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.

Path Garden One Year Later

My father is sick of reading about the sewer construction on my blog so I promised I would post something about flowers instead! I realized that it was almost a year ago that I installed and planted the path garden so it is time for an update.  What worked and what was a big old failure?

This is how the front yard looked when I moved in December 2011. I wondered why the little front path ended abruptly in the middle of the lawn. Turns out that is where the property line ends and the rest is all public easement.  D’oh! The sewer was going to go right through this garden but luckily plans changed and very little damage was done to this part of the yard. It is still all in the public right of way but it should be safe now.

Back in this post I described the process of creating the path(also here and here). Luckily I had help from Gabe and Victor. Those 2 X 2 concrete squares are so heavy I can barely lift one myself.

I finished planting on March 7th, 2012. The garden was basically an experiment to see what would thrive in just 2 or 3 inches of soil on top of several inches of decomposed granite. Not the best growing conditions.

Two months later and the garden was in bloom and looking pretty nice. For a full inventory of all the plants I used go here.

The picture above was taken today a year after being installed.  It is looking pretty good (aside from the sand washing in from the sewer construction). Let’s talk about what worked and what didn’t.

Dianthus ‘Shooting Star’ worked pretty well. I lost one early on but I think that was just a fluke. I replaced it and the new one did fine. From a design point my only issue is that I planted these right next to Armeria maritima and they are the exact same color and overall shape. From a distance they looked the same.

Armeria maritima is of course the perfect sort of plant for this sort of garden. It is really tough in all sorts of climates and conditions. Here on the California coast it bloomed most of the year.

There is something about Thymus X citriodorus ‘Lime’ that just makes me happy. It is such a bright golden color.  I did use it in a client’s garden and for some reason it failed but in my garden it has thrived and formed nice little clumps.

Thymus serpyllum ‘Coccineum’ is another winner.  This red thyme has a creeping habit and spreads to form a nice mat.  Probably better for walkway areas than the mounding thymes because it stays so flat. My only complaint is that weeds seem to love to go through it. Particularly little yellow flowered creeping Oxalis. You practically need tweezers to get it out.

Delosperma dyeri ‘Red Mountain’ is a great ice plant that is hardy to at least zone 5. One slight problem is that the quails love to eat it.  The damage you see at the bottom is from quails nibbling on it.  It is so vigorous that it doesn’t seem to do any long term damage and the plants fill back in quickly but it is something to consider if you have coveys of marauding quail coming through your yard.

Delosperma spalmanthoides is a cutie. Perhaps too small and delicate though. The leaves are almost microscopic and the flowers are pretty minuscule too. It needs careful placement to be seen and to avoid being swamped by more vigorous plants. It bloomed heavily for me in February but seems to bloom sporadically off and on all year.

Berlandiera lyrata is a cheerful little yellow daisy that smells like chocolate. It bloomed nicely all summer and lots of little seedlings came up this winter. I’ve potted up about a dozen of them.  The thyme here is Thymus X citriodorus ‘Green Lemon’. It forms a nice lush green ball for most of the year but as you can see when it bloomed the whole plant turned deep purple.

Nepeta ‘Kit Kat’ gave me that beautiful blue-lavender catmint color on a small almost prostrate plant. Really nice here with Sesleria ‘Greenlee’s Hybrid’.

This beautiful little juniper leaved mounding thyme was sold to me as Thymus juniperifolius. I haven’t been able to confirm that this is the correct name though.  Two other that are more likely are either or T. neicefferi or of T. neiceffii. I’m not sure which is correct but it is a gorgeous plant.

It is already getting ready to bloom in early March.

Now for some of the failures.

Chamaemelum nobile ‘Treneague’ is a dwarf flowerless chamomile. The smell is wonderful but this spot close to the street was a bit too sunny and dry. They prefer a damper shadier position so I moved them closer to the house where they are looking much nicer. Definitely worth growing just so you can squish them with your hands to release that sweet fragrance.

Lysimachia ‘Goldilocks’ was a complete disaster. Again it was too hot, dry, and sunny by the street. This was the best they looked all summer so I eventually tore them out.

Saxifraga ‘Pixie’ was really cute covered in tiny pink blooms but in the summer they started to go brown in their centers and very quickly were little dried out lumps. I will probably just repeat the Dianthus and Armeria combination from the other side of the path in the space they left.

Sedum dasyphyllum has really cute succulent foliage, right?

But then when it finishes blooming you are left with this hot mess.  Ugh. Not cute AT ALL. It had to be sheared back almost to the ground and didn’t look nice again until the winter rains.  If only it didn’t bloom it would be perfect.  I think I will move this to a less visible location.

One plant I loved was Frankenia thymifolia. Think of it as a really lush vigorous thyme with little pink rose-like flowers and foliage that goes red when it is a bit stressed. I planted this along one of the edges of the mediterranean garden and 4″ pots quickly grew to over a foot across.  This is the plant I decided to replace the chamomile and Lysimachia with at the front of the path.

Another plant I considered for the path was Phylla nodiflora which I had used along my driveway. As you can see above it has really sweet little Verbena-like flowers. But after a year of observation I’ve decided that it is basically a lawn weed, it doesn’t bloom long enough, and the foliage is a bit too rough. It could be nice in the right spot but it won’t work for my path garden.

The other succulents were also not terribly successful. Echeveria ‘Violet Queen’ hasn’t really blown me away. Sedum album ‘Murale’ started nicely but got really straggly this winter. It also blends in with the mulch so doesn’t really stand out in this spot.  Geum ‘Mango Lassi’ bloomed beautifully for a few months but then faded away.  I’m sure the shallow and poor quality soil had something to do with it but to be honest I lost all the Geums in my garden. I think I just didn’t water them as much as they would like. Uncinia uncinata ‘Rubra’  also withered away by the end of summer despite my attempts to keep it moist and Isotoma is still trying to hang on but can’t compete with Chrysanthemum paludosum and other annual seedlings that have been coming up.

Overall I am pretty happy with how the path turned out.  A few tweaks and replacements for the weaker plants and I think it will look really nice this year.