Tuesday, September 11, 2018

More Than Two Is A Collection?

I started with this one, Gomphrena Fireworks.  It's a fabulous plant that does really well in my garden.  It is available through many local nurseries now and mail-order at Annie's Annuals  It is perennial and has grown for me for about 5 years.  Sometimes it seeds itself in other places in my garden. 

Then I found two others in orange and red.     They are annuals.  They grow through the spring, summer and fall.  Then they start to look crappy and appear to die.   Then they seedlings pop up in many of the worst places; right next to a rose bush, in my pathway or in a space all their own.  

Then I found Gomphrena decumbens through Annie's again.  I posted about it on my blog last November here  Gomphrena decumbens It is an adorable plant. 

I always knew about the common Gomphrena or Globe Amaranth that comes in purple.  It is an annual bedding plant.  I found some late Spring at Home Depot in several colors.  They only grow to about 6" tall and are great for border edging.  

In those several sixpacks I bought were mostly pale pink and white as well as a couple purple! I don't remember seeing those other two colors before.  But they are doing super in my garden.  Maybe they'll reseed too.  If not, I hope I can find them again next year.  Maybe I should save seed!!  

So, if you have more than one of something it becomes a collection, right? So, I collect gomphrena. Do you know of any others?  
Happy Gardening! 

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Black Diamond Crape Myrtle

I love burgundy foliage or any plant that has something other than green leaves.  And I LOVE these new(ish) Black Diamond Crape Myrtles!  They are a bushy type version of the Lagerstroemia trees that are ubiquitous in SoCal but with almost black leaves! Find them at blackdiamondblooms.com   I first heard about them from my friend Steve Gerisher who brought a couple to show at a meeting of the Southern California Horticulture Society a few year ago. He said he got them at Home Depot. I fell in love with them and was on a quest! I searched about 4 HDs in the San Fernando Valley on my way home from a job one day without luck. I finally was able to purchase 2 at a HD in Walnut after visiting my parents in Diamond Bar.  Then they had them in the San Gabriel Valley but not the SFV.  Whatever! I was happy to have 2 colors.  I planted a red one in my front yard and the white one in my back yard.  But I wanted more.  

How gorgeous is this color combo! 

My first Red in the front yard. It's about 5' tall after 3 years. 

Like other Crape Myrtles, they are deciduous in winter, put out leaves in spring and bloom in summer.  Mine are looking lovely right now in the dog days of summer.  This Spring, I bought 3 more- all red. I wasn't able to find more colors. I checked 2 of my local Home Depots without luck.   I planted them in my front yard.   I really want pink and purple now too.   Bushy Crape Myrtles are easily kept at about 6' tall in SoCal.  Regular single trunked tree Crape Myrtles can grow up to 25' tall.  

Bushy Crape Myrtles are easily kept at about 6' tall in SoCal.  Regular single trunked tree Crape Myrtles can grow up to 25' tall.  

Still little but it will grow :-) 

White in the backyard. 

White in the backyard. 

Have you seen these new varieties? They're SO worth growing!  

Happy Gardening! 

Friday, August 24, 2018


I've had this plant for over 10 years. I remember buying it at the South Coast Plaza Flower Show and accidentally breaking off the first flower before I even got it home. I had to wait a year to see another flower. It's called Odontonema callistachyum. Say Oh-daunt-oh-neem-uh CAl-E-stack-E-um. That's a mouthful! Research says a common name is Purple Firestrike. But the plant is so uncommon that I've never heard it called that. 

The spent flowers take on a fuzzy texture. 

I planted it in the ground at our house about 6 years ago on the east side. It likes part shade.  Said to grow 6' tall, mine is about 7' tall and almost completely obscures one of my rain barrels. It is native to Mexico so may be a little susceptible to frost. Mine has had no damage. It is a little mysterious as to when it flowers. It seems to bloom sometimes here or there.  Annie's Annuals says it blooms winter through spring.  But this is August! So, who knows.  

There is also a red version that's Odontonema stricta.

Happy Gardening!

Monday, August 6, 2018

Who Doesn't Like Lantana?

I apologize for skipping July here dear readers.   It was all I could do to just water my own garden(and work in others).  We had the hottest July on record they say.  On 7/6 we had blowtorch weather of 114º here at my house.  I lost 3 rose bushes and several other plants.  The there were so many days in the upper 90s.  I can take 90º easily compared to 114º!   My new little Michelea champaca tree that replaced out giant Cedar is still trying to recover from burned leaves.  Anything that is tropical or has big leaves like Nandina, Raphiolepis, Avocados got burned.  I'm still seeing 4' brown tops of Eugenia street trees in South Pasadena. August is usually the killer.  I don't like it.  Get this summer over with please!  But to think on the bright side, every August day we get through is one we don't have to do again and are that closer to Autumn! 


I thought I didn't like Lantana way back when I worked at the nursery. They smell kinda bitter like grapefruit.   Then I began working in gardens around them and also smelled a sort of aftertaste fragrance.  It starts out bitter then turns sweet like(those tv commercials for) Sour Patch Kids!  Lantana are ubiquitous here in the LA area.  Why? Because they are easy, fast growing, drought tolerant and bloom for a really long time.  Isn't that what everyone wants in a plant?  Except for a prolong hard frost, they are mostly indestructible! I've never lost a Lantana to frost here.  They usually get just a little frost burned tips.  But fast growth also means it may need pruning twice a year if it gets too chummy with plants around it.  If it grows over another plant, Lantana will block the light and may kill it.  So get used to cutting it down. Pruning won't kill it. Oh, I almost forgot- it attracts hummingbird AND butterflies.   

Research says that they are native to the tropical Americas and Africa.   In Australia they are trying to control them from being invasive.  There are many varieties of Lantana, but two basic kinds; trailing are L. montevidensis and upright are L. camara.   I grow 4 varieties in my garden right now.  

Lantana camera "Radiation"
a pale pink peachy one in my garden without a tag. 

Here is a yellow one in my garden spilling out into the street. 

I also grow a pink variety called Lantana "Malibu Beach Cities" that is supposed to be compact growing.  But it is taking a break from flowering right now so no pic.  

On my evening walk I saw this Lantana above growing over an 8' chainlink fence! 

Here I am with it to show how tall that Lantana is! 

 Below please see how much you can cut back Lantana.  That twig at the bottom middle left is it.  I whacked one of mine here about a week ago. It's still green inside the branches. It'll pop any day now despite the 97º it is outside! 

Lantana super whacked in my garden. 

Do you grow Lantana?  
Happy Gardening!

Tuesday, June 26, 2018


Most people know Impatiens wallerina.   Nobody says the "wallerina" part though.  EVERYONE just says "Impatiens".  It's understood.  In SoCal they are grown all over and in my opinion are the best annual plants for shade/partial sun color.   They get almost covered in flowers and sometimes carry over through the winter depending on if we get a frost.  I knew about Impatiens balsamina a long time ago.  Some just say "Balsam".   My late garden guru friend Alice grew it sometimes.  You never see the plants in nurseries though.  It is a taller, thicker Impatiens than Impatiens wallerina and can take full sun. The flowers are set inside the plant on the stem instead of on top like I. wallerina.  It is native to southern Asia and is said to be used for many traditional health remedies. AND like regular Impatiens they have exploding seed pods!  If you see one that's really fat, touch it and it will quickly and quietly open and fling the seeds far away from the plant. I love to show people that. It's fun! 

So, when I was ordering Zinnia seeds online from Baker Creek Seeds back in March, I also got some Balsam "Peppermint Sticks" seeds to grow for the first time.  I am a sucker for stripes and splotches on flowers! I love what it says on the back of the seed packet, "One of the grooviest balsam varieties in years, double scarlet flowers are splashed in white, very beautiful and unique looking".  Got my seeds and planted them in 4" pots. I like to do that before setting them out in the garden.  After about a month of sprouting and growth, I planted a bunch of them in the ground.  

Here is what they look like now.  Yes, they are beautiful! 

They haven't made any seed pods yet. But I will be watching :-) 
Here are some growing with other plants. 

This is the stems of one of them.  It must be about 2" thick! Reported to get 18" tall, my tallest one is already 30"in height!

And of course growing from seed, I have more than I needed.  I will probably sell these at the next Southern California Horticulture Society meeting on Thurs. July 12. Come if you're in the LA area.  

They're fun.  We'll see what happens as they progress or if they make it through the winter.  Do you grow Balsam?  

Happy Gardening! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Cute Groundcover

I'm always on the hunt for an unusual plant. Once you've done something for a long time whether it's collecting or gardening one can get tired of the common, everyday, ubiquitous. I've seen all the same plants all over. I get excited about a plant I haven't seen before.

Last year I was in Lincoln Avenue Nursery in Pasadena and bought this little plant called Dalea capitata Sierra Gold. I had never seen it before or even heard of it. It's a desert plant native to Mexico. I was attracted to the little ferny leaves, red stems and tiny yellow flowers. Reported to grow only 8" tall by 3' wide, mine is already 2' wide in one year. And it's trying to swallow up an Iris. 

It's very drought tolerant and likes well drained soil. Research says overwatering leads to early death! That's why it's happy in my sandy soil. It's in Fabaceae - the Pea family. That's why it has cute little pea flowers. Usually all in that family make seed pods after flowering. But I've yet to see any.

You can see my wine bottle border for scale and that the plant is about to devour an Iris.  

It's cute, right?  Do you grow this plant?  
Happy Gardening! 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Mexican Tulip Poppy

Here is a wonderful Poppy from Mexico, Hunnemannia fumarifolia. It has leaves similar to our California Poppies, Eschscholzia californica but bigger and a little bluer. This perennial grows to about 2' tall.  With a big show in the spring, it then blooms off and on through the year with those bright yellow flowers with orange anthers.  You can see the long seedpods forming in the pic below. 

Named after John Hunnemann, an English botanist. And the species part means "like Fumaria", of which I had never heard.

Super easy to grow and drought tolerant, it's the brightest thing in my garden this week! I bought mine at Matilija Nursery a couple years agp.  But I have seen them at other nurseries around lately.  Do you grow Mexican Tulip Poppy?


Happy Gardening!