Monday, February 28, 2022

In a Vase on Monday: Blue and yellow

Blue and yellow flowers were the natural choice for an arrangement this week.  It's a small way to signify support for the Ukrainian people in light of the aggressive, unprovoked actions taken by a malicious foreign dictator intent on reconstructing his country's former empire rather than focusing on addressing the economic performance issues within his country's current boundaries, which despite its vast natural resources has a significantly lower GDP than my home state of California.  I have vivid recollections of my mother's heated views of that country's treatment of Finland, her parents' homeland.  The history of the Winter War, fought by the Finns when the Soviet Union invaded their country in 1939, suggests parallels to the current conflict in Ukraine.  Russia's leaders appear to be following a similar playbook and I can only hope this latest invasion of Ukraine ends as quickly as the Winter War did - with an equivalent hit to the invading country's international reputation.  My mother always said the Finns fought against incredible odds because they had sisu.  From what I've seen and heard of the current conflict, Ukrainians have sisu too.

I sacrificed the first of my Iris hollandica blooms to this arrangement, as well as two of the first open flowers of Leucospermum 'Goldie'

Back view: The flowers of Aristea inaequalis lend height to the arrangement, although the flowers close as light wanes

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Anemone coronaria, Aristea inaequalis, noID Ceanothus, Freesia, Iris hollandica 'Sapphire Beauty', and Leucospermum 'Goldie'

As it's spring here, regardless of what the calendar says, I have a second arrangement too.

The Freesias, which are hitting their stride, inspired this arrangement, although they ended up in the background when I cut a stem of Helleborus 'Blue Lady'

Back view: The white Freesias, discovered in an area in which I don't remember planting any bulbs, have a faint lavender-pink tinge

Top view: The Scilla peruviana (aka Portuguese squill) was cut for the first arrangement but its short stem left it eclipsed by the taller flowers there so I moved it to this arrangement

Clockwise from the upper left: Freesias in blue and blush colors, Helleborus 'Blue Lady', Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata', Scabiosa columbaria 'Flutter Deep Blue', Scilla peruviana, and Osteospermum '4D Silver'

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, February 25, 2022

Garage area garden refresh

The area on the west side of the garage, sandwiched between the hedge that fronts the street and and the driveway, was the last area we addressed in our campaign to remove all our lawn after moving in.  In addition to the fact that we were running out of steam at that point, the area has been a challenge from the start.  Finding the right mix of plants has been difficult, complicated by a good deal of shade and soil riddled with roots from the hedge and four surrounding trees.

This photo, taken at the end of March 2019, shows the area at its best.  We had heavier-than-usual rain leading into spring that year.

By way of history, we didn't begin addressing this area until September 2015.

This photo was taken in September 2015, just before the sod was stripped away.  The roses on the right and the pineapple guava tree, Pittosporum shrubs and some Japanese anemones on the left came with the garden.

This was the area immediately after it was stripped of sod.  We spent the next couple of months clearing the soil of the sod's plastic netting, rocks, and plant roots before adding topsoil and a flagstone path.

This is the area after I replanted it in March 2016.  Some of the plants, including the Festuca 'Festina', creeping thyme, Moroccan daisies (Pyrethropsis hosmariense) , and Renga lilies (Arthropodium cirratum) remain but the Cyclamen, Heuchera and Violas I originally planted are long gone.

This path, created to move the garbage and recycle bins to the street for pickup, was one of my husband's pandemic projects in early 2020.  (Note: the succulent bed on the right side of the path is not a addressed in this particular post)

Instead of changing out three or fewer plants at a time as I've been doing, I decided the area needed a more extensive makeover, although I wasn't prepared to pull everything out and start all over so I'm calling this latest effort a refresh rather than a wholesale renovation.

This photo, taken for a wide shot post in October 2021, is the best I can offer of the area in its "before" state

This photo, taken last week, shows some of the shrubs that particularly bothered me prior to starting my "refresh"

I'd already removed the coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides) shown in October's wide shot when I took the last photo shown above but I dug out three Duranta erecta and the floppy Polygala fruticosa late last week.  After adding soil amendments, I filled in with recent purchases and some seedlings.  The replanted area still looks bare but hopefully the new plants will bulk up within the next couple of years.

This is an "after" shot taken yesterday, looking roughly northwest

This "after" shot was taken from the area's other end, looking southeast

Three new Polygala fruticosa 'Petite Butterfly' shrubs were added at the north end.  These are supposed to be dwarfs but I know from experience they can get bigger than their projected profile.  They're attractive plants and I love their flowers so I hope I can keep them within bounds this time with regular pruning.

I added Stachys byzantina and Saxifraga stolonifera here to fill in among the existing hellebores and Renga lilies surrounding the pineapple guava tree

I added a barely visible Boronia crenulata shrub, Gaura lindheimeri and groundcover Erodium here to fill spaces in between daylilies, Renga lilies and Cuphea 'Starfire Pink'

I removed a large clump of Aeonium arboreum that was crowding the Festuca california and a Dombeya burgessaiae in this area.  That removal also uncovered two Veltheimia bracteata I thought I'd lost.

I also cut back the Aeonium arboreum that had half-hidden this cat sculpture, a gift from my husband years ago.  I filled the area in front of it with cuttings of Aeonium haworthii 'Kiwi', a more well-behaved succulent.

A passalong gift of the Dombeya burgessaiae late last year started my reexamination of the area.  I decided to lean into a pink, purple and white color theme with my subsequent plant choices.

The Dombeya was passed to me by Denise of A Growing Obsession.  She'd had it in a pot but thought it might prefer a spot in the ground.  I gave it that here but was concerned whether it would be a good fit.  It seems happy enough thus far.  It's even developing flower buds.

Clockwise from the upper left, a closer look at the new plants: Boronia crenulata 'Shark Bay' (2), Gaura lindheimeri 'White Dove' (3), Pacific Coast Iris* (5), Polygala fruticosa 'Petite Butterfly' (3, aka sweet pea shrub), Saxifraga stolonifera (3, aka strawberry geranium), and Stachys byzantina 'Helen von Stein' (5, aka lambs ear).  I also planted 2 6-packs of Erodium 'Bishop's Form' (not shown).  *The Iris were sold as 'Wilder than Ever' but the first to bloom isn't that cultivar.

The seedlings I added are still tiny but, as there's little rain in the future forecast, I decided they'd have a better chance of survival in the ground where they'll receive irrigation on a regular schedule than in pots, dependent upon me for keeping them watered as temperatures start to climb.  I didn't take photos of the seedlings but they included Echium handiense (3), Paeonia cambessedesii (4, aka Majorcan peony), and Plectranthus zuluensis (2).  I potted up several peony seeds a year and half ago and was surprised when some germinated but, still small, they died back in the summer just as the parent plant does.  They recently reemerged, still small, so into the ground they went.  They may not make it but I remain hopeful.

I left a lot of plants in place, only a small number of which I photographed for this post.

Top row: Arthropodium cirratum (aka Renga lily), Cuphea 'Starfire Pink', and Daphne odora
Second row: Festuca californica, Freesia, and Lomandra 'Platinum Beauty'
Third row: Lavandula stoechas, Limonium perezii, and Pyrethropsis hosmariense (aka Rhodanthemum and Moroccan daisies)

Existing plants not shown in close up photos include the following:

  • Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku (1)
  • Arctotis 'Opera Pink' (3)
  • Barleria obtusa (1 clump)
  • Carex 'Eversheen' (5)
  • Eriocapitella hupehensis (3 or more, aka Japanese anemone, currently dormant)
  • Feijoa sellowiana (1, aka pineapple gauva)
  • Festuca cineria 'Festina' (12+)
  • Freesia (numerous in blue, pink and white)
  • Helleborus 'Pacific Frost', 'Wedding Bells', 'Confetti Cake', 'Flower Girl', and 'True Love'
  • Hemerocallis 'Apollodorus', Joan Senior' (2), 'Plum Perfect' (3), and 'Prairie Moonlight'
  • Hypoestes aristata (1, aka ribbon bush)
  • Iris douglasii 'Santa Lucia' (several in addition to those purchased recently, aka Pacific Coast Iris)
  • Oenothera speciosa (numerous, self-seeded plants)

The above list is as much for my own reference as it is for general interest.  While I've had some success with hellebores and daylilies elsewhere in my garden, these plants are questionable selections for this area, especially as rain levels remain low.  If they don't do well over the next few years, they'll be out in a future "refresh."

This project was the focus of my efforts in my garden this week, undertaken in part to distract my attention from newscasts reflecting the upheaval in Europe instigated by an authoritarian bully seeking to dominate his neighbor.  As that bully escalates his meritless claims, my heart is with the Ukrainian people and their desire for peace without relinquishment of their rights.

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

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Wednesday Vignette: A Rorschach test for gardeners

I was captivated by the tree shown below during a visit to my local botanic garden earlier this month.  As I struggled to understand why it fascinated me, it occurred to me that what it symbolized may say something about the current state of my psyche, rather like a Rorschach test specifically targeting gardeners.  Rather than project my personal interpretation on others, I thought I'd throw it out there for readers to offer their own interpretations. 


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

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

Monday, February 21, 2022

In a Vase on Monday: It's not an illusion

My calendar reads the same as yours but it IS spring here in every way that counts.  While it's not nearly as warm as it was two weeks ago, new flowers are awakening daily.  The pace of bloom isn't retreating even as daytime temperatures slip back into the 50sF (14C).  I can also swear that I saw my first monarch butterfly on Saturday.  (It could have been a painted lady as I didn't get a close look before it flitted away but massive numbers of monarchs were sighted on California's central coast in January so it seems within the realm of possibility.)  Sadly, rain seems to be a pipe dream, although there's another small chance of precipitation between late Tuesday and early Wednesday.  Last Tuesday evening, we got 0.08/inch (2 mm) of rain, which at least refilled my empty 50-gallon rain tank.  If any rain manages to reach us this week, it's expected to be on the same order of magnitude.

Another sign of spring is the sudden arrival of masses of aphids on tender green foliage.  On Sunday morning, I spent more time trying to eradicate those miserable sap-suckers than I spent cutting flowers but I still have two arrangements to share.

The flowers of Polygala fruticosa (aka sweet pea shrub) set the color scheme for this arrangement.  I'm planning to pull out the shrub that supplied these flowers as it's developed a woody base and become much too large for its spot but there was no reason to waste the flowers!

Back view, highlighting some of the Freesia that are popping up all over my garden

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Freesias in 3 colors, Polygala fruticosa, and Scabiosa columbaria 'Flutter Rose Pink'

My second arrangement couldn't be more different in terms of color.

My Leucospermum 'Sunrise' is blooming for the first time after nearly a 3-year wait and I felt compelled to celebrate by cutting 2 short stems.  In retrospect, the arrangement could have used more color variation.

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Grevillea 'Superb', Leucadendron 'Cloudbank Ginny', red Freesia with Sparaxis tricolor, Lobelia laxiflora (shown with Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' foliage), and Leucospermum 'Sunrise'

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, February 18, 2022

The Queen of Hearts says...

Off with their heads!  Alice in Wonderland's Queen of Hearts wasn't known for her patience.  As spring moves ahead at record speed here and my focus shifts to planting, deadheading flowers, and, in the absence of rain, watering, I decided not to wait any longer to cut back the dozens of florescent yellow blooms of Aeonium arboreum I discussed in an earlier post.  However, rather than throw away all those bloom stalks, I collected the best of them and set them in the driveway as an offer to the neighbors.  I put them out just after 4pm to catch both the late afternoon and early morning walkers.  Because our Santa Ana winds were already kicking up (again), I placed a cement brick at the bottom of the plastic pot to ensure it would stay upright.

I wasn't sure how much appeal the Aeonium bloom stalks would have but the worst that could happen was that they'd end up in the green bin.  There were about 15 stalks in the plastic pot.  On average I'd estimate that each was about 2 feet tall.

I also provided the best of the Aeonium rosettes I collected in the process of cutting back those bloom stalks

I was surprised when I went out to the mailbox after dinner (around 7pm) and found one entire tray of Aeonium cuttings and all the flowers, including the plastic pot (and the brick), gone.  If I'd known they'd have that kind of appeal, I might have put out a second bucket of flowers but, as it was, I left only about a dozen bloom stalks in the garden, most of which aren't yet fully developed.  I threw away between two and three times the number of flowers stalks I left on the corner of the driveway.

The garden was left looking a little quieter but, as it's quickly moving into peak spring mode, eliminating most of that florescent yellow color allows me to focus on the new blooms.  Here are a few before and after shots.

Before and after the decapitations in the back garden.  Two bloom stalks remain.

The cutting garden (2 bloom stalks also remain here)

All the blooms originally shown in the area on the left are now gone

Only four blooms stalks remain along the front slope

I need to pull out some masses of Aeonium to make additional room for plants currently crowded by them but that's a project for another day.  My task for the weekend is to get some new plants in the ground.

I received 2 mail order deliveries yesterday, one from Annie's Annuals & Perennials and another from Burpee

I'm planning to renovate one bed in an area of the front garden adjoining our garage and brought home a host of plants from my local garden center on Wednesday for that purpose

Best wishes for a pleasant weekend!  If spring hasn't reached you yet (and I fully realize that's true in most parts of the Northern Hemisphere), I hope you see early signs of it soon.

One small Aeonium bloom stalk was placed at the feet of the gargoyle that sits beneath a bench next to the front door.  The blooms, whether in water or not, can last 2 weeks or more, presumably because so much water is stored within that succulent stalk.

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

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Bloom Day - February 2022

Spring arrives early in coastal Southern California.  Despite the complete lack of rain in November and again in January, the heavier-than-usual rain in December raised my expectations for a bountiful spring.  And, generally speaking, that's what we have this February, despite an utter lack of rain this month too.  However, after an extended blast of exceptionally warm, dry weather, some cool-season bloomers have beat a rapid retreat, while others are hustling to take center stage ahead of schedule.

I'll focus on the plants making the biggest splash first.  As it's impossible for me to choose favorites this month, I'm going to show them alphabetically by genus.

Arctotis 'Pink Sugar' started blooming in January and should keep on going throughout our cool season (unless winter and spring heatwaves become the norm)

Arctotis 'Opera Pink' got its start last week

Bauhinia x blakeana (aka Hong Kong orchid tree) handled last week's gusty winds better than expected

Ceanothus arboreus 'Cliff Schmidt' went from buds to full bloom seemingly in the blink of an eye when temperatures soared last week.  Last year it didn't bloom until mid-March.

Literally, all my Grevilleas are in bloom this month.
Top row: Grevillea alpina x rosmarinifolia, G. 'Poorinda Leane', and G. sericea
Second row: Grevillea lavandulacea 'Penola', dwarf G. rosmarinifolia, and G. 'Scarlet Sprite'
Third row: Grevillea 'Ned Kelly', G. 'Peaches & Cream', and G. 'Superb'

Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl' is flowering well despite significant pruning in the fall

Two of my Leucadendrons, L. 'Safari Goldstrike' (left) and L. 'Wilson's Wonder' (right), are doing their best to emulate flowers

Like the Grevilleas, the Osteospermums make the best of the cool season.  Clockwise from the upper left: Osteospermum 'Berry White', O. 'Double Moonglow', O. 'Summertime Sweet Kardinal', O. 'Purple Spoon', O. 'Violet Ice', and a noID self-seeded trailing variety.

Pyrethropsis hosmariense (aka Moroccan daisy, syn Rhodanthemum hosmariense) is brightening up my front garden

Scabiosa columbaria appears to be turning into a nearly year-round bloomer.   The one on the left is 'Flutter Deep Blue' and the one on the right is 'Flutter Rose Pink'.

Although bulb blooms will appear at intervals into April or May, there are enough flowers in that category this month to address them as a separate group.

Unfortunately, the Anemone coronaria didn't respond well to last week's dry winds and 80+F temperatures.  'Admiral' (left) and the noID blue variety (right) went underground after their photos were taken.

Freesias in a variety of colors are popping up all over the garden

I planted 5 Hippeastrum 'Luna' bulbs in pots in mid-November.  All have produced at least 3 bloom stalks.  This is the most recent pot to produce blooms.

Ipheion uniflorum (left) and this noID Narcissus come back every year

At this time of year, new flowers appear almost daily.  

Antirrhinum majus 'Chantilly Bronze' (upper left) and 'Chantilly Peach' showed up in my cutting garden nearly in unison and the noID snapdragon varieties planted in a barrel in my front garden (bottom row) trailed them by less than a week.  All gave up their first blooms in service to 'In a Vase on Monday' yesterday.

Aristea inaequalis, a South African native related to Iris, surprised me on Sunday with its first blooms.  I hadn't even noticed bloom stalks prior to that.  The flowers are bluer than they appear in these photos.

The rockroses on the south side of the house all produced their first flowers within days of one another last week.  From left to right are: Cistus 'Grayswood Pink', C. x skanbergii, and C. x pulverulentus 'Sunset'.

I'm over the moon about the first flowers on this Leucospermum 'Sunrise' even though none are yet fully open.  I put the shrub in a large pot in March 2019 but moved it in June 2020 to provide better sun exposure in the process of renovating a bed on the south end of my back garden.  That was one of my first pandemic projects.  This is the first time this particular Leucospermum has flowered. 

This is a wild cucumber plant that always manages to surprise me when it stealthily starts winding its way through the south end of my garden.  Marah macrocarpa is a California native vine.  All parts of the plant are poisonous.

This climbing 'Joseph's Coat' rose is the first to appear since I pruned all the roses in my meager collection in early January.  I didn't even notice it until the heatwave had nearly done it in.

Accompanied by steady dry winds, last week's version of a winter heatwave triggered an early exit by some flowers that were looking great just ten days ago.  The Anemone coronaria flowers offer one example, although I'm still hoping for a recovery in that group as temperatures continue to drop this week.  The lack of rain since December has also had a significant impact in that many of my direct-sown seeds simply failed to germinate when I didn't make up the difference using irrigation.

Camellia williamsii 'Taylor's Perfection' has been dropping its flowers at a record rate and even those still on the shrub look like they're struggling to hold on

Daphne odora 'Leucanthe' hasn't grown much since I planted it over 2 years ago but it's still alive, if not thriving.  This variety is supposed to require only "moderate" water.  The flowers have dried up since I took this photo a week ago.

The ornamental pear tree (Pyrus calleryana) shows how quickly plants can be transformed by a run of unseasonably warm, dry weather.  The photo on the bottom left was taken on February 5th and the one on the bottom right was taken yesterday.

I'll close this Bloom Day survey as I usually do with collages showing the best of the rest that's flowering this month, organized by color.

Top row: Campanula portenschlagiana, Echium handiense, and Felicia aethiopica
Second row: Lavandula multifida, Limonium perezii, and Lobelia erinus
Third row: Pericallis 'Senetti Blue', Salvia 'Bee's Bliss', and Viola cornuta 'Penny Peach'

Left to right: trailing Lantana, Pelargonium peltatum, and Polygala fruticosa

Top row: Arbutus 'Marina', Agryranthemum frutescens 'Comet Pink', and Boronia crenulata 'Shark Bay'
Second row: Centranthus ruber, Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold', and Cuphea 'Starfire Pink'
Third row: Hebe 'Wiri Blush', Helleborus 'Anna's Red', and Pelargonium peltatum 'Pink Blizzard'

Left to right: Argyranthemum frutescens 'White Butterfly', Crassula multicava, and Westringia fruticosa 'Morning Light'

Top row: Agryranthemum 'Yellow Butterfly', Euphorbia rigida, and Euryops chrysanthemoides 'Sonnenschein'
Second row: Gaillaridia 'Spintop Copper Sun', noID Gazania, and noID Grindelia
Third row: Phlomis fruticosa,  Phylica pubescens, and Tagetes lemmonii

Clockwise from the left: Aloe deltoideodonta, Lobelia laxiflora, Metrosideros collina 'Springfire', Sparaxis tricolor, and Tropaeolum majus

Clockwise from the upper left: Calliandra haematocephala, Gazania 'White Flame', Pelargonium sidoides, and Ribes viburnifolium

For bloom surveys from other parts of the country and spots around the world, check in with Carol of May Dreams Garden, the creator and champion of the phenomenon that is Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

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