Tag Archives: Acacia ‘Cousin Itt’

a week in plants, continued

I so rarely document thoroughly, before and after, that I thought for once I’d push back a little against those slacker tendencies.
This small project is an easy place to start. In the last post, there were four ‘Cousin Itt’ acacias added under the fringe tree, and that was theoretically the end of it.
Where we left off, I was going to leave space open to sweep in the leaves and not plant bromeliads because it’ll be messy with the tree litter, etc., etc. I am so full of shit, it still astounds me.
No way can I leave something half-planted like that. In for a penny, in for a pound, always.
So this morning the burning question was: What other dry shade-tolerant stuff do I have lying around?

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There’s this huge potted Lomandra ‘Breeze’ that can be sawed into two big clumps. Rough treatment, but I seriously doubt one can mistreat a lomandra. We’ll see.
A potted Asparagus retrofractus to billow between the two lomandras, all kind of hitting the same shade of bright green so the mix of plants isn’t too patchwork.
A few bromeliads for big crazy colorful rosettes, tree litter be damned. As shallow growers, it’s easy to change your mind with bromeliads.
I’ll probably remove them before they get buried in leaves over winter.

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Still too bare for my taste, but if the acacias like it here they can get over 4 feet across.

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This no ID rhipsalis seems to be growing in an upright clump, so it gets to be the fifth “acacia.” Very root-infested soil in this spot.

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A ringer for the acacia, right?

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Lost the name of the foreground bromeliad I’ve had for years.

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Neoregelia ‘Dr. Oesser Big Spots’ was brought home this weekend from the sale/show at Rainforest Flora in Torrance.

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Neoregelia ‘Martin’

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One of the many gorgeous bromeliads at the weekend show that didn’t come home with me, Aechmea ‘Samurai.’
If only I’d had this planting scheme before the sale. Overplanning has never been my strong suit. It’s always been spontaneity or bust.

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I tucked a potted variegated monstera, also from Rainforest Flora, behind the asparagus against the fence, but there may be too much slanting afternoon sun for it.
If the sun isn’t too strong, I’m going to check into espaliering it against the fence.

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Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’ marks the new planting for wayward paws that have been used to digging here and kicking up leaves.
I’ll keep you posted on the fate of this little acacia experiment.

a week in plants

Last week was a good one for plants. I finally found some Acacia ‘Cousin Itt’ in small sizes, under $10 each, to plant under the Chinese Fringe Tree.
(Chionanthus retusus, as distinguished from our native Chionanthus virginicus.)
This great, mediumish-sized tree grows in a rough square on the east side of the house, hemmed in by hardscape on all sides.


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This photo from September 2015 shows how I typically mass pots on the hardscape surrounding the tree, which casts some welcome filtered shade for summer.
Keeping the base unplanted has been the easiest way to go as far as cleaning up after the tree. (All the best things shed, i.e., trees, dogs, cats.) I just sweep the copious amounts of leaves/berries/spent flowers back under the tree and then raid the precious stuff when needed for mulch elsewhere in the garden. But then this vision of ‘Cousin Itt’ thriving in the dappled light of the fringe tree kept threatening to upend my pragmatic approach, and ultimately I just couldn’t shake it. I know, I’m weak that way. There’s too much constant debris for bromeliads to make sense under the tree, but I’m hoping I can gently rake through ‘Cousin Itt’ or give it a shake now and then.


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One of the four new Acacias ‘Cousin Itt.’ I need at least three more. I’ve been wanting to try this acacia out for ages.
It’s just not been available for under $40, so four for that price, even if in 6-inch pots, felt like the breakthrough I’ve been waiting for. Hurray for expensive plants in affordable sizes.
It’s always fabulous in a container, but my vision required its green shagginess to ring the base of the tree. And there will still be access available for the broom to do its work.
As with any planting in dry soil, you move the odds substantially in your favor by filling the planting hole several times with water before settling the plant into its new home.

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These Celosia caracas ‘Scorching’ came home the same day as the acacias.
I’ve been planting throughout summer, but wouldn’t consider putting these in the ground in August.
They prefer steady moisture and rich soil, so I planted two in a big 5-gallon nursery can, where I can easily top them off with the hose.
Oddly enough, I had just fired off an order to Annie’s Annuals & Perennials, and included in that order was another celosia, ‘Cramer’s Amazon.’
The order was mainly to get ahold of Rudbeckia triloba again. August is the best time to get biennials started, either from seed or plants if you can find them.

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photo from Fernando Martos’ website. The bearded iris is ‘Syncopation’

Something else to order in August are bearded iris, a plant I’ve run hot/cold over for some years.
Noel Kingsbury wrote about garden designer Fernando Martos‘ approach to Spanish gardens for Gardens Illustrated, July 2016:
(“The typical Mediterranean garden is very static, it never changes. I want to make gardens that appear different every time you look at them.”)
I feel the same way. Summer wouldn’t be the same without transient poppies and spears and thistles surging skyward amidst the more permanent agaves and shrubs.
Seeing how Martos dotted bearded iris throughout low-growing, dry garden shrubs like lavender had me checking iris suppliers online before finishing the article.

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But be warned, it’s generally a very fleeting effect, a matter of weeks. Personally, I’m beginning to appreciate fleeting effects more and more.
I last grew them in April of 2014. My style of overplanting tends to swamp their crowns, which require full sun to build up energy for the next year.
But there’s no harm in trying again, is there?

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Fleeting effects aside, when ordering bearded iris, I always get hung up on the issue of rebloom. There are a handful of varieties that are said to reliably rebloom in Southern California.
The pink ‘Beverly Sills’ is one of them, and there’s more included in a list here.
So it seems foolish not to order a potential, if not guaranteed, rebloomer, right? But the reblooming varieties are nowhere near as exciting as, for example, ‘Syncopation’ which blooms just once.
I did find a couple bicolored varieties at Schreiner’s that supposedly rebloom. No guaranties. (‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘Final Episode’)

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Something to add to your Things To Do in August list: If you care to have them next year, order bearded iris now!

another rainy day at the Huntington


In a bizarre bit of repetition, two recent visits to the Huntington Botanical Garden have coincided with that rarest of occurrences, a rainy day in Los Angeles during our mega drought.
April especially is late in the season for a rainstorm, even in a normal rainfall year, but nevertheless the Huntington’s annual spring plant sale 2015 was a rainy affair.
Traditionally held in the parking lot, the sale was held this year inside the Huntington, adjacent to the Children’s Garden, which means you have to buy a ticket to attend the plant sale now.
I didn’t buy much, just a couple aloes, but researched lots of unfamiliar plants on my phone, like a buddleia from Texas with felty grey leaves and orange bobbly flowers.
(See David’s photo of the Wooly Butterfly Bush, Buddleia marrubifolia.)

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The new Education and Visitor Center empty on a stormy late April day.
On arrival barely an hour previous, the Huntington’s enormous parking lot was so crowded that I had to make several loops to find a parking space.
But all those visitors scattered when the clouds opened.

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Newly planted pots, many of them filled with acacias and leucadendrons. There was what looked to be a Melaleuca thymifolia in the pot on the right.
Acacia ‘Cousin Itt’ in the pot on the left is approaching classic status as an evergreen for containers.

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Aloe camperii

After the sale, I headed straight for the desert garden to see it in the light, drizzly rain.

It really knows how to rain in the foothills. The drizzle quickly turned into a proper downpour.
Very little of this storm made it home here in Long Beach, about 30 miles south of Pasadena.
But once again, and in the space of two months, I found myself in the Huntington’s desert garden unprepared for a deluge.
As happy as I am to see, hear, and feel rain, the novelty of wet clothes wears off pretty quickly, and taking photos becomes impossible.
Rather than let the rain chase me home, I bought an umbrella from the gift shop.
(And this being the Huntington’s gift shop, my umbrella twirls a William Morris print.)

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I quickly gave up on juggling the camera and the umbrella. Besides, where better to spend a rainy day at the Huntington than in the Desert Garden Conservatory?
I left my umbrella folded under a plant bench at the door, but amazingly other rain-dodging visitors entered with their umbrellas fully deployed.
With umbrella ribs threatening to knock over rare specimens, the docents somehow managed to remain calm but firmly instructed to close all brollies.
Only in Los Angeles does rainy day/umbrella etiquette have to be spelled out.
Chatting with the docents, I learned that the Desert Garden Conservatory is to be closed for renovations within the year, to be rebuilt on site as a two-story conservatory.
They also revealed their trick for dislodging cactus spines and glochids: Spread white glue over the area in a thin film, let dry, and peel. That or electrical tape.

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Echeveria bench, ‘Afterglow’ in the middle

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Stenocereus beneckii

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Melocactus matanzanus. Of all the melos, this one forms the “Turk’s cap” at the youngest age.

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Aloe peglerae

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ghostly pale furcraea

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There’s always something in the glasshouse I hadn’t noticed before, like this collection of orthophytums, Brazilian bromeliads.

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I’m always hoping to find this elusive, variegated form of Agave attenuata at a plant sale. Maybe next year.

Plant sale haul: A NOID aloe believed to be a cross by David Verity, Aloe cryptoflora, and one umbrella.