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.

I’m Back!

I had a really lovely time visiting family in NYC (and an overnight trip to Toronto) for Persian New Year.  But as any serious gardener knows leaving your garden for over a week is a bit nerve-wracking. Who knows what you are going to find when you come home? I’ve gone on trips shorter than 11 days and come home to disaster.  And while I was gone I kept checking the weather and it didn’t rain in Los Osos at all. We have had such a dry winter.

Happily everything was fine!

(do please click on the images to get a larger view!)

Two new thymes along the path got a bit wilty but nothing serious.  The rest looks great. Even the newly planted mediterranean garden looks fine (gotta love California natives). Yesterday I gave everything a good soak and there is a good chance we will get some rain tomorrow.

The view from my kitchen window is even more enjoyable now that my Geranium maderense is in full bloom!

More to come in the near future but I just wanted to check in.

Winter Garden

Our weather here on the central coast has been quite cool and rainy since the fall. This past week we warmed up considerably but not before a stretch of night-time temps dipping dangerously low. Luckily in my year old garden I have not amassed much of a tender plant collection (yet).

My self-sown seedlings from last years annuals are doing remarkably well.  In fact I have had blooms already!

Mentzelia lindleyi was grown from seed last year and planted out rather late.  They didn’t bloom until June. Left to their own devices their seedlings have grown to flowering size remarkably quickly.

California native annuals are pretty cool, huh?

Another neat California native is Coreopsis gigantea, native to the southern California coast  down into Baja and on the Channel Islands.  I’ve posted pics of them before, from my trips to see them in bloom along the coast north of Malibu, but now I have one of my own.


Can you believe this three-foot tall monster was a little plant in a 4″ pot last March.

I was pretty excited to see that it is starting to form its first buds.  The bright yellow flowers should start opening by March.

Maireana sedifolia is doing  well next to the Coreopsis. It is very important that both of these plants have excellent drainage. They are planted on a raised mound of soil which helps but it makes me a bit nervous that an Artemisia frigida planted right below them completely rotted out.

Salvia africana-lutea has been bulking up and I’m finally getting to see some blooms.  Whatever nasty little caterpillar was eating the flowers last summer doesn’t seem to be active in winter.

One plant that was very unhappy with our 30 degree weather is Trichodesma scottii.  It is a borage relative from the island of Socotra. All of its buds and the ends of its leaves turned to mush. I hope it will bounce back and bloom this summer. At least now I know it isn’t cold hardy and can throw a sheet over it on freezing nights. Other plants that suffered some damage were Lotus berthelotii, Iochroma cyanea, and Pycnostachys urticifolia but they should all bounce back.

I was just looking at pictures of this garden from last spring when all the plants were brand new and it is exciting to see how much everything has filled in.

I am still not sure exactly what is going to happen with the sewers. I know the original plan was for the pipes to go right down the center of the left hand bed in the photo above.  My landlady made an appointment with someone from the town and spoke to them about it and apparently she can fill out an amendment requesting that they go through the street instead.  Unfortunately I had an appointment on the day the guy came out so I couldn’t be there and I only got to speak to her about it briefly.  So for now I am cautiously optimistic and I have decided to do a bit of work on the garden.

The garden looked OK last summer but I was not completely happy with it.  I kept adding to it bit by bit as interesting plants became available and the overall plan was a bit off.  So I dug up all the Santolinas, Scabiosa, and some of the Festuca and rearranged them. I moved my Eryngiums to the other side of the bed and replaced them with some Phlomis leucophracta that I grew from seed. I’ll be adding some inexpensive plants to empty spaces and across the front of the garden I’ve moved around some of the seedlings that are coming up.

I’m just going to move forward hoping that this garden won’t be harmed and if worse comes to worse and I have to dig everything out again at least I got some exercise.








Annual Garden Transitions

The spring annual garden is more or less over.  The California natives actually performed really well despite all my fretting that they didn’t get enough winter rain this year.

The Layia platyglossa was the last remaining California native annual last weekend.  I collected a huge envelope of seed (Not so easy to do on a windy day! As you can see in the photo above the achenes of Layia are very much like dandelion fluff).  I collected some seed from Lupinus succulentus as well.  I may do some sort of seed exchange later in the year.  Check back this fall or winter and maybe if I have collected enough seed from interesting plants I’ll set something up or have a contest or something.

I could have left a few of the Layia but decided to make a botanical garden inspired clean sweep of things.  Of the early spring bloomers only a few Ursinia and perennials remain in the front beds.  The rest was removed, weeded, and cleaned up.

Helipterum roseum ‘Pierrot’ planted in the back of the annual bed is still looking pretty good. I’ll probably grow this from seed again next year.

Clarkia amoena ‘Aurora’ is a late spring bloomer.   It is in full bloom now.

The problem with using true annuals or doing any kind of seasonal bedding is you are always going to have some down time.

Luckily there are enough perennials and a few remaining annuals so it doesn’t look too bad.  The front of the mixed border is now planted with a mix of Convolvulus, different types of annual Rudbeckia, and Ageratum.  If all goes well in a month or two all that bare soil will be filled in and we’ll be back in full bloom.

The main annual bed has newly planted Convolvulus, a few Rudbeckia, California native Mentzelia lindleyi, Ageratum, Consolida regalis, and a few Calibrachoa that aren’t really doing that well. I’m not sure if they prefer warmer weather or what the story is with them but they look sad.  There are also some Scabiosa stellata ‘Stern Kugel’ and Didiscus caeruleus (aka Trachymene caeruela) that I started from seed in January and planted out in April. They both just take a really long time to bloom.

The first Scabiosa stellata ‘Stern Kugel’ flower is finally starting to open. These should have really amazing ornamental seed heads.  Easy to grow from seed but a bit slow.

Convolvulus tricolor ‘Royal Ensign’ were just recently planted but some are already blooming.  I’m curious to see how these do.  I’ve used them in containers before and they are wonderful spilling out and hanging over the sides.  Now I have them planted in the ground in the fronts of the beds to sprawl about.  Hopefully I’ll like the look.

This is probably more work than a lot of people want to deal with in their gardens.  This may actually be more work than I want to deal with in the long run.  Next year I may end up sticking some low maintenance shrubs in these beds.  But for now the novelty and excitement of having a garden after 10 years of apartment living is motivating me to try as many things as I can. So a few weeks of ugly should have a nice pay off in July or August. Look for updates then!

Cool (Native) Plant(s) of the Week!

For this weeks Cool Plant of the Week post I bring you my two favorite California native annuals this year.  One of the reasons I wanted to plant a lot of true annuals in my garden was for instant gratification.  New perennials can take a year or more to really fill in and bloom spectacularly so having plants that grow to full size and bloom in just a few short months can help fill in the gaps.  Despite the weather not being particularly good early on the annual garden worked out beautifully.  I loved all my California native annuals but two in particular stood out.

This first star is Lupinus succulentus.  It’s flowers are not as big and dramatic as typical lupine hybrids but it was a wonderful plant all the same.  Its little two toned purple spikes of bloom just keep going and going.

I liked this plant so much I wish I had bought more.  Just one was a nice show but next year I think I’ll try three in the same spot.  I’m leaving the seed pods on in the hope that it will self sow. Hopefully closer to the path so I can reach it easily to squeeze its juicy succulent foliage.

The second cool plant of the week is Layia platyglossa (aka tidy tips).

They are found in almost every county in California.  The first time I saw them was in huge fields north of Glass Beach in Fort Bragg.

They were by far the largest and showiest of the native annuals I tried this year. They started blooming a bit later so while the others are winding down (I have already started pulling out the baby blue eyes and cream cups) these are still going strong.

Cool Plant of the Week!

I know I just talked about California poppies the other day.  But this little plant is looking so awesome this weekend that it had to be my cool plant of the week.

Eschscholzia californica ‘Moonglow’

I’m so impressed with this cream-colored selection of California poppy that was introduced by Larner Seeds. In just a few months it has gone from tiny flat little rosette in a four inch pot to this big mound covered in blooms.  All my other new poppies planted at the same time have one or two blooms now but this little trooper is really out doing itself. I can’t wait to see how it performs long term.

Snowshill Manor

Snowshill ManorLily PondArmillary at Snowshill ManorThe astrological thingieCorydalis lutea and Asplenium grow in every rock wall in England.
Geranium x magnificumLimnanthes douglasiiA narrow double border at Snowshill Manor.Oriental Poppies and Alchemilla at Snowshill Manor.Papaver 'Patty's Plum'Cephalaria gigantea
Eremurus robustusGreenhouse at Snowshill ManorMore frippery.

Snowshill Manor, a set on Flickr.

Once again I am falling behind with work so have not had time to update my blog with my England pictures so now I’m doing it at 4 am.

Snowshill Manor is in the Cotswolds to the northwest of London. The garden is small but arranged in several different levels and separate garden rooms and beautifully planted and maintained.

Just getting to the manor from the parking lot is quite a long hike down a long lane surrounded by hills and sheep. The garden itself is maintained organically by the National Trust.

Once again you can click each picture which will bring you to my flickr page where you will find descriptions and names of plants.