Saturday, June 25, 2016

Our Local Amorphophallus Titanum

Above, the plant on June 15th at 42" tall.  
 A local nurseryman has been growing several Amorphophallus titanum corms in his polyhouse for nearly a decade.  His first flower opened yesterday.  This plant in bloom has been a popular attraction at botanical gardens for decades.  The flower brings in visitors who normally have no interest in plants, because it's odd looking, rare, huge, and stinks. 

When not in bloom, the Amorphophallus grows a single leaf on a strong stem for each growing season.  It sheds the leaf and sits dormant for about four months.  The plant is native to western Sumatra rain forests and is cold-hardy only to 55F.  This local plant is about 7 feet tall;  heights of 20 feet have been recorded.  A bloom-sized corm may weigh more than 100 lbs, while very mature corms may weigh more than double that.
 The stem of the leaf and the cover (sepal?) of the flower have the same lichen-like spots.  The petal-like, pleated spathe is a fresh lime green on the outside...
 ...and a meaty burgundy on the inside.   The spadix is hollow.
 The actual flowers occur at the base of the spadix in two rows: a row of female flowers and a row of male flowers.  Each row is fertile at different times to avoid self-pollination, although the Huntington was able to pollinate one of its specimens as a self and obtain seeds.  
So, did it stink?  There was a musky odor, not overwhelming or particularly disgusting.  The local flower reached only 48" tall, but it is still a younger plant.  The record height for a flower is 10 feet 2.25 inches (3.1 meters).  

A smaller, more cold hardy (to zone 6) species in the same genus is A. konjac.

To see one within a ten minute drive, without waiting in line among crowds of people was a delight and a real treat.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Echinopsis oxygona Blooms

The Echinopsis oxygona flowers lasted almost two days instead of only one.  Fragrant, too.  The nasty heat that did this to 'Home Run' rose...
And that wilted the foliage and darkened (but didn't toast) the Dahlia flowers...
...didn't affect the Cosmos...
...or damage the Echinopsis.
The plant has its first offsets, too.  The main plant doesn't have much besides glochids, but the tiny offsets have plentiful spines. 
I hope it develops into an oxygona clump someday, with many flowers open at once.  Won't that be a show? 
Update:  We saw the baby hawk this morning, along with a sibling!  They seemed well.  Nearby on the street were the barest remains of a kill (blood, a tuft of fur, flies).   Odd how the sight of gore could make one feel optimistic.  


Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Wednesday Vignette

I wasn't thinking of the flowers when adding Crassula pubescens ssp. radicans as companion to Agave 'Joe Hoak', but the flower colors agree perfectly with 'Joe's foliage.  An inadvertently happy accident.

Monday, June 20, 2016

It's Summer--Time To Clean The House

Above, Magnolia grandiflora

Fierce summer heat has arrived two months early, so it's time to clean the neglected indoors.  Saturday:
Sunday was even worse. 

Today, Monday.  Hey, it's 20 degrees cooler than Palm Springs!  Wheee!

Some plants love heat, or at least don't mind it.  Fuchsias are not in that group.  Last week:

Just now:

Sigh.  On the other hand, Echeveria cante posesses a powdery white coating that protects it from intense sun.  It was unhappy in winter, content in May-Grey.  I have two plants, one sending forth a flower stalk. 

Heat?  What heat?

Echinopsis oxygona blooms happily in warm weather.  These will be the first flowers since I picked up this plant for 50% off a couple of years ago.   Flower buds appeared immediately after a recent repotting.

Avocado 'Reed'.  Yummmm!  This variety produces fruit that matures in summer, unlike our winter crop of 'Fuerte'.  I repeat, Yummmm.  The best tasting Avocado of them all--buttery, nutty, with a luxuriously velvety texture.  It too gets a white coating like Echeveria cante, but this bloom indicates oil content, rather than being sunscreen.  I repeat, Yummmm!
 Some flowers brought indoors out of the desiccating sun Saturday morning with no attempt at arrangement--those left outside are brown and crispy.  Picking flowers reduces stress on the plants as well.  Plopped on the mantle are the last of the Sweet Peas, the very first Cosmos.  Dahlias and roses.  I picked one of the neighbor's Magnolia grandiflora flowers hanging over our wall.  The tree is limbed up high so only by standing on the retaining wall, are the enormous flowers visible.  Heavenly scent, enjoyable even ten feet away.  
  Bougainvilleas love heat.

Green tomatoes, green for weeks, finally turning red.
 More time to spend indoors and...vacuum.  Oh, did that.  Laundry?  All done.  Dusting?  Ditto.  Wash the windows.  Wash the kitchen cabinets.  Mop the floors.  Clean out closets.  It's going to be a long summer.  The house is going to look great.

Sunday, June 19, 2016


 Hunnemannia seeds seem to grow best from cracks in concrete.
 Boris and I play ball out here several times a day. 

 A boy and his toy.

  Where was Natasha?  In the house, busy sleeping. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

Neighborhood Activity

A neighbor moved an oak from one part of his property to a place by his driveway.  This happened in early March.  Of course right after he moved it we got an unexpected heat wave.  

Now in mid-June, it's not looking good.  Bummer.  
 Another neighbor spent last summer calling, calling, calling the county, trying to get some brush clearance done on the county-owned drainage areas.  The County promised action.  It only took a year.  Better late than never--we are thankful.
This was filled and refilled several times.
 This area had several trash palms (Washingtonia) and a lot of dead brush.  It is now mostly cleared out.  You could see no soil--it was all crammed with brush.  I wish the native oaks and Toyon could take over, which they could if the county would remove the Eucs and trashy ash trees.  
 Another area, more brush to clear.  The mass of Poison Oak engulfing a Schinus molle was scary.
 Coyotes live back in there.  These are all non-native invasive weeds, excepting the native Poison Oak.  Just because something is 50 feet tall, doesn't mean it isn't a weed.  There are a couple of native oaks back there.
 There is one native plant in the next photo, the Sambucus mexicana.  They'd done some clearing out here, but more needed.  I can hear the whine of the chain saws and the roar of the chipper going right now, as I type.  Hopefully those trashy palms go, because they are a serious fire hazard.  So are the Eucs and the Schinus.
 Since this is sort of a foliage post, how about some Agaves, Aloes, and a Senecio, creating a soft mix of greens and blue-greens under overcast sky.
 Or Begonia luxurians, recently planted, and growing:
 Or a new plant yet another neighbor kindly gave me, Pyrrosia lingua. Really pretty epiphytic fern that climbs trees and rocks in Japan, China, and southeast Asia. I'm concerned the light will not be sufficient here--but thought I'd give it a try.  It would make a beautiful green carpet in that unfortunate corner, if little light is enough light. Might have to move it.
 Same kindly neighbor gave me a 'Diamond Dust' Euphorbia.  What wonderful neighbors!  I have a spot for it, too.  It likes heat and it doesn't reseed.  Whee!!!
Speaking of new plants, I did a stupid thing a month or two back and bought one of those tiny tiny packaged rooted Clematis stems you see at the big box stores--it was 75% off.  I looked though all the packages and found one that contained a plant still alive.  

These are so tiny it is very difficult to grow them into viable plants, (at least for me) and I should have left it to die, know how it is.  So far it's growing mostly because of our extended May-Grey/June-Gloom, but I'll have to baby it through the summer without error and even then...survival will be iffy.  Misguided compassion, I guess.  At this moment, looks so happy.
 Not so happy, the keening of a fledgling Hawk(?) that was very difficult to photograph.  The past couple of days it has been keening and chirping for its parents, judging by the plaintive sound.  It was in one of the neighbor's wretched Eucs yesterday for a couple of hours.  It's young(?) and hungry(?) and alone(?).  It has been wrenching to listen to its cries.  I dearly hope it finds something to eat, that it is strong enough to survive, but there's nothing I can do to help.   
So many little things, minor things, trivial things go on in a garden.  Every garden has its own drama, life and death, joy, tragedy, struggle, beauty, pain, the kaleidoscope of the here and now.  

Update 6/18:  a neighbor reports seeing the youngster being fed tidbits by Mom & Dad.  Hope you make it, Junior!

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Bloom Day June 2016

 Anigozanthos 'Velvet Gold' above.  Not my garden, but jeezz-loo-eezz, how can I resist posting it?  The gorgeous yellow, the rust-red stems, the green interior, the fuzz...since Bloom Day is a Wednesday, we'll call the above a Wednesday Vignette.

Salvia 'Blue Hill' goes on blooming, and will until Halloween. 
Another flush of flowers from the Leucospermum--okay, just three flowers, but they're still awesome.  The lighter green foliage is all new growth.  I'm going to have to move the 'Ivory Curls' Agave before it is engulfed. 
   Dudleya has benefited from the extended May-Grey June-Gloom and burst forth with frosty yellow-green flowers.  Unexpected from--honestly--an ugly plant. 
 I've read if drainage is sharp, Dudleya will take summer water and look better.  I'm going to try it this year.  This plant, scruffy now, looks even worse in August. 
 Big cluster of flowers from Echeveria 'Misty Violet'
 Dwarf Hydrangea snuggling up with Fuchsias and Begonias.  The red-foliaged 'Queen Victoria' Lobelia in front has flower buds.  A splash of water has become a daily ritual.  I want to see the flowers!
 I've tried several times for a photo to get Cistanthe flowers to drape gracefully over neighbor Agave parryi truncata;  this year it finally happened on its own.  An unexpected kind of pink and blue.
 Dahlia 'Arabian Nights' is having its best year ever.  I know not why.
 A little drizzle coated it with sparkle.

 Hemerocallis 'Gold District'.  It doesn't repeat bloom, but it puts on a glowing show for that one moment in June.
 The combo of orange Salvia with Agastache 'Blue Fortune' works for me.

 Another orange/lavender blue combo,  Big box cheapo Dahlia and a blur of Geranium 'Rozanne' behind it.
 Ethereal old day lily, the pinkest.
 Ever-reliable 'Molineux'
 Pink and blue again, the Cistanthe with a background of Agave marmorata this time. 
A fair bloom day to you all.