Friday, April 28, 2023

Stopping in at Sherman Gardens

The trip a friend and I took to the South Coast Plaza Spring Garden Show last weekend was disappointing and we spent far less time there than we have in the past.  So, after an early lunch, we headed to Sherman Library & Gardens in nearby Corona del Mar.  It was a beautiful day with perfect weather, although the garden was very crowded.  We were lucky to find a parking spot on the street.

I've visited the gardens many times before.  Here's what drew my attention this time.

The Central Garden is replanted several times a year so there's almost always something new to see.  This time the beds surrounding the  middle of the display included a relatively monochromatic mix of Nemesia, Gerbera daisies, and foxgloves.  The Hippeastrum on the podium looked like 'Luna' to me but I didn't try to verify that. 

These plants were featured in the Mediterranean Garden.  The plant on the upper right is Sonchus palmensis, a giant relative of the humble dandelion.  Mine didn't bloom last year but it's looking promising this year.  The 2 Leucospermums shown in the bottom row attracted a lot of attention from visitors.

The Bromeliad Garden looked far sparser than I remember and I'm guessing that it was undergoing renovation

The Sun Garden was planted with lots of poppies this April

The statues, previously part of the Sun Garden, are currently part of the Formal Garden.  The way the pedestals were placed, some with plants hanging from their mid-sections, suggested ancient ruins.

The orchid display drew my attention.  All but one in this group were Cymbidiums.  I couldn't identify the one on the left in the middle row.

I'm in love with this rock orchid, which a friend who volunteers at this garden identified for me as Dendrobium speciosum.  I haven't found it in stock anywhere yet but I've put it on my wish list with one orchid grower.  If I find it, its cost may put it out of bounds but we shall see.

The Tropical Conservatory was especially hot and humid on this visit but the koi fish and turtles in the pond weren't bothered

The Tillandsia-covered flamingo stood just outside the entrance to the conservatory, which sported Medinella magnifica (lower left), as well as a variety of orchids

These shots were taken in the Specimen Shade Garden.  I was attracted to the pretty yellow Azalea.  There was a tag but I didn't catch the name.  It may be Rhododendron atlanticum x austrinum.  The begonias were looking a little sad but, due to the cooler temperatures we've had, that's true of many of mine as well.

While I saw only 2 of the mannequins dressed in flowers and greenery I'd expected at the South Coast Plaza Garden show, I was surprised to run into this one in Sherman's Tea Garden.  I expect the majority of the mannequins are displayed in the fashion-focused segment of South Coast Plaza, across the street from the mall area that hosted the garden show.

These photos were taken in the Succulent Garden, as were those in the next 3 collages

Plant IDs for many of the plants in this and other areas of the garden can now be found in the Fantastic Flora section of Sherman Garden's website

Agave attentuata 'Variegata' (left) and A. 'Sun Glow' (right)

I immediately fixated on this Agave in the late stages of its bloom/death cycle.  Its base had declined to the point that I can't ID it, although it looks like a larger version of the Agave below it, which I believe is Agave potatorum 'Kichiokan' (aka dwarf butterfly agave).  Instead of bulbils (plantlets), it's developed large seedpods.  I suppose it could be a Mangave of some kind but, if so, it's not one I recognize.

These are shots of plants I noticed that didn't fit neatly into any of the named garden areas.  Clockwise from the upper left: Abutilon, Hippeastrum, and 2 Japanese maples.


It's interesting to see how this garden changes from one visit to the next.  As it happens, I published a post on Sherman Gardens almost exactly a year ago.  If you're interested in drawing your own comparisons, you can view that post here.

That's it from me this week.  I'm struggling to keep up with my own garden as the weather warms.  The morning marine layer returned this week so we haven't had temperatures as hot as those we experienced last Friday but it's been warm enough to prompt more blooms and more weeds just as most of the bulb blooms head for the exit.  It's keeping me busy!

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

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

A facsimilie of a garden show

One of Southern California's largest (and flashiest) malls, South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, has been holding a spring garden show for thirty-three years.  I started attending somewhere around 2005, long before I began blogging.  In the early years, I enjoyed the shows, which offered small display gardens and vendors selling a wide variety of plants and garden-related materials.  I published my first posts on the show in April 2013, which you can find here and here.  By that time, I was already expressing frustration with what I perceived as a decline in the quality of the show's display gardens but the vendors remained a strong draw.  I expressed disappointment in 2014 as well but, by comparison to recent shows, plants and garden design had a much larger presence then (see post here).  In 2015, the mall's retailers took control of the show and the display gardens became more about selling their products than about gardens.  I didn't even post photos of my visit that year.  By 2016 the number of vendors had decreased dramatically but I continued to attend annually through 2019.  (You can view posts from this period here, here, here and here.)  I don't recall if the show was held during the pandemic years but in any case this year was the first time I've attended since 2019.

Even with lowered expectations, my friend and I were disappointed.  As usual, the centerpiece of the show was designed by Fiesta Parade Floats, an entity that produces floats of the Tournament of Roses Parade held annually in Pasadena, California on or about New Year's Day.

This display, called California Dreaming, was 25 feet tall.  This photo was taken from the third floor of the mall.

Closeups of the centerpiece display.  I assume that, like the Rose Parade floats, the display was covered in natural materials but I didn't confirm this.


As in prior years since 2015, the display "gardens" were more focused on selling furniture and decor items than garden design or plants.  The plants were peripheral at best.  I haven't bothered to show them all but I'm sharing my photos of the three award winners and a couple of others.  My apologies for the relatively poor clarity of the photos.  Taking photos inside a mall isn't easy.

The name given to this display was Traditional Flair Temptations.  It was described as a place to enjoy the low maintenance garden.  It received a 3rd place award but, in my view, it had the strongest connection to a real garden setting.

This one was called Modern Nature Escape.  It was described as an eco-friendly space to enjoy a low maintenance garden.  The structure was said to mimic a "repurposed shipping container."  It won the first place award.

This 2nd place winner was called Outside the Lines.  It was described as using "sexy, unique softscapes (to) calm the hard lines framing the gathering place."  There was fake grass, few plants and I hated it.

This one was called A Little Piece of Change.  It was described as an "upcycled garden' that provides opportunities to "lovingly tend your herb garden and then take a breather in the charming garden shed."

This one is called A Garden Foot Spaaa (their spelling).  The gardener is meant to feel the calm of the garden "at peace with low water and very little fuss."  An "old stock tank" to bathe one's feet is offered as a source of renewal, as well as a place to give dogs a bath.


The mall advertised fifteen displays of mannequins dressed in flowers but I only saw two in the show area.  I'm guessing the rest were placed in the fashion-focused mall area across the street, although I did run into one at a nearby botanic garden later the same day.

Mannequins dressed in greenery and flowers seems to be a "thing" at garden shows these days

3 days into the show, the flowers still looked good


This year, there were vendors on all three levels of the mall but there weren't as many as in prior years and most of my favorite vendors were no shows.

Orchids are always common at this show because it precedes Mother's Day.  Houseplants had a greater presence.  There were fewer outdoor garden plants for sale.

This was the only stall offering what I'd call bargains

This vendor offered monkey tail cactus (Cleistocactus colademononis) in small sizes for $15 and it's the only thing I regret not buying.  In fact, other than lunch, I didn't buy anything on this visit, which is probably a first.


Will I attend future shows?  Absent confirmation of some of my favorite vendors, like Mark Muradian Pottery and Geraniaceae, it's unlikely.


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

Monday, April 24, 2023

In a Vase on Monday: Going big

We had a couple of very warm days late last week and while that jump-started some flowers that have been reluctant to bloom, it's directed others to the nearest exit.  I factored both circumstances in putting together this week's arrangements.  That strategy also resulted in larger arrangements, requiring heavy vases to ensure that the contents wouldn't end up on the floor.

The peach foxgloves I planted from four-inch pots back in November cried out to be cut.  I cut three stems but misjudged just how tall they were.  Although I reduced their size, their height required taller accent plants to support them.

The foxgloves still tower over the rest of the vase's contents, even though I cut long branches of Grevillea to flesh out the arrangement

Back view, showing the tall heavy cut crystal vase I use relatively infrequently

Top view, which was harder to get than usual.  Even with a step-stool, I couldn't get a full view.

Clockwise from the upper left: Aeonium haworthii 'Kiwi Verde', Digitalis purpurea 'Dalmatian Peach', Grevillea 'Superb', and Xylosma congestum

The Dutch Iris were among the flowering plants that didn't appreciate temperatures soaring from the upper 60sF to a peak of 88F (31C).  I cut a lot of them for my second arrangement.  This arrangement isn't as tall as it is wide and heavy.  Although I tried to balance the weight of the floral stems I'd selected, I nearly tipped over the vase several times myself.  When that happened the fourth time as I was photographing it, I acknowledged the inevitable and crammed the cut stems into a much heavier vase made out of glass block.  However, the photos below show the contents in the original vase.

The Iris stems aren't heavy but the Echium and Leucospermum stems are very much so

Back view:  The Echium stems were cut from a self-seeded shrub that sits atop a slope along our southern property line

Top view:  One of the Leucospermum stems has twin flowers.  Most of this Leucospermum's stems produce only single flowers, or at least that's been my experience.

Clockwise from the upper left:  Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt', Echium candicans, Psoralea pinnata (which bloomed seemingly overnight this past weekend), Iris hollandica 'Sapphire Beauty', and Leucospermum 'High Gold' (formerly identified as 'Goldie' because that was how it was labeled at time of purchase)


I transferred some of the contents of last week's vases into two smaller vases because I couldn't bring myself to toss the stems that still looked good.


The two new arrangements earned price of place.  The second arrangement is shown in the glass block vase that replaced the lighter vase.


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

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

Friday, April 21, 2023

My favorite plant combinations (at the moment)

In spring it's hard not to fall in love with your garden, no matter how frustrated you might have been with it during the the winter or summer months.  This year, after all the unexpected rain we received, my garden seems more bountiful than ever and I appreciate everything it's giving to me.  Some vignettes have stood out as especially appealing and, as temperatures are expected to climb this weekend, at least temporarily, I thought I'd share them before they fall prey to rising temperatures.


I got the blue, white and yellow color mix I'd dreamed of in this area surrounding the fountain in the back garden.  The Freesias are mostly gone now but the Dutch Iris, 'Sapphire Beauty' and 'Mystic Beauty', are still going strong.  They're complemented here by Argyranthemum 'White Butterfly' and more blue flowers in the form of low-growing Felicia aethopica and the taller spires of Echium webbii.  Yellow touches are provided by Phlomis fruticosa and Argyranthemum 'Grandaisy Yellow'.  The wire cages protect Echinops and Eryngium from hungry rabbits.

I'd considered pulling out the Dutch Iris 'Eye of the Tiger' last year but I found I like how it plays off the brown stems and leaves of Aristea inaequalis, as well as its bright blue flowers.  It also complements the 3 Mangave 'Pineapple Express' planted in front of it.

This is a more extreme color mix than I usually prefer but it's become one of my favorites nonetheless.  It combines Arctotis 'Pink Sugar', Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', and Lotus berthelotii 'Amazon Sunset'.  There are even a handful of succulent flowers in the background that currently echo the pinkish-orange colors of the Arctotis.

I'd love this yellow-flowered Leucospermum all by itself but I appreciate the way its color is echoed by Arctotis 'Large Marge' in the background too.  I've always identified the Leucospermum as 'Goldie' because that's how it was labeled when I bought it but, after recently spending time looking at plants in this genus online, I now believe it's actually 'High Gold'.

Of course I also like the way the Leucospermum looks against a background of succulents when viewed from its other side

I'm happy with this unplanned mash-up of Melianthus major, backed by Arbutus 'Marina', and highlighted in front by Leucadendron 'Jester', Lobelia laxiflora, and Leucospermum 'Royal Hawaiian Brandi'.  Although the flowers of the Melianthus are largely hidden within the strawberry tree's canopy and the Lobelia is almost always out-of-control, it makes a pretty mix, especially as the Leucospermum's blooms develop further.

This combination is more congested than I'd like at present as Leucadendron 'Cloudbank Ginny' is too big for this spot and probably needs to move.  Still, I like the combination of Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream', Leucospermum 'Spider Hybrid', Narcissus 'Geranium', and Yucca gloriosa 'Variegata'.

Limonium perezii (sea lavender) mixes pleasantly with the foliage of Arthropodium cirratum, Graptopetalum 'Fred Ives', and self-seeded Lobularia maritima (sweet alyssum) and Osteospermum.  Within the next month, the Arthropodium (aka Renga Lily) will add elegant sprays of white flowers accented with small touches of lavender and yellow.

I love the mix of rockroses in this area: Cistus x skanbergi, C. 'Sunset', and C. 'Grayswood Pink'.  The hot pink flowers of Cistus 'Sunset' are only just getting started and that color will be echoed soon by Callistemon 'Hot Pink'Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple', visible when the bed is viewed from the opposite direction, also adds a complementary punch of color.

This view of my north side garden, photographed from the stairway leading down my back slope, drew my attention mainly because I'm finally getting a nice display of flowers from Callistemon viridflorus, which plays off the Osteospermum 'Double Moonglow' in front of it and the bright foliage of the persimmon tree in the background.  The Callistemon was kindly sourced and mailed to me by Tamara of Chickadee Gardens in October 2018 when I was unable to find it locally.

I'd be negligent if I didn't include at least one photo focusing on the mix of succulents in my south-side garden.  This photo highlights Agave 'Blue glow', A. 'Blue Flame', Aeonium 'Zwartkopf', A. 'Sunburst', and Crassula pubescens ssp radicans among other plants.

I'm happy with many of my containers too, particularly the barrels.

This barrel in my cutting garden contains Viola 'Penny Peach', noID Ranunculus, and Antirrhinum majus 'Chantilly Peach'.  The snapdragons are taking their time about blooming this year.

Also in the cutting garden, this barrel contains Digitalis 'Dalmatian Peach', noID Calibrachoa, and more Viola 'Penny Peach'

In my front garden, this barrel holds yellow and orange Calendula, noID Calibrachoa, another Digitalis 'Dalmatian Peach', and Argyranthemum 'White Chocolate'

This barrel contains Bacopa 'Double Indigo' (not readily visible in this shot), Nemesia 'Sunglow', and Scabiosa columbaria 'Deep Blue'.  There's also a Nepeta 'Blue Prelude', which isn't flowering yet but may be eaten to the ground by the neighborhood cats before it does.

This barrel, in heavier shade, contains Pericallis 'Violet Bi-color', Calibrachoa 'Cabaret Blue Sky', Viola 'Penny Peach', and Lobularia maritima (alyssum) in a variety of colors

This pot is barer than the others but, as I love everything blue, I'm still fond of it.  It contains Delphinium elatum 'Cobalt Dreams' and Nolana paradoxa.  The recently planted Nolana is supposed to spread quickly but, if it doesn't, I'll add a second groundcover.

My back slope and my cutting garden have been slow to get moving this spring, presumably because our temperatures have remained on the cool side.  I've been expecting both areas to burst into bloom any time now, especially as our temperatures are in the process of jumping.  I'll share closer looks at those areas once they take off.  In the meantime, best wishes for a pleasant weekend.

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