Friday, September 29, 2023

A look at this week's projects

My approach to items on my "to do" list is usually haphazard and this week was no exception.  I finished cleaning up the leaf debris on the front slope on the southwest end of my garden, deadheading and cutting back plants in the process.  As one thing inevitably leads to another, I ended up doing some pruning and planting in the process too.

The shrub at the center of the photo on the left and highlighted in the photo on the right is another Auranticarpa rhombifolia (formerly Pittosporum rhombifolium).  I reduced it by about one-third this week as it was shading the plants surrounding it.  This one also came with the garden but it's green and healthy.

I also cut back branches of the cherry laurel shrubs that form a hedge along a portion of our south property line directly behind my lath (shade) house.  My purpose was to reveal this lovely potted Begonia luxuriens.  I also met with the arborist that owns the tree service I use every year.  I expect to have this hedge and 14 trees trimmed in late October.  Our heavier-than-usual rain was lovely but many of my trees and shrubs exploded in size as a result.

I pulled the remains of a sunflower from this pot and transplanted 3 Pelargonium schizopetalum I removed from another container in early summer.  The tuberous plants produce unusual flowers (which you can find in a 2022 post here).

In Wednesday's post, I remarked that I'd "liberated" several pups of an Aloe striata x maculata.  I went ahead with the plan I'd mentioned, removing the large Aeonium arboreum that occupied the spot next to the mother plant and planting 4 of the pups there.  I also removed a matching clump of Aeonium on the opposite side of the path (atop the retaining wall) to give a Pennisetum 'Fireworks' an opportunity to spread out.

In addition to the mother Aloe striata x maculata and its pups, this upper tier of the front slope contains 2 'Moonglow' Aloes, as well as several smaller succulents

Here's a closer look at the mother Aloe and 3 of the pups on the right.  The next tier contains 2 more Aloe striata-maculata and an Agave gypsophila.  The latter is looking sad but I think it may recover.


The south end of the front slope looks neater, which will do for now, but I expect I may end up beheading and replanting a lot of the Aeonium arboreum on either end of this section of the garden before the year's out.

Wide shot of the roughly terraced front slope showing the replanted upper tier

Wide shot of the area to the left of the pineapple guava tree, showing some of the large Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' planted there in 2018 as pups


Work on the street-side succulent bed also continued.  Taking out the stump of the Auranticarpa rhombifolia that died seemed to be a bigger job that the prior removals of these tree-like shrubs in 2016 and 2020; however, maybe our memories are faulty.

Photo of my husband's work midway through the process

In addition to that stump, I asked my husband to remove three large agave rosettes that were trailing into the street.  An electric saw make that a lot easier than digging out the stump.

Wide shot of the south end of the bed after the Auranticarpa stump, one Agave attenuata rosette, and 2 Agave 'Blue Flame' rosettes were removed.  I also cut back several Senecio amaniensis and removed an Echium handiense.  I hadn't planned to take out the Echium but it'd grown large enough to cover 2 small agaves. I took cuttings of the Echium, which (unlike Echium webbii) I've previously been successful in propagating that way.

I haven't yet replanted the area formerly occupied by the Auranticarpa and Echium handiense.  My current plan is to plant another Echium handiense in the rear area, assuming that one of my cuttings takes.  I'm going to dig up and move the beat-up Agave colorata shown in the photo on the lower right.  I plan to move 2 Agave americana 'Mediopicta Alba', planted as pups too close to Agave 'Blue Flame', to the empty area as well.

What didn't get done was removing the Aeoniums sticking out under the Xylosma congestum hedge.  It was on my (augmented) "to do" list but gardeners working across the street chose to deposit the debris that wouldn't fit into our neighbor's own green recycle bin into ours so there was no space to cram in the succulents.

With yesterday's late afternoon pickup, the Aeoniums will be pulled out today.  I heard back from the head of the local Cactus & Succulent Society but we haven't nailed the date to pickup what I've offered so, when I hear back from her, I'll ask about interest in the Aeoniums; however, I imagine I'm not the only one that has an overabundance of these plants.  (Note: Yes, some stems of the peppermint willows, Agonis flexuosa, visible in this photo died back this summer.  They're on the tree service's trimming list.)


We've a chance of rain this weekend, although I'm not going to count on it until I see it.  However, as the first Santa Ana wind event of the season is expected on Monday, bringing a heightened risk of wildfires with it, a little preemptive rain would be helpful.  I'll close with some of the latest bright spots, courtesy of my cutting garden.

Three more dahlias are blooming at last!  Left to right are: Dahlias 'Breakout', 'Calin', and 'Lady Darlene'.

Aeoniums aren't the only thing I have in overabundance right now.  I met 3 friends for lunch yesterday and arrived bearing dahlias.


Best wished for a wonderful weekend!

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

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Musical chairs in the garden

While most of my end-of-summer/early fall cleanup has involved clearing debris, pruning overgrown plants, and removing plants that are dead, dying or unappealing, filling waste bins in the process, I've also divided plants, harvested succulent pups, and taken cuttings.  This post focuses on some of the latter activities.

I pulled 5 healthy pups of the large Aloe striata x maculata planted at the top of the slope on the southwest side of the garden.  I'm planning to plant 2-4 of the pups near the mother plant in the area now occupied by Aeonium arboreum (shown in the bottom 2 photos).  I've used that Aeonium as a filler all over my garden and it's time to switch things up with other plants.

In the street-side succulent bed, I discovered that a large Crassula ovata (jade plant) had tipped over the short wall that divides the bed from the upper level occupied by the lath house (left photo).  I took weight off it by cutting it back.  Cuttings of the Crassula and tall Senecio amaniensis that had also toppled over are shown on the right.

I potted up 2 small cuttings of the Crassula, one of the Sencio, and 5 of the tiny Agave mitis 'Multicolor' bulbils I harvested in July, now rooted.  I'll hold onto these for now for possible placement elsewhere in the garden once the plants are ready to be transplanted.

I texted the head of the local Cactus & Succulent Society to see if they might have an interest on taking 2 flats of rooted Agave mitis 'Multicolor' bulbils, a 6-pack of Agave 'Blue Glow' bulbils, and maybe the remaining Crassula and Senecio cuttings.  If not, I'll put the lot out for neighbors.  I fear the bulbils may not find a home in the neighborhood...


I've identified some plants that probably need to go, as well as a couple that might benefit from being moved.

Clockwise from the upper left, the plants that I'm currently looking to remove include: Psoralea pinnata, Salvia lanceolata (growing up through the middle of an Acacia 'Cousin Itt'),  and Trichostema 'Midnight Magic' (shown in the 2 bottom photos).  I like 'Midnight Magic', a cultivar of California's native woolly blue curls, but the right half of the woody plant has died.  Rather than chop it in half, I ordered a replacement as part of Annie's Annuals California native plant sale.

The 2 plants that may qualify for a move to boost their bloom potential are Dais cotinifolia (aka pom-pom tree, left) and Protea nerifolia 'Pink Ice' (right).  Neither has ever flowered and I think both want more sun.


Of course, while I'm cutting back and removing plants, I haven't been able to stop myself from adding new ones at the same time.

On Annie's last mail order sale, I picked up 2 more Eryngium planum 'Blue Glitter', only to discover that the one I planted in 2022 appears to have self-seeded (see photo on the right).  On the same sale I got Achillea millefolium, an Anchusa capensis, and another Echium webbii (not shown).

Gerhard of Succulents and More introduced readers to Steve Super Gardens in a recent post and I ended up ordered 2 Aeoniums, 'Dark Star' (bottom left) and 'Octo Ink' (bottom right), as well as a Pelargonium gibbosum (not shown).  In addition, they sent me an intriguing Aeonium hierrense (bottom middle).

Aeonium hierrense (aka tree houseleek) reportedly gets up to 3 feet tall.  I'm considering the 2 areas shown above for its placement.  I couldn't find a photo of a mature specimen on Steve Super Garden's site but you can see it here.


Instead of culling out, cutting back, giving away, or moving plants, some deserve notice just for being where they are.

Hippeastrum 'Luna' surprised me with an out-of-season bloom

Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun' has maintained a steady mass of flowers all summer with just occasional deadheading

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

Monday, September 25, 2023

In a Vase on Monday: Magnificent Mutants

Last week I complained that I thought I was in a rut with my dahlia-based flower arrangements.  In response, my friend HB of Piece of Eden suggested that maybe I could try a minimalist or Ikebana-style arrangement if I felt stuck.  I'm not good at minimalism when it comes to flowers, seemingly compelled to stuff everything I can find into most of my vases.  The last of my dahlias have yet to bloom, although 'Breakout' is close; however, it occurred to me that maybe I could do something with my mutant 'Fairway Spur' Dahlias.  I have two clumps of 'Fairway Spur' in my cutting garden, one of which is producing a large number of deformed - but interesting - blooms.  So I used them for my first arrangement, which was also created as a nod to the early days of autumn.

The form of the mutant dahlias vary somewhat but, in all cases, the inner petals fail to fully develop, and sometimes fail to develop at all.  However, the bees seem to like them as the mutated form allows them to reach the nectar at the flower's central disk more easily.  Thrip damage seems the most likely explanation for the deformities.

Back view: Hibiscus 'Haight Ashbury' provided the autumn flair 

Top view: As I was arranging the flowers a tiny green grasshopper, perhaps 1/2 inch in size, hopped out of a flower.  I tried to catch it but it got away and I couldn't find it.  My husband wasn't amused.

Clockwise from the upper left: Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', Sutera cordata (aka Bacopa), malformed Dahlia 'Fairway Spur', D. 'Summer's End'. Hibiscus acetosella 'Haight Ashbury', and Zinnia elegans 'Queen Lime Orange' and 'Benary's Giant Salmon Rose'


Last week I also swore I'd finally put together an arrangement centered around Dahlia 'Enchantress', which has been blooming for well over a month now without being included in an IAVOM lineup.  Here it is:

Dahlia 'Enchantress' usually grows taller than it has this year but I think it's stems have been held down (literally) by its neighbors 

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: bi-color and white Cosmos bipinnatus, an oddly formed Cosmos specimen that has formed on only one plant (look carefully at its center), Dahlia 'Enchantress', Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', and Zinnia elegans 'Benary's Giant Purple'

It's feeling very fall-like here at the moment, or at least our version of fall with daytime temperatures in the upper 60s to low 70sF (20-23C).  Working in the garden is downright comfortable, although I've earned some aches and pains in the process.  We filled three jumbo-sized green bins last week (and I topped off two of a neighbor's bins as well).  We've already stuffed two of the bins again this week and I fully expect the third to be full by the next waste recycling pickup date on Thursday as well.  In addition, current predictions suggest that the El Niño climate pattern is likely to bring us significant rain again in the 2024 "water year" starting October 1st, perhaps not this fall, but in late winter and spring as was the case in the 2023 water year.  The latest Weather West summary makes interesting reading about changes in the weather in California and the Pacific Northwest.


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, September 22, 2023

While work was temporarily on hold

As I mentioned in my last post, my end-of-summer cleanup came to a temporary halt when I filled all three of my green bins.  (I even topped off two of a neighbor's bins.)  While awaiting the city's waste pickup, I reviewed what's been done so far and compiled a working list of what remains to be done.

I'm not sure it looks like much but here's a round-up of the efforts made over the past week.

The photo of the north end of the back garden on the left was taken in July and the photo on the right was taken this week.  Can you see the difference?

The changes to the area on the north end of the back garden are more apparent to my own eyes in this view but I couldn't find a good "before" shot taken from the same angle.  I cut the Melianthus major down to the ground.  I also pruned Sonchus palmensis (aka dandelion tree) to a foot in height but I'm not certain it'll survive the treatment.

The changes to the middle of this border in the back garden included pruning 2 Artemisia californica by two-thirds, thinning several Nassella tenuissima (Mexican feather grass), and pruning Salvia canariensis and Salvia 'Pozo Blue'

Once again, I didn't have a recent "before" photo of that part of the back border but this photo, taken in early July, may give you an idea of what it looked like 2 months ago

I tried to yank the Duranta repens on the right out before I thought to take a "before" photo so the Duranta isn't in the upright position poking through a mass of Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' as was originally the case

As yanking out the Duranta didn't work, I cut it down and then dug out the base.  These are the "after" shots from 2 angles.  The Duranta's removal gives Agave ovatifolia 'Vanzie' an opportunity to shine, although few people other than me walk the dirt path behind the border here.  I also cleaned up the noID Kniphofia.

Two days ago I noticed that one of the 3 Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' shrubs on the south side of my garden appeared to be dying,  I think I have a problem with thrips.  It's not readily evident from the shrubs visible in the photo on the left but the third shrub behind them, shown in the photo on the right, was badly damaged.  I cut away the branches that were most severely affected, removed all the leaf litter, and sprayed all 3 shrubs with Neem oil.  Further treatment is needed.

This photo shows the street-side bed after the dead Auranticarpa rhombifolia was cut down.  My husband did the hard work and I was responsible for the cleanup.  He's now in the process of removing the stump (yay!).  It's a lot more challenging than it was in the case of the first 5 of these shrubs we removed when they dropped dead.
The gardeners blow leaves down the front slope covering the succulents below.  Cleaning them out of all the nooks and crannies without taking a tumble in the process is a challenge.  In the process of clearing the leaves, I've also removed several sad-looking Limonium perezii.  I've only just started.


Watering, fertilizing, and deadheading the dahlias is a near daily activity.  I'm closely watching the dahlias that have yet to bloom.  I had a second clump of what was supposed to be Dahlia 'French Can Can' and I held out a glimmer of hope this one might be the read deal but it's blooming now and the flowers are yellow like the other imposter.  In addition, one of the two 'Fairway Spur' Dahlias, both saved from last year's crop, has been producing a steady stream of mutant flowers.

An online source suggests that the deformities in the dahlia flowers may be due to either tarnished plant bugs or thrips.  The latter theory seems more likely as the tarnished plant bugs flourish in leaf litter during the plant's dormant period and my tubers were stored bare root in perlite.  Treatments with insecticidal soap are recommended in both cases, however.


The tasks still on the list to be tackled include:

  • Finishing removal of the Auranticarpa stump
  • Further trimming and treatment of the damaged foliage of all 3 Agonis flexuosa 'Nana'
  • Pruning dead twiggy growth underneath 4 more Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itts'
  • Cutting back the Centranthus and other spent plants on the back slope
  • Removing the remaining leaf litter on the front slope
  • Screening and distributing the finished compost in my bin
  • Replanting the bare spots on the front slope and in the street-side bed


I'll end this post with some of the other photos I took while strolling South Coast Botanic Garden earlier this week.

Gigantic peach-flowered Brugmansia

Equally gigantic yellow-flowered Brugmansia

Combretum farinosum, aka orange flame vine

Justicia carnea
Lagerstroemia sp. (white-flowered crepe myrtle)

Closeup of the plants at the base of the Palm Circle's trees

The rose garden (shown in a wide shot on the left) has added tropical plants in one area that has had persistent issues with drainage (as shown on the right).  The most prominent of these tropicals are Canna lilies and taro plants.

The Salvias were in top form throughout SCBG.  I think this one is Salvia 'Black & Blue'.

Salvia guaranitica is my best guess

Salvia leucantha

Salvia mexicana 'Limelight'


Best wishes for a pleasant weekend.  Happy autumnal equinox to those of you in the Northern Hemisphere and, for anyone in the Southern Hemisphere, enjoy your first day of spring!

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