end of month February 2016

Since it’s the last day of February, I suppose it’s time to admit defeat and clear out all the drafts that never made it to proper posts.
There’s the draft post tying in to last night’s Oscars, where I muse about how each spring in the garden seems like a new production, with brand-new plot lines and star turns.
It’s possible that’s due to my background. Like one-half of all Angelenos, I’ve taken screenwriting courses and once worked for an Academy-Award winning screenwriter (Abby Mann, Judgment at Nuremberg). So my brain might be wired to see even gardens in a dramatic framework. To me even the smallest garden expresses themes about shelter, sanctuary, earth, sky and water, friendship, risk, yearning, fecundity, what it means to live a good life and really how minimal are the resources that actually requires. Light and space are big garden themes for me. Some garden productions are hardscape heavy, mine tend to be plant intensive. For me it’s always the most exciting production in town. All on an indie budget, of course
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That draft was never developed, and now that the awards are over it’s a bit stale. (I did love Spotlight, so hooray for its best picture award. George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road was an awesome spectacle, deserving of all its technical awards. Marty saw The Revenant and loved it. I can’t take that kind of punshiment from a movie but admire the effort. Loved DiCaprio’s acceptance speech on the urgency of climate change.)

I had a draft post on how the back garden is getting heavy with aloe & anigozanthos. Aloe for winter bloom, kangaroo paws for summer.


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Little Aloe conifera’s bloom continues to reveal more luscious, custardy color.

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No, my garden kangaroo paws aren’t showing bloom stalks yet.
Feeling a little anigozanthos-starved, I promised myself if I saw any in bloom at a nursery, I’d bring it home.
Meet ‘Bush Tango,’ medium in height, in comparison to a tall variety like ‘Big Red’ just a few feet away.

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At least I think this is ‘Big Red,’ hopefully correctly labeled. I can’t remember if I saw blooms on it last year.
The dark green, strappy leaves of ‘Big Red’ are in the foreground to the left of Leucadendron ‘Ebony’

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With a little bit of cheating, I can have a view with both anigozanthos and aloes in bloom. Aloe ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ in the distance.

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I wanted to write also on how well the santolina orbs are coming along. This summer they should really be…I don’t know. Profoundly orbful maybe.

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In that same mood of If I See It, I’m Buying It, I sprang for a big container of Phormium ‘Black Adder.’
Fooling around with this phormium in small sizes was getting nowhere.
Phormiums either become huge, unmanageable monsters or melt away after five leaves. No middle ground here.

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The phormium was planted into the spot held by a potted Agave ‘Ivory Curls.’

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I absent-mindedly left the hose trickling all day on this melianthus last week. First irrigation crime of the new year.
Melianthus ‘Purple Haze’ slurped up every drop. This variety does appreciate more moisture than the species, in my experience.

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Then there was the post over the huge excitement of my first beschorneria coming into bloom.
I so rarely see them locally, I wasn’t sure if they liked Los Angeles enough to bloom. And then I found these one day, here

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It’s a little taller than this today. From Annie’s Annuals ‘Martin Grantham Hybrids.’

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This old table base got a new salvage top I had stashed away. Its previous top was succulents (see here and here.)

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I took this photo of the rhipsalis, but you can see more of the table in the background.
If I read myself right, I planted the table summer of 2013. Amazing how the succulents held on, with the table pushed out of the way between two cypresses at the fence.
I moved the table out to clear the area for…

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A stock tank I purchased last fall. It holds a couple salvias, an astelia and other things in pots as they show new growth.
Like lilies, a dahlia. A catch-all this year. Maybe next year there’ll be more of a plan. Another tank waits to be drilled.

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Poppy time continues into March.

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Gerberas too.

Onward into March!

Occasional Daily Weather Report 2/11/16

While it seems everyone else is diligently topping off their water table with generous rainfall and/or snowfall, there’s no use denying it’s already chair cushion season here.
Los Angeles in February decided to go high 80s, tipping into the 90s. It feels like a Peanuts/Charles Schultz setup, with Charlie Brown (me) trusting Lucy (weather people) not to pull the football (El Nino) away again as he winds up for a mighty kick of faith, only to fall on his ass for the umpteenth time. But it’s hard to be grumpy about the lack of rainfall when it’s so gosh-darn beautiful outside. When the drought-driven apocalypse comes to Southern California, we will all be wearing flip-flops and T-shirts and sipping the latest artisinal cocktail. Like the last days of Pompeii, we won’t know what hit us.


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Aloe ‘Safari Sunrise’

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Aloe conifera

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Leucadendron ‘Wilson’s Wonder’

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Euphorbia atropurpurea

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Leucadendron ‘Winter Red’

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Glaucium grandiflorum

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Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’

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Helleborus argutifolius

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Bocconia frutescens

N.B. This seems like such a sensible idea. Maybe it’s been around for a while and I just haven’t noticed.
It goes like this: We get the special-order plants we want while avoiding the heavy shipping costs that mail order often entails, sometimes costing more than the plants themselves.
I just noticed that Monrovia is accepting online orders of their plants, which are delivered to a nursery near you for pickup.
However, since I haven’t tried it out yet, I’m not sure if there is a handling charge involved.
Now, if other wholesale growers like San Marcos Growers, Annie’s Annuals, and Native Sons jumped on this train, my plant budget would grow by leaps and bounds.

N.B.B. For spring plant orders, Chanticleer’s gravel garden plant list 2015.

it’s oh so quiet

The house has emptied out, and I can’t help thinking how oh so quiet it’s become after the holidays.
Yes, I do have a tendency to privately editorialize on circumstances using song titles.
(I thought Bjork wrote the song, but I see now it’s a cover from 1951 by American singer Betty Hutton, written by an Austrian composer and a German lyricist. What an international effort!)
Now’s probably a good time, before 2015 ends, to thank another international effort, Wikipedia, a resource I use constantly.
It feels so good to contribute (in my case, cash, not knowledge) and thereby become a small part of this endlessly enriching project.
It’s as though the library at Alexandria is being rebuilt again, stone by stone, entry by entry. Without papyrus this time.

Taking my crazy musings out of a quiet house into the garden this morning…

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I am shocked at how lush Lotus jacobaeus becomes with cold weather. Cold weather makes me feel puckered and dry, not at all lush.
(I wrote about this lotus previously here, quoting liberally again from, you know it, Wikipedia.)
Behind the lotus, the Mexican Grass Tree (Dasylirion longissimum) seems to have survived being uprooted from the front garden for life in a container, away from all that jacaranda debris.

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On the other side of the dasylirion, buds of Aloe ‘Safari Sunrise’ are coloring up.

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Coloring up faster than the buds on Aloe cameronii. Little Aloe conifera on the left has a bud too.

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A nice, quiet lull…until the New Year celebrations, which our neighborhood takes very seriously. Ba-boom! I hope you’re enjoying the holidays.

you had me at aloe

And now you’ve lost me with aloiampelos, aloidendron, aristaloe, gonialoe, kumara. The genus aloe has just become slightly more complicated.
Memory work for 2015 will include absorbing the fan aloe’s new name Kumara plicatilis. (See Gerhard’s very helpful post here.)

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Meanwhile, I keep bringing home aloes with no tag, no name at all, as with this unlabeled hybrid. Sometimes it’s a good thing that I don’t have that meticulous collector mindset…

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Aloes are in bloom all over town. Aloe ferox

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My Aloe cameronii with its first flower bud.

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It’s right outside the office, where we had a shade tarp rigged all summer, so the Red Aloe didn’t get that deep coppery color to the leaves.
Next summer we’ll have to choose between that lovely ruddy coloration on the aloe or working in a sweatbox. I know which I’d prefer. (sorry, aloe!)

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Aloe conifera, a name that promises an interesting flower shape

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I’m guessing ‘Goliath’ will have just a very short stay in this pot.
A Tree Aloe, with one parent Aloe vaombe, I’m not sure if this gets reclassified as aloidendron or not with only one parent, A. barberae, from aloidendron.

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Aloe ‘Kujo,’ thought to be a hybrid found at the Huntington Botanical Garden. There will always be plenty of mysteries left to defy the most ardent taxonomist.

(Pam at Digging chats about favorite foliage on the 16th of every month.)