Tag Archives: Annie’s Annuals & Perennials

sunday clippings 6/22/14

Future shock for me has arrived in the guise of an orange wristband.

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Congratulations! You moved 24,995 steps, 12.07 miles, 249% of goal!Jawbone’s UP pedometer calculates all that aimless garden puttering and tallies up some surprising stats. My orange UP came as a side benefit to Father’s Day, when Marty was presented with a twin set of wristbands, black for him, orange for me. As someone with zero interest in gizmos and in constant war with remote controls, someone who still hasn’t learned all the intricacies of a smart phone, the pedometer function of the wristband has already become addictive. Every day feels so much more productive, and there’s no more remorse for not “getting out and exercising.” It also knows how many times you woke up in the night (last night only once, but I don’t remember doing so), and it logged that near all-nighter I had at the computer last week when I clocked under 3 hours’ sleep on Tuesday. After wearing it only a few days and already finding its data stream astonishing, a real Star Trek moment come true, I checked out some Internet reviews. Quite a few claim it isn’t long-lived and breaks down after a few months. We’ll see if there’s some merit to these reviews or if it’s just trolling from competitors. By the way, those stats were yesterday’s, which included a 4-mile walk to dinner and a movie, but the bulk of those steps were logged at home, in the “compound.” I call that power puttering.

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A lot of those steps were logged checking on the progress of Musschia wollastonii, which at last looks to be thinking about blooming. The perfect exposure in summer turned out to be on the north side of the house, under the triangle palm, morning dappled sun, afternoon shade. This spot was no good in winter, being in deep shade until spring. Speaking of the triangle palm, Dypsis decaryi, I’ve been thinking about attempting to climb a Philodendron melanochrysum up its trunk, image here, with that amazingly elongated “drip tip.” So far Logee’s is the only source, and shipping would be crazy expensive. Cissus discolor is another possibility, also only available via mail order.

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Lots of steps were logged to and from the watering basin, where I can quickly dip pitchers without having to wait for them to be filled up by the hose and there’s less waste. Containers are scattered throughout, with seedlings and cuttings way in the back. It’s basically a hand-watered operation here, with containers and plantings under a year old needing frequent attention. And since I change things up all the time, there’s lots in the year-old category. I’m hoping the seedlings of Hibiscus trionum for planting out late summer will survive the visit to Portland this coming July 11. Nothing makes me feel more like an obsessive lunatic than explaining how to care for the garden during a summer absence. This solar-powered soil sensor I read about in The New York Times (“Planting for Profit, and Greater Good,” June 7, 2014) would make things a lot easier on anyone volunteering for the thankless job of vacation garden duty.

Other plants I’ll be worried about while at the bloggers’ meetup are newly potted cuttings of Brillantaisia subulugurica, a plant I’d never heard of until a couple weeks ago. I was handing out fliers on Dustin’s plant sale at the local community college horticultural department, which was a debacle since it had already closed for summer. But heading back to the car, hoping the fruitless mission wouldn’t be further compounded by a parking ticket, I noticed a mass of blue climbing the chain link fence at the end of the parking lot. Too late for sweet peas, too early for late-season salvias, what could it be? In dusty dry soil, full sun, covered in enormous, comically exaggerated, salvia-esque blooms, with the distinctive lower lip pout, opposite leaves, square stems, but unlike any salvia I’d ever read about or seen. I grabbed some cuttings jutting through the fence and did some Internet research when I got home. Voila, Brillantaisia subulugurica. All the excitement of a plant hunting expedition without the bad food and sore feet. It rooted amazingly fast in water. I need to go back for photos.

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Commelina coelestis

More new things to water. I took a flying leap at this little powerhouse factory of deepest blue, Commelina coelestis, hoping it makes a big clump here with the gold-leaved tansy ‘Isla Gold.’
Locally from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials. And then I wonder why there’s so much blue in the garden this summer.

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Jennifer van der Fluit waters the succulent fence in the front yard of her Long Beach home.”

An update on the “fedge,” a living fence I blogged about here in 2010, appeared recently in The Los Angeles Times in this click-through photo gallery “DIY succulents: Tips for decorating with drought-tolerant plants.” (I’d get current photos myself but I’ve lost the address.) I’ve found that articles from paywall-protected sites can be read if the title of the article is copy-and-pasted into a search engine.

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Jennifer and Appie van der Fluit plant succulents in their 30-foot-long, 4-foot-tall chain-link fence, with a 1-foot-wide channel in between filled with soil.”

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If you’re looking for some weekend reading, The New Yorker did some great reporting on the new direction The Nature Conservancy is taking, such as partnering with corporations like Dow Chemical in an “eco-pragmatic” spirit (“Green is Good” by D.T. Max, full article available to subscribers.) Featured in the piece was Mark Tercek, formerly of Goldman Sachs and now heading up TNC. He writes about the article in a blog post here, which I haven’t fully read yet but the comment section looks explosive. As long-time donors to the TNC, we’ve been arguing over discussing this article at home. Somehow a photo of Ein seems appropriate here, who does such a good job taking care of us.

And lastly, there’s a Cactus & Succulent Sale and Show at the Huntington beginning this coming weekend, June 28, 2014.

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Such sales are where I pick up succulents like this one about to bloom. I lost the tag, but it’s possibly Senecio scaposus v. addoensis

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I’ll end with a photo of Ganna Walska in a Gatsby getup, cradling a crazed-looking cat. I bet she’d drive down from Lotusland for the Huntington’s upcoming plant sale this weekend.

(P.S. Timber Press is running a Hellstrip Contest to celebrate the release of “Hellstrip Gardening” by Evelyn Hadden. $250 is up for grabs. Contest ends July 6, 2014.)

rhipsalis in the Bay Area

I was up in the Bay Area for two days, helping to launch a vegetable garden, which was just enough time to squeeze in a couple brief plant shopping forays at Flora Grubb Gardens and Annie’s Annuals & Perennials. At both nurseries I found rhipsalis, that filmy epiphytic cactus that was born to spill from hanging pots under my shady pergola. Unknowingly, I bought Rhipsalis burchellii from both nurseries, which is fine with me since rhipsalis has been generally not easy to find.

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Rhipsalis burchellii

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Both burchelliis were planted into this low bowl to bulk up to a substantial, hangable size.

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Flora Grubb’s also had a rhipsalis with a slightly chunkier leaf, Rhipsalis sulcata, bottom rung on the left.
Top rung, on the right, Colocasia esculenta ‘Lime Fizzy’ was found at Flora Grubb’s. Stumbling on desirable plants in small, inexpensive sizes is my kind of plant lottery.
Bottom rung, on the right, Sedum x adolphii ‘Golden Sedum’ was from Annie’s. There was an aureate, pulsating glow emanating from the table holding pots of this succulent.
Another lime-green/gold succulent, top rung on the left, Sedum treleasi, was also found at Annie’s, and about a half dozen other things I’ve been planting all morning.
More soon on them, but just wanted to give a head’s up on the rhipsalis.

(get ’em while they’re hot)

reprising a visit to the Huntington Desert Garden

The recent storm surprisingly coaxed a bloom from my 6-inch Euphorbia atropurpurea, whose acquaintance I first made at the Huntington in 2011. That visit prompted a frustrating summer of scouring plant sales and nurseries for this rare, ruddy-bracted Canary Islander, until Annie’s Annuals & Perennials put me out of my misery by offering it at her nursery just last year. She’s still the only source that I can name at the moment. And although the euphorbia is not currently available, it’s offered intermittently. So it does pay to keep an eye on availability which updates frequently. My image hosting site isn’t cooperating this morning, which is just as well, because now I have to rely on MB Maher’s images of the original object of my affection from May 2011. I couldn’t resist adding a few other photos from that visit too.

First, Euphorbia atropurpurea.


The wine-colored bracts are such a surprising twist on the typical chartreuse, which are fabulous enough in their own right.
After all, it’s those blowsy chartreuse mopheads, like a hydrangea for dry soil and full sun, that first turn an ordinary, respectable person into a helpless euphorbophile.


It’ll be a while before mine grows into a sight like this, but at least it blooms at a young age.


Other scenes from the Huntington in May. Dyckia, golden barrel cactus, with palo verdes in bloom.


Dyckias in bloom


Nolina interrata


Shimmering golden warmth.


Quite the contrast to a grey, rainy weekend, another rarity I’m thoroughly enjoying today.

Bloom Day February 2014

I wonder if I’d get tired of a garden with nothing but chartreuse flowers for months on end. I suppose it’s possible.

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Helleborus argutifolius. Tough and beautiful, doesn’t complain, doesn’t expect any special treatment. All stellar attributes. Incredibly promiscuous in the seeding-around department, but nobody’s perfect.

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Euphorbia rigida is also full of similarly positive attributes but only lightly reseeds.

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This euphorbia is an absolute terror as far as reseeding, but again it’s hard to say no to chartreuse. (Hard to say no to euphorbias in general.) It’s either E. niciciana (Euphorbia seguieriana ssp.niciciana) or E. nicaeensis. I remember buying it years ago as E. niciciana, but I could be mistaken. I know I’ll regret not weeding out these few plants, but they make even February seem lush.

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Echeveria agavoides is possibly even more charming in bloom, if that’s possible

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Poppy time. The first blooms of Papaver rupifragum

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A gazania just starting to close up shop as the sun was setting.

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Gaillardia ‘Oranges & Lemons’ in need of a cutback for spring.

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In the front garden, new blooms on the enormous patch of dyckia. The lack of rain has impacted the snail population to the garden’s advantage this winter.
Snails love dyckia spears like I love asparagus spears.

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I’m including the Brachysema praemorsum ‘Bronze Butterfly’ because technically it is blooming, but the red claw-like blooms are both virtually invisible as well as insignificant.

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This salvia looks very promising, a cross of Salvia pulchella with Salvia involucrata. My source, Annie’s Annuals, thanks Strybing Arboretum for this purportedly compact salvia.

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The Phlomis lanata I planted in fall are beginning to bloom. Very excited to see how this fairly compact phlomis with the common name of Pygmy Jerusalem Sage fits into the scheme of things.

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Lavandula multifida has been in steady, nonstop bloom since its fall planting.

Snow, mud, or otherwise, we all want to know how February is treating you. As always, Carol at May Dreams Gardens collects our stories.

this summer’s dahlias

I moved my one dahlia, the deep burgundy ‘Chat Noir,’ to my community garden plot this summer. Performance was…meh. By August the plant was finished. The soil at the CG still needs work if it’s to grow anything but zinnias and kale. Maybe next summer.

On the subject of next summer, a dahlia I’d be interested in trialing at the CG would be varieties of Dahlia coccinea. At the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens this past August, it wasn’t the carefully staked varieties in their exclusive dahlia show garden I was interested in, but the dahlia I found growing in a rambunctious tumble of sunflowers and artichokes against the fence in their vegetable garden. The leaves were fresh and healthy, the flowers abundant and proportionate to the plant. This dahlia calls to mind the flower the Spanish explorers would have seen blooming in Mexico in the 16th century. (“Spaniards reported finding the plants growing in Mexico in 1525, but the earliest known description is by Francisco Hernández, physician to Philip II, who was ordered to visit Mexico in 1570 to study the ‘natural products of that country.'”)

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Dahlia coccinea ‘Orange.’

From the Wikipedia entry on dahlias: “In 1787, the French botanist Nicolas-Joseph Thiéry de Menonville, sent to Mexico to steal the cochineal insect valued for its scarlet dye, reported the strangely beautiful flowers he had seen growing in a garden in Oaxaca. In 1789, Vicente Cervantes, Director of the Botanical Garden at Mexico City, sent “plant parts” to Abbe Antonio José Cavanilles, Director of the Royal Gardens of Madrid. Cavanilles flowered one plant that same year in his Icones plantarum, then the second one a year later. In 1791 he called the new growths “Dahlia” for Anders Dahl. The first plant was called Dahlia pinnata after its pinnate foliage; the second, Dahlia rosea for its rose-purple color. In 1796 Cavanilles flowered a third plant from the parts sent by Cervantes, which he named Dahlia coccinea for its scarlet color.” (my emphasis)

For more on that “cochineal insect,” read here.

Annie’s Annuals & Perennials carries a nice selection of Dahlia coccinea.

anatomy of a late-summer road trip

Is there a tinge of desperation in the road trips of late summer? By the end of summer are we stuffing itineraries with an absurd number of places to see in the dwindling opportunities to experience daylight until 8 p.m.? Guilty here. I’ll give a recent example from just this last weekend. And for the similarly desperate, there will be a trail of bread crumbs to follow for potential future road trips for the fall season. By fall I’ll be reconciled to the inevitability of autumn’s shortened days, and any road trips then will undoubtedly be washed in a golden haze of acquiescence to the rhythms of the seasons.

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image courtesy of Thread and Bones

It all began with a 63-foot-long hall in an apartment in the Mission district of San Francisco that could use the services of our 9-foot-long Turkish rug. The one we can’t use at home because of the prodigious shedding capabilities of the corgi. (Even the thinnest pretense for a late-summer road trip will do.) Los Angeles to San Francisco, roughly six hours. I’ve made this trip many, many times and have lived in a couple of the trip’s stops, like Petaluma and San Francisco. Familiarity increases the speed factor, another important consideration for late-summer road trips. My workload was fairly light, so Thursday to Monday were clear. Marty has been working all summer weekends, so it would just be me and my smart phone, a formidable traveling companion that can read to me How The Irish Saved Civilization in between navigating duties. The only question left was:

Before delivering the rug, where would I like to go?

Continue reading anatomy of a late-summer road trip

scenes from the garden 7/6/13

There’s an unspoken Upstairs/Downstairs, front garden/back garden dynamic at home, as I suspect there is with most hands-on gardens. Most of the front garden isn’t tinkered with much anymore, needs little attention, more of just keeping an eye on sizes. I rarely think to chronicle the front garden, and the dyckias bloomed this year without a single photo. But the light was especially burnished last night. Just to the right of the phormium there once grew an enormous leucadendon, something I’ve been mulling over since touring Bay Area gardens full of members of the wonderful Proteaceae family such as leucadendrons, leucospermums, banksii, proteas. There was once a large leucadendron in the back garden too. I miss them both. In the front garden the leucadendron grew much too large for its position, but in the back garden it was removed for a different reason. That reason revolves around the constant tension between the tantalizing beauty of shrubs and other big, long-term plants and wanting to retain space for the spontaneity of ephemeral self-seeders, new plant enthusiasms and acquisitions. One approach produces eventual boredom and the other always brings some regret. For now, I seem to prefer regret to boredom, but that could easily change.

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Phormium ‘Alison Blackman,’ Agaves ‘Blue Glow,’ Furcraea macdougalii, assorted sotols, aloes, dyckias, succulents. Not much work or attention is needed with the front garden. (Kind of an “empty nest” feeling here.)

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At the site where the leucadendron once grew to a size of 6X6 feet in the front garden, Echeveria agavoides and Dymondia margaretae are covering the ground on a much smaller scale and injecting some breathing room into the plantings. I did tuck in a tiny Euphorbia atropurpurea here, just brought home from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials. All last summer I chased this plant locally from cactus show to cactus show after seeing it at the Huntington. I’d given up on finding it but then there it was at Annie’s, bless her exotic plant-loving heart.

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The back garden is where I change things up every year, try out new plants like this tall, sticky-leaved Cuphea viscosissima, started from seed this spring, or combine familiar plants in new ways.

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Remember that tree that toppled mid-June? This green aeonium and a couple ‘Blue Fortune’ agastaches were just moved into the vacuum.
Even aside from falling trees, the back garden is in constant flux and frequently gets churned up with new plantings.

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The small purple buds mingling with the agastaches are from Calamintha nepeta ‘Gottlieb Friedkund.’ I’ve grown calamints before, but I don’t remember them having the dark purple flower buds as on this one, Calamintha nepeta ‘Gottlieb Friedkund.’ I keep breaking off a leaf and sniffing it, expecting it to smell like a mislabeled oregano, but it’s the unmistakably minty scent of a calamint. Digging Dog is where I ordered mine last fall. I’m smitten by this one and would love a bigger swath of it.

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Eucomis have started to bloom, another plant designated for the back garden so its leaves can die back gracefully.

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Never pretend that the things you haven’t got are not worth having.” – Virginia Woolf, The Diary, Vol. 2: 1920-1924

In writing those words, Woolf was probably thinking of the children doctors advised her not to have, but I always find them useful in any situation requiring critical honesty.

I never like to pretend that things I haven’t got are not worth having. A bigger garden, for example, would be very much worth having, but I think I can hum along just fine as things stand, with very little boredom and manageable regret. Travel for me always results in turning over choices and tapping them for soundness. But coming home I’m always reminded that to have any garden at all is such an amazing gift.

Garden Bloggers Fling 2013; Matt Gil Sculpture Garden

Second garden on Friday, designed for a work/live fabrication studio and sculpture display space in a light industrial neighborhood of San Francisco. We are an avid bunch, craning necks, snapping cameras, firing off questions (my bad habit). I have to constantly check an impulse to blurt out a question and query myself first: How would I feel if this were my garden and I came face to face with me as a garden visitor? God forbid. But it is just so exciting to see these special gardens that questions tumble forth. And by special I mean wholly individual responses to climate, topography, and the space one has to work with — all the really important variables. After all the ink spilled on formal/informal and all the other garden principles drilled into us by books and public parks, seeing the imaginative responses of garden artists to the circumstances they find themselves in is unbelievably refreshing. And liberating. Bay Area gardens whisper seductively: Do what you want, where you want, how you want, and as best fits available resources and how you live, work, and play.

Amen. And then let us come visit, please.

Or, alternatively, bring in a talented Bay Area garden designer, as artist Matt Gil and his wife Lesa Porche did, when they asked Dan Carlson of Wigglestem Gardens to create a garden in which to display their sculptures, all of which are for sale. (And then let us come visit, please.)

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This blurry photo is the best I had looking at the upper deck from the garden, the office at ground level under the corrugated awning.
On the Fling we were split into two groups, so no more than 40 visited each garden at a time.

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The dining room window, light flooding in from the deck

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The hillside just visible through a scrim of backlit container plantings

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The view from the deck down into the garden with its low retaining wall holding back the plantings at the base of the steep, rocky hillside

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Descending the stairs, fountain at the bottom, bamboo against the hillside

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Colocasia growing in the fountain at the base of the stairs

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And stepping into the sculpture garden

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The steep hillside, which the owners eye nervously during the rainy season. San Francisco averages around 20 inches of rain per year, usually in the winter, but I was told there were two solid days of rain just before the Fling began.

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Succulents planted into the slope, shown draped here with mahonia

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Protea, Agave ‘Blue Glow’, Geranium incanum, echeverias, aeoniums, yuccas

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Further back, Geranium incanum spilling over the retaining wall, tall yellow kangaroo paws, aloes, California poppies, silvery dudleyas

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Using the Agave americana var. medio-picta ‘Alba’ as a visual pivot point. Kangaroo paws just behind. Aloe plicatilis almost out of frame in the top left-hand corner

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With grasses, aeoniums, poppies, and Agave parryi var. truncata

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Mangave and California poppies

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A potted cussonia streetside as we leave the sculpture garden and head back to the bus for lunch and frivolities at Annie’s Annuals & Perennials.
There will be no photos about the visit to AA&P, because honestly all I did was shop after lunch and the demonstration of nifty hose nozzles put on by a Fling sponsor, Dramm. Matt at Growing With Plants has a nice post on the visit to AA&P here.

more poppy drama

Ferocious winds all day Monday left the poppies leaning, some struck down entirely by Tuesday morning.
I was clipping off broken branches and thinning, trying to trim their sail should the winds return, when Marty walked through noting, “Hey, that poppy opened.”
I looked up at a couple still standing upright, saw some new blooms and thought how sweet that he’s trying to console me. Walking past the porch is when I realized he meant this particular poppy, the one we’d been waiting for:

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Months before I’d found a few small plants in the garden and tucked them in the one-inch-wide channel that runs for a couple feet between the brick walkway and back porch that’s been filled in with gravel. Poppies have self-sown here in the past and grow surprisingly well in the confined quarters, but no seeds found their way to the porch this year. And it’s such a nice way to wake up, opening the back door and walking down the steps fluttering with poppies, that I took matters into my own hands and planted about six seedlings I found in the garden. Marty later observed how evenly spaced the poppies had seeded themselves here this year. I didn’t say anything.

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I assumed the poppies would be Papaver setigerum, like all the zillion others in the garden. But in the narrow channel against the porch, they grew taller than garden poppies, and the leaves began to mildew, which I attributed to having been transplanted. Poppies hate root disturbance and always grow healthier when seeded directly. Even though the buds were noticeably bigger, I was ready to pull them out, but Marty stayed my hand, which is unusual since he’s consistently anti plants popping up anywhere but in the garden proper. “Let’s wait and see what they are.” I did pull three anyway but left the few that weren’t too mildewed.

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The petals are in the same color range as all the other poppies this year, Papaver setigerum, but deeper, more saturated. And these porch poppies are bigger and frillier, the stamens much larger. It looks a lot like Annie’s Annuals & Perennials Lavender Breadseed, which I don’t recall ever growing.

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Within minutes of the mystery porch poppy’s opening, you’d think someone announced a blue-light special on pollen.

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It was a bee brawl, with as many as ten at one time wrestling in the petals, their knickers covered in poppy pollen.

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The petals had fallen by nightfall, and there were no new blooms open this morning.
The bees were back to making their rounds on the poppies in the garden this morning, which are slightly wind-blown but still blooming.

birthday plants

My birthday took up just about every single day last week, and more days on the weekend, which is how I rationalized a trip on Saturday to find that hitherto unknown-to-me, unmet, spectacular plant that would forever after be marked as my, gollum gollum, birthday present. (Because we wants it.) At our house we always make a big deal about not making a big deal about birthdays, no presents, please, thank you very much, which has the unintended (intended?) consequence of turning birthdays into birthweeks. You don’t want any presents? You better take off work then. Can’t buy you anything? Then I’ll cook you a special dinner tonight. And tomorrow. And breakfast the day after. And bake you a cake. And why don’t you sleep in this morning, and I’ll feed the cats?

Yes, I don’t want any presents for my birthday, but I don’t mind some festive shopping around for something fabulous in the leaf and twig department during my birthday/week celebration. And on Saturday I did find my birthday plant, but it could not be had for love nor money, birthday or no birthday.

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An unknown, unnamed leucospermum looking extremely fat, happy and floriferous. Weren’t these supposed to be the malingering shrubs with soil issues? The grower is now out of business, and the retail nursery where this thrives in a sloping display border, Roger’s in Newport Beach, has been trying to find more stock for the past two years, without success. I know all this because I shouted out questions to one of their nice, extremely busy employees who was mid-stride in the process of helping another customer. Beautiful plants can cause my manners to slip occasionally.

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Research suggests it’s probably Leucospermum cordifolium ‘Yellow Bird,’ one of the pincushion protea shrubs from South Africa. A nursery in Ventura County I’ve been meaning to visit, Australian Native Plants Nursery, has it back-ordered. I see that they consider it a candidate for containers, which is wonderful news because there isn’t an inch of garden available for a shrub. I very possibly need to extend my birthday/week further to include a trip to Ventura.

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On Saturday I watched the shoppers peruse and select plants, which is endlessly fascinating. And I sniffed the sweet peas.

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And admired the new succulent plantings.

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Slipping in a tiger-striped aloe among the echeverias was a nice touch.

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This nursery leans toward an Old World, heavy-on-the-European influence, so it was nice to see some pieces made of concrete, simple and unadorned.
Or possibly a lightweight stand-in for concrete. I didn’t touch.

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And I envied the luxurious billowing of Ursinia anthemoides ‘Solar Flare,’ one of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials signature annuals.

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And noted the effects of the afternoon sun on a bromeliad, glowing, backlit, diffused by a screen

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More screen and shadow effects, this time with a tillandsia.

I just love birthdays, even without any presents — maybe especially without presents. I’ll take the gift of time filled with beautiful incidents over presents anyday.