garden clippings 9/7/21

Chrysanthemum ‘Fred Stone‘ with chocolate cosmos

Yes, that is a box full of chrysanthemums. Let me explain why such a wildly uncharacteristic flower, for me, is blooming in my otherwise mostly austere and dryish garden.


It’s part of the ongoing experiment of trying cut flowers in containers. Last year it was cosmos (mildly successful, but a much shorter bloom period than I hoped, and so much watering!) Dahlias are also intense upkeep in containers and not happy in the best conditions I can muster for them. Florist-style mums seemed like a fun experiment, so I ordered five spidery kinds from Bluestone Perennials last fall which were potted up in gallons in May. And they’ve remained in gallons all summer. Unlike dahlias, the mums are beginning to bloom on much smaller plants. The leaves are tougher and more sun resistant and overall healthier, and they don’t seem as sensitive to occasionally dryish soil. I know, mums. But dahlias and gladioli were once witheringly dismissed as déclassé too. I can honestly say that my box of mums has been less problematic than cosmos or dahlias. True, they don’t have the range of shapes and colors that dahlias do, nor the willowy elegance of cosmos, not to mention that they skip summer bloom entirely. And this doesn’t mean I want to be surrounded by grocery store foil-encased pots of dwarf flowering mums — where gaudy flowers are concerned, I’m in the less is more camp and prefer to keep pollinators happy with the tiny flowers of, say, calamint. But this experiment in pots has been fun. I would never grow them in the garden, only a cutting garden. (Floret Farms writes of their rediscovery of chrysanthemums here and links to King’s Mums growing instructions here.) Chocolate cosmos has also been easy in containers, clean leaves, cuttable stems, moderate size.


This toothy Aloe divaricata ‘Chompers’ I found plant shopping yesterday, however, will definitely get planted in the garden. Winter blooming, with a multibranched inflorescence, but it’s mostly about the leaf coloration and teeth with this one. It can get big, to 5 feet high and across, but is easily manageable by thinning out the offsets.


The ‘Chompers’ aloe was planted this morning in this newly reworked area that has seen a lot of planting action lately. Agave geminiflora, in a pot for years, was also moved here recently. It spills out beautifully from a pot but was in too much shade, and it will color up deep red here in full sun. I like the shape echo here with Agave stricta ‘Nana’ too.

Aloe divaricata ‘Chompers’ to the right of chunky Aloe marlothii. A small Agave horrida was planted just to the left of the blue glass interrupter. Other aloes in this area are classenii, camperi, aculeata, ‘David Verity,’ and labworana.

Most of my aloes are winter bloomers, but ‘Rooikappie’ is the rare repeat blooming aloe. I love how when it blooms, a small patch in the back garden becomes a little slice of the African veldt — with liberal applications of imagination! I’m amazed that these succulents in grass are still getting enough sun at their bases to bloom, but for this to continue a success the grasses will have to be thinned.


Brassaiopsis hispida was doing so well in a container that I decided to take a chance on planting it in the garden, where I don’t have to worry about missing a daily watering. Another member of the Araliaceae, Schefflera taiwaniana, was planted in morning sun on the north side of the house, carefully watered, flourished all summer, but still took a wilt dive when temps rose into the 90s. I dug it up and it seemed to be recovering, but collapsed when we hit 97 — even though it had been moved into full shade! The brassaiopsis seems unfazed by the heat so far, and the trevesia seems to revel in it.


To protect it from Billie the digger, rather than store this unused tuteur, it makes a handy plant protector.

red shrimp plant loving the heat
Billie the Digger putting on her most serious “Who me, a digger?” face. She was spayed last Wednesday but seems back up to full speed this week.

The Agave geminiflora’s empty container became home to an Alcantarea imperialis that needed a larger pot and a tongue fern (Pyrrosia lingua) I had growing in a wooden orchid basket. The fern loved life in that mossed wooden basket and was surprisingly difficult to extricate after residing in it just a few months.


One pot of coleus can make quite a statement. I like the simple strong colors versus the wildly variegated kinds.


Alternanthea ‘Purple Knight’ is another good strong single-colored tropical. This has been in the ground since last December, dying back early summer then putting out lush new growth late summer.


Another plant that makes an impact and is easy in a pot is Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Golden Arrow.’


Passiflora ‘Flying V’ produces flower buds all summer, but it’s only in late summer that they really fully open enough for a decent photo. Odd…


Hibiscus mutabilis is another heat lover. This one needs attentive watering, maybe less so after its first year.

Salvia ‘Waverly’ waking up and shaking off the summer doldrums
Echeverias are blooming in containers and in the garden

Another worthy mention for summer containers is Begonia luxurians.

This entry was posted in agaves, woody lilies, clippings, cut flowers, journal, pots and containers, succulents. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to garden clippings 9/7/21

  1. I have never given Coleus more than a passing glance. But your amazing rusty orange specimen is fabulous. I see some in my 2022 summer future! And Billy is a sweet doll, even if she is a digger…

  2. Denise says:

    Jane, that coleus came unlabeled but it looks like ‘Campfire,’ which can be grown from seed. I’ve been pinching out the flowers to keep it dense. I’m impressed with it too!

  3. Gerhard Bock says:

    I’ve tried to grow marigolds, the more substantial selections from Annie’s, but I couldn’t keep up with the watering

    Aloe divaricata ‘Chompers’ is awesome. Much bigger teeth than the species. Where did you find it?

    Good to see a glimpse of your new Encephalartos horridus, too! And seeing Billie is always a highlight!

  4. Denise says:

    Gerhard, I found it at Plant Depot under Waterwise Botanicals label. It is a stunner. Hope your pup is doing well too.

  5. Elaine says:

    Your garden is looking decidedly lush despite the hot summer. Plenty of beautiful flowers. Too bad Billie is a digger, those big paws can create havoc in a garden. Too bad she’s not Billie the rat-chatcher.

  6. Denise says:

    Elaine, I haven’t lost a plant to Billie yet, and if she seems especially attracted to a site I just pop a rock or a pot over it. Haven’t seen rats locally tho there are a lot of fruit trees in neighboring gardens. We are seeing enormous parrots that have naturalized locally — currently they are feasting on my neighbor’s schefflera seedheads! Good to hear from you!

  7. Kris P says:

    I love your penchant for experimentation, Denise. As soon as I saw that red Chrysanthemum I thought “dahlia” so I think that’s a great substitute for you. I’m perpetually disappointed by the Chrysanthemums sold by our local garden centers each year – I’d be willing to grow them as short-lived annuals if the specimens available weren’t so boring. Maybe I’ll try a mail order specimen someday, the only problem being I don’t much like their foliage and so might lose interest on babying them in pots from fall until summer. I always enjoy seeing Billie too.

  8. hb says:

    Billie a digger, with those little legs? So much dog in so small a size, just as your garden is so much garden in so small a space.

  9. Nell says:

    I’m in love with your mini-veldt image!

    Billie’s expression seems to say she’s really been through something, and it turns out she has. Glad you’re feeling better, girl.

    Excited to see your mums further into the fall.

  10. David Feix says:

    I wish I could successfully grow that red form of Shrimp plant here in Berkeley, but upon 2 attempts, I gave up! Love the color!

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