Wednesday miscellany

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Progress report on Rudbeckia maxima. Snails love this rudbeckia, so I’ve been cutting out a lot of chewed-up lower leaves.
Believe it or not, it seems to be forming bloom stalks already.
Zone 10 can be a topsy-turvy home for true perennials, which sometimes develop a bad case of insomnia as they are constantly prodded out of dormancy, or fail to enter dormancy entirely.
Whatever happens with the blooms, I still love those leaves, so the snails have a fight on their hands.
With ‘Sundiascia Peach,’ Melianthus ‘Purple Haze.’ Blue grass is Leymus ‘Canyon Prince.’
I’ve pretty much given up on the parkway/hellstrip the past few years but am thinking of making a stab at planting it again, with this wonderful grass.
Wildly swinging car doors, careless stompers, trash throwers, all you negative forces in the universe, I’m putting ‘Canyon Prince’ up against everything you’ve got. We’ll see who wins!
Along with planting parkways, I continue to be of two minds on just about any subject. As much as I love flowers, the diascias look a bit much to me.
I think I prefer big floral displays in OPG (Other People’s Gardens). And it’s doubtful anyone would count this as a big floral display, but still it’s a bit too foo-foo for me.
Of course, insects love the foo-foo, so there’s that to consider.

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This, however, is my kind of floral display. The beschorneria bloom stalk has topped out at about 5 feet and the individual buds have opened.
This has to be one of the most colorful bloom stalks ever to grace my garden.

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Strobilanthes gossypinus is looking fine this spring too and continues to astonish. Silver and gold? Seriously, you can do that?

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My mom’s neighbor’s graptopetalum is covering itself in its unique galactic bloom strucuture again.
It’s hard to sneak a photo because I have to stand directly in front of their window to do so.
Being a gated community, there’s not a lot of love for strangers with cameras fawning over their plants.

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I don’t remember the lemon cypresses producing these last year.
Nearby plantings were getting coated in a golden dust that had me mystified as to its source, until I knocked a cypress branch and unleashed a mini golden dust storm.
Of course I couldn’t leave the cypresses alone and have forced them into double duty. Passion vines and solanums are threading their way up.

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And I keep forgetting to credit Abutilon venosum for blooming all winter, so thank you!

this is my brain on spring

Spring is such a massive distraction, and that’s coming from just my own little garden, which apart from work* I rarely want to leave. For the first time in my adult life, I drove by a multiplex theater on Sunday and wasn’t familiar with a single movie title on the marquee. I can’t keep plant show dates straight and nearly missed attending the Spring Garden Show over the weekend, which always has great vendors like B&D Lilies and Franchi Seeds of Italy, though if they were at the show this year, I didn’t find them. I had no idea there were speakers or who they would be (Dan Hinkley). Spring, I give up. You win. I know by summer the infatuation will have cooled.

At the show I speed-walked past the display gardens and headed straight for the plant vendors. My overall impression was that a neo-19th century orchid mania has gripped this show. But since these plants are born scene-stealers, it’s hard to tell if the show has a creeping orchid bias or not. High-dollar orchids bobbed out of shopping bags, rode up and down escalators in the arms of their new, terribly excited owners. Masses of orchids in exquisitely perfect bloom added a concentrated and disorienting “In The Realm of The Senses” mood to the show.

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Every color of epiphyllum, the orchid cactus, was on offer.

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Every color of epidendrum, the reed orchids

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The techno-hobbyists also had plenty to admire, like a bonsai’d boug

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As usual, the bromeliads were my biggest temptation. I’ve really wanted an alcantarea, but this lovely thing had just won some award and so carried a trophy price.

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One of my favorite vendors at the show carried exotic bulbs and gorgeous tropical seed pods, like this entada species.

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Cerbera odollam, the Pong-pong tree, also know as the “Suicide Tree,” once used in Madagascar in the ritual “trial by ordeal” to prove guilt or innocence.
Justice was irrelevant because, guilty or innocent, the tree is invariably lethal (related to the oleander).

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The succulent tables are always worth a browse.

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I wrote about this succulent not long ago, Graptopetalum superbum. This one has slight variegation to the leaf and has been named ‘Cotton Candy.’ $50 for a one-rosette plant.

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I spent a lot of time with the tillandsias and hanging plants, trussed with fishing line, performing delicate aerial ballets.

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What did I buy? More rhipsalis, of course, that shaggy, mop-headed epiphytic cacti. Andy’s Orchids had a nice selection.

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And being on a hanging plant binge, you know there was some experimenting yesterday on some old topiary forms.

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After the show I had a craving for simplicity and found these ‘Yellow Garden’ cosmos at a local nursery.

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I don’t know how those orchid people stand the excitement.

*In this video ‘Verbatim: What Is a Photocopier?’ the NYT recreated a scene from my day job. My stand-in is the woman at the end of the table with the shocked expression, writing it all down. Which partly explains why I like plants so much…

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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