Bloom Day October 2016

This October the garden has already turned its back on summer, and all but the grasses have been cut back.
I’m curious to find out how long the summer grasses can be supporting players to the winter-blooming aloes before the grasses are cut back in late winter.
(Of course, if we get rain, the grasses might be cut back sooner, but I’m not holding my breath.
In fact, I think I’ll plan a rain vacation this fall/winter. Glasgow averages 4 inches in November, Amsterdam over 3 inches.)

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The ‘New Zealand Purple’ castor bean has a thick woody trunk and should be removed, because it’s left plenty of seedlings to take its place.
But it’s playing so nicely with ‘Moonlight’ grevillea I keep putting it off.

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And the Solanum vine, ‘Navidad Jalisco,’ has had a lot cut back off the lemon cypresses and out of the Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ but is still throwing new blooms.

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Among other low-lying succulents, the aloes like ‘Cynthia Giddy’ shine unobstructed, but the big pennisetum grasses might have to be switched out for grasses of smaller stature.
Lomandras like ‘Breeze’ really would be preferable for size, although they lack the pennisetum’s sexy blooms.
(That ‘Ghost’ aloe on the lower left was recently added, a hybrid of Aloe striata that showed up at nurseries this fall. I love its almost agave-like chunkiness.)

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Here’s a photo I took the other day of a mass planting of lomandra. The scale is perfect for interplanting aloes.
Sun and water requirements are a good fit too.

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For example, Aloe ‘Topaz’ is struggling to be seen through Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tails’ and phormium. I need to cut back that Verbena bonariensis too.

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‘Topaz’ supposedly prefers/tolerates some summer irrigation so should work well among smaller grasses and shrubs.

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Aloe scobinifolia has bloomed in July in the past and is much later this year. One of its record number of five scapes was lost to a mishap with a cat.
That’s Plectranthus neochilus blooming in the background, as it’s done all summer.

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More and more, I find this time-share aspect to the garden so absorbing.
Every plant on its game year-round with something to contribute, or at least get out of the way.
I’m a firm believer that the emphasis on garden “style” is misplaced.
If it doesn’t make sense for your temperament, for your climate, ignore styles. (If you can even figure out what your climate is anymore.)
In zone 10 there’s no justification for the slow death and decay cycle so beloved by the New Perennial movement. (Not when there’s winter-blooming aloes!)
And it’s a safe bet here in SoCal that we’re looking at building dry gardens for the foreseeable future.
So I can stop dreaming about thalictrums and veronicastrums for summer. Sigh…that ‘Black Stockings’ thalictrum is so cool.
But Amicia zygomeris has the height and some of that purply, bruised coloration to its leaves. I should bring that back for next summer.

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Aloe ‘Kujo,’ the Huntington hybrid. I lost a small plant so jumped at this big 2-gallon size already in bloom.

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This plant caught my eye on a nursery bench recently too. With leaves and flower color so reminiscent of Lobelia tupa, I couldn’t pass it up. Justicia sericea ‘Inca Queen.’

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Said to bloom on and off all year, heaviest in early spring maybe. Drought tolerant when established. Might have a tendency for disheveled lankiness.
We’ll see. The hummingbirds are already thanking me.

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This Kelly Griffin hybrid aloe has been blooming on and off all summer too.

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Aloe ‘Rooikappie’ is another year-round bloomer, heaviest in fall. My little plants are just getting going.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens collects Bloom Day posts from gardens all over the world, an invaluable learning tool for what’s working where.

Occasional Daily Weather Report; hot stuff

I’ve got my seed packets of scarlet flax in hand, ready to sow for spring bloom, some interesting cool season cabbages and greens on order, and I can’t stop thinking about hot soup. I’m ready.
And like waiting for the headliner at a show, I’m getting a little restless when the opening act (summer) refuses to leave the stage.
I’m ready to hand the garden over to winter (and complain about how little rainfall we’re getting.)
But heatwaves do bring undeniable benefits. There was such a glorious hush over the neighborhood yesterday, chased indoors by heat and televised sports.
Today is supposed to top 100. Yesterday was high 90s, a throwback to those lackadaisical summer days when I pile a bunch of reading in the coolest spot outdoors I can find.
But who am I kidding, September is always hot in Los Angeles and it’s foolish to expect anything else. I’ve always been out of meteorological sync with this season.
As a kid it felt bizarrely, infuriatingly arbitrary to trudge back to hot, stuffy classrooms instead of heading again for the beach.

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And I may have prematurely moved touchy Agave gypsophila ‘Ivory Curls’ into a full sun position for fall/winter.

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And he’s just outgrown the leaf burn from a previous bout of sunstroke.

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Sorry if I sound a little testy. Hot and dry in autumn is a signal to the termites to wing it, an event that always sets our teeth on edge as they flap against our little wooden bungalow.
But ain’t life grand? Autumn light, insects that eat houses, grasses that catch the wind like schools of fish work the currents — I tell you, it’s simply too wonderful. Have a great week.

Bloom Day July 2016

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I’m going to try a systematic approach, so bear with me.
Right outside the office, the planting is getting some height from the bog sage, kangaroo paws, and Pennisetum ‘Skyrocket’ showing a few blooms way in the back.

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Using the bocconia as a reference point, swinging east, away from the office, the Crithmum maritimum, an almost succulent-like umbellifer, is in bloom at the base of the bocconia.
The grass in front of the crithmum, Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tails,’ is just getting started.

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Silvery plant to the right of P. ‘Fairy Tails’ is the Island Bristleweed, Hazardia detonsa, endemic to the Channel Islands off Ventura, Calif.
The tiny golden paint brush blooms are only interesting insofar as they elongate and further develop the plant’s architecture. I love the overall effect.

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Closeup of the crithmum

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Before leaving the office planting, I want to give a shout out to Calamintha ‘Montrose White.’ Frustratingly difficult to get a decent photo of the clouds of tiny white flowers.
But so cool and Grace Kelly elegant. The bees and I are wholly smitten. It is by far the best bee plant in the garden.

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A second clump of Glaucium grandiflorum has just started blooming behind the calamint.

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In the foreground of the first photo is this amazing, silver-leaved mat-grower whose name I never committed to memory. It may have once been known as a helichrysum. Hasn’t every silver plant?
Sold as a summer annual, it would be perennial here in zone 10. Even though planted spring/early summer during some easy-going temperatures, this one gave me the same trouble as Stachys ‘Bella Grigio.’
Both collapsed after a couple days in the ground. I pulled them out, set them in the shade, where they surprised me by fully recovering.
In both cases, the soil mix was incredibly fast draining. The heavier garden soil was wicking away all the moisture.
After recovery, the mat grower was moved back into the garden. Some careful hand watering has helped to reveal its true and sturdy dry garden temperament.
(edited to add mat grower’s identity: Chrysocephalum aplicata. thanks, Hoov!)

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The stachys will reside in a container for summer, and if it makes it to fall I’ll reappraise options for a spot in the garden.
I asked the nurseryman if this stachys was the real deal, as in is it trustworthy enough for use in landscaping projects? He assured me that it was. I remain unconvinced.

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Still near the office, Agave ‘Mateo’ with the Crambe maritima (that never blooms), orange arctotis, Ricinus ‘New Zealand Purple,’ succulents, sideritis.

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Verbena bonariensis finds support among aloes and agaves — as do I!
(Okay, I’m officially ditching that impossible systematic approach now.)

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Penstemon ‘Enor’ had the usual problems with budworms blasting the flower buds before opening, but the wasps seem to have sorted it all out now.
My theory is whatever insecticide suppressant is in use at nurseries wears off soon after planting. As ever, I’m always thankful for parasitizing wasps and hungry birds.

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Origanum ‘Rosenkuppel’ in the center, with yarrow and agastache.

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Yesterday I took out the largest planting of this oregano to try out Sedum ‘Blue Pearl.’
The oregano is a demure evergreen mat all winter but leaps into alarmingly expansive growth in summer. It suffocated a grevillea and threatened to do the same to other neighbors.
Like first world problems, similarly, these issues get filed under small garden problems.

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Calamagrostis brachytricha has about five bloom stalks. Prefers moist soil, but okay on the drier side.

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Ruby grass, Melinus nerviglumis, was recently added to fill gaps where I took out a couple clumps of Elymus ‘Canyon Prince.’
I love the elymus, but it also needs a bigger garden to develop and play out its rhythms. And possibly a more wind-exposed site.
One clump of elymus tentatively remains.

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And yes, Margaret, there is a fast-blooming puya. Not the sexiest, but the quickest to bloom.
And Puya laxa’s very prickly leaves are like silvery tillandsias for full sun. It’s a notorious spreader, so it remains in a pot.
Since this photo, a navy-blue flower has opened, barely discernible in the overall scheme of things.
Even though it’s not one of the flamboyant turquoise beauties, I do appreciate the quickness to bloom, tall, stemmy structure, and the gorgeous leaves.

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Bulbine ‘Athena Compact Orange’ blooming through a carpet of horehound, Marrubium supinum.

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A second clump of bog sage mid garden with Verbena bonariensis. The black bumblebees and hummingbirds go for the bog sage, the butterflies favor the verbena.
The bog sage, Salvia uliginosa, has elbowed out Crocosmia ‘Solfatarre’ this summer, so there will be some shifting around this fall.

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Just giddy about summer-blooming Aloe ‘Cynthia Giddy’

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Possibly Aloe ‘Christmas Cheer’ giving off some July cheer too.

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Mid garden crescendo with Agastache ‘Blue Blazes,’ Achillea ‘Terra Cotta,’ eryngium, glaucium, oregano, verbena, anthemis, bog sage, melianthus.

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Indefatigable Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ bulwarked by Senecio medley-woodii. Anthemis ‘Susannah Mitchell, kangaroo paws.
Berkheya purpurea obligingly keeps sending up one bloom truss after another.

And that, give or take, is a wrap on July’s Bloom Day.
Check out our host’s site May Dreams Gardens for more blog contributions to July Bloom Day.

blogger meetup at the Huntington

I should have talked less and picked up the camera more at the meetup this past Saturday at the Huntington Botanical Garden, but that wouldn’t have been as much fun as our nonstop gabfest. The occasion for the meetup was Gerhard (Succulents & More) visiting Los Angeles at the end of a week-long winter sabbatical — a plant-centric sabbatical, of course, which he will be blogging about forthwith. Gail (Piece of Eden), Gail’s husband Alan, Luisa (Crow & Raven), and I were the Southern California welcoming committee.


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Also part of Gerhard’s welcoming committee were the winter-blooming aloes.

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With so many aloes in bloom, the desert garden absorbed all our time and attention.

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Aloe sinkatana

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Aloe rubroviolacea

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We’re all pretty fond of agaves too.

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And hechtias.

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In fact, there’s very little about the desert garden that we’re not all crazy in love with.
I hope Luisa does a post on her beloved opuntias. Alan admirably fulfilled documentary duties.


The desert garden is always jaw-droppingly amazing, but this time I wish I had more photos to substantiate my enthusiasm for the plantings in the new entrance garden. I grabbed a couple photos as I left in the early afternoon, which just hint at the large swathes of the landscape made predominantly of muhly grasses interspersed with kniphofia and aloes. The grasses carry the scene nearly year-round and are especially stunning fall and winter, at their shimmering best in the low angled light. The Huntington’s own hybrid Kniphofia ‘Christmas Cheer’ is in bloom now, and then the torch will be handed over to Aloe ‘David Verity.’ Very minimalist but strategically smart succession planting on a waterwise budget, with washes of blue supplied by the mallee shrub Eucalyptus ‘Moon Lagoon’ The grasses are Muhlenbergia dubia, Muhlenbergia rigens, and Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tails.’ There was also a small massed planting of Hesperaloe ‘Brakelights,’ and lots of other things like verbascum and glaucium, but the overall mood of the landscape is governed by swaying, glittering sweeps of grass.

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More like a quick watercolor sketch than a photo, but the general idea is conveyed.
The blue wash is from Eucalyptus ‘Moon Lagoon.’ Kniphofia ‘Christmas Cheer’ is in bloom, like little signal fires dotted amongst the grasses.
After the kniphofia fires die down, Aloe ‘David Verity’ will light up the Muhlenbergia dubia. Really smart, gorgeously simple planting.

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Kniphofia ‘Christmas Cheer’ is a hybrid of Kniphofia rooperi that emerged from the Huntington in the 1970s.
From San Marcos Growers website:
John MacGregor, long-time horticulturist at the Huntington Botanical Gardens, noted that this plant is one of the best winter hummingbird plants he knew of for mild climates.”

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The new entrance garden warrants another, much more comprehensive visit.
And without my blogger friends, there’ll be less talk and more photos. But not nearly as much fun.