Bloom Day October 2016

This October the garden has already turned its back on summer, and all but the grasses have been cut back.
I’m curious to find out how long the summer grasses can be supporting players to the winter-blooming aloes before the grasses are cut back in late winter.
(Of course, if we get rain, the grasses might be cut back sooner, but I’m not holding my breath.
In fact, I think I’ll plan a rain vacation this fall/winter. Glasgow averages 4 inches in November, Amsterdam over 3 inches.)

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The ‘New Zealand Purple’ castor bean has a thick woody trunk and should be removed, because it’s left plenty of seedlings to take its place.
But it’s playing so nicely with ‘Moonlight’ grevillea I keep putting it off.

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And the Solanum vine, ‘Navidad Jalisco,’ has had a lot cut back off the lemon cypresses and out of the Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ but is still throwing new blooms.

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Among other low-lying succulents, the aloes like ‘Cynthia Giddy’ shine unobstructed, but the big pennisetum grasses might have to be switched out for grasses of smaller stature.
Lomandras like ‘Breeze’ really would be preferable for size, although they lack the pennisetum’s sexy blooms.
(That ‘Ghost’ aloe on the lower left was recently added, a hybrid of Aloe striata that showed up at nurseries this fall. I love its almost agave-like chunkiness.)

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Here’s a photo I took the other day of a mass planting of lomandra. The scale is perfect for interplanting aloes.
Sun and water requirements are a good fit too.

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For example, Aloe ‘Topaz’ is struggling to be seen through Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tails’ and phormium. I need to cut back that Verbena bonariensis too.

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‘Topaz’ supposedly prefers/tolerates some summer irrigation so should work well among smaller grasses and shrubs.

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Aloe scobinifolia has bloomed in July in the past and is much later this year. One of its record number of five scapes was lost to a mishap with a cat.
That’s Plectranthus neochilus blooming in the background, as it’s done all summer.

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More and more, I find this time-share aspect to the garden so absorbing.
Every plant on its game year-round with something to contribute, or at least get out of the way.
I’m a firm believer that the emphasis on garden “style” is misplaced.
If it doesn’t make sense for your temperament, for your climate, ignore styles. (If you can even figure out what your climate is anymore.)
In zone 10 there’s no justification for the slow death and decay cycle so beloved by the New Perennial movement. (Not when there’s winter-blooming aloes!)
And it’s a safe bet here in SoCal that we’re looking at building dry gardens for the foreseeable future.
So I can stop dreaming about thalictrums and veronicastrums for summer. Sigh…that ‘Black Stockings’ thalictrum is so cool.
But Amicia zygomeris has the height and some of that purply, bruised coloration to its leaves. I should bring that back for next summer.

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Aloe ‘Kujo,’ the Huntington hybrid. I lost a small plant so jumped at this big 2-gallon size already in bloom.

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This plant caught my eye on a nursery bench recently too. With leaves and flower color so reminiscent of Lobelia tupa, I couldn’t pass it up. Justicia sericea ‘Inca Queen.’

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Said to bloom on and off all year, heaviest in early spring maybe. Drought tolerant when established. Might have a tendency for disheveled lankiness.
We’ll see. The hummingbirds are already thanking me.

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This Kelly Griffin hybrid aloe has been blooming on and off all summer too.

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Aloe ‘Rooikappie’ is another year-round bloomer, heaviest in fall. My little plants are just getting going.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens collects Bloom Day posts from gardens all over the world, an invaluable learning tool for what’s working where.

bug report & EOMV

None of the ants previously seen by man were more than an inch in length – most considerably under that size.
But even the most minute of them have an instinct and talent for industry, social organization, and savagery that makes man look feeble by comparison
.” — Them! (1954 movie on gigantic, killer, atomic-radiated ants)

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End of month view down the pergola looking east.
Possibly the best thing about my summer garden 2015 is Eucalyptus ‘Moon Lagoon’

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In late summer it’s putting out this chartreuse, willowy new growth, which is mesmerizing against the backdrop of its own tangled-up-in-blue leaves.
(Speaking of color, where’s your famous fiery red response to strong sun, Aloe cameronii? Not hot enough for you? It’s been plenty hot for me, thanks.)

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A very telescoped view from the west gate to show the wash of blue that’s taken over the garden.
‘Moon Lagoon’ in the foreground, Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ in the background (and blue apartment building in the distance).
Just looking at the froth of blue cools me down.

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The three that I was possibly most anxious to see make it through summer are just outside the office.
Columnar Cussonia gamtoosensis is almost fence height now. The Coast Woolybush to the right, Adenanthos sericeus, has been a peach all summer.*

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And Grevillea ‘Moonlight’ seems safely established here too.

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Impromptu birdbath, which looks an awful lot like a headstone monument to a fallen aloe.

That’s an abbreviated EOMV so we can get to the bug report. Possibly the worst thing about my summer garden 2015 has been the ants.
Apparently, if Southern California had a resident population of feisty fire ants, we wouldn’t be experiencing a scourge of Argentine ants, but we don’t, so we are.
Linepithema humile stowed away on ships bound for our ports sometime in the 1980s, and life just hasn’t been the same since. Native ants were pushovers, no contest at all.
I don’t like to dwell on this fact for long or I’d probably run away from home, but scientists tell us that the Argentine ants all belong to one giant SUPER COLONY.
Which in practical terms means, because they’re all bros, they don’t fight. They amiably cooperate in a tireless, jack-booted bid for world domination.
They are the Uruk-hai of ants. They seek out the same conditions we do, not too hot or cold, not too wet or dry, just nicely warmish and humid.
So when it’s too dry they line up around the shower with their tiny towels, circle the sinks with itty-bitty tooth brushes.
They’re everywhere. Them!

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I put together this little birdbath to take the place of an Aloe capitata that fell victim to the ants.
All summer our insect overlords have relegated us to squatter status on our own property.
This summer it seems like they’ve really stepped up their association (“mutualism”) with their nasty symbiotic playmates, scale insects and mealybugs.
Ants offer safe transit and escort the pests into the crevices and crowns of some plants. Not all, just mostly my favorites it seems.
The stemless aloes have been hit hard this summer. A perky Aloe capitata var. quartzicola went flaccid seemingly overnight.
Upon investigation, the lower crown was stuffed with scale. Them!
For weeks I enraged the ants by scraping off scale from the aloe’s leaves, pouring cinnamon onto the crown, digging in coffee around the base.
The ants supposedly hate strong smells. The aloe seemed to partially recover but lost so many leaves that I dug it up to nurse along in a pot.
Aloe cryptoflora has also succumbed, and a large fan aloe was weakened and killed by ants, though it wasn’t in great shape when I bought it.

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Aloe ‘Rooikappie’ is now taking its chances after A. capitata var. quartzicola was dragged off the battlefield.

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Aloe capitata var. quartzicola in better days. If I find one again it will live in a container.

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The ants favorite victims are stemless aloes planted close to hardscape, but they also favor beschornerias.
The hardscape of bricks laid dry, without mortar, on a layer of sand has provided perfect Ant Farm conditions.
Agave ‘Cornelius’ seems impervious so far, but ants are herding scale on some agaves like the desmettianas.

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Beschorneria ‘Flamingo Glow’ has had its lower leaves stripped away frequently due to infestations. B. albiflora is under attack too.

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This former wine stopper holding the birdbath together sums it up: we’re barely treading water against the ants.
A vinegar spray solution stops attacks indoors, and cinnamon spread on window sills has been an effective barrier.
(The glass shade was in the house when we bought it, and the concrete base was part of the chimney flue.)

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I can’t remember ever having mealybug problems with agaves. I’ve been frequently knocking them off ‘Dragon Toes.’

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Agave vilmoriniana ‘Stained Glass’ still seems clean.

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Since the yucca has bloomed and become multi-headed, it seems to be attracting ants and scale too.

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The furcraea is clean and has mostly outgrown damage from hail earlier in the year.

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Aloe elgonica still looks clean from scale.

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Potted plants have to be watched too. This boophane is clean, but pots of cyrtanthus are targets for scale.

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I admit to indulging in some self-pity shopping. I’ve been wanting to try Artemisia ‘David’s Choice.’ The ants helped clear the perfect spot to try three.

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Euphorbia ‘Lime Wall.’ I’ve yet to have scale on euphorbias, but you never know.

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No more talk of bugs. Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’ loves August, so I love xanthosoma.

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I was this close to composting these begonias but gave them a reprieve, daring them to grow in a very shallow container.
I thought I wanted some hot color in August, but turns out, nope, not really.
I had a bunch of rooted cuttings of Senecio medley-woodii which grow lanky in very little soil, so stuck them in with some rhipsalis to chill this begonia the hell out.

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Happy plants grouped under the light shade of the fringe tree on the east side of the house.

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This succulent is very confusing. With alba in the name, I’m thinking white flowers.
No, Crassula alba var. parvisepala reportedly has stunning trusses of deep red flowers
This is mine in bloom. I guess we’re both confused.

I have to say that there’s been a splendid show of butterflies all summer. The June bugs fizzled out, which is fine by me.
(So weird that image searches of the June bug bring up what I know as the fig beetle. My June bug is, I think, Phyllophaga crinita.)
It’s also been a banner year for the flying fig beetles, Cotinis mutabilis. The grasshoppers surprisingly haven’t been too bad.

End of month views are collected by The Patient Gardener, with or without bug reports.


*But was dead when I returned after a week’s absence, the soil bone-dry. Another has already been installed elsewhere in the garden.

weekend nursery browse

On the way to dropping off a holiday wreath at my mom’s on Sunday, I stopped for a walkabout at H&H nursery, located on Lakewood Blvd. in a power line easement near the 91 freeway.
I was hoping to find a Correa ‘Ivory Bells,’ or Australian fuchsia, which blooms all winter, a kind of holiday treat for the hummingbirds. The small grey leaves are somewhat similar to Pittosporum crassifolium or Feijoa sellowiana. I’m always attracted to the correas when I see them, but they’re usually in the pink form at nurseries. I can’t say when pink began to wear on me, but I’m still not ready to let much of it into the garden again. I foolishly passed up ‘Ivory Bells’ earlier in the week and was hoping it had been shipped widely to multiple nurseries (it hadn’t). With all garden space currently spoken for, it would have to go in a container, which is fine because I’ve been on a binge trying out shrubby characters like ozothamnus and westringia in containers and want to experiment with more. As with the latter two shrubs, these experiments usually do end up in the garden but are surprisingly easy to care for during extended periods in containers and are much less bother than, say, annuals or tender perennials. (If anyone is interested in correas, Joy Creek Nursery in Oregon has a nice list of them, including ‘Ivory Bells.’)

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This photo from JJ De Sousa’s Portland garden shows how stunning shrubs can be in containers. I think this may be an ozothamnus with trailing Dichondra argentea.
I’ve grown the Ozothamnus ‘Sussex Silver’ variety.

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At the nursery, no correas were to be found. Still in the C’s, though, I found some corokias, which I love, and very nearly brought home the wiry Corokia cotoneaster.
Another photo from a Portland, Oregon garden showing what looks to be this corokia.

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Mostly I wanted to stretch my legs a bit, and this large nursery/grower is great for a stroll. And I couldn’t think of a better place to celebrate the coming rainstorm.
The tree aloes seem to be flooding the nurseries lately. These are ‘Hercules.’ In the last month or so I’ve found Aloe ‘Goliath’ and Aloe dichotoma.
My ‘Hercules’ came in a gallon. These big boys go for over $200.

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Twice the Hercules, double-trunked.

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The Agave ‘Blue Glows’ in gallons go for about $25.

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A sea of aeoniums and agaves.

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I didn’t check the price on the titanotas. Such a variable agave. These are much whiter than mine.

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Every time I see a tree-like Kalanchoe beharensis I feel a pang for the loss of mine, a single-trunked plant that became too top heavy and snapped.

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Lovely bowl of Notocactus magnificus. I still have vague plans to build a cactus bench/growing frame but it’s way too early to start collecting plants.
When I say “build,” what I really mean is transmit my vision to the builder, Marty, and convince him that the project is desperately important.

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The Little Red Riding Hood aloe, ‘Rooikappie,’ bred by the South African plantswoman the late Cynthia Giddy.
Coincidentally, I recently brought an aloe home named for her.

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Euphorbia pseudocactus. I really need to get busy planning that cactus bench. It’s becoming desperately important.