Thursday, July 2, 2015

Wide Shots - July 2015

After an unusually cool and pleasant May complete with unexpected rain, the "June gloom" characteristic of coastal southern California gave way in mid-June to more tropical conditions, characterized by high temperatures and high humidity.  It's become uncomfortable to work in the garden except in early morning and late afternoon.  Mosquitoes moved in and I was covered with bites until I belatedly took preventive measures.  In response to California's new water regulations, I kept a lid on our irrigation usage and began toting graywater from the house to the garden on a daily basis.  I also drew on the rainwater stored in my collection tanks to water plants that hadn't yet developed the root systems required to achieve drought tolerance.  While I pushed the envelope and put some new plants in the ground, in general my garden activities shifted from plant installation to plant maintenance.

My most significant new venture involved the addition of 500 pounds (227 kilograms) of rock to my street-side succulent bed.

Most of the new rock was added through the mid-section of the bed in an irregular pattern

I used the rock to give the succulent bed more interest; to allow me to raise the soil level in sections, improving drainage; and to help hide the drip irrigation hose.  I dug up and rearranged some succulents in the process.

A closer look at selected segments of the bed

I've debated using gravel mulch around the succulents.  Heat already reflects off the street and I'm concerned that rock gravel may increase the reflected heat and also raise soil temperatures.  In addition, after digging mountains of rocks out of my garden, I'm hesitant to add rock that will gradually sift down into the soil below.  In the short term, I'm planning to add an organic mulch and rely more on groundcover succulents to fill in between plants.

The only areas of my garden getting virtually no attention are the back slope and the area I call the glen, which sits behind the street-side succulent bed.  The slope isn't getting the water it needs and it looks awful.  As to the glen, my husband and I have plans to haul in stone to extend the half-finished dry-stack wall but that project may be on hold until cooler weather returns.
The back garden still has some holes but it's looking fuller than it did earlier in the year.

The clumps of Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) in the fountain bed got bad haircuts in June but the daylilies are at their peak

The grass path between the borders is gradually dying and is slated for removal in late September

The mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) is the star of the backyard garden right now, although its litter is already dropping everywhere

The raccoons have returned to plague the side garden, no longer put off by the prickly magnolia flower cones I put down to thwart their digging.  

I spend time most mornings filling in the holes dug by the raccoons and skunks and replacing the plants they uprooted overnight

The Grevillea 'Bonfire' in the bed in the background on the right is dying, probably because I haven't given it enough water to get established in the dry soil in that area

This photo was taken as a tropical system passed through late Tuesday afternoon, producing thunder and lightening but just a few droplets of rain

The front garden also still has some bare spots, although the area on the south side is filling in rapidly.

The Magnolia is continuing to bloom and the Albizia can be seen poking above the roofline - the tropical weather conditions even prompted the Hong Kong orchid tree (Bauhinia x blakeana, on the left) to produce some flowers on mostly bare branches

The Agapanthus are fading throughout the garden - although you can still see some here and in the back garden, I cut down more than 120 scruffy stalks earlier this week

It's hard to believe this area was bare dirt just 9 months ago!

The lawn in this area, behind the hedge bordering the street and the driveway, is slated for removal in late September, along with the remaining lawn in the backyard.  We're planning to lay flagstone paths through both areas, surrounded by low groundcovers.  In the meantime, we're making no effort to keep the grass alive.

The green patches here are some kind of weed with tiny yellow flowers

The dry garden is looking pretty good, although the critters have pilfered about half the grapes and persimmons are dropping unripened from the tree, probably also due to inadequate water.

The guava trees also seem to be slow to set fruit this year

The raised planters in the vegetable garden are filled with sunflower seedlings and dozen zinnia plants.  

I was late in getting the sunflower seeds planted and the raccoons have dug around in the raised planters too but I'm still hopeful I'll get a few sunflowers before summer's over

That's it for this month's wide shots and monthly recap.  Hopefully, summer will be kind to us and I'll have more than dried up plant husks to show in August.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Wednesday Vignette: Unstable Weather Conditions

Our recent weather has had a distinctly tropical feel.  Temperatures have soared into the 90s (32+ Celsius) with higher than normal humidity.  Rain has skulked about us but, although the desert and mountain areas have received some measurable rain, the sky has done nothing more than spit at us.  Sunday was one such day, characterized by low clouds.  Then, in early evening, the sun broke through the clouds and briefly turned the Los Angeles harbor to gold.

Close-up of the Vincent-Thomas Bridge, which links San Pedro and Terminal Island

Gold gave way to pink as the sun set.

Photo taken from our backyard

For more Wednesday Vignettes, visit Anna at Flutter & Hum.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, June 29, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: Eustoma calling

The Eustoma grandiflorum (aka Lisianthus) have been calling out for attention (drowning out the cries of Grevillea 'Ned Kelly' and G. 'Superb', both of which are also in full-flower).  I have four colors (and 6 cultivars) of the Eustoma this year.  The white form has mostly finished its first flush - whether there will be a second will depend a lot on how high our temperatures fly in the next few weeks.  The 'Echo Pink' variety has been blooming for some time but now 'Mariachi Pink' is joining in.  The 'Borealis Blue' plants I bought in 4-inch pots several weeks ago have begun to bloom and, more surprisingly, so have the 'Borealis Blue' and 'Echo Blue' cultivars I carried over from last year.  Only 'Borealis Yellow' has been slow to take off.

This vase celebrates the pink forms of Eustoma

The vase includes:

Eustoma 'Echo Pink' and 'Mariachi Pink'  - the only difference between the two seems to be the length of the stems

Salvia 'Wendy's Wish' and Abelia x grandiflora 'Confetti'

Zinnia 'Cut & Come Again' and Alstroemeria - the no ID Alstroemeria produced another flush of bloom after the cooler weather in May

Entranced as I was with the pink Eustoma, I found it impossible to ignore the blue forms so I created another vase to feature them and my Agapanthus, which the hot weather is sending into a premature decline.  However, it didn't come together as I'd envisioned so, after staring at it throughout breakfast, I took it apart and put it back together to give the blue Eustoma more prominence but I still don't think it sings.

My original effort is on the left and the revised version is on the right

It contains:

Clockwise from the left: Eustoma 'Borealis Blue', Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', Agapanthus, Prostanthera linearis and Leucanthemum x superbum.  Coleonema album and Pittosporum tobira 'Variegatum' play supporting roles.

A few smaller blooms went into a third tiny vase, a recent gift from a friend.

The blue bottle, approximately 3 inches tall and 1-inch wide, is held by a silver fork with tines twisted in a decorative pattern.  The blue bottle holds Aster frikartii 'Monch',  Angelonia, and Abelia 'Confetti'.

The vases are scattered about the house (with last week's Cymbidiums still occupying the table in the front entrance):

These are my contributions to the wonderful "In a Vase on Monday" meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  Visit Cathy to see what's caught her attention this week and to find links to the many other contributors who've been hooked by this weekly ritual.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, June 26, 2015

My favorite plant this week: Leptospermum 'Copper Glow'

My favorite plant this week was purchased as Leptospermum 'Copper Glow'.  In researching the plant on line I found two species of 'Copper Glow'.  One was L. petersonii and the other was L. polygalifolium.  Although I liked the idea that we might share a name, my guess is that my plants are L. polygalifolium.  L. petersonii is described as a lemon-scented shrub with foliage that's copper when new and green at maturity but I can't detect any lemony fragrance in the leaves of mine and the foliage is more bronze than green.

Whatever its species, it's a beautiful, graceful shrub.  I planted 2 of these shrubs late last year, both in front garden.

Both shrubs are shown here, one in the foreground on the left and the other in the background on the far right

Their form is more like that of Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' than that of the traditional tea tree, L. scoparium.

A closer look at the shrub on the north side of the front walkway

and the shrub on the south side of the walkway

According to the tag on the pot, my plants should grow 5-6 feet (1.5-1.8 meters) tall and 6-7 feet (1.8-2.1 meters) wide; however, on-line sources predict 2-3 meters (6.5-9.8 feet) tall and wide.  The plants are responsive to pruning, though, and I'm hoping to keep mine within the bounds shown on the tag.

The plants are reportedly drought and frost tolerant.  Predictions of frost tolerance varied widely. One source contended that they will tolerate minus 4C, while another said minus 10C (or 25F versus 14F).  Still another source said the shrubs were suited to US zones 8b-11.  As frost isn't an issue in my area of southern California, I can't make any personal assertions as to its winter hardiness.

The shrubs are supposed to flower in spring but mine produced no flowers this year, which is fine with me.  I bought them for their foliage, which I fell in love with at first sight.

I've cut these stems several times to add to floral arrangements (most recently as shown here)

The shrubs will handle full or partial sun.  One of mine gets the former and the other the latter.  The one that receives full sun appears slightly more robust but that may be due to having received more pruning.  There are also slight color differences in foliage color.

The foliage of the plant receiving full sun, shown on the left, is a deeper copper red

Loree of danger garden presents a wrap-up of her favorite plants on the last Friday of the month - you can see her June favorites here.  Earlier this month I introduced 2 other favorites, plants that couldn't have been more different from one another, although the distinction wasn't intentional on my part.  You can find my posts on these 2 plants here and here.

Trifolium repens is shown on the left and Magnolia grandiflora on the right

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Wednesday Vignette: Lace and Powder Puffs

As those who've read my posts for some time know, I have a love-hate relationship with Albizia julibrissin (aka the mimosa or silk tree).  I inherited one of these trees with the garden and it occupies a prominent place in my backyard border.  For a brief period in late June or early July, it's a gorgeous confection of lacy green foliage and pink powder-puff flowers.  We're approaching that moment now.

The pretty pink blooms shine against the delicate green foliage

And the blue afternoon skies provide a perfect backdrop

The tree itself lends structure to my backyard border

The tree's allure is temporary, ending almost as soon as it begins, with both foliage and flowers dropping to produce a massive amount of litter.  Although the flowers aren't sticky like those of the Jacaranda, the dying flowers form ugly brown clumps as the flowers age.  And, beginning in late July, seedpods begin to fall, a process that continues until new flowers form the following year.  The brittle pods deposit seeds everywhere.  I have no statistics to demonstrate the viability of those seeds but I wouldn't be surprised if half of them produce seedlings.  I find them everywhere and live in fear of waking up one morning in a dense mimosa forest.

With trees like this looming above me (photo taken on my back slope looking upward toward the backyard border)

I pull the seedlings as soon as I see them but it wouldn't be hard to miss one, would it?

Nope!  This one is already 2 feet tall - and it's planted itself near the property line, on my neighbor's side...

This post is my contribution to the Wednesday Vignette hosted by Anna at Flutter & Hum.  Visit Anna to see what images she's found to capture your attention this week.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, June 22, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: Orchids Demand Center Stage

Although last week's heat made it impossible to deny that summer has arrived, there's still a lot in bloom, even if some flowers are starting to look a little worse for the wear.  Agapanthus were the most obvious choice for this week's vase but I couldn't think of anything inspiring to do with them.  Instead I fixated on the yellow Cymbidiums that sit in pots in a neglected area of my garden.  Their foliage is scorched so I haven't hauled the pots close to the house where the flowers could be admired.  Cutting stems for a vase seemed the obvious solution; however, selecting flowers to complement them presents a challenge.  I cut other flowers and foliage with similar colors but, in the end, I used just a single foliage element to accompany the orchids - they don't like to share center stage.

Don't the Cymbidiums look as though they're laughing at the very idea they'd consort with other flowers?

Leptospermum 'Copper Glow', a plant that can add grace to any vase

The rest of what I'd cut, plus some ornamental grass, went into a second vase.  A photo of the 2 bouquets together shows their incompatibility.

You can almost see the vase on the left emanating disdain for the one on the right

The second vase contains (clockwise from upper left): Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Goblin' and 'Arizona Sun', Leucadendron 'Blush', Leucadendron 'Chief', and Pennisetuma setaceum 'Rubrum' with Jacobaeus maritima

The Cymbidiums landed in the front entryway and the second vase took a place on the console table in the dining area.

Visit Cathy, the host of the "In a Vase on Monday" meme, at Rambling in the Garden to see what she's come up with this week and to find links to other contributors' creations.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Friday, June 19, 2015

On the road again (!)

Okay, I now admit that my announced intention not to plant anything more from May until fall was a delusion.  My friends and family knew that from the outset but they nodded patiently in response to my pronouncements and said nothing.  Even after I'd fallen off the wagon once, my friends only smiled when, upon receiving two nursery gift cards for my birthday, I declared that I'd hold onto them until September.  When one friend asked me what I wanted to do for a belated birthday celebration last weekend, I proposed visiting a nursery recommended by a neighbor earlier this year - only in the interest of research, of course.  My friend suggested that we stop by a couple other Orange Country nurseries while we were out.  It was like putting a cake in front of a dieter.  Fortunately, we called it a day after visiting just two nurseries - one of my gift cards is still intact.

Our first stop was the new-to-me Village Nursery in Huntington Beach.  It caters to landscapers but it's open to retail traffic as well.  The sign at the front gate gave us a moment's pause.

The vine hanging over the cashier's office and the container section also seemed a trifle ominous.

I meant to ask what this plant was before we left but I neglected to do so

I didn't notice the plants it seemed to swallow up, pots and all, until I looked at my photos on-line

I decided I really didn't need any new pots and focused on the plants.  The grounds weren't fancy but the nursery was well-stocked.  All the major growers were represented.

Monrovia had its own section right up front

As did Sunset

I became preoccupied with Coprosmas of all types for awhile but I eventually broke free of their spell (left to right: C. 'Marble King', C. 'Pina Colada' and C. 'Roy's Red')

There was a large selection of true Geraniums (in addition to Pelargoniums)

And Grevilleas

And Phormium

There were plants I've never seen before.

Like this dwarf Bougainvillea called 'Sunvillea Rose'

And plants I'm still thinking about (for my fall planting scheme).

On the left, more of the dwarf Jacaranda 'Blue Bonsai
On the top right: Grevillea 'Austraflora Fanfare' (is it supposed to have that wonderful variegated foliage?) and Alstroemeria 'Inticancha Bryce'
Right, bottom row: Leucadendron galpinii and Eremophila hygrophana

I don't "need" more Agapanthus but look at that dark-flowered variety! (no ID)

In an exercise of extreme restraint, I left with only two plants.

A variegated Caryopteris (without a tag) and Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Crazy Blue'

I'd like to say that I was as restrained when we arrived at Roger's Gardens but that would be untruthful.  I did start off just taking photos.

Succulent bed adjacent to the parking lot

A wonderful vertical display containing Acanthus, bromeliads, ferns and ivy

A collection of dahlias, including some of the huge "dinner-plate" varieties

Succulents in pots, baskets, drift wood and rock

But look at all the succulents in 6-packs.  No other garden center in my area provides such a range of inexpensive options.

So I got a cart.  In addition to the 6-packs of succulents, I picked up some Salvias.

Salvia 'Love & Wishes' and S. pachyphylla

Poof!  There went the gift card (and then some).  I did leave some choice plants behind, though.  Maybe they'll still be available this fall.

Clockwise from the left: Raphiolepis indica 'Fiesta', Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga and Sanvitalia 'Sunbini'

Best wishes for a wonderful weekend.

All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party