Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Wednesday Vignette: Flying in and sailing out

Our backyard views have been interesting of late.  

Although I haven't filled my bird feeders since last winter when warnings were issued about salmonella outbreaks spread via feeders among songbirds, they flocked into our backyard en masse this week.  I wasn't successful getting photos of them chirping to one another in the trees but I caught them joyfully bathing in the fountain just outside our back door.

The seashells in the fountain's upper tier provide the birds a comfortable perch while leaving just enough space to splash about

All my photos were taken from inside the house as opening the door sent them flying

I think this group includes a house finch, a few lesser goldfinches, white-crowned sparrows, and what may be a female golden-crowned sparrow

The birds generally use the fountain's second tier to drink

I also witnessed the departure of the first cruise ship to leave the Port of Los Angeles with passengers since cruise line operations were shut down in March 2020.  We've seen cruise ships docked in the harbor off and on during the shutdown, coming in for supplies and frequently exiting, without passengers, the same day.  I took the following photos from our backyard using a telephoto lens.

The Grand Princess left the Port of Los Angeles at 4pm on Saturday at 60-75% capacity, according to news reports.  Unlike Florida, California had no issues with the cruise line's requirement that passengers and crews be fully vaccinated prior to departure unless an exception was pre-approved .  Masks were also required in certain common areas.

The Grand Princess was the ship that received international attention early during the pandemic in 2020 when more than 3500 people were stranded off-shore of San Francisco after 21 passengers and crew were diagnosed with Covid-19.  The former President didn't want them to disembark as that would increase the US case count.

Surrounded by tug boats, the ship executed the turn that would take it through Angel's Gate

You can see the Angel's Gate lighthouse on the right and some of the many cargo ships anchored just outside the port waiting to get in to unload their containers.  The total recently reached a record of 73 ships.

Exiting the port, the Grand Princess turned south headed for Cabo San Lucas, Mexico 

It's expected to return September 30th

Maybe things are getting a little closer to "normal" day by day after all, at least on some fronts.

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

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

Monday, September 27, 2021

In a Vase on Monday: Clamoring for attention

After waiting seemingly forever for dahlia and zinnia blooms, I now have several of each blooming at the same time in my cutting garden, all demanding attention.  With our weather subject to sharp changes - hot and dry for stretches at a time with cool and damp intervals in between - I'm inclined to cut them when they're looking their best rather than chancing their availability in later weeks.  Next year, I'll give more thought to growing plants that combine better with one another than those I'm growing this year.

Dahlia 'Break Out' produced its first bloom last week.  It was a soft cream with pale peachy-pink accents and, when examining it on Saturday, I envisioned combining it with flowers that picked up those peachy-pink tones.  However, when I went to cut it on Sunday morning, it had shifted more definitively to a vibrant pink, throwing my plans out the window.

I reused the vase I selected for Dahlia 'Loverboy' last week and some of the very same flowers as accents

Back view

Top view: the vase has a very narrow mouth, only about an inch wide at its center and slimmer as it tapers to each end, which limits what can be stuffed into it

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', Correa 'Wyn's Wonder', Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', Dahlia 'Break Out', and Zinnia elegans 'Queen Red Lime'

My second arrangement this week contains neither dahlias nor zinnias.  I've wanted to use the purple flowers of Plectranthus ecklonii (aka  tall spur flower) for some time.  I'd hoped to pair it with Dahlia 'Magic Moment'  but that plant, although now in bud, is taking its sweet time about blooming so I decided to go ahead before the Plectranthus finishes its season.

I stuck to a purple and white mix, making use of the Cosmos, which like the zinnias are in the process of succumbing to mildew

Stems of Vitex trifolia dress up the back view.  Although this plant is obviously prone to drooping when cut, I love its two-colored leaves, dark green on top and purple underneath.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Angelonia 'Archangel White', Cosmos bipinnatus, variegated Pelargonium 'Lady Plymouth', Plectranthus ecklonii, and Vitex trifolia purpurea

Dahlias 'Enchantress' and 'Gitt's Crazy' were competing for a third slot.  As they most definitely aren't suitable to combine and as I wasn't prepared to create four arrangements, I went with 'Enchantress''Gitt's Crazy' will probably get a vase on my kitchen island within another day or two but I'll spare the reader a fourth arrangement.

This arrangement is admittedly gaudy, verging on garish

Back view: the coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides) combines the bright pink of the dahlia with the red-wine color of the zinnia

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold', Dahlia 'Enchantress, Plectranthus scutellarioides 'Dragon Heart', and Zinnia elegans 'Benary's Giant Wine'

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

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

Friday, September 24, 2021

Cleaning Up: One step at a time

In coastal Southern California, fall is the best time to refresh the garden.  As we're still vacillating between summer and fall weather, it's too early to do any extensive planting but I've taken advantage of the cooler temperatures we've had off and on to get started on some of the smaller clean-up projects.

I started by sifting my compost.

These are the compost bins my husband built in April 2020 using scraps of various kinds we had on hand.  Note the giant bird of paradise (Strelitzia nicolai) in the background on the other side of the fence in my neighbor's garden.  Those plants had an unexpected impact on my composting process. 

The bin on the right had been three quarters full when I stopped adding new material and just let it "cook." The bin was about two-thirds full when I harvested the contents.  The bottom third was full of roots that apparently migrated from the other side of the fence.

The screen, left by the prior owner of our property, sits atop a support my husband built to fit over a trash can when we were sifting soil out of the sod we dug out during removal of our lawn.

I filled one garbage can and two-thirds of a second.  Other than the roots of the bird of paradise, there was relatively little extraneous material but I did remove a surprising number of produce labels and grubs.  With the exception of fragments of a coconut fiber liner and a couple of avocado skins, most everything we'd added to the bin had composted nicely.

I've distributed all the screened compost.  It doesn't go far enough but every little bit helps.

I spread compost in the area surrounding the Yucca 'Bright Star' I beheaded after it was brutally pruned by a well-intentioned gardener.  I divided Gaillardia seedlings and replanted them around the Yucca (now underneath a wire cage to protect it).  The seedlings may or may not survive our "Indian Summer" conditions.  The Yucca cutting I'd saved was potted up after dusting its base with rooting powder.  

After digging out a dead Coleonema and cutting back two Cuphea 'Starfire Pink' shrubs, I spread more compost in this bed along the driveway and transplanted two Hippeastrum 'Aphrodite' bulbs I'd previously grown in pots.

My biggest project thus far involved one of my favorite beds in the front garden.

The bed in question is the foreground on the right.  This photograph was taken at the end of June, when everything still looked lush.

I followed the advice of Hoover Boo of Piece of Eden and cut back the orange-flowered Cuphea 'Vermillionaire' to just a few inches tall to give it an opportunity to rebound.  That led to an effort to cleanup the ornamental grass (Seslaria 'Greenlee's Hybrid) planted along the edge of the bed, which had spread over the flagstone path and was encroaching on other plants within the bed.  I may have gone overboard there.  The course of concrete bricks was added by my husband in an effort to keep the grass roots from spreading.

As Hoover Boo predicted, the Cuphea are already springing back.  I added one new plant from a 6-inch pot yesterday and spread compost throughout the bed.

I also trimmed back Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' a bit and dug out the Cotyledon orbiculata that had been growing up through the middle of Abelia 'Kaleidoscope'.  I'm trying to simplify my border plantings, relying on mass plantings to a greater extent than I have in the past.

I added three new Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun' to the plants already there.  I think I could use one more.  

The last little project this week involved planting an Aloe lukeana I received from Gerhard of Succulents and More back in August.

There are a LOT of Aeoniums in my street-side succulent bed.  I use them as fillers when I don't know what else to plant in an empty spot.  But Aeoniums don't look their best in summer, when they curl up and go dormant.  The less water they get, the worse they look so I decided to pull the clump behind the Agave attenuata.

The Aloe lukeana went in behind the Agave.  It may get crowded when the Aloe reaches its full size but, in that case, I can cut back the Agave, which is currently producing a lot of pups.

This week, we had more uncomfortably warm days (mid-90sF) than cool ones but the weekend forecast promises the return of cooler temperatures.  I'm looking forward to (literally) digging into some bigger projects.  Meanwhile, I'll send you off with a wish of that you find some happy hours gardening and a couple of pretty floral shots from my garden this week.

Passiflora tarminiana x manicata 'Oaklandia'

The first bloom of Dahlia 'Break Out'

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

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Wednesday Vignette: The root of the problem

While working on a project in the front garden, I found I needed my shovel, which I'd left in the back garden.  On the fly, I decided to take a moment to dig up the mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) seedling I'd noticed a few days earlier.  I'd removed a seedling from the same spot just weeks before and, assuming that I simply hadn't gotten the entire root when I pulled it out, I thought all I needed to do was to move the flagstone adjacent to the new seedling to ensure I got the whole thing.  I figured that was a 5-minute task.

The lush green foliage was impressive, especially as it was growing in an extremely dry area where even succulents struggled to survive.  I thought, if I could get enough of the root out intact, I might pot it up and offer it to neighbors in one of my plant giveaways.

I moved the flagstone and started digging only to meet immediate resistance.  Digging along the sides of the plant, I discovered the root of the problem and called in reinforcements to help me get it out.

After removing a second flagstone, this is the root my husband uncovered

I can only hope we got the majority of it.  But, if there was one root this size 8 to 10 feet from the trunk of the dying mimosa tree we'd taken down last October, is it reasonable to believe that there aren't other roots like this?  Is this mimosa tree going to haunt me forever?  According to one source, "Silktree...regenerates by sprouting from roots following top-kill or injury."  Halloween is still more than a month away but that citation sent a chill down my spine.

This gives you a better sense of the root's size

This shows the plant growing straight up from the root itself

It seems that the self-sown seedlings I've previously found are the tip of the iceberg.  Let the reader beware when planting this tree!

Needless to say, I didn't offer the mimosa's offspring to any of my neighbors.  It went into the trash.

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

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

Monday, September 20, 2021

In a Vase on Monday: It's all about the dahlias

At last, the dahlias seem to be getting in gear.  My zinnias are already giving in to mildew and I expect that the dahlias may soon follow so there's little reason not to grow for broke and cut nearly every bloom as it makes an appearance.  That philosophy led to the creation of three arrangements this week.  I was tempted to put together a fourth but that was too much even for me.

Dahlia 'Gitt's Crazy' takes its time reaching bloom stage but, when it does, it doesn't seemed inclined to stop.

The dahlia's flowers start out a fuchsia-pink berry color but turn a soft gold as they mature

Back view: I planted Zinnia 'Queen Lime Orange' at the base of 'Gitt's Crazy' in a half barrel on a guess that the two would look good together so it seemed natural to use the zinnias as a filler in this arrangement

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Eriocapitella hupehensis (aka Japanese anemone), Dahlia 'Gitt's Crazy', and Zinnia elegans 'Queen Lime Orange'

Like 'Gitt's Crazy', Dahlia 'Loverboy' is a holdover from last year.  The tuber I saved was small and I almost tossed it in April but I decided it wouldn't hurt to pop it into a small plastic pot to see what happened.  It sprouted and, when space opened up in one of the raised planters in my cutting garden, I moved it here, not really expecting much.  To my surprise, it produced buds and, late last week, its first bloom.

I hadn't remembered that 'Loverboy' was as dark as it is.  It leans toward the blue end of the red spectrum, which ruled out pairing it with the first blooms of Dahlia 'Waltzing Mathilda' as I'd originally planned.  The latter is more a scarlet red with an orange tinge.

Back view: As Zinnia 'Queen Red Lime' is now heavily mildewed, I cut as many flowers as I could in the interest of using them before I feel compelled to pull up the plants

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Correa 'Wyn's Wonder', Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum', Dahlia 'Loverboy', and Zinnia elegans 'Queen Red Lime'

Dahlia 'Enchantress', also a holdover from prior years, is challenging 'Gitt's Crazy' in the bloom department, winning it inclusion in another arrangement this week.

I added one stem of Zinnia 'Benary's Giant Wine' to the mix.  Interestingly, some of these seed-sown zinnias are purplish in color like this one, which others are more definitely red.

Back view: This white gladiola is the best flower I've had yet from the mix I ordered last year.  Perhaps last week's cooler temperatures helped to keep the bloom looking good for more than a day.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Angelonia 'Archangel White', Cosmos bipinnatus, noID Gladiolus, Dahlia 'Enchantress, Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy', Pelargonium peltatum (aka ivy geranium), Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata', and Zinnia elegans 'Benary's Giant Wine'

We had a lovely stretch of cool temperatures last week, allowing me to start some of my fall garden projects.  It's expected to get warmer again this week but then that back and forth bounce between summer and fall is par for the course here.  However, work in the garden may be confined to early morning and late afternoon hours until cooler temperatures return.

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

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