Friday, June 30, 2023

The sweet peas get booted

The mildew on my sweet pea vines had gotten worse.  Flowers were fewer and had shorter stems.  So I bit the bullet and pulled down the vines late Wednesday morning while the marine layer kept the temperature at a comfortable level.

This was what the raised planter containing the sweet pea vines looked like a week earlier



It took me over two hours to clear the raised planter of the vines and to yank out the thicket of self-seeded Erigeron karvinskianus and Oxalis weeds underneath them.  I filled one green waste bin with those materials alone.  Cutting the remaining presentable sweet pea flowers slowed me up a bit.

These are the front and back views of the first small vase full of flowers I cut.  Earlier in the week I also cut small bouquets for 2 friends I met for lunch and a next door neighbor recovering from surgery.

These are the front and back views of the bouquet containing the vines' final flowers, now sitting on the desk in my home office

I held onto some of the snapdragons that occupied one corner of the bed.  They'd been shaded by the sweet pea vines and the flowers stems were lanky.  I eventually pulled 3 of the 6 plants I had there.  The remainder may follow soon.


After the bed was cleared, I added fresh planting mix, mushroom compost and a basic dry fertilizer.

I mixed those materials in on Thursday after pulling the remaining sweet pea vine roots out


I now had room to allow the remaining five sprouted dahlia tubers to spread their roots.

These 5 dahlias were the last to sprout and none of them look vigorous but I'm hoping they'll take off now that they're out of their small plastic pots and the sun is shining (at least during the afternoon hours).  This group includes one 'Break Out', 2 'Lady Darlene', and 2 'Romantique' Dahlias.

This is the bed after planting.  It looks pretty spare at the moment but, in addition to the 5 dahlias, I sowed sunflower seeds, Helianthus annuus 'The Joker' and 'Greenburst'.  (I've sown 'Greenburst' and 'Ruby Eclipse' sunflower seeds in other areas of the garden as well.)

I also uncovered this mystery vine.  It's shown up in this area once before.  My best guess is that it's an offshoot of the Pandorea jasminoides (bower vine) growing up the nearby arbor, although the leaves are much smaller and the vine's more twisted than that much larger plant.

Now, my focus is keeping the dahlias and the seeds in all three raised planters watered and healthy.  Some of the dahlias are already showing signs of leaf miner activity.  I tried spraying them with insecticidal soap but I may need to get more serious. 

The dahlias, zinnias, and sunflowers are all off to a late start this year but, even if I'd cleared these beds earlier I'm not sure it would've made much of a difference given the gloomy conditions and unusually cool temperatures we've had until now


It's probably going to be another six to eight weeks before I see any dahlias from my cutting garden, much less zinnias or sunflowers.  Unable to stop myself, I picked up a smallish dahlia on my last trip to the local garden center and potted it up.

I pulled the sad contents of this pot out, replacing them with Dahlia 'XXL Veracruz' and trailing Fuchsia 'Lena', a bright pink Calibrachoa, and plugs of a pink and green coleus (Plectranthus scutellaroides)


In addition, other areas of my garden are still pumping out new flowers.

Daylilies don't make good cut flowers but new ones keep popping up to add color to the garden.  Clockwise from the upper left are Hemerocallis 'Apollodorus', 'Cordon Rouge', 'Strawberry Candy', and the largest mass display yet of 'Spanish Harlem'.

More lilies are appearing by the day too.  On the left is Lilium 'Conca d'Or'.  The plant on the right is supposed to be Lilium 'Pretty Woman' but it looks much pinker than the flowers I've had from other bulbs I've purchased with this cultivar name.

Salvia clevelandii 'Winnifred Gilman' is suddenly covered in blooms


A heatwave is predicted to hit Los Angeles Country this weekend as we head toward our Independence Day holiday on Tuesday.  However, it currently looks as though the marine layer will still be present during the morning hours along the coast, which should keep our temperatures down.  I'm hoping that'll be the case anyway.


Best wishes for a pleasant weekend wherever you are.

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

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Wild & Weedy Wednesday: Tolerable weeds

I'm joining Cathy of Words and Herbs this week for her "Wild and Weedy Wednesday" meme.  I've got a multitude of true weeds in my garden this year.  If there's a positive side to a prolonged drought, it's that there's fewer weeds to pull.  This year we've had more than five times the amount of rain we had in the prior water year (21.69 inches versus 4.12 inches in 2022) and it seems I spend a quarter of my time in the garden pulling weeds.  If I factor in the time I spend thinning out the more decorative, albeit weedy, plants I tolerate in my garden, it's probably more like half my time. 

This post focuses on my five favorite "tolerable weeds."  None of these plants are native to coastal Southern California but all have naturalized here.  One has been officially designated as invasive in California but all are aggressive spreaders.  In spite of this, all are commonly sold by local garden centers.

The first is Centranthus ruber (aka Jupiter's beard), arguably the most vigorous and the most decorative of the lot.  Native to the Mediterranean area, it's been found in wild areas in various western states of the US, including California.  According to Wikipedia, it tolerates alkaline soil and is often found in rocky areas below 200 meters in elevation.  It isn't classified as invasive but I see it along the roadsides here and I've noticed it popping up in many of my neighbors' front gardens.

I didn't introduce it to my garden.  I found it growing in my northeast side garden when we moved in.

However, I did transplant several divisions from that area to my back slope, which was relatively empty before I began developing it in the early years of our residence.  It took off with a vengeance despite very little irrigation.

In my climate, Centranthus prefers our cool spring season.  As temperatures rise, the plants quickly go to seed as shown here at the bottom of my back slope.  I can't deadhead them fast enough.  I need to get down there to cut the flower stalks to the ground but fear of the fire ants has led me to put off that chore.


Erigeron karvinskianus (aka Mexican fleabane and Santa Barbara daisy) is native to Mexico and parts of Central America.  It's not officially classified as invasive but the Plant Right site rated it a moderate potential risk in California, especially if it receives moderate water.  It was here when we moved in and it readily moves itself around without any help from me.

In my northeastern side garden, it's intermingled with English ivy (a plant that is classified as invasive in California), making it more difficult to manage

It's a lovely graceful plant when it's getting sufficient water but it starts to look sad and weedy once the rain stops (as shown on the left).  The plant on the right, mingling with a Teucrium aroarium, is doing better in partial shade.


Geranium incanum (aka carpet geranium) is a South African native that has naturalized in California.  Like the Erigeron, it moves itself around, although in my garden it's most prevalent in the same areas preferred by Centranthus ruber.  It's not classified as invasive but it's said to get by without irrigation in coastal areas.

In this photo, it's sharing space with Erigeron karvinskianus

The Geranium most often "hides" under taller plants, slowly making its way into the sunlight before it blooms.  In the photo on the left, it's growing up through a mass of rosemary.  In the photo on the right, it's growing up through ivy on the upper edge of the back slope.


Unlike the other plants covered in this post, Lobularia maritima (aka sweet alyssum) is classified as invasive by the California Invasive Plant Council.  It's native to the Mediterranean basin but it's naturalized here.  It's said to like sandy soil like mine.  I'm not sure I've every visited a local garden center that didn't have six-packs of this plant in stock year-round.  I admit that I've often purchased it for use as a filler in planted containers.

I don't go out of my way to photograph the ever-present alyssum but this wide shot taken of my back garden in early May provides a good idea of how widespread it is in the landscape.  All of the alyssum shown here was self-planted.

The foreground of this shot, taken at the bottom of the back slope, provides an idea of how much space it covered there.  Pulling it up isn't simple.  The plants have solid taproots and their side roots often extend over a good foot or more.

One of the few closeup photos I've ever taken of the plant.  They love to self-seed between and around flagstones.


The last of my attractive weeds is Oenothera speciosa (aka pink evening primrose).  Native to areas of the Midwest, Texas, and northeastern Mexico, it's naturalized in 48 US states but it's not considered invasive, although I've heard many gardeners complain about its spread.  I didn't introduce it here.  It spreads itself around more lightly than the other plants described here.  To date, it prefers my northeast side garden and back slope.

The top photo on the left shows the flowers in my northeast side bed.  The group shown on the lower left was photographed at the bottom of the slope.

It even self-seeds in densely packed gravel


Visit Cathy at Words and Herbs to see which wild and weedy plants she's featuring this week.

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

Monday, June 26, 2023

In a Vase on Monday: Tropical punch

The title of this post came to me as I was cutting flowers for the arrangement shown below.  My climate can't really be considered "tropical" but the lilies I fixated on have that vibe, as did the gladiola that pulled the composition together.

The gladiola surprised me as I thought I'd pulled out all of them at the north end of the back garden last year after the rabbits made a feast of many of the plants in that area.  I'd forgotten there were any lilies there at all as they hadn't bloomed last year.  Buried under an overgrown Arbutus 'Marina' (strawberry tree), I didn't even see them until I cut some of its foliage back last week.

Back view:  I found a second cluster of lilies, also partly hidden by surrounding foliage, on the other end of the back garden

Top view: I hadn't considered adding the "purple" snapdragons until I noticed how well they picked up the edge of that unusual gladiola

Clockwise from the upper left: Antirrhinum majus 'Chantilly Pink', A. m. 'Chantilly Purple', Gladiolus 'Guinea', Lilium 'Montego Bay', Leucadendron 'Cloudbank Ginny', Leucospermum 'Spider Hybrid', Lobelia laxiflora, and Lilium 'Orange Planet'


My second arrangement might look autumnal but the key components are summer bloomers here.

My inspiration was the flowers of Helianthus 'Sunbelievable Brown-Eyed Girl', which I'm growing for the first time this year after admiring those featured by Amelia, The Shrub Queen

Back view:  I added dried stems of Aristea inaequalis, as well as stems of the restio, Chondropetalum elephantipes, to pick up the brown tones in the sunflowers

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Aristea ineaqualis (dried stems and seedpods), Chrondropetalum elephantipes, Gaillardia 'Spintop Copper Sun', Helianthus 'Sunbelievable Brown-Eyed Girl', Helichrysum thianschanicum 'Icicles', Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', Tagetes lemmonii, and a shaggy form of Leucanthemum x superbum


We've had a lot more sun for the past week and, although the morning marine layer is still hanging on, it's been evaporating earlier with each passing day.  The good news is that the marine layer has kept our afternoon temperatures in a comfortable range.

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

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

Friday, June 23, 2023

Summer ready

I rehabbed my cutting garden to prepare for summer - or most of it in any case.  The sweet peas are still in place but they're on borrowed time.  Most of the other cool season flowers in the cutting garden are gone, their spaces quickly filled with the dahlia tubers I sprouted in temporary pots.

Instead of looking like a jungle, the cutting garden looks a little thin at the moment but I trust that it'll look entirely different within two months

Bed #1:  I removed all the Nigella papillosa, all but one Minoan Lace (Orlaya grandiflora), and all but 2 foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea).  I planted 6 dahlias: 2 'Belle of Barmera', 2 'Fairway Spur', one 'French Can Can', and one 'Summer's End'.  Half of these were tubers saved from last year's "crop."  I also discovered a sprouted tuber I apparently missed when I cleaned out the bed last fall.  It might be 'La Luna', which never bloomed last year.

Bed #2:  I pulled all the larkspur (Consolida ajacis) and Minoan Lace from this bed, leaving 3 foxgloves in place.  I planted the following dahlia tubers: one 'Enchantress', one 'Iceberg', 2 'Labyrinth', one 'Lavender Ruffles', and one 'Mikayla Miranda'.  All but the 'Labyrinth' tubers were saved from last year.

Bed #3 remains a massive mess of sweet pea vines with pink and purple snapdragons still in place in one corner


The dahlia tubers I couldn't squeeze into the two available raised planters went into half-barrels.

I pulled the peach snapdragons out of this barrel and cut back the pansies surrounding them.  I added one Dahlia 'Lavender Ruffles'.

I added one Dahlia 'Calin' to mingle with Helianthus 'Sunbelievable Brown-Eyed Girl' and a noID Bacopa

The 'Peach Dalmatian' foxgloves and the pansies and Bacopa surrounding them in the this barrel received a reprieve for now

However, I made some room in 2 of the half-barrels in the front garden for more tubers.  Another Dahlia 'French Can Can' went into this one.  (The rocks are there to discourage the raccoons from digging, which they're prone to doing.)

2 Dahlia 'Catching Fire' tubers went into this barrel.  This was the only case in which I planted tubers in their "final resting place" at the outset.

5 tubers are still waiting for spots to spread their roots, although 2 of them don't appear very vigorous.  The dahlias in waiting are: one 'Break Out', 2 'Lady Darlene', and 2 'Romantique''Break Out' is the only one of these that's a holdover from last year.


Last year I started my dahlia tubers in temporary pots in mid-March but they were very slow to sprout and several never did.  This year, because it's been so cool and gloomy and because my cool season flowers were especially late to bloom, I didn't even bother planting my dahlia tubers until the end of April.  Unlike last year, the dahlias were quick to sprout in their temporary pots and only one tuber failed.  But I still had nowhere to put them where their roots could spread out.  I pinched back all my dahlia sprouts once they were tucked into their raised beds and barrels, which delays flowering but generally promotes better branching.  So this year's dahlias will be late to bloom just like they were last year but I'm not overly perturbed about it (yet).


After the dahlia tubers were in place, I finally sowed Zinnia seeds (also later than usual).

The Zinnia seeds are already germinating.  Bed #1 was seeded with Zinnia elegans 'Benary's Giant Salmon Rose', 'Hidden Dragon', 'Queeny Lemon Peach', and 'Queen Lime Orange'.  Bed #2 was seeded with Zinnia 'Benary's Giant Lilac', 'Candy Mix', and 'Zinderella Purple'.  Seeds of Zinnia 'Oklahoma Ivory' and 'Pinca' were sown in temporary pots.


We've had a lot more sun this week, although our marine layer is forecast to make at least a brief return this weekend and next week.  Just a few days of sun and warmer temperatures have delivered new blooms.  I wanted to share some that might be gone by mid-July when we celebrate next month's blooms.

The noID artichokes on my back slope (left) are already blooming above my head.  Artichoke 'Purple Romanga' in my backyard border (right) isn't blooming but still looks flower-like.

I caught a second Epiphyllum 'Monastery Garden' in full bloom and there's yet another one days away from flowering

The daylilies are slowly making an appearance, usually with only one or 2 flowering at the same time.  Clockwise from the upper left are: Hemerocallis 'Elizabeth Salter', 'Russian Rhapsody', 'Spacecoast Sea Shells', and the ever-reliable 'Spanish Harlem'.

The first Hesperaloe parviflora flowers slowly opening

The shaggy Shasta daisies (Leucanthemum x superbum) are off to a later-than-usual start this year

These color-coordinated plants in a smallish bed in my back border synchronized their bloom schedule with no help from me.  From left to right are: Gazania 'Otomi' (top) and Grevillea 'Ned Kelly' (bottom), Gladiolus 'Guinea' (shown with Lantana 'Irene'), and Lilium 'Orange Planet'.  The lily and the Grevillea are partially hidden by an overgrown Arbutus 'Marina'.  The rabbits ate the lilies before they bloomed last year but luckily ignored them this year as I'd forgotten all about them and never set up protective cages around them.


That's it for this week.  Enjoy your weekend!

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