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Bloom Day June 2016

In June, it seems like everywhere you point the camera, something is in bloom.

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Glaucium grandiflorum wants the entire garden for itself, so there’s been lots of ongoing, strategic pruning.

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The blooms of Eryngium planum eventually slide from silvery-green into blue.

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Berkheya purpurea has matured into several big clumps and probably won’t stop there.

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‘Enor’ was planted in spring from gallons, just two, plus a ‘Pike’s Peak Purple. I like the almost dierama-like effect from the the tall, smaller-flowered varieties of penstemon.
And I always fall for the darkest colors. ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Raven’ are similarly dark-flowered varieties.

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Salvia uliginosa is unapologetically robust. I’m already making mental notes to split this clump in fall.
I think this might be the salvia to interplant with big grasses.

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Chocolate Daisy, Berlandiera lyrata, unlike Chocolate Cosmos, really does scent the garden chocolate. As long as the sun is out, that is.

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Small, frost-free, the back garden chugs along year round, so summer must share ground.
And I’m partial to long-lasting flowers with a strong architectural presence. (Which means BD posts can be a tad repetitive.)
Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ returns for at least its third year, same footprint, no reseeding, reveling in the driest, hottest conditions. It’s a performance so perfect as to be almost artificial.
Anthemis ‘Susanna Mitchell’ is the buttery daisy. Agastatche ‘Blue Blazes’ is barely noticeable, just starting to gain height. The latter two are both new this year, though I’ve grown them in the past.

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A similar effect can be had from the succulent Cistanthe/Calandrinia grandiflora (long-stemmed, screaming magenta flowers), but clumps of calandrinia seem to double in size overnight.

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Agastache ‘Blue Blazes’

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Anthemis ‘Susanna Mitchell’

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I thought the ‘Terracotta’ yarrow would never bloom. It was playing by the rules and waiting to make that fabled third year leap.

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The kangaroo paws aren’t nearly as tall as they should be. Steady irrigation before and during flowering seems to be key.
I put El Nino in charge of the irrigation this winter, and what a slacker he turned out to be. At least in Southern California.

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I’m loving the bright chartreuse new growth on Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’

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The Pittosporum crassifolium ‘Variegatum’ was a recent indulgence.

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Even in June, flowers just aren’t enough. Let’s give it up for leaves.

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June is a month not to be missed for Bloom Day news, which Carol collects for us at May Dreams Gardens.

Stipa ichru

The Peruvian Feather Grass may save the world from Mexican Feather Grass, Nassella (formerly Stipa) tenuissima.
Whether the world needs saving from the rampant reseeder MFG depends on your point of view and where you garden. (More on that here.)
I’ve heard grass authority and famous contrarian John Greenlee proclaim that he’d rather see Los Angeles’ vast concrete spaces festooned with MFG than bare.
MFG effortlessly insinuates itself into cracks in paving. The biggest concern would arise if your Southern California garden abuts open spaces where MFG can escape.
In that context, Stipa ichru, aka Jarava ichru, aka Peruvian Feather Grass, is being touted as a substitute.

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This is its first summer in my garden, and already I’ve noted some differences, though. For one, PFG is taller.
And because it’s not a prolific reseeder, we’ll probably be seeing it more as a specimen than en masse, as the MFG is so often used.
It might be too early to judge if this is a long-lasting trait or due to its young, small size, but Peruvian Feather Grass has more of an arching, weeping form.

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My early impression is that this grass really deserves to be considered on its own merits. because it’s a beauty.
I’ll be thrilled if it reseeds…lightly.

an overgrown corner

When my boys were 5 and 10, respectively, I would have gladly had that moment last about 10 more years. And I knew it at the time. Just stop the clock, please.
Gardens are all about change, too, and I love that about them. But sometimes I wish a moment would last a couple seasons or three or five.
When an area gets overgrown, rather than try to restore it, I generally rip it up and try something new. So garden scenes come and go.

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I like this little corner off the kitchen, but it’s reached critical mass and will need thinning.
Eucalyptus ‘Moon Lagoon” was pruned fairly heavily last fall, cutting into 1-inch diameter branches. It jumps right back and keeps those gorgeous juvenile leaves.
So there are some things on which you can inflict perpetual childhood. ‘Moon Lagoon’ isn’t going anywhere because…well, just look at it. I can’t ever imagine getting tired of looking at that.
The ‘Blue Flame’ agaves are pupping furiously. A couple offsets are still in large pots on the fireplace mantle indoors.
I grow soft-leaved agaves close to the paths, a kind of sneaky way to grab more garden, but I really should stop it.
I notice some visitors get instantly wobbly on their feet when plants are nearby, like the garden is a gravity well pulling them in. Undecided whether these agaves should stay or go.
The corner aloe is ‘Cynthia Giddy’ and she’s got nowhere left to grow. I still haven’t seen a bloom yet so won’t thin this clump until that happenes.
Yes, that’a a painter’s tarp partially obscuring the door to the office. They make great tablecloths too. And cushion covers. So tough, so cheap, so useful.
The light this time of year hits us right in the eyes sitting at our desks. Awnings would be great eventually. Or another narrow pergola running along this side.
I need to raise those sinking bricks too. The mortared brick path on the right was inherited with the house, so we matched it with bricks laid on sand, which settles and sinks eventually.
Projects, projects, they multiply like aphids around here. Not enough time.

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After moving the slipper plant/pedilanthus from a large pot, some of the stems browned and dried off. There’s an example on the left.
It’s pretty much recovered, all gorgeous and green, flowering as well as it has since the move. Might need to move it again to allow the eucalyptus more room.

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The succulents at the base of the slipper plant have nowhere to go either, just when they start to look really happy.
I think I bought this aeonium under the label. A. rubrolineatum but I doubt that’s what it is.
Gardens keep time at the forefront of the brain, and that’s a good and important lesson. But it doesn’t mean I can’t grouse about it now and then.
Have a great weekend.


last of the poppies

I’m just now starting to see photos of poppies in bloom showing up in gardens in colder climates, but by June the annual poppies are usually finished here.
In my garden, as June continues the mild, overcast weather of May, there are a couple of holdouts.

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I’ve never planted this variety, which looks like the simple “Lettuce Leaf Poppy.” I note that they showed up in 2013, too, here.
“Lettuce Leaf Poppy” and “Breadseed Poppy” are the politically correct common names, because we musn’t use the “o” word.
(For a great story on opium dens, you can’t beat Conan Doyle’s “The Man With The Twisted Lip.”)
Maybe it rode in on a poppy seed bagel. My poppy show comes mainly from Papaver setigerum, which I’ve documented profusely on the blog.
It’s much smaller in stature than those towering in the photo above.
With these much bigger poppies, when a new flower is open in the morning, it takes you aback, like someone shouting, “Hey! Check it out! Whaddaya think?!”
But any poppy is OK by me. Poppies are characters loaded with silky personality.
And there’s all that…um, history they carry, that illicit, pharmaceutical, double life they’ve led since prehistoric times.
Poppies and people and pain relief go way, way back.

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There’s just these two plants left that germinated later than the first flush of poppies that got going in February and March, which is typical for Southern California.
Drip hoses and continuing overcast weather are responsible for these remaining two. We’ve loved the gloomy skies of May and June, a kind of weather I find rather addictive.

Stipa barbata

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Stipa barbata last night before sundown, appearing bioluminescent in the dwindling light, whipsawing back and forth in the late afternoon breeze like some flagelliform creature in an aquarium.
Still photos really can’t do it justice. I need to work on my video skills. In the calm of this morning, the grass was limp, docile, almost ordinary.

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These two clumps have a lot of growing left to do. This grass is famously slow to bulk up and stingy with its seed too.
But in a breeze, they are as mesmerizing as — I don’t know, the last time I watched the jellyfish at the Long Beach Aquarium.
That kind of mesmerizing.


don’t forget the lilies

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Lilium ‘Black Charm,’ whose first bloom opened June 1st.

Against the backdrop of my increasingly scrubby, grassy, agave-filled garden, lilies look like something that glided in on a red carpet.
When they’re in bloom, I always crave more. Beautifully easy in containers. This one overwintered in a very dryish container in the pot ghetto but did get the occasional sprinkle.
Unlike lots of other bulbs, lilies never go completely dormant so will need some moisture year-round. Abandon them to a no-rain winter at your peril.
Plan ahead and order via catalogues in the fall for the best selection. Or, like me, leave it to chance to find bulbs in bins at the nurseries in spring, if you can find them then at all.
I like them in containers for 1) the best drainage and 2) as a means to keep track of them.
As often as I change things up, I’ve been known to unintentionally slice through bulbs with a shovel, a feat always accompanied by a stabbing pain to the heart as well.


Wednesday vignette 6/1/16

The curse/blessing of the freelancer is a job cancellation, like I got today, on the platform just about to board a train to downtown LA.
Financial concerns aside, I’m always thrilled to play at home for the day, like joining in on the Wednesday garden bloggers’ meme hosted by Anna at Flutter & Hum.
She shares a harrowing account today of a friend in the worst kind of trouble imaginable, one of those events that will forever mark your life with an ineradicable scar dividing before & after, light & darkness.
I worked with a woman years ago who led a turbulent life, husband in jail, etc., and one of her frequent expressions about life was “Just bore me, please.”
Now that I’m her age, I get it. My sincerest hope for each new day is that it just be a boring one, please, thanks very much.


In that spirit, my WV is an update on the painted trash cans. A couple sat empty for a few weeks, ready for new acquisitions.
I found a big, beautifully grown 3-gallon of Anigozanthos ‘Yellow Gem’ and plopped it in over the weekend. You couldn’t buy the cut flowers for the price of the plant.

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I moved some more empty pots here to fill with who knows what next. This little corner is designated for the new and fabulous.
I’ll probably keep rotating new stuff in all summer. Just because. The painted trash cans have given me a new lease on summer.
The fluted can on the right is not technically a trash can but a cache pot we repainted.

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The Agapanthus ‘Brilliant Blue’ is from San Marcos Growers, still in the grower’s can.
I planted some other varieties in the ground last year but looked away while the crowns became swamped this spring.

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I think there might be one more trash can to paint. I’ll check the garage later today.

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In the stock tank behind the trash cans, the dark red lily opened a bloom yesterday.
And before this post moves beyond a succinct vignette into a sprawling gardenlog, I’ll cut it short and sincerely wish you a very boring Wednesday.


beyond the lawn; part 2

Leave, my friend (for it is high time), the low and sordid pursuits of life to others, and in this safe and snug retreat emancipate yourself for your studies.” — Pliny the Younger

Another house on the Garden Conservancy Open Days tour in Los Angeles this early May had some wonderful ideas.
Right at the curb, the broad, decomposed granite parkway provided stark contrast to the neighboring turfed properties.
Even though this house and garden stand out among the others on its street and carry a bit of the shock of the new, the design principles upon which it draws are old.
Very old. Ancient, in fact. Indeed, the designer didn’t stray very far at all from the source materials for mediterranean homes and gardens.

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Step away from the street and the double rows of parked cars, up a short flight of steps, and we could be entering a Roman villa.

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And I’m talking about garden principles faithful in spirit. The Romans would have used myrtle and box, not the Australian westringia, but the latter’s small leaves fit in seamlessly.

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Landscape architect Joseph Marek began work in 2011, with more fine-tuning in 2014.

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By a cleverly strategic, stripped-down use of water and plants, a lushness and vitality is nevertheless communicated and felt.
Through gestures such as the rill in the front garden.

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From the tour notes: “[I]n 2014…the garden was re-graded and all lawn was removed from both the front garden and the wide parkway.
Once cleared, the house’s true scale and presence were revealed…
A gurgling iris-lined lily pond, intersecting a richly colored sandstone and gravel courtyard surrounded by Mediterranean,
Australian and native California plants now welcomes neighbors and visitors
.”

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Step through the portico, follow the path into the back garden, and we could be in Ibiza or Santorini.

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The side path leads to a trellised table area.

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Looking from the pergola, past a small fountain, to the pool.

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Looking down the length of the pool reveals a prioritized, economical use of space.
(And to further update a neoclassical setting, I believe that’s actress Rosalind Chao, nee Keiko O’Brien of Star Trek: TNG, under the olive.)

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The chairs and fire pit area are semi-screened from the pergola by citrus and from the neighbors by towering bamboo.
Ancient principles are clearly stated here, that irrigation should not be wasted on plants serving as shallow-rooted carpeting underfoot.
Water is prized, framed and contained, where its liquid abilities to brim and spill can be appreciated, but never squandered.

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Looking at the main house.
Buxom evergreen plants of box and citrus flesh out the patterned geometric surfaces underfoot.
This all just makes so much sense for hot and dry Los Angeles, a frenetic city that requires strong doses of sanctuary (and not just from the sun).
As Pliny the Younger puts it, in such a place as this we can leave the “low and sordid pursuits of life to others.” Amen, Pliny.

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Looking at the apartment/studio connected by the pergola to the main house.
Materials could be COR-Ten steel, recycled concrete, any neoclassical references on pergolas can be stripped away.
The basic premise remains that, weather permitting, it’s outside the home where mundane activities like napping, reading, eating, become heightened adventures
shared with the birds, the wind, the sun. Perhaps it’s a primal link to a time when we were outdoors far more than indoors?

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Under a surface luxury lies careful, conservative planning, strategic use of plants, water, shade, based on timeless design principles for summer-dry climates.

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I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re treated to more about this garden.


potted@lazybones: the start of a beautiful relationship

If you jump out of bed on weekends and race past the old, cat-clawed couch in the living room to head outside, scanning for the perfect spot for your shiny new Fermob table and chairs, then you probably already know about Potted, Los Angeles’ premiere outdoor living shop in Atwater Village, birthed by Annette Gutierrez and Mary Gray. Their design-savvy baby has grown by leaps and bounds in 12 years and is making new friends in Santa Monica, the boho clothing and housewares retailer Lazybones.

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Potted and Lazybones are so proud of their new collaboration, they’re throwing a party this weekend, with raffles, tarot readings, demos.

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The big outdoor space at Lazybones gives Potted the opportunity to really strut its stuff. Which means lots of new ideas for the garden for us.

I see it as a curated Potted West,” said co-owner Annette Gutierrez, “with unusual plants, our own products, ready-made planters and gifts for the garden.” — Los Angeles Times

Potted@Lazybones
opens this Memorial Day Weekend, May 28th and 29th, 2016
2929 Main St., Santa Monica, open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
schedule of events here

(Tip: If you get there early, you’ll be leaving with free tillandsias in your hair!)

beyond the lawn; notes on 2016 LA Garden Conservancy Open Days

Since the 5/7/16 tour, Gov. Jerry Brown surprised us all by announcing that mandatory water restrictions are now suspended except for agriculture. Water use policies will revert back to the local level.
So pat yourself on the back for enduring those spartan showers, ditching the lawn, adding in more permeability to your garden, and overall diligent water use reduction efforts.
(But you still can’t hose down your driveway, so get over that.) Even so, this might be a good moment to emphasize the big picture. From The California Weather Blog:

Nearly all of California is still ‘missing’ at least 1 year’s worth of precipitation over the past 4 years, and in Southern California the numbers suggest closer to 2-3 years’ worth of ‘missing’ rain and snow.
These numbers, of course, don’t even begin to account for the effect of consecutive years of record-high temperatures, which have dramatically increased evaporation in our already drought-stressed region.”

And the bigger, possibly more sobering picture is that even in non-drought years, Los Angeles averages only 15 inches of rainfall. So the problem of too little water for too many people is not going away. Ever. And it was a problem long before the governor hit the red alert button. But you know what? Other cultures have already figured this out, this business of crowding ourselves into hot, dry lands. And there’s great examples all around town. Landscape designer Nancy Goslee Power’s garden on the recent GC Open Days tour is a case study of these principles. And while we all obsess over what to do with the lawn, her almost 20-year-old garden suggests we might also think about where outdoors to eat, nap, cook, read, chat with friends, daydream, warm by a fire, take shelter from the sun, catch an ocean breeze, inhale clouds of jasmine — the scope of possibilities extends far beyond the boundaries of that poster child for this drought, the lawn, and what replaces it.

I liked this line from that keen observer of all things Southern Californian, Joan Didion, in the 5/26/16 New York Review of Books. It easily applies to our attitudes about water in Los Angeles:

I have lived most of my life under misapprehensions of one kind or another.” Boy howdy, you said it, Ms. Didion. Don’t we all? (“California Notes” NYRB 5/26/16)

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This little table and chairs is at the front of Ms. Power’s small Santa Monica house, just off the street, entirely screened by plantings.
A short staircase zig-zags up from the sidewalk through retaining-wall beds filled with agaves and matilija poppies, depositing visitors in this shady “foyer.”
A potted cussonia at the entrance to a garden is always an auspicious sign of good things to come.

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Also in the front courtyard is the first of many small fountains and pools. Implicit is the strong affirmative that, yes, water is precious stuff.
Watch it glisten and sparkle in the sun, ripple in the wind, draw in birds. Just don’t ever take it for granted.

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Narrow passage to the back of the house, a jasmine-scented journey this time of year.

The forgotten spaces in most people’s houses — the side yards and setbacks — I look at as opportunities.”
(all quoted material from “Power of Gardens” by Nancy Goslee Power)

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Already you can sense the strong interplay between indoors and outdoors, the feeling of shelter extending beyond the house, eager to envelope and claim the outdoors as well.

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Up those distant steps leads to the banquette in the photo below.

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Ms. Power’s “napatorium.”

Walled gardens offer so many solutions still relevant in the modern world.
They give privacy and safety from the outside environment, often perceived as hostile.
The living spaces of the house open onto exterior spaces, and outdoor dining is possible in courtyards in good weather most of the year
.”

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[T]he more you define a space, the larger it becomes.”

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The view from the kitchen door.

I designed the water to be seen all the way through the house and make a strong central axis that pulls you outside.”

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A small apartment/cottage shares the wall with the rill.

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Dining area off the kitchen, where the colors warm up.

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The kitchen, windows open to the narrow, pebbled side passageway, a nook in the wall for a potted plant just visible through the window.

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More shaded seating just off the kitchen.

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Everywhere were the tell-tale signs that the outdoors were as lived in as the indoors, if not more so.

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From the street, you’d have no idea what lay up that small flight of steps off the sidewalk, so tours like this are much appreciated.
I wanted Casa Nancina to reveal herself slowly…I didn’t want my landscape to stand out.
It needed to be discreet and feel as if it belonged to the neigbhorhood
.”