Friday, October 29, 2021

This week's projects

It's been another busy week in my garden.  I addition to collecting rainwater on Monday, I addressed a host of small projects.

Last weekend, I scrambled to get more plants in the ground in advance of of the rain predicted to reach us on Monday.

The plants under the wire cloches shown here include Anchusa azurea 'Alkanet' (1), Penstemon heterophyllus 'Blue Springs' (3), and Helichrysum argyrophyllum (1).  Two Felicia aethiopica 'Tight & Tidy' aren't readily visible in this shot.  Neither are the 5 Arctotis 'Pink Sugar' received with the same mail order delivery.  The cloches are an acknowledgement of recent possum activity.

I also finally got 2 more Phylica pubescens (aka featherhead) planted in this area around the corner from the plants shown in the prior photo

The rainstorm forced me to face up to the fact that the two Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' shrubs in my front garden have gotten too big and required more aggressive pruning.

This photo was taken as part of my wide shots post in early October.  It shows the two shrubs on either side of the path leading to the front door.  When they were laden with rain, they hung over the path, nearly touching one another.

I've only tackled one so far.  It was more of a workout than I'd expected.

This is an "after" shot of the shrub I pruned.  I'd estimate I reduced the size of the plant by about a third.  I'll probably tackle the second shrub next week.

I saved a few stems of the Leptospermum to fill a vase

I also worked on overhauling my cutting garden, starting with removing several dahlias to make room for my cool season floral "crops."  I'll store dahlia tubers 'Break Out' and 'Summer's End' as well 'Akita', 'Enchantress', 'Gitt's Crazy', 'Iceberg', and probably 'Kogane Fabuki' and 'Waltzing Matilda' when I get around to pulling those plants.  I've already dumped 'Cafe au Lait', 'Cafe au Lait Royal', 'Loverboy', and 'Magic Moment', and I expect to jettison '(Not) Penhill Dark Monarch' and 'Mystic Illusion' as well.   'Cafe au Lait' is worth another try but something had clearly infected the plant I bought as a potted specimen and, on the chance that the tuber itself might be infected, I'd rather start fresh.  After clearing space in two of my raised planters, I got busy sowing seeds and planting other bulbs.

I sowed seeds of 4 varieties of sweet peas after soaking the seeds for 24 hours.  I also soaked (hydrated) and planted 60 Anemone coronaria corms and 40 Ranunculus tubers.  I covered everything with empty plastic flats, pinned to the soil to keep the raccoons and possums out until plants germinate.  Replanting will continue as I remove more dahlias.

I worked on a small section of the front garden that was in need of a refresh too.

This is a "before" shot of the area in question, a bed along the pathway that leads down into the area containing my lath house

This is the "after" shot.  I pulled 2 lavenders that had struggled here, as well as the large multi-stemmed Aeonium arboreum that had served as a filler, and relocated the small Phlomis purpurea I'd planted 18 months ago to serve as a focal point.  In their place, I popped in 2 Aloe 'Moonglow' divisions given to me in September by Denise of A Growing Obsession.

Did you even notice the Phlomis purpurea in the "before" photo?  It had survived its placement in that very dry spot atop the moderate slope in my front garden but it failed to thrive.  I pruned it back and replanted it in a still bare area of the back border.  I can only hope it'll do better there.

I left a bucket of Aeonium  arboreum cuttings and 9 massive Amaryllis belladonna bulbs removed from the back border for interested neighbors.  The Amaryllis bulbs had produced lots of offsets. 

Following Monday's rain, we got another round of warm weather.  Our daytime temperature peaked at 86F (30C) yesterday.  It's expected to be just slightly cooler today.  It seems summer isn't quite ready to throw in the towel...  

Happy Halloween!  My skeletons are still in the closet this year.

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

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Wednesday Vignette: Rain fell in SoCal!

Agave attenuata 'Raea's Gold'  looks lovely decorated with raindrops.  I planted this pup in the south-side succulent bed shortly before the rain started.

The Renga lily (Arthropodium cirratum) nearby was also studded with raindrops

As forecast, Southern California got rain on Monday, the majority of it falling between noon and 3pm.  I'd scrambled to get a lot of things planted over the weekend, including 12 plants received by mail order on Friday, tree lily bulbs I'd received earlier, and the Freesia bulbs dug up when I tore out some invasive plants in September so I was invested in getting everything well watered.  After nothing but drizzle in the morning, I ventured out to take care of one of the tasks I'd forgotten on Saturday: taking down the shade covers in the lath house.  So of course the downpour started while I was mid-way through that project.  That was the first time I got soaked.

After changing my clothes, I pulled my car out of the garage to let the rain wash it clean(ish).  I also started collecting water running off the rain chain in the back garden.  I have 50- and 160-gallon tanks to collect rain running off the house roof but a large amount comes down the rain chain too, where it's funneled down to the back slope and the canyon area beyond.  My 50-gallon tank filled quickly and I tapped some of that to start filling the 160-gallon tank while rain continued to flow into the 50-gallon tank.  I also pulled my car back into the garage and wiped it down.  Running back and forth between those tasks was how I got soaked a second time.

I still had these 5 buckets filled with water after dumping much of what poured down the rain chain into the 160-gallon tank and on plants under the roof overhang

You can see the water line near the top of the 160-gallon tank, filled roughly to the 150-gallon mark

On Tuesday morning, I poured all the water I had remaining in the plastic trugs shown above into the 265-gallon tank attached to the back of the garage.  It's unfortunate that our largest tank is attached to the smallest roof surface but it was too big and homely to attach to the house.  Moving water collected in one area to a tank in another area is an exhausting process but, given the severity of our drought, it's worth the effort.  I estimate that the 265-gallon tank is 33% full so, in all, I stored approximately 288 gallons of rainwater this week.

How much rain did we actually get?  The atmospheric river that pummeled Northern and Central California on Sunday gave us just four-tenths of an inch of rain, slightly more than Weather Underground's forecast predicted. 

Our total year-to-date rain for the "water year," which began October 1, 2021 and ends November 30,2022 is 0.52/inch.  Our total for the previous water year, which ended November 1, 2021 was 4.12 inches.  The "normal" annual rainfall for my area is 15 inches.

Even with less than half an inch of rain, the garden got a good soak.  I could have collected a bit more water but my husband and I were scheduled to get our COVID booster shots and, after running my clothes through the dryer, we took off to take care of that.  The rain was over by the time we got back.

I won't have to spend much time watering in the short-term but the rain reinforced the need to give the two Leptospermum shrubs framing the path between the front door and the driveway a hard pruning.  These plants have grown MUCH larger than the tag on their pots predicted (5-6 feet tall by 6-7 feet wide) .  When the branches are laden with rain, it's now difficult to walk between them without getting wet.

View of the two Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' shrubs from the front door

View of the same shrubs, looking more and more like trees, from the driveway.  Planted in December 2014, you can see them at their infant stage here.

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

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

Monday, October 25, 2021

In a Vase on Monday: Iceberg ahead!

After a VERY long wait, Dahlia 'Iceberg' has produced its first blooms just as the other dahlias in my garden are finishing up.  I pulled several dahlias out of my cutting garden on Saturday, dumping those I don't intend to store as tubers through the winter.  I'm already late in planting the bulbs and sowing the seeds for my cool season flower garden and I need to free up space, especially as it now seems summer may have given up its hold on my part of the country.

The 'Iceberg' blooms, about 6 inches in diameter and not fully open, were so heavy I had to shorten their stems to allow the vase to support their weight

Back view: My bush violets (Barleria obtusa) serve as the arrangement's main filler.  The shrubs are only now beginning their annual bloom cycle.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Angelonia 'Archangel White', Barleria obtusa, Dahlia 'Iceberg', Lavandula multifida, Myrtus communis 'Compacta', and Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata'

My second arrangement couldn't be more different from the first, at least in terms of color.  Dahlia 'Gitt's Crazy' is still pumping out a steady supply of flowers, eclipsing even 'Enchantress', which has dramatically slowed down with respect to its floral output over the past two weeks.

I have to admit I didn't envision combining Dahlia 'Gitt's Crazy' with wine-colored Zinnia until I placed the two up next to one another.  As temperatures have gotten cooler, the gold tones of 'Gitt's Crazy' have become less prominent than the raspberry tones, making the match seem more reasonable.  What do you think?  Do I need my eyes examined?

Back view: I hadn't planned on incorporating Dahlia 'Akita' in the arrangement either; however, its color is now less red and more pink than it was earlier in the season.  'Akita' has only one more partially open flower so this is probably its IAVOM swan song for the season.  I intend to save tubers of both 'Gitt's Crazy' and 'Akita' to plant next year.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Colenema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold', Dahlia 'Akita', D. 'Gitt's Crazy', Plectranthus scuttellariodes 'Dragon Heart' (coleus), Prunus caroliniana, and Zinnia elegans 'Benary's Giant Wine'

As I finish this post, the service I use to track local weather predicts a 100% chance of rain today.  The trailing end of the extreme weather system that hit the northern part of the state, variously described as a "bomb cyclone" and an "atmospheric river," is expected to reach my part of Southern California by mid-day; however, it's not expected to pack the punch it unleashed on Northern California.  We're projected to get just one-third of an inch of rain here.  What I've read about the impact of climate change on California unfortunately seems to be bearing out: we'll continue to experience extended periods of severe drought, punctuated by periodic, potentially destructive, atmospheric rivers, creating flash floods and mudslides, especially in areas previously hit by wildfires.

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, October 22, 2021

Fall is the time to plant

In my part of the world, fall is the very best time to plant.  The soil is still warm but air temperatures are cooler so plants can develop good roots underground without getting stressed above ground.  Combined with the prospect of rain, conditions couldn't be better.  My area doesn't experience freezes so there's no risk in that regard. 

I've been on a plant buying spree.

This is what I brought home from Seaside Gardens last Saturday

and this is what I brought home from Terra Sol on the same trip

I've made a few trips to my local garden center too.  And I'm expecting a mail order delivery today as well.

There's plenty of space for my recent purchases and more to come since I cleared the native aster (Symphyotrichum chilense) and the Liriope spicata out of the bed extending from our backyard fountain.

Photo of the area cleared in late September

Many of the new plants went into the bed shown in the foreground of the above photo (on the west side of the flagstone path).

I'm going for a blue and white mix with a touch of yellow in this area but there's a lot of space yet to fill

The preexisting plants in this area include blue-flowered dwarf Jacaranda 'Bonsai Blue', Barleria obtusa (just now beginning its annual bloom cycle), and Echium webbii.  The Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold' develops small pink flowers but its foliage is chartreuse year-round.  Achillea 'Moonshine' bears yellow flowers from late spring through early summer.

New plants, top row: Agave attenuata 'Ray of Light' (2) and Lomandra 'Platinum Beauty' (3)
Middle row: Hybrid Salvias 'White Flame' (7) and 'Mysty' (3)
Bottom row: Cistus 'Little Miss Sunshine' (2) and a still unidentified plant I picked up on a whim (3)

I hope the unidentified plant doesn't turn out to be a weed!  I like its growth habit and bees love it.  Many Salvias don't do well for me but Salvia 'Mystic Spires' has been an exception and, like that plant, Salvias 'White Flame' and 'Mysty' are both hybrids of Salvia longspicata x farinacea so I have high hopes for them.  The agaves will take time to develop in size but the Lomanda 'Platinum Beauty' should reach mature size relatively quickly.

These are the Lomandra 'Platinum Beauty' I have growing in the front garden after just over 2 years in the ground

I continue to cut back and tear out plants in the back border on the east side of the flagstone path.

This area has always had mostly blue, purple and pink flowering plants.  That color scheme will probably continue, albeit with a different, more drought-tolerant mix of plants.

Just this week, I've removed the Echium handiense 'Pride of Fuerteventura' I'd planted in 2016.

This Echium is native to the Canary Islands and it has much longer bloom period than other Echiums in my experience; however, it got just too big for its spot at the front of the border and very woody.  The photo on the left was taken in February and the photo on the right was taken this week.

Having had surprising success with cuttings of Echium handiense last year, I took  more before we dug out the parent plant.  (The cuttings on the right came from a lanky Pseuderanthem 'Texas Tri-star' which I haven't previously succeeded in propagating but I'm trying again.)

This is one of my Echium handiense seedlings from last year.  Planted in an exceptionally dry area in my street-side succulent bed, it's already grown a foot tall and wide with very little supplemental water.

I dug up a large sweet pea shrub (Polygala myrtifolia) too.

This photo was taken in May.  The plant looked a lot worse in October and it'd also grown too large for its spot at the front of the border.  While it's pretty in bloom, it also proliferates like a weed.  It's out but its progeny is doing fine in another area.

Two plants from last weekend's shopping trip went into the vacated spots.

Westringia fruicosa 'Morning Light' (left, aka Australian rosemary) filled the spot previously held by Echium handiense.  It grows about 3 feet tall and wide and produces small white flowers.  Grevillea 'Pink Midget' (right) filled the spot previously occupied by the sweet pea shrub.  The Grevillea should grow no more than 2 feet tall but has a spread of 4-6 feet.  It has tiny mauve pink flowers very similar to those of Grevillea sericea.

I'm also looking to order some more plants by mail to help fill in more of the east border, notably Melinus nerviglumis.

Also known as ruby grass, this plant (shown here in my north side garden) stays a manageable size and looks good in and out of bloom

Other purchases were popped into areas elsewhere in the garden.

Correa reflexa 'Cape Nelson' found a spot in an area where the backyard border merges into the south side garden.  Having lost one Correa this summer, I couldn't resist this one.

Mahonia 'Soft Caress' found as spot in a partial shade area between the back border and the north side garden

Two other plants, gifted to me by Denise of A Growing Obsession when she was reorganizing her plant collection, found spots too.  Dombeya burgessiae has a partially shaded spot in one of my front borders.  Sonchus palmensis, a relative of the dandelion (!) was squeezed into an area in the back garden between a Grevillea and a Melianthus.  (Let the battle for space begin!)

The mail order plants delivered today will go in this weekend, along with pile of Freesia bulbs dislodged in the process of removing the asters.  Now, if we could only get some rain!  There's a small chance of drizzle this weekend with a greater prospect of real rain next Monday.  Fingers crossed!  Best wishes for favorable weather wherever you are this weekend.

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

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Plant shopping!

The weekend before last, a friend and I headed north to visit two of our favorite plant nurseries.  As my friend wanted to connect with her nephew and his fiancee while they were in town for a wedding, we drove directly to Santa Barbara first, spending a little time with them at the Terra Sol Garden Center before stopping for lunch at a nearby restaurant offering outdoor seating.

I didn't dilly-dally at Terra Sol.  My focus was on locating plants to fill the many empty spots in my garden so I snapped only a few photos.

This Passiflora vine was too large to even consider hauling home

Terra Sol isn't big but it's always packed with good quality plants at reasonable prices

A nice display featuring Cordyline, Coprosma, Agastache, Plectranthus (coleus) and Pelargoniums

The shade plant area featured 2 arresting sculptural pieces

And of course I had to say hello to the friendly garden cat

After leaving my friend's nephew and his fiancee following lunch, my tour of Seaside Gardens in Carpinteria was  somewhat more leisurely, although my focus was still on plants to fit the needs of my garden. 

I always make at least 2 rounds of the sale tables to ensure I don't miss anything

Seaside had a garden cat too

After I made my plant selections, there was time to check out Seaside's demonstration gardens, starting with the Cottage Garden.

The Buddlejas and Salvias were going a good job of attracting butterflies.  We spotted both Monarchs and Gulf Fritillaries.

Although there were butterflies all over, this was the best photo I managed to catch

After a very long dry season, most of the garden spaces, including the Grassland area, were subdued

The Echiums in the Mediterranean Garden finished blooming long ago

The Succulent Garden always looks good, even without floral color

The Leucadendrons provided spots of color in the South African Garden.  As in my own garden, the Osteospermums were just beginning to bounce back in response to cooler conditions.

We were surprised to see a few Lotus still in bloom in the Asian Garden's pond

I bought plants at both garden centers but I'll share my purchases later this week.  In the meantime, here are some plants I didn't buy but did stop to think about.

If I thought Banksia spinulosa 'Schnapper's Point' (upper left) would be happy in a pot I'd have bought it but it really needs a lot of room.  I was surprised to see the Pyrrosia lingua 'Ogon Nishiki' (upper right) labeled as drought tolerant but I've been disappointed by drought-tolerant ferns before.  Two Tibouchina heteromalla (lower right) died in my current garden years before drought conditions reached their current state.  I mainly sighed over Yucca 'Bright Star' (lower left) - smaller than the specimen I recently cut to the ground in the hope it'll regenerate, this one was priced at $110.

I've spent much of my time the past week working in my garden.  Most of the 3 cubic yards of mulch I had dumped in the driveway two weeks ago has been distributed, with just a little held back in reserve.  I've continued to dig out plants that didn't weather conditions well over the past year.  As our temperatures have cooled, I've taken some cuttings and I've begun installing my new purchases.  I even have an order of plants scheduled for delivery by mail on Friday.  Fall is a very busy season here!

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