Saturday, August 1, 2015

Wide Shots - A Year's Worth of Changes

For this month's wide shots post, I thought I'd compare photos from August 2014 to current views of my garden.  Some show relatively little change, while the changes in others are more pronounced.  I'm pleased with the garden's evolution in some areas, while not so much in others.  In each comparison, the August 2014 view is on the left and the August 2015 view is on the right.

The biggest change in the back garden involved removal of one of the two Agonis flexuosa trees in response to a neighbor's complaints about impairment of her view.  She wanted many of our trees removed but I compromised by removing one and thinning others.  I'm feeling the loss of that tree this summer.

This view is from the back door: The tree shown in the middle of the back border in the photo on the left was removed in March, leaving a greater portion of the backyard at the mercy of the intense summer sun

View from the back patio looking south

View from the south side yard, looking north toward the mimosa tree, which lost its floral decoration more quickly this year

The south side garden hasn't changed dramatically but my battles with the resident raccoons and dry soil continue to present challenges in this area.

View looking through the arbor toward the harbor

The front garden underwent the greatest change in the past year with removal of a large area of lawn.  Lawn removal began in pieces soon after we moved in but this was the most significant removal we'd undertaken.

View from the driveway: The dormant lawn seen in the photo on the left was replaced with drought tolerant plants, as shown on the right

I didn't have identical views of the area formerly occupied by lawn but these views taken from the southwest corner of the garden give some idea of the change

Last summer, I tried growing corn in my vegetable garden with only a modicum of success.  This year I'm growing sunflowers and zinnias.

The dry garden has been tweaked but I've made no major changes.

The slope is another area that underwent substantial change.  The giant Yucca elepantipes was removed at the bottom of the slope (at my husband's instigation) in January.  The 3 Pittosporum tenuifolium 'Silver Magic' shrubs I put in afterwards to screen out our view into the neighbor's property are growing slowly but steadily.

My husband feared that the Yucca (more of a forest than a tree), shown in the photo on the left, was taking over the entire slope

The last area I'll show is the street-side succulent bed, which I planted just over a year ago.

Photo from 2014, shortly after it was planted

Current photo, after the addition of 500 lbs of additional stone and some new plants

Rationing water has proven to be the greatest challenge in the past year.  We cut our water use last year in response to the Governor's call for a voluntary 25% reduction.  This year, our area was told to cut water use by 36% by comparison to 2013 levels.  We've beat the budget set by the water company the past two months by good margins.  Our usage in June was only 73% of our budget but, even with the minor miracles of rain in May and July, the impact on the garden is being felt.  As July's rain gave me about 400 gallons of stored rainwater, I'm going to use that accumulation a little more freely, especially in the back garden where the loss of that tree's shade is being felt.  I ordered more mulch a couple of weeks ago and I've got most of that down in the areas I missed on my first pass a few months ago.  Planting of anything other than succulents is on hold until fall, when the last remaining two sections of lawn will also come out.  Beyond that, I've got my fingers crossed that El Niño is headed our way (hopefully, without floods or mudslides).

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

Friday, July 31, 2015

My favorite plant this week doesn't photograph well

My favorite plant this week is Corokia x virgata 'Sunsplash', an evergreen shrub originating from New Zealand.  I picked it up last fall and put it in the front garden.  I wish I'd bought more.  I also wish I'd underplanted it with something that played up its wonderful variegated foliage.

Corokia x virgata 'Sunsplash' in situ in my front garden

The problem with capturing its beauty in a photograph is probably mostly the fault of the photographer.  You can't see the shrub's twisty silver-gray stems well in the photograph shown above, although they're readily visible in person.  The plant's shadow may give you a better idea of its shape.

My plant is still relatively small, about 2 feet (61 cm) tall but, in time it may grow more than twice that height and up to 3 feet (1 meter) wide.  It's drought tolerant but it can take regular water as well which will be an advantage if El Niño brings heavy rains to California this winter as more and more forecasters are predicting.

In addition to the lovely contorted silver gray stems, the plant's small leaves are prettily variegated in shades of green, yellow, and pink that play off the Phormium 'Maori Queen' I've placed nearby.  I surrounded the shrub with silver groundcovers but I'm going to look for other plants that will help bring out the colors of the leaves rather than the stems.

The mulch isn't doing anything to bring out the color of the leaves

Loree at danger garden does a better job than I do in photographing her favorite plants.  Check today's post to find her July favorites wrap-up.  Click here if you want a look at my favorite from last week, Campanula primulifolia.

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

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wednesday Vignettes: Sun-power!

Following the unheralded rainstorms we had earlier this month, flowers popped up all over.  Some of them might have shown up with or without the rain but I'm of the opinion that the rain gave the entire garden a boost.  Although my last post lauded the Eustoma grandiflorum blooms in my backyard border, the sunflowers that are blooming virtually in unison in my vegetable garden also deserve attention.  I took a series of photos of some of them in the late afternoon to share their beauty.

I was late in planting my sunflower seeds and feared they might not have a chance to bloom before summer's heat knocked them down and out so I was gratified when they started to flower earlier this month.  The first flower to bloom was so dark I called it the "black-hole of sunflowers."  (I think it may actually be Helianthus annuus 'Moulin Rouge').  The first four sunflowers pictured above came from a "Florist's Sunny Bouquet" mix and the last one is the second bloom from the "Drop Dead Red" mix.   (Individual components of the seed mixes were not identified by the seller.)  The plants in the red series were slower to germinate from seed but are taller and, although only the one plant has produced blooms thus far, all have buds.  I'm hoping to see more blooms before the plants give in to the heat the forecasters say is coming.

The Wednesday Vignette is the brain-child of Anna at Flutter & Hum.  Visit her to find more photographic vignettes.

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

Monday, July 27, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: Welcome to Eustomaville!

Or, if you prefer, you can call it Lisianthus Lane.

I'd really only planned to make up one vase this week.  The appearance of blooms on the Campanula primulifolia I planted in January (featured as my favorite plant of the week last Friday) cinched the decision to focus on blues this week.  The blue Eustoma grandiflorum, which have been blooming like crazy, picked up the color of the Campanula and made the perfect focus for today's vase, prepared in connection with the meme hosted each Monday by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  However, it was impossible to ignore that the pink and pale yellow Eustoma were also blooming their hearts out.  I resisted but, as the Borg announced in a universe far far away, resistance is futile.  So, here you are: three vases this week, all featuring Eustoma.

I have a hard time choosing my own favorite this week but the first one I put together was the blue one, which is probably the most dramatic of the three.

It includes 4 elements:

From the left: Eustoma 'Borealis Blue' (these in their second year in my garden!), Campanula primulifolia (making its bloom debut), Tanacetum parthenium (which planted itself) and a taller form of Thymus serpyllum

The second vase, smaller than the other two, features the pink Eustoma.

It includes:

From the left: Eustoma 'Mariachi Pink', Abelia x grandiflora, Pentas 'Kaleidoscope Appleblossom' and one small Zinnia that just happened to pick up the color of the Abelia bracts

After finishing those two vases, I considered calling it quits (seriously!), but the yellow Eustoma were bending over under the weight of their blooms.  How could I let their blooms drag in the dirt?

This vase includes:

Clockwise from the left: The pale blooms of Eustoma 'Borealis Yellow', Abelia 'Kaleidoscope', Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt', Achillea 'Summer Pastels', and Grevillea 'Superb'

The sunflowers were calling from the vegetable garden but I tuned them out.  Three vases is more than enough.  The remarkable thing is that I generally struggle to find flowers at the height of summer, when the heat usually beats them all into submission.  That's the difference a little rain makes, I guess.

Here are the completed vases all in place:

The blue vase sits on the dining room table; the pink vase sits on my desk; and the yellow vase sits in the front entry

For more summer vases, stop by and visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  She'll fix you up.

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

Friday, July 24, 2015

My favorite plant this week: Campanula primulifolia

I have a tendency to get excited about plants early in our acquaintanceship, bubbling over with enthusiasm about a plant when we're really still just getting acquainted.  For that reason, I was hesitant to present Campanula primulifolia as my favorite plant this week.  But, even if I don't yet know whether it harbors a darker side than it's currently exhibiting in my garden, I can't help the fact that it's the plant I'm fixated on at the moment.  It's only just started to bloom too - I expect it may look a lot flashier in another week or two; however, I've been watching and waiting for this plant to bloom for a good 6-8 weeks now so, when I walked through the front garden and saw that it was blooming (finally!), it was settled.  It's my favorite plant this week.

This clump is comprised of 3 plants, situated in partial shade under the peppermint willow trees (Agonis flexuosa) in the front garden
More flowers opened overnight

I purchased these plants by mail order in January.  I love Campanulas but the only one that has bloomed reliably for me has been the diminutive C. poscharskyana.  Although perennial here, I can't claim that it makes a statement.

Campanula poscharskyana, a groundcover plant, is only just beginning to bloom as well

In contrast, C. primulifolia grows 3 feet (0.91 meters) tall and about half as wide.  It produces relatively large (2 inch/5cm) flowers over an extended period (or so on-line sources tell me).

It appears that the flowers generally open along the lower stem first but that doesn't seem to be entirely consistent.

Moreover, the plant is adaptable.  It's reported to grow in sun or shade and, although drought tolerant, it can take regular water as well.  It's perennial in USDA zones 4-10, according to the grower.  Mine produced flower spikes in June and I half expected it to flower for Bloom Day in June.  I was surprised, and moderately annoyed, when it didn't flower in time for Bloom Day in July either.  Perhaps our recent rain tipped the scales as the first flowers showed up soon after last weekend's unexpected thunderstorms.

Campanula primulifolia is my favorite plant this week.  Loree of danger garden hosts a monthly wrap-up of her favorite plants on the last Friday of each month so be sure to check in with her next week.

Quite a few flowers have appeared since Bloom Day in mid-July.  I can only assume that the rain prompted this as July is usually a pretty low-key (if not downright sad) month for blooms in my Southern California garden.  I'll post photos of some of these recent blooms soon but, for now, I'll leave you with a photo of my first ever Plumeria bloom, another big surprise I discovered this week.

A friend gave me 2 Plumeria cuttings earlier this year.  I didn't expect much as I've killed them off before but I followed her advice and left them confined in a relatively small nursery pot and I was rewarded with a bloom. (The other cutting is leafing out too.)

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

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wednesday Vignettes: Spiky & Soft

Two garden vignettes struck my fancy this week so I'm sharing both as part of the Wednesday Vignette theme hosted by Anna at Flutter & Hum.

The first is a photo taken of an Agave vilmoriniana (Octopus Agave) in my dry garden.  The shot was taken in the late afternoon from the slope side of my dry garden looking back toward the house, an angle not usually viewed by visitors.  I like the way the sun and shadows emphasize the curves of the agave's twisted leaves, as well as the way the colors of the surrounding plants play off one another.

The Agave is backed by trailing Lantana and a Gauva tree.  Coprosma 'Plum Hussey' is on the left and a water-stressed Limonium perezii and pink-flowered Cistus 'Sunset' are on the right.  (My 160-gallon rain tank, now full, can be seen in the distance alongside the house.)

The second vignette features Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' (aka purple fountain grass).  In the first photo, the sun picked up the soft fuzzy qualities of the flower plumes.  It's a gorgeous plant this time of year, when other plants are usually in full retreat from the sun and heat.  Like Stipa tenuissima (Mexican feather grass), this plant has a reputation for being invasive in California but, unlike the former, I've seen absolutely no sign of re-seeding by this species in my own garden.

The Pennisetum is surrounded by silver Jacobaeus martima, currently sporting yellow flowers, with a Ceanothus hedge behind it and the foliage of Agonis flexuosa (peppermint willow) dangling down from above

In my second photo, the sun was fading on the horizon so the plumes don't shine as brightly but the plant in the foreground is nicely echoed by a second Pennisetum in the distance.  I cut the plant in the driveway back hard in winter and it still hasn't fully regained its former dimensions.

For other vignettes, from the garden and otherwise, visit Anna at Flutter and Hum.

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

Monday, July 20, 2015

In a Vase on Monday: Sunny days are here again

Like last week's vase, this week's creation for "In a Vase on Monday," the meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in a Garden, started with a sunflower.  In addition to seeds in the "Drop Dead Red" mix that produced last week's sunflower, I planted seeds of a more conventional mix, labeled "Florist's Sunny Bouquet."  Like the sunny sunflower this mix produced, everything in the garden is happy right now as we got a thorough soaking from Tropical Storm Dolores this weekend - hip hip hooray!

Back view

Here's what I used:

Helianthus annuus, the first bloom from the "Florist's Sunny Bouquet" seed mix

Gaillardia aristata 'Gallo Peach', which has been producing a continuous supply of blooms since I put in 5 plants back in January

Solanum xanti had to be cut back this week because it's starting to flop over on its neighbors, making it a perfect candidate for my vase

This self-seeded Tanacetum parthenium (feverfew) flowered last week in the vegetable garden

For something completely different, I loaded each of the photos shown above into "Deep Dream" software using technology created by Google to support machine learning.  You can read more about the software here.  I learned of it through an excellent post by Gerhard at Succulents and More, which you can read here.  His images are more extreme (spooky!) than mine.

I think the converted photos look rather like paper cut-outs of flowers (I used Dreamscope's app, which offers multiple options, including the Art Deco one I selected)

What do you think?  Is this interesting or just plain weird?

Meanwhile, the completed vase sits on the dining room table.  I hope this week's sunflower doesn't drop its head within a day like last week's flower did.

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to find more floral creations.

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