Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Succulent Curb Appeal

My friend Lynda and I have made a few trips in search of succulents over the past few months.  While my own objectives on these occasions were relatively ill-defined, Lynda was very focused.  She'd decided to pull out the shrubs, perennials and annuals from the brick planters that serve as her front garden and replace them with succulents.  She became enamored with (a better term than "addicted to," don't you think?) succulents after replacing the herbaceous plants in the window boxes on the upper level of her townhome with these heat and drought tolerant plants.  An artist, she loved their sculptural qualities, which she's also featured in her canvases.  However, like me, she discovered that it took a lot of succulents to fill an area, even when she bought good-sized specimens to start with.

Photo of the back of Lynda's SUV after our nursery trip to OC Succulents and Roger's Gardens at the end of May

Photo of the cargo area after our most recent trip to OC Succulents this month (before we stopped by Roger's Gardens)



I recently visited her place to see how her succulent garden was coming along.  It looks great already!

The large bed at the front of the house, photographed from the house's second level

The partially shaded bed directly behind the one in depicted above, also photographed from upstairs

Photograph of the same area from the street level looking toward the house

Side bed, photographed from above

A segment of the same bed, photographed from the driveway



Here are some close-ups of her choicest selections:

Aloe cameronii surrounded by Euphorbia 'Sticks on Fire' and Dyckia

Agave parryi, which is producing pups like crazy

Echeveria subrigida

Close-up of a portion of the side yard bed showing Agave desmettiana, more Euphorbia 'Sticks on Fire,' Dudleya, Graptoveria 'Fred Ives' and an assortment of other succulents


The Abelia x grandiflora 'Kaleidoscope,' which have different watering requirements, will probably be coming out of these beds to make room for more succulents.  That means we have more trips to the nursery in store for us, which is great as I also have spaces to fill in my new succulent bed.

I failed to get a shot of Lynda's window boxes but I did get a few photos of the pots she has along the stairway leading up to her front door.  They look great too and, as she has LOTS of steps, she's got plenty of room for more pots, which of course will support still more trips to the nursery.  (Lynda, if you show this post to Dave, be sure to remind him that none of this shopping is my fault.)






All material © 2012-2014 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New Succulent Bed

Some things look better viewed in close-up rather than from a distance.  This can definitely be said of my new succulent bed.  Although I bought what I thought were scads of succulents on a shopping trip with a friend last week, the space overwhelmed them and they look, well, puny in situ.



This space runs along the street on the southeast side of our property.  Those spindly shrubs you may be able to make out in the photo above are Pittosporum rhombifolium (I think).  They were in horrible shape when we moved in 3 years ago.  After years of being sheared from the top and sides, they were a thicket of dead wood with chlorotic leaves.  I cut one back last year and, when it responded by putting out healthy new growth, I cut them all back hard in January of this year.  Two were beyond saving and were removed.  The remainder have been slow to fill in.  I may eventually pull more - or possibly all - of them out as they don't match the Xylosma hedge that surrounds the rest of the property but, at present, I'm trying to work with what remains.  I cleared the weeds and thinned out the small-flowered ice plant at the base of the shrubs, leaving a lot of bare soil exposed.  As this is a relatively dry, sunny area, I thought planting it with succulents would be a good idea, especially given our worsening drought conditions.  (My wonderful husband is helping out by installing a new drip irrigation system here so we can eliminate all risk of sprinkler runoff.

I finished planting my newly purchased succulents on Sunday but there's still a lot of bare soil.

3 Agave 'Blue Glow,' Calandrinia spectabilis (aka Cistanthe grandiflora), Portulacaria afra and miscellaneous small succulent cuttings are planted here with 3 struggling Chondropetalum tectorum (aka Cape Rush)

Agave Impressa is surrounded by Dudleya (noID) and Senecio cuttings here

Agave desmettiana provides the centerpiece among Aeonium 'Kiwi,' Aeonium 'Sunburst,' Aeonium nobile, cuttings of the noID Aeonium given to me by a friend, and more Portulacaria afra

Agave 'Blue Flame' is surrounded by Aloe (noID), Sanseveriera (noID), Graptopetalum paraguayense, my noID Aeonium, and another noID succulent



While the slow-growing succulents will get larger over time, I think I need more to fill in some of the emptier spots.  Before I undertake another shopping expedition, however, I'm going to see what I can do with succulent cuttings from elsewhere in my garden.


Monday, July 28, 2014

In a Vase on Monday: Stargazer Lilies

I have only 2 varieties of lilies in my garden, one is an unnamed light pink variety that bloomed exceptionally early this year and the other is Lilium 'Stargazer,' which I planted from bulbs the first year we lived in our current house.  In the border, the plants have a very formal appearance that make them look a bit out of place, which may explain why I'm not particularly hesitant about cutting them for a vase.  I'd hoped that their bloom period would coincide with the appearance of white roses or white Lisianthus, but this didn't happen so I had to look further afield for suitable companions.




Here's what I used this week:

  • 2 stems of Lilium 'Stargazer'
  • 3 stems of Asparagus 'Sprengeri' (at least I think that's what it is)
  • 3 stems of Cuphea ignea 'Starfire Pink'
  • 2 stems of Pentas lanceolata 'Nova'
  • 2 stems of Tanacetum parthenium 'Aureum'
  • 1 stem of Solenostemon scutellarioides 'Kong Jr. Green Halo'


The 'Stargazer' lilies are smaller this year than last - too little water perhaps

The asparagus fern I inherited with the house works well in bouquets if you can put up with its tiny thorns

Cuphea ignea 'Starfire Pink' has proven to be drought tolerant as well as pretty

Pentas 'Nova' grows taller than other varieties, although I think it wants more water than it has been getting

'Kong Jr. Green Halo' coleus is doing well in a pot in partial shade



My bouquet ended up on the dining room table this week, as part of a possibly fruitless effort to keep my cat from chewing on the asparagus fern.  She doesn't jump on the dining room table (at least I've never seen her do so) but she does like to hang about in the foyer.




I had some floral rejects again this week, which ended up in my small pink glass vase.  I cut more of the Amaranth I featured last week and, while it linked with the color of the lilies, it added a somber note to the combination that I didn't care for.  The Amaranth was paired with 3 more stems of the Echinacea 'Cheyenne Spirit' and the 'Inky Fingers' coleus from last week, which was still in good condition.  I placed it on the foyer table even though it's small in scale.




These are my contributions to Cathy's "In a Vase on Monday" meme at Rambling in the Garden.  Visit her webpage to see what she's put together this week (while traveling) and to find links to other floral concoctions.

Friday, July 25, 2014

My favorite plant this week: Coreopsis 'Redshift'

I'm attracted to plants with yellow flowers.  I've grown Coreopsis grandiflora with its prolific yellow flowers at periodic intervals but I was never really satisfied with it.  It needed regular dead-heading to look good and, in my garden, it was prone to powdery mildew.  I discovered the hybrid Coreopsis 'Redshift' in 2012 and it quickly became one of my favorite plants.  My original 3 plants are currently blooming their hearts out in the backyard border along the hedge that separates our property from the neighbor below us.  Five additional plants, added to the new backyard border we created as an extension of the small bed around our fountain in early spring, are just beginning to bloom.

Coreopsis 'Redshift' bordered by a hedge on one side and a mix of shrubs and perennials on the other side


My only complaint about the plant is that the blooms tend to face the rising sun, which means that the 3 original plants don't show their faces to greatest advantage, a problem I complained about last year.*

The same 3 plants photographed from the path along the hedge, looking back across the garden toward the house


C. 'Redshift' is part of the "Big Bang" series bred by hybridizer Darrell Probst, who crossed 8 species of Coreopsis to create 'Redshift' and the other plants in this series.   The plants are reportedly more winter-hardy than other varieties of Coreopsis and many, like 'Redshift' produce flowers with colors that vary with the temperature.  According to most descriptions, the flowers open in summer with pale yellow petals and a dark red disk surrounding a yellow button center.  Red streaks extend from the center along the petals of some flowers.  When temperatures cool in the fall, the flowers may turn entirely red.   In my own garden, the temperature fluctuations we experience in the fall, often punctuated by our worst heatwaves, seem to make flower color more unpredictable.

Photo taken earlier this week

Photograph taken for Bloom Day in August 2013

Photo taken in mid-September 2013, probably after an earlier shearing


The plants grow about 3 feet (1 meter) tall and 1.5-2 feet (46-61 cm) wide.  They require little in the way of maintenance and have no serious disease or insect problems, although the crown can rot in moist, poorly-drained soil.  With a late summer shearing, the plants will bloom through fall.  They need full sun.  They're heat tolerant and somewhat drought tolerant and they attract butterflies.

Predictions as to the plant's winter hardiness vary, with some sources stating that it can survive in USDA zone 4 but most claiming hardiness to zone 5.  I can make no personal testimonials on the subject as we don't get freezes here.  However, Allan Becker's discussion of the plant contains some interesting feedback from the breeder on both winter hardiness and how to produce sturdier stems and better flowering, which you can find here.    

Coreopsis 'Redshift' is my contribution to Loree's favorite plants post, which you can find at danger garden.  I'm sufficiently enthusiastic about the plant to be on the look out for other plants in the "Big Bang" series, most notably C. 'Cosmic Evolution' and 'Star Cluster.' 


*My references to the location of the rising sun relative to my garden have created confusion on the part of readers of earlier posts so I thought I'd attempt an explanation here.  Although I'm located on the West Coast and my backyard garden overlooks the Port of Los Angeles, the backyard actually faces roughly southeast.  I live on a peninsula which juts into the South Bay.  The ocean visible in some of my pictures is part of the bay, not the open ocean to the west.  If it wasn't always so hazy, you could see Long Beach stretching along the distant side of the bay. 

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.