Monday, July 21, 2014

In a Vase on Monday: Watching and Waiting

I've been watching and waiting for my Coreopsis 'Redshift' to start its bloom cycle.  In my garden, these blooms take over as the blooms on the Agapanthus taper off.  I have a total of 8 of these perennial plants in the back yard, 5 of which I added in March of this year.  The buds began appearing a month or more ago but, at the time of my July Bloom Day post, only a few buds had opened.  A day or two after Bloom Day, the 3 original plants were covered in blooms, making them a suitable choice to use "In a Vase on Monday," the meme sponsored by Cathy of Rambling in the Garden.  As the Coreopsis are rather wispy, they needed a centerpiece with greater impact, which was provided by Helianthus annuus 'Valentine,' but the Coreopsis dictated the overall color scheme.

The bouquet includes:

  • 2 stems of Amaranthus cruentus 'Hopi Red Dye'
  • 5 stems of Coreopsis 'Big Bang Redshift'
  • 1 stem of Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Goblin'
  • 2 stems of Helianthus annuus 'Valentine'
  • 3 stems of Persicaria microcephala 'Red Dragon'
  • 1 stem of Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Coleus Inky Fingers'

As the following picture shows, the color of the Coreopsis varies.  At the start of the bloom cycle in summer, the flowers open with butter yellow petals and a deep red halo around the center.  The red streaks at the center gradually radiate to the tips of the petals.  The flowers are temperature sensitive and, as the weather cools in the fall, the red color will dominate.

A fuzzy photo showing some of the color differences in the Coreopsis

I added the coleus at the last minute in an effort to lighten the heaviness created by the burgundy-colored annual Amaranthus.

While the daisy-like shape of the Gaillardia is similar to that of the tickseed and sunflower, the color was just a little off, so it ended up tucked into the back of the bouquet.

Other floral rejects - 2 stems of Echinacea 'Cheyenne Spirit,' 3 stems of Bulbine frutescens and a small piece of Coreopsis - ended up in a small vase consigned to the guest bathroom, where all my rejects seem to end up at present.

And the larger vase ended up in the front entry, as usual.

Go to Cathy's blog at Rambling in the Garden to see her creation this week. You'll also find links to photos of vases created by other participating gardeners.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bird Behavior

Our backyard fountain is a source of a wildlife activity, especially during the summer months.  Birds visit it daily and the raccoons visit it nightly.  I haven't managed to capture a photo of the racoons but I routinely find evidence of their visits.  The top tier of the fountain is filled with sea shells to give the birds a solid footing.  The raccoons remove the sea shells and drop them into the lower tiers of the fountain or scatter them about the garden EVERY DAY.

Most of the birds come to drink or take a dip.  Last week, I caught the Hooded Oriole thoroughly enjoying a bath in the fountain.  He's usually quite elusive, flying off the moment I get close to the window with my camera.  I've only managed to get a few shots of him.  Here's a photo, taken in June, of him looking his usual sleek self.

And here he was last week when he thought no one was looking.

After a brief mid-air tussle, which I failed to capture, the second bird took off
He celebrated having the fountain to himself

And surfaced looking a bit scruffy

When he flew off, he wasn't well-coiffed but his joy at the dip in the fountain was evident

In contrast, every evening, after the fountain is turned off, a Mourning Dove appears and simply sits at the edge of the fountain.  It remains there, alone, for long periods, just staring out across the garden.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

My favorite plant this week: Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-star'

My favorite plant this week is a relatively demure variegated plant I've featured in a number of Foliage Follow-up posts, including the most recent one.  It's saddled with a convoluted name that can be both difficult to spell and remember: Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-star.'  There's minimal information available about it on-line so most of what I know about this plant comes from personal experience, although I did find a brief mention of the genus in an old edition of "The Wise Garden Encyclopedia," which describes it simply as a "genus of shrubby tropical plants belonging to the Acanthaceae (Acanthus) Family."

Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-star' situated below Calliandra haematocephala

New growth is green with irregular cream-colored variegation.  As the leaves age, they turn a reddish burgundy with pink variegation.  The narrow leaves grow to between 2 and 3 inches (7.6 cm) in length.  Left to their own devices, mine have grown into narrow plants about 2 feet (61 cm) tall, taking on a vase-like shape and becoming bare at the base.  My most recent acquisition, found in a 1-gallon pot and mislabeled as Strobilanthes 'Purpurea,' is shorter and wider, about 1 foot (31 cm) tall and wide, which suggests that pinching and pruning would be useful in creating a denser plant.  Still, my older, unpruned plants have knitted in well with the surrounding foliage.

P. 'Texas Tri-star' poking up through the leaves of Arthropodium cirratum

This P. Texas Tri-star' is mingling with Plectranthus ciliatus

The plants I've shown here all grow in a bed that receives morning sun and afternoon shade.  The plants receive regular water on a drip irrigation system.  I've tried P. 'Texas Tri-star' in beds getting morning shade and afternoon sun but they were stressed and didn't hold up well in the summer heat even when they received extra water.  Those that survived were moved to the more hospitable bed outside our living room.

The plants remain evergreen in my USDA zone 10b garden.  They didn't show any sign of die-back during our cooler months but then our winter temperatures haven't dipped below 35F (1.67C) during the 3 years we've lived here.  The plants recently surprised me by producing a few lavender-pink flowers, which may be a response to the bout of humid air we've recently experienced.

The plant isn't particularly easy to find.  They pop up in 4-inch pots here occasionally.  In researching the plant on-line, I discovered that it has some interesting relatives, including a dark-leaved variety called 'Black Varnish,' which I'm now on a search to find locally.

Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-star' is my contribution to Loree's favorite plant meme at danger garden.  Visit her blog to see her current favorite and to find links to other gardeners' selections.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Favorite Foliage Affiliations

Pam of Digging hosts a monthly discussion of foliage to emphasize its importance to the overall appeal of our gardens and as a counterpoint to what is sometimes an excessive emphasis on a garden's floral elements.  This month I thought I'd focus on a few of my favorite foliage combinations.

Some of these combinations came with the house, most notably the selection of the now mature trees that frame our backyard view.  What's interesting about the following 2 pictures is that both feature pairs of the same tree; however, there heights are staggered.  Did the gardener who planted them place them at different times or start with trees of different size, or did they simply grown at different rates?  I don't know the answer but it adds another dimension to the view.

Agonis flexuosa (aka peppermint willow) trees overlooking the harbor

2 Arbutus 'Marina' that partially screen a neighbor's home on the northwest side of the house

I also inherited the mature Calliandra haematocephala that stands roughly in the middle of a bed that runs along our living and dining room windows but the rest of the plants there, all grown mainly for their foliage, are my own additions.

Calliandra haematocephala, grown mainly for its foliage, also screens the exterior view of the TV placed along the windows in the living room

Looking southeast, this narrow border includes Plectranthus ciliatus 'Zulu Warrior,' Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-star,' Arthropodium cirratum, Ageratum corymbosum, Persicaria 'Red Dragon,' and the afore-mentioned Calliandra

This plant and 2 others were labeled as Pseuderanthemum 'Texas Tri-star'

However, this one, which appears to be the same plant, was labeled as Strobilanthes purpurea but, as best I've been able to determine, that's an erroneous classification

This section of the same bed, looking from the other direction toward the Calliandra, includes Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' (in a pot), Plectranthus zuluensis, Liriope muscari, and another Arthropodium cirratum

I included a number of foliage plants in the border created in the southeast side yard last fall as well.  The 2 plants with the most impact are Agonis flexuosa 'Nana' and Phormium 'Amazing Red.'  There are 3 of each here.

View of the southeast side border looking toward the patio

View of the same border looking in the direction of the street - the reddish burgundy of Phormium 'Amazing Red' echos the foliage color of Coprosma 'Plum Hussey' and the trunk of the Arbutus 'Marina' in the background

A few of my other foliage combinations are still works in progress.

I like how the red stems and new growth of Leucandendron salignum 'Chief' in the dry garden picks up the red tips of the Leucadendron 'Ebony' in front of it and the foliage color of Coprosma 'Plum Hussey' behind it but the overall area is a mish-mash and needs both a clean-up and some reorganization to reach its potential

I like the bright green of the Pelargonium tomentosum with the green-flecked mostly red foliage of the Coprosma 'Plum Hussey' here but one of the 3 Coprosma is seriously stunted and I can't make up my mind how I feel about the mass of grey Helichrysum petiolare behind the Coprosma

Combinations in pots are much easier to control.  I'm pleased by all of my summer-time foliage compositions.

3 varieties of coleus (Solenostemon scutellarioides) 

Pennisetum 'Puple Majesty' paired with lime green Alternanthera

Larger view of the same combination

Coleus 'Chocolate Splash' paired with Dichondra 'Emerald Falls'

For more foliage highlights, please visit Pam at Digging.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Bloom Day - July 2014

It's a transitional period in my garden: most of the blooms of early summer have left the stage while the heat-loving plants of the later summer period are still standing in the wings.  I've already cut back the majority of the Agapanthus that dominated my garden in May and June.  There are still a few of the unidentified red-orange daylilies that grabbed attention last month but they're days away from concluding their tour and, although a few of the reblooming varieties have produced new flower spikes, they've yet to make an appearance in stage dress.  By default, the starring role in my garden at present goes to Albizia julibrissin, a diva with a bad habit of littering.

Albizia julibrissin (aka mimosa tree) is the grand dame of my backyard

Her close-up

In the front yard, another arboreal diva, Magnolia grandiflora, commands attention.  She also has a serious littering habit but cleaning up after her is easier and she doesn't try to force the entire garden to accept her progeny as Albizia does.

Magnolia grandiflora dominates the front lawn

The bees are big fans

Supporting players struggle to keep the audience's attention, although some of them are tiring out trying to carry the show by themselves.

Abelia x grandiflora is hanging out on the sidelines

Achillea 'Moonshine' has kept going with a little deadheading but Eustoma grandiflorum is poised in the wings to push her off the stage

Anagallis 'Wildcat Mandarin' continues to pump out her small orange flowers but she's showing signs of waning

Borago officinalis has been looking peaked but the bees demanded that she remain in the troupe for now

Cotula lineariloba 'Big Yellow Moon' has the stamina to keep on going

This stage wouldn't be the same without the presence of Cuphea x ignea 'Starfire Pink'

Grevillea 'Superb,' still relatively new on the scene, is a diva in training

Leucanthemum x superbum is always a crowd-pleaser

Osteospermum ecklonis '3D Silver' believe they're carrying the show in the side garden without much help from the Ageratum houstonianum 'Blue Horizon,' which have thus far failed to live up to their potential

Pentas 'Kaleidoscope Appleblossum,' currently performing in a bed near the garbage cans, deserves a better stage

Salvia 'Mystic Spires' performs best as part of a group

Sollya heterophylla would get more acclaim if he took better publicity photos

Tanacetum parthenium 'Aureum' is a valuable bit player

Thymus serpyllum 'Minus' knits together a variety of cast members

Wahlenbergia 'Blue Cloud' is another solid performer that takes bad photos

A few plants, recently cut back, are making encore appearances.

Argyranthemum frutescens 'Comet White Improved' lost one of her sisters but is carrying on

Provided that he gets periodic haircuts, Brachyscome 'Brasco Violet' continues to look good

Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame' is preparing to step back on the stage

Digitalis x mertonensis 'Polka Dot Pippa' is back but still looks tired

Helianthus annuus 'Valentine' looks better than her cohorts after having her head chopped off a few weeks ago

Lavandula multifida performs best in this particular setting

'Ebb Tide' rose lacks the stature to make major impact in her current company

Summer performers just beginning to make their presence known include:

Amaranthus cruentus 'Hopi Red Dye' is a real drama queen

Angelonia augustifolia may remain a bit player but she is attractive

Cerinthe major is a good collaborator

Coreopsis 'Big Bang Redshift' is preparing to take over the summer production in the backyard

Echeveria pulvinata 'Ruby' is new on the scene and a little fuzzy about her role

Echinacea 'Cheyenne Spirit' is already commanding attention in the backyard border, whether dressed in red...

or yellow

Eustoma grandiflorum 'Echo Blue' and her sisters demand attention despite their small size

Eustoma grandiflorum 'Echo White' isn't as flashy as her sister but she's still very pretty

Crassula exilis ssp. cooperi is a small player in a new venue

Zinnia 'Profusion Apricot' is heading the charge for her family

That's the cast for this month's Garden Blogger's Bloom Day production in my garden.  Our impresario, Carol of May Dreams Gardens, can connect you with her garden stage and other stages all over the world.