Projects for Autumn

Above, Canna 'Phaison' for summer's heat.  

Project for this coming fall:  

The oak tree is growing quite fast, changing the proportions of this area and importantly, the sun exposure.  It's gone from all day sun when the oak was a sprouted acorn, to, at this time, morning sun and afternoon shade.  In a few more years it will be nearly full shade.  At this moment, the plan is: 

--moving the daylily clumps, 

--removing some of the Dymondia ground cover,

--removing the 'Comtesse de Provence' rose, because in a battle between an oak and a rose, the oak will win, 

--planting several Agaves to ornament the area.  Probably A. ovatifolia,  A. 'Blue Glow', and perhaps A. mitis as well.  I've got plenty of spares of all of those.

Agave ovatifolia:

 While the area still gets some sun, a few touches of yellow and silver, too.  Calylophus already there.  I'll toss some Hummannia seeds around.  Perhaps the silvery Didelta 'Silver Strand'.

Can you handle some shade, 'Silver Strand'? 

All to be done once the weather cools off.

Another space that needs to improve:  the long narrow driveway bed.  It's in a haphazard state. 

 The Senecio 'Mount Everest' is an experiment, an attempt at a tall vertical shape for the bed:

The small shrubby Lantanas I tried here never got going.  Too hot and arid, even for them.  

 Cuphea 'Vermillionaire' works pretty well, but also drops considerable litter that sticks in Boris's hair when he lounges out there.  It's also a little big for the space. 

Boris lounges in his "No, it's my ball, not yours" pose:

Oops, too close together:
'Joe Hoak' with its more taller vertical habit is a better size for the planter.  I had a bunch of them there in the bed's previous iteration, but they were bloomed out and gone too fast.   The  'Blue Glow's are slower, but their lower-growing profile is proportionally off.  What else would work? 

The Leucophytums (Calocephalus) are overwhelming the Agaves.  

Not looking right, either:

What is working is this part of the bed acting as a nursery area for young plants.  They get constant good care here because being at arm level, they are easy to examine and care for, plus I walk past this area several times a day.  There's also afternoon shade, so they get only morning sun and heat. 

Not overly ornamental, though: 

   This bed has always been difficult.  Ideas:  one big mass of long blooming Aloe 'Cynthia Giddy'?  What about an array of vertical cactus, like  Lophocereus marginatus?  Cactus spines are the concern.  It's a narrow bed, so spines would be too close to faces, eyes, and hands.  Originally there were over a dozen 'Traviata' roses in this bed--with generous water they did well, but their "bare knees", as the base of roses are described, were exactly at eye level.  Not the attractive part of the rose bush.  

More thought required for that planter. 

In the meantime, our area has been getting a short break from heat, so smaller clean ups have been possible, if not perfectly comfortable.  I limbed up the Grevillea 'Moonlight' to give two Aloes breathing room: 

 'Fire Ranch' on the left, A. marlothii' on the right. 

.Which reminds me, the oldest Aloe on the front slope, A. ferox, needs to come out.  Rot or pests or both ruined it last winter.  Its center is growing again, but looks like it will be less than beautiful. 

Also chopping space between the front Metrosideros 'Springfire's so I can access and cut down the towering Agave marmorata flower stem, now drying out.  The stem needs to fall away from the neighbor's car that's always parked on his driveway. 
 The Agave marmorata is done and collapsing, but the Yucca rostrata is looking good!  It has grown enough to make its trunk just visible.  It's the one in the very center of this photo:

Path between wall and 'Springfire's partially cleared, until space ran out in the green waste bin:
The Aloe camperi clump under the Grevillea needs to come out, too.  Rats build nests in between the rosettes.  I should also remove the seedling of 'Yellow Bird' Leucospermum, in an attempt to eliminate all rodent habitat. 
It's also time to cut back Cuphea 'Vermillionaire' so it can grow again before shutting down for late fall and winter.  At this time of year it will re-sprout and flower again very quickly.  Cut it back after it cools off, and it looks bad for several months while it waits for spring warmth to grow and flower again.   


Chopped.  Best not to cut back this hard until the Cuphea is well established.

It will look like this in a few weeks:
 Enough of planning and chopping.  A bit of candy for the eyes now.  

A Dahlia having a chat with 'Belinda's Dream':

Hemerocallis 'Janice Brown'
Rose 'Princesse Charlene de Monaco' has struggled and struggled.  This flower finally shows its potential, and it had the wonderful fragrance it was purported to possess.  Heavenly. 
Named Hemerocallis whose name I've forgotten.  Excellent repeat. 
Leucadendron 'Harlequin'
Nice shot of 'Molineux'. 

What are your garden projects planned for cooler weather?


  1. Oaks always take precedence -- so glad yours is maturing. I was scanning for photos of Natasha, hoping all pups are happy and healthy. I think my oldest Yucca rostrata may be starting to trunk too. Yours is looking fine!

    1. Natasha is fine and her sassy self. She needs a bath. Boris is just easier to photograph. Natasha comes over and licks the camera.

      Oak will be mature at around age 30! 20 more years yet.

  2. You've convinced me to go ahead and chop back my Cuphea 'Vermillionaire' (and maybe some of the 'Starfire Pink' too) now rather than waiting for reliably cooler weather. The central section of my backyard borders look awful and, when that reliably cooler weather does arrive, I'm going to dig a lot of it up, including the out-of-control rhizomatous aster, and bring in a truckload of mulch to spread around. I haven't got a plan for replanting that area yet. At least one side of the bed running along the dining room window also needs a complete overhaul. The plants I've got there now can't survive without a lot more water, which they're not going to get - I'm thinking mangaves or smaller agaves there.

    1. I soak and fertilize after the chop. Then the Cuphea comes back faster.

      Rhizomatous -- always suspect! The aster was an interesting experiment, you have to get it out. What about an Aloe or two so you have the aloe flowers and hummingbirds right outside your dining room window?

      Big projects ahead for you--and you are being so very wise about water. I'm finding it impossible to give up my rose habit.

      Looks like we are topping out today at 71F!!!!!!!!!!! Heavenly. 90s this coming week, though. :(

  3. My biggest project for fall is cleaning out all the junk in my garden shed. You know, all the "one of these days, I'm going to do/make this...." - kind of stuff. And I have a pile of large branches and logs that need to be cut into firewood sized pieces. Because I committed to having an open garden in June, a lot of my biggest, most dreaded projects got done this spring - even if several of them happened way too close to the actual date for comfort. Anyway, that kick in the butt was the reason I signed up to have an open garden. I knew I'd be too embarrassed to have all these people come through if I didn't get my ass in gear. Shame is a great motivator!

    1. Ha! All too true. I posted that photo of the Oak area because it's embarrassing. Absolutely a powerful motivator to improve it now.

      Also all to true about "one of these days, I'm going to use this to do that...and this is still waiting. I should post some pictures of those, too. ;^)

  4. Cooler weather certainly acts as a motivator to take on new projects. You have a lot planned. Your roses are always so gorgeous. It's alright to have a couple of higher maintenance plants isn't it?

    1. The energy level rises as the thermometer falls!

      I don't know if I'd be that interested in the garden without the roses. Caring for them is actually mostly fun.

  5. Canna 'Phaison' is so gorgeous...
    The elevated driveway bed has multiple requirements / challenges, and I find this particular project most intriguing. I can't wait to see what you come up with. Would you consider ornamental grasses as part of the mix?

    1. The bed is 35" wide, and the top of the bed's wall is 39" tall, btw.

      No, ornamental grasses are an issue because the dogs like to eat long grass stems because they make them barf. Sometimes a dog delights in a good hurl, especially on a freshly washed kitchen floor. A really vertical grower out of reach would expose the base of the plant, like roses not usually the most attractive bit.

      The suggestion though prompted the thought of perhaps Cordyline 'Design-A-Line Burgundy'. The leaves are wider than a grass's, so the pups would not be interested. I just planted one in the middle terrace in the back. Also the burgundy coordinates with the burgundy edges of 'Blue Glow'. Interesting thought, thanks!

  6. Wow, your Agaves and Aloes are amazing! And that 'Molineux' rose is extra special. Nice that Boris is helping you in the garden. What garden projects will I be doing in the fall? Hmmm...the biggest project here is always raking 100s of Oak leaves. And of course, putting the garden to bed after the first frost. But that's a long way off, right?

    1. We're lucky here--our native Oaks are healthiest when they are mulched with their own fallen leaves--so we're advised to let them be.

      All those deciduous leaves must make great compost! It must be a job though when the oak is full grown.

  7. Didelta 'Silver Strand' has far surpassed my expectation. It looks great even after multiple 100+ degree days. Take a cutting or two and try them in more shade!

    Senecio 'Mount Everest' really is the "it" plant this year, isn't it? It's done really well at the Ruth Bancroft Garden.

    For your driveway bed, I love the idea of tall columnnar cactus. How about totem pole cactus (Pachycereus schottii 'Monstrosus')? It's spineless. Maybe alternate with Senecio 'Mount Everest'?

    I love Leucophytum brownii, but I find it gets too rangy after a few years, even the dwarf forms. But I always have a few scattered throughout the garden.

    Good tip re shearing back cupheas. I have one that really needs it!

    1. My Didelta looks great, too. What gives? It seems too good to be true! There's got to be a drawback. There's always a drawback.

      Pachycereus schottii 'Monstrosus'--thanks! That's the very one I was thinking of, but couldn't come up with the name. Will have to look for some. I remember a trip Beloved and I took to AZ one year--happened to hit a C&S club sale in the parking lot of the Phoenix Botanic Garden--and they had a pile of big (3'-5') cuttings of that cactus for $1 each. Oh why why why didn't I buy some (or the whole pile)?


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