Succulent Container Madness!

You can shove succulents in anything!

I’ll shove a succulent in almost anything, whether it be a grill that nobody’s used for years, or an old wagon I picked up for five bucks at a garage sale.  The possibilities are endless! First off,  I want you to know that in many cases these are not permanent plantings (this is especially true for terrariums). Several months or even years down the road, depending on how quickly the succulents you plant grow, it’s extremely likely that your creations will benefit from a little fluff. I redo the wagon & the grill once or twice a year. Think of your succulents like sculptural elements & have fun. It’s not like you’re deciding where to plant a tree that you’ll have to live with for many a year.

Succulent Roos

The ultimate key to succulent happiness in the great outdoors (sorry folks in freezing locations) is drainage. Non-draining containers + rain = rotty mush. Pick up a ceramic bit & you can drill through almost anything so that the water can flow. These kangaroos came from Goodwill & after a quick meeting with the drill they drain perfectly. When it comes to drilling holes, higher quality ceramic items tend to be more challenging to drill through & glass is the trickiest, but it’s all possible if you’re willing to take the risk of a stray break here & there. Load up on inexpensive containers at your local thrift store. I’m a big proponent of succulent potting mix  to achieve ultimate drainage.  To create the roos above all I did was drill holes in their booties, fill with cacti/succulent mix & stick cuttings.  Easy, peasy. These cuties would work inside in a bright location, too!

Graptopetalum paraguayense paradise

One of my all time favorite succulents for containers are the creamy pinkish blue rosettes of Graptopetalum paraguayense. Gardening in almost pure sand, two blocks from Ocean Beach in nearly frost free San Francisco means lots & lots of succulents are happy campers in my backyard. It’s succulent heaven, but before moving to California I actually grew a wide array of succulents in my living room closet with lights. Taking cuttings is easy. Just snip, snip & you’re done. If you’re a rule follower, snip your cuttings at least a day in advance so the cuts have time to dry out & heal over, preventing bacteria, etc … I normally don’t do this due to patience issues & things seem to turn out fine.

Oscularia deltoides & Satureja douglasii

Another one of my favorite succulents for cutting is Oscularia deltoides. It seems to benefit from a little haircut now & then anyways. Here it is escaping the border with a San Francisco native that smells like heaven, Satureja douglasii (Clinopodium douglasii).

Aeonium simsii

Aeoniums seem to put up with indoor action fairly well & Aeonium simsii is one of the highest rated of the bunch for indoor happiness. Love the eyelashes on the leaf margins.

Succulent Assortment

Over the past few years of putting together succulent containers & terrariums, I’ve found that often times less is more. I used to shove ten different succulents in an itty bitty container & let them battle it out. The results were often scraggy & sad.  I tend to go for lower growers that form a dense mat, or splashy bigger rosettes.

Vintage Succulent Containers

A couple holes in the bottoms, some dirt, plants & they’re ready to go! Since these were taken as cuttings they have no roots, which means they have nothing to take up water with. Don’t fret, the water stored in the leaves will hold them over until they pop out new roots from the stems jammed in dirt. No fancy rooting hormones needed! I  don’t even water containers composed of cutting based succulents for the first two weeks or so, to let them root out a bit. A sunny to part sunny spot is all they need. Indoors, they like a bright window.

Graptopetalum paraguayense Dino-land

Terrariums are all the rage these days, but I’ll tell you upfront – they’re a little trickier to keep happy. The key to keeping a container with no drainage is water control. Over watering is a sure fire way to rot the roots out & keep a fungus gnat family happy, but if you’re using glass it’s pretty easy to keep an eye on how much moisture is making it to the bottom of the container. I like to use a spray bottle. I’ll spray a bunch then wait a couple minutes to see how deep the water seeps in and spray more if needed.

Ornament Fun

Many hardcore succulent folks think it’s cruel & unusual punishment to put plants that like free draining soil & low humidity in glass, but I’ve had numerous successes with succulents in non-draining situations. They’re very forgiving. Planting wise, it’s easy. I like to use pretty rocks or gravel on the bottom for a wee bit of drainage space, plus it looks cool. Some folks add a sprinkle of horticultural charcoal in for good measure before adding the succulent potting mix in. I don’t. The next step is getting the plants in there. I like using rocks as a topdressing not only because they’re pretty, but they help keep the plants where you want them. If your container is small, it’s handy to have a pair of chopsticks for nudging stuff around.

Succulent Swan

One last cute little Echeveria amoena in a vintage swan.

Far Out Flowers 2023

Exciting news! We are going to be growing cut flowers for the very first time this year at Terra Growers where they will be available at their self serve farm stand, where you can also grab eggs, honey, plant starts and veggies. We’re also thrilled to be at the East Side Farmers Market at McPike Park with flowery goodness this summer. Here’s a fun look at some of the flowers I’ll be growing this year. I borrowed Select Seeds pics, since I went nuts last fall during their after season sale. Click on the pic and it will hook you up with a link to buy seeds. There’s also some fun stuff from Johnny’s.

It’s not secret that I LOVE zinnias. Here’s a taste of my zinnia insanity. They’re also super easy to grow.

Amaranth is another easy one to start from seed that comes in all kinds of fun shapes and sizes. I never had the space or heat to grow these in SF.

I’ve been a sucker for cold hardy annual cornflowers for a long time now it’s another crazy easy one to start from seed.

Word on the street is that cosmos are pain in the ass to harvest for cut flowers, but I’m growing a few for the heck of it. They were easy to get started, so there’s that.

I’d never started Scabiosa before, but it was easy!

Gomphrena is a goody.

Another good one for drying that I have a ton of are strawflowers. I even collected seed from last years flowers for a fun mystery mix.

Snapdragons were kind of a bitch to start. Anything with teeny tiny seeds that like light to germinate are a little tougher than the big seeded stuff. I started a second round after being disappointed with my first, and got more. Next year I’ll do more and not screw them up. Kopke’s Greenhouse has a bunch of really cool ones I may just have to go buy for fun. They have so much cool stuff it’s crazy.

Celosias were another one that did so-so, but compared with my dismal results from last year I should have a decent amount. Klein’s should have a bunch of plumey ones in three packs soon, too.

I went Cuckoo for cantaloupe Calendulas or pot marigolds, but I’m growing a orange ones, too.

I love my tall growing marigolds and pretty much any orange flower.

Another one I had never tried to grow from seed before is Ageratum. I kind of messed up my first round, but figured out what I was doing wrong before it was too late.

Cerinthe is one I’ve grown in California for years, so I gave it a shot here in Wisconsin last year and the midwest bumblebees love it just as much as the west coasters. It’s another one that’s cold hardy, I’ve yet to find out if it reseeds in these parts.

Nigella is pretty with it’s lacy leaves and spikey seed heads. I’ve been slacking a little, but I should have these guys.

There will be more than pictured here over the season, but the above are the main flowers for this season in addition to lots and lots of sunflowers and Dahlias. I’m especially excited to grow Sunflower Steve’s Van Gogh’s Fantasy along with these and more. Starting out with mostly easy annuals this year, but I have plans to get a bunch of perennials going once I kick these babies out in to the real world for next year.

It’s Decorative Cabbage Season, Motherf*ckers

*Appropriated with brassica inspiration from one of my favorite McSweeney’s pieces ever: It’s Decorative Gourd Season, Motherfuckers by Colin Nissan

Fancy as fuck cabbages at Klein’s

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get my hands on some fucking brassicas and arrange them all pretty in a some shitty containers on my front porch. That shit is going to look so seasonal. I’m about to head out to the nearest independent garden center right now to find some frilly ass kale not meant for human consumption. When my neighbors walk by it’s gonna be like, BLAMMO! Check out my assortment of frost tolerant decorative vegetables, assholes. Guess what season it is — fucking fall. There’s a nip in the air and my front yard is full of mutant fucking cabbages.

Kale Patette

I may even throw some multi-colored violas and pansies in there, god forbid you can find a nursery that busts out anything else that doesn’t mind a little nippy weather. Then I’m going to get to work on collecting a bunch of fucking seeds from my annuals that are one frost away from becoming a pile of fucking mush. People are going to be like, “Aren’t mums the best thing to plant for autumnal pops of color?” And I’m just going to throw some broccoli, swiss chard and even a fucking cauliflower plant into a pot without breaking their gaze and quietly reply, “It’s fall, fuckfaces. You’re either ready to reap this freaky-assed harvest or you’re not.”

I let my fucking half price zinnias I planted in the containers in early July on the front stairs go to shit, so it’s time to fucking change it up. It’s also a great time of year to snap up a bunch of half-price perennials, shove them in the ground and wait for next spring when they’ll get all big and happy. Who wants to pay a fuck ton of money on them in May and then have to wait around for another fucking year or two for those fuckers to get established? Not me, but I’m a motherfucking renter who could give two fucks about planting perennials on someone else’s fucking property.

Kale party

I’ve been having a ton of fun gardening in Wisconsin and will start to post more about my crazy ass giant annual garden out front when it gets cold and dark. For more brassica inspired stuff check out my spring containers.

Marigold Magic

My community garden plot marigold bounty July 1st, 2022

Orange flowers are the best flowers, so I’ve been growing marigolds for years. They did great in San Francisco, unlike my tall zinnias. They’re easy to start and these ones all have a lovely fragrance if you rub their leaves. Bees are big fans, too.

The picture of the marigolds getting a trim was taken April 15th. I had to hack them back a couple times to make sure they branch out. There they are all fluffy and big with their dahlia buddies on May 1st. I planted out the entire flat of marigolds between our garden and our Eagle Heights Community garden plot on May 9th. The weather looked like smooth sailing frost wise and I was getting sick of watering them twice a day when it hit 90 degrees in early May.

My marigold bounty from a couple weeks ago, and they’re still going strong. I’m kind of picky about what marigolds I like to grow. I really like the ones that get nearly three feet tall and have long stems. It’s a toss up for my favorite between ‘Burning Embers’ and ‘Harlequin’. I also gave ‘Frances’s Choice’ a shot this year for fun and love them.

Front garden Signet ‘Tangerine Gem’ and friends

There’s a soft spot in my heart for the cute little lemony scented signet marigolds. I wish I would have tried ‘Paprika’ but ‘Tangerine Gem’ is good, too. Shout out to Select Seeds for offering such a wonderful selection marigold options!

Here they are out front back in early June plus a cute little bouquet. My little bamboo and twine “fence” keeps stuff from flopping all over the sidewalk and is barely even visible now that everything is getting big.

Here’s a little look back on my marigolds in California over the years. The top left picture of ‘Harlequin’ craziness is from our Oakland garden back on October 30, 2013. Below that is more of it with some cornflowers in our SF garden August 1, 2016 while the one on the right was taken August 24, 2018 in SF.

Tagetes lemmonii February 22, 2020

I can’t post about marigolds without a picture of my all time favorite, the giant perennial, Tagetes lemmonii. It smelled delicious and was over eight feet tall in our SF border. Deadheading and pruning it was heaven. It was a good spot to set out pipevine swallowtail butterflies on, too. I should give it a try here in Wisconsin next year for fun, seems like it might do okay in a shady situation.

Midwest Cerinthe Soiree

Freshly planted April 28, 2022

After waiting for what seemed like forever for it to stop freezing/snowing, I finally planted up three recycled tire planters Flat Tire Decor sent us way over ten years ago. They are no longer in business sadly, but the fact that I still have them means they didn’t fall apart and I actually use them. This past spring I started a bunch of stuff inside during my Seed Starting Spree including two types of Cerinthe and three types of annual cornflowers all from Select Seeds. The sexy Viola ‘Tiger Eye’ came from Klein’s here in Madison. Since I like to jam more plants than you probably should in to containers I threw in a few random kale babies I had growing, too. For all kinds of good information about Cerinthe in general (it’s related to borage) and growing it in Wisconsin check out this UW-Extension page. Shout out to the UW-Horticulture Extension for having such a wonderful online resource for gardening in Wisconsin.

Look at all those cute baby plants about a week before I planted them out. I was pretty antsy to start cool weather annuals and started all the guys above except the Viola in early/mid-March, and was hoping I would have been able to plant them out mid-April instead of almost-May, but it gave me plenty of time to get stuff ready for life on the outside.

I love progress pictures of stuff growing, so here are the containers on April 28th, May 17th and June 7th. I stuffed some extra kale mix babies I had around since I love to jam tons of stuff in to small spots and let them fight it out. There’s a little Osmocote slow release fertilizer in there, along with some sketchy “potting soil” I bought being a cheapskate. I immediately regretted it and ended up mixing in some seed starting mix I had laying around to make it a little less horrible.

Cornflower ‘Select Ultraviolet’ Centaurea cyanus June 27, 2022

Annual cornflowers are SUPER easy to grow from seed and the pollinators love them. I’ve been successfully jamming them in containers for years. They’re super tough in the ground, and even frost tolerant. Normally I grow the standard “cornflower blue” double, ‘Blue Diadem’ for that fabulous blue, but when I saw the words ‘Ultraviolet Select’ I knew I had to give it a shot. So far so good. I’ve only had one, lame white flowered plant pop out of the batch. I’m always a little nervous about how true to form new seeds are after Nasturtium ‘Phoenix’ made me mad several years ago. I’m not sure where I got the seed from when it first started making the rounds, but my current batch from Select Seeds is flowering like it should. That’s part of the seed starting fun. There are always a few weirdos in the bunch.

More progress pictures from June 19th (check out the fun orangey lillies poking over the railing), June 21st and June 29th. They’re looking a little scrappy these days, which is fine by me as I plan on flipping them to something half price from the nursery. I’m thinking something that likes hot rubber pots with decent potting soil. I’ve ripped off the ugly yellow bottom leaves on the Cerinthe, so it’s a little cuter. They’re easy to crack off with your hands. The bumblebees are still digging it, so I’m going to let them go and collect seed for another round.

Cabbage Looper Buffet Kale ‘Crane Red’

This is not the first time cabbage loopers have had a party on one of my brassicas, but they really did a number on all the kale in the containers. I don’t do anything for outdoor plant pests except swear at them. Bunnies hopped up and ate a couple lettuce plants in a container at the bottom of the stairs. I planted some extra Kale ‘Crane Red’ at my friends house a few blocks away and they’re perfect.

The main reason I grow Cerinthe is because bumblebees LOVE it and I love bumblebees. It’s rare that I get the urge to put up a TikTok video, but this bumble video made me do it. Pretty soon I’ll be making videos about my zinnias.

Annual Party June 23, 2022

At the end of April we found out that our two flat rental house was going on the market. We’re staying another year, but the person who was in charge of the garden in the questionable third floor unit had to move out in June. That means I’ve jammed plants in every corner of the front and backyard like a crazy person. My dreams of growing every heat loving annual I couldn’t have come true. Above you can see some Cerinthe, cornflowers and lots of other friends looking happy in the ground. The ugly chain link fence has seven different types of pickling cucumbers planted all along it and even some sweet peas who took their sweet ass time finally growing up it. I jammed tomatoes, basil, summer squash, you name it all over the place along with tons of cutting garden flowers.

Ye Olde Outer Sunset Garden June 3, 2011

The first time I heard about Cerinthe was back in San Francisco 2010. It’s so easy to start from seed and will joyfully reseed for years unless it’s the super-ultra-cool Cerinthe retorta that never did for me (I’ll take seeds if anyone has any). I’m happy to see that it does alright here in Wisconsin and that the bumbles here love it, too.

Outer Sunset San Francisco October 10, 2010

Here I am 12 years ago joyfully yanking a giant one out to make room for something new. This picture makes me want to grow Eccremocarpus scaber again. All 99 of our Cerinthe pictures are here on Flickr if you want to see more. More annual cornflower updates to come (you saw how many I started, I have them everywhere) soon including the ones that lived through being munched on by large animals in our community garden plot.

DIY Seed Starting Spree

My Crackpot Early Propagation Methods, December 4, 2016

I’ve been getting the itch to blog again, since I don’t do instagram or facebook anymore. For me blogging is like a public digital scrapbook I can look at instead of flipping through our 1000’s of flickr pics. I’ll be helping out with the The Garden Bloggers Fling here in Madison this weekend, which I’m hoping will inspire more posts. I still take tons of pictures of plants and gardens.

So I’ve been starting seeds in a lazy manner for years in San Francisco as pictured above. I’d buy trays and domes at the local cannabis grow shop, use regular potting soil and mostly start stuff that’s really easy. Considering I did it outside with varying conditions and would sometimes forget about them it was pretty successful. Not everything worked, but lots of it did. I also started propagating cuttings of my cool fuchsias, salvias, heck all kinds of weird things to share with people.

Baby Cornflower December 30, 2016

I was so lazy back then I put sphagnum moss in the bottom of cell packs, so they wouldn’t dry out as fast. It helped with survival rates with my inconsistent watering. It looks like more sphag than is really in there. I used to put a pinch in the bottom.

Way way back before iphones even existed I started a bunch of stuff in a Wisconsin basement closet under florescent shop lights and learned the hard way about properly hardening off plant babies. A few luffas survived and proceeded to eat our back deck. It was amazing, I’m really sad I don’t have pictures of it all. I’m hoping to get one to eat the side of our porch this summer and have hortonova trellis ready if it decides to take off.

The Sun, January 1st, 2022

Wisconsin winters are cold and don’t include hot pink blooming Salvia iodanthas as pictured on DECEMBER 30th behind the seedling. I was watching TikTok videos and saw a guy using LED shop lights to start plants. I googled around and it seemed legit. Matti set this up for me with a basic wire shelf and six 4′ LED shop lights from Harbor Freight (they were only $18 a each if you bought three only a couple months ago). We have a big power strip that’s on a timer back by the junk in the corner. I bought a heat mat for some of the seeds that like it a little warmer.

Shelve in action January 30, 2022

It worked! We had a greens farm going within a month. I now grow them differently than pictured above for a bunch of reasons. I also stopped bottom watering everything in the bathtub and switched to bottom watering them in trays like a civilized person. It’s also much easier to feed plant babies properly that way than the tub. All my seed starting supplies came from Jung’s including their wonderful seed starting mix. They’re the ones who threw in a free luffa seed packet years ago that I’ll never forget.

Seed Party January 24, 2022

So I went a little overboard with seeds. The ones pictured are only the ones with pretty pictures on the front (shout out to Select Seeds, I love you guys). I tried to keep it as simple as possible even if it doesn’t look like it from that picture. I went a little overboard with zinnias, basil and pickling cucumbers buying seven different varieties of each, but how can you choose just two or three? I spent hours and hours and hours putting way too many seeds in my cart, then taking some out and adding different ones. I ended up ordering from Johnny’s, Territorial and Select Seeds. I picked up some fun extras at Jung’s as well. As much as I would like to buy from Baker Creek, their whole deal with supporting racist militia members leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

While waiting for the seeds I dorked out and made a Google doc with copied and pasted pictures and info about everything I planned to start. If you’re curious you can check out my flower seed choices here. It’s really handy when you don’t have everything memorized and want to pull up info about stuff quickly. I busted it out on my phone when I forget spacing for stuff. I have one for veggies, too. It’s really cold and dark in January here in Wisconsin, there’s lots of time to stare at pictures of future plants.

March 20, 2022

After messing around with growing greens, herbs and even a couple cucumelons (the vines on the top right shelf that are now living their best life on the upstairs neighbor’s balcony) I got more serious. Not serious enough to use something other than our box fan on the dining room table for airflow, but it works. The lights are so powerful on the shelf that they have given new life to my abused Sansevieria collection and little monster.

Baby Cornflowers and Marigolds April 1, 2022

Remember simplicity? I have four types of marigolds and three types of cornflowers growing in these two flats. For starting seeds I pretty much follow the directions on the packet. I have a big plastic tub where I mix up seed starting mix with water and a spatula like a cake. You don’t want it to be too soggy. Sometimes I mix it a little drier than I should, but I just bottom water it in a tray a little. I bottom water everything until the very end. Seed starting mix is like a sponge. I use how much a flat weighs to determine if it needs to be watered or not. That’s probably the trickiest part of the whole operation. That and making sure to label and date everything. I use painters tape and a sharpie.

Experiencing Outside April 22, 2022

I expected to have planted everything up there in the ground by April 22nd, but thanks to a wintery spring had to wait longer than expected. Look at how cute everything was back then. Our place looked like a mini garden center for a few weeks. I was convinced a band of drunken raccoons was going to come through and rip everything apart, but it never happened. No squirrels or birds either.

Morning light April 23, 2022

This wire shelf was great for hardening off plants since it faces south east and close to the front door, so heaving them in and out was easy. That’s Lake Monona across the street. It froze over with no snow in January, so we were able to skate on it for two weeks! It’s pretty fun to walk around on covered in snow, too. I’m not a big fan of winter in Wisconsin, but Zoe LOVES it!

Dahlias May 2, 2022

I’ve grown Dahlias before, but never from seed. I had heard it was easy, and it’s true. I started a cactus flowered mix and ‘Bishop’s Children’ mix to keep it simple and pinched them back a few times. We’ll see what happens in the garden bloom wise later this summer.

Basil and Cucurbits May 11, 2022

Yep, I started seven different basil and pickling cucumbers. I would recommend going for even number of varieties if only for the sake of being able to plant flats of the same thing easier. One of the more cut flowery type basils is not pictured. My favorite basil is the cutie little green Finissimo Verde A Palla in the back rows that’s easy to snip over anything.

When the plants ate the porch May 21, 2022

Hardening off the cucurbits on the porch stairs. It’s all been in the ground for awhile now, but it looked like a plant shop pop up out front for a couple weeks. I’m trying out a bunch of fun squash and even two types of little melons. We have a plot at Eagle Heights Community Garden for the super big stuff. I went a little crazy one day and planted a ton of cucumbers on our back chain link fence, and even a few summer squash at the front of the backyard border.

First bloomer Marigold ‘Burning Embers’ May 29, 2022

Quite a few things I started from seed are blooming now including all the marigolds, but the winner for first flower and possibly sexiest marigold there is goes to Select Seeds ‘Burning Embers’. The celosias were the biggest pain in the ass to start out of everything. I’m down to only one shelf of plants now including a flat of lettuce for sandwiches and have switched over to propagating cool stuff via cuttings to change it up a little and to take a little seed starting break. I unexpectedly got full creative garden control of our front and back yard at our rental in May (long story), so I went to town jamming as much fun stuff as possible in to every nook and cranny like I do with all my gardens. It’s all a fun science experiment that hopefully attracts some bees, birds and butterflies along the way.

Olbrich Gardens Springy Goodness

Flowery Kaleidoscope May 19, 2022

Hooray for spring! This year spring took forever to get here and then it was hotter than hell, but that’s Wisconsin for you. I’m a 30 minute walk or 8 minute bike ride away from Olbrich Gardens, so I go there fairly often and take pictures of stuff. It’s the best place to learn from the best. Who else would stuff Dianthus ‘Green Ball’ in with Calendulas, Violas and Linaria?

Spring Containers May 15, 2022

I love how they use edibles for filler in so many of thespring containers. Did you know snapdragons are fairly cold hardy, so you can plant them early? I didn’t until I lived in California and saw them used as winter bedding plants around shopping mall parking lots. All I saw at the local nurseries around here were violas and pansies for spring, but there are so many other fun cold hardy flowers you can plant before mid-May.

Calendula and Lobelia Party May 15, 2022

Whoever chose this sexy calendula for a bunch of the containers is my hero. They’re another one that likes it cooler. This one kind of looks like ‘Orange Flash’ which there’s a lovely swath of on the corner of Jenifer and Baldwin right now that I’ve been drooling over for a couple weeks. Turns out a retired flower farmer lives there which explains all the cool flowery annuals. Calendulas are also super easy to start from seed.

“Rose Garden” Amazingness May 19, 2022

I nearly lost it when I visited the “Rose Garden” area later in May. It’s mostly fun succulent containers in the summertime. Check out the baby picture of this same container a few weeks earlier before the tulips popped. The blue, orangey peach and pink colors are so good together.

“Rose Garden” Amazingness May 19, 2022

Here’s another baby picture of this side from May 4th in full sun looking kind of crappy. I love before and after pics of plants.

Campanula and Lobelia Party May 15, 2022

The Campanula popping out the middle is so much fun. I don’t know why I stopped like blue Lobelias years ago. After seeing them used as spill all over the place, I’m sold again.

Lettuce Containers May 15, 2022

I love lettuce in gardens. Apparently, so do the herds of bunnies in town. I have a flat of lettuce growing under lights in the dining room. It’s easier than trying to grow it outside and easy to harvest. I hope they made a bunch of giant salads when they switched these guys out to summer stuff.

Tulips and friends May 19, 2022

It’s hard to see them in this picture, but they tucked Cerinthe in the container. Another cool weather lover. I started a bunch from seed in March and will post about my findings of growing it pretty much everywhere I could in my garden. I grew it in California for the bumblebee action. Mine just started to flower about a week ago and the sconnie bees seem to love it, too.

Helleborus × hybridus ‘Pippa’s Purple’ May 15, 2022

Wholly hella Hellebore! Olbrich has a bunch of cool ones, but this one was looking extra amazing.

Asimina triloba, Papaw tree maybe? May 15, 2022

I forgot to take a picture of the sign for this cool tree, but think it’s a pawpaw. Let me know if it’s something different. I learn so much about plants every time I visit Olbrich.

Daffodils and the Thai Pavilion May 4, 2022

Look at all those naked trees on May 4th. Spring took forever to start. Then it got so hot not long after that I was shoving my plant babies in the ground to keep them alive, instead of having to water them twice a day on the porch. I planted tons of marigolds, zinnias, cornflowers, dahlias, verbena, gomphrena, celosia, sunflowers and a bunch more in our rental’s front and backyard, so I’ll be blogging about them and how I started a bunch of them from seed soon.

Bowling Ball Garden

Coleus love

Only a couple blocks away is one of my favorite gardens in town. These are pics from last year, but I’ve already checked and they have a bunch of fabulous coleus planted again. I love coleus so much I have an entire post dedicated to it.

I’m usually indifferent about garden art and sculptures, but these bowling balls at different heights are so good. The purple paint job makes the funky coleus pop.

The dinosaur guarding from the hosta bed with a snake buddy is also wonderful.

The coleus party keeps on going next to the street.

Love the little Echinacea mix brightening up the side of the driveway. Any time someone is planting something other than grass in traditional lawn areas it makes me happy.

The purple house is next door to the zinnia party house, and keep the party going with this fun mix that has some orange cactus blooms in there.


Zinnia Love

Zinnia and Swallowtail Love

It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything. I’ve been busy growing stuff from seed, inside under LED shop lights like crazy including NINE different types of zinnias. If you want basil, I have basil and it’s not normal basil. I’m slowly shifting to cuttings under domes. Propagating is so much fun.

I started two different colors of the cactus flowered zinnia above Inca & Senorita. Select Seeds has many cool zinnia seed options and I bought a few. Can you see the powdery mildew in the pic above? The black specks are fly poop. The SF Bayview backyard was covered in flies every summer. I could grow the shorty zinnias just fine, but the big, tall ones always got icky with powdery mildew pretty quick.

Zinnia cutting garden

Fence zinnias

Here in Wisconsin and pretty much anywhere except my old SF backyard, zinnias grow with wild, happy abandon. One of my favorite Madison zinnia gardens is only a couple blocks away.

Look at the wall of happy zinnia blooms last year! This gardener direct seeds his zinnia party. It’s so much more fun than the boring grass that was there before. By the end of the summer they were at least six feet tall and made a magical, flower tunnel. The gardener who lives here also lived in San Francisco many years ago.

Bumblebee rest stop

The magical Bowling Ball Garden right next door to this zinnia party house also plants a patch of zinnias instead of grass. If you’re in the mood for looking at more cool zinnia seeds, check out Johnny’s.

Friday Garden F*ck Ups: Garden Junk Gone Wrong

This version looks so-so February 5, 2011

Cover your eyes! We’ve lived in California for nearly thirteen years and are heading back to Madison, Wisconsin in about two weeks. I’d like to start posting more gardeny stuff for folks that don’t live in coastal California where succulents grow like weeds and it never rains in the summer. It’s also crazy town expensive. Dipshits like us could just stick plants in junk and call it garden art without ever worrying about a frost or deep freeze.

 November 27, 2011

Just because you’re able to shove a bunch of sphagnum moss in to some piece of crap you found on the side of the road and then stuff it full of the fastest growing (suckiest) succulents you have doesn’t mean you should. I definitely give Matti more credit for these “plant experiments” but I participated in their creation as well.

October 17, 2009

I showed Matti the top pictures and he said, “They looked good for a hot minute.” Then I showed him the above picture which begs to differ. Here they are as babies almost two years earlier and they still look crappy. What’s up with the hideous red polyester mesh I bought and told Matti to use. The moss doesn’t just jump out of these sort of situations. It definitely amplifies the trashy vibe happening here, especially in the creation below.

September 3, 2011

For the love of god, we had enough Aeoniums back then to have at least covered up the ugly metal skeleton on what I’m guessing was a former used plastic bag dispenser maybe? It’s hard to shove succulents through that shield of polyester though.

December 11, 2011

This one isn’t as terrible as the rest, but it’s definitely not a star succulent arrangement by any means.

November 14, 2010

These have to be the saddest looking staghorn ferns you’ve ever seen. The poor things remind me of a girly show gone wrong thanks to their interesting placement (Matti). That terrible mesh fabric is there again, too. It’s all so bad, but we eventually learned some well placed nails and fishing line works and looks most importantly way better than this hot mess. Sphagnum moss can be a bitch to water thoroughly especially once it gets crispy hence lots of crusty looking plants. I still spend quite a bit of time watering our current staghorn fern flock in the kitchen sink, one tiny little drip at a time over several minutes.

April 23, 2011

I passive aggressively planted some taller shrubby things, so you’d no longer be able to see the fence eyesores instead of telling Matti that his succulent things sucked. The Leonotis menthifolia on the right, and Athansasia pinnata on the left didn’t grow fast enough to cover the shame quickly enough. My placement of them is also very questionable, but we didn’t have much space. Who the hell plants those between an Agave that will eventually eat the entire area?!?! People who are youngish (it was 2011), rent and don’t care that’s who.

November 14, 2009

To be fair to Matti he needed something to do in the garden. We could only meticulously weed everything like folks without children do for so long. Making weird succulent crap made him happy and I wasn’t going to stop him. I made many terrible succulent terrariums in my time. I even thought painting this shitty bathroom shelf orange and putting it on the wall was cool. I should have painted it, put plants on it and left it in the backyard, but it was a different time. Matti soon stepped up his junk rehabilitating game with the first succulent table he built from an old art crate he brought home from his job at a gallery. Then he made the infamous big table for Sunset. We also have a fabulous coffee table on wheels Matti made during that period of old shipping crates that I love and use way more than either of the succulent tables.

Carrizo Plain Flower Festival

The road to Carrizo Plain National Monument April 5, 2019

You would have thought I’d gotten enough California wildflowers on our stops at Antelope Valley, Lake Elsinore, and Anza-Borrego in March of 2019. Nope. I needed more, so in early April I went on a solo trip south to check out Carrizo Plain National Monument. Bare with me while I get all my California centered posts out of my system here. I had seen pictures of the mega bloom years before and had always wanted to check this place out, but it also freaked me out. Lots of people rent 4WD vehicles which I would recommend if you can. We got new and needed tires for the minivan and I figured I’d stay on the easy roads. Well, I almost ran myself over on the road to the visitor center when I stopped to check and see if I had a flat tire and forgot to put the car in park. I’m totally serious. No flat tire, but I’d describe big chunks of the ride around the monument like driving on a washboard on your rims. It didn’t help that I had my bike rattling around in the back of the car waiting to get ridden in Venice Beach.

Lacy Phacelia, Phacelia tanacetifolia

On the way to see this giant field of Phacelias I thought I was going to be stranded with four flat tires. I also misread the map and took a road I should have probably avoided. The weirdest thing was seeing 45MPH speed limit signs when I was afraid to go over 5 without feeling like the car was going to fall apart. At least I had the super AAA membership that will tow you out of remote places you probably shouldn’t be driving in to begin with. Enough about my driving trauma.

Tidy Tips, Layia platyglossa & California Goldfields Lasthenia californica

The Carrizo Plain was delightfully uncrowded due to it’s remote location about 45 minutes off the I-5 almost halfway between Bakersfield and San Luis Obispo. It’s pretty darn isolated, so be sure to gas up and bring food and water. Just look at those tidy tips! They’re one of my favorite California native annuals, so to see so many of them in their natural habitat was pretty exciting.

Creamcups, Platystemon californicus

Another favorite I’ve grown in the garden, creamcups. I pretty much lost it with excitement when I saw them. The Carrizo Plain is one of the only places to see California looking like it did before a bunch of folks set up massive monoculture agriculture sites all over the place. Seriously, it’s creepy to drive through miles and miles and miles of the same plant growing in a virtual desert.

Three hundred years ago, California’s Central Valley was vast grassland where antelope and elk grazed and wildflowers swept the spring landscape. Today, amid urban and agriculture development, a remnant remains in the Carrizo Plain National Monument.

Carrizo Plain National Monument is one of the best kept secrets in California. Only a few hours from Los Angeles, the Carrizo Plain offers visitors a rare chance to be alone with nature. Some visitors say you can “hear the silence.” The plain is home to diverse communities of wildlife and plant species including several listed as threatened or endangered and is an area culturally important to Native Americans.  

Soda Lake

Surprise, surprise a chemical company was processing tons of sodium sulfate from this amazing spot over 100 years ago. I’m glad they stopped, but the government website’s description of the lake is just weird. Like what/who is McKittrick and who wrote this blurb? I fixed the multiple spelling issues in the quote below.

A normally dry lake bed, Soda Lake covers an area of about 3,000 acres. It is the largest remaining natural alkali wetland in southern California and the only closed basin within the coastal mountains. Soda Lake concentrates salts as water is evaporated away, leaving white deposits of sulfates and carbonates. Despite this harsh environment, small plant and animal species are well adapted to this setting. In the 1880’s, the saline deposits of Soda Lake were mined for use at nearby cattle ranches as salt licks or for preserving meat. Prior to 1908 the Carrisa Chemical Company constructed a 600 ton per month capacity processing plant to recover sodium sulphate. Once the salts were processed they were sacked and hauled to McKittrick for distribution.

Purple Owl’s-Clover, Castilleja exserta

Good old broomrape. I still can’t get over the scary common name from olden times for this family of plants. I had no idea it was sort of a parasite.

Like other related plants in the family, this is a hemiparasite which derives some of its nutrients directly from the roots of other plants by injecting them with haustoria; this is the reason for its small, reduced leaves. Therefore, it is almost always planted with a perennial species to serve as the host plant.

Baby Blue Eyes, Nemophila menziesii

The baby blue eyes were past their prime, but I was happy to see a few still hanging out. I’ve seen pictures of blue hillsides here that are incredible.

Leaving Carrizo Plain

Definitely go see the blooms here if you have a chance. They’re typically going off in March or early April depending on how much rain fell in winter. Do some research before you go just in case. In the summer it’s a hellishly hot and brown place according to a nice young man working there.