Sunday, November 30, 2014

End of the Month Update

Eremophila, emu bush, foliage
The End of the Month meme has been suprisingly encouraging this month.  All the more so since I was beginning to be a little discouraged by the rather patchy look of everything at this stage.  It is difficult some days to see anything more in this brand new garden than plants randomly spotted in bare (or nearly bare) soil.  But if you look closely, everything is growing, there are some new plants, and the bit of hedge at least shows that some structure is in the mind of the gardener, if hardly visible in the garden so far.
rosemary hedge
Filling in doesn't happen overnight - or does it?  I am convinced that the Coral Fountain (Russelia equisetiformis) is taller than it was when planted a week ago.  And it is still sending out its spectacularly-coloured mini trumpets.
Coral Fountain, Russelia equisetiformis, firecracker plant
Also still blooming well is the Autumn Sage (Salvia greggii), which is proving a wonderful magnet for hummingbirds.  The plant has fallen open in the middle a bit.  There is new growth down at the center so I think all is well, but I do wonder whether I might be overwatering.  I have given it one or two light feedings as it's said to need extra nitrogen, Judging by the flowers, it's fairly happy!
autumn sage, autumn moon, salvia greggii
And several plants are very quietly putting out new foliage.  The Emu Bush (Eremophila) shown at the top of the page (which I am now about 85% certain is the pink-blooming variety "Valentine") has a lovely dusky shade to the leaves; and yes, there are more of those leaves!  Even more difficult to "watch grow" is the tiny Damianita (Chrysactinia mexicana), but the branches with their needle-like, resinous foliage have lengthened and sent out new little needly leaves at the tips.  This is a very quiet plant; I don't know how else to describe it.  Perhaps when it finally puts out its little yellow daisies, it will have a different effect.  In the meantime, I am trying mainly to ensure that I don't pamper it.  It is a real desert native so too much coddling might prove fatal.
damianita, chrysactinia mexicana
All the Ornithogalums are accounted for now.  I look forward to the flowers!
Ornithogalum arabicum, star of Bethlehem, flower bulb foliage
As well, there are the newest additions.  Fortnight lily (Dietes vegeta) went in just this morning, and I was happily surprised at the striking effect of its deep blue-green fans of foliage.  I look forward to the white-and-lavender, iris-like flowers, but those will come a little later...
Dietes vegeta, fortnight lily
Lastly, finally, a couple of lavenders.  Both are varieties of Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas).  They are "Blueberry Ruffles" and "Madrid", the one shown here; this is the only bloom stalk with any flowers open; "Blueberry Ruffles" is still a very young plant!  I love the deep colour; it will work well against the pale desert colours, I think.
Lavender stoechas "Madrid", Spanish lavender
  A big thank you to Helen at The Patient Gardener for encouraging us to take a good, comprehensive look round the garden once a month with this meme.  It all looks very patchy here, but everything is starting small.  I estimate that I have until early or mid-March to install plants, so that is mostly what I am focusing on.  In the meantime, I'm encouraged that the already planted ones are growing well.
coral fountain, firecracker plant, russelia equisetiformis

Friday, November 28, 2014

Comments Lost :(

This is just a quick (pictureless!) post to explain that most comments have disappeared from my posts.  To make it possible for friends from Wordpress to comment using OpenID, I needed to change my settings in Blogger, and... all earlier comments have disappeared from all posts!

I really ought to send this over to the Blogger forum but don't think I have the time or energy just now.  At the least I wanted to let everyone know their comments have been removed through no intention of mine!

I have so appreciated your comments, and I hope all of you will feel free to leave more!  Hopefully they will remain in place after this!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Brilliant Colour: Coral Fountain (Russelia equisetiformis)

Russelia equisetiformis, coral fountain, firecracker plant
I first discovered the slender scarlet trumpets of Firecracker Plant (Russelia equisetiformis) some weeks ago while visiting Elgin's Nursery.  Being totally unfamiliar with it, I didn't purchase it at the time.  The difficulty is that Elgin's is a little further south and therefore less threatened by winter cold, so I came home and researched Russelia.  Sure enough, it is a bit tender, though the New Sunset Western Garden Book explains that it comes back vigorously even if cut down by freezing temperatures, and Wikipedia lists it as hardy to 20 degrees Farenheit (-6.6 Celsius) .

In the meantime, the plant had made a strong impression on me.
Russelia equisetiformis, coral fountain, firecracker plant
This meant that its brilliant scarlet flowers and brilliant green stems were irresistable when I discovered them again at a nearby garden center the other day.  This time one came home with me.  It's a named variety, "Big Red".

The bright green stems are, in fact, nearly leafless; the few leaves are small and round.  The plant flings these stems out with a loose, arching habit that gives rise to one of its common names: "Coral Fountain".  The trumpet flowers are quite small, about an inch or maybe a little more (2.5-3cm), but they attract butterflies and hummingbirds.  (A hummingbird has already been reported on my little bush though I wasn't lucky enough to see!)

It is said to have a long bloom time - year-round with sufficient warmth.  It is known to be drought and heat tolerant.  It also is used for indoor growing and would presumably make a good subject for indoor hanging baskets.
Russelia equisetiformis, coral fountain, firecracker plant
I planted my little specimen (blooming nicely, as you can see) right up against the patio, where it will receive some protection from a roof, from the proximity of a mass of concrete, and from the downward slope beyond, which I hope will minimize the effects of a cold snap by allowing cold air to flow away more rapidly.  And I am hoping for the best!
Russelia equisetiformis, coral fountain, firecracker plant

Monday, November 24, 2014

Herbs and Firecrackers for a Monday Vase

flower arrangement, Monday vase meme
Today's vase is mostly foliage from my herb garden, which lives in pots in the front patio.  Greek basil, spearmint, and a couple of sprigs of rosemary nearly filled the little jar, which is a stoneware pot with an experimental glaze I made earlier in the year.

There is also some foliage from a wildflower that sprawls in the front yard.  These are the silvery, velvety leaves of globemallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), which bears coral orange flowers in spring.  Some roadside plants have just had a second flush of bloom so I'm able to include a shot of the flowers here.  They are considered good garden perennials for the desert.
globemallow, sphaeralcea ambigua, desert wildflower

The plant in the front yard has not put out a single bloom so far.  I don't know whether this is because it is too young or in too much shade.  At any rate, I am not going to try transplanting it to a garden bed just yet as it takes up a lot of space!

Monday Vase meme, Coral Fountain flowers, russelia equisetiformis, Greek basil

And then there are the little flowers in the vase.

These are a few trumpets from my newly-planted Coral Fountain or Firecracker Plant (Russelia equisetiformis).  I've begun a post on the Russelia and hope to be able to complete it soon.  The colour is delightful.

Monday Vase meme, Coral Fountain flowers, russelia equisetiformis
So that is the vase for today's Monday Vase meme, hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  I photographed the arrangement out on the front patio in the sunlight.  I hope it brings a little warmth into everyone's day!
Monday Vase meme

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A New Arrival!

ornithogalum arabicum, star of bethlehem, flower bulbs

Whooping and other sounds of rejoicing were heard in the garden this morning.  The first green nose is poking up from the garden bed.  Star of Bethlehem (Ornithogalum arabicum) is the first of my bulbs to show.  So far it's only one (five O. arabicum were planted).  Eighty-four bulbs yet to sprout...

I haven't known what to anticipate in the way of timing since the seasons here are a law unto themselves.  Summer is tough, and winter is relatively mild though we can get some freezing temperatures.  In fact, the cold winds we had yesterday felt like they carried a little mountain snow in their moist chill.  Does this encourage the bulbs?  As I say, I don't know when the rest of them will sprout, let alone bloom.  But I'm happy to see this one!
ornithogalum arabicum, star of bethlehem, flower bulbs

Monday, November 17, 2014

Flowers for a Vase on Monday

Autumn Sage, Pink Muhly, Flower arrangement, Monday Vase
Here I am trying my hand at a first vase for the Monday Vase meme over at Rambling in the Garden .  I was so enthusiastic after looking at some of last week's vases that I nearly ran out and cut one midweek.  But I decided to wait till Sunday so here it is now: grass plumes, autumn sage, and a little perovskia.

My garden is so new that, frankly, there isn't much in it yet.  But happily, there are a few flowers to pick.  All the plants are still quite small so this is a tiny vaseful.

The Pink Muhly plumes have burst into many little stars and make a hazy mist round the Autumn Sage.  One little sprig of Perovskia was added for good measure.  That is about all that is actually blooming at the moment, and I hesitate to cut foliage while the plants are settling in.  The vase itself is one I created - handthrown on the potter's wheel and glazed in copper green with a flow glaze down to the shoulder.  I need to use that combination a little more.
Autumn Sage, Pink Muhly, Flower arrangement, Monday Vase

Pink Muhly, Muhlenbergia "Regal Mist"

Another shot of the "Regal Mist" Pink Muhly seedplumes...

I have always loved flower arrangements but never learned to create them, so perhaps the occasional (frequent?) Monday vase will spur me to better attempts, as well as encouraging me to grow some cutting flowers in the garden.  I hope so!  Happy Monday!
Monday vase, flower arrangement

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Post on Perovskia

Perovskia, Perovskia atriplicifolia, drought-tolerant

As I noted in my end of month post, the Perovskia has been a wonderful addition to the garden.  Maybe I notice this more because it is one of those "I know it's a good plant, but..." for me.  I have never grown it before, having been underwhelmed by its wispy appearance as a single specimen in a neighbor's lawn years ago.  In my garden bed, it's becoming a lovely presence of blue and silver-green; and I can't help thinking about the fact that there are multiple hybrids...

The plant I purchased is an unnamed, basic Perovskia atriplicifolia.  Flowers are medium lavender blue - bluer than I had anticipated.  They are quite small and the stems are slender and sway readily, so they're difficult to photograph in the constant breezes.
Perovskia, Perovskia atriplicifolia, Perovskia flower

The foliage is finely cut and silvery.  It is a very elegant plant altogether.
Perovskia, Perovskia atriplicifolia, Perovskia foliage, Perovskia leaves

It went into the ground blooming and settled in beautifully.  It is still happily flowering despite my big mistake about a week ago.  I had some liquid plant food for a rose bush, and I decided to pour a little of the extra on the Perovskia.  After all, I had done nothing but water it occasionally since planting.  On went the plant food, and half the plant collapsed within about twenty-four hours!  The stems died off and had to be removed. Obviously, this is not a plant that likes much nitrogen.

In spite of which, the rest of the Perovskia continues blooming, has strong new stems sprouting, and appears unfazed.  

Originally from mountainous regions of Asia, it is said to endure both heat and cold, and to be at its best in areas with warm summers.  It is also said to have a spring/summer bloomtime, but this little plant is still happily flowering in our beautiful desert November.
Perovskia, Perovskia atriplicifolia, Russian Sage, drought-tolerant

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Ode to a Packing Box

flower bulbs, Dutch iris bulbs

What is more exciting to the gardener than the arrival of a cardboard box?  A small, sturdy, cardboard box strapped together at the seams with shipping tape.  When opened, the top is lightly stuffed with paper wads; underneath is an invoice and perhaps a spare catalog or planting instructions.

Then an assortment of packaging meets the eye, from plastic netting to perforated bags to paper parcels.  Inside are thin, brown oniony skins or soft, pale rinds of bulbs.  Some have firm green noses poking from their growing tips.  Some have a tangle of roots, others just a little furry disc at the base.

25 Iris Blue Magic
25 Iris reticulata Harmony
25 Narcissus canaliculatus
10 Narcissus Suzy
1 Amaryllis...

Well, most are in the ground now.  Narcissus canaliculatus has a reputation for liking it hot and dry so seemed a good place to start.  I love species and miniature narcissus.  And I needed a little cool blue, therefore the selection of Irises.  The jonquilla Suzy replaces the tazetta Falconet, which sold out before my late, late order was filled.

Dutch Iris bulbsDutch Iris "Blue Magic", flower bulbs

I mixed N. canaliculatus and I. r. Harmony (at different depths) in part of the planting; usually I group my bulbs by themselves but wanted to try combining these miniatures for once.  They went into the south bed, while I. Blue Magic slipped in and around the rose bush and the autumn sage.

Wating for early spring, or whenever these plants bloom here...!  And hoping that my watering keeps them happy.

Not much left to plant...
Flower bulbs