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

20 comments:

  1. Kris, you are so industrious and your long views show how carefully planned and tended your garden is. I love your 'Break Out' and am growing it too. Have a good week.

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    1. I bought 'Break Out' - and 'Waltzing Mathilda' - on a late-season sale. The tubers weren't planted until June 10th so I'm thrilled they reached bloom stage, Susie.

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  2. I love both the Passiflora ‘Oaklandia’ and your outstanding Dahlia ‘Break Out’! Your garden area with the Acacia and winding pathway is landscape perfection! I have always admired your Acacia, and perhaps one day, I will try it again. Although I do not have ‘Vermillionaire,’ I have learned from you that Cuphea ‘Starfire Pink’ is a winner! It accepts pruning readily, flowers in partial or full sun, and the hummingbirds love them. I plan to transfer 2 of mine to larger pots. Wishing you a beautiful weekend.

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    1. Those two Cupheas have performed better than any others I've tried, Kay. I cut my 'Starfire Pink' back in stages so as not to unduly upset the hummers ;)

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  3. I do wish I had a composting apparatus in the garden; I appreciate the free soil one gets to harvest. The invading roots from the neighbor's bird of paradise is unexpected. Will you add a 'bottom' to the bin?
    The Passiflora bloom is gorgeous. How large is that flower?

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    1. When I was clued into what was happening with the roots from the neighbor's plants, I lined the bottom of the second bin with cardboard and newspaper in an effort to stall them but I can't yet tell if that's made any difference. My husband suggested I try landscaping fabric but as composting works best when the materials have contact with soil and worms have ready access, I'm not sure about creating a hard border.

      I haven't measured the passionflowers but off-hand I'd estimate they're about 4 inches in diameter.

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  4. Satisfying work redoing overgrown beds, etc. I've been taking advantage of the cooler weather here, too, to rework some beds. But rather than getting ready for a growing season like you, mine are heading towards dormancy. Trying to get a jump on spring!

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    1. Best wishes with your prep work, Eliza! We're lucky that we can grow year-round here, although planting anything new in summer is generally a waste of time and money.

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  5. It looks great! That orange Passion Flower is so unique, and beautiful! We had a hot summer, too--most days in the high 80s and low 90s, with high humidity. I don't mind the heat, but I don't like to work in it. ;-) So, I know what you mean about waiting for the cooler weather to tidy up. Actually, I usually tidy up more in the spring (so lazy in the fall). LOL.

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    1. I'm a slave to my garden all year, Beth! Our daytime temperatures have fallen into the mid-70s but our humidity is way up for some reason.

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  6. Another gorgeous Dahlia.

    Isn't compost great? Your bins are beautifully built, and obviously function perfectly.

    Happy your 'Vermillionaire' bounced back nicely! Keeps them looking good through most of fall and winter, then I cut back again just as they get going again around March. They come back just as quickly if not quicker then. Must keep the Hummers happy.

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    1. I never want to disappoint the hummers, HB! Not that there aren't plenty of nectar sources to keep them happy year round ;)

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  7. Nothing like cooler Fall weather to motivate you to get back out in the garden. I had no idea Strelitzia grew that large. It obviously enjoyed your compost. The Passiflora is lovely. A very nice red. Happy gardening.

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    1. Thanks Elaine. If only our weather would stay cool!

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  8. That's a very nice compost system - kudos to your best beloved! The extent of my cleaning so far is to remove a bunch of errant wire vine (what was I thinking???) and refreshing one of the table gardens. They all need a little help after this summer, but time is at a premium, so the rest will have to wait. Glad fall is here, though. It rained today, and everything looks grateful! <3

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    1. Rain is but a dream here, Anna, but I have started digging out the massive and seemingly uncontrollable native aster that took over one bed in my back garden.

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    1. I'm very happy to have multiple passionflowers this year, Loree. Not a multitude by any means but it's progress over the output in prior years.

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  10. I have compost and aeonium envy :-).

    My aeoniums are slowly waking up, but they're never as lush as yours.

    I like cupheas, but I'm in a quandary because two of the four I have are getting massive. Should I let them go, or chop them to the ground? They do come back with a vengeance, it looks like.

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    1. Both Hoover Boo and I've cut our Cupheas back hard with no negative impact, Gerhard. I cut my 'Vermillionaire' down to about 6 inches and my (older, larger) 'Starfire Pinks' down to a foot or less.

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