Mid-June in the small, city garden

Hello again, welcome! Dramatic growth since my last blog post, May 6...


I already talked a lot about Echium 'Blue Steeple' last time.


California tarweed (Madia elegans) is a summer staple in the back 40. I'm not sure if these plants are going to get taller or not--I hope they do. Usually they bloom a little later for me.


The foliage has a great fragrance that fills the air on sunny days. Alas, today is not a sunny day.



I've raised several crops of 'Bishops Children' dahlias from seed over the years. Usually, I grow them on in pots, but I have planted some out. Somehow, the tuberous root of this one found its way into a shovel-full of soil that got dumped here after the raised bed was constructed. I am delighted to see the plant growing so vigorously, but I will probably move the root somewhere else this fall.


This red one is in a pot, and has come back every year bigger and stronger for a long, long time.


We picked up the dark blue glass float in Eureka, CA on a roadtrip a couple weeks ago. It's a motif I  want to expand on. More floats!


The rope on this lighter blue one is weathering and should probably be replaced soon. I found some videos on YouTube to teach me how to make them. Now I have to find some nice rope to use.


The shelves were my idea during the recent re-model. I don't think they got implemented especially well, but I am enjoying them such as they are.


Hard to get a good picture of the native rush Juncus patens here, but it is looking really good, if I say so myself.


Word to the wise if you have this plant, or something like it, in your own garden: Be mindful of your eyeballs when you work around this plant.


They seem to have a special ability to poke you there, and it really hurts. Think about wearing safety glasses if you are going to dig it up or plant it out.


Readers, I cannot tell you how pleased I was to have my camera in-hand when this hummer visited the hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea) this morning. I've had this native sage species in my garden for many years, and it has usually disappointed me. The growth was never great, and it rarely flowered. Hummers never visited. I took home three 4" pots of it from Annie's Annuals this spring, with some doubt, but much hope, and it paid off. I do think it's a good idea if you've had bad luck with a native plant--especially one that is not a named selection-- to try buying it again, from a different source. I think Annie's propagates this plant asexually, and it makes sense they would have a good clone. The growth is strong, and the flowers are a much nicer magenta than the usual flat color you will often see in nature.

OMG actually demonstrating the co-evolutionary pollination mechanism

Note that the plant and bird in this picture are demonstrating the co-evolutionary pollination trick their ancestors worked out over many years, with the flower stamens dusting the bird's head w/ a bit of pollen to be transferred to a pistil on the next flower it happens to visit. Very sweet.





In the back 40

Things are coming along...


I think the biggest goof I've made planting the new garden (so far) was putting the black aeonium 'Zwartkopf' so close to the smoke bush. It may not look so bad here, but there is a fairly undifferentiated clump of dark red-black in in the exact center of the garden that needs some finessing. I clipped out one stalk of the aeonium before taking this picture, and just that bit of de-congestion helped a lot. Gardening in the back 40 has always come down to a few inches here and there.

The dinosaur plant on the left side of this picture is Echium pininana 'Blue Steeple'. I have grown the species before. It went from seed to 12 feet tall to flowering to dead in the course of about 10 months. Just completely insane, and I was never going to grow it again, but Annie's Annuals said 'Blue Steeple'  "can take several years to bloom", so I thought what the heck.


Seedaholic had more detail about the flowering schedule. According to them 'Blue Steeple' needs to survive two winters before coming into flower. Ok, that works. But I hope it will flower in year 3. They also say this, "If the plant is not going to flower, it can be made to branch by cutting the growing tip out with a sharp knife in October. This will create a multi-headed plant which will produce up to 6 flower spikes the following year." I don't think I have the nerve to try that. But should I? I noticed this morning it is already making a branch. I am not sure what to think of that--usually I see E. pininana as a single, erect spike. Well, I will figure all that out later. In the meantime, I am appreciating the foliage.

Oh, and I have three of them. Here is another one, next to Leucadendron argentum, where I confess it has outgrown the volume of space I had visualized it occupying when I planted.


Another view:


And here is the third, in the bed where I also tucked the stalk of Aeonium 'Zwartkopf' I clipped out of the first picture.


In this bed, I am actually most excited about the plant between the Echium and the Aeonium. It is Echium physocarpa. I thought plant was silly/gimmicky when I saw it in catalogs, but after walking by one in the neighborhood several times a week on my daily commute caused a change of heart. The design intent of putting the 'hairy balls' here was to echo the lemons on the nearby 'Improved Meyer' growing nearby and in close line-of-sight from many other places in the garden. Hopefully that will pan out and I will have some cool pictures to share in several months.

Speaking of things I hope will work out (I mean, I hope it all works out), back over by the silver tree, I am going for this blending of Salvia spathacea and Deschampsia flexuosa, where the sparkly Deschampsia seed heads also talk to the very adjacent silver tree, inspired by the picture on page 112 of John Greenlee's book, The American Meadow Garden. Greenlee recommends pairing Salvia spathacea with muhly or needle grass. I have not had a great time with those, so I'm hoping the guidance is more flexible.


If anything, I think Deschampsia might be too delicate and fine to pair well with the Salvia. So, I have some Melica imperfecta coming up from seed I can try if necessary.

Otherwise, some of the Melica (along with some Carex divulsa, and maybe a third species) will go in the center bed this fall--after the spring annuals have expired--to build out the grassy backbone of the mini-meadow I want to eastablish.


I have variegated boxwood at the corners of the meadow that I also currently lack the nerve to prune into topiary spheres. Come do it for me? They probably need more time to grow anyway.


Have you grown Monarda 'Jakob Cline' before? I have not, but I've wanted to give it a go ever since I saw it in London eight years ago. It is already taller than I expected, and crying out for grassy neighbors. Oh, well.


Anyway, I think that is good for now. The sun came out later, and we had a visitor who let me get one picture before flying off.