myoverplantedgarden.com

My working title for this post was overplanted.com, but I’m glad I checked before posting — that already belongs to Tom Fischer!


Yesterday seemed like a good time to check out Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach for fall planting. In this brief interval between another holiday, before Roger’s goes all in on Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and then Christmas, I was hoping the nursery’s focus would be single-mindedly on plants, because when it is, nobody does it better. And the plant focus was there to a certain extent. You could almost say I had the nursery to myself, since everyone else seemed to be boisterously enjoying the newly opened restaurant The Farmhouse. This fresh-built, two-day-old outdoor restaurant manages to convey the air of a venerable establishment at least a decade older. Its physical presence makes as big an impact as the Huntington’s new cafeteria. I was floored by its seemingly instantaneous Tuscan-style sumptuousness and elbow-to-elbow diners crowding its tables, like Cecil B. DeMille had barked “Action!” on a big-budget film soundstage. I called Marty on the phone to tell him about it, then quickly turned heel to search for plants. No time for photos. You can check out their website for a look.

The upside to Roger’s preoccupation with holiday retail is these display extravaganzas require vast movements of materials to make room for each holiday, which is when plants and pots really get marked down.
When it comes to holidays, I run the gamut from lukewarm to uninterested, but I suppose thanks are owed to all those holiday-themed shoppers, because no doubt their zeal bankrolls the continuing excellence of the plant nursery, not to mention the episodic shots in the arm they give to the economy. I was hoping an Agave xylonacantha ‘Frostbite’ I’ve had my eye on was marked down, but no such luck.

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Also not on sale, but I was nonetheless thrilled to find this Acanthus ‘Morning Candle,’ and with multiple bloom spikes too.
There seems to be some dispute over its lineage, hungaricus and mollis vs. spinosus and mollis.
(Tony Avent says: “most growers wouldn’t know true Acanthus spinosus if it stuck ’em in the rear.”)
But what’s agreed on is that it was bred in Holland and is very free blooming. I pray it doesn’t object to zone 10.*
(Edited 9/12/16: It may need to be moved to afternoon shade to avoid the full flaccid wiltdown it enacts every day. Currently, it has an umbrella propped overhead.)

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I’ve always preferred the species/hybrids with narrower leaves over A. mollis.
My youngest son’s middle school flanked its entire length, a couple blocks long, with A. mollis, but it doesn’t seem to be planted much anymore.
I predict, however, that it will be the new “it” plant any day. Despite my preference for other species, it is undeniably a classic. The Ancient Greeks were nobody’s fool.

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The acanthus was planted behind the agave, where Anisodontea ‘Strybing Beauty’ reached over 5 feet this summer, but always carried as many yellow leaves as green ones.

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Anisodontea ‘Strybing Beauty’ this summer, now no more.
I did take one cutting, but the cool summers of San Francisco would seem to be its preferred climate. Understandably so, since it used to be mine too.
I seem to be getting the rhythm of the heat after all these years, not that this summer broke any records here.
It’s been unbearingly, distractingly lovely for the most part, and I’ve spent every available minute well away from computers.

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This self-sown Echium simplex is enjoying some newfound breathing room after the anisodontea was removed.

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This unlabeled Salvia greggii/microphylla hybrid was on sale and has already been stuffed into the container with Stachys ‘Bella Grigio.’
In the post-shopping planting frenzy, I pulled out the Japanese sunflower going to seed in the stock tank to make room for dwarf Tagetes lemmonii, the Copper Canyon Daisy for fall.
And I brought home yet another grass, Miscanthus ‘Little Kitten.’

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Am I being a complete bore yet about grasses? There’s really nothing as transformative, with a relatively slim footprint and such a magnificent, seasonal surge of growth.
Without the space or water resources to support half the summer stuff I want to grow, the grasses are almost consolation enough.
Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tales’ was planted from gallons this spring, from the Huntington’s plant sale.

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Catching and playing with light, wind, they’re as mesmerizing as staring at a campfire.

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Now to the plants I didn’t buy yesterday.
Plants that spent time in my shopping basket but were ultimately removed included, among many, the chartreuse Santolina ‘Lemon Fizz’ in 4-inch pots and Ballota ‘All Hallows Green.’
The 4-inch size is so tempting, and the selection was very good, including Ceanothus ‘Diamond Heights,’ Verbascum bombyciferum.
I’m already growing ‘All Hallows Green’ in my garden, as seen in the photo above. I wish there was room for a half dozen more in 4-inch pots.

I lingered over a new echium offering from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials, Echium webbii, a reputedly “dwarf version” of fatuosum.

Metapanax davidii was tempting but a bit too disheveled. I prefer M. delavayi’s much finer cut leaf.
In the herbs/veg section I found Calamintha nepetoides and grabbed three. Unlike the stellar ‘Montrose White,’ they will reseed, but it’s so rare to find calamints that I went for it. Grown by Native Sons.

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Speaking of disheveled, summer’s shabbiest award goes to Melianthus ‘Purple Haze,’ and that’s only because its weary leaves are usually cut to the ground by August.
That it made it through July/August at all was only by the grace of drip hoses, but it’s undeniably crisped and thin.
Knocking back that leaf canopy mid summer always seemed to desolate this end of the garden. New growth is already showing, and I’ll cut down old growth when it’s made more headway.

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Other than what I’ve ripped out/transplanted, there’s been no real losses this summer. If I’ve already blogged about terrible losses and forgotten, don’t remind me.
The drip hoses have resulted in some mad growth, including this solanum vine, now stretching from the top of the 18-foot cypresses down nearly to the ground.

And just to be clear, I have nothing against holidays! Especially the long Labor Day Weekend. Have a great one.

P.S. I’m going to figure out who won the little Muradian pot later this weekend.

Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’

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Love it or hate it, Fatsia ‘Spider’s Web’ can now be found locally in Southern California. Roger’s Gardens in Corona del Mar is carrying it in affordable one-gallons. Fatsias grow like weeds here in dry shade, so when Southern California bloggers first saw this fatsia in Portland, Oregon gardens at the 2014 blogger meetup, we were, well, a bit indignant. By all rights, fancy cultivars of Fatsia japonica should be readily available at our local nurseries too. Pathetically, it’s taken two years. Let’s step it up, local nurseries! I’ve been told that the succulent craze is hitting nurseries in their pocketbooks, because succulents aren’t killed off as easily as spring/summer bedding, failures which usually bring lots of repeat customers. Succulents endure and don’t require seasonal replanting either, hence less nursery visits. One way for nurseries to stand out is by offering slightly off-the-beaten track plants. Nurseries that source specialty plants like this fatsia will always get my loyalty.

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About that variegation. We once hired a painter (hi David!) who used to clean his brushes by whipping them around centrifugally, covering pots and plants in nearest proximity with a stippled whitewash. This plant reminds me of that painter David, and how quickly he was hustled off the job after that whirling dervish brush-cleaning trick. Or maybe the variegation reminds you of a bad case of spider mites. I like how it brightens shady corners and reminds me of heated discussions over controversial variegation with plant friends.

(The Garden Bloggers Fling for 2016 is meeting in Minneapolis July 14-17, 2016.)

checking out the nurseries in August

It might seem kind of pointless to check out the local nurseries in the dog days of August. A lot of the inventory can look frazzled, but roaming the mostly customer-less aisles in August, armed with sunscreen, hat, sunglasses and smart phone for reference, is the perfect time to discover the true survivors. What shrubs are still managing to look respectable in gallon cans? (Westringia, adenanthos, ozothamnus, leucospermums are a few.) What stalwarts have I overlooked? Did anyone buy that Agave weberi ‘Arizona Star’ I’ve had my eye on? What’s on offer in the “color” section in August? Will Echinacea ‘Cheyenne Spirit,’ the new seed strain, be durable or a meltaway type? August is where the rubber meets the steaming road, where all the buzz and fanfare evaporates under a punishing sun. That any inventory can still look at all presentable I find astonishing. Since these kind of retail nurseries oftentimes don’t sell plants until they are in bloom, many times it’s the only opportunity to grab August-blooming plants locally, even if it’s not the friendliest month for planting. Other than the California chain of Armstrong Nurseries, with one of their stores just a couple miles from me, most of the nurseries I check on frequently are independents. None of the nurseries on my circuit are boutique, rare plant nurseries, which don’t exist in Los Angeles, but a lot of their stock comes from solid growers like Native Sons, San Marcos Growers, Monterey Bay, Monrovia. (Northern California’s Annie’s Annuals & Perennials is available at Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach, Brita’s Old Town Gardens in Seal Beach, International Garden Center near LAX, and Lincoln Avenue Nursery in Pasadena.) Other than Roger’s Gardens, none are “destination” nurseries. Yet it always surprises me how each nursery’s unique choices from the same pool of growers sets their inventory apart from other local retail nurseries. If you visit often (and I do!), a specific taste can be discerned even in the chain nurseries. Some may subtly favor edibles or succulents or native plants, while others may have strong selections of South African and Australian plants. So I really do have to visit them all.

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For example, Crocosmia ‘Solfatare’ was recently available only at H&H Nursery on Lakewood Boulevard near the 91 Freeway, right under the power line towers. I once had a huge clump of this crocosmia in the front garden, before Agave ‘Mr. Ripple’ moved into its place. It’s always described as one of the slowest-growing crocosmias, but it seemed to multiply at good clip from what I remember. The leaves strike me as more a dull olive green than bronzish, as it’s often described. The flower color is a galvanizing egg-yolk gold.

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Gerbera ‘Drakensberg Gold,’ was available at just two nurseries, Village Nurseries in Orange and their next-door neighbor Upland Nursery.
This is a great new gerbera strain, a long-blooming cross with some sturdy alpine species, and the first time I’ve seen it offered in this color.

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The pink form, ‘Drakensberg Carmine’ was an outstanding plant a couple years ago, that was almost too much of a good thing in that color. For me, anyway.

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Phygelius in the Portland garden of Bella Madrona got me pining for phygelius again. This one may possibly be ‘Salmon Leap’ or ‘Devil’s Tears.’
I have no memory of phygelius growing in this splendidly upright posture, always being somewhat of a sprawler in my garden, but this vision was enough to spur me to give ‘Diablo’ a try.

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I found ‘Diablo’ at the local Armstong, just this one gallon available. Phygelius is another plant I grew years ago, usually in its chartreuse forms like ‘Moonraker.’

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I recently extended my nursery hopping down into Orange County, where I found this small size of Agave franzosinii, just one available. Cindy McNatt at Dirt du Jour blogged that a beloved nursery, Laguna Hills Nursery, had found a new home on Tustin in the city of Orange. They had just opened and were getting settled in, but were extremely welcoming and friendly. Rare fruit trees and edibles look to be their specialty, but someone stocked this agave that’s rarely found for sale, which I think counts as a good omen. This is an enormous agave when mature, so I’ll keep it in a pot as long as possible to contain its ultimate size.

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Snow on the Mountain tucked in by the little water garden. The Sagittaria lancifolia ‘Ruminoides’ was found at the International Garden Center.

There were a couple other nurseries on that same street, Tustin, so I made an afternoon of nursery hopping in the OC, and each one had something unique to offer. At M&M Nursery, “home of the original fairy garden experts since 2001,” (who knew?) I found the annual Euphorbia marginata amongst a very good selection of out-of-the-ordinary annuals. At Village Nurseries, as mentioned above, I found the ‘Drakensberg Gold’ gerbera as well as ‘Storm Cloud’ agapanthus. Upland Nursery was literally next-door to Village, so even though the heat was way past oppressive by mid-afternoon, I stopped in at Upland before swinging home. They specialize in plumeria, which sounded interesting though not really up my alley, but I was up for a quick first-time visit.

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Variegated Swiss Cheese Plant, Monstera deliciosa, seen in an LA garden last May.

I ended up walking Upland’s entire long and narrow length, investigating each of its specialty rooms off the main path, because it became quickly apparent that Upland had some surprises up its sleeve, like the variegated swiss cheese plant tucked into a corner, the first I’ve ever seen offered locally, or an agave I’d neither heard of nor seen before, like Agave ellemetiana.
Upland is the first local nursery I’ve found to carry Eucalyptus ‘Moon Lagoon.’

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Fatsia ‘Spider Web,’ still unavailable in Southern California.

Upland was just an extraordinary place, with a personal, mom-and-pop atmosphere, where you’d bump into such amazing sights as grevilleas grown on standard. I searched it thoroughly, because I half expected to find the ‘Spider Web’ fatsia lurking in a shady corner. There was lush hanging rhipsalis and big, mature display plants to give an idea of what the little 2-inch succulents would grow into. The entire back section was devoted to Japanese maples. I asked the owner about the possibility of getting the monstera in a smaller, more affordable size, and she said spring would be the time to check back. When I asked if there was a drinking fountain, she reached into her fridge and handed me a bottle of water. With that gesture, they made a customer for life.

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Seeing a huge display pot of Senecio haworthii at Upland Nursery sealed the deal on a succulent I’ve passed over many times.

Up in Pasadena, at Lincoln Avenue Nursery, a big, lusty Agave ‘Mateo’ had me checking the label for its identity. At a mature size, it looked nothing like my wispy-leaved ‘Mateo.’ The venerable Burkhard’s just around the corner continues its mysterious decline, with the plants in a sad neglected state, but wouldn’t you know they had the variegated vilmoriniana agave I’ve been coveting, $60 for a big specimen. Not a bad price, especially at Burkhard’s, but I passed. The nursery is a shambles but still worth a prowl. Poorly maintained plants sold at exorbitant prices is the perplexing current state of affairs, but even so there’s many gems you just can’t find anywhere else. Also somewhat of a surprise recently is finding Sunset’s line of plants, like the new ‘Amistad’ salvia, astelias, dianellas, carex, digiplexis, and the ‘Soft Caress’ mahonia, at Home Depot. International Garden Center, Village and H&H have the most extensive grounds and probably the most sophisticated inventory, and each could easily swallow an hour’s time. IGC is the place to find water plants, and their succulent selection is one of the best. At IGC plant stock past its prime isn’t thrown out but moved to a row way in the back, where it can be had for cheap. Many times unsold stock is potted on to larger sizes, such as the currently available Echium simplex. I also check in with the exceptional Marina del Rey Garden Center when I work out that way and have noticed their increasingly fine selection of bromeliads and unusual edible plants.

And that’s the August nursery report. They may not have the rarefied atmosphere of botanical gardens, but retail nurseries are the places to experience where culture, commerce, and plants collide.


birthday plants

My birthday took up just about every single day last week, and more days on the weekend, which is how I rationalized a trip on Saturday to find that hitherto unknown-to-me, unmet, spectacular plant that would forever after be marked as my, gollum gollum, birthday present. (Because we wants it.) At our house we always make a big deal about not making a big deal about birthdays, no presents, please, thank you very much, which has the unintended (intended?) consequence of turning birthdays into birthweeks. You don’t want any presents? You better take off work then. Can’t buy you anything? Then I’ll cook you a special dinner tonight. And tomorrow. And breakfast the day after. And bake you a cake. And why don’t you sleep in this morning, and I’ll feed the cats?

Yes, I don’t want any presents for my birthday, but I don’t mind some festive shopping around for something fabulous in the leaf and twig department during my birthday/week celebration. And on Saturday I did find my birthday plant, but it could not be had for love nor money, birthday or no birthday.


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An unknown, unnamed leucospermum looking extremely fat, happy and floriferous. Weren’t these supposed to be the malingering shrubs with soil issues? The grower is now out of business, and the retail nursery where this thrives in a sloping display border, Roger’s in Newport Beach, has been trying to find more stock for the past two years, without success. I know all this because I shouted out questions to one of their nice, extremely busy employees who was mid-stride in the process of helping another customer. Beautiful plants can cause my manners to slip occasionally.

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Research suggests it’s probably Leucospermum cordifolium ‘Yellow Bird,’ one of the pincushion protea shrubs from South Africa. A nursery in Ventura County I’ve been meaning to visit, Australian Native Plants Nursery, has it back-ordered. I see that they consider it a candidate for containers, which is wonderful news because there isn’t an inch of garden available for a shrub. I very possibly need to extend my birthday/week further to include a trip to Ventura.

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On Saturday I watched the shoppers peruse and select plants, which is endlessly fascinating. And I sniffed the sweet peas.

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And admired the new succulent plantings.

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Slipping in a tiger-striped aloe among the echeverias was a nice touch.

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This nursery leans toward an Old World, heavy-on-the-European influence, so it was nice to see some pieces made of concrete, simple and unadorned.
Or possibly a lightweight stand-in for concrete. I didn’t touch.

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And I envied the luxurious billowing of Ursinia anthemoides ‘Solar Flare,’ one of Annie’s Annuals & Perennials signature annuals.

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And noted the effects of the afternoon sun on a bromeliad, glowing, backlit, diffused by a screen

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More screen and shadow effects, this time with a tillandsia.


I just love birthdays, even without any presents — maybe especially without presents. I’ll take the gift of time filled with beautiful incidents over presents anyday.

how to gift wrap an agave

I had some time late yesterday afternoon so decided to dip my toe into holiday retail.
In truth, all I did was look at plants. And even bought a few. For myself.
This season of giving is off to a roaring start.

But look, Christmas trees in the background. See? I was holiday shopping!

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Astelia and echeverias

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Agave ‘Blue Glow’

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mother’s day 2012

And my mom is on a bus heading north on the Atlantic seaboard to join up with a cruise off the coast of Canada. But there were birthdays to shop for yesterday, so naturally (selfishly?) I headed for a destination that included plants as well as possible gifts, Roger’s Gardens in Orange County, California. I always find a little plant shopping helpful before diving into the murky waters of gift shopping.

Harpochloa falx ‘Compact Black,’ Black Caterpillar Grass, in small 4-inch pots, was too interesting to pass up.
Photo and description from High Country Gardens.

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Aloes and agaves planted in the display beds

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Some of the agaves, like this A. potatorum, are underplanted with a variegated ceanothus (possibly this one).
Self-sown Geranium maderense getting a little too chummy.

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And possibly because the jacarandas in the hell strip are treating us to a couple months of purple rain, I’m finding myself suddenly attracted to brooms and lingered to check these out at Roger’s. I’ve made a vow to sweep every day, and sometimes twice a day, lest the dreaded buildup of sticky petals is carried underfoot into every nook and cranny of our lives.


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Brooms and women go waaay back, to the antecedent besom broom, simple twigs tied to a handle.

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Some simple ideas that caught my eye. Possible display for tillandsias.

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And the very clever florists at Roger’s hung glass lanterns filled with water and leaves.

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and mossed a beat-up chair, turning it into a fernery

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Happy Sunday to moms and kids everywhere, a greeting which leaves out absolutely no one and means everyone is entitled to a nice brunch today.


The Gospel According to San Marcos

The devoted gathered to hear Mr. Baldwin of the premiere West Coast nursery San Marcos Growers give a talk at Roger’s Gardens last Saturday on new plant introductions. Be warned that this post will be plant-wonkish in the extreme.

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Plant Sale Weekend

I was determined to get to the UC Irvine Arboretum plant sale this weekend, having had to miss the Huntington Botanical Garden’s big sale last weekend. But before I could browse UCI’s small sale, there were some minor roadblocks. (Just get me to a plant sale, please!) A faltering car had to be traded in and a new one purchased, zillions of forms needed filling out. But with steely, unswayable resolve the goal was finally achieved, and sometime around 1 o’clock I was pulling into a driveway marked by a hand-lettered sign that said simply “PLANT SALE.” (which I always read as BLISS.) Once at the arboretum, it didn’t take long at all to scan the half dozen tables set up with plants for sale. Aloes marlothii, distans, the hybrid ‘Hercules,’ nothing terribly rare but good prices for large plants. In the nearby botanical garden, banks of frothy blue flowers caught my eye and drew me away from the sale tables. Masses of Aristea ecklonii were in bloom, a South African iris relative. I have an aristea growing in my gravel garden, but it hasn’t bloomed yet, and I’m not sure if it’s ecklonii. Judging by the vigor and scads of sparkling bloom on display at the arboretum, it would seem A. ecklonii is the one to have. Yes, the blooms are tiny, but the 3-foot tall sprays are voluminous, and the mass effect of deep, piercing blue against the bright green leaves summed up why I find blue flowers so irresistible.

I hadn’t seen it for sale on the tables, which seemed odd since it was taking over quite a bit of their botanical garden.
One more lap around the sale tables and I found a couple pots of it and bagged one to take home, along with an Aeonium urbicum.

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Laughter in the Distance

Not a title to a pulpy romance novel but a snippet of Hinkley’s hilarious prose from his infamous Heronswood nursery catalogues. (The nursery was opened in 1987, bought by Burpee in 2000 and closed by them in 2006.) The catalogues unfortunately haven’t survived office purges, but the context I remember for the quote is that he’s awaiting dinner party guests at Heronswood, working frantically in the garden around twilight, when he hears guests arrive. As the sounds of laughter and tinkling glasses begin to waft over the garden, he becomes morosely suspended in that moment before he leaves the garden and joins the guests. He lingers at his garden tasks, brooding over the distant merriment, and stuck in that moment as pure but isolated observer he writes, “I hate the sound of laughter in the distance.” I could be entirely wrong about the context, of course. But that was the magic of Hinkley’s writing, how it transported one to states of being and places beyond plant catalogues.

Hinkley’s talk, “The Dry Lush,” was sponsored by Roger’s Gardens of Orange County, held in the Newport Coast Community Center on 5/28/10. I had heard Hinkley joined forces with Monrovia as a venue for introducing worthy plants discovered on his plant-hunting trips, and I assumed this talk would be highlighting some of these new plant introductions. Not so at all. Most of the plants he spoke of during the hour talk and accompanying slide show were old friends. (The link to Hinkley’s website provides a plant list from a talk he gave under the title “The Dry Lush” in Utah recently, and the plant list for our talk varied slightly but has the same general outline.)

While Heronswood was a thirsty shade garden, Hinkley’s new garden, Windcliff on the Kitsap Peninsula, is an open, sunny 5 acres frequently strafed by roaring winds, which he says keeps the crowns of plants dry. Rainfall is under 40 inches a year. Summer is overcast but not rainy, as many people assume is the case for the Pacific Northwest. There was a mad scramble for pens and paper when he stated that upon arrival at Windcliff, weed removal was accomplished by spraying undiluted, distilled vinegar. Temperatures have to exceed 75 degrees for this method to be effective, and applications may have to be repeated, but with diligence vinegar will remove even bermuda grass, and is especially good for graveled areas.

Some gleanings from the talk. The plants he profiled for drought-tolerant plantings are many familiar structural beauties: opuntia, yucca, agave, aloe, nolina, beschorneria. He warmly recommended Aloe striatula for its bloom both in spring and fall. Shrubs discussed included acacia, genista, members of the proteacea. Grevillea victoriae blooms nearly year-round at Windcliff, for which hummingbirds give grateful thanks, nectar being just as sweet whether sipped from native or non-native plants. Ceanothus thrysiflorus var. griseus ‘Kurt Zadnik,’ a rich indigo blue, selected by Roger Raiche and passed from hand to eager hand for years, will soon be introduced by Monrovia. Grasses were difficult at shady Heronswood but are a natural for the new windy site, such as Stipa gigantea.

No one in the U.S. ever mentions the New Zealand daisy bushes, the olearias, so it was gratifying to see them profiled in his talk. Olearia x mollis seems to be Hinkley’s favorite. (Mine repeatedly succumbed to scale.)

Olearia ‘Henry Travers’ from the UK’s Garden Cottage Nursery:

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Readers of his catalogue will remember his enthusiasm for restios, which still get him excited. The huge, frothy Rhodocoma capensis is a giant restio he particularly admires. I can testify to the restios’ many virtues. Thamnochortus insignis puts up with much abuse in the front gravel garden, not only droughty conditions but the effusive summer bloom of a lespedeza, and does it in typical restio style. Nothing fazes them. And if you don’t crowd them and allow them to display their graceful, fountain-like shape year-round, so much the better.

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Hinkley seemed almost abashed to bring up agapanthus in a room crowded with zone 10 gardeners who see them daily in municipal plantings, but he strongly admires their toughness and late summer bloom and has amassed 65 species at Windcliff. I’ve never grown agapanthus myself but admit to recognizing their potential. That shape, for one, like a giant allium. I’ve been keeping an eye out for cultivars and species that do something a little different, and Hinkley has found the drooping petals of A. inapertus particularly exciting. The dark cultivars are more alluring than the familiar washy lilac blues, but I remain uncommitted. Once a plant acquires a civic/municipal identity, it’s difficult to overcome that bias.

Yet this year I’ve selected this reliable roadside grower and moved it from ubiquitous status to prime pot status, Limonium perezii, vigorous waste area colonizer, so why limonium and not agapanthus? Just find the statice more interesting, I suppose, and less thirsty in a pot. So sometimes the mundane does deserve a closer look. But then I daydream about taking the mundane statice and engineering an even wavier, possibly chartreuse leaf and deeper blue flower. The agapanthus I’d want to make more purple and allium-esque, only because the allium is the difficult rarity in my garden. What an exasperatingly conflicted group gardeners can be.

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Hinkley asked, Who grows dierama? My hand stayed clamped at my side. Raising it would surely jinx blooms this year. He then teased the zone 10 audience that there was a plant he grew that we could not, Embothrium. (He may have been referring to Embothrium coccineum, the Chilean Fire Bush, but didn’t give a species.) Moving along to his next plant, Hinkley was interrupted by a hand rising up from the audience, and a possibly slightly petulant voice asked, “Excuse me. Why can’t we grow embothrium?” Too much zone 10 summer, apparently.

I now have Hinkley’s word of honor that Melianthus ‘Purple Haze’ will stay a dwarf, saints be praised, to 2 feet for him so at least double that for me. But with the species looming 12 feet and higher, that’s great news. This is a large, cut-back shrub for me, and lately I’ve felt unequal to the task of growing this monster and haven’t done so for a few years. Next year’s plant list grows longer and longer, and it’s still early June.

Naturally, I began a mental inventory of what Heronswood plants remain in my garden. Practically none. Perhaps a single beschorneria. This Begonia grandis ‘Heron’s Pirouette’ just waking up in June was probably bought from Plant Delights.

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And then I remembered the perpetual rebuke that comes in the form of Clematis recta ‘Purpurea,’ the selection ‘Lime Close,’ sulking just on the other side of this Salvia verticillata ‘Purple Rain.’ There is very little to show of the clematis other than a crispy, very green leaf.

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Since I’ve owned it, it’s undergone a name change to ‘Seriously Black.’ Whatever its name, it’s having a very long sulk of, oh, about eight years or so, during which time it was moved at least once, so you figure allow three years to recover from that insult. At this point, I can’t be bothered to care anymore, and it’d be too much trouble to dig out. (Did you hear that, C. recta of the seriously black leaf? I just don’t care!!) I would say it’s obviously not a zone 10 candidate, but many gardeners get good results from clematis in this zone, so my experience is by no means definitive.

Hinkley relayed an anecdote similar to Vita Sackville West’s experience with garden visitors gushing over robust plants: “How lucky you are to have these old walls; you can grow anything against them!” The point being, unless one lives in a tent, we all have walls. Many of Hinkley’s woody lilies are grown protected from excessive wet under eaves, and/or on a south-facing aspect, and visitors will often comment on how fortunate Hinkley is to have this prime southern exposure. (Again, unless one lives in a tent, we all have south-facing exposures, even if they have to be exhumed from under overgrown shrubs.)

The love of plants is transformative, a truism exemplified by a community college teacher from Michigan who became the creator of a world-famous rare plant nursery, then morphed again into plant explorer and lecturer, and it can bring a world seemingly without walls…if occasionally some irksome laughter in the distance.

Mergers & Acquisitions

If nature abhors a vacuum, then I am nature’s willing handmaiden. By late May, the garden is stuffed, bursting at the seams like this potted Euphorbia tirucalli.

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Echevarias and sedums tucked into every available spot. Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ filling in again after laying low over the winter.

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Atriplex hortensis, the purple orach, and Verbena bonariensis dominate the air space.

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Yet the plant purchases keep on coming. This summer was to be about downsizing. Fewer pots to maintain and water throughout a very long growing season. The small garden in situ would have to absorb it all. Must have let down my guard because, boy, did I fall off the wagon — fell off it hard, then loaded it up with plants.

I’m still puzzling over what switch flipped that had me racing madly through the nursery, slowing the cart down only for small children and the elderly. For one thing, I never grab a cart. That way lies madness. One must have some rules, however arbitrary, and then stick to them.

The first rule is, only what I can carry with two hands (surprisingly, a lot).

Second rule is, for those moments of extreme weak will, a small hand basket. (Nurseries tend to hide these hand baskets, for obvious reasons, so I’ve often spent up to 20 minutes searching for one.)

There is no third rule, and this just might be the weak link. For that day, there was the second-rule hand basket overflowing with pots, sitting atop the large cart, also overflowing with pots, clearly an unforeseen set of circumstances lying well outside any known rule.

What separated this trip from one of my usual composed, judicious nursery saunters was that it came at the end of Debra Lee Baldwin’s talk at Roger’s Gardens. I’m guessing it has something to do with the “compadres” effect, sitting in solidarity on those bleacher seats with my tribe. Permission to purchase electrified the air. All I know is, after Debra’s talk, the brakes on the wagon were off. I even tossed a couple heucheras on the cart, very uncharacteristic, since I’m not at all a heuchera junkie, but this one has a big, soft leaf, supposedly bred for southern climes. (The best heuchera I ever grew was our native Channel Islands Heuchera maxima, which grew to the size of a zucchini and was often mistaken for one by visitors.)

I never keep a ghetto for new plant purchases. There’s no room, for one thing, so they’d surely expire in some out-of-the-way spot awaiting planting. A planting frenzy always follows a nursery shopping frenzy the very day of, if not morning after, and this planting frenzy had to be the biggest in recent memory. You know that smug, clever feeling when you’ve managed to squeeze in the last impulse buy? Well, it’s fleeting, and there’s always a hangover the next day as you survey your lack of self-control writ large upon the garden.

The spreadsheet (AA denotes a plant from Annie’s Annuals):

Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’
See note above.

Chrysocephalum apiculatum ‘Flambe Orange’ (2 ea 4-inch pots)’
Impulse

Teucrium hybrid ‘Fairy Dust’ (2 ea 4-inch pots)
Impulse

Eryngium tripartitum AA (2 ea 4-inch pots)
Tap-rooted, will take up little space.

Aeonium spathulatum var. cruentum AA
Aeoniums need no justification

Arthropodium cirratum ‘Renga Lily’ AA
Impulse

Neoregelia ‘Purple Stoly’
Impulse

Saxifraga stolonifera
Replacing last year’s

Venidium ‘Orange Prince’
Impulse

Tanacetum niveum AA (2 ea 4-inch pots)
Started this from seed last fall but missed a watering cycle(s)

Euphorbia rigida AA
Euphorbias need no justification

Verbascum bombyciferum ‘Arctic Summer’ AA
Verbascums need no justification

Nicotiana suaveolens AA (2 ea 4-inch pots)
Started N. mutabilis from seed last fall but missed a watering cycle(s).
And nicotianas need no justification
.

Polygonum orientale, variegated (2 ea 4-inch pots)
Hasn’t prospered for me yet. Third time’s the charm.

Sedum nussbaumerianum was trimmed back just a bit to make room for Euphorbia rigida, etc., etc., until all new acquisitions were merged into the garden.

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This weekend were staying miles away from plant nurseries.

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Edited spring 3/31/11: Polygonum orientale was spectacular summer 2010. Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’ made the best of a poor site, showed beautiful new spring growth, and has been moved to better digs. Teucrium ‘Fairy Duster’ amazingly durable. Euphorbia rigida might be my favorite new euphorb. The neoregelia is robust and thriving. Aeonium is now in bloom. The verbascum bloomed well and a new one was brought in. All others mentioned in above list are not around to greet spring 2011 and did nothing to speak of in 2010.