Bloom Day October 2016

This October the garden has already turned its back on summer, and all but the grasses have been cut back.
I’m curious to find out how long the summer grasses can be supporting players to the winter-blooming aloes before the grasses are cut back in late winter.
(Of course, if we get rain, the grasses might be cut back sooner, but I’m not holding my breath.
In fact, I think I’ll plan a rain vacation this fall/winter. Glasgow averages 4 inches in November, Amsterdam over 3 inches.)

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The ‘New Zealand Purple’ castor bean has a thick woody trunk and should be removed, because it’s left plenty of seedlings to take its place.
But it’s playing so nicely with ‘Moonlight’ grevillea I keep putting it off.

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And the Solanum vine, ‘Navidad Jalisco,’ has had a lot cut back off the lemon cypresses and out of the Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ but is still throwing new blooms.

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Among other low-lying succulents, the aloes like ‘Cynthia Giddy’ shine unobstructed, but the big pennisetum grasses might have to be switched out for grasses of smaller stature.
Lomandras like ‘Breeze’ really would be preferable for size, although they lack the pennisetum’s sexy blooms.
(That ‘Ghost’ aloe on the lower left was recently added, a hybrid of Aloe striata that showed up at nurseries this fall. I love its almost agave-like chunkiness.)

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Here’s a photo I took the other day of a mass planting of lomandra. The scale is perfect for interplanting aloes.
Sun and water requirements are a good fit too.

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For example, Aloe ‘Topaz’ is struggling to be seen through Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tails’ and phormium. I need to cut back that Verbena bonariensis too.

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‘Topaz’ supposedly prefers/tolerates some summer irrigation so should work well among smaller grasses and shrubs.

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Aloe scobinifolia has bloomed in July in the past and is much later this year. One of its record number of five scapes was lost to a mishap with a cat.
That’s Plectranthus neochilus blooming in the background, as it’s done all summer.

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More and more, I find this time-share aspect to the garden so absorbing.
Every plant on its game year-round with something to contribute, or at least get out of the way.
I’m a firm believer that the emphasis on garden “style” is misplaced.
If it doesn’t make sense for your temperament, for your climate, ignore styles. (If you can even figure out what your climate is anymore.)
In zone 10 there’s no justification for the slow death and decay cycle so beloved by the New Perennial movement. (Not when there’s winter-blooming aloes!)
And it’s a safe bet here in SoCal that we’re looking at building dry gardens for the foreseeable future.
So I can stop dreaming about thalictrums and veronicastrums for summer. Sigh…that ‘Black Stockings’ thalictrum is so cool.
But Amicia zygomeris has the height and some of that purply, bruised coloration to its leaves. I should bring that back for next summer.

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Aloe ‘Kujo,’ the Huntington hybrid. I lost a small plant so jumped at this big 2-gallon size already in bloom.

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This plant caught my eye on a nursery bench recently too. With leaves and flower color so reminiscent of Lobelia tupa, I couldn’t pass it up. Justicia sericea ‘Inca Queen.’

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Said to bloom on and off all year, heaviest in early spring maybe. Drought tolerant when established. Might have a tendency for disheveled lankiness.
We’ll see. The hummingbirds are already thanking me.

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This Kelly Griffin hybrid aloe has been blooming on and off all summer too.

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Aloe ‘Rooikappie’ is another year-round bloomer, heaviest in fall. My little plants are just getting going.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens collects Bloom Day posts from gardens all over the world, an invaluable learning tool for what’s working where.

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 August 2016

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It must be August, because the Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ is billowing. This tender perennial becomes activated by the heat of August.
I pull it out by the handfuls when it gets too rambunctious but always leave a few roots. Any plant that likes this weather deserves a place at the table.
And I like what it’s doing with this potted agave. Remember when this euphorbia was the “it” plant several years ago?
It had a brief moment in the spotlight as a go-to annual for containers. Here it’s colonized the soil where the bricks meet the garden.

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Otherwise, it’s the grasslands of August and not much change since July Bloom Day. Same cast of characters.
Most of what’s in flower are oddball blooms only a bug would love, no real classic garden plants, so I’ll spare you the closeups. (And I got home too late.)
I’ve been cutting back, thinning the gomphrena, cutting Anthemis ‘Susanna Mitchell’ to the base, so more more buttery daisies this summer.
I’ve even cut back the brown eryngium flowers and Rudbeckia maxima seedheads. Everything looks fresh again.
I wanted to get some air circulation going in the jungle and deep water shrubs and stuff to get the garden through August and September and ready for winter-blooming aloes.
At least I hope there’ll be a good show from some youngish aloes this year. And there’ll be room to add the irises, which shipped today.
I think I’m cured of trialing big blue agastaches like ‘Blue Blazes.’ Coarse leaves, not bad from a distance, but not so welcome in a small garden..
Easy, stemmy, swaying bog sage, seen in the background, suits this garden fine and provides a film of blue all summer.

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One of the most startling blues in the garden comes from this Eragrostis elliottii ‘Tallahassee Sunset’ I just planted mid-summer.
Can you tell I’m seriously smitten with grasses lately? Plants’ leaves may age and yellow throughout summer, but grasses always manage to look impeccable.

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Buddleia ‘Cranrazz’ enjoying life in a deep container (trash can)

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All grevilleas are in bloom, this ‘Moonlight’ and ‘Robyn Gordon.’ An ‘Austraflora Fanfare’ bloomed lightly earlier this summer but is still a youngster.
Seen in the background, little aloe hybrids are sending out flares of orange flowers throughout the garden.
That’s the abbreviated Bloom Day report for August. More thorough chronicles can be found at Carol’s site May Dreams Gardens.

signs of fall

Fall doesn’t announce itself ceremoniously draped in dramatic curtains of crimson and gold.
We’re a little, ahem, minimalist and understated here in Southern California as far as seasonal transitions.
But there are many autumnal similarities we share. Like everyone in the Northern Hemisphere, we do get that spectacular angled light, and the days become inexorably shorter.
That’s my biggest gripe with autumn, losing the long, summer-camp-style days. I haven’t really minded the heat this summer. Really.

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Signs of fall here might include the aeoniums waking up from their summer dormancy. Now they can be brought out from partial shade and placed under a gentler autumn sun.
But not if the days are still reaching the 90s. I moved this pot into full sun too soon and scorched some of the leaves on the echeverias. which amazingly doesn’t show in this photo.
I do grow some aeoniums in full sun all year, but not this rarer, blue-leaved aeonium, probably Aeonium hierrense, underplated with Echeveria agavoides and Sedum confusum.

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More signs of fall might be feeling comfortable with stowing all the fans in the attic.
There will be at least a few more weeks if not a month more of scenes like this. Move over, corgi, and share that fan for once.

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A more horticulturally universal sign of fall would be the Japanese anemones coming into bloom, as they are here at Rancho Los Alamitos.
I heard Jim Folsom, Director of the Huntington, speak at the Rancho on Sunday, and I wish he’d had hours more time to share his stories of Hertrich and railroads and building a world-class botanical garden.
Thankfully, he’ll be speaking at Natural Discourse, too, this upcoming October 17.

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More signs of fall: freshly moved plants, like this Agave ‘Snow Glow,’ replacing a lusty Agave sisalana.
(Actually, I didn’t stop planting and shuffling things all summer, and have the losses to show for it. Fall is the much preferred season for planting here.)
‘Snow Glow’ was getting squeezed by some expanding Yucca ‘Blue Boy’ and needed maybe 2 more feet of room to grow, which it will get here.

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The large Agave sisalana (photo taken in May) was pupping furiously and encroaching on a grevillea. It was long past time for its removal.
This rubbery-leaved agave with the sharp leaf tips is often mistaken for a furcraea. Indeed, that is how I acquired it, as “Furcraea sp.”
That shaggy rosette of the dark ‘Zwartkop’ aeonium gets reduced by over half as it drops leaves throughout summer.

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The seemingly thriving adenanthos died in late August, but the grevillea surges ahead. (My fault, the soil was bone-dry.)

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Another reason the sisalana had to go is because both Aloe ‘Hercules’ and Agave ‘Mateo’ are making good size.
“Mateo’ in the blurry background on the right has been incredibly slow.

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Euphorbia ammak made about a foot of growth this summer, most of it after I pulled out the 6-foot Euphorbia lambii growing practically on top of it.
The lambii sheds leaves freely and copiously all summer. Just a word to the wise if you’re planting complex succulent gardens under its canopy.

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There’s no use denying, the signs of fall are coming thick and fast.

bug report & EOMV

None of the ants previously seen by man were more than an inch in length – most considerably under that size.
But even the most minute of them have an instinct and talent for industry, social organization, and savagery that makes man look feeble by comparison
.” — Them! (1954 movie on gigantic, killer, atomic-radiated ants)

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End of month view down the pergola looking east.
Possibly the best thing about my summer garden 2015 is Eucalyptus ‘Moon Lagoon’

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In late summer it’s putting out this chartreuse, willowy new growth, which is mesmerizing against the backdrop of its own tangled-up-in-blue leaves.
(Speaking of color, where’s your famous fiery red response to strong sun, Aloe cameronii? Not hot enough for you? It’s been plenty hot for me, thanks.)

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A very telescoped view from the west gate to show the wash of blue that’s taken over the garden.
‘Moon Lagoon’ in the foreground, Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ in the background (and blue apartment building in the distance).
Just looking at the froth of blue cools me down.

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The three that I was possibly most anxious to see make it through summer are just outside the office.
Columnar Cussonia gamtoosensis is almost fence height now. The Coast Woolybush to the right, Adenanthos sericeus, has been a peach all summer.*

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And Grevillea ‘Moonlight’ seems safely established here too.

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Impromptu birdbath, which looks an awful lot like a headstone monument to a fallen aloe.

That’s an abbreviated EOMV so we can get to the bug report. Possibly the worst thing about my summer garden 2015 has been the ants.
Apparently, if Southern California had a resident population of feisty fire ants, we wouldn’t be experiencing a scourge of Argentine ants, but we don’t, so we are.
Linepithema humile stowed away on ships bound for our ports sometime in the 1980s, and life just hasn’t been the same since. Native ants were pushovers, no contest at all.
I don’t like to dwell on this fact for long or I’d probably run away from home, but scientists tell us that the Argentine ants all belong to one giant SUPER COLONY.
Which in practical terms means, because they’re all bros, they don’t fight. They amiably cooperate in a tireless, jack-booted bid for world domination.
They are the Uruk-hai of ants. They seek out the same conditions we do, not too hot or cold, not too wet or dry, just nicely warmish and humid.
So when it’s too dry they line up around the shower with their tiny towels, circle the sinks with itty-bitty tooth brushes.
They’re everywhere. Them!

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I put together this little birdbath to take the place of an Aloe capitata that fell victim to the ants.
All summer our insect overlords have relegated us to squatter status on our own property.
This summer it seems like they’ve really stepped up their association (“mutualism”) with their nasty symbiotic playmates, scale insects and mealybugs.
Ants offer safe transit and escort the pests into the crevices and crowns of some plants. Not all, just mostly my favorites it seems.
The stemless aloes have been hit hard this summer. A perky Aloe capitata var. quartzicola went flaccid seemingly overnight.
Upon investigation, the lower crown was stuffed with scale. Them!
For weeks I enraged the ants by scraping off scale from the aloe’s leaves, pouring cinnamon onto the crown, digging in coffee around the base.
The ants supposedly hate strong smells. The aloe seemed to partially recover but lost so many leaves that I dug it up to nurse along in a pot.
Aloe cryptoflora has also succumbed, and a large fan aloe was weakened and killed by ants, though it wasn’t in great shape when I bought it.

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Aloe ‘Rooikappie’ is now taking its chances after A. capitata var. quartzicola was dragged off the battlefield.

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Aloe capitata var. quartzicola in better days. If I find one again it will live in a container.

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The ants favorite victims are stemless aloes planted close to hardscape, but they also favor beschornerias.
The hardscape of bricks laid dry, without mortar, on a layer of sand has provided perfect Ant Farm conditions.
Agave ‘Cornelius’ seems impervious so far, but ants are herding scale on some agaves like the desmettianas.

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Beschorneria ‘Flamingo Glow’ has had its lower leaves stripped away frequently due to infestations. B. albiflora is under attack too.

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This former wine stopper holding the birdbath together sums it up: we’re barely treading water against the ants.
A vinegar spray solution stops attacks indoors, and cinnamon spread on window sills has been an effective barrier.
(The glass shade was in the house when we bought it, and the concrete base was part of the chimney flue.)

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I can’t remember ever having mealybug problems with agaves. I’ve been frequently knocking them off ‘Dragon Toes.’

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Agave vilmoriniana ‘Stained Glass’ still seems clean.

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Since the yucca has bloomed and become multi-headed, it seems to be attracting ants and scale too.

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The furcraea is clean and has mostly outgrown damage from hail earlier in the year.

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Aloe elgonica still looks clean from scale.

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Potted plants have to be watched too. This boophane is clean, but pots of cyrtanthus are targets for scale.

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I admit to indulging in some self-pity shopping. I’ve been wanting to try Artemisia ‘David’s Choice.’ The ants helped clear the perfect spot to try three.

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Euphorbia ‘Lime Wall.’ I’ve yet to have scale on euphorbias, but you never know.

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No more talk of bugs. Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’ loves August, so I love xanthosoma.

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I was this close to composting these begonias but gave them a reprieve, daring them to grow in a very shallow container.
I thought I wanted some hot color in August, but turns out, nope, not really.
I had a bunch of rooted cuttings of Senecio medley-woodii which grow lanky in very little soil, so stuck them in with some rhipsalis to chill this begonia the hell out.

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Happy plants grouped under the light shade of the fringe tree on the east side of the house.

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This succulent is very confusing. With alba in the name, I’m thinking white flowers.
No, Crassula alba var. parvisepala reportedly has stunning trusses of deep red flowers
This is mine in bloom. I guess we’re both confused.

I have to say that there’s been a splendid show of butterflies all summer. The June bugs fizzled out, which is fine by me.
(So weird that image searches of the June bug bring up what I know as the fig beetle. My June bug is, I think, Phyllophaga crinita.)
It’s also been a banner year for the flying fig beetles, Cotinis mutabilis. The grasshoppers surprisingly haven’t been too bad.

End of month views are collected by The Patient Gardener, with or without bug reports.


*But was dead when I returned after a week’s absence, the soil bone-dry. Another has already been installed elsewhere in the garden.

Wednesday clippings 8/26/15

So what’s shakin’ this muggy end of August? As little as possible, you say?
There’s been all manner of weird stuff going on, including a recurring problem with street-parked neighborhood cars getting their gas siphoned.
This on the heels of the rash of catalytic converter thefts a couple months ago.
And then there’s that wobble and/or meltdown in the stock market that’s got Marty cursing like the sailor he is.
Lots of plant losses, of course. I could go on, but instead I’ll just paraphrase Annie Hall, that summer is full of misery and unhappiness, and it’s all over much too quickly.

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For vigor so unstoppable all summer it borders on downright rudeness, you can’t beat a yucca.

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Yucca ‘Margaritaville’ has two bloom spikes, just this one showing for now, but there’s another spear gaining size.

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Proof that it’s not just a pleasure garden, but a working garden. With some reading and occasional napping too on muggy days…

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Knock wood, Grevillea ‘Moonlight’ seems to have survived its first summer.
I am basically a gadget-free gardener, but this summer has sparked an interest in researching soil moisture sensors like they use in viticulture.
There’s a lot of root competition from neighboring gardens, trees, hedges, and just when I think things are well-watered for a couple weeks, there’s signs of stress.
Unlike all the stuff I’m asked to review that I’m either (a) uninterested in or (b) unqualified to comment upon, a moisture gauge would get my thoughtful appraisal.

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This bocconia in particular has been a problem child in that regard.
Supposedly drought tolerant when established, it’s a few years old now and still shouldn’t be getting the vapors if it misses a drink now and then.

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Well, here’s something cheerful. Max Parker kindly sent this photo to verify my Agave desmettiana ‘Joe Hoak’ had arrived safely at his new home.
The trade was this agave for a couple passifloras, ‘Sunburst’ and ‘Flying V.’ What a deal! Both of these passifloras are smaller vines, not house-eaters.
I’ve tentatively placed the potted ‘Sunburst’ at the base of one of the lemon cypresses, which will provide a good amount of sun but hopefully not too strong.
The theory is the vine will seek out the shade/sun exposure it prefers as it threads through the cypress. There’s nothing to photograph yet. Maybe in a couple weeks.

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I got the idea to use the cypresses because it seems to be working for Mina lobata, self-sown from last year. No blooms yet but, unlike last summer, the leaves stay in good shape all day.
I’m trying to find that sweet spot, where there’s enough sun for blooming but not too much that the vines are wilted by the end of the day.

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I’ll close with this nice planting of Agave ‘Cornelius’ I spotted recently in Downtown Los Angeles.
Gotta go put some clothes in the dryer.

Echeveria agavoides ‘Ebony’

Seen at the 2013 Inter-City Cactus & Succulent Show held at the Los Angeles County Arboretum over the weekend.

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Once again, on the show table, not the sales table. Echeveria agavoides ‘Ebony,’ intensely desirable and chronically unavailable. Is it going to take a Kickstarter campaign to get this propagated and into general circulation?

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Another arresting sight at the show was Boophone disticha.

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A South African bulb with a spectacular bloom that I covet more for those seductively twisted leaves. I brought a small one home from the sales tables.

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The sea squill, Urginea maritima. Being a mile from the ocean, I doubt I could go far wrong in making a garden just with plants that included the descriptor “maritima” or “maritimum.” Sturdy plants like Crithmum maritimum and the sea kale that filled Derek Jarman’s garden, Crambe maritima. I’d love to try the sea squill in the gravel garden, but it’s really not large enough an area to hold sufficient numbers of these massive bulbs for a good effect. Anyway, the bulbs are pricey. None for sale that I saw at the show.

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The sea squill with adjacent boophone leaves. By the time the sea squill blooms late summer, its leaves have died down.

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The arboretum’s unofficial mascot, its image found on coffee cups for sale in the gift shop. He hung out with me while I admired a hedge of Grevillea ‘Moonlight.’
The national bird of India seems to feel right at home in the intense summer heat of the San Gabriel Valley.

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I’ve decided that Grevillea ‘Moonlight’ has to be my next big shrub purchase. Tolerates pruning? Check. Attracts wildlife? Check. Low water needs? And check.

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Stunningly beautiful? Double check.