Monday, August 30, 2021

In a Vase on Monday: Not a lot of choices

Although many of the dahlias in my cutting garden have buds, they're still taking their time to develop into blooms.  Dahlia 'Gitt's Crazy' was close but I decided it wasn't quite ready.  Meanwhile, many of the plants elsewhere in my garden shut down as temperatures rose into the low 90sF last week.  Overall, by comparison to most summers, things haven't been bad along the Southern California coast this year (although the inland areas haven't been as lucky).  We haven't even hit 100F (37.8C), much less had one of the more severe heatwaves that have become common in recent years.  We're still miserably dry and water restrictions are a looming issue but, as we don't usually get rain during summer months, we can't anticipate any changes on that score until late fall or winter.  And by comparison with Northern California and other areas of the Western US experiencing persistent wildfires and areas of the Southeast US currently facing Hurricane Ida, I know we're fortunate.

Dahlia 'Akita' produced one dramatic bloom this week, which I found I couldn't ignore even though it was already past its peak.  My challenge was to put a different spin on the arrangement so it didn't look like a replay of the one I created two weeks ago.

Once again, 'Akita's' bloom was easily 8 inches in diameter.  The creamy notes at the flower's center were more noticeable in this bloom than those I used in my earlier arrangement.

Back view: I played off the cream colors in the dahlia bloom, using Grevillea 'Superb' and zinnias in the 'Queen Lime' series as accents 

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Leucadendron 'Safari Sunset', Dahlia 'Akita', Zinnia elegans 'Queen Lime Blush' and 'Queen Lime Orange', and Grevillea 'Superb'

Several of my seed-sown sunflowers finally bloomed last week so I cut two stems, combining them with the native aster that's slowly burning out in my back garden.

I sowed a few varieties of sunflowers in plantable pots in early June and planted the viable seedlings out in late June.  Those in the well-watered cutting garden did fairly well but those in my south side border all died of thirst.

Back view, dressed up with a few strawflowers

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Helianthus 'Lemon Queen', Symphyotrichum chilense 'Purple Haze', Xerochrysum bracteatum, and Zinnia 'Profusion Yellow'

For more IAVOM creations, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  Best wishes to all in the vicinity of Hurricane Ida's path this week.

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

Friday, August 27, 2021

Boogying at the botanic garden

In July, South Coast Botanic Garden partnered with Constellation Immersive to open The DiscOasis on the garden's grounds.  Frankly, rollerskating to disco music during a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the Delta variant didn't much appeal to me but, after reading a recent article about it in the Los Angeles Times, I decided to pop by to take a look at the set-up.  If you're interested, I'm sorry to report that this is the event's last week and, according to the official website, it's sold out through the weekend.

For some reason, I'd assumed the skating rink would be set up near the front entrance.

Unlike much of the garden, this area is flat but I suppose it's a little small for a rollerskating track

It wasn't anywhere to be seen in the front garden so I started walking.  I'd checked off most of the sculptures on display as part of the garden's Hide & Seek - Art Meets Nature exhibit by the time I ran into the entrance to The DiscOasis.  I was almost surprised I found it at all.  SCBG is 87 acres in size and the event was set up in the "back 40."

I saw what looked from a distance like a smaller version of the garden's Living Wall and headed in that direction to find this.  (Unlike the Living Wall, the greenery here wasn't real.)

The neon signs near the entrance weren't lit.  Everything was blocked off by safety cones as the event doesn't open until 5pm each day.  I'm unsure what the wheelbarrow filled with sand, skates and disco ball was all about.

This disclosure stood at the entrance to the path leading to the event's midway

As this entry tunnel was blocked, I walked to the right (where I found the last sculpture on the Hide & Seek circuit)

As the entrance to the tunnel was blocked I wasn't sure I was going to see anything more but then I ran into what were clearly set-ups for taking pictures, part of the "immersive experience" if you check out videos of the event online.  (Here's one.)

After the last of these I reached the entrance to the midway.

This sign indicated that the main even was ahead

I couldn't get very close and hadn't brought my camera with the telephoto lens

I realized only belatedly that the stage and surrounding equipment had been set up on the site of the garden's lake.  That artificial lake has been dry for many years now.  Its liner had degraded and the lake had been drained, although the last time I had a good look at it there was still a lot of foliage growing in the area, as well as rocks and weeds.

Plans to restore the area, including the creation of a new lake that could accommodate natural rainstorm water flow, have been under discussion for years

Unable to get any closer, I decided to make my way back to the front of the garden.

I walked through a long tunnel of trees and tall shrubs

I saw few people.  This squirrel wasn't happy to see me and moved higher and higher into the stone pine tree, carrying his precious pine cone.

I followed the creek bed, as dry as I've ever seen it, in the general direction of the tram road that leads back to the garden's front entrance

I veered back up toward the other side of the lake site when I saw a large, shiny metal object ahead

This area also offered a glimpse of the main stage and rollerskating space

From there I had a good walk back to the garden's front entrance and headed home.  The tropical butterfly exhibit (SOAR) closed last month and, with the closure of The DiscOasis this week, the garden's next event will celebrate monarch butterflies, which is more up my alley.  That event opens in October.  Given that SCBG felt comfortable enough to open to the public on this scale for The DiscOasis, I'm hoping this will make them more amenable to supporting plant sales and other events appealing to gardeners and naturalists in the near future.  

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

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Tell the Truth Tuesday (Late Edition)

Some years ago, Alison of Bonney Lassie called on garden bloggers to fess up about the messes in their gardens.  She presented her own in posts entitled "Tell the Truth Tuesday."  In midsummer, in an especially dry year, I have plenty in my garden to which I'd like to turn a blind eye, the window boxes attached to my lath house among them.

Here's what they looked like last week after I pulled out the dead plants:

Box #1: In the end, the 'Evening Glow' Coprosmas were the only plants really worth saving

Box #2: I cut the Coprosmas back and transplanted them in other areas of the garden.  They might survive.

Tempting as it was to add fluffy flowering plants, with water at a premium in drought-stricken California, I thought I should use something that doesn't need water two or more times a week to survive the heat in a small box.  Our last water bill shook me up as the total expense was much higher than I'd expected.  My husband dug below the total to determine that, while our usage this period somewhat exceeded that we used over the same period last year, it was on par with what we used in July 2020.  That said, the cost of the same amount of water is now nearly twice what it was last year.  While I feel slightly better to learn that I hadn't actually gone completely overboard with my water use, it still has me thinking twice about what I plant.

So here are my replanted window boxes:

The boxes are filled with identical succulent plants

They get sun at different times of the day

Here's what I used:

Clockwise from the upper left: Echeveria scheideckeri (aka jeweled crown, a hybrid of Pachyphytum bracteosum and Echeveria secunda), Echeveria shaviana (aka Mexican hens), Crassula swaziensis 'Money Maker', and Senecio radicans 'String of Bananas' (now formally classified as part of the genus Curio, which appears to include a number of plants formerly classified as Senecio)

I'm guessing that more and more succulents are going to creep into my garden in the coming year as our water challenges continue.  Last week the federal government issued the first restrictions on use of water from the Colorado River.  Arizona farmers will be the first group directly impacted but this will effect Southern California all too soon if drought conditions continue.

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

Monday, August 23, 2021

In a Vase on Monday: Dark & Dramatic or Light & Bright?

I did a lot of aimless wandering in my garden Sunday morning, undecided about what to cut to put into a vase this week.  Somewhat to my own surprise (if not perhaps those of you who are regular visitors), I ended up with three very different arrangements.

The first features a bloom of what I bought as a Dahlia 'Penhill Dark Monarch' tuber, which it almost certainly is not.  'Dark Monarch' is supposed to be a mix of deep pink and plum with a hint of cream (as you can see here).  Instead, my flower is very red, with a base color similar to that of the Dahlia 'Akita' I featured last week but with a very different form.  It doesn't bear a resemblance to any of the dahlias I ordered as tubers.

I cut the dahlia before it was fully open and it looks as though the interior petals could have more white than the outer petals like Dahlia 'Special X Factor' or 'Contraste' but I'll be amazed if it develops pink highlights and that red base color turns a plummy purple.  But I could be wrong... 

Back view: I stuck with red-toned flowers and foliage to accent the mystery dahlia, including what I think is the last of Daucus carota 'Dara''Dara' has popped up in some areas I didn't sow seeds, at least not deliberately, so I won't be entirely surprised if I find the plants all over the garden next year.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Dahlia that isn't 'Penhill Dark Monarch', Zinnia 'Queen Red Lime', Daucus carota 'Dara', Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', and Penstemon mexicali 'Mini Red Bells'

My native aster is in full flower, although many of the flower stalks are scorched.  I'm itching to start digging it up, which is going to be a massive task as its rhizomes have spread through a large portion of one border; however, I won't start that until cooler temperatures are in the long-term forecast.  In the meantime, I expect I'll be using the presentable stems a few more times if I can manage not to repeat myself too often.

This is a larger scale version of a mix I've used in a small vase for our kitchen island.  It features the rose-like flowers of Eustoma grandiflorum (Lisanthus), which are waning now.

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', lavender and white Eustoma grandiflorum, and Symphyotrichum chilense 'Purple Haze'

I currently have a plethora of Zinnia 'Queen Lime Orange' flowers in my cutting garden.  I cut cut them to encourage the stems to branch, accenting them with some of the old standbys from elsewhere in the garden.

A few stems of Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' provided the perfect accent for the colors in the Zinnia

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream', and Zinnia 'Queen Lime Orange'

Do you have a favorite?  For more IAVOM creations, visit Cathy in Rambling in the Garden.

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

Friday, August 20, 2021

An easy fix

The garden and I reach a low point in August.  Even in good years (namely, those with decent rainfall), the garden looks badly stressed by this time of year.  I usually spend a lot of time dispensing emergency rations of water but this year, with virtually the entire State of California in severe drought, I think twice before administering any aid.  I gave the lemon tree at the bottom of our slope, which I suspect has been in place for 25 or more years, a good soak last Saturday when my husband (who usually pays no attention to plants) expressed concern that it was dying.  Two days ago, I accepted the fact that my favorite Correa, 'Sister Dawn', planted in 2018, was dead.  Large sections of creeping thyme in various areas have died out.  I could go on.  Wishing to avoid the bleak newscasts for at least awhile, I decided to see what I could accomplish in the garden to put a positive spin on its appearance.

Rather than tackle one of the areas that looks really bad, I decided to start with an area that looks relatively good.  My hope was that, with a little work, it could look even better.

This is the dry garden on the northeast side of the house.  The issues here aren't readily apparent in this wide shot.

Even in this closeup shot, the problem may be hard to see.  But there's a large, nearly invisible Agave ovatifolia lurking behind that Cistus shrub in the center.

The whale's tongue agave and the octopus agave next to it are still visible in this rear view photo, taken partway down the concrete stairway that leads to the back slope but, with the Callistemon viridiflorus in the foreground getting larger, that may not be the case for long

My first objective was to remove the Cistus 'Victor Reiter' I'd planted from a 4-inch pot in 2016.  It grew taller than I'd envisioned and didn't get enough sun to bloom well, and of course it was blocking the view of my oldest Agave ovatifolia.  I thought of relocating it but I didn't have an immediate placement in mind so I took cuttings instead.

I took twenty cuttings in all, storing them in this area behind the garage that gets only morning sun.  This is admittedly not the best time of year to take cuttings but I hope at least a few will root.

Other than periodically getting poked by the nearby agaves, the Cistus came out with relative ease.  Agave ovatifolia regained its rightful place as a focal point.


And here's a closeup from the same vantage point used in my second photo

There's now an empty space in front of the agave that needs to be filled.  There are half a dozen agave pups I can't identify there but I'll probably pot them up to give away as they're too small to have any impact.  I noticed I have grass seedlings in another section of this area so I may transplant one or two of those here.

NoID agave pups.  There are several other agaves nearby, any of which might be the parent.

I'm fairly certain that this grass seedling is Melinus nerviglumis (aka ruby grass).  Unlike the Cistus, it doesn't get very big so it might be a good fit in the empty spot in front of Agave ovatifolia.

After a midday break, I tackled cleanup of the area behind the Agave ovatifolia.  In addition to pulling weeds, I trimmed back rosemary and lightly pruned both the 'Hachiya' persimmon tree (currently laden with fruit) and Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey'.

As shown in the "before" shot on the left, the tall Coprosma was interfering with the massive arms of Agave vilmoriniana.  The photo on the right was taken after I cleaned things up.

I pulled out a lot of self-seeded Dorycnium hirsutum (aka Hairy Canary Clover), potting up one viable seedling to fill an empty space where another clover died last year.

Assuming the seedling on the left survives being roughly yanked out the ground, I'll transplant it in the empty spot shown on the right once our rainy season (hopefully) starts

Dorycnium is a lovely plant in and out of bloom but it's a rampant self-seeder and a vigorous spreader.  I cut back some of the plants swamping other plants during my cleanup operation as well.

The photo on the left shows a clover covering a clump of grass and infringing on nearby agaves.  The photos on the right show the clover in two areas after it was cut back.

The ivy growing into the area from the back slope needs to be cut back as well but that's a job for another time.  At least the day's cleanup effort left me in a more positive frame of mind.  I can't solve climate change or the world's other problems but at least I can accomplish little things that improve the appearance of my garden.  Best wishes for a pleasant weekend.

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