April garden journal


Because the Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ I had previously tried to establish here had failed to thrive, I assumed that it was dead, not dormant, when I replanted this rocky area in November. Which was fine, because I was going in a completely different direction with the new plantings in November 2020. The new plantings along the rocks were meant to be kept tight and lean, almost rock gardenish. The emergence of surprisingly lush spring growth from this Peruvian lily was therefore not a cause for celebration, especially as it proceeded to bully Agave ‘Arizona Star.’ And I’m sure as summer progresses its sprawl will have to be dealt with, but right now it is a rewarding eyeful of fresh, plummy leaves.


And now this week, with the flowers coloring up, backed by the frothy spikes of the heuchera, it’s become my favorite mistake. That the Heuchera maxima would mesh so well with the alstroemeria was also unexpected. I’d grown this heuchera years ago but only remember the massive, zucchini-like leaves, not the prodigious flowering wands.


I planted three heuchera in June 2020, one of which failed to establish, so this wonderfully fizzy, textural explosion comes from just two plants.


Grown from seed last fall/winter, the biennial/short-lived perennial Silene fabaria ssp. domokina looks like it’s budding up already in just its first season in the garden. I’m hoping for lots of reseeding from this beauty. Stellata Plants has a photo of it here. Lucky are those who live close enough to patronize this fabulous British Columbia nursery.


Four gallon plants of Salvia ‘Savannah Blue’ were planted July 2020. About a quarter of growth was trimmed back in winter — even so, it’s been a solid 3X2 evergreen presence since first planting. I know I always rush to judgment with plants, but I just feel in my bones that this salvia is the one for my little experiments in summer chaparral plantings. Low and shrubby, heat tolerant, tapering luminous blooms, with tough, intricately cut leaves similar to a scented pelargonium, it’s got all the hallmarks of a “martrix” plant. A hybrid of two South African species, Salvia repens and Salvia namaensis, for zones 8 to 11.


The salvia started lightly blooming this week.


The small white flowers weaving among the salvia are seed-grown Omphalodes linifolia, a spring annual I’m hoping will reseed.


Also from seed, but not the linaria I expected, a white form of Linaria purpurea.


Salvia ‘Big Pink’ continues to build up growth and bloom.


The Tree Daisy, Montanoa grandiflora, from Worldwide Exotics, continues its rampageous growth. With leaves like that, grow away! It supposedly makes 10 feet of growth in a season, producing white fragrant daisies in fall/winter. I have no idea what to expect in its first year in the garden, which after all is one of the most exciting reasons to grow the unfamiliar.


And then the California poppies joined Leucospermum ‘Tango’ in bloom…tangy!


Planted over the winter, Westringia ‘Blue Gem’ jumped into bloom last week.


Nicotiana mutabilis continues to astonish with its cloud-like performance.


Looking from any direction, the nicotiana is now a dominating presence.


The ixias are just about finished blooming. (Ixia ‘Venus’)


A blogging friend came to town last week and made the rounds of nurseries and gardens, Gerhard of Succulents and More. When I heard that one of the nurseries he visited, Plant Depot in San Juan Capistrano, carried Aloe labworana, I hastened southward to snatch up this aloe for my own garden.


Plant World didn’t disappoint, a huge enterprise with some smart, inquisitive people in charge of buying in plants. I also picked up a couple of Verbascum phlomoides ‘Wega,’ a biennial. Only a 40-minute trip, it still astonishes me how I rarely think of exploring Orange County, a byproduct of growing up with the idea of the “Orange Curtain.”


Another freshman in the 2021 garden, Salvia ‘Amante’ has a complex raspberry presentation with dark calyces. It’s a big, subtropical salvia from Argentine salvia grower Ronaldo Uria, who gave us the instant-classic Salvia ‘Amistad.’


Here in zone 10, Southern California, spring such as it is comes early. I hope your gardens are springing to life as well!

This entry was posted in journal, plant nurseries, Plant Portraits, succulents. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to April garden journal

  1. hb says:

    Your garden looks great!

  2. Gerhard Bock says:

    It was great to see you and go nursery-hopping with you!

    Glad you made it to Plant Depot and found an Aloe labworana. It’s a good one!

    Salvia ‘Savannah Blue’ is new to me. From your description, it sounds like the perfect salvia for our front yard. Will look for it!

  3. Denise says:

    @hb, it’s been a fun spring so far!
    @Gerhard, I’m thinking of going back to Green Touch and try to get a photo of that amazing Sanseviera humbertiana. I should start using my camera phone. Hope all your plant treasures are safely home.

  4. Gerhard Bock says:

    I took several photos of Sansevieria humbertiana at Green Touch, but none of them captured how special it is. A good photo of it really needs a solid background. Maybe a photo from below?

    My plant treasures are safe and well-watered. Now I need to figure out where they’ll go. But that’s the fun part.

  5. Kris P says:

    Your garden is full of surprises! I continue to marvel at your success with Salvias but, as I’ve had more success with those of African origin, I’m going to make a point of looking out for that ‘Savannah Blue’.

  6. Denise says:

    @Gerhard, so funny you mention the solid background, because I was thinking of bringing something like construction paper. Oscar is going to think I’m a nut!
    @Kris, this salvia has only been in a year, but it really does look like a winner for our hot dry gardens. The word is Andy Maycen discovered it in his San Diego garden.

  7. ks says:

    There is just nothing better than a new garden space to fill, and this area is looking great. I’m keeping an eye out for S. ‘Savannah Blue’ -Flowers by the Sea says it can take some shade and I have a good half-day sun spot ready for it. Same with Salvia discolor which is damn hard to find up here-last time I saw it was of all places at the Mendocino farmers market -about a 10 booth event- and I’ve kicked myself ever since for not picking it up.

  8. Elaine says:

    Your garden is looking gorgeous. The fuchsia salvia is gorgeous. Such a fabulous genus.

  9. Denise says:

    @ks, I think my last Salvia discolor came from FBTS. At the moment I’ve really lost patience with the leggy wayward salvias but I usually come around again 😉 For the moment I’m really excited by the relativey low, shrubby uniform growth of SB, similar to the presence of a lavendar.
    @Thanks, Elaine! The color on that salvia is really pulls the eye in to sort out how it manages to be so luminous.

  10. Gerhard Bock says:

    Salvia discolor: Annie’s Annuals had it for years and years, but they seem to be out of stock at the moment.

    I like it better on paper than in theory because it’s such an untidy grower. I removed mine last year but I’m slowly coming around again (like you). The next time, I’m going to trim it regularly to keep it looking neater than it does on its own.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *