Monday, January 31, 2022

In a Vase on Monday: This and that

The red hellebores in my front garden grabbed my attention this week and I created my first arrangement to play off them.  I kept discovering suitable companions, snipping as I went until I had more flowers than I needed.

As I selected the relatively diminutive china vase featuring a woman's elegantly manicured nails, I should have used fewer flowers to show them off.  I did jettison some flowers in the process of arranging them but not enough to highlight the vase itself.

I included one fat stem of Daphne odora in the back just because I couldn't resist bringing its scent into the house

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Anemone coronaria 'Admiral', Boronia crenulata 'Shark Bay', Daphne odora 'Leucanthe', Grevillea sericea, Helleborus 'Anna's Red', and Pelargonium sidioides.  (Stems of Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata' foliage were also included but not shown in closeup.)

Two of the Echium handiense I grew from cuttings last year after taking out the woody plant in my back border have started to bloom and, as both plants can benefit from being cut back at this stage, I went ahead and cut three stems for a second vase.  The flowers of this Echium are bright blue, tinged with just a touch of pink at their base, so I cut a few stems of Camellia williamsii 'Taylor's Perfection' to add to the mix but subsequently changed my mind, sticking with a simple blue and white (and purple) combination.

I  cut all the flowering stems of the Osteospermum '4D Silver' that self-seeded in the dirt path behind my backyard border as I'm planning to dig the plant up and move it this week.  This is my all-time favorite Osteospermum but I haven't been able to find it in local garden centers for some time.

I filled out the back of the vase with 2 stems of Limonium perezii (aka sea lavender).  These plants are just starting to get their bloom on.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: noID Ceanothus, Echium handiense 'Pride of Fuerteventura', Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata', Limonium perezii, and Osteospermum '4D Silver'

The leftover materials from both arrangements went into the small vase on my kitchen island.

It contains 3 stems of Camellia williamsii 'Taylor's Perfection', one pink Alstroemeria, and leftover Boronia, Pelargonium, and Prostanthera stems

For the record, the Triplets are still in place on my living room mantel.  With one small exception they look just like they did three weeks ago.

The Kalanchoe in the smallest Triplet's chapeau has developed delicate pink roots.  All the succulent cuttings will be replanted in the garden this week as the Triplets retreat to the privacy of their closet.

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

All material © 2012-2022 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, January 28, 2022

Small garden projects

I'm still trying to stay close to home to avoid unnecessary exposure to Omicron.  This week's garden projects were a mixed bag.  The one I got the most enjoyment out of involved a dried grape vine, my lath house, and a collection of Tillandsias (aka air plants)

The grape vine I inherited with the garden hasn't responded at all well to our drought.  It produced only a few leaves last year.  Apparently, it can't get by on four inches of annual rain.  As the birds got 95% of the grapes it produced even during its good years, I didn't go out of my way to save it either.  I started cutting it back several weeks ago with the intention of removing it but saved an attractive piece of the woody vine with the vague notion of using it in some fashion somewhere else in my garden.  I fiddled with it a bit before positioning it above one of the windows in the lath (shade) house my husband built me in 2018, deciding it would be perfect to display Tillandsias.

Here's what it looked like on my first pass.  I used 6 Tillandsias I already had on hand in various corners of my garden and wired them to the vine.

If I ever had the species names for any of these, I've long ago lost them

It looked too bare to me like this so I made a trip to my local garden center earlier this week, my first visit in quite awhile, to see if they had any air plants.  They did!

These are my most recent purchases, which ranged in price from $3.99 to $12.99.  Only 2 were sold with species names attached.

I attached the largest plant, a Tillandsia capitata 'Peach' (upper left), to the grape vine's base on the outside of the lath house.  Three more were wired to the vine inside.  The two with flower buds were unidentified but the other (lower right) is Tillandsia stricta, which was "enhanced" with red color by the seller.

This is version #2 of my new lath house feature.  The smallest Tillandsia was too delicate to wire in place so it's sitting in a pot alongside another plant for now.  It remains to be seen how well everything holds up against the worst of our Santa Ana winds.

I also picked up a new Cryptanthus (aka earth star) while at the garden center, which I potted up and added to my lath house plant collection.

This is Cryptanthus 'Strawberries Flambe'

While puttering in the lath house I decided to rehab a pot I'd had there for a few years.

I put together the succulent pot within a pot in December 2018 (left) after seeing similar creations on Instagram.  By late last year, almost all the succulents had withered away and it looked sad.  I created a new version (right) using cuttings from my garden and just a few of the original succulents.

I replanted another succulent container while I was at it, which now sits outside the lath house with a collection of other pots.

The original contents of this container drowned during December's heavier-than-usual rainstorms.  I had my husband drill additional holes in the bottom of the pot before replanting.  The contents include Graptoveria 'Fred Ives', G. 'Debbie', Crassula capitella, Echeveria parva, and a couple cuttings of Crassula multicava.

This group of plants received by mail order late last week were promptly planted.

Top row: Campanula persicifolia, Lavandula 'Phenomenal', and Fuchsia mangellanica 'Hawkshead'
Middle row: 3 Salvia sclarea
Bottom row: Graptopetalum 'Pinky' and Delphinium elatum 'Morning Lights'

The new plants don't look like much yet.  I covered the 3 Salvias with wire cloches on the odd chance the rabbits might eat them to the ground.

I don't always get my new purchases planted so quickly. 

The 3 potted Pilosocereus azureus shown on the left were purchased on sale at a local garden center back in early November but they only went into the ground last Saturday after I made space for them by pulling out a sprawling and ungainly Maireana sedifolia.

I've still got a few plants picked up during this week's visit to the garden center to get into the ground this weekend.

This Aloe maculata is destined for the back slope

I'm in the process of cleaning out some of the plants on the lower portion of the slope to make room for more succulents like the Aloe.  I dug out a very unhappy Carpenteria californica (bush anemone) this week.  As it turns out, fire ants are less likely to be active when temperatures are below 70F so I'm taking advantage of their absence while I can.

Although I'd love to see some rain soon, I admit that the weather here is currently perfect for working in the garden, at least when the winds aren't blowing.  I know that many of you in the Northern Hemisphere aren't nearly as lucky.  I hope you enjoy the weekend however you spend your time.

All material © 2012-2022 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Wednesday Vignette: Spring cracks open the door...

Yesterday's sunrise was evident only as a glowing pink light beneath a thick marine layer.  The morning marine layer had largely disappeared of late but it paid us an unexpected return visit yesterday before the sun burned it off by mid-morning.

It's looking - and feeling - a little more like Spring with every passing day.  Much as I appreciate the warm sun on my back as I work in the garden, I'd happily put Spring's advance on hold for awhile if we could get additional winter rain.  That said, I'm enjoying the early Spring blooms as they appear.

This is Anemone coronaria 'Admiral', making its earliest appearance in my garden yet.  A few additional blooms of the same cultivar are queued up to follow.

After December's heavier-than-usual rain, Arctotis 'Pink Sugar' has responded to January's warmer temperatures with a bounty of blooms

The paperwhite Narcissi tazetta usually get a slow start in January but the sheer volume of flowers in both the front and back gardens is greater this year

Like the African daisies in the Arctotis genus, the Osteospermums are also taking off.  Most of those shown here are a self-seeded trailing variety, but my personal favorite, O. '4D Silver' (closeup, right), has self-seeded this year as well.  As you can see, self-seeded Alyssum (Lobularia maritima) is showing up everywhere too.

The ornamental pear tree (Pyrus calleryana) unofficially signals the start of Spring in my garden.  The tree dropped the majority of its remaining leaves over the last few weeks and it's suddenly covered in white flowers.

A traditionally late winter arrival also showed up a couple of weeks ago and it's rapidly spreading along the property line at the south end of my garden.

This is a wild cucumber vine, which reappears annually in the same area.  It grows over an old tree stump I planted with a Yucca gloriosa years ago in a feeble attempt to deter raccoons from using the cavity as their onsite toilet.  The vine grows rapidly and produces cute little flowers that turn into small, spiny cucumber-like fruits.  All parts of the plant are reportedly poisonous.

If online sources are to be credited, there is more than one genus of wild cucumber but frankly they look identical to me and possess similar characteristics.  One of these, Echinocystis lobata, is said to be native to a large part of the US (but not California).  The other, Marah macrocarpa, is native to Southern and Baja California.  You can read more about California's native the wild cucumber here.  For more Wednesday Vignettes, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.

All material © 2012-2022 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, January 24, 2022

In a Vase on Monday: From exuberant to dainty

After a full week of warmer temperatures, the three bulbs of Hippeastrum 'Luna' I planted in a single pot exploded into bloom.  In addition to the stem I cut for a previous IAVOM post two weeks ago and the two I cut this week, there are still seven flower stalks, almost all of which are in full bloom.  The longer stems allowed me to to go big this week, using a heavy lead crystal vase I received as a birthday gift a few years ago.

The thick stems and top-heavy blooms of the Hippeastrum required the support of an equally heavy vase like this one.  Thank you D!

Back view: I used stems of Polygala fruticosa, a paperwhite-type Narcissus, and Aeonium arboreum as fillers.  The foliage is Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt', which is showing signs of developing the tiny yellow flowers that I've only seen once before.

This photo taken in early March 2020 shows the Acacia flowers.  I didn't notice any flowers in 2021 but then that was an exceptionally dry year.  Our wet December may have prompted the plants to bud again but I expect Hippeastrum 'Luna' will have bloomed out before I see any Acacia flowers this year.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt', Aeonium arboreum, Polygala fruticosa, Hippeastrum 'Luna', and noID Narcissus tazetta

Spring flowers are already making their first tentative appearances here so I cut a hodge-podge of pink blooms for a second, more demure arrangement.

It's normal for us to see clear signs of spring in February but I expect the combination of a wet December and the warm, dry January weather is moving the schedule along.  I couldn't find any previous record of Anemone coronaria blooming in January.

Back view:  After a very brief hiatus, the pink Scabiosa columbaria is back

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Argyranthemum frutescens 'Comet Pink', Nemesia 'Banana Swirl', Boronia crenulata 'Shark Bay', Anemone coronaria 'Admiral', Polygala fruticosa, Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata', Scabiosa columbaria 'Flutter Rose Pink', and Pelargonium peltatum

We're looking forward to an end to the strong Santa Ana winds that plagued parts of California last week but there's no rain in sight at the moment.  Long-range projections currently suggest that our best chances for measurable rain won't happen until after mid-February.  Can you hear me sigh?

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

All material © 2012-2022 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, January 21, 2022

The southwest sloping succulent bed

In late 2020, suffering from the stir-craziness that accompanied the pandemic, I decided to tackle a complete renovation of the moderate slope on the lower level of our front garden.  I worked on it off and on from October into December.  I posted updates now and then but, as I prepared an update, I decided it might be useful to provide a general review of the project.

To help identify the area in question, here's a current photo:

You can see the house on the main level in the background.  This bed faces the southern property line.  The lath house I use for shade plants is feet away to the left near the street.

The project was inadvertently triggered by a gopher problem.

Once I discovered this gopher den, it took me a few months to encourage him to move out.  He initially moved from one area to another in the upper garden.  A combination of solar-powered sonic devices and deterrent granules watered into the soil eventually got rid of him.

I knew I had to repair the dry-stacked wall but as the gopher's construction project had destroyed a lot of the Aeoniums I'd planted here and as the rose bushes planted by a prior owner had never done well, I felt I might as well tear the area apart

I cleared the area, added rock to stabilize the slope, and replanted.

The pineapple guava tree (Feijoa sellowiana) was fine so it stayed, as did the succulents on either side of the affected area

As we didn't want to make a trip to the local stone yard (which I'm not sure was open to walk-in customers), I used rock saved during demolition of the indoor barbecue we'd removed during our 2019 home renovation.  I didn't buy any large succulents for the area either, relying instead on cuttings and small plants ordered by mail or picked up at the local garden center.  This photo was taken in early December 2020 when I declared the project "done."

In March 2021, an unidentified critter or critters, destroyed many of the Aeoniums on the east end of the bed (the lower right side as shown in the previous photo) so I had to clean up and replant that section.

This photo was taken in late March after I'd cleared the broken plants and replanted with cuttings.  I removed a Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire' that had stood in front of the bed on this end as well.

Over the course of 2021, I also lost some plants and added others.  The losses included a few of the tiny Echeveria 'Raindrop' purchased by mail order and 2 Baccharis mangellanica, which grew well and looked great for almost a year before suddenly dying late last summer.  

Top row: After removing 2 clumps of Aeoniums along the upper path, I planted Aloe 'Moonglow' there
Next row: I added small Aeoniums, including leucoblepharum and 'Suncaps', and transplanted an Agave gypsophila 
Third row: Other additions included Lachenalia bulbs and cuttings of Crassula dubia

Some of the original plants have done better than others.

The original 3 Agave desmettiana bulbils have grown slowly relative to pups of Agave bracteosa (upper left) but Graptoveria 'Fred Ives', a Mangave 'Kaleidoscope' pup, and Sedeveria 'Fanfare' have beefed up nicely. 

The Lomandra 'Platinum Beauty' are also doing well, although an Amaryllis belladonna in the vicinity of one, planted many years ago among the former mass on Aeoniums and forgotten, needs to be moved

So how do you think it's doing?  Here are a few comparisons from different angles.

East views, photographed in December 2020 (left) and January 2022 (right)

West views, taken in early January 2021 and January 2022 respectively

North-facing views from December 2020 and January 2022

Views looking downward from the main level of the garden, taken in December 2020 and January 2022

Progress has been slower than I'd have liked but that's largely due to my use of small plants and cuttings.  However, using what I had on hand at the time was probably the right call.  Now I just need to summon my patience.

All material © 2012-2022 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party