Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Dry Corner in April

Anigozanthos "Bush Ranger"
A small burst of bloom from the Kangaroo Paws - Anigozanthos "Bush Ranger" - is a wonderful touch for this month's End of Month View from the garden.  I missed last month, but in February I began focusing this theme on the Dry Corner.

The Dry Corner is a patch at the entrance/exit to the garden, the point at which one walks out into the big world (generally headed straight to the horse corrals).  As it is furthest from the shade of the patio, I decided to make it the area where I used the most obviously xeric plants.  This gives it a little different character than the rest of the garden, but also allows me to trial some wonderful species in an area reserved for their preferences.

I have developed the garden more or less from the edge of the patio downward (the west edge of the garden), though gaps exist throughout.  So the east border, with the Dry Corner at one end, is one of the least fully planted areas.  Featuring it for the end of the month view has changed that a little.  I have gone ahead and added a few plants over the last couple of months.  Here we are now...
It all looks very sparse still!  But additions include Crassula "Campfire" in the foreground (foliage is colouring up nicely now it is in full sun)...
Crassula "Campfire"
and a second Anigozanthos behind it - just a clump of rather dubious foliage at present; this was one of my recent purchases from the discount shelf so no picture available yet!  To the far left is Senna nemophila.  This young Australian shrub gave a few of its yellow blooms in early spring.  The showing was rather brief, followed by one lone seedpod, since removed.  It has not settled in as easily as I hoped.  It is always a rather scantily clad bush, with its lovely narrow leaves forming a haze of pale green.  However, there is quite a bit of yellowing of leaves, and some leaf drop.  I don't know why at this point since this is said to be a well-adapted plant for the region.  The second picture is from early March, when the few blooms appeared.
Senna nemophila flower
It grows just below the anchor of the Corner, which is the more or less weeping Acacia salicina.  It has put out quite a bit of new growth this spring and is now officially taller than I am though its head droops such that the increase in height is not terribly obvious.  But it is looking healthy and happy.  It is hard to photograph as the stake bracing it is so much heftier than the tree itself.  Here is a close-up of the leaves, at any rate!
Acacia salicina
Another new plant is Lampranthus vygie "Lilac Mist" (I think that is the name - it's too late at night to go check!) just on the edge of the panorama view above.  It had plenty of flowers - hot pink rays and yellow centres - when I bought it, but they collapsed upon planting.  Foliage is blue-green and rather attractive.  I say this despite the fact that somehow I developed a rather negative attitude towards ice plant varieties generally - a silly attitude given their usefulness in extremely difficult garden situations!  Perhaps growing this one will encourage a more positive view of them.
Lampranthus foliage
So much for the newbies!  There are also the plants that have been in place for some months.  The most noticeable are still the Berlandiera lyrata with its bright yellow daisies and Senecio "Blue Fingers", a handsome clump of the bluest foliage in the garden.  Berlandiera has been blooming for months.  I have found that it does need a fair amount of water to support this habit!  For that reason I am debating relocating it, but perhaps not since it seems so well pleased with its current position.  Besides, it's pleasant to be greeted by that chocolate scent on my way in and out of the garden.
Berlandiera lyrata
Senecio keeps promising to bloom.  It is biding its time.  Although I am not growing it for the flowers, still the suspense does build up with a plant that sets buds and then holds them unopened for weeks.
Senecio "Blue Fingers" flower buds
Perhaps the brightest inhabitant of the Corner is a plant with no flowers and little enough in the way of leaves.  Euphorbia tirucalli "Firesticks" is a mass of brilliant, autumn-coloured stems.  According to San Marcos Growers, "Firesticks" is indeed the "Sticks on Fire" of commerce.  Ultimate size is unknown as it is not expected to grow as large as the green-coloured species, which reaches tree size.  I have tried to give it a little room to spread at any rate!
Euphorbia "Firesticks"Euphorbia "Firesticks"
A continual burst of bloom is coming from Tetraneuris acaulis, shown here with a friend.  Unlike the Berlandiera, T. acaulis has put out a fine stand of little yellow daisies while demanding very little water.  This is a wonderful dry-climate plant: vigourous, attractive, bright.  The foliage is very low-growing, but the flowers stand well up on long stems, making the whole effect more visible.
Tetraneuris acaulis, butterfly
Elsewhere in the garden, the transition to summer continues.  Some plants have slowed or ceased blooming, among them the Lavender stoechas varieties, though L. s. "Blueberry Ruffles" seems to be in a state of actual collapse.  L. s. "Madrid", on the other hand, appears to have paused in blooming merely to put on a burst of new foliage.  Rather to my surprise, Eremophila "Outback Sunrise" is still throwing off the occasional bloom.
Eremophila "Outback Sunrise"
Perovskia atriplicifolia has finally begun blooming...
Perovskia atriplicifolia
...and Cistanthe grandiflora continues to send up its exotic flower stalks loaded with buds, flowers, and spent blooms, all like so many baubles dancing in the breeze.
Cistanthe grandiflora
And, no pictures yet, but just today it appears that Salvia elegans will soon be in full bloom.

Well, that is all for this month's update.  As always, I will link with the End of the Month View meme at The Patient Gardener, where many other updates can be followed as well.

One last picture of Anigozanthos "Bush Ranger", the wonderfully deep red flower in the Dry Corner.
Anigozanthos "Bush Ranger"
Weather Diary: Sunny, High: 96 F (35.6 C)/Low: 62 F (16.7 C)

Monday, April 27, 2015

Monday Vase: A Little Serendipity

Monday Vase meme
Today's vase was entirely unplanned.  That is, I had a vase planned, but this is not the one.  More on that in a moment.  This one is very much a selection of what was available as I glanced out over the garden about noon.  Three blooms from Wollerton Old Hall, a couple of Osteospermums, and two sprigs of lavender make up the whole.
Monday vase meme
As I say, I looked over the garden and quickly realized that my intended flowers would be unusable.  I had hoped to create an arrangement with a fistful of Berlandiera, which is still blooming magnificently; but the fact is, Berlandiera is not made for cutting.  It opens at night and closes early, and there really doesn't seem to be any reason to bring it inside with its folded petals making spindly spikes poking out from the centres.  It is a powerhouse out in the garden, and I am having to admit that outside is where it belongs.

In the meantime, what to do for a vase?  Two nights ago we had some rain.  Celebrations!  A couple of rose blooms were a little the worse for rain spotting but still usable, and these went into water immediately.  Then another...  Then I decided to snip a flower from Osteospermum "Sideshow", which I bought a few weeks ago from the almost-free-to-good-home shelf at Lowe's.  (I am beginning to frequent that shelf; I just found a salvageable Anigozanthos and some perfectly good freesias there too.  A dollar for each...)The Osteospermum is just starting to bloom again after its near demise, so one went into the mix today.
osteospermum "sideshow", Monday vase meme
One good thing leads to another.  Osteospermum "Blue-eyed Beauty" supplied an additional bloom.
Osteospermum "Blue-eyed Beauty", Monday Vase meme
Then a couple of sprigs from Lavender "Goodwin Creek Gray", and that was all.
Monday Vase meme
They went into an unglazed pot I made last year while testing the new red clay.  It is not my favourite pot, but it has a very small mouth, allowing use of minimal filler; and I did like the way the roses could drape over the shoulder.  Something to remember...
Monday vase meme
It was a very impromptu mix of material.  But sometimes that is the best way.

To see so many more lovely vases, please check out the meme that inspired all of this at Rambling in the Garden.

Happy Monday!
Monday Vase meme
Weather Diary: Sunny, High: 86 F (30 C)/ Low: 53 F (11.7 C)

Sunday, April 26, 2015

A Hummingbird in the Garden

There is no doubt that the hummingbird favourite so far is Salvia greggii "Autumn Moon".  It helps that the bush has been in bloom almost continually since planting, but clearly the flavour is much appreciated too.

It is planted just next to the "Sterling Silver" rose; this little bird was almost completely invisible against its new growth.
Because of her rapid, constant movement, she is not so invisible in person.  But so tiny: one does have to look hard to see her sometimes!  So tiny - I have seen her flit away when confronted by a large butterfly, though in general hummingbirds are known for being fearless.  She certainly came and hovered just in front of me shortly after I took these pictures.  By that time, my camera was no longer at the ready!  So these are the best I have available.  Hope you enjoy them!
Weather diary: Rain showers yesterday, sunny today; High: 78 F (25.6 C)/Low: 54 F (12.2 C)

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Silver and Other Colours

For April's Garden Blogger's Foliage Day, I thought I would look at some special foliage colours.  Silver - or at least grey - is commonly associated with dry climate plants.  So I've been surprised that I have had to deliberately select for this colour.  Perhaps I should put that differently.  It has been easy to find plants in the muted grey-green range, not so easy to find good silvers.

Lavenders are an obvious choice, though some are more silver than others!  My new addition of Lavandula "Goodwin Creek Gray" has been a step in the right direction.
Curiously, the new leaves now sprouting on Lavandula stoechas "Madrid" sport a distinct yellow-green hue.  At first I was worried about chlorosis, but the plant looks (and acts) very healthy with all that new growth and some buds coming on.
In the same tones, the normally grey-leaved Acacia salicina also shows a distinctly yellow hue to its new growth - of which there is plenty.  This is supposed to be a rapidly growing tree, but its tendency to a weeping habit makes it difficult to realize just how much height it has put on in the last few months.  It is taller than I am now, but that is not saying much!
The new growth on Perovskia atriplicifolia is very much of the same silver-green as the rest of the plant.  (I apologize that some of today's pictures are so dark; I had to give up my early photo session and finish off late this afternoon...  I hope you can tell the distinctive colours!)
It's the perfect foil for the simple blue flowers, just now opening.
In a very deliberate attempt to ensure a strong silver component, I recently added Artemisia "Powis Castle".
Also, simple Salvia officinalis is a good choice for the silver-to-grey range.  It is planted at the bottom of the garden, and I hope it does not end up entirely fried to a crisp come summer!
I still have every intention of adding Stachys byzantina to the garden but haven't sourced it locally yet, and it does seem silly to have to purchase that one by mail order.  So I am waiting in hopes it will turn up at one of the garden centres.

In the meantime, there have been some plants whose silver or grey tones have surprised me by their intensity.  One is Eremophila "Valentine", which I expected to show flowerless this month, but no... there are still a few blooms on this incredible little shrub.  Perhaps its foliage is better described as smoky green.
While the Eremophila is distinctly grey-green, Penstemon parryi is far more silver than I expected.  Its bloom period really is over, and I cut back the bloom stems the other day.  As a foliage plant it is remarkable - almost as remarkable as it is in flower!  This picture doesn't do it justice (nor does it show the new growth coming in many of the leaf axils), but it does show just how silvery the plant is at present, accented by a rich plum hue on leaf edges.
From Penstemon parryi we move to a group of plants with a great deal of variation in foliage colours.  These are the assorted succulents that have entered the garden, generally as impulse purchases, over the past five months or so.  Silver from Cistanthe grandiflora...
...and Echeveria lila, shown here with a few neighboring chamomile flowers...
...and predominantly silver-green, but with a distinctive red edge and furry texture, is little Echeveria harmsii.
The mahogany tones are even stronger in Sedeveria "Sorrento", which has not lost its colour since it turned from primarily green to mostly red upon being planted out last winter.
Even brighter?  Euphorbia tirucalli(?) "Firesticks"...
Turning to the cooler side of the spectrum, we find Senecio "Blue Fingers".
Senecio "Blue Fingers"
Lastly, a succulent just planted: Crassula capitella thyrsiflora "Campfire".  It came home with leaves almost entirely green; however, judging by descriptions, this will soon change with exposure to full sun.  I hope to keep a photographic record of the transformation.  It already has darker edges than when I bought it last weekend.
Crassula "Campfire"
The green-foliaged plants are quite valuable in this anything-but-green region, but I thought it would be fun to look at the silver side of the spectrum this month.  As usual, I'm linking this post with Christina's at My Hesperides Garden, where many other April foliage updates can be enjoyed!
eremophila "valentine" foliage

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Garden Olla Project, Part 2

As you may remember, I reported recently on the first phase of my "garden olla project".  I had made several pots of porous red clay in an experiment with this traditional irrigation method.  The other day I finally "planted" the pots out in the garden near a few plants I wish to keep a little moister by the age-old technique of allowing slow water seepage through the naturally slightly porous clay pot.  (Olla is the Spanish - also Italian - word for the standard cooking pot, repurposed over the centuries for garden irrigation.  As the technique was brought to the Americas by the Spanish, the Spanish word is the one in use here.)

To start with, I wanted to set one by Aquilegia desertorum.  This small columbine is native to Arizona, as well as New Mexico and Colorado.  But it is a plant from mountain slopes and is said to require "average" moisture, though known to survive well at lower elevations.  So the first pot went in beside the new Aquilegia.
In future, I will make longer necks for the ollas!  I would prefer to completely cover the shoulder of the pot to fully minimize water loss.  However, here we are for now...
Also, I will make lids for future ollas...   As it is, I am using the alternative method of laying a rock over the mouth of the pot.

The delicate aquilegia, rather smaller than some of its garden relations, had just put out its first bloom.  Definitely a plant to keep!
Aquilegia desertorum
Just to demonstrate the concept, I took pictures of the colour change that occurs as water seeps into the pores of the fired clay.  I did not check the time sequence, but this alteration did occur fairly rapidly, much the same as it would with a watered clay flower-pot - just without the drainage hole to release most of the extra water.  It takes longer for the water to actually begin seeping out into the soil.  That is a much slower process, allowing this to be a time-release watering system.
At this point the clay is darkened about halfway down the sides of the olla.  This is water coming from within the recently filled pot.
So, a little work with the spade, a quick fill with the hose, a rock  on top, and the job was done! garden olla project    
Garden olla project
As you can see, this one went directly beside the rose "Wollerton Old Hall".  The third is between Salvia greggii "Autumn Moon" and a little clump of Galtonia candicans which, being a summer bulb originating in South Africa, is not expected to be particularly drought-resistant.  I am afraid I will need to move that olla if it is to do any good.  It is too small to get the moisture to both plants, I suspect, and may prove to be the proverbial sitting between two stools...  At any rate, it is much easier to "transplant" than a plant would be!

As it is now about a week since I put the pots in the ground, I can report that 1) I need to watch the water level more closely as the water does indeed drain through the pot over time!, 2) these are too small to form a serious reservior for desert summer conditions, but 3) the surrounding soil is kept moister and therefore softer, surely creating better growing conditions for the plants.  This is certainly a technique to be pursued.  I just need to throw larger pots!

Here are Wollerton Old Hall, the rose above...
Rose "Wollerton Old Hall", English rose, David Austin rose
...and another picture of Aquilegia desertorum.
Aquilegia desertorum
Weather diary: Mostly clear, High: 84 F (28.9 C)/Low: 55 F (12.8 C)