Updates

It has been rough keeping up with blogging as I have a lot on my plate right now. I’ve been very busy with work, I have been developing my garden and have some big plans for it in the future and I have a few planted aquariums now that are a lot of work.

Leucospermum reflexum

One of my new plants in my garden redesign is this Leucospermum reflexum. Usually I don’t like to post pictures of plants that already had buds when I bought them as I think it is cheating if I didn’t get it to bloom myself. But my track record so far with Leucospermums is pretty bad so there is no guarantee it will be alive to bloom next year! They are tricky. Lots of changes in my home garden coming up so I look forward to sharing more when it is further along.

Finches on Salvia mellifera

I found the above photo while I was looking for inspiration for a garden I just designed. The focus was to be a native wildlife garden and there is nowhere better to look for ideas than my own garden when it comes to attracting wildlife.  Last July the finches were going crazy for the Salvia mellifera which was going to seed. It is not the most ornamental of sages but it gets an A+ for wildlife. It attracts hummingbirds and butterflies while in bloom and all sorts of finches and California quail once it goes to seed. Plus it is a local native so very little water is needed to keep it going.

I have kept fish since I was quite young and of course my life for plants found its way into my aquariums as well. It is definitely a bit more tricky keeping aquatic plants and dealing with issues like algae and pressurized CO2 injection. I have run into all sorts of obstacles and problems but I am pretty happy with my results so far.

Hydrocotyle leucocephala

I am pretty impressed with myself that I got Hydrocotyle leucocephala to bloom in a little aquarium in my office.

Panda Lyretail Mollie and Blyxa japonica pearling

And I was fooling around with my new camera and I snapped this picture of Blyxa japonica pearling with a female panda lyretail mollie looking on.

Really happy with my aquarium of SE Asian and Australian fish. The aquascaping still needs some work. I am still at the point where I want to grow every different plant I read about so it is stuffed with plants rather than a cohesive design. But I finally got a problem I was having with green water cleared up so the tank is looking nice and these beautiful rainbowfish and rasboras are really fun.

 

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.

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.

Two Years!

WordPress just sent me a little note that my blog has just had its two-year anniversary!  Kind of crazy how fast time goes by. Here is a little retrospective.

I had just moved out of my apartment in Santa Monica where I had gardened on a small balcony with a view of the Pacific ocean.

Santa Monica had some really nice gardens but I got bored there and foolishly moved to West Hollywood.

I ended up hating West Hollywood and my balcony there sucked for gardening so I blogged quite a bit about my mesemb seedlings.

I also reminisced about my Clematis collection in my old garden…

And various trips to England…

Where I saw the queen…

and visited Clivedon and many other historic gardens.

I started designing gardens for my friends at Gardens by Gabriel.

And took road trips to Annie’s Annuals where I had to get creative to fit as many plants as I could into my VW Golf!

I went on a trip to Hawaii…

and fell in love with Leucospermum reflexum.

I moved to the Central Coast of California…

and was inspired by the South African Garden at Seaside Gardens in Carpinteria.

I thought about the things I enjoyed about southern California like the California Poppy Preserve…

and Coreopsis gigantea growing in Malibu.

But I was happy to be living in the Central Coast where I designed some new gardens…

Including my own!

Which has come a long way in a year!

Despite some recent drama!

And in case you were wondering Geranium maderense did just fine during the wind storm last night.

So thanks for coming along on my horticultural journey the past two years. Hopefully the next two years will be full of even more beautiful gardens.

What a difference a year makes!

Do you remember last year when I asked you not to laugh at the puny plants in my brand new mediterranean garden? Check out the gardens progress in just one year!

Everything looks so tiny and sad in a newly planted garden.  There is still work to do (look at all those new black pots in the second photo) but the garden is filling in nicely.

Some added good news is after I took the second photo my new landlady gave me permission to remove the little purple-leaved plum. It was throwing off my whole design. A Chamalaucium will go in its place. She has also expressed an interest in removing that horrible chain link fence which will certainly make my garden more photogenic. I’ll be doing some work in the back area behind the fence in the coming months as well.

And some added GREAT news is that I have confirmation finally that they will not be digging up the garden to place sewer pipes! The pipes will go through the street instead!  What a relief. As I suspected one of the things that helped our case is that with the original placing not only would the construction go through both of my driveways and my garden but it would have cut right through my neighbors entire driveway.  I’m sure the construction will still be a nightmare but at least it looks like we minimized the property damage.  Once we have to connect the house to the sewers part of the yard will have to be torn up but since that is done by the homeowner you have a lot more control over the how and the when so you can prepare accordingly.

As you can see from the new black pots I have quite a bit of work ahead of me so look for more updates soon.  And do check out the “Mediterranean Garden Inventory” link up at the top of the page. You should find a link leading to a Google spreadsheet with an updated inventory of the plants in this part of the garden.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve been here before…

If I see more annoyed than distraught about my gardens impending doom it is because I have dealt with this before. The first garden I created was back in the early 90’s when I was living with my aunt in Ringwood, New Jersey. Initially we got rid of the lawn and covered it with wood chips (we were lawn haters back before it was cool and trendy) and put in two rows of rose bushes.  I learned about gardening and plants by visiting the New Jersey Botanical Garden at Skylands and reading lots of gardening books.  Bit by bit the garden grew.

As you can see above the garden had very humble beginnings. I didn’t really know what I was doing so I would just carve out beds and add plants that I liked.  The house was at the bottom of a small hill.

It wasn’t perfect but I think it was pretty good for a self-taught first time gardener. This garden lasted about seven years and then disaster struck. In the winter of 1998 we started having septic tank problems.  Because the property was situated on a large wooded slope the only place to put a new septic field was the front yard. Because it was winter we weren’t able to dig up and rescue any plants. I think I was also in denial at the amount of destruction that was about to take place. I remember being shocked one morning and seeing a gigantic back hoe and a six foot deep hole where my Peony collection had been the day before.

By the time the work was completed our front yard looked like the above photo. Everything was gone. Our house was no longer at the bottom of a hill. We were now level with the street.  We used to walk up steps to get to the front door but not any more. Of course I was distraught at the loss of all those plants, but on the other hand at this point I knew a lot more about gardening.  I had started taking continuing education classes at the New York Botanical Garden and I had learned so much from building my first garden. It would be kind of fun to start with a blank slate and use my new knowledge to build something smarter and better. We also had the crew use their back hoe to dig a big hole for a new pond. Something I wouldn’t have been able to do by hand. We had them make us a beautiful brick path with lighting.

In just two years my new garden was already much nicer than the old one.

Of course this garden didn’t really have a happy ending for too long. In the fall of 1999 I moved to Manhattan and my aunt sold the house and moved to Key Largo. The new home owners ripped out almost every single plant and put in a lawn. The only thing that survived were some Dicentra and Alliums that they missed because they were dormant when the lawn went in. Oh well. Lesson learned. If you leave behind a garden don’t go back. Never go back.

But I went to school and worked at some great botanical gardens. I became a horticulturist and created many more gardens, some my own, and some at the places I was working. I had already learned one important lesson though. Gardens are ephemeral. They change from one season to the next and if you move away it is unlikely the new home owners will keep everything the way you loved it. And sometimes, frustratingly, big construction projects will be necessary. In my first garden it was a new septic field, in my current garden it is the town converting from septic to sewers.

I still don’t know for sure when the work will begin but I am starting to make a mental catalog of what needs to be saved. Some things will go to the safety of my backyard and some may be potted up and saved or planted in clients gardens. But even when all the work is done I won’t get too attached to whatever garden I create because some day I will move again and start a new garden. Hopefully in a home that I own that I will live in for a long time.