Wednesday, December 31, 2014

At the End of December: a Very Small Celebration

Sedeveria "Sorrento", Desert Garden, succulents
Sedeveria "Sorrento"
It is the end of the month and the end of a year.  Since I've only been creating this garden and the blog since September and October, I'm not going to give an overview for the year; in fact, I'm merely going to celebrate a few plants.

I have been looking forward to doing this because of one little plant in particular.  Calandrinia grandiflora was bought last spring - probably just because I was colour and plant hungry!  I was starting a little collection of potted herbs on the front patio and the Calandrinia joined them though I didn't repot it at the time.  It's brilliant flowers certainly satisfied my colour lust!
Flower of Calandrinia grandiflora

Calandrinia grandiflora flower
Then I left it in the pot and didn't really consider putting it in the garden until December.  It's often treated as an annual; but technically it is perennial so at last, despite the bad condition of the plant, I couldn't resist plunking it in the ground.  There wasn't much left by that time!  It had one sparse rosette of leaves and one stem with a few more stunted leaves.
But it has perked up and begun to spread along the ground.  (Oops, I thought it had a more upright habit!)  It remains to be seen whether it can weather a desert winter.  If so, it should send out more of its brilliant flowers next spring.  It is a long blooming plant in favourable conditions: spring through autumn.  My worst problem with it, even in the pot, was judging the right frequency of watering.  This Chilean native is variously said to need "regular" water, to be drought-tolerant, and to sometimes rot in coastal California's wetter winters.  At any rate, my little specimen seems a lot sturdier in the ground so maybe it can now better survive the vagaries of desert winter and my play-it-by-eye watering.
Calandrinia grandiflora foliage come-back
Two other succulents have also gone into the garden.  Warnings of frost-scarring accompany these plants so I am watching them fairly closely now that we have had some freezing nights.  So far I see no damage, and their rich colours extend the range of foliage hues in the garden.  Their forms are hard to duplicate with any other type of plant as well.

One is Senecio "Blue Fingers" (Senecio talinoides var. mandraliscae).  Its steely blue-grey-green fingers - some slender, some thicker - have an almost underwater effect.
Senecio "Blue Fingers", Senecio, Succulent Plants, Desert Garden, Senecio talinoides var. mandraliscae
And then there is Sedeveria "Sorrento", presumably a cross between a Sedum and an Echeveria, though I don't know the details.  It is a very handsome mahogany colour and forms strong star-shaped rosettes with its pointed leaves.
Sedeveria "Sorrento", Desert Garden, Succulent Plants
As of the end of December, with nighttime temperatures falling to 30 degrees F (-1 C), even these fairly sensitive plants are undamaged.  I may need to cover them eventually but am hoping that attention to micro-climate will carry them through for the most part.  I hope they will prove sufficiently well-adapted because their forms and colours are irreplaceable, and appear so much at home in a desert garden.

So there is my End of the Month View, following Helen's meme at The Patient Gardener.  On her blog and other participating blogs, many more thorough End of the Year Views can be visited for inspiration.  Here it is just three little plants which I am enjoying as we head into 2015!

Happy New Year!
Sedeveria "Sorrento", Desert Garden, Succulent plants

Monday, December 29, 2014

An Australian in Arizona

Anigozanthos flavidus, Kangaroo Paws, Anigozanthos flavidus flowers
I first learned of Anigozanthos flavidus, the Kangaroo Paws of Australia, during some fast, intense research just before beginning my desert garden.  Very mildly acquainted with the plant, I purchased a small, blooming specimen in November.  I then brought it home and (of course!) looked it up again.  To my surprise, the New Sunset Western Garden Book did not recommend it for the low desert climates.  I could make nothing (and still can't!) of the distinctions: where it is expected or not expected to grow in the American Southwest.  So I posted about my new plant on Google Plus and asked my Australian friends for advice.  The opinions I received gave me the following information.
  1. The plant can stand desert heat
  2. The plant can withstand a little frost
  3. Kangaroo Paws detest wet feet and should be tried first in a container,  raised off the ground for better drainage
  4. Cut leaves and flowering stems back as necessary
  5. Intelligent neglect is recommended
So a few days after collecting this helpful information, I went out to pot up my acquisition.  I was not a bit pleased with myself when I found that somehow the pot had been standing in water left over from nearby plants!  The little Anigozanthus already looked the worse for it.  Larger leaves showed some dieback, and the blooms were turning brown.  While resolving to replace the plant if necessary, I thought I would give this one the best chance I still could, so I took it out to the garden and potted it up immediately.

It is a curious statement about my garden soil that I added some of our gravelly top soil to the potting mix I was using.  I wanted to ensure good drainage.  My soil here seems to be a mix of clay and sand, and I find that clay plus sand does not equal garden loam!  In fact, the topsoil near the house is layered: gravel and sand on top, heavier soil beneath.  So I scraped up the gravelly bits and added this to the good moisture-retentive potting soil!

I put the plant in and clipped back the dying leaf sections, having read about a major Australian hybridizer cutting the leaves back drastically - sometimes even with a tractor!  I cut back the old flowering stems.  The results were a spindly little plant that still had a lot of good green growth in the center.  Anigozanthos forms little fans of leaves from the base.  This one still has several young fans in perfectly good condition.
Anigozanthos flavidus, Kangaroo Paws
Since then, I have tried to keep my neglect intelligent.  The plant is taking it all in stride as a good, sturdy, desert native should do.  So far the results are good, though I suppose it will be quite a while before it produces more of its rather exotic, furry blooms...  (These photos were taken before I repotted it.)
Anigozanthos flavidus, Kangaroo Paws, Anigozanthos flavidus flowers
Anigozanthos flavidus, Kangaroo Paws blooming stems
So a big thank you to Elizabeth and Frank for their advice - so far all is well with the Kangaroo Paws!
Anigozanthos flavidus flower, Kangaroo Paws flower

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Beautiful Christmas

Hippeastrum "Ambiance", Amaryllis "Ambiance", indoor flower bulb, Small Sunny Garden
This is a very quiet first Christmas here on my blog.  Several months ago I ordered a single bulb of Amaryllis "Ambiance", planted it on arrival, and then - as one always does - waited to see whether any blooms would open in time for Christmas.  This post is a little photographic journal of its opening.  I hope you all enjoy this little floral celebration!

December 22

Hippeastrum "Ambiance", Amaryllis "Ambiance", indoor flower bulb, Small Sunny Garden
Hippeastrum "Ambiance", Amaryllis "Ambiance", indoor flower bulb, Small Sunny Garden

December 23

Hippeastrum "Ambiance", Amaryllis "Ambiance", indoor flower bulb, Small Sunny Garden
Hippeastrum "Ambiance", Amaryllis "Ambiance", indoor flower bulb, Small Sunny Garden

Christmas Eve

Hippeastrum "Ambiance", Amaryllis "Ambiance", indoor flower bulb, Small Sunny Garden
Hippeastrum "Ambiance", Amaryllis "Ambiance", indoor flower bulb, Small Sunny Garden

Christmas morning

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sunlight and Red Leaves

rose "Sterling Silver", hybrid tea rose foliage, rose foliage
The sunlight this afternoon has been beautiful as only winter desert sun can be.  Here it is glowing through the new leaves of the rose "Sterling Silver", an old lavender-flowered hybrid tea.  Nestled deep in that cluster of growth will be a rosebud.  But for now the colour of the leaves is enough to enjoy!

Although I can only post a single picture tonight, I am adding this post to the Garden Bloggers Foliage Day meme with Christina at Creating my own Garden of the Hesperides.  She has some lovely silver frost and leaves to show.  Good night!

Red, Green, and a Golden Queen

Rose "Sun Flare", floribunda, Schinus terebinthifolius
Monday again, and time for a vase to join Cathy's Monday Vase meme at Rambling in the Garden.  As we are getting perilously close to Christmas Day, I tried to select material that will hold through Thursday as well as using the traditional red and green hues.  Both intentions were modified by the generosity of a rose bush.  How could I not include such a lovely rose?   So one golden bloom of Sun Flare (grown in a large pot on the back patio) went into the vase.

My ideas actually began with the foliage and berries of Schinus terebinthifolius and blooming stems of Russelia equisetiformis.  I have used the schinus once before - incorrectly identified as Pistacia lentiscus.  I discovered my error last week during an online search which I wrote about in last Tuesday's post.  But identification aside, it bears the only berries around, and the leaves go well in a vase.  And the Russelia is sending up long shoots with a plenitude of tiny red buds.  I have been impressed with the lasting qualities of the Russelia; in an earlier vase the flowers themselves stayed fresh well over two weeks!   So the Schinus went in with a few berries...
Schinus terebinthifolius berries, Schinus terebinthifolius foliage, Monday vase meme
...while the slender and nearly leafless Russelia stems hardly show yet among all the foliage.  But as the flowers open, they should become a major factor.  In the meantime, a single sprig of Salvia greggii "Flame" is holding the colour on the other side of the vase.
Monday vase meme, salvia greggii "flame", schinus terebinthifolius foliage
I expected to use plenty of basil from the herb garden; I like its effect as visual filler.  But the basil is reaching the tattered and torn stage - edible, but hardly aesthetic!  So only one stem went in, and a couple of clippings from the new acacia.  Primarily I relied on the schinus for green leaves.

The vase is one I made earlier this year while developing a red clay body for handthrowing.  Since it is made of unglazed, low-fired clay, the pot is a little porous, and for some of the pictures I slipped a bowl under it to protect the counter.  But I did like the classic red colour as a backdrop to the berries, leaves, and flowers.
Schinus terebinthifolius berries, Schinus terebinthifolius foliage, Monday vase meme
Hopefully, in a few days' time, the Russelia will be in full bloom, putting the arrangement into proper balance.  At present it looks like this.
Monday vase meme, schinus terebinthifolius berries, rose "Sun Flare"

In any case, the golden rosebud will remain queen.
Rose "Sun Flare", Schinus terebinthifolius berries, brazilian pepper tree, Monday vase meme
Wishing each of you a beautiful Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Burgeoning Buds

Eremophila buds, emu bush buds

I was delighted to look down at the little Eremophila this morning and have that sensation "wait a minute - something is different!".  What was different was tiny flower buds - lots of them.

Eremophilas are winter bloomers, but I haven't been too sure when my October-planted bush would reach the flowering stage.  Although I was confused initially about the identity of this variety (it came home tagless), I am now guessing that this is "Valentine", a readily available selection of Eremophila maculata.  Pink buds, of course!
eremophila buds, emu bush buds
E. maculata is the spotted Emu Bush; the common name of this Australian plant family is derived from the fruits, which are said to be eaten by emus in the wild.  No emus here, but the plant has thus far taken the Sonora climate like a true desert native.

A number of plants paused to settle in during the past weeks.  The hybrid tea rose "Sterling Silver" went through a gawky, do-nothing stage after I cut it back, but it is making up for lost time with an abundance of new growth.  I love the brilliant red-burgundy hues of new rose foliage.
"Sterling Silver" rose, new growth on rose, hybrid tea rose foliage
And some of the leaves have opened a bit further.
"Sterling Silver" rose foliage, rose foliage, rose leaves
The other plant on the verge of a full blooming spree is the Russelia (R.equisetiformis "Big Red"), which has been shooting out long stems elegantly laden with miniscule buds.
Russelia equisetiformis buds, Coral Fountain, Firecracker Plant
And when I say "long stems", it's partly because these are noticeably longer than earlier stems.  The plant is putting out some very robust growth.  There are still a few trumpets left from last month, but most of the red is growing tips and unopened buds.
Russelia equisetiformis, Big Red Russelia, Coral Fountain, Firecracker Plant
Next month promises well in my little desert garden.
Russelia equisetiformis, Coral Fountain, Russelia equisetiformis "Big Red"

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mystery Solved?

Schinus terebinthifolius new growth, Schinus terebinthifolius foliage
It grows at the very back of the yard.  It is a small tree with a heavy wooden stake still nearly as large as its own trunk.  At about 4.5 ft (1.3 m) high it begins to send out slender branches with leaves and, for much of the year, soft red berries at the outer ends.
Schinus terebinthifolius berries, Brazilian Pepper tree berries
The foliage is not very dense, nor is the tree very tall; but out here in the desert anything that can cast a shade is treasured.

A few yards away the same type of plant grows in bush form, much denser and leafier, but with no berries though both plants bloomed together in May.  The little tree has also sent out a good many shoots from the ground, making it clear that the single-trunked form is not necessarily its natural habit of growth.
Schinus terebinthifolius buds
As both plants were already in place and in their current forms when we moved onto the property a year ago, it has been a question of identification - by me, unfamiliar with the local plants!  By October I thought I knew.  Various forms of Pistacia do grow successfully in the low desert, and I labelled it Pistacia lentiscus.  Then a week ago I posted a flower vase with the berries and some foliage - and the name.
Monday vase

And Christina at immediately recognised that the leaves did not look like the P. lentiscus she had planted in her garden.  Which sent me back for some more detective work.  This time, as I felt I had pretty well exhausted my own books, I did most of the research online.  At first I flattered myself that I hadn't gotten it too far off; perhaps it was P. terebinthus.  But it didn't take long to see that the flowers were a different colour (pink) and neither flowers nor fruits looked at all the same.

In fact, I had been entirely on the wrong track, looking in the Old World for a tree from the New.  As far as I can tell, the two plants, tree and shrub, are specimens of Schinus terebinthifolius, the Brazilian Pepper Tree.  The small white flowers, the growth pattern of the little pepper-type berries (quite different from the Pistacias), the shrubby tree form, and the dioecious nature of the plants all appear to be correct for the Schinus.  I can say at least that the leaves are sufficiently like Pistacia terebinthus to earn this Pepper Tree the species name of terebinthifolius.  But I can't say much more, except that it took the picture database available on the web to work this one out!

Here are a few more pictures.  I enjoy photographing the berries though with their soft colouring they took a little extra camera practice.  At least there has been plenty of practice time; the tree holds the berries for many months.  I have yet to catch a good picture of the tiny flowers.  As you can see, the new growth is a good bronzy green colour.
Schinus terebinthifolius new growth, Schinus terebinthifolius foliage
Schinus terebinthifolius new growth, Schinus terebinthifolius foliage
Definitely not fruit from the Pistacia family!  These trees are, curiously enough, from the cashew family, Anacardiaciae.
Schinus terebinthifolius berries
So there it is - in full colour.  I think I have it right this time, but I'm certainly open to further investigation.  Please let me know if you would identify it differently!  I'll be happy to see some better-informed opinions...
Schinus terebinthifolius berries

Monday, December 15, 2014

A Tiny Posy

tetraneuris, Monday vase, small sunny garden, lavender
Today's vase and post have to be quick ones, so here is a tiny vase with  just a few flowers in it.  Happily, I can introduce a new flower here: Tetraneuris acaulis (formerly Hymenoxys acaulis).  Quite a bit of name for this delightful, native yellow daisy!  It is a low-growing plant with grassy foliage, but the flower stems are long and wiry, lending themselves to a graceful effect.
tetraneuris, Monday vase, small sunny garden
Also included in this vase are a couple sprigs of perovskia.  My very young plant is still blooming profusely.
perovskia, Monday vase, small sunny garden
 A single stem of lavender (Lavandula stoechas "Madrid") was added as well.  There are a good many more blooming stems; I'm very pleased with this selection so far!  Also present is some foliage from the new Acacia salicina, which I wrote about in my last post, and a spring of rosemary.
tetraneuris, Monday vase, small sunny garden, acacia foliage
The tiny bud vase is the same handthrown stoneware piece that I used in my first Monday vase post.

Sorry to be so brief; I'm sure this sounds a little hurried - which it is!  But I didn't want to miss posting for the Monday Vase meme hosted by Cathy at Rambling in the Garden.  I'm sure there will be other less rushed posts from her and other participants today, so by all means check them out and enjoy!  Happy Monday!
tetraneuris, Monday vase, small sunny garden