Monday, October 31, 2022

In a Vase on Monday: I'm not ready for Halloween this year

Unlike my husband and most of my friends, I like Halloween.  I usually decorate in advance of the holiday but I couldn't work up the enthusiasm to do that this year.  Part of that may be a reaction to our looming midterm elections - the political climate provides more than enough in the way of horror.  Our neighborhood has also been light on kids prowling in search of treats for all the years we've lived here.  The largest number of trick-or-treaters we've had in any year since we moved in almost twelve years ago was four, three of whom came as a group.  One year we had just two teenage girls without costumes, which was simply annoying.

My garden is in transition.  I've torn out almost everything in my cutting garden and have begun prepping the raised planters for cool-season flowers.  I cut what was left for a single floral arrangement.

The Dahlia 'Lavender Ruffles' tuber I planted in late May finally produced its first 2 blooms(!). The other 'Lavender Ruffles' planted in a barrel added 3 more.  I included the final bloom of Dahlia 'Mikayla Miranda'.  Although it's very pretty, it's delivered only 3 blooms in total over the course of the season so I probably won't keep it.

Back view

Top view

Clcokwise from the upper left: Dahlia 'Lavender Ruffles', D. 'Mikayla Miranda', Pelargonium peltatum 'White Blizzard', Polygala fruticosa, and Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata'
The arrangement earned pride of place on the dining room table

Even pumpkins seem to be in short supply this year and surprisingly pricey as well, although waiting until late last week to look for one may have contributed to that impression.  I picked up one relatively small pumpkin on a trip to the garden center on Friday.

This "fairy tale" pumpkin is a little less than 7 inches in diameter but cost $6.99.  As a nod to the start of the fall season, I decided to dress it up with berries and succulent cuttings from my garden.

Reverse side

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Aeonium haworthii 'Kiwi', noID Cotoneaster berries, Crassula 'Money Maker', and a mix of Graptosedum (possibly 'Darley Sunshine') , Crassula pubescens 'Small Red', and berries of Auranticarpa rhombifolium, all glued onto a mat of sphagnum moss


For the record, few of my neighbors appear to decorate for Halloween.  Of the homes I can see from the street that runs through our neighborhood, only four have outdoor displays.

This is the most prominent one


However, more families with children have moved into the neighborhood during the last two years and, with the pandemic at least partially under control due to vaccines, perhaps we'll have more children knock on the door this year.  I'm going to pick up a bag of candy today just in case.  I'll leave whatever is left on the curb for neighborhood walkers on Tuesday if trick-or-treating traffic remains low.

In a final effort to get a little of the Halloween spirit, I added 3 skeleton rats to the pumpkin display in our entry way  (My husband has pointed out that rats don't have ear-shaped skeletons...)

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, October 28, 2022

Wide Shots - October 2022

In the midst of our plumbing and irrigation system woes, I lost track of my quarterly wide shots post.  When I remembered it, everything was still topsy-turvy so I let it slide until some degree of order had been restored.  I made my rounds of the garden this week in between projects and took photos so here we go, starting as usual in the back garden. 

View from the back door, looking roughly southeast toward the entrance to the Port of Los Angeles (which you could see if Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid' wasn't in the way)

View from the back patio looking north.  The Aeoniums in the foreground are emerging from dormancy following the touch of rain we've had since the start of the 2023 "water year" on October 1st.  We've had one-quarter of an inch of precipitation, which actually isn't bad for October; however, predictions for the winter rainy season aren't positive as we experience our third La Niña year in a row.

View from the north end of the back garden looking south.  I recently cut the Melianthus major that sits below the strawberry tree (Arbutus 'Marina) down to the ground.  The succulent bed in the foreground is finally fleshing out some as the raccoons move on to tearing apart other areas in their relentless pursuit of grubs.

View from the back patio looking further south.  The bush violets (Barleria obtusa) are the chief source of floral color at the moment.

View from the south end of the back garden looking north.  You may note that I'm still on the fence about removing the dwarf Jacaranda 'Bonsai Blue' tree (left).


Pivoting a quarter turn to the left (west) brings us to the south side garden.

South side garden looking west.  While prompting weeds that are difficult to pull between the succulents, the rain cleaned away the dust on the agaves, making them shine.

There's still no sign of a bloom stalk from my largest Agave 'Blue Glow' despite the flattening of its leaves and the pups sprouting from the side of the plant (not that I'm in any hurry to see it flower!)

View from the small south side patio looking south.  I still miss the native Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) that blocked the view of the neighbor's house in the distance but, as it died of the pathogen that causes sudden oak death, it's not advisable to plant another there.  The small Olearia albida I planted 2 years ago to replace it died this summer despite receiving extra water.

View from the west end of the area looking east.  The mass of Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' on the left is in serious need of pruning.

After a glance downward to the lower level of the front garden, we'll continue on the main level of the front garden.

This is a view of the lower level of the front garden surrounding the lath (shade) house, taken from the garden's main level

View from the south end of the front garden looking north.  Those Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' are even more massive than they appear here even though I cut them back regularly to clear the flagstone path.

View of the area beneath the Magnolia grandiflora taken from near our front door.  I had dahlias in the 2 barrels in the foreground but pulled them this week because the raccoons kept digging there (and because the dahlia foliage was covered in mildew).

View from the driveway looking toward the front door.  The Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' shrubs on either side of the path need pruning.  Last year I waited too long to prune them and lost most of their summer flowers as a result.

Right (south) side of the bed facing the street.  The bush violet here is just beginning to bloom.  I recently cut back the Leucadendron 'Goldstrike' on the right that towered feet above the Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' and I'm hoping I didn't harm it in the process.

View of the succulent bed that runs along the narrow path leading to the lath house.  It's bordered on the right by the Xylosma congestum hedge adjacent to the street.

Back in the driveway looking at the bed on the north side of the front door.  My husband finished the enclosure he built to screen the air conditioning unit (although my eye still goes to it).

View from the north side of the house looking southwest

View from our trash can path looking east toward the house.  The beds on the west side of the garage are my biggest headache.  The area is shaded by the ornamental pear tree (left) and the hedge (right).  Roots from both making planting difficult as well.

This is the succulent bed on the other side of the trash can path.  I've put in some larger succulents but it still looks spotty to me.  I'm considering covering the bare soil with either gravel or the groundcover succulent Ruschia lineolata 'Nana'.

This bromeliad-succulent bed sits behind the other succulent bed along our northern property line.  (That's my neighbor's driveway in the background.)  When we had our main water pipeline replaced in late September, I had to dig the area up and then replant it.

Moving beyond the driveway to the north side of the house brings us first to the cutting garden and from there to the dry garden and the back slope.

I've been pulling plants out here and there for more than a month.  I pulled most of the rest you see here after I took this photo.  With just a few exceptions, the rest will go this weekend and I'll start prepping the raised planters for replanting.  I'm planning to lay wire mesh where I can in an effort to keep the raccoons at bay.

The gravel path through the north side garden leads to the concrete block stairway down into the back slope.  The 'Hachiya' persimmons were given away to neighbors and the tree is quickly losing its leaves without showing any fall color.

I've given very little attention to the back slope since the start of the summer season.  As the weather gets cooler and I'm feeling more assured that the fire ants will be less of an issue, I'll tackle the cleanup the area badly needs but there are a lot of other projects ahead of that one.


The only area left to show is the street-side succulent bed.

The bed could use a little work but it generally looks okay (at least from a distance)

That's it for my (belated) fourth quarter report on the status of my garden.  Best wishes for a glorious fall to those of you in the Northern Hemisphere and a lovely spring for you in the Southern Hemisphere.

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

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Local oddities

Now that the daytime temperatures have fallen to comfortable levels, I've been spending hours and hours working in my garden every day.  Most of my activities aren't worthy of a blog post but I've come across a few miscellaneous things I found interesting.

While planting a new succulent bed last week, I leaned over the edge bordered by a wood retaining wall built by a prior owner to level the area where it slopes down at a sharp angle.  A very large shelf fungi, over a foot in length, is growing out of the wood.  I'm guessing that it may be the fungus known as "chicken of the woods" (Laetiporus sulphureus) but I'm open to other suggestions.

On a walk through the neighborhood several days later, I happened to notice a very similar fungi growing out of a dead tree on a neighbor's property.  (There's a large Eucalyptus tree growing next to the dead tree.)

The street-side bed containing the shelf fungus growing out of the neighbor's dead tree had a couple of other dead trees I couldn't help wondering about.

Why would someone leave a "stump" like this?  Removing the stump would be difficult but, if you're going to cut down the tree, why not cut the stump to one level as close to the ground as possible?  I can't imagine anyone could expect it to sprout from this base.  Could someone have contemplated using it as a plant stand?

Now this remnant of a dead tree (or maybe a vigorous vine), mere feet away from the other dead tree, has a sculptural quality about it.  It might work for displaying epiphytes.

On the other hand, the same area contained a live pine tree that I've fallen in love with.

I'm not usually drawn to pine trees but this small blue one grabbed my attention.  It's really as blue as it looks in this photo and it's only 2 feet tall at best.  I assume it's an infant but I'm not able to identify it so I've no idea how big it might grow.  My phone identified it as either Festuca glauca (!) or Pinus monophylla but the latter prospect doesn't account for its distinctive color.  A brief online search turned up Pinus peuce 'Pacific Blue' but, if it's that, it's well outside its suitable climate zone.  Any guesses?


While passing through a narrow path back in my own garden, I was startled to see something else.

Aloe labworana is flaunting both nice red foliage and its first flowers, which are a startling bright yellow

The Aloe is getting more sun because it seems the variegated Echium candicans 'Star of Madeira' is dying back faster than I'd realized.  I thought it might have another year of flowers in it but several large stems had lost all their foliage in the past month or so, possibly due to our worsening drought.  (I cut away the bulk of the dead branches before taking this photo.)


No garden is ever static, or lacking in surprises.

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

Monday, October 24, 2022

In a Vase on Monday: Everything must go!

It's time to pull up my warm-season cutting garden.  I've been tossing plants out here and there for the past month and just about every remaining plant looks sad.  I'm already late in sowing my sweet pea and other cool-season seeds.  With lots of empty spots in my raised planters, the raccoon intrusions are increasing.  Two 'Lavender Ruffles' Dahlias are looking good enough to hold onto for a little longer but that's it.  I'll work around them for a little while but I'm ready to abandon the summer bloomers at last.

As I'm clearing beds and barrels of dahlias and zinnias I have a four (!) arrangements this week.  I actually emptied the barrel in my front garden containing Dahlia 'Karma Prospero' last Wednesday after the raccoons tossed it yet again.  Half the soil was on the ground and the rocks I'd placed to deter the little monsters were buried in the remaining soil.  So I put together a vase on Wednesday featuring the last of those dahlia flowers.

I added a few purple zinnias from the cutting garden and a single stem of Amarine belladiva 'Emanuelle'.  An Amarine is a hybrid of Amaryllis belladonna and Nerine.  Although 5 Amarine bulbs in my garden have produced foliage, only one has bloomed thus far.  

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Amarine belladiva 'Emanuelle', pink Dahlia 'Karma Prospero', surprise white flower of the same dahlia, Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', Pelargonium peltatum 'White Blizzard', Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata', and Zinnia elegans 'Benary's Giant Purple'

Looking for a change of pace, I cut a few stems of the bush violet (Barleria obtusa) that exploded into bloom last week.  Prompted by yet another heatwave and a little rain, it's blooming weeks ahead of schedule this year and already encroaching on its neighbors.

The arrangement could've used a touch of white but my garden is short on that color at present

Back view, showing stems of Vitex trifolia (aka simpleleaf chastetree).  When cut, the stems tend to droop, revealing the purple undersides of the leaves.  I tried dipping the stem tips in hot water to firm them up but that didn't accomplish anything.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Barleria obtusa, Conoclinium coelestium (aka blue mistflower and wild ageratum), Eustoma grandiflorum (aka lisianthus), Helichrysum petiolare 'Petite Licorice' (a virtual weed here), and Vitex trifolia


With the dahlias and zinnias in the cutting garden facing removal, I cut the most presentable of them to mark the end of their season.  Appropriately, Dahlia 'Summer's End' was one of these.

I reused the Cotoneaster berries and Leucadendron stems from last week's vase so this arrangement is essentially another spin on that one

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', noID Cotoneaster, Dahlia 'Summer's End', Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder', Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum', and Zinnia elegans 'Queen Red Lime'

Dahlia 'Break Out' wasn't quite ready for inclusion in a vase last week and its flowers were already a bit past their prime this week but I cut them anyway.

I decided to use the last of the 'Carmine Rose' Zinnias to play off the pink centers of the dahlia 

Back view, showing off the Australian fuchsia, Correa 'Wyn's Wonder'

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Correa 'Wyn's Wonder', Cuphea 'Honeybells', Dahlia 'Break Out', and Zinnia elegans 'Carmine Rose'

For more IAVOM creations, visit our host, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

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