Mentzelia lindleyi

One of my great central California native annuals that reseeded is Mentzelia lindleyi. This clump has been blooming non stop for about two months and looks like it will still keep going for a while longer.

Mixes pretty nicely with Euphorbia ‘Blue Haze’

And perfectly contrasting with the purple flowers of the European Consolida regalis.


Up close the showy stamens look like little fireworks. The plants are a little course and weedy looking (at least according to one of my neighbors who thought it was a dandelion or something) but I don’t think they are so bad and when they are covered in blooms you don’t really notice the foliage at all.

My first clump of these to start blooming began way back at the end of January but they were right by the road and  got demolished by the construction guys. But how tough is this plant?


So tough that this snapped off stem of that planting lay on the soil without any water and stayed blooming like this for an entire week before it wilted!


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.

Risk and Reward of Seed Grown Plants

As I have said many times before, and I’m sure will say again many times in the future, I love growing plants from seed.  The reward is obvious.  The satisfaction you receive from growing a plant to blooming size from a tiny seed can’t be beat. It is extremely gratifying when that first flower opens on a plant you have nurtured.

Except when it isn’t. One of the risks that come from seed grown plants is that sexual reproduction has a certain degree of variability.

Obviously this is the case in humans. Maybe you got your mother’s cute button nose or your father’s blue eyes. Maybe you and your siblings look so alike you are mistaken for twins or maybe some of you look like one parent and some the other. Or maybe you are a blend of both parents or don’t look like any of your other relatives at all.

And when you are a plant maybe you end up with stupid white flowers instead of pretty lavender or mauve flowers.

Meet Abutilon X suntense, a cross between two Chilean Abutilons. Abutilon vitifolium with flowers that come in whites, mauves, or even bluish lavenders and Abutilon ochsenii which usually has flowers in a deeper lavender color.  Particularly neat because most of the species of Abutilon you see have flowers in bright yellows, oranges, and reds.

Of course I was hoping for a flower in a pretty lavender shade like the first Abutilon vitifolium I saw up at the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden ten years ago.

Just look at it! Not only was the color spectacular but plant itself was about 15 feet tall and smothered in blooms.

But I get a dumb white flower.  The plant is still cute so I am not going to shovel prune it. It does go to show you that in some cases it pays to grow on a good sized batch of seedlings  and keep them in containers until they bloom and then pick the colors you like best.  Of course you can also buy a named cultivar.  They have already been selected for their color or some other interesting characteristic that differentiates them from their parent plants and then are asexually propagated. Clones of the parent plant so you are certain to get what you paid for.

But what is the fun of that?  Even though I took a gamble and lost there is also that chance that your seed grown plant will turn out to be exactly what you hoped for. Or maybe something even better!

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 Walk Off 2013!

A few weeks ago I had to get away from all the construction happening on my street so I decided to go for a walk so I could take part in this years “Winter Walk Off” inspired by Les of A Tidewater Gardener.  Last year my post was a bit crazy.  Fifty photos!  This year I am a bit more busy so I am going to keep it short. I’m trying to keep my blog posts at fewer photos anyway.  There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. I don’t want busy people quickly scrolling through my posts but if you don’t have much time for blog reading DO at least scroll to the end of this post. I saved the best for last.

I walked up to the northwest part of town which is known as Baywood Park.

There is beach access there so you can enjoy views of Morro Bay and the estuary.  From left to right you can see Morro Rock, the unfortunate smoke stacks at the Morro Bay Power Plant, the Morro Bay Heights, the golf course, and Black Rock.

There are million dollar houses all along the estuary and the bay.  This one is for sale. Quite a bargain since not only do you get a house with a beautiful view but you also get  a magnificent Leucospermum cordifolium.

And a lot of Linaria. This spot is just itching for some new Protea specimens. That is Black Hill again in the background.

Orange Leucospermums are very popular in town.  I fear for this ones safety as I believe there were some lateral sewer line markings on the street right near it. If you remember my post from last month the path of destruction is pretty wide. I don’t believe most Proteaceae transplant very well. Especially when they are this size.  This is quite an artistic little house. I think leaves on the little tree in the background are fake. Made of metal or something.

They have a nice little Garrya elliptica too.

Does anyone know which Acacia this is? There are quite a few of them around town.  They start blooming in January or February and are quite pretty but I still don’t know my Acacias. There are so many of them but they get quite big so I haven’t used any in garden designs.

This is the garden I wanted you all to stick around for.  A really great design just a few minutes from my house. Nick Wilkinson from Grow Nursery had a hand in creating it.

The part that really knocked my socks off were these three HUGE Aloe polyphylla! I have seen a photo of huge specimens in their home in South Africa but never this big in California.

They are so big they are barely fit in the space allowed them!

Nick says they are about five years old and he has never had Aloe polyphylla at any other location get this big.  It must be the exact right combination of our chilly coastal climate and maybe the excellent drainage from the large raised beds.

Whatever it is these are some really happy plants! I can only hope mine are even half this glorious some day.

The entire garden is really charming and full of great specimens. This is another garden I really hope will be spared any sewer destruction.

I’m really glad that winter is coming to an end (though truth be told it has been quite spring-like here the past month). I’m going on a trip in a few days but I’ll be doing a spring bloom and garden update post soon.

El Diablo!

It is no wonder that deer have cloven hooves for they are surely the minions of the devil!  At least from a gardeners point of view.

This Geranium ‘Bill Wallis’ has been munched!

All the construction for the sewers in town means that a large number of fences are temporarily down. Now I am not foolish enough to believe that any of these little fences offered 100% protection against deer but my neighborhood had a series of fenced areas that seemed to funnel the deer to other areas of town.  Sadly that barrier is now gone. Shortly after the construction began I noticed my beautiful Eschscholzia californica ‘Mahogany’ had been munched on. That seems particularly cruel since the field the deer came from has tons of wild California poppies that no one would miss. Next on the menu were my Clarkia seedlings. Clarkia amoena seems to be a particular favorite as most of the plants have been eaten to little nubs.

Finally the above Geranium was munched on and since I now live on a sand and dirt road (courtesy of our new sewer pipes) I found evidence leading right up to the plant.

There is no question who the guilty party is!

One of the annoying things is that my neighbors don’t share my horror at these hoofed vermin infesting our neighborhood.  They are all like “OMG it was a buck. It was so pretty.” and when I suggest that the next time they see him they chase him off or sic their dogs on him they look at me with horrified expressions on their faces.  As if I am some sort of serial killer.

The real serial killer here is a plant murderer though!

I’m trying out some Liquid Fence on some of the tastier plants and so far that seems to have done the trick for now.  But reapplying it may be a bit costly.  What tricks have you used to keep hungry critters from munching on your garden?



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.

Strike that – Reverse it

Just pretend that I didn’t say any of that optimistic stuff the past few days. This sewer stuff flat-out sucks.

The damage done after the second day wasn’t pretty.

Remember my pretty Calocephalus (Leucophyta) brownii?  This is what they looked like after having one of those giant walls of metal dropped on them.

The front corner of the mediterranean garden is not looking pretty. These plants have been stepped on, crushed, and driven over.

Now I don’t really know much about construction or mechanical things so much of this sort of work is a mystery to me.  I’ve read up a bit about the process but I didn’t really have a clear picture of what all of it meant.  But by the end of the second day I suddenly had a feeling of dread.  Remember when I peeked into that hole and was surprised to see the sewer pipes were 10-12 feet below ground?  I suddenly realized that meant that the lateral connecting line was at that depth too.  How would a home owner dig down that deep when the time came to connect.  I suddenly felt really foolish for being so optimistic. Surely this construction crew is going send that lateral line at least partly through my yard? And my lateral will go right through the medit garden. Not a few years from now like I originally thought but right now.

So I spoke to a few of the guys about it and sure enough another crew is coming next week (hopefully) and will connect the lateral from the sewer pipe up to the edge of the property line. Then when it is all done the homeowner has to decommission their septic and connect the house to that lateral. Yikes! That means I have to start removing plants!

I removed a few last night from the front of the garden just to prevent them from being stomped on.  I’m pretty much going to remove the rest of the garden at least up to the mailbox this weekend. I just hope that they really do come and finish the work next week so my plants aren’t sitting around out of the soil more than a week.

Trying to put a positive spin on it now I can further address any design issues I wasn’t happy about.  But I have to say I am a bit burnt out at this point.  Between the noise and the needless destruction (people taking short cuts through the garden, people dropping hoses and other equipment on plants) I’m about done. And it has only been three days.

Another good thing is that once that line is in that will really be the worst of it. I can plan around the connection to the septic tank (or more likely I won’t even still be here by the time that happens).

I thought I had removed the plants that were in the worst danger but this afternoon I went out and noticed this crater where a (brand new) Phlomis cashmeriana had been. The plant was in the bottom of the two foot deep crater upside down and beat to hell.  I think it was probably an accidental slip up with the excavator bucket.

One good outcome of my questioning the guys about the lateral was that they realized that they had faced mine the wrong way.  It was facing into my landlady’s driveway instead of toward my yard!  Zheesh. Good thing we caught it now. They had to go back in 12 feet with the excavator and fix the problem. My landlady is lucky I am here keeping an eye on things because if I wasn’t she probably would have arrived in a few weeks and discovered she no longer had a driveway!

Hopefully the Phlomis will recover.

At this point at least half of the self-sown annuals I was so excited about are demolished.  Today they parked their water truck in my driveway all day and when they backed it up they went through another area that I thought was safe. Well if things go well the lateral installation will happen early next week and will just take a day. The sewer pipe construction is now at the cross street and getting further and further away. I’ll survive this right?

The good thing about plants?

They grow back. At least that is what I have been telling myself all day.  I’m trying to be really calm and zen about the chaos and destruction to the garden today.

See the big white pipe to the left of the mailbox (sitting in the middle of the garden)?  That is the attachment for the lateral that will eventually connect to the house where the septic was.  That doesn’t happen until 2015 or so but is a reminder that will definitely be some destruction to the garden in the future.  Nothing to be done about but now that I know exactly where it is I may reposition some of the shrubbier plants while they are still small.


Surveying equipment sitting in my annuals, cables crushing my Mentzelia, pipes, tarps, and ladders resting on the mediterranean garden and lots of boots clomping through all of it today since there is very little room for them to maneuver. 

At least the endangered snails across the street got their protective barrier.

When there is stuff like this going on in front of your garden you know all your plants aren’t going to escape damage.

At noon every day the guys take a half hour lunch break. I snuck over to have a closer look.  I was surprised at how far down the sewer pipes are laying.  I’m not sure if it is clear from my photo but that blue pipe at the bottom is at least ten to twelve feet down.

At the rate they are going they definitely should be done with my little side street by Friday and each day they get further and further away from the garden so hopefully there will be less of a need to store equipment on plants or walk through the garden.

The good thing about all this is it is still only mid February. Once they are done I can go out and asses the damage and replace or cut back any plants that took a beating. By May or June the construction will just be a memory and there is plenty of time before then to get the garden in decent shape. Remember that the annuals were just seedlings that came up so are basically free.  If they won’t recover it isn’t the end of the world.




First Day of Sewer Work

Beep Beep Beep Beep!  I’ll be hearing that noise every time a big truck backs up in front of my house for a while.

I was watching like a hawk this morning to make sure they knew that the amended plans didn’t involved cutting through my garden!

Happily it soon became clear that they wouldn’t cut through my garden but through my landlady’s front yard instead! She is planning on removing the lawn and putting in a xeric garden when this is all done so this all works out for the best.  I did call her to warn her though as I don’t think she realized this was going to happen. That poor Phormium is toast!

You can see the corner of my mediterranean garden over on the left. Luckily the sewers aren’t really that close. I was afraid there would be collateral damage but it has been amazing watching the guys working and seeing how careful and precise they are.  Most of them have been careful to stay off the garden though one surveyor kept clomping through it even as his assistant took pains to go around and stick to the paths.

The crazy contraption attached to the front of this wheel loader is called an “Asphalt Zipper”.

It grinds up the asphalt in a line so the hydraulic excavator can go to work removing the soil beneath.  Kind of nerve-wracking to see this beast of a truck right in front of my path garden!

This is what it looked like when he was done!

Remember when I was wondering the other day what those big metal objects being stored in front of my neighbor’s house were?

The excavator lifts them into place and they are then used as a guide while they are digging.  I guess they stabilize the soil while the excavator scoops it out and they place the pipes.  I assume it is removed after several segments are connected.

Two pipes are brought over.

And dropped off right at the edge of the garden! Ack!

Luckily most of the plants along the street are pretty tough and will either bounce back if they are smooshed or can be easily replaced.

At any rate they didn’t stay there very long.

In they go.

Surprisingly after all this intense work done just a few feet away from my garden very little was damaged.  The corner got smooshed a bit and some of my nice Dudleyas lost a few leaves but I can live with that.  They got two segments in today and as easy day goes by they are moving further away from my yard.  I’m sure there will be some nail-biting moments tomorrow but for the most part they guys have been really respectful of the plants.

Oh and remember the other day when I was wondering why they were rooting around in the ice plant across the street?

Turns out that little strip of land is home to the endangered Morro shoulderband snail. A count was being done and I think he said he would relocate some of them to another protected area and he might put up some protection around this bit of land while they are digging up the street.

They aren’t garden pests like the European garden snails as they just feed on detritus and decaying vegetation. I asked if they would be impacted by my attempts at snail control in my garden and he said they generally aren’t found in cultivated garden areas. While he was working in the area some western bluebirds got real interested in what he was doing. Hopefully they stick to a diet of invasive plant-eating snails and leave these poor endangered ones alone but at any rate I was excited to see bluebirds in my neighborhood again and it was cool to learn about these shoulderband snails.