while I was away

We have a new member of the family, so of course I had to immediately become acquainted with little Hannah, who resides in a foggy coastal Oregon town. And even though she’s only days’ old, I began deliberating before leaving, What shall she call me? Nana? Mimi? Grandmothers in our family style themselves with the French word for grandmother, Memere, but my mom seemed to so thoroughly own that title that it feels inappropriate somehow to take it on. After meeting little Hannah, I’ve decided she can call me anything she wants — just please call me! Anytime, anywhere…

the big news while I was away — flowers opening on bromeliad Alcantarea odorata

As well as helping friends pack and move house, Marty handled the garden and Billie while I was away and seemed overwhelmingly pleased to have me home to take over garden responsibilities again. I didn’t make it easy for him, leaving lots of new plants needing extra attention while they settle in, next to succulents that don’t want any water at all, etc…I still can’t get over what a phenomenal job he did at the hot end of July. I planted an Annie’s Annuals order a day or two before I left — what was I thinking? — and not a single plant was lost. Bravo, Marty! (And sorry I’m such a PIA.)


Between Marty’s dutiful attention to watering duties and the 90-degree heat, the garden is incredibly lush, with the trevesia in particular throwing some bronzy new leaves that look like they were cast in dyed concrete.


It’s always so much fun to prowl the garden after a few days away, when it has even more of a capacity to surprise. There were buds on this tillandsia when I left, but I was unprepared for this graceful performance. Possibly T. stricta — tell me if you disagree. I’m very lax with tillandsia names.

The blooming tillandsia is massed with other bromeliads and succulents on wire scaffolding along the east fence, and this arrangement has worked out surprisingly well throughout sumner, mostly getting by on misting

Pineapple lilies opened.


With the high temps, the tropicals exploded into growth and flower, like this shrimp plant.


A six-pack of Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ was planted down the rock spine right before I left.


The gomphrena hasn’t made much size yet, but at least all six survived. The Carex testacea on the right is lush, happy, and reseeding along the rock spine. A Libertia chilensis was just squeezed into this area too, part of the Annie’s Annuals order.


This little coreopsis was a recent local find, ‘Hardy Jewel Desert Coral’ — not much info available on it other than the name implies it’s perennial and not an annual.


The sideritis and Verbena bonariensis were pretty much done, so they were both pulled — with high hopes for reseeding — and a couple Sesleria ‘Campo Azul’ I had potted in reserve were slipped in. (This sesleria, along with the sedge Carex testacea, have become the dominant grassy presence in the back garden.) Now Aloe marlothii can get a nice baking this August and redden up those spines.

Silvery succulent is Kalanchoe bracteata

And I took the opportunity to clean up some of the wandering pups of Agave lophantha ‘Quadricolor.’ I really need to pull that bloomed-out ruby grass as well — Melinus nerviglumis provides plenty of seedlings.

bloom on bromeliad Alcantarea odorata

Back to that crazy bloom truss on the bromeliad. I’d been debating whether to stake it, and in a week’s time it’s become nearly parallel to the ground. I really need to make a staking decision or risk damaging the flowers. (I think the better approach might be to tie it with fishing line to the tetrapanax.) The individual flowers are lightly scented. I can find no information on if and how many pups will form, and whether they will be on the bloom spike or at the base. My Tillandsia secunda is incredibly prolific, continually throwing pups along the spike and at the base, and has been doing so since July last year! In bloom a full year, I noticed new flowers buds forming on it again just this morning, which means more pups will form along the stalk — very different from agaves. My White Agave, A. mitis var. albiodor, has finished blooming, and I’m desperately scanning the base for a single pup — I may have spotted one — whereas I’ve taken at least a dozen pups already from the tillandsia.


Hoping your gardens are also pleasing you this summer, whether nourishing your eye or stomach — or both!

Posted in agaves, woody lilies, journal, succulents | 4 Comments

July 2021 garden report

not my pool, but don’t you feel cooler already just looking at it? (photo by MB Maher)

With the drought tightening its grip, Californians have been asked to cut water use by 15 percent compared with last year. Even so, yesterday I let a hose trickle to deep-water parts of the garden, which was getting by on strategic spraying of mostly new plantings and containers up till now. And I’ve been continuing with new planting even into July, filling the holes repeatedly with water before settling in a couple new passifloras. (After all, the government encourages us to consider the benefits of “Using Trees and Vegetation to Reduce Heat Islands,” and I think maintaining a cooling biomass balanced with smart resource management is an important discussion to have now.) Last month’s water bill had us pegged at using 165 gallons a day. The average usage per person is roughly around 100 gallons, so we’re doing okay considering it’s a summer water bill.

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Posted in agaves, woody lilies, Bloom Day, Bulbs, journal, MB Maher, pots and containers | 7 Comments

more lilies

All these lilies were planted fall 2020 in my zone 10b, about a mile from the Pacific Ocean. We had very little winter rain, but the bulbs managed to grow and bloom on mostly hand watering and careful mulching. Bulbs were sited near plants that love the extra water, such as bocconia, and well apart from the agaves and other dry garden plants. IDs are based on what I ordered and notes on where the bulbs were planted, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that some IDs aren’t correct…speak up if you have a difference of opinion! And let me just say that waking up to a newly opened lily bud is not a bad way to start a July morning…

‘Bell Tower’ — a single bud, stem 3 feet, needs staking. I prefer multiple buds per stem even if the flowers are smaller individually
‘Black Beauty’ hovering over a kalanchoe leaf, about 5 feet in height, 6-7 buds to a stem that needs staking
‘Black Beauty’
and ‘Black Beauty’ again

‘Red Velvet’ — stems over 6 feet with up to 12 buds, the only lily that hasn’t required staking
‘Red Velvet’ — I’d love to have this lily increase and return next year, along with ‘Black Beauty,’ ‘Silk Road,’ and ‘Eurydice’
‘Eurydice’ using Sonchus palmensis for some support but the stem is fairly upright on its own – 2-1/2 feet tall, about 6 buds per stem
‘Silk Road,’ about 5 feet in height, needs staking, approx 6 buds per stem — not too sure about the ID on this
‘Silk Road’

For such over-the-top floral extravagance, I gotta say growing these lilies was surprisingly easy, with only a couple no-shows, mostly the coppery colors (‘Make Peace’ and ‘Copper Crown’). Whether any return next year is an open-ended question — and if they don’t, that’s fine too. One season of thrills more than justifies the expense — keeping in mind what you’d pay per stem as cut flowers. Order the bulbs now for the best selection for fall planting.

Posted in Bulbs, cut flowers | 5 Comments

Six on Saturday

  1. ‘Eurydice’ lilies opened this week, an asiatic with martagon-esque, downward-facing blooms. Zone 10 gardeners are reminded that lilies do not necessarily return every summer for us, so arborator cave (grower beware!)

2. The echeverias are blooming — the one above is a gigantea hybrid.


It has this scrumptious, stone-fruit coloration of plummy stems and apricot blooms.


3. The young Passiflora vitifolia continues to relax into the garden, this summer its first of blooming really well.


It’s escaped the pergola and is reaching out to the tetrapanax for more support. For now, I’m taking a lenient approach. Adding further to its allure, after the flowers drop, the dark, papery bracts stud the vine.


4. My apaganthus and grasses experiment continues, with no verdict as of yet. However, very few of the agapanthus planted last year rebloomed this summer — that’s a single flower of ‘Indigo Frost’ out of three plants. I added in a couple ‘Brilliant Blue’ yesterday. In a larger garden, with more generous spacing, I think this could work. The size and height of Sesleria ‘Campo Azul’ is a good fit for the agapanthus flowers. Historically, agapanthus don’t mind being crowded and do grow among grasses in their native South Africa. In the long run, if the experiment means I have to choose grass or agapanthus, I’m favoring the grass. This selection by Native Sons is that good. The sesleria responds well to irrigation but is also very tolerant of dry conditions, and aloes work well with it. The agapanthus may need to become better established to tolerate the same irrigation regimen. For a larger zone 10 garden, imagine a long sweep of big succulents like agaves in gravel, backed by rhythmic pockets and bays of this grass and agapanthus and maybe kangaroo paws for summer — try it and let me know how it works! If that sort of thing appeals to you…


5. ‘Fiesta’ aeonium is greener than ‘Mardi Gras,’ which languished then disappeared a while ago. Both are known to be weak growers. I actually prefer ‘Fiesta,’ and maybe with more green to the leaves it might have a bit more oomph in vigor.


6. The containers against the office/garage. Orange flowers are Senecio confusus, which confusedly collapsed in spring, and armfuls had to be pulled down from the trellis and under the eaves. I assumed it was dead. New lush growth resumed not long after I planted a Cobaea scandens in the same container to pick up the senecio’s slack. The cobaea has reached the eaves now and will hopefully have some flowers soon to mix it up with the orange daisies. With eucomis and Solanum pyracanthum and a bunch of other stuff. Lower right silvery plant is Didelta ‘Silver Strand.’ And, no worries, those bottle openers hanging near the clock are purely decorative….

In the U.S., enjoy your long weekend!

(Six on Saturday is hosted by The Propagator — this is the first week I’ve crashed the meme!)

Posted in Bulbs, clippings, journal, Plant Portraits, pots and containers, succulents | 4 Comments

dwarf statice and what else is new in June


The dwarf statice, Limonium minutum, are new this June. Planted along the spine of rocks laid down last November, their tight cushions send out slender stems that branch upward to hold aloft sparkling clouds of everlasting blooms, creating a gauzy mist over surrounding succulents. Hardy to at least zone 5 too. I love the effervescence they add from a small footprint, bringing a see-through performance that doesn’t smother other plants. So far, unless they’re terribly intrusive reseeders, we’re good.


Very new this June, as in just planted yesterday, are two rectangular planters filled with Anigozanthos ‘Tequila Sunrise,’ Leymus condensatus ‘Canyon Prince,’ Teucrium azureum, and Cuphea micropetala. The leymus grasses will most likely be moved into the parkway in fall. I used this grass in the no-water hellstrip for a local pocket park, and its flourishing icy blueness is one of my favorite sights when walking Billie to the park. So I may break my “never planting our hell strip again, oh, hell no” rule and use it in our own parkway, where it just might be able to outcompete car doors and careless shoes and trash where other plants failed.

Kangaroo paws ‘Regal Velvet’ and ‘Tequila Sunrise’ — the fading flowers on ‘Regal Velvet’ have been cut and brought into the house for dried flowers. I dislike the color as it ages in the garden, especially since ‘Tequila Sunrise’ has a much longer period of vibrancy and holds its color better

‘Tequila Sunrise’ is possibly my favorite paw of all, and I may add it to existing clumps in the garden in fall, replacing the red ‘Regal Velvet’ — a good grower but I dislike the way the color ages. ‘Regal Velvet’ might be good if separated from the orange paws and moved against the grey east fence.


The cuphea, aka Giant Mexican Cigar Plant, should be able to handle summer in a container. It’s too much of a sprawler to squeeze into an already packed garden, but I knew my hummingbirds would be furious if I didn’t bring it home. (I rarely see this cuphea for sale locally but found it at Village in Huntington Beach.) The back planter holds the kangaroo paws and a leymus, giving the paws sun and light at their crowns; the front planter got another leymus and the big spreaders like the cuphea and teucrium, so they can spill onto the bricks and not on the paws.

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the potted Yucca linearifolia was brought back from the dead, dug up from the garden and nursed back to health — and yes, I’m very proud that I stuck by it during an extended ugly period, something I find difficult to do!

Even though I haven’t had much luck with the parrot’s beak plant, Lotus berthelotii, in the past, I added a couple among the new plantings along the rock spine, and it seems happy here, along with Hebe ‘Quicksilver’ and Marrubium bourgaei ‘All Hallows Green’ (formerly a ballota).

lotus, hebe, and marrubium near the base of Leucospermum ‘Tango’ — large succulent-ish leaves upper left are Brassica cretica subsp aegae grown from seed from Liberto Dario

Planted a couple months ago from a 4-inch pot mail-ordered from Dancing Oaks Nursery, Bupleurum fruticosum surprised me with throwing a bloom. Which was intense instant gratification to see the umbels for which this evergreen shrub is justly famous and the reason why I’ve repeatedly tried to make it happy in my garden.


I’ve been reading nothing but good reports on Euphorbia ‘Blue Haze’ and found three small plants locally. E. ‘Dean’s Hybrid’ is another one I’d like to try.


I was crazy happy to find this unlabeled herbaceous euphorbia locally at Green Touch Nursery. I splurged on the 3-gallon, about 3-feet tall, but gallons were available too and I’m debating whether to go back and grab a couple more.


It’s not mellifera, lambii or stygiana, all of which I have grown. Those red petioles are an insanely brilliant touch. It reminds me of Euphorbia ceratocarpa, a plant I grew and lost many years ago. It was Oscar’s day off when I found it, so I need to call him and see if he has an ID for it.


The bloom on bromeliad Alcantarea odorata is taller than me, and I’m 5’8″ — the growth seems to be slowing and the buds are fattening, so maybe flowering is imminent.


For someone who loves to change up the garden, for once that’s not the case — I’m really going to miss this big bromeliad under the tetrapanax.


At Upland Nursery in Orange I found Vriesea ‘Nova,’ which may get the alcantarea’s spot once it’s done blooming. When the alcantarea’s pups make size, though, I’d love to see that silvery rosette sidled up against the tetrapanax again.


On the northeast side of the house I finally planted my long-suffering Cussonia paniculata after seeing how well Max’s are doing in the ground in Oakland (check his Instagram feed here). Mine has been so slow, countless years, in building a rounded canopy. It will actually get good morning sun here, and some late afternoon sun as well. Adjacent Cussonia spicata, still potted, has the same problem — spindly leaf growth but atop a much longer trunk.


Deeper in the shade against the house, Sansevieria cylindrica was recently added for some height and line to balance all the big leaves.

Schefflera taiwniana at lower left, potted sansevieria on a pedestal, Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’ on the right

The new scheffleras are starting to come in to local nurseries. I think I found this Schefflera taiwaniana at H&H in Los Angeles. The sheltered, northeast exposure is my best guess for giving it a decent chance. The new mystery euphorbia has a very similar foliar effect, but for sun.

Begonia luxurians

I’ve had such a hankering for the palm-leaf begonia this summer and have been looking everywhere for it. Village Nursery in Huntington Beach is where to find them locally — and nowhere else because, believe me, I’ve looked.

Grown from seed from Liberto Dario

Malabaila aurea is one of those plants in the category of you’ve got to grow it for yourself to believe it. Tiny, insignificant yellow umbels transform into the most extraordinary seedheads. A few plants are flowering, and if I want more plants next year I’ll have to resist saving the dried seedheads for vases and leave them to self-sow. Just wow.

not new but returning for several summers now, Eryngium pandanifolium

Grevillea ‘Poorinda Blondie’ is hanging in there its first summer, which so far has been very mild and nothing to complain about here in coastal Southern California. My heart goes out to all of you currently coping with extreme weather events. And if you are considering celebrating with fireworks this upcoming holiday, please reconsider — they don’t mix well with the extreme drought conditions out West.


Billie now has many friends that stop by our gate when walking their dogs throughout the day, and everyone comments on how comically looong she’s gotten, and also how skinny! She’s definitely in a growth spurt, corgi style!

Affectionately, AGO.

Posted in journal, plant crushes, plant nurseries, pots and containers, succulents | 11 Comments

dragon trees

a dragon tree, Dracaena draco, takes decades to reach even this size — Venice, Calif

A few years ago I had the opportunity to help with a small front garden, that was designed to receive only occasional hand watering. I planted agaves and other succulents, dymondia, some bromeliads, three Hesperaloe ‘Brakelights,’ (all of which withered away — why not choose life, hesperaloe!?) and a dragon tree, Dracaena draco, the first and only time I’ve planted this succulent tree. Although slow growing, I knew its potential size might be a problem — I seem to have a fatal attraction to Canary Islanders! Right now the dragon slumbers in the form of an innocuous, leafy rosette, roughly about 4X3′. But when it flowers, which is still a long way off, but when it does, its stem will begin to branch and develop that mesmerizingly dense, umbrella-like canopy, with branches radiating outward like arterioles, that can rise over 20 feet. Now, with the house changing hands soon, I’m debating whether to dig it up or leave the botanical time bomb in place.

Dracaena cinnabari image by Daniel Kordan

My smoldering moral dilemma involving a single dragon tree was recently inflamed by some amazing images by photographer Daniel Kordan. Dracaena draco is not the only dragon tree named for its red sap, which Greek myth says originates in the dragon blood spilled when Hercules vanquished Ladon in the Garden of the Hesperides. The subject of Kordan’s photos is Dracaena cinnabari, the Socotra dragon tree from Yemen, that also spills red sap when cut, a resin used not only medicinally but also in many other applications such as for dyes and varnish. The storied dragon trees have sparked imaginations for millenia, Greek, Roman, and Arab. And now I’m in a quandary over what to do with the baby one I planted in a small city garden in Los Angeles, facing a busy sidewalk, where its presence goes mostly unnoticed….for now.

Dracaena cinnabari image by Daniel Kordan

I might have to go shopping for a large pot this weekend for a baby dragon tree — and happy Father’s Day to all our dads!

Posted in photography, Plant Portraits | Tagged | 7 Comments

the mysterious island in my back garden


One of the movies on heavy VHS-cassette rotation when my boys were young was Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island. Hot air balloon escape from a Civil War-era prison, crash landing near an uncharted island to fight for survival against monster-size crabs, chickens, and bees — all exquisitely rendered by the special effects artistry of Ray Harryhausen. Riveting stuff (and the boys liked it too, ha ha…)

A single truss bloomed in March this year, with satellite trusses forming like elephant ears in May.

Now I’ve flipped the script on the bees. Watching them frenzy over my Tree Dandelion, Sonchus palmensis, I have to wonder if the local bees feel they’ve wandered into a mysterious island of their own. Up and down the street dandelions come in the garden-size variety, but buzz over our fence and the dandelion is as big as a tree. And there may be more than one soon, because it’s apparently happy enough here to self-sow. For zones 9b-11.

Self-sown seedling of Sonchus palmensis, lower right rosette.

Coming from what are to me the ultimate mysterious islands, filled with one-off, eccentric, and just plain gorgeous flora, the Canaries, Sonchus palmensis turns the back garden into an adventure, for me and the bees.

Posted in Plant Portraits | Tagged | 6 Comments

lilies again (and time to order tulips!)

Improbable mashup of agave, castor bean, Sonchus palmensis and possibly Lily ‘Eurydice’ — the color is right, though the bloom habit is supposed to be drooping, pendant, not outward facing. Maybe that habit develops as the bulb matures? Whichever way it hangs, the scent is incredible

Here in dry frost-free zone 10b, grow lilies in containers. That’s what I’ve been admonishing myself for years. And that’s what I’ve been doing, without much noticeable benefit, because the bulbs rarely return a second year whether in the ground or containers. It could be the lack of winter chill and/or me falling down on watering duties after they bloom. But in the housebound August of 2020, late summer being when the selection is best, I deliriously ordered over a dozen lilies; and upon their arrival in October/November I planted them in the ground. Potato/potatuh, right? If success in containers is minimal, it’s back to the garden for the bulbs. At the very least, there wasn’t an extra dozen containers underfoot all winter/spring.

unlike other bulbs, lilies never go dormant, and they require even moisture year-round. And when an Oriental lily bud unfurls and throws its scent…ooh la la!

At twilight just these two lilies in bloom wafted scent strong enough to fill the entire back garden. Even when it’s too dark to see, it’s hard to leave that scent behind and head indoors at the end of the day. I ordered my lilies from B&D Lilies and the Lily Garden, and both companies are highly recommended for selection and service. Be warned that not all lilies are scented; the colorful, earlier blooming Asiatic lilies bear no scent.

no ID — my lily bulb binge garnered a bonus unnamed orienpet from B&D Lilies

So this year I mostly skipped the tulip rigamarole but went in a big way for lilies, and there are a half dozen stalks with buds forming in pockets throughout the garden.

Move over, aloes and agaves. Even a garden as small and densely planted as mine can squeeze in some lilies.

Treating them both as expensive annuals, I find lilies actually easier to manage than tulips. There are no pests like the lily beetle here waiting to ravage the flowers, and so far no creature disturbs or attempts to dig up the bulbs. However, the tulip rigamarole will be back for 2022 — some pandemic habits, like heavy catalogue use, will be difficult to break!

a good one for forcing/prechilling, Tulip ‘Queen of the Night’ March 2011. The Triumph and Single Early varieties are generally good bets for prechilling, which is how frost-free zones like mine must handle the bulbs

Once again I ordered early for the best selection, and the bulbs will come this fall 2021 prechilled. Incorrigible is the word that best describes this bulb habit, a peculiar form of zonal denial. And this cool spring I’m enviously reading reports of how long the tulips are lasting.

handled prechill regime well — Tulip ‘Brown Sugar’ February 2011

With their mysterious bulbous nature, hidden underground like Persephone for much of the year, I find them the ultimate garden tease. Delivery devices of rich, complex colors suspended on slim green stems, their appearance searingly intense but brief. In a condensed performance, bulbs enact a preview of the transformations a garden will make spring through fall.

Tulip ‘Double Beauty of Apeldoorn’ March 2011

I suppose it’s because they are so difficult here that I find them perversely irresistible. I don’t dream of large municipal plantings of tulips in spring, just a few pots on my back steps to celebrate Persephone’s triumphant reemergence as captured in the fleeting drama of ‘Gavota‘ — and maybe next year ‘Bastogne‘ and ‘Amber Glow‘ too if the prechill rigamorale is a success.

Posted in Bulbs, journal, plant nurseries, pots and containers | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Under Western Skies

“[M]ost gardens are a three-part alchemy between the riches and constraints of the natural and/or cultural history of the place, the individual creativity and personality of the gardener, and the gardening culture in which both the garden and the gardener exist.”

preface to Under Western Skies
Under Western Skies - Cover

I’ve been taking small sips of this delicious new book by Jennifer Jewel and photographer Caitlin Atkinson, rich in both words and images. So often I become fixated on what the West lacks — abundant rainfall, for instance. Under Western Skies‘ emphasis on the West’s natural beauty and the rare opportunities it affords to make unique gardens here has refreshed my appreciation for my home. This book shows that the only lack one must be wary of in making a garden in the West is imagination.

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the Reids’ garden at Hog Hill, Sebastopol, Calif., photo by Caitlin Atkinson
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Rancho Arroyo, Phoenix, Arizona, photo by Caitlin Atkinson
Nature Garden by Mia Lehrer, Natural History Museum, Los Angeles, Calif., photo by Caitlin Atkinson
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the Taft Gardens and Nature Preserve, Ojai, Calif., photo by Caitlin Atkinson
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Marwin Gardens, Watsonville, Calif., photo by Caitlin Atkinson
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David Godshall’s Edendale Garden, Echo Park, Calif., photo by Caitlin Atkinson
Bernard Trainor’s garden, Carmel-By-The-Sea, photo by Caitlin Atkinson
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Academy for the Love of Learning, New Mexico, photo by Caitlin Atkinson
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Harborton Hill, Portland, Oregon, photo by Caitlin Atkinson

Rarely do garden images and words complement each other as effectively as they do here; the collaborative synergy between writer and photographer comes through page after page. This over 400-page book is filled with unforgettable images of brilliant planting, such as cactus spires rising up from a froth of flowering buckwheat. And the detailed discussions of both the people and plants provide insight into the process of making a garden that can be universally applied, whatever sky you’re under. In books and magazines the West is often celebrated for the outdoor culture it has pioneered and exported, its patios and swimming pools, not its Coast Live Oaks, saguaros, Joshua trees and manzanitas. This plant-driven, deeply felt love letter to Western landscapes and gardens restores plants as central to the idea of a garden in the West, and for that alone it is to be cherished. It is highly recommended as a book to to be placed within easy access on your bookshelf, to be referred to over and over again when making a garden that attempts to honestly engage with your own unique land and sky.

(My copy of Under Western Skies was kindly provided by Timber Press for review.)

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new planting progress report

In November 2020 three Monterey cypresses were removed, the wooden fence replaced, a small brick patio removed, and the plantings reworked. Fernleaf acacia trunk is center photo.
roughly the same angle today. Agave victoriae-reginae needed potting up and received a celebratory matte turquoise pot

In November 2020 the east side of the garden saw some major renovations. The size of the lemon cypresses on the east boundary, Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Citriodora,’ had dictated the character of the planting in its root and shade shadow. After their removal, the planting became intentional instead of reactive. A lot of the new planting was woven around original plants that were retained, such as Yucca rostrata, aloes, forms of Agave attenuata, tough plants that had managed to thrive in less-than-ideal conditions. In the far corner, a purple-leaved crinum and Doryanthes palmeri were also retained. Rarely do I think ahead about before-and-after documentation, but there are a few photos of this area that show how it’s been filling in. I am a plant-crazy person, there’s no two ways about it, so this in no way is a comprehensive plant report but more of a quick overview.

Dustin Gimbel’s ceramic totems are temporarily on loan from Mitch until his own garden is ready for them. Most recent additions are the two Ballota acetabulosa ‘All Hallows Green’ in the foreground, the sharp end of the wedge (now Marrubium bourgaei ‘All Hallows Green’)

Today the planting has taken on a wedge shape, with the narrowest end meeting up with the brick patio. I initially didn’t intend to take the planting this close to the bricks but — you know how it goes when you’re weak-kneed susceptible to the stunning beauty of plants. My neighbor’s garage is the visible structure. Leucospermum ‘Tango’ and Grevillea ‘Poorinda Blondie’ are two big, shrubby, and hopefully permanent additions on either side of the totems.

Before the crushed rock mulch which was put down in November/December 2020. The tight buns in the foreground and in front of Agave ‘Arizona Star’ are a dwarf statice I found at Worldwide Exotics, most likely Limonium minutum. It’s sending up clouds of bloom now — love it! I have a slightly larger form too, no ID.

Breaking this down a bit more, in the fall 2020 renovations, a sloping, roughly east/west spine of rocks was laid up to the fence. Lots of my potted succulents were planted along the rocks.

the old LA street light shade was deployed when the gravel was empty of plants

There was a lot of gravel showing early on — not so much now as the planting has absorbed new acquisitions and as spring progresses into summer. The slim trunk belongs to a young Euphorbia cotinifolia which was planted as a small understory tree to the fernleaf acacia.

Poppies have already filled in, bloomed, and been pulled. Gomphostigma virgatum is now hidden under mauve bachelor buttons.

Another Yucca rostrata was moved in front of the fence, transplanted from the front yard.

newly planted succulents along the rocks settling in over winter. Heuchera maxima was planted behind the existing Yucca rostrata, now one of two here. Agave geminiflora in a tall pot was slipped in behind the heuchera. Yet-to-bloom Aloe wickensii in foreground, Aloe ‘Jacob’s Ladder’ to the left. Grassy and strappy leaves are the predominant feature here year-round, whether sedges, yuccas, restios, agaves…
alstroemeria leaves filling in on the left
spring growth filling in along the rocks — especially prominent is the Alstroemeria ‘Indian Summer’ — on the left, silver leaves, is the happiest dudleya I’ve ever grown. Carex testacea on the right is a prolific reseeder.
Yucca ‘Magenta Magic’ on left, Mangave ‘Purple People Eater’ on the right. With dwarf statice, echeverias, Chondropetalum tectorum lower left
wands of statice forming flowers
looking to the west, Plectranthus argentatus bulking up, the white flowers of Heuchera maxima now fading to tan
southeast corner with permanent planting of strappy-leaved Doryanthes palmeri, dark-leaved crinum, big leaves of Trevesia palmata. Alstroemeria ‘Third Harmonic’ was already established in this corner as well.

I’ve had a great time playing around with new plantings, keeping in mind the two categories of planting intention: plants that are hopefully permanent, such as the Trevesia palmata above right, and those that are intended for the 2021 season, like Digiplexis ‘Illumination Apricot.’ Silvery plectranthus, bronze fennel, palm-leaved geranium, gaura, verbascum, castor bean are all in the less-than-permanent category, though some will reseed or be easily renewed with cuttings.

Euphorbia cotinifolia engulfed by spring surge. Grevillea leaves in the foreground.

The Euphorbia cotinifolia, even though not an especially long-lived shrub/small tree, is also intended as a permanent feature. One of it’s drawbacks is that it is a prolific reseeder here. I intend to keep it clipped to no more than 8-10 feet, which will keep the reseeding down somewhat — although this morning I noticed flowers forming.

The leucospermum in particular will want frequent irrigation until it’s established.

I’m hoping to do another progress report towards the end of summer, with the aim of checking on size compatibility and seeing what’s survived the hot, dry months — “dry months” being relative terms, as this area has been hand-watered since planting last fall, with scant rainfall recorded. Oh, California! You don’t make it easy…

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