Friday, December 29, 2023

2023 Blog Highlights

I like to rummage through my posts at the end of each year.  I picked a few photos in each month without any real logic or strategy to my selections.  I chose some photos just because they captured an attractive view or I because I liked the way my garden looked at a particular moment in time.  I included others simply because they jolted my memory of a certain event or activity.  Coincidentally, today marks the eleventh anniversary of my blog so this is just as good a time as any for a retrospective.


There was so much precipitation and the was so sky so clear of smog, we could clearly see snow in the mountains to the east of us from our backyard

The 'Blue Flame' Agaves and other succulents in our street-side bed looked like a painting

Sunrise looking northeast

Camellia williamsii 'Taylor's Perfection' living up to its name


I wished I could paint this scene of the wetlands at the Madrona Marsh Preserve

More migrating birds than I've ever seen from my back garden

While I spotted a lot of American robins during the same period, the majority of the migrants were cedar waxwings as shown in this closeup taken using a telephoto lends


Ceanothus arboreus 'Cliff Schmidt' had a banner year even though it grows on my neglected back slope

A picturesque view of the clouds covering the Port of Los Angeles like a blanket, viewed from our back garden

A very chubby, possibly pregnant, squirrel performing acrobatic maneuvers to get seed out of my "squirrel-proof" bird feeders (photos taken through my home office window).

Massive expanse of Echium growing at Seaside Gardens in Carpinteria, California

Flowers cut from my garden


One of many sculptures created from plastic detritus recovered from oceans and waterways for South Coast Botanic Garden's 'Washed Ashore' exhibit

The first time Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' bloomed extensively in my garden

A combination of plants I'd have never thought would work together so well but do: Arctotis 'Pink Sugar', Abelia grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope', and Lotus berthelotii

Dendrobium speciosa, spotted at Sherman Gardens.  It's not readily available based on my online search and pricey if you can find it.  I'm hoping there will be a local orchid show in 2024 so I can at least avoid shipping charges.


Flowers cut from my garden (and Iris germanica 'Autumn Circus' bloomed again in the fall!)

The prettiest red bottlebush (Callistemon citrinus) I've ever seen, on display at South Coast Botanic Garden

Morpho butterflies observed at South Coast Botanic Garden's Butterfly Pavilion

My cutting garden at its spring peak


My backyard borders shined in early summer

My Puya has never bloomed but this one (Puya alpestis) put on an almost unbelievable display at South Coast Botanic Garden

Epiphyllum 'Monastery Garden' bloomed in my lath (shade) house

I called this floral arrangement, created from plants growing in my garden, "tropical punch"


Epiphyllum 'King Midas' also bloomed in my lath house this summer

This succulent bed, on a moderate slope in the southwest area of my garden, finally came together this year

The Agapanthus at their summer peak

Deconstruction of Agave mitis 'Multicolor's' bloom stalk


A sweet hummingbird alighted in the Ginkgo tree and gave me a chance to catch a photo

A magnificent flush of flowers from Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid' in my back border

Photos of the Pollination Garden planted by South Coast Botanic Garden during the summer.  The floriferous display shown here was meant to be temporary.  It's recently been replanted with native plants to bring in future pollinators.

Sunflowers (Helianthus annuus) and Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta) picked from my cutting garden


When I lifted the patio's outdoor rug to check for lizards before I flattened it out, I was surprised to find another visitor, which quickly left for greener pastures

My cutting garden at its summer peak

'Luna' was the undisputed star of this year's dahlia parade


Sun rising above a thick layer of clouds covering the Los Angeles harbor

Unexpected damage to the agaves in one succulent bed when the tree trimming service laid plastic tarps directly over them while pruning the tree above.  Lesson learned!

Giant trolls created from wood pallets visit South Coast Botanic Garden


My husband and I visited The Getty Center for the first time in 7 years when my sister-in-law was in town

I spent most of my time at The Getty in the Central Garden

Hibiscus acetosella 'Haight Ashbury' surprised me.  Its flowers last only a day but the buds open up on successive days.

After giving us a scare early in the year, Pipig gave us another one as we headed into the holiday season.  Antibiotics helped but the vet hasn't yet given her a clear bill of health.

I visited Sherman Gardens with blogger friend Hoover Boo.  We were both enamored with these umbrellas.


I went Christmas shopping for a friend at Flora Grubb Gardens in Marina Del Rey - then went back and bought myself a gift too

We got our first decent rain of the season just before Christmas.  Our total since October 1st now stands at 2.22 inches.  There's an 85% chance of light rain beginning in the wee hours on Saturday.

I'm looking forward to the new year, facing new projects and, hopefully, visiting new gardens.  Best wishes for a wonderful new year for you and your family as well.

All material © 2012-2023 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

2023 was a busy year in the garden

I started to compile a summary of all the projects I tackled this year (several with the generous assistance of my husband) but I gave up trying to identify them all.  However, I did make a list of many of the most prominent ones.

Last January, it was all about pruning back my largest shrubs.

Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' recovers well from even severe pruning; however, its new growth is dense, which promotes insect problems that disfigure the foliage.  I'd hoped that last January's pruning would be good for at least 2 years but the foliage looks bad again, perhaps because I failed to spray it with Neem oil at regular intervals.  Last January I pruned Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' and Leucadendron 'Chief' as well but the only issue with those plants is that nothing can stop them from shooting sky high.

Beginning in February, I began removing a variety of plants I identified in a post on January 27th.

Didelta 'Silver Strands' had lovely foliage and bright yellow blooms but it spread out of control in my back border.  As I didn't have a convenient spot to transplant it, I tried taking divisions, which were only nominally successful.  I finally filled its former space with Cistus landifer 'Blanche' in October (shown on the right). 

Duranta 'Gold Mound' got much bigger than it was supposed to.  After we removed it, I planted a Leucospermum 'California Sunshine' there (shown on the right).  It's supposed to grow 4-6 feet tall by 4-6 feet wide.  I'm hoping to keep it to the lower end of that spectrum.

Jacaranda 'Bonsai Blue' (shown left at its worst) was a candidate for removal.  Instead, I pruned it hard.  It still didn't bloom but it did look much better and it shot up in height again following the tropical storm in August.  It's starting to drop its leaves now but I'm going to give it another spring to produce some blooms.

The Lavandula angustifolia planted around the faux bird bath in the cutting garden looked scruffy and was removed.  I planted 3 Didelta 'Silver Strands' divisions there as shown in the middle photo.  Only one survived and, as self-seeded Dichondra is taking over the area, I'll try replanting the Dildelta in the succulent bed slated for renovation later this winter.

My husband removed the bower vines (Pandorea jasminoides) that came with the house from the front arbor.  We've elected to leave it bare to let the contents of the large containers below stand out.

I'd planted swaths of Sesleria 'Greenlee's Hybrid' in both the back and front gardens.  Over the years the ornamental grass got increasingly scruffy.  In the back garden (shown right), I filled the area with a variety of succulents.

Not much got done during the middle of the year.

Echiums are tip-pruned but eventually they get woody.  After over 8 years in the ground, this Echium candicans 'Star of Madeira' was well beyond its prime.  Luckily, I found a good-sized replacement in a 2-gallon pot.  I'm not sure it'll bloom this spring but I'm hopeful it'll offer a good showing in 2025.

Even though fall wasn't particularly cool this year, project activity stepped up as I began my end-of-summer cleanup and prepared for fall planting.

I have to say I loved the "wall" of Aeoniums planted next to the Acacia 'Cousin Itt below Leucadendron 'Pisa' when the display was at its best (as shown on the left).  But everything was looking overgrown and sad this fall so I cut back the Acacia hard and pulled most of the Aeoniums.  A variety of smaller, low-growing plants are working to get themselves established (right).

Three of my Agaves produced bloom stalks in 2023 and all eventually came down.  I harvested a dozen-plus bulbils produced by Agave 'Blue Glow' (shown on the left).  Agaves are generally monocarpic but the 'Blue Glow' hasn't declined so it remains in place for now.  It even has large pups growing out its right side.

While doing a general cleanup of my north-side dry garden, I dismantled the terracotta "bird bath" planter to allow Agave ovatifolia to stand out.  I planted the bowl portion with Dutch Iris bulbs and it currently sits under the Leucadendron 'Pisa' in the back garden.  The urn portion now sits in a bed in the front garden.

One of 2 remaining Auranticarpa rhombifolium shrubs that originally comprised part of the hedge running along the street died.  My husband removed it.  It still awaits replanting.  I took cuttings of Echium handiense to plant there, along with an Agave 'Mediopicta Alba' that needs moving.

The Echium webbii in the back garden (left) turned woody in just 4 years time.  I pulled it out and replaced it with another one in a 4-inch pot.  It's more than doubled in size in just 3 months.

Psoralea pinnata (aka Kool-Aid bush) was scruffy when it bloomed this year and didn't look any better afterwards.  It's another shrub that wants tip-pruning, which means it gets woody over time.  I haven't replanted the area (right) as I need several hours to cut back the ivy that spreads relentlessly up the back slope into the main level of the garden.  A neighbor told me Psoralea self-seeds but I haven't seen any sign of that.

There were 6 roses planted along the curved walkway adjacent to the garage when we moved in.  Once drought conditions grew more difficult and the ornamental pear tree grew to shade the area much of the year, they struggled.  One sad example is shown on the left.  I finally threw in the towel and removed all of them, replanting with more drought and shade tolerant plants, which have yet to fill out.  The urn portion  of the "bird bath" planter formerly in the north-side garden ended up here too.

My fall cleanup was facilitated by handing off Agave bulbils and succulent cuttings to a local representative of the local Cactus & Succulent society.

I didn't keep any of the Agave vilmoriniana bulbils when I cut down the stalk in July as I still had some of variegated ones harvested from a friend's agave in 2022.  However, I harvested enough bulbils of Agave mitis 'Multicolor' in July to fill 2 flats to give away, keeping only a handful for myself.  Agave 'Blue Glow' produced far fewer bulbils.  I kept a half dozen and gave another 6-pack in addition to the flats, a large Agave 'Blue Flame' "pup", and a mix of other succulents to the Cactus & Succulent society representative in October.

December was more about planting but I did squeeze in a couple of final projects.

I removed the Agave attenuata 'Raea's Gold' that was crowding the Aloe vanbalenii x ferox next to it in the back garden.  The Agave mother plant was finally potted up to develop roots earlier this week.

The 2 'Cousin Itt' Acacias planted in the southeast corner of the back garden got a thorough pruning for perhaps the first time since they were planted in 2012.  I planted 3 of the pups of Agave attenuata 'Raea's Gold' along the hidden pathway behind the Acacias.

January 2024 will probably kick off much as January 2023 did, with pruning efforts.  I need to work off the two pounds that Christmas sweets contributed to my waistline.  But first, Pipig and I have yet another trip to the vet today.

All material © 2012-2023 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party