notes on spring planting

Though it may not be readily apparent, there really is something positive to say about the garden in January. I’ve been cutting back the grasses, and even allowing for the dozens of poppy seedlings that are emerging and staking a claim on spring, there’s still an impressive amount of vacant planting space opening up. All of which adds zest to a favorite wintertime game, a game played by a mortal pretending to be a god: What do I want spring through fall to look like in my little garden in 2016? In all honesty, a lot of it will look like a dead ringer for 2015, but January is when optimism for the new gardening year is at its zenith and anything feels possible. Astonishing, never-before-seen visions of extraordinary plant beauty are surely to come.


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Like the Catalina Silverlace, Constancea nevinii, seen recently at the Theodore Payne Nursery.


Like envisioning a delicious meal, I daydream in textures, aromas, flavors sweet and sharp. For those few planting places opening up, will it be smooth or crunchy? I have lots of smooth succulents, so let’s find something crunchy, shrubby. It can’t be anything too rich and water dependent, so no traditional, overbred, cordon bleu garden plants. And I’d like something whose flavor won’t overwhelm the rest of this mulligan’s stew, which is heavy on variegated plants and spicy agaves. What’s needed is something in a quietly textural, supporting role. Maybe something in herbs? Isn’t winter savory an attractive little shrub, or is that summer savory? Maybe dracocephalum? Or lavender again, but it’s always iffy in this clay, and I just don’t want to play those odds this year. Plus I want something that billows, smallish in stature. Nepeta has been disappointing, even the much-lauded ‘Walker’s Low.’ What about calamints? Resource lean, aromatic, shrubby. I’ve grown a few kinds before but eventually backed away from their wildly prolific reseeding tendencies. Maybe there’s something new in calamints I haven’t tried?

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Eriogonum crocatum

Some light research turns up Calamintha nepeta ‘Montrose White,’ a calamint discoverd by Nancy Godwin at her Montrose Nursery. Long-blooming, doesn’t reseed, a summer-long feast for pollinators. It’s even won top honors as Perennial of the Year in 2010. Okay, then, calamint it is. Digging Dog Nursery in Albion, California, carries it, along with an intriguing perovskia called ‘Lacey Blue,’ a dwarf form of Russian Sage. With plants like these, summer 2016 can turn up the heat all it wants. We’ll be ready.

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Aristida purpurea

An order to Digging Dog is dispatched, and that settles that. But what else? Wasn’t there an eriogonum I’ve been itching to grow? I have plant notes around here somewhere. Yes, there it is, a smallish native buckwheat with silver leaves and chartreuse flowers, tolerates clay. Eriogonum crocatum! I think I can squeeze in maybe two. Now, who carries it? Why, Theodore Payne does, a mere hour’s drive to Sun Valley, just past Glendale. So be it. (And what should be playing on the radio the whole trip, there and back, but a tribute to David Bowie. I jump in the car, turn on KCRW, and there’s the thumping bass of Panic in Detroit. An auspicious beginning for any road trip.)


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At the entrance to the nursery is an impressive stand of our native Agave shawii

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See that slender, bright green column behind the pots?

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Catalina Ironwood in a ceramic container. Lyonothamnus floribundus ssp. asplenifolius.
I stared at this tree long enough that a nursery person approached to warn me not to try this at home.
She explained this was basically tree abuse that they practiced to obtain cuttings for the nursery.
Trees in containers always seem like such a good idea in January, long before they become a miserable chore in July.

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So I wandered the grounds near the nursery. With just an hour before closing, there wasn’t time to explore the canyon (22 acres!)

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Arctostaphylos cruzensis

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Pinus sabiniana, Grey Pine, Foothill Pine, Ghost Pine (lovely pine!)

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I was recently cleaning up this grass in my garden, Aristida purpurea, and inadvertently pulled up the whole clump.

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Not a regimented, upright grass but ethereal, wispy to the point of disorganized. There are more purple tones than the photos show.

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Dudleya densiflora

Riding in the back, serenaded by Bowie all the way home, were two Eriogonum crocatum and a Catalina Silverlace, Constancea nevinii.
2016 is really starting to take shape.


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.

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.

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 April 2013

Spring is moving fast here in Southern California. I’ve already checked out some of the gardens on our host’s site for Bloom Day, Carol at May Dreams Gardens, and saw lots of traditional spring shrubs and bulbs and perennials like hellebores in amazing colors just coming into bloom. Slowly but surely spring is spreading across the land. Huzzah!

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Spring has had an unmistakably orange cast to it in my garden this year. A kniphofia in its current 50/50 bar coloration.

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Same kniphofia about a week ago.
I moved this one around and didn’t keep track of the name, but all my kniphofias come from Digging Dog, which has a great list.

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Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ is just starting to bloom, and hopefully the isoplexis will hang in there a little longer.
The grass Stipa gigantea was moved here last fall and hasn’t missed a beat, showing lots of bloom stalks.

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Tweedia caerulea/Oxypetalum caerulea may be a rare baby blue in color but it is a surprisingly tough plant.
This one survived forgotten and neglected in a container throughout the mostly rainless winter.
It’s climbing up a castor bean, Ricinus communis ‘New Zealand Purple.’

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The self-sowing annual Senecio stellata started bloom this week. Big leaves, tall, and likes it on the shady side.

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Another tall one, Albuca maxima.

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This South African bulb has been thriving in the front gravel garden, which gets very little summer water. Over 5 feet tall, it reminds me of a giant galanthus.

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More white blooms, Erodium pelargoniflorum, a prolific self-seeder in the front gravel garden.

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The fringe tree on the east side of the house, Chionanthus retusus, just about at maximum white-out.

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The fried egg on a long stalk near the Euphorbia cotinifolia tree trunk is Argemone munita. Hopefully better photos to come.
I wouldn’t mind about six more of these self-sown in the garden for next year.

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Self-sowing white valerian forming buds, with the lavender bells of the shrub prostranthera, the Australian mintbush.

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The mintbush with the succulent Senecio anteuphorbium.

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A gift pelargonium, no ID. The small details in the leaves and flowers of these simple pelargoniums get me every time.

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Closeup of the tiny flowers.

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The plant at its base is even more self-effacing, with a big name for such a quiet plant, Zaluzianskya capensis.

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Lots of self-sown nicotianas. The flowers are too small to be pure N. alata, so it probably has some langsdorfii in the mix.
Whatever its parentage, lime green flowers always work for me.

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Nicotiana ‘Ondra’s Brown Mix,’ with a potted begonia for scale. This strain of flowering tobacco has been keeping hummingbirds happy all winter.
This is the first begonia to bloom (again, no ID!), and the colocasias are just beginning to leaf out.

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The porch poppies, with lots more poppies in bloom in the garden.

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The anigozanthos might be a tad too close to the euphorbia, but I love the lime green and orange together.

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The last two photos are by MB Maher, who was in town briefly and tried to get more of the Euphorbia lambii from a higher angle.

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MB Maher’s photo of the Salvia chiapensis with a bit of purple in the center from Penstemon ‘Margarita BOP,’ planted from gallons a couple weeks ago.
I have a feeling that yucca will be in bloom for May Bloom Day. See you then!

Now that Google Reader is in the dustbin of history, I’m trying out Bloglovin for organizing blogs I want to follow.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin

clippings 2/26/13

Work has piled up, so there’s little time for much else. But something I can always squeeze in while under deadlines are small breaks to read catalogue descriptions of plants. And with impeccable timing, a great Australian plant nursery catalogue was introduced recently by Studio G, so I’m actually looking forward to two more days spent at my desk, stealing occasional visits to Lambley Nursery:The huge palette of rare but garden worthy plants you have featured on the DVD is food for the soul to serious gardeners...” — Simon Rickard

(a DVD?! have mercy! here comes that whooshing sound of another deadline flying by)

It’s a bit of a paradox that, while I look to new catalogues for something exciting and unknown, it’s when I find they tout a plant I already deeply admire that I feel I’m in safe hands and ready to be led anywhere they want to take me. Here’s Lambley’s take on Anthemis ‘Susanna Mitchell,’ a plant I’ve grown off and on for many years:

“This plant, a hybrid between Anthemis tinctoria and the grey leaved spring flowered A. cupaniana, combines the good points of each. Flattish mounds of greyish fern like leaves are covered in the loveliest creamy lemon daisies for months on end from mid-spring to autumn. It makes a great display in our dry garden. A drought tolerant plant growing best in full sun.” Lambley’s photo.


http://lambley.com.au/plant/anthemis-susannah-mitchell

I’ve committed to this anthemis in a big way, making five plants the mainstay of my little “meadow” outside the office.
My anthemis, just budding up now, were planted last fall and come from that excellent nursery on California’s Mendocino Coast, Digging Dog Nursery.

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Aside from plant catalogues, there’s lots to distract out in the garden now too. This thistly beauty, Argemone munita, also planted last fall, is a California native offered by Annie’s Annuals & Perennials: “Large crepey pure white blooms 3-4” across with big round central golden “buttons” (much like Matilija Poppy) appear numerously from Spring to mid-Summer on multibranching stems 2-3’ tall & wide.”

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More distractions: first blooms are opening on Salvia africana-lutea. Minutes evaporate contemplating its color. Tawny, rusty, sable-ish.

Now, where’d I put that grindstone?


Teucrium hircanicum ‘Paradise Delight’

Summer-blooming spiky flowering plants under 3 feet. In garden design parlance, the verticals. We all need some, right? Herbaceous varieties of salvias and veronicas include lots of contenders. Although I’ve had some success with veronica, herbaceous salvias often melt away after a zone 10 winter. In addition to trying out Lysimachia ephemerum (again) and some penstemons, this summer I’m filling the spike void with a teucrium hardy to zone 6, maybe even 5, Teucrium hircanicum ‘Paradise Delight.’ The Iranian Wood sage is shrubby in character, crinkly rugose leaves, red-violet spikes. More drought tolerant than herbaceous spiky stuff and better suited to a summer-dryish garden, or so I’m hoping. The pale green inflorescences started deepening to violet this week.


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I can already see that it won’t have that upright, regimental discipline that is characteristic of the herbaceous salvias. This teucrium wants to dip and twist. Admitting to a mad crush on a plant its first summer in the garden is not at all sensible or prudent, so I’ll just say the Iranian Wood Sage is looking very promising.

Mine are from Digging Dog Nursery in Mendocino, California.

Tuesday’s children

Monday’s child is fair of face
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

I don’t even know on which day of the week I was born, but just guessing, I think I must be a Thursday’s child.
There must be a way to check…and of course there is. Seems I was born on a Sunday. Well, how about that!
You can find out whether you’re full of woe, hard-working, etc., here.

Checking what’s stirring this bright Tuesday morning after a full day of rain.

Tulips and dutch iris

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Cape Hyacinth, Lachenalia ‘Romaud’ (Brent and Becky’s Bulbs).
Clusterhead pinks, Dianthus carthusianorum (from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials).
A tall dianthus, reputedly to 2 feet, but still best planted with good circulation at pathway edges. Trust me on this.

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First bloom on Salvia karwinskii, from the 2010 Fullerton Arboretum salvia sale. Flower color is notoriously variable, ranging from brick red through orange to rosy pink.
Haloragis’ January leaves are the bronziest of the year. Flowers insignificant to invisible. An enthusiastic reseeder, Digging Dog Nursery has plants in stock to get the ball rolling.

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Variegated Sisyrinchium striatum ‘Aunt May,’ a favorite plant I haven’t grown in a while. Its flowers are nice but not essential.
And new this year, showing its first bloom, also from Annie’s, the exquisite Black-Flowered Lotus, Lotus jacobaeus. Finely dissected, silvery leaves, deep maroon-black flowers. Usually it takes two plants to bring silver and burgundy together. Pelargonium sidoides comes close to the same performance. (Geraniaceae carries P. sidoides.)

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I think that lotus deserves one more look.
I hereby nominate it for Tuesday’s child (“Tuesday’s child is full of grace.”)

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Closing with a sweet little echeveria from Guerrero, Mexico, that I’d never seen offered locally before, but which has supposedly been around for a long while. Echeveria multicaulis ‘Copper Roses.’

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The long-awaited winter rainstorms now routinely bring a buzz-killing advisory:

The Interim City Health Officer, Dr. Mauro Torno, has issued an advisory for the beaches in the City of Long Beach following today’s rain. After any significant rainfall (0.10″ or more) high levels of bacteria from storm drains, rivers, and polluted runoff enter into our ocean. It is recommended to avoid all ocean water contact for at least 72 hours after rainfall, especially at storm drain outlets, river mouths, streams, and lagoons. People should always pay particular attention to any warning signs posted at the beach for their safety.”

Onward with Tuesday…

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“The god Týr or Tiw, identified with Mars, after whom Tuesday is named.”

Bloom Day October 2011

The highest temps all summer hit last week, an unwelcome intrusion into fall planting season. Limbing up the big smoke tree a few weeks ago allowed a lot more light into the back garden, setting in motion some deadly domino effects when the mercury rose. Such an unlikely candidate to suffer from too much sun as a large, established echium fried in the heat wave. The ‘Tajinaste’ echium’s leaves had become accustomed to a much gentler sunlight all summer. Along with more sunlight flooding in through the smoke tree canopy, the echium’s neighbor, the big Solanum marginatum I removed, also had provided a measure of cover. (I took cuttings of what I could this morning and removed the echium’s carcass.) An Agave attenuata lost a couple leaves from the searing sun, but no other lasting damage. The potted tropicals reveled in the heat.

Otherwise, the garden is in the same holding pattern bloom-wise as September, with the salvias still in bloom as well as Persicaria amplexicaulis, shown here with a truss of Salvia canariensis.

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The persicaria again with a Ricinus communis seedling just making size this fall.

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There’s now three big castor bean plants, which is all this little garden can handle. Salvia madrensis in background.

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The same ricinus with Rudbeckia triloba, just planted in August, brought home from a visit to Digging Dog Nursery in Mendocino County, California.
(Kathy at Garden Book just attended Digging Dog’s fall plant sale and has some stunning photos of her visit.)

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This Selinum wallichianum also comes from my visit to Digging Dog in August.

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The dahlia ‘Chat Noir’ staggered in the high temps but regained composure, showing some new blooms this morning.

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Nerines in the front gravel garden are establishing good clumps (all year-old gifts from Matt Mattus/Growing With Plants)
I believe these are all N. samiensis. A deep orange in bloom this morning.

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This Orange Clock Vine turned up at a local nursery this fall, Thunbergia gregorii, one I’ve long wanted to grow.
Pure orange blooms, no contrasting dark eye. The thunbergias do amazingly well in Southern California year-round.

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Many succulents are in bloom. And I don’t think Grevillea ‘Superb’ has been without a bloom all summer.

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Check out Bloom Day hostess Carol’s Indiana garden at May Dreams Gardens, with links to all the gardens participating this October Bloom Day.

Plug & Play

I briefly escaped the desk yesterday and checked out a couple local nurseries. Fall is when some interesting plants start to appear again in Southern California nurseries, for planting in the cooler temps, to be settled in by winter rains. (Fingers crossed, oh, please, please, winter rains, do come!) Surprised the heck out of me to bump into Teucrium hyrcanicum ‘Purple Tails’ locally, a plant I’ve killed once but have been meaning to attempt to get off on a better footing with in the future. This native of Iran is spelled both hircanicum and hyrcanicum. Someone needs to pick a spelling and stick with it.

The teucrium had only been available via mail order previously. The local teucrium were in full growth, filled with bloom spikes. Instant garden gratification. (The fly on the sporobolus bloom is an unwelcome reminder of the abysmal outdoor meal we had a few weeks back, where hordes of his kin flew in past a phalanx of citronella candles. Our guests were not amused. I think it was the lobster that attracted them in such numbers.)

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As always, some reshuffling was in order first. A mossed basket of succulents had been moved into the proposed spot for the teucrium just a few days ago. Senecio anteuphorbium was breaking summer dormancy, so I helped it along by soaking the thoroughly dried-out basket in a basin for a day. Then instead of hanging it up again, to be neglected and forgotten as it had been all summer, I plopped the entire basket in the garden outside my office. Wonderful effect. Instant garden gratification. Compound, silvery leaves in the foreground are from the umbellifer Seseli gummiferum. The seedheads to the right are from Patersonia drummondii, which can be seen in bloom last April here.

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But now I needed this sunny spot for the teucrium, so the basket was moved again, this time among some Libertia peregrinans, a surprisingly nice match for the yolk-colored Sedum nussbaumerianum.

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The tall, naked stems are the summer-dormant Senecio anteuphorbium, showing fresh growth at the tips. I first became acquainted with this senecio as the center bulge growing in a local “living wall,” blogged about in this post. Garden designer Dustin Gimbel made the ID, bless his nomenclature-filled brain. Rosettes are silvery Echeveria elegans, red-edged Echeveria pulidonis, golden Sedum nussbaumeranium, some graptopetalum and creeping sedum.

The moss blends in unobtrusively with the surrounding plants. The basket is a half basket with a flat back to hang against a wall, the sides curving to a point at the bottom, so after excavating a slight depression, it sits upright beautifully. The elevated height will keep the succulents drier than the surrounding plants and really makes their shapes pop. The perfect solution, since I’m sick to death of trying to keep these mossed baskets moist.

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More instant garden gratification, the best kind, considering it’s a Tuesday in mid-September.

On the West Coast, Digging Dog Nursery carries Teucrium hyrcanicum.