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.

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15 Responses to fall planting notes 2014

  1. Oooh, love ‘Moon Lagoon’ – both the plant and the name! I need to add that to my list for next year. An annual (or overwinter in the garage plant) for me, but with color like that, worth the effort!

    Also, thanks for reminding me about Ferula communis. I saw this in photos of a garden a couple of years ago but had forgotten that I MUST GROW IT!

  2. Jeremy says:

    Hi Denise,

    Long time reader, first time commenter. I have a small clump of eriogonum nudum ‘Ella Nelson’s Yellow’ in the ground. It bloomed in the spring, but it is now a bit precious for its original location. I’d be happy to let you take it. I am in the Bixby Knolls area. Feel free to get in touch.

    Best- Jeremy

  3. Denise says:

    Yes, Alan, you must! I love fall plans for the garden.
    Jeremy, for a first comment it’s a good one! We should arrange a swap for the eriogonum. Love the name of your business!

  4. Pam/Digging says:

    I enjoyed hearing your voice, Denise, as I scrolled through your lovely photos. What a fun idea. Maybe I’ll do a clip with my not-Texasy-enough drawl sometime.

    And yes, here’s to a drippy, damp El Nino winter.

  5. Alison says:

    So cool to hear your voice. Happy Fall Planting to you too, and I hope you get lots of lovely rain this winter. Your second story lookout sounds like the place to be.

  6. Mark and Gaz says:

    So cool to hear your voice, it’s like being in Portland all over again and hearing you talk in person 🙂 fine selection of plants as always and glad to see that with the arrival another wave of gardening reactivity happens there which is mostly fun!

  7. Denise says:

    @Pam, thanks for the El Nino correction!
    @Alison, hopefully we’ll meet in Toronto next year. So glad you saw Deanne’s garden.
    @M&G, it was wonderful hearing/seeing you guys in Portland. I miss voices!

  8. Kris P says:

    Nice to hear your voice! You’ve been busy already. I think you’re right about the need for shade even in the case of so-called sun-loving plants. Perhaps, once established, they can handle the sun and heat but, when they’re newbies, I think they need protection.

  9. hb says:

    Your voice: cool! Plein air laundry, cool! That Mallee, cool! Today–87F–not so cool.

  10. Can’t listen to your voice on the iPad but will hopefully remember to do so tomorrow on the laptop. Wish I’d known you were in SF/at Annie’s over the weekend. I was at Flora Grubb on Saturday and all over Berkeley on Sunday. Didn’t make it to Annie’s until Tuesday…

  11. David Feix says:

    I’m happy to hear you also like the Gnidia, it’s a plant I gave to Annie to propagate, and it blooms both spring and fall, (and sometimes all summer too!). I planted it in a neighbor’s garden hell strip, which garden also has a very large Eucalyptus ‘Moon Lagoon’, which I’m rather displeased with, as it refuses to keep the blue foliage, even when cut back hard periodically. The Ferula is a deciduous perennial, should resprout each winter with the first rains.

    By coincidence, I just cut back some too floppy Phylica just a year old, even though they are just budded up with blooms. These first light rains let me know they needed it, for future best appearance. Annie’s always has many more plants at the nursery that aren’t always listed. Annie and I had intended a day visit up to the UC Berkeley Botanic Garden this past Sunday, but neither of us could keep the date; life gets too busy sometimes.

    Like your voice on tape, it matches up with my imagined you. Hope you also get some of these early rains. That Gynidia can get 5 feet tall by across, but takes shearing well between blooming if neceassary. Annie has told me it is hard to get people interested in it; doesn’t sell very quickly at the nursery, but I love it.

  12. Denise says:

    @Kris, the high temps are forecasted into October, so it might be a little early for planting. That erigeron was a surprise. In high temps it collapsed during the day but revived by next morning, so it’s tough but not exactly what I want to look at in the garden when I’m feeling wilted too. I need tougher plants than me!
    @Hoov, yes, al fresco laundry, we practice all the niceties. Our gauge said 90.
    @Loree in the Bay Area! I hope you saw the phylica at Annie’s. We hit FG on Saturday.
    @David, the Moon Lagoon in the display garden at Jo O’Connell’s nursery shows none of the blue as well. Sounds like I should take frequent cuttings to keep youngsters coming! Thanks for the size estimates on gnidia. There’s still time to move it!

  13. I did, but skipped it. There was an even nicer (and less expensive) few at The Dry Garden. Skipped those too. Just the wrong time of the year.

  14. Sorry to be a manic commenter, I just had to say I finally got to listen to your notes, love it! Obviously your voice but when isolated like that I hear it so differently, you’d be a great “voice-over” artist!

  15. Denise says:

    Loree, sorry, right time for us, wrong time of year for you. Isn’t The Dry Garden fun? I saw my first mathiasella for sale there. My first audio take was 8 minutes, way too big! I’d love to hear you do one of your travels. I tend to ramble — Ira Glass has nothing to fear from me

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