My working title for this post was, but I’m glad I checked before posting — that already belongs to Tom Fischer!

Yesterday seemed like a good time to check out Roger’s Gardens in Newport Beach for fall planting. In this brief interval between another holiday, before Roger’s goes all in on Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and then Christmas, I was hoping the nursery’s focus would be single-mindedly on plants, because when it is, nobody does it better. And the plant focus was there to a certain extent. You could almost say I had the nursery to myself, since everyone else seemed to be boisterously enjoying the newly opened restaurant The Farmhouse. This fresh-built, two-day-old outdoor restaurant manages to convey the air of a venerable establishment at least a decade older. Its physical presence makes as big an impact as the Huntington’s new cafeteria. I was floored by its seemingly instantaneous Tuscan-style sumptuousness and elbow-to-elbow diners crowding its tables, like Cecil B. DeMille had barked “Action!” on a big-budget film soundstage. I called Marty on the phone to tell him about it, then quickly turned heel to search for plants. No time for photos. You can check out their website for a look.

The upside to Roger’s preoccupation with holiday retail is these display extravaganzas require vast movements of materials to make room for each holiday, which is when plants and pots really get marked down. When it comes to holidays, I run the gamut from lukewarm to uninterested, but I suppose thanks are owed to all those holiday-themed shoppers, because no doubt their zeal bankrolls the continuing excellence of the plant nursery, not to mention the episodic shots in the arm they give to the economy. I was hoping an Agave xylonacantha ‘Frostbite’ I’ve had my eye on was marked down, but no such luck.

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Also not on sale, but I was nonetheless thrilled to find this Acanthus ‘Morning Candle,’ and with multiple bloom spikes too. There seems to be some dispute over its lineage, hungaricus and mollis vs. spinosus and mollis. (Tony Avent says: “most growers wouldn’t know true Acanthus spinosus if it stuck ’em in the rear.”) But what’s agreed on is that it was bred in Holland and is very free blooming. I pray it doesn’t object to zone 10.*

(Edited 9/12/16: It may need to be moved to afternoon shade to avoid the full, flaccid wiltdown it enacts every day. Currently, it has an umbrella propped overhead.)

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I’ve always preferred the species/hybrids with narrower leaves over A. mollis. My youngest son’s middle school flanked its entire length, a couple blocks long, with A. mollis, but it doesn’t seem to be planted much anymore. I predict, however, that it will be the new “it” plant any day. Despite my preference for other species, it is undeniably a classic. The Ancient Greeks were nobody’s fool.

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The acanthus was planted behind the agave, where Anisodontea ‘Strybing Beauty’ reached over 5 feet this summer, but always carried as many yellow leaves as green ones.

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Anisodontea ‘Strybing Beauty’ this summer, now no more. I did take one cutting, but the cool summers of San Francisco would seem to be its preferred climate. Understandably so, since it used to be mine too. I seem to be getting the rhythm of the heat after all these years, not that this summer broke any records here. It’s been unbearably, distractingly lovely for the most part, and I’ve spent every available minute well away from computers.

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This self-sown Echium simplex is enjoying some newfound breathing room after the anisodontea was removed.

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This unlabeled Salvia greggii/microphylla hybrid was on sale and has already been stuffed into the container with Stachys ‘Bella Grigio.’ In the post-shopping planting frenzy, I pulled out the Japanese sunflower going to seed in the stock tank to make room for dwarf Tagetes lemmonii, the Copper Canyon Daisy for fall. And I brought home yet another grass, Miscanthus ‘Little Kitten.’

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Am I being a complete bore yet about grasses? There’s really nothing as transformative, with a relatively slim footprint and such a magnificent, seasonal surge of growth. Without the space or water resources to support half the summer stuff I want to grow, the grasses are almost consolation enough. Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tales’ was planted from gallons this spring, from the Huntington’s plant sale.

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Catching and playing with light, wind, they’re as mesmerizing as staring at a campfire.

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Now to the plants I didn’t buy yesterday. Plants that spent time in my shopping basket but were ultimately removed included, among many, the chartreuse Santolina ‘Lemon Fizz’ in 4-inch pots and Ballota ‘All Hallows Green.’ The 4-inch size is so tempting, and the selection was very good, including Ceanothus ‘Diamond Heights,’ Verbascum bombyciferum. I’m already growing ‘All Hallows Green’ in my garden, as seen in the photo above. I wish there was room for a half dozen more in 4-inch pots.

I lingered over a new echium offering from Annie’s Annuals & Perennials, Echium webbii, a reputedly “dwarf version” of fatuosum.

Metapanax davidii was tempting but a bit too disheveled. I prefer M. delavayi’s much finer cut leaf. In the herbs/veg section I found Calamintha nepetoides and grabbed three. Unlike the stellar ‘Montrose White,’ they will reseed, but it’s so rare to find calamints that I went for it. Grown by Native Sons.

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Speaking of disheveled, summer’s shabbiest award goes to Melianthus ‘Purple Haze,’ and that’s only because its weary leaves are usually cut to the ground by August. That it made it through July/August at all was only by the grace of drip hoses, but it’s undeniably crisped and thin. Knocking back that leaf canopy mid summer always seemed to desolate this end of the garden. New growth is already showing, and I’ll cut down old growth when it’s made more headway.

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Other than what I’ve ripped out/transplanted, there’s been no real losses this summer. If I’ve already blogged about terrible losses and forgotten, don’t remind me. The drip hoses have resulted in some mad growth, including this solanum vine, now stretching from the top of the 18-foot cypresses down nearly to the ground.

And just to be clear, I have nothing against holidays! Especially the long Labor Day Weekend. Have a great one.

P.S. I’m going to figure out who won the little Muradian pot later this weekend.

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9 Responses to

  1. hb says:

    Have a lovely weekend, Denise.

  2. ks says:

    Over planted. Yes indeed. I have a significant ‘move in fall’ list, and a dire need for my tree guy. I have no room either, never the less I ordered plants from Joy Creek this morning, and tulips last week. I applaud your embrace of Acanthus- it’s still in the Agapanthus camp for me , probably brought on by childhood puncture wounds suffered in LA vacant lots. I’ve been tempted though by that variegated number that some of our east-coast friends grow (Whitewater?) and seen this summer in Marcia Donahues’ garden. Googleing Miscanthus ‘Little Kitten’.

  3. Kris P says:

    Like you, I tend to make my decisions about nursery visits on a last minute basis but we really should try to coordinate. I took myself off to Roger’s this morning. The parking lot was ridiculously crowded but, like your visit, I discovered most of the traffic was directed at the new restaurant (which I’d like to try as I loved the restaurateur’s prior places when I worked down that way). As to the plants, it’s funny that you always seem to see something I missed, like that Acanthus. I was focused mainly on succulents but I did veer off course to other things (as usual). I bought Echium webii in spring but it hasn’t done much of anything for me yet. I just got my own Solanum ‘Navidad Jalisco’ from Annie’s (planted only late this afternoon), along with more Bouteloua ‘Blonde Ambition’.

  4. Alan @ It's Not Work, It's Gardening! says:

    I got excited about ‘Fairy Tales’ until I saw its hardiness zones. I’m looking for a replacement for my thuggish ‘Moudry’, but that’s not it. 🙁

  5. Denise says:

    @Same to you, the pups and Alan!
    @Kathy, I am determined my next serious relationship will be with an arborist. The jacarandas were trimmed this spring by the city, and I got a front garden back. I grew up with A. mollis everywhere too, but I’ve always loved spinosus and hungaricus. I’ve tried the latter two in small sizes and never got them established. This hybrid looks promising. That variegated mollis is probably the only variegate I’m opposed to!
    @Kris, there were marked-down plants tucked in everywhere. I saw a half-off 5-gal grevillea on someone’s cart. There was no specific sales area per se. I had a good prowl!
    @Alan, sorry bout that! for zones 7/8, and it’s sterile. Thankfully there’s so many good grasses for a wide variety of zones.

  6. Alice says:

    Took me forever but I finally toured your area and visited Roger’s Gardens a while back.
    M. Purple Haze ~ you’re able to cut it back? I never felt I could do that with the colder, wetter winters up here.
    So gorgeous when its thriving….
    Thank you, Roger Raiche;-) for your selection;-]

  7. Tim says:

    I love the grasses with your Agaves!

  8. David Feix says:

    You seem to do so well with the plants you photograph, it’s mildly amusing to read of your perceived failures 🙂 Laments about lack of space, thankfully I always have client’s gardens to shop for, but sometimes parked plants might spend years in my garden before they move on. We should all be so blessed to have more gardening space for more plants, but could you really handle the mixed blessings? To be honest, I take the perhaps unrealistic attitude that they secretly are ALL my gardens, don’t tell…

    Beautiful photos as always, and enough interesting plants I don’t grow myself to keep me humble before such grace.

  9. Denise says:

    @Alice, so glad you made the tour. Cutting back PH might be a zone 10 regional practice, but like the species they end up with lanky bare stalks with tufts of leaves only at the top by the end of the season. I’m told Roger Raiche’s garden will be open for a PacHort event this fall, Oct 15-16, just FYI 😉
    @Tim, so do I! They’ll need splitting again for next spring, and I noticed this morning there’s a kangaroo paw, aloe and other stuff swallowed up by their bulk, but even so I’m thinking they’re essential now.
    @David, the laments about lack of space might come off as ungracious, esp to those without a garden at all. You’re right, we should all be so blessed. Funny thing is, I’ve never wanted a bigger house, and this is a pretty small 1,000 sq ft bungalow. But once you’ve tasted a small sample of the riches of plant life, it makes you greedy. Thank you for your kind words. The humility is all mine 😉

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