' on a nursery/garden center road trip a few years ago

Aeonium atropurpurea 'Zwartkop' finally achieved the presence necessary to play off the 'Blue Glow' Agaves as I'd envisioned when I planted it from a small pot

I wasn't thinking about the surrounding Aeoniums when I took photos of the Agaves and Aloe shown below but they show up anyway, this time as accents to the larger succulents.

These four Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' (as well as a fifth some distance away on the left) were planted as pups of the first A. desmettiana I bought years ago.  That plant and a second in the nearby street-side succulent bed bloomed out in 2018-2019 but the "pups" are now larger than the parent plant was when I purchased it.

This is a hybrid Aloe vanbalenii x striata I picked up in a 4-inch pot at my local botanic garden in October 2018.  Its label said "medium-sized" but I've never been sure what that means; however, so far, it fits in nicely along the moderate slope atop this dry-stacked wall.

I have several shrubs that make significant statements without flowers, although all do flower on a seasonal schedule each year.

While I've seen flowers on the tall peppermint willow trees, I've yet to notice them on these dwarf shrubs,  Agonis flexuosa 'Nana'.  However, as I routinely find tiny seedlings in the surrounding area, I have to believe there are flowers in there somewhere.  I frequently use stems cut from these three shrubs as a foliage filler in floral arrangements. 

Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid' produces a couple of flushes of peachy-pink bottlebrush flowers when the weather turns warm.  Right now, all its energy is going into producing fresh leaves.

I cut this Cotinus coggygyria 'Royal Purple' back hard every year to manage its size.  It's never produced the "smoke puffs" responsible for its common name, perhaps for that reason.

I've yet to successfully manage the size of Leptospermum 'Copper Glow'

I cut back this Senna bicapsularis I foolishly planted between the fence and the concrete stairway that leads down the slope every year but never as hard as I did in late winter this year.  I was afraid I might have killed it but it looks great right now.  I would be sad to lose it as its a host plant for the cloudless sulphur butterflies.

Lastly, as they're looking particularly good at the moment, here's a look at my Japanese maples.

This is the dwarf Acer palmatum 'Mikawa Yatsubusa'.  It's been in the ground just over 7 years old now but it's only 31 inches tall.  It's said to be a good subject for bonsai. 

I planted this Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku' about ten years ago and it's provided my best experience thus far with Japanese maples, probably because it's relatively protected from both wind and the sun's most intense rays in this spot on the east side of our garage

I was so happy with 'Sango Kaku' that I bought another one a few months ago when I found it at a reasonable price.  Positioned in partial shade behind the hedge that runs along the street, I hope it'll flourish as the other specimen has.  The grass-like plants in front of it are Lomanda 'Platinum Breeze'.

That's it for my spring foliage highlights.  It's been pleasantly cool here of late as our morning marine layer has returned, keeping our temperatures in the 60sF.  Weather forecasters have been teasing the prospect of drizzle and possibly real rain all week but online sources currently suggest that our chances of that have evaporated.  Oh well.  A friend and I have plans to visit some of my favorite garden centers a few hours to the north on Saturday so at least weather conditions won't be an issue.

Enjoy your weekend!

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