Category Archives: plant nurseries

notes on spring planting

Though it may not be readily apparent, there really is something positive to say about the garden in January. I’ve been cutting back the grasses, and even allowing for the dozens of poppy seedlings that are emerging and staking a claim on spring, there’s still an impressive amount of vacant planting space opening up. All of which adds zest to a favorite wintertime game, a game played by a mortal pretending to be a god: What do I want spring through fall to look like in my little garden in 2016? In all honesty, a lot of it will look like a dead ringer for 2015, but January is when optimism for the new gardening year is at its zenith and anything feels possible. Astonishing, never-before-seen visions of extraordinary plant beauty are surely to come.


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Like the Catalina Silverlace, Constancea nevinii, seen recently at the Theodore Payne Nursery.


Like envisioning a delicious meal, I daydream in textures, aromas, flavors sweet and sharp. For those few planting places opening up, will it be smooth or crunchy? I have lots of smooth succulents, so let’s find something crunchy, shrubby. It can’t be anything too rich and water dependent, so no traditional, overbred, cordon bleu garden plants. And I’d like something whose flavor won’t overwhelm the rest of this mulligan’s stew, which is heavy on variegated plants and spicy agaves. What’s needed is something in a quietly textural, supporting role. Maybe something in herbs? Isn’t winter savory an attractive little shrub, or is that summer savory? Maybe dracocephalum? Or lavender again, but it’s always iffy in this clay, and I just don’t want to play those odds this year. Plus I want something that billows, smallish in stature. Nepeta has been disappointing, even the much-lauded ‘Walker’s Low.’ What about calamints? Resource lean, aromatic, shrubby. I’ve grown a few kinds before but eventually backed away from their wildly prolific reseeding tendencies. Maybe there’s something new in calamints I haven’t tried?

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Eriogonum crocatum

Some light research turns up Calamintha nepeta ‘Montrose White,’ a calamint discoverd by Nancy Godwin at her Montrose Nursery. Long-blooming, doesn’t reseed, a summer-long feast for pollinators. It’s even won top honors as Perennial of the Year in 2010. Okay, then, calamint it is. Digging Dog Nursery in Albion, California, carries it, along with an intriguing perovskia called ‘Lacey Blue,’ a dwarf form of Russian Sage. With plants like these, summer 2016 can turn up the heat all it wants. We’ll be ready.

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Aristida purpurea

An order to Digging Dog is dispatched, and that settles that. But what else? Wasn’t there an eriogonum I’ve been itching to grow? I have plant notes around here somewhere. Yes, there it is, a smallish native buckwheat with silver leaves and chartreuse flowers, tolerates clay. Eriogonum crocatum! I think I can squeeze in maybe two. Now, who carries it? Why, Theodore Payne does, a mere hour’s drive to Sun Valley, just past Glendale. So be it. (And what should be playing on the radio the whole trip, there and back, but a tribute to David Bowie. I jump in the car, turn on KCRW, and there’s the thumping bass of Panic in Detroit. An auspicious beginning for any road trip.)


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At the entrance to the nursery is an impressive stand of our native Agave shawii

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See that slender, bright green column behind the pots?

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Catalina Ironwood in a ceramic container. Lyonothamnus floribundus ssp. asplenifolius.
I stared at this tree long enough that a nursery person approached to warn me not to try this at home.
She explained this was basically tree abuse that they practiced to obtain cuttings for the nursery.
Trees in containers always seem like such a good idea in January, long before they become a miserable chore in July.

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So I wandered the grounds near the nursery. With just an hour before closing, there wasn’t time to explore the canyon (22 acres!)

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Arctostaphylos cruzensis

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Pinus sabiniana, Grey Pine, Foothill Pine, Ghost Pine (lovely pine!)

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I was recently cleaning up this grass in my garden, Aristida purpurea, and inadvertently pulled up the whole clump.

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Not a regimented, upright grass but ethereal, wispy to the point of disorganized. There are more purple tones than the photos show.

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Dudleya densiflora

Riding in the back, serenaded by Bowie all the way home, were two Eriogonum crocatum and a Catalina Silverlace, Constancea nevinii.
2016 is really starting to take shape.


Wallaby, the Nursery Dog

When I last visited Austalian Native Plants Nursery this past June, I had the good fortune of meeting this little one:

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Jo O’Connell, the owner of ANPN, is devoted to the Blue Heeler breed, which originated out of her homeland Australia. I’ve only encountered this breed twice, coincidentally both times at plant nurseries, and was immediately impressed with their charm and intelligence. Like my corgi, the Blue Heelers were bred to herd cattle, so I have a natural sympathy for this breed’s work ethic and single-mindedness.
Jo was over-the-moon excited the day of my visit about her brand-new puppy.

I was shocked to learn that young Wallaby went missing over the Christmas holiday. Thankfully, she’s been found but has sustained serious injuries.

In Jo’s words:

Dear Friends of Australian Native Plants Nursery,

My beloved Australian Cattle Dog pup, Wallaby, was hit by car on Christmas Day. She is my “nursery greeter,” loved by everyone who visits the Nursery.

After being taken to the Ojai Humane Society and then to a vet in Thousand Oaks, she is now at Ventura Surgery Center in critical care. We thought we had lost her, but she is breathing independently now and the vet says she could make a full recovery.

She has a fractured pelvis, fractured hip, broken ribs and a collapsed lung. Despite being in obvious pain, she was visibly relieved and happy to see me when I visited her this morning and evening.

Wallaby is a strong young dog so she will pull through. But the vet’s bills are racking up and are going to be over $12 thousand (US).

My good friends have made a GoFundMe page to help with expenses.
We would so grateful if you were able to 1) donate to Wallaby’s recovery and 2) share the fundraising campaign with your contacts.

Please click on any of the pictures of Wallaby to donate and for more information.

Thank you so much,

Jo

You can go here to help get this little nursery dog back up on her paws and greeting customers again at Australian Native Plants Nursery.

Senecio tropaeolifolius

Every once in a while I find a familiar plant grown with such sympathy for the plant’s innate qualities and needs that it feels like I’m really seeing it for the first time.

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Sunset Nursery, at Sunset Boulevard near Hillhurst, had this small pot of Senecio tropaeolifolius staged high on a large urn.
And this simple composition competed for attention with a very good selection of succulents of all stripes surrounding it and still managed to stand out.
If you find yourself at the eastern end of Sunset Boulevard, stop in and have a look around at this excellent neighborhood nursery.

nursery hopping in December

Pulling into a favorite nursery’s driveway yesterday, I could already see from the street it’s a madhouse. I’d completely forgotten the split personality most nurseries take on in December. The usually empty parking lot is not only full of cars, moving and parked, but also Christmas trees, shoppers, and children darting among the cars. I proceeded cautiously, pulling into the first (and only) available parking stall to eliminate one less moving object from the mayhem. The car makes a small bump, bump, and as I jump out to investigate an employee accuses, “You ran over our tree stand!” which he’s brandishing in his hand as evidence of the crime. Of course, there will be Christmas tree stands in the parking stalls in December, and overworked employees irritated that I would be unaware of this fact. There’s no more denying that the holidays are officially in full swing. I very nearly got immediately back in the car to leave.

But I’m glad I didn’t, because they were carrying Lobelia tupa in gallons, a plant never offered locally.
And their excellent stock of the proteaceae family included the sight of this Protea ‘Mini King’ in bloom in its container:

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Protea 'Mini King' photo 1-P1019776.jpg

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And a bulbous plant not often seen, the giant red Crinum asiaticum var. procerum.

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This specimen was old enough and big enough to flower, sending a swooping stalk like a flamingo’s neck almost to the ground.
There was a smaller plant in a 3-gallon size for almost $50.

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I might want to try the variegated Euphorbia characias in a container too. The ones I planted last winter melted away again.

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As usual, I warm up to the winter holidays slowly, apparently marching to a different little drummer boy. But there’s still plenty of time.
We’ve always been the house that brings home the tree on the 24th.

Have a great week, and watch out for those tree stands.

Greenlee Meadow Grass Fall Festival 2015

Fall has been stupidly busy, but I’m so glad I made it out to Pomona last Saturday for John Greenlee’s Meadow Grass Fall Festival, the second year it’s been held. Let’s cross our grubby, fall-planting fingers and hope for another festival in 2016. The food was plentiful and tasty, as were the libations. Alas, I couldn’t stay for the evening jazz concert. Now based in the Bay Area, Greenlee still maintains the Pomona property where his grassy ambitions first took root. The festival was attended mainly by designers, and it was an impressively energized bunch. The prevailing mood seems to be that in drought, there is opportunity — especially for garden designers. All were eager to hear what’s new in grasses, what’s working, and what isn’t. John Schoustra of Greenwood Gardens covered daylilies, irises, and pelargoniums, and made an impressive case for the bioremediation qualities of daylilies in the landscape. I loved the tallest daylilies with the smallest, simplest flowers, like ‘Salmon Sheen,’ which is heresy to true aficionados. Schoustra’s preference is also for daylilies that read well in a landscape and not for all the ruffles and sparkles that require close-up inspection on bended knee.

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Although I don’t know him personally, our paths have been crossing ever since our kids attended the same private school in Long Beach.

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I well remember the Greenwood van parked at the curb of the old, two-story wooden house where Mitch and Duncan attended elementary school. Resourceful old houses can double as schools, plant nurseries, like Greenlee’s house on its enormous lot in Pomona. I arrived late (after getting a bit lost) so missed the opportunity to wander and take some photos of his bamboo-covered garden.

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Part of the sales tables near the house


It can’t come as any surprise by now that I’m an incredibly easy mark when it comes to plants. And for the first time in a while I actually had some empty ground due to the departure of Yucca’ Margarita.’ I brought home, in gallons:

Three Yucca pallida, Mountain States Wholesale Nursery
Two Melampodium leucanthum, Blackfoot Daisy, from MSWN (if you follow Rockrose’s Texas blog, you already know this remarkable little daisy)
Poa cita, a New Zealander that Greenlee feels might be the replacement for Mexican Feather Grass
Euphorbia antisyphilitica, from MSWN (Total non sequitur, but if you’re watching Soderbergh’s The Knick, you’ll be up to date on the gruesome ravages of syphilis.)

Most of these were selected after hearing the very persuasive Wendy Proud of Mountain States Wholesale Nursery list her go-to plants during her talk “Got Some Ground to Cover?” Every plant in her roster carried impeccable dry/tough/gorgeous credentials, so look them up for fall planting and ask for them if you don’t see them at your local nursery:

Acacia redolens ‘Desert Carpet’
Dalea capitata ‘Sierra Gold’
Eremophila glabra ‘Mingenew Gold’
Euphorbia antisyphilitica, which at about a foot tall reminds me of a smaller Baja spurge, Euphorbia xanti
Gossypium harknessii
Melampodium leucanthum
Portulacaria afra minima
Scutellaria sp. ‘Starfire’
Yucca pallida
Yucca rupicola


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In constant motion and as animated as any meadow grass, Greenlee packed in a dense amount of information during his talk. That’s his selection of true blue Cupressus guadalupensis in the distant background. We were tucked into the narrow, shady former driveway at the entrance to the garden. Temps are still seesawing between upper 80s/low 90s this fall.

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As far as the ongoing search for lawn replacements, Greenlee reminded us that no grass will stay green without some summer water, but the trick is to find a grass that requires the least amount necessary. The more foot traffic is intended, the more water will be needed. For the moment, he’s wild about Leymus triticoides ‘Lagunita,’ which he feels is the closest thing to the perfect California native lawn. In creating a meadow, along with the chosen base grass, architectural accent grasses like Pennisetum spathiolatum add height and movement, and Greenlee has been experimenting with including flowering plants like gazania, tulbaghia, yarrow, gaura, evening primrose. Challenging designers to come up with their own meadow formulations, Greenlee increased the level of complexity by adding that it must all be mowable at some point to rejuvenate the grasses. A lot of people I’ve been talking with share his enthusiasm and feel that this is an exciting tipping point for creating dry gardens without the obligatory, frequently irrigated, and closely mown lawn. The Blue Grama grass selection, Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition,’ got a strong endorsement from him as well, which he sometimes mixes as an accent in plantings of the species Blue Grama. For Greenlee’s definitive advice, consult The American Meadow Garden.

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Planted at home, Euphorbia antisyphilitica to the right of Agave gypsophila ‘Ivory Curls’ recently moved here, with a few blooms from Melampodium leucanthum peeking in. I’d like about five more of this euphorbia, which surprisingly can winter through a zone 7. Lomandra ‘Lime Tuff’ in the background has been phenomenal this very hot summer. Grey succulent is Senecio medley-woodii which I cut back a lot to encourage bushiness.

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One of the three Yucca pallida, pending mulch. I was determined to find spots where the slanted afternoon light picks up the leaves’ yellow margins

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Poa cita, Greenlee’s choice over Mexican Feather Grass

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My own personal “meadow,” of course, must include agaves. Just as the taco truck was arriving, and before hearing Grant Lee Stevenson’s talk on palms, I had to leave.
Did anybody else attend the palm talk?

the case of the disappearing hebes

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I was in San Francisco recently for several days cat-sitting a charming fraidycat in the Mission district named Banksy.
It was during this trip that I solved the case of the disappearing hebes, those lovely little shrubs from New Zealand.
Because I just can’t seem to acquire a photojournaling habit of anything but plants, I’m borrowing some of Jessica’s wonderfully expressive photos to fill in the cast of characters.

photo from Thread and Bones

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photo from Thread and Bones

This hallway was definitely a character on the trip. Since this photo was taken a couple years ago, it has been covered, and I mean every inch of it, with throw rugs.
Because of the rugs, the apartment has taken on the personality of 221B Baker Street.
Also because of the rugs, the downstairs neighbors were spared the deafening knowledge that a corgi had taken up temporary residence and was delighting in thundering up and down that hallway.
After a quick visit with Mitch and Jessica the night before they left for some lengthy photo work, we had the “railroad” apartment to ourselves for five days.
Banksy pretty much kept to his room, the middle bedroom, and we had the front, streetside bedroom.

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So it was the four of us, me, Marty, Ein, and Banksy, and that long hallway, where the curtain billows all day just as in the photo.
Ein emptied out the kibble from the cat bowl only twice, showing amazing self-restraint…for a corgi.

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photo from Thread and Bones

Banksy and Ein, while not exactly enemies, didn’t become best friends either.

We were thrilled to be leaving the stifling heat in Los Angeles for the legendary cool summer environs of San Francisco.
Surprising both us and the mostly non-air-conditioned residents of San Francisco, the heat was stifling there as well. The Mission hit 100 degrees the day we arrived.

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While in the city, of course, there was the ritual trip to Flora Grubb Gardens

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and the required visit to Annie’s Annuals & Perennials in Richmond, timed nicely with fall planting.

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I also horned in on a tour of the Reid garden near Sebastopol via my very nice contact at the American Conifer Society, Sara Malone, whose own fabulous garden at Circle Oak Ranch was also on the tour.
Unfortunately, I only had time for the early morning visit to the Reid garden and had to get the car back to the city.

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Glimpse of a mature leucadendron on the upper left. I think the garden is likely in zone 9.
Penstemons, zauschnerias/epilobiums, ceratostigma and salvias were in bloom, with some roses having a late-summer flush.

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The garden has incredible atmosphere and spatial presence built up over decades of deeply informed selection and placement of beautifully appropriate plants.

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The Reid garden is not at all conifer-centric, but a wonderful mix of dry-adapted trees, shrubs, grasses and perennials.

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I believe the rose on the arbor behind the potted agave is ‘Mme Alfred Carriere,’ a creamy, very fragrant climbing noisette.

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The blue pool on the lower left is Crambe maritima. Mine have done remarkably well all summer on restricted irrigation.

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I’ve wanted to see this garden since learning of it through Pacific Horticulture.

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Back to the case of the disappearing hebes. I confess I hadn’t thought about hebes in years and hadn’t even noted their disappearance from SoCal.

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Along with traipsing through spectacular gardens, there were mundane chores to do in the city as well, like laundry.
Needing the services of a Laundromat and finding the one familiar to us in the Mission shuttered, we headed to the Marina district.
Which is where I found this majestic stand of Salvia ‘Purple Majesty’
I dropped off Marty and Ein at a nearby Laundromat and promised to bring back food. But first I needed to examine these enormous clumps of salvia.
They were admirably dense and uniform in habit, unlike the rangy specimens I grow. This planting is at the George Moscone Recreation Center.

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The shrubs surrounding the salvias were just as remarkable. Hebes! Beautiful New Zealanders. I haven’t seen hebes for ages.

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Ruddy coprosmas with pale, variegated hebes.

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There used to be hebes in Southern California. Where had they all gone? Is changing fashion ruthless enough to cause complete eradication?
Possibly, but even more ruthless is Fusarium oxysporum v. hebei. From the Monterey Bay Nursery website:

[F]ormerly important stalwarts in California landscaping, but now essentially extirpated due to the introduction of Fusarium oxysporum v. hebei. This disease persists in soils and nursery beds for years, and induces systemic, incurable stem infections which ravage landscapes and commercial crops. By the early 1990’s hebes had essentially left the commercial trade in California.”

Rather than choosing for flowers, my favorites have always been “those with tight, dense, box-like foliage in grey or green, and the whipcord types with minute, scale like leaves and stringy branches…
Some of the smaller leaved types can be more resistant, may be tested in the ground, but don’t come crying to us if they die. You have been forewarned
!”

I have no idea what chances for longevity the hebes at the Moscone Rec Center have, but they appear for now to be in robust good health.
I personally have no problem with short-lived plants, say three to five years. I love the changeover. But public landscapes are on different timetables.

Upon returning home, awaiting me was the July issue of Gardens Illustrated with, of all things, an article on hebes by Noel Kingsbury.
Famous for championing the “new naturalism,” comprised of perennials and grasses, Mr. Kingsbury struck me as an unlikely proponent of these tidy shrubs, but the man knows his hebes.
He describes the changing fortunes of hebes as falling in and out of favor relative to garden styles, whereas in California the reason for their disappearance is not mercurial tastes but insidious pathogens.

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Hebe ‘Quicksilver,’ photo from 2010

The next time I find a Hebe ‘Quicksilver’ at a nursery, I’ll know its chances for survival face much better odds in a container than in the garden.

Inter-City Cactus Show & Sale August 8 & 9, 2015

Thank goodness there’s a big plant sale to look forward to in August.

30th 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 8, 2015, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM
Sunday, August 9, 2015, 9:00 AM – 5:00 PM

From the Inter-City Show Committee:

“The 30th Annual Inter-City Cactus and Succulent Show is this weekend, Saturday, Aug 8th and Sunday, August 9th.
This is one of the stellar events in the Cactus and Succulent World, with a worldwide reputation for the quality and quantity of entries.
The show is so well known that people are coming from as far away as India and Korea to see the show, visit the Arboretum and attend the sale.
The Inter-City Show pioneered the concept of Walks and Talks, adding an important educational component to the show. There will be great talks on both days.”

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“The Inter-City Show has a well-deserved reputation for the place to see one-of-a-kind plants;
but more importantly, it has the reputation as the place where plants are grown to standards of excellence that are impossible to exceed.”

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The sale is one of the highlights of the Show. It will be open from 1 PM on Friday.
We have dealers from Northern California, San Diego, Tucson, Phoenix, New Mexico as well as local specialists.
There will be an amazing selection of wonderful plants for sale as well as on the show tables
.”

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I’ve attended this show the past several years, and it never disappoints.

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Having the show and sale at the Arboretum makes it a not-to-be-missed event.

Rules for entering plants in the show can be found here.

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And talk about perfect timing, Rolling Greens just received a shipment of containers, including these square, lightweight concrete fabrications that are so hard to find.


Seaside Gardens, Carpinteria, Calif.

By now it’s fairly obvious that visiting plant nurseries and gardens are two of my favorite pursuits.
The ultimate in garden touring is possible when occasionally, though all too rarely, both pursuits can be accomplished at one location.
The list of West Coast nurseries with attached gardens include the fabled Western Hills and Heronswood, (both now undergoing a renaissance under new ownership), Annie’s Annuals & Perennials, the Ruth Bancroft Garden, and quite a few nurseries in the Pacific Northwest, including Cistus, Joy Creek Nursery, Far Reaches Farm, Dragonfly Farms, Dancing Oaks.
I’m sure there are local favorites near you, such as Plant Delights in North Carolina and White Flower Farms in Connecticut.
And now many botanical gardens keep a good selection of plants on sale year-round.

I spent a couple intensely enjoyable, moodily overcast days last week visiting nurseries and gardens in and around Santa Barbara, including Seaside Gardens near Carpinteria, which is one of those rare nurseries with excellent display gardens that is fast becoming a well-blogged nursery/garden destination. It has the kind of garden you dash in and out of to check stock at the nursery of a particular plant just seen in full, dazzling growth in the garden. In my case, it was Alstroemeria ‘The Third Harmonic.’ I grew it once, panicked at its gigantic ways, eradicated every tuber, and have missed it ever since.
And it’s not been easy to find again. But there it was in bloom in a garden at Seaside.

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The following photos of the growing grounds are a result of asking a nice gentleman to check if he had this alstroemeria after spotting it in the garden.
None were for sale in the retail section, so we took a stroll through the growing grounds to find if any were ready for sale.
During our walk through row after row of the seductive building blocks of future gardens, I bemoaned my experience with TTH, its enormous size and sprawling ways.
My guide said I had given it too much water, that it never tops 4 feet at the nursery and is in fact a good candidate for dry gardens.
Discussing problem plants with nursery people is the best kind of talk therapy.

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He said he began to grow these plants because nobody else would, gesturing to the many proteaceae family members.
Seeing this incredible inventory of mediterranean, dry garden plants, I mentioned that the nursery was in the catbird seat now with the advent of the recent water restrictions.
My guide shook his head and said he’s seen it all before. People begin to adapt to drier conditions, and then the rains return, causing the best water-wise intentions to wither away.

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I remember the drought in the late ’70s, and this one just feels different, like a true tipping point.

Continue reading Seaside Gardens, Carpinteria, Calif.

favorite plants and an end-of-week nursery browse 5/29/15


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All the new and interesting dry garden shrubs on the smallish side seem to be coming from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials.
Gnidia polystacha from South Africa is a light-limbed shrub with needle-like leaves that readily give away its Thymelaeaceae family heritage.
It’s new in my garden this year and just building size. To see more fawned-over favorites, plant-luster Loree collects them the last Friday of the month.

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I love having favorite nurseries stashed all over town, available for a quick liaison if I’m in the area.
One such regular stop is Lincoln Avenue Nursery in Pasadena, which was in fine form this morning.
Their retail plant display chops are crisp and clear, and there’s always new plants to discover, like Tradescantia cerinthoides ‘Greenlee’
aka the Thick-Leaved Wandering Jew (a “compact perennial” 10 inches X 2 feet, full sun/bright shade, hardy 20-25 F, from San Marcos Growers).
Those dark, swarthy leaves might suck in light like a foliar black hole unless paired with something bright. The nursery chose a variegated Silene uniflora.

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Coincidentally, this nursery also carries Annie’s Annuals & Perennials stock, and I was able to nab some lime green and orange zinnias to grow for vases in the veg garden.
And I found more Emilia javanica, seen above from July 2014.
Don’t let this little annual’s delicate looks fool you. It was the longest-blooming plant bar none last year. The butterflies and I are completely smitten.
There were so many volunteer seedlings this spring, I thought I’d never be without it again. But, oops, I did manage to weed them all out.

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Hot color for sun/light shade from a California native, the monkey flower.

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I’d grow it in a container to concentrate that molten color, but I’ve cut back on anything new but succulents for containers this year.

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No name tag on this volcanic mimulus variety, but Yerba Buena Nursery has a mimulus ID page here.

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Plectranthus always get my attention for their great leaves and good looks that go on and on, and these tight grey leaves drew me in for a name check.
The hummingbird-attracting blue flowers last for months, sometimes year-round in frost-free climates. Perfect for dryish gardens.
This one, the Ethiopian Spur Flower, Plectranthus coerulescens, is described as a compact subshrub.
Don’t ask me why I left it on the bench this time, because there is no rational answer.

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The best thing ever, a lipstick red “monopot” of multiple young ponytail palms, Beaucarnia recurvata.

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I don’t know — what do you think? If price makes a difference, leave a comment and I’ll tell you how much.

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The mature cacti and euphorbia selection is one of the best in town.

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I love the soft-leaved Beschorneria yuccoides. That multiples-in-rows thing nurseries do gets me every time.

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All the familiar bad boys are here

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I remember when it used to be so hard to find Agave desmettiana ‘Joe Hoak’

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This beauty was labeled ‘Moonshine.’ I wonder who the proud parents are. The white markings remind me of Agave impressa.

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Whole lotta trunking going on. I think this is the Spanish Bayonet, a variegated Yucca aloifolia

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I just stripped the lower leaves from my Dasylirion wheeleri at home, but it’s nowhere as clean as this trunk yet. Lots more work to do.
After blooming last year it became shaggier, more disheleved, and some grooming seemed in order. The clean trunk does help.

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Well, hello, sexy. Don’t be shy.

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Agave salmiana var. ferox ‘Medio Picta.’ This was available in a gallon, but where am I going to put another potential 5-footer?

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You can have complete faith in any nursery that trains a Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca Pendula’ over an office doorway.

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Did you see Debra Lee Baldwin’s piece on echeverias for Pacific Horticulture?
One of the photos shows a mass planting of Echeveria pallida, in that light shade of green I find irresistible.
I found an unlabeled echeveria with that similar light green to the leaf but with a red edge, so I’m not sure if it’s E. pallida. Maybe it’s E. subrigida?
The color can be off when they’re brand-new out of the greenhouse.
The small-sized succulent selection at Lincoln is like a living plant encyclopedia. It’s that good.
A nearby shopper kept muttering to herself over and over, “It’s overwhelming…”

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The leaf color seemed a bit pale on Aloe deltoideodonta ‘Sparkler’ too, but they had my favorite size, a 4-inch pot. Available in gallons too.

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For some light weekend reading, how about a comprehensive list of plants for Mediterranean gardens?
Great for planning a new garden and just fun to go through and see how many you’ve grown (and killed).
And The New Yorker wrote a really smart review of The New York Botanical Garden’s new exhibit on Frida Kahlo’s garden “Art Garden Life.”
I could read all weekend, but this one will be the last opportunity to get the wheels out to celebrate National Bike Month.
I haven’t been on mine in ages.
This weekend is also the Los Angeles Cactus & Succulent Society Annual Drought Tolerant Plant Festival.

counting euphorbias

Tis the season to celebrate euphorbias, since many of us will be living with or gifting/regifting one of its tribe over the next couple weeks, the poinsettia. Call me scrooge, but I’d much rather think about the ones planted in my garden than the holiday favorite with the flaming red bracts. Since first digging the garden 26 years ago, there’s always been at least a couple euphorbias around, and that will certainly be true again for 2015. I’m referring to the herbaceous and shrubby kinds, not the succulents, whose numbers are legion. This genus is ginormous, the largest genera of flowering plants in the plant kingdom, named after Euphorbus, physician to the Mauretanian King Juba II (first century B.C.), whose exploitation of its medicinal properties earned him a place in botanical nomenclature. But the white sap is notoriously toxic and the stinging enemy to the mucous membranes of the eyes and mouth, so I can’t imagine how and in what form Dr. Euphorbus delivered the medicine. Even getting the sap on the skin causes a strong reaction in some people, though I seem to have the hide of a rhino and haven’t had a problem so far. I’ve grown many of the different herbaceous kinds over the years, which generally tend to be short-lived for me. Many will seed around, whether lightly or alarmingly, and species do occasionally cross, like the famous Euphorbia x martinii, a naturally occurring hybrid between characias and amygdaloides. The euphorbias are standouts here in winter and spring for a sunny, dryish garden, and I’ve long been faithfully trying out any new kinds that come my way.

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First the euphorbs returning for 2015. There’s tree-like Euphorbia lambii fattening up after the recent rain, losing its scrawny summer looks.
This euphorbia seeds around like nobody’s business. But it’s tall, incredibly tough and tolerant of a dry summer, so it gets a pass.
Hardy down to 25 to 30 degrees.

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By February it will look more like this (February 2013)

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In bloom April 2013, illustrating a euphorbia’s attractions: smooth, blue-green leaves arranged in whorls with a shaggy chartreuse inflorescence

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Also fattening up is a young E. atropurpurea. After a wobbly first year, it’s exciting to see it settling in and appearing to choose life. From Tenerife, Canary Islands.

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Here it is at the Huntington Botanical Garden, flaunting its atypically fabulous wine-colored bracts.
I had never heard of such a euphorbia before and stood slack-jawed before it when first stumbling across this beauty.

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There was much gaping and sputtering, and then a frenzied search for my son Mitch, who was photographing barrel cactus elsewhere in the garden (see here).
I dragged him back by the sleeve to take this photo. And then I chased this euphorbia across a summer of plant shows, ultimately finding a source at Annie’s Annuals. Bless you, Annie!

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Also returning is Euphorbia rigida, just not this specific plant, which declined and withered away. A couple pieces were salvaged.
It also reseeds, but nowhere at the level of E. lambii. When I find these seedlings, they’re carefully potted up. Photo from February 2014

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spring 2012. So this plant lived at least three to four years. The clay here might have something to do with the shortened lifespan.

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Euphorbia mauritanica in the front garden, where the sun/shade shifts around quite a bit throughout the year.
These are probably leggier than they should be, but I’m hoping they’re in shape for a good bloom this spring.

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Here’s the ideal Euphorbia mauritanica, included in a design by Dustin Gimbel.

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My straggly Euphorbia ceratocarpa, appearing to have barely survived a recent move to clear out the compost area.

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Old photo from 2009 when the smoke tree ‘Grace’ ruled the garden and I continually wore that green robe through the winter.
Euphorbia ceratocarpa is on the left against the fence. Golden blur on the right was a duranta.

Unfortunately, this is the best photo I have to illustrate why I’ve carefully nurtured this one ratty-looking plant from a single cutting for the many years after the mother plant died.
There’s very little information available on this euphorbia for gardens. English plantsman John Raven grew it, and his daughter Sarah Raven has this to say:


This is one of the most open-growing and perhaps less elegant of the euphorbias, forming big, rangy clumps nearly 1.8m (6ft) across. But it is definitely a contender for the longest-flowering plant I know. I’ve had one that is yet to stop blooming outside the kitchen at Perch Hill since March 2006. It has not had a single week’s pause, and you can pick decent-sized stems right the way through the winter. I cut some for an arrangement at Christmas, when there is almost nothing of this brightness still surviving. E. ceratocarpa is also very easy to propagate. The cuttings that my parents collected all took extremely easily – even after several days wrapped up in damp loo roll in a plastic bag – and those few plants have created many thousand since. This euphorbia should certainly be more widely grown.” – source here.

Easy to propagate? Ha! I’ve had cuttings take a year to root. The only other person I’ve come across who grows it is garden designer/author Rebecca Sweet. It reminds me of a big, blowsy, lime-green hydrangea when in bloom.

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Euphorbia mellifera is another big shrub like E. lambii, but more lush. Fairly fast growing, this one was planted out from a 4-inch pot last year.
For zones 9 to 11 or container culture. Reseeds lightly here.

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And then there was the moment when the pale, variegated euphorbias entered our lives. ‘Tasmanian Tiger,’ discovered in a garden in Tasmania in 1993, was the first.
Because they turned up at the local nurseries, I grabbed a couple this fall to plant near Leucadendron ‘Ebony’ while it gains size. Short-lived plants have their uses too.

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I tend to try all the pale variegated ones. Some have proved to be stronger growers than ‘Tasmanian Tiger.’
A new one to me, at the nurseries this fall, under Native Sons label, E. characias ‘Glacier Blue’

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An old photo of a bloom truss from Euphorbia characias ‘Silver Swan,’ which I remember as a very robust grower.

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This non-variegated form of E. characias turned up at local nurseries too this fall.
Euphorbia characias ‘Black Pearl,’ so named because part of the flower structure has a “black eye.”

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An old photo of a blooming Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow,’ whose leaves have bright yellow variegation that flushes red with cool temps of fall/spring.

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From April 2011, Euphorbia mellifera almost out of frame at the upper left, ‘Ascot Rainbow’ blooming lower right.

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I’ll end with a photo of this incredibly weedy self-sower brought home years ago. Possibly Euphorbia nicaeensis.
A nuisance, yes, but the fresh color and meticulous arrangement of the leaves keeps me from weeding every last one from the garden.

Enjoy (or give to your mother) your Euphorbia pulcherrima (poinsettia) this holiday season, and as alway, mind the sap!