Tag Archives: ‘ Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’

counting euphorbias

Tis the season to celebrate euphorbias, since many of us will be living with or gifting/regifting one of its tribe over the next couple weeks, the poinsettia. Call me scrooge, but I’d much rather think about the ones planted in my garden than the holiday favorite with the flaming red bracts. Since first digging the garden 26 years ago, there’s always been at least a couple euphorbias around, and that will certainly be true again for 2015. I’m referring to the herbaceous and shrubby kinds, not the succulents, whose numbers are legion. This genus is ginormous, the largest genera of flowering plants in the plant kingdom, named after Euphorbus, physician to the Mauretanian King Juba II (first century B.C.), whose exploitation of its medicinal properties earned him a place in botanical nomenclature. But the white sap is notoriously toxic and the stinging enemy to the mucous membranes of the eyes and mouth, so I can’t imagine how and in what form Dr. Euphorbus delivered the medicine. Even getting the sap on the skin causes a strong reaction in some people, though I seem to have the hide of a rhino and haven’t had a problem so far. I’ve grown many of the different herbaceous kinds over the years, which generally tend to be short-lived for me. Many will seed around, whether lightly or alarmingly, and species do occasionally cross, like the famous Euphorbia x martinii, a naturally occurring hybrid between characias and amygdaloides. The euphorbias are standouts here in winter and spring for a sunny, dryish garden, and I’ve long been faithfully trying out any new kinds that come my way.

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First the euphorbs returning for 2015. There’s tree-like Euphorbia lambii fattening up after the recent rain, losing its scrawny summer looks.
This euphorbia seeds around like nobody’s business. But it’s tall, incredibly tough and tolerant of a dry summer, so it gets a pass.
Hardy down to 25 to 30 degrees.


By February it will look more like this (February 2013)

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In bloom April 2013, illustrating a euphorbia’s attractions: smooth, blue-green leaves arranged in whorls with a shaggy chartreuse inflorescence

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Also fattening up is a young E. atropurpurea. After a wobbly first year, it’s exciting to see it settling in and appearing to choose life. From Tenerife, Canary Islands.


Here it is at the Huntington Botanical Garden, flaunting its atypically fabulous wine-colored bracts.
I had never heard of such a euphorbia before and stood slack-jawed before it when first stumbling across this beauty.


There was much gaping and sputtering, and then a frenzied search for my son Mitch, who was photographing barrel cactus elsewhere in the garden (see here).
I dragged him back by the sleeve to take this photo. And then I chased this euphorbia across a summer of plant shows, ultimately finding a source at Annie’s Annuals. Bless you, Annie!

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Also returning is Euphorbia rigida, just not this specific plant, which declined and withered away. A couple pieces were salvaged.
It also reseeds, but nowhere at the level of E. lambii. When I find these seedlings, they’re carefully potted up. Photo from February 2014


spring 2012. So this plant lived at least three to four years. The clay here might have something to do with the shortened lifespan.

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Euphorbia mauritanica in the front garden, where the sun/shade shifts around quite a bit throughout the year.
These are probably leggier than they should be, but I’m hoping they’re in shape for a good bloom this spring.

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Here’s the ideal Euphorbia mauritanica, included in a design by Dustin Gimbel.

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My straggly Euphorbia ceratocarpa, appearing to have barely survived a recent move to clear out the compost area.


Old photo from 2009 when the smoke tree ‘Grace’ ruled the garden and I continually wore that green robe through the winter.
Euphorbia ceratocarpa is on the left against the fence. Golden blur on the right was a duranta.

Unfortunately, this is the best photo I have to illustrate why I’ve carefully nurtured this one ratty-looking plant from a single cutting for the many years after the mother plant died.
There’s very little information available on this euphorbia for gardens. English plantsman John Raven grew it, and his daughter Sarah Raven has this to say:

This is one of the most open-growing and perhaps less elegant of the euphorbias, forming big, rangy clumps nearly 1.8m (6ft) across. But it is definitely a contender for the longest-flowering plant I know. I’ve had one that is yet to stop blooming outside the kitchen at Perch Hill since March 2006. It has not had a single week’s pause, and you can pick decent-sized stems right the way through the winter. I cut some for an arrangement at Christmas, when there is almost nothing of this brightness still surviving. E. ceratocarpa is also very easy to propagate. The cuttings that my parents collected all took extremely easily – even after several days wrapped up in damp loo roll in a plastic bag – and those few plants have created many thousand since. This euphorbia should certainly be more widely grown.” – source here.

Easy to propagate? Ha! I’ve had cuttings take a year to root. The only other person I’ve come across who grows it is garden designer/author Rebecca Sweet. It reminds me of a big, blowsy, lime-green hydrangea when in bloom.

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Euphorbia mellifera is another big shrub like E. lambii, but more lush. Fairly fast growing, this one was planted out from a 4-inch pot last year.
For zones 9 to 11 or container culture. Reseeds lightly here.

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And then there was the moment when the pale, variegated euphorbias entered our lives. ‘Tasmanian Tiger,’ discovered in a garden in Tasmania in 1993, was the first.
Because they turned up at the local nurseries, I grabbed a couple this fall to plant near Leucadendron ‘Ebony’ while it gains size. Short-lived plants have their uses too.

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I tend to try all the pale variegated ones. Some have proved to be stronger growers than ‘Tasmanian Tiger.’
A new one to me, at the nurseries this fall, under Native Sons label, E. characias ‘Glacier Blue’


An old photo of a bloom truss from Euphorbia characias ‘Silver Swan,’ which I remember as a very robust grower.

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This non-variegated form of E. characias turned up at local nurseries too this fall.
Euphorbia characias ‘Black Pearl,’ so named because part of the flower structure has a “black eye.”


An old photo of a blooming Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow,’ whose leaves have bright yellow variegation that flushes red with cool temps of fall/spring.


From April 2011, Euphorbia mellifera almost out of frame at the upper left, ‘Ascot Rainbow’ blooming lower right.

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I’ll end with a photo of this incredibly weedy self-sower brought home years ago. Possibly Euphorbia nicaeensis.
A nuisance, yes, but the fresh color and meticulous arrangement of the leaves keeps me from weeding every last one from the garden.

Enjoy (or give to your mother) your Euphorbia pulcherrima (poinsettia) this holiday season, and as alway, mind the sap!

Bloom Day April 2011

Southern California, a mile from the ocean, zone 10, spring a couple months ahead of most of the country.

With the grasses joining the frothy euphorbias in bloom, there’s now a supercharged atmosphere that animates the garden.
I love it when plants start to inhabit planes other than just ground level and do so with very little bulk. The see-through plants. Aerial fizz.

Pennisetum spathiolatum shooting skyward amongst anigozanthos.


Luzula sylvatica ‘Aurea,’ the golden woodrush. The bluer leaves are the Tradescantia ‘Concord Grape,’ now blooming, this photo taken a couple weeks earlier.


Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’


Continue reading Bloom Day April 2011

Euphorbia Love

Euphorbia, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

Perennial, shrub and tree.

You give a frost-free garden dappled shade and ruby tints high overhead. Euphorbia cotinifolia, about 15 feet, max.
I’ve been entertained by the sound of your ballistically exploding seeds as the temperature reached into the 90’s.


As fresh in August as in spring. Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’


Outdoing all other claims on green. Euphorbia mellifera.


Safe to say your reputation is sound enough for some minor quibbling. There’s this small problem with scale you allow to congregate on E. characias. In fact, here in zone 10, E. characias never makes the large shrubs it does in zone 8. E. x martinii does much better, a natural hybrid of E. amygdaloides and E. characias. And I’ve heard E. myrsinites is tough, but apparently not tough enough for the gravel garden, so I’ve abused your good nature in that regard. E. lambii appears to be struggling in the gravel garden as well, yet I know you can pull it off — I’ve seen E. lambii grown xeric at the Huntington cactus garden. More water while you are getting established would be appreciated, wouldn’t it?

Back to your many fine qualities. Your ubiquitous cheeriness in Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost,’ perennial in zone 10, returning amongst the crush of plants I squeeze in around you, always forgetting you were there first.


You never complain but only find ever more ingenious ways to outmaneuver the throng. Like climbing up the grapevine.


And I’ve read you earn your keep just about everywhere you are planted, even if only for one summer. You’re getting quite the reputation for containers too, but it’s straight into the garden for you here.
(You are so good that buying the new, darker-leaved ‘Breathless Blush’ seemed a safe bet. How is it possible to create such a weakling from you?!)


I’ve also read that some of your tribe are considered weedy. (E. dulcis ‘Chameleon,’ you may see yourself in this description. I’ve read about your antics elsewhere, although you despise zone 10.)
None are weedy for me, not even E. characias. Just a few seedlings I’m always grateful to have.

Euphorbia seguieriana ssp. niciciana, Siberian Spurge, has colonized bare spots in the gravel garden but never infiltrates into other plants. But I can’t remember when you last flowered. Have you ever flowered? Definitely not a euphorbia to be let loose in good garden conditions, but I appreciate the lushness you bring to the spiky growers around you.


I know how euphorbias will shine all winter with hellebores and grasses, so I’ve been quietly slipping you in amidst the waning summer party. Euphorbia ‘Silver Swan.’
(Your kin, the ‘Tasmanian Tiger’ was no tiger in my garden.)


Your bracts decorate the garden for ages, stippling patterns amongst leaves like the nubby textures from beads on plain 50’s sweaters.



My love always swells for euphorbia in late summer and winter. Spring and summer too. Nonstop euphorbia love.

June 2010 Bloom Day

A 2-year-old mossed basket with sedums, agave, and oregano ‘Kent Beauty.’ I was surprised to see the oregano return this year. Life in a mossed basket can be rough.


The urns of arctoctis. Hopefully, the next time I replant the urns will be the day after Thanksgiving, to fill them with tulips. July is not too early to get a tulip order in for the best bulbs!


Salvia verticillata ‘Purple Rain’ and Libertia peregrinans. This libertia actually is in bloom, tiny and white, but it’s the tawny leaves I’m after.


Crocosmia just budding up, different kinds of forgotten names. Running in ribbons throughout, not in big clumps. I’m always amazed they find their way up and through at all in June.


Continue reading June 2010 Bloom Day

Into White

A simple garden with acres of sky.

Fearing I had carelessly brought in more white flowers than is sensible, it turns out it wasn’t much of a white-out after all, except maybe with the camera.
For me, it’d be impossible to photograph this diascia without the euphorbia leaning in. Probably the white diascia ‘Ice Cracker’. The euphorbia is ‘Ascot Rainbow’:


Focusing solely on color can make gardening seem like interior design that fights back, when of course gardens are so much more.
(The house is getting that “museum” look, but the garden is always full of surprises.)
Still, I like the way the white flowers stand by ready to gracefully accompany whatever cycles into bloom, such as the verbascum:


The white agrostemma defies all photographic attempts so far. The white valerian I seeded last fall is easier to capture, mixing it up with the reseeding dwarf breadseed poppies, P. setigerum. Centranthus ruber naturalizes locally but always the reddish color:


The valerian has reached the top of the 5-foot plant stand, up which I had ambitious plans to grow the vine rhodochiton. Except rhodochiton wants nothing to do with me or my garden. I hear it grows beautifully for Northern California. Past time to dump out the barren seed trays.


The ‘Limelight’ Miracles of Peru are reseeding lightly but pack a concentrated jolt of color into the ghostly whites.


Cobaea scandens is responding to the lengthening days with more blooms. This vine also has a white variety:


The diascia and valerian will bloom into fall.

With everything emptying into white

(only those born before 1965 will get the song lyric reference.)