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


  1. I stared at the first "before and after" photo for a while. I like Melianthus major a lot but showing off the amazing trunk of the Arbutus is SO much better; I'd probably move the honey bush to a different location. As my garden matures, it seems to need less plants to do the same job. When I remove a plant these days I don't always feel it needs replacement.
    A shame with what happens to some of the Dahlias! You put so much effort into those tubers.
    I like how the Palm Circle underplanting turned out.
    "Salvia mexicana 'Limelight'" is so showy... it knocked my socks off!

    1. That Melianthus has never grown as big as it did last year. It'll be months before it rebounds - and then I do have 4 Arbutus, including a larger one right next to this one. The plant itself is old and I'm not sure it'll transplant well so I'm inclined to leave it where it is until it gives up on its own terms, Chavli. That said, I think you're right about needing fewer plants as the the garden matures.

      I may try growing the 'Limelight' Salvia again. It wasn't happy the first time I tried it but placement is often a factor.

  2. Lots of hard work and it clearly shows. It is nice to see the trunks of the arbutus. I wonder if Melianthus major transplants well? I have one and don't like where I put it. I have several pots of dahlias that have not bloomed this year. I think I got them out too late because a whiskey barrell of them that stays outside is blooming nicely. I've never heard of the orange flame vine but it is a stunner!

    1. My straggler dahlias were planted out late too, Phillip. All now have buds so it's just a matter of how many blooms I can get in October. We don't get frosts and cold isn't really a factor but I usually pull my tubers out by the end of October/early November to make way for my cool season plants.

      I've never seen that orange flame vine anywhere but SCBG and I couldn't find much online about the plant's use in gardens. The only US article I found about it had to do with medical uses of plants in the genus Combretum. Interestingly, while Combretum farinosum is native to Central and South America, other species of the genus come from Africa, suggesting that the plants may have originated before the continents broke up.

  3. It's been so rewarding to watch your garden grow-the efforts put in generate instant reward in the photos which is super inspiring when sometimes it seems as though my own garden is taking forever to do anything ;P. I love that you have reached the point of editing -that beautiful mark of a mature garden- and look forward to a future of ever more delicate and drastic moves!

    1. As I usually start with plants sold in one-gallon or preferably smaller pots, I've spent a lot of time impatiently waiting for them to live up to their reputations too - and of course, some die or get yanked along the way for one or another reason. I'm - gradually - getting better at waiting for that magic moment when they give up to my expectations ;)

  4. Whoa, that's a lot of tasks. Looks like you are making fast progress though. Starting to think about my own fall projects, including maybe installing some steps in sloped parts of the yard where I am increasingly likely to take a tumble during rainy weather. Wet grass and mud are too slippery! I really enjoyed the nice color combo on the Combretum as well as the Salvia 'Limelight'.

    1. Hardscaping is generally harder than plant maintenance, Jerry. Best wishes to you in installing steps in those sloped areas. After I took several falls on our back slope (luckily none of them serious), my husband installed concrete blocks as steps down into that steep area, working around large rocks where they were in the way. (Our area was a rock quarry in the 1940s before the land was sold to build homes in the 50s.) The stairway isn't fancy but it was a monumental effort and I appreciate it every time I make that trek.


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