Chilly day garden

And we told to expect a heatwave. Hah!


I'm starting to get fall pruning urges...


I've had just about enough of the Madia elegans for 2009. But if it goes away, what will the beneficials do? The only thing close to having as many flowers is good ol' Cosmos.


The dahlias are too small, and they're about to crap out. Love the color tho'.


I don't think I mentioned that I'm taking color theory at City College. It's taught by the same woman I took plant ID from. I really like her. Like me, when it comes to color, she seems more interested in flowers than foliage.

I mean I like foliage, & I get why many gardeners prefer to design with foliage in mind...but it's just not that exciting to me personally. Garden vignettes that appeal to me the most tend to be about size and shape and form.

(And by now you may know that I'm very specimen-oriented. Scenes built around one plant, or one kind of plant, like tree ferns or manzanitas, really excite me. What else do you need if you have a forest of tree ferns? Just a place to sit.)

Anyway, back to foliage, I think the most important aspect for me is probably texture, and the surrounding textures. I have a problem with fine texture--I'm hooked on it. But I know too much fine texture creates a busy, restless, anxious garden. It's definitely a problem I struggle with.

I have a few big leafed, coarse-textured plants. Three are giant asters from the cloud forest--Bartlettina sordida (one of the first things I planted), Montanoa grandiflora (new this year), and this one that you're getting to know, Senecio cristobalensis.

Senecio cristobalensis

(The Fuchsia behind it is medium, I would say)

And I have the buckeye, Aesculus californica. But it only has leaves for about 7 months. The rest of the time, it's like this:


Fine texture overload! Even the agaves I like are fine textured! There are two more coarse textured plants in this picture, the fig (Ficus carica) and the Tower of Jewels (Echium pininana). Those are all new this year. So I am getting better at managing texture. (Yay, me!)

Anyway, all a digression. I was going to talk about flower color--because I'm taking color theory--and show you this Passiflora citrina that I recently got at Filoli. Isn't it nice? So yellow!


Note: compare it to the "Passiflora citrina" I bought on EBay last year:

GBBD; 2009-07-14; Passiflora citrina

Quite different, isn't it? So frustrating because the whole point of getting P. citrina in the first place was to run it up the Tibouchina urvilleana. Because, complimentary colors..!


I can see how someone might not like this particular pairing of purple and yellow, but I will be curious to see how it plays out in my garden.

Tibouchina urvilleana IMG_3916

Now we can go back to talking about foliage color for a minute. I was given two black plants this year, including this Ceanothus 'Tuxedo' which is settling in nicely.


There is always a risk with dark foliage that it will recede and disappear. It's almost happening in that picture. But I'm relying on this plant's eventual size to keep it from vanishing in my small garden.

I also got this Phormium 'Black Adder' which is quite a departure for me because I have this whole thing about phormium and dietes...


Don't plant it if you're not prepared to dig it up every few years to divide it. Because they get terribly ugly when they're congested. Anyhow, I think I'll be able to keep on top of it.

The problem I want to talk about in the picture above is the juxtaposition of Phormium with the fine-textured gray plant yousee mounding above and behind the phormium, Island Buckwheat (Eriogonum arobrescens).

The pairing is a turn-off. Which is heartbreaking because I grew that plant from seed and it's a personal favorite. But it's just not working out and I'm not sure what to do. I don't have the heart to tear it out--yet. I'm frozen with indecision. How can I rip out a beloved California native for an upstart, laboratory-bred Phormium?

Alas, this is the pain of gardening in a small space. Do you feel my pain?

Time to talk about other things? Happier things? Like caterpillars?


We have three!



In which the offer to garden is declined.

Text of a note from my neighbor left in my mail slot responding to my offer:

Good to hear from you...

[Two paragraphs of pleasantries about him and his recently improving health omitted]

We have recently made plans to re-design the garden to include a scaled down version of the bamboo forest and to include flowers as part of the first stage of implementation so that the yard can be used and provide a visual focal point.

I will keep your offer in mind if plans should change. I appreciate you interest and offer. But our hope is to be able to utilize and enjoy the yard once again.

[Two more paragraphs of pleasantries omitted, one about where I can find a community garden, and another complimenting me on my garden].

Best wishes,

Your Neighbor

My question is, who is "we"? I think "we" is just him. He lives alone in an otherwise empty two-unit building. Not once in the six years have I've lived next door to him have we seen another person come or go from his home.

Reading between the lines, I suspect an offer of ornamental gardening would have been more persuasive than my offer of vegetable gardening.


Late summer idyll




We have new cats. This time on Foeniculum vulgare where they belong.


Aster chilensis

I grew this Symphotrichum chilensis syn. Aster chilensis--lots of it--from one single seedhead I pinched last year on Calif. public land. I'm not sure if I should even be saying that. You're not supposed to collect without a permit, but I couldn't help myself. It was just one single seedhead among thousands on the side of the road. Just a rationalization? Wrong is wrong?


This is a plant I am entitled to have, Phormium 'Black Adder'. A gift from FitzGerald Nurseries by way of a circuitous path taken on Twitter. It's settling in very nicely between the gray, mounding buckwheats (Eriogonum arborescens). I love it.

'Black Adder'

The garden doesn't really have enough dark foliage, but I'm kinda picky about dark foliage.


Well, I have some Atriplex hortensis.


Soon to be, had some Atriplex hortensis? Yeah, I'm talkin' to you.