Tag Archives: Salvia canariensis

a garden visit with bixbybotanicals

It all started with a very sweet and generous offer of some foliage for vases. Via bixbybotanicals Instagram, I learned that his Leucadendron ‘Wilson’s Wonder’ was in full winter dress, and he was willing to share some of the largesse with anyone in Long Beach. The South African conebushes are prized for their long vase life, and since my leucadendrons at home are too young to pillage for vases, I jumped at the chance to pick up some ruddy-leaved branches.

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The Leucadendron ‘Wilson’s Wonder’ in question, so you’ll know in case you’re ever offered some branches. Just say yes. And you never know — not only did we leave with a bucket stuffed with cone bush branches, but also some delicious duck eggs, which were ravenously consumed for dinner that night.

Okay, great taste in shrubs and garden fowl — who is this guy anyway?

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The shorthand answer to that question? Just an Italian Renaissance art scholar/teacher and incredibly busy father of two with a big love of dry garden plants and a strong affinity for garden design.

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Of course, I immediately began pestering Jeremy for a return visit with the AGO crew (Mitch), and he graciously agreed to let us explore.

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And on an average suburban lot, there is an incredible amount to explore. The parkway is filled with California natives, including milkweed and self-sowing Calif. poppies, making a plant-rich corridor between the hell strip and the front garden.

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And here’s where Jeremy’s garden and other front-yard lawn conversions part ways. Just behind that thick band of plants bordering the sidewalk is this surprisingly private piece of serenity, just feet from the street. I don’t think I’ve seen a river of blue chalk sticks/Senecio mandralsicae used to better effect. And, yes, Jeremy says they do require a stern hand to keep them in check. A ‘Creme Brulee’ agave peeks through salvia, the red echoed by callistemon in bloom opposite.

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All anchored by the shiny simplicity of that lone stock tank. (There’s another one in the back garden.)

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I love how he took featureless, flat panels of lawn and sculpted the space into a multi-faceted garden that works for the family, wildlife, and the neighborhood. A strong sense of enclosure without a fence — who knew? My own street-side (and mangy) box hedges are striking me as unnecessarily claustrophobic now.

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Jeremy seems to have effortlessly managed balancing the broad strokes that strongly lead the eye with the detailed planting that rewards closer inspection. I counted a total of three Yucca rostrata, but there may be more.

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The front garden was started in 2012, when it was nothing but a flat expanse of lawn and a couple palms. Not a trace of either is left. (Those are a neighbor’s palms in the background.)

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Now there’s nooks to watch the kids chase butterflies.

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That Salvia canariensis on the corner of the house behind the nasturtiums is going to be stunning in bloom.

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Mixed in amongst the nasturtiums is the charmingly nubby Helenium puberulum, a Calif. native.

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And opposite the chairs and table is another gorgeous bit of planting, deftly angled to screen the house on the driveway side. Obviously a collector of choice plants, nevertheless his design instincts are manifest in subtle screening and massing for privacy balanced by openness/negative space. A sentinel arbutus stands apart, with the strong afternoon sun blurring the outline of a 5-foot Leucadendron discolor ‘Pom Pom’ to the arbutus’ left, one I’ve killed a couple times. Jeremy admitted to lots of failures, too, but his successes are envy-inducing.

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Encircling ‘Pom Pom’ is a detailed planting of aloes, yucca, golden coleonema, senecio, Euphorbia lambii. Like me, he browses for plants at local H&H Nursery as well as flea markets.

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Detail of arbutus bloom.

But where are those ducks? we asked, hoping to steal a peek into the back garden. The ruse worked.

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To visit the ducks, we were led behind a sleek black fence at the end of the driveway guarded by Acacia cognata.

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And a dombeya, the highly scented Tropical Hydrangea. Jeremy said he chased this small tree’s identity for years.

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All was finally revealed during a visit to Disneyland, where the dombeya was growing, and labeled, in Toontown. In an instant, the silly and the sublime converged.

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Meet the ducks. Mural in the background was done by Jeremy’s brother.

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I want ducks!

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I asked how the gardens were handling the recent (relatively) heavy rain, and Jeremy said the front garden came through like a champ. But there has been a bit of flooding in the back garden.

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I’m sure I was told but can’t remember who built the duck enclosure. What duck wouldn’t obligingly lay as many eggs as possible in such cheerful digs?

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There’s a serious container fanatic at work here too…

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A termite-infested pergola attached to the house had to be knocked down when they moved in, leaving this low wall along the driveway as the perfect spot for staging containers.

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In case you bloggers are feeling that it’s all about Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook, Jeremy is a faithful reader of blogs.

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Melianthus major

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Winter-blooming Dahlia imperialis, after several moves, in a spot obviously to its liking.

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For the leucadendron branches, the duck eggs, and the inspiring garden visit, thank you so much, Jeremy!

All photos by MB Maher.

Salvia ‘Love & Wishes’ (a salvia revue)

Yes, another salvia post. (You’re looking at a person for whom the ’90s publication of Betsy Clebsch’s master work A Book of Salvias, was a life-altering event.)
The two new salvias in my garden are so far living up to their reputation for sturdiness and early bloom, the ‘Amistad’ I mentioned recently and this one, ‘Love and Wishes,’ both planted last summer.

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I love trialing new salvias because:
1) in this vast, square-stemmed genus you’ll find a gorgeous bunch of plants, some very long blooming, and many capable of *innovative inter-species hybrids; and
2) they’re incredible hubs of action for pollinators and dive-bombing hummingbirds.
Their irresistible allure to hummingbirds means a vibrant kinetic energy always surrounds these plants.
Set up a camp stool nearby and grab a cold drink for a lively acrobatics show put on by these little Flying Wallendas in their iridescent finery.
The hummers eventually become acclimated to a human sitting quietly and will go about their zippy, enchanting business sometimes just inches away.
*‘Love & Wishes’ is a darker-flowered riff on the spectacularly successful Australian hybrid ‘Wendy’s Wish,’ thought to possibly be a cross between S. buchanii and S. splendens.
‘Amistad,’ from Brazil, may be a cross of S. guaranitica with S. gesneriiflora. Kinda makes one pine for a spontaneous salvia hybrid of one’s own, doesn’t it?


Salvia africana-lutea, from 2013, fantastic color, a little too big for my garden. Highly recommended if you have the space.


Another entry in the too-big department, Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight,’ from 2010, when there were a lot more summer containers to water:

And I don’t think there’s an affordable pot in existence roomy enough for a mature plant, except maybe the humble trash can. (On my budget anyway.)

The salvia flowers well in morning sun, filtered sun the rest of the day. During winter, full sun is tolerated, which this salvia receives positioned under a deciduous cotinus. As the seasonal light changes, it’s a simple matter of grabbing a handle and shoving it around to find the best light. Pruning it back hard in spring is also a good time for root pruning, basically running a knife a couple inches from the outer edge of the root ball, in situ in the trash can, removing the old roots, and adding fresh potting soil or even pure compost. This salvia loves rich soil. Eventually, it will be best to take cuttings and start the whole process over, since these big salvias get excessively woody with age.”


Salvia chiapensis, magenta madness almost year-round for me


Salvia ‘Waverly’ from 2011. Utterly dependable. One of the best for Southern California.

The search for the perfect salvia for my very small, zone 10 garden has turned up some gems like mid-sized ‘Waverley’ and Salvia chiapensis, both capable of season-long bloom, with a toughness and tolerance for dry conditions belying their exquisite looks. Many others I’ve trialed, though always beautiful, bloom only late in the season and/or bulk up into massive shrubs that quickly outgrow the garden
(see ‘Limelight’ above).


Salvia canariensis, beautiful for its leaves alone, then add in the persistent rosy bracts after flowering. Just stunning. Big and stunning.


Bracts on Salvia canariensis


Salvia verticillata ‘Purple Rain,’ June 2010, blooms most of the summer

The shrubby species from Mexico and Central America are much happier here than the perennial kinds so often used as matrix plants in Oudolfian meadows. I’ve had some success with Salvia verticillata ‘Purple Rain,’ but it doesn’t seem to enjoy the mild winter and usually needs replanting in spring every year. I see I made a mildly enthusiastic note in 2010 that it “blooms most of the summer.” I no longer explore the herbaceous kinds, but stick to the flamboyant shrub-like species and hybrids, not too big, not too thirsty — and because they are such prolific natural hybridizers, there’s always a new salvia to chase.

a Greene & Greene rebirth and other tour notes

There was a small tour of five local historical homes on Sunday presented by Long Beach Heritage. The star of the tour from a rarity perspective was this Greene & Greene, one of only three here in Long Beach. Even on such a small tour, I only managed to see three of the five houses. Must build up some tour discipline! It’s just that these old houses and gardens have so very many stories to tell…

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Some houses in my neighborhood contributed panes of the old “wavy” glass for the restoration of this “National Historic landmark…this 1904 house survived by moving three times. Designed by the Greenes as an oceanfront home for Jennie A. Reeve…the house is one of the brothers’ earliest ventures in Arts and Crafts style. Moved to its current location in 1924…Henry Greene was rehired to design a significant two-story addition and garden. The house is currently under restoration.”

I’ll say it’s under restoration. History-making, monumental, meticulous restoration undertaken by the current owner, a restoration architect, using the original Greene & Greene plans, which include not only plans for the built-ins, but the furniture, fixtures and landscape as well. There are only a few of the original decorative items and light fixtures left. The original porch light is temporarily on loan to the Huntington while the house is restored. All other decorative fixtures, and there were over 100, have long since disappeared during the house’s various moves — no one seems to know how or to whom, but someone was made very rich by the pillaging. The floors are quarter-sawn oak, the built-in cabinetry and mouldings Port Orford cedar, which due to its rarity arrives in well-spaced, restoration-prolonging shipments. With restoration still underway, the Reeve house was completely empty, lath and plaster still exposed in some rooms, which provided a fascinating look at the painstaking process of restoration. Completion of the house is estimated for the end of this year, but there’s still the furniture, fixtures and landscape to be finished.

No interior photos were allowed in any of the homes, only the exterior. I was excited that a couple homes on the tour were reputed to have extensive gardens.

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This enormous garden belonged to a home on the tour that sat on three lots, but its allure now is mostly its ghostly state of disrepair.
There were mature fruit trees, overgrown roses, daylilies, agapanthus, the garden seen through this glassed-in outdoor patio draped in jasmine.

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At one time in its past, an oil derrick was moved onto the property and pumped for one day. The docent kept repeating this story with no other explanation. Why just one day? Was it removed because of the nuisance factor, or could they tell the well was dry after one day? Many of the homes here still sell with their mineral rights.

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Other survivors were ropes of epiphytic cactus.

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And a collection of succulents on the back steps

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The kitchen garden was still in active use.

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A Spanish Revival home on the tour had a sweet courtyard, viewed here from a secret garden

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The courtyard opened off the back door and also led through a doorway to the front of the property

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Along with an armoire for storage, there was a massive brick fireplace, a small fountain, low-light plants like the fiddle-leaf fig and staghorn fern

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the arched doorway leading to an inner graveled garden

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the secret garden

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Just outside the walled courtyard on the path to the street, a chair is nearly hidden by bougainvillea
The swath of green on the left is Salvia spathacea, so it’s obviously a hummingbird-viewing station, right?

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Before heading home, a quick stop for a nearby parkway abloom in Salvia clevelandii and Salvia canariensis.

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Salvia canariensis is one of my favorite salvias and ruled the garden last summer. This parkway was double-wide, so it had all the space it needed.
With lavender, artemisia, stachys, nepeta

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A lush gift for insects, birds and the neighborhood to enjoy…and the occasional itinerant tour-goer.

Occasional Daily Photo 5/21/11

Some new things in bloom I woke up to this morning.

Viscaria oculata from Annie’s Annuals.
I grew this annual from seed many years ago. It’s amazing good fortune to have a nursery do all that work and offer up gems like these for sale, just a few plants if that’s all you need. I brought home small plants from AA’s Richmond nursery in March 2011. Separate color strains offered too. Sigh…


A truss of bloom on Salvia canariensis. The blooms on this salvia are very oregano-esque, with flowers and bracts appealing to the oregano lover in me.
This plant does have a strong odor, but what’s a little funky smell between friends?



Heliophila longifolia. Flowers not fully open yet this overcast morning. Again, from Annie’s. And, again, one I grew long ago. All I need is a couple plants.
I much prefer someone else keep all that seed-growing gear and not me. I vividly remember the leaning stacks of tofu containers kept for that purpose.


The potted Manihot grahamii tree is getting its summer canopy and forming flower buds too.


Warming Up

Edging into the high 80’s the next couple days here at the coast, about a mile from the Pacific, in the 90’s for the inland cities like Pasadena.
The castor bean plant and Salvia canariensis are reveling in the heat, leaving little ground uncovered.


Salvia canariensis should be in bloom in a couple weeks.


The annual quaking grass, Briza maxima, self-sown, ripening in the heat.


Grapevine already past the top of the pergola. Beans, squash, and kale in the silver circular containers (air vents).


Solanum marginatum, about 4X4 feet of undulating leaf.


Unlike me, dyckia welcomes the heat, sending up a half dozen bloom stalks, this photo a couple weeks’ old.
This garden has been thinned a bit since this photo was taken. Stipa gigantea leaning in on the left.


The leeks undulating even more wildly in the heat.


This spring I’ve craved pots of wispy, diaphanous annuals like linaria, anagallis.
This is Linaria ‘Licilia Peach’ with potted agaves and Senecio medley-woodii.



As a kid, I loathed summers in Los Angeles. It’s taken decades for me to warm up to the prospect each year.
Having a garden of my own is probably solely responsible for changing my mind. Plants like these make it…bearable.

August 2010 Bloom Day

Bloom Days are hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.
For next summer I’m already planning on lilies again, this time for pots. Just an example of the power of Bloom Day posts.

Another atypical overcast morning in Southern California for August. I dutifully grabbed my camera for Bloom Day but the light was abysmal for photos.
I know how much we all love inventory lists (kidding!), but it’s the best I can do with this marine-layered sky, so I’m sprinkling in some recent photos of plants in bloom today throughout the list.
For those names without photos, an AGO search will bring up many of these plants.

Tibouchina heteromalla
Catananche caerulea, almost finished blooming
Calceolaria ‘Kentish Hero,’ reblooming. Bloomed in spring in pots, cut back, and planted at the feet of tibouchina
Solanum pyracanthum
Solanum rantonnetii (possibly ‘Lynn’s Variegated’), blooming all summer

Continue reading August 2010 Bloom Day