new and semi-new plants

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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8 Responses to new and semi-new plants

  1. Max says:

    I love that you’re always willing to try new things in your garden, and brave/ self-aware enough to realize when something just isn’t working. I’ve often used your blog as a resource, because you keep such good records about your successes/ failures. It’s definitely helped more than a few times (the sexy plant pictures don’t hurt either). Speaking of which, any tricks to keeping a Boophone disticha alive? I just ordered one bare-root, and the price I paid has me feeling some pressure to keep it from ending up in the compost bin.

  2. Kris P says:

    I wonder about the labeling done by some growers. I’ve got a compact form of Tagetes lemmonii, which is indeed compact. It’s only about a foot tall but, in its pre-bloom infancy, it looked remarkably like the full-blown version, so perhaps the grower messed up with the batch you found (or perhaps it just REALLY loved conditions in your garden). As to Lavandula ‘Silver Anouk’, it stopped some visitors cold with its blooms in my garden last spring – I hope you find it pleasing as well.

    I’ve yet to make it to the new outpost of OC Succulents in Torrance. The fact that it’s only open weekdays is part of the reason. Is it well-stocked?

  3. Denise says:

    @Max, you sweet talker! I don’t think I’ve tried boophone more than once, a small bulb I bought in 2013, last mentioned on the blog in 2015 , that I needed to repot it to keep it high. At the shows the bulb sits quite high in the container. I dimly remember fighting scale on it. Best of luck with it! (
    @Kris, that’s so interesting about your experience with the tagetes. If you want mine in spring, it’s yours! OC Succ is worth a trip for some nice-looking echeverias right now. The agave selection is fair, nothing rare. That’s good news about Silver Anouk. I might not have the all-day sun and air circulation for it that you get at home.

  4. Gerhard Bock says:

    Great post! I always enjoy reading about the latest purchases and/or plant experiences of other gardeners.

    I’ve tried Salvia leucantha ‘Santa Barbara’ twice. Both plants languished and looked ratty so I removed them. I recently planted a pink-flowering cultivar called ‘Danielle’s Dream’. It’s not a compact variety but supposedly still smaller than the species. (I’ve had great luck with the species.)

    I’m looking for a dwarf form of Tagetes lemmonii since the cultivar I had (‘Martin’s Mutant’) was simply too large. Will talk to Kris about her experience.

    Lavandula allardii ‘Meerlo’ is a beauty. According to Janet Sluis of Sunset it grows well even in shade.

    The new plants Nicholas talked about sound very interesting. Definitely something to keep an eye on.

  5. holly says:

    Oh, now I want a Bottle Pop! I think it’d do well in my garden, but do I need another Loud plant? 😉 (answer: not so much)…. thank you for your super-informative, inspiring post (as always) !

  6. David Feix says:

    Thanks for sharing all these lovelies Denise, I also love hearing other horticulturist’s recommendations. Many of these weren’t even on my radar.

  7. David Feix says:

    P.S., the Cousin Itt has done well for me here in the East Bay Area.

  8. hb says:

    Good report on the speaker. Glad you were able to attend. Was a very hectic day for me, so much to attend to, broken coffee pot, (returned for refund) lost glasses (located, finally).

    E. crocatum looks like a must-have; love those silvery plants. My supposed dwarf Tagetes is a monster too. Grrrr! I think they just ran out of the other tags and used the ‘Nana’ version. Grrrr some more. Tempted once again by ‘Cousin Itt’. Fifth time the charm, or will it be Shame On Me?

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