Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Quick takes on succulent containers

While cleaning up and replanting the area in front of our backyard fountain a couple of weeks ago, I decided to try using one of the seashells scattered there as a plant container for succulents.  The seashells were here when we moved in over ten years ago and I left most of them where they were, mainly because I had no idea what to do with them.

This is a giant clam shell, and the largest of the shells left by the prior owner.  When I turned it open side up, it was obvious it was meant to serve as a container for something.

I'd planned to go to my local garden center to select new succulent plants but subsequently decided to use what I had on hand.

I'd picked up the 2 partridge aloes (Gonialoe variegata) in the small pots on my shopping trip to Santa Barbara several weeks ago but ultimately decided not to use them for the purpose I'd had in mind.  I collected cuttings of other plants - Cotyledon orbiculata, Oscularia deltoides, and Graptoveria 'Fred Ives' - from my garden.

I did a mock-up before filling the shell with a cactus mix and planting

When I got around to the actual planting, I added more Oscularia deltoides and several rosettes of Graptopetalum 'California Sunset'.

I filled in the remaining visible crevices with tiny blue decorative stones I had on hand from a previous project


I tried out a few different areas before placing the shell.

I didn't think the scale was right for it in some spots and in other cases I was concerned that the shell's contents might be harmed by critters or careless humans

So the shell ended up on the little cafe table on our south-side patio, out of the way of intense sun, critters, and the gardeners with their leaf blowers


That project led me to rehab two other small planters, both of which had lost their appeal in the two or more years since I'd originally planted them.  I didn't take any before shots but here are the completed containers:

The circle planter was filled with a small noID Aloe and cuttings of Crassula pubescens

I replanted this shallow ceramic container with cuttings of Aeonium 'Jack Catlin' (center), Aeonium haworthii 'Kiwi', noID orange-colored Aloe rosettes, and more Graptopetalum 'California Sunset'

Little projects like these can be so satisfying!  I'm already thinking about which of the other seashells I inherited with the garden might be transformed into succulent planters.

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

Monday, November 28, 2022

In a Vase on Monday: The plant that keeps on giving

When I looked over my garden on Sunday to select material for In a Vase on Monday, the delightful meme hosted by Cathy of Rambling in the Garden, one choice was obvious.  By the start of November, I'd pulled out all but one dahlia, the only one I purchased as a full-grown plant.  I'd brought it home in early July when I was afraid that all the dahlia tubers I'd planted might be duds.  It was already blooming when I bought it but, as it was apparent it'd never been pinched to promote side shoots, I cut all those blooming stems back hard.  Its first blooms appeared on IAVOM August 1st.  I subsequently got blooms from a tuber of the same variety I'd planted but it never produced the volume of flowers I got from the plant picked up at the garden center and I dug that tuber up in late October.  Meanwhile the store-bought plant just continues to flower as if it was mid-summer.

This week's blooms of Dahlia 'Lavender Ruffles' are a full 8 inches in diameter

Back view: Much as I love the dahlia's pinkish-lavender color, finding suitable companions to complement it has been surprisingly difficult.  This week I used foliage of my burgundy coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides 'Vino') and the multi-colored foliage of Hebe 'Purple Shamrock'.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Dahlia 'Lavender Ruffles', Hebe 'Purple Shamrock', Persicaria capitata, and Plectranthus scutellarioides 'Vino'

Meanwhile, the noID Camellia sasanqua shrubs I inherited with the garden have been blooming for weeks.  With rain in the forecast for later this week, I decided it might be best to cut a few stems on Sunday as the delicate Camellia flowers don't always respond well to rain.

The garden came with 2 Camellia sasanqua, neither of which I can identify.  They're similar but not identical in color but the form of their flowers are different, as are their growth habits.

As is often the case with my arrangements, the back view looks less symmetrical than the front view but I couldn't bring myself to cut a 5th Camellia stem to balance things out

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Specimens of both Camellia sasanqua, Achillea ptarmica, Argyranthemum frutescens 'Aramis Bi-color Rose', and Coprosma repens 'Fireburst'


I'm trying not to get overly invested in the prospect of rain as an earlier forecast suggesting rain on Monday (today) failed to materialize but every local weather forecaster has mentioned the prospect of rain starting Thursday night so it's impossible to ignore.  Our rain total for the "water year" that started on October 1st stands at 1.21 inches (30.7mm) but we're on the precipice of our peak rainy season, December-March, and it'd be nice to see a break from the La Niña standard that kept us dry two years in a row.  I've also been making heavy use of the rainwater collected during the two light storms we had earlier and it'd be great to top off my collection tanks.


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, November 25, 2022

Fall color, Southern California style

The Santa Ana winds are blowing again and the leaves of the deciduous trees are quickly falling so I thought it'd be a good idea to share what passes for autumn color here while it lasts.  We don't get cold enough to experience the kind of foliage color that the northeastern parts of the country are famous for, although the nights feel cold to us!

My largest Japanese maple, an Acer palmatum 'Sango Kaku', colored up earlier in the season and is now a mass of dry brown leaves.  I completely missed the colorful leaves of the peach tree on our back slope so I haven't included either in this post but here are the rest:

The smoke tree, Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple', had lost most of its leaves too by the time I got around to photographing it

This persimmon tree, Diospyros kaki 'Fuyu', offers the most rewarding color in my garden this time of year.  I harvested a bumper crop of the fruit this year, giving most of it away to friends and neighbors.

Not a plant known for its fall color but the foliage of Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' is darker at this time of year

This isn't foliage at all but rather the seedpods of Magnolia grandiflora, which drop in substantial numbers this time of year.  The birds and squirrels seem to have a taste for the bright red seeds embedded in the pods.

I love the bright colored leaves on this ornamental pear, Pyrus calleryana, although I could do without the small fruits that fall with them.  I've never even seen the birds eat the fruit.

My blueberry bushes are in need of pruning but this Vaccinium corymbosum 'Bountiful Blue' develops pretty pink foliage in cooler weather

I've been trying to get rid of this noID Wisteria ever since we moved in.  I haven't yet succeeded but the plant does provide a little fall color.


The Ginkgo tree we planted last year has been a disappointment.  Two late heatwaves, arriving back-to-back, burned the tree's leaves a dismal brown and caused them to drop prematurely.  Later the onset of a little rain and cooler temperatures brought out a small amount of spring-like green leaves that have continued to hang on.

The fresh leaves of Ginkgo biloba 'Autumn Gold' haven't turned gold nor fallen yet.  I hope this flush doesn't prevent the tree from leafing out more fully come spring.


By comparison, my neighbor's front garden provides a lot of color.

My neighbor referred to these trees as sugar maples once.  While they have maple-like leaves, I'm pretty sure the majority are Liquidambars with a couple of Ginkgos in the mix.

There's another group of them on the other side of the driveway

Closeups of the leaves and, more specifically the spiky seedpods, make it clear this isn't a maple as maple seedpods, called samaras, have more delicate helicopter shapes

The only tree in the section behind the hedge I can identify is the fig tree, with its glowing yellow leaves

This noID tree has redder foliage than the rest.  I haven't seen it up close so I don't know if it has the seedpods that characterize Liquidambers.  It's possible it could be a silver maple (Acer saccharinum), which, unlike a sugar maple, is suitable to our climate, at least according to my Sunset Western Garden Book.

That's it for me this week.  The rain that was in the forecast for early next week sadly appears to have evaporated, although there's a chance of some later that week.  Fingers crossed.

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

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

The nerve!



Of late, other than birds, the only critters I've seen in the garden on a regular basis have been bunnies.  Way too many bunnies.  The raccoons and the possums have paid regular visits of course but they restrict these to the dead of night so what I see is just the wreckage they leave behind.  I haven't even seen many squirrels, although the occasional sight of half-buried unripe guavas and persimmons suggests they've paid a stealthy visit or two as well.  Last week I complained to my husband that the abundance of bunnies suggested the absence of their usual predators.  The very next day he saw one of the missing predators in the middle of the day, trotting through our back garden seemingly without a care in the world as shown in the following video.



My husband said the coyote walked nonchalantly through the garden and down our back slope into the canyon.  He pulled the video off our security camera later but he advised me of the sighting immediately afterwards and, hearing the next door neighbor's Pomeranian dogs barking their heads off, I hurried to alert her.  She lost one dog to a coyote years ago and I didn't want her to lose another.

Coyotes used to be nocturnal.  We'd noticed that they'd extended their hours on both the front and back ends of their prior nighttime schedules but this was the first time I'd seen one out and about during the noon hour.  You'll note that he knew exactly where our fountain is too!

Coincidentally or not, I haven't seen a bunny in the garden since the coyote's reappearance last week.

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

Monday, November 21, 2022

Holiday warmth

The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday called for warm colors in this week's floral arrangements, even if the temperatures in my part of the Northern Hemisphere are probably warmer than most at the moment.  During the last several days temperatures have ranged from the mid-60s to the low-70sF (18-22C) and that trend is currently expected to continue into the coming weekend.

Grevillea 'Superb' was the inspiration for this arrangement but Leucadendron 'Jester' and Anthurium 'Maine' may have stolen the show

The first powder-puff flower of Calliandra haematocephala was a last-minute addition to dress up the back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Agonis flexuosa 'Nana', Anthurium 'Maine', Calliandra haematocephala, Grevillea 'Superb', and Leucadendron 'Jester'

My second arrangement made use of the golden flowers of Tagetes lemmonii (aka Mexican marigold).  My husband doesn't care for the scent of the leaves but thus far he apparently hasn't noticed it.  Hopefully, the front entry is airy enough that its placement there won't bother him.

I used as ornamental tea pot as my vase

Back view dressed up with Cotoneaster berries

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left are: Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey', noID Cotoneaster, Gaillardia 'Spintop Copper Sun' and Tagetes lemmonii.  The prop is another in the series of mice celebrating the seasons.  These 2 are painting green leaves orange, which is practically-speaking what I'd have to do to get much of any autumn color in my garden.

I downsized last week's arrangement featuring Leucadendron stems and a succulent rosette for placement on the kitchen island.

The plants are showing few signs of wear beyond the loss of some coleus leaves

Happy Thanksgiving to all who are celebrating the holiday!  For more IAVOM creations, visit our host, Cathy in Rambling in the Garden.

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

Friday, November 18, 2022

When Christmas takes over garden centers

In coastal Southern California, our cool season is the optimal time to plant.  But when summer hangs on well into autumn as it usually does here, I often delay the plant shopping trips intended to fill the empty spots in my garden.  The fatal flaw with such delays is that, when I finally get out there, I run head-on into the all-consuming rush toward Christmas that consumes most garden centers.  I don't blame them - they need income to stay afloat and selling Christmas trees and other holiday paraphernalia is a big moneymaker.  It's entirely my fault when I fail to recognize that the holiday take-over is already underway.

A friend and I made a trip south to Orange County earlier this week to visit two garden centers.  Although the trees hadn't yet arrived at Roger's Gardens in Corona Del Mar, space had already been cleared to make way for them, which means there were fewer garden plants to peruse.

Overview of the garden center's front area from the upper level.  The large area already cleared for Christmas trees was in the back (not shown).

This demonstration bed near the front entrance is changed out several times a year.  The small red and green electric trains always featured during the holidays were already running but the area was otherwise devoid of holiday references.

That was not the case in the interior areas

Our other stop was OC Succulents in Irvine.   The year-end holidays weren't an obvious issue there but the prices were.  Since the pandemic, prices at this wholesale nursery (and its smaller outlet in Torrance) have soared.  Maybe customers with wholesale licenses get much better deals but I didn't see any of the bargains we found years ago when shopping the nursery.

This area used to feature current "deals" on mid-sized succulents.  I didn't see any of those.

However, there was a large variety of succulents in a range of sizes to be found.  A sampling included, clockwise from the upper left: Aeonium 'Sunburst', Agave attenuata 'Ray of Light', Agave 'Blue Glow', Echeveria 'Blue Atoll', assorted cactus, succulents in 2-6 inch sizes, and Sedum dasyphyllum 'Minor'.  An Agave 'Blue Glow' I recently purchased in a 1-gallon container at my local garden center was priced at half what OCS was charging for a specimen of similar size.  The Agave parryi I bought for a steal on my prior shopping trip to Carpineria for $12 was priced at nearly $40.

The outlet also offers a massive number of decorative plants like orchids and bromeliads, houseplants, and Tillandsias.  If you need a significant number of particular plants, this is the place to go but it might be a good idea to look into a wholesale license first.

Given the circumstances, my purchases were relatively modest.

At OC Succulents, I picked up 2 Tillandsia harrisii.  One is now attached to the chiminea adjacent to the bromeliad-succulent bed in my front garden and the other has been added to the collection in my lath house.

At Roger's Gardens I found the Lomandra 'Arctic Frost' I was looking for during my trip north 2 weeks ago, as well as flowers to fill one of the barrels in my front garden (Argyranthemum 'Aramis Bicolor Rose' and a mix of Calibrachoa), and the first Osteospermum '4D White' I've seen anywhere

I managed to polish off planting the barrels that were left empty when I dug up the dahlia tubers and stored them away for the winter.

Most of the plants in this barrel in my cutting garden were purchased during my earlier trip up north but I picked up the last orange Calibrachoa at Roger's Gardens

I also finally addressed the area around our backyard fountain.  I'd decided months ago to replace the mess that was there with a variegated Lomandra and purchased a 'Platinum Beauty' for that purpose but I held off because I was afraid that it would quickly get too large for the space and I'd be back to square one.  Finding a dwarf Lomandra 'Arctic Frost' was the ticket.

This is a "before" shot of the area.  The seashells were here when we arrived.  I've moved them around many times, trying to disguise the ugly electrical outlet that controls the fountain.  I wanted a plant that would hide the outlet without making it impossible to access if necessary.

Lomandra 'Arctic Frost' should cover up the electrical outlet when it reaches 2-3 feet tall and wide.  In the meantime, I've moved many of the shells back in place, principally to stop the raccoons from tearing up the drip lines.  In the past, they've been known to fight the drip lines as though they were snakes.

Dwarf Lomandra 'Arctic Frost' echoes the 3 Lomandra 'Platinum Beauty' planted nearby last year.  The latter will grow 3-4 feet tall and 3-5 feet wide but, at least at present, the plants look nearly identical.

The Lomandra 'Platinum Beauty' I've had on hold since mid-summer ended up in another area of the same bed on the other side of Echium webbii, where its mature size won't be a problem


Yesterday afternoon, in an effort to find a few small plants to fit into the empty spots in the pink-themed barrel planter, I made a brief stop by Armstrong, my local garden center, after a Friendsgiving lunch.  Just three days after my prior plant shopping trip, the holiday influence was even more pervasive there.

The first Christmas trees had already arrived!  From the looks of things, they are going to be even more expensive than last year.

Christmas decor was all over but no holiday music was playing (yet)

For lack of many options, I picked up plugs of English primrose to fill in the empty spaces in this front garden barrel.  Hopefully, it's full enough to keep the raccoons away but I think it might be a good idea to stick in some sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) too.

I've absolutely no issues with the holiday themes that take over garden centers, although I do wish they'd hold off until after Thanksgiving.  However, as that's not the trend, I need to factor the ever-advancing creep of holiday preparations into my fall season plant shopping schedule.

Best wishes for a pleasant weekend.

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