Wednesday, September 21, 2011
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
I’ve been in a “stock taking” mood lately, looking at various parts of the garden to see how they’ve come along. Comparing the current state to, say, last year is useful in assessing what has done well and what hasn’t—and whether you’re happy with the way things have progressed.
I’ve already made some changes recently to one small part of the succulent bed next to our front door, replacing crassulas and echeverias with colony-forming cacti that should tolerate the daytime heat and the searing summer sun a little better.
Now I’m looking at other areas of the succulent bed to see where tweaking might be necessary.
This post describes the origins of this succulent bed. The larger plants have now been in place for 2½ years. Succulents don’t grow as explosively as bamboos do, for example, so progress has been more measured. However, you can see progress even compared to last year. Just take a look at the first two photos.
|Succulent bed in July 2010|
|Succulent bed in August 2011|
The biggest difference is the size of the variegated agave (Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’) and the coral aloe (Aloe striata) in the center of the photo.
|Closeup of Agave lophantha ‘Quadricolor’. Its leaves were marred by hail in May; you can still see the pock marks in the bottom leaves. However, it’s amazing how many new leaves the plant has produced since then.|
|Some of the pups surrounding the mother plant. I definitely have enough to trade now.|
|While the larger architectural plants form the backbone of this succulent bed, I added quite a few smaller succulents for variety. On the right is a Pachysedum (a cross between a Pachyphytum and a Sedum) and on the left an Aloe aristata.|
|These two have proven to be real troopers: |
Left: Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’
Right: Aloe striata
|Agave schidigera var. filifera. One of my favorites, but others find it a bit too intimidating. This specimen has a lot of threads, nicely complimenting the white marking in the leaves.|
|Our Beaucarnea recurvata is actually a little family of three plants—I assume three seedlings sprouting in close vicinity. The caudex (the modified round stem that stores water) looks quite impressive even in an immature plant.|
|The hanging leaves from the Beaucarnea recurvata provide effective sun protection for smaller succulents that don’t want to bask in the hot late-afternoon sun. This Queen Victoria agave (Agave victoriae-reginae) is loving its spot. A mature specimen is easily one of the most stunning of all succulents.|
Monday, September 19, 2011
Last Halloween I helped friends of ours plant three Alphonse Karr bamboos (Bambusa multiplex ‘Alphonse Karr’) in their backyard. Click here to read that post.
I recommended Alphonse Karr because it is a beautiful clumping bamboo that thrives in our Mediterranean climate and tolerates our winter lows (rarely below 25°F). Like all members of the genus Bambusa it is a fast grower—a definite plus when trying to create a privacy screen, like our friends are doing.
I recently blogged about the tremendous growth of our own Alphonse Karr, and yesterday I took my camera over to our friends’ house to document the progress of their Alphonse Karr.
Here is a photo from last Halloween right after planting:
|Newly planted specimens on 10/31/2010|
And here is the same view 11 months later.
|The clumps look much fuller now and will eventually be tall enough to block the view of the 2nd story windows next door|
|The clump on the left will also provide a partial visual screen of the compost tumbler and toolshed|
Like all Bambusas, Alphonse Karr produces shoots in later summer and early fall, so there’s a lot of activity still waiting to happen.
New culms have a very pretty pink blush that over time fades to yellow, accented by green vertical stripes in a random pattern.
|New culms with pink blush; the emerging branches will soon dislodge the culm sheaths (the papery covers that protect the culms as they telescope into the sky)|
Since Alphonse Karr is a clumping bamboo, our friends don’t ever have to worry about the bamboo escaping into their neighbors’ yard. No rhizome barrier needed, as would be the case with running bamboo.
In our area, Alphonse Karr is one of the most popular bamboos and it is one of the few bamboo varieties available in most nurseries. I think it’s one of the best all-round varieties for most applications in a mild-winter climate.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
It’s hard to believe it’s the middle of September. Even though the thermometer still climbs into the high 80s in the afternoon, there’s a definite chill in the air in the morning, and on some trees the leaves are beginning to change color ever so slightly. One thing that remains elusive: rain. But that’s not unusual. I don’t really expect rain until mid- or late October.
Yesterday I walked through the front and backyard with my camera, and there were quite a few things that caught my eye. The flowering superstars of the summer (the rudbeckias and echinaceas, for example) are on the wane, but other plants are going strong, including my beloved succulents and bamboos. They are interesting to me all year round, which is why I have so many of them.
|Flowering maple (Abutilon x hybridum ‘Souvenir de Bonn’) reaching toward the sky. I wish it would grow bushy instead of tall and gangly, but I love the leaves and the flowers.|
|Potted bamboos on the edge of our backyard patio. |
From left to right: temple bamboo (Semiarundinaria fastuosa), green stripe blowgun bamboo (Bambusa dolichomerithalla ‘Green Stripe’), and yellow buddha’s belly (Bambusa ventricosa ‘Kimmei’).
|Phyllostachys aurea ‘Koi’ settling into its new home in the stock tank. |
Here’s a post on this project.
|Leopard plant (Farfugium japonicum ‘Aureomaculatum’) shaded by the branches of a Chinese walking stick bamboo (Chimonobambusa tumidissinoda) growing in a half wine barrel|
|Blooming lilyturf (Liriope muscari ‘Silvery Sunproof’)|
|Two succulents with strappy leaves that complement each other nicely. Agave americana ‘Mediopicta Alba’ in the pot, and Beschorneria albiflora in the ground.|
|Three of my favorite plants in our front yard succulent bed: |
Aloe striata (front left), Agave lophantha ‘Quadricolor’ (front right), Yucca recurvifolia ‘Margaritaville’ (back center).
|Ghost plants (Graptopetalum paraguayense) assuming a neat purple coloration in a mostly shady spot near the front door.|
|Golden lotus banana (Musella lasiocarpa) in its third month of blooming. Notice the additional smaller flower on the left.|
|A tropical harbinger of fall: Kahili ginger in bloom (Hedychium gardnerianum)|
Friday, September 16, 2011
Unlike many people, I have nothing against spiders. I know how useful they are in keeping a lid on mosquitoes, flies, and other insects. As a matter of fact, in our family we go out of our way to take spiders outside when we find them inside. And we’ve learned long ago to accept the occasional cobweb in the house as part of the décor.
However, by late summer the spider webs outside get to be a bit too much, even for tolerant me. The webs stick particularly well to rough siding, and they’re often riddled with desiccated insect corpses. Fascinating when viewed up close, but not exactly decorative (except possibly at Halloween).
Spiders also seem to prefer succulents. I’m sure it’s because succulents are stationary as opposed to plants with branches and leaves that move in the wind. Since my succulent collection has expanded significantly this year, I have a lot more plants covered with spider webs. Just take a look!
|String-of-pearls (Senecio rowleyanus)|
|Confederate rose agave (Agave parrasana)|
|Silver torch cactus (Cleistocactus straussii)|
|Roadkill cactus (Consolea rubescens)|
|Golden barrel cactus (Echinocactus grusonii)|
Every few weeks I remove the webs as best as I can using a small bamboo stick, twirling it as if I were making cotton candy. That works quite well. To remove cobwebs from even narrower spaces, like in between the spines of the golden barrel cactus above, I use a wooden skewer, moving it back and forth.
But no matter what I do, a few days later the webs are back. It appears the spiders like our succulents as much as I do!
Too bad a leaf blower doesn’t work on spider webs the way it does on fallen leaves!