Recovery

Last year at this time we had a few days of unusually cold weather. It got as low as 28 degrees for a few hours which is pretty rare. A few of my plants did not appreciate this dip below freezing.

Agave attenuata 'Ray of Light'

I really thought this Agave attenuata ‘Ray of Light’ was done for. All the leaves were mush. There was just one central leaf that wasn’t destroyed. I almost threw it away but something told me to give it a chance so for a few weeks I would bring it in at night when there were threats of frost. And then it went back into my plant ghetto and I pretty much forgot about it.

Agave attenuata 'Ray of Light'

Well I am happy to say that a year later it has made a remarkable recovery. I planted it out the other day in the new Protea and succulent border. Hopefully now that it is planted in the ground it will be a little more resistant to freezing weather.

Most of the buds got fried.

Aloe Moonglow was a huge disappointment. It was covered in buds for the first time and despite my attempts to protect it with sheets they were all limp the day after the worst frost.

Aloe Moonglow getting ready to bloom.

This year Moonglow is looking better than ever and has at least a dozen spikes. The forecast shows temperatures no lower than 42 degrees for the next week and hopefully it stays that way until at least February. And more rain would be appreciated as well. So far we are off to a good start this year but I wouldn’t mind it raining at least once a week from now until spring to help make up for the past three years of drought.

Planting Out Aloes

I’ve been revamping much of my garden recently. If you have been following along the past three years you will remember the initial installation and the updates over the years. Because I didn’t really have the time to care for it I had pretty much left it to its own devices. This worked out pretty well and I ended up with a lovely garden of native and mediterranean climate annuals. This style of garden is great because it is basically free (after the initial purchase of plants the first year) and looks great while it is in bloom. The downside is that when it is not in bloom it looks pretty wretched and it is actually pretty high maintenance to care for it over the long term if you want it to look nice.

I wanted a bit of a change so I decided to create a Proteaceae and succulent garden. This type of garden is ideal for my warm, dry, coastal climate. It looks good year round, needs very little water once established (once a month should do the trick), and for the most part is low maintenance (though the succulents will need to be lifted and divided over time and the Proteaceae will probably need replacing now and then. They like to die).

We had almost a week of rainy weather and before the storms started I quickly planted out most of the Proteas. We had a break in the rain today and I planted out some of the larger Aloes.

I’ve been collecting Aloes and other large succulents the past few years but they grow surprisingly fast in containers and need pretty regular potting up. It was time to put them in the ground so they can look their best.

Aloe speciosa (tilt-head Aloe) arrived from Annie’s Annuals in March of 2013 in a tiny four inch pot. (top row, second from the left)

Aloe speciosa in a 4" pot in March 2013

It has grown pretty dramatically the past year and a half and as of this morning resided in a ten inch terra cotta pot. Incidentally, I don’t recommend terra cotta for big Aloes. Very difficult to get them out without damaging them!

Aloe speciosa now ready to be planted in the garden

I bought Aloe marlothii from San Marcos Growers about two years ago in a one gallon pot. Now it is ready to be a dramatic specimen plant in the center of the border.

Aloe marlothii

They both look pretty great planted out. They don’t really need the big watering wells. But since the shrubs, perennials, and grasses do I think it looks better if everything is uniform. It also helps me a bit in not planting things too close together since I have been designing this garden on the fly.

Aloe marlothii and Aloe speciosa planted out in the garden

Aloe wickensii I have had for at least four years. Originally purchased in a four inch pot back when I lived in West Hollywood or maybe even Santa Monica.

Aloe wickensii

The new gardens are starting to take shape but they are still a work in progress.

View of the garden from the front.

 

 

Design Update

Back in November I stopped by to take some pictures of my favorite garden that I designed in Morro Bay. It was installed in January of 2012 by Gardens by Gabriel so is almost 2 years old. I’m really impressed by how big everything has grown in such a short time.

If you have been following my blog since then you may remember how it looked when it was first installed. This is a screen grab from Google Earth back when the garden was just a month old. You can see the homes proximity to the bay and the ocean (both visible to the left) and Morro Rock is peaking out behind the chimney. The plants were so tiny. The mulch was so bright. I always worry that clients won’t have the imagination to picture what my intentions for the design were.

It just takes a bit of patience.

Some of the shrubs still have some more growing to do and we did have a few problems with some of the plants but overall my vision for the garden is being realized and each time I visit it looks better and better.

I am actually less happy with the area to the left of the bocce court (in the foreground). Perhaps we will go back and make some changes there in the future.

But the upper garden looks great. This Agave gypsophila is gorgeous as are the Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ and Agave celsii ‘Nova’ in the background.  Agave gypsophila is one of the more tender Agave species. It is not especially happy when temperatures dip below 32 degrees. I have one in a container that had finally started to look better after a cold snap last year disfigured it. Now with this recent dip below freezing it is looking a bit rough again. Luckily Morro Bay is usually a few degrees warmer than Los Osos so this garden should be fine.

Agave celsii ‘Nova’ was a later addition. I believe that a design is never finished. In this case once other plants started to grow in I felt like this spot needed something extra. I wanted to use Agave ovatifolia but that wasn’t available. Garden design also requires quick thinking and coming up with appropriate substitutions when needed.

Agave macroacantha ‘Pablo’s Choice’ is pretty sexy with its black (painful) spines and beautiful leaf markings. This usually forms a little colony but so far the gardens owner has been rooting out the pups and keeping the plant solitary.

The stems on Euphorbia caput-medusae will eventually elongate and sort of flop around on the soil like snakes. Right now it looks like Medusa has had a crew cut.

Right now Kalanchoe beharensis reminds me a bit of a piece of modern art. Felt blocks that have been haphazardly stacked in a pile.

Do you see the sneaky little Oxalis growing underneath Agave geminiflora? One issue with growing succulents is that removing weeds can be a painful and difficult experience. Sometimes best to just let the plant smother them out.

I think I have mentioned before that this was sold to us as Echeveria X imbricata but I am a little unsure if that is correct. It is bigger and the leaves are thicker than the E. X imbricata I am used to and the leaves really color up more than I have ever seen before. Perhaps it is just environmental but it is pretty common for plants to be mislabeled.

I love how Furcraea foetida ‘Mediopicta’ matches the yellow plastic guards the phone company put on the metal telephone poll support lines. They added those after the fact. Not the greatest thing to have in your garden but at least the color sort of blends in.

One mistake I will admit to is I used two pairs of plant cultivars that are so similar I have a hard time telling the difference. This is possibly Leucadendron salignum ‘Blush’.

And this is Leucadendron salignum ‘Winter Red’. Or maybe I have that backward? Looking them up with Google Images or on Flickr doesn’t help as they are just as mixed up there and Leucadendrons are so changeable from month to month.

This is Grevillea lanigera ‘Coastal Gem’. I think.

And this is Grevillea lanigera ‘Mt. Tamborintha’. Or maybe strike that and reverse it.

Now when I design a garden I try not to include species or cultivars that are very similar. If only it was so easy as looking at the design plans and seeing which plant was supposed to go where. Unfortunately plants from wholesalers almost never have labels. So it is entirely possible that we even mixed up where each group were supposed to be planted. This can really be a problem if one plant is very different in size or form when it matures but luckily in this case all of these plants are quite similar in their adult size and structure.

Actually hold on a second. I think the Leucadendron salignum ‘Blush’ I posted earlier is actually ‘Winter Red’ and the above picture is the true ‘Blush’.  Aaargh! See how confusing this is?

Fortunately Leucadendron ‘Jester’ is very distinct. No mistaking its tri-color variegation for any other Leucadendron in this garden.

We had some problems with some of the Grevillea ‘Austraflora Fanfare’ we planted in this garden but the one above has performed perfectly.  Unfortunately even with our ideal growing conditions most Proteaceae can be persnickety.

This Grevillea rhyolitica has performed really well here but the one in my garden planted at the same time is long dead.

Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’ has grown massive in just two years. Already at least 6 feet across.

And Arbutus ‘Marina’ is another fast grower. Already towering above me. This is quite a messy plant so be careful not to plant it near walkways or over cars. Fortunately the two in this garden are off to the side where they shouldn’t cause any problems.

Design Update

It has been a year and a half since I moved to the central coast. A lot has happened since then, some good, some bad. But I just returned from a trip home to see my family in NYC and as I drove back home from the San Luis Obispo airport into foggy Los Osos I kept thinking about how much I love it here.

One of my first designs in Morro Bay, that was installed shortly after I moved here, is also one of my favorites. I paid it a visit in May and it was nice to see how much it has grown in almost a year and a half. The succulents in particular are getting huge already.

You can click on each image to enlarge.

Kniphofia ‘Shining Sceptre’ is a favorite of mine now. The clumps grow huge and each one probably has at least 30 flowers on it at a time. The Thamnochortus insignis in the background will really look nice when it is full grown. You can just make out the top of Morro Rock peeking over the house in the background.

Grevillea rhyolitica and Arbutus ‘Marina’

Aloe rubroviolacea from Yemen are really nice specimen plants. The Otatea accuminata ssp. aztecorum on the left has recovered from its transplant shock and is starting to fill out. It was originally planted right up against the foundation of the house and is one of the plants we decided was worth saving. We moved it where it would screen the telephone pole at the corner of the yard. Hopefully it fills out a bit more over the next few years and starts doing a better job of that.

The purple flowered Alyogone hugelii has been a bit of a disappointment. It is infested with thrips so we may remove it in the future.

I am really impressed with the size of the Euphorbia rigida. This is just one plant that started out in a little one gallon container.

Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’ in the foreground and Grevillea ‘Austraflora Fanfare’ in the back.

This is either Leucadendron ‘Blush’ or L. ‘Winter Red’. We used several of both and I am hopeless at telling them apart.

Aloe vanbalenii have become nice specimens in a relatively short period of time.

There are so many amazing Echeveria species for California gardeners to choose from but I am a little bit in love with E. gigantea and E. ‘Zoro’. Each of these plants is over 2 feet across. Once the Agave ‘Blue Glow’ reaches its full size I think the contrast between all these plants will be really spectacular.

Big blue Echeveria gigantea with spiny Agave geminiflora in the background. Are these things amazing or what? They are not terribly common either which makes them even cooler.

Echeveria ‘Zoro’ is gorgeous but these are doing exceptionally well.

I’m in love!

Echeveria ‘Pulv-oliver’ isn’t too shabby either. It is a cross between E. pulvinata and E. harmsii.

These were sold to us as Echeveria X imbricata but it it is much larger and the leaves are much thicker than the E. X imbricata I had seen in the past. Anyone have any thoughts on this? Is this something else?

Euphorbia caput-medusae has filled in nicely. It is compact now but eventually each stem should elongate and flop across the ground like a bunch of snake heads.

Agave gypsophila

And finally a view of the entire succulent portion of the design.

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.

Vorpal

There are some vorpal winds blowing on the California coast today.  Vorpal is a word that Lewis Carroll made up to describe a sword that was so sharp it could cut off a head in one fell swoop.  So, yes, it is so windy today here in Los Osos that it might blow your damned head off!

My Geranium maderense looks like it might snap in half and blow down the street like a tumbleweed. Here it is a few days ago when the weather was calmer.

I’ll be sure to take another picture if it snaps in half during the night and I am left with nothing but a stump. Hopefully that won’t happen.

Another plant I am a bit concerned about is Echium ‘Mr. Happy’.  But right now he is only about four feet tall and is standing strong against the wind.  He has been growing wider with lots of side branches. His main branch however has become fasciated.

Fasciation is one of those things that I think is cool when it happens to other people’s plants but I am not that keen on when I see it in my own garden.  It is generally caused by some sort of damage in the growing point and causes flattened abnormal growth. Maybe it will look really cool.  Time will tell.

I already shared a picture of the garden from my kitchen window but the other day I was admiring the garden from my living room and thought I would share that view as well.

Again this is from a few days ago.  My street has become a dirt road from all the sewer construction so this wind is blowing sand up like it is the Sahara or something.  This window is now covered in a film of grit.  Nice view though, right?  I think it is really important for the house and garden to relate to each other and be connected.  When I look for my own home to buy I will be looking for one where the lot is visible from as many of the windows as possible and preferably something on one level where it is easy to create an accessible indoor/outdoor feel.

I talked about Craspedia globosa right before the construction started.  I was thinking of getting rid of them because even though they are Australian they are not from the mediterranean climate region of Australia and require more water than I am giving my medit garden. The construction did most of my dirty work for me and four plants were lost during the excavation.  I decided to leave these last two little ones and it was worth it for their cute drumstick blooms.  I’m not going to give them any special treatment this summer. If they make it great. If not that is OK too. But at least I get to enjoy their blooms this spring.

This clump of Mentzelia lindleyi has been blooming for a while now and seems pretty sturdy in the wind. A few solo plants snapped this morning but this group seem OK so far. My neighbor said they look like weeds! I think people brought up with “lawn culture” are accustomed to thinking of anything with coarse foliage and bright yellow flowers as dandelions and that = bad to them.

I am pretty happy with this little vignette. Clockwise from the top: Layia platyglossa, Geranium pyrenaicum ‘Bill Wallis’, Aloe variegata, Euphorbia ‘Blue Haze’, and newly planted Dianthus ‘Fire Star’. A few of the Layia have been damaged by the winds but I have so much of it that I’m sure it will be fine.

I love Euphorbia ‘Blue Haze’.  Back in New Jersey two of my favorite hardy Euphorbias were E. polychroma and E. palustris.  But here in California there are so many more to choose from.

So that is a little taste of what is going on now. I’m hoping the winds die down soon and I will have a garden left in the morning.

Coastal Fog

It isn’t just the San Francisco Bay Area that is subject to foggy days. Fog is typical up and down the coast from Crescent City in the north (/shudder) to San Diego in the south, particularly in summer when the temperature difference is the greatest between coastal and inland California.

Since Los Osos borders the coast and the bay, and is also set in a valley, fog is a fairly common occurrence. There is something almost magical about coastal fog.  It looks almost alive as it creeps along.  It is particularly enchanting on warm sunny afternoons as a thick fog slowly inches its way inland.  I love being by the bay and watching and seeing the fog over Morro Bay to the north or if I am in Morro Bay sometimes Los Osos is completely obscured by a wall of fog.

Some days it blows in quickly and when it a heavy wet fog hangs around for days it can be a bit oppressive.  Particularly up north where the fog can be so heavy and wet that it feels like rain and actually contributes to yearly rainfall totals.  We have had a few foggy days here in Los Osos as you can see by the view of the Sweet Springs Nature Preserve from my house in the photo above.

Even though I don’t really understand the exact scientific weather conditions that bring the fog, two years living by the beach in Santa Monica taught me that when you have an unusually warm sunny morning you are almost guaranteed fog later in the afternoon or the next day.  And here in Los Osos just like in Santa Monica if the fog is too much to handle you can just drive a few miles inland and it will be warm and sunny.

The good thing about the fog is it keeps things cool along the coast which allows us to grow some wonderful things.

There are many plants that are perfectly hardy and tough but despise heat and would melt away in a hot, humid, east coast garden.  The Aloe polyphylla above is not even a coastal plant in its native home of the Drakensberg Mountains of South Africa.  In fact it is perfectly capable of withstanding winter snow.  It just can’t take heat and thus is perfectly adapted to the California coast. In fact the one above is growing practically on the beach in Cayucos.

I’ve seen such great specimens growing in Los Osos, Morro Bay, and Cayucos that it seems like it would be a crime for me not to grow them.  So I picked up a few specimens in gallon pots.

Three to be exact.  I found them for a reasonable price and couldn’t resist.  I needed to replace the Nemophila maculata I had in the border along the path garden and I also removed an orange poppy that was supposed to be red.  This part of the path happens to be succulents so I think the two areas will flow into each other nicely.

I think they are still supposed to be fairly tricky plants to grow so if anyone has any tips or advice feel free to leave a comment. And if anyone hears me complaining about how cold and foggy it is this summer remind me about all the great plants I can grow.