Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Wednesday Vignette: Captivated by clouds

A week ago today, the weather was perfect.  The temperature was the very definition of comfortable, not too hot and not too cold - Goldilocks would have approved.  The air was clear (not an especially common occurrence here) and the sky was blue and decorated with puffy white clouds.  I was captivated and felt compelled to take photographs of the sky from my back garden.

Yesterday, you couldn't see the sky for the clouds.  We often get a morning marine layer here this time of year but it normally fades away well before noon.  However, yesterday we spent the entire day wrapped in a cloud.  Neither the sun nor blue sky made an appearance.

Late morning view looking to the northeast

View near noon looking toward the harbor, which was invisible in the mist, and also eerily quiet

The humidity level remained at the low-mid 90% level all day.  This reading was taken at 1:31pm.  (The weather station is still on standard time.)
This late afternoon shot from our back door captured some of the city below us, although I still couldn't see the harbor with my naked eye

It felt particularly odd because areas to both the east (in California's inland valleys) and the north (in the Pacific Northwest) were cooking.  Further evidence that Mother Nature can never be accused of being even-handed.  The circumstances led me to think of Joni Mitchell's song 'Both Sides, Now', which is currently playing on repeat in my head.

I hope the situations of those of you who struggled with heat earlier this week have improved and that your weather returns to something resembling normality.  For more Wednesday Vignettes, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.

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

Monday, June 28, 2021

In a Vase on Monday: We've been lucky

The Northwest US and Western Canada were hit with record-breaking heat this past weekend and the pattern is expected to continue into Monday before tapering off.  Portland, Oregon could reach 115F (46C) today.  Seattle's forecast is 112F (44C).  Meanwhile, coastal Southern California where I am avoided extreme heat, although the inland valley areas here baked.  Once again, the marine layer helped us out.

This photo was taken at 9am PDT on Sunday.  The Los Angeles harbor below us was invisible.  The marine layer began breaking up at our elevation shortly hereafter but it hung on around the harbor, keeping our daytime high temperatures at a comfortable level around 80F (26.7C).

There's a chance of a surge of monsoonal moisture here later this week.  The thunderstorms created by that condition are usually limited to the mountain and desert areas but occasionally they make their way as far as the coast.  Forecasters still aren't clear whether that will happen this time but, dry as we are, rain would be greatly appreciated, provided of course that lightning strikes don't start any fires.

It was nice to putter in my garden on Sunday, cutting flowers without sweltering.  Once again, I cut more than I'd planned, ending up with three arrangements.

The plentiful blooms of Daucus carota inspired the first arrangement.

I stuck to a red theme, with just touches of white.  The red foliage below the Daucus at the front of the vase is provided by a single stem of Leucadendron 'Ebony', which I don't think I've ever cut for inclusion in a vase before this.

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Allium schaerocephalon (aka drumstick allium), Cosmos bipinnatus, Perlatgonium cucullatum 'Flore Pleno', Daucus carota 'Dara', Leucadendron 'Ebony', Myrtus communis compacta, seedpods of Penstemon digitalis 'Onyx & Pearls', and Leptospermum 'Copper Glow'

The second arrangement was inspired by the flowers of Rotheca myricoides (formerly known as Clerodendrum ugandense).  It's common name is blue butterfly bush but it's not related to Buddleia.

The flowers of Rotheca myricoides really do look like small blue butterflies.  I grew the shrub without difficulty years ago when we lived in Santa Monica but I failed to make it happy in my current garden until I plopped a plant into a large terracotta pot in partial shade.

Back view: Two Osteospermums contributed flowers to serve as fillers.  As temperatures climb, the Osteospermums will lay low, ceasing to bloom until cooler weather returns in the fall.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', Globularia x indubia (aka globe daisy), noID Agapanthus, Lavandula angustifolia, Osteospermum '4D Silver', O. 'Violet Ice', and Rotheca myrcoides

My discovery of the first Lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum) blooms required me to create a small arrangement for the kitchen island.

The green-flowered Lisianthus had already been nearly flattened by the winds that have been blowing through here daily

Clockwise from the upper left, the small vase contains: more Abelia grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', unripe berries of Auranticarpa rhombifolium, Eustoma grandiflorum, and Tanacetum parthenium 'Aureum'

Before I close, I have to share a current shot of last week's vase featuring the artichoke.  It held up very well overall and the artichoke actually bloomed in the vase, which was a big surprise.

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

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

Friday, June 25, 2021

A neighbor's viewpoint on my garden

Chickadee Garden's "Facility Manager" recently presented his favorite picks among the late spring blooms in the garden he shares with his spouse.  That reminded me that I hadn't asked for my husband's input on our garden in some time.  (The input he provided on our summer garden last year can be found here.)  To compensate for cutting his hair, a chore I somehow acquired decades ago when he was still in graduate school which I've never managed to shed, I asked him to provide a current take on what he liked about the garden.  He grumbled that he'd already done that once but he didn't refuse so, when his haircut was done and I suggested a stroll around the garden before dinner, he proposed foisting the task on asking a neighbor to provide input.  He argued that because he's severely red-green color blind he couldn't fairly assess the garden - and then he shot across the street to see if our neighbor was willing to fill in before I could respond.  Neighbor S was accommodating and the two of them were back to join me on a spin through the upper level of the garden within minutes.  (Note: Familiar with our fire ant problem on the back slope, S declared it off-the-table at the outset.)

Here are the plants that grabbed S's attention:

Front Garden

He surprised me by picking Scabiosa columbaria 'Flutter Rose Pink' almost immediately.  I asked him what he liked about it and he referred to the flower's color and the plant's lacy foliage.

The next choice, Agave 'Jaws', couldn't have been more different.  S said the plant had "personality."  I offered him a large pup I recently found growing nearby but he said he didn't want to worry about having a grandchild fall into it.

The magenta seedpods of Cercis occidentalis (aka the western redbud) earned favorable comment next.  (I know one SoCal blogger who is probably shaking her head over this choice but I have to say it hasn't self-seeded in my garden.)

The color contrast provided by Cuphea 'Vermillionaire' earned it a thumb's up.  S was less than impressed by the flowers of Grevillea 'Superb' behind the Cuphea.

South Side Garden

The selection of Hymenolepsis parviflora (aka Coulter bush) startled me, even though the flowers stand out from the surrounding plants.  I love this plant myself - until the flowers turn this mustard brown color.  Earlier in the season, the yellow flowers provided an echo of other yellow colored flowers in the back garden, carrying one's eye along the full length of the area.  (Mum's the word but I cut the flowers back the day after S voiced his appreciation of the plant.)

Back Garden

Daucus carota 'Dara' grew from seed.  The four foot tall flower S pointed out (left) popped up on the edge of the flagstone path opposite the larger, taller clump of Daucus in the back border (right).  Like the flowers of Hymenolepsis parviflora, the Daucus forms umbels.

Lilies often draw people and this pink one, no longer at its best, received S's nod

This Hebe 'Wiri Blush' is one of my oldest plants but people seldom notice it.  I love the red of its stems and leaf undersides, as well as its flowers but the shrub is currently a mess.  Something, probably a gopher, tunneled underneath it last year, causing die-back at the plant's center.  S noticed the flower and the foliage but not the shrub's misshapen appearance.

This photo may give you a better idea of the shrub's current shape.  I'm vacillating between making an attempt to divide it or simply replacing it. 

Nierembergia scoparia 'Purple Robe' deserves more acclaim than it generally receives.  S loved its purple flower color, delicate foliage and low-growing habit.

The selection of Arbutus 'Marina' (aka strawberry tree) wasn't a surprise.  Nearly every visitor remarks on the beauty of this tree and I'm lucky to have inherited four of them with the garden.

The red trunk and peeling bark of the tree, which reminded S of manzanitas (Arctostaphylos), were major factors in its appeal

North Side Garden

Although I recently gave Grevillea 'Scarlet Sprite' a major haircut and most of its flowers are gone, it also earned a thumps up.  S cited its "exotic" flower for its appeal.

In the process of our walk-through, there were also a couple of what I'll call "honorable mentions":

Heuchera 'Marmalade' was noticed due to its unusual foliage color

This pineapple guava (Feijoa sellowiana), with flowers already giving way to fruit, drew S's attention as he prepared to return home.  I commented that the squirrels seem to be paying the plant a lot of attention at the moment.  When asked what drew them, I said I wasn't sure whether its the developing fruit or the flower petals, which have a sweet taste.  I offered him a petal to chew on his way home.

It's always interesting what draws someone's attention in the garden.  Several times during our spin of the garden, S asked "what's that?" and walked briskly ahead while I tried to ascertain what he was referring to.  I was almost always wrong on my first guess.  Do visitors ever surprise you with their preference of certain plants over others?

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

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

What happened here?

As we transition from spring to summer, I've done a round of general clean-up in the garden.  Not that gardens here are ever really prepared for what summer's going to throw at them but I felt mine was at least looking fairly tidy.  Then, I saw this:

The leaves of this Yucca 'Blue Boy' were encrusted with dried honeydew

I assumed that insects of some kind were responsible for the damage but I was unable to detect any sign of the culprits.  My attempt to remedy the situation using the hose's jet spray failed to make a difference and a couple of days later I noticed that my largest Yucca 'Blue Boy' was showing signs of the same problem.

These are the two largest 'Blue Boy' Yuccas in a bed that contains a total of five

Internet sources generally attribute leaf damage on yuccas to soft scale, mealybugs, or two-spotted mites.  Given the crust of what appears to be honeydew excretions and the fact that I couldn't see anything that resembles a mealybug, I guessed the first was the most likely cause.  I removed what I could with another jet spray treatment, wiped the affected leaves with alcohol, and sprayed with insecticidal soap for good measure.  Then, because I couldn't stand the look of them, I trimmed the affected leaves.

I'm hoping the plants will outgrow the disfigured leaves but I'm a little nervous they may not.  I'm going to spray all the Yuccas here with neem oil in an effort to prevent any spread to the plants that aren't already affected.

One of my smaller 'Blue Boys' had a problem of another sort.

I think the white material surrounding the plant's base may be what's commonly known as dog vomit slime mold, which showed up in other areas of my garden last summer

Fortunately, that was easy to resolve with no apparent harm to the plant.

Last week's heat cooked the mold and it was relatively easy to remove

I think of Yuccas as tough plants but no plant is actually care free, is it?

On a more positive note, summer blooms are starting to arrive on the scene.  I don't have any dahlia flowers yet but I have ten sprouted plants so I can hope for flowers within the next couple of months.  Meanwhile, other plants are standing in the wings, readying themselves to take the stage.

At last, I have my first Lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum) bloom of the year, as well as many more buds

I used a few ruffled Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum) in an arrangement this week and there are plenty of buds ready to take-off

One noID lily bloomed earlier this month but I've got 6 lily tree plants with buds.  I haven't had much luck with lilies in the past but the fact that the bulbs are preparing to bloom after a year of very low rainfall is a positive sign.

Hopefully, the good moments will balance the bad ones this summer.

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

Monday, June 21, 2021

In a Vase on Monday: Funky and Frilly

I wasn't at all sure my first arrangement was going to look like much but earlier this week, when I nearly tripped over the single 'Purple 'Romagna' artichoke in my back border, I decided I "needed" to use it in a floral arrangement.  I'd actually planned to do so more than a month ago when I first saw the purple choke but I forgot about it and, when I next noticed it, it was more green than purple.  This week it was glowing a ruby-magenta color.  Some of the plants I'd envisioned pairing with it were disappointing but, overall, I'm satisfied with the arrangement even if the choke and its foliage stabbed me several times before I was done.

The arrangement deserved an unusual vase and this one, given to me as a gift a couple of years ago, fit the bill

The arrangement required a few touches of white to lift it up a bit, which was supplied by the first sprays of white flowers on Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' and two Renga Lily stems (Arthropodium cirratum)

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Allium sphaerocephalon (aka drumstick allium), Monarda 'Peter's Purple', Arthropodium cirratum, Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy', foliage and flowers of Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', and Cynara scolymus 'Purple Romagna'

My second arrangement is more conventional.  It made use of the Agapanthus blooms that are currently plentiful here but the inspiration was actually provided by two Delphinium stems that made it through last week's heatwave in my well-watered cutting garden.  While much of California and the US Southwest did indeed sizzle under the "heat dome" last week, my area got off relatively easy.  We peaked at 93F (33.9C) on Tuesday before settling into the low-mid 80s for the rest of the week, thanks to our persistent morning marine layer.  People complain about our "June Gloom" but I love it and I won't be at all sad if we get a "No Sky July" and a "Fogust" too.  After an exceptionally dry rainy season, we need all the moisture we can get.

The ruffled Shasta daisies gave the arrangement a little extra something

Back view

Top view: While photographing the individual elements in this arrangement, I was struck by how similar the innermost flowers of Orlaya grandiflora (Minoan lace) are when compared to Coriandrum sativum (aka cilantro/coriander) 

Top row: blue and white Agapanthus and variegated Helichrysum petiolare
Middle row: Coriandrum sativum, Orlaya grandiflora, and Leucanthemum x superbum
Bottom row: dark and light blue stems of Delphinium 'Pacific Giants' mix and Salvia 'Mystic Spires'

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

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