Bloom Day May 2016

Welcome to the jungle. (Okay, so it’s a dry jungle.)

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This will be an abridged Bloom Day post, looking at the telescoped view through my office doorway and describing the big stuff that stands out in the frame.
Rudbeckia maxima on the left is nearly as tall as the pergola but not as tall as the tetrapanax behind it in this view. The kangaroo paws are starting to gain height.
Orange poppies on the far right are Glaucium grandiflorum,. Just one plant is at least a yard across this year.
It wouldn’t be summer without daisies, and this year there’s orange arctotis (right foreground near the sea kale, Crambe maritima).
And buttery yellow Anthemis ‘Susanna Mitchell’ with ferny, silvery green leaves, not pictured but at the feet of the glaucium.
The little white dots just to the right behind the dark aeoniums come from one of my favorite summer daisies, Argyranthemum foeniculaceum, a Canary Islander.
I never find it local, so this plant comes from a cutting I nabbed at a San Francisco park. Small, simple daisies with grey-green, finely cut leaves.
Purple and blues from Salvia uliginosa and Salvia leucantha. More Verbena bonariensis seedlings are coming into bloom.
In the foreground to the left of Yucca ‘Blue Boy’ I’m just stupidly excited to have the grass Stipa barbata coming into bloom.
Another grass I haven’t seen in bloom yet, Stipu ichru, way in the back under the acacia, has started flowering. I’ll be sure to grab photos for June.


Saturday clippings 4/9/16


The Los Angeles Festival of Books is this weekend. I haven’t been in ages. I can only imagine what the food truck scene is like now. I didn’t see any garden-themed speakers on a quick check of the roster, but long ago (1998!) I attended talks by Robert Smaus, (former LA Times garden editor) Clair Martin (Huntington rose curator) and Robert Perry (native plantsman extraordinatire). The political discussions used to be very good, and around 2004 we attended a panel discussion on the Iraq War, with the late Christopher Hitchens attempting to defend his pro-war position (mostly a position he held in sympathy for the Kurds, I think), along with Mark Danner, Samantha Power and Robert Scheer. If you go, bring an umbrella.

The past two days have brought light rain, a hockey victory for the Kings over the Ducks (ferocious Los Angeles vs. Orange County rivalry), so all in all, it’s been a pretty good week.
On the Metro yesterday, when the doors opened at a stop midway to downtown, a gust of jasmine flooded the train, causing me to look up from my reading, just in time to see the jasmine draped over a chainlink fence begin to recede as the doors shut and the train sped away. Talk about fleeting fragrance. There’s a tall, columnar, ferny-leaved tree along the freeway in bloom now too, golden flowers, whose name I’ve forgotten. The flowers almost look grevillea-like. Not knowing the name is bugging me. Any ideas? I was thinking maybe lyonothamnus but the flowers aren’t a match.

In my own little garden, this week I’ve been thinking about some of my favorite kinds of plants, those that “grow up, not out.”* Not necessarily plants that have been bred to behave and grow in tight spots, though that’s a subject in its own right. I’m talking about ordinary plants with transformative abilities. Smallish footprint, big aerial drama. Here’s a couple examples I’m enjoying this week:


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The old standby, Verbena bonariensis. This is a two-year-old plant, so it made quick growth this year.
Annual in colder zones. It’s a much better plant for me in its second year, more uniform in structure.

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The poppies will probably be over by the end of April.
Another plant that visits the garden and then leaves without causing a lot of disruption.

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I’m not sure if this is Passiflora exoniensis, but whatever it is, I think I’ve found a vine to ease the pang of being unable to grow rhodochiton.
(Ever so grateful to Max Parker for this!)

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I lost the main clumps of Aristida purpurea, which didn’t impress me hugely last year.
I love what a seedling has done with this agave, though. Much better placement than my attempt. More, please.
And I really should thin those pups out this weekend.

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Albuca maxima. I moved a couple bulbs into the back garden. This one does quite the disappearing act, dormant in summer.

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The Rudbeckia maxima experiment continues. Very entertaining so far.

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Depending on how it handles dryish conditions this summer will decide its ultimate fate.
You can’t really describe this as having a small footprint either, but I’ve removed some of the lower leaves.

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Nicotiana ‘Hot Chocolate’ easily hoists itself above the crowd, without being any trouble at all. Self-sows.

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Kniphofia thompsonii var. snowdenii is slim and elegant. I hear it can be trouble with more water, but it stays put here.

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Crambe maritima breaks the tall and slender theme, but look at those gorgeous new leaves.

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I’m getting lots of seedlings of this sideritis. I think it’s Sideritis oroteneriffae. If you feel otherwise, let me know.

And have a great weekend!


*“Sister Sue, she’s short and stout
She didn’t grow up, she grew out”
— Randy Newman, “My Old Kentucky Home”*

I’ve been reading Greil Marcus’ 1975 landmark paean to American music “Mystery Train” on the Metro to work. Any critic who up front acknowledges a debt to Pauline Kael is fine by me. If you’re short on time, just read Marcus on Robert Johnson, the musician whose skill went from so-so to prodigious in such a short period of time that he was rumored to have sold his soul to the devil. Without Johnson, The Rolling Stones couldn’t exist. Books, music, and plants — is there anything I’ve forgotten? Didn’t think so.

eat your lilies

How many times have we browsed through plant catalogue descriptions padded with chatty, ethnobotanic non sequiturs like such-and-such is an edible delicacy in its country of origin?
Impatient to discover whether the object of your desire is frost hardy, does such arcane information sometimes strike you as an insufferable display of useless erudition?

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Eat this? Don’t you dare. My only lily this year, ‘Black Charm’ cozying up to aeoniums for support.

Take lilies, for example. Catalogues would have you believe that someone, somewhere, is growing lilies not for those soul-stirring flowers and scent but to eat the bulb.

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And of course it’s all true. I was recently vividly reminded that eating some plants that we consider only as ornamentals isn’t a practice remote in time or place.
All these photos were taken last month at my favorite shopping destination when I work in Koreatown, Zion Market.
(Lily bulbs used for cooking are the “Lanzhou lily (Lilium davidii var. unicolor), which was mainly grown in the region around Lanzhou, Gansu province, Longya lily (L. brownii), which was mainly grown at Hunan and Jiangxi province, and Yixing lily (L. lancifolium), which was mainly grown in Jiangsu province,” source here.)

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I knew these leaves as Chyrsanthemum coronarium, when I tried growing them for cut flowers, now Glebionis coronaria

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Platycodon grandiflorus, the Balloon Flower, doraji in Korean. Lots of ways to go with this, including boiled and dried.

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Campanulas are typically considered the bellflowers, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this is platycodon as well.

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Platycodon grown as an ornamental, photo via Monrovia

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There does seem to be a Campanulaceae slant to this edible theme.
I did have a codonopsis phase once, spurred on by Heronswood’s wide selection under Dan Hinkley.
Very dainty vines with tiny, subtle bellflowers that, as far as I could tell, hated life in So. Calif. Eating it would be the perfect revenge.

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Leaving plants behind for the moment. Examples like this always make me wonder about that first pioneer who urged, “Try it! Tastes just like __________!”

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I just love that word, bracken. It’s just so, I don’t know, Wuthering Heights. (It’s a large fern.)

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Crithmum maritimum

The blurred line between edibles and ornamentals shouldn’t be such a surprise to me.
I’ve long grown two well-known edibles, the sea kale, Crambe maritima, and samphire, Crithmum maritimum, not in the vegetable plot but among agaves and grasses.

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New, powder-blue leaves of Crambe maritima in March

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And who just went through an extensive search, at no little cost, to source the rare variegated Tuscan kale? That would be me.
I still haven’t decided whether to eat it or worship it.
(Territorial Seed Company carries small plants of “Kosmic Kale” — it doesn’t come true from seed.)
Edible or ornamental? Depends on the eye, palate, and culture of the beholder, and we know those three things are in constant flux.

Zion Market is located roughly between Normandie and Vermont on Wilshire Boulevard.
It’s improbably tucked away in a new mall at the back of the Brutalist-style Equitable Plaza. The main entrance is on Sixth Street.
You could spend a half hour in the kimchee section alone.
And if you want to try your hand at home-made Korean tacos made famous by Roy Choi and his ground-breaking Kogi food truck, you can find your bulgogi marinade here.
I’d been raving about this market to Marty for some time (oh! the aisle-long, mulit-hued bags of rice display!) and finally was able to show him around recently.
It was gratifying to see Marty utterly gobsmacked too. The fresh fish section is a wonder, and the dried fish section is no slouch either.
We’re huge fans of the anchovy, especially in pasta, and there were enormous bags of dried anchovies for I know not what purpose, but we’ll have to figure something out.

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photo via The Los Angeles Times

A few blocks from Zion Market, Roy Choi opened up The Line Hotel.
I love how the greenhouse-inspired restaurant emphasizes the source of all our food, of life itself, plants.
I’ve peeked in the door, but the busy lunch crowds have scared me away so far.
Maybe the The Commissary is serving up some tasty crown daisy.

this week in plants

My Portland friend Loree at Danger Garden collects impressions of favorite plants at the end of the month, so I put together a contribution of what’s catching my eye this week.

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I’m enjoying how the Verbascum bombyciferum echoes the rosette shapes of surrounding agaves, but a softer, feltier echo against the stiff, silvery-blue agave leaves of ‘Dragon Toes’ in the foreground, A. franzosinii in the background. The verbascum is temporary, while the Leucadendron ‘Winter Red’ gains size just behind it. Annuals and biennials are perfect solutions for the temporary gaps around a growing shrub. I’d love to get some seed from the verbascum after bloom, though.

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Dark green shrub is Cistus ‘Snow Fire.’ The evanescent white flowers with maroon central blotches have disappeared by the end of the day.

The 90-degree temps the past couple days are the reason that the garden is filled with the sharp, resiny scent of cistus, something I miss when the garden is without it.
They’re generally short-lived shrubs for me, but for quite a few years the iconic sounds and scent of summer included the low hum of of busy insects coupled with that uniquely pervasive scent.
If it’s going to be this hot, at least let the air be pungent with cistus.

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If there’s any plus side to the drought, it’s much less snail damage. Crambe maritima.

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Agave celsii var. albicans ‘UCB’ throwing a bloom spike, signaling its last year in the garden.

Even though the garden is as densely planted as ever, the changeover the last couple years to plants that will tolerate not just dry but very dry conditions and strong sun is nearly complete.
As short-lived stuff passes on and agaves bloom, I’d like to experiment with much wider spacing, which necessarily means a lot less plant collecting.
We’ll see how far I get with that plan. I can thin and prune furniture and stuff indoors no problem, but get stingy with plants? Uncertain.

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Bought unlabeled, it looks like Canna indica, the plain old “Indian shot” canna, so named for the round black seeds used in jewelry (and as makeshift ammunition).
Big green leaves, small flowers. A lush look from a tough-as-boots plant.

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For a change, I’m enjoying the restful green leaves as opposed to the splashier variegated canna varieties.
The species is such a good plant in its own right, with simple flowers, a clean outline.
Rising behind the agave tank, under the high canopy of a tetrapanax, a corner of warmth and deep orange from the canna, Abutilon venosum and Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’

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Echium simplex spikes are quickly filling out.

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Buds forming on the lacy, silver shrub Hymenolepis parviflora (formerly Athanasia parviflora). The flowers will be golden yellow umbels.

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Albuca maxima flowers reliably in the front gravel garden, with little if any supplemental irrigation

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Dyckia also blooming in the front gravel garden.
I need to decide whether to strip the lower leaves to expose the trunk on the dasylirion in the background, and what kind of arm protection to use when doing so.

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This self-sown Solanum pyracanthum surprisingly earns credit for being in bloom year-round.
I think it was included in every Bloom Day post of 2014, and then bloomed all winter too. Not bad for a reputed heat lover for summer gardens.

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Peeking under the canopy at an ever-expanding Sonchus congestus, a glamorous member of the dandelion tribe.

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Aeoniums don’t always come through winter this pristine. Mislabeled Aeonium tabuliforme, I’m not sure what it is. Some kind of abbreviated form of tabuliforme?

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The manihots are leafing out, prime shadow-casting plants.

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Corokia virgata ‘Sunsplash,’ moved yet again for some electrical work Marty was doing.
Seems there’s always way more seedpods than leaves of the ‘New Zealand Purple’ ricinus, just visible in the background, so seedpod prolific it reminds me of a red echinops.
And now April!

meeting plants in person for the first time

By now you’re probably wondering will this blog ever stop dining out on the Portland garden bloggers meetup. Just one more for now on the plants that really had my number. Which is undeniably an odd number, but the heart wants what it wants. Many times I become infatuated with plants through magazines, online catalogues, or blogs, in a process I imagine is not dissimilar to online dating. Both have in common beautiful photos, seductive descriptions, but not necessarily the whole story. When plant and gardener finally meet and a trial period of compatibility is undertaken, disappointment can ensue on both sides, but there’s always the tantalizing possibility of a lasting attachment.


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Earlier this year I finally made the acquaintance of long-time crush Crambe maritima, a European coastal plant with uncommonly beautiful leaves, thick and blue as an agave, curled and frilled at the margins. I think it was planted in my garden last fall. (Checking email records, I did purchase it last September via mail order from Oregon nursery Dancing Oaks.) Although impatient for the sea kale to thicken up, it’s exactly as I imagined it. We’re a good match, the sea kale and I, and all signs point to the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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I thought I knew everything I needed to know about the sea kale, but I discovered in Portland an unexpected twist to this plant.

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Crambe maritima, aka the sea kale, in the Floramagoria garden in Portland, Oregon this July.
I had no idea its seedheads, like tiny white button mushrooms, would be as much of an attraction as its wavy, blue-green, cabbagey leaves.
In Willy Wonka’s garden, this would be labeled the wasabi pea plant. (By the way, the plant is edible.) This unexpectedly nubby, bubbly texture endears the sea kale to me even more.

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Crambe maritima’s pearly seedheads with pitcher plants and what looks like a gold-leaf Aechmea recurvata in bloom.

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Then there’s the equivalent of meeting an intriguing plant for the first time and not getting its phone number, so to speak.
This rusty tumbleweed’s name was given as Rumex ‘Maori,’ but I’ve had no luck finding any reference or additional information.

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Here’s a plant I’ve been stalking for some time, Asphodeline lutea. Two new ones planted this spring have withered away.

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At least I’m fairly sure this is an asphodel, again, a plant with which I have little real-world experience.

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On the tour I bumped into a plant that I purchased the first day of the tour at the nursery Cistus, Berkheya purpurea. A nice coincidence.

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Fantastic stems, leaves and, when it blooms, large lavender daisies.

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(photo of berkheya in bloom found here)

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An acacia new to me in John Kuzma’s garden, Acacia covenyi.

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The same acacia seen here with a large clump of anigozanthos that overwinters in situ in the garden with protection

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Possibly my favorite plant on the tour, Acanthus sennii. I’ve noticed I’m falling more for plants that have a chance of succeeding where I garden.
I’m no longer throwing myself at every good-looking, high-maintenance type that comes along. A sign of maturity maybe?

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Also in the Kuzma garden was this stunning velvety silver potentilla. Possibly Potentilla calabra or hippiana…or something else entirely. (P. gelida. thanks, Heather.)

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A beautiful grass, new to me, Achnatherum calamagrostis ‘Silver Spike,’ at the Grass Master’s incredible garden.

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Scott was also growing the native thistle Cirsium occidentale. I’ve already killed one but found two more locally.

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A wiry, tough cushion that caught my notice at the McMenamins Kennedy School, Bupleurum spinosum. Very cool.
The admirable evergreeen shrub, Bupleurum falcatum, was also seen on the tour, which blooms in chartreuse umbels in summer.

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Eryngium maritimum in Loree’s Danger Garden. I started seeds of this in spring. Zip germination so far.

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I’ll close with the “It” plant of the moment, one of the hardy scheffleras. This visit to Portland was my first introduction to them, and they were everywhere. S. delavayi maybe.
Beautiful, but not this zone 10 garden’s type…


back on the home front


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It’s finally happening.

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Miraculously, after a couple close calls resulting in an almost fatal wilt, Musschia wollastonii has survived and begun to hoist up that much-anticipated chartreuse candelabra of blooms.
The Madeira Giant Bellflower must be an unforgettable sight in bloom on its native cliffs of Madeira. As with Aeonium tabuliforme, the cliff face is what’s shaped that remarkable architecture. Some claim to grow musschia mainly for the leaves, but I don’t find them wildly exciting, possibly because it’s been struggling to survive here. Musschia is monocarpic, meaning it will die after blooming. Which also means I can now die happy, having seen it bloom in my garden. But what vigilance to get to this point! In spring I parked this pot right by a hose bib on the north side of the house for its daily shower.

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Also newly in bloom and slightly offbeat, Emilia javanica ‘Irish Poet,’ the Tassel Flower.
A delicacy that couldn’t compete in a waist-high, full-throttle summer garden, but it stands out fine in mine, which is in the process of undergoing accommodation to the ongoing drought.

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Emilia may be small, but it packs a big orange punch in its ‘Irish Poet,’ form, seed from Nan Ondra.
Many years ago I grew the species, which is a darker, burnt orange bordering on red. I much prefer the electrifying orange of ‘Irish Poet.’

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These pots give a sense of its scale. Last agave on the left was just brought home from the recent Orange County succulent show.

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Agave ‘Tradewinds,’ a blue-green striped potatorum selection thought to be a seedling of ‘Kissho Kan.’

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Diminutive emilia is barely visible on the lower left, unlike the fountain of Pennisetum ‘Sky Rocket’ in the distance.

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The plumes arch just where the Cussonia gamtoosensis canopy begins, a wonderful effect that’s unlikely to be duplicated next year as the cabbage tree continues to grow.
Today I watched for the first time as a sparrow landed in the baby cussonia, which to my mind makes it a real tree now.

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There’s also two big clumps of this grass fronting the lemon cypresses on the eastern boundary*

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And another clump growing amidst Gomphrena ‘Fireworks.’ Both thrive on minimal supplemental water, which keeps them in trim, upright shape.

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The front of the cussonia border, which shows how Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’ looks in its summer dormancy period here.
I can appreciate ‘Zwartkop’s’ skeletal form, as opposed to the giant ‘Cyclops,’ which was getting increasingly annoying in its off-season shabbiness, so it’s been pulled out of the garden to be grown in a container.
All the plants here are well adapted to low water use, except for a couple patrinia I foolishly included this year. Crambe maritima is doing really well, another plant I saw in several Portland gardens recently. Yucca, furcraea, gaillardia, adenanthos, coprosma, Pelargonium ‘Crocodile,’ anigozanthos, agastache, echium, Rekohu carex. A Beschorneria alba is in here somewhere too. Variegated St. Augustine grass is weaving through the legs of the aeonium and spilling onto the bricks. The iron pyramid was propping up a castor bean I recently pulled out.

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In ‘Cyclops’ place I decided to try agapanthus, something I’m as surprised to type as I was to purchase, having never brought one home before. This one is ‘Gold Strike,’ and it wasn’t easy to find. I wrongly assumed I’d have the pick of tender varieties in inky blues, even deep purples, all within a few miles’ radius of home. After all, they grow like weeds here. There must be a wonderful selection locally, right? And if not, there must be U.S. growers with extensive lists, right? Wrong on both counts. The best selection, of course, is found with UK nurseries. A couple years back I attended a lecture given by Dan Hinkley on what he’s up to at his new garden at Windcliff, and a good part of the presentation was on his new-found love of agapanthus. “How suburban!” I thought at the time, and “Dan’s going soft!” But as usual, Dan’s right. Mature stands are tolerant of drought, make a mid-summer garden look fresh again, and now I can’t wait to try them with Pennisetum ‘Sky Rocket.’ The deepest blue to be found locally is ‘Storm Cloud,’ but I’m not done searching around for other kinds with names like ‘Purple Emperor’ and ‘Night Sky.’ Still can’t believe I’m shopping around for agapanthus, though.

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A large mint bush near the ‘Cyclops’ aeonium was showing its age, so that was given the heave-ho recently too.
Prostranthera never gets older than a few years in my garden and is well known to be short-lived.
Waiting in the wings, outgrowing its pot was Eucalyptus ‘Moon Lagoon,’ which I intended on planting in the mint bush’s spot in the fall.
This is one of the mallee eucalyptus, which are more large shrubs than the towering giants Californians associate with eucalyptus.

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Never much inclined to wait, I called Jo O’Connell at Australian Native Plants Nursery, where I bought the eucalypt, to ask her opinion.
She said to absolutely go for it now, mid-summer, a woman after my own heart. And so it’s been planted.

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Speaking of suburban, how about some marigolds? (Now who’s going soft?)

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What an undeserving bad rap the bedding plants industry has given marigolds. The tall strains like this one, ‘Cinnabar’ from Derry Watkins, are so hot. If you don’t have a bias against orange, that is.

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And I don’t think there’s anything easier to grow from seed than marigolds.

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The grey shrub arching over the marigolds is Olearia virgata v. lineata ‘Dartonii,’ brought home from Far Reaches Farm a few years ago.
(“If you’ve hankered for a willow but lament your dry conditions, then weep no more.”)
It was so cool to see this shrub growing against the greenhouse at Old Germantown Gardens in Portland recently, where it was tightly clipped in a more columnar form.
The Agave attenuata is ‘Boutin’s Blue,’ formerly ‘Huntington’s Blue,’ not quite happy in full sun. In a large pot, it’s the Goldilocks of agaves and gets moved around quite a bit.

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Marigolds in the distance, the new Leucadendron ‘Ebony’ in the foreground, handling its first summer beautifully so far.
The sideritis to its right wasn’t so lucky, inexplicably collapsing a couple days ago, about a day after this photo was taken.
Every so often around mid-summer, this mysterious soil-borne wilt process takes out a plant.
I know in my absence the garden was watered really well for a change, and that might have kicked it off.
The sideritis was one of two self-sown seedlings I found this spring, so it was a gimme anyway.
I’ve already planted a couple Cirsium occidentale in its place.
(Seeing the cirsium almost in bloom in Scott’s garden in Portland was a nice moment too.)

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The Berkheya purpurea I brought home from Cistus a few weeks ago can just be seen behind the leucadendron.
The oregano-like plant is Calamintha nepeta ‘Gottlieb Friedkund.’ Fabulous plant I’ve been spreading around the garden. From Digging Dog.

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Another annual growing fast in the heat, Hibiscus trionum, seed also from Nan Ondra.

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Rudbeckia triloba is everything I want in a summer daisy, except for its moderate thirst.
There’s a chance that if it self-sows, the progeny will be better situated for drier conditions. Slim chance, but you never know. And there’ll always be gaillardia.

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Eryngium padanifolium in its second year, reliably blooming again, a great relief.

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The ‘Limelight’ Miracle of Peru seed around, and a few are always welcome.

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A potted Lotus jacobaeus has filled out well this year, much more so than when planted directly into the garden.

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Aristolochia fimbriata scoffs at any neglect I throw its way. No surprise that it was included on the sales tables at a recent succulent show. It’s that tough.

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Crassula pruinosa, also brought home from Cistus

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The crassula was tucked in at the base of Euphorbia ammak. That golden-leaved shrub thrives in pot culture, even the careless kind I practice.

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Really brightens things up. Corokia virgata ‘Sunsplash’

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Also doing really well in a container is the Shaving Brush Tree, Pseudobombax ellipticum

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And that just about takes care of mid-summer 2014.


*I keep neglecting to mention that one of the best attributes of this excellent grass is that it is sterile and therefore noninvasive, unlike Pennisetum setaceum.

planting notes 2014

Every year brings a new crop of preoccupations in the garden, such as:
Will the beschorneria choose this spring for their first bloom? How about the puya in the gravel garden? Feel like blooming this year?
Some plants really do take their sweet time. Judging by my own temperament, I’d say garden makers have a unique blend of philosophical stoicism that co-exists uneasily with a raging, barely controlled impatience.

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At Annie’s Annuals & Perennials/AAP over the weekend, impatience had the upper hand. I splurged on Puya mirabilis, a smaller puya reputed to be the one for blooming at a young age.
I don’t remember which one I planted in the gravel garden and won’t know until it blooms, which may be eons away still.

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Still waiting for blooms on this beschorneria, and I’m pretty sure we can write off 2014. AAP’s display gardens had enormous, towering bloom trusses that had to be tied to the fence for support.

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I’ve been trying to establish asphodels for some time and finally have a few clumps with potential. This morning I noticed a bloom snout in one of the clumps, which is almost unbearably exciting. I think too often I subject potentially tough plants to overly harsh conditions initially, when what they need is some babying for a good start. And I’m trying to remember to mulch like crazy, which is easy this year since there’s piles of it. These are Asphodeline lutea (syn. Asphodelus luteus). Enormous clumps were in bloom in AAP’s display beds. I knew they were tall plants in bloom but wasn’t sure about their width, so seeing them at Annie’s helped fill in the blanks on the eventual size of this ‘Jacob’s Rod.’ A medium-sized phormium is a good visual reference for girth. A white asphodel, Asphodelus albus, was also in bloom, and though I’ve always wanted the yellow I have to say the white is probably even more stunning. (No time for photos at AAP since it was the last stop before heading back down to Los Angeles.)

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Lessertia montana made the cut for the ride home.

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As did a couple Glaucium grandiflorum. I pulled out some of the annual poppies to find a home for these.

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Useful for protecting small plants and young seedlings from digging cats. And to remind my itchy digging fingers that this spot is already taken.

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A couple self-sown sideritis turned up this spring, which I greedily potted up at first sight and just planted back into the garden yesterday.
Looking at AAP’s extensive offering of sideritis, I think it’s S. oroteneriffae.

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One sunny spot happened to be available near Leucadendron ‘Ebony,’ but I’d be a fool to let the sideritis crowd the young conebush, so the sideritis may have to be moved.

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I also saw mature plants of this native thistle, Cirsium occidentale, at AAP’s last weekend. The mother plant was very short-lived in my garden, so I was surprised to find a seedling early this spring.
Knock wood, this one produces a few more seedlings. (5/9/14 edited to add that this thistle died in the recent heat wave.)

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Crambe maritima, hopefully a future depositor in my garden’s seed bank. Maintaining a choice and interesting crew of potential self-sowers is my favorite kind of garden making at the moment.
They bring elements of surprise, serendipity, adaptability, fitting in with rainfall patterns. And let’s be honest, getting beautiful things for free never loses its appeal.

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One of the surprise benefits of keeping pots near the garden proper is that occasionally plants will self-seed into the softer potting soil.
In early spring I found several seedlings of nearby Eryngium padanifolium in this container of alonsoa but nowhere else in the garden.
I noticed yesterday ballota had done the same thing in the container of Albizia ‘Summer Chocolate.’ I never find ballota seedlings in the garden.

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Only one plant of Castor Bean ‘New Zealand Purple’ was overwintered, so there’s very few volunteers this year.

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The dry-loving kangaroo paws will rule summer. A favorite for massed plantings, I like them dotted throughout the garden for their incredibly long-lasting vertical lines.
The hybrids grown for compact growth don’t have the same appeal to me.

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This chartreuse kangaroo paw’s flowers are not as flamboyant as the ‘Yellow Gem’ above, but as with all things chartreuse, they complement everything.

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Cistus ‘Snow Fire’ is a smallish-growing shrub planted last fall that hasn’t made me wait long for blooms.

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I’m envious of gardens with separate growing beds to trial plants and grow some on to a bigger size, like this Aloe marlothii x castanea hybrid, which is temporarily tucked in near the base of the ‘Yellow Gem’ kangaroo paws. But along with the endless lessons in patience the garden doles out, working with what you’ve got is another of its favorite recurring themes.


Cistus Nursery

The second installment of my recent visit to Oregon and Washington (or How I Mispronounced Botanical Latin for Six Days While Touring Gardens and Nurseries of the Pacific Northwest).
My own peculiar zonal filter can’t help but color these posts; for example, I did feel a special affinity for our next destination, Sean Hogan’s nursery Cistus on Sauvie Island, a marvelous nursery I’ve visited a couple times before and hope to visit many times again. This sign at Cistus neatly sums up the reasons why I find this nursery so horticulturally sympatico.

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Our group represented gardens from zones 5 through 10. There was lots of overlap in the plants we admired, just differences in the lengths we have to go to care for some of them.

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And then there was the vicarious thrill from everyone’s plant choices. The dark-leaved Daphne houtteana made the transcontinental flight back to a garden on the East Coast.
Sean feels scent is paramount in a garden and I completely agree, but I killed my last daphne years ago.

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The sea hollies are a particular favorite of mine, and I’ll always remember them as one of the signature plants of this visit.
This giant at Cistus is Eryngium latifolium, which Sean said is second in size only to Erygium pandanifolium.

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Wonderful against the steely blue leaves of eucalyptus and Yucca rostrata

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It did lightly drizzle during our visit to Cistus, which limited photo-ops somewhat. Normally, Portland gets scant summer rain.
Even so, a skilled plantsman like Sean knows how to obtain a lush effect from climate-appropriate plant choices.
I’m wondering now if the blue leaves mid-photo aren’t Kniphofia caulescens.

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Towering, shaggy bamboo

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More summer-drought lushness. Genista showering golden blooms over the green flower umbels of thoroughwax, Bupleurum falcatum.
An araucaria, the Monkey Puzzle Tree, can just be glimpsed in the center of the photo.

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Brody dutifully herded us along while Sean pointed out the botanical bounty of Cistus.
I do think Brody was a tad smitten with Sue, who blogs at Idyll Haven.

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At this point in the trip, I was still under the delusion that flying plants back home to California was verboten.

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Good thing this delusion lasted until the last day of the trip, or I would have probably thrown all my clothes away in an attempt to shove a couple Crambe maritima in the carry-on bag.

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Enormous cardoons, Cynara cardunculus, legacy of a prank played on Sean by the late Christopher Lloyd, who sneakily described the gift of young plants as smallish, dainty, front-of-the-border plants.
The punchline came a year or so later: Surprise, they’re gigantic! Gotta love horticultural humor.

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(More botanical tit-for-tat: Sean gifted Lloyd’s Great Dixter with its first hardy banana, Musa basjoo, which Lloyd infamously planted where the rose garden had grown for decades.
When Lloyd ripped out the rose garden to grow tropicals, the English gardening public was aghast, and many regarded the move as heretical.
Sean must have thoroughly enjoyed the ensuing controversy.)

But enough gossip and dawdling! Three more days to go…