Tuesday, October 6, 2015


 Correctly placed:  Aloe fosteri (above) is growing and blooming for the first time.  Planted at the bottom of a slope and partly shaded by a nearby tree, it's doing well.

October means cooling temperatures (sort of, we're due for more 90's at the end of the week).  Cooling temperatures means its time to get summer purchases into the ground.  After six weeks in a pot getting plenty of water, an Agave stricta went back onto the front slope.  It grew a new root system and already shows new top growth.
Looking from the other direction, the plants in the red circle are the new inhabitants:  the Agave stricta, two silvery Leucophyllum 'Thunder Cloud', silvery blue Agave parrasana 'Fire Ball', and silvery Aloe dhufarensis.

I had removed a bunch of stuff back in August (circled in pink below).  I was going to leave the Oscularia, but it looked ratty so I took some cuttings to root and pulled out the rest.

To the right of the Agave strictas, the color scheme is mostly greeny-yallery (Yucca 'Bright Star', Agave 'Joe Hoak', Aloe ferox, Aloe marlothii, etc).  To the left of the strictas, the scheme is more silver/blue/yellow.  I'm attempting to make as graceful transition as possible between the two, with the plants I have.

Agave 'Ivory Curls' mixes pale yellow with pale silver/blue
'Fireball' has the same pale yellow, but the blue is a little bluer.
Agave titanota is more silver.
 The Leucospermum, growing like a weed above the Agaves on the slope, (got that placed right) blooms bright yellow flowers come winter.  I'm hoping it all won't look too random, even though it is random.
 Placement is not just a matter of color or texture, there's also that little issue of the health of the plant.  Agaves are proven on the slope; I'll have to be attentive to the health of the Leucophyllums to see if they can survive the dryness there.  

Rhus integrifolia, common name Lemonade Berry, a California native plant
 I placed a Rhus integrifolia in the back gully, partly because it will need no irrigation once well established, and partly to right a wrong.  There was a beautiful Rhus integrifolia growing in almost the same spot when we bought the property.  I regretted it had to be removed to terrace the back area, regretted removing a valuable native plant--valuable in feeding and sheltering native birds.  A new plant has now been returned to its rightful place.  (The alternative name is Schmaltzia integrifolia.  Schmaltzy!)

Adenanthos sericeus ssp sericeus, newly placed:

The Adenanthos sericea ssp sericea replaces a much-loved 'Julia Child' rose.  I was planning to move 'Julia' to an empty spot out front, but alas, digging revealed another root gall infection.  Eventually, it's fatal.  Perhaps I'll get another 'Julia' this winter for that spot.  It is a most excellent rose.  I have three other copies, all excellent.  The area is dry for roses.  Hopefully the Adenanthos likes it. 

I'll miss you, lovely, lovely 'Julia Child'.  Misplaced. 
'Julia Child' photo aa3332_zps66a4a6a2.jpg
The story behind the little baby lizard in the next photo is also one of placement.  I was cleaning up a pile of clippings in the veggie garden.  Dropping the pile in the green bin, I realized a baby lizard was in among the clippings.  I could not grab it fast enough--it vanished in the big bin, so I left the lid open and a bridge of stems to a planter, hoping baby lizard could safely escape. When I put the bins out on the street for pick up, baby was still in the bin, but I managed to grab the tiny creature--or more accurately it grabbed hold of the base of my thumb and clung there in terror.  I managed to shake it off my thumb without hurting it, into the soft, bouncy mound of Oscularia (left side of photo).  I've seen it there since, eating bugs and growing.  I managed to place it safely. 
I was truly relieved and happy.  Living things should be placed where they can grow and thrive, not in danger, or in barrenness.  

 Though sometimes a good place for the living thing is not a great place for the placer.  The Stapelia I stuck in an obscured place on the east slope is thriving, but no one can see it, and I must climb and walk along a ledge and stretch to look at it while the neighbor's dog barks at me.  But it is looking fabulous...must go climb and see if the flowers have opened. 

Friday, October 2, 2015


Aloe deltoideontea deltoideodonta poses easily

The pups are not quite as easy.  Hey guys, look this way.
 Must wait for a yawn to finish.
 And another yawn.
Okay, there!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Couldn't Find Volcano; Settled for T-Rex

A garden buddy and I went to look for the house with the brown concrete volcano in the front yard.  Drove all over;  couldn't find it.  

We did find a Miami-Vice style 80's house with palms and big red banana plants and frou-frou window treatments that also had some old west stuff out front.  Weird stylistic mismatch. 
 What's the deal with the rope?  Are they afraid the fence is going to run away?  Or is the fence wearing a rope bikini? 
Then there was the...uh...what style is this?  Hansel and Gretel Ranch?  Suburban Storybook?  
 Slate tiles installed with precise craftsmanship are not cheap.  The stone they used was pricey, too. 
There are irrigation stubs and a pile of drip lines waiting for installation, so they plan to have some sort of landscaping besides dirt and boulders.  What sort of plants will they select for this style of house?  We'll have to return and see.  
Another oddity at another house: a Pandanus species (P. utilis?)  They are uncommon here. They screened out the boat on the driveway quite well:
These plants have prop roots, to enable the plants to grow in loose sand. 

Interesting plants.  The same property had a beautiful young Bismarkia noblis.
 And a really large Agave bovicornuta:
 Decorative tile on the mailbox, with an Foxtail Fern (Asparagus densiflorus var. meyeri)
Across the street from the Pandanus, a nice use of one pot as a pedestal for another pot.  Not odd at all.
 Then there was the T-Rex.  A new remodel attracted our attention. 
Then we spotted the Tyrannosaurus rex!  As T. rex lawn ornaments go, tasteful.  T. didn't scare the lawn to death, though the iron eagle looks disturbed.  The lawn has not been irrigated since May, according to the mow-blow guys, who were cutting a row of Dietes iridioides into cubes.  Yes, you read that right.
 There was another eagle and a pelican on the other side of the walkway.  You could just discern a giraffe in the back yard.  Some nifty architecture there, and a fine arrangement of xeric plants, but the mow-blow guys maybe needed some advice on pruning, and the Dracaena draco (between the two windows on the right), typically growing 15-25' (4.5 - 7.5 m) wide, is planted within a foot (30 cm) of the structure.  It was leaning outwards.
Maybe we should have kept looking for the volcano.
I'll let you know when we find it, though after the T. rex, it might not impress. 

Sunday, September 27, 2015

A Marvelous Tropical Cramscape

We had the great privilege to visit a garden filled with Palms, cycads, succulents, and tropical plants, all carefully nurtured to a state of high beauty.  In short:  a marvel.

Ever-patient Beloved got better wide-angle shots, many of those are his.  I focused on plant details and gawking/drooling/sighing/exclaiming/oohing/ahhing.

When the owners bought the home in the early 1990's, the landscape looked similar to the current landscape of nearby homes:  a Quercus illex and a lawn:

This is the twenty-two year transformation.  The Quecus is still there--can you spot it?  It's been trimmed to expose the limbs.
 There's a very small lawn behind there--allowing access to the plants from the other side.
Around the corner, a Hylocereus climbs a Eucalyptus polyanthemos:

 This area belongs to the city, so the homeowners must leave it as is.  It is maintained by the city, not the homeowners (obviously). 
 Just on the other side of the light pole in the photo above, succulents in the same soil and with no irrigation:
 If you think the front garden is fantastic...
and isn't that Zamia gorgeous?
 If it stops you in your tracks...

 The back garden was even better!
A grand Rhapis appears to block the front door, but there's room to get by, for now.
 On to the back! 
 Koi pond.  Note the silvery Cussonia.
 I was all agog. 
  There was a spectacular Croton room. 

 There was a spectacular succulent theater.

There was a spectacular begonia collection.  (Noticing a pattern here?).  
 And healthy Bromiliads of all sorts.  Lots of them

 Terrestrial bromiliads get extra shade according to their needs.
Despite every inch of the garden appearing to be occupied by a plant, each plant had room to grow.  The garden is full, but not to the detriment of the plants. 
 Yes, this is a plant.
 Rhipsalis have explored their way out the shade screens:
The palm canopy created a cool, moist microclimate, enabling the tropical and sub-tropical plants to have the cool, humid environment they need.  

 To protect delicate plants, such as the begonias, from spells of desiccating dry wind, the owners wrap areas of the garden with shade cloth in early fall and unwrap in spring.  The shade cloth creates enough of a barrier to hold in sufficient moisture.

The Palms and Cycads were choice specimens.  A few of the trees existing when the owners moved in are still there, kept trimmed back so as not to interfere with the more choice additions.

 The center of the back garden was a Bismarkia noblis, a favorite palm of mine from Madagascar.  It was one of the first palms planted about twenty years ago.
 Hooded Orioles sew their nests to the undersides of the Bismarkia's big fronds.  Their nests are woven from fibers pulled from palm trunks and fronds.  The nests are now abandoned, as nesting season is over. 

 It occurred that one reason the owners were able to care so beautifully for their plants (great talent and committed dedication aside) was that it was perfectly comfortable being outside even with temperatures close to 90F. 
A Tillansia support made from pieces of hose pipe, screen, and zip ties:
An ultra-rare Rakeoptera:
 Perhaps my own garden needs more (or should I say some) shade.  Microclimates affect the gardener as well as the gardened.   

 The fruiting palm is the plant that produces carnauba wax, Copernicia prunifera:

 Hoya flower cluster
 Plant tags are made from scraps of irrigation pipe.

 A better glimpse of the rare Rakeoptera

Ain't that an absolute wow?  I was a wreck by the time we left.