Tag Archives: Scilla peruviana

streetside; rainy day house & gardens

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

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

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

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The clouds did open at Big Daddy’s

The itinerary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Pots on spiral staircase at Big Daddy’s

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

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

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

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And fabulous streetside succulent gardens like this one.

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Big clump of the slipper plant, Pedilanthus bracteatus

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

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

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Aloe marlothii

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The coral aloe, A. striata

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

Bloom Day March 2013

If it weren’t for the few stems of Scilla peruviana in bloom I’d feel completely out of step this March Bloom Day, when so many participating gardens are sending forth crocus and iris and so many other traditional spring bulbs and blooms. We may have flowers every month of the year, as Carol’s Bloom Day muse Elizabeth Lawrence declares, but we won’t all necessarily have the same flowers.


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I’ve been trimming away the lower leaves from a Geranium maderense to let some sun in on this patch of scilla.
Even in perfect conditions this bulb takes some years off and refuses to bloom.

What I’m most interested in this year is a little meadow/chaparral experiment that I’m hoping will bloom through summer in full sun, fairly dry conditions. It’s really begun to fill in the past couple weeks.

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Diascia personata is part of this experiment, three plants, two planted in fall and a cutting struck from one of them that has already made good size. Thanks go to Annie’s Annuals & Perennials for being the only U.S. source, via Derry Watkins’ extraordinary nursery in England. In the 1980s I reverently brought new diascia species and varieties home from Western Hills Nursery in Occidental, California, the only source at that time. Now all the local nurseries carry them as bedding plants every spring, and of course being a plant snob I don’t grow them anymore. But diascias can be very good here along the coast in the long cool spring and early summer, dwindling off in the heat of August. This Diascia personata’s height to 4 feet is a very intriguing asset.

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Also in the little meadow is Anthemis ‘Susanna Mitchell,’ and self-sown poppies, probably Papaver setigerum.
I like calling it my “meadow” when in truth it covers as much ground as a large picnic blanket.

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Blue oat grass, helicotrichon on the left, borders one side of the meadow/chaparral.

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Bordering a pathway elsewhere there’s a big swathe of this silvery gazania, maybe five plants, which counts as a swathe in my garden. In full sun they’d be open and you’d see what a shockingly striped and loud harlequin variety I chose last fall. Can’t fault those beautiful leaves though.

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More beautiful leaves to shore up what few flowering plants I actually grow. Senecio leucostachys is the big silvery sprawler. Small flashes of color from the Moroccan toadflax, Linaria reticulata, and the saffron-colored blooms of Salvia africana-lutea picking up speed, especially in recent temps in the high 80s. The phormium was bought misnamed as the dwarf ‘Tom Thumb.’ Whatever it’s true name, it’s stayed fairly compact and seems to have topped off at about 3 feet.

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Closeup of the salvia bloom.

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Euphorbia lambii began to bloom this week.

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The tree euphorbia really grew into its name this year.

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Kind of amazing to write that Nicotiana ‘Ondra’s Brown Mix’ has been in bloom all winter.
I’ve been cutting off old branches as the flowers go to seed. The brick paths are full of its seedlings.
Fresh basal leaf growth is coming in strong.

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Salvia chiapensis backed by Melianthus ‘Purple Haze’

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And a different view against a backdrop of sideritis and a big clump of Helleborus argutifolius.

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The yellow-flowered form of Russellia equisetiformis is just so very cool.

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Nasturtiums are ruthlessly thinned, but this climbing variety was allowed to fill in the bottom of a tuteur that supports the coronilla, which is still in full, aureate bloom.

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The coronilla with the nasturtium growing at the base of its support

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The seductive little species geraniums/pelargoniums are at their very best in spring

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Also beginning bloom is one of my favorite sedums. S. confusum.

Thanks again to Carol of May Dreams Gardens and all who participate in opening their gardens on Bloom Day.

hellebores in the rear-view mirror


To write that hellebores are a much-desired plant for winter gardens is stating the obvious. I grow nothing but H. argutifolius, the Corsican hellebore, and have become a repetitive bore in constantly blogging my adoration for it, but I do admire all kinds wherever I travel in winter. This moody, Moorish, Othello of a hellebore was photographed near the office at Annie’s Annuals. Possibly ‘Onyx Odyssey’?


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A pale yellow growing in the courtyard of our lodgings in San Francisco.

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But by April it’s time to think about saying goodbye to this constant winter companion. Yesterday I cut most of my garden’s fallen bloom stalks, split the stems at the bottom about an inch or so, and filled a couple large vases full.


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How’s that for a performance? Bloom all winter and still look this good in a vase.

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Sepals and nectaries

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Helleborus argutifolius, like H. foetidus, are the caulescent hellebores, or those with above-ground stems, so cleaning them up is a simple matter of cutting away the long (3-foot and over) bloom stalks. Fresh new leaves are already forming, trifoliate, evergreen, leathery goodness for spring and summer that I promise not to blog about for the next six months.


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Scilla peruviana

In late 2010 Scilla peruviana won me a pair of wellies (garden boots) when I described to Val Easton of Plant Talk the upcoming spectacle of their galactic indigo blooms coinciding with the chartreuse flowers trusses of the Corsican hellebore. How was I to know the scilla would be slackers for 2011?

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This year the scilla roused themselves enough to show a few blooms, but the hellebores had flopped to the ground by then, and I’ve let far too many lunaria seedlings into the mix shading the base of the scilla. Between the scilla’s stubbornness and my spinelessness when it comes to thinning things out, a photo of a bloom in a vase is the only option left for 2012. By next year we should have this all worked out…

Bloom Day February 2012

February is a very exciting month. So much to take note of, I rarely make it through a hot cup of coffee on a February morning. The anigozanthos is growing in leaps, now almost chin-high. This is ‘Yellow Gem.’

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Tulips started to bloom over the past couple days. But tulips don’t impress Evie; birds impress Evie.

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Love having the pots of tulips sited next to Sedum nussbaumerianum, now blooming too, with pearly white broccoli florets.

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The six-pack of linaria was a solid winter investment. Ditto Pelargonium echinatum for intense pink.
Not as much of a craving for pink in summer as in winter, though.

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Red-flower Russelia equisetiformis continues in bloom, though a yellow variety took the winter off.

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Lots of other odds and ends in bloom, including aeoniums, euphorbias, salvias, S. macrophylla, chiapensis, karwinskii, wagneriana. This silvery-leaved Lotus jacobaeus from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials continues to impress. Its cascading habit would be seen to great advantage draped over a retaining wall. Here it leans on an aeonium.

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For spring bulbs, snowdrops and crocuses, camellias, and who knows what else this warmish winter, check Bloom Day’s host site, Carol’s blog May Dreams Gardens, for a peek at what February brings to gardens all over the world. The new hardiness map should make this Bloom Day interesting, as more gardens are carved off into alphabetical subgroups. Over and out from zone 10b.

The Third Harmonic

It’s that time when the garden vibrates to the frequency of Alstroemeria ‘The Third Harmonic.’

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The flowering stalks, when upright, graze my chin, and I’m 5’8.” This is a two-year-old clump, and it’s a good 5 feet across already.
These numbers do not jibe with catalogue descriptions of a reasonable height and spread of 2-3 feet.
To call a happily sited alstroemeria vigorous is already an understatement, so how to accurately describe the vigor of TTH?
Let’s just say that without a backhoe, there’s no turning back. Bred by George Hare, thankfully, this variety is sterile.

This year climbing nasturtiums in gold and burgundy are coinciding with TTH’s bloom. Nice.

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To zone 8 and maybe 7 according to Plant Delights.

To see what’s in bloom this April in gardens around the world, visit May Dreams Gardens, for other Bloom Day posts, hosted by Carol. (Thanks, Carol!)

Here in Southern California, we’re well into spring, into wildflower season, about to begin garden tour season, so there’s lots in bloom.

These Scilla peruviana are just about finished blooming and the leycestria is bulking up.

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The first flush of bloom on my climbing rose is nearly over.

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Rose ‘Bouquet d’Or’

From Ants to Squills

This fantastic architecture must have an equally fantastic pollinator, yes? The Giant Fork-Tongued Moth maybe?

Well, let’s leave out mythical insects. What’s left would be the usual garden-variety pollinators, and possibly just ants.


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Just ants? Don’t let E. O. Wilson catch you making that offhand remark. Someone left his book The Naturalist on the dining room table yesterday, a book I never finished but mean to eventually. That category makes a very tall stack near my bed. You can hear a brief interview here, where he “characterizes the mutualistic symbiosis between ant and fungus as ‘one of the most successful experiments in the evolution of life.'” Ants rarely play the role of pollinator, a curious fact given their abundance. The Wikipedia entry on the mega-colonies of the Argentine ant asserts that the “enormous extent of this population is paralleled only by human society.”

In the interests of science, I cordially invite Mr. Wilson to remove the entire colony of Argentine ants now living under our house and garden to study far, far away. And then report back his insights in another wonderful book.

Back to the squills, Scilla peruviana, Giant Squill, Peruvian Lily, etc. All is not as it appears there either. Apparently, the ship bringing the bulbs from Spain was named PERU. Mr. Linnaeus in 1753 mistakenly named the bulbs for the ship and not country of origin. As often as botanical nomenclature shifts around, whereupon cimicifuga must now be known as actaea, apparently one doesn’t tinker with Mr. Linnaeus’ handiwork unless it’s for reclassification purposes, and not merely mistaking ship for country.

Scilla peruviana, from the Mediterranean (Spain) is lovely with the green-flowering hellebores, so I’ve been transplanting hellebore seedlings among the bulbs. Most references on the bulb allude to its sporadic blooming habits, taking the occasional year off. These bulbs were planted last fall, and this is their first year in my garden. Zoned 8 to 10.

Drought Buster

Tibouchina heteromalla holding on to a raindrop. Photo by MB Maher.

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I understand the impulse. We’ve been promised a solid day of rain, but so far it’s only been a fitful one.
Possibly more tonight. Euphorbia cotinifolia, Caribbean Copper Plant, in this case a 15-foot tree, pleads
with the clouds for more.

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Still, it’s been a good winter for rainfall. To me, there’s nothing more dispiriting than drought.
Beyond the implications of drought for a desert city of over 10 million people, my garden and I
take a lack of rain very personally. All we ask for is just the average rainfall, 15 inches a year.
We’re not greedy.

And if grey is not your first choice for color, just shift your gaze downward, where Scilla peruviana is taking shape,
little turbines of green and a color still so dark it’s only dreaming of blue.

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