Tag Archives: Diascia personata

plant hunting late May

I’ve been checking out local nurseries the past couple weeks, both independents and chains/franchises, which isn’t news since I do this quite a lot, but bringing a serious intent to change some of the garden late in May is news. I know a lot of gardens are just beginning to send out their personal shoppers (us) in May, but a zone 10 summer garden should ideally be settled by now, planned and planted last fall, which always gives superior results compared to a spring planting, much less a late spring planting. There should be no more fiddling with it after May, because summer will knock most new plantings on their ass. But the Diascia personata really had to go. I think it’s a good plant with great potential, maybe a bit more afternoon shade. (Grace, I think you’d love it if the leaves stay clean for you.) And maybe it’s suited for larger gardens, not because of it’s size but because it’s best seen massed, and from a distance. That pinky-coral color never stopped grating on me, which is odd because I don’t mind it on the smaller diascias. On the whole, I prefer Diascia integerrima.

As a replacement, I was leaning towards something blue/violet, in agastaches maybe, but none were to be found local, and small-sized mail order plants would be of no use this late in the season. I settled on Salvia greggii ‘Salmon Dance,’ a) because, well, there it was in 4-inch pots; b) they’re tough as old boots; c) they’re not pink; and d) as a sloppy-seconds planting, at the very least the hummingbirds will be happy. Although it’s not a conscious plan, pink continues to be purged from the garden and the reign of orange goes on.


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This morning I split off some pieces from a large clump of Pennisetum ‘Sky Rocket,’ which is just getting its burgundy plumes, to fill the gap along with the salvia. This pennisetum, planted last year, thickens fast but the blades seem to top out at a relatively modest height of 2 and half feet or so. If it holds to this height, it will prove to be a valuable grass indeed. Grown as an annual in zones below 8.

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Image from San Marcos Growers

And though I didn’t find exactly what I needed, as is typical of plant nursery jaunts, I found lots that I wanted. There was a cordyline I haven’t seen before, Cordyline ‘Electric Star,’ the clumping kind with subtle, phormium-like coloration. I’d have been all over this cordyline in a smaller, cheaper size.

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Another surprise was Isoplexis canariensis for sale locally, exquisitely in bloom in gallon containers at H&H Nursery, under their label. Always exciting to see a plant make the leap and graduate from rare and desirable to readily available and dependable. It’s still a little early to know just how dependable or long-lived. The photo is from my garden in April, but it’s still in bloom and sending out fresh spikes. I wouldn’t be surprised if this becomes as ubiquitous as that other strong orange, leonotis. Keeping with my orange/warm color fetish, there were a couple kniphofias at H&H I haven’t seen available local before, ‘Alcazar’ and ‘Nancy’s Red.’ Selections like these have previously been found only in Digging Dog’s catalogue.

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Also at H&H was an unusual, smooth-skinned Kalanchoe beharensis appropriately named ‘Furless.’ I still can’t decide if smooth leaves are necessarily desirable in a Kalanchoe beharensis. Checking around, I find Glasshouse Works lists something similar called ‘Baby’s Bottom.’ I had no idea there was such variety with this kalanchoe, with some leaves deeply lobed. Mine pictured above was brought home from a plant sale last year, supposedly variegated. It hasn’t shown very strong variegation so far, but the edges do seem a bit more incised and ruffled than the species as I remember growing it.


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I ran into this beauty, one of the annual Chilean bellflowers, nolana, at Brita’s nursery in Seal Beach, where it was growing in the ground, possibly from self-sowing.

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A big, sprawling thing, with black stems and black splotches on the flower capsules. The nolana commonly available from seed is Nolana paradoxa, but an image search didn’t produce photos showing those sexy black markings.

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And I was thrilled to score a couple Digitalis trojana in bloom and hopefully ready to throw some seed around. This is one I don’t mind planting in late spring, because if it’s anything like that other tawny foxglove from Turkey, Digitalis ferruginea, it will hate hanging on sleepless through a mild winter. If it self-sows, it just might find the perfect spot, the one I never seem to find for it.

Bloom Day May 2013



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It’s our blue period again, and not just ours. Jacaranda mimosifolia trees are painting the whole town blue.
Spiky plants in the front garden will fly these pennants until July, when the blue period ends, and the trees in the parkway will be fully leafed out.

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In the back garden, two-year-old clumps of Penstemon ‘Enor’ have started to bloom.
I had a big penstemon phase about five years ago, then attention wandered elsewhere.
I like this one’s tall, slim spikes and smallish flowers.

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Some of the new plants I’m trying this year, like this umbellifer Cenolophium denudatum, will be encouraged to stay and self-sow.
It fulfills the important requirement of tolerating fairly dry soil, while still keeping lush good looks.
Same deal with the blue-flowered Aristea ecklonii, a South African iris relative.

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Diascia personata, tall and pink in the background behind Orlaya grandiflora, is more problematic. Good height and promising growth habit, open and loose, but had a difficult time with recent hot days, not to mention the leaves have been curled and disfigured since active growth started a couple months ago. Looks like thrips damage, a problem I’ve never had in the garden before. And though I love its height and structure, I’m not crazy enough about that color to put up with deformed leaves.
All the lacy white orlaya this year were self-sown volunteers.

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I should probably stop experimenting and just grow anigozanthos. These bloom stalks will last into fall.

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There’s a couple clumps, one gold and the other a rusty orange. I’d love to add a chartreuse-flowered clump too.

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Another experiment was Verbascum ‘Clementine.’ Lovely plant but a bit of a lightweight as far as sun and drought tolerance.
I’ll probably stick to the silver-leaved verbascums in the future.
Silvery Sideritis syriaca on the left, dark green clump in the foreground is Persicaria amplexicaulis.

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I’m very glad to be growing nepeta again, a few clumps of ‘Walker’s Low.’ It’s as drought tolerant as ballota, whose white wands are just behind the nepeta.

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And it’s nice to have a few of these Senecio stellata self-sowing, though they absolutely must have afternoon shade.

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Eryngium planum is blooming this year in a couple spots. Once I stopped crowding them and gave them sun at their bases, they complied.

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Pelargoniums continue to work their charm on me and are tough as nails in pots.
This one is Pelargonium caffrum X ‘Diana,’ whose flowers remind me of lewisias.

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Just one bloom on a couple plants of Coreopsis tinctoria ‘Mahogany’ opened for Bloom Day.

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A few plants of Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’ self-sowed this spring.

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There are some amazingly fresh spring gardens to wander through at our host’s site for Bloom Day, Carol at May Dreams Gardens, filled with all sorts of plants and bulbs I can only dream of growing. May dreams indeed!


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.