Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday in the Garden

Today, while cleaning up the last of the debris left over from cutting back all the scrubs, I noticed a couple of things to see...

one of my favorite combos in the garden right now
 This is Agave 'Little Shark' (also known as A. 'Royal Spine'), an Optunia microdasys that somehow miraculously survived the winter, and an unknown Optunia that I received in a plant swap with Loree at Danger Garden. They have all survived winter, and looked good doing it.

Speaking of optunias looking good:

O. macrocentra is busy making flower buds
This is going to be quite a show this year! I'm interested to see if this plant will grow taller this year. I'll probably have to prune some pads off if it doesn't.
red color & teeth imprints on Agave 'Mr. Ripple'
Mr. Ripple demanded that I show off his red marks on one of the old leaves. I'm going to leave him in his pipe for this year, I think, so I can enjoy the details some more.

I keep having to remind myself that its only February, and still winter, and that I shouldn't be planting things yet! And definitely not doing things like moving warm-weather plants like the agaves and friends. So for now, I'm trying to keep myself busy amending the soil on the hillside, for planting later. It was a nice way to spend a few hours in the garden on this beautiful Sunday!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

My Favorite Plant This Week: Buddleia 'Orange Sceptre'

For the last GBBD, I showed a close-up of the bloom on one of my favorite plants this whole winter - Buddleia 'Orange Sceptre'. Here is a picture of the whole plant:

Buddleia 'Orange Sceptre' wide shot
 Now, one thing you can see straight away is that this particular plant is not the most attractive ever, with the bare stems. Pictures online don't show this, but it is similar to what other buddleias do in my garden. I think it's a combination of the heat and lack of water, and the fact that they don't die back and I don't prune them. I have some ideas for combination plantings that will help cover up the bare stems.
But the point of this plant is the flowers - it has been flowering all winter! The flowers are really orange, and different shaped for a buddleia:
bloom spike just starting to open

Close up of flower
 When they first form, the blooms are covered with a white-ish/grey fuzz, much like the new leaves are:
Bud forming

Bud & new leaves
 The blooms eventually elongate to a foot or so, and bloom from the bottom up. Here are some more mature ones:
In the summer, more of the spike blooms at once - this was last week
 'Orange Sceptre' responds really well to dead-heading, sending out more flowers.
All winter, I've been watching hummingbirds fight over the flowers from the kitchen windows

I was hoping to have a picture of the hummingbird - but they really love this plant!

And it just keeps flowering...
 My 'Orange Sceptre' was planted at the end of March 2013, when it looked like this:
28 March 2013
 In my garden its a very fast grower - by the start of May, it looked like this:
4 May 2013
 I did some research about this plant. I got mine from Plant Delights (for sale here),  where they say this is a hybrid of Buddleia stachyoides and Buddleia tubiflora by  Dr. Jon Lindstrom of the University of Arkansas. I found the article from the University announcing the release. They mention the concern about re-seeding, and say you should remove the spent flower heads. I have not yet seen a seedling from  my plant anywhere, but that may be unique to the desert. Both sources say the mature size is around 8 feet tall, and based on its performance in my garden, it grows fast, if a bit leggy. It seems somewhat drought tolerant and adapted to the heat. We haven't had any rain this winter, so I've been watering the garden, but only about 1-2 a week. It is planted in full (afternoon, hot) desert sun, which is probably not helping with the leaves... This summer may be a true test of 'Orange Sceptre's' willingness to live in the desert.

While taking pictures, I noticed that there are new leaves growing on the bare stems, so I'm hoping the bottom of the plant will look better soon. I'm still going to find some plants to help fill in the gap, and maybe next year, try cutting it back to the ground.
new leaves growing
Loree at Danger Garden is sharing her favorite plant (in an orange pot!) this week, and you can visit the comments to see other people's contributions. There is such a variety of plants to see each week!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Foliage Follow Up - February 2014

This weekend didn't feel like spring (it was 80 degrees!) but it was the start of my spring clean up in the garden. It feels good to be back out playing in the dirt!

With the salvia's and Russian sages cut back, I noticed several signs of our earlier spring:

Rhubarb leafing out - this is year 3!
Year 3 on the rhubarb means I will probably try to cut some stems this year and eat them. Only one of the rhubarbs has popped up so far. The other, which tried to bloom last year, hasn't yet. I hope it's ok...
Sedum already growing
I'll have to remember to cut these back in the late May time frame (or earlier...) so they are not as floppy this year as last year. Speaking of future spring chores:
More agave pups...
I am not looking forward to digging that (unidentified) agave out and getting the pups off, but it's really starting to be time.

The optunias are starting to show signs of growth too:
Optunia macrocentra is making a ton of blossoms, as always

and it looks like Optunia basilaris might join it! Or are those pads?
The O. basilaris will be leaving it's temporary home in the pipe soon, to go on the back slope. Hopefully, it won't leave me with too many injuries when I move it.

I also noticed that several of my plants have put on a bit of growth. They stand out, especially with the normally large scrubs cut back:
This is Yucca louisianensis - about to enter it's 3rd year
Penstemon pseudospectababilis - I think. The plant tag is in there somewhere...
Artichoke plant
I was supposed to move that last one this spring- but it's already gotten big and put out a whole bunch new leaves. So I'm not sure whether I want to move it now. But it's definitely crowded in the back corner, and those leaves are so pretty, they deserve a better spot. It does seem happy though, so that's good!

If you go visit Pam at Digging, you can see everyone else's foliage contributions also! Thank you, Pam, for hosting this once again!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

February Bloom Day

Every month, Carol at May Dream Gardens invites everyone to show their blooms for Garden Blogger's Bloom Day. Here is what is blooming on this (unseasonably hot) day in February in my garden:

daffodils in the front garden
I'm pretty sure the daffodils blooming this early is a response to the hot/dry weather we've been having... they won't last long this spring, I think. It was near 80 degrees today!
There are more in the back garden, growing between clumps of Mexican Feather Grass:
this display should get better in the next week or so - there are more daffodils hiding
 This combo was inspired by a display I saw (on a blog!) last year. If I get better pictures,  I'll do a follow-up post:

The fruit trees are also starting to bloom, here is the nectarine tree:
Pick blossoms - also a little early, I think
 While I was out weeding today, I noticed that the heat has not been kind to these blooms - they already looked shriveled. And I didn't see any bees yet... I hope they last long enough for the pollinators to do their thing!

And here's a little sneak peak of the plant that will be getting "favorite" status soon: Buddleia 'Orange Sceptre', bought last year from Plant Delights. This one has been blooming all winter long, right outside my kitchen window, much to the delight of the hummingbirds!

the orange flowers spikes start small, but end up almost 10 inches tall! 
Go visit Carol's blog to see what else is blooming in other people's gardens... I know a lot of people are still buried under snow - I wish we could trade some of our sunshine for some of that moisture!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

My Favorite Plant This Week...

It's been quiet in the garden the last few weeks - between work travel and an impromptu vacation, I've barely seen the garden in the light. But this weekend, with the nice weather, I was able to look around and find my favorite plant right now: Senna nemophila, desert cassia, in full spring bloom:
it has small yellow flowers in late winter/early spring
 Described in Sunset Gardening as: "To 3-5 feet tall and wide, with attractive, light, airy structure. Zones 12-24" . I can definitely attest to the fact that our Zone 11 winters are just a touch too cold - every year there has been some significant frost damage. But cassia loves the heat, and grows back over the summer. The only bad part is that because it blooms in late winter/early spring, sometimes the frost damage takes out the flowers. Not this year though! And we got "cold" (for Zone 11!) too - 17 to 19 deg F has been the low so far.
I like the contrast between cassia nemophilia and the Optunia next to it:
fine leaves and large leaves
Some of the frost damage is visible in the above picture. I keep having to remind myself that it's too early to cut it back yet - we can get frosts until March/April. But I'm glad the cassia is there to brighten the winter!

See Loree's favorite plant, and everyone else's also, at Danger Garden