Tag Archives: Sideritis oroteneriffae

Saturday clippings 4/9/16


The Los Angeles Festival of Books is this weekend. I haven’t been in ages. I can only imagine what the food truck scene is like now. I didn’t see any garden-themed speakers on a quick check of the roster, but long ago (1998!) I attended talks by Robert Smaus, (former LA Times garden editor) Clair Martin (Huntington rose curator) and Robert Perry (native plantsman extraordinatire). The political discussions used to be very good, and around 2004 we attended a panel discussion on the Iraq War, with the late Christopher Hitchens attempting to defend his pro-war position (mostly a position he held in sympathy for the Kurds, I think), along with Mark Danner, Samantha Power and Robert Scheer. If you go, bring an umbrella.

The past two days have brought light rain, a hockey victory for the Kings over the Ducks (ferocious Los Angeles vs. Orange County rivalry), so all in all, it’s been a pretty good week.
On the Metro yesterday, when the doors opened at a stop midway to downtown, a gust of jasmine flooded the train, causing me to look up from my reading, just in time to see the jasmine draped over a chainlink fence begin to recede as the doors shut and the train sped away. Talk about fleeting fragrance. There’s a tall, columnar, ferny-leaved tree along the freeway in bloom now too, golden flowers, whose name I’ve forgotten. The flowers almost look grevillea-like. Not knowing the name is bugging me. Any ideas? I was thinking maybe lyonothamnus but the flowers aren’t a match.

In my own little garden, this week I’ve been thinking about some of my favorite kinds of plants, those that “grow up, not out.”* Not necessarily plants that have been bred to behave and grow in tight spots, though that’s a subject in its own right. I’m talking about ordinary plants with transformative abilities. Smallish footprint, big aerial drama. Here’s a couple examples I’m enjoying this week:


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The old standby, Verbena bonariensis. This is a two-year-old plant, so it made quick growth this year.
Annual in colder zones. It’s a much better plant for me in its second year, more uniform in structure.

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The poppies will probably be over by the end of April.
Another plant that visits the garden and then leaves without causing a lot of disruption.

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I’m not sure if this is Passiflora exoniensis, but whatever it is, I think I’ve found a vine to ease the pang of being unable to grow rhodochiton.
(Ever so grateful to Max Parker for this!)

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I lost the main clumps of Aristida purpurea, which didn’t impress me hugely last year.
I love what a seedling has done with this agave, though. Much better placement than my attempt. More, please.
And I really should thin those pups out this weekend.

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Albuca maxima. I moved a couple bulbs into the back garden. This one does quite the disappearing act, dormant in summer.

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The Rudbeckia maxima experiment continues. Very entertaining so far.

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Depending on how it handles dryish conditions this summer will decide its ultimate fate.
You can’t really describe this as having a small footprint either, but I’ve removed some of the lower leaves.

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Nicotiana ‘Hot Chocolate’ easily hoists itself above the crowd, without being any trouble at all. Self-sows.

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Kniphofia thompsonii var. snowdenii is slim and elegant. I hear it can be trouble with more water, but it stays put here.

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Crambe maritima breaks the tall and slender theme, but look at those gorgeous new leaves.

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I’m getting lots of seedlings of this sideritis. I think it’s Sideritis oroteneriffae. If you feel otherwise, let me know.

And have a great weekend!


*“Sister Sue, she’s short and stout
She didn’t grow up, she grew out”
— Randy Newman, “My Old Kentucky Home”*

I’ve been reading Greil Marcus’ 1975 landmark paean to American music “Mystery Train” on the Metro to work. Any critic who up front acknowledges a debt to Pauline Kael is fine by me. If you’re short on time, just read Marcus on Robert Johnson, the musician whose skill went from so-so to prodigious in such a short period of time that he was rumored to have sold his soul to the devil. Without Johnson, The Rolling Stones couldn’t exist. Books, music, and plants — is there anything I’ve forgotten? Didn’t think so.

planting notes 2014

Every year brings a new crop of preoccupations in the garden, such as:
Will the beschorneria choose this spring for their first bloom? How about the puya in the gravel garden? Feel like blooming this year?
Some plants really do take their sweet time. Judging by my own temperament, I’d say garden makers have a unique blend of philosophical stoicism that co-exists uneasily with a raging, barely controlled impatience.

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At Annie’s Annuals & Perennials/AAP over the weekend, impatience had the upper hand. I splurged on Puya mirabilis, a smaller puya reputed to be the one for blooming at a young age.
I don’t remember which one I planted in the gravel garden and won’t know until it blooms, which may be eons away still.

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Still waiting for blooms on this beschorneria, and I’m pretty sure we can write off 2014. AAP’s display gardens had enormous, towering bloom trusses that had to be tied to the fence for support.

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I’ve been trying to establish asphodels for some time and finally have a few clumps with potential. This morning I noticed a bloom snout in one of the clumps, which is almost unbearably exciting. I think too often I subject potentially tough plants to overly harsh conditions initially, when what they need is some babying for a good start. And I’m trying to remember to mulch like crazy, which is easy this year since there’s piles of it. These are Asphodeline lutea (syn. Asphodelus luteus). Enormous clumps were in bloom in AAP’s display beds. I knew they were tall plants in bloom but wasn’t sure about their width, so seeing them at Annie’s helped fill in the blanks on the eventual size of this ‘Jacob’s Rod.’ A medium-sized phormium is a good visual reference for girth. A white asphodel, Asphodelus albus, was also in bloom, and though I’ve always wanted the yellow I have to say the white is probably even more stunning. (No time for photos at AAP since it was the last stop before heading back down to Los Angeles.)

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Lessertia montana made the cut for the ride home.

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As did a couple Glaucium grandiflorum. I pulled out some of the annual poppies to find a home for these.

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Useful for protecting small plants and young seedlings from digging cats. And to remind my itchy digging fingers that this spot is already taken.

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A couple self-sown sideritis turned up this spring, which I greedily potted up at first sight and just planted back into the garden yesterday.
Looking at AAP’s extensive offering of sideritis, I think it’s S. oroteneriffae.

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One sunny spot happened to be available near Leucadendron ‘Ebony,’ but I’d be a fool to let the sideritis crowd the young conebush, so the sideritis may have to be moved.

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I also saw mature plants of this native thistle, Cirsium occidentale, at AAP’s last weekend. The mother plant was very short-lived in my garden, so I was surprised to find a seedling early this spring.
Knock wood, this one produces a few more seedlings. (5/9/14 edited to add that this thistle died in the recent heat wave.)

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Crambe maritima, hopefully a future depositor in my garden’s seed bank. Maintaining a choice and interesting crew of potential self-sowers is my favorite kind of garden making at the moment.
They bring elements of surprise, serendipity, adaptability, fitting in with rainfall patterns. And let’s be honest, getting beautiful things for free never loses its appeal.

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One of the surprise benefits of keeping pots near the garden proper is that occasionally plants will self-seed into the softer potting soil.
In early spring I found several seedlings of nearby Eryngium padanifolium in this container of alonsoa but nowhere else in the garden.
I noticed yesterday ballota had done the same thing in the container of Albizia ‘Summer Chocolate.’ I never find ballota seedlings in the garden.

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Only one plant of Castor Bean ‘New Zealand Purple’ was overwintered, so there’s very few volunteers this year.

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The dry-loving kangaroo paws will rule summer. A favorite for massed plantings, I like them dotted throughout the garden for their incredibly long-lasting vertical lines.
The hybrids grown for compact growth don’t have the same appeal to me.

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This chartreuse kangaroo paw’s flowers are not as flamboyant as the ‘Yellow Gem’ above, but as with all things chartreuse, they complement everything.

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Cistus ‘Snow Fire’ is a smallish-growing shrub planted last fall that hasn’t made me wait long for blooms.

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I’m envious of gardens with separate growing beds to trial plants and grow some on to a bigger size, like this Aloe marlothii x castanea hybrid, which is temporarily tucked in near the base of the ‘Yellow Gem’ kangaroo paws. But along with the endless lessons in patience the garden doles out, working with what you’ve got is another of its favorite recurring themes.


friday clippings 12/7/12

The tulips are planted, and now the vegetable bin in the fridge is once again restored to its rightful purpose of chilling vegetables. I went beyond the required six weeks of prechilling this year, but overchilling is not the problem that underchilling is. I think this year is a new record, 12 pots in total, not all of them in this photo.


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Waiting for the tulips to bloom, I’m noticing how the silver-leaved plants really stand out in December when so much of the garden is a subdued brown. I’ve been binging on them again, especially since there’s so many new ones available to try, like the sideritis from the Canary Islands.
I’m getting these from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials when available.

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I think this one with the larger leaf is Sideritis oroteneriffae.

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Judging from its blooms over the summer, I think this is Sideritis syriaca.

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Glaucium is another one whose rich, silvery leaves are so appreciated this time of year.
You can bank on silver-leaved plants being tough as well as beautiful, insisting on minimal irrigation.

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I was glad to find Senecio viravira again at a plant sale last spring. I grew it in the garden for years, renewing it when needed from cuttings, then became exasperated with having to continually trim it back. It is easily capable of covering 5 feet of ground in no time. It wasn’t long before I missed growing it; of course, then I couldn’t find it anywhere. Such a good plant for containers too. Incredibly easy from cuttings.

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A silver new to me, found just today, Othonna cheirifolia, a South African succulent from Native Sons.
I’ve been reading about this one for years, but sometimes in print they sound too good to be true and just have to be seen in the leaf to be believed.
In person, this little one doesn’t disappoint.

Far Reaches Farm lists it to zone 7a and say they grow it outdoors unprotected:

A favorite of ours from South Africa. We have this growing in front of our greenhouse and the first winter we mulched it and covered with a tarp. No damage. The second winter we just threw a tarp over it and no damage. Then finally we didn’t protect it at all and there was no damage at 17F – even the flower buds were unscathed. Yellow daisy flowers are lovely over the glaucous succulent foliage.”

Gertrude Jekyll admired it as well, quoted from my beat-up “Gertrude Jekyll on Gardening”:
A striking and handsome plant in the upper part of the rockery is Othonna cheirifolia; its aspect is unusual and interestig, with its bunches of thick, blunt-edged leaves of blue-grey colouring and large yellow daisy flowers.”

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It’s possible to overdo silver, I suppose, but it always arrives on the most tempting leaves, like puya.

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Silver sliding into blue in the attenuata hybrid Agave ‘Blue Flame.’ Sometimes the plant namers really nail it.

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Backlit by Libertia peregrinans.

Speaking of agaves, Lincoln Avenue Nursery in Pasadena has a 20 percent sale ongoing, and their range of succulents is very good, including
4-inch pots of the spiral aloe, Aloe polyphylla. Best to try this heartbreaker in a small, inexpensive size.

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They even had gallons of one of my big agave crushes, Agave parrasana ‘Fireball,’ which I’ve never seen offered for sale outside of plant shows.

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As well as another agave crush, Agave lophantha ‘Quadricolor.’
I’ll have to separate these two soon (“He’s touching me!!”)

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Some of the stock at Lincoln Avenue Nursery.

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I was tempted by some variegated Euphorbia ammak in small sizes, but not small enough to drive home with me.

And I suppose by now all the plant geeks have heard the sad news that the source for extraordinary agastaches and all things xeric, High Country Gardens, has closed. The wonderful blog prairie break has more on HCG’s closure.


snapshot of August 2012

August is always a truth-telling time in the life of a garden and a good month to take a snapshot of it. The hoses have been deployed this week to deep water the trees and soak the now bone-dry soil. Most irrigating up to this point has focused on containers and new plantings, but the mature plants can’t be ignored any longer. As far as the actual layout, it can be tricky to get lay-of-the-land photos in such close quarters, which is why I rarely perform this photo exercise. But some minor changes are planned for fall, so now’s the only time to make a journal of the garden as it exists this summer.


Agaves and succulents at the back porch are easy on supplemental irrigation
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But I’m getting ahead of myself, as usual. First some context and lay-of-the-land descriptions and photos to get oriented for the August snapshot, hopefully not repeating too much from previous posts. There is no lawn or foundation plantings, in the back garden or the front. Though the garden is close to the house because the lot is small, we don’t grow plants up against this wooden bungalow. There’s trouble enough with termites and wood rot as it is. The plantings are mainly on the north and south sides of the house, and to a lesser extent the east side, which is currently getting the gate and hardscape cleaned up and is mainly dominated by a Chinese fringe tree. On the west beyond the garden gate is the business end, the driveway mess of cars, trash cans, tool sheds. The lot size is 5,750 square feet.

These photos are all of the back garden. I always describe photos at the top of the photo, which can get confusing, or so I’ve been told. From the garage and looking east at the back porch and pergola. The pergola attaches to the back of the house and also supports a roof over the back porch. A small “lookout” deck is atop the shed which houses the washer and dryer. Cushions on the lookout are just visible. We do favor a bit of multi-use, Swiss Family Robinson spirit in our projects. Amicia zygomeris in the foreground with Pennisetum ‘Princess Caroline,’ a dominant presence in the garden this summer.


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From the opposite side, looking roughly southwest. Ladder leads to the lookout.
Canopies of smoke tree ‘Grace’ and Caribbean Copper Plant, Euphorbia cotinifolia, nearly touch by August.
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Crithmum maritimum and aeoniums with a potted bay.
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The little bath house on the east side of the house, which now doubles as an aviary, potted bay in front.
A parakeet showed up exhausted and hungry in July.
More Pennisetum ‘Princess Caroline’ at this end too.
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The wayward parakeet has been tentatively named “Wingnut. So far, no reports of a missing parakeet in the neighborhood.
Wingnut does have a cage, but the wide-spaced bars give him free range of the bath house.
The fringe tree, Chionanthus retusus, can be seen just under the shade.
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The narrow east side is mainly for tables and chairs. And pots too, natch.
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Hello, kitty
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The iron trough at the east boundary, which is the blue-stained fence. The Verberna bonariensis was neglected and died while I was away and has been replaced with some variegated pampas grass, red-leaved Hibiscus acetosella, and a chocolate salpiglossis from Annie’s Annuals, never an easy annual to grow, for me at least.
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Salpiglossis likes rich soil but seems really sensitive to overwatering (and high temps — collapsed 8/13/12)
When I’m feeling brave I grow them, but just a few and only in pots.
Annie’s Annuals carries this dark selection ‘Chocolate Royal.’
Chartreuse background is from one of the three Monterey cypresses planted at the eastern boundary.
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Looking to the west under the pergola, with the office door and garage wall visible. The huge burgundy grass blocking a view of the office doorway is again the Pennisetum ‘Princess Caroline,’ which just had a much-needed thinning. It badly needs splitting later this fall, at which point a blog give-away may be in order. (Hoov, Dustin, any interest?) Stipa arundinacea in the foreground with a glimpse of tetrapanax.
The pot-bellied pig corgi Ein seems to have found an errant morsel of kitty kibble, an important part of his daily to-do list.

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More of the tetrapanax. Just visible is the creeping fig-covered southern boundary wall and glimpse of neighbor’s roof beyond.
The burgundy bromeliad nestled under a tetrapanax leaf seems airborne because it’s part of a mossed basket on a tripod whose legs are buried in that Stipa arundinacea.
A grapevine threads through the top of the pergola.
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Again looking west. The agave sits in a tall wrought iron plant stand that was probably made in Tijuana.
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Lepismium cruciforme coloring up nicely in the sun.
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Looking east under the pergola from a photo taken in June, but it still looks pretty much the same, if a bit fuller.
The kangaroo paws, fresh in the June photo, have been thinned out as they age and topple over.
Plantings in the foreground are just in front of the back porch and along the walkway.
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In front of the porch looking west to the garage. Agave ‘Blue Flame.’
Flowers of the kangaroo paws have lost their clean June outline by August.
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Behind the anigozanthos can be seen the Australian mintbush, Prostanthera ovalifolia ‘Variegata’
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Slim, leaning trunk belongs to the tapioca, Manihot grahamii, in a large pot with Sedum confusum.
The intervals of yearly growth can be seen at the bends and angles to its trunk.
Wonder what happens if I cut it back hard next spring.
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So many pots here under the pergola, a few hanging, but I never count.
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The variegated grass is new to me this year, Pennisetum ‘Skyrocket,’ shown here with Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’
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By August, plantings near the porch are starting to crowd the walkway that runs against the house.
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Feather grass, centranthus, Sedum nussbaumeranium, Senecio anteuphorbium.
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And this unnamed, Chrysanthemoides incana, a trailing, silvery succulent that spills onto the pavement in fascinating patterns.
A gift from garden designer Dustin Gimbel.
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This Cotyledon orbiculata has really gained size this summer and also bulges onto the walkway.
The burgundy flowers of Lotus jacobaeus are threading through the Australian mintbush. Office/garage in background.
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Euphorbia rigida is happy here as well.
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White Centranthus ruber reseeds along the walkway too. I love the surge of plants at my feet, not to everyone’s taste, I know.
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The walkway along the house heading west leads to a gate to the driveway or turns south into the patio in front of the garage/office.
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This summer, in the border behind the agave in the beehive pot, grows canna, castor bean, ornamental corn, Helenium puberulum.
(Teucrium hircanicum bloomed here earlier, mostly bloomed out now. Very glad to have made this teucrium’s acquaintance this year. It’s already started to reseed into the brick patio.)
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And Lysmachia ephemerum, a couple blooms its first year. Uncertain whether it will thrive here in zone 10. Scabiosa ochroleuca in the background.
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Potted agaves on the office patio, house now in the background.
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Burnished result from mistreating a potted jade plant.
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It can be difficult to distinguish what’s growing in pots and what’s in the ground here, a feature of the garden in August.
Pots are for flexibility in changing things up. There are no hardiness issues with any of these plants.
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This aeonium is in the ground. Though it came unnamed, by its furry leaves I’m guessing it’s A. canariense.
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Swooping branches are Senecio anteuphorbium. Blue succulent is the Mexican Snowball, Echeveria elegans.
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Sonchus and Agave attenuata ‘Kara’s Stripes,’ a pup from the front garden.
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The pathway off the office patio ends abruptly now, but used to run east/west through the entire length of the border behind the pergola. I needed the space for more plants, and there’s still a bricked access path against the southern boundary wall to reach the compost bins.
Who needs redundant paths, anyway?
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Self-sown Mirabilis jalapa ‘Limelight’ loves August
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Looking west at the garage/office wall from deep in the border that curves around behind the pergola, through Persicaria amplexicaulis to the potted agaves on the small brick patio in front of the office. Slim trunk is the Caribbean Copper Plant, Euphorbia cotinifolia, a 15-foot tree here.
On hot summer days, you can hear the crackle of its seeds exploding, a sound I heard quite a bit last week.


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Looking east through the persicaria at the trunks of the smoke tree ‘Grace’
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As I’ve mentioned many times, this knotweed is an amazingly good perennial for zone 10, which puts it at the top of a very short list. Never complains when the border gets too dry, as it invariably does by July. Reliably returns every spring. The bees are all over it. Doesn’t get knocked down by summer rain because we never get any, which means I’d be able to grow the new Belgium varieties whose spectacularly dark flowers are so full and brushy they are considered fit only for cut flowers — if and when they finally make it to the States.
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Looking east from the border behind the pergola and its grapevine.
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Still in the border behind the pergola, looking west, sideritis in the foreground. This one may be Sideritis oroteneriffae.
I’m trying out quite a few of these Canary Island shrubs. From Annie’s Annuals & Perennials.
A nearby 6-foot Salvia canariensis and some other stuff was removed late July, and a barked access path was temporarily reinstalled to assist in the removal of the smoke tree ‘Grace.’ Either removal or a severe pruning.
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Looking west past a yucca to the enormous girth of Pennisetum ‘Princess Caroline’
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Which completes, more or less, the snapshot of the back garden in August 2012. I know I’ll be glad that I did this sometime in January 2013.