Friday, September 17, 2021

Foliage Follow-up - September 2021

Although we haven't had any truly horrific heatwaves this summer, the very dry conditions have been hard on my garden.  There are several areas in serious need of rehabilitation.  When the temperatures have been tolerable outside, I've started chipping away at cleanup activities.  I've got a lot more to do, especially in my back garden, but as I begin to contemplate what I should plant this fall to replace the dead and the dreadful, I thought it would be a good idea to supplement my Bloom Day assessment with a survey of my foliage plants.

Starting with the area facing the street, I identified a few standouts.

Agave 'Blue Flame', cut back last year when it started spilling over into the street, has recovered from surgery and is actively producing new pups

The Agave colorata pup I planted last year took on a pretty pink blush (although one leaf, not visible from this angle, bears a scorch mark)

I had to include a photo of this dragonfly which remained perched on the tip of the Agave colorata for a long period, even as I bent in to snap photos.  My best guess is that it's a Mexican amberwing but I'm by no means sure of that identification.

It may look like much but I'm very proud of my success with this Echium handiense.  I took cuttings of the plant in my back garden in June 2020 but had low expectations about the prospects for propagating it by that method.  Nonetheless, the cuttings produced roots and I planted two of them out this spring.  Both survived but this one in particular is thriving despite very, very little water.

The two Agonis flexuosa (peppermint willows) flanking the street provide much needed shade for the front garden, although they could use a bit of trimming

In the south end garden, I took note of the following:

With the death and removal of the native Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) on the southern perimeter of the garden last October, this Aurunticarpa rhombifolium is thriving, providing at least partial screening of neighbors in the distance

I haven't quite decided whether I like the Dasylirion longissimum here but, as it'd be very hard to remove, it's likely to remain in place

I liked Graptopetalum 'Fred Ives' so much in this area, I ended up using it as edging all along the flagstone path in this area

In contrast to many of my Leucadendrons, 'Summer Red' has remained relatively compact

After over 4 years in the ground, Metrosideros collina 'Springfire' still appears fairly small but it has put on an asymmetrical growth spurt  of late.  The foliage seems too pale to my eyes.  Let me know if you have any recommendations regarding fertilizer for these plants.  Compost alone didn't do much.

The front garden is holding up fairly well.  Although there's room for improvement here and there, here's what stood out as looking good:

When I planted Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' here, I envisioned creating a screen dividing the main level of the front garden into 2 sections.  'Wilson's Wonder' may be overachieving in that regard.  The plant on the right is Centaurea 'Silver Feather'.

I went a crazy with coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides this year.  I've always thought of them as shade plants that require a lot of water but, while they may prefer conditions that provide those things, they seem to be able to tolerate both sun and dry soil.

Tradescantia spathacea (aka Rhoeo ticolor or oyster plant) is new to me.  I've found that it too can handle dry conditions, as well as both sun and shade.  I'm considering using it more extensively as a ground cover in one dry shade area.

The garden areas on the north side of the house are also doing well overall.

Dahlia foliage isn't generally worth mentioning but I find the dark foliage of 'Waltzing Mathilda' particularly attractive

One of my oldest Mangaves, 'Lavender Lady' deserved mention

After severely pruning Psoralea pinnata in early summer, I worried that I'd butchered the tree-like shrub but it's recovered well

My biggest issues of concern are in the back garden but of course there are foliage standouts there too.

The Ginkgo tree had a difficult spell with the heat earlier this summer and it lost a lot of leaves at one point.  I stepped up the water and the leaf drop stopped but it appears to be preparing for an early fall.

I'm preparing to dig out a lot of what's in the middle of the garden and considered removing this dwarf Jacaranda 'Bonsai Blue' in the process.  It didn't bloom much last year and it didn't bloom at all this year but it has bushed out since I cut it back in late winter,  I think its lacy foliage has earned it a reprieve.

I cut back the two Leucadendrons shown here, 'Safari Sunset' and 'Devil's Blush', later than I should have this year but they've finally sprung back

There are many issues to be addressed in the back garden.  Here are two of them:

Albizia julibrissin (aka mimosa tree) is once again attempting a comeback.  I think I need to pull up part of the flagstone path to ensure I get the entire root out this time.  This area is exceptionally dry (as indicated by the sad succulents behind the foot tall seedling) but apparently that's just fine with the Albizia.

A gardener, trying to be helpful, decided that the largest of my 'Bright Star' Yuccas needed a drastic trim and left it looking like this

I sought input from a blogger friend as well as soliciting comments from other gardeners on Instagram.  The consensus was that the original plant may regenerate once cut to the ground, and that it might also be possible to grow from a cutting.  I watched a few YouTube videos on Yucca propagation and moved ahead yesterday.  The video sources suggested giving the cutting a day of two to dry out before potting it up.

That's it for my foliage review.  I'm looking forward to getting my hands dirty in the garden this weekend.  Our temperatures are expected to remain on the cooler end of the summer spectrum through Sunday, before soaring again with the return of our Santa Ana winds on Monday.  I hope you're able to enjoy pleasant weather this weekend too.

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


  1. I really love the look of Agave 'Blue Flame', such an elegant form. Your coleus are looking great! I always thought of them as not being drought tolerant, but I see that they are tougher than I thought. I would have wanted to kill that gardener who cut the yucca, but you seem to have a philosophical approach. I suppose it is 'only' a plant, but still. Hope it regenerates for you. You might end up with two plants!

    1. I was upset when I saw the Yucca. No one approached me about cutting it back and I hadn't even seen anyone working in my backyard. Our gardeners are of the "mow and blow" sort. As we have no lawn, they're generally responsible to for maintaining the many hedges that came with the garden. That job and the blowing is usually done within 15-20 minutes. Whomever did this was trying to take initiative, which I appreciate in theory but I wish I'd been consulted. I hope I do indeed get at least one plant back - 'Bright Star' isn't always easy to find and, when you do, it's expensive.

  2. All your plants are amazing--foliage, blooms, and all. I go crazy with Coleus every growing season, too. It loves our spring/summer/fall. ;-)

    1. I'm pleased that there are so many varieties of coleus now, in almost every color and shape you can think of.

  3. Well done on capturing a photo of the dragonfly. I've seen a few around here, but they haven't stopped long enough to be photographed.

    1. This particular dragonfly really seemed to like that agave, Nikki. It flew off twice but came right back.

  4. It's raining in Seattle this weekend, so my gardening plans will wait till Monday: easier to dig wholes in well watered soil. I wish your weather cool off soon so you can get started on your to-do list. From your photos, I can't see much wrong with anything, but a gardeners eye is always more critical. Since I love Jacaranda, I'm happy you'll let the dwarf 'Bonsai Blue' stay, at least for now. Tradescantia spathacea (oyster plant) is striking! and the lovely 'Waltzing Mathilda' makes it's way to my wish list (again).

    1. I envy you the rain! I suspect we've got 2 months or more to wait for rain here. I'm praying we'll get more than 4 inches this season despite predictions for another dry winter for the southern 2/3rds of California. I haven't taken any wide shots of my garden lately but the central area of the back garden looks almost as though it was torched. I took some "before" shots yesterday, cringing in the process, but I haven't gotten out the shovel to start digging yet.

  5. Hope you are successful regrowing the yucca. That was brave to cut it back. 'Fred Ives' makes a very interesting border.

    1. I couldn't live with that Yucca as it was so it came down to trying to save it or digging it up. I hope the feedback I received from multiple sources about its potential for regeneration is on the mark.

  6. Your Agave 'Blue Flame' is on fire (ha) and congrats on your Echium handiense success. I think your Dasylirion longissimum looks great in that spot, is it new?

    1. The Dasylirion has been in place since sometime in 2017. I never recorded its planting date but the general timing is reflected in the photos I compiled on the south side garden in August. I think the agaves in that area usually steal all the attention ;)

  7. I've never fertilized any of my 4 'Springfire's. Once they get going they keep going.

    None of my Yucca cuttings ever grew roots, but perhaps they were just too dried out.

    1. I planted the Yucca cutting yesterday after dipping the stem in rooting hormone. We shall see what happens...


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