Tag Archives: Isoplexis isabelliana

orange and blue

I love garden surprises. Sure, there is some planning involved, but because the garden supports a collecting habit, the big picture is usually uncertain and often a mixed bag.
What the collecting id of my psyche is up to all year is anyone’s guess, including mine, and uncertainty prevails. Excitement too. With spring comes the big reveal.

This year’s reveal shows a pronounced orange and blue theme.

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There’s a big, bold orange and blue statement with Eucalyuptus ‘Moon Lagoon’ now that Isoplexis isabelliana is in bloom.

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But there’s orange and blue everywhere.
Agave franzosinii with Phygelius ‘Diablo’ and Sphaeralcea ‘Newleaze Coral’

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Arctotis ‘Opera,’ one of about three clumps threaded through lomandra, anigozanthos, euphorbias, still a youngish planting.
The only real plan was for summer daisies to be orange, so orange varieties of arctotis and osteospermum were selected. The rest is all collector mania.
Gomphrena ‘Fireworks,’ magenta bobs on the right, has been perennial. This is its second (or third?) year.
It’s a pretty close substitute for alliums all summer long and matches clear orange in intensity.

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Osteospermum ‘Zion Orange’ was planted in January.
There was a really good color selection of the South African daisies at the nurseries this spring, making possible your own personally customized veldt.
Lower branches of this aeonium keep breaking off in winter storms then rooting, so it’s quite the undulating thicket now.

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The source for all that blue (and silver) is the plentiful number of dry garden plants with leaves in those shades.
New planting of Stachyls ‘Bella Grigio’ replaced biennial Echium simplex after it finished blooming.
From reading other blogs, it’s uncertain whether this stachys will be a durable member of the garden or just a fleeting phenom.

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I’d love to see Digitalis ferruginea bloom here, but so far they haven’t take a shine to the garden. But isoplexis is more than enough compensation.
Like the bigeneric hybrid digiplexis, the isoplexis attract scale, but overall I think I prefer the shrubbier isoplexis.
And with the warmer winters, a big ants and scale problem is the new norm.

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Purchased from Jo O’Connell’s Australian Plants Nursery last year, the eucalyptus was planted from a gallon in July 2014. As you can see, it’s fast on its feet.
I’ve already trimmed it back a bit but will ultimately give it free rein in this corner, which means shifting and moving everything in its path.
Initially I had plans to keep it in a container, a silly idea in a drought. Now I’m hoping to grow it as a large shrub, not a tree.
I noted on a recent visit that the Huntington’s new Education and Visitor Center plaza area has planted quite a few of this eucalyptus too.

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Blue Agave ‘Dragon Toes,’ with Aloe cameronii on the left and Aloe elgonica on the right, both aloes flushed orange from the recent heat waves rolling through every few weeks or so.
And then the little variegated agapanthus will bring more blue in a week or so.
I’m still apprehensive about agapanthus in my garden, the first time ever. It’s now in bloom all over town.
My gamble is that it will seem less quotidian surrounded by succulents and grasses. It’s such a good plant for dry summer gardens.
But there’s a strong chance I won’t be able to overcome lifelong prejudices and shopping center associations.

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And then silvery-blue Glaucium grandiflorum started building up some imposing bloom architecture. Photo taken May 9, 2015

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I gasped when I saw these open this morning.

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Audibly gasped. Between gasping at flowers and talking to bees, who knows what the neighbors must be thinking by now.

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This glaucium might behave as a short-lived perennial or biennial and may or may not set seed. There were no blooms last year, just those magnificent leaves.
There’s two clumps, and both plants were covered by the band of shade that lies over this part of the garden in winter, which had me worried a bit.
Maybe in a wet winter the shade might have proved fatal. Both clumps are in full sun now.
This glaucium is from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials but not listed as available now.

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Another big wash of blue (under Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ no less!) from Plectranthus neochilus.

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Mostly blues and silver here now, but a lot of aloes have found their way here under the acacia, out of frame (and Helianthemum ‘Henfield Brilliant.’ More orange!)
I hope I don’t get orange and blue fatigue any time soon…


isoplexis and digiplexis side by side

There’s no telling which of these, if either, will be around for photos next year, so now’s the time for a side-by-side color comparison.
According to this article, it was Isoplexis canariensis that was crossed with Digitalis purpurea to give us Digiplexis ‘Illumination Flame.’ The photo on the right is of Isoplexis isabelliana, but the color if not the flower shape is a good semblance of I. canariensis, with probably less gold and more burnt orange. (Being ever on the lookout for the tall, spiky, and orange, I’ve trialed a few isoplexis. I. canariensis was short-lived in my garden.) The shocking pink, apricot-throated digiplexis to my eye exudes a Jonathan Adler-inspired play with colors. In its new guise, dear old digitalis has been liberated from the genteel confines of the shady cottage garden. Even though able to handle full sun, especially near the coast, the unseasonal 20-degree jump into the 90s today and for the rest of the week is not to either plant’s liking, or mine for that matter. I’ve had verbascums collapse under similar conditions. They both held up surprisingly well this first day of the heat wave. Some lateral spikes broke off a few days ago but were saved for a vase.

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If it lives up to its sturdy reputation, I wouldn’t be surprised if digiplexis has a future as a florist’s pet.


tuesday clippings 3/26/13

Nothing too thematic, just some odds and ends.

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To prove I left the plant sale tables briefly and did a lap in the show room at the recent Orange County CSSA show, here’s a Dyckia ‘Brittle Star’ hybrid that won an award. My own big clump of dyckia is starting to throw up bloom stalks, which the snails munch like asparagus spears. The slimy gourmands ate every bloom last year, and they’re on their way to doing it again this year. Some of that biodegradable snail bait was dispensed this morning, possibly too little too late.

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In the back garden, between the poppies and the anthemis, there’s scarcely any bare soil showing and it’s not even April.
I’ve started thinning out the poppies more aggressively. Diascia personata is the not-yet-blooming swathe of green behind the Agave americana var. striata in the tall green pot.

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Starting to bloom this week, though the event could easily pass unnoticed, is the Australian mintbush, Prostranthera ovalifolia ‘Variegata,’ a shimmering, aromatic shrub of medium size. I’m keeping it pruned to approximately 4 X 4 feet. Tiny, luminous, evergreen leaves, a loose, open form with contrasting dark stems. Tolerates dry but can handle regular garden irrigation. Not a specimen plant, its attractions are subtle. It brings pattern and light, not weight, to the garden. Some might find it a little nondescript. I wish I had room for more than one. In bloom its branches become studded with tiny lilac-colored bells. Not very long-lived, this is a shrub I replant over and over.

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Leaving subtle behind, I’m so excited to see some blooms on the Canary Island Foxglove, Isoplexis canariensis. These shrubby foxglove relatives may save me the trouble of throwing more money at trialing more of the rusty-colored digitalis species like ferruginea and trojana, which have yet to make it through winter. They just melt away, leaving me scratching the soil where they were planted searching for signs of life.
Not enough rainfall maybe.

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Another look at the isoplexis, a big sturdy plant. Nothing seems to bother it, knock wood.

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Geranium maderense ‘Alba’ opened some of its pure, laundry white blooms this morning.

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The back garden viewing gallery, the bricks freshly cleaned and weeded by Marty.
I think he’s got the attention to detail necessary to win prizes at plant shows. Good thing one of us does.
I insisted he leave a few poppies that had self-sown into the bricks.
I used to keep a small table here too, until I planted that Eryngium padanifolium too close. But what a stunning plant it is.

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Around the corner on the east side of the house, the pittosporum is turning into quite the tillandsia outpost.
A neighbor brought over a basketful last week. I love it when neighbors have your number.

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The battle of the compound leaves, melianthus vs. tetrapanax. The purple wash on the melianthus’ leaves is about as strong as it gets. I think it recedes a bit in summer. What an amazingly beautiful compact selection ‘Purple Haze’ is. Fantastic improvement on the species for small gardens.


Garden Tasks, Dogs & Productivity

I work at home most days of the week and keep this guy fairly close all day.


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Working alone all day with a dog instead of people has some interesting ramifications. I’m not sure if it makes me any more productive, as that link discusses, but at a minimum he’s good at reminding me to get up from the desk to stretch my legs and check up on matters of extreme urgency, like interloping cats, vendors, and all manner of inscrutable but highly important dog business. Since he’s a herding dog and, at a molecular level, needs to keep track of Who’s On First, there’s a lot of leaping up and investigating what mostly turns out to be the mundane comings and goings of a typical urban neighborhood. To his utter disappointment, no herds of sheep have yet to clatter down our street. But you never know. I play along with his delusions and he plays along with mine.

And our metabolisms are a pretty good fit. I do a fair amount of my own leaping up from the desk for the thinnest of reasons, like when the light is photo-perfect for a hard-to-capture flower like Heliophila longifolia.


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Or I’ve brought home a new succulent.

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Could be anything. Maybe a cutting needs transplanting. It’s a habit that constantly imperils work deadlines. (I feel pretty much as Douglas Adams did about deadlines, enjoying the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.) And as the photo depicts, my dog frequently exhibits that canine-intense, “What are you up to now?” face in relation to such shenanigans.

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Spending large blocks of time alone with a dog naturally leads to talking to them. Or so I tell myself it’s natural.
In any case, many of the conversations I have with people are as one-sided as me talking to my dog — with me usually taking on the dog’s role in the conversation.

I give you: Conversations with My Dog

Me to Dog: Don’t look so worried. Nothing too crazy going on here

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Let me explain. Some things you should never nevereverever do. We’ve had this chat before. And then you go ahead and do it anyway, and so we must try to mitigate the damage as best we can.
Well, this time I’ve done one of those things, not you, so relax
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Let me explain. This Canary Island Foxglove, Isoplexis isabelliana, has exceeded all expectations by thriving and blooming.

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As can be seen by the bird droppings on the petals, its trial spot has become increasingly shady as the cotinus canopy leafs out. Now that I know what an easy-going beauty it truly is, I simply must move it to more sun. Yes, while it’s in full bloom, and, yes, in early summer. Normally, a very ill-advised practice. This spot near where lots of other rusty orange flowers seem to have congregated would be perfect. That crazy umbrella/ladder apparatus is just shade rigging for a week or so, to ease the transition.

There, 10 minutes’ work and it’s done. Now back under the desk with you.


I mentioned mitigating the damage. 10-day forecast was checked and predicted overcast and cool, our typical “June Gloom” weather pattern. Fibrous root masses have a reasonable expectation of successful transplantation, versus tap-rooted, which have none. I had no clue before digging what these roots were like, but betted on fibrous, which they were. It’s been almost a week since I moved the isoplexis, still shading it from afternoon sun, and it hasn’t shown signs of wilt yet, blooms still upright like the day it was transplanted. Another factor to consider is soil. Mine’s a stiff clay and holds together fairly well, maintaining a large root ball for transplantation. This might not work with sandy soil. Just an example of how general rules can be flouted by keeping an eye on specific local conditions and factors. And it helps to have a garden assistant that can’t talk you out of borderline crazy projects.