Tag Archives: Sweet peas

busy, busy

It’s spring. Feeling a little pressed for time yet? Join the club. Some of what I’ve been up to the past few weeks include:


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Cutting sweet peas from my mom’s vines. Buckets and buckets. Mine planted at the community garden withered away from lack of attention/water.
Suffering a severe case of garden-neglect guilt, I pulled out all my dead vines, along with the collapsed winter peas and fava beans, and got a few tomatoes and squash planted.
There wasn’t enough winter rain to sustain my plot, and being a bad garden gnome, I hadn’t watered in a couple months. So my mom once again saved the day.
Is it rude to call your mom a good garden gnome? I keep her little raised bed planted winter and summer, and she does the rest.
I didn’t buy her flowers for Mother’s Day because her house is filled with scent and color from vases of sweet peas in every room.
I did run over for a brief visit to bring her a card and share some cake, a two-hour window during which a thief took the opportunity to steal my bike from behind a locked gate.
Nice work, thief, stealing a girl’s bike on Mother’s Day. Couldn’t you switch your reptilian brain off for one day in honor of your mom?
(Roger’s in Newport Beach brings in the best only local selection of sweet peas in fall, award-winning types, all heavily scented, long-stemmed.)

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It’s always exciting to stumble upon new plants, like this Dichondra sericea, found at Merrihew’s Sunset Garden.
At first sight I thought it must be some new brunnera cultivar. The leaves are leathery, about the size of a silver dollar.
San Marcos Growers says:
“It has been found repeatedly in a single location in San Cruz County in Arizona but is more widespread farther to the south in the Río Mayo region of southern Sonora and Chihuahua.
It is similar to Dichondra argentea, the plant commonly called Sliver Dichondra or ‘Silver Falls’, but it is evergreen in frost free climates and has much bigger leaves.

Merrihew’s, a great little neighborhood nursery, was the first stop on last weekend’s Garden Conservancy Open Day.

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As usual, plants are perpetually on the move, sometimes out of the garden and back into a pot like this Agave macroacantha ‘Blue Ribbon’
When I sentenced it to the rigors of the outpost that is the front gravel garden, it was a mess, with leaves pitted and rolling at the edges when they should be straight.
Total neglect in the front gravel garden is apparently what it needed to mature out of its ugly phase.
I moved it back into a pot because it was getting swamped by faster-growing agaves. And because it’s so pretty now. Pups freely too.
The bloomed-out poppies have been pulled and any big openings filled with grasses, mostly pennisetum like ‘Fairy Tails’ and ‘Karley Rose.’

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Might as well take ‘Cornelius’ portrait too. He’s starting to get a nice arch to his leaves.

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Behind ‘Cornelius,’ Cotyledon orbiculata deserves a portrait of those peachy bells and long, silvery stems.

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The Huntington plant sale had a couple Rosa ‘Mutabilis,’ so I fell off the no-more-roses wagon.
In its favor, it’s a single, which means it sheds its silky petals elegantly and doesn’t need deadheading.
It’s reasonably tough and healthy, for a rose, and makes a nice shrubby shape.
This unique rose of mysterious provenance is celebrated for summer-long bloom in colors that cycle through gold, orange, deep pink.
It’s been shoehorned in among the lemon cypresses at the east fence, with drip hose laid to give it a fighting chance.

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Last Wednesday was overcast, like today, and work was reasonably under control (unlike today).
First thought under those conditions is: What do I want to get done in the garden?
There’s a chronic backburner plan to fill one of my trash can planters with blowsy summer stuff.
Cheap, deep, and roomy, metal trash cans are great for seasonal extravaganzas.
I bought them a few years ago but never really got with the program, using them more for overflow odds and ends.

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A quick trip to the local nursery yielded a Buddleia ‘Cranrazz,’ Linaria ‘Licilia Peach,’ and Achillea ‘Sunrise.’
As I prepared to stuff the plants in, it was impossible to ignore what a rusted, pitted eyesore it had become. (“Hey, Marty, you got any spraypaint?“)
30 minutes later the can was a sleek matte black, filled with compost and fresh potting soil, and the plants installed.

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Buddleias drive me a bit mad in the ground. Too big, all that deadheading. I like the idea of being able to pitch it at the end of summer.
Before I’d backfilled in soil and watered it in, the butterflies had already arrived. They don’t call it the butterfly bush for nothing.

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I was so pleased with my new, deep containers that I asked Marty to paint another one for a Mother’s Day present. I’m thinking maybe orange tithonias for this one.
The ‘Hallelujah’ bilbergia was planted up over the weekend with some aeonium and Euphorbia mauritanica. I’m testing its sun tolerance.
I was told by Marina del Rey Garden Center that the more jagged the leaf, the more sun a bromeliad can take. Sun brings out the best color.

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I usually keep a chair here on the bricks over the winter, but there’s not much room….or time…for sitting in spring.

my mom’s sweet peas

thanks, Mom, for sending me home with sweet peas last night.
As insurance, in the fall I planted sweet peas at my mom’s house as well as my community garden plot.
I neglected to water the sweet peas at my plot the entire month of March. I pulled those withered vines up a couple weeks ago.

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But the family Sweet Pea Project is a rousing success. I plant them in her little raised bed Marty built, she waters them, cuts them. We both swoon over their scent.
The sweet pea vines will be just about done producing when temperatures are warm enough to plant her raised bed with tomatoes for the summer family Tomato Project.
Sounds diabolical of me, doesn’t it? I prefer to think of it as a healthy family symbiosis.

(Way to go, Mom!)

Scheming for more planting space is nothing new. As an apartment dweller, I once rented a neighbor’s empty backyard to a) keep my dog and b) plant cut flowers to sell to restaurants.
The cut flower project barely paid for the seeds, but my dog had a place to stay two doors down, and old Al said the flowers reminded him of his wife’s garden, which had died with her.
Now that I lack both the time and energy (and water!), the neighbor’s yards are safe from my covetous gaze.

So what’s going on this weekend? My weekend plans always start out full of amibition: work in the community garden, make it to Fullerton Arboretum’s Green Scene.
And I’d love to hit the Clarement Eclectic/Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden tour on Sunday too. And the Sunday flea market…two days is never enough.
Keep an eye on Dates to Remember for more upcoming sales and tours.

I know I never mention the weather unless it’s to complain, so for a change let me just say that it’s been stupendously beautiful.
Soft breezes, mild sunshine, the scent of jasmine everywhere, almost overpowering when stopped at traffic lights near medians planted with star jasmine.
Have a great weekend.

community garden 2/26/14

After sowing some borlotti beans late afternoon in anticipation of rain, I tracked down all the sweet peas in bloom in neighboring plots.
The results of my sweet pea safari:

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And I always stop to admire how Scarlet Flax has woven through some kale.

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A reseeding annual, Linum grandiflorum ‘Rubrum.’ So is this intentional or a happy accident?
One of the things I like most about reseeders is how they constantly offer new possibilities to consider, like scarlet and blue-green. Just rip it out if it’s not your taste.

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Self-sown sunflowers already in bloom. Reseeders are indifferent to planting guides and timetables.
I was going to wait until late March to start mine. (So many plans for my little 10X10 plot.)

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Sweet peas don’t reseed true to their stunning varieties, so new seed must be bought fresh every season.
Some of the best growing instructions for florist-grade sweet peas can be found at Floret.


sweet peas at the community garden

Seems all I bring home from my little 10 X 10 plot lately is sweet peas and fava beans. Not exactly a practical daily diet, but nourishing enough each in their own way.
More on the mysteries of fava beans later.


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Record-keeping is not my strongest suit. That’s a paragraph on its own in the as-yet unwritten post “Why I Blog.’ But I dashed off an email to myself with the date I planted these sweet peas, 11/29/12, noting only one of the names of the three varieties I planted, ‘Nimbus.’ White petals flushed and veined in indigo.

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They were bought as small plants of named varieties. Stormy ‘Nimbus’ is quite the change-up from the loads of deep wine-colored sweet peas that have been filling Mason jars and vases since late March from a seed mix by Renee Shepherd that I direct-sowed in November. It’s called ‘Velvet Elegance,’ an early-blooming, day-length neutral strain. I like this mix for fall planting, when the plants can take advantage of a long, cool growing season and the winter rains. And ‘Velvet Elegance’ does bloom extra early in the short days of spring. It’s all about getting as long a season of cut flowers as possible before the heat of summer kicks in. I’m using “cattle panel” as trellis to support the vines.

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Much as I love the ‘Velvet Elegance’ mix as a sure-fire source of flowers, I’m really glad I took a chance on a few named varieties to shake things up in April. I wasn’t sure the soil in my garden plot could grow decent sweet peas at all yet, after construction equipment from a municipal drain project left it in such a compacted mess. Splurging on a few fancier kinds seemed a bit reckless at the time. If gambling away 10 dollars can be considered reckless.

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The gamble paid off. The moral: Sow sweet peas, lots of them. You will probably be tired of cutting them for vases before they are bloomed out. Starting plants from seeds is best, but don’t ignore an opportunity to bring in some exciting new kinds even as small plants. There must be a window in just about every climate where sweet peas can grow and bloom, however small that window may be. In Southern California fall sowing might be best, so they grow strong in cool temperatures, taking advantage of whatever winter rain we get to bloom early before the heat of summer.


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I left the bucket of sweet peas in the car yesterday while I did a few errands. When I opened the door again, the unexpected fragrance that poured out stunned me for a moment, until I remembered leaving the flowers soaking in a bucket on the floor of the car. Along with finding the smallest parking spaces in Los Angeles, now I know a Mini Cooper on a warm spring day holds scent quite well.


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Les’ Winter Walk-Off


Les’ rules (A Tidewater Gardener).
Leave your home or workplace on foot. Bicycles are OK. Bring a camera along. Depending where you live, the Winter Walk-off challenge may be a snowy trek requiring a team of huskies and a sled (does that comply with the rules, Les?) or a sunny stroll in the park. I hope Les doesn’t mind multiple entries. This is just a warm-up, a test run, kicking the Winter Walk-off tires, so to speak.

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Biking to my community garden yesterday, as always I pass this tidy bungalow.
The house and garden looked as though it had primped and readied itself expressly for the the Winter Walk-off.

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At the base of the fence tumbles blue marguerite, Felicia amelloides, alternating with a coppery coprosma, shrubs from New Zealand also known as the Mirror Plant.

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A couple blocks away, hanging lanterns suspended from a California Pepper Tree, Schinus molle
The yellow flowers belong to an aeonium sitting in a pot on the fence

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This beautiful parkway agave stranded in weeds looks like a variegated Agave weberi.
(vintage black Chevy in the distance, tail fins hidden by the palm)

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At the community garden, purple cauliflower in a neighbor’s plot

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and sweet peas, also not mine. My sweet peas are just barely grabbing on to the bottom of the trellis.

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An abbreviated entry, but hopefully there’ll be time for a few more. And then it will be spring.
I think this is actually Les’ plan, to distract us until spring. I’m all for that. Thanks, Les!

Smellovision

Here it comes…

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Did you get a whiff? No? Maybe scoot your chair just a bit closer.

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Smellovision didn’t work so great in 1960 either. I cut this bunch of sweet peas last night from my mom’s first garden, a single raised bed we keep planted for her. Fresh spinach from the little garden for dinner too. The sweet peas were sown last fall, just a couple plants. (At age 82, my mom’s first sweet peas. I felt awful for selfishly prying this bunch away from her but recovered nicely as the scent filled the car on the ride home.) From a mixture by Renee’s Garden “Early Blooming Velvet Elegance,” a day-length neutral blend. They’ve been in bloom for over a month. The bi-colored lavender was a nice surprise.