Planting some of my new purchases

After visiting several nurseries and botanical gardens lately (Annie’s Annuals | UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley | Cactus Jungle | UC Santa Cruz Arboretum | Sierra Azul Nursery & Gardens) and buying a plant or two at almost all of them, the flag stone walkway to the front door was beginning to look like a nursery display. Just the other day a neighbor said how nice it looked, but even so, it was high time to get a few things in the ground.

The first two things I proceeded to plant were the Grevillea ‘Superb’ and Leucadendron salignum ‘Winter Red’ I’d bought at Norrie’s, the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum gift shop, last Saturday. But before I could put them in the ground in the planting bed adjacent to the small patch of lawn in the backyard, I had to do some housekeeping.

The potted bamboo on the left in the photo below, Phyllostachys bambusoides ‘Castillon’, needed to be moved to a larger pot anyway so that’s the first job I tackled (I wrote about it in yesterday’s post). Then I removed the lion’s tail (Leonotis leonurus) to the left of the ‘Castillon’. While it bloomed almost year round, it never looked as nice as the one next to the front porch. I also trimmed off the dead foliage of the other perennials in this bed and finally I gave the variegated flowering maple (Abutilon pictum ‘Thompsonii’) in the right-hand corner a radical hair cut to induce bushy growth instead of the lanky shoots it had.

Backyard planting bed before…

Finally I put the grevillea and leucadendron in the ground, planting them on a slight mound to improve drainage. (While our native soil is clay, this bed, for reasons unknown to me, contains loose, sandy soil so drainage has never been an issue here. That’s a definite plus, considering grevilleas and leucadendrons, like all proteaceans, require excellent drainage.)

The result is definitely sparse and severe. But soon the herbaceous perennials in this bed, including salvias, echinaceas and coreopsis, will emerge from their dormancy and things will look better.

…and after. The green squares are the grevillea (left) and leucadendron (right)

Here are some detail shots of what I accomplished today.

Grevillea ‘Superb’
Leucadendron salignum ‘Winter Red’
Abutilon pictum ‘Thompsonii’ (back) and arrow bamboo (Pseudosasa japonica) in red pot
After I cut back the Abutilon pictum ‘Thompsonii’. I’m hoping the flowering maple will become a bushy mass in the corner, setting off the arrow bamboo and the giant farfugium (Farfugium japonicum ‘Giganteum’) in the ground next to the red pot.

I also planted a few things in the front yard. The first two, both from Annie’s Annuals, went in the planting strip inside the front yard fence.

This is ‘Mr Happy’ (that’s what Annie’s calls it), a hybrid between Echium wildprettii (my beloved tower of jewels) and Echium pininana, which is supposed to produce a 15 ft. flower spike with pinkish purple flowers in its 2nd or 3rd year of life. (Like its parents, Mr Happy dies after blooming.) I think the rosette is pretty nice, too, and I look forward to it growing to 2-3 ft. across in year 1 and 2.

Echium ‘Mr Happy’

‘Mr Happy’ hails from the Canary Islands as does the next plant. It’s aptly called Canary Island sage (Salvia canariensis var. candidissima) and it has soft and fuzzy leaves very reminiscent of lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina). It rapidly forms a 5 ft. shrub covered in the summer with purple flowers. It’s considered to be a short-lived perennial of questionable hardiness, but it propagates easily from cuttings so I will take some for insurance come fall.

Salvia canariensis var. candidissima to the left of the Meyer lemon I planted a few weeks back. I got it for $4 on clearance from Lowe’s last winter (a year ago!). It’ll be a number of years before we see any lemons.

In early December we removed a large Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberpfeil’ outside the front yard fence. My wife and I discussed several replacement options, including the grevillea and leucadendron I got from the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum. However, since this planting strip is quite exposed and hence gets more frost than the backyard, we decided to plant those tender southern hemisphere dwellers in the backyard instead.

We came across what we hope is the perfect choice for this spot at Sierra Azul Nursery & Gardens in Watsonville last Sunday: Loropetalum chinense ‘Burgundy’, commonly known as fringe flower or Chinese witch hazel. Hardy to 15°F, it blooms on and off for most of the year. As puny as our plant looks, it will eventually become a 4-5 ft, shrub. I think the purple foliage and pink flowers will look great next to the yellowish green of the emerald bamboo (Bambusa textilis ‘Mutabilis’). Loropetalum chinense is very easy to grow but it prefers acid soil, so I will fertilize it a couple of times a year with rhododendron and azalea fertilizer. If any of you have any experience with Loropetalum chinense, please leave a comment below.

Loropetalum chinense ‘Burgundy’
Loropetalum chinense ‘Burgundy’

The last plant I moved to a new home this weekend was a red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora). I’d rescued it from the clearance rack at Lowe’s a while ago and it will spend this year in a pot on our front walkway. Eventually I plan to transfer it to the succulent bed by the front door but first I need to figure out where. This is a slow-growing succulent, so there’s no hurry.

Hesperaloe parviflora (in the pot on the right) with Alphonse Karr bamboo (Bambusa multiplex ‘Alphonse Karr’) behind the gate

My wife and I also did a good amount of trimming and cleanup work. While necessary, it rarely makes for interesting photographs so I didn’t even try. Being outside on a perfect early spring day felt great, and President’s Day promises to be more of the same.


  1. That purple foliage is going to look fantastic there!

    I always feel strange about posting photos of new plants, or those that are just emerging in the spring. I can see the potential of the mature plant in my head, but the photos just show a small leafy stick. :-)

    1. I feel the same way, but in a year's time it'll be nice to have these "before" photos.

  2. Looks like you're on proper spring mode now with all that planting! Most of the ones you've planted will size up very quick and will up their space nicely by midsummer. Love the Leucadendron and Loropetalum!

    1. I hope they'll size up quickly because they don't look like much now. And I can't even fertilize the leucadendron and grevillea to hurry things along because they're so sensitive to phosphorus (and I guess fertilizer in general).

      Mother Nature must have approved of my planting efforts yesterday because we had a very gentle sprinkle of rain overnight to help things settle in.


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