Tag Archives: Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’

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 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.

Bloom Day June 2015

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I documented the extent of the back garden earlier in the month. It’s pretty clear it’s a battle for inches here.
Relatively cool, overcast June means I’m still shifting plants around and planting some new stuff too.

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I’ve been playing around with the idea of a small patch of dry summer meadow the past few years, on a frustratingly small scale of course.
Threaded around all the big evergreen stuff is what’s become a rainbow sherbert meadow this year in raspberry, orange, lemon, lime.
Leucadendron ‘Ebony’ on the left, Lomandra ‘Breeze,’ euphorbias, Arctotis ‘Flame.’ Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ is perennial here, in its third year at least.

Continue reading Bloom Day June 2015

small garden, tough choices

I reckon there are 5 seasons.
There’s an early spring, which I call Sprinter…a Sprummer which comes after that for 2 month…There’s a long summer…a short autumn, a short winter – both just two months long, and then you’re back at Sprinter
.”

Tim Entwisie, Director, Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, Australia.

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Succulents and evergreen shrubs are mainstays year-round. Summer bloom 2015 from isoplexis, agapanthus, anigozanthos, verbascum, the annual Orlaya grandiflora.

Small garden, tough choices. Is the plan geared toward winter, spring, summer and/or fall? All of the above?
Add a collecting habit into the mix, in a summer-dry climate that blurs traditional seasonal boundaries, and it gets even more complicated.
I probably write more about my collector mania side, but believe it or not, there is a side that tries to stay mindful of the garden as a whole, with varying success year to year.
And, locally, as front lawns are changed out from lawn to garden, there’s sure to be a lot more minds focused on similar design issues for small spaces.

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‘Blue Glow’ agaves and Brachysema praemorsum in the front garden. Not much happening for summer here.

My succulent-filled front garden gets minimal dry season irrigation, so most of the experimenting takes place in the back garden.

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Courtesy of the collecting side of my brain, a NOID hechtia, a terrestrial bromeliad from Mexico

The back garden is smaller than a lot of living rooms and, to be honest, just can’t support all my ambitions for it. There have to be some compromises.
The answer to where to put the planting emphasis, whether on the “Sprinter,” the “Sprummer,” (to use Mr. Entwisie’s terminology) or the long, dry summer, changes all the time.
For me spring is simple (poppies) and by fall conditions are much too dry to expect anything grand happening in the garden. Besides, that’s when the grasses shine.
In the past I gave more ground to summer, with a higher concentration of perennials and annuals, but that can be a more water-intensive approach, and it does takes ground from the winter garden.

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The newest planting in the back garden is this section under the Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea,’ after the Arundo donax ‘Golden Chain’ was pulled out last fall.
A Leucodendron ‘Safari Goldstrike’ is making good size behind the cordyline. There are lots of aloes here, grasses, and an Agave ovatifolia.
Not much for summer unless the young asphodels take root and thrive.

Currently, the back garden this year is shrubbier, more solid, more evergreen, maybe even a bit more somber.
This year summer gets maybe 40 percent of the planting emphasis breakdown.
But a lot of new shrubs are still small and will take up considerably more room by 2016, so the focus and weight will have shifted again next year.

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Some sections of the garden don’t change much for summer.
There is a young Grevillea ‘Moonlight’ behind the Agave sisalana ‘Variegata’ that should contribute some blooms soon.
Agave ‘Mateo’ slowly makes size here too, in front of the A. sisalana, and Aloe ‘Hercules’ was moved here recently, last spikes on the right.
Year-round, there should be plenty to hold my interest here, which is key because when the eye gets bored, havoc can ensue, and the compost pile then grows by leaps and bounds.
And with the city outside my gate built strictly for commerce, I need the garden as my constant visual stimulator.
Which brings us around again to small garden, tough choices.

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I wish the summer garden was never without the stimulus of Verbascum bombyciferum and that there was space for multiple spires dotted through the garden.
Because it’s biennial, there can be gaps and off years while new plants bulk up the first year, flower and set seed in the second, then expire.
I just bought another young plant as insurance for next year until the self-sowing cycle reliably kicks in.

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It’s a big plant for a small garden but worth every inch of space you can give it.
(Long stems of the photo-bombing slipper plant, Pedilanthus bracteatus, leaning in on the left.)

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I haven’t stopped trialing intriguing, new, dry garden perennials like this Nepeta ‘Purple Haze’ from Terra Nova, tissue culture of a cross between N. tuberosa and govaniana.
Stats say this nepeta with the big bottlebrush flowers will grow low and wide. I had to bat the bees off as I made my selection at a local nursery.

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Not new but an old favorite with a new name. What I knew as Ballota ‘All Hallows Green’ is now known as Marrubium bourgaei ‘All Hallows Green.’ So glad to find this again locally.
Ballota are great little subshrubs that hold it together all summer and, if used in sufficient numbers, somehow make a disparate group of plants look like a coherent plant community.

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An old standby, Ballota pseudodictamnus, very subtly in bloom at the moment.

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Ever since moving into the house 26 years ago, I’ve been thinking of the next garden, the bigger one, and what I will plant there.
The future garden will have agaves, grasses, but rather than accents, as in this garden, there will be scads of them.
Grass-like clumps are Lomandra ‘Lime Tuff’ and ‘Breeze’

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Any future garden would include the Golden Coulter Bush, Hymenolepis parviflora, here backed by the other ‘Purple Haze’ in the garden, the melianthus.

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The mythical future garden would also include Crithmum maritimum, a fleshy, almost succulent-like umbellifer with lacy blue-green leaves.
Seeds around very lightly to slowly build up sizable clumps. Like ballota, because it has such a long season, it knits together surrounding plants into a community.

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And then there’s the agapanthus experiment this year. Mass plantings are in bloom all over town. It still feels weird to have some in the garden.

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There’s some snobbery here, for sure. If I didn’t see it everywhere, it would be considered a rare treasure, like it is in more cold-challenged gardens.
But it’s easy, takes tough conditions, and has nice lines. The bright leaves of ‘Gold Strike’ stand out against the dark green cistus just behind, ‘Snowfire’

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Cistus ‘Snowfire’

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Like agapanthus, I see kangaroo paws all over town, too, which hasn’t turned me against them yet, so it’s obviously the opinion of an inconsistent mind.
Just visible in front is a very faint wash of the grass Aristida purpurea in its second year, slow to build up, a well-behaved substitute for Mexican Feather Grass.

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The Glaucium grandiflorum is putting on a huge show this year, and I love having some poppy-like flowers for summer.
As a short-lived perennial, it may or may not return next year. Rumor has it that it’s a shy reseeder, so I’d have to bring in new plants.

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Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ has been reliably perennial for those of us with severe allium-envy. There’s just not enough winter dormancy for most alliums here.
I’m trialing another fern-leaf lavender new to me this year, Lavandula minutoli, so am not sure what to expect, but so far love how the pale flowers seem to glow.
It stays low and compact and seems a lot less vigorous in growth than Lavandula multifida, which has inky blue flowers.

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Brachysema praemorsum ‘Bronze Butterfly’

So there’s a quick sketch of the method to my madness with just enough time to head out for a picnic. Enjoy your Memorial Day!

Bloom Day August 2014


August? Come in, August. Ground control to August?

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August: Um, we’re in a bit of a holding pattern here. Over.

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Repetition seems to be a hallmark of my summer Bloom Day posts. It’s been the usual suspects all summer. Still, I can’t say enough nice things about Gomphrena ‘Fireworks.’
The agastaches are over and showed a lot more water stress than I expected, while this gomphrena sailed through heat and dry soil beautifully.
Perennial here in zone 10 but most likely one of the “short-lived” kind, which could mean anything from one year to two years to five. Reseeds.

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With samphire, the umbellifer Crithmum maritimum.
This plant is going into my A Growing Obsession surefire collection of zone 10, drop-dead gorgeous, pollinator-beloved plants sponsored by….daydream fades to black.

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Gaura planted in pots a couple months ago is just starting to bloom. Wind-driven plants are so entertaining.

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Some August triage. Agastache were cut back, a tattered digiplexis moved elsewhere, and a potted Agave geminiflora moved in.
The lemon grass in the background has been a nice surprise this summer. Rudbeckia triloba leans in.

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More triage. A few of the annual Euphorbia marginata, Snow On The Mountain, were picked up at M&M Nursery in Orange.

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Gaillardia ‘Oranges & Lemons’ is unstoppable.

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As are the marigolds. Tagetes ‘Cinnabar’

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Mina lobata nearly faints in full sun but so far recovers by evening

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The kangaroo paws are sending a second, shorter flush of blooms

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Seseli gummiferum…maybe there’ll be blooms next year on the Moon Carrot. With a name like that, I’m staying the course until I see some blooms.
And with those pewter-colored, lacy leaves, waiting isn’t a hardship.

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Also for next summer, there will be agapanthus. Yes, they’re common as dirt here, but has anyone tried them with grasses, agaves, etc? No, I think not.
It’s not a plant’s fault when its amiable nature is abused and taken for granted in strip mall monocultures. This is the stripey-leaved ‘Gold Strike.’

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And one of the darkest I could find locally, ‘Storm Cloud’

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Rare sighting of MB Maher in the garden, home for a couple days.
Maybe he’ll bestir himself and get over to his neighborhood San Francisco Botanical Garden for some AGO photos one of these days. (No pressure, hon!)

To see some spectacular August gardens full of seasonal variety and not at all stuck in a holding pattern, you’ll have to visit the Bloom Day host site May Dreams Gardens.


Bloom Day July 2014

It fell from midnight skies. It drummed on the galvanized – Joni Mitchell, Paprika Plains

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Marty’s been reciting those song lyrics ever since the rain came and fell in exactly that manner Monday night.
We all raced out the kitchen door when the first drops began to dance on the corrugated roof over the pergola.
(Rain fell on the garden bloggers in Portland, too, just in one garden. It was thrilling.)
I spent most of Monday planting what I carried home in my suitcase, so to get a little rain after a midsummer planting is my kind of heaven.
My clothes and other Portland Fling swag will be arriving via UPS in a couple days…

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In other exciting news…ahem…the dasylirion outside the front door opened the flowers along its roof-topping bloom spike.
Above photo taken before I left for Portland.

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Will dasy ever get that gorgeous pre-birth shape back?

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15-foot dasylirion spike disappearing into the jacaranda tree. Unlike agaves, the dasylirion will supposedly persist after blooming.
I’ve had this plant countless years and had never seen a bloom before. We’ve dubbed this bizarre scene “Bee Town.”

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The Silver Vase bromeliad surprised me with a bloom. Aechmea fasciata.

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Spring-planted Aristida purpurea thinly blooming

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Pennisetum ‘Skyrocket’

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The pennisetum with the unstoppable Gomphrena ‘Fireworks.’

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Castor bean’s mace-shaped seedpods are popping up throughout the back garden.
Since the garden looks pretty much like June, I’ll keep this abbreviated so you can move on to other July gardens at the Bloom Day hub, Carol’s blog May Dreams Gardens.

Bloom Day June 2014

Bloom Day on Father’s Day? Really? I figured this out about 7 o’clock last night, but by then I was too sun-blasted to muster a post. Marty wanted his day spent at a local Irish fair. Guinness and “trad” music for him, Irish wolfhounds and sheep herding displays for me. Running late, on to my experiments with herbaceous stuff for a dryish zone 10 Southern California garden. A counter-intuitive direction in the land of palms, agapanthus, and bougainvillea but for now my idea of summer.

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June brought the agastaches. Dark blue in the background is Lavandula multifida.

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Agastache ‘Blue Blazes’ planted last fall 2013

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So now the blue spikes of Plectranthus neochilus have been joined by agastache to make quite an unplanned wash of blue in the corner under the Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea.’

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No complaint from me. A corner of blue isn’t a bad thing on a warm day.
The lavender and catmint ‘Walker’s Low’ is here too.

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Self-sown nicotiana with the plectranthus, leaves of Echium simplex in the foreground.

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Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ is a pale, milky blue. Maybe a little insipid compared to some of the darker blues like Agastache ‘Purple Haze,’ which I neglected to photograph.
But BF has an admirable chunky structure and wonderful leaves. Umbels of Baltic parsley in the lower right.

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Cenolophium denudatum, the Baltic parsley, was started from seed a couple years ago. I think it would be happier in a wetter garden. Stays green and lush but not many flowers.
Maybe I should try it in soups.

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I lifted and split the enormous clump of the grass Chloris virgata and started with smaller divisions last fall. It thickens up fast and does self-sow so no danger in losing it.

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In a small garden, a large pot of cosmos makes for a summer full of daisies. This one has a faint halo of yellow. Cosmos ‘Yellow Garden’

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Pot of cosmos in the background. Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ and digiplexis. There’s some white cleome in here too I didn’t photograph.
For animating a dry summer garden with just two kinds of plants, it’d be hard to beat this gomphrena with grasses.

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Purple orach on the left.

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Seedheads of purple orach, Atriplex hortensis. Wish it did more than very lightly self-sow. The edible orach would no doubt be happier in the rich, moist soil of a vegetable garden.
I once grew a fantastic chartreuse form too but couldn’t get it to reseed. The lower leaves are fed to the parakeets.

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The best umbellifer I’ve found for dry zone 10 is Crithmum maritimum.

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I love the crithmum growing among Eryngium planum

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Dalea purpurea’s first year has been very impressive.

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Tiny blooms on the grass-like Anthericum saundersiae ‘Variegata’ which thrives in the morning sun/afternoon shade in very dry soil under the tetrapanax with bromeliads and aeoniums.

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The kangaroo paws don’t seem as tall this year. Not long-lived anyway, the lack of winter rain may have contributed to smaller size. (‘Yellow Gem’)
More fern-leaf lavender, with Gaillardia ‘Oranges & Lemons’ in the background.

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My garden is really too small for big clumps of rudbeckias, too dry for heleniums. Gaillardias are just right. This one is sunshine on stems.

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Out of three pots of lilies, only the white returned in spring, supported here by the trunk of Euphorbia lambii.

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Pelargonium echinatum has started a new flush of bloom in the mild June weather.

Catch up with other June gardens at May Dreams Gardens.


the colors of Bilbergia nutans



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The first bloom of the common Queen’s Tears bromeliad, Bilbergia nutans, is just so very startling when it arrives, especially if you’ve only seen it in photos before. Like drop-your-coffee-cup startling. As though David Hockney was in the garden overnight manically touching up the blooms. This bilbergia’s constituent colors are impressively shocking on a small scale, but seeing them together made me realize I’ve been actively pursuing these colors elsewhere in the garden.

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The deep pink on the bilbergia just about matches the last of the nerines to bloom

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The lime green of the bilbergia can be found in Tanacetum vulgare ‘Isla Gold.’ Planted again this fall at a pathway’s edge, it’s growing well. Better air circulation and a little more moisture might be the answer. I won’t know if it gets thin and patchy again until next summer. Everything seems so much more promising in fall.

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The bilbergia’s deep blue can be found in salvias like Salvia guaranitica or ‘Indigo Spires,’ or this fern-leaf lavender, Lavandula pinnata var. buchii

I found a couple fern-leaf lavender locally, when I was out searching for some more blue agastache to plant this fall. This lavender was once a really big deal, big enough to drive all the way up to Western Hills (written about here) to fetch when it arrived on U.S. shores in the ’80s. Tender and lacking the eponymous scent, but with those amazingly deep navy blue blooms and finely cut, jade green-grey foliage. Not very long-lived, it grows woody at the base and has to be renewed frequently with cuttings, which is possibly why I stopped growing it. And then it became easily available and I moved on to other plants less easily available, as is my way. I remembered it as Lavandula multifida, but the tag indicated Lavandula pinnata var. buchii. Whatever. Somewhere along the way, its name changed, or so I thought.

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After watching it fill out and increase in bloom for a week or so, and realizing this was just the small, shrubby, blue-flowering answer I was looking for, I went back to the nurseries to find more. This time the label said Lavandula multifida. Now I was confused. At the hort.net site I found this remarkably pertinent discussion from 2002 by John MacGregor:

Not surprising that you are confused. You are not the only one. The
nursery industry in California doesn’t have a clue on this one.

First, Lavandula multifida, L. pinnata, and L. buchii are three different
species. In recent years, I have bought about everything offered in the
trade in this state under these names, trying to sort it out, and have
received the same species from the same nursery under different names as
well as different species under the same name.

Twenty-five years ago we had all three species at the Huntington Botanical
Gardens (at the time, L. buchii was classified as a variety of L. pinnata).
I shared cuttings of all three with various wholesale nurseries and
collectors, and authentic plants of each were sold at Huntington plant
sales. Apparently, along the way some of the cuttings must have been lost
or the name tags of some of the survivors were mixed up (L. pinnata and L.
buchii–both from the Canary Islands–are much more frost-tender than L.
multifida–which is from southern Europe and North Africa). Lately,
everything I have seen labeled “L. pinnata var. buchii” in nurseries
is L. multifida. L. multifida is also sold occasionally as “Lavandula
‘California'” or “California Lavender” as well as under its own name. For
instance, the lavender offered by Monterey Bay Nursery as “Lavandula pinnata
buchii” and illustrated on their web site is actually Lavandula multifida…
” and so on.

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I wish I could get the fern-leaf lavender closer to Euphorbia rigida, but without some demolition, there’s just no room. Photo from last spring.

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The lavender would be equally wonderful with Euphorbia mauritanica in the front gravel garden, which is building up good structure for spring bloom. But no room at the inn there either.

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Until I saw the bilbergia bloom, I wasn’t aware that I’d been orchestrating these colors elsewhere: deep pink, chartreuse and dark blue.

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Gomprehna ‘Fireworks,’ fern-leaf lavender, Pelargonium crispum.
(This gomphrena has almost cured me of my allium envy.)

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After some fall planting, for a brief moment the garden has taken on the colors of Bilbergia nutans. I wouldn’t mind seeing more of these colors next spring too.


Cross-Pollination July 2013

Garden designer Dustin Gimbel hosted another of those fabulous mid-summer rave-ups that he calls “Cross-Pollination” at his home and garden, where “hikers, nursery professionals, beekeepers, home brewers, crazy plant people, artists, architects and designers” gather for food and conversation, slipping away occasionally from the outdoor tables for periodic forays into the surrounding garden that nourishes as much as the food and conversation. A trifecta of sensory input. Think a slightly more design-centric Roman bacchanalia and you’ve got the basic idea. (And in case there’s any doubt, I fall into the “crazy plant people” category on the invitation.)

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photo by Dustin Gimbel


Maybe another attendee will post photos of the tables groaning under bowl after bowl of fresh, summery food and the friendly group that assembled to partake of the potlucked largesse.* This will be my typically monomaniacal plant reportage. For me one of the stars of the party was the Aristolochia gigantea vine in full, jaw-dropping bloom against the mauve wall of the garage. Various parts of the human anatomy were offered up as visual analogies for these bizarre, fleshily gorgeous flowers. (A non-profane example would be lungs.) The colors here in this corner of the back garden make up a tangily delicious concoction. The golden, feathery shrub is Coleonema pulchellum ‘Sunset Gold.’ On the left is Dodonaea viscosa. Euphorbia cotinifolia is directly behind the central variegated number, which is either a ponytail palm or a cordyline. Or something else entirely. In Dustin’s garden, always expect to be confounded and surprised.

This is Dustin’s photo and description: “Giant dutchman’s pipe (Aristolochia gigantea) is reveling in heat AND humidity. Usually if it gets hot and dry these comically large blooms get seared by the heat and often don’t even open, burnt crisp by the sun.”

A horticultural event of immense drama — but then that pretty much describes Dustin’s garden any time you visit.


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Euphorbia ‘Blackbird’ and Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’

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Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ with Dustin’s hand-made totem towers

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Cotyledon orbiculata var. flanaganii with mattress vine

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Peachy Russellia equisetiformis and a golden Agave attenuata, possibly ‘Raea’s Gold,” with I think Sedum rubrotinctum

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Dustin was way too busy hosting the soiree to be coralled into extended plant ID sessions like I normally do. So I’m hazarding that the shaggy beast in the far left container is Acacia cognata ‘Cousin Itt,’ with firesticks, Euphorbia tirucalli, and bowls of echeveria. A visit to Dustin’s garden always reminds one to go large. No itty-bitty gestures, please.

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The Acacia pendula arbor over the main diagonal path in the front garden, seen from the front porch, to which the path runs roughly parallel.
The golden, glowing strip in the background lining another path to the back gate is variegated St. Augustine grass. Dustin recently pulled out assorted plants here to go for a bigger impact with this grass. A wise man, that Dustin.

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Silvery ribbons of tillandsias and Spanish moss have been tied to delicately drape from the rebar arch.

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The Acacia pendula, an Agave ‘Blue Glow’ surrounded by Frankenia thymifolia, a walkable ground cover Dustin uses to such good effect in creating quiet pools of visual rest. Possibly Leucadendron argenteum and burgundy dyckias in the background. The privet hedges enclosing the front garden are maturing and filling in, screening the garden from the busy street.

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I have to admit I wasn’t too excited about the Gainey ceramic pots on pipes when I first saw them, but with the simplified planting underneath of Myer’s asparagus fern and variegated St. Augustine grass, I’ve become an enthusiastic convert.

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The Crested Ligularia, Farfugium japonicum ‘Crispatum,’ and an equally crested ivy, pairing the frilly with the frillier.

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Agave gypsophila and the Woolly Bush, Adenanthos sericeus. The silver trailer might be Lessingia filanginifolia.

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Bocconia and Frankenia thymifolia engulfing circular stepping stones

Thanks to Dustin, after such a magical evening one can’t help but leave feeling…well, pollinated and fertile with new-found energy and ideas. And just a little hung over the next morning.

*And Annette’s marvelous post can be read on Potted’s blog.

Potting Up

Real estate may still not be improving much, but in the garden houses are always moving, as with this Agave americana var. medio-picta ‘Alba’ that has been upsized to a new home that can be comfortably inhabited for several years, an amber-glazed beehive pot, trading up from garden-variety terracotta.

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At the base of the pot grows another of the surprising gomphrenas that are trickling in to nurseries without much fanfare, presumably a hybrid of perennial and annual species because they live over year to year here in zone 10. Last year it was ‘Fireworks,’ and this fall it’s ‘Balboa,’ a gomphrena I found under that name, with no other information. Silver, succulent-like leaves are its striking feature. The familiar gomphrena flowers are in a much lighter hue than ‘Fireworks.’ These new gomphrenas don’t provide the floral mass effect of the annual kinds, but they do provide a drought-tolerant display of tiny little supernovas attached to wand-like stems, similar to the bobbing effect of the bottle-brushes of sanguisorbas or the starbursts of astrantias, without the requisite buckets of supplemental irrigation. For someone who enjoys collecting plants, far too many plants, but also likes the challenge of finding ways to best display each plant’s unique characteristics, such see-through plants are invaluable, obscuring no one and adding an architectural vitality and a line-drawing effect that the eye delights in tracing over and over. I gave it the sunniest spot available, something I failed to do with ‘Fireworks,’ which I know can perform beautifully if well sited.

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