This is a fair representation of what the whole garden looks like right now:
That's 'Louis Edmunds' manzanita on the left, Arctostaphylos bakeri--a California native, 'natch. I pruned it extensively a few days ago.
Some people say don't prune manzanitas at all, and others recommend it to strengthen the wood. I prune to reveal the sinuous stems that exfoliate in the summer. You know how I like that.
The leaves are nice too.
Anyway, it grows in a large pot (so it grows slowly) with a native companion plant, Coyote Mint (Monardella villosa), that just started to bloom.
On the other side is a big, black-leafed, yellow-flowering dahlia that has not started to bloom and some Clarkia bottae from Southern California (I believe) that has.
Another thing people say: California native gardens look their best in April. I disagree with that insofar as San Francisco gardens are concerned. I don't have an all-California native garden of course, but most of my native plants look best during the summer.
Mimulus aurantiacus (above) is at its best June-August, and the red/orange, tubular hummingbird flowers on Keckiella cordiifolia's long, bending stems (below) have only just gotten started.
(Underneath it all, poor Phormium 'Black Adder' will have to hang in there for another month or two. I'll cut back the Keckiella and the phormium will have more room and sunlight.)
California wild grape wasn't much to blog about in April, but look at it now, taking over the deck stairs.
California buckeye (Aesculus californica) is a great plant in April. But I like it in summer too when the leaves die to avoid the long summer drought. I snip every single one of them off by hand to reveal the stunning silver-barked structure underneath the foliage. I know that's a little over the top, but it only takes 30 minutes since I keep the buckeye shrub-sized (a perfectly reasonable thing to do, btw). With the El Niño this year, the snipping time hasn't come yet.
On the other side of the buckeye, my Fremontodendron californicum has matured to the point where it flowers on and off all year. After a particularly heavy spring bloom, I like to snip off the fading flowers and let them decorate the ground.
And we'll pop out front real quick to check in with California spice bush (Calycanthus occidentailis). It was flowering in April and it's still flowering now. The flowers smell like wine. After gardening for five years, I still can't get over how cool that is.
So, there. I've had my say about summer gardening with natives. But it's not all natives in my back 40...
I bought got this cordyline the other day for half off $10.99. Let's do the math together: That's $10.99 ÷ 2 = $5.495. Ahem!
A Phormium that looks like this cordyline grows with Fuchsia fulgens in the entry garden at Strybing Arboretum. I've always liked the pairing, so I was happy to copy it. I think Stravinsky said all of the best ideas are stolen.
If you back out a little bit, you can see there is actually a lot of chaos around here. I like to imagine garden designers clucking in disapproval at this. It makes me feel like a rebel.
I'm sure I first learned about Lathyrus 'Cupani' from Two Gardens, and of course Annie's Annuals sells it. I grew mine from seeds I got in the Cal Hort seed exchange. A few plants have modest displays here and there.
Annie's says: "'Cupani' was first cultivated by a Sicilian monk, Father Francis Cupani, who found this intensely scented wild sweet pea growing near his monastery in 1695. In 1699, he sent some seeds to a teacher in England & so ‘Cupani’ is the first recorded Sweet Pea to be cultivated." How many of you already knew that?
One of the leaning leeks leans into my only garden chair.
The other one is hunting lemons.
How about an update on the squash situation? Not rocking out, but not dead yet either. I probably didn't water them as much as I should have the first week... Well, I'm watering them daily now, and I'm using a turkey baster to transfer water from the saucer back to the pot. I also pinched off some tiny flowers to help direct youthful energy to roots and shoots.
I grew all the 'Bishop's Children' dahlias from one packet of Thompson & Morgan seed. I'd hoped to get some yellows and purples, but they all came up reds and oranges. So far this one is my favorite:
This one is nice too:
I don't care for this one at all.
Germination was practically 100%. I kept only the most vigorous seedings last year, and this year I kept only the tubers with the earliest and most vigorous shoots. I ended up with about 15 plants. Maybe I'll put a few in the garden, and move the rest into larger pots next year.
We can run up to the roof-deck for a quick look, and then I'll let you go. I decided to re-re-purpose the copper fire pan that was a species tulip bulb pan with echeveria (and one aloe). The species tulips got scorched and only flowered for 2 weeks. I collected the bulbs and I'll try them in the garden next year.
I should get more small echeveria to fill gaps. Or maybe some shiny gravel or tumbled glass. I hate to see any perlite from the planting mix.
We've tried lots of things up here over the last few years, and I think (as I've always known) it will have to be mostly succulents and cacti. Some bulbs do work--like the Gladiolus callianthus from Old House Gardens whose leaves you see here--a remarkably tough plant. (I think it's also been called acidanthera.)
The best grass has been Nassella tenuissima but geez Louise it volunteers heavily in every pot and needs constant weeding. Annoying, but worth it to have some variety and movement.
We have to have some flowers too, not just all foliage or succulents that flower erratically. Agastache does just okay. Just okay is good enough. Hummers come for it and that always excites the kittens.
No surprise--Calandrinia spectabilis is bullet-proof and flowers heavily. I need to step up my propagation of this plant. A couple more pots are in order.
And I'm trying a dwarf sunflower cultivar, 'Waooh!' from Park. (Whoops, blurry picture.) Sunflowers are tough plants. I think they'll be extra-dwarfed in a pot on the roof & that's fine. Do you remember Michael Pollan dissing the idea of dwarf sunflowers in Second Nature?