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Foliage Followup March 2012

And then there’s the dodge of leaving projects directly underfoot so you’ll theoretically have no choice but to finish them. Does this trick ever work for anyone else? I just end up with a lot of stuff underfoot. Like these old iron cafe chairs I fished out of the mulch pile to be repainted for extra summer seating. A giant fumitory, the ever-weedy Corydalis heterocarpa, has other designs on them while I take my sweet time getting around to repainting them.

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Pam at Digging runs this show, the Foliage Followup that follows every Bloom Day. There are a core group of bloggers that have agavemania of the worst kind, and I don’t think Pam would take exception to getting tagged with that label. So this agave is for you, Pam, a new Kelly Griffin tissue-culture hybrid, Agave pygmaea ‘Dragon Toes.’ Out of a group of maybe eight agaves, I ultimately chose the slightly smaller agave with the extra pup. It’s embarrassing to admit how long this decision took. At least five solid minutes of sober and methodical deliberation. Two slow-growing agaves or a slightly larger single slow-growing agave? Hmmm….no contest, really. Agavemania in its basest form feeds on quantity.

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An agave from last summer’s cactus shows, A. parrasana ‘Fireball,’ might be my favorite for the moment.
A wrought iron stand keeps the really prized agaves out of the reach of their worst enemies, snails and slugs.

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Still haven’t found a suitable spot in the garden for Aloe peglerae, but its protected spot on a plant stand under the eaves seems to suit it fine for now.

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Prostranthera ovalifolia ‘Variegata’ has just started blooming tiny lavendar bells. A shimmering shrub that always seem to die young in my garden.

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Visit Pam’s blog to discover the astonishing array of beautiful leaves March has on offer.

Bloom Day March 2012

A dead car battery after work has me skidding and sliding to make the Bloom Day deadline. Some of the new plants I ordered for spring became candidates for March Bloom Day literally right out of the box. Like this Tibouchina granulosa ‘Gibraltar’ from Plant Delights. This photo was taken the day after it arrived and was unpacked.

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Every spring this wisteria surges over the fence from a neighbor’s property, an invader in the southeast corner of the back garden quietly determined to throttle my smoke tree in its tendrils. Something borrowed and blue (okay, bluish-lilac) to admire when in bloom, but I’m always grateful that it’s somebody else’s problem the rest of the year. The more I hack it back off our fence, the better it blooms.

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Just brought this one home last weekend, a Proven Winner’s selection, Didelta carnosa ‘Dawn.’ The radioactive chrome yellow daisies must be endured for a brief time, when things will hopefully quiet down to just some fine-looking succulent, silvery leaves and chartreuse bracts. Bought on a whim but looks promising.

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Begonia luxurians has been blooming the past few months, though I never think to grab a photo for Bloom Day.

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Always a few mystery plants in bloom, like this unnamed, green-flowered begonia just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

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Mystery senecio

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Scrophularia calliantha from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials planted in fall started blooming late February. A big, boragey, salvia-esque plant with exacting water needs even in a large container.

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The annual toadflax, Linaria reticulata, a good choice for a zone 10 winter, seen here with the spears of Senecio anteuphorbium.

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Angelica pachycarpa.

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Lots of salvias in bloom now, including ‘Wendy’s Wish.’

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The ‘Drakensberg Carmine’ gerberas have been prodigious bloomers over the winter.

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March will probably see the last of the coronilla blooms.

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Thanks as always to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Bloom Day on the 15th of every month.

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warming up

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Scilla peruviana

In late 2010 Scilla peruviana won me a pair of wellies (garden boots) when I described to Val Easton of Plant Talk the upcoming spectacle of their galactic indigo blooms coinciding with the chartreuse flowers trusses of the Corsican hellebore. How was I to know the scilla would be slackers for 2011?

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This year the scilla roused themselves enough to show a few blooms, but the hellebores had flopped to the ground by then, and I’ve let far too many lunaria seedlings into the mix shading the base of the scilla. Between the scilla’s stubbornness and my spinelessness when it comes to thinning things out, a photo of a bloom in a vase is the only option left for 2012. By next year we should have this all worked out…

Occasional Daily Photos 3/7/12

Just two weeks’ shy of the last post on the poppies’ progress as they colonize the little path off the kitchen porch, and they’ve at least tripled in size.

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The trip to the laundry shed is now a short walk into spring.

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winter walkabout

Les of A Tidewater Gardener frequently posts some of the most beautiful landscape photography to be found on garden blogs. On his blog you may be introduced, as I was, to John Irving-esque names of natural phenomena like The Great Dismal Swamp and canoe rides a la James Fenimore Cooper down local waterways. Through Les’ eye, the environs of Norfolk, Virginia, look like some of the most beautiful land and waterscapes on earth. For the second year running, Les has challenged bloggers to a Winter Walk-Off, wherein we step out our front doors carrying nothing but a camera. No car keys, just walking shoes, to document “what can be seen within walking (or biking) distance of your home.” Les is accepting entries through March 19. And there will be prizes!

Right off the bat, I have to admit we fudged and therefore forfeit any prizes. We drove. Time constraints and all. Plus, although we have walked the mile or so to this bluff overlooking Long Beach’s commercial harbor, the corgi would have been wiped out by the time we arrived, and this morning’s walk was mainly for the corgi. (He had his teeth cleaned recently and a tooth pulled, but I digress.)


Ready?

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One of my favorite houses on the street opposite our bluff walk. Yucca rostrata, butterfly chairs, and George Nelson bubble lamps.

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Note glimpse of baby blue piano through the window.

Different house. Some of the largest furcraeas I’ve ever seen, as big as the Agave americanas further down.

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Same house, a little further down from the furcraeas are sotols, agaves, rosemary, and fiery arctotis.

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In bloom in a cutting garden in a parkway/hellstrip were these ranunculus, along with Dutch iris, stock, anemones, sweet peas.

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From the same hellstrip, Salvia spathacea.

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From the bluff, coast prickly pear, Opuntia littoralis.

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Coral aloe, A. striata, from the mid-century modern/blue piano home.

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One of a trio of urns planted with lemon trees flanking the stairway of an apartment building.

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It may not be The Great Dismal Swamp, but hey, it’s home. Thanks, Les!


blue/yellow/green

Where were we? I’ve been working at the day job like a navvy, trying to clear some time for spring garden visits, shows and whatnot. But the garden in March initiates a measured sequence of distractions, which can really mess with the most resolute work ethic. (I think “resolute” was a one-word self-description used by one of the Republican primary candidates but now can’t remember which. Romney? Strange how none of them used the one-word descriptors that are always at the tip of my tongue for them.)

Back to the much more important business of gardens. I’ve recently discovered that a good part of the front gravel garden has been planted almost exclusively in blues, greys, and yellows. Yes, at one time I apparently mustered some self-restraint.


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It’s mostly succulents, grasses, and small evergreen shrubs, very few perennials except the self-sowing Spanish poppies. The orange blooms will get a fantastic backdrop here.
I don’t remember consciously planning this blue/yellow-only business. I’ll have to search the back pages of the blog.

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March’s Garden Design features an interview with landscape architect Andrea Cochran.
The interview was emphatically not plant-driven, since landscape architecture, not horticulture, was under discussion, but this quote was a compadre thrill:
I’m a sucker for anything in the blue-gray family…If you go blue-gray with chartreuse: home run.”
To have anything in common with Ms. Cochran’s taste I count as a personal home run.

More chartreuse from Agave attenuata ‘Kara’s Stripes.’

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The gravel garden now has some of the nicest looking agaves, including ‘Blue Glow’ in the first photo and a powder-blue A. potatorum below.
The attenuatas can really look beat up, but ‘Kara’s Stripes’ has if anything improved over the winter.

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The opposite end of the gravel garden by the driveway doesn’t continue the blue/yellow-only theme.
There’s lots of breakage and damage at this end, and ad hoc replacements are made on the fly.
Recent death of a large agave provided an opportunity to try out Sideritis syriaca* here.
I haven’t been this smitten with a plant since my first ballota.

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Very easy on the eyes, this blue/yellow/green.



*Reddish stems on this one makes it more likely Sideritis cypria.

el greco sky

It’s not too much to ask of February/March to deliver a hometown sky equivalent to a View of Toledo, is it?
Just once or twice, instead of day after day of vapid blue sky? It is winter, after all.
How about an occasional, teensy, triumphal shaft of light piercing roiling thunderheads? A little heavenly drama, please.

Image found here
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I do crave drama, the quick change artists, the rhythm of surge and collapse. Show your colors, stretch your neck out.

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Thank heavens for tulips in February and March.

poppies, a minor obsession

Newt is taking time out of her busy day to helpfully point out where the poppies will be blooming this year.

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Last year’s runnel of poppies was in the crevice along the back porch, but this year they’ve jumped a few feet over and have self-sown into crevices in the dry-laid bricks. These are again the Poppy of Troy, Papaver setigerum, which is a nicely compact, breadseed-type poppy, a single with pale lilac-colored petals surrounding a central dark blotch. There are scads of species and breadseed varieties to try that improvise on the timeless poppy theme, a performance that never grows stale. A solitary bud peeps out of the leaves, dangles demurely as the slim stalk elongates, until all pretense of shyness is abandoned as sepals burst and fall, revealing impossibly silky, translucent petals. It always strikes me as a sly wink of nature to imbue a plant with such captivating drama and energy as well as deadly soporific properties. (Annie’s Annuals & Perennials has by far the best selection known to mankind and is the original source of my self-sowing poppies.)

While visiting the Bay Area a couple weeks ago, I was introduced to a marvelous source of salvage and cast-offs, a huge warehouse devoted to recycling and repurposing in Berkeley called Urban Ore, where I found a pair of botanical prints, one of plants from the malvaceae family and this one of papaveraceae, both now hanging in the bath house. Botanical prints can lead one down a chintzy path I generally try to avoid, but I just couldn’t walk away from these poppies.

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If I lived nearby, I’d check out Urban Ore frequently. The best stuff disappears within hours of arrival.

the children’s garden at the Huntington


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The last time I visited the Huntington Botanical Garden a few weeks ago, the prevailing theme for the day was kids in the garden. Moms with toddlers and strollers were everywhere. Field-trip kids in the cactus garden trudged along the paths like it was the Bataan Death March. I couldn’t tell if these young elementary school kids were being sarcastic or not, but they were pleading, “Water! Water!” as they shuffled chain-gang style past barrel cactus, and I also heard a lot of, “Where’s the bus?!” Their teachers always maintained that amazingly chipper tone of encouragement, “Just a bit further! Look, here’s a bench where we can rest.” I know that relentlessly chipper tone well, having used it myself with my kids when visiting public gardens.

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As I was coming up a steep path out of the Australian garden, a young mother with a toddler in one hand and pushing a stroller in the other was heading down the path, which immediately aroused deep sympathy. She looked lost, and sure enough, as we passed each other, she asked, “Where’s the Children’s Garden?” I pointed her in the general direction, which was quite a distance away, but told her the trek would be worth it, that it shouldn’t be missed. As soon as I spoke those words, an older woman marched up to us and demanded to know what’s not to be missed. Possibly she thought the amorphophallus was in bloom or some other momentous botanical happening. I told her we were talking about the Children’s Garden, at which point she said witheringly, “Oh, the Children’s Garden,” waved her hand dismissively, and marched off in search of more rarified botanical pursuits. Which is a shame, because the Children’s Garden is a marvelously enjoyable, fairly new addition to the Huntington. Watching people and especially families explore this garden has become a not-to-be-missed part of my trips to the Huntington.

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On this last visit, I spent a lot of time peering through the windows of the teaching greenhouse that anchors one side of the Children’s Garden. Aside from being naturally drawn to any greenhouse, the space was unusually animated with personal touches and vignettes, like in this photo from The Los Angeles Times. There was a strong, idiosyncratic presence that animated the greenhouse.

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I have since learned that the animating force in the teaching greenhouse and creator of those vignettes was Jeff Karsner, the director of the Children’s Garden, who passed away on January 30, 2012.

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Past vice president of the Los Angeles Cactus & Succulent Society, board member of the Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry, Mr. Karsner’s legacy includes one of the busiest, noisiest gardens at the Huntington, well worth a visit by all who attend the HBG, whatever their age.