Wednesday, January 31, 2024

A different sort of plant giveaway

Last week, I started pulling out the mass of Aeonium arboreum that's blocking a major pathway in my cutting garden.  It's going to take a long time to reduce the plants to a manageable number.  As these succulents are heavy, I can't overload the green recycle bins with all of them at one time, even if I could stand handling the repetitive nature of the task in one go.  I put aside the best rosettes to give away but, even throwing out those that weren't in perfect condition, I didn't think the neighbors would flock to take armloads home, especially as I've given these cuttings away many times over the years.  So, when I read an article in a local magazine about a parkway succulent garden being created in front of a mosaic wall four miles away, I contacted the woman managing the project and offered the Aeoniums and a host of other succulents.  She said she'd accept them all and I took her at her word.

This is my car, packed and ready to make the delivery

The project manager told me she expected to be weeding the new garden during certain hours but no one was there when I arrived.  However, I'd been told I could leave them at the bus stop nearby even if no one was there so that's what I did.

In addition to 2 flats piled high with Aeonium arboreum and A. 'Kiwi' cuttings, I left cuttings of Euphorbia 'Sticks on Fire', pups of Agave mediopicta 'Alba', potted bulbils of 3 other agaves, Crassula ovata and Senecio amaniensis in one-gallon pots, and a relatively large Agave attenuata division

I didn't spend much time looking at the garden, something I regretted after the fact.

It's a relatively new garden and they're planting only succulents as the parkway strip isn't irrigated

I spent a lot of time looking at the mosaic wall.  The mosaic was created with public support over a two-year period.  The artist is a former fire fighter, Julie Bender.  She got help and input from some three hundred local residents.  You can find a history of the mosaic wall on 25th Street in San Pedro here.

Partially hidden, this section proclaims Welcome to San Pedro, Los Angeles.  San Pedro was incorporated into the City of Los Angeles in 1909 but it's retained its own personality.

Brown Pelicans punctuate the 200 foot long expanse of the mosaic mural at intervals.  San Pedro is a port town and this section of the mural shows boats of various kinds.

The SS Lane Victory, a cargo ship used in WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, now berthed in San Pedro as a museum, is shown here with other ships and boats.  The USS Iowa, a retired battleship, is shown elsewhere.  It's docked at the Port of Los Angeles and also serves as a museum.  The Vincent Thomas Bridge between the South Bay and Long Beach is also shown in the upper left.

In addition to palm trees, houses, and an air plane, this section shows the Korean Friendship Bell in the upper left area.  I'm guessing that the large white structure on the right represents the Point Fermin Lighthouse.

An angel carrying a light is one of several larger figures, probably representing the entrance to the Port of Los Angeles, known as Angel's Gate

Two mermaids, one featured in a wheelchair (tended by a person tagged with the names of churches) and the second marked with graffiti

Other large figures include what I've dubbed as the "serviceman" (representing people in military and public service as indicated by tags covering his uniform), the "worker" (tagged with the titles of various tradespeople), the "cook" (tagged with names of restaurants) and the "teacher" (tagged with names of schools in the area)

Details included scenes from a beach (left) and the cliffs in San Pedro with houses and roads above and small buildings at sea level (right).  In other areas, houses were tagged with family names.

The lower areas showing the cliffs were put together using pieces of tile interspersed with mirrors

There were large areas covered in irregular tiles bearing facts relevant to the history of San Pedro

There were also lots of tiles bearing names of people and their opinions on a wide variety of subjects.  One series offered definitions of what makes a person a "real" San Pedran.

The garden project manager hopes to extend the succulent garden.  I hope my contribution helps her and volunteers assisting her with their project.  And I still have more than enough Aeonium rosettes to satisfy any one of my neighbors that may want them.

All material © 2012-2024 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, January 29, 2024

In a Vase on Monday: Creeping closer to spring

We've had a stretch of warm weather going on since Friday (low-mid 70sF/22-24C).  It's expected to continue into Tuesday before an atmospheric river moves in on Wednesday.  Four Hippeastrum flowers were slowly unfolding yesterday but none were quite vase-ready so I turned to the Aeonium arboreum flowers that pop up everywhere in my garden at this time of year.  I have mixed feelings about them.  I love yellow but these flowers are almost florescent in color and they're shaped like dunce caps.  As they're succulents and hold a lot of water in their stems, they're also very heavy so any arrangement featuring them needs to be well-balanced to ensure that it doesn't topple over.

I used a green Aeonium rosette edged in bronze to accent the Aeonium flower stalks with the yellow-green florets

Back view, fluffed up with stems of Acacia 'Cousin Itt'

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt', Leucadendron salignum 'Chief', Narcissus 'Geranium', Aeonium arboreum (foliage rosette), and Aeonium arboreum flowers

The blue Anemones are still coming up a few at a time in my cutting garden.  When I realized that the tree-sized Ceanothus 'Cliff Schmidt' on my back slope was also producing its first flowers, I decided to to try another spin on a blue and white scheme for a second vase this week.

I'm happier with this arrangement in person than in photos.  The dark green color of the Ceanothus leaves detract from the flowers and obscure some.

Back view

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Anemone coronaria (bulbs sold as 'Lord Lieutenant'), Ceanothus arboreus 'Cliff Schmidt', noID paperwhite Narcissus, Osteospermum '4D Silver' (maybe), Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata', and Pyrethropsis hosmariense (aka Moroccan daisy)

An arrangement using a Hippeastrum is almost certainly on the menu for next week unless they drown in the flow of the coming atmospheric river.  In the meantime, visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for more IAVOM creations.

All material © 2012-2024 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, January 26, 2024

The bird feeder

I have three bird feeders outside my home office window.  I left them empty during the summer and early fall months until temperatures fell.  In January, the white-crowned sparrows arrived and activity at the feeders picked up.  As the birds tend to fly away as soon as I go out the back door, I used a telephoto lens to capture photos from inside with mixed results.

This is the best wide shot I could get that wasn't blurred by sun glare or fog

The white-crowned sparrows (Zonotrichia leucophrys) live in parts of the western US year-round but they're not generally seen in my area until the winter months.  Unlike many of the birds here, these sparrows know how to strike a pose.

According to TheCornellLab the oldest verified age of a white-crowned sparrow was at least 13 years and 4 months

Apparently, they'll share their territories with some birds but are known to drive others away, including Dark-eyed Juncos.  I noticed Juncos hopping about for awhile but they've been noticeably absent of late.  However, it doesn't seem that the sparrows have any issues with finches.

Based on casual observations, house finches (Haemorphous mexicanus) are the most common (or at least the most visible) of the small birds here

According to Cornell, male house finches get their red color during the molting period from pigment in their food.  The more pigment, the redder their plumage.

Female house finch sharing a feeder with a white-crowned sparrow

This is the best shot I got of a lesser goldfinch (Spinus psaltria), which is also a very common year-round resident.  Lesser goldfinch males in the far west have green backs, unlike those further east (source: Cornell).

About two years ago, I noticed another kind of finch hanging around.  I know it by the common name of spice finch (Lonchura punctulata) but it's also known as nutmeg mannikin, ricebird, and scaly-breasted munia.  Native to tropical areas of Asia, they spread in the US as escaped birds.  They were first sighted in Cocoa Beach, Florida in 1964.  They've more recently been added to Audubon's list of California State birds.  In the US, they're reportedly most common in Florida and California (source: Wikipedia).

Male and female spice finches look similar, although the male's coloring is somewhat darker.  Juveniles are paler in color, lack the dark head, and have buff-colored breasts.

Originally, spice finch sightings were one-off observations.  This year I've seen these birds hanging out in noticeably larger groups but they also seem to get along fine with house finches, lesser goldfinches, and white-crowned sparrows.

Spice finches sharing space with a single lesser goldfinch.  This feeder with an outer cage seems to be the favorite among the small birds.

I noticed that the spice finches often share feeding perches, something I've never noticed among the other birds

Good view of a juvenile spice finch on the right

The California scrub jays (Aphelocoma californica) send all the small birds packing when they visit but, thankfully, they don't stop by often.

Not a great photo but a very interesting, if common, bird.  Like it's relative the crow, it's very clever.  Although its weight can close the seed portals of this "squirrel buster" feeder, it can balance its weight in such a way as to get some seed, even if he can't keep it up long.

At least the scrub jays don't break the feeders.  The same can't be said of the squirrels.

On the left is the squirrel contemplating his leap onto the "squirrel buster" bird feeder.  The weight he (or she) put on the cage surrounding the feeder immediately closed the seed portals as shown on the right. With practice, they learn to hang upside down from the top of the feeder to avoid closing the portals immediately but they've actually broken the springs in some of these feeders.

The squirrels are currently leaving the bird feeders alone, having found another source of food elsewhere in our garden.  The already paltry crop of oranges shrinks more every day.

Meanwhile, my cat Pipig and I had our sixth visit with the vet since November earlier this week.  She continues to improve but still hasn't received an all-clear report; however, absent a new problem, we don't plan to see the vet again for another four months.  She's eating well but her weight is still stuck at six pounds, fourteen ounces.

Have a nice weekend.

All material © 2012-2024 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

More foliage highlights

Last week I assembled photos for a foliage post but I ended up appending those featuring succulents to a post primarily focused on my north side garden.  As I've been house-bound due to rainy weather recently, I thought I'd go ahead and share the other foliage photos I collected.  As it stands, the ground's too soggy to do much work in the garden right now.

I grow this Ageratum corymbosum for its purple and green foliage as much as for the lavender flowers that appear in early spring

The lower leaves of Begonia luxurians didn't appreciated the windy and dry conditions we had in December and early January but the upper leaves still show why it's called the palm leaf begonia

Beschorneria yuccoides 'Flamingo Glow', planted in March 2022, hasn't done much but I haven't given up on it.  To be fair, the nearby Grevillea lanigera 'Mt Tamboritha'  almost swallowed it up at one point.

Only a couple of Coprosmas have done really well in my garden.  Coprosma 'Evening Glow' is one of them, shown here playing nicely off Phormium 'Maori Queen'.

Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey' grows much taller than 'Evening Glow'.  My only complaint is that, as it gets taller, it develops bare legs (partially hidden in this case by Aeoniums at its base).

Drimia maritima didn't produce any blooms last year and I was afraid critters might have damaged the bulbs but the foliage of all 5 bulbs is up this year.  There are signs of scratches and nibbling on the foliage, though.  I'm tempted to relocate one or more bulbs to the upper level of the garden to see if they fare better there.

This is a Ginkgo tree across the street in a neighbor's front yard.  My Ginkgo's leaves turned crispy brown and fell in late summer but I'm hopeful that, as my tree matures, it'll shed pools of yellow leaves like this too.

I cut Melianthus major to the ground every fall but it reliably springs back, bearing its lovely serrated leaves

Given how dry it's been overall this winter, I'm amazed by how much moss we have.  These photos of the back slope were taken before the 2 recent rainstorms.  There's more in the upper level of the garden and between paving stones too. 

This is the bromeliad Nidularium wittrockia leopardinum, one of my favorites even though its leaf edges are vicious

One of my favorite Peperomias, P. angulata 'Funky Frog'  (Who comes up with these names?)

I picked up this small coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides 'Flamethrower Chili Pepper') in early fall in the interest of seeing how it'd do in this bed.  I only bought one plant as I thought cooler temperatures might quickly kill it off but it's made a great little groundcover, nicely complementing Aeonium 'Mardi Gras'.

This coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides 'Limewire') is out of control but unbothered by the colder weather.  Protection from wind and sun seems to be the key in keeping coleus alive over the winter months here.  I cut it back after taking this shot to reveal more of Fuchsia 'Voodoo'.

Someday Protea 'Pink Ice' will produce flowers but, even without them, the shrub makes a statement

I think Santolina virens 'Lemon Fizz' should be called "Lime Fizz".  My Santolinas have gotten scruffy in the past after a couple of years but I followed published guidance and gave these a haircut in the fall with great results.

This Trachelospermum is one of many that came with the garden.  I'd assumed it was T. jasminoides but a reader commented that the red color displayed by these suggest it's T. asiaticum.

Prior to last Saturday, our rain total for the water year-to-date (calculated from October 1st) was 3.01 inches.  With the two storms that passed through Saturday and Monday it reached 5.38 inches.  That's not great by comparison to last year's numbers but maybe there's at least a chance of getting something like "normal" rainfall here this year.  "Normal" rainfall would mean getting at least another nine inches by early April and the current pace of our rainstorms makes that goal somewhat questionable.

All material © 2012-2024 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party