Tag Archives: Digiplexis ‘Illumination Flame’

isoplexis and digiplexis side by side

There’s no telling which of these, if either, will be around for photos next year, so now’s the time for a side-by-side color comparison.
According to this article, it was Isoplexis canariensis that was crossed with Digitalis purpurea to give us Digiplexis ‘Illumination Flame.’ The photo on the right is of Isoplexis isabelliana, but the color if not the flower shape is a good semblance of I. canariensis, with probably less gold and more burnt orange. (Being ever on the lookout for the tall, spiky, and orange, I’ve trialed a few isoplexis. I. canariensis was short-lived in my garden.) The shocking pink, apricot-throated digiplexis to my eye exudes a Jonathan Adler-inspired play with colors. In its new guise, dear old digitalis has been liberated from the genteel confines of the shady cottage garden. Even though able to handle full sun, especially near the coast, the unseasonal 20-degree jump into the 90s today and for the rest of the week is not to either plant’s liking, or mine for that matter. I’ve had verbascums collapse under similar conditions. They both held up surprisingly well this first day of the heat wave. Some lateral spikes broke off a few days ago but were saved for a vase.

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If it lives up to its sturdy reputation, I wouldn’t be surprised if digiplexis has a future as a florist’s pet.


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.

tuesday clippings 4/1/14



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I sat down Sunday to write about the flu, earthquakes, and plant shows, but the blog server was down, so Sunday’s clippings has become Tuesday’s. And with the building I worked at today undergoing a bomb threat, I can’t remember any of what I intended to write on Sunday evening. That’s got to be the worst kind of April Fool’s tomfoolery, requiring me and an emptied-out building to stand outside sniffling in the cold wind for an hour while firefighters search for explosives.

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Echeveria agavoides ‘Ebony’ from 2013

But I see I took a photo of the ponytail palm I bought at the Orange County Cactus & Succulent Society show on Saturday, so we’ll start there. The big news is that Echeveria ‘Ebony’ is finally making the rounds at plant shows this spring. Small and expensive, about $40 in a 2-inch pot, but at least there’s been tissue culture in sufficient numbers to finally outstrip the insatiable demand of Korean collectors. I get lots of inquiries about this echeveria, so that’s your best bet for now. Get thee to a succulent show this spring. I’m going to update the Dates to Remember this week with details of upcoming shows, but for now there’s a general CSSA calendar that has upcoming dates.

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We are slightly less ramshackle now that the creeping fig-covered wall has been given its annual clipping, one of those hate-filled chores that brings so much pleasure when done. There’s certainly no pleasure in the doing, which is a dusty, spidery business in which someone always nips their fingers with the clippers instead of a branch. This year it was Marty, not me, and thankfully not very deep. At least I think the photo above is post-clip. Slightly less shaggy than normal anyway. What to do with all the wall clippings means the compost pile has to be sorted out, so three bins were filled with the lovely stuff from the bottom of the heap, and plants that love a rich life are gorging on it. The wall clippings went through the chipper first, an old steam punk Sears model that fired up on the first pull after sitting for a year. Things like that make Marty unspeakably happy. A tidy compost pile, one I’m no longer afraid to approach, does the same for me.

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The orb has been updated with another tillandsia from the show, T. fasciculata on the left

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The garden is still deep in its poppy phase, with every morning bringing more and more. So many more that I’ve had to start pulling them so summer plants like eryngiums aren’t crowded out.
There are some wild and untamed blooms not meant for vases, and that would be poppies. Sure, you can take a match to the stems of Iceland and Oriental poppies for a short vase life, but there’s nothing like a little meadow of them in spring. Papaver setigerum is still my favorite for its compact and uniform size.

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With all the bee activity on the poppies, and the butterflies and hummingbirds on the fern-leaf lavender, the newly engineered digiplexis is conspicuously of no interest to pollinators.
Instead of ‘Illumination Flame,’ a more suitable name might be ‘Rachel,’ the beautiful, memory-implanted android in Blade Runner that thinks it’s human. I will say that I’ve never seen a plant proceed from rare to available at your local big box store with such speed as digiplexis. Whether it melts away in summer’s heat remains to be seen.

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Graptopetalum superbum

One of the most stunning succulent displays I’ve seen recently was surprisingly not at the show but at my mom’s mobile home park. Succulents are a favorite in the small, tidy lots available only to the over-55 crowd, and the plants are left alone to mature into nice specimens, like the graptopetalum above, with its remarkable inflorescence, an airy branching superstructure surrounding the rosettes. If I was a plant broker, a fantasy I occasionally indulge in on annoying days like today, I’d knock on some of these doors.

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Bloom Day March 2014



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Typical for March, the reseeding poppies are the biggest showboats in my garden at the moment.

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Anticipating where and against what backdrop another loopy-necked bloom will open each morning is a huge part of their appeal.

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Summer-dormant Pelargonium echinatum has been so easy to rouse from its dormancy. Always in a pot, I keep it dry from late spring/early summer until around Novemberish.

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No blooms here, but to me it’s just as exciting to see the manihot leaf out again in March.

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Long, pale green, fading to buttery yellow stems send out these shocking pink flowers. Silky petals against furry stems, the rat-tailed cactus really nails it for me.

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Two of the three clumps of the digitalis/isoplexis union, Digiplexis ‘Illumination Flame,’ are throwing rainbow sherbert-colored spikes.
This summer will be the first garden trials for those of us plant geeks enthusiasts who chased down this literally brand-new perennial.

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A self-sown Solanum pyracanthum wintered over and is early to bloom.

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One of the three Phlomis lanata I planted in fall.

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After seeing a photo by Andrew Lawson of Tom Stuart-Smith’s use of phlomis at Broughton Grange, I knew I wanted phlomis back in the garden. I’ve tried lots of kinds of phlomis over the years, and if this P. lanata lives up to its reputation for compactness, it just might be the one. Bigger gardens than mine can tackle the oversize, leafy ones like russeliana and fruticosa.

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But Phlomis lanata doesn’t grow up, it grows out, bulging sideways as much as 4-6 feet across while topping out at about 2 feet in height.
(Maybe I’ll eventually need just one of the three I’ve planted…)

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I think it’s no secret that we’re all attracted to Pelargonium ‘Crocodile’ because of those gold-fretted leaves and not its flowers.

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But I suppose the flowers are tolerable when there’s not much else blooming. And blue oat grass in the background makes anything look good.

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A lot of the self-sowers like Orlaya grandiflora are just getting revved up.

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Nasturtiums are mostly pulled out and composted to give some of the other volunteers runnning room.

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Not for lack of trying, but this is the best photo I could get of a very promising salvia, what Annie’s Annuals & Perennials sold as Salvia flava. The photo on her website is much better.
I really, reeeally hope it likes my garden.

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The front garden has very little but dyckias in bloom, which is actually reassuring since if any of the agaves bloom, it means their demise isn’t far behind.

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For the butterflies, Verbena lilacina

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Euphorbia rigida, claiming quite a bit of the roadway just outside the kitchen door, also claims all the bees’ attention. Always lots of good bee watching here.

May Dreams Gardens to thank for inducing us to keep these monthly records of our gardens. I can now easily check back to March 2013 and see what plants I’ve since killed or evicted, not to mention potentially discover some sort of pattern to the erratic blooming habits of Scilla peruviana, which seems to have taken this year off after blooming in 2013.