Monday, December 30, 2013

Ready for Rose Pruning

Today I began rose pruning for my clients. I usually do over 2000 bushes between the last week of December and the first few weeks of February. Today I pruned 11 bushes. I ADORE my Felco #2 pruners and won't use anything else. My friend Sharon sent me a bunch of replacement blades last year. So I busted out one tonight, cleaned my pruners and replaced the old worn blade. This is only my 3rd pair of Felcos since about 1990!

How many bushes do you think I'll prune this season? I have to do my own 200 something between jobs. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas

Whatever you celebrate, enjoy the flowers. This looked like candy canes to me and is blooming now in my garden. It's a Zonal Pelargonium(Geranium) called Freckles.  I love those stripes!

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Design Inside

As I was cleaning up and planting in my yard yesterday I found something interesting. Salvia farinacea "Victoria Blue" is an easy common summer perennial that many treat as an annual. Cheap that I am, I try to save them by cutting them back. You can tell on a Salvia when new growth appears at the base of the plant that it's ok to whack it. I had already cut back many of the Blue Salvias because the tops looked crappy. But on this one I left a stubby trunk. It bothered me so I cut it shorter and saw this purple design inside. It looks like a butterfly or a shamrock. I honestly don't know if it's supposed to be there or is some disease. Most Salvias make many stems instead of a big trunk. So I had never seen this before. Have you?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Autumn Color

I bought this plant last Spring for it's pretty variegated foliage. That white in the leaves really pops in the garden. It's called Hemizygia. Say HEM-e-ZEE-gee-uh. I planted it under our big Cedar tree as it likes part shade. I had seen it's lovely pink blooms at a friends house afterwards. Native to Australia(all the good plants are!) it blooms late Autumn through Spring. As I was watering this afternoon I saw it beginning to bloom. It's about time! Yay! Grows to about 3' tall. Prune after bloom.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

New or Used?

I was pruning a large Buddleia (Butterfly bush) this week at a job when I found a whole bunch of Praying Mantis egg sacks. At first glance it's difficult to tell if they are new(with babies inside) or used and empty. All are glued to branches and hard. Since I was trimming branches anyway, I brought them home. In this photo you can see closer. Can you tell? The whitish one is new with eggs. The two brown ones have tiny pin holes down the center edge. That's where the babies came out. I took the white one and taped it to a stake on one of my Purple Hopseed Bushes in my backyard. I'll be watching in March and April to see them hatch. Keep an eye out for these in your yard.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Autumn Iris

This is a post for those who think Bearded Iris only bloom in Spring. Here are three Iris blooming in my garden right now. They call these "reblooming" Iris.   Bearded Iris like full or mostly sun, well-drained soil and moderate water and are great companion plants for roses and other perennials.

The yellow is Pure As Gold.

 The burgandy & yellow is called Blatant.

And the white with the slightest bluish tint is Aspen which is it's first bloom for me. 

I have learned a lot from my year and a half in the San Fernando Valley Iris Society  The way to really learn how to grow certain kinds of plants is to join a garden club. I'm also in two rose societies(24 yrs) and the Los Angeles Geranium Society(15 yrs). You meet like minded people, go on garden tours, get access to more plants and learn how to grow them better. If you love plants, find a garden club in your area and go to a meeting!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Plant That Sounds Like A Disease

Every time I identify this plant,  people say "That sounds like a disease!".  The plant is Plumbago auriculata.  It comes from South Africa(Again- all the cool plants do!) and has beautiful powder blue flowers. It also comes in white. But WHO WANTS THAT WHEN YOU CAN HAVE BLUE?  Research shows that Auriculata means "Ears or ear shaped appendages". Uh, ok.  And that helps how?  Maybe it means what the flowers look like in bud.

 It is kind of an obnoxious grower and I haven't decided if I should plant it in my own garden. These photos were taken at one of my jobs.  The color was so beautiful that I had to stop and photograph.
 It grows in a pile about 4-5  feet tall and wide.  But it will also sort of climb up other plants and one day you'll see it up there 10 feet tall.  The thing I don't like about it is that the spent flowers are sticky.  When you're working around it, they'll stick to you and you'll end up having them all over your clothes. Because it comes from a Mediterranean climate(like ours), it does well here but is susceptible to frost.  I have seen them get frost burned but never killed. It is a tough plant.  

Monday, November 18, 2013

Star Zinnias

I had the regular big flowered Zinnias that I grew from seed blooming all summer. I yanked them about 2 months ago because they were done.   There is a different Zinnia called Star Zinnias. They grow low to the ground(8") with small flowers(1") and come in white, yellow and orange.  I always look for them and don't often find them in Spring.    I found these Star Zinnias late in the season and actually cursed my friend Jen for having them at her nursery because I wanted them and it was getting too hot to plant.   I bought a flat of plants and set them out on both walkways in late June.  I had also ordered 2 packets of seed(really difficult to find) and none of them came up :-( 

 These plants are still blooming their heads off on my east facing walkway. I LOVE them!  They are still annuals and will die if it gets too cold.  Sometimes they reseed themselves.  I hope so.  You can see some of my Freesia bulbs coming up between the orange ones.  Now that we're finally getting some cooler weather and overcast days, the colors really show up here.  

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


Chrysanthemum time is starting in SoCal! Mums are a wonderful herbaceous perennial for us. You pinch them back through the summer. They bloom in Autumn. They get cut back to the ground after blooms fade(usually in Dec). And they start to grow back soon afterwards.

Most mums that you buy in nurseries bloom short when you get them. If you don't plant them in the ground, you might as well chuck them. They look crappy and snails will eat them.

I had 2 mums that I bought at the Chrysanthemum booth at the LA Co Arboretum plant sale about 4 years ago. Special Mums just aren't sold in nurseries around here. Last March I searched online and found Kings Mums. They custom root cuttings when you order them. I placed my order and in a month they sent them. I potted them into 4" pots for a month and set them into the garden in early May. I pinched them and am now getting my first blooms. I am still waiting for the fancy weird brush like ones to open.

There is a Mum show this weekend at Descanso Gardens. Maybe I'll have a bit of time to go on Sun. I'll be at the Santa Clarita Valley Rose show on Sat. I am missing a cactus show this weekend at the Arboretum and a family thing on Sat. Busy Autumn!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Hummingbird Moth

Sorry that I haven't posted very much lately.  We just got back from a vacation trip to TOKYO, Japan! It was my first time out of the US and it was amazing.  So a lot of October was spent planning the trip and getting someone to water my garden while we were gone(THANK YOU GREGORY & JOEY!).  Now I am working on the 1400 photos we took together on 4 devices(2 cameras and 2 phones) .  It's a BIG job.

Anyway this might not be exotic to you if you live somewhere other than SoCal.  But when we were in Tokyo, near Ueno Park at this one shrine we saw hummingbird moths!  I have never seen one before because we just don't have them in dry SoCal.  

It was flitting about another thing that we don't have in SoCal called a Toad Lily or Tricyrtus which is native to Asia.  I know this has nothing to do with SoCal Gardening.  Just a little exotic interlude!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Sweet Pea Time!

Just a note of reminder that it's time to plant Sweet Pea seeds in SoCal! I planted mine about 10 days ago and a few are sprouting! I hope all of them sprout. But they seem to be finicky the last few years for me. Last year I had to try seeds 3 times! So don't wait! We have to wait long enough for flowers!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Red Shrimp Plant

Most gardeners in SoCal know the common Shrimp Plant, Justicia brandegeana.  The flowers are shrimply shaped orange with white.  Well, I have this special Shrimp plant that I don't remember buying.  I've had it in a pot for a long time and planted it in the ground here about a year ago.  Most Justicias(and there are bunches of them) bloom off and on throughout the year.  This one only blooms in Autumn and has more red and no white in it and is shaped a little more whirlybird-ish than the regular one. Research says it may be called "Red Pine Cone".  But I'm not positive.  

Justicias can take full sun.  But I find they do best in part shade.  Mine gets morning sun on the east side under dappled light from our huge Cedar tree.  

We had a bunch of wind the past couple days which made the branches lay down despite most of the plant being staked.  So I cut them and put them in a vase.  Pretty!  I love that color! 

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Dwarf Pink Powderpuff

If you've been following along, you know my love for all plants Australian.   My theory is most flowers that look like they're made of stamens come from Australia.  It's just a theory.   This plant, Calliandra (CAL-ee-AN-dra) haematocephala nana or Dwarf Pink Powderpuff is native to Bolivia.  But Calliandras originate in Asia, Africa, the Americas and Australia.  

Most people in SoCal know the common Pink Powderpuff or Calliandra haematocephala.  It is a lax growing sprawling plant that will grow 8-10 feet.  Where do you grow such a plant?  It's grown on a trellis mostly or kept trimmed and becomes a large shrub.  It also has those leaflets(little leaf parts make up a whole leaf) that close up at night.  That is called nychinastic.  

I have always loved those pink stamen-y flowers. I was happy to know that there was a dwarf version. I found in on the internet and mail ordered it last year.  It was just a tiny 2" pot when I received it. I repotted it to a 1 gallon size right away and let it grow up for a few months.  Last Fall I planted it in the ground and today it's about 16" tall and flowering.  Calliandras bloom off and on all year here but are tender to a hard frost.  Mine did not suffer this past winter when we had about 4 nights of frost. Maybe because it's planted under our huge Deodar Cedar tree. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

California Fuchsia

Oh, the confusion of plant names. This is not a Fuchsia but is commonly called California Fuchsia. It is Zauschneria californica (zowsh-NAIR-E-a).  Now I read that it's not really a Zauschneria but Epilobium canum.   Whatever!   I'm still calling it Zauschneria.   It is beautiful in my yard right now!  I adore that reddish orangey color.  The plant is happily growing in my super sandy soil whilst I dug out 5 dead roses this morning :-( 

I bought this at The Huntington
Library & Gardens' Fall plant sale last year.  Their Fall sale this year is on Oct. 26-27.  This variety is actually Zauschneria californica "Carman's Grey" and grows to about 4 feet.  It blooms in Autumn and the hummingbirds love it. You can also find different varieties of Zauschneria at Matilija Nursery.  There are 60 some varieties of Zauschneria.  Some have greener leaves and some are groundcovers. But they all seem to have this beautiful brightly colored flower. 

If you love this color and want to be awed and thoroughly impressed, try this google image search google zauschneria

Zauschnerias are a California native which means they want little water and like our hot summers.  Hey, why doesn't that work for me? I'm a CA native!!  ;-)   I didn't used to be able to grow natives when I gardened in containers because growing 200 roses takes a lot of water(and kills drought tolerant plants in pots).  But now that I have my own ground and the water runs right down and away here in Burbank, CA natives are looking better and better! 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Uncommon Plant For Fragrance

While my roses are still frying, here is a plant that is doing very well in my yard this week.  It is Clerodendrum philippinum.  It is an uncommon plant so I've never really heard anyone call it by its common name; Chinese Glory Bower.   Research finds it called "Cashmere Bouquet" on one website.  Oh really?    It is native to Asia, likes part shade and will grow 4-8 ft.  Being tropical, it can't take a hard frost.  But even though we had several nights of it here this past winter, my plant did not suffer. As with most Clerodendrum the leaves are kind of stinky with good smelling flowers.  The flowers are super fragrant!   I've had this plant for about 10 years(it's probably longer because it always is!).

 If you've been following along you know that we moved into this house 3 years ago. I'm almost done planting the yard.  I've still got a bunch of backyard to do. But I had a little of the front yard near the house to finish.  I planted a few plants near our kitchen and dining room windows in the summer(LIKE I SHOULDN'T).  But because it's sort of an alcove and faces east with some shade from our Tangerine tree, the plants are doing well.   This Clerodenrum was in a 7 gallon can for many years.

I wish you could smell it.

What a fluffy rosebud of flowers!    There are many kinds of Clerodendrum.  At the moment I have 2. I used to have maybe 5 different varieties.  Some are travelers, meaning they can be invasive like C. bungeii that has pink flowers.  But with beautiful fragrant flowers, sometimes it's worth fighting them :-) I'll have to find C. bungeii again.

In the Los Angeles area, we can grow so many wonderful plants.   For so long I thought that going on trips I would see fabulous plants that I'd never see at home.  Even though I have yet to encounter a Peony and haven't been to Indonesia or the Philippines, I haven't really seen any plants in the US that we don't have here.  Hawaii DID have many unusual things.  So if you're in the southland, seek out the unusual stuff and grow something different!

Friday, August 30, 2013

The Dog Days Of Summer

I haven't posted in awhile or so because we finally got to the "Dog Days" of summer.  That includes temps up to 105º!  I spend my precious mornings working in other people's gardens.  Gotta make a living.  When I get home it's too freakin' hot to go outside!  I wait to hand water my whole yard(takes me 1 1/2 hrs) until evening.  This means I can't really do anything in my own garden but water!

What is blooming its head off in my backyard vegetable garden is Garlic Chives.  It was supposed to be regular Chives, the tag said.  But regular Chives have pink flowers and don't grow as big.  I am not the best cook.  But I do cut these leaves and use them in sauce for dipping potstickers/Chinese dumplings.  This plant is about 1 foot across and the flowers are about 1 1/2 feet tall.

And you can see the female praying mantis below that I found while watering this evening(and the fried rose blooms behind it).  I see them most days in my clients gardens. But I've only seen 2 in my garden.

If you enjoy my blog or have a question please comment!  It's super easy to register.  And then I'll know that people read this. Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Before this year, I hadn't grown Coleus in about 15 years. I had terrible luck with them back then. They got botrytis(which is a furry fungus you might have seen on old fruit) and turned icky enough to yank the plant. So I thought I couldn't grow them. That was when I was gardening in containers because we rented. Now that we have our own house and garden(3rd anniversary already here 2 weeks ago) I thought I'd give them another go.

Research shows "Coleus" is now a common name. The latin name is Solenostemon scutellarioides.  That's a long one! And usually I am fanatical about using botanical names, but Coleus will have to stay for me! They're native to Southeast Asia and Malaysia.  Here in SoCal they do best in part shade. I planted mine on the east side of the house under our huge Deodor Cedar tree and by our porch. You can also see my bottle border in this first photo.

I love burgandy and purple foliage because it shows up so well amongst everything green.   There are SO Many different types and colors of Coleus.  There are ones with pink, orange, red and combos and fluffy edges and stripes, golden with green in the leaves.   I was limited by what I found in my local nurseries.  And I was skeptical so I only tried a few.  I was looking for one in particular that I saw this Spring at the South Coast Plaza Garden Show that was green with purple veins. So gorgeous, but they didn't have it for sale and I couldn't find it.  Maybe next year!  

 I adore ORANGE and had to have this Coleus.  It's so pretty in the garden!   Coleus get tall and leggy.  Like Basil, Fuchsias, Iresine and Chrysanthemums, often pinching will produce a bushier leafy plant .  If you don't know, "pinching" is pruning with your nails instead of clippers.  The tender new growth is super easy to "pinch".  I actually think it's fun.

They have been wonderful!  Watch out for snails and slugs as they can be damaging to the plants.  With my sandy soil I haven't seen ANY of them.  The plants probably won't make it through the winter.  But one never knows. I have an Impatiens that I've had in a pot for several years.  

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Blue Succulent

 This is a beautiful blue succulent from South Africa(where so many wonderful plants originate) called Senecio mandraliscae.  It's sometimes called "Blue Fingers" because that's what it looks like. It grows about 1- 2 feet tall and about 3-4 feet wide.  I adore blue foliage because it is such a pretty contrast to everything else that is green. And 90% of plants are green.   

I had one pot of it when we moved.  I separated it into about 6 pieces and that had roots and a few that that were just cuttings. Succulents are so easy to grow from cuttings.  You just cut off a piece of the plant, remove about 2-3 inches of the lower leaves and stick the stem in the ground. Water a bit and there ya go!   The plant will grow.  I planted them around the edge of my front garden by the street as we don't have sidewalks. In about 1, 1/2 years they are about 2-3 feet across already!   

This plant takes full sun. It is drought tolerant when established but will tolerate water too.  In our super sandy soil they have been very happy.  

They started to flower.  But in my opinion, this plant is better grown for it's foliage than it's flowers.  As you can see in the photo below, the flowers just make it look kind of messy.  

So I have been cutting off all the flowers to make a nice tidy plant.     What do you think, flowers or no flowers?  Let me know.  

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Pink Angel's Trumpet

I was very happy to catch this moment in a photo. This is an Angel's Trumpet or Brugmansia suaveolens. While the common variety, my white one blooms freely and for many days, this pink variety blooms only briefly. I got this plant from a friend when she moved to a colder climate so I don't know which variety it is. Research shows there to be many different pinks.

Brugmansia are native to South America and all parts of the plant are poisonous. I don't think it's dangerous to grow toxic plants. It's just good to know not to eat them.

Because it is native to tropical climates, it is frost tender. In the Los Angeles area this winter we had several bouts of extreme cold. I missed the first night and woke up to burned leaf edges. I covered the plants with sheets the next few nights. It was amazing how quickly they recovered. About a month later we had severe hail that shredded the foliage. Again the plants recovered.

Angel's Trumpets come in white, pink and yellow. Fast growing in sun or shade, it is a wonderful plant.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Fresh Crop

This is what I found this afternoon on my Blueberry plants. A fresh crop of baby grasshoppers must have just hatched! Ugh! In case you didn't know, grasshoppers are bad for gardeners. They eat flowers and leaves and I hate them! I squished a few and mixed up some water & dish soap and sprayed them all. I hope that I killed most of them. But I had never seen so many little ones together like that. Ugh!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

So Many Zinnias

I am really loving Zinnias this year.   It is my first year growing them from seed.  I started them in 4 inch pots in the backyard in April because I was afraid they'd get lost in the garden.   Then about 6 weeks later in May I set them out into the ground in the front yard between my roses.  My favorites are the Giant Double flowers.  The green ones didn't turn out too great. And I don't adore the Cactus Flowered ones as much.  The "Thumbelina" variety are really cute and get a ton of flowers. 

The only problem so far is with the tall ones.  Even though I staked them, they get 3 feet tall and some of the branches get too heavy and break.  But usually I see them when they're half broken and laying down. I just cut them and put the good flowers in a vase to enjoy indoors.

I really love this variety called Peppermint Stick.  I adore striped flowers of all sorts.  

So you should try some Zinnias too.  It is really too late(and too hot here) to plant them now.  Now I know which ones I prefer and will grow lots more next year!

Thursday, July 11, 2013


Clivia usually come in orange. And in SoCal this easy to grow plant from South Africa is in every shady spot you can imagine. It is named for Lady Clive so say Clive-ee-uh (like hive).

I have 2 of my yellow Clivias blooming today.... IN JULY! That's crazy! This is a plant that's supposed to bloom late winter. That's Feb & March for us. And they did! This yellow Clivia I got from my friend Michael way back when yellows were out of my price range probably about 17 years ago. I separated it into 4 clumps and planted them in the ground here at our about-to-be 3 year new house. They are happy and growing and somewhat confused but I love them.

Yellow is rare for shady spots. Impatiens, Begonias, Camellias, Azaleas nor other shady plants come in yellow! So it's nice to have it! I'm not complaining :-)

In my photo is also the lovely red leaved Iresine in back and Begonia richmondensis to the right.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Japanese Maple Ousted!

I feel like I must apologize for removing a small tree. We took out a Japanese Maple. It came with the house.   I do adore most Japanese Maples or Acer palmatum varieties.  They come in many different leaf shapes in red and green.  I have a red one with deeply cut foliage called Acer p. "Crimson Queen" and a variegated Acer p. "Butterfly" in pots that I've had for 20 years that will go in the ground soon.  But this one was just green.  All it did was take up space and the leaves got burned every year. Last year it even put on and lost 2 sets of leaves because it dropped all the burned ones in the summer and then replaced them.  
The first photo shows a bit of the tree on the far right.  

 The second photo shows it on the far left before we removed it.

 The third photo now shows the corner of the fence where the tree was. It had a trunk on it about 5" thick and was about 7' tall. I cut most of the branches with my loppers and my little folding saw.  Then we dug out the trunk.

 Bye bye little tree.  But now I can plant more roses or something else :-)   I've often said that a true gardener will mourn a lost plant for awhile but then get excited about what they can plant in it's place!

Happy Gardening!