Monday, May 30, 2022

In a Vase on Monday: Kicking off the summer season

Today is Memorial Day in the US.  Officially, it's a day to recognize the people who gave their lives in military service.  Unofficially, it marks the start of summer.  In Southern California gardens, flowering Agapanthus are another sign of summer so it seemed appropriate to use them in an arrangement this week.


Along with the blue and white Agapanthus, Lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum) seems to be taking off at last

Back view: I used the last of the larkspur (Consolida ajacis) and the sweet peas from my cutting garden to fill out the arrangement

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: noID Agapanthus, Eustoma grandiflorum, Consolida ajacis, and Lathyrus odoratus

I cleared out large sections of the raised planters in my cutting garden late last week.  Taking out the sweet pea vines revealed three stems of gladiolas, which provided the contents for my second arrangement.

I thought I'd removed all gladiola bulbs from my raised planters last fall but apparently I missed a few

Back view: I made use of the various pink Alstroemeria varieties as flesh out the arrangement

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Alstroemeria 'Inca Vienna', Argyranthemum frutescens, White Butterfly', noID Gladiolus, and Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata'


Flags are at half-staff today across the US in observance of Memorial Day.  They were at half-staff at all federal buildings last week from Tuesday through Saturday to acknowledge yet another massacre of innocent children by a gunman.  A cloud is hanging over our country.  Meanwhile, the US Congress is on a weeklong break associated with the Memorial Day holiday and some members of the Senate are probably hoping the American public has a very short attention span.

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

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

Friday, May 27, 2022

Gardening is solace for the soul

Just when I thought the news couldn't get any uglier, this week it did.  I won't rehash the rant included in my last post but suffice it to say that I spent a lot of time in my garden this week.  It's not a cure for anger, frustration and grief but it helps.  I didn't tackle any big projects but I took care of little ones that had been pestering me, most of which involved end-of-spring cleanup.  Memorial Day, honoring the men and women who died in military service, is observed in the US on the last Monday of May.  That day has also become the unofficial start of summer here.

I didn't take any "before" photos but here are some "after" shots showing the results of my tidying up in the back garden.

The 3 Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' that surround the largest of my peppermint willows were swamping everything around them.  I cut them back around the front and pulled up masses of the plants' dry leaves, which some people warn could feed fires.  The plants and ceramic fish surrounding it have been revealed.  Now I just need to tackle the back side of the shrubs plus the clumps in my front garden.

I cut back the Echium webii and cleared most of the leaf litter under it as well.  I'm always a little worried that the plant won't recover as the grower recommends "tip pruning."  As a fallback, I took tip cuttings in the hope of propagating possible replacement plants if needed.  That approach worked with my Echium handiense.  I still need to tackle the Echium webbii on my back slope and the E. candicans 'Star of Madeira' in the front garden.

This Arbutus 'Marina' (one of 4) had dropped piles of leaf litter over the succulents beneath it and I finally performed the difficult dance cleaning that up (for now).  I also trimmed back the dead lower branches of the Melianthus major.

Since I cut the largest Yucca 'Bright Star' down to the ground last year, there's been a lot of empty space in this area.  Self-seeded Gaillardia have sprung up here and there but I added some orange and yellow Gazanias to provide additional ground cover until the baby Yucca grows up.  I could use another dozen Gazania plugs I think...

I thinned the Stipa tenuissima (Mexican feather grass) along the back of the border and, as his birthday present to me, my husband has begun building cages to surround the plants the blankety-blank bunnies keep eating.  The rabbits have already consumed the lower leaves of numerous lilies and left 2 lily plants entirely bare.

In addition to corralling leaves on the north end of the back garden, I performed a similar cleanup on the lower level of the front garden and nearby in the street side succulent bed.

This slope is steeper than it may look and leaves from the massive Arbutus "Marina' above get stuck in every nook and cranny between the succulents

The 2 tree-sized Auranticarpa rhombifolium also drop gobs of leaves in this very dry area near the property line.  More dropped between my initial sweep of the area and taking this photo.  There's a big empty space I need to fill too.  Thus far, even the Agave pups I've tried here have struggled to survive.  I think I'm going to try an olla watering approach to support the next plant I place in this spot.

I finally got around to pulling the self-seeded bunny tail grass in my south side succulent bed too.

I didn't sow any bunny tail grass (Lagurus ovatus) seed this year but last year's nearby plants chose to self-seed all through this succulent bed.  I saved a handful of the seedheads I pulled as they're perfect for dry flower arrangements.

I've still got cleanup to do in my north side garden, where the leaves of the guava tree litter the succulents below but this weekend I'll be giving priority to cleaning up the cutting garden to get rid of the cool season plants that are well past their prime.

I managed to create 3 small posies with the flowers left on the sweet pea vines yesterday, which I brought to friends I met for lunch.  On the restaurant's patio, the flowers attracted considerable attention, which I thought was a nice final salute to the sweet pea season.

In addition to spending time with good friends on Thursday afternoon, I've taken time to appreciate the fleeting blooms that aren't likely to be around on Bloom Day in June.  Here's what caught my eye:

Planted last fall, Iris germanica 'Gypsy Lord' enjoyed a brief moment of glory

I planted 10 bulbs of Sprekelia formosissima (aka Aztec lily) earlier this year.  Just one made an appearance.  I seem to remember seeing these flowers in posts from Texas bloggers later in the year so perhaps I'll see more of them this fall. 

My daylilies have been slow to bloom this year, which I'm blaming on low rainfall but clockwise from the upper left are the handful that have made a showing: Hemerocallis 'Elizabeth Salter', 'Russian Rhapsody', 'Spacecoast Behavior Pattern' (which should get the award for most ridiculous name ever), and 'Spanish Harlem'.  The last is my most prolific daylily but, at the speed it's blooming, it may finish up soon.

Gladiolus nanus 'Nymph' seemed to disappear for a few years before paying me a return visit

Best wishes for a safe and restful weekend.

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

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Should it stay or should it go?


A bit silly-looking, isn't it?


That's a photo of my Jacaranda mimosifolia 'Bonsai Blue' taken yesterday.  I took several photos of it from different angles at different times in the hope that seeing it in a different light would make it look better.  It didn't.

I've always loved Jacaranda trees.  Although native to South America, the bluish-purple flowering trees have become emblems of early summer in Southern California.  I even planted one in my former tiny townhouse garden.  That garden was both too small and too shady for it so it had to come out.  I resisted the allure of the dwarf Jacaranda when it was introduced but eventually brought one home in November  2016.


This photo, taken in early May 2017, shows it at its best.  It even had a small cluster of flower buds.


It may have flowered lightly one more time but, if so, I have no photographic record of that event.  Last fall I questioned whether I should take it out when I dug up the bed it occupied to remove my rampant native aster.


This is what it looked like in late September 2021 after I'd cleared the area surrounding it.  I gave it a light pruning and decided it was looking good enough to give it another year in place.


In my climate, Jacarandas drop their old leaves when they flower, producing new foliage soon afterwards.  My dwarf tree has been gradually losing its leaves over the past two months but there's no sign it's going to bloom and it's now looking more spindly than ever, sporting a topknot of fresh foliage on a bare central stem well above the foliage at its base.


This photo shows the clump of foliage at the top of one otherwise bare 4-foot stem


Full-sized Jacarandas reportedly take eight years to reach maturity and bloom.  Even if mine was two years old when I purchased it, by that measure it may not yet be fully mature but I'm once again on the fence about whether it deserves the space it occupies.  I may allow it to coast through the end of this year to see if its appearance improves.  If no additional foliage develops to balance out its current form, I may cut back that central leader to see if pruning helps it fill out; however, if I come across a better option to fill its current spot, it may go sooner rather than later.

Yesterday afternoon, we had yet another mass shooting in the US, costing at least 19 school children their lives.  Following on the heels of two other very recent attacks by madmen with guns, I'm livid with the failure of the US Congress to enact reasonable gun control.  After each incident, we go through the same meaningless discussions about "hardening" schools and encouraging people to report "signs" of madness.  None of that has worked.  It'll never be enough until we take control of our nation's gun problem.  Perhaps, instead of school uniforms, parents should purchase body armor for their kids?  Instead of investing in sport programs, schools should invest in metal detectors?  Maybe we need armored vehicles to take children to and from school to prevent them from being picked off outside those "hardened" facilities?  We've had over 200 mass shootings in the US already this year.  Schools, churches, supermarkets, concerts, public transportation - is anywhere safe?  What's the magic number of mass killings needed to get Congress over its self-interested fear of the gun lobby?  300?  500?  1000?  I'm beyond disgusted with our elected leaders.  Lily-livered cowards.  Self-important, self-centered creeps.

I apologize for attaching a rant to a garden post.  Trying to compartmentalize my thoughts isn't working for me this morning.


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


Monday, May 23, 2022

In a Vase on Monday: Making use of my cool season blooms

The weather has been bizarre this year - and I realize that this isn't just true of coastal Southern California.  Here, we've had brief heat spells on and off since January but, each time I fear summer is moving in to stay, we flip back to cooler temperatures.  After temperatures reaching 90F the prior week, last week our temperatures remained mostly in the mid-to-upper 60sF and that pattern is expected to hold through this week as well.  Regardless of whether it's hot or cold, though, wind has become a regular feature and, in the absence of rain, that's drying out the soil and plants.  While some of my cool season flowers are clearly on the decline, there are others not yet ready to concede the stage to their warm/hot season replacements.

To clear space in my cutting garden for Dahlia tubers and Zinnia seedlings, I've begun pulling out the scruffier Digitalis and Nigella plants.  Flowers of both inspired my first arrangement this week.

I played off the dark color at the center of the Nigella papillosa flowers in selecting burgundy foliage to fill out the vase

This side of the arrangement was meant to be the back but, when I placed it in my front entryway, it ended up as the front view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey', Fuchsia magellanica 'Hawkshead', Digitalis purpurea 'Dalmatian White', noID Lathyrus odoratus, Plectranthus scutellarioides 'Vino' (formerly known as Coleus), and Nigella papillosa


In the interest of saving a few purple foxgloves that had flopped over in the wind, I used them as the starting point for my second arrangement.

I'd had pink Alstroemeria in mind to combine with the foxgloves but the latter's blue undertones had me abandoning that plan and seeking new partners

Back view: I picked a tall Acanthus stem to add height.  Acanthus mollis was a major feature in my former shady garden but the plant can't take the drier conditions in my current garden.  While refusing to die, the plants disappear as temperatures rise, returning only briefly following our winter rainy season.  At best, I get one or two flowers a year.

Top view: I used a few tall stems of Arthropodium cirratum (aka Renga lily) as a filler

Clockwise from the upper left: Acanthus mollis, Arthropodium cirratum, Digitalis purpurea 'Dalmatian Purple', noID Lathyrus odoratus, Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata', and Scabiosa columbaria 'Flutter Rose Pink'


I expect I'll continue to winnow out the Nigella blooms at a steady rate.  As the sweet pea foliage is looking uglier every day, those vines may go this week.  I've given away cut flowers at intervals over the past few weeks and I may step up the pace there, assuming I can find enough bottles or cups to hold miniature bouquets.


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, May 20, 2022

May foliage standouts

After the glut of floral color that was my May Bloom Day post, it seemed appropriate to publish a review of the foliage standouts in my garden as a kind of palate cleanser.  I took a lot of photos but, as some of the same plants were covered in my March foliage post, I eliminated most of the redundancies, which still left me with a fairly hefty list.

This is just one of several spots filled by Abelia grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope'.  It's generally a manageable shrub, although it's prone to throwing up tall upright stems here and there.

I recently cut back some of the Aeonium arboreum and Aeonium haworthii 'Kiwi' here as they were swamping the Agave lopantha 'Quadricolor' planted nearby.  Frankly, I need to pull out all these Aeoniums and replant cuttings but, with summer on the horizon, it's best to wait until fall for that.  The Aeonium arboreum are already curling up, signifying their entrance into dormancy.

Aeonium arboreum 'Velour' adds a welcome splash of color between Festuca californica and its greener Aeonium cousin in my front garden

I've photographed this clump of Agave attenuata before but not perhaps from this angle, showing its long trunks.  When we moved in 10+ years ago, this was the one and only succulent in the garden.

Agave colorata shines even though it's being crowded by an Agave 'Blue Flame' on one side and an Agave attenuata on the other.  I love the pink color it's acquired, presumably due to the stress of growing in this very dry succulent bed adjacent to the street.

I meant to cut back the 3 shrubs that make up this mass of Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' off our south side patio but never got around to it so its pruning has been postponed until fall

I planted 3 small Aloes in pot several months ago and I'm no longer sure I can tell one from another but the varieties include 'AJR', 'Crimson Dragon', and 'Talon'.  They're all far redder in color than they were when I first planted them.

It's the time of year when the trunks of Arbutus 'Marina' look their best

This Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey' is masquerading as a small tree on the edge of our south side patio

This is another tall, rangy Coprosma 'Plum Hussey' on the north end of the garden.  I love the variegated foliage.

I was afraid I might have cut back Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' a bit too far in late fall but it seems to be coming back

Two views of Crassula corymbulosa (aka red pagoda), showing off its color in a tiny pot

Festuca californica is already past its prime but this is the first photo I've managed to get showing its graceful plumes

Common English ivy (Hedera helix) is invasive here but I think it looks nice surrounding this green man plaque sitting on a decaying tree stump on the north end of the garden.  I inherited both the ivy and the stump with the garden.

Helichrysum petiolare 'Licorice Splash' looks its best at this time of year, framing the edge of a mass of Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt'.  I think the Aeonium is 'Cabernet'.

I gave the 2 Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' that flank the walkway leading to the front door a hard pruning several months ago.  They look the better for it now, although they're already working hard on their next attempt at world domination.

Another view of the same shrubs with a closeup of the shrubs' red-tinged foliage

Leucadendron salignum 'Chief' doesn't look so imposing peeking above other shrubs in the photo on the left but the second photo gives you a better impression of its overall girth.  I cut it back twice a year.

The Manfreda maculosa and noID Sedum have been in this pot almost as long as we've lived here.  The plants usually look awful in the summer, leading me to plot their replacement, but they recover before I ever get around to acting on that plan.

I planted 3 small specimens of Mangave 'Frosted Elegance' in the bed of mostly succulents shown on the left last year and they've developed a lovely glow in the partial sun setting.  The photos on the right show the difference between one of the plants in partial sun (top) and the specimen in a pot in the shade (bottom).

Phormium 'Tom Thumb' has done well in this partially shaded area of the front garden

The Yucca 'Bright Star' that emerged from the root of the plant I cut to the ground last year (left) is making steady progress, although it's still less than 6 inches tall.  Meanwhile, the cutting I took during the same operation (right) survives, although it still hasn't developed any significant roots.

Lest you think all is well in my garden, I'll share a couple of foliage specimens that aren't looking all that good.

I underestimate the rapacious  appetites of our now resident rabbits.  After paying Mahonia 'Soft Caress' (left) no attention for almost 6 months, I discovered the plant eaten down to a short stick last week.  Yesterday, I discovered that they'd also done a taste test of the 2 Echium wildpretii (one shown on the right).  I've since covered all 3 plants with wire cloches.

Best wishes for the weekend!  I hope to spend lots of time in the garden to take advantage of the cooler temperatures we're currently enjoying.  After a few days of very warm (90F/32C) temperatures last week, we've had much cooler temperatures since Monday, courtesy of our marine layer.  The marine layer, usually most pronounced in May and June, has become noticeably spotty of late.  The Los Angeles Times printed an article last Sunday stating that our "May gray" and "June gloom" are facing "impending doom" due to climate change.  That's depressing to contemplate as the marine layer helps to keep down the summer temperatures along the south coast of California. 


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