Monthly Archives: March 2016

Wednesday miscellany

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Progress report on Rudbeckia maxima. Snails love this rudbeckia, so I’ve been cutting out a lot of chewed-up lower leaves.
Believe it or not, it seems to be forming bloom stalks already.
Zone 10 can be a topsy-turvy home for true perennials, which sometimes develop a bad case of insomnia as they are constantly prodded out of dormancy, or fail to enter dormancy entirely.
Whatever happens with the blooms, I still love those leaves, so the snails have a fight on their hands.
With ‘Sundiascia Peach,’ Melianthus ‘Purple Haze.’ Blue grass is Leymus ‘Canyon Prince.’
I’ve pretty much given up on the parkway/hellstrip the past few years but am thinking of making a stab at planting it again, with this wonderful grass.
Wildly swinging car doors, careless stompers, trash throwers, all you negative forces in the universe, I’m putting ‘Canyon Prince’ up against everything you’ve got. We’ll see who wins!
Along with planting parkways, I continue to be of two minds on just about any subject. As much as I love flowers, the diascias look a bit much to me.
I think I prefer big floral displays in OPG (Other People’s Gardens). And it’s doubtful anyone would count this as a big floral display, but still it’s a bit too foo-foo for me.
Of course, insects love the foo-foo, so there’s that to consider.

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This, however, is my kind of floral display. The beschorneria bloom stalk has topped out at about 5 feet and the individual buds have opened.
This has to be one of the most colorful bloom stalks ever to grace my garden.

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Strobilanthes gossypinus is looking fine this spring too and continues to astonish. Silver and gold? Seriously, you can do that?

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My mom’s neighbor’s graptopetalum is covering itself in its unique galactic bloom strucuture again.
It’s hard to sneak a photo because I have to stand directly in front of their window to do so.
Being a gated community, there’s not a lot of love for strangers with cameras fawning over their plants.

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I don’t remember the lemon cypresses producing these last year.
Nearby plantings were getting coated in a golden dust that had me mystified as to its source, until I knocked a cypress branch and unleashed a mini golden dust storm.
Of course I couldn’t leave the cypresses alone and have forced them into double duty. Passion vines and solanums are threading their way up.

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And I keep forgetting to credit Abutilon venosum for blooming all winter, so thank you!

a garden with Irish wolfhounds

In Georgina Reid’s piece on Michael Cooke I found my antipodal soul-mate garden.
Georgina (The Planthunter) visited the garden designer at his home on the Central Coast in New South Wales, Australia for The Design Files this March.
Reading Michael’s blog on his design practice, the plants — aloes, palms, crepe myrtles, strelitzia, bougainvillea, russelia — are very familiar. This could easily be home.
And those Irish wolfhounds have been running through my imagination for a very long time. Always in slow motion, of course.

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My family will vouch for my long-standing crush on Irish wolfhounds, which dates back to a childhood friend’s mother who bred these magnificent dogs.
Occasionally, she’d let them loose to run in packs in an nearby empty field at the end of our cul de sac where she also trained and exercised horses.
There is nothing like watching one of these dogs at full run, their long limbs effortlessly pulling forward to swiftly cover ground.
As kids we’d try to run with them but a few tumbles taught us to just get out of their way, stand back and admire.
If I pass you in the street with your Irish wolfhound, be prepared to be delayed while I greet and admire your majestic friend.

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Michael has two Irish wolfhounds. Horses too. And an empty field nearby, or paddock as he calls it. My childhood is being reenacted in New South Wales.

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Dogs, horses, and dragon trees too.

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Because I recently acquired one, I’ve become sensitized to sightings of doryanthes, the Giant Spear Lily.
My little one is Doryanthes palmeri, which eventually grows larger than Doryanthes excelsa, which flank Michael’s front door. D. excelsa has a taller flower stalk.
Note the envy-inducing xanthorrhea, the grass tree on the right. More photos by Daniel Shipp at The Design Files.


I think I can grow these

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Not sure what goes with your new AstroTurf lawn?
Since 2004 Czech artist Veronika Richterova’s has cultivated a playful love affair with repurposing polyethylene teraphthalate (PET)


Since 2004 she has devoted herself systematically to serious artistic work with PET bottles. The easily malleable PET has surprisingly proved to be an excellent material for fulfilling her artistic intentions. For this offshoot of her artistic aspirations she has chosen the designation PET-ART…[Her] aim is to capture the fundamental principle of the human desire for creative recycling. And it is not in the least important whether the work in question is purely functional, or is simply a decorative object… .”

in a hothouse

Or a greenhouse, hoop house. Located on Long Island, NY, visited in June 2013.
What I remember most was the all-engulfing moistness of the environment. Evapotranspiration so intense as to make one giddy.
Which is undoubtedly why I lingered for a very long time, to take photos of familiar plants grown so beautifully as summer bedding in that heated greenhouse on Long Island.
Moving slowly between the growing benches, I drifted into reveries of shopping for the summer home in Montauk, to fill the conservatory with lush hanging baskets.
Another life, another garden (another bank account). Would I leave my sunny, arid home for a Gatsbyesque estate with plentiful summer rainfall?
These are the questions that arise when visiting a Long Island hothouse on a lovely day in June. (It’s good to be home.)
Except for the begonias, it wasn’t a botanically palpitating experience.
To me begonias are still the boss for summer containers, light on water, arresting in leaf. I need to find a Begonia luxurians again pronto.
(No need for winter protection here in zone 10. I stack my potted begonias under dry eaves for the winter.)
But it was impressive enough just checking out the growing operations and the boisterous health of well-cared for plants coming out of a winter’s sleep.

Have a great weekend. Maybe visit a local greenhouse?

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Claire Basler’s flowers

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In an office yesterday was a Japanese four-panel painting on wood of chrysanthemums, goldenrod and wisps of flowering miscanthus.
The stark white of the mums popped against the tawny background, but the panels’ overall effect was of a soothing, subtle glow with quiet movement etched onto its surface.
Any business to be conducted in that office would not be disrupted by this lovely but soft-spoken art.
Which got me thinking about the current state of flowers pictorially.

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Are artists still interested in glorious, full-throated renderings of flowers?
Or have we been done in by the sentimental, genteel approach, like chintz wallpaper, or overly stylized graphic design musings?

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By providing those twin stark contrasts, you can tell I’m not really au courant with the subject.
But I do know when I first came across French artist Claire Basler’s large scale flower paintings they held that proverbial shock of the new for me.
See for yourself.

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Claire Basler


this is my brain on spring (April 2014 repost)

It’s so balmy and chirpy outdoors that, once again, it’s getting hard to stay focused on anything but plants and gardens.
I’ve updated the Dates to Remember so I don’t kick myself for letting something slip by unnoticed, even if I can’t attend. Let me know if there’s an event you think I need to know about.
(FYI: It looks like Nancy Goslee Power’s garden is on the Garden Conservancy Open Days tour for Los Angeles this year…)
May you find some beautiful distractions this weekend. I’m leaning towards the Long Beach flea market this 3rd Sunday of the month.
Below is a repost from April 2014:

Spring is such a massive distraction, and that’s coming from just my own little garden, which apart from work I rarely want to leave. For the first time in my adult life, I drove by a multiplex theater on Sunday and wasn’t familiar with a single movie title on the marquee. I can’t keep plant show dates straight and nearly missed attending the Spring Garden Show over the weekend, which always has great vendors like B&D Lilies and Franchi Seeds of Italy, though if they were at the show this year, I didn’t find them. I had no idea there were speakers or who they would be (Dan Hinkley). Spring, I give up. You win. I know by summer the infatuation will have cooled.

At the show I speed-walked past the display gardens and headed straight for the plant vendors. My overall impression was that a neo-19th century orchid mania has gripped this show. But since these plants are born scene-stealers, it’s hard to tell if the show has a creeping orchid bias or not. High-dollar orchids bobbed out of shopping bags, rode up and down escalators in the arms of their new, terribly excited owners. Masses of orchids in exquisitely perfect bloom added a concentrated and disorienting “In The Realm of The Senses” mood to the show.

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Every color of epiphyllum, the orchid cactus, was on offer.

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Every color of epidendrum, the reed orchids

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The techno-hobbyists also had plenty to admire, like a bonsai’d boug

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As usual, the bromeliads were my biggest temptation. I’ve really wanted an alcantarea, but this lovely thing had just won some award and so carried a trophy price.

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One of my favorite vendors at the show carried exotic bulbs and gorgeous tropical seed pods, like this entada species.

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Cerbera odollam, the Pong-pong tree, also know as the “Suicide Tree,” once used in Madagascar in the ritual “trial by ordeal” to prove guilt or innocence.
Justice was irrelevant because, guilty or innocent, the tree is invariably lethal (related to the oleander).

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The succulent tables are always worth a browse.

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I wrote about this succulent not long ago, Graptopetalum superbum. This one has slight variegation to the leaf and has been named ‘Cotton Candy.’ $50 for a one-rosette plant.

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I spent a lot of time with the tillandsias and hanging plants, trussed with fishing line, performing delicate aerial ballets.

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What did I buy? More rhipsalis, of course, that shaggy, mop-headed epiphytic cacti. Andy’s Orchids had a nice selection.

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And being on a hanging plant binge, you know there was some experimenting yesterday on some old topiary forms.

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After the show I had a craving for simplicity and found these ‘Yellow Garden’ cosmos at a local nursery.

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I don’t know how those orchid people stand the excitement.

Bloom Day March 2016

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No flowers open yet, but the long-awaited beschorneria bloom stalk itself is stare-worthy. Parrot colors of vivid red with buds tipped in green.
Improbably taller every day, with new subtle twists and angles to admire

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It passed by the Euphorbia ammak a few days ago.

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The bricks in the photo above lead to the Chinese fringe tree that bisects the narrow east side of the house.
Does Chionanthus retusus leaf out and burst into bloom simultaneously everywhere or just zone 10?

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Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ is finished flowering, leaving some pretty cool seedpods

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In the past, I’ve often wondered about the bocconia’s will to live. This winter’s rains have brought out its latent, robust side. I’ve even found a seedling.

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Different kinds of echeverias continue to flower in their charming crookneck style. With Agave ovatifolia ‘Frosty Blue’

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Surprising color match on the blooms of Echeveria pulvinata and Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’

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a gift aloe, no ID

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Anisodontea ‘Strybing Beauty’ is still looking very promising. Healthy, clean leaves with an airy, open habit of growth.
This will be its first summer, a true test. High on my to-do list is to start a glossary of all the plants I trial in the garden, with a thumb’s up or down.

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No blooms, just enjoying the view of wet pavement. We are becoming such rain fetishists here.

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Wet Agave ‘Dragon Toes’ with a flash of orange deep in the background from Aloe ‘Johnson’s Hybrid’

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I’ve pulled a lot of the poppies, but there’s still a few in bloom every day.

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I’d love it if Salvia leucantha ‘Santa Barbara’ stopped growing now. And bloomed like this, at this size, until November.
We don’t ask much from plants, do we?

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Lastly, Agave vilmoriniana, lord of all he surveys. He’s made good size over the winter too. Blooms from poppies, salvia, kangaroo paws.
Oh, and believe it or don’t, but that euphorbia is in bloom too. Subtle bordering on pointless. Euphorbia characias ‘Black Pearl.’
Now, imagine if the blooms were chartreuse up against that salvia. Taking note for next year.
Carol at May Dreams Gardens collects our Bloom Day stories the 15th of every month.

Senecio glastifolius

I posted this photo Mitch took back in April 2010 under the title “Unidentified Giant Composite.”


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Garden designer Kelly Kilpatrick (Floradora Garden Design) helpfully provided its true name.
Annie’s Annuals & Perennials has been an off-and-on source for this giant South African daisy rarely offered elsewhere in the trade.

San Francisco Botanical Garden discusses this daisy’s provenance:

“At the tip of South Africa where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, lies the floral kingdom of the Cape Province, a tiny area of land with a dazzling assortment of endemic plants (plants found nowhere else), twice as many as are found in California! The Cape’s Mediterranean climate, mild and wet winters, dry and hot summers, helps promote this marvelous diversity, together with the Province’s isolated position at the end of the continent.

Senecio glastifolius grows in a narrow stretch along the south coast, and also appears in the fynbos, areas of evergreen shrubs of varying sizes and varieties in company with proteas, heather and restios. It is a tall, semi-woody perennial with a single layer of brilliant lavender petaled ray florets surrounding a central disk of golden florets. Its leaves are lance-shaped and coarsely toothed. It grows densely to three feet or higher. In Afrikaans, it is called, “Waterdissel” (water thistle) for its water-loving habits and thistly leaves.”

Usually a display of daisies this tall and wide comes only in fall, from other members in the asteraceae family, like the New England asters. {I won’t mention any species names because they will have changed again by the time I post this.) So a sight like this in April is quite extraordinary. Plus, I like the fact that those of us in zone 9 and 10 have a big daisy to call our own. SF Botanical Garden does reference the unwanted spread of this daisy in Australia and New Zealand “if it finds water.” So just in case, I’d be careful about planting it where it might spread into native plant communities. But if you are one of the lucky ones with a garden of a size to accommodate a shrubby daisy big enough to hide a Buick, Annie’s Annuals & Perennials is offering it right now.
I’d love to try it in one of my stock tanks and pinch it back mercilessly.


Occasional Daily Weather report 3/7/16 (palms on fire!)

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from The Los Angeles Times

Marty, both parakeets, and I were jolted awake a little after 6 a.m., when the predicted storm slammed into town, escorted by raucous thunder, lightning, and high winds.
(Nothing wakes increasingly deaf Ein.) In a quintessentially LA touch, the lightning struck and fired up several palm trees across the county, some of which could be seen from that major player in all our lives, the sclerotic 405 freeway (pronounced in the local dialect as “four-oh-five.”)

I can’t leave you with that end-of-the world, palm-on-fire photo, so how about some soothing photos from the garden in the last week or so?


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My beloved ballota. I think mine is Ballota acetabulosa. I always thought the name was interchangeable with B. pseudodictamnus.
Apparently that’s not the case, and one kind is slightly superior to the other. It’s not an easy plant to track down by any name, so I’ll probably never know the distinction.
Whatever this one is, I love it. Reseeds for me. Buy it under any name if you’re in zone 7 and above and want some knobby, woolly texture for a dry garden.
And be patient, for it doesn’t look like much the first six months to a year after planting.

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This maroon osteospermum just might keep me from throwing money away at chocolate cosmos this year.
Thank goodness for the osteospermum’s unflagging, robust nature. If only it had Cosmos atrosanguineus’ extra long stems too.

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Bulbine ‘Athena Compact Orange’

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First bloom on rat-tail cactus.

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Echeveria agavoides are in bloom all over the garden. Offsets quickly make new, thick colonies of this echeveria, one of my faovorites.

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Glistening from the previous rainstorm a couple weeks back, my potted Leucadendron galpinii is going to love life in this container all summer.
Right? Are we agreed? I’ll take that as a yes.

N.B. Read here on how to check your citrus for signs of the Asian citrus psyllid.