Tag Archives: Helicotrichon sempervirens

some kangaroo paws

Anigozanthos is becoming as common as agapanthus in Southern California, but I’m still a fan.
Blooms for months, fine on the dry side, handles full sun, dramatically vertical. You’d think there’d be a huge selection available. But it’s pretty much orange, yellow, red, pink.
Ocasionally that amazing black one turns up in nurseries, which goes by Macropidia fuliginosa, but it’s notoriously touchy.

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‘Harmony’ anigozanthos, May 2013

For the longest time I steered clear of red kangaroo paws. Orange and yellow, yes. Red, no.
There really is no accounting for taste. Maybe there’s this fear that if we kept no rules at all, a vortex of chaos would swallow us up.
All I know is that I’m now suddenly fine with red anigozanthos. (But pink, um, no.)
The first red I brought home was, appropriately enough, ‘Big Red,’ whose first bloom in the garden will be this spring.
Then I recently brought home some petite red no-names in 4-inch pots that were a good price at the big box store.

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And then there was that momentous day I found ‘Little Jean’ (two days ago).
I immediately plucked her from a stand of mixed blooming kangaroo paws after one look at her rich interplay of colors.

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Compare the complexity of bloom on ‘Little Jean’ (red/green/black/yellow on bright red fuzzy stems) to the no-name red kangaroo paw above.

Now a new band of red anigozanthos is taking shape in the garden, snaking around the base of Yucca ‘Margaritaville.’
Interspersed with the kangaroo paws are some lomandra I’m trying out like ‘Breeze’ and ‘Lime Tuff.’
I’ve pulled out all the blue oat grass (Helicotrichon) to give lomandra, this startling green New Zealander, a try.

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Lomandra ‘Lime Tuff.’
I know at some point it will have an ugly phase, all grasses do, but wow, what bright clean beauty it’s shown all fall/winter.

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The now-departed blue oat grass, looking fine in April 2013 but always ratty in winter. The tree, Euphorbia cotinifolia, is gone too. Wind snapped its trunk.
That thug Arundo donax ‘Golden Chain,’ way in the back, has also unwillingly vacated the garden. In fact, except for the yucca, the garden has been completely changed up again.
The long-leaved carex on the left, Carex trifida ‘Rekohu Sunrise,’ has been moved to more shade. A really good carex with a big arching presence like hakonechloa, but for drier soil.
(And I really, really wish I could find another source for seed or plant of Argemone munita, the tall thistly looker with romneya-type flowers.)

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Anigozanthos ‘Yellow Harmony’

But getting back to kangaroo paws, just letting you nurseries know that some of us love seeing different kinds of them, like ‘Little Jean.’


Bloom Day March 2014



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Typical for March, the reseeding poppies are the biggest showboats in my garden at the moment.

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Anticipating where and against what backdrop another loopy-necked bloom will open each morning is a huge part of their appeal.

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Summer-dormant Pelargonium echinatum has been so easy to rouse from its dormancy. Always in a pot, I keep it dry from late spring/early summer until around Novemberish.

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No blooms here, but to me it’s just as exciting to see the manihot leaf out again in March.

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Long, pale green, fading to buttery yellow stems send out these shocking pink flowers. Silky petals against furry stems, the rat-tailed cactus really nails it for me.

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Two of the three clumps of the digitalis/isoplexis union, Digiplexis ‘Illumination Flame,’ are throwing rainbow sherbert-colored spikes.
This summer will be the first garden trials for those of us plant geeks enthusiasts who chased down this literally brand-new perennial.

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A self-sown Solanum pyracanthum wintered over and is early to bloom.

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One of the three Phlomis lanata I planted in fall.

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After seeing a photo by Andrew Lawson of Tom Stuart-Smith’s use of phlomis at Broughton Grange, I knew I wanted phlomis back in the garden. I’ve tried lots of kinds of phlomis over the years, and if this P. lanata lives up to its reputation for compactness, it just might be the one. Bigger gardens than mine can tackle the oversize, leafy ones like russeliana and fruticosa.

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But Phlomis lanata doesn’t grow up, it grows out, bulging sideways as much as 4-6 feet across while topping out at about 2 feet in height.
(Maybe I’ll eventually need just one of the three I’ve planted…)

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I think it’s no secret that we’re all attracted to Pelargonium ‘Crocodile’ because of those gold-fretted leaves and not its flowers.

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But I suppose the flowers are tolerable when there’s not much else blooming. And blue oat grass in the background makes anything look good.

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A lot of the self-sowers like Orlaya grandiflora are just getting revved up.

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Nasturtiums are mostly pulled out and composted to give some of the other volunteers runnning room.

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Not for lack of trying, but this is the best photo I could get of a very promising salvia, what Annie’s Annuals & Perennials sold as Salvia flava. The photo on her website is much better.
I really, reeeally hope it likes my garden.

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The front garden has very little but dyckias in bloom, which is actually reassuring since if any of the agaves bloom, it means their demise isn’t far behind.

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For the butterflies, Verbena lilacina

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Euphorbia rigida, claiming quite a bit of the roadway just outside the kitchen door, also claims all the bees’ attention. Always lots of good bee watching here.

May Dreams Gardens to thank for inducing us to keep these monthly records of our gardens. I can now easily check back to March 2013 and see what plants I’ve since killed or evicted, not to mention potentially discover some sort of pattern to the erratic blooming habits of Scilla peruviana, which seems to have taken this year off after blooming in 2013.

Bloom Day March 2013

If it weren’t for the few stems of Scilla peruviana in bloom I’d feel completely out of step this March Bloom Day, when so many participating gardens are sending forth crocus and iris and so many other traditional spring bulbs and blooms. We may have flowers every month of the year, as Carol’s Bloom Day muse Elizabeth Lawrence declares, but we won’t all necessarily have the same flowers.


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I’ve been trimming away the lower leaves from a Geranium maderense to let some sun in on this patch of scilla.
Even in perfect conditions this bulb takes some years off and refuses to bloom.

What I’m most interested in this year is a little meadow/chaparral experiment that I’m hoping will bloom through summer in full sun, fairly dry conditions. It’s really begun to fill in the past couple weeks.

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Diascia personata is part of this experiment, three plants, two planted in fall and a cutting struck from one of them that has already made good size. Thanks go to Annie’s Annuals & Perennials for being the only U.S. source, via Derry Watkins’ extraordinary nursery in England. In the 1980s I reverently brought new diascia species and varieties home from Western Hills Nursery in Occidental, California, the only source at that time. Now all the local nurseries carry them as bedding plants every spring, and of course being a plant snob I don’t grow them anymore. But diascias can be very good here along the coast in the long cool spring and early summer, dwindling off in the heat of August. This Diascia personata’s height to 4 feet is a very intriguing asset.

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Also in the little meadow is Anthemis ‘Susanna Mitchell,’ and self-sown poppies, probably Papaver setigerum.
I like calling it my “meadow” when in truth it covers as much ground as a large picnic blanket.

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Blue oat grass, helicotrichon on the left, borders one side of the meadow/chaparral.

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Bordering a pathway elsewhere there’s a big swathe of this silvery gazania, maybe five plants, which counts as a swathe in my garden. In full sun they’d be open and you’d see what a shockingly striped and loud harlequin variety I chose last fall. Can’t fault those beautiful leaves though.

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More beautiful leaves to shore up what few flowering plants I actually grow. Senecio leucostachys is the big silvery sprawler. Small flashes of color from the Moroccan toadflax, Linaria reticulata, and the saffron-colored blooms of Salvia africana-lutea picking up speed, especially in recent temps in the high 80s. The phormium was bought misnamed as the dwarf ‘Tom Thumb.’ Whatever it’s true name, it’s stayed fairly compact and seems to have topped off at about 3 feet.

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Closeup of the salvia bloom.

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Euphorbia lambii began to bloom this week.

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The tree euphorbia really grew into its name this year.

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Kind of amazing to write that Nicotiana ‘Ondra’s Brown Mix’ has been in bloom all winter.
I’ve been cutting off old branches as the flowers go to seed. The brick paths are full of its seedlings.
Fresh basal leaf growth is coming in strong.

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Salvia chiapensis backed by Melianthus ‘Purple Haze’

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And a different view against a backdrop of sideritis and a big clump of Helleborus argutifolius.

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The yellow-flowered form of Russellia equisetiformis is just so very cool.

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Nasturtiums are ruthlessly thinned, but this climbing variety was allowed to fill in the bottom of a tuteur that supports the coronilla, which is still in full, aureate bloom.

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The coronilla with the nasturtium growing at the base of its support

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The seductive little species geraniums/pelargoniums are at their very best in spring

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Also beginning bloom is one of my favorite sedums. S. confusum.

Thanks again to Carol of May Dreams Gardens and all who participate in opening their gardens on Bloom Day.

Foliage Followup April 2012

Grasses and agaves, yes, of course, solidity and movement, so why not grasses and aloes?
A youngish Aloe marlothii and the evergreen cold blue steel blades of Blue Oat Grass, Helicotrichon sempervirens.

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I can’t imagine keeping a plant in the garden with really awful leaves. Even so, participating in Pam’s Foliage Followup to Bloom Day is always a puzzle as to what to include without getting too repetitive. I don’t believe I’ve ever included this odd, neoclassical scene in the very back of the garden.

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The salvaged urn was a gift from friends moving to Eugene, Oregon, years ago and leans against the back wall propped up on a base of large rocks. It was nearly swallowed up entirely this winter by a shroud of creeping fig, Ficus repens. The fig covers the back wall, southern boundary, essentially rendering it a 10-foot hedge, home to possums, lizards, and all manner of secretive creatures. It needs clipping twice a year, now overdue for its spring clip. Plectranthus argentatus manages to survive in the urn which has no drainage holes and is therefore seldom watered. Labrador violets, asparagus fern, and Corsican hellebores seed into the base of the wall too. Very Last Days of Pompeii.

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x Fatshedera lizei, rinsed clean from the rain.

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Pathway lined with succulents, echeverias and aeoniums, fresh growth of eucomis in the background.
Dark green, thyme-like mat grower is Frankenia thymifolia.

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