Garden Photo of the Day

Dan’s Garden in California, Revisited

This is one of two flamingo topiaries that flank our pool. Myrtus communis was used in this topiary. In the foreground are variegated society garlic (Tulbaghia violacea 'Variegata') and the only snail that is welcomed in this garden. Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Dan Koellen

Today’s photos are from Dan Koellen in Roseville, California. We last saw Dan’s garden in May, when I fell in love with his topiary Loch Ness monster! (Refresh your memory here) Now he’s back with a few more of his topiaries, and more.

This is our jumping horse topiary in our front yard. Ligustrum japonicum was used in this topiary. Just behind the boulders are white flowering gladiolus that come back every year despite no special care.
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Dan Koellen

Dan says, “While the topiaries really jump out at you in person, photographing them can be difficult since they tend to blend into the background in a photo. Gardening in the summer can be a challenge in Northern California with very hot days and no rain from May until fall; even Mediterranean plants need supplemental water here to keep them healthy.”

This is a photo of the entrance to our house. Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica cvs.) trees in white and red are fabulous summer bloomers that can get by with little water but will tolerate lawn water. Though these trees look nice in this setting my preference is a multi-trunked specimen. In the background are very reliable and robust ‘Iceberg’ roses, mugo pine, Cedrus deodara ‘Feelin’ Blue’, Juniperus chinensis ‘Daub’s Frosted’, Nandina domestica ‘Sienna Sunrise’ and Acer palmatum ‘Red Dragon’ and ‘Sango-Kaku’
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Dan Koellen
The bush with large flowers is a hardy hibiscus (Hibiscus moscheutos ‘disco bell’). This plant is covered with these large flowers all summer, you can see all the buds (and they just keep coming). I had to take this photo as it was just beginning to bloom because the next day I was erecting a fence around these for our new puppy pen; our puppy enjoyed the blooms all summer long!
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Dan Koellen
Under the bird sculpture Lantana camara ‘Citrus’ takes over blooming from the spring blooming Phlomis fruticosa with Cuphea hyssopifolia in the foreground. Lantana is another workhorse in this area, little water and hot temperatures bring an abundance of growth and blooms. By the end of the summer the lantana has more than doubled in size.
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Dan Koellen
Phlomis fruticosa, veronica, Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ (Harry Lauder’s walking stick), Cuphea hyssopifolia, and Adenanthos sericea along the dry stream bed.
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Dan Koellen
The summer sun is setting over Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruticosa), veronica, Abellia grandiflora ‘Kaleidoscope’, meyer’s asparagus, Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ (Harry Lauder’s walking stick) and Wollybush (Adenanthos sericea)
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Dan Koellen
The Chinese yellow banana (Musella lasiocarpa) is not a true banana but likely gets the name from its large banana-like leaf and its origin in the mountains of China. The ‘flower’ forms on the second year of growth with the yellow bracts unfolding through the summer exposing small yellow flowers at the base of the bracts.
Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Dan Koellen


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  1. User avater
    meander_michaele 12/03/2012

    Dan, you really are doing a great job with your topiaries...their identities are definitely recognizable which is probably waaaay more difficult than I could ever begin to imagine since I have never tried my hand at that art form.
    The Chinese yellow banana plant is fascinating much architectural interest to it.
    Kudos to you and your wife for being such good stewards of your property by making it beautiful and yet being respectful of keeping water needs of your plantings as minimal as possible.

  2. tractor1 12/03/2012

    Wonderful topiaries,and in time will become bigger and better. Dan, your photos would be better if you consider the direction and intensity of the natural light, choose a sunny day with the sun behind you (mid morning or mid afternoon, not directly overhead or most of your subject will shade itself), and include some sky in your photos, even if you need to lie on the ground... it's much better to have the bright sky behind your subject instead of a bright object in front, like all those light hued plantings and concrete in front of your flamingo for your camera to focus on rather than your subject. Your horse photographed more clearly because of how the sun strikes it from behind you and the shaded background. I don't know what kind of digicam you're using but I'd suggest it needs a tune up, put it back to its factory setting and your photos will capture more detail and won't be so blurred. Unless you're a professional photographer it's best to leave your camera on Auto and don't use the various features, or you'll not remember how to return to the factory setting, you'll lose your way just like Hansel and Gretel. Contact your camera's tech department and they will be happy to walk you through to return to the factory setting. What trees are you thinking to use as replacements in front of your house, and what will you do with those already there... they are quite large and look well established, I'm sure you will need them moved professionally, can easily run over a grand each. I would suggest you do this before those trees become larger, and I agree that the white one is much too large to be in front of your entryway and so close to your house, the red one seems okay if it don't get much larger, keep it well pruned. I would suggest dwarf crabapple (if it grows in your area), there are so many to choose from. But I don't think you need a tree in that spot to replace the white one, it's too close to your house and you already have some sort of small tree on that side, hopefully one that doesn't grow much larger... I think a second tree in that spot to match your red one would clash, kind of overkill... I'd plant something different and nothing that grows taller than your eaves. If you really must replace that tree I'd check out the semi dwarf conifers, spruce do very well in dry soil and many have very unique growing habits... perhaps a small rock garden of various dwarf conifers would add more interest in that spot. I think in the front the house itself should be the focal point, I'd not plant a forest just because you can, you'll only obscure your house, save your heavier planting for the rear yard, where it's more important to desigh from the view you see from your windows than what people see looking from the outside. I think too many landscapers place too much stress on what passersby see than what the homeowner sees from inside their house. In front yards less is more.
    I hope my suggestions are helpful, Dan.

  3. tractor1 12/03/2012

    Front of my house from a few years ago, yesterday I decorated my Fat Albert Colorado blue spruce, it's now about eight feet tall, I could barely reach with a six foot step ladder because it's also much wider, I'm sure next year I won't be able to reach the top. I'll take more pictures after a snow.

  4. sheila_schultz 12/03/2012

    Dan, your yard is just so much fun. Your photos always make me smile. I especially like the Musella lasiocarpa, they remind me of googly eyes ;) love 'em!

  5. tractor1 12/04/2012

    Gee, where is everybody, there are fewer and fewer people posting lately.

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