busy, busy

It’s spring. Feeling a little pressed for time yet? Join the club. Some of what I’ve been up to the past few weeks include:


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Cutting sweet peas from my mom’s vines. Buckets and buckets. Mine planted at the community garden withered away from lack of attention/water.
Suffering a severe case of garden-neglect guilt, I pulled out all my dead vines, along with the collapsed winter peas and fava beans, and got a few tomatoes and squash planted.
There wasn’t enough winter rain to sustain my plot, and being a bad garden gnome, I hadn’t watered in a couple months. So my mom once again saved the day.
Is it rude to call your mom a good garden gnome? I keep her little raised bed planted winter and summer, and she does the rest.
I didn’t buy her flowers for Mother’s Day because her house is filled with scent and color from vases of sweet peas in every room.
I did run over for a brief visit to bring her a card and share some cake, a two-hour window during which a thief took the opportunity to steal my bike from behind a locked gate.
Nice work, thief, stealing a girl’s bike on Mother’s Day. Couldn’t you switch your reptilian brain off for one day in honor of your mom?
(Roger’s in Newport Beach brings in the best only local selection of sweet peas in fall, award-winning types, all heavily scented, long-stemmed.)

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It’s always exciting to stumble upon new plants, like this Dichondra sericea, found at Merrihew’s Sunset Garden.
At first sight I thought it must be some new brunnera cultivar. The leaves are leathery, about the size of a silver dollar.
San Marcos Growers says:
“It has been found repeatedly in a single location in San Cruz County in Arizona but is more widespread farther to the south in the Río Mayo region of southern Sonora and Chihuahua.
It is similar to Dichondra argentea, the plant commonly called Sliver Dichondra or ‘Silver Falls’, but it is evergreen in frost free climates and has much bigger leaves.

Merrihew’s, a great little neighborhood nursery, was the first stop on last weekend’s Garden Conservancy Open Day.

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As usual, plants are perpetually on the move, sometimes out of the garden and back into a pot like this Agave macroacantha ‘Blue Ribbon’
When I sentenced it to the rigors of the outpost that is the front gravel garden, it was a mess, with leaves pitted and rolling at the edges when they should be straight.
Total neglect in the front gravel garden is apparently what it needed to mature out of its ugly phase.
I moved it back into a pot because it was getting swamped by faster-growing agaves. And because it’s so pretty now. Pups freely too.
The bloomed-out poppies have been pulled and any big openings filled with grasses, mostly pennisetum like ‘Fairy Tails’ and ‘Karley Rose.’

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Might as well take ‘Cornelius’ portrait too. He’s starting to get a nice arch to his leaves.

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Behind ‘Cornelius,’ Cotyledon orbiculata deserves a portrait of those peachy bells and long, silvery stems.

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The Huntington plant sale had a couple Rosa ‘Mutabilis,’ so I fell off the no-more-roses wagon.
In its favor, it’s a single, which means it sheds its silky petals elegantly and doesn’t need deadheading.
It’s reasonably tough and healthy, for a rose, and makes a nice shrubby shape.
This unique rose of mysterious provenance is celebrated for summer-long bloom in colors that cycle through gold, orange, deep pink.
It’s been shoehorned in among the lemon cypresses at the east fence, with drip hose laid to give it a fighting chance.

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Last Wednesday was overcast, like today, and work was reasonably under control (unlike today).
First thought under those conditions is: What do I want to get done in the garden?
There’s a chronic backburner plan to fill one of my trash can planters with blowsy summer stuff.
Cheap, deep, and roomy, metal trash cans are great for seasonal extravaganzas.
I bought them a few years ago but never really got with the program, using them more for overflow odds and ends.

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A quick trip to the local nursery yielded a Buddleia ‘Cranrazz,’ Linaria ‘Licilia Peach,’ and Achillea ‘Sunrise.’
As I prepared to stuff the plants in, it was impossible to ignore what a rusted, pitted eyesore it had become. (“Hey, Marty, you got any spraypaint?“)
30 minutes later the can was a sleek matte black, filled with compost and fresh potting soil, and the plants installed.

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Buddleias drive me a bit mad in the ground. Too big, all that deadheading. I like the idea of being able to pitch it at the end of summer.
Before I’d backfilled in soil and watered it in, the butterflies had already arrived. They don’t call it the butterfly bush for nothing.

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I was so pleased with my new, deep containers that I asked Marty to paint another one for a Mother’s Day present. I’m thinking maybe orange tithonias for this one.
The ‘Hallelujah’ bilbergia was planted up over the weekend with some aeonium and Euphorbia mauritanica. I’m testing its sun tolerance.
I was told by Marina del Rey Garden Center that the more jagged the leaf, the more sun a bromeliad can take. Sun brings out the best color.

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I usually keep a chair here on the bricks over the winter, but there’s not much room….or time…for sitting in spring.

March evening/April morning

Walking off Easter dinner, what caught my eye last evening was a petite bloom on the melianthus, the first I’ve seen on this cultivar ‘Purple Haze.’


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I’m really starting to believe now it is the holy grail, a dwarf melianthus, since even the flower is diminutive.

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Last evening poppies were catching the tail-end breezes of Sunday’s rainstorm as it passed us by. Somebody else got our rain once again. I hope they put it to good use, saved some in barrels and kept it from running uselessly into the streets.

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Argemone munita lengthening and forming flower buds was probably my favorite sight the last day of March.

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Lovely Easter colors, robin’s egg blue, on the Pilocereus azureus.
(The first cactus I’ve ever purchased. No idea what this means for the garden or what the future holds now.
H&H on Lakewood Blvd. has more in small pots and a few large specimens.)

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Sunset colors on Linaria ‘Licilia Peach,’ such a good cool-season, winter-spring annual, this color range a nice change from the typical Moroccan souk colors available, the kinds I usually crave during color-drained winter.

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I grabbed the only six-pack I found locally of this peachy kind and planted them in the tulip pots when they were finished.
Tall, see-through, catch the wind, thrive in pots, they tick off a lot of boxes. Good cut flowers for small vases too.

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All buttoned up last night, this April morning the shape-shifting poppies with their burlesque petals were in various stages of tempting disarray.

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On the plant acquisition front, on Saturday March 30 I stood in front of this Agave gypsophila in Buck and Yvonne Hemenway’s garden in Riverside.

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The photo doesn’t begin to do its wavy frilly twisting blueness justice. Note the bloom stalk, which soared upward into the full-sun, noonday sky, and the relatively petite size at maturity, which sealed the deal. I quickly grabbed the gallon with the baby agave sitting on the rocks and felt alternately relieved and guilty when other hopefuls stopped to admire it and see if any more were offered for sale. Also bought my first gasteria at this sale, which is a succulent that can put up with some shade and has surprisingly lovely, beschorneria-esque blooms, and found two Euphorbia mauritanica, which garden designer Dustin Gimbel uses to such beautiful effect. (This gasteria goes by the charming name of ‘Little Warty.’) The prices at this sale are unbeatable. If you go next year, you will be treated to the cognitively dissonant experience of driving through the arid landscapes of Riverside County, turning into the entrance of Buck and Yvonne’s neighborhood, which is bounded by the lush green fairways of the Indian Hills Golf Course, and driving past houses which zealously maintain deep green front lawns. And then there’s Buck and Yvonne’s amazing garden. No need to check for house numbers at this point.

Warming Up

Edging into the high 80’s the next couple days here at the coast, about a mile from the Pacific, in the 90’s for the inland cities like Pasadena.
The castor bean plant and Salvia canariensis are reveling in the heat, leaving little ground uncovered.

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Salvia canariensis should be in bloom in a couple weeks.

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The annual quaking grass, Briza maxima, self-sown, ripening in the heat.

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Grapevine already past the top of the pergola. Beans, squash, and kale in the silver circular containers (air vents).

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Solanum marginatum, about 4X4 feet of undulating leaf.

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Unlike me, dyckia welcomes the heat, sending up a half dozen bloom stalks, this photo a couple weeks’ old.
This garden has been thinned a bit since this photo was taken. Stipa gigantea leaning in on the left.

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The leeks undulating even more wildly in the heat.

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This spring I’ve craved pots of wispy, diaphanous annuals like linaria, anagallis.
This is Linaria ‘Licilia Peach’ with potted agaves and Senecio medley-woodii.

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As a kid, I loathed summers in Los Angeles. It’s taken decades for me to warm up to the prospect each year.
Having a garden of my own is probably solely responsible for changing my mind. Plants like these make it…bearable.