Tag Archives: Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’

potted plants on the move

The summer containers in nondrought-stricken gardens can become quite a virtuoso display.
I’ve understandably pared things down the past few years but am always amazed at how even a relatively small group of pots can exclaim “Summer!”

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All the pots scattered through the garden become candidates for a massed summer display.
I appreciate how growing a single species to a pot means it can be a focal point at one time of year and part of a big group display at another time.
A good place for summer staging is around the Chinese Fringe Tree (Chionanthus retusus) which bisects the long, narrow patios on the east.
Now that the tree has fully leafed out and all the flowers have fallen, I’ve massed pots on either side of the tree to take advantage of its dappled light.
A chaise in dappled light isn’t a bad idea either. A Mid-Century Homecrest, it needs a touch-up of black paint but is the most comfortable lounger, like floating in zero-gravity.
(Thanks again to Shirley Watts for hauling it down from Alameda in her truck.)

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This group of pots has been gradually accumulating here the past month or so, pulled from all over the garden.
The chartreuse Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’ was moved in when it gained enough size to make an impact.
Unlike so many colocasias, this tropical reliably returns from winter dormancy year after year. I turn the whole pot on its side and leave it outdoors in winter.
I have lots of small, slow-growing agaves in pots, but I like having a couple good-sized potted agaves to mass for summer.
There’s a couple pups here of ‘Blue Flame’ and ‘Boutin’s Blue,’ both of which don’t mind some shade.
The golden Schefflera ‘Amate Soleil’ was fine in full winter sun but definitely needed dappled shade by June.

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The pots of mostly foliage are easy on the water budget, and water from the shower handles all the containers.
The latest addition is a big pot of cosmos, chamomile and silver-leaved horehound/marrubium, a gift to the bees.

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Looking from the other end, Cussonia spicata in the tall grey pot is doing so much better in the dappled light after wintering in full sun.
Variegated manihot, potted succulents, and closer to the table the huge Aeonium ‘Cyclops,’ also moved here to escape full summer sun.

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The base of the fringe tree is unplanted, covered with a mulch of its own leaves year-round.
The view after August rain last year (see post here). I’ve since broken that coffee cup, a favorite from a local tugboat company.
And Mitch took those wooden planters up to his garden in San Francisco.
Before my neighbor planted palms on his side of the fence, this little patio used to be a heat trap by mid-day and went mostly unused until evening.
As a native Angeleno, it’s taken me a lifetime to appreciate the slim footprint of the ubiquitous palms and the lovely shade they cast.

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I’ve been playing around with that tall iron stand for 20 years or so. When I saw photos of Maurizio Zucchi’s home, I felt both validated and incredibly envious.
The little Euphorbia ammak at its base has a long way to grow to make an impact. I’d so love to find some more iron scaffolding for this patio.
The twisty tuteur supports a marmalade bush, Streptosolen jamesonii, I’m hoping can be trained up through its spirals.
The empty frame is part of the floor grate to the broken heater we inherited with the house.

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Last summer the vine Mina lobata grew up the iron stand’s girders, wilting in the afternoon sun.
I found a seedling of this vine that’s been potted up to try in morning sun/afternoon shade.

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Potted’s City Planter was planted up last summer and has been bullet-proof ever since.

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Hopefully this will be the last time I move this monster pot for a few months.
Showing is one of two lamps salvaged from Warehouse No. 1, the oldest warehouse in Los Angeles Harbor.
Marty kept a little workroom in the basement of the cavernous warehouse when he worked for the Port of LA, so we have a strong affection for the old relic.

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The remaining rosette of the huge clump of dyckia I just removed this week from the front garden.
Dyckias and year-round tree litter are just not a good combination. I was so sick of the mess.

I know a lot of pots of tender plants are on the move out of basements and greenhouses, where they vacationed like winter snowbirds.
Sometimes I wonder if the pots in this frost-free garden don’t have just as many miles under their rims.

Bloom Day September 2013

After an interminably hot August, I couldn’t wait to start some fall planting as soon as it cooled down a bit, which means there aren’t exactly buckets of blooms to share.

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There was a whisper campaign afoot that a local nursery had Leucadendron ‘Ebony’ relatively cheap, so I grabbed one and redesigned a (relatively) large chunk of the back garden around it.

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Behind the lime-green pelargonium grew a big swath of Persicaria amplexicaulis, now home to the leucadendron. A couple Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ were included while the shrub makes size.

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Little Pelargonium crispum ‘Variegatum’ has held onto its looks all summer, a nice small-scale shrub.

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The succulent in the foreground is Echeveria ‘Opal Moon,’ which is maturing into a surprisingly effective landscape succulent.

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As far as new flowers, the only other big news comes from Japanese anemones, seen here with macleaya and Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger.’ The first time I’ve ever grown the fall-blooming anemones. True story.

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In the border just outside the office, behind the ‘Zwartkop’ aeonium, gomphrenas, gaillardias, and castor bean plants emerged from the heat of August unscathed.

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Gomphrena ‘Strawberry Fields’ and an unidentified furcraea.

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Orange gomphrena and gaillardia

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Ricinus communis ‘New Zealand Purple’

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Pennisetum ‘Sky Rocket,’ russelia, and a young, potted Yucca rostrata. Agave ‘Dragon Toes’ was planted in the ground this year.

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Salvia chiapensis, still one of the all-time champion salvias in my garden, though I’m hearing great things about the newcomer, blue-flowered Salvia ‘Amistad.’

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Agastache ‘Black Adder’ is off to a good start this summer. I think its size should help see it through until spring. Something about my winter clay eats agastaches, even in low rainfall winters.

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This silvery little daisy looks promising, Lessingia filaginifolia, in a pot with Pelargonium ‘Crocodile’

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Solanum pyracanthum

Thanks as always to Carol for hosting the monthly Bloom Day reports.

summer notes

Though I’ve been practicing lots of garden math — some addition but mostly subtraction and a little light division — the garden still seems almost unchanged and very familiar this summer, and I haven’t decided yet if that’s necessarily a good thing. The Amicia zygomeris is back, still robust and healthy. Evergreen in a zone 10 winter. Its purple-stained “pouches” helpfully draw Teucrium hyrcanicum into the conversation. Purple, yellow and soon a few spears of orange crocosmia chattering away in this corner of the garden. Listening in as these conversations develop is the best part of summer. As usual, I want intense, boisterous summer conversation from a very small garden that is expected to have something to say in other seasons too. Easy on supplemental irrigation a must. (That’s not too much to ask, right?) Amicia, from Mexico, is named for Italian astronomer and mathematician Giovanni Battista Amici. I first learned of amicia from one of British gardener/writer Christopher Lloyd’s books. Plant Delights thinks it’s hardy to zone 7. Grew to over 6 feet tall last summer. A unique outline that reads well, a tropical effect without all the “weight” associated with tropical plants. (One of the subtractions this spring was a banana. Even the supposed dwarf varieties grow into giants here.)


Oenothera is a big jolt of yellow. With Bouteloua, the filmy eyebrow grass, and variegated sisyrinchium.
Smattering of sky blue notes from tweedia. Potted Echeveria agavoides ‘Lipstick’


Chartreuse shrub leycesteria seems to have survived a move last fall, leafing out here with self-sown purple orach, Atriplex hortensis. Hoping the leycesteria doesn’t burn here in afternoon sun. Growing in an 8-inch pot, the lily ‘Lankon’ is almost done with its one bloom, so now’s the time for a photo, even a bad one which doesn’t do justice to the speckled, tie-dye petals. This lily made a big splash at Chelsea last year, a hybrid between Lilium longiflorum, which grows well here in Southern California and is the reason I took a chance on it, and Lilium lankongense, which comes from Yunnan in China. Getting it to rebloom next year will be the real trick. Summer dormant bulbs are so much easier in pots, unlike the lily which never truly goes dormant and will need to be kept watered. The garden just isn’t kept moist enough to suit lilies, so they’re grown in pots only — just a few. More and more, by August I balk at caring for containers. I was told by a lily grower at a plant show this spring that these down-turned, martagon-like lilies will never be grown commercially for cut flowers because of the difficulty in shipping them without breakage. That one bloom scented the whole back garden.


The tropicals are gaining size, all plants that have seen quite a few summers in the garden. These two are Colocasia ‘Mojito’ and ‘Diamond Head.’ They are kept dry in their pots outdoors over winter.


Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger.’ For an experiment, I kept a small clump watered over winter, not allowing it to go dormant. This large pot was kept dry. Growth in both pots seems about the same. A very tough plant, highly recommended. Will grow enormous when fattened with feeding and lots of water, though does fine treated on the leaner side.


Not much new this year for potted summer plants other than the Tibouchina ‘Gibraltar,’ which I like quite a lot. Very refined for a variegated plant, even without the purple princess flowers.


When euphorbias are good, they are very, very good. Euphorbia characias ‘Silver Swan’ hasn’t missed a beat since last autumn, now becoming engulfed by summer growers — which just might be the end of it. Good air circulation at the base is paramount in my experience. I’ve been thinking about putting the path back in through this big border, which will necessarily scale plants down to about knee-high level again. Planting pathway edges is some of the most satisfying, (grasses, dianthus, Crambe maritima! succulents) but then I’ll lose the depth and space for the really big plants. Maybe this fall I’ll make the change.


Grasses proliferate. There’s probably more grasses than perennials now. Stipa arundinacea/Anemanthele lessoniana grows tawnier by the day.


While getting photos of the euphorb and stipa, I caught the crew heading for the office this morning.


Looking forward to some garden blog reading this Saturday, the LA Kings’ second game in the Stanley Cup tonight, and maybe a cactus show if I make it down to San Diego tomorrow. Feeling a little lazy for a two-hour drive tomorrow, but we’ll see.

Tropicalissimo Redux

Anybody remember “tropicalissimo”? In gardening, it references a word used maybe a decade ago for the then-shocking innovation of incorporating tropicals in summer borders and containers. A fairly mundane practice now. Somewhat counter-intuitively, I’ve found these plants, the alocasia, colocasias, xanthosomas and many more, far easier than summer-flowering annuals to grow in containers, stay fresher longer with much less effort, and the thick leaves withstand the vagaries of irrigation far superior to, say, thin-leaved coleus. In fact, this year, other than succulents and a couple big containers with a mish-mash of begonias, pelargoniums and cordylines, the tropicals are what’s growing in pots for summer, taking center stage. Just a few containers produce a big impact for surprisingly little care, the plants reveling in mid-summer heat and humidity.

Colocasia esculenta ‘Diamond Head’ with Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’ in the background.
(The dust from ongoing house repairs evident on the dark leaves.)


Colocasia esculenta ‘Mojito’


Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’ producing a weird, “Two-Face” bifurcated leaf.


In my zone 10 I overwinter these outdoors, tipping the pots on their sides during dormancy to keep rain out. (Gardeners in colder climates avail themselves of basements, garages, etc., with or without grow lights. It’s quite an impressive undertaking and requires dedication but is very doable, even for neophyte gardeners. A good place to start researching strategies for a particular climate zone is the Tropicals forum on Gardenweb.) The lime-green xanthosoma in particular is amazingly robust and would dearly like a bigger pot to explode upwards to as much as 5 feet. Gardeners in colder climates seem mesmerized by the size tropicals can achieve in one growing season with regular applications of fertilizer, but other than mixing in some organic fertilizer with fresh potting soil in spring and then renewing a bit more in July, I don’t indulge their robust appetites. I’m not after size, just those gently swaying tropical leaves.

Plant Delights has a very good selection.

Of Elephants and Mobile Homes

If one morning I was presented with a list of the garden tasks I would ultimately end up accomplishing that day, I would probably consider it an absurd amount of work and pitch the list in the trash. That’s the inherent paradox of puttering in a garden: it never seems like work at the time, yet you know something very similar to work must have taken place to have caused so much soreness to sweaty and dirt-coated limbs by the day’s end. And this in a garden without frost deadlines, no vegetables, none of the usual labor-intensive gardening activities. Yesterday I wanted to get planted some of the winter-blooming salvias I purchased at the Fullerton Arboretum, which necessitated moving a Tradescantia ‘Concord Grape,’ a variegated symphytum, then finding homes for those two, digging, more digging, locating tools, losing them, hauling compost, and on it goes. Garden tasks always come in multiples of at least three, and some days the ripple effect can go on, unplanned, for an entire afternoon.

Mid-September provided unanticipated and unwelcome disruptions, causing me to have to, gasp, leave the garden for a few days. I’ve missed both Bloom Day, the 15th of every month, hosted by May Dreams Gardens, and Foliage Followup, the 16th of every month, hosted by Digging, and even though I’m late to the party I’m adding just a few photos to the collective blog record of what’s in bloom and leaf mid-month.

Salvia broussonetii, of the Canary Islands, from the recent Fullerton Arboretum salvia sale. Nice crinkly leaves like S. sclarea. Amazing how many good plants hail from the Canary Islands, an archipelago off Spain named by the Romans “canaan,” or “the ones who worship dogs,” inspired by the early inhabitants’ reverence for dogs. What sensible people.


The Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’ is getting that late summer, buttery thickness to its leaves.


Colocasia ‘Diamond Head’ has a distinctive shine to its leaves that sets it apart from other, mostly matte-leaved elephant ears.


The castor bean ‘New Zealand Purple’ is finally showing strong growth after a rude, early summer transplant. The chartreuse blur in the background lower left is a golden-leaved ceratostigma. (I”m pretty sure this cultivar is ‘My Love.’)


Salvia ‘Limelight’ opened its first blue bloom while I was away. I broke a branch of this very brittle salvia just leaning in to get a photo. If the fall Santa Ana winds hold off for a month, it should be a good show for me and a new source of nectar for the hummingbirds.


Pots filled with the little maple-leaved begonia, B. partita, the cordyline trademarked Festival Grass, fatshedera, pelargoniums, grown against a backdrop of Vitis vinifera ‘Purpurea.’


And a glimpse of the newly acquired elephant pot. My mom has recently downsized to a mobile home park, which is a charming blend of brand-new prefab homes alongside 1950s-era mobile homes. (The charm for me was in the older mobile homes.) We stayed in this mobile home park on Alamitos Bay during the termite tenting, when I had ample opportunity to explore while walking the corgi. A good amount of succulents are grown in what little space there is available to garden, mostly in pots. It was one of the older mobile homes, what I’d call a “trailer,” that had been hastily evacuated, whether due to illness or some other misfortune, that had a handwritten sign taped to the siding indicating “Free stuff.” Most of it was animal and travel themed, a collection of an adventurous spirit, now shoved into meaningless disarray on the porch. I hope this elephant pot brought its owner good luck for as long as he needed it. I had left my own disordered mess behind at home but, unlike the owner of the elephant pot, was fortunate in being able to push it all back into some semblance of order and meaning once again.


Fail Better (Summer Recap)

I admit it’s a little early for a summer recap, but there is a penultimate feel to the garden today. By this time, whatever plans I’ve laid have either happened or failed to happen.

It’s time to admit this is as lush as the little tropical terrace will get this summer. And what a lot of somber green there is, though that’s mostly an impression the back wall covered in creeping fig brings. The fig, Ficus pumila, is getting shaggy again and needs the second of its twice-a-year shearings.

The tetrapanax, pushing up behind the potted variegated agave, has made it to about 3 feet this year. In the telescoped view a photo brings, a golden-leaved coprosma is directly behind the rice paper plant, then the dark green of the wall, though in actuality there’s plenty of other things growing here too, and even a short pathway that curves inward behind the pergola. The trunks belong to the smoke tree ‘Grace.”


Continue reading Fail Better (Summer Recap)