Cool Season Annuals Eventually Replace Warm Season Annuals

Petunia must eventually be replaced, even if the tips of deteriorating stems continue to bloom.

Here in the mild climates on the west coast of California, the difficulty of getting new cool season annuals into the garden to bloom through autumn and winter is not selecting, procuring and installing the new annuals. It is the removal of the warm season annuals while they are still blooming and looking so good! Knowing that planting new annuals sooner than later will get them an earlier start is not always much consolation.

Pansy, viola, primrose, snapdragon and alyssum are probably the most familiar and favorite of cool season annuals, and are often allowed to bloom late into spring when they probably should be replaced by warm season annuals. Alyssum easily naturalizes, and can actually bloom all year in coastal or cool areas. Snapdragon are probably the most difficult of these favorites to grow, since they so often get infested with rust, a common fungal disease that proliferates where winters are mild.

Cornflower (bachelor’s button), stock, Iceland poppy, sweet William and calendula are probably a bit less popular only because they are not so conducive to mass planting as bedding plants. Cornflower and stock get taller than they should for beds, although they look great behind beds; and stock is excellently fragrant. Iceland poppy, sweet William and calendula do not often grow uniformly enough for large beds; and calendula does not offer much variety of color beyond shades of yellow and orange. Yet, all are great in mixed plantings.

Ornamental cabbage and kale are grown for their colorful foliage instead of flowers. Cabbage may be a bit more colorful; but kale can provide more variety of foliar texture. Because they form such bold rosettes of foliage that do not blend into each other like other bedding plants do, they are more often grown as narrow borders or in small mixed plantings instead of in broad uniform beds.

The ornamental potential of both Swiss chard and parsley should not be denied. Swiss chard has distinctively ruffled and glossy foliage that can be dark green or deep burgundy. Their prominent midribs and veins can be even more colorful with shades of greenish white, yellow, orange, red or pale purple. Parsley is rich green, with full, intricately textured foliage that happens to look quite sharp with white alyssum. The main problem with these two cool season vegetables is that their appearance can be compromised if they get eaten.


41112It is unfortunate that, like Easter lilies and poinsettias, most kalanches, Kalanchoe blossfeldiana, are enjoyed while actively blooming, and then discarded as their blooms fade. It is so easy to simply snip out the deteriorating flowers, and grow the small perennials plants for their appealing succulent foliage until they bloom again. They do not get much more than half a foot tall, so can stay in small pots indefinitely. They seem to prefer the porosity of clay pots. Because they can rot, they should be watered when the surface of the soil seems to be getting dry, and their drainage saucers should not be allowed to hold water too long. Kalanchoes like bright but indirect sunlight. They can be acclimated to direct sun exposure, but might seem to be somewhat stunted. If brought in before frost, they can be happy out on a patio. The clustered small flowers can be white, pink, red or bright or pastel shades of orange or yellow.

Every Dogwood Has His Day

P90928KDog days of summer are no time for a dogwood to bloom. It should be slowing down and getting ready for autumn. Plump floral buds start to develop, but then wait dormant as foliage turns color and falls away. Only after winter dormancy, just prior to the emergence of new foliage, floral buds bloom spectacularly. September is either half a year too early or half a year too late.

So, what is this dog and pony show?! ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’ dogwood is blooming not only in our landscape, but in other regions too. It is not just because our six new trees were distressed from installation earlier this year. That process would not have affected other trees. It was not because of our locally variable weather. It affected too many trees in too many other regions.

I certainly do not mean to dog our trees for their eagerness to bloom; but it is best to let sleeping dogs lie. They need their rest. Floral buds that bloom or try to bloom now will not be there to bloom when they should next spring. Only a few floppy blooms are seen on our trees, but closer inspection reveals that every bud is open, exposing the tiny individual flower buds within.

It does not need to rain cats and dogs for the floral buds to be ruined. Now that weather is cooling instead of warming as it would in spring, the floral buds that are now opening will not waste resources to finish blooming. The priority is slowing down for winter dormancy. Whether finished with bloom or not, opened floral buds will be shed along with foliage as autumn progresses.

Rhody might seem like he should obviously be an expert in regard to dogwoods, but he merely commented that “Bark is ruff!”P90928K+

Six on Saturday: Right Here – Right Now


There are certainly more impressive flowers at work. I suppose I should have gotten pictures of them. Instead, I just took these six pictures within minimal proximity to a where I happened to be working on Wednesday. I thought they would be more interesting than they are. I wanted to get a picture of the laurustinus #4 because others have been posting pictures of the same as if it is something important. Flowering quince #6 is my favorite here, and the only one that was not planted into the landscape. It grew from the roots of an old specimen that was in front of an old home that was demolished to redevelop the site. Because of it’s resiliency, we want to pull up some of the layered stems (that rooted where they lay on the soil) to plant in elsewhere.

1. Garrya elliptica – silktassel bloomed with very pendulous light beige blooms quite some time ago. These lasted longer than others in partial shade, but are now turning tan and getting dry. Silktassel is native here.P90202

2. Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’ – trailing rosemary seems to bloom continually. I do not remember it without bloom here. Bees, which are active in all but the coolest of weather, like how it always here for them.P90202+

3. Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Howard McMinn’ – Howard McMinn manzanita is a garden variety or cultivar of a species that is native not far north of here. I sort of think these waxy white flowers are too tiny to impress.P90202++

4. Vibrunum tinus ‘Spring Bouquet’ – laurustinus is actually blooming later here than where winters are colder. It naturalizes here. I suppose that those that grow from seed would not be of the same cultivar as the originals.P90202+++

5. Prunus cerasifera – flowering plum is rather sparse here because of the partial shade of larger trees. I do not know what cultivar this one is. I am not even sure if it is Prunus cerasifera. It does not look familiar to me.P90202++++

6. Chaenomeles speciosa – flowering quince is another one that I can not identify, although it seems to be the most common sort that I see about town.. I guessed the species, but will not even bother to guess a cultivar.P90202+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

Six on Saturday: Mixed Bag


These are merely odds and ends that would not conform to any particular category. The first two are from my colleague’s garden that provided the pictures for last week. The third, fourth and fifth are from a nearby landscape that is comprised of native specie. The sixth is another landscape nearby, but is obviously not native.

1. Eucalyptus provides distinctively aromatic silvery foliage for young students of Outdoor Science. We keep this tree low and almost pollarded so that the students can reach the juvenile foliage. We plan to prune back any adult foliage, since it is neither as pretty, nor as aromatic. No matter how much gets cut from the tree, there is always more. We thought this tree was Eucalyptus cinerea, but we really do not know what it is.P80915

2. Lantana camara gets frosted to the ground where it is at. It might do better on a slope just a few yards away, or under the canopy of big trees nearby. It just happens to be in one of those cold spots where cold air settles on frosty nights. The dead stems get cut back at the end of every winter, and new growth regenerates just fine. However, by the time it starts to bloom nicely, it is already autumn!P80915+

3. Cornus stolonifera is the only locally native dogwood. These pathetic blooms demonstrate why it is not more popular than it is. There are more individual flowers than other dogwoods get in each of their clustered blooms, but they bloom late in summer without the flashy bracts behind them. This dogwood is commonly known as red twig dogwood, but the twigs are not as colorful as those of another species of the same name.P80915++

4. Rose, although planted, happens to be native to the region as well. I do not know the species of this particular rose. It is not much to look at, but it is worth growing in a landscape of natives. It does not get pruned like roses that are grown for their bloom. In fact, we do nothing to it. It just grows wild. Flowers are sporadic, starting late in spring, and continuing until frost.P80915+++

5. Rose hips take a while to ripen. These were probably from the first flowers that bloomed months ago. Flowers that are blooming now may not produce hips at all, or if they do, the hips may never ripen. They just do not have enough time. Fortunately, there are enough to provide a bit of color while many of the plants in this spot defoliate through winter. They do not have great flavor alone, but are fine with other herbal tea.P80915++++

6. Gazania is related to the African daisy from last week. More gazanias will be shared next week. These were planted somewhat recently to replace English daisy that succumbed to a really bad infestation of rust, so have not bloomed as much as they might have liked to if they had gotten established earlier. They will continue until frost, and can bloom sporadically through winter, before resuming bloom as weather warms next spring.P80915+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

Six on Saturday: Not My Garden


My garden really is not much to talk about. Really. It is just a bunch of redwoods with a bit of other native vegetation dominating the few items that I added into the mix. There are fourteen stock fig trees, but they are very small and mostly obscured by the underbrush. The elderberries, currants and huckleberries are the same as what grows wild, so they do not look like much either. Even the cane berries look very similar to the native blackberries. There is a quince tree, some rhubarb, and some small prickly pear, but they are barely visible amongst the other vegetation. Well, that is enough talk about why my garden is not much to talk about.

These pictures are from one of the gardens that one of my colleagues maintains.

1. Hibiscus is probably the flashiest bloom in this garden now. I have no idea what cultivar this hibiscus is; and I am not even certain about the species. It sure is impressive though. This flower is more than six inches wide!P80901

2. Red honeysuckle is something that I really want to grow, but can not justify it. I mean, it does not exactly ‘do’ anything more than look good. It is not fragrant like Japanese honeysuckle is. This one took a while to bloom.P80901+

3. Zonal geranium happens to be one of my favorite perennials, even if others consider it to be too cheap and common. I do not know if this one is pink, peach, salmon . . . or one of those odd colors that only girls can see.P80901++

4. Mandevilla is my best guess. Again, I do not know the species. Did I mention that this is not my garden? I do happen to like this one though, because it is so perfectly white. Otherwise, I am none too keen on mandevilla.P80901+++

5. Morning glory is quite happy here. This one is annual of course. There was a perennial white morning glory known as a moonflower nearby, but it succumbed to frost last winter. Hope for its recovery ran out months ago.P80901++++

6. 4:00 (four o’clock) is a prolific naturalized exotic species. I would not say that it is invasive, but merely prolific. I do not know if this one is 4:00 a.m. or 4:00 p.m., but I do know it will not be the last. More on that later.P80901+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:


Six on Saturday: Finally Flowers


After posting so many inter pictures of soil, stone, road signs, plumbing, empty wine barrels and mockery of French culture, I suppose I should share some pictures of actual flowers for a change. I mean, this is about gardening after all. Unfortunately though, I do not work with many flowers. The landscapes are designed to be compatible with the surrounding forests, so flowers are minimal. I already shared pictures of most of the best. Some of these are from gardens that I do not work with. I just thought that they were pretty.

1. Avens finished blooming more than a week ago. I just really liked this picture because it is such a nice swirly orange color. Until I found these, I had not seen avens in many years, and did not expect to see it anytime soon. Since featuring it in the gardening column, I have found that others in other regions are quite familiar with it, and this it more popular than I would have guessed.
2. Lobelia is one of the more common warm season annuals. This is not from one of the landscapes that I work with, but looked good enough in a planter box in town for me to get a picture of it. I do not know what variety it is. There are many varieties nowadays that I am not familiar with anyway. Back in the 1980s, bright blue lobelia was popular alternated with white alyssum. I thought it looked rather silly at the time, but would not mind seeing it now. It was such an 80s look.P80707+
3. Pelargonium was in the same planter box as the lobelia. I know neither the species nor the cultivar. Again, it was just too pretty to pass up without getting a picture. It is more diminutive than the sorts of pelargoniums that I am familiar with. The plants are very compact. The variegated leaves and flowers are quite small.P80707++
4. Zonal Geranium happens to be one of my favorite perennials because it was one of my first. Although I grew my first for only a short while when I was very young, I still grow one that I found in a trash pile when I was in junior high school, and another that I found naturalized in a creek near San Martin shortly after I graduated from college. I bring pieces of them everywhere I go. Both are the big and weedy types that are probably very closely related to the straight species. The first one is the very common bright pink with leaves that lack halos. The second is the very common bright orange red with only slight halos on the leaves. Getting back to this remarkably bright red zonal geranium; it is not one of mine. The leaves have only very light halos. The growth seems to be almost as vigorous and weedy as my bright orange red one, but not quite. It is more tame, and more prolific with bloom. The bright red color is prettier too.P80707+++
5. Lithodora looks prettier close up that it really looks in the landscape. It was planted into one of the newer small landscapes, but is not growing very well. I found the name to be amusing because it seems to mean that it smells like a rock. However, someone recently explained to me that the name means that it adores rocks, since it naturally grows in soil that is too rocky for other plants.P80707++++
6. White Hydrangea is a nonconformist among all the hydrangeas that I fertilized to be either pink or blue. So far, the pink ones are still pink, and the blue ones are still blue. The few white ones are always white.
This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

Improvise While Flowers Are Scarce

61123thumbMuch of the color in the garden through autumn and winter is provided by foliage. Some foliage turns color as the weather gets cooler. Some had been blue, gray, gold, red, bronze or variegated all year, and just happens to get noticed more now that there is not much other color provided by flowers. There are a few flowers that bloom now or even later in winter, but not nearly as many as there were in spring and summer.

Coral bark Japanese maple and red twig dogwood display colorful defoliated stems as the weather gets cooler. The colorful berries of firethorn (pyracantha), cotoneaster and toyon will ripen about the same time, providing bright red color until the birds get them. Otherwise, there might not seem to be much more to cut and bring into the home to substitute for cut flowers, and add to all the colorful foliage, twigs and berries.

Well, this is where things get less horticultural, and more creative. All those old flowers and flower stalks that should get pruned off, and maybe a few old leaves, might be good for more than compost. Blooms of hydrangea, Queen Anne’s lace and lavender can be cut just as they begin to deteriorate, and hung upside-down to dry. They lose much of their color, and shrivel somewhat, but are nice options to fresh flowers.

Old flower stalks of New Zealand flax and lily-of-the-Nile have striking form once plucked of tattered flower parts and seed capsules. New Zealand flax stalks are tall and straight. Lily-of-the-Nile stalks are like star-bursts on sticks. If the natural color lacks appeal, they can be spray painted! Seed capsules of red flowering gum (eucalyptus) dry in loose clusters with stems that are long enough to arrange like cut flowers.

Pine-cones, magnolia grenades (seedpods) and sweetgum maces (seedpods) that fall from their stems can be drilled, and attached to sticks. There are no substitutes for real flowers, but there are no limits to creative and even weird alternatives.