Tag Archives: Sphaeralcea ‘Newleaze Coral’

Bloom Day August 2015

There’s not much difference between July and August, or even June Bloom Day posts, but I suppose it’s useful to see what has survived, who’s stalwart and who’s a wimp.
And I have been dropping some new stuff into the garden all summer.

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New to me is this Begonia ‘Unstoppable Upright Big Fire.’ Sounds like the title to a U2 album. I was looking local for Begonia boliviensis but it was unavailable.
This UUBF hybrid has dark leaves and large, non-pendulous flowers. I’m not convinced that’s an improvement over boliviensis, which has such an elegant, cascading habit.

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Begonia ‘Unbelievable Lucky Strike,’ another boliviensis hybrid. I guess we’re way beyond the peaches-and-cream kind of names now.

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In light bloom all summer and now having a good bloom flush is Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon,’ an old cultivar dating back to 1968, from Grevillea banksii and G. bipinnatifida.

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Obviously crushing on Agave ‘Blue Flame.’ Me too.

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The potted Abutilon venosum is enjoying dappled morning sun after emergency transport to this more protected spot due to the current protracted heat wave.

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Lotus jacobaeus is a lot tougher than it looks, very long blooming. It seems to prefer container life to the garden.

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Here it rests against an adjacent potted agave.

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Crassula ovata, probably ‘Hummel’s Sunset,’ in a low bowl on a table, where it makes this great draping effect.

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I dropped these Bulbine ‘Athena Compact Orange’ into the garden sometime in July.

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Bog sage, Salvia uliginosa, is never too venturesome in my heavy clay, dryish soil. The rugose, crinkly leaves are always clean from disease or insect damage.
These are mid-summer additions from gallon sizes.

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Crocosmia ‘Solfatare’ is about as shy a spreader as a crocosmia can be. Slow to build into a sizeable clump.

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Not a bloom but Tradescantia ‘Greenlee,’ new this summer. It already seems destined to be one of those plants that knits together beautifully with its neighbors.
Shown here with Plectranthus zuluensis. I have a bloom to show of that.

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Plectranthus zuluensis loves the dappled sun under the tetrapanax.
By July I usually cut back Melianthus ‘Purple Haze,’ in full sun just behind, and the plectranthus does a nice job of filling the gap while the melianthus bulks up again.

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Not a flower but one of my favorite colors in the garden, Euphorbia ammak. It’s almost doubled in size this summer.
Behind the row of pots are two clumps of Pennisetum ‘Sky Rocket,’ the mother plants of the other, bigger clumps in the garden.
These are much smaller, having to deal with competing roots from the lemon cypresses.
Everything else in front of the grasses is in containers, including the Leycesteria “Jealousy’ and some taros out of frame at the far end.

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Glaucium grandiflorum is still sending up bloom trusses.

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Eryngium pandanifolium has never attained the height it did the first season in the garden. This one was grown from seed of the original plant from Plant Delights.

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Dark brown nicotiana seeded into a pot of yellow Russelia equisetiformis

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Gomphrena ‘Balboa’ in its first summer here. It lets you know when it’s thirsty so you have to keep an eye on it, but still a fairly tough plant for full sun.

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I’m already a big fan of Peruvian Feather Grass, Stipa ichu, after just one season in the garden. Nicely upright, columnar habit.

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The Bloom Day summer mainstay, Gomphrena ‘Fireworks,’ with Pennisetum ‘Sky Rocket.’ Not surprisingly, this grass grows into a much bigger clump than the two in front of the cypresses.

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The Desert Mallow, Sphaeralcea ‘Newleaze Coral, has also won me over in its first summer in the garden.

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A nameless gift aloe.

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Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ always wakes up in the heat of August. I’ve pulled out handfuls but a few roots always remain.

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I’m assuming this is Asarina scandens, a self-sown seedling of the mother plant grown in 2011.

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The furry leaves are always in good shape, and nothing seems to bother it or chew on it. From Mexico.
I’m not in love with the light pink flowers, but it’s healthy and robust, and all that counts heavily in a drought.
Excitement is building as the predictions of a wet El Nino winter look more and more solid. Visit May Dreams Gardens for more August Bloom Day reports.

Bloom Day July 2015

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The planting under the Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ is all fairly new, except for the Plectranthus neochilus. Stinky or not, it’s a great addition to a dry garden.
Gomphrena ‘Balboa’ is the clover-like flowers with silver leaves, which blends in seamlessly with all the ballota here.
Tall grass in bloom is Stipa ichu, the Peruvian Feather Grass, said to be noninvasive, unlike the fearsome Mexican Feather Grass.
California chain Armstrong Nurseries as well as Home Depot have both vowed to no longer sell the MFG, Stipa tenuissima.

Continue reading Bloom Day July 2015

Bloom Day June 2015

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I documented the extent of the back garden earlier in the month. It’s pretty clear it’s a battle for inches here.
Relatively cool, overcast June means I’m still shifting plants around and planting some new stuff too.

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I’ve been playing around with the idea of a small patch of dry summer meadow the past few years, on a frustratingly small scale of course.
Threaded around all the big evergreen stuff is what’s become a rainbow sherbert meadow this year in raspberry, orange, lemon, lime.
Leucadendron ‘Ebony’ on the left, Lomandra ‘Breeze,’ euphorbias, Arctotis ‘Flame.’ Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ is perennial here, in its third year at least.

Continue reading Bloom Day June 2015

orange and blue

I love garden surprises. Sure, there is some planning involved, but because the garden supports a collecting habit, the big picture is usually uncertain and often a mixed bag.
What the collecting id of my psyche is up to all year is anyone’s guess, including mine, and uncertainty prevails. Excitement too. With spring comes the big reveal.

This year’s reveal shows a pronounced orange and blue theme.

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There’s a big, bold orange and blue statement with Eucalyuptus ‘Moon Lagoon’ now that Isoplexis isabelliana is in bloom.

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But there’s orange and blue everywhere.
Agave franzosinii with Phygelius ‘Diablo’ and Sphaeralcea ‘Newleaze Coral’

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Arctotis ‘Opera,’ one of about three clumps threaded through lomandra, anigozanthos, euphorbias, still a youngish planting.
The only real plan was for summer daisies to be orange, so orange varieties of arctotis and osteospermum were selected. The rest is all collector mania.
Gomphrena ‘Fireworks,’ magenta bobs on the right, has been perennial. This is its second (or third?) year.
It’s a pretty close substitute for alliums all summer long and matches clear orange in intensity.

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Osteospermum ‘Zion Orange’ was planted in January.
There was a really good color selection of the South African daisies at the nurseries this spring, making possible your own personally customized veldt.
Lower branches of this aeonium keep breaking off in winter storms then rooting, so it’s quite the undulating thicket now.

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The source for all that blue (and silver) is the plentiful number of dry garden plants with leaves in those shades.
New planting of Stachyls ‘Bella Grigio’ replaced biennial Echium simplex after it finished blooming.
From reading other blogs, it’s uncertain whether this stachys will be a durable member of the garden or just a fleeting phenom.

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I’d love to see Digitalis ferruginea bloom here, but so far they haven’t take a shine to the garden. But isoplexis is more than enough compensation.
Like the bigeneric hybrid digiplexis, the isoplexis attract scale, but overall I think I prefer the shrubbier isoplexis.
And with the warmer winters, a big ants and scale problem is the new norm.

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Purchased from Jo O’Connell’s Australian Plants Nursery last year, the eucalyptus was planted from a gallon in July 2014. As you can see, it’s fast on its feet.
I’ve already trimmed it back a bit but will ultimately give it free rein in this corner, which means shifting and moving everything in its path.
Initially I had plans to keep it in a container, a silly idea in a drought. Now I’m hoping to grow it as a large shrub, not a tree.
I noted on a recent visit that the Huntington’s new Education and Visitor Center plaza area has planted quite a few of this eucalyptus too.

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Blue Agave ‘Dragon Toes,’ with Aloe cameronii on the left and Aloe elgonica on the right, both aloes flushed orange from the recent heat waves rolling through every few weeks or so.
And then the little variegated agapanthus will bring more blue in a week or so.
I’m still apprehensive about agapanthus in my garden, the first time ever. It’s now in bloom all over town.
My gamble is that it will seem less quotidian surrounded by succulents and grasses. It’s such a good plant for dry summer gardens.
But there’s a strong chance I won’t be able to overcome lifelong prejudices and shopping center associations.

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And then silvery-blue Glaucium grandiflorum started building up some imposing bloom architecture. Photo taken May 9, 2015

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I gasped when I saw these open this morning.

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Audibly gasped. Between gasping at flowers and talking to bees, who knows what the neighbors must be thinking by now.

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This glaucium might behave as a short-lived perennial or biennial and may or may not set seed. There were no blooms last year, just those magnificent leaves.
There’s two clumps, and both plants were covered by the band of shade that lies over this part of the garden in winter, which had me worried a bit.
Maybe in a wet winter the shade might have proved fatal. Both clumps are in full sun now.
This glaucium is from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials but not listed as available now.

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Another big wash of blue (under Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ no less!) from Plectranthus neochilus.

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Mostly blues and silver here now, but a lot of aloes have found their way here under the acacia, out of frame (and Helianthemum ‘Henfield Brilliant.’ More orange!)
I hope I don’t get orange and blue fatigue any time soon…


Wednesday clippings 4/15/15 (water on the brain)

Finally, a chance to spend some time with the blog again. There’s been lots of reading to catch up on, after the guv dropped that bombshell. (Pass the almonds.*)

One of the best sources of information I’ve found was right there on my blogroll, journalist Emily Green’s Chance of Rain.
In concert with KCET, Emily is writing an amazingly detailed series bristling with helpful links and step-by-step instructions for those wondering what to do with their lawns.
Definitely read Emily’s After the Lawn series before making a call to any lawn removal company that’s eager to snap up your rebate dollars in exchange for wall-to-wall gravel.

Amidst all the finger pointing and accusations, at least we’re beginning to talk about our water situation.
Ironically, after decades of denial, we just can’t seem to shut up about it now.

This entry under the Dot Earth blog at The New York Times rounds up dozens of articles for background reading.

And here’s a great interactive map on water use across the state, city by city, courtesy of The New York Times (“How Water Cuts Could Affect Every Community in California“)

And who knew that a century-old, squatter’s rights mentality governs ground water for agricultural use? Emily Green deciphers the state’s arcane water rights here: (Whose Water Is It Anyway?)

So, yes, I’ve been reading up on the politics of the recent water restrictions. Because it’s not like we need more information on how to design dry gardens.
Reaching into my bookshelf, I can pull out Beth Chatto‘s The Dry Garden, a chronicle of the 30-year-old garden she’s made in East Anglia, England, supported on rainfall alone.
(Which if I remember correctly is, at 30 inches, at least double our 15-inch average pre-drought.)

Then there’s Bob Perry’s landmark resource Landscape Plants for California Gardens.

More recently, there’s the great California resource Reimagining the California Lawn: Water-conserving Plants, Practices, and Designs

Lambley Nursery in Australia is also planting display gardens sustained on mostly rainwater.

At home I’ve been tweaking the garden the past few years to accommodate drier conditions anyway, and our water bill is consistently below average.
Granted, smaller properties like ours will have an easier time adjusting to restrictions.
What lawn we inherited when buying the house was removed over 20 years ago. I’ve never been emotionally attached to closely cropped, bright green turf.
But both neighbors to the east, who cherish their front lawns, have been quietly irrigating them with grey water for years.

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Berkheya purpurea, brought home from Cistus last summer, is a riveting, prickly daisy out of South Africa.
One of countless examples, native and exotic, of gorgeous plants blithely indifferent to dry conditions.
The literature cites berkheya’s habitat as stream banks, so we’ll see how tough it really is.
Once established, anything tap-rooted has a big advantage.

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Hymenolepis parviflora, a dry-tolerant shrub with chartreuse umbels. Nature is a genius.
In the past few years a lot of perennial/biennial/annual umbels have passed through the garden, the toughest probably being cenolophium, melanoselinum, yet even they needed pampering.
This one, however, is the real deal. Hymenolepis is a short-lived shrub from So. Africa that will probably need to be renewed from cuttings in a few years. I’m cool with that.

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Lily ‘Black Charm.’ Fortunately lilies love container life. I find it makes better water sense to grow them in pots to provide the even moisture they crave than in the ground.
The bucket collecting water from the shower is a steady source for container plants now.

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Seeing the Desert Bird of Paradise in rampant bloom wedged into the heat-reflected, bone-dry parkways along Long Beach City College set off a county-wide search for a source.

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The City College’s Hort. Department sold all their stock at their recent plant sale, but one local nursery had a couple plants.
I replaced Salvia ‘Amistad’ with Caesalpinia gilliesii. I know Sunset is marketing this salvia as waterwise, but I’d planted mine far from the hose bib, and it was showing some stress.

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Verbascum in Dustin Gimbel‘s garden, seed collected on his recent trip to Italy. He gave me two of these wavy-leaved mulleins, possibly V. undulatum.
Verbascums are classic perennials for dry gardens.

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Water garden out, agave in. Formerly a small water garden, now a cache pot for Agave franzosinii.
Surrounded by the unstoppable globe mallow Sphaeralcea ‘Newleaze Coral,’ a hybrid developed at Hopley’s in the UK.
Planted last fall, I’ve cut back and thinned the globe mallow three times since mid winter.
It’s never stopped blooming and, because of its vigor, I purposely avoid adding water.

One last point, an important one to keep in mind.
It’s no big surprise that trees are a constituency without much representation at the water restriction negotiations table.
I vigorously applaud Emily Green’s emphasis on prioritizing irrigation for our trees.

Landscape reform is sweeping California more as an emergency response to drought and less as a considered piece of town planning. Representatives from three of the region’s largest water providers, a City of Los Angeles arborist, and a Los Angeles County botanist interviewed for this article all seemed surprised when asked if they had consulted one another about the impact on the region’s urban canopy before moving to dry out the lawns in which most of the trees are planted.” After the Lawn Part I

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*”[A]ccording to estimates by the Public Policy Institute of California, more water was used to grow almonds in 2013 than was used by all homes and businesses in San Francisco and Los Angeles put together. Even worse, most of those almonds are then exported — which means, effectively, that we are exporting water. Unless you’re the person or company making money off this deal, that’s just nuts.” – “Making Sense of Water

fall planting notes 2014


The first second day of fall. Depending on who you talk to, summer was either glorious or it passed like a kidney stone. No in between.
I’d describe summer 2014 and its occasional heatwaves as a cocktail that included plenty of tangy glory mixed with a bitter chaser of slight-to-moderate discomfort.
I had epic plans for a leisurely audio narration on fall planting, but due to file size had to whittle it down to under a breathless two minutes.
I really think including the human voice will be the next big innovation. Somehow, in the future, all our Facebook comments and tweets will be spoken.
What if, instead of rousing speeches, Churchill had tweeted? Would England still have fought on?
Not that my voice has any Churchillian qualities. It always sounds kind of high-pitched to me.
When I was in the Bay Area over the weekend, I was treated to a mesmerizing, geosynchronous tour via iPhone of Fisherman’s Wharf, an app still in the beta stage.
Developed by the Groupon founder and known as Detour, narrators such as a 40-year veteran fishing boat captain lead you via earbuds and your phone through the back alleys and byways of the wharves:
Past that fishing boat, off to your left, duck through this doorway, don’t mind the baleful stares of the fish sellers, right on this spot you’re standing is where they used to shanghai sailors.

In any case, here’s my low-tech, abbreviated rundown on fall planting. The takeaway is Annie’s Annuals may have plants on site not listed as available online.

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Hymenolepis parviflora, the Golden Coulter Bush, aka Athanasia parviflora.
Yellow umbels in summer. Annie’s Annuals doesn’t list this as currently available, so possibly on-site sales only.

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The hymenolepis replaced a big clump of Erigeron ‘Wayne Roderick’ that struggled in full sun.
I’m seriously thinking of rigging a shade tarp over the garden next summer, because even reputed sun lovers like erigeron can’t hack it.

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Ferula communis ssp. glauca, a giant umbellifer that probably won’t bloom its first year in the garden. Brought home from Annie’s Annuals.
Dies after flowering, but what nice lacy leaves. The bloom stalk gets as big as a broomstick. I don’t see this listed as currently available online either.

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Leucadendron ‘Pisa,’ found local, planted in mid-summer

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Tough times call for old stalwarts like santolina.
Speaking of tough, what I really wanted from Annie’s was the ‘Ella Nelson’ yellow eriogonum, but they’ve run out. I was told more will be available soon.

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But If you can’t find what you came for at Annie’s, there always a dozen or so other plants as consolation.
I’ve never trialed the rusty foxglove, Digitalis ferruginea ‘Gigantea,’ so I may as well grow it and kill it once to get it out of my system.
This is the last-gasp manifestation of my pie-eyed inclination to try out every flowering spike under the sun. Dainty flowers just don’t last long in my garden.
Summer 2015 will definitely be shrubbier. As far as flowers, I’m thinking the malvaceae family may have some answers. Hibiscus, lavatera, sphaeralcea.
For spikes, there’s hollyhocks, and I’m trying some purple of the reputedly rust-free Halo series. Annie’s carries a good selection.

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Sphaeralcea ‘Newleaze Coral’ was found local. Cutting back hard in spring seems to be the general recommendation to avoid the flops.
A glimpse here of its color.

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Eucalyptus ‘Moon Lagoon’ replaced a prostanthera in early summer

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Euphorbia mellifera is always easy and beautiful here, tender elsewhere. I really prefer it to E. lambii.
For 2015 I’m trying it in full sun, near the ‘Moon Lagoon,’ for the pairing of the bright green and blue.
Planted a little too close, I’ll move the euphorbia as soon as necessary, so this is probably just a one-summer chess move.

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Lavandula lanata. I can tell already this one is going to be tricky about drainage.

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These ‘Tasmanian Tiger’ euphorbias were found local. If there’d been a choice, I’m pretty sure ‘Silver Swan’ is the more reliable variegated euphorbia.
The ‘Fireworks’ gomphrenas were cut back and some Verbena bonariensis removed to make room for the euphorbia.

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I bet you didn’t know laundry chores are handled here amongst the agaves. The covered pergola off the kitchen also houses the outdoor laundry shed built against the house.
On top of the laundry shed is the second-story lookout, where I spend lots of quality reading/skylarking time. The corrugated roof does a great job of making every rain sound epic.
Here’s to doing laundry while vast quantities of measurable rain thunder down on the pergola roof this winter. I’m counting on you, La Nina El Nino, to come through.