Tag Archives: Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’

Bloom Day June 2014

Bloom Day on Father’s Day? Really? I figured this out about 7 o’clock last night, but by then I was too sun-blasted to muster a post. Marty wanted his day spent at a local Irish fair. Guinness and “trad” music for him, Irish wolfhounds and sheep herding displays for me. Running late, on to my experiments with herbaceous stuff for a dryish zone 10 Southern California garden. A counter-intuitive direction in the land of palms, agapanthus, and bougainvillea but for now my idea of summer.

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June brought the agastaches. Dark blue in the background is Lavandula multifida.

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Agastache ‘Blue Blazes’ planted last fall 2013

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So now the blue spikes of Plectranthus neochilus have been joined by agastache to make quite an unplanned wash of blue in the corner under the Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea.’

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No complaint from me. A corner of blue isn’t a bad thing on a warm day.
The lavender and catmint ‘Walker’s Low’ is here too.

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Self-sown nicotiana with the plectranthus, leaves of Echium simplex in the foreground.

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Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ is a pale, milky blue. Maybe a little insipid compared to some of the darker blues like Agastache ‘Purple Haze,’ which I neglected to photograph.
But BF has an admirable chunky structure and wonderful leaves. Umbels of Baltic parsley in the lower right.

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Cenolophium denudatum, the Baltic parsley, was started from seed a couple years ago. I think it would be happier in a wetter garden. Stays green and lush but not many flowers.
Maybe I should try it in soups.

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I lifted and split the enormous clump of the grass Chloris virgata and started with smaller divisions last fall. It thickens up fast and does self-sow so no danger in losing it.

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In a small garden, a large pot of cosmos makes for a summer full of daisies. This one has a faint halo of yellow. Cosmos ‘Yellow Garden’

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Pot of cosmos in the background. Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ and digiplexis. There’s some white cleome in here too I didn’t photograph.
For animating a dry summer garden with just two kinds of plants, it’d be hard to beat this gomphrena with grasses.

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Purple orach on the left.

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Seedheads of purple orach, Atriplex hortensis. Wish it did more than very lightly self-sow. The edible orach would no doubt be happier in the rich, moist soil of a vegetable garden.
I once grew a fantastic chartreuse form too but couldn’t get it to reseed. The lower leaves are fed to the parakeets.

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The best umbellifer I’ve found for dry zone 10 is Crithmum maritimum.

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I love the crithmum growing among Eryngium planum

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Dalea purpurea’s first year has been very impressive.

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Tiny blooms on the grass-like Anthericum saundersiae ‘Variegata’ which thrives in the morning sun/afternoon shade in very dry soil under the tetrapanax with bromeliads and aeoniums.

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The kangaroo paws don’t seem as tall this year. Not long-lived anyway, the lack of winter rain may have contributed to smaller size. (‘Yellow Gem’)
More fern-leaf lavender, with Gaillardia ‘Oranges & Lemons’ in the background.

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My garden is really too small for big clumps of rudbeckias, too dry for heleniums. Gaillardias are just right. This one is sunshine on stems.

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Out of three pots of lilies, only the white returned in spring, supported here by the trunk of Euphorbia lambii.

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Pelargonium echinatum has started a new flush of bloom in the mild June weather.

Catch up with other June gardens at May Dreams Gardens.


elephant season

A few tropicals in pots can be a fine sendoff to summer. Here about a mile from the ocean, the big-leaved tropicals like colocasia, the “elephant ears,” bide their time until the temperatures start to really feel uncomfortable. By the time we’re whining about the heat in August, they’re in their element, coolly unfurling the largest leaves we’ve seen all summer. Now that the soft, angled light is what pulls me into the garden early every morning, the tropicals have achieved as much size and leaf as they will attain for me, and around November I’ll be moving the pots to dry out over winter. I’m not a tropics-mad person, per se, and keep just a few pots for what they add to a fall garden. In spring I feed them a little compost and nothing else, so they’re grown on a relatively lean diet, but they don’t like to miss a drink. I’ve pretty much stopped growing any other plants in containers, other than succulents. Even just a few big leaves make quite the impact.


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Colocasia ‘Mojito’

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Colocasia ‘Diamond Head’

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Pseuderanthemum

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While the soil is still warm, I’ve been busy shifting plants around. More evergreen, year-round plants are leaving their containers and moving into the back garden, such as agaves, two cussonias, the cabbage palms, which means there will be less room for softer, herbaceous planting in the back garden for next summer.

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Agave celsii var. albicans ‘UCB’ was moved into the garden near this summer-scorched aeonium

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A Cussonia gamtoosensis, now a little 4-foot tree, has taken a place in the garden too.

Spring will bring the usual self-sown poppies, orlaya, and whatever else turns up, and I’ve added a few bright orange bearded iris. Then the plan is mainly for grasses, yarrow, nepeta, calamint, agastache, the sturdy umbellifer crithmum, and the summer-blooming bulb eucomis to hold the fort for summer and keep local pollinators happy.

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I havn’t grown catmints for some years, but Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ sold me on them again. It still looks amazingly fresh after being cut back mid-summer, and is a wonderful bee plant. Fronting the nepeta with large rocks keeps the cats from indulging in the those catmint-rolling orgies. The rocks are quickly submerged under spring growth. I have to remind myself that the sturdy and fool-proof are a great backbone if you’re continually trying out new plants. On that note, now that I’ve pretty much ripped up the herbaceous planting in the back garden and replanted for next year, it’s always around this time in fall that I wish I had some really large pots to hold the eye. The biggest one I own is an over-the-top, two-headed elephant pot that I found at the curb amongst a bunch of other castoffs with the sign “take me.” It’s been semi-hidden in the front garden ever since. A latent minimalist streak always stays my hand when I think of moving it somewhere more prominent.

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Colocasia ‘Blue Hawaii’

I’ve decided there’ll be plenty of time to explore minimalism this winter. Pachyderms of clay for leafy elephant ears. Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em.

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At this point, adding a couple Mexican chocolate stirrers makes sense.

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And I couldn’t leave the pot empty. A potted Kalanchoe beharensis happened to fit snug inside the rim.

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This winter I’ll probably get all Scandinavian again and move the pot back into the shadows until it’s elephant season once more.

Bloom Day August 2013

Not too much of a change since July’s Bloom Day post, when I predicted the Persicaria amplexicaulis would own the garden in August, and the vibrant crimson spikes have done just that. This knotweed is the legacy of foolishly trialing just about every reasonably drought tolerant, classic border perennial in the early years of making the garden. A very quixotic notion in this dry-summer climate that would prefer plants just go dormant, like many of our natives do. Still, there are always surprises to be found, like the persicaria.


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It still amazes me that this persicaria thrives in my zone 10 garden, in full sun. A fabulous bee plant too.
These kinds of perennials are as rare a sight here as desert plants in a wet, zone 5 garden. It’s always about the challenge, isn’t it?

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Where the common red persicaria loves the dry, heavy clay of August, the other varieties always struggle. I’m trying the white-flowered persicaria again, so this is a new clump, and it’s just managing to squeeze out a few blooms against a backdrop of the unstoppable ‘Limelight’ Mirabilis jalapa which self-sows.

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Even though I long ago gave up on the concept of a summer garden of strictly perennials, I usually include a few stalwarts for late summer.
The ‘Monch’ aster is another surprisingly reliable perennial in zone 10. Finding perennials that can tolerate such a long, dry growing season with very little winter chill is a continual puzzle that still absorbs me. I like the seasonal “movement” they give the garden.

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But like everyone else, I have been trialing agastaches. I brought in a few kinds in spring and early summer. Planting agastaches in fall has always been problematic (they disappear by spring).
This one is the stalwart ‘Blue Fortune’ I grabbed at a local nursery.

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Agastache ‘Summer Glow’

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Other good daisies for summer here are the gaillardias, and ‘Oranges & Lemons’ citrusy colors makes it one of my favorites.

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The simple buttery goodness of anthemis is another continual favorite. This one is ‘Susanna Mitchell.’ If ‘Sauce Hollandaise’ is at all different, I haven’t noticed. I have read that ‘Cally Cream’ is considered to be more reliably perennial where this anthemis tends to disappear after a season. Not a problem here. Incredibly easy from cuttings in any case, and bulks up fast in one season.

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The anthemis with Salvia greggii

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A nice feast for insect pollinators and hummingbirds

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Speaking of summer feasts, I am in stone-fruit love with my neighbor’s peach tree. Or maybe it’s an apricot tree. (This is its first crop.) I’ve never experienced fruit-tree lust before, but now I’ve got it bad. Having to duck under its branches to sit at the table is a sacrifice I’m willing to make. Is this not the best of all possible worlds: A fruit tree taking up no space in my garden, within picking distance? Oh, hell, yes. The fruit is just starting to color up. Will they be edible? The suspense is almost unbearable. The branches were wall-to-wall with fruit, just inches apart, and some quick Internet research brought up the importance of thinning the fruits. I may have thinned my side too late. Common wisdom says to thin as soon as fruit has set after bloom to lessen the nutrient burden on the tree. Also saves the tree from weighty branches prone to wind damage. Some diehards even thin out the blooms before fruit set. The little tree was given a buzz cut, topped within an inch of its life last year, which was fairly alarming, but I’ve since read this is a technique some recommend for better fruit bearing. Possibly by next Bloom Day we’ll have sampled some fruit. My neighbor didn’t thin his side, so the fruit might turn out bland and insipid. Offering advice just seems a little too pushy for now.

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Self-sown Verbena bonariensis. The dwarf kinds actually seem like that rare good idea where dwarfism in plants is concerned, but so far they’ve been disappointing and weak growers. ‘Little One,’ ‘Lollipop,’ whatever the name, they dwindle and limp along, never very many blooms at one time. The self-sown species is robust and reliable.

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Cuphea viscosissima attracts lots of pollinators, has a lovely rich color, but some seriously ratty leaves. If it seeds around I’ll let some stay, but I won’t go out of my way to grow it again.

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Tall, knobby gomphrena in deep orange. Yes, please.

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Nicotiana are back, progeny from Nicotiana ‘Ondra’s Brown Mix.’ These are new plants that seeded into the bricks. The ones that bloomed all winter were pulled out in June to make room for early summer plants.

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Russelia is incredibly tough, long blooming, and beloved by hummingbirds.

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Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ is having a strong rebloom after being cut back hard in June. Eucomis were shaken out of their pots and grown in the ground this year. Much more upright in full sun and dry conditions, if just a tad singed on the leaf tips.

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The prairie clover, Dalea purpurea, just planted in July, lightly blooming.

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Lotus jacobaeus beginning to bloom again after a deep soaking in early August. I know what’s attracting flies to the garden this year.

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That would be Eryngium pandanifolium, whose blooms carry the light scent of old socks, noticeable mainly on still mornings. Possibly its one failing.

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The weight of the blooms is sending some of the stalks earthward. This stalk remains upright by leaning on a hanging caged tillandsia.

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The tillandsia has the scent of grape Sweet Tarts.

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Salvia chiapensis is rarely out of bloom.

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This little cutie was found at a local nursery this summer, the South African Crassula exilis subsp. cooperi. Very thyme-like in appearance, growing to just 2-3 inches high. To zone 8.

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A California native new to me this summer, Lessingia filaginifolia. I’ll probably move it to the gravel garden in fall.

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The garlic passionflower is blooming lightly in August and appreciates occasional deep watering.

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After wondering every summer how to prune this crazy tropical, whose new leaves push out like a mop atop a 6-foot trunk, the matter was taken out of my hands.
Here it is throwing new growth after having its trunk snapped off at the base in a garden mishap. (A tree fell on it).

Carol at May Dreams Gardens graciously hosts Bloom Days and gathers links of participating blogs there, 92 when I last checked.


Bloom Day July 2013

An extravagant display of blooms isn’t the overwhelming impression the garden is making this July, which is pretty typical.

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Though the Pennisetum ‘Skyrocket’ grasses are technically blooming.
In the dimming twilight, the ferny leaves of Selinum wallichianum can just be made out leaning onto Furcraea foetida ‘Mediopicta’ in the foreground.

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And the sideritis is also technically in bloom.

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Solanum marginatum’s white blooms are for all floral intents and purposes invisible.

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And there are blooms you have to move leaves aside to see, like with this little Aristolochia fimbriata. Since it reminds me of a tick, I don’t mind if the flowers stay hidden behind those very cool leaves.

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In the foreground lean in the bleached-out plumes of Chloris virgata. Eryngium pandanifolium tops the pergola in the background

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‘Monch’ asters are responsible for some of that blue.

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And ‘Hidalgo’ penstemon is the tower of lilac blue. So far this is a beautifully erect penstemon that I’d absolutely include in next-year’s garden if it decides to return or maybe seeds around. From Mexico, zoned 9-10, reputedly long-lived and not touchy about drainage issues. On that count, one of the first casualties this summer is the lovely shrub Phylica pubescens, pulled out yesterday. I pruned it lightly when I returned from being away a couple weeks. Immediate decline followed. Never, never prune touchy shrubs mid-summer. Will I ever learn?

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Peachy yarrows like ‘Terracotta’ line the path cutting through the border behind the pergola, now not more than a dog track.

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Salvia chiapensis flowering at the base of the eryngium.

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More closeups of Eryngium pandanifolium, the undisputed rock star of the garden this summer.

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Persicaria amplexicaulis will pretty much own the garden in August.

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In July I’m glad for every Verbena bonariensis I pulled out of the paving and planted into the garden in spring

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One of the “suitcase plants,” Pennisetum ‘Jade Princess.’

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Crithmum maritimum weaving into Senecio viravira. The senecio is starting to throw some more of its creamy blooms after being thoroughly deadheaded about a month ago.

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So far the crithmum has been the most reliable umbellifer to flower through summer. (Selinum wallichianum is struggling. to put it mildly.)
Crithmum with yarrow and Eryngium planum.

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Crithmum, yarrow, leaves of persicaria, calamint, anthemis, agastaches, anigozanthos in the background

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Some peachy Salvia greggii are building size for a late summer show with the grasses.

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I carved off some bits of the ‘Skyrocket’ pennisetum in spring to replace Diascia personata which I found disappointing, and the grass bulked up fast. Its slim tapers move quickly from burgundy to beige.

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Tall, sticky-leaved Cuphea viscosissima seems to love the heat.

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Plectranthus neochilus is starting to bloom heavily, just as nearby Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ slows down after being cut back

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Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ lightly reblooming

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In a border closest to the garage/office, early spring-blooming annuals and flopping penstemons were replaced with Gomphrena ‘Strawberry Fields’
and Gaillardia ‘Oranges & Lemons.’

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Russelia reminds me of a blooming restio, great for texture tumbling around nearby containers. It’s planted in the garden and does well with minimal irrigation.


There’s odds and ends I left out, such as eucomis and the passion flower vine which has been wonderful all summer, but that’s the sketch for July. Sending out solidarity to those suffering in excessive heat, or too little heat if that’s possible, unseasonal drought, too much rain. It’s always something in July! Thanks as always to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Bloom Day on the 15th of every month (and not minding those straggling in a day late).

Bloom Day May 2013



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It’s our blue period again, and not just ours. Jacaranda mimosifolia trees are painting the whole town blue.
Spiky plants in the front garden will fly these pennants until July, when the blue period ends, and the trees in the parkway will be fully leafed out.

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In the back garden, two-year-old clumps of Penstemon ‘Enor’ have started to bloom.
I had a big penstemon phase about five years ago, then attention wandered elsewhere.
I like this one’s tall, slim spikes and smallish flowers.

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Some of the new plants I’m trying this year, like this umbellifer Cenolophium denudatum, will be encouraged to stay and self-sow.
It fulfills the important requirement of tolerating fairly dry soil, while still keeping lush good looks.
Same deal with the blue-flowered Aristea ecklonii, a South African iris relative.

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Diascia personata, tall and pink in the background behind Orlaya grandiflora, is more problematic. Good height and promising growth habit, open and loose, but had a difficult time with recent hot days, not to mention the leaves have been curled and disfigured since active growth started a couple months ago. Looks like thrips damage, a problem I’ve never had in the garden before. And though I love its height and structure, I’m not crazy enough about that color to put up with deformed leaves.
All the lacy white orlaya this year were self-sown volunteers.

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I should probably stop experimenting and just grow anigozanthos. These bloom stalks will last into fall.

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There’s a couple clumps, one gold and the other a rusty orange. I’d love to add a chartreuse-flowered clump too.

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Another experiment was Verbascum ‘Clementine.’ Lovely plant but a bit of a lightweight as far as sun and drought tolerance.
I’ll probably stick to the silver-leaved verbascums in the future.
Silvery Sideritis syriaca on the left, dark green clump in the foreground is Persicaria amplexicaulis.

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I’m very glad to be growing nepeta again, a few clumps of ‘Walker’s Low.’ It’s as drought tolerant as ballota, whose white wands are just behind the nepeta.

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And it’s nice to have a few of these Senecio stellata self-sowing, though they absolutely must have afternoon shade.

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Eryngium planum is blooming this year in a couple spots. Once I stopped crowding them and gave them sun at their bases, they complied.

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Pelargoniums continue to work their charm on me and are tough as nails in pots.
This one is Pelargonium caffrum X ‘Diana,’ whose flowers remind me of lewisias.

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Just one bloom on a couple plants of Coreopsis tinctoria ‘Mahogany’ opened for Bloom Day.

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A few plants of Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’ self-sowed this spring.

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There are some amazingly fresh spring gardens to wander through at our host’s site for Bloom Day, Carol at May Dreams Gardens, filled with all sorts of plants and bulbs I can only dream of growing. May dreams indeed!


Ethan Hawke fondles switchgrass at the High Line

There’s an attention grabber. No, that’s not a recent tabloid headline and, yes, I am being facetious, but I find it amazing that the High Line (and switchgrass!) is casually slipped into a bit of puffery about the current goings-on of Ethan Hawke.

From the May 13, 2013, issue of The New Yorker: “Ethan Hawke traipsed the High Line with his hands in his pockets, his blue-gray eyes wide in the strong morning light…Knifing through a bed of switchgrass, he observed…”

No further explanation of what the High Line is, or what switchgrass is for that matter (panicum). It’s just assumed we’ll know — or should know.

In the land of public opinion, the High Line has been an idea in transit, moving relatively swiftly from an impossible feat to a controversial instigator of gentrification, now coasting and settling into a beloved space mentioned in articles about film stars. I’ve been a fan every step of the way. Will the High Line be the impetus for plants and landscapes to begin to share a little space in the collective cultural mind, alongside film stars and cat videos? Wouldn’t that be something? Can headlines like “Autumn crocus now in bloom at the High Line!” be far off?

I’ll always read any piece on Ethan Hawke, because of all the Chekhov plays he’s been doing, because of the Before Sunrise/Sunset movies and Gattaca, and because of the film version he made of Jack London’s White Fang, in which at 21 he costarred with the incomparable Klaus Maria Brandauer and that equally incomparable actor Jed, the wolf mix that played White Fang. The scene where Jed rescues Ethan from a mine collapse is especially riveting, as is the scene when Jed dispatches the bad guys.

But I had no idea Ethan Hawke had narrated a history of the High Line. I suppose his movie Chelsea Walls was a tipoff to his involvement in the neighborhood.

There is something so emotionally satisfying about moving through a landscape — which is why I think there’s something uniquely American about the High Line and its contribution to landscape design. Footfall after footfall expectation builds, scent and sound are stirred, memories too. Memories like walking to and from school on paths through empty fields, an interlude of intense freedom bracketed by responsibility at both departure and arrival. Even in a tiny garden like mine, moving through a landscape is embarking on a journey of discovery. Cutting a little path through the main border and scaling the plants down to knee-high at the path’s edge has been an interesting and rewarding experiment this year.

Where the bricks end is where the new path begins, maybe 8 feet in curved length. It’s really just a dog track in width now that summer growth is spilling onto it, fit for corgi-sized adventures.


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Summer gardens and parks, coming soon to a neighborhood near you.


Bloom Day April 2013

Spring is moving fast here in Southern California. I’ve already checked out some of the gardens on our host’s site for Bloom Day, Carol at May Dreams Gardens, and saw lots of traditional spring shrubs and bulbs and perennials like hellebores in amazing colors just coming into bloom. Slowly but surely spring is spreading across the land. Huzzah!

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Spring has had an unmistakably orange cast to it in my garden this year. A kniphofia in its current 50/50 bar coloration.

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Same kniphofia about a week ago.
I moved this one around and didn’t keep track of the name, but all my kniphofias come from Digging Dog, which has a great list.

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Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ is just starting to bloom, and hopefully the isoplexis will hang in there a little longer.
The grass Stipa gigantea was moved here last fall and hasn’t missed a beat, showing lots of bloom stalks.

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Tweedia caerulea/Oxypetalum caerulea may be a rare baby blue in color but it is a surprisingly tough plant.
This one survived forgotten and neglected in a container throughout the mostly rainless winter.
It’s climbing up a castor bean, Ricinus communis ‘New Zealand Purple.’

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The self-sowing annual Senecio stellata started bloom this week. Big leaves, tall, and likes it on the shady side.

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Another tall one, Albuca maxima.

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This South African bulb has been thriving in the front gravel garden, which gets very little summer water. Over 5 feet tall, it reminds me of a giant galanthus.

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More white blooms, Erodium pelargoniflorum, a prolific self-seeder in the front gravel garden.

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The fringe tree on the east side of the house, Chionanthus retusus, just about at maximum white-out.

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The fried egg on a long stalk near the Euphorbia cotinifolia tree trunk is Argemone munita. Hopefully better photos to come.
I wouldn’t mind about six more of these self-sown in the garden for next year.

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Self-sowing white valerian forming buds, with the lavender bells of the shrub prostranthera, the Australian mintbush.

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The mintbush with the succulent Senecio anteuphorbium.

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A gift pelargonium, no ID. The small details in the leaves and flowers of these simple pelargoniums get me every time.

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Closeup of the tiny flowers.

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The plant at its base is even more self-effacing, with a big name for such a quiet plant, Zaluzianskya capensis.

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Lots of self-sown nicotianas. The flowers are too small to be pure N. alata, so it probably has some langsdorfii in the mix.
Whatever its parentage, lime green flowers always work for me.

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Nicotiana ‘Ondra’s Brown Mix,’ with a potted begonia for scale. This strain of flowering tobacco has been keeping hummingbirds happy all winter.
This is the first begonia to bloom (again, no ID!), and the colocasias are just beginning to leaf out.

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The porch poppies, with lots more poppies in bloom in the garden.

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The anigozanthos might be a tad too close to the euphorbia, but I love the lime green and orange together.

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The last two photos are by MB Maher, who was in town briefly and tried to get more of the Euphorbia lambii from a higher angle.

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MB Maher’s photo of the Salvia chiapensis with a bit of purple in the center from Penstemon ‘Margarita BOP,’ planted from gallons a couple weeks ago.
I have a feeling that yucca will be in bloom for May Bloom Day. See you then!

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