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




  1. Between bunnies and lugs, I sometimes want to scream. But then I recover, cover the plants and sprinkle Sluggo. Seeing how some Hosta or the stately Legularia othelo look by the end of the season , Sluggo is not very effective (or washed by rain).
    Aeonium arboreum 'Velour' is magnificent. That dark color with bright centers is so good. It seems the green Aeonium varieties are more vigorous though. Speaking of vigor: I don't know where you find the energy to prune back Leucadendron 'Chief' twice a year. I am constantly on the lookout for low maintenance plants. (I'm not getting any younger :-D).
    Crassula red pagoda is stunning!

    1. Sluggo works pretty well here but then we don't get much rain! The raccoons are back too (I found one rummaging in the fountain 3 nights ago) so perhaps they'll step up their game with the mollusks. You're right that Aeonium 'Velour' hasn't proven as vigorous as the greener variety, which seems to multiply as fast as the rabbits ;)

  2. As I read new favorites popped out; aeoniums (Velour!) those Agave trunks and the trunks of Arbutus 'Marina'... wowsa! But damn, rabbits eating echium. This is not good for the two I just planted out in my front garden.

    1. I was surprised to find the Echium wildpretii munched as I've never seen evidence that the rabbits have touched any of my other Echiums but then the fact that they ate 3 Astelia to the ground last year amazed me too.

  3. thank goodness the bunnies don't eat agaves! So much to admire, Kris. Your hard work and determination looks well rewarded. So smart to limb up the coprosma. Glad you're getting a break with the marine layer, for as long as it lasts...

    1. That Coprosma seems to limb itself up, Denise - it really wants to be a tree! The marine provided us a whopping 0.01/inch of precipitation this morning and looks as though it may hang on throughout the day as it did yesterday.

  4. Those wascally-wabbits! At my house, it is deer. :(
    Have you tried net bags of Irish Spring soap around plants that are prone to nibbling? It seems to deter the deer pretty well, so might work for rabbits.
    Lots of colorful foliage and great textures, too. Manfreda, crassula, and Cousin Itt' are my favorites. Eliza

    1. I tried all sorts of stuff like that to deter the raccoons and nothing worked. Wire cages appear to be the more effective but the Mahonia was bigger than the pre-made cages I have on hand - until the rabbits cut it down to size. Like other plants in the Borage family, Echium foliage is a little bristle-y so it didn't occur to me they'd eat that, especially as there are still so many Gazania flowers to chomp...

  5. A nice selection of foliage to anchor your floral displays (both in the garden and in your vases). Love the trunk of Arbutus ‘Maria’ and the Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’ foliage. I’ve read of various pruning methods for cotinus. Some say to only hard prune branches that have flowered previously, others recommended cutting back all branches yearly. Is that what you do?

    1. Yes, I cut back all the branches of the Cotinus to keep it the size and shape of a mid-sized shrub rather than allowing it to become a tree. Mine has never bloomed, probably because its cut back so severely.

  6. Oh yes, your foliage collection is outstanding! I think I would miss winter if I skipped it altogether, but it would also be nice to be able to grow things outdoors for more months out of the year. Happy late spring!

    1. Winter means rain here. We didn't get much of that this year after an even worse year in 2021 so I'm missing our version of winter ;)


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