summer notes

Though I’ve been practicing lots of garden math — some addition but mostly subtraction and a little light division — the garden still seems almost unchanged and very familiar this summer, and I haven’t decided yet if that’s necessarily a good thing. The Amicia zygomeris is back, still robust and healthy. Evergreen in a zone 10 winter. Its purple-stained “pouches” helpfully draw Teucrium hyrcanicum into the conversation. Purple, yellow and soon a few spears of orange crocosmia chattering away in this corner of the garden. Listening in as these conversations develop is the best part of summer. As usual, I want intense, boisterous summer conversation from a very small garden that is expected to have something to say in other seasons too. Easy on supplemental irrigation a must. (That’s not too much to ask, right?) Amicia, from Mexico, is named for Italian astronomer and mathematician Giovanni Battista Amici. I first learned of amicia from one of British gardener/writer Christopher Lloyd’s books. Plant Delights thinks it’s hardy to zone 7. Grew to over 6 feet tall last summer. A unique outline that reads well, a tropical effect without all the “weight” associated with tropical plants. (One of the subtractions this spring was a banana. Even the supposed dwarf varieties grow into giants here.)


Oenothera is a big jolt of yellow. With Bouteloua, the filmy eyebrow grass, and variegated sisyrinchium. Smattering of sky blue notes from tweedia. Potted Echeveria agavoides ‘Lipstick’


Chartreuse shrub leycesteria seems to have survived a move last fall, leafing out here with self-sown purple orach, Atriplex hortensis. Hoping the leycesteria doesn’t burn here in afternoon sun. Growing in an 8-inch pot, the lily ‘Lankon’ is almost done with its one bloom, so now’s the time for a photo, even a bad one which doesn’t do justice to the speckled, tie-dye petals. This lily made a big splash at Chelsea last year, a hybrid between Lilium longiflorum, which grows well here in Southern California and is the reason I took a chance on it, and Lilium lankongense, which comes from Yunnan in China. Getting it to rebloom next year will be the real trick. Summer dormant bulbs are so much easier in pots, unlike the lily which never truly goes dormant and will need to be kept watered. The garden just isn’t kept moist enough to suit lilies, so they’re grown in pots only — just a few. More and more, by August I balk at caring for containers. I was told by a lily grower at a plant show this spring that these down-turned, martagon-like lilies will never be grown commercially for cut flowers because of the difficulty in shipping them without breakage. That one bloom scented the whole back garden.


The tropicals are gaining size, all plants that have seen quite a few summers in the garden. These two are Colocasia ‘Mojito’ and ‘Diamond Head.’ They are kept dry in their pots outdoors over winter.


Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger.’ For an experiment, I kept a small clump watered over winter, not allowing it to go dormant. This large pot was kept dry. Growth in both pots seems about the same. A very tough plant, highly recommended. Will grow enormous when fattened with feeding and lots of water, though does fine treated on the leaner side.


Not much new this year for potted summer plants other than the Tibouchina ‘Gibraltar,’ which I like quite a lot. Very refined for a variegated plant, even without the purple princess flowers.


When euphorbias are good, they are very, very good. Euphorbia characias ‘Silver Swan’ hasn’t missed a beat since last autumn, now becoming engulfed by summer growers — which just might be the end of it. Good air circulation at the base is paramount in my experience. I’ve been thinking about putting the path back in through this big border, which will necessarily scale plants down to about knee-high level again. Planting pathway edges is some of the most satisfying, (grasses, dianthus, Crambe maritima! succulents) but then I’ll lose the depth and space for the really big plants. Maybe this fall I’ll make the change.


Grasses proliferate. There’s probably more grasses than perennials now. Stipa arundinacea/Anemanthele lessoniana grows tawnier by the day.


While getting photos of the euphorb and stipa, I caught the crew heading for the office this morning.


Looking forward to some garden blog reading this Saturday, the LA Kings’ second game in the Stanley Cup tonight, and maybe a cactus show if I make it down to San Diego tomorrow. Feeling a little lazy for a two-hour drive tomorrow, but we’ll see.

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10 Responses to summer notes

  1. ks says:

    Say Denise, do you have those Colocasias in full sun ? I’ve been afraid to try them for fear they’d burn up.Glad you posted the photo of Silver Swan, I planted 2 a couple weeks ago to replace the disappointing E. ‘Glacier Blue’ ..this one looks like a winner.

    And Oenothera ??? you ARE brave ..

  2. Denise says:

    Kathy, you’re not implying this oenothera will be as obnoxious as the Mexican Evening Primrose?! I think this one is tap-rooted and shouldn’t be a problem…I hope. At least it’s bricked in on one side. A photo search makes it likely this red-stemmed version is ‘Comanche Campfire.’

  3. Deanne says:

    Love this Denise. I always so enjoy seeing your and Kathy’s gardens as they are so very different from what we can do here in Zone 5.

  4. Loved seeing your Colocasia, seems after a few years of successful over-wintering I didn’t do so well last winter with only one surviving (4 passing on). Trying to decide if I buy a couple of new ones or not…

  5. Hoov says:

    Alocasia–I’ve been watering over two winters now, and it keeps growing over winter. Confusing.

    The SD show is so tempting, yes, but a long drive, sigh. If only the train went direct to Balboa Park.

    Anyway, your garden is looking gorgeous, as usual.

  6. Denise says:

    And I love seeing your zone 5 garden, Deanne, and of course your amazing summer containers.
    Loree, funny, after I did this post and seeing the photos, I ordered a couple more from Plant Delights, even with the pricy shipping. So gorgeous, so easy here.
    Hoov, I did pass on the SD show — we’ve got a couple local ones coming up I’ll check out.

  7. Deanne says:

    Denise, I’m highly jealous of your X. Lime Zinger. I’ve tried to grow that a couple times and it never did well for me. They had some fabulous specimens of gigantic proportions at Longwood Gardens and I’ve coveted them since.

  8. Denise says:

    Deanne, I had that one at Longwood in mind when I mentioned their potential size. I think Sue was in that photo for size comparison, and it dwarfed her!

  9. That Tweedia is an amazing and captivating blue! I quickly looked it up only to discover it doesn’t sound hardy enough for my zone 8 garden – drat! Colocasias and alocasias add such great tropical accents to the summer garden, but also seem to wane and disappear here – drat, drat! Of course, I’m a sucker for the Oenothera: Simple, yellow, happy!

  10. Michael Ford says:

    I am sure there are therapeutic effects of these plants even by merely looking at them. They soothe tired eyes and they definitely cast stress away. Gardening is great because through this, we get reconnected with nature and not only that, it affords us the freedom to choose our selection. Nice one, Denise!

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