Tag Archives: Pedilanthus bracteatus

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.

some dry garden plants

When I planted this slipper plant (Pedilanthus bracteatus, from Mexico) into the back garden last October, I knew that it would necessarily change the character of the plantings surrrounding it. Everything would have to become even more dry tolerant. For that reason I hesitated, because the back garden is where I like to experiment with new plants. Experiments sometimes need additional water. With the slipper plant’s sensitivity to over-irrigation, I knew there’d be no turning back. But the surprising thing about a dry garden is, once you commit to it, you’re likely to find that you’re spoiled for choice when it comes to filling your dry garden with beautiful plants. And if you’re inclined toward the kookily eccentric, then the dry garden has your number too. I don’t consider it an insult to call the slipper plant a bit of a kook. In my opinion, it’s a beautiful kook.

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Its first year in the ground it had to acclimatize from its previous position of afternoon shade to full-day sun.
I confess, during some of the most brutally hot days, I thought it was a goner — or would become forever blemished from sunburn.

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Like this Agave lophantha ‘Quadricolor’ after a 106-degree day.
After years in this full-sun spot without sunburn, reflected heat off the pavement during that blistering day was its undoing.
(And we’re not done with high temperatures yet. Today is predicted to go back up into the 90s.)

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This little kook was giving me the hairy eyeball as I took photos of plants, as if to say What am I, chopped liver?

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Plants give rebukes in more subtle ways than corgis.
The move from container to the garden did seem to knock the pedilanthus out of its flowering cycle. It was in full bloom when I planted it last October.

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Closeup of one of its bracts last October.

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It was bare-stemmed all summer, and just recently burst forth with this flush of new leaves.

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After planting, it comically splayed out in all directions, but seems to have found its equilibrium now.
New growth rises out of the center rigid and straight, the old leafless stems making that helix shape.

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It was from this clump of Agave ‘Blue Flame’ that I removed that pup I brought indoors. Lots more thinning to do here.

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You done with plants yet?

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Hardly. This Island Bristleweed has impressed me mightily. From our Channel Islands off the coast of Ventura, Hazardia detonsa.
A beautiful reminder of one of the most harrowing sailing adventures I ever endured, nearly going aground on a rocky reef one dark and stormy night off Santa Rosa Island.
The Channel Islands are notorious for storms blowing up fast and furious.

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I love its crimped silver leaves. There’s a chance that blooming could turn it into a ghastly mess, so it’s too soon to give it an unequivocal recommendation.
Foolishly planted in July, along with other silvers like verbascum, it’s been thriving ever since.
Which is more than I can say about the verbascums, which were done in by the unremitting muggy heat.

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Bored with me focused solely on plants, Ein heads for the house.

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Silly creature. Who could possibly get bored with plants, with Berkheya purpurea throwing a surprising bloom stalk in November?

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I love thistly, bristly plants and have tried dozens. Very few thistles like my garden. I could grow an artichoke, I suppose, but they’re massive plants.
On a smaller scale, a native thistle, Cirsium occidentale, seemed briefly promising but always collapsed just as it threw its first bloom, as if exhausted by the effort.

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Berkheya couldn’t be further from exhausted. Its snaky stems exude rambunctious energy.
Getting through one summer, especially a very hot and dry one like 2015, is quite the accomplishment.

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Brought home from Cistus Nursery summer 2014, it’s spread into several clumps.

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Okay, something tells me it’s time to put down the camera and grab some kibble.

small garden, tough choices

I reckon there are 5 seasons.
There’s an early spring, which I call Sprinter…a Sprummer which comes after that for 2 month…There’s a long summer…a short autumn, a short winter – both just two months long, and then you’re back at Sprinter

Tim Entwisie, Director, Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, Australia.

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Succulents and evergreen shrubs are mainstays year-round. Summer bloom 2015 from isoplexis, agapanthus, anigozanthos, verbascum, the annual Orlaya grandiflora.

Small garden, tough choices. Is the plan geared toward winter, spring, summer and/or fall? All of the above?
Add a collecting habit into the mix, in a summer-dry climate that blurs traditional seasonal boundaries, and it gets even more complicated.
I probably write more about my collector mania side, but believe it or not, there is a side that tries to stay mindful of the garden as a whole, with varying success year to year.
And, locally, as front lawns are changed out from lawn to garden, there’s sure to be a lot more minds focused on similar design issues for small spaces.

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‘Blue Glow’ agaves and Brachysema praemorsum in the front garden. Not much happening for summer here.

My succulent-filled front garden gets minimal dry season irrigation, so most of the experimenting takes place in the back garden.

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Courtesy of the collecting side of my brain, a NOID hechtia, a terrestrial bromeliad from Mexico

The back garden is smaller than a lot of living rooms and, to be honest, just can’t support all my ambitions for it. There have to be some compromises.
The answer to where to put the planting emphasis, whether on the “Sprinter,” the “Sprummer,” (to use Mr. Entwisie’s terminology) or the long, dry summer, changes all the time.
For me spring is simple (poppies) and by fall conditions are much too dry to expect anything grand happening in the garden. Besides, that’s when the grasses shine.
In the past I gave more ground to summer, with a higher concentration of perennials and annuals, but that can be a more water-intensive approach, and it does takes ground from the winter garden.

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The newest planting in the back garden is this section under the Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea,’ after the Arundo donax ‘Golden Chain’ was pulled out last fall.
A Leucodendron ‘Safari Goldstrike’ is making good size behind the cordyline. There are lots of aloes here, grasses, and an Agave ovatifolia.
Not much for summer unless the young asphodels take root and thrive.

Currently, the back garden this year is shrubbier, more solid, more evergreen, maybe even a bit more somber.
This year summer gets maybe 40 percent of the planting emphasis breakdown.
But a lot of new shrubs are still small and will take up considerably more room by 2016, so the focus and weight will have shifted again next year.

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Some sections of the garden don’t change much for summer.
There is a young Grevillea ‘Moonlight’ behind the Agave sisalana ‘Variegata’ that should contribute some blooms soon.
Agave ‘Mateo’ slowly makes size here too, in front of the A. sisalana, and Aloe ‘Hercules’ was moved here recently, last spikes on the right.
Year-round, there should be plenty to hold my interest here, which is key because when the eye gets bored, havoc can ensue, and the compost pile then grows by leaps and bounds.
And with the city outside my gate built strictly for commerce, I need the garden as my constant visual stimulator.
Which brings us around again to small garden, tough choices.

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I wish the summer garden was never without the stimulus of Verbascum bombyciferum and that there was space for multiple spires dotted through the garden.
Because it’s biennial, there can be gaps and off years while new plants bulk up the first year, flower and set seed in the second, then expire.
I just bought another young plant as insurance for next year until the self-sowing cycle reliably kicks in.

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It’s a big plant for a small garden but worth every inch of space you can give it.
(Long stems of the photo-bombing slipper plant, Pedilanthus bracteatus, leaning in on the left.)

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I haven’t stopped trialing intriguing, new, dry garden perennials like this Nepeta ‘Purple Haze’ from Terra Nova, tissue culture of a cross between N. tuberosa and govaniana.
Stats say this nepeta with the big bottlebrush flowers will grow low and wide. I had to bat the bees off as I made my selection at a local nursery.

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Not new but an old favorite with a new name. What I knew as Ballota ‘All Hallows Green’ is now known as Marrubium bourgaei ‘All Hallows Green.’ So glad to find this again locally.
Ballota are great little subshrubs that hold it together all summer and, if used in sufficient numbers, somehow make a disparate group of plants look like a coherent plant community.

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An old standby, Ballota pseudodictamnus, very subtly in bloom at the moment.

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Ever since moving into the house 26 years ago, I’ve been thinking of the next garden, the bigger one, and what I will plant there.
The future garden will have agaves, grasses, but rather than accents, as in this garden, there will be scads of them.
Grass-like clumps are Lomandra ‘Lime Tuff’ and ‘Breeze’

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Any future garden would include the Golden Coulter Bush, Hymenolepis parviflora, here backed by the other ‘Purple Haze’ in the garden, the melianthus.

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The mythical future garden would also include Crithmum maritimum, a fleshy, almost succulent-like umbellifer with lacy blue-green leaves.
Seeds around very lightly to slowly build up sizable clumps. Like ballota, because it has such a long season, it knits together surrounding plants into a community.

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And then there’s the agapanthus experiment this year. Mass plantings are in bloom all over town. It still feels weird to have some in the garden.

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There’s some snobbery here, for sure. If I didn’t see it everywhere, it would be considered a rare treasure, like it is in more cold-challenged gardens.
But it’s easy, takes tough conditions, and has nice lines. The bright leaves of ‘Gold Strike’ stand out against the dark green cistus just behind, ‘Snowfire’

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Cistus ‘Snowfire’

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Like agapanthus, I see kangaroo paws all over town, too, which hasn’t turned me against them yet, so it’s obviously the opinion of an inconsistent mind.
Just visible in front is a very faint wash of the grass Aristida purpurea in its second year, slow to build up, a well-behaved substitute for Mexican Feather Grass.

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The Glaucium grandiflorum is putting on a huge show this year, and I love having some poppy-like flowers for summer.
As a short-lived perennial, it may or may not return next year. Rumor has it that it’s a shy reseeder, so I’d have to bring in new plants.

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Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ has been reliably perennial for those of us with severe allium-envy. There’s just not enough winter dormancy for most alliums here.
I’m trialing another fern-leaf lavender new to me this year, Lavandula minutoli, so am not sure what to expect, but so far love how the pale flowers seem to glow.
It stays low and compact and seems a lot less vigorous in growth than Lavandula multifida, which has inky blue flowers.

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Brachysema praemorsum ‘Bronze Butterfly’

So there’s a quick sketch of the method to my madness with just enough time to head out for a picnic. Enjoy your Memorial Day!

streetside; rainy day house & gardens

alluding to Joni Mitchell’s Rainy Night House
I recently read that Taylor Swift wanted the part in a movie on Mitchell.
I see Swift’s photo all over the Internet, but it wasn’t until Sunday that I finally heard one of her songs on the car radio.
Yes, I do live in a pop culture-free bubble, not always by choice. All I’m going to say is, thank god Mitchell refused. (Oh, the travesty!)

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Rainy day house’s front garden in Venice; dymondia, agaves, sticks on fire, with a hedge of Acacia iteaphylla on the chimney side

I just had one of those Sunday afternoons where an absurd number of destinations are optimistically crammed into a 4-hour window.
The forecast was, again, possible showers.

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The clouds did open at Big Daddy’s

The itinerary:

1. Check out International Garden Center near LAX (done)
2. On to Culver City and Big Daddy’s (I became lost for quite some time but eventually found that weird intersection near National)
3. Cruise the streets of Mar Vista, which has an excellent garden tour coming up this spring.
(I got tired of driving aimlessly and gave up. I’ll have to wait for the tour map. See Dates to Remember for upcoming tour April 25.)
4. Stop by Big Red Sun in Venice (too much traffic on Lincoln Blvd., gave up.)

And did I mention it was raining? Los Angeles drivers, whenever challenged by the smallest drops of moisture from the sky…oh, never mind.

International Nursery had a $30 protea in a one-gallon in bloom, simply labeled “Orange Protea.” Tempting.
And not a bad price for the plant, seeing that 7 stems of proteas go for $100 as cutflowers

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Merwilla plumbea nee Scilla natalensis.
I always plant new stuff out within a couple days. I hate waking up to the rebuke of homeless plants in nursery gallons.

I eventually dropped the protea for this South African bulb, Scilla natalensis. San Marcos Growers says it’s rarely dormant. The leaves are wide, almost eucomis-like.
My problem with Scilla peruviana has been placement that allows for its dormancy needs, which means having a big gap in summer.
The peruviana have ended up against the fence under the lemon cypress, not optimal conditions for a sun-loving bulb. It’ll be exciting to watch this one’s performance.

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International’s Annie’s Annuals section is by far the best I’ve seen at SoCal nurseries.
I grabbed a couple Asphodeline luteas again, though I think I’ve established beyond doubt the asphodels will only curl up their toes for me.
I can’t remember if I’ve tried spring planting before though.
The asphodel is now rivaling dierama for number of kills in my garden.
But memory is still fresh of Asphodeline lutea in Portland, Oregon last summer, photo above.

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Pots on spiral staircase at Big Daddy’s

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Though there’s plenty of the ornate, BD has a nice selection of unadorned but aged-looking planters.

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I’ll take all three of these metal tubs, please.

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Giving up on fighting traffic enroute to Big Red Sun, I drove through a couple streets in Venice.
Thundery skies and bright orange, thunbergia-covered walls.

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And fabulous streetside succulent gardens like this one.

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Big clump of the slipper plant, Pedilanthus bracteatus

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The long parkway was dotted with multiples of the Mexican Blue Palm, Brahea armata

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I once came very close to painting my house these colors, an agave grey-blue and mossy green.

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Aloe marlothii

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The coral aloe, A. striata

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I may not have made it to every stop on the itinerary, but it was still a fine rainy day in LA.

Pedilanthus bracteatus, planted

One of the best things about fall is being able to dig again. Since it’s cooled down, I’ve been digging in the vegetable garden plot and can’t resist moving things around at home too, such as this tall, lanky succulent that I’ve finally planted in the back garden. It had tripled in size from when I brought it home in 2011 and plopped it, still in its nursery can, into a large pot by the east gate. It seemed to love the morning sun, afternoon shade there, so I left well enough alone. But always I’ve been tempted to try this assertively vertical succulent in the back garden, where I’d be able to see it more often. I finally got up the nerve to do it over the weekend. I knew the large pot’s tall sides were providing support for the long, 6-foot stems but didn’t realize to what extent until I had lifted the 5-gallon pot clear of the rim, and the top-heavy plant immediately fell sideways, nearly catapulting out of my arms. Amazingly, no stems were broken in getting it into the ground, and once the hole was backfilled it stopped rocking and listing. With the big container no longer providing support, the stems initially splayed out in all directions but then ultimately found their balance, arranging themselves in a vase-shaped equilibrium.

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Nearly leafless, it gives a similar silhouette as an ocotillo but without the potential for injury. It’s completely smooth, thornless.

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A clump of the New Zealand evergreen grass Harpochloa falx was getting overwhelmed by other plants, and after moving it I realized there might be space enough for the pedilanthus if some aeoniums and sedums were moved too. With everything cleared out, the lanky brute was able to be squeezed in among the remaining agaves, dry conditions perfectly to its liking. The pedilanthus had more than proven its drought-tolerant chops by residing in that 5-gallon nursery can for three years on a semi-forgetful watering regimen and still managing to grow over the top of the gate.
The only question is how it will manage now in full sun rather than half-day sun. I’d hate to have to move it again. I’ll revisit that question next summer.

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Because of it’s height, I rarely got a glimpse of the ruddy bracts.
Now that the big pot no longer girdles the stems and they’ve relaxed downward a bit, I can enjoy the bracts in all their bizarre, shrimpy-green coloration.

Bloom Day October 2012

A nice little rainstorm rolled into town last Thursday. For a sweet, brief moment, it almost seemed like autumn, but the heat has returned this week. Still, the garden has had a reasonable soaking, a rare thing for October, which is helping to settle in the new fall plantings. Much of the summer 2012 garden has already been changed out and replanted. Tough choices have been made to kick out nice plants like Amicia zygomeris in favor of trying out newcomers like Diascia personata, and there’s quite a bit of soil showing, another rarity here, but lots of familiar faces have been left in place for next year.

Persicaria amplexicaulis continues its marathon bloom and will definitely be returning next year, two sizable clumps of it.


Melianthus ‘Purple Haze’ seems to be a much meeker sort of melianthus, not at all vigorous and prone to leaping to 6 ft in a season, which is a good thing here, but it may not be robust enough for iffier zones. I’m very happy with its performance, which lives up to its reputation for compactness, though it did seem to languish in the heat more than other melianthus I’ve grown. One tiny blue flower is showing, I swear, for this Bloom Day on that golden ceratostigma, which suffered horribly in full sun after the smoke tree was removed.

This is cheating, I know. I picked up this Zaluzianskya capensis a month ago already in bloom.


The scent of this infamously fragrant plant so far eludes me, but I’d grow it anyway for its trailing habit and those wine-colored buds that unfold into little white pinwheels.


Nicotiana ‘Ondra’s Brown Mix’ started from seed last spring generously donated by Nancy Ondra of Hayefield. The plants are just now bulking up and blooming. Nicotiana would probably rather be started in fall here, since they definitely bloom better in the cooler weather of spring, but they can easily damp off as seedlings over winter. A bit tricky to find the right balance for them. Nicotianas can be short-lived perennials here, and I’m hoping this nice strain will bloom a bit this fall then rest up over winter, to return next spring. That’s my plan anyway — we’ll see what they have in mind.


Although it’s been blooming for months, I haven’t included the tall Mexican succulent Pedilanthus bracteatus in prior Bloom Day posts because — well, it is so very tall now, over 6 feet, that it’s difficult to get photos of the blooms.


This is a marvelous plant for sunny, dry gardens, with a profile similar to ocotillo but without the spines.
It’s completely indifferent to a watering schedule.


The coloring on the bracts is not as strong as it could be, and it really should be moved out of its pot and into a patch of the driest, sunniest ground, which at the moment is in short supply. I’ll be pondering where to show this beauty off to its best advantage. It does lose all its leaves in winter.


Lotus jacobaeus has started blooming again in October.


As has the Gerbera ‘Drakensberg Carmine.’ I wish I could find the peach colors of this good garden strain, because it’s been an amazingly good plant here, blooming since early spring, only going bloomless in the hottest weather.

The salvias in bloom are Salvia chiapensis.

And the remarkably long-blooming Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’

I’ve been enjoying some fine blog reading all day from the linked blogs at the host site for Bloom Day, May Dreams Gardens. What an amazing diversity of shapes and colors are represented by the autumn gardens there. Thanks, Carol.

Bloom Day December 2011

An unexpected afternoon cloudburst visited the garden this Bloom Day.


In five minutes it was over, leaving enough time to collect some photos before sunset.
Self-sown Orlaya grandiflora, the Minoan Lace.


Rose ‘Bouquet d’Or still in a flush of blooms.


Nicotiana alata ‘Lime Green’ and Thunbergia alata, one of the lighter, peachy shades.


Salvia wagneriana


Russellia equisetiformis


Begonia ‘Paul Hernandez,’ Pedilanthus bracteatus


Tulbaghia simmleri, Salvia madrensis


Helleborus argutifolius


Merry Bloom Day!

Bloom Day arrives unfailingly the 15th of every month courtesy of Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Occasional Daily Photo 6/24/11

I took the day off from work yesterday and worked played in the garden all day.
Needing potting soil, I stopped at a local nursery, where I found this:
(Photo is a little dark, taken late last night.)

Pedilanthus bracteatus (aka Euphorbia bracteata) from Mexico.


A huge empty pot, formerly a fountain, sits in the front garden, just outside the gate to the east side of the house, so I dropped this 5-gallon into that pot.
A plain backdrop is a priceless asset. I was new-plant tingly all over.

A half hour or so later, I heard the dreaded sounds of an impromptu twilight soccer game in my neighbor’s adjacent yard and rushed to the east side just as a soccer ball whooshed over the low fence separating our front gardens and landed in a restio, a mere couple feet away from the not-cheap pedilanthus. A herd of kids, tops of their heads just visible at the 3-foot fence line, were politely bleating, “Lady, please get the ball.” The Agave ‘Mr. Ripple’ is a formidable guard, as are the row of dwarf olives lining the fence, so they know better than to climb the fence. (These encounters are always amiable. Kids have gotta play somewhere, since there’s not a park in walking distance.) As soon as I tossed the ball over, I grabbed the pedilanthus from the pot and rushed him to safety inside the gate, where I took the photo.
Summer is twilight soccer game season, and no pedilanthus is safe.