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.

July Blooms

Even though I have been really busy I try to take the time to snap a few photos in the garden.  Here are a few of the things that are blooming now.

Epilobium ‘Marin Pink’

I think this Epilobium is sort of insipid. I would have been happier with the standard bright red blooms rather than this pale salmon cultivar. But one of my neighbors loves it.  Maybe in the fall I’ll dig it up and give it to her.

Nothing insipid about Mentzelia lindleyi.  This is another California native annual I grew from seed.  They are doing well despite the fact that I left them in little two inch pots way longer than I should have.

Scabiosa stellata ‘Stern Kugel’

This plant is grown more for the ornamental seed heads than the flowers.  The blooms are typical pale blue Scabiosa flowers but they very quickly go to seed.  This was very easy to grow but I am not sure I will grow it again.

They are more a novelty plant and aren’t that ornamental in large quantities in the garden.  Maybe a few tucked in here and there would work but I planted about a dozen of them and from a distance it just looks like I have a bunch of dead plants in my garden! And lots of grass coming up.  Please ignore the grass.

Didiscus caeruleus (aka Trachymene caerulea) on the other hand is very ornamental.  It is an Australian annual and is very drought tolerant, and while it was super easy to grow from seed, it did take them about six months to bloom. They are amazing as a cut flower lasting about two weeks in a vase. Does anyone cut flowers from their garden? I almost never do.  Sometimes if something snaps off in the wind I will bring it inside. I love the idea of a cutting garden but in reality I would rather just enjoy them outdoors.  If I bring them inside I’ll just have a mess of flower petals to clean up inside.

They are also available in pink and white but one of the things that makes them so neat is that blue is not a common color in umbellifers.

The red seed heads are ornamental too.

Moluccella laevis is still going strong.

Gaillardia X grandiflora ‘Mesa Yellow’

I finally finished planting the bed in my fenced backyard. It is mostly Salvias but I have been so happy with the Gaillardia in other parts of my garden I couldn’t resist adding these yellow ones.

Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish’ was a chance hybrid seedling found by an Australian gardener. Maybe a mix of S. buchanii and S. vanhouttei?

Finally the baby quail in the neighborhood are growing up.  A pair of proud parents brought seven little babies around the other day.  They grow so fast! Already out of the tiny walnut stage and growing in their first feathers.

Hopefully I’ll have more time soon to post some new updates. I’ve been taking some photos so that I can post an update about what worked and what didn’t work in the path garden.  Look for it soon(ish)!

Annual Garden Transitions

The spring annual garden is more or less over.  The California natives actually performed really well despite all my fretting that they didn’t get enough winter rain this year.

The Layia platyglossa was the last remaining California native annual last weekend.  I collected a huge envelope of seed (Not so easy to do on a windy day! As you can see in the photo above the achenes of Layia are very much like dandelion fluff).  I collected some seed from Lupinus succulentus as well.  I may do some sort of seed exchange later in the year.  Check back this fall or winter and maybe if I have collected enough seed from interesting plants I’ll set something up or have a contest or something.

I could have left a few of the Layia but decided to make a botanical garden inspired clean sweep of things.  Of the early spring bloomers only a few Ursinia and perennials remain in the front beds.  The rest was removed, weeded, and cleaned up.

Helipterum roseum ‘Pierrot’ planted in the back of the annual bed is still looking pretty good. I’ll probably grow this from seed again next year.

Clarkia amoena ‘Aurora’ is a late spring bloomer.   It is in full bloom now.

The problem with using true annuals or doing any kind of seasonal bedding is you are always going to have some down time.

Luckily there are enough perennials and a few remaining annuals so it doesn’t look too bad.  The front of the mixed border is now planted with a mix of Convolvulus, different types of annual Rudbeckia, and Ageratum.  If all goes well in a month or two all that bare soil will be filled in and we’ll be back in full bloom.

The main annual bed has newly planted Convolvulus, a few Rudbeckia, California native Mentzelia lindleyi, Ageratum, Consolida regalis, and a few Calibrachoa that aren’t really doing that well. I’m not sure if they prefer warmer weather or what the story is with them but they look sad.  There are also some Scabiosa stellata ‘Stern Kugel’ and Didiscus caeruleus (aka Trachymene caeruela) that I started from seed in January and planted out in April. They both just take a really long time to bloom.

The first Scabiosa stellata ‘Stern Kugel’ flower is finally starting to open. These should have really amazing ornamental seed heads.  Easy to grow from seed but a bit slow.

Convolvulus tricolor ‘Royal Ensign’ were just recently planted but some are already blooming.  I’m curious to see how these do.  I’ve used them in containers before and they are wonderful spilling out and hanging over the sides.  Now I have them planted in the ground in the fronts of the beds to sprawl about.  Hopefully I’ll like the look.

This is probably more work than a lot of people want to deal with in their gardens.  This may actually be more work than I want to deal with in the long run.  Next year I may end up sticking some low maintenance shrubs in these beds.  But for now the novelty and excitement of having a garden after 10 years of apartment living is motivating me to try as many things as I can. So a few weeks of ugly should have a nice pay off in July or August. Look for updates then!

Cool Plant of the Week!

This weeks cool plant is another native annual. Gilia tricolor is endemic to California and found in the foothills and valley as well as on the coast.  It is so easy to grow from seed that I think it is well worth giving a try even if you don’t live in California.

With its bright blue anthers and petals of lavender, maroon, and yellow perhaps “Gilia quadricolor” would have been a better name.

It is a great filler or companion, I have some growing with Orlaya and Scabiosa.  Each plant is covered with hundreds of little blooms on ferny foliage that waves and bounces in the breeze.  Kind of like a pale purple Gypsophila or Heliophila. I consider this a must for the spring garden now. My only regret is that I didn’t grow more of them.  Something I plan on remedying next year.

Cool (Native) Plant(s) of the Week!

For this weeks Cool Plant of the Week post I bring you my two favorite California native annuals this year.  One of the reasons I wanted to plant a lot of true annuals in my garden was for instant gratification.  New perennials can take a year or more to really fill in and bloom spectacularly so having plants that grow to full size and bloom in just a few short months can help fill in the gaps.  Despite the weather not being particularly good early on the annual garden worked out beautifully.  I loved all my California native annuals but two in particular stood out.

This first star is Lupinus succulentus.  It’s flowers are not as big and dramatic as typical lupine hybrids but it was a wonderful plant all the same.  Its little two toned purple spikes of bloom just keep going and going.

I liked this plant so much I wish I had bought more.  Just one was a nice show but next year I think I’ll try three in the same spot.  I’m leaving the seed pods on in the hope that it will self sow. Hopefully closer to the path so I can reach it easily to squeeze its juicy succulent foliage.

The second cool plant of the week is Layia platyglossa (aka tidy tips).

They are found in almost every county in California.  The first time I saw them was in huge fields north of Glass Beach in Fort Bragg.

They were by far the largest and showiest of the native annuals I tried this year. They started blooming a bit later so while the others are winding down (I have already started pulling out the baby blue eyes and cream cups) these are still going strong.

Annual Garden

I’ve renamed my three garden beds in front of the house that I talked about in this recent post.  Basically the names were dumb.  The red, orange, purple garden will now be known as the hummingbird garden and I will try to mostly fill it with plants that attract hummingbirds.  The big border was making my friend Maggie giggle.  She said that every time I said it she kept hearing “big boner”.  So for now I’ll just call that the mixed border. And the chaos border will be chaotic no longer!  From now on the focus of that garden will be true annuals.

The garden is approximately a sixteen by sixteen foot square and it will have a few perennial plants just to give it a little structure during down times when no annuals are in bloom.

True annuals are a bit misunderstood in gardening because many gardeners live in places with freezing winters where some tender perennials can’t survive year round.  These are also common starter plants for new gardeners.  Plants like Impatiens, Pelargoniums, Begonias, Antirrhinums (snap dragons), and Petunias are all actually perennial plants from tropical or warm mediterranean climates.  They generally can’t survive long periods of freezing conditions (though many of them can withstand light frosts and I commonly had snap dragons over winter in my old zone 6 garden).

A true annual is one that has a short life cycle.  They grow, flower, form fruit and set seed, and then die. They are very common in mediterranean climates because of the prolonged drought period of summer.  Plants set seed and die before the heat of summer and those seed wait to germinate and grow when the rains begin again in fall.

Nemophila menziesii (baby blue eyes) germinates and grows with the first rains of autumn or winter and then blooms and sets seed in the spring.

So when you are talking about plants like common bedding Impatiens it is more accurate to say “tender perennials” or perennial that is “treated as an annual”.  The term to describe plants that die after flowering and setting fruit is monocarpic though this also describes biennial plants or plants that may live many years before flowering.  True annuals live for as little as a few days, for some desert ephemerals, to a few months.  You may be able to prolong the life and bloom period a bit by dead-heading and not allowing them to set seed but this isn’t always easy when a plant has hundreds of blooms at a time.

Other examples of true annuals that gardeners commonly grow are sunflowers (Helianthus), sweet peas (Lathyrus), Zinnias, and marigolds (Tagetes) though there are perennial species available of all four of those genera as well.

Platystemon californicus – cream cups

Right now most of my annuals in bloom are California natives but I have seedlings of plants from other locales newly planted in the beds to take over when these are finished. Before our last rain storm I planted out some of the plants I had started from seed this winter.  Helipterum roseum ‘Pierrot’ is a South African annual, Didiscus caeruleus (syn Trachymene caerulea) is an Australian annual, and Scabiosa stellata ‘Stern Kugel’ is a Mediterranean annual.

The front half of the mixed border has some annuals too.  The yellow and white daisies in the photo above are Layia platyglossa (tidy tips) which are native to much of California and the orange Ursinia anthemoides ‘Solar Fire’ which is native to South Africa.

To be honest I am not really sure what I am going to do with this bed.  You can see there are a few blank spots.  For some reason there was this little area of death where I lost several plants (all different species and all from different nurseries). I’m not sure what is going on there because it is high spot in the berm with fresh compost and it should be pretty well drained.  Maybe I let that area dry out too much during one of the long periods of drought.

There are other parts of the border that are working fairly well design wise but right now I am at a bit of a loss as to which direction I want to go with the front of this border when the annuals are done.  The shady bit near the house needs some help too. Hopefully some amazing plants will start coming up on wholesalers lists and I’ll be inspired.   The reason I like to name my garden beds is I feel like it helps when you have some sort of theme.  Otherwise there are so many plant options it can be a bit overwhelming.  So right now “mixed border” is a bit vague and in need of some fine tuning.