Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

End of the Month View -- May 2015

Goodness, I almost typed June into the header, which is an indication of how warm our weather is right now at the end of May. Although to be really accurate for the PNW, it's been more like July -- hot and dry. It's an aphorism here that the rain stops exactly every year on the day after Independence Day -- July 5. For my 6 years of experience that's been weirdly accurate. When it starts up again in the fall is anyone's guess, but in a normal year we get rain until early July, and then it stops for at least 2 months.

This has been anything but a normal year, for many communities around the globe. Flooding in Texas, rain in late spring in California, murderous heat in India. Scary. I can only hope things even out, and return to a new (perhaps not completely altered beyond recognition) normal.

I've got changes going on in the gravel garden too, which is the focus of my EoMV posts this year, although the intensity of the work there has tapered off from the frenzy at the beginning of the month.

Here is my list of gravel garden goals for the month of May. I only accomplished one of them.

Gravel Garden goals for May:

1. Plant Sempervivum quilt
2. Plant Agave americana between Mexican feather grass
3. Plant Senecio mandraliscae amongst Carex testacea
4. Start work on revamping the plants in the remainder of the Gravel Garden

In retrospect I'm not surprised I didn't get as far as I wanted, because I took a week or more off from tending the garden to go on vacation in Southern California. I needed the week before the trip to pot up plants, completely empty the greenhouse and pot up my tomatoes out there (since those were the only plants the pet-sitter was tasked with watering). And when I got back from my vacation, I needed another vacation to recuperate from vacation! My tomatoes got huge while I was away, I would bet that they doubled in size in about a week. I should do a post about the greenhouse, it's been a while.

The only goal that I accomplished is number 4 on the list, and that one only partly. I managed to rework another area of the gravel garden, but not all of it. I didn't start on my Sempervivum quilt, or plant the Agave americana, or the Senecio. So those chores will stay on the list for June.

Looking down through the center of the Gravel Garden

The plants in the area that I reworked back in April are settling in, at least the Opuntia at the front are doing well

The two Opuntias haven't skipped a beat, in fact, in producing new pads

One has a new pad coming from its belly, at one of the dimples where there is usually nothing but spines and glochids

The grasses that I moved to the back of the bed to buffer the garden from the neighbor's weedy patch are looking rather grim

When I part the grass strands, though, it does look like the Carex testacea is still alive, there is plenty of green

New green strands on the Mexican feather grass too

Kniphofia caulescens has crisped up considerably

It looks much better after a ruthless trimming

I had hoped that spring rains would help to settle these plants in, but we haven't had any spring rains, at least not our usual. I transplanted more grasses in another area of the Gravel Garden, and so far those seem to be doing better. With those, I actually soaked their root balls for a week in water, and then transplanted, and they seem to have responded better to that treatment.

The line of grasses behind the Styrax japonica -- Carex testacea and Mexican feather grass -- were transplanted a couple of weeks ago

Stipa gigantea behind, Carex testacea in front

The Styrax is flowering

Newly planted in the gravel garden -- variegated Opuntia, Agave 'Mateo,' and Hesperaloe

I should transplant my Libertia peregrinans to other spots in the Gravel garden, this started out as one small 4-inch pot's worth

A recently transplanted clump of Calamagrostis is hiding behind the huge clump of Euphorbia, where one of my fungally challenged Yucca 'Bright Star' used to be

I brought my succulent pots out of the greenhouse to their places on top of the gabions

The Echevaria is blooming

I've got rebloom on the Lewisia in the colander too

And I found tiny pink flowers on the tip of one of the burro's tail Sedums in a succulent pot

Ceanothus 'Dark Star' is not a patch on its vibrant April self, when it was full of dark blue flowers, it's Dullsville now

But the 'Ann Folkard' Geranium at its feet is flowering now

I always set out tender dry-loving plants in pots on the gravel near the Gravel Garden -- a selection of Aloes, Agaves, Puyas, and Echevarias, which you can see in the photo below. But they need organizing, since I simply brought them out of the greenhouse and dumped them willy nilly. My plan is to repot the Agave 'Blue Glow' into that empty larger container in front. Will I get that accomplished this year, before it's time to put 'Blue Glow' back in the greenhouse? Who knows?

A couple of days ago I received fall bulb catalogs from John Scheepers and Van Engelen. I'm considering ordering some rock garden species tulips for the Gravel Garden. Will little species tulips work with Agaves and Opuntias? Will I remember to order? Will I even remember where I put the catalog? Will I run out of oomph in fall and neglect to plant what I order?

Goals for June:

1. Plant Sempervivums.
2. Plant Senecio.
3. Maybe spread Libertia around a bit.
4. Order fall bulbs.
5. Repot 'Blue Glow.'
6. Water. Cause at this point I'm afraid the rain is mostly done till fall.

Helen at The Patient Gardener's Weblog hosts the End of the Month View meme. Lots of garden bloggers participate. Check out Helen's current post here.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Little Short for a Storm-trooper

My first Cardiocrinum giganteum is blooming, but unfortunately, it's a little short to be called "giganteum." It's shorter than me and I'm 5' 2"...

Like many things in the garden, it's a mystery why this plant hasn't behaved the way I've seen it behave in so many other gardens -- most notably the lath house at Far Reaches Farm, where they routinely seem to be over 8 feet tall. Possibly it wanted more compost or perhaps some aged manure? I might try side-dressing my others this coming winter, and see if that has the desired effect on the rest that have yet to flower. Last year it also was covered up for a good part of the summer by flopping foliage from neighboring plants, which have been moved this year into a different area of the garden. Perhaps the lack of sun stunted its growth, or convinced it to flower and reproduce as quickly as possible this year.

I just hope now it produces seeds and offsets like I've heard they do.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Alison's Big Adventure in Jacaranda Land

And now: the real reason why I traveled over 1,000 miles from Seattle to Southern California. Although I did have a lot of fun at Disneyland with Nigel, who had never been there before (I was there over 20 years ago on a business trip), the biggest thrill for me on this trip was meeting and touring the garden of Kris Peterson who writes the blog Late to the Garden Party.

When we first moved here from the East Coast 6 years ago, and I made the fateful decision to start a  blog about my new garden, I did a systematic search for other bloggers here in the Pacific Northwest (to begin with) and then widened my search to include West Coast bloggers in general. The Northeast is such a very different place from the Pacific Northwest, and I had so much to learn. Many Pacific Northwest gardeners have a propensity for zone pushing, and when they push, it often means incorporating many plants that really are more suited to California.

When I mentioned to Kris that I was going to be in Southern California, she very kindly invited me to come and see her garden, have lunch, and then visit the South Coast Botanic Garden. So I rented a car and set off across the L.A. area's freeways on a voyage of discovery. Kris met me at the door and her first words were "You look just like your picture!" I don't post a lot of photos of myself, but my garden buddy Peter The Outlaw Gardener often includes pictures of me from our many outings, and I know she also reads his blog.

We immediately toured her garden, much of which was familiar to me from reading her blog. But nothing is like being there in person. Kris was such a sweet, gracious hostess. My photos can not do justice to her garden, but I hope you enjoy them!

First, some closeups.

Gazania 'Sunbathers Otomi' newly opened -- an annual in the PNW

Grevillea 'Peaches and Cream'

A thriving trio of Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' at the base of a tree

Gazania from the Kiss series -- I've never seen Gazania flowers so big

Agave 'Jaws'

Coleonema pulchellum 'Sunset Gold,' which I thought contributed a texture to the garden much like a conifer

Lotus berthelotii (aka Parrot's Beak) with Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' growing in a pot near the front door

Agave attenuata

Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder' and Abelia 'Kaleidoscope' growing below it near the ground -- a well-matched combo

Leucadendron 'Wilson's Wonder'


They've had a good amount of rain recently, and Kris's Gardenia has burst into flower as a result

Kris has quite a few fruit trees -- orange, lemon, lime, and fig. Imagine going out in your back yard and picking oranges!

Bignonia capreolata

An Aeonium that Kris has taken cuttings from and stuck in the ground throughout her garden

Another Aeonium ('Schwarzkopf'?) Notice the Pelargonium growing in the ground to the right.

Isn't this flying pig the cutest thing?

And some wider shots.

After a tour of the garden, Kris and I hopped in her car and went to a local cafe for lunch (my first salad in days), followed by a quick stop to see only a very small portion of the South Coast Botanic Garden. I had to be back in Anaheim by 5 p.m., and needed to be on the road by about 3 because of the L.A. freeway rush hour traffic.

I think this plant, flowering near the entrance to the garden, is an Epiphyllum, but it was blooming in the full sunlight of daytime

Holly-leafed Cycad

Asparagus fern

Ochna serrulata/Mickey Mouse plant -- the green seeds eventually turn black, and the entire little structure eventually resembles a Mickey Mouse hat



Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame'

Bird of paradise/Strelitzia reginae

Giant Bird of paradise/Strelitzia nicolai

Giant Bird of paradise flower nestled deep inside the clump

Opuntia santa rita

We wondered aloud how many honey bees could fit into one cactus flower?

That enormous plant on the right is a Euphorbia ammak

Euphorbia ammak trunk, as big around as some trees

Euphorbia ammak overhead

Yucca elephantipes

Golden barrel cactus


Agave 'Mr. Ripple'

'Mr. Ripple' closeup

Agave flower

Ferns growing in the crags of a date palm

Trichostema? Or something else

I encountered a couple of lizards that day

3 p.m. came much too quickly! This was only a small fraction of the goodies on offer at the South Coast Botanic Garden. But I had to get back to Anaheim for dinner with Nigel. Unfortunately, by the time I had reached my hotel, I was in the throes of an incipient migraine. Probably the result of a perfect storm of the stress of travel, freeway driving (I thought at one point the nice lady in the phone was going to take me back to Anaheim via San Diego), lack of sleep, and irregular meals of unhealthy theme park food (Note to self: ice cream and churros do not make a good lunch).

But I still have photos and great memories of a day spent with a blogger friend. Thanks so much, Kris, for being such a wonderful hostess!