Monday, January 30, 2023

In a Vase on Monday: More than I know what to do with

At present, everywhere I turn there are tree aeoniums (Aeonium arboreum) coming into bloom.  The flowers aren't at all subtle.  They're large and an almost florescent shade of yellow.  As the flowers develop, the rosettes that produced them die back, giving the plants a shabby look.  However, as the flowers are in plentiful supply, choosing them to fill a vase was the logical choice this week. 

I cut stems of the humongous Leucadendron 'Chief' with its yellow and red flower-like bracts to accompany those florescent yellow Aeonium blooms.  The Leucadenron is easily 10 feet tall and covered in "flowers" right now.

Back view: I relied on the bright green foliage of Acacia 'Cousin Itt' as a filler

Top view

Clockwise from the left: Aeonium arboreum, Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt', and Leucadendron salignum 'Chief'

The arrangement I created two weeks ago in one of the new vases I bought myself lasted two weeks but, after finally tossing the remaining contents on Sunday, I had a vacant space in the front entry to fill.  The mauve-pink Grevillea sericea in my north side garden is currently covered in flowers so I decided to hunt down companions to support it.

I cut 2 dark stems of Leucadendron 'Ebony' to pair with the airy stems of the Grevillea, then sought other flowers that meshed with one or another of those elements.  The vase is the smaller of the 2 matching vases I purchased online in January.

Back view: As usual, I got carried away and crammed too much into the vase

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Dianthus barbatus, Hebe 'Purple Shamrock', Leucadendron 'Ebony', Grevillea sericea, Nemesia 'Banana Swirl', Pelargonium peltatum, Persicaria capitata, and Osteospermum '4D Pink'


We're expecting light rain during the morning hours followed by mostly sunny skies for the balance of the week.  With a long to-do list, I'm looking forward to getting a little work done in the garden this week.


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

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

Friday, January 27, 2023

Should it stay or should it go?

Last May, I published a post with the same title focused on whether or not I should remove a particular plant in my back garden.  This post features a host of plants that I'm looking at with a side-eye.  I have issues with plants in virtually every area of my garden.  I'll start with the back garden.


I like both the succulent foliage and the bright yellow blooms of Didelta 'Silver Strand' but it's an aggressive spreader.  The tag said it would grow 12" wide but it's easily twice that size despite repeated trimming.  I think it needs another home but, until I find one, I'm planning to cut it back (again).

This dwarf Jacaranda 'Bonsai Blue' was the subject of my May 2022 post.  It's still here, partly because I never found anything to replace it and partly because I've a long-standing affection for Jacaranda trees.  At this time of year, the leaves turn a sickly yellow-green before they're replaced by new foliage..  Still lacking a replacement to fill this spot, my interim plan is to cut the tallest stem to improve the tree's proportions.

I've been pulling out the weedy foliage of what I think is Oxalis stricta for the last 2 months but I actually love the delicate flowers, which fit into the blue, white and yellow color scheme in this bed so I'm considering leaving them in place.  Am I crazy?

I planted a lot of Sesleria 'Greenlee Hybrid' in 2016 as edging material.  According to its tag it was projected to grow 8-12" tall and wide.  Some sources say it requires a light trimming annually and others that it can be mowed to the ground.  It haven't found either approach keeps it tidy.  I might try dividing the clumps and replanting it in some spots but I'm leaning toward digging it all up.


There's only one plant that's currently bothering me enough in my south side garden that I'm considering its removal.

The tall spiky plant in the middle of this photo is Dasylirion longissimum (aka Mexican grass tree).  It hasn't developed much of a trunk in the 6 years it's been in my garden and it's never bloomed but my real issue is that it seems out of place here.  It probably also doesn't have the space it needs and it's impossible to weed around it without getting stabbed.  Of course, getting it out of that area could be a literal pain.

I've substantially more concerns with the front garden.

I inherited 2 western redbuds (Cercis occidentalis) with the garden.  They sucker relentlessly and, even with pruning, look more gangly with every passing year.  The spring flowers are pretty and the foliage is attractive but I'm not sure they're worth keeping; however, their placement on a moderate slope surrounded by succulents will make taking them out somewhat difficult.

In the early days after moving here, I added a lot of Duranta repens 'Gold Mound'.  At the time, they were were sold as shrubs that grew 2-3' tall and wide.  Later I found tags on shrubs that looked identical with tags saying they could grow 2-20' tall.  The one on the left is too big for its space and partially hides the Grevillea 'Superb' behind it and the smaller one on the right is both too tall for its space and lanky.  They're on my list to go.

My beloved Echium candicans 'Star of Madeira' has become very woody.  Tip pruning hasn't kept it within bounds.  While it has a lot of fresh green foliage, it also has a lot of bare branches.  I'm going to take cuttings in early spring to get a start on replacing it.

This Grevillea 'Ned Kelly', one of 2 in my garden, isn't happy in this relatively shady area and I don't think the occasional flower it produces is worth leaving it in place

The white bower vines (Pandorea jasminoides 'Alba') on either side of the arbor over the front door came with the garden.  They've looked sadder with every passing year and this January's rain hasn't reversed that trend.  I've no idea what to use to replace them but, at this point, having nothing there would be an improvement.

I planted more Sesleria 'Greenlee Hybrid' along the bed shown here (photographed from 2 directions).  It looks even worse than the plants in the back garden.  I'm not sure what I'll do to fill in the empty space.  Adding creeping thyme might be the simplest solution.


The cutting garden has one possible candidate for eviction.

I'm not sure what I was thinking when I planted lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) here, although I like it when it's in bloom even if the faux birdbath gets lost in the middle.  We had to hack it back when we replaced our water pipeline last year.  It's looking pretty woody now so I'm thinking it may be time to replace it with something more manageable.

The final three candidates are found on the north side of the house.

I underestimated how big this Grevillea lavandulacea 'Penola' would get when I moved it to the narrow space between the concrete block stair and the fence separating us from a neighbor.  It needs frequent pruning to keep it from encroaching on the stairway leading down the back slope.  However, it blooms well despite all that pruning so I'm not sure I can bring myself to remove it.

This Psoralea pinnata (aka Kool-Aid bush) is another plant meant to be kept in shape through tip-pruning but it's become very leggy.  I'll see how it looks when in blooms in late spring before I do anything.  It's supposed to readily self-seed but I've seen no signs it's been so inclined.

This mass of prostrate rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) is healthy but it's taking up a lot of space that could be given to more interesting plants.  I probably wouldn't remove all of it but I've been considering reducing its size substantially since last year.


If you have views on any of these, please share them.  I can't possibly remove them all of them at once so whatever comes of my evaluation will be approached in stages over the course of the year.

What about you?  Do you have any plants begging to be booted out?

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

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

Seeking Inspiration

Even in coastal Southern California, January is not a particularly exciting time of year in the garden.  I've got holes to fill all over my garden.  While I've ideas in mind for at least some areas, I know that the shelves of local garden centers tend to be relatively bare at this time of year.  I nevertheless paid a visit to my local store hoping to find inspiration to fill the empty half-barrel my husband bought me as a Christmas present.  Unfortunately, I found little that appealed to me.

The shelves really were quite bare

Rather than go home empty-handed, I selected seasonal plants as temporary fillers.

The barrel sits in the front garden in a bed partially covered by the canopy of our Magnolia tree so it's in partial shade.  The bed has a variety of foundation shrubs and the soil is so riddled with roots I've found it difficult to establish anything in the bare area around them.

I filled the barrel with packaged soil, planting mix, and pumice to improve drainage.  I planted Pericallis 'Senetti Violet Bi-color', Calibrachoa 'Cabaret Sky Blue', and Viola 'Penny Peach Jump-up'.


I'd hoped to see a new flowers popping up in my garden on their own following the heavy rain we had during the early part of the month but the reality is they're creeping in all so slowly.  It hasn't been warm enough yet to get things moving quickly in spring's direction.

Recent arrivals include: Top row - Arctotis 'Pink Sugar' and Echium handiense (propagated from cuttings)
 Middle row - noID paperwhite Narcissus
Bottom row - Senna artemisioides and what I think is Narcissus 'Geranium'


Unlike my perennials and bulbs, some things are moving along at a quicker pace.

The bloom stalk of my largest Agave 'Blue Glow' grows taller by the day and is now nearly straight


My thanks to all who offered good wishes for my cat's recovery.  We still have to look at the potentially serious issues underlying the sudden onset of her medical distress last week but, at least for now, she's stabilized and seemingly much more comfortable than she was.

She still likes to find a pool of sun to bask in and, because she had trouble jumping onto surfaces, like her favorite sleeping area at the foot of our bed, my husband built her a ramp out of cardboard and leftover carpet.  Her aim has improved when jumping but she's still using the ramp on occasion.


As this post is already a hodge-podge of topics, I'll throw in another photo of the view from my back garden at dawn on Sunday to brighten your day.

View looking northeast from our back garden


Best wishes for a happy hump day!

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

Monday, January 23, 2023

In a Vase on Monday: A mix of sunshine and the blues

Although the rain let up last week and sunshine returned, it was a difficult week for other reasons.  My 15 year old cat, Pipig, suddenly showed signs of severe medical distress Tuesday night.  When her symptoms failed to resolve, we took her to an urgent care veterinary clinic the next morning and back again later in the week.  Without going into details, they did what they could and my husband and I did what we could to care for her.  While euthanasia was discussed as she showed signs of ongoing decline, she improved markedly between Saturday night and Sunday morning and continues to show slow progress.  We still have serious health issues to explore but for now I'm looking at those improvements in a positive light.  Meanwhile, my ability to focus on gardening or anything else may remain fuzzy for a time.  Waking up to news of yet another mass shooting on Sunday, in Los Angeles County no less, didn't help my outlook any either.

I was up and about early enough Sunday morning to catch this view from the back garden before the sun rose


I selected Leucadenrons for an arrangement this week because finding material to accompany them didn't require much thought.

Somehow, I always seem to have flowers available in yellow, coral and orange colors

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt', Corokia x virgata 'Sunsplash', Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream, Leucadendron salignum 'Summer Red', L.s. 'Winter Red', and Grevillea 'Superb'

I threw a few leftover stems into this little cactus-style vase for the kitchen windowsill


Prompted by January's heavy rains perhaps, Echium handiense offered a handful of early season flowers this week so I plunked them into a vase for the kitchen island.

The Echium flowers have pink spots at the base of their blue petals, which makes the choice of pink-flowered complements an easy one

Back view:  The noID Ceanothus in the back garden is already sporting a few blooms but I also cut some Ceanothus stems in the front garden as foliage fillers.  Several years following the removal of a half-dead Ceaonthus hedge there, the plant appears to be attempting a comeback.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Argyranthemum 'Armamis Bi-color Rose', Boronia crenulata ' Shark Bay', noID Ceanothus, and Echium handiense 'Pride of Fuerteventura'

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

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

Friday, January 20, 2023

Winter Foliage Highlights

Rain, especially heavy rain played on repeat over weeks, does a lot to freshen a garden in drought-afflicted Southern California.  With the rain now done for the foreseeable future (i.e. at least two weeks), it seemed an appropriate moment to take stock.  I focused on foliage and, not surprisingly, succulents.

Wide shot of my south side garden, which predominantly, but not exclusively, consists of succulents

Closeup showing Agave 'Blue Flame' (front), A. 'Blue Glow' (left, background), and A. americana var. mediopicta 'Alba' (right, background)

A second closeup, featuring more 'Blue Glow' Agaves, backed up another Agave 'Blue Flame' and a second A. mediopicta 'Alba'

This is a closeup of my largest Agave 'Blue Glow'.  You'll notice that it's now sporting the start of a bloom stalk.   I'm surprised it took so long to do so.  It sprouted pups from its side over 6 months ago and its leaves gradually flattened afterwards, both signs of pending bloom.  

I took this photo of an Agave 'Blue Flame' in the street-side bed from the area behind it.  This view emphasizes its wavy leaves.

These are my largest Agave ovatifolia.  The one on the left is my oldest, planted in 2012.  It might be 'Frosty Blue', although I didn't have it labeled as such.  The 2 photos on the right are different views of my Agave ovatifolia 'Vanzie', planted in 2015 from what I vaguely recall was a 4-inch pot.

This clump of Agave attenuata on my back slope was started from pups taken from my front garden.  Those pups are in turn generating pups of their own, a small number of which are shown on the right.

It only takes cooler temperatures and a little rain to pump up the Aeoniums.  Clockwise from the upper left is one of the dozens of clumps of green Aeonium arboreum in my garden, A. 'Cabernet', A. 'Sunburst', and A. 'Zwartkop'.  The clump of 'Cabernet' was accidentally beheaded when I had our trees trimmed.  I planted it in a sunnier location and its promise was realized.


But succulents aren't the only plants that are flaunting their fresh foliage.

This is the mass of 3 Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' on the south end of the back garden.  I cut it back several months ago and moved the ceramic fish up in front of them.  You can barely see the front tip of of one of the 3 fish here as the others have been completely swallowed up again.

Cordyline 'Can Can' seems to be happiest in a pot

Drimia maritima (aka sea squill) has responded to the rain by reappearing, as it always does.  I have 5 bulbs planted at the bottom of the slope.  I should have clustered some more closely but, with time, hopefully they'll multiply on their own.  I never got any blooms last fall but maybe they'll do better with the increased rain this year. 

Echium webbii (left) has flushed out again, showing off its silvery best.  A noID Echium (possibly E. candicans) self-seeded along our south property line (right).

Hebe 'Purple Shamrock' is at its best this time of year

Leucadendron 'Ebony' has been enveloped by Leucadendron 'Chief' again but you still can't miss that dark foliage.  The latter will be pruned once it finishes "flowering."

On the back slope, calla lily foliage (Zantedeschia aethiopica) has popped up everywhere.  I had only 1 or 2 flowers last year but I'm hoping for better this season.


We also have a fresh green carpet of moss in a few areas.

The picture on the left is of a moss-covered path in the front garden.  The photos on the right were taken on the back slope.

Another storm, lighter than the previous ones, moved through Northern and Central California on Wednesday and, unexpectedly, reached far enough south to give us another 0.05/inch of rain yesterday.  My "water year" to date rain total (counted from October 1, 2022) is 10.83 inches.  If we get more before our rainy season ends in early April, it may be a good year.  Earlier forecasts suggested that we'd be relatively dry from January through March but, as January was a big surprise, maybe the rest of the season will be too.  At present, all I can say for certain is that we've already had more rain this water year than we had in total during the last one and more than double what we received the year before that.  In the meantime, I captured what rainwater I could for later use.

All 3 of my rain tanks are full so I have 475 gallons of rain stored for use as needed later in the year.  I've also been collecting rain from the rain chain in plastic trugs like those shown here and using their contents to water the drier areas of my garden.  I've already filled and emptied these several times over during the course of this month's storms.  I'm in the process of redistributing the contents of these trugs now.

Best wishes for a pleasant weekend.  We're looking at ten mostly sunny days ahead here, which is a nice change after a nearly continuous stretch of rain.

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