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Muradian pot needs a good home

I’ve never planted this pot made by Fresno-based potter Mark Muradian, whose pots are at all the succulent and cactus shows in California.
It’s just too precious for the way I shuffle things around constantly. 5 and a half inches wide and tall, including feet.

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So this will be a low-key giveaway, no tie-ins to Instagram, Facebook, etc., just for the hard-core readers (you know who you are!) but U.S. only.
If no one wants it, then I’ll finally plant something in it, maybe the little Pachypodium namanquanan that’s bulging out of its current pot.
If only one person comments and needs it, it’s yours. I’ll close this out in early September.

Happy Monday!

at the Inter-City CSSA Show August 2016

The funny thing about hard-core succulent shows is there’s often non-succulent treasures on the sales tables too.

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On arrival, I made a quick circuit around the tables and immediately became fixated on these decidedly non-succulent leaves.

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And the mottling on these stems. No name tag, no price.

Continue reading at the Inter-City CSSA Show August 2016

Bloom Day August 2016

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It must be August, because the Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ is billowing. This tender perennial becomes activated by the heat of August.
I pull it out by the handfuls when it gets too rambunctious but always leave a few roots. Any plant that likes this weather deserves a place at the table.
And I like what it’s doing with this potted agave. Remember when this euphorbia was the “it” plant several years ago?
It had a brief moment in the spotlight as a go-to annual for containers. Here it’s colonized the soil where the bricks meet the garden.

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Otherwise, it’s the grasslands of August and not much change since July Bloom Day. Same cast of characters.
Most of what’s in flower are oddball blooms only a bug would love, no real classic garden plants, so I’ll spare you the closeups. (And I got home too late.)
I’ve been cutting back, thinning the gomphrena, cutting Anthemis ‘Susanna Mitchell’ to the base, so more more buttery daisies this summer.
I’ve even cut back the brown eryngium flowers and Rudbeckia maxima seedheads. Everything looks fresh again.
I wanted to get some air circulation going in the jungle and deep water shrubs and stuff to get the garden through August and September and ready for winter-blooming aloes.
At least I hope there’ll be a good show from some youngish aloes this year. And there’ll be room to add the irises, which shipped today.
I think I’m cured of trialing big blue agastaches like ‘Blue Blazes.’ Coarse leaves, not bad from a distance, but not so welcome in a small garden..
Easy, stemmy, swaying bog sage, seen in the background, suits this garden fine and provides a film of blue all summer.

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One of the most startling blues in the garden comes from this Eragrostis elliottii ‘Tallahassee Sunset’ I just planted mid-summer.
Can you tell I’m seriously smitten with grasses lately? Plants’ leaves may age and yellow throughout summer, but grasses always manage to look impeccable.

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Buddleia ‘Cranrazz’ enjoying life in a deep container (trash can)

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All grevilleas are in bloom, this ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Robyn Gordon.’ An ‘Austraflora Fanfare’ bloomed lightly earlier this summer but is still a youngster.
Seen in the background, little aloe hybrids are sending out flares of orange flowers throughout the garden.
That’s the abbreviated Bloom Day report for August. More thorough chronicles can be found at Carol’s site May Dreams Gardens.

31st Annual Inter-City Cactus Show & Sale

31st Annual Inter-City Cactus and Succulent Show and Sale
The LA County Arboretum in Ayres Hall
301 North Baldwin Ave, Arcadia, CA 91007
Saturday, August 13, 2016, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Sunday, August 14, 2016, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

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By a bit of trickery with angles, the stunning bloom of Urginea maritima seemingly belongs to a boophane at a past CSSA show.

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A year ago, August 2015. Within days after this photo, Opuntia microdasys was chewed into disfigurement by a worm I failed to notice in time.
Before the worm, it kinda looked like two parents herding a gaggle of opuntia kids, didn’t it? That’s dad pointing to the left.
But the gymnocalycium is in bloom again. Purple echinocereus looks exactly the same.
I think I’ll pass on the opuntias for now. But the best part of the Inter-City shows and sales is you never know what you’ll find that speaks to your plant-loving soul.
Hope to see you there.

a week in plants, continued

I so rarely document thoroughly, before and after, that I thought for once I’d push back a little against those slacker tendencies.
This small project is an easy place to start. In the last post, there were four ‘Cousin Itt’ acacias added under the fringe tree, and that was theoretically the end of it.
Where we left off, I was going to leave space open to sweep in the leaves and not plant bromeliads because it’ll be messy with the tree litter, etc., etc. I am so full of shit, it still astounds me.
No way can I leave something half-planted like that. In for a penny, in for a pound, always.
So this morning the burning question was: What other dry shade-tolerant stuff do I have lying around?

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There’s this huge potted Lomandra ‘Breeze’ that can be sawed into two big clumps. Rough treatment, but I seriously doubt one can mistreat a lomandra. We’ll see.
A potted Asparagus retrofractus to billow between the two lomandras, all kind of hitting the same shade of bright green so the mix of plants isn’t too patchwork.
A few bromeliads for big crazy colorful rosettes, tree litter be damned. As shallow growers, it’s easy to change your mind with bromeliads.
I’ll probably remove them before they get buried in leaves over winter.

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Still too bare for my taste, but if the acacias like it here they can get over 4 feet across.

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This no ID rhipsalis seems to be growing in an upright clump, so it gets to be the fifth “acacia.” Very root-infested soil in this spot.

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A ringer for the acacia, right?

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Lost the name of the foreground bromeliad I’ve had for years.

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Neoregelia ‘Dr. Oesser Big Spots’ was brought home this weekend from the sale/show at Rainforest Flora in Torrance.

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Neoregelia ‘Martin’

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One of the many gorgeous bromeliads at the weekend show that didn’t come home with me, Aechmea ‘Samurai.’
If only I’d had this planting scheme before the sale. Overplanning has never been my strong suit. It’s always been spontaneity or bust.

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I tucked a potted variegated monstera, also from Rainforest Flora, behind the asparagus against the fence, but there may be too much slanting afternoon sun for it.
If the sun isn’t too strong, I’m going to check into espaliering it against the fence.

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Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’ marks the new planting for wayward paws that have been used to digging here and kicking up leaves.
I’ll keep you posted on the fate of this little acacia experiment.

a week in plants

Last week was a good one for plants. I finally found some Acacia ‘Cousin Itt’ in small sizes, under $10 each, to plant under the Chinese Fringe Tree.
(Chionanthus retusus, as distinguished from our native Chionanthus virginicus.)
This great, mediumish-sized tree grows in a rough square on the east side of the house, hemmed in by hardscape on all sides.


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This photo from September 2015 shows how I typically mass pots on the hardscape surrounding the tree, which casts some welcome filtered shade for summer.
Keeping the base unplanted has been the easiest way to go as far as cleaning up after the tree. (All the best things shed, i.e., trees, dogs, cats.) I just sweep the copious amounts of leaves/berries/spent flowers back under the tree and then raid the precious stuff when needed for mulch elsewhere in the garden. But then this vision of ‘Cousin Itt’ thriving in the dappled light of the fringe tree kept threatening to upend my pragmatic approach, and ultimately I just couldn’t shake it. I know, I’m weak that way. There’s too much constant debris for bromeliads to make sense under the tree, but I’m hoping I can gently rake through ‘Cousin Itt’ or give it a shake now and then.


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One of the four new Acacias ‘Cousin Itt.’ I need at least three more. I’ve been wanting to try this acacia out for ages.
It’s just not been available for under $40, so four for that price, even if in 6-inch pots, felt like the breakthrough I’ve been waiting for. Hurray for expensive plants in affordable sizes.
It’s always fabulous in a container, but my vision required its green shagginess to ring the base of the tree. And there will still be access available for the broom to do its work.
As with any planting in dry soil, you move the odds substantially in your favor by filling the planting hole several times with water before settling the plant into its new home.

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These Celosia caracas ‘Scorching’ came home the same day as the acacias.
I’ve been planting throughout summer, but wouldn’t consider putting these in the ground in August.
They prefer steady moisture and rich soil, so I planted two in a big 5-gallon nursery can, where I can easily top them off with the hose.
Oddly enough, I had just fired off an order to Annie’s Annuals & Perennials, and included in that order was another celosia, ‘Cramer’s Amazon.’
The order was mainly to get ahold of Rudbeckia triloba again. August is the best time to get biennials started, either from seed or plants if you can find them.

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photo from Fernando Martos’ website. The bearded iris is ‘Syncopation’

Something else to order in August are bearded iris, a plant I’ve run hot/cold over for some years.
Noel Kingsbury wrote about garden designer Fernando Martos‘ approach to Spanish gardens for Gardens Illustrated, July 2016:
(“The typical Mediterranean garden is very static, it never changes. I want to make gardens that appear different every time you look at them.”)
I feel the same way. Summer wouldn’t be the same without transient poppies and spears and thistles surging skyward amidst the more permanent agaves and shrubs.
Seeing how Martos dotted bearded iris throughout low-growing, dry garden shrubs like lavender had me checking iris suppliers online before finishing the article.

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But be warned, it’s generally a very fleeting effect, a matter of weeks. Personally, I’m beginning to appreciate fleeting effects more and more.
I last grew them in April of 2014. My style of overplanting tends to swamp their crowns, which require full sun to build up energy for the next year.
But there’s no harm in trying again, is there?

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Fleeting effects aside, when ordering bearded iris, I always get hung up on the issue of rebloom. There are a handful of varieties that are said to reliably rebloom in Southern California.
The pink ‘Beverly Sills’ is one of them, and there’s more included in a list here.
So it seems foolish not to order a potential, if not guaranteed, rebloomer, right? But the reblooming varieties are nowhere near as exciting as, for example, ‘Syncopation’ which blooms just once.
I did find a couple bicolored varieties at Schreiner’s that supposedly rebloom. No guaranties. (‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Final Episode’)

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Something to add to your Things To Do in August list: If you care to have them next year, order bearded iris now!

In a Vase on Monday, (courtesy of the OG)

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Peter/Outlaw Gardener, that indefatigable daily blogger and all-around nice guy, raffled off some vases recently.

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(And look who’s a winner!)

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I found this fat little echeveria in the front garden and unceremoniously pulled him up by the roots to welcome Peter’s vase.
(Thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting In a Vase on Monday.)

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A vase that mimics a Notocactus magnificus doesn’t need much accompaniment, but I dragged some stuff off the mantle for the occasion.
This dried bloom of an Allium schubertii has lasted eons. The little green pedestal vase came home with me a few weeks ago.

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The bulb in the garden disappeared long ago. There’s not enough winter chill in zone 10 for this allium to thrive here.

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Thank you so much, Peter! And one raffle deserves another, though I doubt I can find something as worthy as your vase. I’ll have to give it some thought.

bromeliads for hanging planters? (yes!)

A lot of my bromeliads swing from on high now.

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And it all started with an act of generosity back in January of 2014.
A gift from Reuben, after our joint flea market venture.
(It’d be fun to plan another flea market escapade for winter, or maybe a pop-up shop. But these are plans for cooler weather.)

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At first a single bromeliad, Aechmea recurvata ‘Aztec Gold,’ made its home here.
(Nice to see that yucca and coronilla again, both plants that have moved on, leaving behind progeny that pop up from time to time.)

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I bet you know where this is going. When have I ever left well enough alone, or been a one-bromeliad-per-sphere person, so to speak?
By April 2014 there were two.

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By June of 2015, there was lots of company.

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It’s actually been thinned out a little since 2015. Some of the bromeliads grow too large and get moved out into pots.

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There are terrestrial, ground-dwelling bromeliads, which can get enormous like the alcantareas, and epiphytic, tree-dwelling bromeliads.
Although I didn’t know it at the time, that first aechmea was a good choice, being an epiphytic bromeliad, with roots adapted to clinging to trees.

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Now you know as much as I do about these plants with the fabulously plasticine, kaleidoscopic leaves and flowers as colorful as tropical birds.
Like succulents, these are forgiving plants that don’t punish ignorance.
A more organic approach than my sphere is an option, as seen in this example in the cloud forest section of the Huntington Botanical Garden’s conservatory.
Bromeliads are mossed and fixed to the branch by florist wire or fishing line (further instructions here).

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There are thousands of species of bromeliads, pretty much all of them native to Central and South America (the neotropic ecozone.)
Some of the more familiar are the ones we make upside-down cakes with (pineapples) and the wildly popular air plants/tillandsias.

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Some enthrallingly kinetic examples of tillandsias from local nurseries and plant shows.

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Rest assured, there are great minds out there applying themselves to devising methods for displaying tillandsias.
Above is the Airplantman Josh Rosen’s Airplant Frame seen at Big Red Sun in Venice.
Seth Boor in collaboration with Flora Grubb designed the Thigmotrope Satellite.

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Another hanging arrangement with tillandsias from my garden. I incorporated most of these into the sphere.

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The takeaway here is, this growing arrangement has legs. The plants thrive on very little input from me.
For truth be told, for all my enthusiasm, I am not the most technically gifted plant caretaker.
Requiring little soil, mostly just moss, tolerant of dryish conditions, appreciating a refreshing spritz with the hose once a week. And that’s it.

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In fact, the care for shade-tolerant succulents and bromeliads is so similar that I combine them in shallow planters.

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As rain forest understory plants that can absorb nutrients and moisture through their leaves, I’ve always assumed, for Los Angeles, shade is the safest best.
But some bromeliads can tolerate a surprising amount of sunlight, as long as it’s not strong afternoon sunshine. I’m trying out a few under an acacia tree with grasses.
The best leaf color is obtained by exposure to as much sun as can be tolerated without leaf burn.
There are surer ways of sorting out light requirements for the different species, of course, like consulting a reference book.
Bromeliads for the Contemporary Garden,” which I haven’t read, looks promising.

Nice-sized specimens, however, do not come cheap. I like looking for deals on small pups at bromeliad shows, like the upcoming show August 6th & 7th at Rain Forest Flora in Torrance.

You don’t happen to have a sphere lying around? What the heck, it’s mid summer. Go ahead and treat yourself. Salvage yards are full of interesting possibilities.
And Terrain offers a very similar Hanging Planter here.
Potted’s Hedge Hanging Planter would work just as well.
Or get to work with a branch and some fishing line.
I’ve got an empty hayrack that I’d love to see overflowing with bromeliads.
More images of bromeliads from AGO can be found here.

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friday clippings 7/22/16

What I wanted to do tonight was attend an event I’ve been hearing about on NPR as I drove the freeways this week, Summer Nights in the Garden, hosted by the Natural History Museum.
It’s free but RSVP is required, so I checked online this afternoon. No go, they’re already full up. There are a few spots set aside for walk-ins. Maybe another time. There’s a couple dates in August too.


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I was really hoping to get an early evening, soft light opportunity to photograph the NHM garden designed by landscape architect Mia Lehrer.
I stumbled into a Lehrer-led, mid-day tour of this garden at the last Natural Discourse symposium 10/17/15 and have been meaning to go back for another look.
That’s Mia Lehrer on the far left. (I only wish my hair was still this short. It’s 95 degrees as I type at 5 p.m. today. The whole house fan has been a big help with this heat wave.)
The Los Angeles Times recently announced her firm’s winning the design competition for the proposed 2-acre park downtown at 1st and Broadway.
Along with the new design approval for Pershing Square, LA seems to have gone uncharacteristically park mad lately.
It’s about time, I say. Christopher Hawthorne has done excellent reporting on the progress of both parks, see here.
(To complete the trifecta, the progress on one of LA’s biggest environmental/design challenges, our beleaguered, concrete-bottomed LA River, was recently covered by Hawthorne here.)

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Back to one of my favorite events of the year, Natural Discourse.
This year Shirley Watts has chosen Fire! as the theme for the upcoming Natural Discourse to be held at the Huntington September 30 and October 1, 2016.
Like much of the West, the foothills around LA burn regularly and fiercely, so we are no strangers to the immediate perils of uncontrolled fire.
As usual, Shirley finds the most interesting minds to weigh in on her chosen subject, so you’ll want to check your calendar early to save the date for this one.

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But that still leaves me without a plan for Friday night. Guess I’ll just hang out in the garden.
The heat has transformed the solanum into a drapery of purply bloom.

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Have a great weekend.

cutflowers of summer


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Dahlia coccinea ‘Orange,’ Mendocino Botanical Garden

Thank goodness there’s not a crazy nativist strain complicating appreciation of summer’s most colorful annuals.
The only walls associated with these summer beauties might be the ones surrounding your cutting garden (you lucky devil!)
Cosmos, zinnias, and dahlias, the mainstay of summer vases, are all outsiders that emigrated via European explorer ships from Mexico and South America.
And how far they’ve come! Zinnias have even been germinated on the International Space Station.
And dahlias — well, the colors and shapes are sometimes almost too outre to be believed.
The more outlandish are generally grown for cutting, not for associations with other plants in the summer garden.
That’s because a flower as big as your head will require several stakes to keep from crashing face forward.
Smaller-flowered, more graceful varieties like “Bishop of Llandaff’ are often included in summer borders, but even these won’t thrive in dryish gardens like mine.
Here’s just a small sample I found at a local nursery’s dahlia cutflower contest last weekend that shows their incredible range.

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My first trip to the Pacific Northwest (in plant years, when Hinkley still owned Heronswood) included a stop at Swan Island Dahlias, whose catalogues I perused into tatters.
Their growing fields are a hallucinatory experience. In the UK, Sarah Raven has been a staunch champion of dahlias.
Floret Flower Farm provides detailed growing instructions here and also ships tubers.
On a much smaller scale, my little community garden plot is starting to favor flowers over edibles, with as many zinnias planted as beans and tomatoes this year.
To grow zinnias for cutflowers, my usual brand of tough love won’t cut it. With the possible exception of cosmos, the cutflowers of summer need the best growing conditions you can give them.