Sunday, May 12, 2013

Weekend potpourri

The weather this past weekend was a preview of what summer will be like: 70°F by 10am and low 90s mid-afternoon. Luckily our humidity is low, but I still don’t enjoy working in the heat so I got up early to get some work done around the yard.

A week and a half ago I’d bought a tray full of 4-inch plants at Morningsun Herb Farm in Vacaville, 20 minutes west of here.

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Plants from Morningsun Herb Farm

I planted most of these last weekend and the remainder went in the ground on Saturday.

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Plants from Morningsun Herb Farm

In addition, I found some black-eyed Susan and purple coneflowers in jumbo packs at Green Acres Nursery in Sacramento. Years ago we had dozens of rudbeckias and echinaceas but over time they disappeared (they’re short-lived in our climate anyway, and hybrids are typically sterile, i.e. don’t self-sow).

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6-packs of black-eyed Susan and purple coneflower (and two agastaches)

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6-packs of purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’)

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6-packs of black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mix’)

Many of these plants went inside the front yard fence to fill the holes left by the clumps of maiden hair grass (Miscanthus sinensis) we removed last fall. They look puny now but in a few months they will have filled in nicely.

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Newly planted bed inside front yard fence

I love agastache (aka hyssop) and just added three more. They bloom for a long time and love our summer sun.

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Unlabeled agastache

At Morningsun Herb Farm I also found a neat Guatemalan perennial called Calceolaria integrifolia 'Kentish Hero'. It has a number of common names, including slipperwort, pocketbook plant, pouch flower, or lady's slipper. It looks great planted next to a Tasmanian shrublet called bushman's bootlace (Pimelea nivea).

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LEFT: Bushman's bootlace (Pimelea nivea), a Tasmanian shrub I bought last year at UC Santa Cruz Arboretum
RIGHT: Calceolaria integrifolia 'Kentish Hero'

On our Southwest trip last summer I fell in love with a flowering shrub called red bird of paradise (Caesalpinia pulcherrima). I looked far and wide in Northern California nurseries but wasn’t able to find one. Recently a friend gave me a seedling of Caesalpinia pulcherrima but it’s too small yet to plant out (plus, she advised me to grow it in a pot since they’re very touchy about drainage, and our soil is heavy).

To my great surprise, I found a close relative at Green Acres Nursery: Caesalpinia gilliesii, or yellow bird of paradise. It’s noticeably hardier and able to better handle heavier soils. Here is a photo I took of one in Moab, UT last summer (at the time I thought it was the yellow-flowered version of Caesalpinia pulcherrima):

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Caesalpinia gilliesii in Moab, UT

And here is where I planted our Caesalpinia gilliesii. It’s getting crowded there, but the tower-of-jewels (Echium wildpretii) will go away after it’s done blooming.

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Yellow bird of paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii)

The arrows in the next photo show where I filled in with black-eyed Susan and purple coneflower.

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Yellow bird of paradise (Caesalpinia gilliesii) and freshly planted starts of black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mix’) and purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’)

I also bought another palm: Chamaerops humilis var. argentea (typically sold as Chamaerops humilis var. cerifera). This is the bluish-silver variety of the common Mediterranean fan palm. Take a look at these photos to see what a mature specimen looks like.

Heaven knows where it will go eventually, but for now it’s small and easily fits in a pot. It’s a very slow grower anyway so container culture should suit it just fine for many years to come.

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Chamaerops humilis var. argentea

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Chamaerops humilis var. argentea

Another weekend project was trimming the Japanese mock-orange (Pittosporum tobira) hedge along the street. My wife brought her Edward Scissorhands skills to bear and soon we had several piles of trimmings, ready for yard waste pickup on Monday.

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Pittosporum tobira hedge

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Pittosporum tobira hedge

Finally, a few photos of flowers. Two of the Asian lilies I planted a few months ago have started to bloom. One got knocked over by the recent winds and is now growing through the center of our Silver Lady fern (Blechnum gibbum ‘Silver Lady’).It looks like the fern has sprouted an exotic bloom!

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Lilium asiaticum ‘White Pixels’

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Lilium asiaticum ‘White Pixels’

This year is the first time my coastal prickly pear (Opuntia littoralis var. vaseyi) has produced flowers. I was very surprised by the color: a soft, pale red. Really quite beautiful.

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Opuntia littoralis var. vaseyi

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Opuntia littoralis var. vaseyi

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Opuntia littoralis var. vaseyi

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Opuntia littoralis var. vaseyi

After seeing dozens if not hundreds of rebutias in flower at last weekend’s Sacramento Cactus & Succulent Society Show & Sale, I finally have one of my own blooming. There are a few more buds on this specimen so there’ll be flowers for at least another week. I find that rebutia flowers last longer than those of many other cactus species.

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Rebutia krainziana

8 comments:

  1. Is that a restio in with the new purchases?

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    1. You've got good eyes! Yes, it's a Chondropetalum elephantinum I picked up for a friend. Apparently what used to be--and often still is--sold as Chondropetalum tectorum in California is actually Chondropetalum elephantinum. See http://www.smgrowers.com/info/Chondropetalum.asp.

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  2. Some very nice bits and pieces there and looking forward to seeing the progress of your new plantings!

    I also can't help but notice some of the goodies on the background, The Agave Bloodspot and Cornelius are gorgeous!

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    1. Well spotted. Both 'Bloodspot' and 'Cornelius' have come into their own and are looking particularly nice this year.

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  3. Nice mix of plants! I have to add a couple more Agastache as they don't always survive or wet winters. Love those red Opuntia blooms too -- wow!

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    1. One of these days I'll read up on the genus Agastache. Some come back year after year, others don't. I suspect some of the Mexican varieties may not be very cold-hardy.

      I'll put the Opuntia littoralis in a larger container so it can expand. I'd love to have more than just one flower.

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  4. Love all you selections. Rudbeckias are one of my favorites.

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    1. Thanks, Laura. I've never seen rudbeckias in 6-packs. Much more cost-effective. They are easy to start from seed, but by the time I remember it's usually too late. (Same with sunflowers. Every year we plan on sowing sunflower seeds in the spring but we never get around to it.)

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