Tag Archives: poppies

notes on spring

I’ve taken some time off work while the family regroups from assorted medical issues, and since they seem to be more or less on the mend I’m sopping up spare time with plant sales and garden tours. Some nurse, huh? Living without back-to-back work deadlines is a heady, liberating experience, kind of a mini-preview of retiring from the day job, and I confess I’ve been running just a bit amok. Imagine a hummingbird’s interests and metabolism in a 5’8″ woman with a car and a smart phone making up for the lack of wings.

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There will be plenty of time for the mundane tasks indoors of cleaning out junk rooms, attending to the paint-starved main room, but right now I’m as mad about spring as any bird or six-legged creature, and hopping around gardens just as furiously. And then there’s this new camera to get the hang of, not to mention a blood-red poppy that’s greeted me the past few mornings, new to my garden, Papaver commutatum, aka ladybird poppy. Devilishly tricky to capture in portrait due to its intense color saturation.

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The morning sun effects an astonishing transformation when it touches those translucent petals, igniting them into molten chalices, and that’s the full-throated portrait of a ladybird poppy that eludes me.

Please, please reseed.

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My old standby, the Poppy of Troy, is much less shy around a camera.

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I still love everything about poppies. Crinkly buds on reedy stems carefully unpack their wrinkled folds to unfurl full-sail, silky blooms. A springtime performance that never gets old.

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More intense red is coming from the scarlet flax, Linum grandiflorum rubrum. The cool spring weather has been exceptionally kind to this annual from Algeria.

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I’ve never known Yucca pallida to be recommended for its blooms, and in fact it may be somewhat shy and unreliable in flowering, but the winter rains seem to be convincing a couple of mine to throw bloom spikes. Now we’ll see firsthand what the pale yucca in flower is all about. I think Yucca ‘Blue Boy’ may be intending to bloom as well.

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The milky white ‘Jade Frost’ eryngium bloom trusses are now bluing up. This dry garden perennial has been challenging to establish in spring. It was nursery grown in nearly pure sand, so it readily wilts if overlooked for a few days. Major planting in Southern California gardens, because of our long dry summer/wet winter mediterranean climate, is strongly advised for fall. But then the drought made timing for planting a moot point, and we switched gears to survival mode. And I’ve always tended to flout the planting rules anyway, with occasional failures but some successes too.

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I did get this Leucadendron meridianum ‘More Silver’ planted late fall, so it had a wonderful time settling in throughout the drought-breaking, rainy winter.

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Leucadendron galpinii was also a candidate for the spot but didn’t make the cut, so will spend a second year in a pot, part of my ongoing Shrubs in Pots experiment.

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The acanthus hybrid ‘Morning Candle’ had most of the rainy winter to settle in too.

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For some plants, the epic winter rain was a challenge. I opted to remove a large octopus agave from the back garden when its leaves began to disfigure with black spots from the soggy ground. And I can finally stop worrying about this verbascum planted in a low-lying area.

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The Theodore Payne native plants garden tour a couple weeks ago made me realize that the lack of a flannel bush in the garden was a serious oversight. Spring is definitely not the time to plant California natives, so I made a mental note to order the compact Fremontodendron ‘Ken Taylor’ for fall planting. But you know how it goes. At my neighborhood nursery last week I noticed a couple of beautifully grown flannel bushes. No name, in 3- gallons. The difference in eventual size between ‘Ken Taylor’ and ‘California Glory’ is substantial, at least 10 feet in girth and height. A small garden needs ‘Ken Taylor.’ But California natives planted in spring risk succumbing to warm-weather soil pathogens as water is poured on hoping to revive wilting, summer-stressed plants. Still, I had to ask, so I pestered an employee: Any chance you can source the ID of that flannel bush through your database?

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The one Echium simplex was perfect this year. Last time they bloomed the spikes were deformed by fasciation, an affliction where parts of a plant fuse together and take on bizarre, unnatural shapes. I say affliction, but some people adore fasciation. I admit in some cactus it’s kind of cool.

But, yes, I did plant the flannel bush. After asking for help with the ID, a lengthy line of customers began to queue up, so I told the clerk never mind and continued wandering. What was I thinking, buying a large flannel bush in spring anyway? But who should come running up maybe 10 minutes later to tell me both were ‘Ken Taylor’ — I hadn’t even mentioned which variety I was after. I think I may have hugged him at that point. So of course I bought it and planted it in spring, which is ill-advised. But that’s how these ill-advised things happen.

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Morning glories are scary invasive plants in Southern California, but this relative, Calystegia macrostegia, is a non-invasive native of our Channel Islands off Ventura County. It outlined some impressive arabesques against a dark fence. I had never heard of it, which I mentioned to a nearby Theodore Payne tour-goer, to which she replied, “I’ve got four at home.” I clearly have some catching up to do with our native plants community.

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Ceanothus ‘Frosty Blue,’ also from the Theodore Payne Native Plant Garden Tour.

Cheers to spring!

last of the poppies

I’m just now starting to see photos of poppies in bloom showing up in gardens in colder climates, but by June the annual poppies are usually finished here.
In my garden, as June continues the mild, overcast weather of May, there are a couple of holdouts.

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I’ve never planted this variety, which looks like the simple “Lettuce Leaf Poppy.” I note that they showed up in 2013, too, here.
“Lettuce Leaf Poppy” and “Breadseed Poppy” are the politically correct common names, because we musn’t use the “o” word.
(For a great story on opium dens, you can’t beat Conan Doyle’s “The Man With The Twisted Lip.”)
Maybe it rode in on a poppy seed bagel. My poppy show comes mainly from Papaver setigerum, which I’ve documented profusely on the blog.
It’s much smaller in stature than those towering in the photo above.
With these much bigger poppies, when a new flower is open in the morning, it takes you aback, like someone shouting, “Hey! Check it out! Whaddaya think?!”
But any poppy is OK by me. Poppies are characters loaded with silky personality.
And there’s all that…um, history they carry, that illicit, pharmaceutical, double life they’ve led since prehistoric times.
Poppies and people and pain relief go way, way back.

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There’s just these two plants left that germinated later than the first flush of poppies that got going in February and March, which is typical for Southern California.
Drip hoses and continuing overcast weather are responsible for these remaining two. We’ve loved the gloomy skies of May and June, a kind of weather I find rather addictive.

flea market prep

I had so much fun yesterday organizing for the flea market this Sunday. Tapping poppy seeds into packets, gathering up all the lab beakers into a partitioned wooden box for a safe journey, making bunches of dried poppy seedpods to work their dessicated charms in old pharmacy jars.

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But then there was the crazy part too. The “You can’t sell that! It’s a first edition! What’s gotten into you? Not the antlers! You’re selling our history!

Okay, okay, calm down. See? It’s going back on the shelf. Better now? Just breathe deep.

It also occurred to me yesterday to add the stacks of garden books into the outgoing flea market pile. Thomas Hobbs, Sarah Raven, Christopher Lloyd, out they go.
The old Gardens Illustrated too. At the very least, Reuben, Dustin, and I will have something to read at the flea.

I had no idea flea market prep would be so…so very cleansing. I’ve been adding more photos under the Dates to Remember link at the top.


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!

Now that Google Reader is in the dustbin of history, I’m trying out Bloglovin for organizing blogs I want to follow.
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tuesday clippings 3/26/13

Nothing too thematic, just some odds and ends.

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To prove I left the plant sale tables briefly and did a lap in the show room at the recent Orange County CSSA show, here’s a Dyckia ‘Brittle Star’ hybrid that won an award. My own big clump of dyckia is starting to throw up bloom stalks, which the snails munch like asparagus spears. The slimy gourmands ate every bloom last year, and they’re on their way to doing it again this year. Some of that biodegradable snail bait was dispensed this morning, possibly too little too late.

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In the back garden, between the poppies and the anthemis, there’s scarcely any bare soil showing and it’s not even April.
I’ve started thinning out the poppies more aggressively. Diascia personata is the not-yet-blooming swathe of green behind the Agave americana var. striata in the tall green pot.

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Starting to bloom this week, though the event could easily pass unnoticed, is the Australian mintbush, Prostranthera ovalifolia ‘Variegata,’ a shimmering, aromatic shrub of medium size. I’m keeping it pruned to approximately 4 X 4 feet. Tiny, luminous, evergreen leaves, a loose, open form with contrasting dark stems. Tolerates dry but can handle regular garden irrigation. Not a specimen plant, its attractions are subtle. It brings pattern and light, not weight, to the garden. Some might find it a little nondescript. I wish I had room for more than one. In bloom its branches become studded with tiny lilac-colored bells. Not very long-lived, this is a shrub I replant over and over.

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Leaving subtle behind, I’m so excited to see some blooms on the Canary Island Foxglove, Isoplexis canariensis. These shrubby foxglove relatives may save me the trouble of throwing more money at trialing more of the rusty-colored digitalis species like ferruginea and trojana, which have yet to make it through winter. They just melt away, leaving me scratching the soil where they were planted searching for signs of life.
Not enough rainfall maybe.

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Another look at the isoplexis, a big sturdy plant. Nothing seems to bother it, knock wood.

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Geranium maderense ‘Alba’ opened some of its pure, laundry white blooms this morning.

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The back garden viewing gallery, the bricks freshly cleaned and weeded by Marty.
I think he’s got the attention to detail necessary to win prizes at plant shows. Good thing one of us does.
I insisted he leave a few poppies that had self-sown into the bricks.
I used to keep a small table here too, until I planted that Eryngium padanifolium too close. But what a stunning plant it is.

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Around the corner on the east side of the house, the pittosporum is turning into quite the tillandsia outpost.
A neighbor brought over a basketful last week. I love it when neighbors have your number.

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The battle of the compound leaves, melianthus vs. tetrapanax. The purple wash on the melianthus’ leaves is about as strong as it gets. I think it recedes a bit in summer. What an amazingly beautiful compact selection ‘Purple Haze’ is. Fantastic improvement on the species for small gardens.


poppies, a minor obsession

Newt is taking time out of her busy day to helpfully point out where the poppies will be blooming this year.

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Last year’s runnel of poppies was in the crevice along the back porch, but this year they’ve jumped a few feet over and have self-sown into crevices in the dry-laid bricks. These are again the Poppy of Troy, Papaver setigerum, which is a nicely compact, breadseed-type poppy, a single with pale lilac-colored petals surrounding a central dark blotch. There are scads of species and breadseed varieties to try that improvise on the timeless poppy theme, a performance that never grows stale. A solitary bud peeps out of the leaves, dangles demurely as the slim stalk elongates, until all pretense of shyness is abandoned as sepals burst and fall, revealing impossibly silky, translucent petals. It always strikes me as a sly wink of nature to imbue a plant with such captivating drama and energy as well as deadly soporific properties. (Annie’s Annuals & Perennials has by far the best selection known to mankind and is the original source of my self-sowing poppies.)

While visiting the Bay Area a couple weeks ago, I was introduced to a marvelous source of salvage and cast-offs, a huge warehouse devoted to recycling and repurposing in Berkeley called Urban Ore, where I found a pair of botanical prints, one of plants from the malvaceae family and this one of papaveraceae, both now hanging in the bath house. Botanical prints can lead one down a chintzy path I generally try to avoid, but I just couldn’t walk away from these poppies.

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If I lived nearby, I’d check out Urban Ore frequently. The best stuff disappears within hours of arrival.

A pretty nurse is selling poppies from a tray

Elvis Costello does Penny Lane for his mum and the POTUS, filmed June 2, 2010, for PBS. I know I’m betraying both my age and a schmaltz streak a mile wide, but…

this is lovely. Well done, Elvis. I was too young to catch the Beatles, but Elvis and I go way back (1976 My Aim Is True).

Found at Open Culture

And of course the pretty nurse knew that, for cut flowers, she needed to sear the ends of the poppies with a lit match first, right?

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Poppy Music

I’ve held on to these little poppies as long as possible, and tonight they were given a photographic bon voyage by MB Maher.
When it’s twilight, magic hour, the garden becomes an open-air studio. I handled the linen backdrop. A few blades of Miscanthus ‘Gold Bar’ strayed into frame.

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Poppy ruprifragum still blooms in the front garden, but the back garden’s poppies are all rustling seedpods. These are the seedpods of Papaver setigerum, left to decline in situ, although lower leaves are stripped off when decrepitude becomes too unsightly or insect ridden. As I’ve written before, this little poppy tucks itself in unobtrusively and doesn’t lean on or brawl with neighbors like so many of the bigger somniferum varieties, so a few plants have been allowed to remain. Not that I need any more seed, but running a hand along the pods releases their percussive music, different tones emanating from seedpods of plants of varying age.