Monday, October 30, 2023

In a Vase on Monday: Save the last dahlia for me

Deconstruction of my cutting garden is well underway.  I left four dahlias with large buds in place for awhile last week but ultimately gave up on all but one of them.  All the other dahlias - or at least those I've chosen to keep - have been dug up, washed, divided, and tucked away in the garage for the duration of their dormant period.  The last dahlia produced a single bloom and I cut it for an arrangement as a nod to the end of my dahlia season.

Dahlia 'Breakout' is the centerpiece.  I added bits and pieces from elsewhere in the garden to fill out the squat decorative teapot, including a stem of Amarine 'Emanuelle'.  I planted 5 Amarines 2 years ago and so far 4 have bloomed, albeit each on its own schedule.

Back view: I added 2 stems of the pale yellow Senna bicapsularis to play off the yellow tones at the center of the dahlia

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Amarine belladiva 'Emanuelle', Callistemon 'Cane's  Hybrid', Correa 'Wyn's Wonder', Dahlia 'Breakout', Leucadendron 'Jester', Senna bicapsularis, and noID Zinnia elegans


With the dahlias and also the zinnias now gone, the pickings will be slim for the next few months.  This week I made use of some of the remaining Rudbeckias and Helianthus before they're also gone.  Rudbeckia hirta is a short-lived perennial but I generally treat it as an annual as it gets scruffy at the end of the summer season.  Helianthus 'Sunbelievable Brown-Eyed Girl' is classified as a half-hardy annual and, given that we're frost-free, it could hang on but, after four solid months of bloom, it's suddenly looking tired so I may retire it in favor of a plant that will add color to my cutting garden.

The remaining Rudbeckias are short-stemmed but Tagetes lemmonii and Pennisetum grass added needed height to the arrangement

Back view: I also added stems of Aristea inaequalis studded with seedheads to play off the dark tones of some of the flowers

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Aristea inaequalis seedheads, Corokia virgata 'Sunsplash', Helianthus 'Sunbelievable Brown-Eyed Girl', 2 colors of Rudbeckia hirta 'Cherokee Sunset', Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder', Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum', and Tagetes lemmonii


For more IAVOM creations, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Gardens.  For those of you who observe the holiday, Happy Halloween!

I added a few Halloween-specific props to my arrangements this week

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

Friday, October 27, 2023

Lots of dirt under the fingernails

I've spent a lot of time in the garden this week.  I no sooner get the dirt scrubbed from my fingernails than I find myself diving into another task, leaving them filthy again.  I occasionally take a moment to put on garden gloves but the finer tasks in the garden, like pulling out weeds with long tap roots, don't always permit bulky gloves even when I put them on.


My first priority has been getting new plants in the ground.  I'm not done but I've made progress there.  All three of my purchases from Seaside Gardens have been planted.

From left to right, my Seaside purchases were: Cistus ladanifer 'Blanche', Templetonia retusa, and Arctostaphylos 'Sunset'.  All can get by with low water once established.

Cistus 'Blanche' has pristine white flowers and should reach a mature size of 4-8 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide.  At the higher end of that range, it may be too big for this area in the back garden but I'm going to try to keep it pinched back.

Templetonia retusa (aka coral bush) is an Australian plant that grows to 4-6 feet tall and wide.  Like the Cistus, I've planted this one in the bed that runs from the backyard fountain to the south patio.  You can find a good photo of the plant in flower here.

Hybrid Arctostaphylos 'Sunset' produces pinkish-white flowers and grows 4-5 feet tall and wide.  I've planted it in the front garden on the side adjacent to our garage.


I've made headway with my purchases from Terra Sol.

I bought a wider range of plants, albeit in smaller sizes, at Terra Sol

Ptilotus exaltatus 'Joey' and Verbena peruviana 'Pink Bicolor' replaced a fading Rudbeckia in this urn in the area alongside the garage 

The 5 small succulent plants I picked up at Terra Sol all went into this pot.  They include Crassula crassissimus, Echeveria mexicano, Portulaca 'Tricolor Jewel', and Sedum 'Alice Evans'.

I pulled the Dahlia mistakenly sold as 'French Can Can' out of this barrel in the front garden and planted one of 6 plugs of Digitalis 'Dalmatian Peach' here.  The rest will be planted in the raised planting beds of the cutting garden once I've finished clearing them and refreshing the soil.

I pulled some Aeonium 'Kiwi Verde' that had edged this bed in front of the garage because it was repeatedly battered by the gardeners.  The 3 Carex flacca 'Blue Zinger' shown here in pots will replace the succulents after a little fussing with the irrigation set-up.  The Carex grows about one foot tall and 3-4 feet wide and makes do with limited water.  If I like it better than the Festuca glaucus I've tried in the past, I'll hunt down more plants to continue that edging along the the driveway.


My recent mail order Annie's purchases got upgraded from their four-inch pots but they haven't made it into the garden yet.

Clockwise from the upper left: California natives Trichostemma 'Midnight Magic' (already flowering), Ribes sanguineum and 2 Heuchera maxima.  I've identified spots for all of them but I need to finish cleaning up those areas before I plant them.

I've also made a good start pulling apart my summer cutting garden to prepare for cool season plants.  Removing the mildewed Cosmos and Zinnias was easy but digging up dahlia tubers and dividing them is a messy, time-consuming, and frustrating process.

I didn't have many flowers to give away but those I did disappeared quickly

Many of the dahlia tubers had grown large and densely packed.  Even after watching a 30-minute video on dividing them I struggled given the size of some of them.  According to the video, to be viable, each tuber division needs and eye, a neck and a body.  Identifying the "eyes" often isn't easy.  I suspect some of the 'La Luna' divisions I took are blind.

Some dahlia tubers separate easily but 'Lavender Ruffles' was a monster.  I didn't divide it last year and simply planted the original clump with very little cleanup and it more than doubled in size.  I had to butcher the clump on the left just to hunt for viable divisions.  I essentially gave up on this one with just 3 prospects.

It broke my heart a little to end up with so few divisions of 'Mikayla Miranda', which was one of my favorites this year.  In her video, Erin Benzakein of Floret Flowers said you may end up throwing away half of each clump you divide but I lost more than that with this one.

I did better with 'Summer's End' but at that point I may have been seeing eyes where there weren't any.  I left one small clump intact too, which may improve my luck.  I notice that some mail order dahlia sellers send single tubers, while others send entire clumps.


I've also divided Dahlias 'Catching Fire' and 'Enchantress'.  I haven't decided whether to bother with 'Labyrinth' - the flowers are pretty but my plants did poorly this year.  I've thrown out a few tubers I didn't think were worth saving.  I still have several more to dig up, wash, and divide and, once they're fully dry (but before they wither with the expected kick-up of another round of Santa Ana winds next week), I need to pack them up in vermiculite before tucking them away to rest out their dormant period.


There are far fewer flowers in my garden now.

This 'Breakout' Dahlia bloom may be my last.  There are buds on a few of those still in the raised beds but they probably won't open before I throw in the towel this weekend.

A few fall flowers have arrived.  Clockwise from the upper left are: Barleria obtusa (aka bush violet), Iris germanica 'Autumn Circus', what may be the first bud of Protea 'Pink Ice' (although it looks very small and dry), and a burst of yellow from Senna bicapsularis.


Best wishes for a calm weekend.

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

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Bi-annual plant shopping trip to Carpinteria & Santa Barbara

A friend and I made our bi-annual plant shopping trip to Carpinteria and Santa Barbara last weekend after it was postponed weeks ago due to unpleasantly hot temperatures.  The sun was intense in cloudless skies so I'm afraid my photos were relatively poor on this occasion.  Unlike Los Angeles County, both areas also received very little rain from Tropical Storm Hilary in September and the dry conditions were evident, especially at Seaside Gardens.

Defying the bright light, I still took photos of portions of the demonstration gardens at Seaside

Top row: Tropical (Vireya) Rhododendron in the Asian Garden (left) and noID Salvia in the cottage Garden (right)
Bottom row: Echium candicans in the Grasslands area on my recent visit (left), when they're looking sad, and back in March (right)

South African Garden featuring Leucadendron 'Ebony' with Protea neriifolia (left) with a closeup of the Protea bloom and Leucadendron 'Jester' on the right

Various views of the large Succulent Garden, including a Yucca 'Bright Star' with a trunk (upper right) and a very large clump of blooming agaves, possibly Agave 'Blue Flame' (lower right)

Tropical Garden with Russelia equisetiformis in front and massive Fuchsia arborescens in the background


As usual, I spent more time perusing the plants offered for sale.

2 of about 10 sales displays organized by categories

Plants I looked at closely but dismissed for various reasons, clockwise from the upper left: Chorisia speciosa (very expensive and could grow 60 feet tall), Cryptomeria japonica 'Spiralis' (needs regular water and not clearly suitable to my zone), Eucalyptus 'Moon Lagoon' (combustible oil in plant not good for high fire risk areas), Stipa ichu (I forgot to add it to my cart!), and Yucca baccata (pricey but I regret not bringing one home)


After lunch, we headed a bit further north to Terra Sol Garden Center.

Terra Sol always has interesting decorative items but many aren't readily affordable

Flashy Celosia and a vigorous pink-flowered Thunbergia alata

I wanted to remove the weed in the middle of that Abromeitiella brevifolia (left) but, at that price, I didn't dare touching it.  The Adenium (right) wasn't priced as high as its neighboring plant but still too rich for me when I've killed one (maybe 2) before.


Fortunately, as she's a more assertive driver, my friend takes responsibility for the northern stretch of our trip from her home in the San Fernando Valley.  My homeward bound trip from her house south to the peninsula takes between an hour and a half and two hours depending upon late afternoon traffic.  It was on the lower end of the spectrum, which was great.  I had plenty of time to unload my car before it got dark and my husband rang the dinner bell.

I'll have more on my purchases later this week, when I've hopefully gotten at least some of them planted



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

Monday, October 23, 2023

In a Vase on Monday: It's time to embrace autumn

The combination of mildew, heat, and high winds brought my summer cutting garden to an abrupt end.  It was expected but sad nonetheless.  I began cutting back the mildewed dahlia foliage last week with vague hopes that would allow some of plants with buds to produce a few more blooms but weather conditions didn't support that notion.  I expect to dig up the dahlia tubers and pull out the remaining cosmos and zinnia plants this week in order to prepare the raised planters for cool season plants.  Although I saved plastic and glass bottles to give away end-of-season blooms, it doesn't look like there will be many to offer.

Only the flowers of Rudbeckia 'Cherokee Sunset' were still relatively plentiful so my first arrangement was created around them.

The 'Cherokee Sunset' flowers range in color from gold to orange and burgundy to reddish brown

Back view: I fleshed out the arrangement using the yellowish (chlorotic) foliage of Grevillea 'Superb', Hibiscus 'Haight Ashbury', and Plectranthus scutellarioides 'Pineapple' (coleus)

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Grevillea 'Superb' (foliage only), Hibiscus acetosella 'Haight Ashbury', Plectranthus scutellarioides 'Pineapple' (coleus), Rudbeckia hirta 'Cherokee Sunset' (in 2 shades), and peach-colored Zinnia elegans 'Candy Mix'


I'd hoped to have at least a couple 'La Luna' or mutant 'Fairway Spur' Dahlias but the few that remained weren't vase worthy.  Instead, I cut the last stem of Dahlia 'Lavender Ruffles'.

The last presentable 'Lavender Ruffles' stem held 3 flowers

Back view: I used a handful of zinnias and more coleus foliage to fill out the arrangement

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Correa 'Ivory Bells', Dahlia 'Lavender Ruffles', Eriocapitella hupehensis (aka Japanese anemones), Plectranthus scutellarioides 'Limewire' (coleus), Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata', and Zinnia elegans 'Benary's Giant Purple'

Even the most recent dahlia plants to bloom offered nothing but a single stem of 'Lady Darlene'.  I managed to get a small arrangement out of it and various odds and ends for our kitchen island.

The small vase contains a mutant form of the noID Dahlia mistakenly labeled 'French Can Can' (half-yellow and half-white with yellow stripes), a single 'Lady Darlene' Dahlia, 3 stems of Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' and a few pale yellow and ivory Zinnia elegans


The local news programs have been suggesting that the Los Angeles area might get a touch of rain this week but my local forecast is far less optimistic; however, temperatures are expected to drop into the upper 60s to low 70sF (20-22C).  Much as I'd love to see some rain, at least those temperatures are good for getting work done in the garden.


For for IAVOM creations, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see what she and other contributors to this weekly meme have come up with.

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

Friday, October 20, 2023

Off the see the - Trolls?

The weather has felt very unlike fall this week.  The morning hours have been foggy and the afternoon hours have been hot.

Sometimes, at sunrise, the fog/marine layer sits just below our elevation, hiding the Port of Los Angeles from view before the fog rises and encompasses us prior to dissipating 

More often, it wraps us in an embrace well before sunrise

I'm waiting out the current heat spell before I do any serious planting.  Instead of putting my most recent mail order plants in the ground, I simply upgraded them to one-gallon pots pending the return of cooler temperatures.  Earlier this week, tired of taking spins around the neighborhood for exercise, I decided to drive six miles to South Coast Botanic Garden to see the garden's Trolls exhibit.  The Trolls were created using salvaged wood pallets by Thomas Dambo, described as a "recycled art activist" based in Denmark. (A biography on Dambo can be found here.) There are over a hundred of these Trolls scattered around the world.  SCBG has six spread across its 87-acre garden.  Their stated mission is the "save the humans" by helping them reconnect to nature.  The exhibit, billed as the first one on the west coast, will remain in place through January 14, 2024.

I met all six Trolls on my walk through the garden.  A map was provided but most were located fairly close to the main tram road so they weren't hard to find.  I started the tour at the butterfly pavilion, which was retooled to serve as the home of Ibbi Pip, the birdhouse troll.

Ibbi may be the tallest of the 6 at SCBG.  The bag tossed over his shoulder contains birdhouses.  These birdhouses serve as signals to keep visitors on the right path to find other Trolls.

They all introduce themselves through signs like this.  There are also signs asking visitors not to climb on the Trolls.

The inside of the butterfly pavilion, currently empty of butterflies, is full of colorful birdhouses

2 "nests" and a bench are provided to allow visitors to sit awhile.  The pavilion has also been replanted with flowers and other plants echoing the colors of the birdhouses.

My route took me to the other Trolls in the following order:

Basse Buller, also called the painting troll, uses rocks to create art

Softus Lotus, also called the listening troll, is 24 feet long and over 7 feet high.  I heard some children speculate that he was sleeping but others pointed out that he has one eye open.

Kamma Can is the trash troll, who uses the colorful plastics and other trash disposed of by humans to create jewelry.  She is reported to be the second largest troll in the exhibit at over 14 feet tall.

Here's Kamma's introduction and a closeup of her necklace.

Ronja Redeye, the speaking troll, appears to be the smallest one.  The sign on the flag, resembling a birdhouse, represents the troll's logo for their "save the humans" campaign.

Rosa Sunfinger, the botanical troll, is 11 feet tall, and likes to grow plants in places like "the smelly metal boxes humans run around in"

As might be expected, the exhibit attracted lots of parents with children.  The children didn't seem at all intimidated or frightened by the Trolls so that was good.  SCBG is offering a variety of Troll-themed classes as a supplement, as well as selling a book describing the campaign to save the humans.  The classes include making jewelry out of trash, crafting flower crowns, and building birdhouses.

I didn't spend a lot of time gawking at plants on this visit but I did take photos of some.

The photos in the top row feature what I believe is Ceiba chodatii, the yellow-flowered silk floss tree.  Pink-flowered Ceiba speciosa are shown in the 2 bottom photos.

Plants in the Senna species are in full bloom now.  There were cloudless sulphur butterflies all over this one but I didn't manage to catch a single photo. 

In concluding this post, I'll throw in two plants that stood out in my own garden this week as well.

On the left are the unusual flowers of Pelargonium schizopetalum.  On the right is a particularly colorful coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides) labeled as 'Florida Sun Rose').  The latter looked sickly and unimpressive in a pot by the front door for months but now looks better than any photos in advertisements I've seen. 

Best wishes for a peaceful weekend communing with nature.  Everyone could use a touch of beauty in their lives in the midst of the world's current turmoil and misery.

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