Tag Archives: Native Sons plant nursery

counting euphorbias

Tis the season to celebrate euphorbias, since many of us will be living with or gifting/regifting one of its tribe over the next couple weeks, the poinsettia. Call me scrooge, but I’d much rather think about the ones planted in my garden than the holiday favorite with the flaming red bracts. Since first digging the garden 26 years ago, there’s always been at least a couple euphorbias around, and that will certainly be true again for 2015. I’m referring to the herbaceous and shrubby kinds, not the succulents, whose numbers are legion. This genus is ginormous, the largest genera of flowering plants in the plant kingdom, named after Euphorbus, physician to the Mauretanian King Juba II (first century B.C.), whose exploitation of its medicinal properties earned him a place in botanical nomenclature. But the white sap is notoriously toxic and the stinging enemy to the mucous membranes of the eyes and mouth, so I can’t imagine how and in what form Dr. Euphorbus delivered the medicine. Even getting the sap on the skin causes a strong reaction in some people, though I seem to have the hide of a rhino and haven’t had a problem so far. I’ve grown many of the different herbaceous kinds over the years, which generally tend to be short-lived for me. Many will seed around, whether lightly or alarmingly, and species do occasionally cross, like the famous Euphorbia x martinii, a naturally occurring hybrid between characias and amygdaloides. The euphorbias are standouts here in winter and spring for a sunny, dryish garden, and I’ve long been faithfully trying out any new kinds that come my way.

 photo P1012400.jpg

First the euphorbs returning for 2015. There’s tree-like Euphorbia lambii fattening up after the recent rain, losing its scrawny summer looks.
This euphorbia seeds around like nobody’s business. But it’s tall, incredibly tough and tolerant of a dry summer, so it gets a pass.
Hardy down to 25 to 30 degrees.

Photobucket

By February it will look more like this (February 2013)

 photo P1010358.jpg

In bloom April 2013, illustrating a euphorbia’s attractions: smooth, blue-green leaves arranged in whorls with a shaggy chartreuse inflorescence

 photo P1012342.jpg

Also fattening up is a young E. atropurpurea. After a wobbly first year, it’s exciting to see it settling in and appearing to choose life. From Tenerife, Canary Islands.

Photobucket

Here it is at the Huntington Botanical Garden, flaunting its atypically fabulous wine-colored bracts.
I had never heard of such a euphorbia before and stood slack-jawed before it when first stumbling across this beauty.

Photobucket

There was much gaping and sputtering, and then a frenzied search for my son Mitch, who was photographing barrel cactus elsewhere in the garden (see here).
I dragged him back by the sleeve to take this photo. And then I chased this euphorbia across a summer of plant shows, ultimately finding a source at Annie’s Annuals. Bless you, Annie!

 photo P1012615.jpg

Also returning is Euphorbia rigida, just not this specific plant, which declined and withered away. A couple pieces were salvaged.
It also reseeds, but nowhere at the level of E. lambii. When I find these seedlings, they’re carefully potted up. Photo from February 2014

Photobucket

spring 2012. So this plant lived at least three to four years. The clay here might have something to do with the shortened lifespan.

 photo P1012334.jpg

Euphorbia mauritanica in the front garden, where the sun/shade shifts around quite a bit throughout the year.
These are probably leggier than they should be, but I’m hoping they’re in shape for a good bloom this spring.

 photo P1018760-001.jpg

Here’s the ideal Euphorbia mauritanica, included in a design by Dustin Gimbel.

 photo P1012364.jpg

My straggly Euphorbia ceratocarpa, appearing to have barely survived a recent move to clear out the compost area.

Photobucket

Old photo from 2009 when the smoke tree ‘Grace’ ruled the garden and I continually wore that green robe through the winter.
Euphorbia ceratocarpa is on the left against the fence. Golden blur on the right was a duranta.

Unfortunately, this is the best photo I have to illustrate why I’ve carefully nurtured this one ratty-looking plant from a single cutting for the many years after the mother plant died.
There’s very little information available on this euphorbia for gardens. English plantsman John Raven grew it, and his daughter Sarah Raven has this to say:


This is one of the most open-growing and perhaps less elegant of the euphorbias, forming big, rangy clumps nearly 1.8m (6ft) across. But it is definitely a contender for the longest-flowering plant I know. I’ve had one that is yet to stop blooming outside the kitchen at Perch Hill since March 2006. It has not had a single week’s pause, and you can pick decent-sized stems right the way through the winter. I cut some for an arrangement at Christmas, when there is almost nothing of this brightness still surviving. E. ceratocarpa is also very easy to propagate. The cuttings that my parents collected all took extremely easily – even after several days wrapped up in damp loo roll in a plastic bag – and those few plants have created many thousand since. This euphorbia should certainly be more widely grown.” – source here.

Easy to propagate? Ha! I’ve had cuttings take a year to root. The only other person I’ve come across who grows it is garden designer/author Rebecca Sweet. It reminds me of a big, blowsy, lime-green hydrangea when in bloom.

 photo P1012322.jpg

Euphorbia mellifera is another big shrub like E. lambii, but more lush. Fairly fast growing, this one was planted out from a 4-inch pot last year.
For zones 9 to 11 or container culture. Reseeds lightly here.

 photo P1012341.jpg

And then there was the moment when the pale, variegated euphorbias entered our lives. ‘Tasmanian Tiger,’ discovered in a garden in Tasmania in 1993, was the first.
Because they turned up at the local nurseries, I grabbed a couple this fall to plant near Leucadendron ‘Ebony’ while it gains size. Short-lived plants have their uses too.

 photo P1012354.jpg

I tend to try all the pale variegated ones. Some have proved to be stronger growers than ‘Tasmanian Tiger.’
A new one to me, at the nurseries this fall, under Native Sons label, E. characias ‘Glacier Blue’

Photobucket

An old photo of a bloom truss from Euphorbia characias ‘Silver Swan,’ which I remember as a very robust grower.

 photo P1012358.jpg

This non-variegated form of E. characias turned up at local nurseries too this fall.
Euphorbia characias ‘Black Pearl,’ so named because part of the flower structure has a “black eye.”

Photobucket

An old photo of a blooming Euphorbia x martinii ‘Ascot Rainbow,’ whose leaves have bright yellow variegation that flushes red with cool temps of fall/spring.

Photobucket

From April 2011, Euphorbia mellifera almost out of frame at the upper left, ‘Ascot Rainbow’ blooming lower right.

 photo P1012346.jpg

I’ll end with a photo of this incredibly weedy self-sower brought home years ago. Possibly Euphorbia nicaeensis.
A nuisance, yes, but the fresh color and meticulous arrangement of the leaves keeps me from weeding every last one from the garden.

Enjoy (or give to your mother) your Euphorbia pulcherrima (poinsettia) this holiday season, and as alway, mind the sap!


friday clippings 12/7/12

The tulips are planted, and now the vegetable bin in the fridge is once again restored to its rightful purpose of chilling vegetables. I went beyond the required six weeks of prechilling this year, but overchilling is not the problem that underchilling is. I think this year is a new record, 12 pots in total, not all of them in this photo.


Photobucket

Waiting for the tulips to bloom, I’m noticing how the silver-leaved plants really stand out in December when so much of the garden is a subdued brown. I’ve been binging on them again, especially since there’s so many new ones available to try, like the sideritis from the Canary Islands.
I’m getting these from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials when available.

Photobucket

I think this one with the larger leaf is Sideritis oroteneriffae.

Photobucket

Judging from its blooms over the summer, I think this is Sideritis syriaca.

Photobucket

Glaucium is another one whose rich, silvery leaves are so appreciated this time of year.
You can bank on silver-leaved plants being tough as well as beautiful, insisting on minimal irrigation.

Photobucket

I was glad to find Senecio viravira again at a plant sale last spring. I grew it in the garden for years, renewing it when needed from cuttings, then became exasperated with having to continually trim it back. It is easily capable of covering 5 feet of ground in no time. It wasn’t long before I missed growing it; of course, then I couldn’t find it anywhere. Such a good plant for containers too. Incredibly easy from cuttings.

Photobucket

A silver new to me, found just today, Othonna cheirifolia, a South African succulent from Native Sons.
I’ve been reading about this one for years, but sometimes in print they sound too good to be true and just have to be seen in the leaf to be believed.
In person, this little one doesn’t disappoint.

Far Reaches Farm lists it to zone 7a and say they grow it outdoors unprotected:

A favorite of ours from South Africa. We have this growing in front of our greenhouse and the first winter we mulched it and covered with a tarp. No damage. The second winter we just threw a tarp over it and no damage. Then finally we didn’t protect it at all and there was no damage at 17F – even the flower buds were unscathed. Yellow daisy flowers are lovely over the glaucous succulent foliage.”

Gertrude Jekyll admired it as well, quoted from my beat-up “Gertrude Jekyll on Gardening”:
A striking and handsome plant in the upper part of the rockery is Othonna cheirifolia; its aspect is unusual and interestig, with its bunches of thick, blunt-edged leaves of blue-grey colouring and large yellow daisy flowers.”

Photobucket

It’s possible to overdo silver, I suppose, but it always arrives on the most tempting leaves, like puya.

Photobucket

Silver sliding into blue in the attenuata hybrid Agave ‘Blue Flame.’ Sometimes the plant namers really nail it.

Photobucket

Backlit by Libertia peregrinans.

Speaking of agaves, Lincoln Avenue Nursery in Pasadena has a 20 percent sale ongoing, and their range of succulents is very good, including
4-inch pots of the spiral aloe, Aloe polyphylla. Best to try this heartbreaker in a small, inexpensive size.

Photobucket

They even had gallons of one of my big agave crushes, Agave parrasana ‘Fireball,’ which I’ve never seen offered for sale outside of plant shows.

Photobucket

As well as another agave crush, Agave lophantha ‘Quadricolor.’
I’ll have to separate these two soon (“He’s touching me!!”)

Photobucket

Some of the stock at Lincoln Avenue Nursery.

Photobucket

I was tempted by some variegated Euphorbia ammak in small sizes, but not small enough to drive home with me.

And I suppose by now all the plant geeks have heard the sad news that the source for extraordinary agastaches and all things xeric, High Country Gardens, has closed. The wonderful blog prairie break has more on HCG’s closure.