Wednesday, May 31, 2023

More butterflies!

Although I planned to drop in at South Coast Botanic Garden's SOAR exhibit once more before it closes, I hadn't expected to do that again in May.  However, I bowed out of other plans with a friend as I've continued to feel crummy.  She wanted to stop by prior to my birthday anyway so I booked tickets to the butterfly exhibit, which is about five miles from my home.

It was sunnier than it'd been at the time of my earlier visit and the butterflies were much more active.  The butterfly pavilion was also a lot more crowded with people.  I attempted a few videos but they were horrid, even after editing; however, my friend sent me one of hers.  The large Blue Morpho (Morpho plieides) were the primary focus.

Here's a closeup of a Morpho for reference:

This one settled on the pavilion's information desk, where its beauty could be easily admired

The majority of my photos captured butterflies I photographed earlier in the month but there were several new ones.  SCBG gets new deliveries of butterfly chrysalises every week.  These hatch on their own schedules and are released into the pavilion when they're flight-ready.

This is a Giant Owl butterfly (Caligo telamonius memnon) with wings closed and open.  I think this was the first time I've seen one with its wings open.

I spotted this female Grecian Shoemaker (Catonephele numilia) on a child's cap.  The female and male members of the species look nothing alike.

This Julia butterfly (Dryas iulia) blended in with the flowers it sipped from almost perfectly

This is a Gray Cracker (Hamadryas februa)

I featured a Ruby-spotted Swallowtail (Papilio anchisiades) with its wings closed in my prior post.  This one feeding from a Cosmos had its wings wide open.

The green and brown Malachite butterfly (Siproeta stelenes) is one of my personal favorites

I noticed something that raised alarm bells during my visits to the exhibit this year.  On both occasions, a large number of the small children inside the pavilion had negative reactions to the butterflies when they fluttered by.  Some screeched (not in a happy way) while others moved away or sought protection from an adult.  I know that much of Los Angeles County is an asphalt jungle and fewer children have close interactions with wildlife of any kind here but this disturbed me.  Butterflies are, almost by definition, magical creatures and I'd expect children to gravitate toward them rather than be repelled.  If there are children in your household or elsewhere in your family or neighborhood, please invite them into your gardens if butterflies are present.  And, if there are exhibits like this one near by, take them if you can - or encourage local schools to do so.  I don't want to imagine a future generation that fears the most beautiful things nature has to offer.

I've yet to see any native butterflies in my own garden yet this year.  Hopefully, they're just waiting for warmer temperatures.

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


Monday, May 29, 2023

In a Vase on Monday: Going all in on pink

A close friend stopped by on Saturday bearing gifts.  These included peonies!  She knows I love them and that I've had next to no luck growing them so, if they're available locally as cut flowers near my birthday, she brings me a bundle.  This year's bundle may be the best yet.


There were 5 peonies in the bundle, all of which were still in bud when my friend purchased them earlier that morning.  One was already opening when she arrived at my house but, even tucked into my cool, dark laundry room, all were fully open when I arranged them on Sunday.

I wanted to embellish the peonies without in any way competing with them.  I also needed plants with tall stems so I focused on 2 clusters of particularly vigorous Alstroemeria.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left:  noID pink Alstroemeria, Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple', Orlaya grandiflora, and pink and white peonies

The materials in the second arrangement came entirely from my garden.  The inspiration was the "purple" snapdragons in my cutting garden, which badly needed cutting back to promote another flush of bloom.   The snapdragons certainly don't look purple but they look redder than they are in these photos.  I'd call them a dark cherry pink.

I'd originally designated this as the back view of the arrangement but I decided I preferred  its uncluttered appearance to the other, fussier side

Newly designated back side, dressed up with Hebe 'Wiri Blush' and Nigella papillosa

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left:  more noID pink Alstroemeria, Antirrhinum majus 'Chantilly Purple', Cuphea hybrid 'Starfire Pink', Hebe 'Wiri Blush', and Nigella papillosa

While I can't say my sweet peas are blooming with abandon, they're definitely more prolific than they were two weeks ago.  I've given three jars of sweet peas mixed with larkspur (Consolida ajacis), love-in-a mist (Nigella papillosa), and white lace flower (Orlaya grandiflora) to neighbors and friends.  I've also cut more for myself this week.

This small vase on my kitchen island contains only sweet peas and larkspur.  The sweet peas visible in this shot are Lathyrus odoratus 'Oban Bay', 'Blue Shift', and 'Erewhon'.

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, May 26, 2023

Under the weather

I've been under the weather, literally and figuratively.  Our heavy marine layer has been a persistent presence since early April.  At best, we get a little sun in the late afternoon.  On the positive side, we've picked up about 0.08/inch of precipitation in the process in the past week.  On the negative side, for someone who's lived in sunny Southern California her entire life, the persistent gloom is getting old.

Photo of my south side garden looking southeast toward the invisible Los Angeles harbor

From a figurative perspective, I've been fighting with my knee problem for a couple of weeks now.  A compression sleeve has helped there but then last week I developed an incessant cough.  I tested negative for COVID, but whether I have a sinus infection, an out-of-control allergy, or something else is unclear.  I saw a Nurse Practitioner and we developed a multi-faceted plan but I still feel crummy.  Oddly, however, I seem to cough less when working outside than I do sitting at my computer.

Before and after shots of my back slope looking up from the bottom of the stairway.  The photo on the left was taken last Saturday.  It was floriferous but treacherous to navigate.  Pruning the out-of-control bay laurel hedge is a job I leave to the gardeners but they could hardly get to it.  I cut back and pulled anything that impeded the stairway and the path between the hedge and the lower border as shown in the second photo.  Unfortunately, that included cutting down the Echium webbii, which was too big for the space.  I still need to remove its trunk but that's a task for another week.

After months of doing nothing, the cutting garden flowered, seemingly all at once.  Plants are crowding one another and falling over.  I cut back the contents of the raised beds enough to allow me to walk between them but I'll need to start pulling plants out soon to make room for the dahlia tubers that are sprouting in their temporary pots.  I'm also fighting mildew and rust, a byproduct of our high humidity levels.

In addition to working off and on in my own garden, I've continued to take daily walks around the neighborhood.  I thought this is a good time to share photos of one neighbor's front garden, which I consider a master class in planting on a slope.  It's looking particularly colorful at the moment.  Here are a couple of panoramic shots:

View of the long, sloped front garden border looking downhill

View of the same border from the other end

As the panoramic views hide a lot, I'm providing a series of closer shots.

Driveway adjacent area featuring noID orange roses, Pittosporum tobira, and Plectranthus neochilus

The next segment, featuring among other things: Calandrinia spectabilis, Polygala myrtifolia, red 'Knock Out' roses, Salvia leucantha, and Strelitzia

A closer look at the Geranium incanum, Oscularia deltoides, and Salvia leucantha surrounding the steps

Some sources indicate that Calandrinia spectabilis and C. grandiflora are synonyms for the same plant, others differentiate between the 2.  If they're different, I'm not qualified to clarify the distinction.

Repeats of many of the same plants with the addition of a variegated Agave americana, Echium handiense, Gazania, Lavandula multifida, Phlomis fruticosa, and Phormium

Closeup of red 'Knock Out' rose.  There are some pink ones in the mix elsewhere.

The succulents become more prevalent in the last sections of the border.  There's a wide range of Aeoniums, as well as Agaves, Aloes, a massive expanse of Bougainvillea, and Sencio amaniensis.

This final section is made up of succulents with Bougainvillea as a background.  There are a few Agave 'Blue Glow' (including one that bloomed earlier and shows no sign of dying back), Agave lophantha "Quadricolor', Aloe arborescens, and lots of Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire'.

That's it for me this week.  For those of you in the US, best wishes on Memorial Day and enjoy the unofficial start of summer (whether you have any sun or not).

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

Wednesday, May 24, 2023

It wasn't all about the butterflies

When I visited South Coast Botanic Garden earlier this month to tour the SOAR butterfly exhibit, I had time to kill before my timed entry slot opened.  Work on the new Children's Garden, expected to continue into 2024, is still disrupting my usual routes through the garden so my wandering was a little aimless and focused on the front areas.

These unidentified Iris were flowering alongside the koi pond in the Japanese Garden

Across the tram road from the main Desert Garden area, I saw this red bottlebrush and my jaw dropped.  In the inland valley of Southern California where I grew up, red bottlebrush were everywhere and I came to hate them but these were nothing like those.

This red-flowered bottlebrush, probably Callistemon viminalis, found in another area of the garden, is more like those I knew in childhood

Commentating on an Instagram post, David Feix, a Berkeley-based landscaper, guessed that this is Callistemon citrinus.  It's a beautiful thing and, if I had room for it, I'd definitely plant it in my garden.
In the Desert Garden, I spotted these saw leaf agaves (Agave xylonacantha) in bloom

I came across these succulents, an Aloe striata x maculata (left) and noID Dyckia (right), elsewhere in the garden

No labels were to be found to identify this interesting succulent and neither my cell phone plant ID function nor my online search helped clear up the mystery

It may not be apparent in my photo but this was the tiniest squirrel I've ever seen

An Echium wildpretii (aka tower of jewels)

I've personally named this area, which runs between SCBG's ampitheater and the Rose Garden, "Echium Lane" for the huge Echium candicans growing there

The Garden for the Senses hasn't been the same since its pre-pandemic days but there were some nice touches of color

Panoramic view of the Rose Garden
Top row: Roses 'Cherry Parfait', 'Oh My', and 'Rock & Roll'
Middle row: 'Lady Emma Hamilton', noID yellow, and noID bi-color
Bottom row: 'Gemini', noID coral, and 'Love Song'

3 Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy' trees line up in the background to the Rose Garden

A section of what is still labeled as the Volunteer Garden on SCBG's map

Chinese fringe trees (Chioanthus retusus) in full bloom border the garden's lower meadow opposite the Volunteer Garden

Another flower-filled bed bordering the meadow area (which was closed when I was there)


By the time I'd collected these photos, I discovered I needed to hustle to report to the SOAR exhibit.  If you missed the post that chronicled that visit, you can find it here.

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

Monday, May 22, 2023

In a Vase on Monday: A joy, even if brief

As a by-product of this year's heavier-than-usual rainfall, my back slope is now grossly overgrown.  It's difficult to walk down there at the moment as plants crowd the narrow concrete stairway from both sides.  On Saturday afternoon, I decided it was past time to cut back some of that exuberant growth.  I've only made a stab at that thus far but, while I was there, I noticed that the Matilija poppies (Romneya coulteri) were blooming.  Although I've repeatedly tried - and failed - to remove this plant since discovering what a thug it is, I can't ignore those lovely flowers.  They don't last long in a vase but I cut the freshest blooms I could find and created an arrangement around them.

Even the freshest of these poppies shatter within 2-3 days, collapsing in a pool of ruffled petals and yellow stamens.  They make quite a mess so I may regret my decision to cut so many of them for this vase.

Back view: I used my peach snapdragons as filler material because those flowers were overdue for deadheading.  The rust-resistant snapdragons aren't so resistant this year either.

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Achillea 'Moonshine', noID Lonicera (honeysuckle), Xylosma congestum, Antirrhinum majus 'Chantilly Peach', and Romneya coulteri


My second arrangement is something of a disappointment.  The purple foxgloves in my cutting garden have been begging for their time in the limelight and I had plenty of material to pair with them.  I tend to lean toward combinations of plants that coordinate closely in color but I took that a bit too far this week.  The resulting arrangement could have used more contrast to allow each element to show off against its companions.

All the stems I cut were tall so they demanded the heavy cut-glass vase.  Unfortunately, the center of the arrangement ended up looking like a dying star forming a black hole.

Back view: In retrospect, I should have skipped the Allium atropurpureum.  I looked for more Arthropodium cirratum (aka Renga lily) but the single stem I'd included was the only one with open flowers I could find. 

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Allium atropurpureum, Arthopodium cirratum (aka Renga lily), Coriandrum sativum, Digitalis purpurea 'Dalmatian Purple', Cotinus coggygyria 'Royal Purple', Nigella papillosa, Salvia canariensis var candidissima, and Orlaya grandiflora


Our marine layer remains a persistent presence, seldom clearing before late afternoon.  The high level of humidity it creates. combined with warmer afternoon temperatures, is encouraging mildew and rust among the densely planted flowers in my cutting garden, many of which now stretch above my head.  I think it may be time to assemble bouquets to give away before the flowers lose their appeal.


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

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