Saturday, February 26, 2011

Spring Fever: A propagator's vice

I have a confession to make.... I have an addiction... to propagation.  I know what you're thinking "so what?".  Well, I'll have you know that it has taken quite a toll on my personal life.  Naw, I'm just joshin', I mean about it taking a toll,  but truthfully I am addicted to starting new plants.  I felt the pang this morning, so strong, so acute.   "Where can I get my hands on some milkweed seeds?"  I cried out!   I have been thinking about making the parkway into a Monarch butterfly pit stop.   And of course I will need lots of milkweed to do it. Well, actually this last year (the first year here) in the garden I had a few, maybe 5 or 6 milkweeds, that came up on their own.  And that was enough to get Monarchs, so if a little is good, a lot more will be better, a lot better (plotting evil voice with hand wringing).

So I went on the inter-tubes and found a place that specializes in milkweeds!  (  And I restrained myself, and only purchased ones that should be fine with summer drought. As I have no intention of babying these guys.  Here's what I got:  Asclepias speciosa 'Davis', A. fascicularis, A. viridis, A. cordifolia, and A. asperula.   Photos below!

                                                               Asclepias speciosa 'Davis'

A. fascicularis

A. viridis

A. cordifolia

A. asperula

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

First returns of spring

I noticed today that the Tweedias in the garden are blooming again.  They had been taking a break since mid-autumn if I remember. The funny thing with them is that they constantly have buds so you think "well there must be flowers coming".  But they seem to just abort the flowers when the conditions are not right.  Like if they are say, you know, completely infested with orange aphids (can't be bothered to spray). Actually having grown many milkweeds and relatives before, I was surprised at how long it took to get a resident population for those orange milkweedy aphids. Anyway some of the Tweedia are covered in aphids and so they haven't the strength to bloom.

It is early yet and the nights are certainly cool (40 degrees is our low).  I'm sure the moment things begin to warm up the garden will be studded with sky blue blooms again. For now there are just two open in the garden, tinged with purple, my guess that the added color comes from the chill. So it is an added pleasure to see my little blue stars again.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Plant of the week: Iceland poppies Papaver nudicaule

Ah the joys of spring err.. I mean winter. Well, here in So Cal it's certainly feeling like spring to me.  In the past I had a hard time with the idea of growing plants in my garden that were also being grown in strip malls and gas stations.  But I always felt that the elegance of the Iceland poppy was at odds with such banal places. You can see why they are planted; easy, beautiful and perform at a time of year when many annuals do not.  I wonder when they first became popular as bedding plants in Southern California.

So, I have decided that the thing that has become really common is MIXED Iceland poppies, you know 'Champagne Bubbles' etc.   And since I was able to identify the commonness, I was therefore able to plant them in my garden, as single strain color. It seems to me also that a single color was a bit more natural,  but who knows maybe 'Champagne Bubbles' is the poppy's natural state. I asked a local grower to grow me a few flats of six packs so I could have a winter splash of color. And color I selected was supposed to be red, but it ended up orange.  Orange of course is totally at home in the front garden. So all's well that ends well.

I quickly took a look at the origin of Iceland poppies and interestingly enough they are not endemic to Iceland as their name might suggest, but are boreal. So somewhere in Alaska and Canada we should be able to find some too.

They look lovely and have been a pleasure in my garden for weeks and weeks, and of course the anticipation was great too.  I dutifully deadhead and groom them to get most out of their ephemeral show. Look at the little Buddha soaking up the afternoon light and watching over the poppies.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I'm Back! and so is topiary!

Hey, howdy!  I'm back! Did you miss me? I know I did. Well,  let me tell you I went all over... the Southwest, Nor Cal and Mexico. Lots of time off, so that's my excuse and I am sticking to it.  I had out of town (out of country) company for nearly 5 weeks, so needless to say my routines were out of whack during that time. Still getting back into the swing of things.

Out and about today I spotted a little piece of heaven.  I would like to blogs about things like this... You know, the stuff you see when out.  OK, raise your hand if you think topiary is out. OK, hold 'em up high, uh huh. That's what I thought.  Well, guess what? It's back in!  Yeah it's cool. And for the record Buxus japonica is way drought tolerant when established.  We need to have more topiary, it can be cool, fun, elegant and OK yes... cheesy.

So below you see this photo of  "Jaws". Isn't it amazing (no sarcasm)?  The size and proportions are incredible.  Who needs to go the aquarium? I can only guess that this was once an overgrown hedge and some BRILLIANT person decided to trim it a different way.  What would the world be like if there was much more whimsy like this in it?  No road rage, people holding hands... the whole world would be a better place.  Such beauty.     duh dunt...... duh dunt... duh dunt.. duh duhduhhhh!

I think I may make "Topiary on the fly" a regular feature. If you have seen great topiary please send me a photo!