Tag Archives: Derry Watkins Special Plants Nursery

Bloom Day April 2014

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A day late for the Bloom Day report, with the above photo of the back garden taken this overcast morning and most of the closeups taken the past couple days. It’s all shockingly rumpled and disheveled already, but I still love waking up to it every morning. I’ll use this photo as a point of reference. Verbena bonariensis is already pushing 6 feet, almost as tall as the tetrapanax. The poppies were the first to bloom, followed this month by the self-sowing umbellifer Orlaya grandiflora, the little pops of white. All this blowsy madness will be over too soon, by May probably, and then we’ll be tidy and respectable again, refreshed and ready to dig in for a long, hot and very dry summer. Deep blue on the left is the fernleaf lavender Lavandula multifida, which will be a mainstay throughout summer. There’s about six clumps of this lavender throughout the back garden. (A couple days ago I bumped into an old 2012 article in The Telegraph in which designer Tom Stuart-Smith uses the words “exotic meadow” to describe some planting ideas he’s playing with, and those two words pretty much sum up the back garden this spring.)

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To the left of the tall verbena, the monocarpic umbellifer Melanoselinum decipiens is in bloom.
Since it’s supposed to make great size first, I’m guessing this is a hurried, premature bloom, hastened possibly by conditions not expressly to its liking.
Maybe it’s been too warm already.

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Scrolling back up to the first photo for reference, the orange spears in the background on the right are Digiplexis ‘Illumination Flame’

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And furthest right, nearest the arundo, the Kniphofia thompsonii I moved from the front gravel garden last fall. An aloe that actually prefers nicer, cushier digs than the gravel garden.
I finally noticed all those suckering green shoots on the potted Albizia ‘Summer Chocolate’ and removed them yesterday.

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Also in this area, near Stipa gigantea, Salvia curviflora has started to bloom, with more photobombing poppies.

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The salvia is surrounded by the leaves of summer-blooming Agastache ‘Blue Blazes’

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The little 4-inch pot of Olearia virgata v. lineata ‘Dartonii’ I brought back from Far Reaches Farm is turning into a graceful shrub.
(Under the wire basket I’m protecting some newly planted corms of the Gladiolus papilio hybrid ‘Ruby,’ tall and graceful as a dierama.
There’s no current U.S. source, but Sue Mann of Priory Plants very kindly and graciously sent me a few corms.)
Towering Euphorbia lambii is in bloom in the background.

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This plectranthus is doing a great job as a stump-smotherer.
The stump of the smoke tree ‘Grace’ was still sending out shoots last year, not so much anymore.

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Second (or third?) year in the garden for the Baltic parsley, Cenolophium denudatum, so it’s quite tough as well as graceful. I think the seed came from Derry Watkins.
Who knew umbels could have such variation in color: the orlaya is the whitest umbel, the melanoselinum a pale pink, the Baltic parsley more green than white.

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Last year the pergola had draped canvas for shade, and this year Marty rigged up something more permanent.
It’s shady all day, except for late afternoon, when the sun slants in from the west, and is my favorite spot for viewing all the aerial pollinator activity on the garden.
I’ve been pulling most of the poppies from this area that was reworked last fall, which is now mostly grasses, calamint, phlomis, the Cistus ‘Snow Fire,’ isoplexis.
A big clump of kangaroo paws is just coming into bloom out of frame to the left.

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I doubt if the isoplexis lasts long in this strong western exposure. Everything else will be fine.

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Salvia pulchella x involucrata blooming into Senecio viravira

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The irises again, with the big leaves of the clary sage just behind.

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The little annual Linaria reticulata just happened to self-sow near the dark iris and the Coprosma ‘Plum Hussy.’ You just can’t make this stuff up.

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Closer to the house, looking down through the pergola, with the shrubby Prostanthera ovalifolia ‘Variegata’ in the foreground.
The mint bushes are notoriously short-lived, and I’ve already got a replacement in mind, the smallish mallee Eucalyptus ‘Moon Lagoon’ I brought back from Jo O’Connell’s Australian Native Plants Nursery.

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Flash of pink at the far end of the pergola comes from a stand of pelargoniums, including this P. caffrum X ‘Diana’ from Robin Parer’s nursery Geraniaceae.

And that’s what April looks like in my tiny corner of Long Beach, California. More Bloom Day reports are collected by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.


I’ve frontloaded my tumblr (under “Follow“) with lots of old photos and have been adding new ones too.

Bloom Day March 2013

If it weren’t for the few stems of Scilla peruviana in bloom I’d feel completely out of step this March Bloom Day, when so many participating gardens are sending forth crocus and iris and so many other traditional spring bulbs and blooms. We may have flowers every month of the year, as Carol’s Bloom Day muse Elizabeth Lawrence declares, but we won’t all necessarily have the same flowers.


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I’ve been trimming away the lower leaves from a Geranium maderense to let some sun in on this patch of scilla.
Even in perfect conditions this bulb takes some years off and refuses to bloom.

What I’m most interested in this year is a little meadow/chaparral experiment that I’m hoping will bloom through summer in full sun, fairly dry conditions. It’s really begun to fill in the past couple weeks.

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Diascia personata is part of this experiment, three plants, two planted in fall and a cutting struck from one of them that has already made good size. Thanks go to Annie’s Annuals & Perennials for being the only U.S. source, via Derry Watkins’ extraordinary nursery in England. In the 1980s I reverently brought new diascia species and varieties home from Western Hills Nursery in Occidental, California, the only source at that time. Now all the local nurseries carry them as bedding plants every spring, and of course being a plant snob I don’t grow them anymore. But diascias can be very good here along the coast in the long cool spring and early summer, dwindling off in the heat of August. This Diascia personata’s height to 4 feet is a very intriguing asset.

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Also in the little meadow is Anthemis ‘Susanna Mitchell,’ and self-sown poppies, probably Papaver setigerum.
I like calling it my “meadow” when in truth it covers as much ground as a large picnic blanket.

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Blue oat grass, helicotrichon on the left, borders one side of the meadow/chaparral.

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Bordering a pathway elsewhere there’s a big swathe of this silvery gazania, maybe five plants, which counts as a swathe in my garden. In full sun they’d be open and you’d see what a shockingly striped and loud harlequin variety I chose last fall. Can’t fault those beautiful leaves though.

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More beautiful leaves to shore up what few flowering plants I actually grow. Senecio leucostachys is the big silvery sprawler. Small flashes of color from the Moroccan toadflax, Linaria reticulata, and the saffron-colored blooms of Salvia africana-lutea picking up speed, especially in recent temps in the high 80s. The phormium was bought misnamed as the dwarf ‘Tom Thumb.’ Whatever it’s true name, it’s stayed fairly compact and seems to have topped off at about 3 feet.

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Closeup of the salvia bloom.

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Euphorbia lambii began to bloom this week.

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The tree euphorbia really grew into its name this year.

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Kind of amazing to write that Nicotiana ‘Ondra’s Brown Mix’ has been in bloom all winter.
I’ve been cutting off old branches as the flowers go to seed. The brick paths are full of its seedlings.
Fresh basal leaf growth is coming in strong.

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Salvia chiapensis backed by Melianthus ‘Purple Haze’

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And a different view against a backdrop of sideritis and a big clump of Helleborus argutifolius.

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The yellow-flowered form of Russellia equisetiformis is just so very cool.

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Nasturtiums are ruthlessly thinned, but this climbing variety was allowed to fill in the bottom of a tuteur that supports the coronilla, which is still in full, aureate bloom.

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The coronilla with the nasturtium growing at the base of its support

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The seductive little species geraniums/pelargoniums are at their very best in spring

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Also beginning bloom is one of my favorite sedums. S. confusum.

Thanks again to Carol of May Dreams Gardens and all who participate in opening their gardens on Bloom Day.

Bloom Day May 2012

Carol’s hosting of Bloom Day is one of the highlights of the month in garden blogdom. Yes, blooms can be had year-round, but instead of scratching around to find them as we do some months, May delivers them by the truckload. With the the South African aloe blooms almost finished and now the stirring of the classic garden perennials, flowering trees and shrubs, along with the quicksilver appearance and departure of the woodland ephemerals, the California natives just about to tuck in before the onset of summer drought — apart from moving your garden into a different climate zone every few years, a May Bloom Day is the best alternative and one of the great virtual garden tour opportunities around.

Granted, there’s a weird rhythm to spring in my own garden, where tulips appear in containers in February after six weeks of chilling in the fridge, and if you’re not careful the year-round growing conditions can make it a challenge to remember to save a few spots for summer stuff. After leaning in a direction that was getting a bit evergreen-heavy, the garden’s currently see-sawing toward leaving space for summer opportunities, a kind of Mediterranean Oudolf-lite. Umbellifers of any kind are an enduring favorite, and those that can squeeze into existing plantings are treasured most. Orlaya grandiflora has proven itself an ingenious self-sower, even if the most robust plant is the one seeded into dry paving.


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