Bloom Day October 2016

This October the garden has already turned its back on summer, and all but the grasses have been cut back. I’m curious to find out how long the summer grasses can be supporting players to the winter-blooming aloes before the grasses are cut back in late winter. (Of course, if we get rain, the grasses might be cut back sooner, but I’m not holding my breath. In fact, I think I’ll plan a rain vacation this fall/winter. Glasgow averages 4 inches in November, Amsterdam over 3 inches.)

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The ‘New Zealand Purple’ castor bean has a thick woody trunk and should be removed, because it’s left plenty of seedlings to take its place. But it’s playing so nicely with ‘Moonlight’ grevillea I keep putting it off.

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And the Solanum vine, ‘Navidad Jalisco,’ has had a lot cut back off the lemon cypresses and out of the Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ but is still throwing new blooms.

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Among other low-lying succulents, the aloes like ‘Cynthia Giddy’ shine unobstructed, but the big pennisetum grasses might have to be switched out for grasses of smaller stature. Lomandras like ‘Breeze’ really would be preferable for size, although they lack the pennisetum’s sexy blooms. (That ‘Ghost’ aloe on the lower left was recently added, a hybrid of Aloe striata that showed up at nurseries this fall. I love its almost agave-like chunkiness.)

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Here’s a photo I took the other day of a mass planting of lomandra. The scale is perfect for interplanting aloes. Sun and water requirements are a good fit too.

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For example, Aloe ‘Topaz’ is struggling to be seen through Pennisetum ‘Fairy Tails’ and phormium. I need to cut back that Verbena bonariensis too.

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‘Topaz’ supposedly prefers/tolerates some summer irrigation so should work well among smaller grasses and shrubs.

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Aloe scobinifolia has bloomed in July in the past and is much later this year. One of its record number of five scapes was lost to a mishap with a cat. That’s Plectranthus neochilus blooming in the background, as it’s done all summer.

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More and more, I find this time-share aspect to the garden so absorbing. Every plant on its game year-round with something to contribute, or at least get out of the way. I’m a firm believer that the emphasis on garden “style” is misplaced. If it doesn’t make sense for your temperament, for your climate, ignore styles. (If you can even figure out what your climate is anymore.) In zone 10 there’s no justification for the slow death and decay cycle so beloved by the New Perennial movement. (Not when there’s winter-blooming aloes!) And it’s a safe bet here in SoCal that we’re looking at building dry gardens for the foreseeable future. So I can stop dreaming about thalictrums and veronicastrums for summer. Sigh…that ‘Black Stockings’ thalictrum is so cool. But Amicia zygomeris has the height and some of that purply, bruised coloration to its leaves. I should bring that back for next summer.

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Aloe ‘Kujo,’ the Huntington hybrid. I lost a small plant so jumped at this big 2-gallon size already in bloom.

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This plant caught my eye on a nursery bench recently too. With leaves and flower color so reminiscent of Lobelia tupa, I couldn’t pass it up. Justicia sericea ‘Inca Queen.’

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Said to bloom on and off all year, heaviest in early spring maybe. Drought tolerant when established. Might have a tendency for disheveled lankiness. We’ll see. The hummingbirds are already thanking me.

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This Kelly Griffin hybrid aloe has been blooming on and off all summer too.

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Aloe ‘Rooikappie’ is another year-round bloomer, heaviest in fall. My little plants are just getting going.

Carol at May Dreams Gardens collects Bloom Day posts from gardens all over the world, an invaluable learning tool for what’s working where.

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13 Responses to Bloom Day October 2016

  1. hb says:

    Climate-appropriate plants, that’s surely a “style”, too? The “new perennials” thing is great, but it’s another climate entirely, with summer rain and autumn frost.

    We can grow a million more things–it’s something to celebrate.

  2. Evan Bean says:

    Love your blooms! I agree with you regarding style. I think the emphasis on creating gardens that fit into particular style categories is silly. I just choose plants that are adapted to the site, and I try to plant them in a way that fits the spirit of the site.

  3. ks says:

    Style and climate appropriateness was a topic today at the PHS Summit in Santa Rosa. The audience laughed in recognition when phrases like ‘plant collector’ and ‘pots lined up along the driveway’ were used. It’s raining here !

  4. Kris P says:

    You always find such interesting plants, like that Aloe ‘Ghost’ and Justicia ‘Inca Queen’. My Solanum ‘Navidad Jalisco’ doesn’t want to climb up the supports we added along the arbor – I may have to tie it in place – or move it. Your Grevillea ‘Moonlight’ reminds me that I must find space for one.

  5. Lots of dreamy images here…

  6. David Feix says:

    I also think the New Perennials style doesn’t make sense here on the West Coast, or at least here in California. I want to see and design gardens that have more growth and bloom in fall and winter, and celebrate this period as a time of growth, not death. Seems to me it’s more for summer rainfall, cold winter climates. Plus, here in California, we have so many wonderfully impressive form and texture plants we can grow, which just partner so dramatically with strong architecture in the garden. A different gestalt.

    The rainy season is off to a good start; the second wave has hit, just topped our first inch…

  7. Ross says:

    Pouring here again in Melbourne, Australia. Wet, wet, cold spring that has confused and sometimes delighted the garden. As you say Denise it’s hard to know how to respond to these changing climatic climes. Last spring was bone dry and scorching, unremitting, blistering heat. Adore your images. You capture the spirit of things alarmingly well and many thanks for the inspiration.

  8. Alison says:

    I love Aloe flowers, so the wonderful variety here was a real treat. We get lots of winter rain here and I leave my grasses up till early spring. I grew castor bean one year and did the same, the trunks were so thick and structural. You’re thinking of vacationing in Scotland?

  9. Denise says:

    @Hoov, climate-appropriate a style? I hope it’s just common sense. Maybe we should substitute the word “style” for “possibilities.” I do think a garden is intrinsically a celebration of the place you live, whatever its climate.
    @Kathy, I’m so glad you attended the summit. You must report back in due course! You must!
    @Kris, the Ghost aloe has been at a lot of nurseries. I’ve only seen that justicia at Village in Huntington Beach. I thought that solanum would need constant prodding to hold on, but once it threaded through the cypress looking for the sun it shot off like a rocket. It took some effort to remove unwanted branches actually.
    @Loree, I wish there was less dreamy and more clarity but that’s what the camera and the time allowed came up with!
    @David, it feels like stating the obvious, but I do still hear a lot of locals talk in terms of style. So glad you got some rain! We were promised a bit of that storm but it fizzled.
    @Ross, what a contrast of springs you’ve had in just two years. I hope you’ll pop in again to bring updates on your garden.
    @Alison, the grasses do get annoyingly battered with winter rains, so I’m trying to make the best of this endless drought. In fall I always think of vacationing! I visited Scotland once and got as far as the Logan Botanic Garden. I’d love to go back. I

  10. Peter/Outlaw says:

    ‘Ghost’ aloe is swell and ‘Moonlight’ grevillea with the castor bean is a grand combination! So much to love in your beautiful garden!

  11. rusty duck says:

    Stick with the aloes. I’d rather have them than veronicastrum any day!

  12. Tim says:

    Those aloe blossoms are utterly charming and I’m wild about your new Justicia. I’m a fan of the dreamy photos as well. Plenty clear for me.

  13. Nell says:

    :: ‘Ghost’ aloe … was recently added, a hybrid of Aloe striata that showed up at nurseries this fall. I love its almost agave-like chunkiness. ::

    I love its faintly red glowing edges, which subtly echo its blooms and enliven the stolid chunkiness of the foliage.

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