Erica diaphana

Have I talked about Erica diaphana before? I can’t remember.  I love it because it is the first woody plant I have ever grown from seed. The seed was like dust, the seedlings so tiny that I ended up keeping them in a Ziploc baggy under lights for at least six months, so I am thrilled that I had several plants survive and even more thrilled that they lived long enough to bloom. I purchased the seed from Silverhill Seeds in South Africa and sowed them on 1/13/2012.

Erica diaphana

I have three of them in my plant ghetto which has become really overgrown. I just didn’t have the time to deal with it in spring and by summer everything had grown huge and rooted through their pots into the ground. I didn’t really want to dig things up while they were blooming so I kept putting it off. Now it is a jungle and plants are crushing each other so I already set up some new drip line and I am going to try to start salvaging plants. I hope I am able to save these Ericas and pot them up into larger pots without killing them.

Erica diaphana

I love that the flowers are sort of shiny and greasy looking. Beautiful but there is something a bit off about them too. Flowers that look like shiny plastic are neat.



Succulent Macros

I haven’t really posted any little succulent pics in a while because many of them are dormant during the spring and summer and don’t look like much. After our recent rain storm they are springing back to life so it is time for an update.

All of them are plants that I started from seed except for the Fenestraria. Most of them are in two or three inch pots so that should give you an idea of their size.

Frithia pulchra

Frithia pulchra

Titanopsis primosii

Titanopsis primosii

Fenestraria rhopalophylla subsp. rhopalophylla

Fenestraria rhopalophylla subsp. aurantiaca

Stomatium alboroseum

Crassula barklyi

Crassula macowaniana

Cheiridopsis cigarettifera

Lithops optica ssp. rubra

Mitrophyllum dissitum

 Mitrophyllum dissitum

 Mitrophyllum grande

 Monilaria pisiformis (I am not convinced that any of my Monilaria are going to survive dormancy. There is a bit of green in some of them but they are not doing much)

Cheiridopsis glomerata

Gibbaeum comptonii

Oophytum oviforme

Muiria hortenseae

Muiria hortenseae

The last four – Cheiridopsis glomerata, Gibbaeum comptonii, Oophytum oviforme, and Muiria hortenseae were left in their original seedling containers way too long. For little mesembs (especially tricky ones like Muiria and Oophytum) it is a balancing act on potting the plants up into individual pots. Too soon and you may kill them. If you wait too long, however, they become overgrown and their roots are so entwined it is difficult to extricate them from each other without doing damage or even killing some. I had planned on potting them up in September, after returning from a trip back east, but while I was gone the drip irrigation on my nearby container plants had sprung a leak and water was shooting up like a geyser a few times a week.  It filled the tray they were in with water so they were soaking for a few days. Not ideal for any succulent!  I let them dry out for a bit and then proceeded with potting them up and happily most of them are looking pretty good. The Oophytum are still a bit dodgy but those are tricky plants to begin with. If they fail I’ll try again and be more careful next time.

Wildlife in the Garden

You don’t have to do too much to attract wildlife to your garden. Basically if you build it they will come. Certain plant families are have a lot to offer different types of wildlife though. Salvias and any Asteraceae are sure things to attract a wide range of little beasties. Hummingbirds and bees love Salvia nectar and finches enjoy the seeds. Butterflies and bees love plants in the Aster family and once again finches and other birds love the seeds.

Of course bird feeders are helpful too. Bird feeders and seed are pretty expensive though. A nyjer/thistle feeder is probably the most affordable route to go as the seed generally lasts a long time and usually only small finches are attracted to it and can fit on the feeders. Shelled sunflower seeds are an excellent way to attract birds too. I prefer getting the shelled or hulled seeds because the shells make a huge mess in the garden that can prohibit plant growth. Again this makes it more expensive so now I use a cheaper “no mess” mix. I prefer the ones that include things like millet rather than large seeds and nuts.

This male lesser goldfinch is enjoying my Salvia confertiflora. Large flocks come to the feeders but they enjoy my Salvias, Verbena, and Tithonia too.

Female lesser goldfinch hanging out on Verbena bonariensis (could be an American goldfinch. But I think most of my goldfinches are the lesser variety. Hard to tell when they don’t have their breeding plumage).

And another goldfinch rooting around in a Verbena bonariensis looking for seeds. Or perhaps they like the nectar too. I’m not really sure.

I was about to head outside into the garden when I got a bit of a shock. Hawks usually pick a higher vantage point like the top of a tree or telephone pole to survey my yard but this young Cooper’s hawk sat himself down on my fence right near my feeder.

Maybe he was hoping that if he stood perfectly still some yummy little finch would land right next to him. Alas a crow soon did see him waiting here and chased him off. The number one way I notice hawks in my yard is I hear crows and other birds complaining about them. Smaller birds mob large predatory birds when they get too close to their nests. It is a pretty funny thing to watch.

This male Anna’s hummingbird owns my yard. He sits on this Yucca (the tallest thing in my yard) watching for rivals to chase away from his plants. In the next yard another hummingbird watches from a Myoporum and across the street one sits on a tall Cedar. They all sit singing their little hummingbird songs as if daring each other to overstep their bounds.

I finally have monarch caterpillars on my Asclepias curassavica (and some little bright orange Asclepias aphids if you look closely). I purposely planted this food source to entice monarchs into laying their eggs in my yard but I think it was the Tithonia rotundifolia that really lured them in.

Monarch caterpillars go through 5 different molts (called instars) before they form a chrysalis. I think the little one on the left is a 2nd or 3rd instar and the big guy is a 4th or 5th instar. I’ll be keeping an eye on them the next few weeks.

I was thrilled that a big flock of bushtits was hanging out in my garden this afternoon (warning – do not Google bushtit with safe search off). They are the sweetest little birds. I was even happier when I managed to get this picture of one of them on a Fuchsia stem next to some Cuphea ‘Minnie Mouse’. They don’t stay still for very long.

A juvenile white crowned sparrow hanging out on some dried up Tithonia rotundifolia. The Tithonia looks pretty ugly when it starts to die but it is important to leave annuals in the garden as long as you can. The longer you can put up with it looking like crap the more birds you will attract and the more seedlings you will have next season.

In my next garden I’m definitely going to try to grow my fruit bearing shrubs and trees to attract a broader range of birds. A water source, particularly moving water is great for attracting birds too so I will probably get some sort of bubbling fountain. But considering how little life there was in my yard before I started this garden and now it is home to dozens of birds I think I am off to a good start.

Risk and Reward of Seed Grown Plants

As I have said many times before, and I’m sure will say again many times in the future, I love growing plants from seed.  The reward is obvious.  The satisfaction you receive from growing a plant to blooming size from a tiny seed can’t be beat. It is extremely gratifying when that first flower opens on a plant you have nurtured.

Except when it isn’t. One of the risks that come from seed grown plants is that sexual reproduction has a certain degree of variability.

Obviously this is the case in humans. Maybe you got your mother’s cute button nose or your father’s blue eyes. Maybe you and your siblings look so alike you are mistaken for twins or maybe some of you look like one parent and some the other. Or maybe you are a blend of both parents or don’t look like any of your other relatives at all.

And when you are a plant maybe you end up with stupid white flowers instead of pretty lavender or mauve flowers.

Meet Abutilon X suntense, a cross between two Chilean Abutilons. Abutilon vitifolium with flowers that come in whites, mauves, or even bluish lavenders and Abutilon ochsenii which usually has flowers in a deeper lavender color.  Particularly neat because most of the species of Abutilon you see have flowers in bright yellows, oranges, and reds.

Of course I was hoping for a flower in a pretty lavender shade like the first Abutilon vitifolium I saw up at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden ten years ago.

Just look at it! Not only was the color spectacular but plant itself was about 15 feet tall and smothered in blooms.

But I get a dumb white flower.  The plant is still cute so I am not going to shovel prune it. It does go to show you that in some cases it pays to grow on a good sized batch of seedlings  and keep them in containers until they bloom and then pick the colors you like best.  Of course you can also buy a named cultivar.  They have already been selected for their color or some other interesting characteristic that differentiates them from their parent plants and then are asexually propagated. Clones of the parent plant so you are certain to get what you paid for.

But what is the fun of that?  Even though I took a gamble and lost there is also that chance that your seed grown plant will turn out to be exactly what you hoped for. Or maybe something even better!

More Mediterranean

I’ve finished this round of planting in the medit garden.

Remember that ugly lawn? I’m so glad it is gone. Of course I still have to weed out sneaky clumps of Kikuyu grass but the worst of it seems to be over.

The new panorama feature on my iPhone is great for getting a full view of the garden. Try not to notice any ugly bits.

Chamelaucium uncinatum ‘Purple Pride’, from western Australia, has replaced the purple-leaved plum.

I’m hoping that Phylica plumosa, from South Africa, will make a nice mounding specimen in the center of the bed.

Dudleya pulverulenta has doubled in size since last spring.

I’m really fond of the South African heaths like this Erica Baueri. I love any Ericaceous plants that have waxy or plastic-like flowers.

I’m really proud of this Erica diaphana that I grew from seed.  It is about six inches tall now and looks like a miniature Christmas tree. The seed was like dust and I left them in a plastic bag under grow lights for ages until I felt like they were large enough to be potted up and safely brought outdoors. They were less than an inch tall when I pricked them out and I never thought they would survive the process. Even though I have grown tons of plant from seed this is the first woody shrub I have ever attempted. Next step is getting it to bloom!

Now obviously the plan for this garden is to grow plants from all the mediterranean climates of the world. Much of California, central Chile, western South Africa, southwestern and southern Australia and of course the Mediterranean region itself are all considered to be mediterranean climates with dry summers and mild rainy winters. Other dry regions of the world with drought tolerant plants are acceptable as well such as parts of the southern US and Mexico and the Canary Islands.  Whatever it takes to make beautiful garden with plants that will need very little water in the summer.

Of course sometimes I will make mistakes.

When I saw a six-pack of Craspedia globosa (actually Pcynosorus globosa) last summer I couldn’t resist.  It is normally a really ugly container plant and I couldn’t bring myself to pay even wholesale prices for a one gallon plant.  But a six-pack of tiny plants was cheap and seemed worthwhile. It is an Australian plant and I kept finding references that mention that it is drought tolerant. The common name is Billy Buttons and the flowers are little yellow spheres that make great cut flowers.  Sadly it is native to eastern Australia and my experience has been that it really wants very regular water. If I let it go dry it wilts dramatically.  It seems to be happiest in moist heavy clay which won’t do at all. I am willing to spot water thirsty plants when they are getting established but in the long run I really want plants to be able to fend for themselves for long stretches in the summer. I don’t plan on adding drip irrigation to this garden. So at some point they are all going to be removed. I may try to relocate them but I am not sure I want a plant that needs a lot of water to be happy.

I may replace them with Nepeta tuberosa. This is an unusual Nepeta with upright spires of blooms rather like a Stachys. It is from Spain and Portugal and should be much happier in dry conditions. In fact I am not sure why it didn’t get planted in the medit garden in the first place.  Luckily the three clumps I planted last year in the other border had about a dozen little seedlings all around them so I potted those up today. Once they are large enough I may use them to replace the Billy Buttons. The picture below is from June and I think this plant will add just the right amount of architectural drama that I want.

Self Sown

Linaria reticulataGypsophila elegans 'Kermesina'Chrysanthemum paludosumGeranium pyrenaicum 'Bill Wallis'Nemophila menziesiiLayia platyglossa
Ursinia anthemoidesEschscholzia californicaSalvia sclareaClarkia rubicunda blasdaleiAgrostemma githagoScabiosa stellata
Gilia tricolor

Self Sown Seedlings, a set on Flickr.

So I talked to an inspector today about the sewer pipes that are going in and the news is not good.  While he was not one hundred percent certain it is likely that my garden is in fact going to mostly end up destroyed.

But lets pretend all that isn’t going to happen and instead enjoy pictures of all my little self sown seedlings that are popping up after our fall rains.

Click on the thumbnails to be brought to Flickr where I have labeled each seedling.  Wordpress has a new way to put images into a post and it is buggy as hell so until I either figure it out or they fix it I am going to have to just use Flickr thumbnails for my blog posts.

Lots of cool California natives and other neat mediterranean seedlings coming up. Lets just pretend that they aren’t all going to be destroyed by a backhoe some time in the near future.