Paeonia cambessedesii

Last March I was lucky enough to get a Paeonia cambessedesii from Annie’s Annuals. When I received an email that they were available I knew I had to act fast so I placed an order immediately. I was surprised to find out the next day that Annie had sold out of them in just 14 hours, or something crazy like that, but happily I got in my order in time.

Most herbaceous peonies need winter chill to bloom but this one is from Majorca in the Mediterranean Sea. I potted it up into a one gallon pot and put it on a drip line in my plant ghetto and mostly forgot about it. Every once in a while I would check it out to make sure it was OK.

A few weeks ago I noticed that new purple-red leaves were pushing their way up and I had three flower buds! A bit of a surprise and even more of a surprise is they started opening when the plants were less than six inches tall. I’m hoping that is just because of the weird dry and hot weather we have had so far this winter, or the fact that it is being grown in a container, and once the plant is older and I find a nice home for it in the ground, it will get at least a foot taller.

But for now I am enjoying the beautiful magenta flowers. Much nicer fragrance than typical herbaceous peonies too in my opinion (I find them nice in small doses but otherwise a bit overwhelming and headache inducing).

Do you think I should let them fruit and go to seed or should I let the young plant build up more strength?

Does anyone else who was lucky enough to get one of these peonies have blooms yet? And if you like what you see be sure to put this one on your Annie’s wish list and order it the moment it becomes available! Don’t dawdle or you will miss your chance.

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Cayucos Courtyard Update

Back in November I posted about my first installation with Gardens by Gabriel.  This beach house courtyard garden in Cayucos. The design featured mostly plants from Annie’s Annuals.

This morning Gabe and I stopped by to check things out.  It is looking pretty good.

The first bed has a purple, pink, and blue theme going on.

The second bed adds some chartreuse to the mix with Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’.

And the third bed is orange at the moment.  Very, very orange.

Eschscholzia ‘Apricot Chiffon’ is doing really well.

As I’ve mentioned before California poppies are seed grown so there is always going to be some variation.  The one below is kind of neat even if it is more yellow than orange.

We moved the Musschia wollastonii to a new location in January but it looks like it didn’t miss a beat.

I’m not even sure these pictures can convey how blue Anagallis monellii is.  It is very, very, intense, deep purply-blue.

I like this violent combination of Anagallis and Ursinia anthemoides ‘Solar Fire’

Nicotiana mutabilis is just getting started. I wanted something that would be tall but not overwhelming for the space.  It is sort of a see-through plant so I thought it would work well.

Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’ and Geranium ‘Bill Wallis’ have been blooming since November.

I’m very impressed with how big these November planted Trachelium ‘Hamer Pandora’ are.  Mine were only planted in February and are quite boinky and little in comparison. Nice combination with Euphorbia ‘Blue Haze’.

Altogether I am very happy with the way the garden turned out.

Road Trip to Santa Barbara!

This morning I took a road trip to Santa Barbara to shop at the wholesale nursery San Marcos Growers.  But first a few weird and wonderful plants!

I’ve set aside a few of the oddities I bought at Annie’s last week.  They were sort of impulse purchases because they are so neat. I don’t have anywhere to put them at the moment.

On the left is Deppea splendens a rare plant from the cloud forests of southern Mexico that is extinct in the wild and isn’t terribly common in cultivation. I’ve seen online auctions for it go for several hundred dollars but luckily mine wasn’t quite that expensive.  Annie has a cool blog post about it here: Return of the Golden Fuchsia.  Frost might kill it and it has been going into the 30’s here at night this week so I bring it in every night.  I may pot it up and baby it a while before I plant it out in the garden.

To the right of that is Agapetes serpens an epiphyte from Nepal.  A few things about this plant I like.  One I just like saying Agapetes.  Uh-GA-pet-eeze or Ag-uh-PET-eez however you want to say it it’s fun!  Second it is from the family Ericacea which includes Ericas, blueberries, and Rhododendrons among other cool plants.  And third it reminds me of the Upland Tropical Rainforest house in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory at the New York Botanical Garden.  There are all sorts of lovely and weird Ericaceous plants there.  Many of them have flowers and fruit that look like colorful pieces of plastic or candy.  I may put this plant in some sort of hanging basket and hang it near my front door.  I think it should be fairly happy in foggy Los Osos.  At least I hope so.  Please feel free to give me any tips if you have grown it.

The spiky little plant in front is Maihuenia poeppigii, a cactus from southern Chile.   All you have to do is look the plant up on Annie’s website and you will see why I needed it.  Cool stuff.

The weird plants in the background are Boweia volubilis on the left and Dioscorea elephantipes on the right.  The Boweia I bought at Logee’s in Connecticut on a road trip with my sister back on July 24, 2000.  My sister bought one too and much to my shame even though I am the plant person and she is the animals person (she’ll graduate from the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania next year – so proud) hers had always done better.  But after nearly killing mine about three years ago it is finally bouncing back and looking really good.  The Dioscorea I have had for around three years.  I’m surprised at how quickly it grows and I am always surprised that it is still alive when it comes out of its summer dormancy.

Before I left on my road trip this morning my order from Annie’s Arrived!  I know! I know! I was just there last week.  Well of course right when I got back I got that evil and enticing spring slide show e-mail and saw a few things I NEEDED.  Particularly Lupinus regalis ‘Thomas Church’ which is mail order only.  So dreamy. I couldn’t stop myself.  Ordered it and then added a few other plants to fill the box. Look at what a great job they do packing the plants. No chance of anything being smushed, huh?  This Lupin and another one I bought from Annie’s already has a bud. What do you think should I pinch it out so the plant puts more energy into growing or should I just let it flower.  I am so bad at that. I don’t want to wait!

I wish I had some photos of the journey to Santa Barbara.  It was such a beautiful day and the hills were covered in bright yellow wild mustard and tiny blue and white lupins were blooming along the highway.  But I got a bit of a late start and didn’t have time to stop.  San Marcos Growers is a big place and I just had a few hours to fill my car!

I fell in love with Thamnochortus insignis the first time I saw this beautiful container specimen last fall.

Restios are not the easiest plants to photograph.

I believe this is a 15 gallon container of Grevillea ‘Long John’. I bought a 5 gallon plant.  Such a wonderful plant. As I’ve mentioned before I am currently having a bit of a love affair with Grevilleas.

Grevillea ‘Long John’ has large flowers by Grevillea standards. You can’t really tell from the angle I took this photo but they are sort of two tone.  Sort of pink and golden orange.

This Thunbergia alata is eating a small building.  Don’t stand still next to it for too long or you may be next.

They have this huge display border along a stream or drainage ditch that divides the nursery in half. I loved this little grouping.  That is Arctotis acaulis ‘Big Magenta’ in the front, I believe the center plant is Grevillea lavandulacea ‘Penola’, which is surrounded by silvery Maireana sedifolia.

The other day I mentioned how impressed I was with the specimens of Euphorbia lambii at Vince and Janet’s house but boy this one really takes the cake!  At least ten feet tall and wide.  I must admit I left the nursery with a five gallon pot of it.

You can just make out the little white sliver of the moon in the sky.

The beautiful Santa Ynez (and maybe San Rafael I’m not sure) Mountains are the backdrop for the nursery and this big grouping of Phlomis lanata.

Grevillea lavandulacea ‘Penola’

As soon as I took the picture this plant lept into my cart.  Sneaky plants.  You can’t turn your back on them.

The unusual rust colored blooms of Aloe castanea. This I didn’t buy. But only because I already have some seeds at home.  I feel like growing Aloes from seed might be fun because I’m guessing the seedlings will be adorable.  I really need to sow them this weekend.

And to end our tour I give you this insanely impressive specimen of variegated Echium candicans (possibly the cultivar ‘Star of Madeira’).  Apparently no one told it that it is only supposed to be three to six feet tall because this beast screening a work area is easily twelve feet. I’ve seen very big stands of Echiums before but I don’t think I have ever seen one quite this big before and certainly not a variegated one!

At the end of the day I bought forty six more plants.  Not as many as the two hundred that followed me home from Annie’s but these are all in one, two, three and five gallon pots so I have my work cut out for me.  I ended up falling in love with so many shrubs and large plants that I decided on the spot to create a shrub border in the six foot by twenty three foot bed that I wasn’t sure what to do with. It should cover up an ugly chain link fence and also give me a bit of privacy in my side yard once they fill in.

So now my garden will be full of plants from Native Sons, Annie’s Annuals, and San Marcos Growers plus a few mail order sources that should be arriving soon and of course some seed grown plants. I just wish someone else was going to plant them all for me!

Building My Garden – Flower Garden Teaser

Just a little teaser update as I have been too busy planting to do much posting this week.  The plants actually look more impressive while still in their pots.  I got the plants laid out early Tuesday morning but planting them is another story.  If I could just pop them in the ground it wouldn’t take that long.  After all most of the soil is nice fresh compost that is easy to dig in and most of the pots are  4″.  Making the protective gopher cages for the roots probably quadruples the amount of time it takes to plant a garden.  In the interest of my sanity most of the California native annuals did not get protective cages.  Hopefully I won’t regret this later.  But I had about 4 flats of baby blue eyes, tidy tips, cream cups, and meadow foam.  Cages for all of them would have just taken way too long and added expense for what are temporary plants.  Annuals on the other side of the driveway along the fence where I know gophers are very active will be protected however.

About three quarters of these plants (from Annie’s Annuals and Native Sons) are now planted but I am still doing some finishing touches and moving around a few things.  I may wait on posting a big update until after the mulch has gone down and it looks a bit nicer.  The weather has been so beautiful this week that I sometimes forget that it is still February and that most of these plants have months to grow before blooming time.  Some things about California I’m not sure if I will ever get used to.

Road Trip to Annie’s!

It was time to take a road trip to the Bay Area this weekend so I could stock up on plants from Annie’s Annuals for my garden.  I decided to take the scenic route up Route 1.

I stopped at Ragged Point and took a bunch of pictures of this hummingbird zipping around the Echium candicans.  Even though there are several species of hummingbird in California I always assume they are Anna’s hummingbirds I am seeing because I believe they are the most common year round residents.

They are fast little buggers but I got a couple of decent pictures.  Pretty sure this is the same guy but the red around their throat is only visible when the light hits it from a certain angle.

I pulled over to take a picture of this huge lupin.

Aside from lupins there were Oxalis, Ceanothus, mustard, and California poppies in bloom along the coast.  On my way back I took the interior roads and there were tons of almonds, cherries, and plums in bloom.  It will always be a bit strange to me that fruit trees bloom in the middle of winter here in California instead of in early spring on the east coast.

Since it was a Sunday I didn’t make too many stops because there were a lot of cars on the road and most of the parking lots were full. So I skipped the elephant seals and Nepenthe.  I did stop at the vista point to take a picture of Big Creek Bridge.  It was a beautiful clear winter day.

wooly Indian paintbrush

I believe this is Castilleja foliolosa but I’m not an expert on them.  I do know that they are hemiparasitic (derive some of their sustenance from the roots of other plants) which is why you don’t see them for sale as a garden plant.

So happy!  Every time I drive up the California coast I feel very lucky to be living here.

The waves were insane!  I tried to get a picture of some of the big ones but of course they wouldn’t cooperate.  The huge waves were shy and only came out when I put my camera away.

I spent Sunday night in Berkeley and woke up bright and early Monday morning and headed to Annie’s for a full day of shopping.

I made a beeline for this Athanasia pinnata.  I think it will make a really nice specimen planting in my mediterranean garden so of course I had to have one.

Megan from Far Out Flora (one of my favorite garden blogs) works at Annie’s so I let her know I was coming so I could say hey.

I had a long day ahead of me.  I was there for a total of 5 hours.  Even though I came prepared with a list and Annie’s is very well organized I always end up running around in circles like a fool.  Everyone that congratulated me for being a grown up and not buying that Globularia a few weeks ago can go ahead and revoke my adult status.  Things I didn’t plan on buying were literally leaping into my cart when I wasn’t looking.  To be fair it is a four hour trip so I need to stock up. And there is no other nursery in the world like Annie’s Annuals (and Perennials).  The type of plants they grow are the exact sort of plants that I am in love with.  It was a beautiful overcast day for taking pictures but of course it is February so the display gardens are not at their bloomiest best.  There are always display plants in containers in bloom though so I did take the time to snap a few pictures.

Platystemon californicus – cream cups

Nemophila menziesii ‘Penny Black’

Lupinus succulentus – arroyo lupine and Gilia tricolor 

Nemophila menziesii – baby blue eyes

Alonsoa meridionalis ‘Apricot’

I set a new record for amount of the amount of plants I can fit in my VW Golf!  Twelve and a half flats.  That is TWO HUNDRED four inch pots!

I purposely traveled light so I would be able to stuff plants in every available spot. I had added so many extra plants I was afraid I was going to have to balance a few on my head but as it turns out two hundred is pretty much the exact amount of plants that will fit in my car without resorting to heroic measures.

They all made it home with me safe and sound.  I spent all of today placing and planting and I have a lot more planting to do tomorrow.  My spring garden is going to be out of control!  Thanks Annie’s Annuals!

 

January Garden Design Update

You may remember my post back in November titled Inspiration. Well I am excited to say that the construction for that design began this week. The crew over at Gardens by Gabriel are hard at work preparing the landscape for the planting that is to come in this Morro Bay garden.  Normally “before and after” pictures would be in order but I am too excited to wait for the after so you will get the “before and during” pictures today and the after pictures will have to come when we are finished. The “during” being the hard work behind the scenes that make the garden possible.

This is the lower lawn of the property. The entire home is on a pretty steep hill.  The balcony in the upper right corner of the photo has a beautiful view of the bay which is just a block away.

Dan drives the Bobcat while Victor checks the level.  This area is being prepared for a Bocce Court!  It will be surrounded by the homeowners existing fruit orchard and new, mostly succulent, plantings.

This is the before shot of the front entrance and the upper lawn. All of the palms on the upper lawn were removed to make way for the new design.  One way for homeowners to save money on the construction is to do some of the preparation work themselves.  He killed and tilled the lawn and removed the palms before we began our work.  He will also build the bocce court himself.

The palms are all gone and some of the foundation plantings were moved to other areas.  Garden mascot Cody watches over some of the plants that have been delivered.

The upper lawn.  I believe there were six palms that were removed. As you can see the property has a pretty severe slope.  We will remedy this by creating berms.  Unfortunately there is also an unsightly telephone pole in a pretty prominent spot on the property.  There isn’t a lot you can do with utility poles or lines.  In this case we are going to do our best to disguise its view from the house with large plants.  There is an existing Otatea acuminata aztecorum right up against the foundation of the house.  Since it was poorly placed to begin with we will move it to a better spot and use it to try to soften the utility pole a bit.

As you can see some of the foundation plantings are gone.  Some Cyperus have been moved near the driveway and some small palms removed.  More Woodardia ferns will be added to the remaining foundation plants.  Irrigation is being prepared and soil that is coming out of the lower lawn to level the bocce court area will be brought up to create the berms.  Another ten yards of soil will be purchased and delivered tomorrow. The lime tree on the left hand side of the lawn will be moved down to the lower lawn.

Garden design books always talk about using “borrowed views” to enhance your garden. I’m pretty sure all of those books were written about huge English estates with vast lawns and beautiful vistas to frame.  It is a bit frustrating when your own view consists of a large telephone pole.  The view to the north isn’t so bad though.  Sadly Morro Rock is hidden behind some trees (you can just make it out peeking out behind the trees in the upper left) and we have a pretty solid view of the infamous Morro Bay smoke stacks.  But we also have a nicely landscaped neighbors yard.  One thing that caught my eye right away was the two beautiful Arbutus ‘Marina’.  So I capitalized on this and included two of our own to mirror the neighbors along the fence.  The street planting consists of a Melaleuca and some Helichtotrichon. I feel that our planting of Knifofias, Thamnochortus, and Grevillea will compliment the neighbors bed perfectly.

Our order from San Marcos Growers down in Santa Barbara arrived already and I am pretty excited about the quality of the plants. The weird plant above is Berzelia lanuginosa a South African plant that I think will look great with the Protea themed garden.

Aloe ‘Hercules’ is a tree Aloe that can grow thirty feet or more.

I originally wanted to use Chondropetalum elephantinum but when I saw Thamnochortus insignis I liked it better so we made a last minute switch.  Here it is along with some of our succulents and our two Arbutus.

The large berms will be held in place by two and a half tons of rock so Gabe and I went down to the quarry so he could handpick them and have them delivered next week.

He marks off the ones he wants with tape.  Hopefully I will be able to get up to the garden to watch as they are installed and get some photos of the machinery required to set them in place.  I find the whole thing a bit intimidating so it will be fun to see it all unfolding. I’m just the plant guy so some of this stuff is very new to me.

Now for a bit of a change of pace we’ll go check in on another one of my garden designs.  You’ll remember my post on My First Installation back in November and my courtyard garden designed with mostly Annie’s Annuals plants. It was super thrilling but also a bit nerve-wracking as well.  Would the clients like it?  Would the plants get enough or too much sun?

Well altogether the garden is looking great.  There was an unfortunate (and rare) heat wave right after they went in so we did lose a few plants and a some of them got a little crispy but now two months later and Annie’s plants are filling in just as beautifully as I knew they would and we are on our way to a very exciting spring.

The garden is beautifully mulched and we already have blooms in January.

Bed one was originally full of canna lilies and a giant tree fern.

Bed two was an overgrown mess full of weeds and Coleonema. While we were here Gabe and I did a bit of weeding and we pinched a few things back.  We decided to swap the Musschia and Cantua to give the Musschia more shade and the Cantua more sun.  I don’t think it will change the overall design too much even though they are very different plants. Sometimes what works on paper just doesn’t work in real life.

These Geranium ‘Bill Wallis’ and Nicotiana ‘Lime Green’ are already charming now in January.  Just imagine them in a few months when they are in full bloom!

I was surprised by how big Trachelium caeruleum ‘Hamer Pandora’ had grown in just two months.  This is one of the key plants that is included in all of the beds to help tie the design together.  *Mental note to buy some of these for my own garden in a few weeks!

And just a reminder of the view from the backyard of this beautiful house.

Our last stop was a nearby garden that Gabe had recently designed himself.

He designed the plantings in front of this guest house around the homeowners hardscaping design.  This is another home with beautiful ocean views.  This time from the upstairs balcony of the main house.

I am a little bit in love with this little vignette of Phylica pubescens with a beautiful piece of driftwood.  Hmm…I think I want some driftwood for my garden now!

I hope you enjoyed this design update.  I’ll be posting more updates as the work continues on the Morro Bay property so be sure to check back next week.

My First Installation

I think I have mentioned before that I have recently started my own garden design business (Propaganda Garden Design).  For the past few months I have been doing freelance work designing for my friend and former classmate and roommate Gabe.  He and his wife Maggie have a successful landscaping business in the San Luis Obispo area called Gardens by Gabriel.  I’ve done around six or seven designs for them now but the first one was recently installed so I am pretty excited about it.  I’ve designed many gardens but this is the first legit “I got paid to do this” one.

It is a small courtyard garden for a beach house in the coastal town of Cayucos.  That perfect zone 17 climate right on the ocean but somewhat sheltered by the house.  The home owner wanted lots of color and listed a bunch of bedding plants that he loved.  Now I am not such a garden snob that I dislike bedding plants but I figured since he was paying a designer he should get something a bit more special so my first thought for the space was that a garden full of Annie’s Annuals plants would be perfect for this spot.

I first experienced Annie’s plants back when I was an intern at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden when the nursery manager let me act as buyer.  This was back right before Annie started doing mail order so for me as an east coaster it was pretty exciting getting to see all these amazing plants in person.  Anyway I got to relive a bit of that nursery buying magic and buy a bunch of Annie’s plants on someone else’s dime.  Being a garden designer is pretty awesome.  So enjoy this photo tour of the process from start to finish.

The courtyard had four beds. This is bed one. Just a bit overgrown and not terribly exciting.

Bed two is not much better. My favorite part of this particular design is all the hardscaping was already taken care of. All I had to do was fill the beds with plants.

The Bougainvillea on the right in bed 3 got a reprieve. I wanted to rip it all out but it was one fo the few plants the homeowner really liked so we decided to spare a bit of it. I'm kind of notorious for wanting to start with a really blank slate.

Bed four is rather tiny but this Bougainvillea got to stay as well. Everything else came out though. Including the Solandra.

Back home in West Hollywood I poured over Annie's website deciding on a theme for the beds and picking out plants. The general method I use when designing a garden is imagine the beds in my head while pouring over websites and books and writing down a list of plants. Then I look over the plants and start moving them into combinations that I think will work well together and crossing some plants off the list (because I always go a bit overboard). Since this was a small design I decided to do it in marker. I also wanted to get across the color theme of the beds. There are two plants that are featured in all the beds (Trachelium and Anagallis) to tie the beds together and then each bed would have its own color theme while sharing at least one other plant in common with the bed across from it.

Now for the fun part! A trip up to the bay area and shopping at Annie's. On this trip I learned that you can fit nine flats of plants in a VW Golf! Now obviously taking such a monumental road trip isn't a really sensible way to run a business but I made a four day holiday of it. I figured this was a special occasion and I wanted my first garden to be incredible. But normally there are lots of other cool nurseries in the Central Coast area to shop at.

I don’t really have any cool pictures of the nursery because EVERY time I visit Annie’s it is always insanely bright out and my photos are all washed out.  But I’m sure anyone that is reading my blog already knows all about Annie’s and has read about her and seen her nursery in lots of other blogs from folks who are better photographers.  If by some chance you haven’t heard of or have never visited Annie’s be sure to check it out if you are visiting the San Francisco area.  It is probably my favorite nursery in the world.

Meanwhile back in Cayucos Gabe's crew was hard at work tearing out all those plants and preparing the beds for their new arrivals!

The next day the beds were all ready to be planted. Those Bougainvillea really got a haircut.

Hard to believe that this is the same bed that was full of tree fern and Impatiens just the day before.

So I got to work placing all the plants.

Gabe's crew got to work installing. Here David and Victor are planting bed three. The plant that Victor is removing from its clay pot in the back is a Abutilon vitifolium that I grew from seed collected at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden in 2003.

Mindy and David prepare the drip lines for the irrigation.

And here is bed number two almost finished. After the drip was installed it was mulched as well but I had a three and a half hour drive back to West Hollywood ahead of me so I left early. Hopefully this garden will be as beautiful in the spring as it is in my mind and I'll have some great photos to share then. And in the next few months I will be moving up to the San Luis Obispo area so I can be closer to my work and get involved in more projects with Gabe and his crew.

Just so you get more of an idea of the setting of this garden here is a view of their "backyard". That is Morro Rock off in the distance.

I really hope this garden is successful and the homeowners end up loving it.  About 95% of the plants are from Annie’s so it should be pretty neat.  Aside from some really colorful plants in beautiful combinations I tried to include something really interesting in each bed that the homeowners have maybe never seen before (Musschia wollastonii, Cantua buxifolia, Abutilon vitifolium).  So fingers crossed that we have a perfect winter so the plants get big and fat and burst into bloom in the spring.