perky pilocereus at OC Succulents
What plants have grabbed your attention lately? Last week I was chasing down a hard-to-find compact form of one of California’s native buckwheats, Eriogonum giganteum var. compactum. The Grow Native nursery at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden currently has about 30 on offer in 4-inch pots, reason enough for me to justify the hour’s drive to the foothills to grab three of them.
I’ve been excited to trial this elusive form of St. Catherine’s Lace for some time. Even though the distinction between compact forms and full size can be subtle, if not meaningless, there’s no way of knowing other than growing the plant yourself. Salvia leucantha ‘Santa Barbara’ is supposedly a compact form, but I failed to note any appreciable difference in ultimate size. Currently I’m growing a so-called compact form of Tagetes lemmonii, the big, shrubby, late-blooming Copper Canyon Daisy with the fruity-scented leaves. Even confined to a stock tank, in its first year it’s closing in on 6 feet in height. I’m not one to heedlessly advocate dwarf forms of plants, but in small gardens they can be undeniably useful.
In 2016-17 I was crushing on another buckwheat, Eriogonum crocatum, which was found at Theodore Payne’s nursery, glimpsed here in March 2017. It was last seen being engulfed by a miscanthus in mid-summer. It’s a lovely buckwheat, silver leaves with chartreuse flowers.
Sometimes I have to grow a new plant a few times before a lasting impression is formed. I brought home Salvia curviflora last week, pictured above, thinking it was making its debut in my garden, only to find its debut was actually made in 2013.
my garden, Kalanchoe thyrsiflora with Salvia curviflora, 2013
I ran across the 2013 blog entry on the salvia when checking on flapjack kalanchoes, which grow towering flower spikes in winter here. Recently Gail (Piece of Eden) had invited me to her home to attend a meeting of her garden club. Strolling her garden after the meeting, there it was, Kalanchoe thyrsiflora enlongated in epic bloom, whereupon I was attacked by pangs of envy.
I always kick myself in winter for not persevering with this succulent through summer, when it has to be protected from being overwhelmed by rampant summer growth. But I love vertical lines in the garden, and no less in winter when everything else is in retreat, so I couldn’t resist a couple large plants in bloom I found discounted at OC Succulents in Torrance. Each blooming rosette will die off after flowering, hence the discount. I can grow on the offsets to blooming size or treat it as a winter annual.
Lots of cacti in 2-inch pots at OC Succulents. Nicholas Staddon remarked that 50 percent of California nursery growers were lost in the recession.
The speaker at Gail’s garden club meeting was Nicholas Staddon, now with Village Nurseries after a stint with Monrovia, and he was full of interesting new plant news. I’d just planted this fall a couple Lavandula ‘Silver Anouk,’ which Mr. Staddon singled out as a great foliage plant, not particularly the best lavender for blooms. The variegated lavender ‘Meerlo’ is similarly best appreciated for its foliage since it rarely blooms, but it is long-lived, a rare trait in lavenders. Also exceptionally long-lived for a lavender, possibly up to seven years, is ‘Goodwin Creek Gray,’ heading into its second year in my garden. A compact leucadendron, ‘Hawaiian Magic,’ should be widely available in 2-3 years. Mr. Staddon considers Hesperaloe ‘Desert Flamenco’ to be the most floriferous, with 9-10 months of bloom, while Hesperaloe ‘Pink Parade’ has leaves as large as a yucca’s. Ceanothus maritimus ‘Valley Violet,’ with smoky purple flowers rather than the typical blue, has merited inclusion among the august company of other UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars, an honor not easily obtained. And the best desert willow in his opinion is hands down Chilopsis linearis ‘Desert Diva,’ discovered by Mountain States, for whom Mr. Staddon also consults. He also had glowing praise for Callistemon ‘Bottle Pop,’ among many other plants I’ve not mentioned.
We all marveled at the rapid ascent in popularity of Acacia ‘Cousin Itt,’ even though most of us (excluding Kris, also in attendance) have had mostly poor results so far. Mr. Staddon suspects the difficulty may lie with nursery stock being lightly rooted, so check the rootball before purchase.