Thursday morning garden

More pictures of Echium wildpretii, as requested.

Echium wildpretii

May not look like it from the picture, but this one obstructs the path. You have to push it out of your way to get through the garden. Or you can reach around from behind and use a leaf on the other side like a handle to pull it out of your way. But that often breaks the leaf.

I painted my tomato cage orange. 'Crushed Orange', in fact. I think it will look groovy later in the season, stuffed full of green vines and red fruit.


Also groovy: these recent acquisitions. I bought these curly iron stakes/posts at the Ruth Bancroft Garden for $28 each. I'm thinking they'll provide some good, all-season interest.

New acquisitions

Another view.


They're obviously meant to support vines, or possibly tomatoes. Or even dahlias. Well, you get the idea. I don't have a plan for them yet, but I might use them for snap peas and nix the bamboo tee-pee.


There are two reasons for this: 1) I am not very good at building garden structures and this tee-pee is incredibly lame, and 2) Some of the snap peas are really weak and maybe I should start over.

Ill-looking snap pea

About half of them look like the one above, and the other half look like the one below.

Healthy snap pea

Half of the snap peas grew from seed that came from John Scheeper's and the other half from Territorial. I try to keep track of all that when I plant out, but that doesn't always happen. Now I can't be sure which is which, but I have to suspect the bad ones came from Scheeper's because I've always had good results with Territorial, whereas I'm trying Scheeper's for the first time this year.

But back to Echium + new acquisition. This is the my other Echium wildpretii. I grew dozens from seed and gave most of them to the Botanical Garden (where they were either sold or lost). I planted four of them in my own garden, but today I just have two. Invasive biennials, I should have many volunteers after these die. Assuming that's true, and depending on where they come up, I'd like to keep three for next year, if possible.


Some of the flowers are already starting to die, but far more new flowers are opening every day. I would guess this one's running at 50% of its maximum bloom capacity. Stay tuned.

I'm developing a fascination with Trident Maple (Acer buergerianum).

Acer + Echium

Individual specimens are variable; this one has pretty pink leaf margins.

Acer buergerianum

It's for my client. I'm going to plant it in her front lawn which she is not terribly fond of.

Acer buergerianum

I would guess most professional gardeners plant out trees from large boxes, but I don't have a truck or a crew to do that with, so I'm planting out from a 2-g pot. This way, too, I hope the growing tree won't need those annoying tree stakes that stay in the ground for 2-3 years while the roots get established. (Ick.)

Anyhow, I've been buying up A. buergerianum for myself, whenever I can find them as bonsai starters (not shown). I'm not going to bonsai them (not sure what I'm going to do with them in fact) but I think bonsai starters (essentially rooted cuttings) must the cheapest way to buy trees--after tax, it's generally $4 or $5 for 3" or 4" pot, respectively.

Lone Pine Gardens, located in Sebastopol, CA, supplies many Bay Area nurseries with bonsai starters. Whenever I visit a nursery I always check the bonsai section to see what's available.

For example, the other day I bought this coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens).

Sequoia sempervirens

I'm going to put it in this container, also a recent acquisition (marked 20% off!), to grow in the shade under my deck.


I know redwoods can be hedged, and I know they will live in containers for at least a few years...we'll see what happens.

Also recently purchased as bonsai starters, my other current fascinations, Cork Oak (Quercus suber and variegated English boxwood (Buxus sempervirens):

IMG_6927 IMG_6928

Despite most of what's shown above, I grow a lot of California native plants in my garden. But I'm trending more and more in a Mediterranean direction. I see a lot of dwarfed cork oaks and boxwood topiaries in my future.

Another mediterranean combination I'm just getting around to, Aeonium 'Schwarzkopf' and Heianthemum nummularium:

Schwartzkopf + Sunrose

Yellow is more common with the dark aeonium, but I love orange. These are potted plants that I'll put out in the fall when I have room to plant.

Speaking of the California natives, this is still good time to see spring wildflowers in my back 40. Cream Cups (Platystemon californicus) are especially nice right now.

In the morning the flowers are closed and remind me of little balloons.


Later, in full-sun:

Platystemon californicus + Verbena lilacina


This Five-Spot (Nemophila maculata) gets lots of supplemental water because it's growing in a pot of tomatoes. Hopefully that translates into more self-sowing.

Nemophila maculata

I'm not entirely sure what the rhythm of California wildflowers blooming in nature is like--well, all at once, I guess (except for Clarkia which start next month)--or whether I should really expect it to be the same in my garden, but the Gilia tricolor is just getting started.


It's hard to describe fragrances, but it reminds me of hyacinth, tho' much lighter.

Gilia tricolor

The Phacelia tanacetifolia is getting so large that I have no choice but to start training it around a nearby tomato cage.



The Camassia may have the shortest bloom period of any plant in my garden--which is fine with me.


I grew several CA-native perennial bunch grasses from seed this year, but they're hard to photograph. Here you can see the nodding stems of purple needle grass (Nasella pulchra in the background, with Salvia spathacea and Ceanothus 'Frosty Blue'.

Salvia spathacea + Ceanothus 'Frosty Blue'

A different spathaceae next to Fremontodendron and lupine.

Salvia spathacea

I think it's 'Kowatre'.

Salvia spathacea

More exciting next to Fremontodendron, at least to the bees, is the Cerinthe major which is only now developing the kind of ink-dipped purple tips this hardy annual is famous for.

Cerinthe + Fremontodendron

Seriously, if I want to find a bee in my garden, this is the place to look. The flowers are constantly buzzing.

Will the bees also buzz around the foxglove? The Digitalis purpurea 'Apricot Beauty' are right on the cusp of blooming, so we'll find out soon enough.


Their little flower buds seems so grim and determined not to bloom. I think the foxglove must be very competitive for water. The soil seems unusually dry wherever they're growing and they're doing much better than neighboring plants.

Digitalis purpurea 'Apricot Beauty'

I'm starting to think about what to replace them with after they die. I planted Anisodonaea capensis behind one foxglove.


It's neighbor will be another mallow, the white abutilon.


The Fuchsia boliviana 'Alba' has two big flower clusters.

Fuchsia boliviana 'Alba'

Some of the flowers are fading, and several new buds are coming. It's one of those plants that can have buds, flowers, and fruit at the same time all year long.

Fuchsia boliviana 'Alba'

But it seems to have developed a nutrient deficiency.

Guess the nutrient deficiency!

Some of the leaves are yellowing from the mid-vein out. Any ideas? My first thought was nitrogen since it's growing in a big pot. I've added dilute fish emulsion twice in the last few months. I don't think it's P or K. Could it be Mg or Ca? It's getting more sun than it probably wants; maybe it's too much sun.


Anonymous said...

I agree that digitalis is very competitive. I suspect it's also a very heavy feeder. For this reason this year we've really limited the self-sown seedlings we used to let come up everywhere.

Love your blog!

Annie in Austin said...

There's a path through your garden, Chuck? It looks pretty narrow, but Mrs. Whaley always thought the conventional advice to have wide paths for two people to walk side-by-side was bogus...she said no more than 20 inches, so the person had to walk slowly, single file and pay attention to the wonders on both sides!

I like those curly support sticks.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

chuck b. said...

Mrs. Whaley would love my garden. I'll have to add her to the reading list. I'm currently reading, no, inhaling Vita Sackville-West.

chuck b. said...

Anonymous--yeah, heavy feeder for sure. I'm adding fish emulsion here and there to keep things going. Maybe I'll keep fewer foxgloves next year too.

Anonymous said...

The echium are fascinating. You've got a garden of which Dr. Suess would be proud.

chuck b. said...

Indeed--that would be a fitting aesthetic goal for me to aim for, for a bunch of reasons.

JvA said...

Things already look different, and I was just there, what, three days ago. Maybe I'm imagining it.

I think three E. wildpretii would be absolutely perfect.

chuck b. said...

It feels different to me every day too.

Yeah, three is always better than two, except in the most formal designs. It pained me to remove the third and fourth echium last year, but it had to be done for the greater good of the garden at that point in time.

Anonymous said...

Dude... you can't begrudge a foxglove for being a little hungry. Where's your compassion. Don't hate the player, hate the game baby.

chuck b. said...

Also, I want to say that I have a cold and wrote this blog post hopped up on cold medicine and it's the most poorly written blog post ever.

Anonymous said...

You're just torturing me with those Echium pictures. I want one!

Anonymous said...

Hopped up or not, it was an enjoyable post. Cerinthe is gorgeous. I tried growing that once and I guess I should try it again. Maybe in a container. Looks like sun scorch on those leaves. Echium is so interesting.

Brent said...

"Their little flower buds seems so grim and determined not to bloom."

So apt! They look like curmudgeons, all.

gintoino said...

Your garden is so wonderful chuck. So many beautiful plants I didn't know. (I'm not even commenting on the Echium...You know I love it). I like the curly stakes, I've been looking for something like that for ages, but never found them.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter said...

My eyeballs are spinning from all that color! I love, love, love those metal spiral support stakes. I wonder if I could find them anywhere in Chicagoland.

Anonymous said...

Nutrient deficiency could be Fe?

lisa said...

Dr. Seuss garden...absolutely! I like it all, but the burgundy aeonium is making me think I need one :) Thanks for the "hungry foxglove" info, I want to be a proper hostess to mine when they're big enough to plant out.