bloom day May 2021

the south-facing back garden is the focus of May’s bloom day report
Astrophytum ornatum

Cactus, pelargoniums, agaves, mangaves, bromeliads — seems like everything is firing off blooms in May.

Pelargonium ‘Xochi’
Erodium ‘Maryla’ planted spring 2021
Pelargonium ‘Queen of Hearts’
self-sown Papaver rupifragum
self-sown Glaucium flavum
Basil herbalea ‘Wild Magic’ wintered over, planted August 2020
Passiflora ‘Flying V’ cohabits with Grevillea ‘Moonlight’
self-sown Verbena bonariensis wintered over and is already 7 feet tall
Sideritis oroteneriffae and Aloe camperi
Aeonium with ‘Seafoam’ artemisia, Salvia ‘Savannah Blue’ in background
Salvias ‘Waverly,’ ‘Savannah Blue,’ kangaroo paws ‘Regal Velvet’ and ‘Tequila Sunrise’
from the back of the garden, the ginormity that is Nicotiana mutabilis. The hummingbirds are mad for it. The nicotiana is completely swamping Eryngium pandanifolium.
lots of seedlings of persicaria this year — I’m assuming it’s the annual P. orientalis
flowers developing on Sarracenia ‘Tarnok’
NOID epiphyllum

So that’s the quietly blooming, incidental stuff. On to the splashier flowers. In bud and in leaf, Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ is intriguingly smoky and subtle, and this quiet phase enjoyably lasts a couple months. In full bloom, it’s like a flock of noisy Amazonian parrots have descended on the garden.


Thankfully, all the surrounding blue and silver leaves act as shock absorbers while this robust Peruvian lily blazes away. It cleans up well, with spent flowering stalks easily removed with a quick yank, to bring them full out of the ground, not broken at the base.

Follow the rocks up to Digiplexis ‘Illumination Apricot’ at the fence. Only the puppy uses the rocks for a path now that it’s too overgrown for us

Alstroemeria ‘Third Harmonic’ is now jumping into bloom a few feet behind ‘Indian Summer,’ almost a foot taller, growing up through bronze fennel, Orlaya grandiflora, a dark-leaved crinum, and the Giant Spear Lily/Doryanthes palmeri. It’s more of an even gold, without the ruddy cheeks of ‘Indian Summer.’ Both are good strong plants, so I’ll take them in whatever colors they come. This alstroemeria managed to get established in very dry soil under the acacia, though now I’ve been irrigating regularly due to new plantings — trevesia, metapanax. (For recordkeeping’s sake, in this area near the fence, Romneya coulteri put out robust growth to 4 feet over winter/spring then collapsed overnight. I knew Matilija poppy was difficult to establish, but I didn’t expect this pattern of boom and bust. Bupleurum fruticosum mail-ordered from Dancing Oaks has already taken its spot.)

Cotula ‘Big Yellow Moon’
Old blooms were cut back on the Tree Dandelion earlier in the week.

Now that Sonchus palmensis is reseeding in the garden, its next trick is a second flowering this spring. This exceptional performance could be due to the extra water it gets now that a hose reaches here into the back of the garden, it could be due to the mild spring we’re having, or it could be that this sonchus is happier here than other sonchus I’ve tried — like Sonchus canariensis. Or all of the above. Lilies are another reason I’ve been attentive to irrigation. After they bloom, it’ll probably be lean rations again.

Passiflora vitifolia

The Grape-Leaved Passion Vine is meandering out of the sunshine to clamber into the deep shade under the pergola. At this point, it can do whatever makes it happy, since it still seems as if it’s tentatively adjusting to the garden. New leaf growth is finally looking good, shiny and healthy, after producing mostly crispy-looking leaves since first planting. The improvement in leaf growth seems a product of the extra water and compost I’m giving it — and that also benefits the tetrapanax growing nearby, which was suffering under very little supplemental irrigation and excessive wildfire smoke last summer.


Centranthus lecoqii leans more lilac in color than C. ruber, and seems to reseed less. This spring just a couple plants returned at the base of Leucadendron ‘Jester.’


Sowing Bachelor Buttons, Centaurea cyanus, and not the usual blue, was an odd impulse this year, but that’s what comes from poring over seed catalogues during lockdown. It’s been an easy spring for them, so we’ll see how they like their first real heat wave.

just visible to the left of Euphorbia cotinifolia is a variegated gaura that I’ve used a lot elsewhere in the back garden, four plants, if Billie stops digging them up. Love its brightness and more compact growth

Tiny flowers opening on newly acquired Hechtia tillandsioides remind me of the style and coloring of thalictrum blooms.


I’d forgotten about these little brodiaea bulbs and haven’t taken care to avoid digging them up. But I do like their late May appearance so will be more mindful of them in the future. Dark leaves are eucomis, with gerbera and hunnemania blooming in the background. An aloe will be joining in soon, Aloe megalacantha from Piece of Eden’s garden, also the source of the hunnemania seed.

hunnemania, gerbera, Aloe megalacantha, with Aristolochia fimbriata beginning to weave through

The big silvery rosette at the base of the tetrapanax, bromeliad Alcantarea odorata, is starting to bloom…sigh. That guarantees its eventual albeit spectacular demise, although there’s sure to be pups. But I will miss its stately presence. A couple Sonchus palmensis have self-sown into the gravel nearby, so there’s no dearth of newcomers waiting for its space. I noted a Stipa ichu has also seeded near this bromeliad, the first seedlings of this grass I’ve found.


I’ve always been a fool for chocolate cosmos, which I bring in yearly as annuals, here potted up with a newish silver-leaved plant, Didelta ‘Silver Strand.’ With Lomandra ‘Plantinum Beauty’ in the garden behind and a potted Euphorbia canariensis to the left.


Salvia ‘Big Pink’ was cut back, revealing the trio of ‘Beachball’ pittosporum that look none the worse for being swamped. I’m diligently clipping them to evolve into future spheres. Judging by past attempts, they may end up as one amoeba-like mass rather than three discrete orbs, but the pitts are a welcome shade of bright green whatever their shape.

Linaria purpurea is making an impact its first year from seed.

Anisodontea ‘Tara’s Pink’ planted in spring (also but not pictured, Anisodontea ‘Strybing Beauty’)
running room for Billie, the new puppy. Along with agave removal, Furcraea macdougalii was also limbed up in her honor

The spartan, hedge-enclosed front garden has become even more minimal now that Agave ‘Jaws’ has been removed and a Yucca rostrata moved to the sunnier back garden. The flowering action in May is overhead — the parkway jacarandas.

Carol Michel collects bloom day reports from around the world at May Dreams Gardens.

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10 Responses to bloom day May 2021

  1. Beautiful!
    Happy Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day!

  2. Kris P says:

    Your garden is looking exceptionally floriferous, Denise! So much to love. By comparison, I feel like a slacker in the seed sowing category. Those pinky-purple Centaurea are wonderful (and pink isn’t even one of my favorite colors). I’m also enamored with the peachy Digiplexis – I gave up those hybrid plants years ago when I had a constant struggle with mealy bugs but maybe it’s time to try them again. I laughed at your description of Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ but it captures that flashy plant perfectly.

  3. LL says:

    So many wonderful blooms! I absolutely love the blooms of the Hechtia. I’ve not often seen a plant where the color of the bloom stalk matches so perfectly with the flowers.
    The color of the Digiplexis looks also very intriguing, especially with the rim of the blooms which seem to fade from hot pink to orange.

  4. Steve B. says:

    Your garden is looking exceptional. Thanks for sharing it with us.

  5. If I hadn’t been to your garden in person I would think it was quite large to be able to contain all of those flowers. How do you do it!? Looking marvelous Denise.

  6. Yvonne says:

    Unusual (to me anyway) and beautiful plants. Curiosity got the best of me on your Tree Dandelion, so I looked it up. Quite beautiful in its own unique way. A treat to look at all the photos of your San Diego garden.

  7. ks says:

    I have to hand it to Nicotiana mutabilis -swamping E. pandanafolium would seem to be a feat ! And a wintering over unknown concept here.

  8. Denise says:

    @Kris, I wouldn’t go looking for digiplexis, but Roger’s had them in 4-inch pots with their other “color” plants, so they were cheap. If I hadn’t checked the tags I would’ve assumed they were foxgloves. We’ll see what kind of legs they have and if they can make it to fall!
    @Steve, thank you so much for coming by!
    @Loree, you know how it’s done — cramscaping! And I like a lot of verticals, so that helps.
    @Kathy, I had thinned that huge patch of eryngium last year and still have some divisions in gallons sitting around if you’re interested.

  9. Denise says:

    @Lea, Happy GGBD to you as well!
    @LL, this hechtia has me so excited. I’d sworn off growing these spiny terrestrial bromeliads only to find this soft-leaved kind. This apricot digiplexis is very soft in color. The other colors in the Illumination series are very dark pinks. I’ve had problems growing digiplexis in the past, so we’ll see how it goes with this one. Seems to like compost and regular water!
    @Yvonne, the tree dandelions have such lovely shaggy, jagged leaves. So many “traditional” garden plants just don’t thrive here in hot, dry zone 10b, with not enough winter chill/vernalization, so I guess I console myself with the unusual plants that do like it here. I’m about 100 miles north of San Diego, which is a wonderful climate for gardens with lots of growers there.

  10. Nell Lancaster says:

    The shot of chocolate cosmos with all those silvery plants of different textures literally made me pant and have to fan myself. It’s all really gorgeous, but… whoa, that vignette is next-level.
    Lots of items to envy in your fabulous garden, but the one I cover most is Billie. Those clubby paws! Those wise and wondering eyes! Congratulations.

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