Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Foliage Follow-up - A Little of This and a Little of That

In spring, it's easy to get overwhelmed by flowers.  They're everywhere.  While some flowers complement one another, others clash.  I looked around my garden while taking pictures for yesterday's Bloom Day post and thought, I need more foliage to pull this garden together.  Foliage Follow-up, sponsored by Pam at Digging, is a celebration of foliage and a regular reminder of its importance in the garden.

Some of my foliage is so brightly colored, it can almost be mistaken for floral material.  Yucca 'Bright Star' falls into that category.  I added 3 of these to my main backyard border in January.  The plants are still relatively small and the surrounding plants currently distract attention away from them to a degree, but I think that'll change as the Yucca grow taller.  If the neighboring Nicotiana alata 'Lime Green' encroach upon them, the Nicotiana may have to go.

One of 3 Yucca 'Bright Star' in the mid portion of the main backyard border

Another of the 3 plants photographed from above to show off the color variation

The Yucca are currently surrounded by Nicotiana alata, Euphorbia 'Dean's Hybrid,' a Prostanthera ovalifolia and Adenophora seedlings

Abelia grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope' could also be considered a flower-like foliage plant.  It's hard to ignore in any setting.  I've used it in groups in 3 different parts of the garden.

This one, introduced in the in the backyard border 2 years ago with 2 others, is putting on new growth

I'm continuing to add plants for foliage interest.  One of my most recent purchases is Melianthus major, purchased at s spring plant sale conducted by the local botanic garden.  Although it can grow up to 12 feet (3.7 meters) tall and wide, I've been told that it can easily be kept to a smaller size.  I've added mine to what I'm calling my "red bed," an area previously occupied by a seldom-used snorkel spa that was dismantled in January, freeing up more garden space.  (One has to establish priorities, even in the garden.)

Newly-planted Melianthus major

I've added a variety of foliage elements to the other new backyard bed, an extension of our fountain bed.  Among these are 6 Liriope spicata, clumped in 2 groups of 3 plants each.  I understand that this species of Liriope can spread with abandon so I hope I don't regret the choice.  At present, I like how it adds a spiky vertical element along the pathway.

Liriope spicata

On the other side of the path, along the house, Plectranthus ciliatus 'Zulu Warrior' is once again showing why it's one of my favorite plants.  It's attractive even when it isn't in bloom.  The foliage also has a nice spicy scent.  I cut it back hard this winter but it has once again put on a healthy flush of new growth.  I established this mass from cuttings brought from our old house and I recently planted cuttings from this stock in the new bed on the other side of the path (as well as other locations in the side and front yards).

Plectranthus ciliatus 'Zulu Warrior' gets just morning sun

On a recent trip, I picked up a new Aeonium, A. canariense (aka the Velvet Rose), which ended up in a large pot on the small south-side patio.  I'm hoping that it'll prove as easy to grow as the other Aeonium I have growing all around the property.  When we moved in, a friend gifted me with a few cuttings of what I believe is some variety of Aeonium arboreum.  Unsure where to put it, I planted a few pieces below the citrus trees in the vegetable garden.  The few quickly grew into many and now, whenever I have an empty area in dry soil I'm not sure what to do with, I stick an Aeonium cutting directly in the soil, walk away and see what happens.  So far, there's no place these plants haven't thrived.  (Frankly, it's almost scary.)

Aeonium canariense

The original clump of Aeonium arboreum planted below the Mandarin orange tree has grown dramatically in size despite regular harvesting of cuttings

Another clump, developed from cuttings stuck into the soil about a year ago

A few plants recently added in a very dry, largely untended area near the driveway where nothing much other than weeds (aka as Santa Barbara daisies) grow

I haven't added any of these Aeonium to the dry garden (yet).  I'm not sure why.  However, when I was walking about snapping pictures for this post, I noticed that Leucadendron 'Ebony' (acquired last September at far below the usual going rate, possibly due to mis-labeling as 'Safari Sunset'), is putting on new growth at last.

Leucadendron 'Ebony'

Finally, while searching for foliage high-notes, I looked down and realized how nicely my thyme groundcover is filling in among the stepping stones in the side yard.

The thyme shown here, labeled as Thymus serpyllum, hugs the soil

This thyme, also sold as Thymus serpyllum, is somewhat taller (grown here with Ajuga 'Mint Chips')

These are my foliage highlights for April 2014.  Please visit Pam, our foliage follow-up hostess, here to see her foliage highlights and to find links to other gardeners' contributions to this useful meme.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Bloom Day - April 2014

Our winter and spring temperatures have been "unseasonably warm" according to weather forecasters, although much the same thing was said last year.  I wonder when these conditions cease being termed "unseasonable" and instead become the new normal?  Our spring got off to an early start, especially in relation to the parts of the country hit by the miserable "polar vortex" but, when I looked back at last April's post, I find that most of the flowers blooming now were also blooming then.

For a change of pace, in collecting photos for this month's Bloom Day post, I focused more on plant combinations and less on individual flowers.

Acanthus mollis "Summer Beauty, backed by Osteospermum ecklonis '3D Silver,' a staple in my garden, and white Argyranthemum

A lone Adenophora potaninii is surrounded by Euphorbia 'Dean's Hybrid' and self-sown Alyssum - more Adenophora have seeded in the vicinity of this one but none of these seedlings have formed flower spikes

Alstroemeria (no ID) with Osteospermum '3D Silver' make a strong showing in the backyard

Aquilegia 'Spring Magic' with unnamed Violas and Osteospermum '3D Silver'

Arctotis 'Pink Sugar, surrounded by Convolvulus sabatius 'Moroccan Beauty,' is clashing with the early blooms of self-sown Gaillardia 'Arizona Sun' 

Centranthus ruber, a weed here, blooming on the slope with Oenothera speciosa, another weed, Euphorbia 'Dean's Hybrid' and self-sown Alyssum (Lobularia maritima)

Cuphea x ignea 'Starfire Pink' is paired with Geranium 'Tiny Monster' here

Erysimum linifolium 'Variegatum' with Osteospermum 'Lemonade'

Another Erysimum, this time accompanied by Osteospermum '3D Silver' and Tulbaghia violacea

Sun-tolerant Fuchsia 'Mrs. J.D. Fredricks' with pink Argyranthemum and Cuphea 'Starfire Pink'

Eeek!  An early-blooming orange Hemerocallis (no ID) clashes with the pink Alstroemeria, which has yet to make its seasonal exit

This unnamed Iris germanica, blooming almost a month earlier this year than last, doesn't mix especially well with the bright pink Alstroemeria nearby 

Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl' got the only solo shot in this post, although, if you have a discerning eye, you might notice the white Centranthus peaking out from behind

Limonium perezii backed by Lavandula dentata in the dry garden

Unidentified Pelargonium peltatum with pinkish California poppies, photographed in full sun, the only time to catch the poppies with open petals

Unidentified Pelargonium (originally mislabeled as 'Katie') and more Cuphea 'Starfire Pink'

Assorted Pelargoniums blooming on the slope alongside pale pink Oenothera speciosa, bleached out even when photographed on a cloudy morning

A sea of Phlomis fruticosa with yellow Argyranthemum and a few Euphorbia 'Ascot Rainbow' in the background

'Ebb Tide' rose, producing its first blooms, with annual Linaria

Sisrynchium bellum 'North Coast' and a sunburned Pericallis, which has not enjoyed our excessively warm temperatures

Salvia 'Mystic Spires' with Lobelia and one of the few remaining Anemones

Dainty Wahlenbergia 'Blue Cloud' with Erigeron karvinskianus, another weed-like plant here, and Geranium 'Tiny Monster'

Sweet peas (Lathyrus Odoratus 'Perfume Delight') fill one of the planters in my vegetable garden (with some snapdragons tucked in behind) 

Hemerocallis and Iris are producing blooms here and there - the heaviest bloom periods for these plants are still to come.  They, and the Arthropodium cirratum and Agapanthus, both already gearing up for what is usually a late spring appearance, will probably dominate my garden during the next month.  For what's currently on display in gardens throughout the US and elsewhere in the world, please visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens by clicking here.

Monday, April 14, 2014

In a Vase on Monday: Maroon and Pink

In scouting my garden in advance of Bloom Day, I noticed that the Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl,' featured earlier in my January Bloom Day post, are still blanketed in flowers.  The small pink flowers have burgundy centers, which I thought might provide a nice complement to the maroon red spikes of one of the Antirrhinum majus growing in my vegetable garden.  Despite my reliance on drip irrigation and the great care I've taken to avoid getting the snapdragon foliage wet, they're once again under attack by rust.  They'll probably have to be pulled soon so I'd like to make use of the blooms while I can.  Cathy's meme at Rambling in the Garden provided me the necessary impetus to get to it.

Bouquet photographed outside the front door

A shot showing the arrangement from the top

Close-up of snapdragon and Leptospermum flower

As my husband had taken over the kitchen, my favorite place to take photographs of my bouquets, I had to go outside to take these pictures.   Outside of the kitchen, which is mostly white, either the light or the background tends to present a problem.

With its woody stems, it remains to be seen how well the Leptospermum will hold up in the vase but I cut deeply into the wood to facilitate the stems' ability to take up water.  In addition to the Leptospermum and the Antirrhinum, I added Abelia x grandiflora 'Confetti' as a foliage accent, cream-colored sweet peas (Lathyrus odoratus 'Perfume Delight') for scent, and a stem of Dianthus barbatus 'Heart Attack' for a deeper red element.  I used a painted glass vase my mother gave me many, many years ago because it picked up the colors of the flowers.

Fuzzy close-up of Abelia x grandiflora 'Confetti'

Close-up of Dianthus barbatus 'Heart Attack,' highlighting just how deep its red color is

I'd cut Alstroemeria and Cuphea ignea 'Starfire Pink' when I was out in the garden but I thought they detracted from the arrangement so the extra flowers went into a separate vase that ended up in the guest bathroom.

This week's floral rejects

These bouquets are my contributions to Cathy's collection of floral constructions this week.  You can view Cathy's own creation - and find links to other floral concoctions - here.  My thanks again to Cathy for getting me back in the habit of cutting flowers for use in the house.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

My favorite plant this week: Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame'

Okay, I know she's over-exposed.  My favorite plant this week is Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame,' a hybrid mix of Digitalis purpurea and Isoplexis caneriensis, bred in 2006.  In making this week's choice, I struggled between her and a good old garden work-horse.  In the end, she won out because she took better pictures.  (Keep in mind that I live in the shadow of Hollywood, where style often trumps substance.)  

This Digiplexis is planted in a semi-shady area along the pathway in my south-side garden

The same plant photographed from another angle, backed by Mexican feather grass

She's more impressive in a close-up.

The foliage is attractive too.

She's blooming earlier than my Digitalis purpurea and appears to me to be hardier than her parent, Isoplexis caneriensis, which I previously managed to kill in record time.

Isoplexis caneriensis, photographed at Seaside Gardens Nursery in Carpinteria last month

I have 4 of these plants.  The one shown in flower above was planted in early November, after I picked the plant up at Roger's Gardens in Orange County on a tip from Denise at A Growing Obsession.  I subsequently acquired 3 more by mail order in February through Annie's Annuals & Perennials.

My 3 newest additions, planted in my new backyard bed in February, have produced flower spikes but aren't yet blooming

The 3 planted more recently are shorter, about 12 inches tall, and their flowers haven't opened yet.  The one planted in November is about 3 feet tall and perhaps half that wide at the base.

Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame' was named Plant of the Year at the 2012 Chelsea Flower Show and received the Greenhouse Grower's Award of Excellence in 2013.  It was difficult to find last year but this year just about every nursery seems to have a supply.

Digiplexis photographed at Roger's Gardens a couple of weeks ago

It's reputed to have a long bloom period, due in part to the fact that the flowers are sterile.  According to San Marcos Growers it's been called a "Digitalis with lipstick" and, although commonly referred to as "Digiplexis," it's properly classified in the Digitalis genus.  The flowers are smaller than those I commonly find on Digitalis purpurea.  The outer petal color is fuchsia and the inner throat color is variously described as reddish orange, nectarine, or an evolving hue which starts red, changes to orange and finally mellows to yellow.

It needs well-drained soil and regular water.  It's said to grow in full sun to part shade.  Mine all receive morning sun but varying degrees of afternoon shade.  They're reportedly hardy to 10-15F and they're described as suited to USDA zones 8-10 or 11.

Over-exposed or not, I'm pleased that they've been so easy to grow.  They've presented no problems thus far.  According to on-line sources, other varieties in the 'Illumination' series are currently in development, including 'Raspberry,' 'Chelsea Gold,' 'Pink,' and 'Berry Canary.'

Digiplexis (Digitalis) 'Illumination Flame' is my contribution to Loree's favorite choice meme at danger garden.  You can see Loree's current favorite and find links to other gardeners' choice plants here.