Tag Archives: International Garden Center & Floral Design

checking out the nurseries in August

It might seem kind of pointless to check out the local nurseries in the dog days of August. A lot of the inventory can look frazzled, but roaming the mostly customer-less aisles in August, armed with sunscreen, hat, sunglasses and smart phone for reference, is the perfect time to discover the true survivors. What shrubs are still managing to look respectable in gallon cans? (Westringia, adenanthos, ozothamnus, leucospermums are a few.) What stalwarts have I overlooked? Did anyone buy that Agave weberi ‘Arizona Star’ I’ve had my eye on? What’s on offer in the “color” section in August? Will Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit,’ the new seed strain, be durable or a meltaway type? August is where the rubber meets the steaming road, where all the buzz and fanfare evaporates under a punishing sun. That any inventory can still look at all presentable I find astonishing. Since these kind of retail nurseries oftentimes don’t sell plants until they are in bloom, many times it’s the only opportunity to grab August-blooming plants locally, even if it’s not the friendliest month for planting. Other than the California chain of Armstrong Nurseries, with one of their stores just a couple miles from me, most of the nurseries I check on frequently are independents. None of the nurseries on my circuit are boutique, rare plant nurseries, which don’t exist in Los Angeles, but a lot of their stock comes from solid growers like Native Sons, San Marcos Growers, Monterey Bay, Monrovia. (Northern California’s Annie’s Annuals & Perennials is available at Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach, Brita’s Old Town Gardens in Seal Beach, International Garden Center near LAX, and Lincoln Avenue Nursery in Pasadena.) Other than Roger’s Gardens, none are “destination” nurseries. Yet it always surprises me how each nursery’s unique choices from the same pool of growers sets their inventory apart from other local retail nurseries. If you visit often (and I do!), a specific taste can be discerned even in the chain nurseries. Some may subtly favor edibles or succulents or native plants, while others may have strong selections of South African and Australian plants. So I really do have to visit them all.

 photo P1010441.jpg

For example, Crocosmia ‘Solfatare’ was recently available only at H&H Nursery on Lakewood Boulevard near the 91 Freeway, right under the power line towers. I once had a huge clump of this crocosmia in the front garden, before Agave ‘Mr. Ripple’ moved into its place. It’s always described as one of the slowest-growing crocosmias, but it seemed to multiply at good clip from what I remember. The leaves strike me as more a dull olive green than bronzish, as it’s often described. The flower color is a galvanizing egg-yolk gold.

 photo P1010314.jpg

Gerbera ‘Drakensberg Gold,’ was available at just two nurseries, Village Nurseries in Orange and their next-door neighbor Upland Nursery.
This is a great new gerbera strain, a long-blooming cross with some sturdy alpine species, and the first time I’ve seen it offered in this color.

Photobucket

The pink form, ‘Drakensberg Carmine’ was an outstanding plant a couple years ago, that was almost too much of a good thing in that color. For me, anyway.

 photo P1019128.jpg

Phygelius in the Portland garden of Bella Madrona got me pining for phygelius again. This one may possibly be ‘Salmon Leap’ or ‘Devil’s Tears.’
I have no memory of phygelius growing in this splendidly upright posture, always being somewhat of a sprawler in my garden, but this vision was enough to spur me to give ‘Diablo’ a try.

 photo P1010472.jpg

I found ‘Diablo’ at the local Armstong, just this one gallon available. Phygelius is another plant I grew years ago, usually in its chartreuse forms like ‘Moonraker.’

 photo P1010412.jpg

I recently extended my nursery hopping down into Orange County, where I found this small size of Agave franzosinii, just one available. Cindy McNatt at Dirt du Jour blogged that a beloved nursery, Laguna Hills Nursery, had found a new home on Tustin in the city of Orange. They had just opened and were getting settled in, but were extremely welcoming and friendly. Rare fruit trees and edibles look to be their specialty, but someone stocked this agave that’s rarely found for sale, which I think counts as a good omen. This is an enormous agave when mature, so I’ll keep it in a pot as long as possible to contain its ultimate size.

 photo P1010247.jpg

Snow on the Mountain tucked in by the little water garden. The Sagittaria lancifolia ‘Ruminoides’ was found at the International Garden Center.

There were a couple other nurseries on that same street, Tustin, so I made an afternoon of nursery hopping in the OC, and each one had something unique to offer. At M&M Nursery, “home of the original fairy garden experts since 2001,” (who knew?) I found the annual Euphorbia marginata amongst a very good selection of out-of-the-ordinary annuals. At Village Nurseries, as mentioned above, I found the ‘Drakensberg Gold’ gerbera as well as ‘Storm Cloud’ agapanthus. Upland Nursery was literally next-door to Village, so even though the heat was way past oppressive by mid-afternoon, I stopped in at Upland before swinging home. They specialize in plumeria, which sounded interesting though not really up my alley, but I was up for a quick first-time visit.

 photo P1015628.jpg

Variegated Swiss Cheese Plant, Monstera deliciosa, seen in an LA garden last May.

I ended up walking Upland’s entire long and narrow length, investigating each of its specialty rooms off the main path, because it became quickly apparent that Upland had some surprises up its sleeve, like the variegated swiss cheese plant tucked into a corner, the first I’ve ever seen offered locally, or an agave I’d neither heard of nor seen before, like Agave ellemetiana.
Upland is the first local nursery I’ve found to carry Eucalyptus ‘Moon Lagoon.’

 photo P1018513.jpg

Fatsia ‘Spider Web,’ still unavailable in Southern California.

Upland was just an extraordinary place, with a personal, mom-and-pop atmosphere, where you’d bump into such amazing sights as grevilleas grown on standard. I searched it thoroughly, because I half expected to find the ‘Spider Web’ fatsia lurking in a shady corner. There was lush hanging rhipsalis and big, mature display plants to give an idea of what the little 2-inch succulents would grow into. The entire back section was devoted to Japanese maples. I asked the owner about the possibility of getting the monstera in a smaller, more affordable size, and she said spring would be the time to check back. When I asked if there was a drinking fountain, she reached into her fridge and handed me a bottle of water. With that gesture, they made a customer for life.

 photo P1010238.jpg

Seeing a huge display pot of Senecio haworthii at Upland Nursery sealed the deal on a succulent I’ve passed over many times.

Up in Pasadena, at Lincoln Avenue Nursery, a big, lusty Agave ‘Mateo’ had me checking the label for its identity. At a mature size, it looked nothing like my wispy-leaved ‘Mateo.’ The venerable Burkhard’s just around the corner continues its mysterious decline, with the plants in a sad neglected state, but wouldn’t you know they had the variegated vilmoriniana agave I’ve been coveting, $60 for a big specimen. Not a bad price, especially at Burkhard’s, but I passed. The nursery is a shambles but still worth a prowl. Poorly maintained plants sold at exorbitant prices is the perplexing current state of affairs, but even so there’s many gems you just can’t find anywhere else. Also somewhat of a surprise recently is finding Sunset’s line of plants, like the new ‘Amistad’ salvia, astelias, dianellas, carex, digiplexis, and the ‘Soft Caress’ mahonia, at Home Depot. International Garden Center, Village and H&H have the most extensive grounds and probably the most sophisticated inventory, and each could easily swallow an hour’s time. IGC is the place to find water plants, and their succulent selection is one of the best. At IGC plant stock past its prime isn’t thrown out but moved to a row way in the back, where it can be had for cheap. Many times unsold stock is potted on to larger sizes, such as the currently available Echium simplex. I also check in with the exceptional Marina del Rey Garden Center when I work out that way and have noticed their increasingly fine selection of bromeliads and unusual edible plants.

And that’s the August nursery report. They may not have the rarefied atmosphere of botanical gardens, but retail nurseries are the places to experience where culture, commerce, and plants collide.


It happened one night; August rain

I bought my first water plant Saturday, and it rained all that night. Not a downpour, but a steady drizzle. I’m not saying there’s any causal link between the two, just that they’re both rare events that happened to coincide one day in August when I finally made good on an old, wilted promise to start a water garden. Nobody is immune to a little magical thinking, especially gardeners and other anxious weather watchers. And I don’t mind at all buying more water plants in the offchance it pleases the drought gods that I do so. After the overnight rain, it was so nice waking up Sunday morning to the clean world.

 photo P1010049.jpg

My first water plant. Ruby-stemmed Sagittaria lancifolia ‘Ruminoides’
The fiberglass/concrete container was not intended to hold water and may be a temporary arrangement. Marty sealed it with waterproofing, so we’ll see.

 photo P1010037.jpg

I don’t think that whitish mottling is a good sign, however.
It clouded up like that before the waterproofing, too, when it held just a few glass fishing floats.

 photo P1019952.jpg

What’s submerged and rendered invisible by dark waterproofing is the desperate need for repotting, with the gallon container split open by bulging roots.
For repotting, it will need muck, won’t it? I asked the kind nurseryman, trying out the one word I know that has something to do with bogs and ponds.
Have you got muck? he queried me with a strange expression.
No, have you? I’m muckless, I rejoined, matching his strange expression with one of my own at the bizarreness of it all.
It’s not often that “muckless” gets incorporated into daily conversation, but given the chance, I’m going for it.

 photo P1010027.jpg

Tiny romneya-like flowers bloomed Sunday morning.

The nice nurseryman said a cheap solution for a suitable potting soil is a 50/50 mix of decomposed granite and pure compost.
Compost I’ve got. I just need to beg some d.g. off of Holly across the street.

 photo P1019938.jpg

Inspired by the garden rejuvenation wrought by a single pot of the common arrowhead, a container of Salvia guaranitica was plunged into the garden near the tank.
This salvia has been hanging around for years in the garden, deprived of the care it needs as I’ve moved on to other salvias, but still it lingers.
I noticed it growing near the fence under the cypress and potted up some straggly shoots a month or so ago.
No sense in taking a survivor like that for granted.

 photo P1019925.jpg

Welcome to the clean world.
Not glistening from the hose but from that holy of holies, August rainfall. That cussonia has already been moved elsewhere.
I’m on fire with pot shuffling lately, motivated by this shiny, new world.

 photo P1019989.jpg

The cussonia will get more sun here. Naturally, table and chairs had to be moved nearby to admire the cussonia.
The rain’s shiny polish doesn’t last long, does it?

 photo P1019955.jpg

The tall burgundy line in the background is drawn by a gawky Pseuderanthemum atropurpureum ‘Black Varnish,’ a plant that never loses its polish.
A tender tropical, there’s no problem overwintering it here, just that crazy legginess it gets the second season.

 photo P1019972.jpg

Pinching it back doesn’t seem to help.

 photo P1019966.jpg

More news on dark plants. Pennisetum ‘Princess Caroline’ is faithfully performing her job of hiding the compost pile behind her massive girth.

 photo P1019988.jpg

Since it’s clean, let’s take a walk on the east side.
Pots reshuffled against the fence that separates the front and back gardens on the east side, which has always been problematic for me.
Too many fences, gates, awkward angles, the canyon effect. Seen through the window behind the leggy pittosporum is the blurred shape of the east boundary hedge of dwarf olives.

 photo P1010077.jpg

It’s such a great “breathing” space despite all the harsh angles, so I’m working on making it more inviting somehow. (On the cheap, of course.)
I’d love a long table and chairs and some great hanging lamps, so will keep it mostly empty until that fine day miraculously arrives. Until then, nothing terrifyingly big and spiky will be allowed here.
This entire east side was covered in overgrown oleanders when we bought the house, which made the house’s interior dark and gloomy.
The dark woodwork indoors gives the interior more than enough gravitas already. (Marty and I have the typical seesawing argument that takes place in old houses such as this:
Paint the interior woodwork white to brighten things up or leave it original? I always argue for keeping it original, but then I’m an impractical softie.)

 photo P1010059.jpg

Speaking of terrifyingly big and spiky, Agave ‘Mr Ripple’ greets you through the Dutch door, usually left open during the day.

 photo P1010106.jpg

Mr. Ripple’s lower spines near the walkway have been clipped back, but he still has his uppers.
Marty cannot wait for the day Mr. Ripple blooms (and dies).

 photo P1019913.jpg

The copper pot is filled with rhipsalis and other hanging cactus. A Mina lobata is climbing up the iron scaffolding.
Apart from the pittosporum, now tree height, there’s currently not much planted in the narrow strip against the blue fence other than some succulents.
I’m enjoying the starkness of it all, but old habits die hard.

 photo P1010067.jpg

I can’t stop adding stuff, like the giant tree aloe ‘Hercules’ to the right of the potted agave. But that’s it, I swear.

 photo P1019918.jpg

The newly planted City Planter just moved in, the first attempt at planting anyway. It may need revision. (Too stark against the blue fence?)

 photo P1010091.jpg

Currently planted with rhipsalis, Echeveria multicaulis, and the trailing blue echeveria, whose name I’ve forgotten. A couple sprigs of Sticks on Fire may or may not root.

At the Portland Garden Bloggers Fling, Lisa Calle, the raven-haired bloggess from Spain, was the rightful winner but graciously threw it back into the raffle since it didn’t fit inside her suitcase.
(Thank you so much, Lisa ! Thank you, Potted !)

 photo P1010096.jpg

And that concludes the mini-tour of the rain-fresh east side. Mind Mr. Ripple on your way out!


Bloom Day June 2012

I got in too late yesterday for photos for a Bloom Day post, so made a head start last night on checking out the blogs linked on Carol’s May Dreams Gardens host site for Bloom Day.
I think that’s the best “issue” on June gardens I’ve seen in a long time.

Summer-blooming bulbs like crocosmia and eucomis stirring here in June.

Crocosmia and Teucrium hircanicum

Photobucket

Eucomis almost buried under a daisy with fennel-like leaves, Argyranthemum haouarytheum.

Photobucket

As with June Bloom Days past, white valerian seeding around at the edges. The seasons-spanning kangaroo paws, succulents and grasses.
I’ve been nibbling away at the bricks under the pergola, whose once-seamless perimeter is now as gap-toothed as a hockey player’s smile.
(how ’bout those Stanley Cup-winning LA Kings?!)

Photobucket

Latest brick removal was instigated by finding a source for Eryngium pandanifolium, the Giant Sea Holly.
I sowed seed last fall of a ‘Physic Purple’ variety but didn’t get any germination, and then it popped up a month ago on Plant Delights online offerings.
Sometimes you’ve just got to scratch that plant itch. Of course I had to squeeze some Ruby Grass in while the eryngo thickens up.

Photobucket

More brick removal yesterday to try out Pennisetum ‘Sky Rocket,’ a sterile hybrid from the same batch as ‘Fireworks.’
I’ve been on a destructive tear lately and have started hammering off the slippery tiles in the side patio too.

Photobucket

Onward and upward. This summer I’m training Passiflora sanguinolenta up the pergola. A rarity among passifloras, this one has proven to be a dainty, nonaggressive climber.
Sidling up to Aloe distans at ground level.

PhotobucketPhotobucket

Not this Bloom Day but certainly by the next, I’ll finally get to see Lobelia tupa blooming in my garden. I think the trick was thinning out plants possibly crowding it.
(Gosh, there’s a surprise, overcrowding in my garden?)

Photobucket

First spikes appearing on Persicaria amplexicaulis. Salvia canariensis is more colored bracts than blooms now.

Photobucket

Verbena bonariensis ‘Lollipop’ in the iron tank. Eryngium tripartitum barely visible blooming here too.

Photobucket

One lone drumstick allium amidst eyebrow grass, Bouteloua gracilis.
I think the 29 other Allium sphaerocephalum may have been swamped by the burgeoning Mint Bush, Prostranthera ovalifolia ‘Variegata’

Photobucket

And since this post has wandered into Foliage Followup’s turf of the 16th of every month, hosted by Pam at Digging, I’ll close with a photo of a restio new to me.
Cannonmois virgata, identified by San Marcos Growers as more probably C. grandis.
SMG’s photo shows the beautiful culms.

Photobucket

I was considering this restio to replace the rose I removed from the patio room, whose tile is being demolished…wonder where I left my hammer and chisel?

Anatomy of a Pot of Tender Plants

There’s some great names in the plant world, and Cussonia is up there with some of my favorites.
And for pure enjoyment, no history of the name is necessary, just an appreciation for vowels and syllables.
Also lends itself to a good name for a cat (Pussonia?). And then there’s the visual enjoyment they provide.

Photobucket

Some scant history. Small evergreen trees from South Africa. Right there you know they’ll be tender, but still eminently desirable for containers. Members of the Araliaceae family, another name with a good complement of vowels. I’m hesitant to write their common name, Cabbage Tree, since it might then be confused for an edible, which it emphatically is not. Don’t you dare go near this with a dinner fork.

From plantzafrica, describing C. paniculata: “The name Cussonia was given by Carl Peter Thunberg to commemorate the French botanist Pierre Cusson (1727-1783).”

PhotobucketPhotobucket

I have a small, struggling pot of Cussonia paniculata, but these photos are of the splendid Cussonia gamtoosensis, or Gamboos Cabbage Tree, which has done the most rewarding thing any plant can do, and that is to seem genuinely glad to be under your care. C. gamtoosensis has flourished, zooming ahead of C. paniculata in leafage and trunk. Purchased from a local nursery spring 2011. I had passed it by in autumn 2010, but noted the exuberant little guy again the following spring, after it had spent the winter sitting in an aisle of remaindered plants, now offered at discount. My Cussonia paniculata is such a malingering, cranky, trouble child that I hesitated briefly on bringing home another, but this Gamboos Cabbage Tree’s vigor and lust for life after a long winter in a gallon can solidly won me over.

Since Pam/Digging has declared this Support Your Independent Nursery month, a nod is in order to this great local nursery, International Garden Center & Floral Design and their amazing selection of pottery, succulents, water plants. I pop in every time I work near the airport/LAX. (The grower of this cussonia was Northern California’s Annie’s Annuals & Perennials.) Both these cussonias I’m discussing are caudiciform, growing from a swollen stem or caudex, but this is only apparent on my C. paniculata. The gamtoosensis shows no caudex at all. But that tells you how tough and drought tolerant these little trees are, which makes them perfect candidates for container culture.

Photobucket

Which brings us to the succulents planted at the base of the cussonia, Delosperma sphalmanthoides, bought from another wonderful independent Northern California nursery, Cottage Gardens of Petaluma. This little succulent was growing in a gorgeous display garden at CGP. One of the very helpful nurserymen led me to it and pointed it out as his favorite. Also known as the Tufted Ice Plant, High Country Gardens lists it for zones 5-9, so this little one is not tender at all.

Photobucket