Friday, September 30, 2022

My garden is a mess...

After waiting two weeks for word on a date to replace 100+ feet of water pipe, we received a call late Tuesday afternoon advising us that, due to a delay on another project, the plumber's team could begin work the following morning.  Luckily, I'd already cleaned out my compost bin and my husband had cleared out and bagged all the gravel in the affected areas.  Unfortunately, I'd held off on pulling up the plants above the existing pipe, planning to take care of that closer to the project's start date.  I thought I'd have more than a few hours prior notice.

This is a photo of the area in question taken for one of my "Coronavirus tourism" posts in 2020.  Some of the plants have changed over the past 2 years but this is probably the clearest photo I have of the planted area affected by the plumbing work.  In addition to a host of small succulents and bromeliads, the area included a large amount of flagstone, rock, a chiminea, and 2 large pots.

My husband and I worked until well after sunset to get the rest of the work done and we were back at it again early the next morning.  He lifted things he had no business lifting this soon after his surgery.  I pulled up all the rock and flagstones I could but I needed his help with some of the heaviest items. 

Miscellaneous stuff stored behind the garage had to be moved into the driveway

I potted the plants worth saving and took cuttings of various succulents.  I moved the bulbils I potted up after receiving an agave bloom stalk from a friend too.

This is the area after it was cleared

We also dug out some of the plants surrounding the pipe connection to the house to clear access.  We tried to be careful of the roots belonging to a well-established Camellia and a star jasmine vine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) but only time will tell if we were successful.


The plumber arrived with two crews right on schedule on Wednesday and promptly got to work.  Trenches were dug, the first pipes were laid, and piles and piles of dirt were everywhere.

Trench extending from the city's water line at the street with the first section of the new pipe

Another trench running the length of my cutting garden adjacent to the raised planters

The trench dug to contain the new pipe connected to the house

This was a tricky bit as the plumbers had to tunnel under the concrete brick walkway into the bed on the other side to avoid taking out a section of the walkway

I was actually pleased to see some good-sized rocks among the dirt that accumulated as they dug their trenches.  I can always use more rock in my succulent beds.  Our entire neighborhood was a rock quarry in the 1940s so it's not surprising we still find chunks of it when we dig deep enough.

The good news is that the plumbers were able to complete the job within two days instead of the three originally projected.  Maybe that means my husband and I did more to clear the decks for the plumbers to work than they'd anticipated...

One of the biggest surprises was that a member of the plumbing crew was really into plants, especially orchids and succulents.  He asked my husband for a tour of my lath (shade) house soon after he arrived.  I gave him one of the variegated octopus agave bulbils (Agave vilmoriniana 'Stained Glass') on his first work day and he brought me several plants the next day.  Of course, I needed to reciprocate so I came up with two bromeliad divisions, two agave pups, and a noID Gasteraloe to send him off with.

Here's my haul from the friendly plumber.  The orchid is an Epidendrum.  The Tillandsias are similar to some I have (and don't have names for).  The 2 plants in the pot on the upper left appear to be Orbea variegata.  Based on its label, the plant on the lower left is Lobivia schreiteri (which I understand is now classified as an Echinopsis).  I can only guess about the identities of the other 2 in the clay pots, maybe a Mamillaria and an Echinopsis.


Before the plumbers left, they were kind enough to replace most of the flagstone we'd taken up before they arrived.  Somehow ten of the middling and smaller pieces of flagstone didn't make it into their layout but it still gives me a good start in putting things back in order.  I've already replaced two additional flagstones but, even as the current heatwaves wanes, it was too hot and sticky to do much more after they left.  I'll get started with the remaining cleanup this weekend.

The bagged gravel needs to be spread over the dirt paths surrounding the raised planters in my cutting garden

The remaining flagstones and all the rock formerly within and around the succulent-bromeliad bed needs to be replaced

And then I need to replant the area.  Before returning the plants I saved, I'll probably add cactus mix and pumice to the soil.  As I tossed out some of the smaller and less vigorous plants during our preparation phase, I expect I may need to shop for a few new plants too.

Weekend temperatures are supposed to be noticeably cooler.  I hope so.  I have a lot of work to do.

Best wishes for the weekend, however you're spending your time.

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


Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Natural differences

Many gardeners look forward to ripe apples and pears each fall but those fruits don't do well in my part of coastal Southern California.  Due to limited hours of winter chill, most fruit trees other than citrus don't do well here in general.  Persimmons are a notable exception.  Frankly, I knew next to nothing about persimmons before we moved into our current home.  I'd never even eaten one.  We inherited two young persimmon trees with the garden but they bore relatively little fruit until last year.  This year, despite two years of minimal rainfall, water restrictions, and rising temperatures, we've got more fruit than I know what to do with.

The common persimmon, Diospyros virginiana, was growing in North America before Europeans arrived on the continent but the trees didn't become popular until the sweeter Japanese persimmons were introduced in the mid-19th century.  Both my trees are Japanese persimmons, Disospyros kaki.  I have the two most common varieties of the kaki persimmons : 'Fuyu' and 'Hachiya'.  However, other than bearing fruit on approximately the same schedule, they're different in many respects.

This is the 'Fuyu', sited alongside the fence that divides my cutting garden from the dry garden on the other side.  It's being crowded by a larger lime tree on the left.

The photograph on the left suggests a small tree with not much fruit but its heaviest limbs are hanging over the fence, visible from the dry garden as shown in the photograph on the right.  I had to cut 2 limbs 2 months ago because they were threatening to break under the weight of the developing fruit.  I suspect this means I should've thinned the fruit earlier.

Closeup of the 'Fuyu' fruit, which is flat on the bottom and looks a little like a miniature pumpkin

This is the 'Hachiya', sited in the dry garden at the top of the concrete stairway that leads down our steep back slope.  Unlike the 'Fuyu' tree, the 'Hachiya's' foliage is showing signs of stress.

The view of the tree from the concrete stairway shows off the fruit more clearly

Closeup of the 'Hachiya' fruit, which has an acorn shape

Diospyros is Greek for the "food of the gods."  The fruit is rich in beta-carotene, vitamin C, and potassium.

The fruit of 'Hachiya' (left) and 'Fuyu' (right) doesn't look the same but their appearance isn't the only difference between them

Until I started looking into the fruit while trying to decide what I'm going to do with this year's crop, I assumed they differed in shape but not in taste.  It turns out that's not true.  'Fuyu' is the most popular persimmon and the one you're most likely to find in supermarkets.  It's not astringent and the fruit can be eaten much like an apple.  While the darker the color, the sweeter its taste, it can be eaten when still firm.  It works well in salads and can be frozen to be eaten like custard or to garnish for ice cream.  In contrast, 'Hachiya' is so astringent that taking a bite before it's very, very ripe can cause numbness in your mouth.  One source I read likened the taste of an unripe 'Hachiya' to the taste of a a very green banana.  Another source claimed that while 'Fuyu' can be appreciated by impatient consumers, 'Hachiya' requires a consumer willing to until the fruit is so ripe it appears ready to throw out.  Its skin should be translucent and, when held, it should feel as though it's filled with water.  The persimmons used in baked goods are commonly 'Hachiya'.  It's taste is said to combine well with spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves. Online sources offer many recipes for using persimmons as you can find here and here.

The usual suspects are already stealing the 'Hachiya' fruit while branches of the 'Fuyu' are so heavily laden it's reasonable to expect branches may break even without the additional weight of a foraging raccoon.  I can't leave the fruit in place too much longer or it'll all be smashed or half-eaten.  I expect to harvest the 'Hachiya' within the next week or so and, unless my husband gets an urge to bake, I'll give the fruit to friends and neighbors.  I'd like to wait a bit longer to harvest the 'Fuyu' as that fruit is less ripe.  Fortunately, fruit cut prematurely will ripen in room temperatures given time.  Ripening also can be sped up by placing the fruit in a paper bag with a banana.

A final difference between the trees is also worth noting.  In addition to their difference in appearance, taste, and use in food preparation, the trees differ in terms of their foliage.  The foliage of the 'Hachiya', at least in my location, goes from green to a homely brown as summer comes to an end.  In contrast, the foliage of 'Fuyu' offers the best fall color of any plant in my garden.

Photos of 'Fuyu' taken in November 2021

Let me know if you have any uses for persimmons you'd like to suggest.

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

Monday, September 26, 2022

In a Vase on Monday: Something from nothing

With the plants in my cutting garden rapidly succumbing to the combination of heat and mildew, I didn't immediately see any good prospects to fill a vase.  I fixated on a red and white dahlia bloom in one of the half barrels in my front garden and jumped off from there.  For a time, I thought I'd be combining that single flower with a variety of foliage plants until I noticed that the variegated Australian fuchsia was beginning its annual bloom cycle.

Unfortunately, the dangling flowers of the Australian fuchsia (Correa 'Wyn's Wonder') got somewhat lost within the foliage.  The Correa is a variegated variety but, over the years, it's begun to lose that variegation so it doesn't stand out as much as I'd like.

Back view, with the Correa buried within branches of glossy cherry laurel (Prunus caroliniana)

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Alstroemeria 'Inca Vienna', Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', Prunus caroliniana, Caladium 'Tapestry', Correa 'Wyn's Wonder', Dahlia 'Catching Fire', and Zinnia elegans 'Benary's Giant Deep Red'

I'd no idea what, if anything, I had available for a second arrangement until I noticed that the Chihuahuan sage (Leucophyllum laevigatum) in my back garden had suddenly produced a second flush of bloom.  The sage bloomed early in September only to have the flowers quickly wither away when our prior heatwave struck.  I hadn't expected another round of bloom so soon.

I wasn't thrilled with the combination of the lavender-blue flowers of the sage with the flowers of Zinnia 'Benary's Giant Purple', which are more deep pink than purple to my eyes but the arrangement has (sort of) grown on me

Back view: The sage's flowers are supposed to be fragrant but I can barely detect the scent even when I stick my nose right into them

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia grandiflora 'Hopley's Variegated', pink and white Cosmos bipinnatus, Leucophyllum laevigatum, and Zinnia elegans 'Benary's Giant Purple'

There were a few yellow dahlias in bloom that I assumed wouldn't make it through the current heatwave, which is expected to run through Thursday, so I cut them for the kitchen island.

The small vase contains: 2 Dahlia 'Calin', one D. 'Summer's End', 2 short stems of Correa 'Wyn's Wonder', and 2 stems of Zinnia elegans 'Benary's Giant Carmine Rose'

With my cutting garden torn up awaiting the (still unscheduled) arrival of plumbers to replace 100+ feet of water pipe and everything in the raised planters sliding into decline, I'm tempted to pull everything up just to restore a sense of control over the space.  However, even with their mildewed foliage, many dahlias have buds and I'm hoping to see more blooms before I throw in the towel on the summer season so, for now, I'm trying to ignore the mess.

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to find other IAVOM creations.


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



Friday, September 23, 2022

What thrived and what died this summer

This summer posed a number of challenges for plants in my garden.  Winter rainfall was low for the second year in a row, leaving us dry even before summer began.  Water restrictions tightened and although I've restricted use of our automated irrigation system to two days a week since 2015, I pulled back further on supplemental hand-watering this year in response to California's worsening drought.  Heatwaves were fewer in number and generally less severe than usual but the most recent one, during which we hit a peak temperature of 106F (41C), hung on for ten days, which was unusual.  Midway through that event, our water provider informed us that we were subject to a 15-day outdoor watering ban due to pipeline repairs.  I stored water for emergency use and scrambled to deep soak what plants I could before the ban took effect.  An unusual tropical rainstorm, spinning off a hurricane in the Pacific, helped significantly by dropping six-tenths of an inch of rain.  So despite my apprehensions concerning the double whammy of a heatwave and a watering ban, the garden came through the experience relatively well (even if the gardener ran herself ragged toting a watering can to and fro). 

I'll start with the plants that showed no discernible ill effects due to the stresses summer posed.

If anything, Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' responded positively to the heat.  I've had to cut it back in some areas because it's impeding on paths.

Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' has once again grown so big that it'll require severe pruning later this year

I cut all the Barleria obtusa (aka bush violet) back nearly to the ground after the shrubs bloomed late last year.  They look homely for about a month afterwards, then slowly flesh out.  The plants self-seed freely and I think I should use them more extensively in problem areas.

Three more plants that have shown stamina are: Echium handiense, Helianthemum 'The Bride', and Santolina virens.  I propagated the Echium from cuttings and they're doing well in all 4 locations I planted them.  The 2 Helianthemum, planted in early June, can't be considered well established but they handled summer conditions well anyway.  I've grown Santolina before and don't know why I don't have more of it now.

The self-seeded Polygala fruticosa (aka sweet pea shrub), sometimes sold as P. myrtifolia, has self-seeded freely.  While the seedlings are easy to pull, they're literally everywhere and Cal-IPC has the plant on its watch list.  That said, they exhibited no sign of stress when it was hotter and drier than usual.  If I can manage to keep them contained, they'll make good fillers in problem areas.

Yucca 'Bright Star' responded to the hot, dry conditions by putting up a bloom spike (left).  In addition, a second pup has appeared a couple of feet from the first one sited alongside the stump of one of the original plants.

I was surprised to see foliage of 4 bulbs pop up.  They're Hymenocallis x festalis 'Zwanenberg' (aka Peruvian daffodils), which I hadn't even remembered I'd planted last March.


I didn't even try to take photos of everything that came through summer in good shape - that'd require more space than even my longest Bloom Day posts.  But here's a general list of plants by genus that deserve mention:

  • Abelia grandiflora - 'Edward Goucher', 'Kaleidoscope', and 'Hopley's Variegated'
  • Callistemon - 'Cane's Hybrid' flowered; C. 'Hot Pink', and C. viridiflorus did not
  • Cistus - all but the newest additions flowered as usual
  • Felicia aethiopica
  • Grevillea - all varieties too numerous to name held up, although the flower production of the larger-flowered varieties was impacted by the heat
  • Hebe - 'Grace Kelly', 'Purple Shamrock' and 'Wiri Blush' did well but flowered only lightly or not at all
  • Leucadendron - all varieties, too numerous to name
  • Leucospermum - 'Brandi', 'Goldie', 'Hybrid Spider' and 'Sunrise' finished flowering prior to summer's arrival but foliage was unaffected by summer's heat
  • Lomandra - 'Breeze', 'Platinum Beauty' and 'Tropic Belle'
  • Pennisetum - 'Fireworks', 'Rubrum' and 'Sky Rocket'
  • Phormium - 'Atropurpureum', 'Apricot Queen', 'Maori Queen' and 'Yellow Wave'
  • Tulbaghia violacea
  • Xylosma congestum
  • Most succulents
  • All trees, including citrus


This isn't to suggest that all plants weathered the summer stress well.  There were losses.  It's possible that some plants that look awful right now may come back but I'm not expecting that of all of them.

Aloe 'Moonglow' (left) is twisted and looks miserable but I've seen that in other aloes at the height of summer.  The Aloe maculata x striata to the right of 'Moonglow' in the first photo and Aloe vanbalenii x striata in the photo on the right are examples of other aloes that fared well.

Unfortunately, Anemone hupehensis (now classified as Eriocapitella hupehensis) often looks like this when hit by extreme heat.  This plant's been here since we moved in 10+ years ago.  It'll survive but it's doubtful I'll see any flowers this year.

The Arctotis 'Large Marge' on the left and A. 'Pink Sugar' on the right are probably dead; however, there are other specimens elsewhere that, while looking pitiful, still have life left in them.  This has also happened in prior years - some survive and some don't.

I'm not sure what happened to the Centaurea 'Silver Feather' on the left as it was a more well-established cutting than the one on the right.  The one on the left came up without even a tug.  The 2 plants were within a few feet of one another.

These 2 Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold' shrubs were also planted within a few feet of one another on either side of the flagstone path that bisects the back garden.  Another of these plants up and died late last summer just like the plant shown on the left here.  I'm not sure it can be blamed on the heat but it's possible that minor differences in the water they received was a factor.  There's some evidence of new growth underneath the shrub on the left so I may try cutting it back rather than just pulling it out.

Erigeron glaucus 'Wayne Roderick' (aka seaside daisy and beach aster) is supposed to be drought tolerant and well-suited to coastal sites but it's not been happy in full sun in my garden.  Our recent heatwave just made it look all the more miserable.  It's moved itself around a bit, perhaps seeking more shade, which is something San Marcos Growers suggests.  I'll try moving divisions of the plant to a more hospitable location.

Summer's heat prematurely turned the leaves of the Ginkgo biloba brown but that happened last year too.  A neighbor's specimen, older and partially shaded by surrounding trees, stays green much longer.  However, as our tree leafed out this past spring with no apparent issues, I'm assuming that it'll do the same next spring.

My roses look worse than ever.  I believe that insufficient water is a bigger issue than the heat.  I'm considering pulling up at least some of them in this area as they've looked worse and worse with each passing year.  Rosa 'Pink Meidiland', in a different area of the front garden, has fared much better and those plants will stay.

Sisyrinchium 'Devon Skies' may want more water than some sellers suggest.  There's a tiny amount of green underneath the brown foliage so I may give it time  to consider if it wants to live.  Note that the Lisianthus (Eustoma grandiflorum) surrounding the blue-eyed grass are already coming back after their earlier summer flush. 

Sideritis cypria (left) looks haggard and didn't bloom at all this year but I think it'll come back.  Westringia fruticosa 'Morning Light' (right) looked burned in spots following the last heatwave but I'm counting on it to improve as temperatures decline.

These beds next to the garage in the front garden look horrible.  While many plants (Pacific Iris, hellebores, and Arctotis among them) are hanging on, nothing other than Lomandra 'Platinum Beauty', Lavandula stoechas, and Pittosporum (all outside the frame of these 2 photos) look really good.  The daylilies in this area didn't even bother to bloom this year while Polygala seedlings are popping up all over.  Insufficient water and root competition from the trees and hedge shrubs may be part of the problem but I'm unsure what'll work here.  I'm considering adding topsoil to create berms in selected areas and adding succulents and rocks in others.


Any loss is disappointing but the failures provide useful information.  Will I heed the lessons learned this summer?  That's never certain.  I've already pulled up some of the smaller ephemeral plants I'd planted in late spring and early summer to fill empty spots.  In the case of plants that have at least a chance of coming back, I'm holding off until cooler temperatures prevail before taking any action.  At present, another heatwave is geared up for this weekend and it's expected to run through early next week.

Meanwhile, another problem has emerged, or I should say reemerged.  No, I'm not referring to the water leak issue I wrote about in my last post.  The raccoons are back and their endless search for grubs is becoming a nearly nightly effort.

I found a track of 10 raccoon footprints running across the outdoor rug on the back patio the day after they first pillaged the raised planters in my cutting garden (after I'd hand-watered them of course).  They were back for another session 2 days later.

That's it for me this week.  Best wishes for a pleasant weekend, whatever your weather.

P.S. High Country Gardens is running its semi-annual photo contest and my brother is one of the finalists.  Way to go, Eric!  You can find the finalists' photos here.

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