Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Fire and rain

The time has come to deal with the Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire' in my cutting garden.  It's a colorful attention-grabber but it's out of control and my efforts to prune it into submission have only made things worse.

Photo taken yesterday

You can barely tell that it's growing out of a strawberry pot


It started as a small plant in what was originally a vegetable garden.

This photo was taken early in 2012 after I'd planted my first vegetable garden in the raised planters that came with the property we acquired in December 2010

In March 2014, it was still relatively small

By the time I converted the vegetable garden into a floral cutting garden, the plant's size was already beginning to concern me (Photo taken March 29, 2018)


Several months after the photo taken in March 2018, I pruned the Euphorbia back to reduce its size for the first time.

Before and after shots are shown on the left and right respectively.  The cuttings I left at the edge of the driveway for neighbors disappeared quickly.


The pruned plant responded by growing taller and bushier.  I've cut it back at least once a year since then but it's just gotten larger and larger.  This year, it's flowering too.

Photo taken yesterday

The tip of virtually every pencil stem bears a flower.  I believe this is the first time it's flowered.

I've already planted cuttings here and there throughout my garden over the years, some of which are also growing into beasts.  A mature plant can reach 8-10 feet tall, which isn't something I want to see in my cutting garden.  Much as I appreciate the plant's cheerful color, I think it's time for it to go.  Another giveaway is pending.

In other news, we got rain as predicted on Monday, almost three-quarters of an inch in fact.  It brought our seasonal total, calculated from October 1, 2021 (the official start of our "water year"), to 7.7 inches.  That's not a lot, and it's well short of the 15 inches Los Angeles "normally" receives, but on the other hand, it's nearly twice the amount we received during the prior water year.

My 50 and 160 gallon rain tanks are full and my 265-gallon tank is three-quarters full.  As the latter tank is fed by rain sheeting off the smallest roof surface, I collected overflow from the rain gutters and the rain chain in a plastic garbage can and plastic trugs, moving what I collected to the largest tank as those containers filled.  New water use restrictions are pending as our local water supplier moves to "stage 2" of its Water Shortage Contingency Plan in response to an executive order from California's Governor requiring stricter conservation.  The rainwater I've collected provides me a little flexibility in caring for my garden but the truth is that it won't last long.  Our rainy season generally comes to an end in early April and, with the exception of a wayward tropical storm in summer, we won't see any more rain in Southern California until October at earliest.


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

Monday, March 28, 2022

In a Vase on Monday: A personal challenge

In the fall, I planted Dutch Iris 'Eye of the Tiger' bulbs on a whim.  The flower was described as blue and bronze and I know there was a photo attached to the bag but, when the plants started blooming last week, I wasn't in love with the flower.   

I haven't made a decision about whether or not to leave the bulbs in my back border to multiply but, as one of my tests of garden worthiness is whether a flower works in floral arrangements, I challenged myself to use it for "In a Vase on Monday," the meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  It took me a while to locate suitable companions but, if I walk around my garden enough times, I can usually come up with something.  I'll leave you to judge how I did.

Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' picked up the bronze color in the lower petals of the Iris.  Leucospermum 'Goldie' echoed its yellow spots

Back view: I used stems of Lavandula stoechas and Salvia discolor to play off the Iris standards

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope', Lavandula stoechas, Salvia discolor, Iris hollandica 'Eye of the Tiger', and Leucospermum 'Goldie'

My second arrangement was inspired by the first foxglove blooms in my cutting garden.  I planted plugs of Digitalis purpurea 'Dalmatian Mix' in November.  In the past, the mixes have always yielded flowers in shades of pink, purple, or white but, thus far, all those coming into bloom are peach-colored.  In prior years, I've had to hunt for specimens in that color but not this year.

I'd intended this as the front of the arrangement, however, in the end, I felt both sides were equally presentable.  Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' and G. 'Superb' are prominent in this view.

The other side of the vase highlights Leucospermum 'Brandi' (recycled from one of last week's arrangements) and Ranunculus

Top view

Top: Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Agrostemma 'Ocean Pearls', and Argyranthemum 'White Butterfly' 
Middle: Digitalis purpurea 'Dalmatian Peach', Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream', and G. 'Superb'
Bottom: Heuchera maxima, Leucospermum 'Royal Hawaiian Brandi', and Ranunculus 'Salmon'

We've been given a 99% chance of rain for Monday, although, as I prepare this post under nearly cloudless skies, that's a little hard to believe.  Still, my fingers are crossed for a good, solid soaking as our all-too-short rainy season nears its end.

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, March 25, 2022

Spring chores in summer heat

Earlier this week, just as it was starting to get really warm again, I decided I should tackle some chores I'd put off longer than I should have.  The tree-sized Auranticarpa rhombifolia shrubs (aka diamond leaf pittosporum) I'd intended to prune once the berries dried and dropped were suddenly in full flower again.  They'd also responded to the heavier-than-usual rain we received in December with major growth spurts.  I finished trimming back three of the five I inherited with the garden on Wednesday, working in the cooler hours of late afternoon to avoid the mid-day high temperatures in the mid-80sF (30C). 

I've yet to tackle the 2 street-side shrubs sitting on our side of the neighbor's driveway on the southwest corner of our property.  I'm planning to limb these 2 up at the bottom to give the succulents below more light while still providing additional shade to the plants inside my lath house.

The 2 shrubs on the northwest end of our property above the north-side neighbor's driveway were reduced in height by more than a third to give my pocket bromeliad/succulent garden additional sun.  I'm also hoping that reducing their size will cut down on leaf litter.

This last shrub is on the southeast side of our garden, again overlooking the south neighbor's driveway.  I also reduced the height of this one by about a third.

That height reduction gave me a better view of the harbor from this angle

On Tuesday, during the early morning hours, I decided to clean up the wild and woolly section of self-seeded Osteospermum on the northeast side of the garden.  I started out just deadheading spent flowers but got carried away and gave the plants the Southern California version of a "Chelsea chop" in the hope that I'll get a second flush of growth and fresh blooms.

This is what the area looked like in early March before the heat started taking its toll on the Osteospermum

I cut the plants back harder than I'd planned and thinned them out, while also trimming the ivy creeping into the area from the back slope.  Whether the Osteospermum produce another flush of growth and flowers will depend on whether or not we get another good stretch of cool weather.  If the heat continues, the Osteospermum won't rebound significantly until fall.

In the process of clearing out some ivy, I discovered a 4-foot seedling of Psoralea pinnata (aka Kool-Aid bush due to the grape Kool-Aid scent of the flowers).  If I'd found it before it got so tall and spindly, I'd have potted it up to give away.

Speaking of giveaways, I also made a start in the process of harvesting the Mandarin oranges.

This is a view of the Mandarin orange tree in early February.  Its load of fruit was even denser a month later.

My husband picked 2 bags of Mandarins for visiting family last week and I gave 2 more bags away to other visitors earlier this week.  I put this tub with more on the street yesterday; however, we've barely made a dent in harvesting the tree's fruit yet.

While this week's heat has caused some flowers to wither prematurely, it's brought others out to play.  I've made a habit of carrying my camera every time I step into the garden.  Here's a sample of the flowers that missed my mid-March Bloom Day post and, under current weather conditions, may not hold up long enough to make it to mid-April:

Top: Delphinium elatum 'Morning Light'
Middle: Dutch Iris 'Mystic Beauty' and 'Eye of the Tiger'
Bottom: Iris douglasiana 'Santa Lucia' and Sisyrinchium 'Devon Skies'

Cistus cobariensis 'Second Honeymoon' and Narcissus 'Geranium'

Top: Lampranthus 'Pink Kaboom' and Babiana stricta
Bottom: Pimelea ferruginea 'Magenta Mist'

Yesterday, I also received 2 plant orders I hadn't remembered I'd placed.  Honestly, sometimes I wonder if I'm possessed.  Planting is on hold until this weekend, when temperatures are expected to drop dramatically.  As rain is in the forecast, currently showing a 97% probability for Monday, I hope to get almost everything, with the possible exception of some bulbs, in the ground before it arrives.  Even with predictions this strong, we don't always get the rain we're hoping for but it's best to be prepared.

I keep a running list of plants that intrigue me in stock with Annie's Annuals & Perennials.  When Annie's announced an impromptu sale to commemorate International Women's Day, I jumped onboard.  From left to right are Marrubium supinum, Beschorneria yuccoides 'Flamingo Glow', Clianthus puniceus 'Pink Flamingo', and Agapanthus 'Twister'.

In a fit of optimism back in January, following our wonderful December rainfall, I placed a bulb order with Brent & Becky's Bulbs.  I didn't recall that it included 2 more dahlia tubers (what was I thinking!) as well as Caladiums, Gladioli, and a couple of other bulb varieties.

As another week draws to an end, it seems I have plenty to keep my busy in the garden this weekend.  Frankly, these days I probably need my garden much more than it needs me.  With the world in its current state, the garden is the only thing that gets me out of bed some mornings.  I hope your garden is offering you solace as well.

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

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Juggling plants

Spring may have just made its formal entrance in the Northern Hemisphere but it's already time to prepare my Southern California cutting garden for summer.  We've had episodes of warm weather at intervals over the past couple of months.  Some of my cool season flowers like Camellia williamsii and Scilla peruviana have already exited while others, like the Osteospermum, show signs they're feeling the heat and may be preparing for an early exit.  Still others, like the calla lilies (Zantedeschia aethiopica), may be skipping the spring season altogether, going underground in lieu of wasting energy on blooms.

Yesterday may have been our warmest day yet this year and we're expecting more of the same today.

86F (30C) wasn't miserable but it is hot!

I received an order of dahlia tubers by mail last week but, with the raised planters in my cutting garden full of spring bloomers, I faced my usual quandary about how to juggle plants so I can get as much as possible from the spring crop while getting my summer bloomers geared up for an early display.

Viewed from this angle, there doesn't appear to be a lot of empty space available in my cutting garden

Although it's not the optimal approach, I elected to start the dahlia tubers in good-sized plastic pots.  In addition to the 8 tubers received by mail, I pulled out another 8 tubers I'd saved from last year's stock.

For reference, here's the list of tubers I potted up:

  • 'Akita' (2 saved tubers), red/yellow flowers
  • 'Azteca' (1 new tuber), orange flowers
  • 'Bahama Mama'  (1 new tuber), pink & yellow flowers
  • 'Bluetiful' (1 new tuber), lavender flowers
  • 'Break Out' (1 saved tuber), pink flowers
  • 'Candlelight' (1 new tuber), orange & yellow flowers
  • 'Enchantress' (1 saved clump), fuchsia & white flowers
  • 'Gitt's Crazy' (2 saved tubers), bronze/purple flowers
  • 'Iceberg' (1 saved clump), white flowers
  • 'La Luna' (1 new tuber), pale yellow flowers
  • 'Mikayla Miranda' (1 new tuber), lavender/pink flowers
  • 'Pink Petticoat' (1 new tuber), pink & white flowers
  • 'Southern Belle' (1 gift tuber), coral/pink flowers
  • 'Summer's End' (1 saved clump), peach flowers

Once they sprout, my plan is to move the dahlias to larger quarters.  If all 16 tubers sprout, that's a lot of plants to juggle but there are 2 duplicates and, if those sprout, I'll give the extras away.  That leaves only 14 plants in need of spots.  

Despite my best intentions, I was late in sowing seeds and planting bulbs and plugs for spring blooms.  My sweet pea seeds, anemone corms, and ranunculus tubers didn't go in until late October.  The love-in-a mist, lace flower, and larkspur seeds weren't sown until early December.  Late fall was generally cold but also dry, and our winter rain was disappointing to say the least.  Whatever the reason, floral production has been relatively slow in my cutting garden (if not elsewhere in my garden).  Some of my spring-flowering plants still show promise but I'm already willing to give up on others in favor of space for dahlias and other summer-flowering plants.

Viewed from this angle, you can see some openings, especially in the middle raised planter

As the foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) and Nigella papillosa are only just getting started, I'm loathe to pull any of them but there are 2 raggedy golden feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium) that could be replaced by dahlias here

The first foxglove bloomed this week.  Self-seeded Nigella orientalis 'Transformer' is almost done but N. papillosa, sown from seeds I saved last year, is only now developing buds.

Only a handful of the 40 Ranunculus tubers I planted produced buds but the Delphinium planted from a 4-inch pot looks great and the seed-sown larkspur (Consolida ajacis) and Orlaya grandiflora look promising.  I'm guessing I can fit at least 2-3 dahlias into this bed without sacrificing anything other than the poorly performing Ranunculus tubers.

Closeups of Delphinium elatum 'Morning Light' and salmon and yellow Ranunculus blooms

The big issue with this bed is presented by the sweet peas, which generally take up a lot of space once they get going.  I expect the Anemone coronaria will be done within the next month and I'm thinking of pulling Ocimum 'African Blue Basil', which may be better planted elsewhere in my garden.  With those changes, I can probably make room for another 2-3 dahlias in this bed without impinging on the sweet peas, which may not finish up until May.

Plants currently in bloom in this bed include a variety of Anemone coronaria, Lathyrus odoratus, and Cuphea 'Honey Bells' ('African Blue Basil' isn't shown in closeup here)

Dahlia tubers can take well over a month to sprout so there's no immediate need to clear space.  My initial focus will be monitoring the plastic pots to ensure the tubers don't get either too wet or too dry.  Cold, wet soil can cause the tubers to rot but tubers in plastic pots can quickly dry out too.  However, once the tubers show signs of life, the juggling will begin.  I've already identified 8 possible spots in the raised planters for dahlias, as well as additional spots in half-barrels and large terracotta pots.  I should be able to accommodate the dahlias.  Now I need to grapple with the problem of how to give my zinnia and sunflower seeds a head start...


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


Monday, March 21, 2022

In a Vase in Monday: Spring Extravaganza

It's been spring in all but name here since early February but now it's official!  To make things even sweeter, Mother Nature provided us a touch of rain on the last day of astronomical winter, squeaking in with 0.13/inch (3.3mm) on Saturday night between 10pm and midnight.  Admittedly, that's not a lot but even that paltry amount was sufficient to fill my 50-gallon rain tank.  My larger tanks are no longer entirely empty either.  A few weeks ago when rain was expected to arrive in the wee hours of the morning (but never materialized), I said I wasn't crazy enough to get up at 2am to supplement my rainwater collection by filling buckets from my rain chain; however, it seems I am crazy enough to put a raincoat over nightclothes to collect rainwater between 10pm and midnight. 

I enjoyed collecting flowers in the fresh air on Sunday morning, thankfully completing that task before gusty winds returned.  My first arrangement made use of the last of the pale greenish-yellow Hippeastrum 'Luna' stems to bloom. 

Back in January, I commented that I'd like to complement the Hippeastrum with the pale yellow flowers of Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt'.  While I can't say the Acacia is anywhere near full bloom, some of the tiny flowers are gradually making an appearance on a small scale.

Back view: I complemented the pale yellow Hippeastrum with the first sweet pea blooms from my cutting garden and stems of a purple-flowered mystery Abelia growing on my back slope.  The latter was identified by a Bloom Day commentator as Linnaea floribunda, aka Mexican Abelia.

Top view: I love the Abelia/Linnaea and I plan to take a few cuttings in the hope of propagating it.  The grower I bought it from in 2012 doesn't offer it anymore and I've never seen it anywhere else.

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia/Linnaea floribunda, Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt', Freesias in shades of blue and white, Hippeastrum 'Luna', and Lathyrus odoratus 'Navy'

The huge blooms of Leucospermum 'Brandi' inspired my second arrangement. 

The Leucospermum set the stage for another sherbet-colored confection

Back view: I grew the salmon-colored Ranunculus from a tuber but have once again been disappointed by their performance.  Of the 40 tubers I planted in late October, only a handful have sprouted despite my soaking them before planting as recommended.

Top view

Top: Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' and Antirrhinum majus 'Chantilly Bronze' and 'Chantilly Peach' ('Double Azalea Bronze' was also used)
Middle: Grevillea Peaches & Cream', Heuchera maxima, and Leucospermum 'Brandi'
Bottom: Narcissi 'Geranium' and 'Sunny Girlfriend' and Ranunculus 'Salmon'

I threw together a third small arrangement as the kitchen island "needed" fresh flowers to replace the leftovers I'd saved from vases prepared in prior weeks. 

This vase contains stems of Antirrhinum majus, Coleonema album, a noID dwarf Cymbidium, and Freesia

There's another small chance of rain next Monday but it's way to early to get excited about that prospect as most early projections tend to fade away.  In the meantime, daytime temperatures are expected to soar into the mid-80s (29C) here by Wednesday.  Hopefully, spring doesn't plan to prematurely give way to summer.

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

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