Late April in the garden (2024 edition)

I’ll skip the “I can’t believe it’ almost May” small talk and go straight to the meat of this post: photos of the garden taken in the second half of April 2024. Spring was late to arrive this year, but as you can see below, it’s here in full force.

The poster child of spring 2024 – and one of my most successful gardening experiments in a while – is ‘White Linen’ (Eschscholzia californica ‘White Linen’), a cream-flowering form of the ubiquitous orange California poppy. Last November, I scattered 5000 seeds from Outsidepride in the sidewalk bed. I have no way of knowing how many actually germinated, but if I had to venture a guess, I’d say about 25%. (Seed vendors promise a germination ranging from 70% to 100%, but that seems far too optimistic.) Regardless, looking at the sea of white poppies, I’m thrilled to pieces, whether it’s 200 plants or 2000.

The ‘White Linen’ poppies make an appearance in many photos in this post. Because of their neutral flower color, they complement virtually every plant they found themselves paired with. That’s exactly what I had hoped for.

Agave mitis ‘Chocolate Edge’

Red = trailing globemallow (Sphaeralcea philippiana), an Argentinian relative of our native desert globemallow, yellow = Damianita daisy (Chrysactinia mexicana)

Red = Malephora crocea, an ice plant-type groundcover, yellow = Bulbine alooides, a geophytic succulent (aka bulb) from South Africa

The yellow-flowering shrub on the left is Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa)

I gave it a healthy hair cut in the fall, and it’s responded with a huge crop of flowers

Aloe laeta hybrid and dwarf sundrops (Calylophus serrulatus ‘Southern Belle’)

Blue = desert bells (Phacelia campanularia) from California, orange = Ursinia anthemoides ‘Solar Fire’ from South Africa, plus Agave parrasana ‘Sea Star’ from Mexico

Ursinia anthemoides ‘Solar Fire’ is an annual that comes and goes in a blink of an eye, but it’s proven to be a reliable reseeder

A peek at Echinopsis ‘Flying Saucer’ and ‘First Light’ from a distance

I’ll have a separate post on ‘Flying Saucer’ and other flowering echinopsis soon

Vignettes without ‘White Linen’ poppies:

I planted this Mexican flame vine last fall, and it’s produced a ton of flowers this spring. I’m hoping it will eventually cover a good chunk of the fence. Its botanical name used to be Senecio confusus (easy to remember, right?), but it was moved to a different genus and now has the insanely unwieldy name Pseudogynoxys chenopodioides (try to memorize THAT!).

Catmint (Nepeta) is the kind of unassuming perennial that never gets its due. It makes a great companion plant for succulents (Aloe peglerae × white-flowering ferox here), especially a dwarf form like this ‘Purple Haze’.

Speaking of unassuming: graptopetalums have humble flowers, but up close they’re quite striking

Most of our hechtias are in flower now. Their flower stalks are tall and bendy – and hard to see

Hechtia flowers are tiny...

...but pretty in their own right (hechtias are either male or female; you can tell by the presence of pollen-bearing anthers that this is a male plant)

While many echeverias struggle in our hot summer, Echeveria agavoides and its many cultivars actually do fine

Near the front door, a small collection of potted Echeveria agavoides cultivars, including ‘Lipstick’, ‘Ebony’, ‘Cherry Jubilee’ and ‘Romeo’

Another echeveria that has surprised me with its heat tolerance is Echeveria ‘Ghost Buster’

It may come as a surprise, but there are quite a few dryland ferns that make do with little water. Unfortunately, they’re wickedly difficult to find for sale. This one, Astrolepis sinuata, occasionally pops up in nurseries.

Not a fern, but superficially similar: Encephalartos caffer, a glacially slow-growing dwarf cycad from South Africa. My plant is just a baby; it has decades to go before it’s an adult.

Not a fern either, but a giant fennel (Ferula communis) seemingly out to swallow everything in its path (like the aloe and agave above). Its leaves die back when the summer heat arrives, so I let it do its thing. It’s awfully pretty.

The main aloe flowering season is over, but there are a few stragglers – and a few getting ready to flower. My ultimate goal is to have a collection so varied that there’s always an aloe in bloom, no matter what time of year (there are summer-flowering aloes):

Aloe ‘Yemeni Gold’ from San Marcos Growers is loaded this year. The inflorescences are over 6 ft. tall.

This aloe is always in flower. I mean always, 365 days a year. I got it from Jeff Moore/Arid Adaptations in Tucson, who thought it was an Aloe bulbillifera hybrid.

Aloe striata × betsileensis, a Nick Deinhart hybrid. Above, the flowers in early April; below, in late April. I like the bi-color effect.

The award for the weirdest flower in April – or anytime, really – goes to Ferraria crispa. Called starfish iris or starfish lily in its native South Africa, this bulb goes completely dormant in the summer, like so many of them. This is the dark form of Ferraria crispa; there’s also a light form.

You might think that all I’ve been doing is take photos of plants. But I’ve also been working on several smaller projects. This is one of them:

The Cuphea ‘David Verity’ in the corner was a hummingbird magnet, but far too big for the space. I was constantly whacking it back, and finally got tired of it.

I replaced it with an old metal ring my buddy Kyle had given me and planted a previously pot-bound Agave chazaroi in it. I’m planning on adding a smaller-growing cuphea (like ‘Honeybells’) to the left of the agave, under the Calliandra ‘Sierra Starr’, to keep the hummers happy.

On my recent trip to Santa Barbara, I found this spectacular Agave pelona at the nursery where Nick Deinhart works. This is a vexingly slow-growing species, and I’m excited to finally have a larger specimen.

Many years ago, I planted an Agave attenuata ‘Ray of Light’ in the backyard, in a protected spot near the fence. It has thrived there. Unlike other A. attenuata I’ve had in the front yard, this specimen has never shown any winter damage. I’m so encouraged by this that I recently added an A. attenuata ‘Boutin Blue’ near it (you can’t see it in the photo above).

And finally, my favorite vignette of the month: a Dudleya brittonii hybrid with two pristine heads next to a pale Euphorbia ammak arm currently propped against the house while it’s rooting. White on white, a striking combo.

© Gerhard Bock, 2024. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. Wow, love your spring garden! Aloe ‘Yemeni Gold’ is very cool, but all of it is! Last photo of white on white is just great! I don't often think of white with white but it is a great combo!

    1. That combo was a total coincidence. The Euphorbia ammak is in that spot temporarily while it's rooting. But maybe I'll leave it there permanently, now that I know how good this looks.

  2. The white linen poppies really did add to the garden, how wonderful. Solar Fire really pops, the long shot of the front is so great. I bet people stop and enjoy that view! Agave pelona is a looker, I haven't seen one before. The Dudleya/Euphorbia combo is fantastic. You've got me looking for ways to add white.

    1. I usually try to avoid white because it's hard to photograph, LOL.

  3. I love your hechtia walk of flowers to the front door, and so glad you found at least one dryland fern. Oh and that Agave pelona, be still my heart!

    1. I'm soooo excited I found a pelona that size. I have several, but they're all small. Their annual growth can be measured in mm. One of the slowest agave I have.

  4. The white linen poppy turned out beautifully. This is an instance where I don't mind an inaccurate description of the bloom color; it's a good thing they are pale creamy tones.
    I like your Echeveria agavoides collection, especially in photos that also feature the stunning rocks you nestled them into. Gorgeous.

    1. The poppies open up a creamy yellow, then become whiter as they age. But they're never stark white.

      Long live Echeveria agavoides!!

  5. I expect you're getting even more people stopping their cars in front of the garden to gawk now, Gerhard. Your post shows that flowers can be a great accompaniment to succulents. I've added a few Osteospermum to my renovated succulent bed but, as they're sensitive to higher temperatures, I need to add other flowering plants to provide a punch of color during the summer months. I'd add catmint but the neighborhood cats almost instantly eat it to the ground in dark of night! I threw 2 packets of California poppies into my garden earlier this year and have seen relatively few bloom - I'll have to follow your example and sow gobs of them next winter. The Hechtias (plants and flowers) are wonderful but then so is the rest of your collection.

    1. I never knew that cats actually liked catmint, I thought it was just a silly name. Silly ME!

      I think it's best to sprinkle poppy seeds just before the rains start, so mid-October. My challenge now is to collect seeds from my 'White Linen'. I've never collected poppy seeds before; I knew the seed pods explode when they're ripe.

  6. Too many beautiful plants to single any out -- but 'Yemeni Gold'! Wow! And look at your crazy phlomis! The E. agavoides are so easy-going, taking your heat and even fairly cold tolerant too. I had a pup survive uncovered all winter, through ice and snow.

    1. That phlomis is insane, a bit out of control really. I need to whack it back again after it's done blooming. It's swallowed a few plants near it, like a black-flowering Salvia discolor, which I quite like.

  7. Pseudogynoxys is sort of obnoxious as a plant name goes. I wish we wouldn't include the base "Pseudo..." as part of any generic name, but there we have it. I appreciate the closer look at the hechtia flowers. And the Ferraria crispa... that one is beautifully intricate.


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