views of August

Continuing with the year-to-year comparison…

back garden in 2010, (technically September), when a dwarf purpleleaf grapevine and fatshedera still climbed up the pergola, before it had a corrugated roof, right about where a passiflora with grape-like leaves was planted last week. Young tetrapanax, now tree-like, can barely be seen deep middle, just above the variegated agave. That was a killer Agave bovicornuta that I adored on the left. Then as now, also growing was manihot, tropical salvias, cordylines, etc. Upright branches belong to Cotinus ‘Grace’ whose hybrid vigor proved too much for a small garden so it was removed.

I love plant-intensive gardens, planning them, planting them. I’ve learned a lot about spacing and air flow over the years, so the garden isn’t as dense as in previous Augusts, but I’m still just as plant crazy after all these years.

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the tetrapanax in 2019 tops the pergola. Evergreen fernleaf acacia replaced Cotinus ‘Grace.’
August 2012
looking east under the pergola, valerian, fabulous Senecio anteuphorbium and kangaroo paws in the foreground
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2019, kangaroo paws replaced with the slipper plant, Pedilanthus bracteatus, with most of the planting reworked. (Wire baskets are used to protect young plants, in this case a small Aloe tomentosa.)

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I’m not exactly practicing minimalism in 2019 either
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New addition to the pergola, Passiflora vitifolila ‘Scarlet Flame,’ a hybrid by the mysterious Patrick Worley, who’s responsible for another passiflora in the garden, the late-summer blooming ‘Witchcraft’

I still have the tendency to up-end things and throw a wrench in the garden, like a passion flower reputed to grow to 20-30′ — I’m hoping to train it up and then across the horizontal beams of the pergola, so the flowers dangle at eye level. But I’ve also developed more of a feel for a zone 10 garden that doesn’t slight the remaining months of the year in favor of one season over another.

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August 2013, perennial knotweed Persicaria amplexicaulis in the garden, that rare perennial that thrives in zone 10. Native to the Himalayas…

I was crazy about knotweeds for quite a few years. Still am, actually, but I no longer grow them or many other perennials in the garden.

variegated Polygonum orientale from 2010
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August 2013, a Southern Californian take on the plant-intensive “new naturalism”
Helicotrichon, anthemis, agastaches, persicaria, yarrow, crithmum. Along with other big grasses, that’s a Giant Reed, Arundo donax ‘Golden Chain,’ in the left background that we removed in the nick of time. So beautiful, so treacherously invasive.

Occasionally, like in 2013, the garden was very summer-forward. Working out the longest perennial show possible in zone 10 was incredibly absorbing but still left seven or eight months of nice weather with lots of bare ground.

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August 2019, annual knotweed Polygonum orientale (in a container)
Thank you for growing this rarely seen annual, M&M Nursery in Orange, Calif.

I still like to try out summer stuff in containers though.

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dark-flowered Thunbergia alata getting trained up fishing wire.
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Senecio confusus requires a little more intervention to train up fishing wire but I’ve got high hopes
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Then as now, manihots make lush growth for the dry garden

Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’ in 2010 when I plunged the pot into the garden
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‘Lime Zinger’ 2019. In August the leaves develop more substance and become extra-velvety
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Thinking small helps — a single pot of coreopsis can stand in as a microcosm for summer daisies

Apart from garden styles and trends (“the new naturalism”), in a little home garden, balcony, sunny window, there is a wonderful freedom to simply celebrate that emotional connection to the plants themselves.

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Calif. native Eriogonum giganteum var. compactum
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Another agapanthus planted in July (the hottest month on record), ‘Purple Delight’

Living surrounded by these once-in-a-universe masterpieces is a privilege that just never gets old. Hope you’re getting lots of garden time this August.

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3 Responses to views of August

  1. Kris P says:

    I know I’ve said it before (probably too many times) but the things you can grow that I can’t – like passionflowers and, with two exceptions, Persicaria – always astounds me given the relative proximity of our gardens. It sets me wondering if differences in soil or wind or sun exposure are responsible, or if I simply give up too easily or don’t pay sufficient attention to new plants during their infancy. I love that Senecio confusus and the variegated Manihot.

  2. hb says:

    Still plant-crazy after all these years.

    Eriogonum giganteum var. compactum: love the name of that, gigantic and compact. Like the town of Hill Valley.

  3. Denise says:

    @Kris, I think I’m going to try your garden star, ‘Cousin It,’ again here under the ‘Moonlight’ grevillea which is throwing considerable shade now. Passionflowers have been difficult to establish for me too, because I’m usually not offering optimal conditions. It already looks like this vitifolia might be in too much shade…I think that rule of killing a plant three times needs to be revised!
    @Hoov, there’s very little info on this compact form, where it was discovered etc. I saw a mature plant recently in a botanical garden and it was nice and compact, so it’s no misnomer!

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