Monarch Chrysalis

Back at the start of November I made a post about wildlife in the garden and shared some pictures of monarch butterfly caterpillars.

I was in NYC visiting my family for Thanksgiving and when I got back most of them were gone. I did find a beautiful monarch chrysalis on the driveway (probably dropped there while I was weeding the garden. I forgot to check all the weeds I pulled before I threw them in the green waste bin).

So pretty. They look like they have been splashed with little bits of gold leaf. I gently placed the chrysalis on an Erica in my plant ghetto hoping it would be safe there.

And then I went home again for Christmas. I checked this morning and was happy to see that the Chrysalis is still there and is nearing the end of its transformation.

The butterflies wings are now clearly visible and soon it will be fully transformed. Pretty cool stuff.

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Fall Blooms

Fall was always my least favorite season when I lived back in the north-east. I dreaded the short days and the bitter cold and the thought that winter snow storms were just around the corner.  Luckily the change of seasons isn’t quite so bad here in California.

Late summer and fall are perhaps not the best times for a mediterranean climate garden but I have put in a few new gardens with plants that have a longer bloom season and I’ve paid more attention to watering this year so the garden is looking pretty spectacular at the moment.

Verbascum ‘Southern Charm’ started out pretty wimpy in my garden. But then I realized I wasn’t watering it enough. Even some drought tolerant plants need a little extra care when they are first getting established. A more consistent watering schedule had this plant covered in bloom spikes for months.

Calliandra californica is a native of southern California and Baja. Mine was trod upon during the sewer construction and looked pretty bleak. I potted it up and nursed it in my plant ghetto and it is slowly bouncing back. It rewarded me this fall with a single bloom that looks like an explosion of red fireworks.

Salvia farinacea ‘Victoria Blue’ is a short-lived perennial and Tithonia rotundifolia (Mexican sunflower) is a true annual. I could prolong the blooms on both if I carefully deadhead spent flowers but the birds love the seeds. Flocks of false gold finches and pine siskins are always fluttering between the bird feeders and the plants and the first of the winter visiting white crowned sparrows have started to arrive. The Tithonia has also been the number one favorite of monarch butterflies.

All the extra water to establish the new gardens gave me a second crop of annuals. These Layia platyglossa look just as nice as the ones last spring.

A few Convolvulus tricolor have popped up too.

I think this bee likes my Mentzelia lindleyi as much as I do.

I have read a few accounts that Mentzelia is  tricky to grow. In that case I am thankful that it seems happy in my sandy soil. The house across the street was refreshed with a new bed of gravel in place of the lawn (I am not sure it is much of an improvement).

A perfect Layia platyglossa bloom.

And a few fasciated ones as well.

My driveway Nicotiana mutabilis.

Rudbeckia ‘Marmalade’ and Salvia ‘Rhea’.

Seedlings of my Geranium maderense are abundant. Perhaps a bit too abundant.

Even my Yucca gigantea is blooming this year.

Glaucium grandiflorum is looking a worn out after six months of blooms.

It still had a few flowers left…

But I decided to cut it back and give it a rest.

Self sown Nicotiana mutabilis and Moluccella laevis join new plantings of Agastache ‘Blue Fortune’ and Salvia‘ Victoria Blue’.

The old flowers of my Eriogonum parvifolium turn from white to rusty-brown.

Salvia microphylla ‘Hot Lips’ got huge when I wasn’t looking. It has white and red and white bicolor blooms. Over its shoulder you can also make out the bright red blooms of Salvia darcyi.

My deranged looking Echium ‘Mr. Happy’ continues to bloom into fall.

Up close the little flowers are beautiful but you can also see that this plant is covered in sharp hairs. They are almost as bad as cactus spines and they are the reason I will not be collecting any seeds from this plant even though it is covered in them at the moment.

Gaillardia ‘Mesa Yellow’ would benefit from deadheading the old spherical spent blooms but at some point I just get overwhelmed by the sheer number of them. When the plant starts to get tired I can just cut the whole thing back to a few inches and it should come back nicely.

Gaillardia ‘Gallo Peach’ being visited by a bee. Gaillardia is a great plant for California gardens but you have to be careful with water. Too much and they are prone to fungal infections or may rot but too little and the plants will whither away.

So now I’ve brought us up to date with three seasons of blooms. Hopefully now I will make more of an attempt to keep up with the blog.

Mr. Crazy

So Mr. Happy has been blooming for over 3 months now. Because of the fasciation of the main stem he ended up being all twisted crazy and topped out at a bit over 8 feet tall.  People don’t quite know what to make of him and I have had many passersby stop and take a look (and a few have wandered right into the bed to get up close. Don’t do that folks. Gardeners hate that.).

The bees and hummingbirds go crazy for the flowers.

For a while the top looked like a deranged outstretched muppet hand.

It looks like it is going to grab someone doesn’t it? Maybe one of those rude people who wander into my flower beds.

The top keeps twisting and curling as it grows. Tons of seed forming so it will be interesting to see if I get a lot of seedlings. As you can see there is still one large rosette at the base that didn’t bloom so perhaps it will survive another year.

I wasn’t too happy at first about the fasciation but now I think it is pretty cool.

Mr. Happy you are KILLING me!

KILLING ME!

Yesterday went out into the garden and noticed that Mr. Happy had lost one of its three foot long lower side branches. It was covered in buds too.  Grrrr…

Upon closer examination this morning I think it was just too heavy to support itself at the 90 degree angle it was growing. Its trunk was pretty massive and it weighed quite a bit. The whole plant is pretty sturdy and it was on the side that is shielded from the worst wind so I don’t think that was the problem.

The rest of the plant has quite a few buds though at this rate I hope there is something left to bloom!

 

Improv Medit Garden

As a result of the sewer lateral I had to create a little improv garden for many of the plants in my mediterranean garden.  They were just going to die if I left them out of the ground while I waited for the work to finish. I potted up what I could but some of them were too large for one gallon pots and too small for five gallon pots. Luckily last year I created a garden bed in my back yard that failed. I had to do a lot of traveling last summer during the hottest, driest part of the year and what was mean to be a garden full of Salvia and other hummingbird attracting plants died.  The only survivors were a Kniphofia Flamenco, a Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ and a Grevillea ‘Penola’. There was a lot of empty space.  So I threw together a quick design and planted what I could. It isn’t perfect but I just had to get the plants in the ground quickly.

The picture above is what it looked like back in mid March.

And this is what it looks like now. Not bad considering the horrible dry and hot weather we have had since they were planted. I’ve actually dispensed with my usual hand watering and used a sprinkler to get this garden established.

Altogether about a quarter of the plants in my mediterranean garden got to stay where they were, a quarter were moved to this new bed, a quarter died or were, and a quarter went into pots where they await a future garden.

I used to hate the chain link fence around this part of the yard but now I am relieved it is there. My new neighbor has a dog that always escapes her confinement while he is at work and runs amuck through the garden. This is the one part of my yard that I know is safe from her.  Eccremocarpus and Cobaea are hard at work covering the fence so I can live with it.

Glaucium grandiflorum is a Mediterranean poppy and was the plant I was most worried about losing but it started blooming this week and you would never know that it had been moved.

Kniphofia Flamenco is a seed strain of South African red hot poker. It can be quite variable so it is best to only buy it when the flowers are in bloom so you are sure you like what you are getting. This soft orange and yellow is just what I wanted. Most Kniphofia grow near streams and moist areas and some are from summer rainfall areas of eastern South Africa so they do usually need some summer water to perform at their best but they do really well in California. Surprisingly this is one of the few plants that had survived in this spot from my former attempt at making a garden here.

Astericus maritimus from the Canary Islands and Mediterranean is a great plant if you want quick results.

I actually prefer these Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Blue’ in this spot than I did in their old home. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing that they had to be moved.

This Lavandula pinnata var. buchii was enormous and in full bloom when it had to be moved and it wad dug up by some random construction guy who “helped” me. It had very little roots left and I thought it was toast. I got it back into the ground as quickly as I could but the entire thing just wilted and flopped over.  I pruned it back almost all the way to the ground and in less than two months it has bounced back really nicely and started blooming again.  Behind it is Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’, which was also a survivor of the originally planned hummingbird garden in this spot, is already getting ready to bloom.

Salvia ‘Aromas’ sulked for a while but has perked up now and started to bloom. I considered moving it back to the front garden but decided not to push my luck. There are only so many times you can move plants this time of year before they give up.

Phlomis purpurea is another sulker that didn’t like being moved. Interestingly I read recently that one of the adaptations of some species of Phlomis, in the hot, dry summers of the Mediterranean areas they come from, is seasonal dimorphism of their leaves. Their winter leaves are thicker and better adapted to photosynthesize and the summer leaves are thinner, smaller, and even hairier and better adapted to retain moisture. I noticed with the shock of the move and the onset of hotter drier weather that these plants lost their leaves and regrew smaller leaves and have now stopped wilting.

Curious about how the newly planted old bed is doing?

The above picture is how it looked in early March. The center strip is mostly California natives. Salvia melifera, Arctostaphylos ‘Sentinel’, three types of Eriogonum, Erigeron ‘Wayne Roderick’, and purple and white California poppies. They looked so tiny back then it was definitely a bit depressing starting from scratch just when the garden had been ready to take off.

Two months later I have to admit I am kind of shocked at how quickly they have grown. I think by next year this garden will be fully filled out and looking great. Despite the fact that they are now in pure sand and it has bee so hot and dry they are thriving on just weekly watering. In fact they are showing no signs of stress at all so I may start moving them to a twelve day watering cycle and see how they do.

Of course I wish the construction had never happened but I think the garden is coming along nicely.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day – April 2013

I’m usually not organized enough to participate in Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day with May Dreams Gardens but this month I have a bunch of blooms and I’m ready!

Most of my true annual volunteers are still looking pretty good.

All the plants in the foreground of the above shot are volunteers. Oh how I love free plants!

Zaluzianskya capensis bloomed all winter but the warmer it gets the more abundantly it blooms and the more fragrant it is. I’ve seen others criticize it for not being very exciting but I think the shrubby little plants are quite attractive and when the blooms open in the afternoon it is gorgeous.

Linaria reticulata ‘Flamenco’ is still blooming like crazy. A few at the front (where they receive less water) are starting to peter out.  I’m wondering if I will get any new seedlings and bloom for the season or if I am going to have to fill this big area of the garden with a few summer bloomers.

Ursinia anthemoides were a huge success this year and many are still in full bloom.

Geranium maderense has survived the wind storms and has been putting on a show for the past month.

Clianthus puniceus from New Zealand deserves better placement in the garden than I gave it.  It has long stems that get weighted down by the large flowers so they end up hanging down pretty close to the ground.  Closer to the front of a raised bed or large container is my suggestion for anyone growing this neat plant.

Sutherlandia frutescens from South Africa is a similar pea flowered plant but a little more delicate. This one bloomed in just one year from seed despite some rough handling. First it got swamped by some Lotus growing nearby, then it got tromped on and snapped in half by construction workers, I dug it up just in time before they could do more damage and it surprised me with new growth and new blooms in the gallon pot it calls home now.

Echium gentianoides ‘Tajinaste’ is basically a smaller and more airy and delicate Echium candicans.

Most of my succulents are living in containers in the backyard. Awaiting some future garden. My Aloe dorotheae surprised me with a beautiful organe and green inflorescence.

I’m very glad I kept two Craspedia globosa in my mediterranean garden.

Hymenolepis parviflora has become a nice little shrub. It bounced back quickly after an attack by caterpillars last month.

I have tons of ladybugs which is a good thing because I also have tons of aphids.

A few Coreopsis gigantea flowers remain.

I snapped this photo of a Dudleya pulverulenta inflorescence just in time. A few days later my neighbors large dog escaped confinement and went on a rampage through my garden.  She snapped stems and small plants left and right. My future garden will have a fence to keep out neighbors dogs as well as marauding deer.

Euphorbia mauritanica in bloom looks pretty sticky and a bit sinister up close.

I am sure that there are some people who would consider Chrysanthemum paludosum a potentially noxious weed. A six pack of plants last year became thousands this year. But they are very easy to edit out and much more charming and longer blooming than perennial Chrysanthemum hosmariense that I also grow. They have become one of my “must have” plants.

I’ve posted about Thymus juniperifolius a few times.  In full bloom you can’t even see the foliage that gives it its Latin name.

Convolvulus sabatius is a tough and reliable plant for California gardens.

I had no luck with Penstemons last year. I planted many and they all withered and died. I’m trying again this year with various P. heterophyllus cultivars.  This is ‘Margarita BOP’.

Lavandula stoechas ‘Boysenberry Ruffles’ is pretty spectacular despite the fufu name.

Up close the bicolor blooms are pretty intense.

I like the overall form of this Lavandula stoechas ‘Blue Star’ (even though it is a bit floppy).

But up close the flowers are a bit stunted compared to other L. stoechas cultivars. The jury is still out on this one for me.

I’ll have to check my notes but it seems like this Mentzelia lindleyi has been blooming for about two months. Very rewarding since it is a California native and it was also a free volunteer. This winds have battered it a bit but it is still going strong.

I posted this little vignette last week but this week the Euphorbia ‘Blue Haze’ is in full bloom.

The first blooms of Berlandiera lyrata are opening up. It is well worth getting down on the ground to get a whiff of the amazing hot cocoa smell of these flowers.

Last year I was quite disappointed with Eccremocarpus scaber ‘Cherry Red’. It just sort of sat there looking sad all summer.  Since everything in California seems to grow like crazy I forgot that some perennials need a year or two to get established.  Now it is doing just what I wanted it to do. Covering the ugly chain link fence.  And the hummingbirds go crazy for it.

I think that is enough for now! Do go check out the links at May Dreams Gardens to see what is blooming in other garden bloggers parts of the world.