Thursday, February 11, 2016

It's Snowing!

Look!  Snow flakes!

Okay, the heat makes me a little delusional.  Our temperatures have been breaking records, but not for cold or precipitation.  When the Santa Ana winds blew in late last week, temperatures soared, hitting the low 90sF in some areas earlier this week.  They've come down slightly today but it's still very warm.  The "snow" in the photo at the top of my post is made up of flower petals from the Pyrus calleryana (ornamental pear) tree that burst into bloom this week.

This tree in the front garden is the harbinger of spring in my garden

The flowers have a distinctive odor, which I addressed in a 2014 post

These trees bloom, almost in unison, throughout the area.  One day, their branches are bare and the next they're in full bloom.  If past years are an indication, the flowers will disappear quickly, aided on this occasion by the heat, and the trees will quickly leaf out.

When you see this tree in bloom in one location, you almost immediately notice it in bloom everywhere.  The trees in this photo sit in my neighbor's yard, just beyond the property line.

The heat had other impacts on my garden.  When planting the former lawn area out front, I fell prey to the allure of some bi-colored Cyclamen and, having lots of space in the partially shaded area, I planted five.  I knew I was taking a risk planting them this late in our winter season, especially given that the rain El Niño was expected to bring us has largely been a no-show.  However, I love both the flowers and the foliage and I thought these would complement the Heuchera micrantha 'Palace Purple' I'd already selected for this area.

The purple and white-flowered Cyclamen planted with Heuchera 'Palace Purple'

Even after the heat hit, the Cyclamen looked fine for a while but yesterday I found them shriveling.  While the area in which they were planted gets some shade, it wasn't enough.  Rather than watch them die slowly, I moved them late yesterday afternoon, relocating them to a more well-shaded area outside the living room window.

Although the plants are partially hidden when viewed from the outdoor pathway along this bed, they show up well from inside the house.  (I just couldn't get a good photo from that vantage point due to the glare.)

I replaced the Cyclamen with Arctotis 'Opera Rose' I'd originally purchased with another area in mind.  Hopefully, once the Pyrus above them leafs out, there will still be enough sun to keep these plants.  At least I know they can handle heat.

The area formerly occupied by Cyclamen, now planted out with Arctotis

Arctotis 'Opera Rose' does a pretty good job complementing the dark Heuchera and this variety is said to stay smaller than the 'Pink Sugar' cultivar I grow elsewhere

The heat has had other effects on the garden.  For one, my Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' has gained a decidedly red cast.  The bracts normally turn red in mid-summer but it's winter "flowers" are usually predominately yellow.  That's not true this February.

In prior years, the Leucadendron "flowers" developed a reddish pink edge but nothing like the color they're showing now

In addition, after a long wait, my Grevillea lavandulacea 'Penola' is finally breaking into bloom.

G. 'Penola' blooms are about one month behind their appearances in 2014 and 2015

Flowers are also appearing in other areas of the garden but photos of those will have to wait until Bloom Day.  Temperatures here are expected to come back down the middle of next week.  There's also a slight chance of rain, although I'm trying not to get my expectations raised.  The forecasters say there's still a chance that southern California will get some rain out of El Niño in March or April.  The current theory is that this El Niño is so big and strong, it's pushed the rain much further north than was ever anticipated.  While that's helped build up the critical snow-pack in northern California, it's left SoCal parched, with the total seasonal rain to date well below normal.  However, as El Niño weakens, forecasters believe it'll bring us rain.  Maybe.

All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, February 8, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: Coral Color!

We're in the middle of a winter heatwave.  Just over a week ago, our daytime temperatures were barely reaching 60F (15.5C) and now, courtesy of our Santa Ana winds, they're soaring well above 80F (27C).  Worse yet, there's no rain in sight and our humidity level is near zero.  Still, the flowering plants have responded to the added warmth and blooms are appearing everywhere.  My Grevillea 'Superb' is blooming as heavily as the 'Peaches & Cream' I featured in a vase in mid-January.

Grevillea 'Superb' photographed last week in the front garden

The Grevillea was a natural choice for this week's "In a Vase on Monday," the meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.

Front view

Back view

Top view

Here's a closer look at the individual elements:

Clockwise from upper left: Grevillea 'Superb'; Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder', now showing its full winter colors; 3 coral-toned Iceland poppies (Papaver nudicaule); Coleonema album, just beginning its annual bloom cycle; a few stems of Leptospermum 'Copper Glow'; and Pelargonium x hortorum 'Mrs. Pollock'

The wind has also been hard on the last of the two poinsettias I used to create holiday-themed pots to stand outside the front door in mid-December.

This vignette was my entry into the "Poinsettia Challenge" sponsored by Loree of danger garden last December

It was time to put away the gnome, the final remnant of my holiday decorations, and change out the contents of the pots by the front door.  However, as there were a few nice "blooms" still left on poinsettia, I decided to put them in a vase before retiring the remains of the plant.

This poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) didn't start to deteriorate significantly until about a week ago, although the variegated form I planted began to fall apart in mid-January

By pure coincidence, both vases this week offer lots of coral color.

The arrangement containing the Grevilleas ended up on the dining room table

The 3 poinsettia stems, after scalding in hot water, sit in the front entry

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to find what she and other gardeners have cobbled together from what they have on hand this week.

All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Wide Shots and Wednesday Vignette - February 2016

I'm late getting my monthly wide shots together.  I could blame complications from the wind and rain earlier this week but the truth is I've just been pressed for time.  However, taking photos on Monday, the day after it rained and the winds scrubbed the skies of our omnipresent brown haze, reaped benefits in the form of clear views of the harbor and mountains.  As the haze has already returned, I'm including photos of Monday's long-distance views from my backyard as my "Wednesday Vignette," the weekly meme hosted by Anna of Flutter & Hum.

Crystal clear view of Angel's Gate, the entrance to the Los Angeles harbor

View of the Vincent Thomas Bridge, the harbor, and Long Beach beyond

View of the snow-capped mountain to the east

Now for my monthly wide shots of the garden, an exercise initiated by Heather of Xericstyle, I'll start in the backyard.

There's still lots of bare dirt here, the down side of starting with small plants

View of the backyard, looking north

View of the same area, looking south

Promising signs in the backyard include, from the left: Alstroemeria reemerging; foliage growth on the Amaryllis belladona, graciously provided by Tammy of Casa Mariposa, providing the promise of summer flowers; and Callistemon 'Cane's Hybrid', which has more than doubled in size in less than a year

The south side garden is up next.  I moved the Acanthus mollis and Arthropodium cirratum from this area, giving the plants a new home the shadier area along the garage.  I back-filled with more succulents and ornamental grass but the area will look sparse for awhile.  After fighting constant battles with the raccoons for possession of the area alongside the patio, I traded out the smaller succulents I had there for Hemerocallis moved from the back border in the hope that those plants will be harder for the furry monsters to toss about.

The area looks sparse now but, as I add more succulents and as the ones I've already planted grow larger, this will change

The same area, photographed looking east toward the harbor

One day, all my Agave 'Blue Glow' should look as good as the one on the left.  The middle photo shows a few of the smaller Agave 'Blue Glow', one of 3 Aloe dorotheae, and Echium 'Star of Madeira'.  Three pups of Agave americana mediopicta, received from Hoover Boo of Piece of Eden, have been planted here, currently surrounded by prickly Magnolia cones to provide a modicum of protection from the nasty raccoons. 

Not much has changed at the front of the house, except in the area alongside the garage, which was the subject of a progress report late last month.

Arctotis 'Pink Sugar', Gazania 'White Flame' and Grevillea 'Peaches & Cream' are providing most of the floral color at the front of the house

The wind and rain took a toll on the Bauhinia x blakeana (Hong Kong orchid tree) but it should come back with more blooms

My favorite view this month

Three views of the former lawn area next to the garage, which I covered in an earlier progress report.  Planting here is currently my primary focus.

The succulent bed along the street underwent a few changes but, for the most part, it's been allowed to cope on its own.  However, the area behind that bed, now exposed to view as the Auranticarpa shrubs that formerly served as a screen die off, has received some attention.  I'm still in search of solutions to screen this area from the street.  I don't want to pull out the succulents, which would be necessary if I was to plant more of the Xylosma that makes up the rest of the hedge material along the street, and I don't want to block the path behind the succulent bed,  so finding the right screen poses a real challenge.

The succulents love the rain they've received, little as it was!

Clockwise from the left: Agave impressa surrounded by noID Dudleya and Graptoveria 'Fred Ives'; more Agave 'Blue Glow', shown here with Chondropetalum tectorum, a rush; Agave desmettiana surrounded by Aeoniums and other succulents; the foliage of Hippeastrum I'm attempting to naturalize here; and one of 2 Agave 'Blue Flame'

These photos show something of the area behind the succulent bed.  Since 2 of the dying Ceanothus on the slope above the stacked stone wall were removed, I've planted a Garrya elliptica, 2 Salvia 'Celestial Blue', Festuca californica, and lots of Aeonium cuttings.

There's nothing much new in the vegetable or dry gardens.

Chicken wire has kept the raccoons out of the raised planter in the foreground but my flower seeds have been slow to sprout.  Plugs of Schizanthus pinnatus (aka poor man's orchid) have been planted in the second planter and a few more herbs have been added to the third.

The rains have refreshed the dry garden a bit, as exemplified by all the flowers produced by the rosemary (lower left) but the Grevillea lavandulacea 'Penola', which usually are in full bloom in January, are only now budding out

While I haven't done much with the back slope either, there are signs that the area is starting to come alive, even with the meager winter rain we've received thus far.

View of the slope from the top of the stairway on the left and from the bottom looking up on the right

The highlights of this area include, clockwise from upper left: 3 Agave attentuata, started from 4-inch pots last year; the bare mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) looming over the area from the backyard area above; Calla lilies emerging from dormancy; Centranthus, a virtual weed here, growing everywhere; more flowering rosemary, originally planted from plugs; and a mass of lemons on the ever-bearing tree

That's it for my wide views.  Hopefully, we'll get some more rain before El Niño fizzles out.  The 10-day forecast shows no chance of rain whatsoever but our temperatures are expected to soar into the low 80sF (27C) by the weekend so spring will be in the air while we still yearn for winter's rains.

All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Monday, February 1, 2016

In a Vase on Monday: Split Personalities

We woke up to rain on Sunday, which was an auspicious way to start the day, or so I thought.  I took advantage of a break in the weather mid-morning and cut flowers for "In a Vase on Monday," the weekly meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  As the Leucadendron 'Chief' in my dry garden was in full "bloom" I went out with a plan to build a vase around its flower-like stems.

The cones and yellow bracts of Leucadendron salignum 'Chief' make a splash in my dry garden in winter

Instead, I end up with an arrangement with a split personality.

As this front view shows, the left and right sides of this vase look very different

The top view emphasizes this.  I tried mixing the stems together differently but it didn't help.

In theory, I thought the colors of the 3 plants would complement one another but they demonstrated dysfunctional behavior when combined.  Left to right, the plants are: Leucadendron salignum 'Chief', Leptospermum scoparium 'Pink Pearl', and Grevillea 'Scarlet Sprite'.

In retrospect, I think I probably should have left well enough alone and let the Leucadendron 'Chief' stand on its own.

The lighter pink tones in the Leucadendron weren't strong enough to balance the dominant pink color of the Leptospermum

I've gotten used to having more than one vase to add color to the house so I wandered beyond my dry garden and found materials for another vase.  Its dissociative identity disorder is less pronounced.

The white and blue daisies struggle a bit for dominance in the vase but neither really overwhelms the other

View from the top

Clockwise from the left, this vase contains: Pericallis x hybrida (aka florist's cineraria), Argyranthemum frutescens, Lavandula multifida, Lobularia maritima (alyssum), and rosemary

After another round of rain, the noID Narcissus by the back door was flattened so I ended up with a third vase.

I couldn't leave the Narcissus plastered to the pavement like this

Pipig expresses curiosity (or is it jealousy?) about the vase on my desk

Unfortunately, the rainstorm that started our day deposited far less rain than was forecast, at least in our location.  We received only 0.20 inches of rain but we got lots and lots of wind.  The wind pushed the rain right out of here but that's not all it pushed.  I walked into the living room mid-day to see this:

The wrought iron screen on the side patio collapsed, knocking over the pots at its base

It wasn't as bad as I initially thought.  Amazingly, none of the pots broke.  The pink Echeveria 'Afterglow' had just one broken leaf and an Aloe vera lost the tips of a few leaves.  However, the Hoya carnosa that grew up the heavy screen broke at the base.  We righted the screen and tied it to the patio post.  I took cuttings of the Hoya but I think I'll try replacing it with another vine in this location.  Although the Hoya bloomed reliably, its leaves were sun-bleached so I'll plant the cuttings in a more shaded setting.

After the clean-up, almost as good as new (except for the Hoya vine)

With that chore dispatched, I took shelter from the wind inside, spending the afternoon catching up on a household chores.  It's no way to spend a Sunday afternoon but at least I have a clean start to the week!  I also found appropriate spots for my vases to sit.

The mixed up Leucadendron/Leptospermum vase sits on the dining table

The blue and white arrangement sits in the front entry

Visit Cathy at Rambling in the Garden to see what she and other gardeners have brought inside to add cheer.  The signs of spring are out there!

All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party