Bloomday September 2016

We’ve been babysitting a cat whose life had been previously confined to indoors. His love for his newfound garden kingdom almost matches my own.
But his ungainly enthusiam translates into tearing through the garden like a baby elephant, and stalking birds, so I’ve been cutting back a lot of the summer stuff much earlier than usual.
Depriving him of cover and maybe a bell for his neck should even the odds.

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But there remains a few blooms to report. Grevillea ‘Moonlight’ is a big, luminous presence now. almost always in bloom.
‘Robyn Gordon’ has been in reliable bloom all summer as well.

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The eremophila have grown into substantial shrubs in one summer.

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Sedums are in bloom. I don’t usually spring for the herbaceous sedums, but these new darker colors were too tempting to resist.
This one ‘Touchdown Flame,’ held the dark coloration without fading, and I so appreciate the yellow flowers versus pink.

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Salvia uliginosa and Calamintha ‘Montrose White’ both get the Most Attractive to Wildlife award this summer, in bloom for months.

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A summer-blooming aloe is what makes ‘Cynthia Giddy’ so special. I pulled this offset off the main clump just weeks ago, and it’s already throwing a bloom.

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Not a great photo but I got home late and was losing the light. This Plectranthus neochilus weaving around the Copper Spoons kalanchoe has been a friend to hummingbirds all summer.
Plectranthus zuluensis is also in bloom.

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A little potted crassula has erupted in pearly blooms.

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The grasses pretty much own the garden now. This is Pennisetum ‘Karley Rose’ with some agastache and bog sage in the background.

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But leucadendrons and aloes are biding their time to shine in winter.

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Glaucium grandiflorum keeps throwing trusses of blooms, this one a little beaten down (probably the cat again)

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The beauty and vigor of the vine Solanum ‘Navidad Jalisco’ continues to be simultaneously alarming and delightful.

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The slipper foot, Euphorbia (or Pedilanthus) macrocarpus, has been much more floriferous in the ground than a container.

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And that’s about all there’s light for. Happy Bloom Day!

Bloom Day July 2016

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I’m going to try a systematic approach, so bear with me.
Right outside the office, the planting is getting some height from the bog sage, kangaroo paws, and Pennisetum ‘Skyrocket’ showing a few blooms way in the back.

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Using the bocconia as a reference point, swinging east, away from the office, the Crithmum maritimum, an almost succulent-like umbellifer, is in bloom at the base of the bocconia.
The grass in front of the crithmum, Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tails,’ is just getting started.

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Silvery plant to the right of P. ‘Fairy Tails’ is the Island Bristleweed, Hazardia detonsa, endemic to the Channel Islands off Ventura, Calif.
The tiny golden paint brush blooms are only interesting insofar as they elongate and further develop the plant’s architecture. I love the overall effect.

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Closeup of the crithmum

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Before leaving the office planting, I want to give a shout out to Calamintha ‘Montrose White.’ Frustratingly difficult to get a decent photo of the clouds of tiny white flowers.
But so cool and Grace Kelly elegant. The bees and I are wholly smitten. It is by far the best bee plant in the garden.

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A second clump of Glaucium grandiflorum has just started blooming behind the calamint.

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In the foreground of the first photo is this amazing, silver-leaved mat-grower whose name I never committed to memory. It may have once been known as a helichrysum. Hasn’t every silver plant?
Sold as a summer annual, it would be perennial here in zone 10. Even though planted spring/early summer during some easy-going temperatures, this one gave me the same trouble as Stachys ‘Bella Grigio.’
Both collapsed after a couple days in the ground. I pulled them out, set them in the shade, where they surprised me by fully recovering.
In both cases, the soil mix was incredibly fast draining. The heavier garden soil was wicking away all the moisture.
After recovery, the mat grower was moved back into the garden. Some careful hand watering has helped to reveal its true and sturdy dry garden temperament.
(edited to add mat grower’s identity: Chrysocephalum aplicata. thanks, Hoov!)

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The stachys will reside in a container for summer, and if it makes it to fall I’ll reappraise options for a spot in the garden.
I asked the nurseryman if this stachys was the real deal, as in is it trustworthy enough for use in landscaping projects? He assured me that it was. I remain unconvinced.

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Still near the office, Agave ‘Mateo’ with the Crambe maritima (that never blooms), orange arctotis, Ricinus ‘New Zealand Purple,’ succulents, sideritis.

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Verbena bonariensis finds support among aloes and agaves — as do I!
(Okay, I’m officially ditching that impossible systematic approach now.)

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Penstemon ‘Enor’ had the usual problems with budworms blasting the flower buds before opening, but the wasps seem to have sorted it all out now.
My theory is whatever insecticide suppressant is in use at nurseries wears off soon after planting. As ever, I’m always thankful for parasitizing wasps and hungry birds.

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Origanum ‘Rosenkuppel’ in the center, with yarrow and agastache.

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Yesterday I took out the largest planting of this oregano to try out Sedum ‘Blue Pearl.’
The oregano is a demure evergreen mat all winter but leaps into alarmingly expansive growth in summer. It suffocated a grevillea and threatened to do the same to other neighbors.
Like first world problems, similarly, these issues get filed under small garden problems.

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Calamagrostis brachytricha has about five bloom stalks. Prefers moist soil, but okay on the drier side.

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Ruby grass, Melinus nerviglumis, was recently added to fill gaps where I took out a couple clumps of Elymus ‘Canyon Prince.’
I love the elymus, but it also needs a bigger garden to develop and play out its rhythms. And possibly a more wind-exposed site.
One clump of elymus tentatively remains.

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And yes, Margaret, there is a fast-blooming puya. Not the sexiest, but the quickest to bloom.
And Puya laxa’s very prickly leaves are like silvery tillandsias for full sun. It’s a notorious spreader, so it remains in a pot.
Since this photo, a navy-blue flower has opened, barely discernible in the overall scheme of things.
Even though it’s not one of the flamboyant turquoise beauties, I do appreciate the quickness to bloom, tall, stemmy structure, and the gorgeous leaves.

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Bulbine ‘Athena Compact Orange’ blooming through a carpet of horehound, Marrubium supinum.

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A second clump of bog sage mid garden with Verbena bonariensis. The black bumblebees and hummingbirds go for the bog sage, the butterflies favor the verbena.
The bog sage, Salvia uliginosa, has elbowed out Crocosmia ‘Solfatarre’ this summer, so there will be some shifting around this fall.

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Just giddy about summer-blooming Aloe ‘Cynthia Giddy’

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Possibly Aloe ‘Christmas Cheer’ giving off some July cheer too.

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Mid garden crescendo with Agastache ‘Blue Blazes,’ Achillea ‘Terra Cotta,’ eryngium, glaucium, oregano, verbena, anthemis, bog sage, melianthus.

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Indefatigable Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ bulwarked by Senecio medley-woodii. Anthemis ‘Susannah Mitchell, kangaroo paws.
Berkheya purpurea obligingly keeps sending up one bloom truss after another.

And that, give or take, is a wrap on July’s Bloom Day.
Check out our host’s site May Dreams Gardens for more blog contributions to July Bloom Day.

Bloom Day June 2016

In June, it seems like everywhere you point the camera, something is in bloom.

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Glaucium grandiflorum wants the entire garden for itself, so there’s been lots of ongoing, strategic pruning.

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The blooms of Eryngium planum eventually slide from silvery-green into blue.

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Berkheya purpurea has matured into several big clumps and probably won’t stop there.

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‘Enor’ was planted in spring from gallons, just two, plus a ‘Pike’s Peak Purple. I like the almost dierama-like effect from the the tall, smaller-flowered varieties of penstemon.
And I always fall for the darkest colors. ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Raven’ are similarly dark-flowered varieties.

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Salvia uliginosa is unapologetically robust. I’m already making mental notes to split this clump in fall.
I think this might be the salvia to interplant with big grasses.

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Chocolate Daisy, Berlandiera lyrata, unlike Chocolate Cosmos, really does scent the garden chocolate. As long as the sun is out, that is.

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Small, frost-free, the back garden chugs along year round, so summer must share ground.
And I’m partial to long-lasting flowers with a strong architectural presence. (Which means BD posts can be a tad repetitive.)
Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ returns for at least its third year, same footprint, no reseeding, reveling in the driest, hottest conditions. It’s a performance so perfect as to be almost artificial.
Anthemis ‘Susanna Mitchell’ is the buttery daisy. Agastatche ‘Blue Blazes’ is barely noticeable, just starting to gain height. The latter two are both new this year, though I’ve grown them in the past.

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A similar effect can be had from the succulent Cistanthe/Calandrinia grandiflora (long-stemmed, screaming magenta flowers), but clumps of calandrinia seem to double in size overnight.

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Agastache ‘Blue Blazes’

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Anthemis ‘Susanna Mitchell’

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I thought the ‘Terracotta’ yarrow would never bloom. It was playing by the rules and waiting to make that fabled third year leap.

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The kangaroo paws aren’t nearly as tall as they should be. Steady irrigation before and during flowering seems to be key.
I put El Nino in charge of the irrigation this winter, and what a slacker he turned out to be. At least in Southern California.

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I’m loving the bright chartreuse new growth on Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’

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The Pittosporum crassifolium ‘Variegatum’ was a recent indulgence.

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Even in June, flowers just aren’t enough. Let’s give it up for leaves.

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June is a month not to be missed for Bloom Day news, which Carol collects for us at May Dreams Gardens.

Bloom Day May 2016

Welcome to the jungle. (Okay, so it’s a dry jungle.)

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This will be an abridged Bloom Day post, looking at the telescoped view through my office doorway and describing the big stuff that stands out in the frame.
Rudbeckia maxima on the left is nearly as tall as the pergola but not as tall as the tetrapanax behind it in this view. The kangaroo paws are starting to gain height.
Orange poppies on the far right are Glaucium grandiflorum,. Just one plant is at least a yard across this year.
It wouldn’t be summer without daisies, and this year there’s orange arctotis (right foreground near the sea kale, Crambe maritima).
And buttery yellow Anthemis ‘Susanna Mitchell’ with ferny, silvery green leaves, not pictured but at the feet of the glaucium.
The little white dots just to the right behind the dark aeoniums come from one of my favorite summer daisies, Argyranthemum foeniculaceum, a Canary Islander.
I never find it local, so this plant comes from a cutting I nabbed at a San Francisco park. Small, simple daisies with grey-green, finely cut leaves.
Purple and blues from Salvia uliginosa and Salvia leucantha. More Verbena bonariensis seedlings are coming into bloom.
In the foreground to the left of Yucca ‘Blue Boy’ I’m just stupidly excited to have the grass Stipa barbata coming into bloom.
Another grass I haven’t seen in bloom yet, Stipu ichru, way in the back under the acacia, has started flowering. I’ll be sure to grab photos for June.


status update Rudbeckia maxima 5/2/16

Another example of the odd juxtapositions that occur in my garden from year to year, due to an unremitting curiosity about plants I just don’t get to see locally:

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Lights, laundry shed, giant coneflower!

The cabbage coneflower, Rudbeckia maxima, known for growing in moist ditches from Arkansas to Texas, bizarrely enough, is settling into my dryish garden in Los Angeles without much fuss.
It’s too early to tell still, but it unwiltingly sailed through unseasonal high temperatures into the 90s in April. Those are some tough, leathery, cabbagey leaves.
And I do appreciate such enthusiastic blooming in its first year. I’m still waiting for 3-year-old clumps of ‘Totally Tangerine’ geum and ‘Terracotta’ yarrow to bloom.
The conventional wisdom is to let the rudbeckia’s flowers turn into seedheads, sit back, and then watch the birds feast. Up above the shed, I’ve got the cushions ready.
If like me you crave height and movement from a summer garden, this rudbeckia is for you. And if you have a moist ditch, even better.

Elsewhere in the garden…

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Papaver rupifragum. No uncertainties about this poppy. It’s been reseeding here for ages and loves a dry garden.

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Glaucium grandiflorum, planted spring 2014. Another very tough customer that never gets a minute’s worry from me.
Except I do worry a bit that there’s been no seedlings, and it’s not known for longevity. There’s always something to worry about…

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Salvia uliginosa, aka the bog sage. Quite the misnomer. Another plant that wouldn’t mind moister conditions but manages fine without.
This salvia, planted fall 2015, like similarly easy ‘Waverly’ and S. chiapensis, cycles in and out of the garden. The bog sage adds wonderful swaying movement. (And hummingbirds.)
My heavy soil incites intense emotions. I hate it and I love it. I love it when its stiffness and heaviness keeps plants like the bog sage and tetrapanax from running rampant.
I love it for allowing me to grow unlikely candidates like Rudbeckia maxima and Persicaria amplexicaulis without toting buckets and buckets of water.
(I hate it for harboring pathogens that it unleashes on warm summer days to kill prized dry garden shrubs.)

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The reseeding ‘Ondra’s Brown Mix’ nicotianas are still incredibly lovely, so needed their portrait included as well.

And so on with May!

Occasional Daily Weather Report 2/11/16

While it seems everyone else is diligently topping off their water table with generous rainfall and/or snowfall, there’s no use denying it’s already chair cushion season here.
Los Angeles in February decided to go high 80s, tipping into the 90s. It feels like a Peanuts/Charles Schultz setup, with Charlie Brown (me) trusting Lucy (weather people) not to pull the football (El Nino) away again as he winds up for a mighty kick of faith, only to fall on his ass for the umpteenth time. But it’s hard to be grumpy about the lack of rainfall when it’s so gosh-darn beautiful outside. When the drought-driven apocalypse comes to Southern California, we will all be wearing flip-flops and T-shirts and sipping the latest artisinal cocktail. Like the last days of Pompeii, we won’t know what hit us.


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Aloe ‘Safari Sunrise’

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Aloe conifera

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Leucadendron ‘Wilson’s Wonder’

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Euphorbia atropurpurea

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Leucadendron ‘Winter Red’

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Glaucium grandiflorum

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Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’

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Helleborus argutifolius

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Bocconia frutescens

N.B. This seems like such a sensible idea. Maybe it’s been around for a while and I just haven’t noticed.
It goes like this: We get the special-order plants we want while avoiding the heavy shipping costs that mail order often entails, sometimes costing more than the plants themselves.
I just noticed that Monrovia is accepting online orders of their plants, which are delivered to a nursery near you for pickup.
However, since I haven’t tried it out yet, I’m not sure if there is a handling charge involved.
Now, if other wholesale growers like San Marcos Growers, Annie’s Annuals, and Native Sons jumped on this train, my plant budget would grow by leaps and bounds.

N.B.B. For spring plant orders, Chanticleer’s gravel garden plant list 2015.

Bloom Day September 2015

Since I’m already running a day late for the Bloom Day reports collected by May Dreams Gardens on the 15th of every month, I’ll try to limit the repetition.
September pretty much mirrors August, but here’s a couple oddballs, a roster of irregulars I didn’t include for August.

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This salvia lookalike from the acanthaceae family, Brillantaisia subulugarica, has been blooming all summer. Tall, over 5 feet, with big, coarse leaves.
An interesting plant that defies whole-hearted recommendation. If you like big, coarse, and purple, then this one’s for you. For zone 10.
I do need to point out that it is dripping wet from the 2 inches of hallelujah rain that fell early Tuesday morning.

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Ptilotus nobilis, from Australia, much taller than the hybrid ‘Joey’ that was circulating through nurseries recently. From the Amaranthaceae family.
All the info available refers to its touchiness about soil, so I’ve trialed it in a large container with marrubium for a couple months. I’m surprised it’s made it to September.
The ptilotus that have been showing up at nurseries like it hot, dry, perfect drainage and good air circulation. I need to trial this one quick as a cut flower before it expires.

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More rainy day porn with the grass Aristida purpurea, Yucca ‘Blue Boy,’ Agave ‘Snow Glow’

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Agave vilmoriniana and Crithmum maritimum, with both old seedheads and fresh flowers.

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Rain-tossed Glaucium grandiflorum.

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Plectranthus zuluensis

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Bog sage, Salvia uliginosa, with very happy wet feet.

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Abutilon venosum drinking it in.

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The yucca in bloom against the lurid coloring of the cypresses at sundown.

Bloom Day August 2015

There’s not much difference between July and August, or even June Bloom Day posts, but I suppose it’s useful to see what has survived, who’s stalwart and who’s a wimp.
And I have been dropping some new stuff into the garden all summer.

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New to me is this Begonia ‘Unstoppable Upright Big Fire.’ Sounds like the title to a U2 album. I was looking local for Begonia boliviensis but it was unavailable.
This UUBF hybrid has dark leaves and large, non-pendulous flowers. I’m not convinced that’s an improvement over boliviensis, which has such an elegant, cascading habit.

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Begonia ‘Unbelievable Lucky Strike,’ another boliviensis hybrid. I guess we’re way beyond the peaches-and-cream kind of names now.

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In light bloom all summer and now having a good bloom flush is Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon,’ an old cultivar dating back to 1968, from Grevillea banksii and G. bipinnatifida.

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Obviously crushing on Agave ‘Blue Flame.’ Me too.

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The potted Abutilon venosum is enjoying dappled morning sun after emergency transport to this more protected spot due to the current protracted heat wave.

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Lotus jacobaeus is a lot tougher than it looks, very long blooming. It seems to prefer container life to the garden.

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Here it rests against an adjacent potted agave.

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Crassula ovata, probably ‘Hummel’s Sunset,’ in a low bowl on a table, where it makes this great draping effect.

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I dropped these Bulbine ‘Athena Compact Orange’ into the garden sometime in July.

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Bog sage, Salvia uliginosa, is never too venturesome in my heavy clay, dryish soil. The rugose, crinkly leaves are always clean from disease or insect damage.
These are mid-summer additions from gallon sizes.

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Crocosmia ‘Solfatare’ is about as shy a spreader as a crocosmia can be. Slow to build into a sizeable clump.

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Not a bloom but Tradescantia ‘Greenlee,’ new this summer. It already seems destined to be one of those plants that knits together beautifully with its neighbors.
Shown here with Plectranthus zuluensis. I have a bloom to show of that.

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Plectranthus zuluensis loves the dappled sun under the tetrapanax.
By July I usually cut back Melianthus ‘Purple Haze,’ in full sun just behind, and the plectranthus does a nice job of filling the gap while the melianthus bulks up again.

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Not a flower but one of my favorite colors in the garden, Euphorbia ammak. It’s almost doubled in size this summer.
Behind the row of pots are two clumps of Pennisetum ‘Sky Rocket,’ the mother plants of the other, bigger clumps in the garden.
These are much smaller, having to deal with competing roots from the lemon cypresses.
Everything else in front of the grasses is in containers, including the Leycesteria “Jealousy’ and some taros out of frame at the far end.

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Glaucium grandiflorum is still sending up bloom trusses.

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Eryngium pandanifolium has never attained the height it did the first season in the garden. This one was grown from seed of the original plant from Plant Delights.

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Dark brown nicotiana seeded into a pot of yellow Russelia equisetiformis

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Gomphrena ‘Balboa’ in its first summer here. It lets you know when it’s thirsty so you have to keep an eye on it, but still a fairly tough plant for full sun.

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I’m already a big fan of Peruvian Feather Grass, Stipa ichu, after just one season in the garden. Nicely upright, columnar habit.

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The Bloom Day summer mainstay, Gomphrena ‘Fireworks,’ with Pennisetum ‘Sky Rocket.’ Not surprisingly, this grass grows into a much bigger clump than the two in front of the cypresses.

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The Desert Mallow, Sphaeralcea ‘Newleaze Coral, has also won me over in its first summer in the garden.

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A nameless gift aloe.

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Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ always wakes up in the heat of August. I’ve pulled out handfuls but a few roots always remain.

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I’m assuming this is Asarina scandens, a self-sown seedling of the mother plant grown in 2011.

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The furry leaves are always in good shape, and nothing seems to bother it or chew on it. From Mexico.
I’m not in love with the light pink flowers, but it’s healthy and robust, and all that counts heavily in a drought.
Excitement is building as the predictions of a wet El Nino winter look more and more solid. Visit May Dreams Gardens for more August Bloom Day reports.

summer camp state of mind

I never attended summer camp as a kid, but family camping trips always included my grandmother, a kitchen’s worth of pots and pans, and her sturdy army cot.
Thus equipped, my formidable grandmother was ready for anything and wanted nothing more of a camping trip than to be in charge of the campfire kitchen all day. We never objected.
My single camp stool does a fine job of conjuring up memories of a child’s summer kingdom.
Add some incredibly sultry weather, a couple rare rainstorms, lots of fascinating insects winging in and out, and I won’t leave the back yard all weekend.
And, yes, my keister just barely fits, thank you very much.

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Glaucium grandiflorum is blooming like this is its last summer. And it just may be, because they are known to be short-lived.

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The orange arctotis has such a glow and shimmer to its petals, it just never gets old, which is great because it’s never out of bloom either.

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Marty found the grate on the docks at “Fish Harbor,” site of the old canneries, when he worked on the USC research boats.

Long Beach harbor was formerly home to a Navy base, and the old downtown used to have wonderful Army surplus stores to shop for cots and other cool, Foreign Legion-type stuff.
All the old thrift shops and surplus stores have long since closed. My little camp stool came from a vendor on eBay, where you can find a wide range offered.
Remodelista recently showcased a nice selection of daybed-length cots, just like my grandmother’s.

Bloom Day July 2015

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The planting under the Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ is all fairly new, except for the Plectranthus neochilus. Stinky or not, it’s a great addition to a dry garden.
Gomphrena ‘Balboa’ is the clover-like flowers with silver leaves, which blends in seamlessly with all the ballota here.
Tall grass in bloom is Stipa ichu, the Peruvian Feather Grass, said to be noninvasive, unlike the fearsome Mexican Feather Grass.
California chain Armstrong Nurseries as well as Home Depot have both vowed to no longer sell the MFG, Stipa tenuissima.

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