Archive for April, 2013

Late(ish) Spring Transition

April 25, 2013

The garden is in the process of transitioning from early spring madness to later spring quietness.

The Farewell-To-Spring wildflowers (Clarkia amoena) have finally started to bloom:

A mix of wildflowers; Farewell to Spring in lower middle

A mix of wildflowers; Farewell to Spring in lower middle




I’m in the process of thinning out the Elegant Clarkias — I am trying to pull out most of them before their seeds are distributed, because I really don’t want quite so many next year. And they’re beginning to look a bit shopworn. I’ve almost completely removed them from the mound:

(1) Asters (2) Coffeeberry

(1) Asters (2) Coffeeberry

What remains are the two asters, which are starting to grow and spread the way I was hoping they would, and the coffeeberry, which is growing very nicely. Here’s a view from the other direction:



I’m hoping the asters will eventually “take over” the mound to some degree, and the coffeeberry should get fairly big — it’s making a nice start, having just about doubled in size since I planted it in the fall.

A sweet surprise: my “bunny ears” cactus (Opuntia microdasys) has gone into a riot of flowering:



The Penstemons are still blooming, and there are more to come from the smaller plants, I believe:



My White Sage (Salvia apiana) is, at long last, growing some tall stalks on which, it is to be hoped, flowers will appear at some point:



I originally planted it in fall of 2010, and it has performed admirably, growing slowly but without any difficulties such as bug infestations, and with lovely gray-green foliage. But I knew that these plants had spectacular inflorescences in which they became particularly irresistible to bees. So I am anticipating the arrival of this event sometime this year!

My Ocean Spray (Holodiscus discolor) is finally showing some signs of wanting to grow:



This plant, near the mound and mostly in the shade, is supposed to reach 15 feet in height in certain situations. It was planted in fall of 2010, and I often thought it was on the verge of death. But this year it finally started growing and producing new shoots, and has reached a couple of feet in height. I’m hoping it will continue its slow growth, as it can be quite beautiful (so I see from pictures) with lovely white flowers.

The area near the house is starting to fill in nicely:



Apr2013_NearHouseI anticipate that the Yankee Point Ceanothus (on the left) will, with judicious pruning, snake its way around the potted Monkeyflower and start to cover some of the bare mulch. The tree in the background is an orange tree that produces tasty oranges. Eventually the path will extend onto the side of the house, and I hope to have plants back there as well.

The Douglas Irises are nearing the end of their blooming period, but a couple of weeks ago they were at their peak:





Yesterday I noticed a beautiful caterpillar on one of my fuchsias:



A bit of research revealed this to be the larva of the White-Lined Sphinx Moth (Hyles lineata), a large moth that is sometimes mistaken for a hummingbird, as it has the ability to hover and feed from flowers. It pupates underground, and is considered a pest by commercial vegetable farmers. I found at least two of them on my fuchsia — the first time I have found parasites of any kind on this plant. We’ll see if it becomes a “pest”, but so far it’s not damaging the plant in any obvious way. I also found a snail this morning:



I have added some new plants:

(1) Manzanita 'Sunset' (2) Salvia 'Allen Chickering'

(1) Manzanita ‘Sunset’ (2) Salvia ‘Allen Chickering’

Close ups:



Allen Chickering Sage

Allen Chickering Sage

The Sage should get 5 feet across. It started out poorly, with many yellowing leaves that fell off, but has heartened me by growing some new leaves and even blooming. So I have crossed fingers on this one.

The Manzanita is supposed to get 5 – 8 feet high and wide, but we’ll see. It’s in the shade of the tree during the morning, so it may not grow that big. I will prune it down if it does get that high. It’s supposed to be a very hardy and reliable plant that I’m hoping will fill in that gap beside the driveway.

Then there are these new plants in the space previously occupied by the Red Pitcher Sage:

(1) Salvia 'Bee's Bliss' (2) Salvia 'Terra Seca'

(1) Salvia ‘Bee’s Bliss’ (2) Salvia ‘Terra Seca’

These are both low-growing sages that are supposed to spread out quickly. The Bee’s Bliss sage, again, worried me by dropping a number of leaves as soon as it was planted. But, like the Allen Chickering, it’s grown quite a few new ones and I have high hopes for it.

Then, in the back yard on my problematic hill, I decided to replaced a stunted Hummingbird sage with a Western Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum). Of the four Hummingbird sages planted a year and half ago, only two show any real signs of life. I’m hoping the Sword Fern will find this shady spot more congenial than the sage did.

(1) Sword fern (2) Hummingbird sages

(1) Sword fern (2) Hummingbird sages


The hill itself is proving to be a huge headache. My Ceanothus ‘Julia Phelps’ — which I planted last fall and which was a replacement for one of the same kind that had died — suddenly lost about half its leaves last week. This is exactly what the last one did, so — unable to witness this slow decline once again — I pulled it out.



I’ll have to find something else to go there!

The other plants on the hill are surviving, but not growing very well. There’s the Howard McMinn Manzanita, which is supposed to get 7 to 10 feet tall, but which has barely grown and still stands at under a foot:

Apr2013_HowardMcMinnAnd there’s the Joyce Coulter Ceanothus, which is doing much better than the Julia Phelps at two feet across, but still not growing much:

Apr2013_JoyceCoulterThe Joyce Coulter and the Julia Phelps were intended, by Rob’s design, to be the “anchors” of the hill, spreading to 8 feet and 6 feet, respectively. Their failure to thrive leaves huge gaps on the hill. Obviously there is something going on there that these plants are objecting to … but who knows what? This is a continuing dilemma that I’m not sure how to address.



Another Spring Update

April 8, 2013

The wildflowers are not going to look good for too much longer, so I’m hurrying to photograph them and get the pictures up.

The Clarkias have continued to bloom and look even better than they did when I took the previous pictures a mere week ago:


Long view ... (come on, Pacific Wax Myrtles, grow and screen out that boat!)

Long view … (come on, Pacific Wax Myrtles, grow and screen out that boat!)

Colorful corner

Colorful corner

The Chinese Houses continue to make a stand against the Clarkias:



The Douglas Irises now have four blossoms:


And the sages are starting to bloom — yay!

First Winifred Gilman sage blossom

First Winifred Gilman sage blossom

First Cleveland Sage blossom

First Cleveland Sage blossom

And here are two new milkweeds, Asclepias curassavica. I’m realizing that I am going to have to replace the milkweeds every couple of years, as they seem to become diseased and aphid-ridden. I pulled out all of them and replaced them with these two. We’ll see how long it takes for the new ones to acquire aphids (which, as I understand it, are invasive and do not historically attack these plants). I’m hoping they will stay away, since the plants that hosted them are now gone … we’ll see.


Wildflowers Gone Wild! … and more …

April 5, 2013

This is the most exciting time of the year for Southern California gardeners! Right now is about the height of the wildflower season  — let’s take a look. First, the incomparable and very aggressive Elegant Clarkias, whose proliferation is unrivaled by any other species. I have thinned the Clarkias by at least a third, and they still dominate the garden. To wit:









But there are a few other types creeping in here and there. My Chinese Houses (Colinsia heterophylla) had appeared to almost die out last year, so this year I sowed a few handfuls of seeds, and they have managed to compete with the Clarkias here and there:







There are still quite a few of these beauties that have not bloomed yet — stay tuned!

Then those plants that last month I was unsure of have proven themselves to be, indeed, Gilia tricolor — Bird’s Eye Gilia:





I hope to have even more of these next year.

And, finally, of course,  the poppies!

An unusual deep orange variety appeared in a single plant.

An unusual deep orange variety appeared in a single plant.


On the west side ...

On the west side …


A riot of color with poppies, clarkias, and penstemons.

A riot of color with poppies, clarkias, and penstemons.

The Royal Penstemons (Penstemon spectabilis) have started to bloom:



Then we have my Coral Bells (Heuchera) that have gracefully unfolded:



My potted Red Monkeyflower (Diplacus puniceus) has decided to extrude a couple of blossoms:



My relatively new Fragrant Pitcher Sage (Lepichinia fragrans) has been growing steadily since I planted it in the fall, just about doubling in size:



This should get quite large (perhaps 6 feet high) and I am hoping it will combine with the nearby Cleveland Sage to provide a mass of color in the area around the birdbath. I am not sure if it is going to bloom this year – we’ll see.

In other changes, I have moved the fountain and added a boulder on the west side:

The boulder, in addition to filling in a gap, provides a nice seat.

The boulder, in addition to filling in a gap, provides a nice seat.


I also added an Adirondack chair and some potted plants under the tree on the east side. I was undecided about what to do with this area, as nothing seems to want to grow under the tree. But I have longed for a place to sit in the shade, so here it is:



(1) Chaparral Current (Ribes malvaceum) (2) Western Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum) (3) Lanceleaf Liveforever (Dudleya lanceolata)

(1) Chaparral Currant (Ribes malvaceum) (2) Western Sword Fern (Polystichum munitum) (3) Lanceleaf Liveforever (Dudleya lanceolata)

The Currant should get quite large if it survives in this location — at least 4 – 6 feet high.

(I hope to replace the plastic chair with a nicer version at some point!)

Of course, I can’t leave out my Douglas Iris, which just produced its first blossom!



I also have finished outlining the paths with small stones. First the bench area:


… and then the west side path:



Both these paths will eventually be extended to continue on the sides of the house … but that’s in the future! Right now, I’m at the point of sitting back and waiting for things to grow and bloom.