Monday, March 27, 2023

In a Vase on Monday: Sunshine and blue skies

We've had a welcome break in the rain since last Wednesday.  More rain is expected Tuesday night into Thursday morning this week but it's been nice to have sunshine and blue skies again in the interim.  Our climate usually delivers plenty of both and I have to admit I've missed them, much as I've appreciated all the rain we've had this year.

My first arrangement was inspired by the Dutch Iris 'Sapphire Beauty'.

The yellow flame on 'Sapphire Beauty's' falls almost requires a pairing with yellow flowers.  The Leucospermum 'Goldie' stems I cut last week were still in great shape so I reused them in this vase.

Back view: I keep using stems of Acacia 'Cousin Itt' as my foliage filler because the plants need pruning and I can't bring myself to throw away all those puffy yellow flowers

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt', Freesia, Limonium perezii, Iris hollandica 'Sapphire Beauty', and Leucospermum 'Goldie'


My second arrangement was inspired by the calla lilies blooming on my back slope.  Last year's poor rainfall gave me just two blooms but this is clearly going to be a much better year.

In retrospect, I should've varied the heights of the lilies more

Back view: I limited the floral colors to yellow and white 

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Argyranthemum frutescens 'White Butterfly', Freesia, noID Narcissus, and Zantedeschia aethiopica

I recycled some of the Alstroemeria from last week's pink and white arrangement and cut a few new blooms to fill out a small vase for the kitchen island.  The 'Lady Jane' species tulips are still plentiful but I couldn't bring myself to cut any more.

Views from 3 sides.  The contents include 2 varieties of Alstroemeria, Argyranthemum 'Aramis Bicolor', Artemisia californica, and dark pink and white Freesia

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

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

Friday, March 24, 2023

Foliage with fanfare

My love for flowers is well-documented.  Nevertheless, I value my foliage plants as well.  I've a substantial collection of plants grown specifically for their foliage.  However, with the recent and somewhat unexpected appearance of masses of flowers on my Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt', I was struck by the number of foliage plants that offer attractive flowers as well. 

'Cousin Itt' has a large presence in my garden as shown in the top 2 photos.  The plants have produced tiny buds in the past and a few small puff-ball blooms but never anything like the masses of flowers they're flaunting this year.  I've frankly never seen these plants with abundant blooms like this either in person or online.

I started looking at other foliage plants that offer floral "benefits" even if only briefly.  I've listed some that came to mind below.  (Note: most of the floral shots were pulled from my photo archives as the majority of the plants shown here bloom in warmer weather.)

I have several Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' shrubs, as well as other Abelias.  All of them produce small, bell-shaped white blooms that manage to accent the foliage without overwhelming it.

I've 6 Agonis flexuosa (aka peppermint willows), all inherited with the garden.  In summer they produce long, trailing stems studded with white flowers.  As an aside, the foliage stems are a favorite of the local crows when building their nests.

I also inherited 4 Arbutus 'Marina' (aka strawberry trees) with the garden.  I suspect most of these trees are selected for their shape and trunk color but they produce clusters of beautiful lantern-shaped coral-colored flowers.  The hummingbirds love them too.

I discovered that Arthropodium cirratum (aka Renga lilies) do well in dry shade and, as I've divided the clumps many times, I've accumulated a lot of them.  They produce graceful sprays of white flowers accented by touches of yellow and lavender in May-June.

I don't actually like most succulent flowers.  Crassula multicava 'Red' (aka royal carpet jade and fairy crassula) is an exception, even when the dainty pink and white flower sprays sprawl over surrounding succulents.

I planted several Drimia maritima (aka sea squill) at the bottom of my slope.  The bulbs were huge and very heavy.  They produce attractive wavy green foliage when the rain arrives in the fall.  The foliage dies back when faced with summer's heat.  The leaf-less white flowers jump up in August-September.

It's easy to forget that Hebe 'Purple Shamrock' blooms.  I frequently use the foliage in flower arrangements but I rarely remember to photograph the flowers.

There's a Laurus nobilis (bay laurel) hedge separating our property from the neighbor's along our back slope (also inherited with the garden).  I didn't even notice that it blooms in late winter-early spring until a couple of years ago.

I planted 2 Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' shrubs in our front garden in 2014 after we'd removed our front lawn.  They're near the top of my list of favorite plants.  The sprays of flowers they produce in summer are simply a bonus.

I have lots of Lomandra but the wider leaves of Lomandra hystrix 'Tropic Belle' appealed to me when I tripped across it at a nursery in 2018.  The flowers of my Lomandra 'Breeze' and 'Platinum Beauty' are relatively inconspicuous so I wasn't prepared for the flowers of this one.  They dry well too.

Melianthus major (aka honey bush) has impressive serrated leaves.  I cut it to the ground each year and it bounces right back.  It's already producing its first rust-colored flowers, although the second and third photos above were taken in prior years as this years blooms are just getting started.

This hedge of Laurus ilicifolia (aka Catalina cherry) on the south side of our property line also came with the garden.  Its flowers are attractive, as are its berries, although the latter are messy, prone to self-seeding, and loved by rats.

We've significant stretches of Xylosma congestum hedges both along the street and lining the main level of the back garden.  It's the best of the many hedge materials installed by prior owners.  I didn't notice its blooms until a few years ago when it was swarmed by bees.  The berries are attractive too.

I've misgivings about some blooms on foliage plants, most notably those borne by agaves.  Most agaves are monocarpic and therefore die after flowering.  Yes, they often produce pups and/or bulbils as a byproduct of the process but it usually takes years before those grow large enough to make anything near the statement their parents did.

This year I have 3 agaves with bloom stalks.  From left to right, they're Agave 'Blue Glow', A. mitis 'Multicolor', and A. vilmoriniana.  They'll leave big holes in the garden when they die off.  Oddly, however, my neighbor's 'Blue Glow', which bloomed last year, has not died out, even after she finally cut its bloom stalk down over a month ago.


Best wishes for a pleasant weekend, free of any weather-related drama.  It looks as though we have at least a short dry spell ahead of us here, for which I'm grateful.

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

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Hey, it's spring (Bloom Day followup)

It's the time of year when new blooms appear almost daily.  The steady series of atmospheric rivers has put a damper on new projects (pun intended) so subject matter for blog posts is limited.  However, as I snap photos from my garden on an ongoing basis, there are plenty of those to share.  This post is basically a series of pretty pictures.


The Anemone coronaria in general have made a poor showing so far this year, despite our ample rain.  The corms of the blooms shown here were purchased as 'Lord Lieutenant' but these flowers are missing the fluffy rows of petals characteristic of that variety.

Aristea inaequalis is difficult to photograph.  The plant's flowers are an especially vivid shade of blue than I wasn't able to accurately capture.

I've been complaining about the failure of my hellebores to bloom for 2 months now.  Finally, Helleborus 'Anna's Red' (left) and H. 'Phoebe' (right) have come through.  They may not provide much of a show but at least I can stop whining.

Iris douglasiana 'Santa Lucia' (aka Pacific Coast Iris) is just getting started

My Dutch Iris are off and running at last.  As usual, Iris hollandica 'Sapphire Beauty' is the first of these to bloom, albeit weeks later than it bloomed last year.

Leucospermum 'Goldie' was also late this year.  Its buds have been taunting me for more than 2 months.

The buds of Leucospermum 'Spider Hybrid' haven't fully opened but this phase is my favorite anyway

I planted bulbs of new-to-me Narcissus 'Beautiful Eyes' this fall.  This variety is reported to be well adapted to warmer climates like mine.

Scilla peruviana is a reliable bloomer.  I'd planned to divide the clump last year but never got around to it.  I think that's definitely on the to-do list this year.

Tulips aren't something you commonly find in gardens in my area.  This species tulip, Tulipa clusiana 'Lady Jane', has bloomed 4 years in a row now.

I inherited Zantedeschia aethiopica (calla lilies) with the garden.  Almost all of them grow on the back slope, disappearing with summer's soaring temperatures and reappearing with our rainy season.  I had just 2 calla lily blooms last year but it's looking as though this is going to be a much better year for them. 

Although our navel orange tree is covered with new blossoms, it's the fruit that currently commands attention.

The oranges are relatively few in number this year but huge in size.  This tree was also inherited with the garden.  The fruit ruined store-bought oranges for us.

The total rain for the season-to-date in my location is 19.97 inches and more rain is expected throughout the day and into Thursday morning.  I checked the running record we've kept since we installed a weather station on our roof in 2015.  This year's total already exceeds anything we've previously recorded.  Our previous highs were 18.56 inches in 2017 and 19.63 inches in 2019.  Our lowest totals were 3.81 inches in 2018 and 4.12 inches in 2021.  If our record is any indication, heavy rain in one year definitely doesn't signify a trend but I appreciate what we're getting now nonetheless.  Still, it's a cautionary tale when it comes to managing California's water resources.*

*For reference, all years noted here represent "water years," which are counted from October 1st in one calendar year through September 30th in the following calendar year.  Thus, the 2023 water year began October 1, 2022 and ends September 30, 2023.  As a practical matter, the bulk of our rain usually falls between November and early April.

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

Monday, March 20, 2023

In a Vase on Monday: It's Spring!

Despite the fact that yet another atmospheric river is moving in after spitting at us on and off all day yesterday, spring has clearly taken over my garden.  Of course, I got carried away when it came to putting together this week's floral arrangements...

Vase #1

This arrangement was inspired by Scilla peruviana, which burst into bloom last week.  I added 2 stems of Leucadendron 'Goldie', which is only just starting to unfurl more than 3 weeks behind its schedule last year.

Back view:  I used more of the flowering Acacia 'Cousin Itt' this week as a foliage filler

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt', purple and yellow Freesia, Leucospermum 'Goldie', and Scilla peruviana


Vase #2

I cut a stem of Hippeastrum 'Apple Blossom' as it was crowding another newly emerging stalk.  I should note that it looks very little like any of the 'Apple Blossom' photos I've seen online (one of which you can see here) so I suspect it was misidentified by the seller.

The back view looks like an entirely different arrangement

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: white Freesia, Grevillea 'Superb', Hippeastrum 'Apple Blossom' imposter, and Xylosma congestum

Vase #3

This arrangement was inspired by the 'Lady Jane' species tulips, blooming for a 4th year in a row!

Back view: Unfortunately, I think Hippeastrum 'Neon' detracts from my intended focus on the tulips

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Alstroemeria 'Inca Vienna', Anemone coronaria 'Rarity', Coleonema album, Tulipa clusiana 'Lady Jane', and Hippeastrum 'Neon'


This week's rain is expected to be heaviest Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday through Sunday should be sunny, although still on the cool side.  I hope so as a friend and I are planning a trip up to Santa Barbara to visit our favorite nurseries next weekend, a visit we've put off several times since February.


For more IAVOM posts, check in with our host, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden

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

Friday, March 17, 2023

Between storms

This rainy season has been an extraordinary surprise.  We were given a poor chance of rain again this year but storms nonetheless started piling up in January and kept on coming.  There was another strong "atmospheric river" late last week, which was followed by yet another one this week.

This is the view from my back garden last Sunday morning looking out at Angel's Gate, the entrance to the Los Angeles harbor.  The clouds were sitting atop the ocean and the harbor was invisible.

This photo was taken from the back garden looking northeast.  There was a little blue sky visible from this viewpoint but it quickly disappeared.  In the background on the left you can see the refineries spitting out their pollutants.

After years of severe drought, bemoaning the cold, damp conditions seems almost sacrilegious but I admit I rejoiced when we finally got a bit of sun and blue sky yesterday afternoon.  The soil is saturated, my rain collection tanks are full, and we've tallied more rain this season than we've had in several years.

I've recorded 18.65 inches of rain since our 2023 "water year" began October 1, 2022.  That's well above average for our rainy season in my location.  Other areas got considerably more.  Our rainy season generally comes to an end in early April.

With the last storm, my area is no longer considered in a drought status.

Before the last storm, we were still in the "abnormally dry" category but the western portion of Los Angeles County is now drought-free


Unlike me, the local critters had no trouble whatsoever with the damp conditions and cloudy sky.

I refilled the bird feeders and activity in the garden picked up dramatically

Three house finches monitoring the action at the feeder from the nearby Arbutus 'Marina'

Two finches, a mated pair perhaps, later moved to the feeder pole

The white crowned sparrows were also active at the feeder.  This one was surveying things from the Ceanothus below the feeder.

Of course, once the feeders were refilled a squirrel showed up.  I took this photo from inside my home office but I swear he knew I was looking at him.

He's quite the gymnast.  These feeders are set up to close the seed portals when anything heavier than a small bird attempts to eat from them.

He eventually gave up but managed to jump from the one feeder to the main pole, where he climbed atop the cage surrounding the central feeder

He clearly found something to eat but I couldn't make out what it was


I had an unexpected visitor come up our back slope by way of the canyon below as well.

This is Luna, a champion escape artist.  She and her family moved into a nearby home off a spur road months ago.  She periodically gets out their gate and into the canyon and from there seems to end up on my back slope and ultimately in my back garden.  I now have her family's number in my cell phone.

In addition, I've had near daily (or I should say nightly) visits by what I suspect is an entire family of possums.  They're less destructive than raccoons but nearly as annoying.  Although the invisible owls have reduced the local rabbit population, those voracious creatures are still paying periodic visits.

There's a ninety percent chance of yet an atmospheric river moving through from Monday into Wednesday. For the first time I can remember in the last ten years, I don't think I'm going to save the "extra" rainwater that flows down my rain chain.  I've nowhere else to store or dump it given how saturated my soil already is.  However, our current drought status shouldn't stop the state and local municipalities from furthering their efforts to capture and store rainwater.  The present abundance won't prevent future droughts - and one year of heavy rains isn't sufficient to restore our aquifers either.

Best wishes for a pleasant weekend.  I'm hoping for more sun!

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