Floods and sunny days, May and June

The rivulet’s brief Jekyll/Hyde switch from tame stream to roaring torrent in May that did so much damage in the Hobart CBD just failed to reach the lowest bed in the creek garden, although it did undermine the retaining wall a little. There were two positive outcomes, the huge messy pile of fallen willow branches and debris that had built up into a beaver dam beside my boundary was swept away and the swirling water laid bare a lovely layer of rocks that I’ve been picking over for my garden edges

Broken boulder trap full of debris from the May flood

Two days after I noticed the blocked boulder trap while walking the spotted dog around the ridge I heard the clanking rumble of heavy machinery, overlaid with the intermittent beep beep beep of reversing earth movers coming from that direction … I’m assuming it’s all been cleared.

All deciduous trees are bare now apart from the last tattered leaves clinging to the pear, this allows the lively stems of the golden ash to gleam from the gloom of the arctic zone, unfortunately it also reveals the less than attractive gardening flotsam hidden behind. That all will be dealt with, one day…

Malus ioensis doesn’t have colorful winter stems to parade but I like the way the rain drops hang from the shiny tangle of branches.

Salvia karwinski is waving its long brittle branches in the wind, dark pink buds just begining to open, hopefully there will be some time to enjoy them before the 10 foot canes snap in the wind but it’s a beautiful thing to have flowering in winter. A single white Dahlia imperialis bloom is struggling with them but will probably succumb to the weather, a move to more sheltered spot is on the list.

Salvia Costa Rica blue is still producing large racemes of incredibly beautiful deep blue flowers but I failed to do the critical pruning again, so brittle stems are also being broken by the wind, and by me as I walk past. It’s such a worthwhile plant I should strike cuttings for planting in a more protected position, and remember to nip new growth back, seems odd that these two big salvias with their flappy felty leaves aren’t bothered by the frost. The other salvia that that continues to flower happily is Salvia mexicana, although it’s being crowded by a slightly too willing Philadelphus coronarius, one of my nostalgia plants. Its delicious scent takes me straight back to childhood Christmases, my mother had planted a large shrub by the verandah at the front door.

A bright yellow early narcissus, one of Rod Barwick’s delightful Glenbrook Cedrics, came and went, both accompanied and then followed by a range of exquisite white and creamy yellow potted Narcissus romeuxii.

and this deep yellow unnamed seedling that I think is especially nice

Another favourite, the delicately ruffle edged Ta Julia hybrid narcissus purchased from Glenbrook a few years ago

A few odd muscari have popped up but I think it will be a couple of years before they settle into a consistent flowering pattern. Also the recently planted pot full of Tulipa saxatalis are already poking through and pots of still sleeping tulips line the steps down the mountain side of the garden.

The superficially similar winter flowering Crocus melantherus and Crocus nubigena (the species from Turkey that has remained nubigena) have been flowering for a couple of weeks. Crocus nubigena has wonderful crisp white petals with startling black anthers and orange style, it has a stylish edge that melantherus lacks and is a favourite of mine.

First of the rich purple Crocus sieberi ssp atticus has just opened along with Crocus imperatii with its lilac centre and striped buff exterior.

Cyclamen coum have been happily flowering for weeks

Cyclamen coum f. albumisium in a tiny pot, the chubby pure white flowers are set off nicely against the plain dark round leaves, I’m really pleased with it, but then I’m pleased with most of the tribe (more notes to self, must repot).

Early Galanthus are already flowering , Eric’s choice, Richard Ayres, Wendy’s gold, plus some lovely random elwesii.

Yvonne Hay, elwesii var whittalii, Three Ships and Mrs Mcnamara

Cute chubby double flowers of Galanthus Richard Ayres together with a golden crocus that is labelled Crocus cvijicii but it seems a little early

Many more are pushing through, giving me a compelling reason to head down to the arctic zone to check progress, and contemplate the necessity of relabelling before the current labels become completely illegible. Galanthus ‘Wendy’s Gold’ is looking better this year but definitely needs either repotting or planting out, possibly some of each, I like to have these growing in two different places as insurance

Hopefully sowed seeds of Lilium mackiniae, I suspect the seeds may be a couple of years old so fingers crossed for decent germination. I accidently broke the single shoot that dared come through from my only bulb last summer when I was bumbling around cleaning up and removing excess dianella that was claiming exclusive rights to the garden bed. I originally transplanted the dianella from a patch across the rivulet so it’s extremely local and very happy.

Finally moved long suffering Cardiocrinum giganticum bulbs from the shallow 8 inch boxes they have been in for at least 8 years to good deep ones that will allow a decent root run and hopefully some flowering stems. There are still more to transplant beside the rivulet where two flowered last year, plus a box of Cardiocrinum yunnanence begging for better living quarters. Two years ago one bulb flowered from its shallow home so they are surprisingly willing.

Gordonia axillaris is loaded with fat buds and just begining to open its stunningly careless white blooms with that massive boss of chrome yellow stamens. This plant died back badly a couple of years ago and I nearly removed it, fingers crossed that the recovery continues as I’m not sure what the problem was.

Meanwhile the spotted dog remains stoic

All she ever does is garden…sigh

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Willows, wasps and wingless aphids

Giant willow aphids, tuberolachnus salignus to be exact, great monstrous aphids that don’t bother with leaves, they suck the juice straight out of the stems. I don’t mind them slowing the growth of the outrageously huge willows that lean over the fence by the rivulet, but I object to the multitudes of dopey wasps drunk on honey dew and the resulting sooty mould coating all plants underneath. This is the second year of the great grey aphid infestation, it’s worrying.

The mountain revealed its winter face briefly then thankfully returned to a benign autumn presence during the last couple of weeks of soft warm days.

Autumn is rolling through rapidly, the Malus ioensis is emptied of its red and gold lacquered leaves, the nashi pear and Cornus ‘Eddies White Wonder’ are bare, the golden ash is reduced to a bright light yellow filigree. Both coral bark maples are hanging on to their yellow and amber leaves but the better one with the gloriously brilliant winter stems appears to have lost several branches to some short of dieback, research suggests vermillcilum wilt. It may have suffered a sudden shortage of water over summer and and couldn’t sustain the beautiful fresh growth I was so pleased with in spring. The walnut next door, one of my ‘borrowed ‘ trees, is displaying an all over patchwork of yellow and green while the lightning rod Pyrus calleryana is the last to shed and is only gradually revealing colour change on a couple of branches

Early morning sun lighting up the leaves, the bright red in the foreground belongs Virburnum x burkwoodii

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The small sample of chrysanthemums, (those wonderful autumn flowering stalwarts) here have been woefully neglected and are offering little. But amongst the colouring leaves and bare stems there are a few straggling blooms

Wonderful wonderful salvia, it’s hard to imagine gardening without their hardworking presence. Costa Rica blue comes into its own with large deepest ultramarine blooms, involcruata continues to wave bright lipstick pink racemes above the tall grasses, Phyllis Fancy and Megan’s magic are still making pools of hazy purple and white, bees are bumbling happily on the deep velvet flowers of Purple spires.

Salvia guaranitica and Salvia Costa Rica Blue

Another plant that keeps on keeping on and works with every thing is the luminous creamy green nicotiana, this is its 3rd year, they’re rather reduced in number, must sow a fresh batch for next season

A charming and petite early muscari, Muscari sivrihisardaghlarensis, and, unlike its name, it is very little. I’m not sure if the lack of stature is normal or due to starvation, I’m interested to see how it performs next year after some TLC

Also the very first Galanthus reginae-olgae appeared from nowhere, I like the way this bloom hooked itself decorously over the scape. Further excited investigation revealed several more varieties starting to nose through the soil; Galanthus ‘Eric’s choice’, elwesii, elwesii ssp whittalii, ‘Warburton’, ‘Maidwell L’, ‘Lavinia’ and the elegant ‘Yvonne Hay’

Crocus watching season started a while ago, beginning with the lovely wispy tipped Crocus vallicola. One of my challenges is identifying unlabeled blooms, and the other is confirming that actual labels are correct. Crocus pulchellus, speciosus, pallasii, niveus, mathewii, tournefortii, cartwrightianus and wattiorum, have been popping up with their captivating little faces.

Dainty wee cyclamen flowers have been hovering above leaves for a few weeks now, but the range of luscious cyclamen leaves alone make lovely pictures

The currawongs have moved down from the mountain to share the fruits of everyone’s labours, they are constantly swooping between the garden and the bush over autumn, their repeat clinking making a foil to the white cockatoo’s screeching presence and the wattle birds gurking commentary. The clamour of the big birds interplays throughout the day, joined briefly by the repeat ‘cossick’ of green rosellas — autumn is noisy here

Fruits that the Flying Fruit Disposal Service haven’t noticed…yet. Malus ‘Jack Humm’ is quite gorgeous but the tiny ring-in I received instead of Malus ‘Gorgeous will be turfed soon.

The youthful quince that I planted about for years ago produced its first quite generous crop. I thinned the fruit assiduously and waited in hopeful anticipation. Disappointingly when I cut into the lovely yellow fruit that eventuated they were largely brown throughout as though they were bruised. I’ve never seen this before so the search is on for a remedy.

Nice to be home, but I do miss running on those beaches

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Trees, lovely trees

Trees, rarely enough of them, too few in the streets, in gardens, and in those sad yards that owners don’t care to garden. I love to see trees, shade, movement, colour, habitat, oxygen. Admittedly some trees are problematic; towering blue gums in the front garden, pinus radiata seeding through the bush, leylandii towering over the neighbours, crack willows hogging the rivulet, self seeded cherry plums splattering the footpath…

Back in this beautiful little green suburb in LA for a couple of weeks I was enjoying the amazing street trees all over again.

They’re not just in the nature strips, surprisingly quite often a magnificent tree completely dominates a small front yard, I would have difficulty coping with a giant tree like the one below in my own small front garden.

This one is definitely outsize!

It was early spring and many of the trees had barely leafed up while others already had a full leafy canopy.

Bare branches make a dramatic tracery against the brightness of the church tower lit by the late afternoon sun

Gleaming skeletal birches looked unreal against the evergreen backdrop and bright sky at Big Bear Lake

I don’t know if this was originally a single tree but the four pale trunks are eye catchingly attractive with their ruff of white lantana at the base

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another large front garden tree with little tufts of new leaves and pink flower buds, this one was kept seriously under control by pollarding that made dramatic patterns against the sky,

 

 

 

Some interesting combinations may be planned or were just serendipitous, but a casual grouping of a huge plane tree (Platanus occidentalis),  fan palm and coral-toned succulent on a street corner pleased me everyday as I walked past. This coral succulent/shrub is quite popular, it features often among the limited range of plants I’ve noticed in the well kept but generally unimaginative gardens here; salvia, succulents, lantana, grasses, dietes, osteospermums, jasmines, elaeagnus, agaves, leptospermums, hibiscus, occasional roses, bananas, and a plethora of  pink and white flowering Rhaphiolepsis indica (Indian hawthorn) hedges keeping everything firmly contained.

Sometimes trees end up up-ended and badly in everyone’s way, surprisingly this double lane closure on a rare wet day didn’t cause the traffic back up I expected, and luckily, considering how busy this road is, the only damage was to an empty parked car.

The architecture is very charming and accessible in this old suburb, although in many cases total renovation and extension has happened behind the 1930s facades. Sometimes only the facade and side walls remain but that is enough to retain the gentle neighbourhood ambience. Several homes have been undergoing major renovations while I’ve been perambulating these streets, one still unfinished since my visit last year

Effort is put into creating entrances that are both inviting and interesting

On a completely different note, during our weekend excursion to the ski resort of Big Bear Lake I couldn’t help noticing a considerable collection of wooden bearalia, big bears, little bears, jaunty bears everywhere. However this bear was accompanied by a rather odd sign, what was it with the Italians?

No idea why the Italians are receiving such preferential treatment

Our second field trip was a (long!) drive to San Francisco for the weekend. We enjoyed Saturday wandering around Fisherman’s wharf, and eating at the Fog Kitchen, all very touristy but fun, and I was charmed by the streets of classic San Francisco terrace houses

Sunday morning was spent picnicking at the Golden Gate park, a huge and simply fabulous amenity within the city where I coveted some magnificent flowering Geranium maderense

 

My constant companions in LA, the very small dog and smallest person helping unpack the groceries

 

And again, the spotted dog enjoyed the wide expanses of Great Bay on Bruny, I don’t think he missed me at all.

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Its been a while

Autumn already! The tricorn seedpod of the species peonies, the telltale signs of the fleeting blooms I missed in spring, are turning themselves inside out exposing a deep silvery pink inner lining and startling shiny red and black seeds.

The last of the tribe, emodi, has produced a couple of viable seeds for the first time.

A bunch of large bright pink colchicums have popped up seemingly overnight to remind me that summer is on the way out. I like them well enough but they don’t compare with smaller varieties like the coy debutante Colchicum byzantium whose creamy white petals tipped with soft pink and pretty pink stigma echo the spring display of Tulipa cretica.

Smaller colchicum species are also pushing through, somehow more charming than their large cousins, and the first of the autumn flowering crocus. A solitary Crocus specious suddenly appeared last week and just now the first creamy white Crocus vallicola looking for the sun with its wispy tipped petals.

My favourite small tree, the coral bark maple, continues its year round parade of colour as it moves into the burnished amber stage. From the sunroom window this combines dramatically with the bright pink dahlias that have made themselves at home in the vegetable garden, matching the scarlet runner beans for height. They’re a little too willing so I’m considering replacing them with a creamy white dahlia that is curently sulking under the golden ash.

A rash of rabbits in spring meant no blue campanula latifolia or Kent beauty this season, plus much reduced clumps of penstemon Huskers Red and most upsetting, no Clematis x durandii. I can’t understand why it took me so long to work out who was nipping off the nigellas and munching through the big blousy double white carnations, and possibly other plants that disappeared before I noticed. Unfortunately my fences are far from rabbit proof, and now some other unspeakable varmint is digging, casually tossing galanthus bulbs aside as they squirrel their way down hunting for heaven knows what.

Bees continue to sleep in the roses

and gloriously coloured beetles materialise from nowhere

A surplus miscanthus was successfully rehomed the other day, it is a nice plant but was thugging a beautifully scented rhododendron. Also, rather regretfully I decided to relocate the rather too successful Knautia arvensis (from the fabulous Kedross Plain) to a more challenging life elsewhere in the garden, thus leaving the sunny space originally intended for Iris pallida and its rhizomous friends. Eventually the garden will be shaded over summer by the black mulberry at which time I’ll have to devise a different planting strategy. However right now I have lots of sun loving bulbs to plant

Poa Suggan Buggan and several eucomis are lolling about after heavy rain, the eucomis have always struggled to hold their heads up but were better this summer than previously

Next door the elegant Dierama reynoldsii produced just a few arching stems of its silver and deepest pink flowers

I’ve successfully created a small new garden space measuring roughly a square metre by joining two smaller gardens. Sprayed grass with round up, chopped it over down to the blue metal layer with pick axe, dug through spent potting mix and old horse manure, then buried a range of unnamed scillas and colchicums. I have two largish pink colchicums flowering already, almost instant garden.

The new bulb garden that replaces most of the front lawn/ car parking space is coming on. The soil was a tinder dry fine hard packed silty stuff dotted with large rotting tree roots which was quite hard to break up but now, mixed with the ever useful gravel seramis combination, I’m hoping those bulbs that want great drainage will thrive there on the slight slope in full sun. It’s still in construction mode, with the shape not yet properly defined. Ad hoc rocks sourced from a defunct quarry up the street line the edges and the remaining surrounding scratch patchy lawn pathway needs some tidying up. However it’s packed with crocus, iris and colchicums so I’m hoping for great things

Meanwhile cyclamen graecum has pushed out its first velvet leaves for this season

The vegetable garden mostly grew itself this year, zucchini hastily planted way too late, self sown potatoes hogging the centre, scarlet runners as reliable as ever and forming quite a charming arch across the path when they ran out of vertical support, three Russian kale survivors struggling through a mass of seedling silver beet and chard. I was pleased to find seeds of the zucchini Romanesco, a day after I planted four Lebanese, of course they all insistently produced nothing but male flowers for the first month so the current total is three lovely crunchy zuchinis, sadly I’ll miss the rest of the crop.

Finally lifted the remaining couple of martagon lilies from a bed where they had been languishing for years. And no wonder they had been languishing, they were sitting in solid clag. Its been considerably lightened now with spent potting mix, remaining martagons replanted, a few fritillarias and a line of potted lilliums have joined them.

Just a handful of apples set this year, so despite swearing off ever bothering with netting again, I did wrap the very few bunches of fruit in netting, hoping that the birds would not realise and peck through. Good crop of nashis, too many too small because no thinning was carried out but there were still enough of reasonable size to share, the blackbirds pecked into them early then evidently discovered a treat elsewhere and left them alone. Just noticed the first wasps for the summer, I had been happily thinking it was a remarkably wasp free season. I’ve realised they’re swarming all over the big willows again but can’t see any sign of last year’s aphids, subsequent honey dew and distressing sooty mildew end result…. yet

The last lovely blooms of Jayne Austin

Finally the two thorny arching Rosa moyesii, Fred Streeter and Highdownensis that I planted for the beauty of their hips are actually hanging on to them for the first time this year and they look so beautiful, only hope they repeat the experience next year. Apparently Fred Streeter was originally released as Rosa moyesii Petworth after the garden where it first appeared, I rather prefer ‘Petworth’ with its connection to place.

My little Van Diemon quince has spent the first five years of its life shaping itself into a lovely rounded tree and jettisoning any fruit that set. This year it decided it’s ready to both produce and hang on to a crop and now its branches are proudly festooned wth fat pale yellow/green globes. I dutifully thinned the original number and watched anxiously, now I’m concerned they will be discovered by the sulphur crested cockatoos while I’m away.

The spotted dog happily wallowing in a shallow water hole after a warm ride in the car

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LA continued

These notes were intended to be completed early November — that was optimistic, my feet have barely hit the ground since I stepped off the plane!

Early in the last week of my October LA sojourn we had to cool our heels somewhat with the temperature climbing to 39 degrees during the day, and remaining at 36 for an evening amble around the neighbourhood. There were plans for more cultural engagement but the thought of heading outside in that heat was too much.   Weird autumn weather, it was shocking to drive past a chap sleeping on the pavement in full sun under a doona with our car thermometer registering 39.

 In keeping with that weather, and in  total contrast to the deluge that Tasmania is currently experiencing, here are a couple of photos of the plants that relish these conditions from the African and dessert gardens at the LA Arboretum. They don’t really do the plantings justice,  the plants looked stunning against that brilliant cobalt sky. 

Tumbling agaves

 

Bismarkia

Fabulous groves of Bismarck  palms with their dramatic catherine wheels of silver spokes.

Finding a shady spot in that heat was important. The Arboretum is by its nature about trees but this one includes a range of different gardens to wander through so a thoroughly enjoyable few hours were spent there

 

Peacocks were introduced when the property was first developed and now the 200 odd birds that wander around have become an icon. Here this showy bird posed appropriately atop the Café  sign, one did a double take checking that he was real

 

 

 

In contrast this handsome egret pottered around keeping as low a profile as possible

 

 

 

 

As Halloween drew closer the front garden decorations ramped up, extremely large spiders were seen hanging from chimneys, together with masses of environmentally doubtful spider webs and spooks rising from the grass,  but I thought the articulated skeletons resident in these two gardens quite endearing

Succulents are understandably popular and I admired the little collection at the base of this palm each time I passed , and I love those deep blue pots — its twin stood on the other side of the doorway

 

 

 

 

Another fresh border featuring a plant I generally dislike, Sansevieria trifasciata or Mother-in-law’s tongue, but  somehow it looked good in this simple combination with the green wall behind and pale grey stones.

 

This was a bit out of left field, but an interesting idea for a hedge/fence, pleaching top and bottom, but constant trimming is needed to keep it looking good this is getting a little raggetty

 

 

 

 

This simple planting combination of elegant flowering pennistemon (I think) with tea-tree against a cream rendered wall pleased me each time I passed

LA houses a few art museums, one of the best known being the Getty.

Sadly the Getty will have to wait for another trip but I did enjoy two visits to the Los Angeles County Art Museum, and could have easily spent many more  happy hours there.  It comprises several buildings, including a Japanese art  pavilion where the main display is hung on a wall that spirals gently down a ramp inside the building. The collection, fair number of which are gifts from generous benefactors, ranges across early arts of the Americas, centuries of European masters, modern American artists with a smattering of classical Greek and Roman sculpture, something for everyone.

The ‘Urban Lights’ installation of old lamp posts that are lit up at night sits next to a grove of palms that house a collection of Rodin sculptures, lovely juxtapositioning. The sawtooth skyline of the building beyond echoes the verticals

LACMA sits next to the fabulous Tar Pits Museum and park so we enjoyed wandering through the park on each visit checking out the ‘Sticky’ and ‘Gooey’ cones that warn of small springs oozing liquid asphalt to the surface. These days the springs tend to trap birds and squirrels rather than mammoths and giant sloths, but parents should be careful to keep their toddlers under control. Of curse the larger ‘tar pits’ are fenced off!

Constant change seems to be the name of the game, there was a lot of renovation happening and this is how the two pastel pink houses mentioned in the last post changed over three weeks, I am a little curious to know how the house on the left will look when it’s been completed.

Sadly of course there is another lifestyle that is not so fortunate, when home is a porch with 3 supermarket trolleys

And a warning of clear and present danger in suburban LA for dogs of any size,  especially vsds!

I returned to a garden burgeoning with spring growth, rather too burgeoning and necessitating some firm cutting back and tugging out, enough for a posse of green bins

The tribe of foxgloves have ventured past my boundary this year,  stepping stately down the rivulet bank.  In order to ensure they don’t leap across and charge negligently up into the bush I’ve been enjoying cutting the stems for vases, rather a luxury.

Now the vacant block next door has become a building site and isn’t being given a weekly haircut I can see plants from my garden are infiltrating, left much longer and it would become a meadow of lychnis coronaria, aquilegia and anthriscus. Right now its a quagmire.

 

She’s just too slow!

and, another word from the vsd who has an absolute passion for used socks

 

 

 

 

Tasted good, but I don’t see why the vomiting thing was necessary

 

 

And the faithful Spotted dog, looking  embarrassed after hoovering up a bundle of  Ratsack pellets, and the subsequent very expensive visit to the vet

 

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Away

Away from my own garden for a few weeks I’m satisfying my need for a regular plant fix by observing everything growing around me and passing comments that bore my non-plantaholic companions silly.  Late afternoon each day we take a vsd (aka  very small dog) for a walk around the streets behind the apartment building that is temporarily home for me.  These are attractive residential streets in an old and prestigious suburb lined with handsome mature trees that offer welcome shade from the Californian sun. 

Leafy streets, the ‘cobwebs’ are a popular Halloween decoration

Some of the trees were planted when this area was planned as a residential park-like estate back in the 1920s and include an eclectic mix of magnolia grandifloras, deodara cedars, camphors, Fiscus macrocarpa,  Californian sycamores (Platanus  racemosa), London planes,  Liquidambers, Californian live oaks,  European oaks, Jacarandas, tulip trees. Also of course a range of the palm trees commonly grown in LA, the Mexican fan palm, the Queen palm and the Canary Island Palm. 

The deodar cedars are huge and magnificent, spreading their long branches horizontally across the streets, each festooned with pendulous branchlets.  Many of the old Californian sycamores have lumpy gnarled trunks, some heading impossibly sideways as though the original upright trunk had been removed, now they’re looking a bit tatty with withering crispy leaves as they head toward winter. The London plane trees I’m accustomed to from home (Platanus orientalis) always have very upright trunks with a stronger pattern of blocky mottling. 

Sadly it seems that many of these trees are suffering from the drier conditions that have prevailed since 2000, exhibiting lighter leaf canopies and dieback, the magnolias from the humid south east and European oaks being particularly hard hit. Along with information about the responsibility of the residents to help look after the street trees and regulations restricting removal of trees there is a sensible movement in this area to gradually infill with appropriate Californian natives like the evergreen Californian live oak (Quercus agrifolia) Despite this I’ve noticed many of the undeniably lovely magnolias are still being planted. Much emphasis is made about the amenity the trees add to the area as well as the money value they add to real estate prices which are pretty hefty in this area already. 

Apparently there are also problems with the Canary Island palms that form part of that iconic LA skyline.  They are suffering from attack from a fusarium rot that is slowly killing them.
The houses comprise a hugely varied mix of architectural styles ranging from Spanish and pueblo through to Tudor and colonial. The effect is rather charming,  nothing is outlandishly huge or ‘look at me’

‘English’ cottage style, the house will have been extended at the back so is much bigger than it appears

Moorish Spanish meets Mexico, note the subtle Halloween decoration

These two houses are architecturally wide apart but somehow sympathetic and I love the pastel colours. The Californian plane trees are showing signs of drought and the portaloo  isn’t the best feature. Presumably it’s for the benefit of the chap working on the little side roof, two days later this pink house was white with grey trim and it’s terracotta neighbour surrounded with a maze of scaffolding.

It looks as though the facade is all that will be retained in this revamp

While the houses have generally retained their original facade,  many have been considerably renovated and expanded at the rear. Two sides of this little enclave are bordered by the Wilshire Country Club golf course which adds a premium to their value. 
The majority have very green,  very neat lawns and nature strips (aka parkways) kept immaculately mown, the effect combined with smaller evergreen planting, iceberg roses and the street trees is both cool and inviting.  However those cool green lawns come at a cost and it was interesting to note a few renegades taking a different direction.  

The huge bananas are popular and seem to be used a lot for privacy,  this garden combines them with less water hungry plants replacing the lawn.

Aesthetic extremes, lush subtropical above and spiky succulents below

Dotted here and there are front gardens and accompanying nature strips where turf has been replaced with interesting combinations of dry climate plants. Some are new to me but I recognised agastaches, lantana,  salvia leucantha and some greigii,  pelargoniums, agaves,  phlomis, rosemary, lavender, yucca, phormiums, tea trees and a mix of grasses dominated by tall pennisetums.

Plenty of food for hummingbirds here

The photo doesn’t do this succulent garden credit, it actually looked really good

A more minimalist approach

There are a couple of beautiful simple plantings of what I think is Nassella tenuissima, Mexican feather grass, unfortunately as invasive as it is beautiful 

Two more examples of nature strip alternatives to the laid turf. The spiny cactus is sending a clear “keep off the grass” message while the planting of colourful and butterfly attracting lantana should be quite pretty as it matures and mixes with the succulents to cover all the bare ground.   In line with the American tradition of open front gardens there are practically no front fences.  However I see a few evergreen hedges planted so they create a barrier across the block before the front door, and a couple of places have used a different approach by planting an attractive prickly ‘hedge’ of shrubby roses.  

A common feature are the little notices,  sometimes as many as 3, generally placed close to the houses, that warn of the armed response of whichever security firm is mentioned on the notice.  There seem to be about five providing services in this area

The amount of graveyard and ‘the walking dead’ decoratalia  is increasing daily,  

A nice contrast in Halloween decoration style below

Hibiscus are predictably popular, I really love these fluffy doubles

And this  classic single

And of course this gorgeous bird is everywhere

Strelitzia, probably reginae, bad shadow I know but the light on those orange petals!

Needed some research to identify this fabulous looking climber, Aristolochia gigantea, the length of the two ‘petals’ is about 8 inches

Here’s the spotted dog,  still enjoying those wide expanses of beach

Best holiday ever, I don’t want to go home

This time,  the last word from the vsd

I know there’s a nice smelly sock in here somewhere

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Green and cream,  with a dash of red

Three days ago I was sitting watching and listening to the steady trumble of the rain,  looking out at a white shroud instead of a mountain, thinking, drat, it’s midday and I have 20,000 things to do in the garden before I go off across the water again.  Normally I embrace the chance to get some inside jobs done while the rain waters the garden,  the things I normally ignore if the weather is halfway reasonable for gardening, but this time I had no time. So it was on with the wet weather gear and out to give the big grasses a short back and sides before their new growth comes through. The results of the variegated miscanthus haircut can be seen lying on the right hand side of the lower lawn.  

 Colours are saturated by the rain,  bright lime green of Euphorbia ‘Tassie tiger’ and Helleborus sternii leap against the Chinese laquer red of the coral bark maple.  The maple is one of the few plants I’m sorry to see leaf up, although it does produce refreshing light green foliage,  the red stems are such a joy all winter and will play so nicely with the deep red blooms of Rhododendron Bibiana when she  finally gains some height.  Contrasting with the restrained green/cream decor a  puddle of purple lunaria dominates one corner beside the shiny red path balustrade, a startling combination that reminds me of a fabulous cocktail dress once worn to perfection by Lady Diana. Unfortunately the removal of a potentially huge tortured willow has opened the view to the shed and rather shabby compost bins,  this will improve when the apple, nectarine and nashi pear leaf up and provide camouflage but a year round solution is needed. An evergreen Fairy magnolia has already been planted but it will take a while….

 Baby leaves are unfurling along the branches, on Malus ionensis they are sitting upright like so many tiny green candles before their gathering bulk weighs them down.  Through the rain the garden looks a hazy mix of green and cream  as pale green leaflets mingle with white pear and plum blossom and cream daffodils (I just realised that most of my garden daffodils are cream or white,  no King Alfreds here)

 A creamy poeticus hybrid flowering behind a blue mass of Ompholodes cappadocia, with the new red growth of tree peony ‘Vesuvium’ .

The first of the species peonies to flower in my garden,  the  gorgeous pink edged party girl Paeonia kesrouanensis, and the rotund lime and red liveried bud of Paeonia clusii, the quarry of two seed collecting trips to the White Mountains in Crete. Sadly I’ll miss her glorious white blooms this year.

 More tulips have been opening,  above Tulipa fosteriana Flaming Purissima and  little Tulipa saxatalis with its striking lilac and egg yolk combination. Also flowering in restrained numbers are Tulipa humilis odalisque with a similar colour clash of bright deep crimson with cadmium yellow centre, and the delightfully restrained rose and white Tulipa clusiana ‘Lady Jane‘. 

Primula veris

More brilliant colour from Primula veris and the regally coloured Barnhaven primula hybrids.

And still more little gems are opening like these currently anonymous yellow fritillaries and the elfin Erythronium grandiflorum

Trilliums have suddenly shot into bloom after sitting broodily with their noses just through the soil for the last few weeks and the last of the late galanthus are finally flowering.  The pot labelled G. Lady Elphinstone produced a single yellow so I thought she was lost. Then this multipetalled, yellow(ish) centred, double flowered bloom came up in a pot labelled G. Primrose Warburg, so I’m hoping it was a case of transposed labels.

Galanthus Lady Elphinstone and Trillium ovatum?

Below the brilliant white throated lapiz Tecophilaea cyanocrocus leichtlinii

More last minute jobs,  the lemon tree has been generous this year so preserved lemons are on the menu, the open mouthed salsa jars are perfectly shaped for this purpose

And the last word from the Spotted dog,  enjoying the wide open space of Bruny Island

You can have Los Angeles, this is my idea of a holiday!

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