The garden continues to percolate along in a quiet January fashion. Poppies, lunaria, Orlaya grandiflora, and Geranium maderense seem to be what’s on the menu for spring — their seedlings are everywhere. A nice problem to have and easy to edit out where they’ve sown too thickly. The nubby tips of tulips are starting to pierce through the soil in their pots. Recent daytime temps in the high 70s and even crossing over into the low 80s are rushing spring a bit. The chronic sweeping of leaves might be just about over this week since the trees appear to have none left to give. This nice pairing of a dark phormium and budding corsican hellebore was revealed when a leaning athanasia shrub was cut back and off the phormium. There’s been a lot of settling such disputes via loppers lately. The phormium was one of two dwarf kinds planted (‘Tom Thumb’), only one of which survived, definitely labeled incorrectly and not ‘Tom Thumb’ but still a moderately sized phormium and not prone to gigantism so far.


Four seedlings of Ammi visagna are thriving, all that germinated from a fall sowing.
My first attempt at growing this supposedly superior kind of Queen Anne’s Lace.
Can’t wait to see if and how the umbels differ from A. majus.


The chilly, east-facing bathroom has proven to be optimal for paperwhites.


I spent a good part of yesterday rummaging through bins of old bulbs in local nurseries, hoping to find a few more of these narcissus since I planted so few in fall. I managed to find a source and bought just three more for continual, staggered bloom, hopefully into March. Why’s it so hard to envision in fall how happy-making these bulbs in bloom in January will be? The bathroom is transformed by a couple bowls of paperwhites in bloom from a utilitarian space into a conservatory, albeit one you can still brush your teeth in. Since I always seem to have a couple bags around, I use builder’s sand as a matrix for growing these bulbs. Cheaper than fancy pebbles, and the weight keeps tall glass vases from tipping over.


My beautiful Agave guadalajarana in better days.


The leaves had become dull and curled inward. Investigating the problem this morning, the entire agave sheared off from the base with a light tug. Agave snout-nosed beetle? Nearby agaves seem unaffected so far. What to plant in its place, and in place of the yards of rampant Senecio mandraliscae I also pulled out, will need a little more percolating this winter. Aloes?

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5 Responses to percolating

  1. rosekraft says:

    I know how you feel about the paperwhites – I always delay purchasing them in the fall, and then, all of a sudden they’re gone.
    Think the husband is exerting a subliminal influence – he absolutely hates their fragrance.
    But this year I finally decided to take the plunge and purchase pre-chilled lily of the valley pips from White Flower Farm.
    Will certainly help me to forget about the paperwhites oversight.
    Now just have to find a gardening friend outside of my (San Francisco) climate zone who might be able to provide the chill requirements they so desperately need.
    Enjoyed your blog and your photos!

  2. hb says:

    the entire agave sheared off from the base with a light tug.

    Oooh, not good! You might have to check for grubs and bomb the spot with systemic insecticide, also bomb surrounding agave and yucca with systemic to save them. 🙁

    The chilly bathroom paperwhite is lovely.

  3. Denise says:

    Rosekraft, although I’ve never forced lily of the valley, I don’t see why a bout in the fridge for 6 wks or so wouldn’t give them the chill they need. I might have to try that next year.
    Hoov, I know, bad news! The soil showed no grubs, but I didn’t have the stomach for dissecting the agave itself. I was thinking of planting small meditt shrubs here, and now this just forces my hand. I’ll take a wait-and-see approach as far as other agaves. A stinging reminder to avoid monocultures!

  4. Pam/Digging says:

    Oh no! I hope you don’t have the agave snout weevil, but it does sound suspicious since it came loose from the roots like that. Still, I find the leaves of affected plants usually turn limp and collapse rather than curling in on themselves. I didn’t think the snout weevil had made it to CA yet, or has it?

  5. Denise says:

    Pam, there’s plenty of established agave plantings around town, and I haven’t read any warnings about this pest being a local nuisance yet. For now, I’m going to play it safe, keep my other agaves in pots, and use the opportunity to try out some grasses and small shrubs here.

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