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.

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Building My Garden: Part 6 – Finishing Up the Mediterranean Beds

Since the garden bed expansion project I have been slowly planting and finishing off the various beds.  I’ve been taking my time because I am busy and also kind of wiped out.  I’ve done a lot of work on this garden and think it looks pretty good considering it was only started in February.

The mediterranean garden is now made up of two long beds.  The large one near the street and the narrower one along the chain link fence.  I am hoping I will get the drip irrigation and mulch down and finish the path with decomposed granite some time this month.  We’ll see how much energy and money I have.

The entire planted part of the yard is approximately 70 x 40 feet. It’s a pretty good size.  In the fall I hope to expand the garden further with the side yard which is also 70 x 40 feet.

Over the course of the next year these plants should fill in enough so that barely any soil is visible.

The only things that remain unplanted are the backyard bed of shrubs and odds and ends.  Frankly I’ve just been too tired to tackle this and needed to give my back a break.  But I’m getting sick of looking at it and may try to get it started tomorrow.  Some Salvia, and Grevillea, and a Cotinus coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’ will be the stars of this bed along with a few different Ozothamnus that I am trying out (since I know nothing about them).

I’ve planted many lavenders in the expanded medit beds including several different cultivars of Lavandula stoechas like ‘Willow Vale’ and ‘Boysenberry Ruffles’.

Lavandula stoechas Coco™ Dark Pink is a very unfortunate trademark name. Sadly it seems the cultivar name is L. stoechas ‘Cocdap’ which is just a horrible morph of the trademarked name and not much better.   It is a pretty, compact, dark pink L. stoechas so I guess I’ll put up with the generic name that is meant to appeal to the broader public.

Berkheya purpurea

I first saw this plant in Beth Chatto’s gravel garden but it wasn’t quite blooming yet so I wasn’t sure what it was.  The mystery was solved when Andrew Keys over at Garden Smackdown blogged about it and I recognized it from his photos.  I ordered mine online at Dancing Oaks Nursery and they sent me two for the price of one!  I love free plants!

Artemisia ludoviciana ‘Valerie Finnis’

Early on in my gardening career, my experience with Artemisia on the east coast was that they melted in the heat and humidity of summer.  So I don’t know much about them.  They seem much better suited to my new coastal climate so I am trying out four different types to see how I feel about them.

Artemisia pycnocephala ‘David’s Choice’

This artemisia is a selection of one that is native to coastal California.  It should form a nice low mound but as you can see it has these weird ropey inflorescences so I am not sure how I feel about it.  Maybe it will not be as weird looking once the plant grows a little and they can be pruned out, but pretty much every picture I found online the plant had these weird alien looking blooms flailing about.

Frankenia thymifolia

This is an unusual little groundcover that is sort of like a cross between a thyme and a dwarf conifer.  It has these teeny little pink flowers.  The poor things have been sitting in the ghetto for the past two months and were looking a little raggedy. But they burst into bloom a week or two ago. I finally got them planted today so hopefully they will settle in despite the abuse.

Gaillardia ‘Oranges & Lemons’

I’ve been seeing this Gaillardia on wholesale lists for a while now so decided to grab a few to finish off the edge of the medit bed.  I’m a sucker for anything daisy shaped and the colors are pretty great.  I have a more compact one called ‘Gallo Red’ too.

Another project I finished today was fixing up my seedling nursery.  I wanted to make it a bit more professional looking.  I need to cover the young seedlings with bird netting, but I was using stacks of bricks to hold them up over the plants, which looked awful. I figured I could create some sort of frame with PVC pipe but had no idea how to go about making it.  Just in time, Clare over at Curbstone Valley Farm, saved the day. She posted pictures of a structure that she made with PVC, to create a humidity tent for her grafted heirloom tomatoes. I’m not very handy with tools and building things so the pictures made me feel a bit less insecure.

I started out making a rectangular frame base big enough to contain a dozen nursery flats. I cleared my old nursery bed near the vegetable garden and pulled up all the weeds and then put down weed cloth.

I added four T’s to the frame to create supports to hold up the netting.  Overall a pretty easy experience and much more professional looking.  It also holds the netting higher over the plants to give them a bit of room to grow.  Now I just need to get some PVC snap clamps to hold the netting more securely.

So the garden is coming along.  Hopefully soon I’ll have a post about irrigation and mulch!

What is your favorite lavender?

Right now Lavandula stoechas is my favorite.  It is medium-sized (generally 2-3′ high and across) and has large showy flowers with four sterile bracts on top of the flower spike that sort of look like bunny ears.  Other lavender flowers can be a bit subtle unless you have them planted in large quantities but L. stoechas is pretty bold and showy.

I haven’t really had that much experience growing lavender.  People do grow it in the northeast but a lot of them aren’t hardy there and the ones that can grow in the northeast are not impressed with the freezing winters, hot and humid summers, and year round moisture.  Like many California and Mediterranean natives water in summer tends to shorten the life of lavenders.  Once they are established water should be reduced or altogether withdrawn in summer.

At Kew I worked in the Duke’s Garden which housed their lavender collection but the only thing I really learned was that working with the fragrant lavender plants makes you sleepy and all I wanted to do was curl up in a sunny spot and take a nap.

Of course they are very happy in California’s mediterranean climate so they are a commonly used garden staple here.  I’ve found it a bit frustrating trying to find good pictures of all the many different cultivars that are available so from now on I am going to try and take my own and catalog them.

Starting with a few L. stoechas.  One design trick I like to use with lavenders is planting a few different species or cultivars together.  Even if they are just slightly different in shape or color it can be more interesting to mix them than plant them in blocks of the same type (unless you have a huge area and can plant big sweeping rows of L. X intermedia). It creates a sort of tapestry effect with different but similar flower colors and shapes.

Lavandula stoechas ‘Otto Quast’

This is a favorite of mine because the dark purple corolla and the large light purple sterile bracts are very showy together. It is definitely one of my staples if I am planning a garden with lavenders.

L. stoechas ‘Anouk’

There is also a cultivar of ‘Anouk’ with silver foliage called appropriately enough ‘Silver Anouk’

L. stoechas ‘Willow Vale’

This one has slightly taller sterile bracts.

L. stoechas ‘Boysenberry Ruffles’

Besides being pink ‘Boysenberry Ruffles’ is also smaller than typical L. stoechas cultivars, generally maxing out at 18-24″ tall and wide. The flower spikes are also shorter and fatter.

L. stoechas ‘Marshwood’

At the other end of the spectrum ‘Marshwood’ is larger than is typical at 3-4′ high and wide.

As the season progresses I’ll continue to take pictures of more L. stoechas cultivars and of other species of lavenders as well.