Wednesday, January 19, 2022


 Ahoy all.  After telling many of my clients about which annuals do best for cool weather in SoCal, I thought maybe I'd tell you too.  Let me start with why this is an issue.  There are many annuals that DON'T do well.  Everybody loves Pansies.  But they get crown rot and 3/4 of them die even if you plant them high like you're supposed to. I get around that problem by only planting some in pots in my own garden. Lately even Violas are having the same issue.  Snapdragons are pretty.  But often they sit for a few months before flowering.  I don't have time for that! And I have seen small caterpillars eat the flowers inside the bud before it even opens.  Iceland Poppies are beautiful when I see them. But squirrels will eat the plant down to a nub. So, what is left?  Calendulas! 

Calendula is a cool season annual native to Asia, Europe and the Mediterranean.  It was used as a medicinal herb to combat headaches, fever and toothaches and is said to have anti-inflammatory properties. It is also edible though I've never tried it.  The foliage is kinda stinky.     Colors available are yellow, orange and some mixtures.  They are great in borders or companions for roses and Irises because they only get about 8" tall and wide.  I plant them in Autumn and they'll last until it gets hot.  I do have two clients who can keep them through the summer. And sometimes they will reseed and pop up here and there.  I end up yanking mine to get in summer annuals BEFORE it gets too hot usually in May. It's nice to get 6 months out of an annual.  They do best with a little deadheading. And they will last for several days as a cut flower with a short stem. 

Yellow and orange are the most common. 

Last fall in October I was really to plant and I couldn't find them in my local under-the-power-lines nursery(who is cheaper than other nurseries).  So I went to another good nursery and spent triple the money and got what I could find.  They ended up being a mixture and I got some really pretty colors.  

I love this peachy one!  

And this one with the dark center is really pretty!

Here is that peachy one all the way open to show that dark eye. 

 One of my favorite things about Calendulas is that the petals feel like bird feathers.  They're super soft and pettable.  So, we still have time for you to plant some Calendulas here in SoCal if you want.  Enjoy! 

Happy Gardening! 

Saturday, January 15, 2022

30 Year Old Staghorn Fern

 Ahoy all.  I haven't posted in a year and a half.  Did you miss me?  I kinda stopped because I rarely get comments and it doesn't seem worthwhile if you aren't reading.  So, if you want me to post more, please let me know.

On Christmas Eve I backed out of our driveway on my way to work and noticed that my 30 year old Staghorn Fern -Platycerium bifurcatum had fallen.  The chain finally completely rusted away and the plant was sitting on the ground.  Luckily there were no plants underneath is to get crushed! I planted that fern 5 houses ago when I still worked at a nursery back in maybe 1990!  

This is the plant that when people come to my garden they say "What IS that?" I've had it for so long and except for a few surgeries it's no trouble.  When we were house hunting I wanted a tree for my Staghorn fern.  I knew that if the house had all the other things I wanted but no tree, I would have given the fern away.  But our Ash tree holds it fine!  

Long ago I began with a 12" wire basket.  What you do is place wet green moss inside the basket lining it completely. Then fill with some potting soil. Then set one or more stag horn ferns on top.  You can use fishing line(or whatever works) to tie it down because there are no roots to hold it up.  The fern grows shields that anchors it to the basket(or if mounted on wood) and spreads by spores(or magic) to eventually cover the whole basket.  It gets watered when I water the rest of the garden.  

New baby shield groping

And the plant being a fern spreads by spores to make more shields and antlers. 

brown spores

Back to the present.  I thought UGH, that is going to be a ton of surgery to cut into it to find the old wire basket(assuming it has not disintegrated) to attach new chain.  Then I bought the wrong chain at a nursery and had to go to Home Depot to buy stainless steel chain.  I spent too much money.   Then my Rick offered a different solution, to make a circle of chain with three chains attached too it, essentially cradling the fern.  Yay, less work and no surgery!  

So, Rick bought even more chain and made the cradle.  We put it under and around the fern.   He bought pulleys to lift it with rope.   We had it all harnessed and tried to lift it.  It was still too wet as we had enjoyed 6" of rain before and after Christmas.   So we waited a week.  It was still too heavy.  

So, it sat for 2 weeks sitting on a milk crate to dry out.  

Today it got lifted!  It's too low in my opinion.  But we'll wait to adjust it.  

Here I am with my old friend.

Do you grow a Staghorn Fern?  I'd love to hear about it.  Thanks for reading.  

Happy Gardening! 

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Another Flame Vine

We're in the dog days of summer now and it was 100° here in Burbank today. I hope you all are well. 

I was at a job in Temple City today and afterwards thought I'd visit San Gabriel Nursery(like I shouldnt!) since I was out there. I spotted a flower from a distance that I've been hunting for about 15 years! It's Combretum fruticosum or Orange Flame Vine. 

It has orange toothbrush like flowers and is native to South America. I love orange flowers and even already grow another "Flame Vine", Pyrostegia venusta. The nursery has probably had this plant for many years because it was super root bound. I just didn't notice it before because I was being good and not plant shopping in summer. And the leaves aren't very distinctive. I had tried to root this plant from cuttings from a friend unsuccessfully several times. And I even tried to get him to air layer it for me. None worked. 

And I have tried to find it to mail order without luck. So I am very HAPPY to finally have it. I was NOT so happy when I saw the price. $$ YIKES! There were none smaller. So I had to buy it. As I've said many times, you HAVE to buy the unusual when you see it because it might not be there next time.

I took it home and right away repotted it up into a 7 gal can to wait out the summer heat. Thank you San Marcos Growers for still growing it and SAN Gabriel Nursery for having it in stock. Now I have to figure out where to plant this vine.

Happy Gardening and stay well all!

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Cute Passion Vine

I hope you are all still well in this still crazy pandemic world. Besides working in clients gardens, I'm mostly staying close to my own garden. We have hot summers in LA and the fig beetles flying around bonking into everything are super annoying. 

I always say smart gardeners don't plant in the heat of the summer. It's harder for plants to establish new roots in hot weather. I try to not plant anything in the ground after the last day on June.

Tiny flowers of Passiflora sanguinolenta 

But I did kinda break my own rule last week and stopped at La Crescenta Nursery. I tried to resist a vine but could not. I thought long and hard about where I'd plant it before I bought it as a vine needs a different kind of commitment. It's Passiflora sanguinolenta. Sanguine means blood red. And even though this is pink, the name refers to some of this species that are blood red. The leaves are unusual and the flowers tiny for a Passion flower, about 1, 1/2" And if you've been following along you know I've said that you have to buy the unusual when you see it for it may not be there when you return. It is said to want part shade inland and originates from Ecuador.  Passifloras are usually monsters.  The fruiting variety P. edulis can swallow a tree.  Thats why I tried to resist.  But this variety is said to be good for small gardens. One site said it'll reach 9' instead of the 30' or so the other varieties will travel. 

Unusual winged leaves. 

So I potted it up from it's one gallon pot into a 2 gallon pot. I cut some bamboo canes to make a teepee for it. Being that it was long on its stake in the 1 gal. pot, it filled out nicely on its taller teepee. It'll stay in this pot until cooler weather in Oct. hopefully or Nov. can be planted in the ground on a bit of fence on the east side of the house between properties.  

In it's 2 gallon pot. 

I hope your garden is giving you some solace in these crazy times.  I am lucky to have mine.  Stay well. 

Happy Gardening! 

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Burgundy Foliage Part 2

Ahoy all. I hope you are still well amidst the pandemic going on.    Here in the Los Angeles area we had protests and over the hill there were riots, looting and violence.  We are fine.  But the world is kinda messy right now.  Stay safe and well.  

I love burgundy foliage plants so much, here is part two.  It's the contrast of all the green plants next to purple foliage that compliments everybody.  And the more colorful the leaves, the more they POP! 

Let's begin with Alternanthera dentata Purple Knight.  It is a mounding plant that may or may not survive frost.  I've had mine for maybe 5 years but it's close to the house for a little protection.  Alternanthera are native to Central and South America.  So, they really only like zones 9-11.   Most of SoCal(except the beaches) is zone 9.  I remember lots of them in Hawaii.  So, we are lucky to be able to grow them here.  Those little creamy dried flowers come in the Fall and stay until you cut them off.  The plant can take some sun and some shade.  It wants to grow kinda gangly to about 3 feet.  But I like it better when it stays bushy.  One has to pinch it a couple times a year to make it this way.  And I cut off any branches that cross into neighbor plants because it can be vigorous and want to cover up another.  I even had had some seedlings come up nearby.  But it's the dark purple leaves that I adore! 
Alternanthera next to Hypoestes.  
Here is another Alternanthera, with the variety being Brazilian Red Hot.  I LOVE this one so much that I look for it every year! It's quite more frost tender that Purple Knight and I've lost many.  When I find some in nurseries, I'll buy several. The one pictured here is 2 years old.  I only have the one now because I haven't found more yet. It is said to grow 2' tall.  But then there I am again with the pinching. So mine is only about 8" tall.  It's SO PRETTY! 

Alternanthera Brazillian Red Hot

Here is the only succulent in the group that I have. It's Aeonium arboreum atropurpureum.  Say "A-oh-NEE-um".  This plant is native to the Canary Islands and grows like a weed. I bought one plant and split it into 3 and planted them separately in my garden.  They grow so wide that I keep having to rip some out.  The one in the pic keeps growing into my path.   It's easy and loves my sandy soil.  It will grow 3-5'! Mine stay about 2' tall and get about 4' wide. They sometimes get clusters of yellow flowers in summer and grow best when part shaded.  

Aenoium arboreum atropurourea

 There are SO Many Begonias, I couldn't tell you the name of this one. I won it at a Southern California Horticultural Society meeting about 2 years ago and it had no tag.  But I love the foliage.  It occasionally makes pink and white flowers. But who cares! Those leaves are fabulous!  Sometimes fancy Begonias are fussy. This one is not! It grew so well, that I recently had to repot it into a bigger container.  I keep it right by our front door with eastern exposure so it gets a little morning sun only.  

Sometimes the new leaves looks SO DARK! 

Here is that one flower it had recently.  

 I know that I've posted about this plant before but I had to include it.  Iresine herbstii or Bloodleaf Plant is another gorgeous foliage plant. No one I know calls it by that common  name. It grows to about 4 feet if not pruned and is native the the American Tropics.  It keeps that great color in part shade.  If grown in more sun the color tends to bleach away leaving a rusty look.  I grow mine in eastern or northern exposure.  It is also another great plant for pinching to keep it bushy.  

Here is an herbaceous perennial,  Aster laterflorus 'Prince'.  It grows in the warm weather and is cut down to almost nothing in winter.  And OhMyGosh, they changed the name to Symphyotrichum lateriflorum.    Whatever! It's still an Aster to me.  It grows to about 24" tall and wide.  I've divided my plant a couple times in the maybe 4 years that I've grown it.  Of course I bought it for that black foliage!  But soon it will be covered in pink with red centered little daisies.  So cute! 

Aster laterflorus Prince next to an Iris & an Echinacea
the first of it's flowers coming

I needed something to fill a spot from where I had moved another plant and wanted something that gets about 4' tall. I was at Green Thumb Growing Grounds in Canoga Park this week and spotted a big block of orange foliage. I'd seen it in previous years but resisted in the past.  It's Berberis thunbergii Orange Rocket or one of the many Japanese Barberries.   It has thorns and goes mostly deciduous here in winter.  It looks to have an upright nature rather than a rounded shrubby nature which is perfect for my spot in the garden.  I planted it in the ground yesterday.  I love the orangey leaves. Look how it stands out next to green! It's not burgundy but I am still including it here.  

Berberis Orange Rocket 
Berberis Orange Rocket up close 

 The last for today is Snowbush or Breynia nivosa. It is native to the Western Pacific Islands. You'll often see them for sale as houseplants.  But here in SoCal they grow great outside.  I had mine in a pot for years.  Then I saw some at Legoland in Carlsbad, CA going beautifully in the ground. Granted they are coastal.  But I planted mine on the east side of the house and it's grown great!  It takes a bit of a break in winter.  It doesn't lose all it's leaves. It just loses some and looks not it's best.  It does flower but I've never seen them in person. Photos online show insignificant blooms along the stems. My plant is 4' tall and wide and I love it! There is another Breynia that has more white in its leaves and no pink.  But it doesn't impress me like the pink and burgundy of this one.    

Breynia leaves

Breynia leaves up close.

That's it for burgundy foliage today.  I'll have a part 3 coming soon of smaller sized plants with burgundy foliage.  

Stay well and Happy Gardening! 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Burgundy Foliage Part 1

Ahoy all.  I hope you're still staying safe after 2 months of coronavirus lockdown.  I'm still working in clients gardens and my own garden is still keeping me sane(ish). I'm glad Rick and I are in this together. 

I had to wait to do this post until one of my plants was completely leafed out. I adore foliage that is NOT GREEN.  Green is all well and good and means that the plant is happy and growing.   But green is everywhere!  I LOVE when a plant stands out and compliments it's neighbor. And burgundy foliage is awesome! I have a LOT of burgundy leaved plants.  So, I decided to make this post in several parts.  

First up is Euphorbia cotinifolia.  This plant is native to Mexico and South America which means it is a little frost tender. Mine goes only mostly deciduous depending on the winter weather. "Cotinifolia" means leaves like a Cotinus(which you shall see soon).  It is a big shrub or small tree and makes little creamy white flowers that are hardly noticeable.  It is mostly grown for it's gorgeous burgundy red foliage.  Euphorbias have white milky sap inside that can be an eye or skin irritant.  I once pruned the big one and got some sap in my eye.  Oh, it burned for hours and stayed red for a whole day.  But I recovered.  Now I prune them while wearing goggles.    The first 2 pics are of my first plant.  I almost lost it in the big freeze about 15 years ago.  The 3rd pic is of the 2 babies I made from cuttings from the first plant.  They all lived in pots until we bought this house almost 10 years ago.  Now I cut them back to roof level about once per year.  You can see that the 2 need trimming. 

My biggest Euphorbia plant

I love how the plant glows when the sun shines through. 

The 2 "babies" on the east side of the house. 

Cotinus coggyria or Smoke Tree is another big shrub or small tree. It is native to Asia and Europe.  For most of my nursery working life(25 years ago) I thought that we couldn't grow this plant here.  Then I began to see it in a few nurseries. But it was so expensive! I was lucky to find this one in a 2 gal pot for about $25   I can think of one mature plant in Glendale that I used to see driving around. And I have only two clients who grow it.  It is called "Smoke" tree because it makes these little wispy pink flowers above the foliage in Spring.  Mine was too quick to bloom to catch in photos.  Sorry about that.  I've seen it about 20' tall.  I don't think I'll let mine grow that large.  Now it is about 5' tall and wide. And I recently trimmed off several stupid branches.  "stupid" meaning that they were sticking out in weird ays that I didn't like.  

Cotinus leaves up close. 

Seen here with one of the Euphorbia. See how they're similar. 

Next up is Agonus flexuosa 'Burgundy' or Peppermint Tree.   It is a small tree that is native to Australia(as all the cool plants are) and will get to about 25' tall.  When the leaves are crushed they smell like peppermint!  Burgundy leaves AND peppermint fragrance- YES PLEASE!  I love BOTH those things! And the leaves are almost black! How cool is that?  I bought this tree in a 5 gallon can before we moved.  So, it has been in the ground for maybe 8 years and has been slow growing.  It is only about 7' tall.  

Agonus leaves up close. 

I know I already posted about the Black Diamond Crape Myrtles but I had to include them with this.   See that post from 2018 here Black Diamond Crape Myrtle  This plant just leafed out a couple weeks ago and is already thinking about blooming.   The contrast between them and all the other green plants is striking. I adore them in the garden.  And all mine in the front yard have cherry red flowers.  I have a lavender one and a white one in our backyard.  

Black Diamond Crape Myrtle seen from the south east side. 

The last for today is Canna Lily "Tropicanna".  They're native to South and Central Americas and Mexico. It grows from a rhizome(people just call it a "bulb") under the ground and usually dies back to almost nothing in winter.  Mine often have a few sprouts showing then.    Cannas bloom in warm weather.   Each stem only blooms once and should be cut to the ground after flowering.  Sometimes they spread too far and come up amidst a neighbor plant.  I just yank them out then.  It's pretty easy. Tropicanna has stripes to go along with its burgundy foliage and orange flowers that come atop 4-6' stalks.  What a great combo! 

There is a bud getting ready to bloom on one stalk center left. But see how it's coming up in a little rose bush. 

 I hope you enjoyed part one of burgundy foliage from my garden. Stay tuned for more and stay safe.  

Happy Gardening! 

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Pretty Bulb or "Noxious Weed"?

How are you all doing amidst this pandemic quarantine of Coronoavirus? I hope you're all taking care to stay well, and making the most out of your time by gardening or whatever makes you happy! Let's hope this ends soon.  

About 20 years ago I first saw this peachy salmon flowering bulb called Homeria at one of my jobs in Glendora.  I have never seen them for sale in a nursery nor have I seen them in any other garden(friends or clients).  I love orange flowers and my client invited me to dig some up for my own garden.  I did and when I we moved to our own first house I planted them in the ground.   

Homeria collina in my garden.

The name Homeria comes from the Greek homero, “I meet together”, is about the filaments (stalks of the stamen) being united into a tube in the flowerHomeria collina has now been changed to Moraea collina.  YOU KNOW that I hate it when they change names.  I will still call these bulbs or corms Homeria! There is a whole other rabbit hole about what are bulbs, corms, tubers. Here I'm just going to call them "bulbs".  They are in the Iridaceae(Iris) family and of course come from South Africa! Research says that this beautiful bulb that I love is considered a "noxious weed" and is a toxic threat to humans and wildlife! Some people I know might enjoy that. Read about what it is to be a noxious weed here Noxious weed.   I just grow them for the pretty flowers in my home garden and I don't eat them or have animals who might.  Those who are afraid to grow poisonous plants might want to look into what is already growing in their yard, Oleander, Azaleas, Foxglove, Narcissus, Carolina Jessamine are just a few.    These bulbs reseed themselves.  That's the invasive part of "noxious". But they are easy to yank if they infringe on their neighbor be it another plant or path. 

Like many Spring growing bulbs, Homeria sprout in the late Autumn and bloom in Spring.  They die back when the weather gets hot and lay dormant all summer.  Mine are blooming today(early Spring).  They are said to grow up to 2'.  But mine grow to 3'.  I measured the tallest one this morning and it was 41"! So, this is not a border plant.  Mine are planted in the middle of beds between roses and other shrubs.  The flowers stand tall but the leaves are even longer and tend to bend down or sideways.  The garden where I got these had them planted next to a path and I would often trip over the leaves.  

Moraea collina

A couple years ago my friend Tom gave me some yellow bulbs.  He  of course called them Moraea because he's a good bulb grower.  I was surprised when they came up and looked just like Homeria but in yellow.  They are one in the same.  So, I just have the yellow growing in one clump in our backyard.  Maybe after they're done blooming I may divide them and put some in the front yard too.  Ooh, it might be pretty to mix them together to then have a yellow and orange combo clump! 

Bees like them too.
Tell us what you're growing? I love to read your comments here.  Thanks for reading.  

 Happy Gardening!