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.


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.

Building My Garden Part 5 – Flower Gardens

Sorry it has taken me so long to share this part of the garden.  I actually debated waiting even longer because, to be honest, the garden still doesn’t look like much in photographs.  The plants are small (most of the plants were 4″ pots or gallons), I still haven’t mulched, and there isn’t too much in bloom yet. There are also a lot of finishing touches I need to apply to make the garden look like it was done by a professional.  But then I figured it would be more rewarding when the garden is all full and nice to have shared the garden at this infantile stage.

So everyone remembers the before picture from December right?  That was right after I moved in. Yuck. Look at all that stupid lawn.

This is the garden five weeks ago as I was laying out the initial plants.  To be honest I didn’t really have time to do a design for this garden.  Not the best way for a supposed garden designer to create his own garden but I suspect it is common.  I really wanted to get the plants in quickly to take advantage of winter rains (Ha!).  Especially since I planted a lot of native annuals.   So the design was a bit random. The way I normally work is to pick a few specimen plants and build a garden around them but it didn’t really pan out in my own garden.

Above is a shot of the entire garden last week.  The mediterranean garden is on the right and was the first garden I installed (though I keep adding to it and am going to enlarge the two beds next week). Between the two houses in the fenced area in front of the lawn there is a long bed that is going to be a shrub border.  That is currently still in limbo because I decided to remove part of the lawn behind the fence so the shrub border can be expanded.  That is also where I had my gopher problem so one of the reasons I am doing this is to get rid of all the yellow lawn daisies that the gophers seem to love.  When that project is finished the only lawn remaining will be above the septic field in the back. Anyway you can see the shrubs in their big pots waiting patiently to be planted.

The gardens to the left of the mailbox is what we will be talking about today.

Here is the garden today. First up is the “Big Border”.  The long bed between my driveway and the “Path Garden”.  It measures Forty feet long by nineteen feet wide and is made up of two berms with a little valley in the center.

The large plant anchors that I tried to build the  beds around are a Grevillea rhyolitica in the front and a Cantua buxifolia in the back portion. I said tried because I really didn’t shape the design around those plants and instead it is more of a cottage garden look (at least it will be when the plants fill in). The house faces north so the portion closest to the house will be shadier most of the year. That will have a separate drip system so I can include more moisture loving shade plants. Toward the street I think I will eventually shift that part of the garden to include more mediterranean themed, drought tolerant  plants.

The beds on the right are divided by a path that leads to the shrub border and mediterranean garden.  The back bed around the palm is shadier so is made up of several species and cultivars of Fuchsia and Cuphea.  I decided to do a bit of a color themed garden here and so that is the “Red, Orange, Purple Garden”.  Since that bed is most visible from my large living room window I thought it would be fun to have a garden that attract hummingbirds right in front of it.

The front bed I am currently calling the “Chaos Garden”.  Even more so than the other beds this one has no theme or strong anchors.  It was basically the bed where I threw all the leftover plants. More than half of it is California native annuals so this bed will probably dramatically change later in the season. It will likely just become part of the mediterranean garden.

By the way the “Path Garden” is filling in nicely.  Aside from one Dianthus that suddenly dropped dead the other day the rest of the plants are blooming quite a big and slowly creeping outward. The Chamomile in the front smells divine.

So there you have it.  Now you’ve seen the flower garden in early stages.  There is nowhere to go but up. If all goes well I will put in irrigation, mulch, and add some finishing touches (gravel and mulch for paths, more rocks to cover and pretty up the drainage ditches, shrub border finished) in the next few weeks.

Now a few of the plants that are in bloom and my thoughts on them.

Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’

I grew this back east and found it to be short lived and Gabe said it is the same here.  So I probably won’t use it in clients gardens unless they are OK with something that may potentially act as an annual.  They are very impressive though and will hopefully self sow. They are in the front of the “Red, Orange, Purple Garden”.

Cuphea ‘Strybing Sunset’

I have five different varieties of Cuphea because I think they are adorable and they bloom pretty much year round.  This one is in the back of the “Red, Orange, Purple Garden”.

Cuphea cyanea

This Cuphea is so cute I want to eat its little face. It is in the back of the “Big Border”.

Fuchsia splendens

This is kind of a weird Fuchsia.  The flowers are sort of waxy and lumpy.  Strange thing.  It is sort of salmon which counts as orange or red as far as I am concerned so it is living in the “Red, Orange, Purple Garden”.

Uncinea uncinata ‘Rubra’

This was not a plant I had any intention of buying until I saw it in person.  At Annie’s Annuals at about a hundred feet away I saw something glowing, beckoning to me, it was lit up from within and said “Come close so I can jump in your cart”.  Of course you know which bed it is in without me telling you.

Eupatorium sordidum (syn Ageratum corymbosum)

This guy is like a really sturdy Ageratum and is at the back of the Big Border in the shade.  Supposed to get three feet across which is really exciting.

Lupinus hartwegii ssp. cruickshankii – sunrise lupine

I’m having a little love affair with lupines.  They are one of the first plants I grew from seed in my first New Jersey garden and there are so many delightful species that grow well in California.  So I sort of want all of them.  I think I currently have six different types growing in the garden.  I have three of this annual species growing in the “Big Border”.

Lupinus albifrons – silver bush lupine

This one is from Annie’s.  It should become a fairly large woody stemmed shrub with very low water needs. It is so tiny now I wasn’t sure I should even let it flower but I will deadhead it before it sets seed so it can put more energy into growing big and strong.

Lupinus succulentus – arroyo lupine

This is another annual from Annie’s.  The leaves really are quite succulent and juicy. I kind  of wish I had bought a few more of them so I could have planted them in a group because the annuals around it aren’t really filling in as much as I thought they would.  I also wish I had planted it closer to the path so I could easily squish its leaves. Hopefully it will self sow.

Ursinia anthemoides ‘Solar Fire’

A great South African annual from Annie’s. I bought these because I love them but didn’t really have a place in mind for them and somehow they were left over and forgotten at the end. In retrospect they would have been great for the “Red, Orange, Purple Garden” but I sort of randomly stuck them here and there at the front of the “Big Border”.  Perhaps not my best design choice as they are far ahead of the other annuals there but at least they are pretty.

Nemophila menziesii – baby blue eyes

In the future I’ll plant these earlier (beginning of February instead of the end of February) and I’ll plant them closer together.  I tried to be really good about spacing things appropriately but I think in the case of annuals smooshing them together a bit just looks way cooler.  I’m hoping these will keep growing a bit bigger even though they are all in full bloom already because some of them are really doinky. They are currently planted across the front of the “Big Border” and the “Chaos Garden”.

Heliophila longifolia

South Africa has the best annuals.  This has been a favorite since I first saw them in Mendocino and those were stunted plants that were in their nursery pots for way too long.  If you plant them at the appropriate time of year they became large plants covered in wands of these cheerful little tricolor flowers.  These are in the “Red, Orange, Purple Garden” just because I reserve the right to plant whatever I want wherever I want even if it doesn’t fit into the prescribed theme.  They look really nice with Geum Maggelanicum and Euphorbia amygdaloides ‘Purpurea’.

Anyway that is it for now.  Hopefully in a few months there will be so much blooming you won’t even recognize these beds.  Next installment should be the shrub border but who knows when I will get around to finishing it.

You know as I am tagging this post it occurs to me that “Red, Orange, Purple Garden” is a monumentally stupid name for a garden.  From this point on it will be known as the “Hummingbird Garden”.

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!

My Trip Home in March

I was going to start this blog in March and my first post was going to be about my visit home for Persian New Year but my old PC crashed right before the trip.  I generally only go home for visits to the east coast in July for my birthday or September for my father’s birthday so I had managed to avoid seeing snow for five years.

Every year my father asks “Do you want to come visit for Christmas?” and I answer “Are you crazy?” and then he tries again in March “Do you want to visit for Persian New Year?”.

Persian New Year or Nowruz is on the first day of spring so in the past I’ve always said no.  The weather is still pretty dicey in March.  I almost gave in last year and at the last minute changed my mind which turned out to be lucky because there was a nor’easter that tore down a blue spruce and other large trees on my fathers property and he also lost power for a week.  This year I decided I should visit and pay my respects.  Attending a family party at my aunt’s apartment in Manhattan first and then later in the week my father had a big party with around fifty guests.

That is me on the right with my brother and sister. Persian New Year 2011.

Of course it is always nice to see my family.  My father lives in northern New Jersey, my brother lives in Brooklyn and my sister is currently at the University of Pennsylvania studying to be a veterinarian. I’m the only one on the west coast so I do miss them.

But I also miss my old garden at my dad’s place.  It wasn’t my first garden or even my second and it isn’t a particularly great garden.  The setting is a busy four lane road in a New Jersey suburb of New York City, the lot is not especially large or attractive, and the materials I used to hardscape were sort of cheap.  But it was sort of an experimental playground for me while I was in school studying horticulture and some collections of plants I had held onto from my older gardens.  It has suffered a lot of neglect because even while I was living on the east coast I was often too busy with school or away  on internships.  It is amazing how quickly a garden reverts back to a semi-wild state if you leave it unattended.

The current care taker of the garden is my fathers handy man who doesnt know much about gardening but does his best.

The weather was 80 degrees in New Jersey but of course that changed when I arrived.  It snowed not once but twice so my five year snow-free record was shattered.

Snow and freezing weather are probably my two least favorite things in the world.

I tried not to let the weather deter me too much and I made it into the Bronx to visit my friends at the New York Botanical Garden despite freezing weather.  I went to my old neighborhood in midtown and took the train in from Grand Central so it would be just like the old days.

Grand Central Terminal feels like home.

I did visit the Orchid Show but I am not terribly excited by Orchids so you’ll have to check out some other blog for pictures of that.  I did of course pay a visit to the jade vine which is my favorite plant in the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory.

Strongylodon macrobotrys or jade vine. I pretty much love all the plants that come in this color.

It was very cold out but beautiful and sunny so I road around with my friend Jean who I used to work with in Plant Records as she put out plant labels and we gossiped and admired the early spring blooms.

Prunus mume Peggy Clarke was looking fierce in the Ladys Border.

Scilla tubergeniana at Wamsler Rock. From a distance it looked like snow.

Iris Katharine Hodgkin outside the rock garden.

Back home in New Jersey it finally got warm enough for me to tackle some of the woody plants that needed pruning.

These Graham Thomas roses hadnt been properly pruned in at least 5 years and were over 8 feet tall. The Cotinus, Hydgrangeas, and Vitex needed some work too.

Try not to laugh at the horrible pillars. I had a collection of about a hundred Clematis at one point and needed every surface imaginable for them to climb up. In fact some of the shrubs in this border exist for the sole purpose as suport for Clematis.

I learned to prune roses from the great horticulturist Mike Ruggiero. I think he would be happy with my work. It wasnt easy after all those years of neglect to find a suitable framework to prune back to but I think I pulled it off.

One regret I have is that I didn’t plant lots of Hellebores in the garden.  I’m not really sure why.  I think I just never got around to being a Hellebore collector. My focus has always been on late spring and summer plants and I am not a fan of winter but Hellebores definitely make later winter and early spring more tolerable.

This nameless white Hellebore near my pond is the only one in the garden. Now I wish I had planted more of them.

My quest to obtain Chiondoxa sardensis was a failure but on the plus side the garden now has hundreds and hundreds of Chiondoxa luciliae.

One of the coolest plants in the garden is a self sown Euphorbia palustris growing out of the rocks and moss in our ponds waterfall.  Palustris is Latin for  swampy or marshy and it is living up to its name by growing in a steady stream of water.  It is something I couldn’t have planned if I tried but the cool thing about Euphorbias is they are seed flingers so you never know where they might end up.

This self sown Euphorbia palustris has been in this spot for about 9 years and has formed a gnarled woody caudex. It looks like something swamp hobbits would live in.

Here is a wider angle so you can see how it is growing in proximity to the water fall. If you look closely you can see that the plant is encased in ice but doesnt seem to mind.

I found this old picture of the parent plants in 2004 at the side of the pond. They are still going strong and always look fantastic in spring.

There are many beautiful Euphorbias for gardeners to choose from. Succulent, shrubby, or herbaceous. Euporbia palustris is one of the nicest of the herbaceous types with beautiful chartreuse blooms in spring and a really nice habit through summer and fall. If it gets too leggy and tall after it blooms you can cut it to the ground and it will come up fresh.

I’m not sure how much work I want to put into further developing this garden.  My father bought an apartment in Manhattan where he will retire in a few years and it is possible that the entire house will be torn down and a McMansion put in its place and most of the gardens replaced with lawns.  But I may go back for a visit in September to renovate the big driveway border a little bit.  The center of it was taken over by some large weedy clumping grass and once that is removed there will be a lot of empty space.  And while I currently do not have a garden of my own it is nice to have one I can visit even if it is on the other side of the country.