Tag Archives: Sideritis syriaca

Bloom Day May 2013



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It’s our blue period again, and not just ours. Jacaranda mimosifolia trees are painting the whole town blue.
Spiky plants in the front garden will fly these pennants until July, when the blue period ends, and the trees in the parkway will be fully leafed out.

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In the back garden, two-year-old clumps of Penstemon ‘Enor’ have started to bloom.
I had a big penstemon phase about five years ago, then attention wandered elsewhere.
I like this one’s tall, slim spikes and smallish flowers.

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Some of the new plants I’m trying this year, like this umbellifer Cenolophium denudatum, will be encouraged to stay and self-sow.
It fulfills the important requirement of tolerating fairly dry soil, while still keeping lush good looks.
Same deal with the blue-flowered Aristea ecklonii, a South African iris relative.

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Diascia personata, tall and pink in the background behind Orlaya grandiflora, is more problematic. Good height and promising growth habit, open and loose, but had a difficult time with recent hot days, not to mention the leaves have been curled and disfigured since active growth started a couple months ago. Looks like thrips damage, a problem I’ve never had in the garden before. And though I love its height and structure, I’m not crazy enough about that color to put up with deformed leaves.
All the lacy white orlaya this year were self-sown volunteers.

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I should probably stop experimenting and just grow anigozanthos. These bloom stalks will last into fall.

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There’s a couple clumps, one gold and the other a rusty orange. I’d love to add a chartreuse-flowered clump too.

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Another experiment was Verbascum ‘Clementine.’ Lovely plant but a bit of a lightweight as far as sun and drought tolerance.
I’ll probably stick to the silver-leaved verbascums in the future.
Silvery Sideritis syriaca on the left, dark green clump in the foreground is Persicaria amplexicaulis.

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I’m very glad to be growing nepeta again, a few clumps of ‘Walker’s Low.’ It’s as drought tolerant as ballota, whose white wands are just behind the nepeta.

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And it’s nice to have a few of these Senecio stellata self-sowing, though they absolutely must have afternoon shade.

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Eryngium planum is blooming this year in a couple spots. Once I stopped crowding them and gave them sun at their bases, they complied.

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Pelargoniums continue to work their charm on me and are tough as nails in pots.
This one is Pelargonium caffrum X ‘Diana,’ whose flowers remind me of lewisias.

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Just one bloom on a couple plants of Coreopsis tinctoria ‘Mahogany’ opened for Bloom Day.

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A few plants of Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’ self-sowed this spring.

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There are some amazingly fresh spring gardens to wander through at our host’s site for Bloom Day, Carol at May Dreams Gardens, filled with all sorts of plants and bulbs I can only dream of growing. May dreams indeed!


Ethan Hawke fondles switchgrass at the High Line

There’s an attention grabber. No, that’s not a recent tabloid headline and, yes, I am being facetious, but I find it amazing that the High Line (and switchgrass!) is casually slipped into a bit of puffery about the current goings-on of Ethan Hawke.

From the May 13, 2013, issue of The New Yorker: “Ethan Hawke traipsed the High Line with his hands in his pockets, his blue-gray eyes wide in the strong morning light…Knifing through a bed of switchgrass, he observed…”

No further explanation of what the High Line is, or what switchgrass is for that matter (panicum). It’s just assumed we’ll know — or should know.

In the land of public opinion, the High Line has been an idea in transit, moving relatively swiftly from an impossible feat to a controversial instigator of gentrification, now coasting and settling into a beloved space mentioned in articles about film stars. I’ve been a fan every step of the way. Will the High Line be the impetus for plants and landscapes to begin to share a little space in the collective cultural mind, alongside film stars and cat videos? Wouldn’t that be something? Can headlines like “Autumn crocus now in bloom at the High Line!” be far off?

I’ll always read any piece on Ethan Hawke, because of all the Chekhov plays he’s been doing, because of the Before Sunrise/Sunset movies and Gattaca, and because of the film version he made of Jack London’s White Fang, in which at 21 he costarred with the incomparable Klaus Maria Brandauer and that equally incomparable actor Jed, the wolf mix that played White Fang. The scene where Jed rescues Ethan from a mine collapse is especially riveting, as is the scene when Jed dispatches the bad guys.

But I had no idea Ethan Hawke had narrated a history of the High Line. I suppose his movie Chelsea Walls was a tipoff to his involvement in the neighborhood.

There is something so emotionally satisfying about moving through a landscape — which is why I think there’s something uniquely American about the High Line and its contribution to landscape design. Footfall after footfall expectation builds, scent and sound are stirred, memories too. Memories like walking to and from school on paths through empty fields, an interlude of intense freedom bracketed by responsibility at both departure and arrival. Even in a tiny garden like mine, moving through a landscape is embarking on a journey of discovery. Cutting a little path through the main border and scaling the plants down to knee-high at the path’s edge has been an interesting and rewarding experiment this year.

Where the bricks end is where the new path begins, maybe 8 feet in curved length. It’s really just a dog track in width now that summer growth is spilling onto it, fit for corgi-sized adventures.


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Summer gardens and parks, coming soon to a neighborhood near you.


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.


Bloom Day April 2012


April deserves a thorough Bloom Day post, but if I’m to get this in before midnight it’ll have to be brief. A big change here is that the poppies of Troy, Papaver setigerum, are over sooner than I’d like. I expect them to last at least all of April. The past two mornings countless confused bees have been aimlessly circling the air space once filled with poppies in bloom. The last rainfall was followed by ferocious winds which battered and ultimately flattened the poppies, so they’ve been pulled from the crevices in the dry-laid brick terrace in which they self-sowed, and now it’s like they were never there. Poof, and the terrace is once again just an ordinary terrace instead of a meadow of swaying, buzzing poppies. And it seems the garden has no other flowers to tempt the bees, though the hummingbirds are finding plenty to keep themselves occupied. Last pre-rainstorm photo of the poppies.


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Papaver rupifragum in the front gravel garden, in a more protected spot, was safe from wind damage. And possibly the leaner soil here may have helped them to grow a little tougher.

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One of the mainstay salvias in the garden, Salvia chiapensis, in bloom nearly year-round. I’m including yet another Bloom Day photo only because I liked this angle with the waterfall of yucca as a backdrop. In the blurry foreground is Melianthus ‘Purple Haze.’

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The last of the Dutch iris, too, this one ‘Eye of the Tiger,’ hands down my favorite. Dark, smoky, moody.

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Albuca maxima, a summer-dormant bulb from South Africa, flower stalks about 3 feet high, growing in the front gravel garden which gets little supplemental irrigation.

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Always a surprise to have a grass bloom as early as Stipa gigantea. The albuca is just a few feet away, and fall-blooming nerines grow in this part of the gravel garden too, another bulb that requires summer dormancy.

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Pelargonium ‘Splendide’ with an unidentified sedum species

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Peachy thunbergia, just a little snail-chewed.

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I prefer the clear orange of this Orange Clock Vine, Thunbergia gregorii.

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A large pot of this oversized figwort, Scrophularia calliantha, was moved to a spot with less afternoon sun yesterday in the narrow inner courtyard off the front gravel garden, where coincidentally it also drapes and displays itself to much better effect. In probably the reverse of what’s going on in many spring gardens, I’ve been busy removing the clutter of winter pots to streamline the garden for summer, keeping just a few large pots which hold moisture longer. I don’t yet have any big plans for summer containers but am always open to temptation.


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Geum magellanicum

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I’m trialing a couple new kinds of foxglove this year, Digitalis ferruginea and this one, Digitalis ‘Goldcrest,’ a sterile hybrid of D. obscura and grandiflora reputed to be extremely floriferous.

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For fans of chartreuse bracts, besides euphorbias, hellebores, and ornamental oregano, there’s sideritis.

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The color of chocolate cosmos but with silvery leaves, Lotus jacobaeus in its first season has already earned a permanent place in my affections.

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Sisyrinchium striatum ‘Variegatum’ is almost more excitement than I can handle in one plant.

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Salvia littae grows in a mad, scrambly tangle. Brittle too, so attempts to tidy it up results in broken stems. A frustrating salvia unless allowed to drape down a wall, I’d guess. Brought home from the Mendocino Botanic Garden last summer.

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Salvia macrophylla. I don’t think I’ve ever grown a salvia that clothes itself with leaves right down to the ground like this one does.

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White blooms of Aeonium ‘Kiwi’

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Tweedia caerulea, started from seed by Dustin Gimbel. I’ve crowded my plants so they’ve been slow to bulk up.

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A little past midnight so time to put this Bloom Day to rest. Thanks again to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for giving Bloom Day a home.

blue/yellow/green

Where were we? I’ve been working at the day job like a navvy, trying to clear some time for spring garden visits, shows and whatnot. But the garden in March initiates a measured sequence of distractions, which can really mess with the most resolute work ethic. (I think “resolute” was a one-word self-description used by one of the Republican primary candidates but now can’t remember which. Romney? Strange how none of them used the one-word descriptors that are always at the tip of my tongue for them.)

Back to the much more important business of gardens. I’ve recently discovered that a good part of the front gravel garden has been planted almost exclusively in blues, greys, and yellows. Yes, at one time I apparently mustered some self-restraint.


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It’s mostly succulents, grasses, and small evergreen shrubs, very few perennials except the self-sowing Spanish poppies. The orange blooms will get a fantastic backdrop here.
I don’t remember consciously planning this blue/yellow-only business. I’ll have to search the back pages of the blog.

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March’s Garden Design features an interview with landscape architect Andrea Cochran.
The interview was emphatically not plant-driven, since landscape architecture, not horticulture, was under discussion, but this quote was a compadre thrill:
I’m a sucker for anything in the blue-gray family…If you go blue-gray with chartreuse: home run.”
To have anything in common with Ms. Cochran’s taste I count as a personal home run.

More chartreuse from Agave attenuata ‘Kara’s Stripes.’

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The gravel garden now has some of the nicest looking agaves, including ‘Blue Glow’ in the first photo and a powder-blue A. potatorum below.
The attenuatas can really look beat up, but ‘Kara’s Stripes’ has if anything improved over the winter.

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The opposite end of the gravel garden by the driveway doesn’t continue the blue/yellow-only theme.
There’s lots of breakage and damage at this end, and ad hoc replacements are made on the fly.
Recent death of a large agave provided an opportunity to try out Sideritis syriaca* here.
I haven’t been this smitten with a plant since my first ballota.

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Very easy on the eyes, this blue/yellow/green.



*Reddish stems on this one makes it more likely Sideritis cypria.