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!

 

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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.