Thursday, September 30, 2010

Multitasking in the garden

One of the biggest mistake gardeners make is using small pots (you see what I did there?  big, small, very clever!).  But really in many cases pots placed in the garden as focal points are lost.  Using large pots is the single easiest way to bring drama and architectural interest in the garden.  And when up lit at night, well I think you are beginning to get the point.  Of course large pots present another opportunity to grow plants that may not do as well in the ground or the opposite problem... thugish-ness.  Do you have a plant that needs a little extra water? Use a large pot!  Have a plant you have been pining to plant but it has an invasive nature?  Use a large pot! Want to raise your favorite small tree to exalted status? Use a large pot?  The list goes on.  But what if your large architectural pot could have yet another purpose?  A place to hang?  I know I know sounds cool right?  Why not plant a lawn chair!?  Planted with variegated St. Augustine grass (a common turk plant in So Cal),  the large bowl shaped pot below make a bench or bed. I like to lay on it and gaze at the firmament.  What has been nice is that since it has a deep root run and no competition I have only had to water the pot about once a month. I am sure more inland area gardeners will have to water more but look how beautiful and fun!

Enjoy! And happy gardening!

Plant of the week: Gomphrena 'Fireworks'

When you are a very avid gardener and visit nurseries a lot you begin to think you have seen it all. This is of course folly since unbeknownst to you horticulturist and breeders are working around the clock, around the globe to create new cultivars and varieties.  Last spring I visited my gardener/designer friend Dalia and her garden.  In the front garden bed near her driveway was a plant that struck me.  This plant has magenta orbs!  It had long flower stems that reminded me of Verbena bonariensis, all stems and flowers with little foliage. I am pretty familiar with the Gomphrenas available,  for years they were breed to be heat resistant small bedding plants with papery flowers.  Then there is Gomphrena 'Strawberry Fields' which is a bit taller  with long stems but G. 'Fireworks' blow G. 'Strawberry Fields' out of the water.  What was also exciting to know is that it is a perennial! Dalia cut the plant down to 6" and it came back beautifully. I tried to find a 4" to plant and trial but couldn't find one.  I discovered that it was from Ball horticulture and propagated by seed.  In the end I was patient and waited until this spring to buy one (four actually).  Now I am finding the plant in many nurseries.  In less than a month the plants went from gallon plants to what I now think is its ultimate height of 4'.  It really is a stunner, makes a great cut flower and dried flower.

Now the waiting begins for all those breeders to get other colors into this line.  I can't wait for a 4' tall G. 'Strawberry Fields'!

What do you think?

Here  I mixed G. 'Fireworks' and G. 'Strawberry Fields'

You can see the effect that only four plants can make

Plant of the week: Pennisetum 'White Dwarf'

Most So Cal gardeners and even non-gardeners know Pennisetum "setaceum" 'Rubrum' . I put the setaceum part in quotes as I think that the specific epithet is wrong.  Pennisetum setaceum is the one that you will find growing in the wild, a total thug.  One that I think can look very pretty, but of course it is a very invasive invasive, you know what I mean. You can tell the difference right away, the real P. setaceum has a rolled leaf and will cut you like a knife,  the horticultural cousin has a flat leaf and is safer to the touch.  Anyway, P. 'Rubrum' is that beautiful red fountain grass, it's everywhere which means for people like me, you have to start to sigh when you see it planted again and again.  So, it gets fairly big, too big for a lot of gardens. Ah but then there is P. 'Eaton Canyon' which has been around for at least a decade, it's half the hight of P. 'Rubrum' but not as intensely colored foliage and sort of dirty colored flower spikes.

Well, one day I was driving... I drive a lot, and I saw out of the corner of my eye a sport of P. 'Eaton Canyon'. This sport was totally green with white flowers.  Exciting!  So I went back and rescued a division of the sport.  What's great is that I believe that P. 'Rubrum', P. 'Eaton Canyon' and the "sport" to be sterile or nearly sterile.

I have trailed it for a year now and am bulking up numbers. It now has a cultivar name which is fun and descriptive;  Pennisetum 'White Dwarf'.  It grows about 33" tall and 40" wide. Don't you want to have one?  I see it being used by landscape architects en masse.

Take a look!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Even succulents are melting in this heat!

After a year of incredibly mild weather we are having a little heat wave.  It must be the fact that we've been babied all year but I just can't stand the heat.   But I went out in the garden just now to see what is wilting and to my surprise one of the very few plants that seem to be suffering are the Senecio vitalis plants.  Just look at that photo below.  I've never seen a succulent wilt before.  I love this plant for many reasons, the bushy upright grass texture, the way it glows when back lit and the fact that it is so tough. But not today...  they are looking so fragile, like melting blue crayons.  Anyway I'm sure they're fine,  by this evening they'll be back up and running.

Keep cool!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Plant of the week: Tweedia caerulea

Several months ago I was given a single pod of Tweedia caerulea,  a plant which I grew and then dismissed maybe a decade ago.  From that one pod I sowed and planted out at least three flats of 4" plants,  There were even more but I eventually came to my senses.  I planted out a bunch,  my previous experience was that they were spindly plants.  I was very happy when I found them filling out nicely.  Tweedia is an Asclepias relative native to So. America, drought tolerant, small plants that you'll want to plant for their beautiful true sky blue flowers (almost immediately after planting even as immature plants).  And I don't know if you have noticed but true blue is hard to come by in this climate, also I think the bright light drowns out a lot of blues from being bluer, you can see this at sunset and sunrise. Anyway now I'm hooked, I plan to use them as filler plants since they perform with little water or care.  Another interesting aspect is that they attract the milkweed bug, which is supposed to feed on the seed (and there is a lot of seed) and doesn't hurt the plant.  They are a rich orange color with black,  and I love to see creatures in the garden.

Take a look!

Tweedia looking nice with boardwalk

Flower detail, notice cluster of milkweed bug instars on pod

Plant habit

Milkweed bug

Friday, September 10, 2010

Plant of the week: Frankenia thymifolia

Well,  here is the first plant of the week, Frankenia thymifolia.  So many plants are looking good in the garden. But I have been admiring this little guy for some time and since I learned of it this year it seems like a good plant to write about.  I have been obsessed for some time with tough Med type plants (this one is actually from the Mediterranean) that look mossy.  Mossy can add such a nice texture and lends a cool restful feeling to the garden. I picked up a 4" pot of this wooly thyme doppleganger  (I don't know how to do the umlaut over the "a") at Brita's (Grown by Native Sons) back in spring. Being a compulsive propagator I took some tiny cuttings and planted the original plant.  After a week the cuttings rooted and over a series of weeks I propagated and planted out many more plants.  P.S.  it will self layer if you just leave it alone. Though I am sure I sped things up in this way.   I was pleased to find that it stood up to occasional traffic and full sun.   It is a very pleasant dark green now but I have seen photos on-line that show it to have a red autumn color, something to hope for/ look forward to. It's also supposed to have small pink flowers, again echoing thyme, but I have yet to see them.

Here is a couple photos of the planting in the pocket garden.


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Alright already...

Alright already, I'll blog.  I've resisted until now, poor grammar, inevitable inconsistency and fact that I'm not a writer have kept me from sharing.  Recently though I've been reading so many great So Cal garden blogs that I feel compelled to be a part of the community. And now that I have started my own garden (the front yard at least) there is plenty to talk about.

So I guess you can look forward to plant geekery,  close up shots of carrots and beets and pictures of ornamental grass.

For now here's a shot of the boardwalk....

Nice to meet you. And happy gardening.