Saturday, September 22, 2012

Unknown Garden Visitor

I'm always very excited when some kind of wildlife visits my garden, even if it's likely to eat my plants. Like this guy:
The camouflage isn't working so well...
I have no idea what it is (a cricket? a grass hopper of some sort?) but it's so cool. It was sitting on my (what I think is)  Senecio cineraria. It's a dusty miller of some sort, and that seems the most likely candidate. It needs to be pruned/shaped - right now it has one main stem, that this guy was sitting on.

He didn't do any damage I could see....
It was still there a day later, sitting on the ground. I should do some research to find out what it is. Part of the reason I'm always excited to see bugs is that it tells me stuff is going OK with the garden. When I first started, there was nothing except maybe some ants - now there are all kinds of pollinators, praying mantis, and earth worms. Hopefully they'll eat all the spiders, ants, and pincer bugs!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Foliage Follow Up - September 2012 at the Getty!

I thought I was going to miss this month's Foliage Follow Up (hosted by Pam at Digging - go there to see more!), because I haven't had a chance to take any pictures out in the garden, and I had to travel again. But I realized that almost all the pictures I took during my latest visit to The Getty were of foliage plants, so I'll use that for this month's post!

First, a little bit of history that I learned during the guided Garden Tour at the Getty: while the main museum was designed by Richard Meier, who is renowned for his use of grids and ordered patterns in architecture, the Central Garden was designed by Robert Irwin, who is an artist, not a gardener/landscape architect. Of course, the two aren't necessarily an either/or, but Irwin was going for an "art experience" in a garden, and not necessarily selecting plants for water use, climate adaptability or other "practical" elements, but rather the experience they provided the visitor. His motto for the Central Garden is "Always changing, never twice the same", which I think is true of any garden!

The lower part of the central garden is a full sun site, and here is where a lot of flowering plants are:
All these plants (and more) are in the lower central part of the garden. I love the giant Angel's Trumpet tree

The main colors are yellow, orange and red, with splashes of purple, a pretty "hot" color palette, but appropriate for the "hot" summer. Apparently, the garden staff (5 permanent, with 7 extras during the summer season) switches plants out during the seasons. And while the flowers definitely demand a lot of your attention, there's also so pretty cool foliage, like this spiky orange plant:

Even though it's not labeled, this is a Solanum pyracanthum or “Porcupine Tomato” And I want one
One thing that's always driven the engineer in me nuts is that none of the plants are labeled! So I had to look up the name of this cool spiky plant when I got home... But that's on purpose - Irwin didn't want this to be a botanical garden, but rather an "art installation". That's part of the reason I'm not using the full botanical names of most of the plants in this post, to honor that spirit. But good thing there aren't too many plants with orange spiky leaves! I want one for next year.

One rather unique feature of the garden is a pungent onion/garlic smell, coming from the ring of variegated Society Garlic ringing the entire bottom end of the garden:
It really smells - you can even smell it over the Crape Myrtles
I learned that it was supposed to keep the deer out, but it didn't work! Until the Getty installed a deer fence, they used to have employees in the garden at night to chase away the deer. Where do I sign up for that? A whole night in the garden would be amazing...

Walking out of the bottom part of the garden, there are several containers, filled with different plants. These two struck me as funny - and the importance of keeping in mind the final size of your plant relative to the container:
The giant grass in the tiny container is funny.
 The next part of the garden is the "central ravine", which includes a water feature that looks like a stream, and is mostly dappled shade. And a very specific dappled shade - the garden staff removes every other leaf from the shade trees (London Beech Trees, I think?) every month during the summer! That is insane!

In one of the sunny spots, I saw a combination I would love to re-create at home:
I have that grass (it's orange sedge)! I can just add some darker foliage plants around it...
 And the color of this New Zealand Flax is beautiful, and goes on my "Front Garden Re-Vamp Inspiration" board:
Beautiful! I wonder if it would keep this color in full sun?
The garden path zig-zags up the slope, bringing in and out of the shade, and closer and further away from the water. According to our tour guide, this was done to avoid the garden equivalent  of "art fatigue". In the shade, there are so many different variegated plants!
Variegated plants throughout the garden - the way the light plays off them is very pretty
The picture on the bottom left is a variegated Canna, I think. There were also pops of red and yellow in this part of the garden, but a lot less than in the sunny part.
On either side of the "ravine", there are big expanses of lawn, edged by deer grass, carex, and (new) Liriope, blooming with purple flowers. These plants curve with the grass to form the edge of the garden:
I'm not sure the Liriope adds much, but keeping visitors safe is important...
The Liriope is a new addition, added to keep small children from jumping from the grass onto the pathways. The Getty encourages people to sit on the grass for picnics, to relax, or to take in the view. Our tour guide claimed that the garden staff consulted Robert Irwin on what to add as a "barrier plant". Considering that he designed the garden back in 1997, that is a very long time to stay involved in the project!

Near the top of the garden was this pretty collection of Dyckia:
Gorgeous! I assume the color was picked on purpose... everything coordinates in this garden
 I wish mine looked this good! They even tie into the color of the railings... excellent foliage color!

This plant choice made me smile:
The upper-most beds, near where the water feature starts, are filled with succulents. One of the few areas in central garden that uses them, really.
An agave next to a running stream :). That's not something that you see in nature very often!

Now, from the top of the garden, looking back down, you can see a very interesting feature - the big trellises covered with different colors of Bougainvillea:

So cool! I'm not sure I've ever seen bigger Bougainvillea plants.
There are actually six of them - three on each side. They provide welcome shade, and look really cool too.

I'm going to end this post with a collage of many of the container plantings throughout the Getty, mostly in the museum area:
Most of these container are actually throughout the museum, tucked away like little treasures
All of them are based on foliage - mostly succulents. Some of these were my inspirations for some of my own plants, and some will work their way into my front garden re-vamp, maybe! Like that Cordyline (bottom left) and New Zealand Flax (upper right).
There is a whole other aspect to the gardens at the Getty - the part that was designed by the architect, Richard Meier. It includes the cactus garden, and a lot of the planting across the museum grounds. They're very different - much more zen and orderly, as opposed to the lush fullness of the Central Garden. I'll do a follow up post with those pictures! For now, I hope you enjoyed this walk through the Central Garden. If you ever find yourself in LA, I'd highly suggest a visit.
Oh, and the museum has some art too :) I'm told that's why the building and gardens were built - but really, I think they got that backwards!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Bloom Day - September 2012

After missing last month's bloom day, I went out today and took some pictures of what is blooming in my garden...

The Coreopsis 'Route 66' is still going strong (and probably would make more flowers if I dead-headed it!). I'm planning to use some more of these in the front garden next spring:

I know I should just cut the whole plant back, but it still has so many pretty flowers!

 There are also two different Lantanas still blooming. The first is 'Miss Huff', which comes in shades of orange, red and pink:
This plant has grown so much since I got it, and with (basically) no baby-ing from me!

The second is a Lantana 'Bandito'. Its more bushy in shades of red and orange. It's supposed to be less hardy than 'Miss Huff', and is sold as an annual. I'm hoping mine will survive the winter though... Behind it is one of the Russian Sages, still going strong also.
The bees love the Russian Sage - the whole plant buzzes. Strangely, they complete ignore the Lantana....
 For some reason, some of the Hesperaloe parvifloras have started re-blooming on the old bloom stalk! I've never seen them do that before. It leads to pictures like this:
The black spots on the seed capsules is sunburn! It's been hot lately...
 Hopefully the hummingbirds will find them! Also in the back garden, the red sages are reblooming, much to the hummingbirds' delight.

Meanwhile, in the front garden, after not blooming for 3 (!) years, the Clematis 'Jackmanii' is on about it's third reblooming. I'm not sure what made this year better than previous years, but hopefully it will do it again.

I am way too excited about this plant finally blooming...
 The iceplant is also reblooming, but at not nearly the same intensity as earlier in the year. I really need to add some more flowers/late summer color to the front garden, I think...
These are so bright, it's hard to take good pictures!
Meanwhile, the irises just put up more foilage and no flowers... sigh. As part of the re-vamp of the front garden, I think those are coming out, and being replaced somewhere else (where hopefully they'll have more luck!)

One of my houseplants started to bloom too!
My reaction: "Squee!" (really)

I've never seen this one bloom before! It's labeled as a aeschynanthus radicans or 'lipstick plant'. Given the amount of neglect it gets, I'm surprised it's blooming, but I'm also excited!

To see many more bloom day gardens, visit Carol at May Dream Garden !

Monday, September 10, 2012

Garden Visit: Hakone Estate and Gardens

While visiting family in the San Jose/San Francisco bay area a few weekends ago, we visited the Hakone Gardens (more info here). Hakone is the oldest Asian estate and garden in the Western Hemisphere, established in 1915. It covers eighteen acres with four different gardens. We went on a random Friday morning and walked into main part of the garden:
The garden, looking up
The first part of the garden you see is a full-sun (in the morning) garden, with many beautiful maples and a giant pond, all overseen by a traditional house on the slope. On our visit, most of the garden was showing off it's foliage, but there were a few waterlilies left:
Waterlilies in one of the ponds
 The true stars for me were the Japanese maples, many (most/all) of which can't really be grown in the desert (unless you have a shady spot and lot of water). Many of them were different shades of green, red, and yellow, and shaped into different shapes that showed off their unique forms, and made them fit into the landscape, yet stand out:
This isn't a maple (i think), but showed off a strong vertical accent
Yellow and Red leaves stood out against the blue sky
Green and Yellow, pruned into a more rounded form
This (also not a maple, I think) was in the shade in one of the smaller court yards.
The tree in the picture above was in the courtyard of one of the smaller buildings on the property. In person, it almost glowed red. For some of the trees, the trunks were shaped artistically into something you really wanted to spend a lot of time looking at:
A balance with the rock, tree and moss - one of those "scenes" I always like in formal gardens like this
 The pond and water feature was beautifully incorporated into the garden, as you would expect:
Looking back at the house and bridge from a viewing pavilion
 I loved the multi-stage waterfall that ran from the shady hillside into the main pond. All around the waterfall were Japanese maples:

I took way too many pictures!
 The pond also hosted a variety of wildlife, including Koi, turtles, birds, and a giant frog:

The garden art was very fitting!
The gravel paths took you from the formal water garden up the hill side, into a more shaded part of the garden.
Here things were much less landscaped

 Moving from one side of the hill to the other, behind the house, brought us to the bamboo garden:
Bamboo Garden Pictures
 Here there were several different groves of bamboo - green, yellow, black, and variegated. Many of them looked like they had been in place for years, with many of the culms being several inches in diameter. In most cases, nothing had been planted under the bamboo, and in some areas we could see new shoots coming up (or maybe old ones that had failed?)

A stone lantern backed by a grove of black bamboo formed a mediation garden:

 Throughout the garden, small statues, gates and a well added to the different views:

Most of the structures have been onsite since the gardens opened in the early 1910's and are made in a traditional fashion.
One part of the garden (the herb garden?) on the top of the hill looked like it had fallen into disrepair, but maybe it's supposed to look this way?
It was almost spooky!
Back by the pond, this giant stand of Gunnera reminded me of Loree of Danger Garden. It was even blooming! (at least I think those are it's blooms)
These were actually growing in the water! I didn't realize they liked that...
 For me though, this was really about all the beautiful Japanese Maples that were everywhere...

especially when they got caught in the sun, looking from the shady hill side

So many colors, yet no flowers!
According to the website, in the spring the pergola leading to the main house is covered in wisteria blooms. I might try to go back to see that! I could spend a lot more time here, and I would definitely recommend anyone in the area (or passing through!) to go and visit. If you like Japanese gardens, and/or just beautiful places in general, this one is a gem!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Weekly Front Garden - 09/09/2012 and future plans

It's been a while since I posted a picture of my front garden - I was trying to do it every week. And while I have been taking pictures (mostly), I haven't been posting them because, well, they got a little boring!

Here is the garden back in July (07/24/2012):
07/24/2012 Front Garden - before the real heat of summer
And here is it this week (09/09/2012):
09/09/2012 - After the first few heat waves, and several prolonged absences
They're the same! That clump of Mexican Feathergrass is still split down the middle, the blue fescue to the right of it is still more grey rather than blue, and the colors are the same - blue, green and yellow/straw (is straw a color?). The turf grass is the September picture looks better only because it's longer and needs to be mowed...

Some of the plants under the window have started to grow in:
A clump of glads and iris, pink muhly and society garlic...
Except those glads and irises have rarely bloomed for me (never for the iris) and the pink muhly still looks so wispy, it has no presence... It will in a few more months though!

So obviously some changes are needed! And October is coming, which means I'll be able to do a little planting when it's less hot. Here are some things I'm considering, based on what has worked in the back gardens:

Purple fountain grass, Optunia and a Coreopsis (badly in need of dead-heading)
The purple fountain grass might be hardy here, and could replace a clump of the Mexican feather grass. The clump that's split I'm thinking of replacing with a Phormium, preferably one of the pretty ones like I saw at the Getty a few weeks ago (pictures coming soon!). And I'd like to replace some of the non-performing flowers with Coreopsis and maybe a Penstemon - they're supposed to do well here.

And then there is this whole area:
Besides a good weeding, and a hacking back of the (bloomed-out) clump of Oenothera speciosa, it needs a little something - maybe a clump of Optunia along the back wall? This area gets almost no supplemental water except for the tree and the rosebush, and overspray from the neighbor's lawn...

Some of these changes will have to wait until Spring, when more plants are available and the weather is nicer, but next year it should all look a lot nicer... and Winter will be spent planning!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

More Garden Wildlife

The birds are enjoying the left over sunflower heads in the pipes - there were three of them on one plant in the morning, trying to get at the seeds:

This involved a lot of being upside down...
 I'm not sure what kind of birds these are - at least one of them had a yellow breast, and they were all busy chirping and pushing each other of the flower heads...

The one on the lower right found a flower head hidden under the leaves...
I'm very glad I left these flower heads on, because the birds have been enjoying them for weeks now. I did manage to cut off one head before they got to it, and it's hanging to dry. We'll see if I get some seeds!

In addition to the sparrows, my back garden has been claimed as this particular hummingbird's territory. He (she?) surveys "their" Salvia greggi bushes from the top branch of my Cersis canadensis 'Forest Pansy':

It sits there basically all morning and in the late afternoon, watching for other hummingbirds
 Every once in a while, it will grab a drink off the Salvias:

 Or, it will chase away other hummingbirds, in crazy aerial battles! I'm still trying to get some decent pictures or video of these battles, because they are epic. What's really funny is that while the two are fighting, a third hummingbird will usually come over to drink from the plants...

After the battle is over, he returns to his perch:
Coming in for a landing
And any slow human how gets in the way of either the nectar or the battles is of no concern to the hummingbirds! I was buzzed twice one morning. I'm happy the hummers have found the plants (I think they're Anna's hummingbirds, judging by the size, color and area) and I wonder what would happen if I put up a feeder? I don't think they would share...