APLD Plant Fair 10/2/21 at LA Arboretum

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The Los Angeles chapter of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers puts on a helluva fall plant fair, and against some impressive odds they have managed to deliver another one for 2021 on October 2nd. And hooray for autumn plant fairs! Having once planned a trip to England around Great Dixter’s October plant fair, personally I find fall plant sales much more exciting and inspiring than the spring shows and sales. And after a long, hot summer (will there ever be any other kind?) it’s just the horticultural pick-me-up I’m craving in fall. Buy your tickets via LA Arboretum here.

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For their third plant fair, the APLD has assembled another great lineup of nurseries and speakers to share their knowledge and latest plant crushes. Trust me, even if you don’t spend a dime at the overflowing sales tables, you won’t go home empty-handed — the plant raffles are insane opportunities for new plants, so bring the biggest vehicle you own or can borrow! (I barely squeezed Aloe ‘Tangerine’ into my Mini one year.). You can read about their first fair I attended in 2018 here.

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Coos Bay, Oregon, averaging 64 inche of annual rainfall, by Mosaic Gardens 

This year I’ll be interested in plants for zone 8b, coastal Oregon, rainfall averaging over 80 inches a year (gulp!). Long distance, we’ve undertaken the nerve-wracking process of trying to acquire a small house so we can spend lots of time with our little granddaughter Hannah, and it’s possible the plan may come to fruition the end of this month. Or not. But whatever happens, it has been fascinating to research what to plant in such conditions. And if the plan succeeds, we will have two small gardens; one incredibly dry in zone 10b, the other incredibly wet in zone 8b. For someone who likes nothing better than trialing and experimenting with plants, it’s a thrilling challenge.

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assembled to travel to a very winter wet/relatively summer dry garden are lots of odds and ends, including a variegated Italian buckthorn, Arctostaphylos ‘Sunset,’ Euphorbia ‘Dean’s Hybrid,’ Phormium ‘Pink Blush,’ Kniphofia ‘Mango Popsicle,’ carex, ballota, Hebe ‘Quicksilver,’ eryngium, Rhodocoma capensis, geum, and a few others not shown above

I’ve already begun assembling plants to bring north, many from my own garden and smaller sized plants from local nurseries, but I’ll be proceeding slowly, planting smallish areas at first. I’d be happy to get hebes, nolinas, and grasses growing! Any planting suggestions are much appreciated. I’d love to mulch it all with crushed oyster shells, which are in abundance locally, but we’ll see what a tight budget allows.

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Eryngium ‘Big Blue’ will make the trip along with Eryngium pandanifolium from my garden

It would be so much fun to see you at the APLD Plant Fair at the Arboretum on October 2nd — save the date!

Posted in plant nurseries, plant sales, shop talk | 6 Comments

garden clippings 9/7/21

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Chrysanthemum ‘Fred Stone‘ with chocolate cosmos

Yes, that is a box full of chrysanthemums. Let me explain why such a wildly uncharacteristic flower, for me, is blooming in my otherwise mostly austere and dryish garden.

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It’s part of the ongoing experiment of trying cut flowers in containers. Last year it was cosmos (mildly successful, but a much shorter bloom period than I hoped, and so much watering!) Dahlias are also intense upkeep in containers and not happy in the best conditions I can muster for them. Florist-style mums seemed like a fun experiment, so I ordered five spidery kinds from Bluestone Perennials last fall which were potted up in gallons in May. And they’ve remained in gallons all summer. Unlike dahlias, the mums are beginning to bloom on much smaller plants. The leaves are tougher and more sun resistant and overall healthier, and they don’t seem as sensitive to occasionally dryish soil. I know, mums. But dahlias and gladioli were once witheringly dismissed as déclassé too. I can honestly say that my box of mums has been less problematic than cosmos or dahlias. True, they don’t have the range of shapes and colors that dahlias do, nor the willowy elegance of cosmos, not to mention that they skip summer bloom entirely. And this doesn’t mean I want to be surrounded by grocery store foil-encased pots of dwarf flowering mums — where gaudy flowers are concerned, I’m in the less is more camp and prefer to keep pollinators happy with the tiny flowers of, say, calamint. But this experiment in pots has been fun. I would never grow them in the garden, only a cutting garden. (Floret Farms writes of their rediscovery of chrysanthemums here and links to King’s Mums growing instructions here.) Chocolate cosmos has also been easy in containers, clean leaves, cuttable stems, moderate size.

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This toothy Aloe divaricata ‘Chompers’ I found plant shopping yesterday, however, will definitely get planted in the garden. Winter blooming, with a multibranched inflorescence, but it’s mostly about the leaf coloration and teeth with this one. It can get big, to 5 feet high and across, but is easily manageable by thinning out the offsets.

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The ‘Chompers’ aloe was planted this morning in this newly reworked area that has seen a lot of planting action lately. Agave geminiflora, in a pot for years, was also moved here recently. It spills out beautifully from a pot but was in too much shade, and it will color up deep red here in full sun. I like the shape echo here with Agave stricta ‘Nana’ too.

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Aloe divaricata ‘Chompers’ to the right of chunky Aloe marlothii. A small Agave horrida was planted just to the left of the blue glass interrupter. Other aloes in this area are classenii, camperi, aculeata, ‘David Verity,’ and labworana.
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Most of my aloes are winter bloomers, but ‘Rooikappie’ is the rare repeat blooming aloe. I love how when it blooms, a small patch in the back garden becomes a little slice of the African veldt — with liberal applications of imagination! I’m amazed that these succulents in grass are still getting enough sun at their bases to bloom, but for this to continue a success the grasses will have to be thinned.

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Brassaiopsis hispida was doing so well in a container that I decided to take a chance on planting it in the garden, where I don’t have to worry about missing a daily watering. Another member of the Araliaceae, Schefflera taiwaniana, was planted in morning sun on the north side of the house, carefully watered, flourished all summer, but still took a wilt dive when temps rose into the 90s. I dug it up and it seemed to be recovering, but collapsed when we hit 97 — even though it had been moved into full shade! The brassaiopsis seems unfazed by the heat so far, and the trevesia seems to revel in it.

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To protect it from Billie the digger, rather than store this unused tuteur, it makes a handy plant protector.

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red shrimp plant loving the heat
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Billie the Digger putting on her most serious “Who me, a digger?” face. She was spayed last Wednesday but seems back up to full speed this week.
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The Agave geminiflora’s empty container became home to an Alcantarea imperialis that needed a larger pot and a tongue fern (Pyrrosia lingua) I had growing in a wooden orchid basket. The fern loved life in that mossed wooden basket and was surprisingly difficult to extricate after residing in it just a few months.

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One pot of coleus can make quite a statement. I like the simple strong colors versus the wildly variegated kinds.

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Alternanthea ‘Purple Knight’ is another good strong single-colored tropical. This has been in the ground since last December, dying back early summer then putting out lush new growth late summer.

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Another plant that makes an impact and is easy in a pot is Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Golden Arrow.’

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Passiflora ‘Flying V’ produces flower buds all summer, but it’s only in late summer that they really fully open enough for a decent photo. Odd…

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Hibiscus mutabilis is another heat lover. This one needs attentive watering, maybe less so after its first year.

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Salvia ‘Waverly’ waking up and shaking off the summer doldrums
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Echeverias are blooming in containers and in the garden
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Another worthy mention for summer containers is Begonia luxurians.

Posted in agaves, woody lilies, clippings, cut flowers, journal, pots and containers, succulents | 10 Comments

Little Island

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Little Island is a 2.4 acre park with amphitheaters at former site of Pier 54 —
unless otherwise noted, all photos by MB Maher

There is a new waterfront reclamation project in New York City that will take some heat off the 12-year-old High Line as the punching bag for unintended urban renewal consequences. The old elevated railway reimagined by James Corner for plants, people, and wildlife instead of rail cars, and planted by New Perennialist Piet Oudolf, has become a vilified victim of its huge success. Adored by tourists for its sky-high meadowy strolls and unparalleled views, the High Line has been accused of instigating expensive high-rise development along its length, rampant selfie tourism and a host of other neighborhood-changing ills. And the High Line and Little Island have something else in common — their funding source. Media mogul Barry Diller was the largest single contributor to the High Line. With funding for repairs to storm-damaged Pier 54 hitting a dry well, the Hudson River Trust decided to also approach Diller, and he agreed, stipulating that he wasn′t interested in mere renovation of the pier but something ambitiously iconic, like the Sydney Opera House.

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photo by Michael Grimm via Vogue

After several years of negotiations and the occasional legal battle, the finished Little Island is assuredly iconic, comprised of 132 tulip-shaped “pots,” each configured for differing load capacities and offering an array of microclimates to plant.

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structural architecture by UK-based Heatherwick Studio, landscape architecture designed by Signe Nielsen, founding principal of MNLA

Throughout its development and opening in May 2021, Little Island has also aroused heated discussion about high-dollar vanity projects, local control, destinations that attract tourism vs. green space for locals, gentrification spillover effects, and lord knows what else. Loved or loathed, without the Medici-money patronage of the Diller von Furstenburg Foundation ($260 million), such projects as Little Island would be dead in the water.

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I confess that I look at such projects through a very narrow lens, which pretty much begins and ends with if and how they support plant life. And like the High Line, Little Island very much made supporting the growth and health of plants a priority on its 2 and a half acre site. Like the space program, such projects are an investment in necessary future technologies — the work to make Little Island can only push engineering and technological innovation in an important direction for greening up land-starved, flood-prone cities in the 21st century.

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I was able to get a closer look at Little Island when Mitch visited NYC a couple weeks ago.

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rusty appearance of weathered steel is nothing to worry about — Corten steel quickly develops this rusty layer as a protective coating that is corrosion resistant

From the audio tour by landscape architect Signe Nielsen (highly recommended!), I learned that of the 114 trees planted in 2020, 19 are considered “hero” trees, any tree with a 10 or 12 inch caliper with ultimate heights of 60 to 80 feet. The trees need at least 6 feet of planting depth. Seventy percent of the deciduous trees are native. Salt-spray pollution required highly resilient evergreens — accordingly, just 30 percent of the evergreen trees are native. To keep the trees from blowing over in the maritime climate, the trees are anchored to the underlying deck itself via a system of 4 to 10 steel straps resting on the root balls. It′s an invisible, subterranean system of support that has already weathered a 2020 hurricane.

(Checking to see if the park is open after Hurricane Ida, they are still accepting timed entry reservations after 12 p.m. No reservations are necessary for visits between 6 a.m. and 12 p.m.)

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Planting runs the gamut from 66,000 spring bulbs, 270 varieties of grasses, vines and perennials, shrubs and lawn, all the way up to heroic trees like the Cedar of Lebanon, weighing 16-20,000 pounds. Apart from aesthetics, concealing and revealing views, plants are also chosen for their ability to hold soil, block wind and noise, and wet tolerance.

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top of the hill is 36 and a half feet above the water

Landscape architect Signe Nielsen says the chief challenge will be maintaining the integrity of the three hills, which are made from Geofoam — large blocks of lightweight, nonabsorbent, styrofoam-like material.

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the base elevation of 16 feet above the river is 2-1/2 feet higher than any projected sea level rise for the lifetime of the pier. 
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In planning the project, the most crucial aspect of the tight collaboration between landscape architecture and engineering was of course weight load. A year of 3D modeling among the teams involved reconfiguring the tulip pots, including redesign of 30 to 40 percent of the pots due to the weight load challenges.

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trees include oaks, dogwoods, fringe tree, honey locust in autumn, maple, columnar english oak, cercis

Ms. Nielsen surprisingly cites Gertrude Jekyll as an influence in designing the planting of the three hills with six distinct seasons, including early and late spring, early and late summer. As well as seasons, time of day was also considered for views at early morning, dusk, shade at mid-day — she sincerely hopes everyone can find their favorite tree and their special spot to catch the sun or evening cityscape. After the strain of ciphering weight loads and root zone depth, she found her quiet moment of joy when finishing a small planting of creeping thyme and orange coneflowers.

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The intent of the design was to offer a varied set of experiences calibrated by pace of movement, changes in elevation, opportunities for different routes. (The park is ADA accessible.)

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There is vastly more to this complex project than what little I′ve touched on here. Some of my reading can be found here, here, here, and here. As always, where included, the readers′ comments are a helpful complement to the articles.

Posted in design, garden visit, MB Maher | 10 Comments

August fidgets part 2

So I did act on those August fidgets and started work on a path through the back garden. The planted back garden encompasses roughly a 14X40′  rectangle, and I’ve been inclined to keep every inch of it available for planting, with paths changed up as the planting varies over the years. Having a deep border of 14′  to plant has been useful for playing with seasonal summer stuff. But goals change, the drought tightens its stranglehold, and for now I‘ve put in a gravel path that bisects the garden lengthwise from the west, stopping roughly in the middle.

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looking west over the rock spine plantings

With my back to the east fence, looking west at the open office door, very little of last week’s work is apparent. The removal of the tall Roldana petasitis approximately mid garden is the most notable absence. I didn’t bring the path all the way through to the eastern end. If completed east/west through the entire back garden, the proposed path would continue to wind roughly past the Yucca rostrata on the left and the tall blue chalksticks (Senecio ficoides) on the right and lead out onto the east patio. I may (or may not) get around to doing this later in the year.

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Just outside the office door at the western end of the garden, the new small path begins, maybe 14 feet in length. A corgi-sized path. Billie was completely unaware of the work until it was finished, due to her afternoon nap schedule, and was a little hesitant about the change. Having been continually chastised to stay out of the plantings, she obviously suspects I‘m playing a trick on her now.

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Aloe ‘Moonglow‘ on the right, Aloe ‘Tangerine‘ on the left.

She tested it out very carefully.

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car jack stands are useful paw guides along the new path for Billie. Mangave is ‘Navajo Princess.’  The sweet potato was added a couple weeks ago. The reddish-bronze color is not always available locally, but when it is I usually can find a spot for it. Another sweet potato was moved elsewhere to make the path. Two non-blooming ‘Gardeners World’  Lychnis coronaria were also removed. Sinningia ‘Invasion Force’ was moved to the rock spine. Shrub-like Senecio medley-woodii was removed as well as most of Berkheya purpurea. Chocolate daisies were pulled up, but there’s more berlandiera elsewhere in the garden.  The red kangaroo paws were removed.
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And it‘s still stuffed! Looking east, the short path bisects the deep 14-foot wide, 40-foot long border lengthwise.

The short run of bricks are a relic from the old path that ran east to west in an arc. And look how they glisten! A couple days ago the morning mist blissfully morphed into a light rain that lasted over an hour.

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Anisodontea ‘Strybing Beauty‘ starting to rebloom
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Looking through the pergola, Agave salmiana var. ferox ‘Medio Picta’ shows up dramatically against gravel. The variegated Agave mitis on the left was transplanted, replacing a big clump of Aloe ‘ Moonglow.’  The biggest job was cleaning up and sawing back the bocconia, which had thick, mostly bare-leaved branches soaring over 8 feet.

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Leucadendron ‘Ebony‘ 
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Billie inspects newly replanted beehive pot
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The path ends at Leucadendron ‘Ebony‘  and turns toward the southern creeping-fig covered wall. It’s maybe 14 feet of path before it turns to the south wall. With Mangave ‘Kaleidoscope‘ having bloomed, I saved the pups and filled its pot with some offsets of Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger‘  that needed a home. Phormium ‘Jester‘  was struggling in too much shade under the fernleaf acacia so was added to the pot in full sun. A large pot is a good visual guide for Billie as well as a foil to her digging energy. She loves to dig anywhere I‘ve been recently working in the garden.

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So many good plants in the center of the garden were revealed, including three Echium wildpretii and restio Chondropetalum tectorum, one of four planted last year. I‘ve decided to use the evergreen restios in tandem with winter-blooming aloes. Grasses like miscanthus are usually ready to be cut back by the time the aloes are blooming, so restios make a fresher companion for them.

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And that is where the August fidgets led me this year!

Posted in journal | 7 Comments

tying up the blooming bromeliad

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I think the potted Agave Snow Glow might be getting ready to bloom too

To continue with the hyper-journaling of the back garden, Alcantarea odorata has been tied upright to the tetrapanax and hummingbirds are able to visit the opening flowers safely and regularly again. That was done last week. Lovely heavy mist this morning that stained the pavement wet.

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No sign of pups at the base of the bromeliad yet
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but Mangave Purple People Eater has produced a pup, planted upper right
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growth continues to surge on the trevesia in August. Im calling it Trevesia palmata, but Im not certain about the ID — it was a gift labeled as a green cussonia, quote unquote. My keyboard is still in ee cummings mode (lacking in some punctuation)

Yesterday I started on that path I was envisioning, which doesnt transverse all the way through yet, but its a start. I transplanted what I wanted to keep and saved some Aloe Moonglow pups, if anyone is interested. Ive got another big clump of Moonglow so cant use them all. With the current news cycle, just thought you might need a garden report distraction this morning…

Posted in journal | 4 Comments

the path not taken (August fidgets)

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Billie tearing across brick path under the pergola running east-west

There are as many ways and reasons to design a garden as their are gardeners — but Im with Billie. Its all about the feet (and paws).

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landscape design by Lucian Giubbelei via Desire to Inspire

I love to play with the varying scale that moving through a garden affords — plants experienced ankle-high, hip-high, the landscape pressing in, opening up, receding in the distance. I know a lot of gardens love the throw rug of a central lawn upon which to view the surrounding plants, where you can spin and turn in deciding which direction to explore. Openness, choice. But for whatever reason, Im bonded to the insistent journey of paths. If I had to guess the origin of my affinity for plant-lined paths, it likely stems from the lush growth the winter rains brought in spring to the empty fields near my Los Angeles home, and the paths the neighborhood kids blazed through the tall grass and mustard, the hidden forts we built — all of it lasting at most two months, before summer heat and drought burned it all away.

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Miscanthus nepalensis and Justicia brandegeana ‘Red’ at the very southern boundary of the garden, maybe 4 feet from the 8-foot-high, creeping fig-covered CMU fence.

Im never quite happy with the movement through this small, plant-obsessed garden, no doubt the reason I change it up constantly. Today Im fighting an impulse to take out the middle of the garden and carve a path from the pergola to the back fence. I want a strolling, immersive garden this August, not a central garden filled with plants ringed in perimeter paths. (And less ambitiously, I also want the punctuation on my keyboard to function properly — apostrophes disappeared this morning as well as questions marks. Lets check out exclamation points — aha!)

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looking south under pergola to creeping fig wall, miscanthus and shrimp plant just visible on the distant left — a possible gain of 6-feet of path if the Phormium ‘Black Rage’ and the middle planting are emptied out

In this fantasy, the miscanthus and justicia would remain, but Id have to pull out the central, very dark Phormium ‘Black Rage,’ one of the best Ive grown, the Roldana petasites, a young Rhodocoma capensis, kangaroo paws, emptying the giants out of the center and rebuilding it with low-growing aromatics, sculptural and swaying things too. (Also in this fantasy, I am not a rabid experimenter with new plants.) But all fantasies aside, in reality it would be a very short, silly path from pergola to the back fence. Better to have a long path meander east to west in this narrow rectangle, and that would mean a wholesale changeup, risking mature plants like Leucadendron Ebony (which from this view is mostly concealed by the phormium). Way back in the 90s, the garden did have a path that ran east to west, dry-laid brick on sand, but I gradually pulled it up to make room for more plants like the phormium…no doubt changes undertaken in August. This month always brings the change-it-up fidgets, a desire for new paths, new ways to experience the plants, new perspectives.

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landscape design by Lucian Giubbelei via Desire to Inspire

Try to imagine a little bungalow in place of this Tuscan villa — try hard and dont laugh — so the back of my house is on the left, the creeping-fig covered boundary wall on the right. That distant tree on the right is my fernleaf acacia. Looking out my office door east, I could make a walkable path through the center of the garden. It would mean massive amounts of replanting, but it is technically doable…

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Sesleria Campo Azul — sitting under the pergola frames this view, but how much more enjoyable it would be to walk through it

If I ran a path east-west again, some of the sesleria would have to be moved, but grasses are very accommodating to change-up whims. Ive given an overly large share of ground in this small garden to seslerias but dont regret this bargain. I could struggle with keeping something watered for months or have these oatsy, light-catching blades and flowers. And I love how a manihot aka hardy tapioca has found a way through.

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Agave kerchovei with newly arrived carex

And its not like I dont move plants all the time anyway. I love this part of making a garden. I moved a couple clumps of Carex testacea on Friday — the big fibrous rootballs really hold together when transplanted, so theres a good chance for success, even when doing this in August.

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Two big clumps of Carex testacea were moved from the rock spine planting, one coming from the left of the restio. The chartreuse clump is Carex Everillo, a very promising sedge that tolerates more sun than I anticipated. I had planted five in deep shade in spring and noticed the clump in the most sun was by far the strongest in color and size, so a couple were moved to almost full-day sun here, just missing strong afternoon sun.

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gravel visible again after Carex testacea was removed, adding a little breathing room for plants like a small, struggling Banksia repens
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The other clump of Carex testacea was smothering my Aloe wickensii. Now the aloe just has to contend with Carex Feather Falls — another sedge new to me this year that is simply fabulous. I can see this sedge spilling onto my new east-west path.

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Kalanchoe bracteata and sideritis before removal
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after removal and replanting — if it wasnt for keeping the dog and cat from digging, Id clear out a lot of the pots too — ringing the planting with pots here is not great feng shui imho

More plant moves, but no new paths yet. A very large Silver Teaspoons kalanchoe was removed last week, maybe 3X3 feet in size with regular clipping. Winter blooming, adored by hummingbirds, the kalanchoe was an easy, invaluable place holder, protecting Leucadendron Jester while it deliberated whether to thrive or fail. With the leucadendron seemingly choosing to thrive, I began to contemplate removing the kalanchoe, first trying to prune it back to see if that helped the flow in this corner. After removing the old sideritis nearby of a similar size, the kalanchoe looked even more awkward. Is there a feng shui for gardens, question mark…because a perceived lack of flow really bugs me now, and I hate having to look over and around one plant to see another. Instead Im envisioning a long east-west path, each plant luminously outlined in the morning sun. Ah, the August fidgets strike again! But of course August is not the month for such garden upheaval in zone 10b, which is better scheduled for autumn — a delay that will help cool down and refocus the mad, impulsive fidgets of August.

Posted in agaves, woody lilies, design, journal, pots and containers, succulents | 7 Comments

while I was away

We have a new member of the family, so of course I had to immediately become acquainted with little Hannah, who resides in a foggy coastal Oregon town. And even though she’s only days’ old, I began deliberating before leaving, What shall she call me? Nana? Mimi? Grandmothers in our family style themselves with the French word for grandmother, Memere, but my mom seemed to so thoroughly own that title that it feels inappropriate somehow to take it on. After meeting little Hannah, I’ve decided she can call me anything she wants — just please call me! Anytime, anywhere…

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the big news while I was away — flowers opening on bromeliad Alcantarea odorata

As well as helping friends pack and move house, Marty handled the garden and Billie while I was away and seemed overwhelmingly pleased to have me home to take over garden responsibilities again. I didn’t make it easy for him, leaving lots of new plants needing extra attention while they settle in, next to succulents that don’t want any water at all, etc…I still can’t get over what a phenomenal job he did at the hot end of July. I planted an Annie’s Annuals order a day or two before I left — what was I thinking? — and not a single plant was lost. Bravo, Marty! (And sorry I’m such a PIA.)

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Between Marty’s dutiful attention to watering duties and the 90-degree heat, the garden is incredibly lush, with the trevesia in particular throwing some bronzy new leaves that look like they were cast in dyed concrete.

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It’s always so much fun to prowl the garden after a few days away, when it has even more of a capacity to surprise. There were buds on this tillandsia when I left, but I was unprepared for this graceful performance. Possibly T. stricta — tell me if you disagree. I’m very lax with tillandsia names.

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The blooming tillandsia is massed with other bromeliads and succulents on wire scaffolding along the east fence, and this arrangement has worked out surprisingly well throughout sumner, mostly getting by on misting
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Pineapple lilies opened.

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With the high temps, the tropicals exploded into growth and flower, like this shrimp plant.

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A six-pack of Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ was planted down the rock spine right before I left.

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The gomphrena hasn’t made much size yet, but at least all six survived. The Carex testacea on the right is lush, happy, and reseeding along the rock spine. A Libertia chilensis was just squeezed into this area too, part of the Annie’s Annuals order.

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This little coreopsis was a recent local find, ‘Hardy Jewel Desert Coral’ — not much info available on it other than the name implies it’s perennial and not an annual.

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The sideritis and Verbena bonariensis were pretty much done, so they were both pulled — with high hopes for reseeding — and a couple Sesleria ‘Campo Azul’ I had potted in reserve were slipped in. (This sesleria, along with the sedge Carex testacea, have become the dominant grassy presence in the back garden.) Now Aloe marlothii can get a nice baking this August and redden up those spines.

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Silvery succulent is Kalanchoe bracteata

And I took the opportunity to clean up some of the wandering pups of Agave lophantha ‘Quadricolor.’ I really need to pull that bloomed-out ruby grass as well — Melinus nerviglumis provides plenty of seedlings.

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bloom on bromeliad Alcantarea odorata

Back to that crazy bloom truss on the bromeliad. I’d been debating whether to stake it, and in a week’s time it’s become nearly parallel to the ground. I really need to make a staking decision or risk damaging the flowers. (I think the better approach might be to tie it with fishing line to the tetrapanax.) The individual flowers are lightly scented. I can find no information on if and how many pups will form, and whether they will be on the bloom spike or at the base. My Tillandsia secunda is incredibly prolific, continually throwing pups along the spike and at the base, and has been doing so since July last year! In bloom a full year, I noticed new flowers buds forming on it again just this morning, which means more pups will form along the stalk — very different from agaves. My White Agave, A. mitis var. albiodor, has finished blooming, and I’m desperately scanning the base for a single pup — I may have spotted one — whereas I’ve taken at least a dozen pups already from the tillandsia.

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Hoping your gardens are also pleasing you this summer, whether nourishing your eye or stomach — or both!

Posted in agaves, woody lilies, journal, succulents | 4 Comments

July 2021 garden report

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not my pool, but don’t you feel cooler already just looking at it? (photo by MB Maher)

With the drought tightening its grip, Californians have been asked to cut water use by 15 percent compared with last year. Even so, yesterday I let a hose trickle to deep-water parts of the garden, which was getting by on strategic spraying of mostly new plantings and containers up till now. And I’ve been continuing with new planting even into July, filling the holes repeatedly with water before settling in a couple new passifloras. (After all, the government encourages us to consider the benefits of “Using Trees and Vegetation to Reduce Heat Islands,” and I think maintaining a cooling biomass balanced with smart resource management is an important discussion to have now.) Last month’s water bill had us pegged at using 165 gallons a day. The average usage per person is roughly around 100 gallons, so we’re doing okay considering it’s a summer water bill.

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Posted in agaves, woody lilies, Bloom Day, Bulbs, journal, MB Maher, pots and containers | 7 Comments

more lilies

All these lilies were planted fall 2020 in my zone 10b, about a mile from the Pacific Ocean. We had very little winter rain, but the bulbs managed to grow and bloom on mostly hand watering and careful mulching. Bulbs were sited near plants that love the extra water, such as bocconia, and well apart from the agaves and other dry garden plants. IDs are based on what I ordered and notes on where the bulbs were planted, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that some IDs aren’t correct…speak up if you have a difference of opinion! And let me just say that waking up to a newly opened lily bud is not a bad way to start a July morning…

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‘Bell Tower’ — a single bud, stem 3 feet, needs staking. I prefer multiple buds per stem even if the flowers are smaller individually
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‘Black Beauty’ hovering over a kalanchoe leaf, about 5 feet in height, 6-7 buds to a stem that needs staking
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‘Black Beauty’
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and ‘Black Beauty’ again

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‘Red Velvet’ — stems over 6 feet with up to 12 buds, the only lily that hasn’t required staking
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‘Red Velvet’ — I’d love to have this lily increase and return next year, along with ‘Black Beauty,’ ‘Silk Road,’ and ‘Eurydice’
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‘Eurydice’ using Sonchus palmensis for some support but the stem is fairly upright on its own – 2-1/2 feet tall, about 6 buds per stem
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‘Silk Road,’ about 5 feet in height, needs staking, approx 6 buds per stem — not too sure about the ID on this
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‘Silk Road’

For such over-the-top floral extravagance, I gotta say growing these lilies was surprisingly easy, with only a couple no-shows, mostly the coppery colors (‘Make Peace’ and ‘Copper Crown’). Whether any return next year is an open-ended question — and if they don’t, that’s fine too. One season of thrills more than justifies the expense — keeping in mind what you’d pay per stem as cut flowers. Order the bulbs now for the best selection for fall planting.

Posted in Bulbs, cut flowers | 5 Comments

Six on Saturday

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  1. ‘Eurydice’ lilies opened this week, an asiatic with martagon-esque, downward-facing blooms. Zone 10 gardeners are reminded that lilies do not necessarily return every summer for us, so arborator cave (grower beware!)
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2. The echeverias are blooming — the one above is a gigantea hybrid.

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It has this scrumptious, stone-fruit coloration of plummy stems and apricot blooms.

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3. The young Passiflora vitifolia continues to relax into the garden, this summer its first of blooming really well.

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It’s escaped the pergola and is reaching out to the tetrapanax for more support. For now, I’m taking a lenient approach. Adding further to its allure, after the flowers drop, the dark, papery bracts stud the vine.

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4. My apaganthus and grasses experiment continues, with no verdict as of yet. However, very few of the agapanthus planted last year rebloomed this summer — that’s a single flower of ‘Indigo Frost’ out of three plants. I added in a couple ‘Brilliant Blue’ yesterday. In a larger garden, with more generous spacing, I think this could work. The size and height of Sesleria ‘Campo Azul’ is a good fit for the agapanthus flowers. Historically, agapanthus don’t mind being crowded and do grow among grasses in their native South Africa. In the long run, if the experiment means I have to choose grass or agapanthus, I’m favoring the grass. This selection by Native Sons is that good. The sesleria responds well to irrigation but is also very tolerant of dry conditions, and aloes work well with it. The agapanthus may need to become better established to tolerate the same irrigation regimen. For a larger zone 10 garden, imagine a long sweep of big succulents like agaves in gravel, backed by rhythmic pockets and bays of this grass and agapanthus and maybe kangaroo paws for summer — try it and let me know how it works! If that sort of thing appeals to you…

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5. ‘Fiesta’ aeonium is greener than ‘Mardi Gras,’ which languished then disappeared a while ago. Both are known to be weak growers. I actually prefer ‘Fiesta,’ and maybe with more green to the leaves it might have a bit more oomph in vigor.

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6. The containers against the office/garage. Orange flowers are Senecio confusus, which confusedly collapsed in spring, and armfuls had to be pulled down from the trellis and under the eaves. I assumed it was dead. New lush growth resumed not long after I planted a Cobaea scandens in the same container to pick up the senecio’s slack. The cobaea has reached the eaves now and will hopefully have some flowers soon to mix it up with the orange daisies. With eucomis and Solanum pyracanthum and a bunch of other stuff. Lower right silvery plant is Didelta ‘Silver Strand.’ And, no worries, those bottle openers hanging near the clock are purely decorative….

In the U.S., enjoy your long weekend!

(Six on Saturday is hosted by The Propagator — this is the first week I’ve crashed the meme!)

Posted in Bulbs, clippings, journal, Plant Portraits, pots and containers, succulents | 4 Comments