Thursday, October 17, 2019

Yellow Brazilian Plume Flower

Most people know the pink Justicia carnea or the Shrimp Plant, Justicia brandegeana.  There are so many different kinds of Justicias.   They all grow well for me in my garden.  I've seen J. carnea(the pink one) in many gardens.   I first saw this yellow version, Justicia aurea at The Huntington Botanical Gardens and have never seen it available at a nursery. Then I was lucky to see it in a friend of a friends garden and I got 3 cuttings from him about 4 years ago.   All 3 rooted. Today one of them is blooming gloriously! 

Justicia aurea is native to Brazil(San Marcos Growers says Mexico). It likes partial shade and is said to grow to 8' tall! Mine have only grown about 4' tall on the east side of the house. So, they do get morning sun. It does well in frost free areas. We do get some frost in SoCal. But my 3 plants have not been affected. As said above, it is easily propagated from cuttings. So why is it not more widely grown? 

Do you grow Justicias? I also grow the common pink J. carnea and several other completely different Justicias.  In my research for this post, I just found out about a beautiful one called Justicia americana that is new to me.  Now I'm on the hunt for it!  

Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Gourds vs. Sweet Peas

I planted Birdhouse gourd seeds this year back in May. They grew up and over the arch and had about 4 pieces of fruit growing through the heat of the summer. I read that you're supposed to pick the gourds when the leaves start to turn brown and wither.  It is now October and time to plant Sweet Pea seeds. I want to rip out the gourds. But NOW they're making more flowers AND more baby gourds! They must be liking the cooler autumn weather.    Ugh! What to do?

Some of the leaves are turning brown. 

New babies! Ugh! 
Now is not a good time! 
And more?  No! 

What would you do?  Should I wait until November to rip them out and plant Sweet Peas?  No! I ordered a bunch of Sweet Pea seeds in August in anticipation of Sept planting.  But then we were getting ready for a trip and I didn't want to burden my friend Joe with watering them every day while we were gone.    These Sweet Pea seeds are burning a hole in my pocket!!!!  

Happy Autumn!

Friday, September 20, 2019

Mysterious Asters

Asters are a little mysterious to me.  Of the perennial type, I have only had ONE client who grew them here in SoCal.  The magenta pink one I have used to bloom in May.  Now it only blooms in September.  I think actually that they all are supposed to bloom around now.  They are also called Michaelmas Daisies, a christian festival named after the Feast of Saint Michael and all angels which falls on Sept 29.  Some of them get tall; to maybe 5' and some stay short; only 8".   So it is good to know which kind you have as to where to plant them.  The lavender one below I got at Home Depot a couple years ago. It usually blooms to 2' tall.  I split it when I got it and planted it on two different places.  One of them gets 2' and this one got to almost 4 '! That's up to my hip! 

Research tells that Asters are native to North America and Eurasia. Like Mums and Shasta Daisies they are a perennial plant that get's cut down to almost nothing after bloom.  And they come back! Cut off the flower stems after blooming and you'll see new leaves coming out of the ground. They like full sun as most daisies do.  

I have very few names for my Asters.  Either I got it from someone or the tag has gone missing.    

They look great up close. 

But they can look messy from far away.  
Below is the 4' tall one right on the edge of the flowerbed.  I might have to move it. But that's what's great about Asters, that you can dig them up and transplant them.  Wait until after flowering so you don't miss out on color.  Cut down all the spent flower stems.  Trust me, you'll want to because they turn brownish.  Then dig up the plant. You can cut it right though the soil and make more.  Just be sure all the pieces have roots.  And plant right away in their new homes.  

Below is Black Prince that I got at The Huntington Library & Gardens plant sale.   It has very dark foliage. I am a sucker for colored leaves.  

Aster Black Prince up close with it's tiny flowers
 The bees were all over the flowers.  
Aster Black Prince from away
 I got this little Aster at Roger's Gardens hoping it would stay small.   It did and got swallowed up by other plant.  I moved it back in June and it didn't skip a beat. 
Aster Pink Chiffon

A white that I got from a client. 

This magenta one I split into 3 plants. Here's one next to a Dusty Miller. 
It's a great color! 

Here they are cut
They make great cut flowers and look so cute in my little vintage medicine bottles.  
 I also have one in the backyard that I got from my friend Steve G. It isn't blooming yet. It must be waiting until Sept 29!  See, mysterious!  Do you grow Asters? I love to read your comments. Tell me what kinds you grow and if you like them, love them or not.  

Happy Gardening!  
And Happy Almost Autumn.  The internet says the first day is Monday 9/23.  

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Sweet Groundcover

I've been in the Los Angeles Geranium Society for about 20 years so you know I love Geraniums and Pelargoniums. 

Here is a species Geranium unlike most of the fancy hybrids everybody grows. Pelargonium ionidiflorum is a ground cover that blooms most of the year. Say "EYE-oh-NID-i-flor-UM".  Latin is easy.  it grows about 3' wide and only about 3" tall. The magenta pink flowers bloom best in full sun. I have several plants in the ground on the south side of my house in blazing sun all day. Annie's Annuals talks about growing it in a hanging basket.  I think it does better in the ground.  In the spring of this year my plants were almost covered in flowers.   Still it blooms in August as well but maybe not as much.  

The species name ionidiflorum comes from the Greek word, ion, which means 'violet color', and the Latin word florum, meaning 'flower'. And of course it comes from South Africa, from where all the cool plants hail.

You can find this plant at many nurseries. Buy one, grow it for awhile and then divide it to spread it around your garden.

See how small the flowers are with my dirty fingers 

Happy Gardening! 

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Special Tree

If you've been following along, you'll know that in February of 2018 we had to have our probably-as-old-as-our-house Cedar tree removed because it kept getting browner and browner. We were heartbroken to lose that tree. Read my 2018 post here Lost Tree.  But I think that a true gardener will mourn the loss of a plant and then start planning what plant could go in its place.

BEFORE we lost the Cedar tree I was exploring my local under the power lines nursery that shall remain nameless. I was poking around and found a couple 15 gallon trees hidden between some Magnolia soulangeana. I thought it was Michelia champaca. I was excited but had to ask. The employee there who knows me asked his boss and confirmed. I had seen this tree available in another nursery for $250 or tiny trees mailordered for $40. They are desirable because from their fragrant flowers Joy perfume is made. Back at my local nursery I asked to be able to buy one tree. They said no, that they were growing them up for larger containers. I begged and the boss relented and sold me one for $85.00. I brought it home and kept it in its pot in the backyard for 6 months.

So, this is the tree that I planted in our front yard where our Cedar tree was. Michelia champaca is related to the Magnolia. It grows only in warm climates and is native to tropical Asia. There are some of the white version at my beloved Disneyland's Haunted Mansion in Anaheim. And actually the people who name plants recently changed the name from Michelia champaca to Magnolia champaca.  They must have decided they were more than just related.  But I hate it when they change names.  


Research says that the tree should grow to about 30' tall and blooms in summer. I've been giving it extra water after that blowtorch weather of 114 we had last year on July 6, 2018. That weather fried some of the top growth. It recovered so I was excited to see its first flower this week. Yay!

Enjoy your summer.  I just try to stay cool, keep from getting heatstroke and keep my garden watered.  Bring on Autumn! 
Happy Gardening!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Snow On The Mountain

Here is a super easy plant that is hard to find. Snow On The Mountain or Euphorbia marginata. One doesn't see it that often and never in nurseries. I hunted for several years after seeing it in a clients garden without luck. I finally found seed and mail ordered it from Baker Creek Seeds. But they don't seem to have it now.  

Like the Pointsettia which is closely related, the flower is the tiny white part not the colorful part. The white and green are actually leaves. I love this plant for contrast and the illusion of light in the garden.

It's an annual that likes warm weather and is native to temperate North America. Set out seeds in Spring, water and stand back. There's nothing to it really. I even had some reseed from last year. They grow to 2-3' tall and like full sun to part shade.

You should try them! Happy Summer Solstice and Happy Gardening!

Wednesday, June 19, 2019


Here is a wonderful plant that I love. It's Tithonia rotundifolia or Mexican Sunflower. This one came up by itself in my vegetable bed from last years plant. I grow it from seed, available at nurseries by Botanical Interests. The flower is about 3" across and attracts butterflies. 

This one came up by itself in my vegetable bed from last years plant. They like heat and sun and grow 2-3 feet tall. 

And they make good cut flowers. 

 The plants will last until frost with a little deadheading. I just bought a packet to sow more in the front yard. Do you grow it? I've only ever seen it in ONE friend's garden.

Happy Gardening!