Early Winter Gardening Activity

 Above:  Aeonium 'Zwartzkop's new growth is briefly green before maturing to its characteristic burgundy-black. 

Much of the of garden has responded to the rain and the season.  The Aeoniums and dwarf Alstroemerias, awakened from summer dormancy, are pillows of fresh grass green. 

Grass-green fix, without a lawn:

Hellebores also display beautiful new leaves:

 And a--whatever it is--cluster of bulbs, which has been covered over by the adjacent Maireana sedifolia for years, now has sunshine again.  Someone insisted I take the bulbs.   They didn't know the name, couldn't remember anything about the flower.  "Pink?" "White?" I asked.  No idea.  I took the bulbs to be polite.  Then the giver said,  "Oh, you'll love them.  They are so easy.  They spread everywhere."  

Yikes!  A recommendation to make any experienced gardener blanch.  

Which is why they ended up where there is no irrigation and a Maireana to cover them up.  But curiosity calls--hopefully this spring they'll finally flower, and I'll learn what they are.  Without irrigation, they have not spread "everywhere".  Yet.  

At least the fresh green is nice.  Hymenocallis? 

One area I've started working on is the north bed in the cutting/veggie garden.  It's been neither a great success nor a complete failure.   

As seen from inside the adjacent tomato fortress:

  The large, very happy Iochroma, chopped back for the winter, lives on the west end of the bed, and a not-so-happy Lagerstroemia (because ???) lives on the east end.  In the middle was a climbing 'Ascot' rose that grew vigorously but never flowered much.
It got 10 years to improve, but didn't.  Time to say goodbye.  Ascot is a fine rose with some winter chill and a shorter growing season, from what I can tell.  This is not that place. 

"X" marks the spot where 'Ascot' was:

There is also a trio of once-tiny (all three in a 2" pot, with room to spare) Aloe ferox(?) on the edge of the bed that must be moved before they get too big:

Most of the rest is miscellaneous filler--not bad at all, okay for now.  

What I intend to take the rose's place is a new plant purchase:  a 'Flanders' fig tree:

The intent is to train it into a horizontal cordon, or "step-over" style, like this:

 This shape will be productive, easier to harvest, and the fruit will be easier to protect from birds and rodents--that's the idea, anyway.   We've had a fig tree producing good fruit in the garden for several years, but it's been difficult to harvest (standing on/climbing over walls) and impossible to protect from rodents.  Learning to train a fruit tree like this is also an attempt to increase gardening skill and knowledge.  Figs are forgiving and vigorous, and I'm familiar with them, having grown one. 

This year's attempt at growing annual flowers from seed is overall pretty good, though it's created new challenges--now that I have a lot of seedling Matthiola (Stock), where to plant them?  They keep growing on me.   Some went out front by the driveway.  Rabbit protection--not sure if they need it or not. 

Another task was caring for a Neoregelia 'Super Fire Ball'.  Having grown and offset, it fell out of the stump supporting it. 

Trimmed off dried foliage and excess stems.  Tossed the oldest rosette that was rotted:
Decided to ornament an orchid pot.  The orchid is growing on the side of the pot (fairly happily).
The pot itself was empty except for the inevitable acorn planted by a scrub jay.  I'm finding them everywhere:
Without disturbing the orchid at all, I could pop some of the Neos into the pot. Looks better. 
The largest rosette went back it its old location, hopefully re-invigorated.  

That's the state of the gardener at the moment.  State of the plants: 

Flower stems emerging from Aloe castanea:

And on Aloe ferox candelabra form:

And on the white-flowered form of Aloe ferox:

The garden's oldest 'Austin Griffiths' Arctostaphylos is in full bloom.  This is the first time it really has flowered all over itself.  Hummingbirds were at the flowers.  Native Toyon is the red-berried shrub behind it:

It was planted in May 2016:

I changed my treatment of the several Cuphea 'Vermillionaire's this fall.  Rather than a 90% cut back in October, I did a ~60% chop followed by fertilizer and a deep irrigation in mid September.  September and October's warmth surely helped, but this approach worked.  They look great going into winter. 

Some rare fall color in time for winter. 
Some areas of the garden look more like May than December.  The rain we got this autumn made a huge difference: 
'Munstead Wood':
'South Africa':
'Mystic Spires Blue' Salvia color at this moment is superb:
 The daylight hours now begin to lengthen again. 
Happy Solstice!


  1. Hymenocallis would be lovely but those green leafs make me think of Colchicum...
    Your garden looks Spring'y, though the Arctostaphylos and Toyo are absolutely sporting a Christmas vibe: gorgeous.
    Nothing beats sweet ripe figs! I wish you luck with horizontal cordon plan. (same as espalier?)

    1. Could indeed be Colchicum--the giver might have called them "naked ladies" which is a common name for Amaryllis belladonna, but also Colchicum. Not a fan of common names. Maybe I'll be waiting until fall then to see flowers.

      Horizontal cordon is a type of espalier, yes. "Belgian Fence", "Fan", "U cordon" "Candelabra" are others.

  2. How exciting to see new growth and flowering at this time of year. I surprised to see Hellebores looking so happy in your garden as I would have expected them to like more cold and less heat. Might copy your idea of the broms in the orchid pot. I have one which is now offsetting and some naked looking orchid pots. Great idea thanks. All the best of the season to you and yours.

    1. I never thought Hellebores would grow here either. Chatted with someone who assured me they did, so I tried one. Now I have several. There are some Mediterranean species--hybrids of those are probably what have done well here, perhaps?

      Happy Holidays back atcha!

  3. You've been busy! Your garden got a bigger boost from the rain than mine has. My hellebores haven't responded much at all. The Alstroemerias I have in pots have done well but I've yet to see significant activity from those in the ground. However, all my Dutch Iris seem to be popping up, although flowers are still months away. It'll be interesting to see what your mystery bulbs are. I'm also curious to see how the Matthiola grown from seed do. I love stock but the plug plants I've planted since moving here have always been disappointing - maybe growing them from seed would be more fruitful.

    1. I finished planting all the Matthiola in the ground today. After moving the seedlings around to the sunny places for almost two months just decided to get them planted. Hoping they'll actually bloom--hopefully didn't start them too late. I love their fragrance!

      Bought some Zinnia seeds and will try getting them growing earlier next year--seems like I was late on them this year. It's a different type of gardening--timing on seeds. Kind of a fun challenge.

  4. It's been so cold here this fall ! I don't garden unless it's north of 49 and some days thats about a one hour window starting at about 2pm. I moved the fall leaves from around the base off my Hellebores this afternoon and the new growth was abundant..so fond of them. I look forward to seeing the progress on your Fig cordon experiment.

    1. It's been surprisingly cold here, too (cold for Southern California, that is--high 50s' or around 60. Have not been able to wear shorts to garden for weeks. Though now we have a heat wave on the weekend, Christmas forecast is 83. Yuck. Shorts will come back out.

      Hellebores are great! I had no idea. So happy some will grow here.

      I hope to get the fig to grow like the pictures and diagrams. It's fun to try, anyway. I'd hard-pruned the existing fig last winter intending to get rid of it because climbing around standing on walls...one broken arm was enough + rodent issues, but never got to it. It had a few figs on it this fall but the rodents got them all. Hence, the experiment.

  5. Lots of great photos and great plants, and as always you're presenting and protecting them all so well. My favorites are the roses, as always. I miss them during the winter. Maybe I'll go buy some hot house roses. ;-)

    1. I hope you find some lovely roses for the holidays. Roses are like chocolate without the calories!

  6. When I was a child, our neighbor had a gigantic fig growing in his front yard. He let us kids climb all over it and eat as many figs as we could eat. Warm figs, freshly plucked. What a treat. What a memory! I am constantly looking up the latin names you reel off with such ease. I prefer the more colorful common names (e.g., "naked ladies," another plant from my childhood, fondly remembered), but they will not always get you what you want using them. Sometimes I even remember some of those latin names. Hope your stock does well. Its scent is divine! I was given a cyclamen recently. It does not like an office environment; brought it home, put it outside on the patio, and it perked right up. Such a beautiful plant. Best wishes for a Merry Chrisrmas! With any luck, that rain they're threatening will actually show up. Won't that be nice! Elizabeth

    1. What a fun memory and a kind neighbor. A good way to grow up--happy memories that last.

      I adore botanical names. They have meaning (augustfolia-- narrow + foliage, candida = white, lutea = yellow...), and the tongue-twister ones (Pyrethropsis hosmariense! Hymenolepis crithmifolia!) are hilarious.

      Cyclamen are so lovely. Their daintiness is elegant. In other climates they are perennials--here, tricky, at least for me.

      Yes a good chance of rain here this week!!!!!!!! Yipeeeeeeeee!!!!!!!!

    2. What a lovely way of looking at botanical names. I will have to adopt that!

  7. Looks like you’re making the most of your cooler temps / friendlier gardening weather, Hoover Boo. Love the shots of the aloes this their buds just poking through.

    Happy and safe holidays to you and yours. I’ve enjoyed reading and learning from all your posts this year, thank you 🙂

    1. Horticat, In turn, I've really enjoyed seeing the lushness of your garden--a bit envious because it looks like you've gotten plenty of rain this year!

      Best wishes for a fabulous and joyous 2023!

  8. So many cages, I see I am not the only one trying to protect everything from the ravenous hordes. Your toyon is beautiful. I might need to try one again.

    1. I've got some screen and one project is to screen al the gates to keep out some of the ravenous creatures--the rabbits. They can do very well on the neighbor's lawns--no need to devour my roses.

      Toyon, wasn't thrilled with them initially, but have come to admire them. Gardening is learning.

  9. You've been sooo busy! In every post you show us some new project.

    It's been cold and foggy here in Davis. Days without sunshine have made me want to hibernate.

    Happy holidays to you, Beloved, and Natasha & Boris!

    1. Keeps me out of trouble. Looks like rain for California this week--what a gift that is! :)

      Hope you had a lovely Christmas with Heather, your daughters, and Stella. Best wishes for an excellent, plant-filled 2023.

  10. My poor South Africa rose is not happy. Pink and white ones are doing fine.

    1. 'South Africa' rose not doing well? Root competition for space, water, nutrients in the area? Needs a bit of fertilizer? :(


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