Tag Archives: Kniphofia thompsonii var. snowdenii

Bloom Day hangover/Foliage followup April 2016

The distinctive measured pace of a garden this time of year, compared to the frenetic pace outside my front gate, is what I find so compelling: the syncopated intervals between birdcalls, the varying rhythms of arrival and departure of hummingbirds, butterflies, bees. Incidents on the wing gently drift in and out…but this weekend it’s all against a background roar of engines. (It’s Grand Prix time in Long Beach again.)
Bloom Day falls on the 15th, hosted by May Dreams Gardens. Foliage Followup is hosted by Digging on the 16th, so I’m straddling memes today.

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The ballota is just now enlongating with bobbles of chenille-like blooms.
The largish green-leaved plant on the right is a Teucrium betonicum I found seeded in the gravel in the front garden this winter.
Strangely enough, the mother plant was grown way back in 2012.

In the back garden, I’m loving the low scrubbiness of it all, with occasional verticals and undulating agaves piercing through the hummocks of greys and greens.
And the proportions are, at this moment, just what I’ve been trying to accomplish for the past couple years.
New stuff I’ve been planting will no doubt change the shape by next year, so it’s a fleeting effect that I’ve come to appreciate just because it is so transitory.
Stepping out the back door this morning from a quiet house into a garden humming and buzzing and flitting with life — well, just add coffee for a perfect Saturday morning.
Even the Grand Prix can’t ruin that. Thankfully, the city has restricted the number of days racecars can “practice” before the big event, so it’s squeezed into mainly a weekend now.
A fair compromise between the businesses that flourish during race time and the residents that mostly suffer through it.

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I’ll spare you repeat photos of poppies, grevilleas, salvias and whatnot. Tanacetum niveum is new to both Bloom Day and the garden this year.
I’ve always loved the simple clean blooms of plants like chamomile. This daisy is no ground-hugger like chamomile, but billows up and out, with finely cut grey leaves.
It can become shrub-like in size given enough room to develop. It’s constrained by the tight quarters here. Purported to reseed, fingers crossed.
Looks like I trialed it/killed it back in 2010.

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Marrubium supinum’s blooms are similar in structure to ballota, but with a slight wash of color.

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I wouldn’t mind several more clumps of Kniphofia thompsonii dotted throughout.

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Plectranthus neochilus still obligingly covers the stump of Cotinus ‘Grace,’ buried under there somewhere and quietly decomposing.

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Some find the strong scent/stink/skunkiness offputting. I don’t scent it on the air, just on contact, when clipping it back.

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Gerberas at the base of the plectranthus stump.

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Other daises elsewhere in bloom include orange arctotis and maroon osteospermum.

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I planted the Eriogonum crocatum a little too far from the paths for photos, so this one gives just the basic outline of the blooms which start out chartreuse and age to brown.
I can’t wait for it to bulk up some more. I really do try to stick to the never-walk-on-the-garden rule, especially with clay like mine that compacts so easily.

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The potted camellia on the front porch hasn’t gotten much play on Bloom Day though it’s been in bloom a few months.

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Erodium pelargoniflorum reseeds into the gravel amongst the agaves in the front of the house.
If kept watered, it would probably bloom into summer. I say embrace the ephemeral!

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Anisodontea ‘Strybing Beauty’ is growing into quite a graceful presence, loose and open.
Last year the mallows were represented by Sphaeralcea ‘Newleaze Coral,’ a wonderful plant for a much bigger garden than mine.

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Potted Glory of Texas, a thelocactus just opening its blooms.

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I tossed some ixia into the garden this winter, in a few colors, ordered off ebay.

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Finishing up with the odd blooms of slipper spurge, Pedilanthus bracteatus, another one I keep forgetting to include on Bloom Days.


Saturday clippings 4/9/16


The Los Angeles Festival of Books is this weekend. I haven’t been in ages. I can only imagine what the food truck scene is like now. I didn’t see any garden-themed speakers on a quick check of the roster, but long ago (1998!) I attended talks by Robert Smaus, (former LA Times garden editor) Clair Martin (Huntington rose curator) and Robert Perry (native plantsman extraordinatire). The political discussions used to be very good, and around 2004 we attended a panel discussion on the Iraq War, with the late Christopher Hitchens attempting to defend his pro-war position (mostly a position he held in sympathy for the Kurds, I think), along with Mark Danner, Samantha Power and Robert Scheer. If you go, bring an umbrella.

The past two days have brought light rain, a hockey victory for the Kings over the Ducks (ferocious Los Angeles vs. Orange County rivalry), so all in all, it’s been a pretty good week.
On the Metro yesterday, when the doors opened at a stop midway to downtown, a gust of jasmine flooded the train, causing me to look up from my reading, just in time to see the jasmine draped over a chainlink fence begin to recede as the doors shut and the train sped away. Talk about fleeting fragrance. There’s a tall, columnar, ferny-leaved tree along the freeway in bloom now too, golden flowers, whose name I’ve forgotten. The flowers almost look grevillea-like. Not knowing the name is bugging me. Any ideas? I was thinking maybe lyonothamnus but the flowers aren’t a match.

In my own little garden, this week I’ve been thinking about some of my favorite kinds of plants, those that “grow up, not out.”* Not necessarily plants that have been bred to behave and grow in tight spots, though that’s a subject in its own right. I’m talking about ordinary plants with transformative abilities. Smallish footprint, big aerial drama. Here’s a couple examples I’m enjoying this week:


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The old standby, Verbena bonariensis. This is a two-year-old plant, so it made quick growth this year.
Annual in colder zones. It’s a much better plant for me in its second year, more uniform in structure.

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The poppies will probably be over by the end of April.
Another plant that visits the garden and then leaves without causing a lot of disruption.

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I’m not sure if this is Passiflora exoniensis, but whatever it is, I think I’ve found a vine to ease the pang of being unable to grow rhodochiton.
(Ever so grateful to Max Parker for this!)

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I lost the main clumps of Aristida purpurea, which didn’t impress me hugely last year.
I love what a seedling has done with this agave, though. Much better placement than my attempt. More, please.
And I really should thin those pups out this weekend.

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Albuca maxima. I moved a couple bulbs into the back garden. This one does quite the disappearing act, dormant in summer.

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The Rudbeckia maxima experiment continues. Very entertaining so far.

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Depending on how it handles dryish conditions this summer will decide its ultimate fate.
You can’t really describe this as having a small footprint either, but I’ve removed some of the lower leaves.

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Nicotiana ‘Hot Chocolate’ easily hoists itself above the crowd, without being any trouble at all. Self-sows.

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Kniphofia thompsonii var. snowdenii is slim and elegant. I hear it can be trouble with more water, but it stays put here.

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Crambe maritima breaks the tall and slender theme, but look at those gorgeous new leaves.

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I’m getting lots of seedlings of this sideritis. I think it’s Sideritis oroteneriffae. If you feel otherwise, let me know.

And have a great weekend!


*“Sister Sue, she’s short and stout
She didn’t grow up, she grew out”
— Randy Newman, “My Old Kentucky Home”*

I’ve been reading Greil Marcus’ 1975 landmark paean to American music “Mystery Train” on the Metro to work. Any critic who up front acknowledges a debt to Pauline Kael is fine by me. If you’re short on time, just read Marcus on Robert Johnson, the musician whose skill went from so-so to prodigious in such a short period of time that he was rumored to have sold his soul to the devil. Without Johnson, The Rolling Stones couldn’t exist. Books, music, and plants — is there anything I’ve forgotten? Didn’t think so.

K is for kniphofia

These get moved around the garden quite a bit, one of the reasons I can never keep track of their proper names. This may possibly be Kniphofia ‘Glow,’ but I wouldn’t swear to it. Currently, this remaining clump is deep in the back, near the compost pile, an out-of-the-way place for experiments, yes, but also a last-chance proving ground for the beautiful but exasperating ones like kniphofia. For a plant, being moved ever closer to the compost pile is very much like placing a shovel at the ready near the plant in question, a not-so-veiled threat to clean up your act or risk being converted to compost. Threats aside, it’s also an open, sunny site that has the added advantage of hiding their copious leaves from view, which is the main reason they get uprooted so often. Kniphofias really do claim their fair share of garden real estate, and then some.

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But when they’re in bloom, all is forgiven.
Just look at that demure, beseeching bend to their necks. “Why, we’re nothing but beautiful and no trouble at all!”
Haven’t we all tried that line before?

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Back by the compost bin, they’ll have to duke it out with bare-knuckle streetfighters like macleaya, Arundo donax, and Japanese anemones.
Mazeltov. May the best plant win.

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But just to prove I can occasionally be nice to plants and not always the severe taskmaster, here’s a kniphofia I just gave a prime location right outside my office, Kniphofia thompsonii var. snowdenii. I moved it from the front garden which is undergoing an impromptu revision as a result of planting a tree in the midst of all the sun lovers. You’ve gotta keep plants on their toes. Nobody is allowed to get complacent around here. The tree, Acacia podalyriifolia, has taken us all by surprise by growing in leaps and bounds, necessitating some reshuffling this spring as sunny conditions turn swiftly to shade under the acacia’s rapidly expanding canopy. I really should have moved this kniphofia anyway to a site with steadier moisture. It had practically none in the front garden.

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Because here’s what a happy, mature clump looks like, photographed at Mendocino Botanical Garden 8/11. It looks quite different from my Kniphofia thompsonii var. snowdenii, but I think this is the effect of good culture and conditions it likes. And doesn’t everything look different in a botanical garden anyway, versus a small home garden where space is on a stingy budget? But there may be various forms in circulation. Confusing the issue is a kniphofia also listed as K. thomsonii, whose photo looks very similar to mine on Far Reaches Farm’s website, that I’ve also seen referred to as K. thomsonii var. thomsonii. Whatever its correct name, the blooms are more open and aloe-esque, the leaves thinner and tidier. Even in the poor conditions of the front garden, it bloomed more frequently than the garden hybrids, and the leaves stay neat and low. This one now has pride of place, sited well away from the compost bins…for now at least. Any clarification on the names thomsonii/thompsonii is most welcome.

Into The Fog

Every August we head for mists and fogs, usually those that creep on cat’s paws and shroud the coastline of Oregon. But this year, squeezed by budget and time constraints, we took the advice of Far Out Flora and Gardenbook and opted to give the much-closer Northern California coast of Mendocino a try as a stand-in for the Oregonian fog and mists we’re always parched for by August. Kathy of the blog Gardenbook escorted a group of gardeners to Digging Dog Nursery and Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens in July of 2010, a trip I was very sorry to miss. I had visited Digging Dog many years ago, long before their display gardens had grown in and become a garden travel destination near the little town of Albion, so a trip back was long overdue.

So last Thursday, all scrubbed and packed, we headed to the Mendocino coast north of San Francisco, about a 10-hour road trip from Los Angeles.


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And other than one overnight en route in San Francisco, this summer we were camping, something I haven’t done in over a decade. We packed a bare minimum of camping gear, in case we decided it was simply too awful to endure, reasoning that after making an honest effort there’s no shame in retreating to a motel. But I’d forgotten that camping in a state park is not unlike a rustic motel — showers, bathrooms, firewood for sale. In other words, not much of a challenge even for a camping sissy such as myself. Maybe a thicker pad under the sleeping bags next time.

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An interesting twist was no cell phone connection for three days. Abrupt and total electronic detoxification. That might have been the best part.

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