above: bold colors and airy elegant textures. June 2016, Duboce Park.

below: a harmonius pairing of Lavandula x intermedia 'Provence' backed with Salvia clevelandii 'Alan Chickering', June 2016, Hillsborough.

bottom: behind a blue green allium stalk, white Linaria purpurea 'alba', Helichrysum bracteatum, and more lavender, June 2016, Duboce Park.


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July 2016

July 15 - early Summer blooms

a favorite guilty pleasure, Thalictrum delavayi 'Hewitt's Double is a sweet confection. While it would fail several of my preferences in plant choice, in the right location it sings the embodiment of awe, and so it stays; the single species is pictured below.

from top row: 1. Achillae millefolium 'New Vintage Violet' ages to pale pink. 2. the larger blooms of this unidentified Alonsoa stand much taller than hybrids. 3. the single form of Thalictrum delavayi captivates. 4. Tritelia ixioides, possibly ssp. anilina, found at a Strybing plant sale. 5. Scabiosa anthemifolia glows in its serene beauty. 6. quiet groundcovering Hermannia verticillata emits a seductive fragrance. 7. seed for this diminuitive Papaver somniferum came from a grocery store. 8. the warm toned seed heads of Lunaria annua extend its decorative season. 9. Scabiosa ochroleuca lifts the areas where it fills in with creamy buttons. 10. shade tolerant Penstemon tenuis echoes the Digitalis purpurea behind it. 11. a charming annual Gilia species floats baby blue orbs at mid-height. 12. exuberant Penstemon 'Red Rocks' calls for attention.

June 2016

June 10 - layers

I've been making big changes in my own garden, swapping out some long-time tenants for species that come closer to the style I like to design for my clients. Out went the terrestial bromeliads and a pair of Abutilon 'Victor Reiter'. In their place went some cottage-style flowers and berry-bearing native shrubs.

A challenge for small spaces is creating depth, and in this case the key is scale. Small plants allow more potential for layering and repetition. Another factor to consider is color and how it can help when space is tight.

three views of the same scene, using scale and color to define and connect layers in a small space. the black eye of the Helipterum echos the large, deep maroon pincushion of Scabiosa. the lavender orbs in the foreground pick up the sprinkle of purple Verbena bonariensis 'Little One' floating behind the Helipterum.

The pictures above employ contrast and harmony, in color and shape, of blooms as well as foliage. When first coming across this section of the garden, the eye easily latches onto the silvery lavender foliage, and then is drawn in by the velvety Scabiosa, swaying on tall stems behind it. At this point other details come into focus, as the eye is eager to make connections: large white Campanula and little white Helipterum; large Scabiosa atropurpurea and smaller S. ochcoleuca; lavender baubels in front and lavender mist in back, etc.

April 2016

April 26 - April (and March) showers, brings...

Gardens are looking so much better compared to this time last year. Species that hardly made a show of leaves in 2015 have rebounded, joining those who take a dry Winter in stride. Here are some species blooming in my gardens right now:

from top row: 1. California native Venegasia carpesioides enjoys shade 2. two shades of Verbena rigida compliment the silver garden. 3. very late and very cute Narcissus 'Baby Moon'. 4. Linaria purpurea 'Alba' offers up delicate white spires. 5. Sisyrinchium californicum glows like a tiny buttery tulip. 6. the green bells of Nicotiana langsdorfii reach for the sky. 7. Geranium 'Rozanne' was named perennial of the year in 2008. 8. Clematis ligusticifolia climbs an ornamental cherry. 9. only identified as Pelargonium 'Carmine Red', this Annie's selection has wonderfully fragrant foliage. 10. Nicotiana 'Hot Chocolate' lends an unusual tonal accent to a border. 11. a naturally occuring hybrid between Aquilegia canadensis and A. longissima popped up in the grey garden. 12. the elegant Aquilegia longissima is vigorous as well.

March 2016

March 7 - welcome back, El Nino 

This past weekend has been a wonderfully wet one, and everywhere gardens are looking better than they did last year. Here are some species blooming in my gardens right now:

from top row: Iris confusa, Semiaquilegia ecalcarata, Felicia echinata, Kalanchoe sp. Cynoglossum amabile, Rhodohypoxis deflexa, Ageratum houstonianum 'Blue Horizon', Tulbaghia natalensis, Buddleja salviifolia.

February 2016

February 4 - week of tree-mendous sightings

Here in San Francisco, the deepest Winter days still offer plenty of beauty, I'll start with a tree I'm not fond of...

I'm not a fan of most Acacias because of their excessive seeding and excessive diffculty in removing seedlings that pass a few months unnoticed. In other words, I owe them a bit of gratitude for the work they provide me. Well, here is one of the worse offenders, on a site in Burlingame, and I got to admit, under the right light and context, it's warmly romantic.

Here's a vibrant pink crab apple I came across in the Castro, so intense I thought it could be a Cercis, but on closer look, you'll see the five petaled give-aways. Since there's been a break in the rain, this tree may have a lovely crop of tiny apples in the Fall.

January 2016

January 23 - sorted seed swap

yep, lots of sorting needed to get done, Mike's holding a pack of Catanache a favorite of mine. Whatever we were not able to use got tossed in a mixing bowl, resulting in our own Guerrero Guerilla Mix. Look for it at a neglected space near you.

Winter is a great time to start seeds, and it'd be great if they were sorted out first, so I was excited to get to a seed swap hosted by Mike Collins. I threw together all the packets I could find and walked to his home in the Mission.

Sure enough, I encountered botanical interest on the way. In a sidewalk planter, large green tomatoes braved the cold, and opposite them, a beautiful member of Malvaceae. In keeping with the theme of the party, I harvested some seeds to share.

Each of us took turns pitching our wares, and we shared most everything. Mike offered some Ricinus, from a tree in his yard. As striking as the red Castor Oil tree was, I passed. I also skipped the super hot hardy peppers after hearing the anecdotals. Neither of these made it into the bowl of extras, which became our Guerrero Guerilla gardening mix.


January tomatoes, a mystery malva, and a giant ricin factory masquerading as a Japanese Maple.

Everyone went home with new seeds to try out, minus ones we didn't need, feeling pretty much sorted. Keep an eye out this Spring for the new Guerrero Guerillas.

January 21 - Rottin' weather

inky Iris blooms, more so now that they're rain soaked, and the tiny lavender dots of Ageratum give color to a silver(ish)  bed.

Trust me, I am not complaining, it's just some Winters remind me that good drainage is essential for a lot of the plants I love to use. That some flowers melt in the rain. That you can admire the decomposing leaf littler while pulling it away from crowns. That it's time to flip over saucers under pots, and elevate any pots sitting on directly on wood decking. And that a lot of silver plants morph into muddy green when wet.

It's also a good time to start seeds and cuttings, and I'll be going to an informal seed exchange on Saturday.

January 18- just in case the rains make you think the drought might be ending...

Lake Shasta, some 'still-beautiful-despite-humanity's-wrecklessness' Madrones, fishing boats for scale. January 18, 2016.

January 10 - Winter bloomers

starting the New Year with blooms of a fragrant narcissus and a giant hellebore, neither identifiable to me... yet. 

Since young Hellebores not in bloom look like gangly alien flora, last Winter I was able to purchase two unmarked plants for the princely total of five dollars at the Civic Center Farmers Market. They both are blooming this year, a month earlier than last, sporting massive flowers, in spite of being transplanted, which apparently they don't like.

The parade (well, more like a single file hike) of Narcissus has begun in my yard, with another unknown to me variety with spritely star pointed tepals and a dainty yellow corona. What's big about them is their wonderful fragrance, which I associate with this time of year, coinciding with forced paperwhites perfuming sealed quarters during the depths of New England winters.

more neighborhood Winter bloomers, Coleonema, Michelia and an extra early Prunus

Dean Ouellette    415-820-1623   garden_together@hotmail.com