Friday, May 31, 2024

Some of my favorite plant combinations

It's been a busy week, both in the garden and outside of it, but I managed to take a variety of photos of plant combinations I especially like to close out this week's blog posts.  Here they are in no particular order.

Salvia canariensis var candidissima stands tall, surrounded by plants flowering in similar colors, including Phlomis purpurea, Pelargonium cucullatum, Hebe 'Wiri Blush', and lots of self-seeded Polygala myrtifolia

Blues and yellows line the flagstone path viewed looking north, with touches of violet here and there.  The strongest blue element at the moment is provided by Salvia 'Mystic Spires'.  The yellow color is provided by Achillea 'Moonshine', Arctotis 'Large Marge' and the foliage of Cistus 'Little Miss Sunshine'.  The violet accents are currently provided by Polygala myrtifolia and Teucrium aroanium but the creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum 'Elfin') is just starting to bloom.

The view from the same point in the back garden looking south highlights yellows and oranges.  The 'Kaleidoscope' Abelias incorporate both colors.  The chartreuse foliage of Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold' and the flowers of Achillea 'Moonshine' echo the yellow notes.  Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid' (visible on the far left of the first photo) and Aeonium haworthii 'Kiwi' flowers add a touch of peach.  Stronger orange notes are provided by Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer' and a distant peek at a noID coral Hippeastrum.

This is the Hippeastrum visible at the far right edge of the first photo in the prior collage.  It was sent to me in 2022 as 'Appleblossom' but it's doesn't match the description of that flower.

Zeroing in on this vignette at the southeast end of the back garden, I was pleased with the combination of vivid Alstroemeria 'Indian Summer' and the softer tones of the 'Joe Hoak' Agaves and the reddish foliage of Leucadendron 'Safari Sunset' (before I pruned it).  Tall flowers of  Daucus carota 'Dara' on the far left echo the red notes.

Burgundy and green colors stand out here with touches of pink and white on the margins.  The burgundy color is provided by Aeonium 'Jack Catlin', Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple', and Coprosma repens 'Plum Hussey'.  Cistus 'Sunset' contributes the pink color and Lagurus ovatus (aka bunny tail grass) adds touches of white.

I'm less fond of the combination of the Cotinus and the Coprosma viewed from this different angle under sunnier conditions, where the reddish-green foliage of 'Plum Hussey' reads more brown than burgundy 

These are views of the same Grevillea 'Superb', Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', and Cuphea 'Vermillionaire' from 2 different directions.  It shines in both views.  In the photo on the left, 2 varieties of Gaillardia and an Erysimum 'Wild Orchid' reinforce the color scheme.

This combination was hard to photograph as the space doesn't allow me to back up as far as I'd have liked.  Yucca gloriosa 'Variegata' and Leucospermum 'Spider Hybrid' mingle well in this section of my front garden.  Accents here include Leucadendron 'Cloudbank Ginny', Euphorbia tirucalli 'Sticks on Fire', and Aeonium haworthii 'Kiwi'.  The Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream', partially visible behind the Leucadendron, reflects the same colors.

Notably, most of the Leucospermum 'Spider Hybrid' flowers have matured since early spring, changing color as they've done so.  The styles of the mature flower have turned from a peachy-yellow to orange-red and their centers have evolved from pink to beige as shown in this photo of a stem containing 2 flowers at different stages of development.

The combination of Aeonium arboreum and Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' on the lower level of my front garden are all about the contrast of plant shapes, not colors.  The Agaves shown here were planted as pups of 2 parent plants that bloomed out in 2019.  They're now about as big as the parent plants were when they bloomed.

The shift from spring toward summer is more evident each day.  In addition to my pruning activities, it's time to pull apart my cutting garden to make way for Dahlias, Rudbeckias, Zinnias and other summer blooms.  I hate removing the waning spring blooms but it's got to be done!

Best wishes for a nice weekend.  May Mother Nature treat you kindly in the weather department!

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

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Things are getting out of hand - pruning required!

Can plants be too exuberant?  It isn't just the bulbs, annuals and perennials that reacted gleefully to our heavier-than-usual rainy season this year.  Numerous shrubs responded with their own effusive flushes of growth.  In many cases, a little pruning will put things right but there are quite a few shrubs that have exceeded their expected size, if also some cases in which I crammed them into spots smaller than recommended based on projections of their dimensions at maturity.  I can't claim to be especially good in the area of spatial relations.

I have a lot of  'Cousin Itt' Acacias, most of which have remained within bounds with some judicious pruning but a few have been more difficult. 

The 3 Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itts' planted under the peppermint willow in the back garden get along fine with an annual haircut
On the other hand, the Acacias in the front garden have been more difficult to manage.  When this photo was taken earlier in the month, I was barely able to squeeze through the plants on either side of the flagstone path, which is barely visible here.

I got tired of brushing through the plants, especially when they were damp so I trimmed them back this week and gave the clover growing between the flagstones a serious haircut as well.  The twiggy undergrowth of the Acacias need more work but that can wait a while.

The Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid' I planted in 2015 has grown larger than I expected.  Its height isn't so much the issue as its girth.

When I bought 'Cane's Hybrid' in a one-gallon pot, the label claimed it'd grow up to 10 feet tall by 15 feet wide.  It's taller than that now and I've since read that it can get up to 20 feet tall.  Since it replaced a peppermint willow a neighbor (now long gone) complained interfered with her view, its height isn't a big issue; however, the back branches are problematic as they hang over the dirt path between the shrub and the hedge, making movement along the path more difficult for the gardeners, as well as me.

In the next case, the size of Centaurea 'Silver Feather' appears to have been grossly underestimated.  Having planted it in my back garden before, I knew it grew larger than its projected size (12-18 inches tall and 18-24 inches wide) yet I still underestimated its space requirements when I planted two of them in my front garden.

Last year, I was looking for a third 'Silver Feather'.  I'm glad I didn't find one!  I measured the one on the left at almost 2 feet tall and 4 feet wide.  The flower stalks are taller still and they flop over rather than remaining upright, which is the real problem.  I've tried using stakes to keep the stalks upright but they're not really aren't doing the job.  Still, I'm loathe to cut the stalks and miss out on the flowers.

The next plant grew so slowly that it left me with false expectations about what I could squeeze into the space around it.

The Corokia x virgata 'Sunsplash' has an erratic growth pattern but I'll do my best to give it a more pleasing shape.  I may end up removing the Phormium on the left to give the Corokia more elbow room.

The next shrubs have grown a LOT taller than they were projected to get.

Leptospermum 'Copper Glow' was projected to grow 4-6 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide.  I'd estimate that my 2 shrubs are about 15 feet tall and nearly 12 feet wide.  Last year I pruned them hard and lost most of their summer flowers as a result.  I'd planned to trim them shortly after they flowered but never got to it so I'll tackle that job in late summer/early fall this year.  I'll be bringing it down to the level of the roof's peak but no lower than that.

I may have been delusional when I transplanted Leucospermum 'Sunrise' from a pot into the ground.  However, I removed four 'Gold Dust' rosemary shrubs (which themselves had greatly overgrown their projected size) to make room for the Leucospermum, leaving one in place with the notion that it could be removed later if the Leucospermum needed more room as it matured.  During its first three years in the ground, my approach seemed solid.

However, this year the Leucospermum entrenched on the succulent bed in front of it.  I didn't remember that I'd planted a small Agave ovatifolia 'Vanzie' there until I started pruning back some of the Leucospermum's foliage this week.  The shot on the left shows it prior to pruning and the view on the right shows it after a light pruning.

The Agave on the left and numerous Mangaves will need to be relocated.  I'll leave some of the smaller succulents in place.  I'll prune back the remaining 'Gold Dust' rosemary for now, reserving the option to remove that if necessary next year.

I accept no blame for the oversized Pyracantha in my front garden.  It planted itself under the strawberry tree (Arbutus 'Marina') in the front garden.  Knowing nothing about the plant, which I originally assumed was a Cotoneaster, its slow but steady growth went largely unnoticed - until it showed itself to be something of a thug.

The noID Pyracantha occupies an awkward space, spilling down one side of the moderate front slope, but its attempt to take over its little corner is becoming a problem.  I intend to do some minor pruning to reduce the tall upward shoots in the short term but I may ask my hard-core tree service to bring it further down to size in the fall.

I picked up a Salvia lanceolata (aka lanceleaf sage) in 2014 at my local botanic garden, knowing little to nothing about it.  It had a projected size of three feet tall and wide and it grew slowly.  It was snuggled in next to an Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' which, in time, swallowed it up.

Frankly, the Salvia looks ridiculous with stems sticking up every which way from underneath the Acacia.  I contemplated removing it last year but settled for cutting it back hard after it finished flowering.  It sprung back bigger than ever this year.

I still like the unusual flowers so I'll make a stab at taking cuttings as I've never found the plant anywhere other than my local botanic garden, which no longer propagates plants for sale.  If some of my cuttings take, I'll try pruning the plant to the ground and will remove its base if I can do so without damaging the Acacia.

With the possible exception of Salvia lanceolata, hopefully I'll be as successful at reining in the aforementioned shrubs as I've been with those shown below.

Grevillea 'Superb' was supposed to grow no bigger than 3-5 feet tall and wide.  It's exceeded the outside limits of that estimate, especially in terms of its width.  The plant blooms year-round and I routinely cut back the longest stems for inclusion in floral arrangements.  That generally does the job of keeping it within bounds.

Leucadendron salignum 'Chief' is supposed to grow 6-10 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide but it grows much larger than that in both dimensions.  I missed its usual late winter pruning after it finished "flowering" but I'll give it a haircut in early fall.  It's fresh red foliage is too pretty to cut now.

Leucadendron 'Pisa' was supposed to grow 4-8 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide but it's grown taller than expected and assumed a tree-like shape.  It's tall enough to pose a pruning challenge but I'll attempt to bring it down a peg once its colorful bracts fade this summer.  If I can't manage, I'll ask the tree service to handle it.  The key is to avoid cutting into bare wood.

I've already trimmed Leucadendron 'Safari Sunset' a bit in the back but I still need to wade into the bed to cut back the front-facing stems.  My husband gets annoyed because it blocks our view of the harbor's entrance.  It takes pruning well as long as I don't cut into bare wood.  I pruned the smaller 'Safari Sunset' in the front garden about a month ago.

Placing Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' here wasn't a great move on my part.  I'd wanted to break up the view of the southern end of the front garden when the area to its left was more densely planted but, now that I've opened that area up, that plan doesn't work quite as well as I'd envisioned.

Once I sharpen my pruning tools, I'll start chipping away at the long list of subjects I've outlined here.

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

Monday, May 27, 2024

In a Vase on Monday: Rescues from a pit of chaos

With the extra rain we've had for two years in a row, my garden exploded this spring.  I spent a good part of last week just pulling weeds and clearing paths covered by excessively exuberant plants - and I've barely made a dent in many areas.  When it came time to cut flowers for "In a Vase on Monday," I decided to see if I could find any vase-worthy Matilija poppies at the bottom of our back slope.  As I headed down there, I realized that, despite my efforts to tidy-up the area two weeks ago, it's more chaotic than ever now.  

I took this photo after my first pass at cleaning things up earlier this month.  It was relatively neat even if the pathways were narrow; however, while I moved on to other areas of the garden, blissfully believing everything was tidy enough on the slope for awhile, the plants didn't stop growing taller and wider at lightning speed. 

I had to cut tall, flopping stems of Centranthus and succulent flowers and artichoke plant foliage just to make it down the concrete-block stairway.  And a machete would've been useful to reach the poppies!  I spent more time cutting back and pulling spent plants and weeds than cutting flowers.

I managed to get 4 intact poppies (Romneya coulteri) and one promising bud, while shattering the petals of a few more in the process.  Some readers may remember that I've tried to rid my garden of this plant, which spreads by adventitious rhizomes, and repeatedly failed.  Another attempt will be made this fall.

Back view:  The Japanese honeysuckle, which came with the garden and is firmly entrenched within the rampant ivy that blankets the upper level of the slope, is also impossible to get rid of without resorting to poisons.  At least it has a nice scent!

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Leucospermum 'High Gold', Lonicera japonica, Romneya coulteri, and Tagetes lemmonii (aka Mexican marigold)

While I was down there, I was astounded to see that the bearded Irises were more floriferous than ever before.  I cut two tall stems with multiple blooms as the starting point for a second arrangement.

This is another arrangement that looked better to me when stuffed in the bottle I used to collect my materials than after I formally arranged them in a proper vase.  I probably should've picked a different vase and left out the Limonium, both of which come across as too blue by comparison to the Iris, although the differences are less jarring in person than in these photos.

Back view: In addition, the delicate Renga lilies (Arthropdium cirratum) got lost among the other elements

Top view

Clockwise from the upper left: Arthropodium cirratum (aka Renga lily), Limonium perezii (aka sea lavender), Nemesia, 'Nessie Plus White', noID Iris germanica, Polygala myrtifolia, Prostanthera ovalifolia 'Variegata', and Salvia canariensis var candidissima

I still need to haul two piles of debris up the slope and I plan to spend at least a couple more hours there this week in an effort to rein in the mess.  Meanwhile, the march toward summer continues and the cutting garden needs to be cleared out soon to make way for dahlias and other summer bloomers.

For more IAVOM creations, visit our host, Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.


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

Friday, May 24, 2024

A visit to Huntington Gardens (Part 2, the Desert Garden)

My friend and I had only about three hours for our visit to the the Huntington Gardens last weekend so we focused on three areas, the Japanese and Chinese Gardens, which were covered in my last post, and the Desert Garden.  This post addresses the latter garden.

Leaving the Chinese Garden, we looped back past the Japanese Garden and the Rose Garden and wended our way through a pathway edging the Sub-tropical and Jungle Gardens.  We didn't linger but I snapped a couple of photos as we sped by.

Although in a relatively open area, I'm guessing this was part of the Jungle Garden.  I'm also guessing that the spectacular plant in the middle of the display is a giant philodendron of some kind, possibly a member of the Thaumatophyllum genus.

We also saw this plant, which I was surprised to find labeled as Cordyline stricta 'Soledad'

As we entered the Desert Garden, I was juggling two cameras, one being my phone, so when processing my photos I lost my sense of the garden's flow.  Backtracking here and there didn't help matters but I've done my best to give you a sense of the space.  For those of you familiar with the Huntington's Desert Garden, please note that the Desert Garden Conservatory and the surrounding area in the garden's upper section are currently closed for renovation.

I'm fairly certain this is one of the first plants I aimed my camera at in the Desert Garden.  It's a Myrtillocactus geometrizans.  I remember seeing a much smaller crested version of this plant recently, which grabbed my attention too.

I'm largely uninformed when it comes to identifying cacti but I was also intrigued by what may be a Trichocereus with another plant growing within its embrace.  The latter reminded me of Xylosma; however, this plant appeared to have a more vining habit.

Mixes like this always appeal to me.  A sign identified the upright plant in the foreground as Echinocereus viereckii.  There are a couple of Agave victoriae-reginae nearby (middle, left) but I won't attempt IDs for the rest of the plants shown here.

I won't try to identify the plants here either except to point out the huge Opuntias in the background

Compositions including what I assume are Echinocactus grusonii (aka barrel cactus)

I tried to get an ID for the colorful flowering shrub shown here but I couldn't find a label.  My phone's app identified it as Caesalpinia, although the flowers didn't look like those I'm familiar with.

I think the tortured-looking plant is a Stenocereus alamosensis (aka octopus cactus)

The last time I tried to identify an epiphytic cactus like the one shown climbing the tree here, I called it an Epiphyllum, only to later discover it was Selenicereus (aka dragon fruit).  Your guess is as good as mine on this one.

The ice plant in front was labeled as Lampranthus and the shrub behind it is clearly a Caesalpinia

I snapped closeup photos of some plants.

Clockwise from the upper left, Agaves I'm fairly certain I could identify include: a variegated (and very twisted) Agave americana, A. attenuata 'Boutin Blue', one labeled as A. macroculmis (which San Marcos Growers describe as a synonym for A. gentryi), A. parryi, and A. attenuata 'Ray of Light'

Agaves I couldn't identify include the toothy specimens on the left (which my phone app identified as a spiral aloe!) and the variegated specimens on the right, which at first glance looked like Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor'  but they exhibit a different growth habit than any 'Quadicolors' I've seen

There were more Echinocactus grusonii than I've seen anywhere else

Two flowering Echinopsis without cultivar names

A very large display of Echium wildpretii blooming en masse

I had to hunt online for an ID on the charming (if prickly) plant on the left, which I think could be Opuntia microdasys f. monstrosa 'Crazy Bunny Ears'.  I presume the one on the right is Opuntia santa-rita.

The Huntington is known for its Puya collection but it was no longer at its peak.  I think the first plant on the upper left is actually a Dyckia, possibly D. 'Tricolor'.  Clockwise from the middle of the top row are 2 unidentified Puya and P. spathacea (shown both in a closeup and a wide shot). 

Two tree-sized plants: Ceiba insignis (aka silk floss tree, left) and a Nolina (right)

Clockwise from the upper left, assorted other succulents include: noID Aloe (fronted by Portulacaria afra), some kind of Echinocereus, a colorful Haworthia, and Erythrina acanthocarpa

Hunting down genus and species names online is an educational exercise for me, although I look forward to the day when plant identification applications and similar tools can reliably do the job for me.  It seems harder to come by plant labels in botanical gardens these days - they're either missing, buried, or applicable to some plant since removed.  In a botanical garden as old as the Huntington Gardens, many of the plants have grown large enough to cover their original labels.  The tag underneath the Erythrina was labeled Lobiva, which I took at face value until I looked up that genus and went to work digging up the plant's true identity online.

As we headed toward the exit, we passed the California Garden.

Although called the "California Garden," it's planted with a variety of species suitable to a Mediterranean climate like ours.  The area shown here, bisected by a long water feature that empties into a small pool, is a sub-section referred to as the "Celebration Garden."  More information can be found here

I spotted a tree-sized Grevillea 'Moonlight' as we walked on.

This area was also part of the California Garden, which encompasses 6.5 acres

So that was our trip to the Huntington Gardens.  We didn't even set foot into any of the art museums, much less tour all sixteen of the themed gardens.  Even a full day wouldn't be enough to cover everything.

If you're in the US, best wishes for a happy Memorial Day weekend!  Safe travels if you're venturing out to celebrate our unofficial start of summer.

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