Wednesday, August 31, 2022

One way to clear a slope...

Monday, as I headed home from the grocery store, I noticed wire fencing along a stretch of the main road I couldn't recall seeing before.  I also got a quick glimpse of what I thought were a couple of dogs behind the fence as I sped by.  It struck me as odd but my brain quickly moved on to other things and I didn't give it any further thought until the next day as I headed home from a doctor's appointment and once again noticed the fencing.  This time the "dogs" I thought I'd seen on Monday came more clearly into focus.


Lest you think this is unusual, I can tell you it isn't.  Although I haven't seen a herd of goats quite this close to my neighborhood before, they're often used to clear brush on our peninsula, especially in connection with fire prevention efforts.  You can find a video of a larger group hard at work in 2021 here.

I went home long enough to pick up my camera before heading back.  In retrospect, it would have been smart to have picked up my telephoto lens too but, when parking in this area proved to be a bigger issue than I'd anticipated, I decided it would be best to quickly snap a few shots and be done with it before I got a ticket.  Had the weather been cooler, I'd have walked the four miles round trip there and back but yesterday was the first day of what forecasters are predicting may be the worst heatwave of the summer season so that prospect wasn't at all appealing.

He looked at me as if saying: "Are you talking to me?"

"What do you want?"

"You're interrupting my chewing."

Losing whatever interest he had in me, he turned back to business


Two other goats were equally hard at work but the large majority were congregated in the shade at the top of the slope along the fence taking a break.

Another industrious goat

This one paid me no attention whatsoever

I believe the fence represents the perimeter of the local middle school.  There's a large level area that's been used by utility companies off and on over the years between this area near a public library and the school's entrance, which is a quarter mile or so away, so I'm not sure who's responsible for it.

There was another group of goats further along the road of roughly equal size but the angle of the sun prevented me from getting a good photo of them.  I'd guesstimate that this herd totaled 30-40 individuals.  On numerous occasions, I've seen a woman walking a small crew of 4-6 goats, presumably leading them to or from small brush clearing assignments but there are services that hire out the animals en masse to clear larger areas.  Fire Grazers is one of the most prominent but I've no idea where these particular goats came from.  One source I found claimed that thirty goats can clear a half-acre area within three to four days.  The goats will eat all kinds of brush, including poison ivy.  Electrified fencing is often used to protect them from predators and prevent them from wandering off, and shepherds and guard dogs are often part of the package.

I hope the goats aren't bothered by the heat!  It looks as though it could take them a few more days at least to clear that slope along its entire stretch.  I have a couple more trips that will take me along the same route later this week and I'll be sure to check their progress.


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

Monday, August 29, 2022

In a Vase on Monday: Stepping onto the stage

I finally got blooms from one of my tardy dahlias.  As the tuber for this one was purchased during an end-of-season sale, it wasn't actually all that slow to sprout - it simply got a late start.  However, the dahlia tuber I ordered was 'Akita', purchased because the 'Akita' tubers I'd saved and divided last year failed to sprout.  As the replacement tuber's first buds opened, it became clear that it wasn't what I'd ordered.  What it is still isn't entirely clear.  There are a LOT of  red and white dahlias and, if you look them up online, there seems to be a degree of variability among all of them.  It could be 'Catching Fire', 'Duet', 'Rebecca's World' or something else altogether.  As blogger friend Hoover Boo of Piece of Eden said the flower reminded her of her own 'Catching Fire' and that's the first in line alphabetically on my list of likeliest candidates, I'm going to call it that for ease of reference.

Much as I love Dahlia 'Akita', I'm already very fond of this striking imposter as well

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', Alstroemeria 'Inca Lucky', Dahlia 'Catching Fire' (maybe), Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', Leucadendron salignum 'Blush', and Prunus caroliniana

Dahlia 'Lavender Ruffles' came through with three more huge blooms this week and those ended up in my second arrangement.  I planted two 'Lavender Ruffles' tubers but, when one failed to sprout, I bought a plant already in bloom at my local garden center.  I cut off most of the original blooms as it was clear that the plant hadn't been pinched back before it flowered and it took a protracted pause before bouncing back.  The surviving tuber has sprouted and looks healthy but I'm still waiting for it to produce buds.

The dahlia's flowers are a pinky-lavender.  I had difficulty finding flowers in compatible colors so I relied on white flowers.

I dressed up the back using a couple of Cosmos blooms and a stem of the very interesting Pelargonium graveolens 'Colocho'.  Both the Pelargonium's stems and the leaves are twisted.  It has a delicious scent. 

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: more Abelia grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', Cosmos bipinnatus, Dahlia 'Lavender Ruffles', Eustoma grandiflorum 'Balboa Blue Rim', white Eustoma, and Pelargonium graveolens 'Colocho' (known as 'Bontrosai' in the UK).  The bi-color Lisianthus (Eustoma) mostly threw in the towel in response to summer's heat over the past 2 weeks.


Growing dahlias this year has been a mixed bag.  A couple of my tubers rotted and a few others failed to sprout or produce roots.  I may have planted some too early, when the soil was still too cool to promote growth, or allowed some of the tubers in temporary pots to get too damp, promoting rot; however, even the remaining tubers took longer than expected to sprout.  It's also possible that some of the tubers I divided and saved were "blind" (i.e. missing the eyes required if a tuber is to sprout).  Eleanor Perenyi, author of 'Green Thoughts', recommended giving up efforts to divide the plants if lifted at the end of their season, preferring to plant intact clumps the following season.  I think that's what I'm going to do next year as I noted that two clumps I saved and cleaned up but didn't cut up were among the first to bloom and most vigorous.  At present, I have two plants with buds that haven't yet bloomed ('Pink Petticoat' and 'Mikayla Miranda'), another that produced just one bloom earlier and currently has several buds ('Karma Prospero'), and four plants that appear healthy but have yet to produce buds (two 'Fairway Spur', the aforementioned 'Lavender Ruffles', and 'La Luna').  Meanwhile, 'Calin', 'Enchantress', 'Iceberg', 'Southern Belle', and 'Summer's End' are stars.  'Break Out', apparently left over in 'Calin's' pot, paid a surprise visit but it's yet to be determined whether it will provide more than a cameo performance.

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, August 26, 2022

Time out for succulents

A "time out" usually refers to a suspension of activity, either as punishment for a naughty child or a pause in athletic play.  In this case, it refers to short breaks from my caregiver activities to putter in the garden.  It being summer, a questionable time to do any planting here, my puttering was generally confined to work involving succulents.

Shortly after my husband's surgery, blogger friend Denise of A Growing Obsession contacted me to ask if I'd like some of the plantlets (aka bulbils) she'd harvested from a bloomed out Agave vilmoriniana 'Stained Glass' (variegated octopus agave) in her SoCal garden.  She offered to mail them to me but she ended up dropping them off as she prepared to leave town.  There were a LOT of them.

This bag alone contained on the order of 100 bulbils

She left me the stalk too, with more plantlets that hadn't yet been harvested


As I've no plans to open a nursery, I contacted  several local friends to see if I could pawn off any find someone to adopt a portion of them.  Two friends offered to take a "few" but another friend contacted a member of the local Cactus and Succulent Society to see if they were interested and, luckily, they were.

These are the plants I saved for myself and the 2 friends that asked for a few.  Not all will root but, of those that do, I'll probably save only 2-3 for myself as this agave gets very big.  I'll offer those that don't go to friends to my neighbors.  I haven't had a neighborhood giveaway in quite awhile so that'll be a good way to kick off the fall season.

This is what I offered to the representative from the Cactus & Succulent Society who graciously agreed to pick them up: 3 flats and the remaining unharvested bulbils.  I filled the flats with cactus soil mixed with what perlite I had on hand.  Each flat contained 36 tiny plants.

With the 'Stained Glass' Agaves sorted, at least for the time being, I took time to pull a large clump of dead Cerastium tomentosum (snow-in-summer), filling the empty spot with three Echeverias I'd purchased in late July.  The Cerastium spread but never bloomed and, even with cooler-than-usual summer temperatures, the foliage burned up.

The noID blue-toned clumping Echeverias (possibly E. imbricata) were purchased for another location but hopefully will be happy enough in this one


I also rescued a tiny agave that popped up under a clump of Aeoniums.

I removed an Agave colorata from the bed in which I found this small pup at least 2 years ago so the discovery was a surprise

By way of an update, the larger Agave colorata we dug out of our street-side succulent bed earlier this month when we discovered that the drip line underneath it had sprung a leak, has a new home.

I think it's a better spot for this Agave colorata than the 2 areas I'd mentioned as prospects in my earlier post.  Maybe the pup will end up here too once it grows larger.

I'd like to add more rock to the bed shown above but, as I need help picking it up from the local building and landscaping supply outlet, that'll have to wait.  My husband will be limited from lifting anything heavy for some time yet.  In addition to its purely aesthetic value, rock helps to retain moisture, limits evaporation, and modulates soil temperature so, under current circumstances, the more the better.

This little vignette shows just how happy succulents are snuggled in among rocks.  The plants here include Aeonium 'Lily Pad', Crassula orbicularis var rosularis, and noID Haworthia (possibly H. retusa).

I've done a little hand-watering, mostly of plants in pots and my cutting garden, as well as deadheading.  Although I'm itching to cut back a host of scruffy plants, I'm trying to hold off until our temperatures are consistently cooler.  October would be optimal but it remains to be seen if I can restrain myself that long.

Best wishes for a pleasant weekend.  I'll close with a new dahlia bloom to start the weekend off right.

The tuber that produced this flower was sold to me as Dahlia 'Akita', which it's definitely not.  Based on the flower's size, the petal shape, and the proportion of white versus red color, my best guess is that it's 'Duet' or maybe 'Rebecca's World' but then dahlias can mutate quite a lot as they mature.


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



Wednesday, August 24, 2022

Dueling hummingbirds and sleeping bees

Unlike so many areas of the country, our summer here along Southern California's coast hasn't been particularly awful.   We haven't had any temperatures over 100F (yet anyway).  We haven't been flooded with rain (or had any rain at all for that matter but then that's a normal summer for us).  Still, the garden and the gardener are feeling at low ebb.  Under normal circumstances, I'd be hand-watering my garden a lot more but, presented with constant reminders of how dire our drought is, I'm doing very little of that.  Several of my roses look close to dead but, rather than provide them with emergency water rations, I'm seriously considering whether I should just replace them with succulents.  I'm trying not to overreact - there's always a chance we'll get something like "normal" rain this winter - but I don't think I can stand looking at their flowerless stems another year if we don't.

Luckily, even with bare spots and brown foliage seemingly everywhere, there's life in the garden, like the hummingbirds constantly dueling for territory.

I think the combatants were Allen's hummingbirds but I'm not positive of that ID

Rest breaks between battles were common but brief and on most occasions, by the time I focused the camera, the little guys back into the fray

Male or female they're always alert to intruders in the vicinity

Their focus in the front garden are Grevilleas 'Peaches & Cream' and 'Superb''Superb' (shown here) is loaded with flowers year-round.

On the other end of the activity scale, I found bees sleeping in flowers early on one cool, damp morning when the marine layer was thick and persisted until noon.

Completely motionless in Zinnia 'Benary's Giant Purple'

This one fell for Zinnia 'Benary's Giant Carmine Rose'

I cut 2 stems of white Amaryllis belladonna for In a Vase on Monday's floral arrangement and discovered this one buried in the center of a flower.  As it was bedraggled anyway, I cut the flower and left it and its occupant on the patio table.


I was a little worried that the bees were dead when I first saw them and felt compelled to gently blow on them to check.  Two reacted but one did not; however, within an hour all had flown away.  Cute as they were, I'm afraid I like my bees as lively as my hummingbirds.

Bees drawn by a recently opened Magnolia grandiflora flower


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

Monday, August 22, 2022

In a Vase on Monday: Not much to work with

Dahlia production seems to be on pause.  The plants that have been blooming for a month or more are still producing buds but there wasn't much in bloom to construct an arrangement around and the buds on the remaining dahlias have yet to open.  I cut three bright red Zinnias and two stems of the white Amaryllis belladonna that appeared last week as a starting point and stuck with a red and white theme.

Caladium 'Tapestry' stole center stage from the flowers surrounding its colorful leaves.  I planted a variety of Caladium bulbs in the bed along our front walkway years ago but most have either produced small leaves on virtually nonexistent stems or disappeared altogether.  'Tapestry' is the exception.

Back view: I supplemented the Zinnias with several flower-like stems of Leucadendron 'Safari Sunset'

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: white Amaryllis belladonna, Caladium 'Tapestry', Leucadendron salignum 'Safari Sunset', Crassula pubescens, Leucadendron salignum 'Chief', Persicaria capitata, and Zinnia elegans 'Benary's Giant Deep Red'

I'm still preoccupied with my husband's post-surgical care so I didn't go over-the-top on flower arrangements this week as I usually do, although I prepared a very simple arrangement for the kitchen island.

I used one stem of Dahlia 'Calin', the first flowering stems of Clematis terniflora (aka sweet autumn clematis), Corokia x virgata 'Sunsplash', and Leucadendron 'Summer Red'

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

I hope to have at least one other post this week but it may be awhile yet before I resume my regular Monday-Wednesday-Friday posting schedule.

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

Monday, August 15, 2022

IAVOM & Bloom Day Mash Up - August 2022

I don't much like it when In a Vase on Monday and Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day fall on the same day as it makes for a very long post but this is the first and only occasion on which this will happen in 2022 so I hope you'll bear with me.  The fact that this particular confluence falls in August is helpful in that my garden is at low ebb at this time of year so there are fewer photographs to wade through.  In addition, as my husband is scheduled for surgery this week, I'm planning to take a brief blogging break to focus on him so cramming everything into a single post offers the advantage of efficiency.

I'll start with an abbreviated view of this weeks floral arrangements, created from materials collected from my garden.

Even the flowers in my cutting garden were thin on Sunday after a week of temperatures in the low-to-mid 90sF/32-35C but I cobbled together an arrangement from my toughest Dahlias and Zinnias.  Clockwise from the upper left of the lower collage are Abelia grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', Coleonema album, Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', Dahlia 'Enchantress', D. 'Iceberg', and Zinnia elegans 'Benary's Giant Purple'.

I scouted elsewhere in my garden for the makings of a second, smaller arrangement.  Clockwise from the upper left in the second collage are Agapanthus 'Elaine', Angelonia 'Archangel White', Eustoma grandiflorum 'Blue Balboa Rim', and Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata'.

To find IAVOM creations from other contributors to this popular weekly meme, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.


Now on to Bloom Day.  Our temperatures haven't climbed as high as those in many other parts of the country or the world but it's still been uncomfortably warm.  As there's been no rain since April and rain levels have been far lower than average for the past two years, the garden is also very dry.  I've been diligent in abiding by water restrictions in my area in spirit as well as practice so I'm not providing as much supplemental water as I've done in summers past.  As a result, the garden - and the gardener - are both stressed at the moment.  But let's start with the plants making the biggest statements this August.

Amaryllis belladonna (not to be confused with Hippeastrum) is blooming throughout the back garden.  They're commonly known as naked ladies because the flowers appear on leaf-less stems.  The foliage appears following our winter rainy season and dies back in early summer before the flowers emerge.

Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid' seems to produce a flush of bloom whenever our humidity level rises, as it's done recently with monsoonal moisture creeping in from the desert areas to the east of us.  However, since I took this photo, most of the flowers have turned a dusty beige.

Seven Dahlias have bloomed but several others are still taking their time.  Clockwise from the upper left are: 'Breakout', 'Calin', 'Summer's End', 'Enchantress', 'Iceberg', 'Lavender Ruffles', and 'Southern Belle''Breakout' surprised me by popping up in 'Calin's' pot.  I apparently left a piece of a tuber in the pot I used to grow 'Breakout' last year.

Magnolia grandiflora is producing flowers in record numbers this year

I treat Rudbeckia hirta 'Denver Daisy' as a splashy annual

I grew several of the Zinnias shown here from seed, including 'Carmine Rose', 'Benary's Giant Purple', 'Benary's Giant Deep Red', 'Queen Lime Red', and 'Queen Lime Orange'.  The others were planted from plugs of a 'Magellan Mix'.

Plants that are just now getting their bloom on include the following:

Increased humidity also prompts Bauhinia x blakeana (aka Hong Kong orchid tree) into bloom

Succulent flowers aren't as flashy as some others but those of Crassula pubescens (left) and C. falcata (right) make an impression by means of repetition

While most of my Lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum) are done for the season, 'Blue Balboa Rim', planted from plugs in February, has only just started to bloom

Leucophyllum laevigatum (aka Chihuahuan sage) also responds to heightened humidity by flowering

The Pennisetums are just starting to flower.  Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum' is on the left and P. 'Sky Rocket' is on the right.

Coleus 'Vino' (now classified as Plectranthus scuttellarioides) is blooming despite my efforts to stop it.  The plant itself is huge.

This is one of 2 noID Plumerias I have in pots

Even when summer throws its worst at us, there are some plants I can depend upon to add floral color.

Cupheas 'Honeybells', 'Starfire Pink', and 'Vermillionaire'

After being cut back hard in late winter, Gomphrena decumbens 'Itsy Bitsy' is exploding with flowers once again

Grevilleas 'Peaches & Cream' and 'Superb'

Lantanas 'Lucky Orange' and a mix of yellow and orange varieties

Leucadendrons 'Safari Sunset' and 'Blush'

A host of Pelargoniums.  Top row: Pelargonium peltatum 'Deep Burgundy'
Middle row: Pelargonium sidioides and P. peltatum 'Lavender'
Bottom row: Pelargonium schizopetalum and a noID variety

Orchids in my lath (shade) house: Oncostele 'Wildcat' (upper left) and a variety of noID Phalaeonopsis


I'll close the Bloom Day segment of this post as I usually do with the best of the rest organized in collages sorted by color.

Clockwise from the upper left: Agapanthus 'Elaine', Delphinium elatum 'Cobalt Dream', noID Delphinium, Felicia aethiopica, noID Plumbago, and Rotheca myricoides

Clockwise from upper left: noID Calibrachoa, blue Eustoma grandiflorum, Limonium perezii, and Hebe 'Grace Kelly'

Clockwise from the upper left: Alstroemeria 'Inca Vienna', Cistus x skanbergii, pink Eustoma grandiflorum, Fuchsia 'Old Berkeley', Oxalis triangularis, and Scabiosa columbaria 'Flutter Rose Pink'

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', A. g. 'Kaleidoscope', Angelonia 'Archangel White', Cosmos bipinnatus, Daucus carota 'Dara', Osteospermum '4D Silver', Westringia fruticosa 'Morning Light', and white Calibrachoa

Clockwise from the upper left: Alstroemeria 'Inca Lucky', Anthurium 'Maine', Aloe 'Rooikappie', noID Coreopsis, Echeveria 'New Black', and Grindelia camporum


For other Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day posts, check in with our host, Carol at May Dreams Gardens.


I hope to be back to creating blog posts by next week but I'll be following other blog posters in the meantime as time and circumstances permit.

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