Friday, April 29, 2022

There's always room for one more (succulent) plant

This week, the Metropolitan Water District  of Southern California (MWD) announced that, effective June 1st, it will limit outside irrigation to once a week in large sections of its service area.  The action affects six million people in portions of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and Ventura Counties.  Due to historically low reservoir levels and a shrunken snowpack state water officials have dramatically reduced the amount of water the State Water Project will provide to the MWD.  The goal is to cut water use by 35%.  Failure to reach that goal could result in further water restrictions.

My own area is not part of the MWD.  Under the latest guidelines issued by our water company, we're restricted to irrigating outdoor areas two days a week on a prescribed schedule.  Hand-watering is permitted outside that schedule subject to additional requirements.  I've limited irrigation to twice a week since former Governor Brown first implemented drought-related restrictions in 2015 so the new rules don't represent a material change for me at present; however, I've no illusions about the likelihood that we'll be impacted to a greater extent in the future.

Outside of my small cutting garden, I use mostly drought-tolerant plants but it's questionable whether all of them could get by on once a week irrigation regimen given our increasingly pathetic rainfall (7.9 inches or 200 mm since the start of the current "water year" on October 1, 2021).  I've been steadily increasing the proportion of my garden planted in succulents and I'm anticipating that this trend will continue.

Lucky for me then that the South Coast Cactus & Succulent Society (SCC&SS) held its annual show and sale last weekend.  Having missed the show during the last two years of the pandemic, I made a point of attending.

This years show was held at the Palos Verdes Art Center

The space wasn't as large as that provided by the hall at the South Coast Botanic Garden previously used by the SCC&SS as a venue for these events but it was far sleeker.  There were fewer vendors by my assessment but still plenty of choices in terms of plants.

Some sellers specialized in selected genera while others offered a broad spectrum of plants

There were at least 3 parties selling pots

I focused most my attention on the show plants (not for sale).   There were fewer show tables on this occasion but whether that was due to the event's smaller space or the pandemic's impact on the show's contributors, I can't say.  Here's a summary showing each of the 4 show tables and the specimens that drew my attention:

First show table (shown in the order I approached them)

Clockwise from the upper left: Aeonium 'Sunburst' (crest form), Euphorbia bussei var kibwezinsis (crest form), Euphorbia pseudocactus hybrid, and Sedum frutescens

Second show table

Clockwise from the upper left: Aloe dorotheae, Euphorbia lactea (crest form), noID (a Euphorbia I think), Fockea edulis, Pachyodium bispinosum x succulentum, and Pachypodium rosulatum

Third show table

Clockwise from the top: Cleistocactus auriespinus (crest form), Gasteria hybrid, Gasteria obtusa, Haworthii cooperi var truncata, and Mammillaria spinosissima var rubrispina

Fourth show table

Clockwise from the upper left: Agave applanata 'Cream Spike', Gastrolea 'Grey Ice', Mammillaria pringlei, Copiapoa krainziana, and Kroeneinia grusonii

Of course, I didn't leave empty-handed but, as I parked a distance away because the parking lot was full when I arrived, I restricted my purchases to items I could easily carry.

New-to-me Dyckia choristaminea and Dyckia 'Tarzan'

That's it for me this week.  Best wishes for pleasant weather and a fruitful weekend in the garden.

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

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Wednesday Vignette: Learning to live together

Spring brings color, wonder and joy into our lives but, in my area, it's also known to bring an increase in coyote activity.  Coyotes breed in January through March and their pups are generally born in April and May.  With more mouths to feed, adult coyotes become more visible, aggressive and territorial.

This coyote was photographed from inside my living room in late April last year

Along with thefts of catalytic converters, notice of coyote sightings are among the most prevalent topics on community social media posts.  Last week, in an effort to get ahead of what's become a very emotional issue, our city sent a large, glossy, 4-page bulletin to all residents in an effort to educate them about how to deal with coyotes safely and effectively.

In addition to the print bulletin, the city is holding a 2-hour forum for local residents on wildlife management, with an emphasis on coyotes

Coincidentally (or not), a local beach city paper also published a story on coyotes on their front page this week

I saw my first coyotes up close when I was in graduate school, living in Santa Monica.  A neighbor and I walked in the early morning before she left for work but on one occasion she wasn't feeling well so I took off by myself.  Strolling through a neighborhood of expensive homes several blocks from my apartment, I noticed a woman in a skirt and heels running down the opposite side of the street with her dog on a leash.  A minute or two later, I noticed three dogs off-leash.  My first thought was that it was interesting that they all looked alike.  A second later, I realized that the "dogs" headed my way were coyotes.  I didn't run but I turned the corner and walked briskly in another direction.

When my husband and I moved to a different, densely-populated beach city several years later, I heard stories of coyote sightings but I never actually saw one.  When we were in the process of buying our current house in a semi-rural area, I asked the real estate agent representing the seller if there were coyotes in the area.  He downplayed the concern.  I didn't see any coyotes for the first 5 years here but I did hear them at night sometimes.  Then I began spotting them now and again during the daylight hours, and neighbors began complaining about their "extended" hunting schedules.  I recall seeing a young coyote trotting down the street while being dive-bombed by a pair of crows.  That incident had a comical element, as did an episode in 2018 we caught on our home security cameras.

In March 2018, our newspaper disappeared from our driveway.  Curious, my husband checked the security camera in an effort to discover if it just wasn't delivered, or if someone carried it off.  It turns out that the "someone" in this case was a coyote.  You can see him carrying the paper wrapped in red plastic in the upper middle section of the photo above.

He carried the paper halfway around the house before dropping it on the dirt path alongside the hedge behind our back garden border


Not long afterwards, neighbors reported that their dog was snatched right in front of them.  Then our next door neighbor lost her Pomeranian to a coyote that apparently jumped over her backyard fence.  My cats had never been allowed to roam on their own but I did give them a little supervised time outside each morning.  That came to an abrupt end in 2020.

I was preparing to exit via our back door with Pipig on my heels when I nearly walked into a coyote on a collision course.  It was hard to tell which one of us was more startled.  I slammed the door and the coyote went running.


Pipig has been confined to the house and her screened "catio" ever since.  I even had my husband reinforce the bottom section of the catio to provide additional protection.

She's an elderly cat now and less inclined to try sneaking out but I'm still careful about tracking her, especially when other people are in the house

The city prohibits feeding coyotes, which seems obvious but I remember one elderly neighbor who'd made a practice of doing that in the mistaken belief that it would keep the coyotes from eating the stray cats she cared for.  The city's bulletin provides a range of other recommendations to deter coyotes.

I thought it was a great idea on the city's part to provide a page to educate kids about dealing with coyotes too


Some of the key recommendations include:

  • Removing all outside sources of food, including rotting fruit
  • Introducing motion-activated lights or sprinklers
  • "Hazing" coyotes by yelling and waving arms, using noisemakers, water hoses, and rocks or sticks if necessary until they run off

I'm not especially worried about the coyote "threat" myself but I'm concerned every time I see someone's pet cat or dog running loose through the neighborhood.  Coyotes and other local predators (raccoons, possums and foxes) have been here longer than humans have.  We need to respect their way of life while protecting the domestic animals we share our lives with by taking appropriate precautions.

Rodents and wild rabbits are the coyote's natural prey but I admit to feeling a twinge of concern when I see baby rabbits like this one

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

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

Monday, April 25, 2022

In a Vase on Monday: Another take on orange and blue

Remarkably, we got a touch of rain late last week.  It wasn't much, just 0.18/inch (4.6mm) but, as I expected nothing, it was appreciated.  In what appears to be an unfortunate pattern, the low pressure system that permitted the rainstorm in the north to move into the south part of our state was quickly replaced by another round of Santa Ana winds and soaring temperatures.  We briefly hit 87F (30C) yesterday and today could be warmer still.  The winds can quickly wither flowers so on Sunday I cut blooms with relative abandon for In a Vase on Monday, the weekly meme hosted by Cathy of Rambling in the Garden.

The rain spurred another flush of blooms on the snapdragons in my cutting garden, inspiring my first arrangement.  Thus far, the snapdragons are free of rust so I want to take advantage of them while I can.

I also took this opportunity to cut the last of my Narcissus, two remaining blooms of Leucospermum 'Brandi', and a single 'Lady Emma Hamilton' rose.  I won the David Austin rose in a drawing at the Capitol Region Garden Bloggers' Fling in 2017.  I received the rose in the spring of 2018 but it's produced fewer than a handful of flowers since.

I dressed up the back of the arrangement with 2 stems of my 'Pink Meidiland' rose and added some height using stems of Leucadendron 'Jubilee Crown'

Top view

Top: Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' and Antirrhinum majus 'Chantilly Bronze' and 'Chantilly Peach'
Middle: Leucadendron 'Cloudbank Ginny', L. 'Jubilee Crown', and Leucospermum 'Royal Hawaiian Brandi'
Bottom: Narcissus 'Geranium', Rosa 'Lady Emma Hamilton', and R. 'Pink Meidiland'


The first bearded Iris to bloom in my back garden prompted my second arrangement, although I admit I agonized awhile about cutting it.  It looked beautiful on Friday following our brief rainstorm but Saturday's vicious wind did it no favors and I was afraid that the blooms currently in bud would suffer if I left it alone so, without thinking about it too long, I cut the stem and moved on.

This is what the Iris germanica 'City Lights' bloom looked like on Friday.  It's a reblooming variety so I'm hopeful I'll see another bloom stalk this fall.

The Iris wasn't looking its best by Sunday morning but I trusted that the buds were far enough developed to open even after the stem was cut.  I grew the Nigella, Orlaya, and larkspur from seed.  I'd collected the Nigella seed from plants I grew last year.

The sweet peas tucked in the back of the arrangement were also grown from seed but they've been very disappointing.  Almost all are the same dark blue color even though I planted seeds of 4 different mixes.

Top view

Top: Centranthus ruber 'Albus', Consolida ajacis (aka larkspur), and Delphinium elatum 'Cobalt Dreams'
Middle: Globularia x indubia (aka globe daisy), Iris germanica 'City Lights', and Lathyrus odoratus
Bottom: Nigella papillosa 'African Bride', Orlaya grandiflora, and Scabiosa columbaria 'Flutter Deep Blue'


As usual, I cut too many flowers.  The pink Alstroemerias I thought I could incorporate into the first arrangement didn't mesh with the prevailing orange tones so they went into a small vase for the kitchen island.  When I couldn't cram everything I'd cut for the second arrangement into the vase I'd selected, the extra stems went into the kitchen island arrangement as well.

In addition to the noID pink Alstroemeria, this vase includes Orlaya grandiflora, self-seeded Lagurus ovatus (aka bunny tail grass), and Agrostemma 'Ocean Pearls'


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

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

Friday, April 22, 2022

April Visit to Sherman Gardens

A friend and I paid a visit to Sherman Library & Gardens last week.  I've been there many times but this was my friend's first visit.  Located in Corona del Mar, it's very small as botanic gardens go, just over two acres in size.  It's set in the middle of a very lively business district along the Pacific Coast Highway, close to the Newport Beach Civic Center.  Even through small, it packs a punch as it's beautifully maintained.  Areas are redesigned on a regular basis so there's almost always something new to see.

We entered via the back parking lot into the Central Garden.

The area surrounding the fountain was planted with Anemones

Clockwise from the upper left, other floral highlights in the area included Digiplexis, Scabiosa atropurpurea 'Red Velvet Scoop', and Itoh peonies.  I don't have an ID for the pink peony but a friend confirmed that the blush-colored variety is 'Julia Rose'.  I took a ridiculous number of photos of the peonies because I'm obsessed with them despite nearly zero success growing anything in the genus.


We followed a zig-zag path through the garden, moving to the Succulent Garden next but you can get a better sense of the garden's overall layout by referring to its online interactive map, which you can find here.

Three views of one area featuring Agaves, bromeliads, and decorative rock

Smaller succulents (left) sit underneath a massive tree aloe I failed to capture.  The area on the right is home to 2 large Euphorbias and an impressive Mangave in the foreground.

In this area,  the candelabra tree, Euphorbia ingens (I think), reigns over a host of barrel cactus and other succulents
Always on the lookout for flowers, I spotted this flowering cactus in a shady corner.  I think it's a rat tail cactus (Aporophyllum flagelliformis).

We emerged from the Succulent Garden into the Tea Garden.  An outdoor class was in session so we skirted around the edges of the area.  My friend was attracted to a colorful shrub under a shade structure.

This plant, Brunfelsia pauciflora, goes by the common name of the yesterday-today-and-tomorrow plant because its flowers change in color from one day to the next.  There were several of these shrubs in the area, mixed in with Fuchsias and other shade-loving plants.

After checking out the plants for sale outside the gift shop, vowing to go back there before we left, we toured the Specimen Shade Garden.

Sherman has a large collection of Begonias, many of which were blooming

However, the display that attracted my attention on this occasion were the palms studded with airplants (Tillandsia) of various kinds

A closer look at the Tillandsias affixed to each palm trunk.  I'm not even going to try to identify individual species.

We stopped by the Mediterranean Climate Garden next.

This plant perplexed me.  It reminded me of aspects of both Callistemons (aka bottlebrush) and Grevilleas but I was sure it was neither.  A friend who volunteers with Sherman offered an ID: Calothamnus quadrifidus, an Australian native commonly known as the one-sided bottlebrush.

I was also unable to identify the rangy plant at the center of the photo on the upper left.  It reminded me of Lobelia laxiflora.  My volunteer friend identified it as Lobelia excelsia.  The photo on the upper right shows the flowers of a burgundy-foliaged Dyckia.  The bottom photos are of carnivorous plants, including flowers of a Sarracena.

I snapped a couple of photos of bromeliads in the area next to the carnivorous plant display


We spent a good amount of time in the Tropical Conservatory, one of my favorite spots.

The woman at the entrance booth had identified Medinillia magnifica, an epiphyte native to the Philippines, as a "must-see" plant and we had no problem spotting it.  I was so enamored by the plant the first time I saw it years ago, I bought one by mail order.  My plant is a couple of years old now but it hasn't bloomed yet and it's foliage doesn't look this good.  I suspect it wants more humidity than my garden provides!

More pics taken from inside the Tropical Conservatory


As we headed back in the direction of the gift shop, we checked out the Formal Garden and the Sun Garden.

At one time this area was a rose garden.  This year the Formal Garden is comprised of edible plants with a center display of artichokes.  I'm not sure what the plan is for the structure under construction.

The Sun Garden isn't as flashy as it's been in prior years but at least Sherman, the garden's otter mascot, is back with his hose in hand.  Planted with relatively common plants, it shows how locals can create an attractive but fairly low-maintenance garden.  The Schizanthus pinnatus (aka poor man's orchid) on the lower right is in an adjacent area.  This was one of my favorite flowers at one time but I haven't seen it in years.


I hadn't planned on buying any plants but I couldn't help myself.

Philodendron 'Birkin' (left), one of the "it" house plants, was sold for a price that didn't make me choke.  I picked up Tillandsia 'Spirit' (left) just because it seems I can never have enough Tillandsias.

We had a nice lunch on the patio of a nearby restaurant and made a relatively brief stop (by my standards) at Roger's Garden, one of my favorite garden centers, before heading home.  On a weekday, it's best to get on the freeway before 3pm to avoid getting mired in Southern California's notoriously heavy traffic.

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