This May-Gray Week In The Garden

 Sunday:  the Sprekelia flower opened!  I missed doing a bloom day post this month, of which this Sprekelia would have been the star--it is the special flower of the month.

Monday:  having breakfast, I heard a strange thrumming outside.  Wha?!?  Rain?!?  A prediction for a 10% chance of rain meant, obviously, sunny and dry.  How delightful, to be wrong!
 It was an isolated shower, but I enjoyed every minute of it--all ten of them.  
Grey and wet:  isn't it gorgeous?  
 A quick positioning of all containers at hand under the scuppers collected eight gallons of magic. The patio's potted succulents all got a precious drink of the good stuff.
 Views from the covered patio as the rain fell:  the Oncidium flexuosum purchased last week on a garden club field trip and hung it in the Oshio Bene maple. 
The patio vase:  a broken scrap of nasturtium plant, a Craspedia globosa flower, and the flower of an edible onion--while I waited for the rain to stop, as it did, all too soon. Nasturtiums are a winter/early spring event here and most are already dry and gone.  Most of the sweet peas, too, are complete. 
Southern California is not ornamental Alium country, so I make do with an edible onion's flower!  This is the flower of 'Yellow Granex', which is one of the sweet onion varieties known as Vidalia if and only if it is grown in a defined 20 county area in the state of Georgia.  

Here it is just 'Yellow Granex'.  I get two or three dollars worth of seedlings from a local nursery around Christmas, plant, and in May can harvest enough sweet onions for about six months
   The pond is another view from the patio.  Rain made the koi happy.  The rain made the plants happy.  This made the gardener happy.  
After the rain, a check on a few random things, mostly the sensitive new plants that need spot watering.  No spot watering required Monday, because of the rain shower.  Arctostaphylos 'Austin Griffiths':  how is it doing a year after planting?  I'm unsure it will be happy in dry Southern California.  It's a gorgeous thing in the PNW. 
At planting in May 2016:

 And now, May 2017
 'Austin' has grown, but why did I plant it such that it leaned?  Why?  Why?  I'm not adjusting it now after it has been growing roots for a year.  Perhaps it would have leaned anyway--the lean is towards due south.  

Small plants, recently planted, were lucky to get a bit of fresh rain.   

Until the new Winter Project shrubs grow larger on the front slope,  to fill empty space I placed some xeric fillers in between the shrubs.  Sulfur buckwheat, Eriogonum umbellatum var aureum 'Kanah Creek' (red arrows),  three Sideritis cypria seedlings, a few Gazania seedlings,  two Melampodium leucanthum seedlings.

Leucadendron 'Wilsons Wonder' on the left has grown, its new growth blushed red.  Leucadendron 'Cloudbank Ginny' on the right has doubled in height.  I'm somewhat concerned about Leucospermum 'Tango', above 'Wilsons'--it doesn't look 100% content. 
And this area needs mulch!
A red Buckwheat, Eriogonum grand rubescens out front, too.  Note the Leucospermum 'High Gold' to the right.  It's a goner. 
Eryngium is such a cool plant.  This is not its preferred climate, but I saw a six-pack of 'Blue Hobbit' for sale at a modest price and could not resist trying them out.  I have no idea if they will survive to bloom. 
 Tweedia caerulea, (a gracious gift, thanks, Dustin!) is a tropical vine with powder blue flowers.  Oooh!
 The deciduous Agapanthus 'Sandringham' got a new spot--sunnier and irrigated.  Will it ever bloom?  Though huge it isn't, it does have ten times as many leaves as it had when purchased. 
 Another Dustin gift is Senecio viravira.  This solves an old mystery--I first saw this plant growing in the Huntington rose garden, at the base of the 'Altissimo' roses on the front of the Tea Room.  I wanted that plant, but could not get a name, so could not get a plant.  Several years later, got the plant, and the name.  How lucky is that?  Very. 
Alas,  the 'High Gold' Leucospermum I moved died.  My bad.  Cringe.  Ouch.  Just keep repeating to yourself:  the plants you kill are the ones you learn from.  The plants you kill are the ones you learn from.

Added two new Protea 'Mini King', one in 'High Gold's empty spot, the other to the left.

 The original 'Mini King' has grown just a little.  I need to know if it's the plant that's a dud, or if this Protea species just doesn't want to be in this garden.  So, add two more (the price was right) to see what happens.  

I carefully trimmed back the Leucophyllum on the original 'Mini's left and the Lagerstroemia on its right to give 'Mini' more light and air circulation.  A touch of soil sulfur to acidify the soil.  A soil check to make sure it is getting watered.  
Could you grow now, please?
 Tuesday:  time to dig out the bloomed out row of Agave desmettianas.  Nice while they were there.  Time for something new. 
 Finally a solution to that area circled in the red. The Dymondia grew over the bed demarcation barrier just visible, the black edging.  I've been puzzling over what to do for months.  The idea just suddenly popped into mind, like a spritely weed seedling in mud.  I'll replace the Dymondia with some groups of Aloe 'Roikoppie' and...

 ...move the Dymondia here...

...around the flagstones I ran out and bought on Tuesday.  
...and started arranging and re-arranging on Wednesday.
Hmmm...a little better. 
More Wednesday:  the only new Dahlia that lived produced its first flower.  It was labeled as a pink and white flower so I planted it surrounded by pink roses.  Surprise!  Yellow and red. 
How about one last quick status check on Leucospermum 'Yellow Bird'?  The flowers are lasting longer in this year's spring weather that is more seasonal (cool) than last year (heat wave, heat wave, heat wave).
Thursday:  the Aloe dhufarensis has a flower stalk!  First one ever.
 Our wet winter gave it some black fungal spots, but overall it has been growing with vigor. 
Thursday:  one more rearrange of the stepping stones.  Better.

 It's been a busy week.  There was irrigation repair and deadheading and moving plants, too.  During May Grey, gardening is frantic, to accomplish tasks before summer's heat arrives.  Friday and the weekend bring a heat wave--so all gardening stops for a few days.  

What have you been getting frantic about in your garden this week?  


  1. I'm on a mulching tear to try to outpace the impending heat. (And I'm still planting! I hate breaking vows about not planting anything perennial + ornamental after April.) Weather West's 10-day forecast and the longer-term NOAA predictions for this summer have got me a bit bummed, but wasn't this a wonderfully pleasant week, beyond the ten-minute bath even?

    The photograph with the protea pair, alyssum (?), and 'Blue Flame' (?) is just heaven. Really nice framing. I can't quite remember how long it's been now since you switched out cameras, but I've been noticing, lately in particular, how gorgeously illustrated even your project-based and up-keep posts have become (given that these, among garden blawggers, are generally not the stuff of mindless plant 'porn'). Good stuff!

    1. I'm dreading the Big Mulch myself. It's very hard and it HURTS physically. The reward of course is how terrific it looks and how it helps the plants. I hope yours goes well. Best for me not to think about that upcoming season that shall not be named.

      Yep, that's a little 'Blue Flame' and alyssum. The pattern created by the proteas against the stucco wall was unexpectedly attractive.

      I'm working to be a better photographer. After 50,000 pictures, the pictures had to start improving. As someone once told me, throw enough mud against the wall and some of it is bound to stick. The person used a word different than "mud", though.

  2. Yup! Love that May Gray!

    Didn't know ornamental alliums were difficult here, just knew mine rarely returned or even grew up. It's a relief to know others have problems with them, too. Worst year ever for them even with the rain!

    Same with dahlias, plant new every year, frustrating about the flower color. Planted one last week that looks like yours called 'Cambridge'.

    Love the terra cotta colored stepping stones; excellent match with the tile roof.

    Ground-cover type, mixed-color, nasturtiums still MIA, seed bank must be depleted; have only one which looks identical to yours

    1. Ornamental alliums apparently want a winter chill. I tried them one year and they did nothing. Dahlias mostly always come back here--gardening on light soil on a hill=drainage.

      Did one more rearrange of the flagstones, think I finally got it. Hope we get more MayGray after this weekend, and a long stretch of June Gloom.

  3. You got rain! I'm so envious. We didn't even get spit this time. Sorry to hear that 'High Gold' flopped. It's too early to draw any firm view on the prospects for mine but I'm hopeful. Meanwhile, 'Goldie' is dead and must be pulled, while 'Brandi' continues to produce new foliage and not a single flower. I bought 5 Eryngium on a super-discount myself. Only one has done well; another is struggling; one is slow to develop (maybe I planted the bare root to deep?); and the others are dead.

    While you've been busy relocating your exuberant Dymondia and creating a new path, I've been cutting back most everything in sight. Plant growth was sure a lot slower before last winter's rains arrived!

    1. 'Goldie' died?!? Aww, bummer. Sorry to hear that. The 'High Gold' was completely my fault--it was thriving until I moved it. 'Brandi' will bloom next spring. Let it grow! ( Let it grow! Let it grow! Get that song out of my head!) Yes indeed actual plant growth this year. And weeds! Haven't had many of those for five years.

      The Eryngium seems to appreciate a little shade, so I've been rigging temp shade. They are really tiny, about 2", but have new growth. We'll see. Denise's was beautiful. I want them there awesome pointy blue flowers!

  4. You certainly had a busy week, there was a lot going on there but all good fortunately. And for a ten percent chance of rain, that was a great bonus to have as much as you did!

    1. We were lucky with that shower, and we know it!

  5. No rain here, but I'll try not to be peevish and just celebrate the rain you got. Eryngiums are contrary plants here. I was convinced to forget about them, then E. planum started blooming and seeding around, so now I try all sorts and haven't had much success beyond E. planum and occasionally when E. padanifolium decides to bloom. About your paving project, I love it when an answer presents itself, poof, and a thought bubble seems to hover over our heads with the answer. Hope to see you at the pelarg. sale at South Coast. I'm going Saturday....

    1. Not going to make it today, slim chance tomorrow. Have fun! Blog all the good stuff I missed, okay? We missed some rain spells when your area got plenty, so we're even now.

      The E. planted here is a selection of E. planum, so perhaps they have a chance. For the six-pack price, a try seemed reasonable.

      I often go out and stare at an area with an issue, and do that for weeks or months, until finally the light bulb lights. Background processing, we call it.

  6. Gorgeous pictures of all the progress you're making. I haven't been nearly as productive, but I do need to get on all the weeds. What's the replacement plan for the agaves?

    1. Nothing motivates me more than the thought of Summer heat--it gets done now or it must wait until October.

      The planned replacement is Agave 'Joe Hoak'. After the 'Joe Hoak' years it may be a couple or trio of different Aloes mixed together that bloom at different times of the year, so there will be a flower display for an extended period of time. Something like that.

  7. I love Sprekelia flowers! They have such a wonderful form. If they were just a little hardier and better at handling soaking wet winters. The rain must have been lovely. Most residents of the PNW are thoroughly sick of rain and cool temperatures. Meanwhile, I'm dreading the heat predicted for the next several days. I planted two Arbutus menziesii about a week ago and even at 70 degrees their new growth is wilting. They're going to fry at 80 or 90. Watering them would only make things worse, but I did give them some shade in hopes they might just scrape through. Glad Austin is proving its toughness in your dry climate. I think it will just develop more character with that lean. I hope your Mini Kings grow (or the new additions at least show that they don't want to so you can find something that will!).

    1. The Sprekelias can be dug and stored for the winter, but having seen the size of your garden in your wide shot post, you have enough to do as it is!

      Shade should help the Arbutus. I rig temporary shade for new plantings and it is highly effective at getting them through their most vulnerable stage when we have a heat wave. I'm giving Austin G. a little extra water; drainage on that slope is instant, so no chance of rotting his roots.

      Very familiar with thorough sickness about weather. Here it is sunny and hot, sick of that!

  8. Our unexpected rain squall was not in the least bit measurable or collectable. I'm envious ! We are having 90's this weekend and back to pleasant temps just in time to go back to the office on Monday. Definitely thwarts my planting schedule, particularly since it involves ferns. I think your flagstone path is splendid and will be even more so with the Dymondia.

    1. 90s here too. Can't wait for it to be over. Hope you are having a great weekend regardless

  9. Sprekelia I have too - was a sudden surprise in a pot of gladioli from a neighbour.

    We have added a gutter and downpipe to our patio roof when the row of basins ticked me off. Amazing how much water collects from condensation overnight.

    1. Significant water collection from condensation? Wow. Do you have much colder nights than days? So Cal used to get a lot more fog than it does now. Everything is built on, so the soil moisture doesn't rise up during the night.

    2. not much colder. But enough to be worth collecting. Foggy out tonite ...

    3. Love that first photo. Great composition.

    4. Thank you, Len. Not quite as difficult to do as a shot of Agave albopilosa taken while hanging off a cliff.

  10. I'm so in awe of all the things you've been doing. Amazing what a big difference a few pieces of flagstone can make!

    I don't have much experience with Arctostaphylos but the 'Ruth Bancroft' hybrid I planted last fall has pushed a lot of new growth. I'm optimistic.

    Eryngium: I thought I'd lost all mine but one came back this year. No doubt because of the copious rain. No flowers yet.

    1. I'm really happy with the new flagstone path. Nice to walk on and it looks good, too.

      'Austin Griffith' seems okay so far...we'll see what happens. I could do with another. Pretty foliage, pretty bark.

      Eryngium--not expecting much! If I get a flower I'll be happy.


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