Posts Tagged ‘Allen Chickering Sage’

After the Deluge

April 6, 2017

This winter we Southern Californians were told to expect a La Niña season, something that usually brings drought conditions. Given that we were in the midst of a historic drought already, we were dreading it. But no …. It rained and rained and rained. And then it rained some more. Truly, the plants thought they had died and gone to heaven!

A few scenes from the garden, to illustrate the lush growth:

My White Sage (Salvia apiana) has grown HUGE and is encroaching on the chair. I have never pruned it, but will probably do so in the fall.

This Aeonium (not sure of the species), which was one of my first plants, and which has labored long in the shadow of the Cleveland Sage and the California Fuchsia that overhung it, has responded to the rain and the absence of the sage by growing gigantic, and, from what I have been reading, this configuration means it is close to flowering, for the first time:

New Plants

When last we spoke, Argentine ants had decimated several of my plants, including my two Cleveland Sages, two Ceanothuses, and my Pitcher Sage. Here’s what the damage looked like:

I reluctantly decided that the two Cleveland Sages would probably never recover to their full glory, and I had them removed. The Pitcher Sage and one of the Ceanothuses had already been removed – when I was not yet aware that it was the ants that had done them in. Because of the gaps left with these huge plants missing, I withdrew from the California Native Plant Society garden tour, in which I had planned on participating this April. I’m hoping to join the tour next year, if the replacement plants have grown back sufficiently.

So I decided to replace the Pitcher Sage with a Lilac Verbena (Verbana lilacina), with which I have had some success. I had a hard time finding another Fragrant Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia fragrans), and anyway I felt it was too big for that spot. Now, the Verbena does also get to a large size, but it grows more slowly. And I love this plant — it flowers so beautifully.

I replaced one of the Cleveland Sages with another one:

And I replaced the other one with a Pozo Blue Sage (Salvia ‘Pozo Blue’), which is a hybrid of Cleveland Sage and Purple Sage, but does not get quite as big as the Cleveland Sage (so they say!):

This is on the west side.

Some “hardware” changes: I moved the solar fountain from the west side to the east, as it was being overtaken by the Cleveland Sage (before I knew I was going to remove it!), and also because it was in the shade of the Pacific Wax Myrtles in the afternoon.

Likewise, I moved the potted succulents to the west side, because they were beginning to be overtaken by the Allen Chickering and Winifred Gilman Sages:

If there is one cautionary tale to be taken away from my garden it’s this: be more careful to space your plants carefully! I have continually underestimated the size to which many of these plants will grow, and my garden is actually more crowded than I would like. When you plant them, they are so small, and you want to fill in that space. Have patience! If the literature says they will grow to 4-5 feet, they probably will. Leave enough space!

The potted plants above are now in danger of being overtaken by the Lilac Verbena …. so I will probably have to trim it back next fall!

I also added several plants to the area near the Adirondack chair near where the fountain is now located. The first is a Bladderpod (Peritoma arborea), with small yellow flowers which appear near the end of winter, and small fruits (edible, so I hear, though I haven’t experimented yet). I am told it adds nitrogen to the soil, instead of taking it out, and that this is a good thing.

Also new is Coyote Brush (Baccharis pilularis), behind and to the right of the fountain in the rear:

Coyote Brush will grow huge, and I will cut it back to fit the area. I wanted a green background for the new Saffron Buckwheats (Eriogonum crocatum) that I planted in front of the fountain, aiming to create a mass of them with their beautiful yellow flowers:

Finally, I replaced my Miniature Rose – which was one of the first plants a visitor would see, near the curb, but was not very attractive – with a slightly non-native sage (it’s one of those Mexican immigrants), “Hot Lips” Sage (Salvia gregii ‘Hot Lips’):

When this comes into full bloom, it will be gorgeous!

What’s in Bloom

Coral Bells (Heuchera):

The Bladderpod and some of my Elegant Clarkias (Clarkia unguiculata):

The Clarkias have been late in blooming this spring – perhaps because of the rain? I don’t have many this year for some reason – possibly because I refreshed my mulch, and perhaps buried some seeds too deep.

The Hot Lips sage has a few blossoms:

The Lupines (Lupinus succulentus) are at their peak:

My Monkeyflowers (Diplacus), planted last fall to partially replace my diseased Asters, are big show-offs:

The Apricot Mallows (Sphaeralcea ambigua) are blooming (they never seem to stop!):

My wildly proliferating Evening Primroses (Oenothera californica) are showing a few blossoms (only in the late afternoon, of course – by morning they are withering away):

My Royal Penstemons (Penstemon spectabilis) and Farewell to Spring Clarkias (Clarkia amoena) are starting to blossom:

A few blossoms have appeared on my Douglas Iris (Iris douglasiana):

And, of course, the ubiquitous and delightful California poppy (Evening primroses in front):

Shortly: Changes and growth in the back yard, and some focus on succulents — which have really loved the rain!

Happy gardening!



Mid-Late Spring 2016

May 12, 2016

Late March/Early April Florescence

My new primroses started blooming this month:

Beach Evening Primrose (Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia)

Beach Evening Primrose (Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia)

California Evening Primrose (Oenothera californica)

California Evening Primrose (Oenothera californica)

Overall view:


The last of the wildflowers were hanging around:

Bird's Eye Gilia (Gilia tricolor)

Bird’s Eye Gilia (Gilia tricolor)

Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa)

Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa)

And the Penstemons were in their glory:

Royal Penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis)

Royal Penstemon (Penstemon spectabilis)


Beloved by bees!

Beloved by bees!

Foothill Penstemon (Penstemon heterophyllus)

Foothill Penstemon (Penstemon heterophyllus)


There is color everywhere at this time of year!

The Allen Chickering Sage blooms in the foreground

The Allen Chickering Sage blooms in the foreground






Blooming Cactus!  (Opuntia mocrodasys)

Blooming Cactus! (Opuntia mocrodasys)


Late April-Early May

I bought a Woolly Blue Curls plant (Trichostema lanatum) from Home Depot, of all places … a notoriously difficult plant to grow. (I can’t imagine it will prove too long-lived among the “water every day” crowd that frequents Home Depot, as it is highly averse to overwatering.) I placed it in a pot because it is very picky about soil, preferring more easily drained soil than my yard can supply. This picture is from a couple of weeks ago and it’s not looking quite as healthy now, alas.  It’s a gorgeous plant if you can grow it. So far it’s hanging in there — we’ll see.



My enormous Cleveland Sage has come into full bloom:


And the incomparable Winifred Gilman sages are in bloom — just as the Allen Chickering sage declines:



The Saffron Buckwheat (Eriogonum crocatum) is blooming:


And one of the new buckwheats I planted, Shasta Sulfur Buckwheat (Eriogonum umbellatum var. polyanthum) has sprung a few blossoms. This plant is near the adirondack chair, along with three others I planted, none of which has produced blossoms yet:


By the way, take a look at this “Little Sur” Coffeeberry (Rhamnus californica ‘Little Sur’) on the West Side (on the left near the gate):


This is a variety of coffeeberry that’s supposed to be smaller and tidier than the normal variety — it’s not supposed to get bigger than 3-4 feet high and wide. This one, though, is taller than I am and is approaching 6 feet! (Also note that the tall Pacific Wax Myrtles are finally getting big enough to almost screen out the boat and RV next door!)

Back Yard

A number of changes have been made in my back yard. For one, the Italian Cypresses on both sides of the yard have been removed, and the wooden fence on the west side has been replaced by a block wall:


And I am finally getting some plants to grow on the hill! I have been experimenting with plants that are native to our specific area here in Southern California:

(1) St. Catherine's Lace (Eriogonum giganteum) (2) Joyce Coulter Ceanothus (3) Indian Mallow (Abutilon palmeri)  (4) Apricot Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) (5) California Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia calycina) (6) Island Snapdragon (Galvezia speciosa)

(1) St. Catherine’s Lace (Eriogonum giganteum) (2) Joyce Coulter Ceanothus (3) Indian Mallow (Abutilon palmeri) (4) Apricot Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) (5) California Pitcher Sage (Lepechinia calycina) (6) Island Snapdragon (Galvezia speciosa)

(1) LemonadeBerry (Rhus integrifolia) (2) Bee's Bliss Salvia (Salvia 'Bee's Bliss') (3) Coast Sunflower (Encelia californica)

(1) LemonadeBerry (Rhus integrifolia) (2) Bee’s Bliss Salvia (Salvia ‘Bee’s Bliss’) (3) Coast Sunflower (Encelia californica)

The back yard is scheduled for some sprucing up now that the cursed Italian Cypresses are gone … stay tuned!

Next time: more Monarchs!

Happy gardening!






Mid-Spring 2015: the Sages Come to Life

May 6, 2015

That is to say they start blooming …

This started a couple of weeks ago, and most of the sages are now in full bloom.

First, the immense Cleveland Sage that dominates the garden:


A picture from another angle shows the new Apricot Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) in front of the sage, along with the new small Buddha statue I added:


The spectacular Winifred Gilman sage (Salvia ‘Winifred Gilman’) is in full bloom on the west side:



There’s another Cleveland Sage that is threatening to overtake the fountain, that is not quite in full bloom yet, but it’s getting there:


Then there are the smaller sages near the succulent pot:


In the center is an Allen Chickering Sage (Salvia ‘Allen Chickering’) that probably has another foot to grow in each direction. Right behind it, but not appearing to be separate, is a smaller Compact Sage (Salvia compacta), which was overgrown by the previous Winifred Gilman sage alongside it, and is now branching out since that sage was removed. On the left is another new Apricot Mallow, which has not grown nearly as large as the other one.

Then there’s the new Winifred Gilman sage in the same place as the old one (which was dying). It’s still quite small, but has nonetheless produced a few blossoms:




Finally, there are the two sages in the corner behind the Adirondack chair:


The plant to the left is my White Sage (Salvia apiana), which has sent up stalks and produced some tiny white flowers. The Pozo Blue Sage (Salvia ‘Pozo Blue’) to its right has come up with a few blossoms, though it’s very hard to see because it is just in front of a huge outcropping of Royal Penstemons (Penstemon spectabilis). I made a mistake in planting that sage; I located it where it is because I thought that the Penstemons behind it would die, as has every other Penstemon I have ever planted in that location! At the time the three plants there each had a single stalk. Well, this spring each Penstemon suddenly produced multiple stalks and grew profusely! Curses! They are very beautiful when in bloom (see previous post), but had I known they were going to thrive I would have planted the Pozo Blue Sage a few feet in front of them! Lesson: never make assumptions about native plants and their viability! Hopefully the Pozo Blue Sage will grow outward, and probably the Penstemons will die at some point.

Other items of note include the wonderful growth of my Select Mattole Fuchsia (Epilobium septentrionalis ‘Select Mattole’). I just can’t say enough about this variety of prostrate fuchsia. Every fall I cut it down to the ground, and every spring it comes back in perfect mounding form:



Unfortunately, it’s difficult to find this variety at the native plant nurseries, for some reason. I will have to become adept at growing from cuttings, I think!

I have moved the Dudleya succulent that was just behind the fuchsia, since you could hardly see it anymore:


We’ll see how it does in this location, where it will get more shade.

My Seaside Daisies have just barely started to bloom (behind them the Asters are starting to bloom as well):



A few more scenes from the garden:



A house finch enjoying the birdbath!

A house finch enjoying the birdbath!

My latest attempt to grow  something in the pot behind the chair: Vandenberg Ceanothus  (Ceanothus impressus 'Vandenberg')

My latest attempt to grow something in the pot behind the chair: Vandenberg Ceanothus (Ceanothus impressus ‘Vandenberg’)

That’s all the plant news for now — some caterpillar news coming shortly! Happy gardening!

Early May Update — Post-Hurricane Edition

May 5, 2014

Well, OK, we didn’t have a hurricane. It just felt like it.

A week or so ago we had some very uncharacteristic “Santa Ana” winds — these are the hot, dry winds that come in mostly from the desert, and drive everyone around here nuts (humidity levels are under 10%). Usually we have them in the fall. And usually they blow maybe 25-30 mph, and go away after a couple of days.

Well, this time we had winds with gusts of over 80 mph, and they blew for four straight days! These winds were fierce. They broke branches off a couple of my plants, and they changed the shape, at least for the duration of the summer, probably, of several of my plants. They caused havoc for a couple of my caterpillars that had the misfortune to emerge from their chrysalises during this period.

But first things first … let’s look at some more of the wildflowers that have emerged since my last post.

I had a profusion of Bird’s-Eye Gilia (Gilia tricolor) — with two different types of flowers, sometimes on the same plant. Some of them were light blue, almost white:



Others were a dark blue:


Very odd! Maybe that’s why it’s named tricolor? If so, I’m missing the third one!

We also had some less common yellow poppies:


And the Chinese Houses (Collinsia heterophylla) ended up being much more prevalent than last year, as I was hoping. Here’s one:



My Tidy Tips (Layia platyglossa) multiplied delightfully:




On the perennial side, my Saffron Buckwheat (Eriogonum crocatum) bloomed, though the blossoms were not as spectacular as I’ve seen elsewhere. I think maybe its being surrounded by wildflowers was not helping!


The two Royal Penstemons (Penstemon spectabilis) that I have near my east wall bloomed nicely. I had given up on Royal Penstemons in that location, pulling up a pair of the ratty-looking ones that were there. But I left two that I planted only last year, and they are looking gorgeous. But I fully expect that these will peter out in the next year or two the way the previous ones did. Everything is impermanence. Enjoy it while you can!


My west side looks nice, with smatterings of poppies:


And my “grasses” area is looking wonderful, with the spectacular spring come-back of the prostrate Select Mattole fuchsia (Epilobium septentrionalis ‘Select Mattole’). This variety is the most reliable fuchsia I’ve grown. Every fall I cut it back nearly to the ground, and it comes back looking gorgeous. In a couple of months it will start to bloom. I’ve never had any problems with this fuchsia — give it a little water in the summer and prune it heavily when it starts to fade, and it rewards you with years of beauty. I highly recommend it! Here it is in front of the Purple Three-Awn grasses:



(Next to it, on the left, is the Deer Grass that I  pruned severely in the fall. It’s coming back slowly.)

The Coral Bells (Heuchera elegans) are in full bloom:


My Hummingbird sages (Salvia spathacea) on the side of the house are doing well. I plan to plant some more in this location in the fall.


I like this view of the northeast corner:


My Fragrant Pitcher Sage (Lepichinia fragrans) was looking gorgeous up until last week (it’s to the left of the birdbath):


Alas, the Santa Anas broke off a central branch:



Now there’s a big hole in it:


Bummer! I also lost a branch on my huge Cleveland Sage (Salvia clevelandii):


Though I don’t have a “before” picture, here’s the sage afterwards. The branch used to stick up at the top, giving the plant a pointy look — now it’s a more rounded shape. Maybe it’s better?


This is one huge plant! I would say it’s grown two feet at least since I pruned it last fall! Here it was last fall:

1. Eriogonum crocatum 2. Salvia 'Bee's Bliss'

1. Eriogonum crocatum 2. Salvia ‘Bee’s Bliss’

It’s the one just to the right of the birdbath. Come to think of it, everything has grown immensely! The Pitcher Sage is hardly visible in this picture (after pruning), and the asters on the mound are about a third the size that they are now!

And look at the Winifred Gilman Sage (Salvia ‘Winifred Gilman’):


Gorgeous lady! Here she was in the fall:


It’s when I look at these older pictures that I realize how much my garden is filling in!

My Seaside Daisies (Erigeron glaucus) have come into bloom:


I also got a new Adirondack chair. The old one was apt to turn over in the wind and just wasn’t very attractive. Here’s the new one — and note, also, the new table next to it, made from a log of the tree my neighbor cut down:


Looking at it from the path:


That’s an Allen Chickering Sage in front of the Winifred Gilman — blooming for the first time!

Here’s a view from the chair:


Those plants in the center are the California Asters (Aster chilensis ‘Purple Sage’) that have grown so profusely — look at them! They all have dozens of buds and should be blooming soon. I can’t wait!

I have some butterfly news too, but I’ll save that for my next post. Bye for now!



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.