Monday, September 11, 2017

A Gardener's Fortune Cookie

Here's a fortune cookie for gardeners: "Planting now will bring great happiness." Planting in the fall will indeed help perennials prosper, bringing a stronger start to spring and in most cases earlier blooming.  It is a little hard to 'plan ahead' but the facts don't lie. Plants established in the fall simply get off to better starts in the spring, even if that plant goes deciduous first.
Speaking of preparing for spring, spring blooming bulbs have now arrived at your local garden center/nursery. I know, I know, it's only September 12 and it's bloody warm out but now is a good time to pop in and preview what floral delights you might like to succumb to. The list includes Tulips, Crocus, Hyacinths, Freesias, Ixias, Sparaxis, Dutch iris, Daffodils, Scillas and more.

Above is Asarina Joan Lorraine, against the backdrop of a Duranta Gold Mound. Purple and Gold is always a great combo. This Asarina has delicate foliage and doesn't wander too far afoot, making it a perfect small climber.

Dianthus variety. There are so many wonderful colors within this genus, although I'm ore attracted to the oranges, corals and salmons. This new one is a bit more orange than the photo shows.

Jacaranda 'Bonzai Blue.' I tell nursery customers all the time that look at the foliage as well, as you're usually only going to have flowers for 2-3 months. I had that in mind buying this dwarf, shrub form of Jacaranda. Love that fern-like foliage.

If there was drug testing in the horticulture world, this Celosia might be in big trouble. Just kidding but if you're only used to the dwarf bedding celosias, then this soon to be 3' tall, multi-branching C. Sunday Wine Red is a real eye opener. Beautiful!

Abutilon fraseri. A CA native Abutilon? Yes, this desert flowering maple breaks all the rules for what we know about Abutilons. It loves the sun and heat, it's very drought tolerant (prefers very little water), has the softest leaves imaginable and it goes deciduous. The flowers are a bit smaller but an intense golden hue. It's now one of my favorite plants.

I didn't catch this Mimulus 'Jelly Bean Red' in the sun but in this bit of shade you can best appreciate what a saturated dark red the flowers are. C'est magnifique!

Finally, a decent photo of my Westringia 'Wynyabbie Highlight.' Not making that name up, mate. This variegated form is especially lovely.

Although it's still a bit folded up, my Kalanchoe 'Fantastic' is showing off its red and jade tones. Still young, it will eventually triple in size and the 'flapjacks' will open out. 

Adenanthos sericeus (Wooly bush) is no one trick pony. Here's a shot of the lime-colored silky new growth. Soon, tiny little miniature orange XMas tree light flowers will dot the interior of the plant. 

Remember those 'Got milk?' commercials. We should start a series on caudiciforms called 'Got belly?' As in fat trunk. The trunk on this Pachypodium lealii v. saundersii hasn't begun to swell quite yet but it's off to a good start.

Phyllitis scolopendrium. One of the broad-leaf ferns, more accurately classified as single or undivided, this is one lovely way to brighten up a shady location. Look for my article on this subject in the Winter 2017 issue of Pacific Horticulture Magazine.

Here's another member of that club, this a Dryopertis sieboldii. Better known as Siebold's Wood fern (you knew that, right?) this broad-leaf fern is distinctive due to its wide, thick leaves forming horizontal planes. I love hearing customers say "That's a fern!?"

Begonia Gene Daniels. One of the shrub begonias, this variety has reddish-burgundy backsides and that's apparent here as the sun back-lights these leaves. As with most shrub and cane begonias, it's the foliage that is the star attraction.

Dahlias are popular for a reason and this new addition, which is more purple than the pink it's showing here, is out front getting maximum sun.

Calluna 'Bradford.' Kind of an odd name for a Calluna variety - sounds more like a law firm (Bradford and Bradford) - but in any case it's in full bloom. Heathers need not be hard scrabble plants if they're given a bit of regular water.

Asclepias curassivica. Here's a shot of both the flowers and the amazing seedpods. Sometimes I think the open seedpods look like an explosion that's frozen in time. The white fluff looks to be escaping with tremendous force but has been captured on 'film' just at the moment of explosion.

As regular readers know, I'm usually taking photos of individual plants, or perhaps a small bed. Here's a shot of the main part of my front yard. On the right is the walkway headed to the back yard. To the left is the area between the two driveways, not a large area really but populated with a Laburnum tree, Snail vine, Banks rose, Grevillea bush, Melaleuca bush, Wooly bush (Adenanthus), Chamelaucium, Lepechinia hastata, Cunonia capensis (Butterknife tree) and some low growing plants.

Tweedia caerulea. Here's a slightly better photo of my Tweedia plant, with those one of a kind robin's egg-blue flowers.

Helenium Mardi Gras with bee. I pretty much could choose any of the hundred helenium flowers right now and there'd likely be a bee on it.

Ditto for my Lonicera japonica flowers. Here's a bee collecting nectar on this Hall's honeysuckle. We should all be as industrious and where needed as single-minded as bees when collecting nectar.

Exuberant is always the word I think of in describing my Justicia fulvicoma. This semi-tropical perennial is tougher than it looks. Mine survived being buried under a larger plant and in a smallish container over the winter. As soon as I brought it out into sun and watered it, it responded and is now in bloom.

Chamaecyparis lawsonii Van Pelt's Blue. False cypresses as they're called are surprisingly tough plants and, I've discovered, fond of regular water. That goes for my other dwarf conifers as well. The regular water has made them greener and fuller.

Here's a full bush shot of my Salvia discolor. It fills in densely given half a chance and is one of the more resilient salvias out there. It has withstood its fair share of abuse - poor soil, lapses in watering, little or no fertilizing - and kept going.

Acer Sango-Kaku. Better known as Coral Bark maple, this Japanese maple is quicker to establish and grow than many Japanese maples. And of course they are of winter interest once the leaves have dropped, having a surfeit of orangish stems.

A new Mimulus, Jelly Bean Gold, that hadn't made it into the ground yet but was too colorful to resist photographing. The Jelly Beans may not be as long lived as the aurantiacus types but they are prolific bloomers and if pruned appropriately can be a great plant for several years.

This Rhipsalis has way overgrown its small pot but keeps branching out. Rhipsalis is an epiphytic cactus widely found in Central and South American rainforests. It is found throughout the new world but additionally in tropical Africa, Madagascar and Sri Lanka. Curiously, it is the only cactus with a natural occurrence outside the New World.

Penstemon Violet Kissed. I haven't always had the best luck with Penstemons but this new addition is off and running. The lavender-blushed white flowers certainly make for a elegant addition.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

True Wealth

It's no secret to many Bay Area gardeners that we live in one of the prime gardening regions of the country. That's especially true for cities like Oakland that lay in the milder zones. It seems that you can grow almost anything here in Oakland and for those of us with a diverse garden, we have the great good fortune of experiencing a 'true wealth' of floral delights. For the avid gardener, plants are the gift that keeps on giving, revealing small pleasures as they progress throughout the seasons. And of course gardens attract a variety of engaging insects and birds that are fun to witness, study or simply marvel at. When I'm able to put city distractions out of my head and be in the moment in my garden, it truly is a little corner of paradise. And we could all use a bit more of that 'escape' these days ...
Here are this week's photos.

A friend suggested that she indeed had someone in mind that she'd like to drop a house on. Hmm, who could that be?

Begonia Irene Nuss. This cane-type begonia has some of the largest and showiest flowers for any larger size begonia. 

I'm loving my Clerodendrum fragrans. It's proving to be a prolific bloomer, even from a young plant. Here's the formation of a flower cluster, the round white buds getting ready to pop open. It has lived up to its rep as being intensely fragrant.

I'm officially now a caudex collector. Here's my latest, Adenium obesum. This Desert Rose plant is noteworthy for not just its fat trunk but for its showy rosy-red flowers.

Begonia Fannie Moser has some of the darkest leaves of any begonia. Love the delicate spotting too. It looks to be a spiller, more than an upright type.

Here's the beginning of my Herb garden. The centerpiece is the golden oregano, while 3 silver thymes are spread around it. There's also 3 Arugulas that I planted for their pretty brown-ribbed white flowers, a Lemon Balm, an Agastache and a Nepeta x faassenii (Catmint). 

Dianthus x superbus Bearded. This extravagantly fringed carnation certainly stands out, surrounded by orange and gold flowers.

Here's my Sun King bed. The Celosia Sunday Wine Red dominates the bed right now but coming along are a Penstemon Violet-kissed, a Tweedia and a Wooly Blue Curls (Trichostema lanatum). I took the bold step of yanking nearly everything out of the upper portion of the bed and planting some new favorites and they're coming along nicely.

Here's a closeup of the Tweedia caerulea. There's nothing quite like the robin's egg blue color of these flowers. Some may not know that Tweedia is a member of the milkweed family and produces those distinctive seedpods that eventually crack open to reveal the fluffy seed capsules. The best known milkweed is of course Asclepias or Butterfly bush (host plant for Monarch butterflies).

I include this photo to show off the lovely pot as much as its contents - Dahlia 'Dark Side of the Sun' - though I think the plant looks handsome in this container.

Although the angle of this shot is a bit strange, it's what I had to work with to reveal the colorful interior of an Alpinia Zerumbet flower. Known as Shell Ginger due to the seashell shape of the white flowers, these little beauties also happen to be fragrant.

Here's the newest addition to my Japanese bed, featuring dwarf conifers. This is Juniperus chinensis 'Sea Green.' Though it is more vertical than horizontal right now, I'll be training it as a ground cover plant. 

Speaking of ground covers, this Ceratostigma plumbaginoides (say that fast 10 times) has spread out very nicely, colonizing a part shade location in and around my bird bath.

Regular readers of this blog know I'm a big Agastache fan. This A. 'Raspberry Summer' is a relatively new one and its vibrant color has already made it one of my favorites. Colorful, hummingbird magnets and fragrant. Pretty much a triple play!

Lonicera japonica. I've managed to keep my Hall's honeysuckle trimmed to a 4' x 4' bush. It's such a prolific bloomer than even with regular trimming it still regrows and flowers.

Another shot of my Salvia discolor. What color was that, Tony Soprano? "Dis color" he says. Okay, bad jokes aside, this is one tough and resilient salvia. It's most famous for its nearly black flowers but the pale lime bracts and white undersides to the leaves and the sticky white stems are also appealing features.

No, not popsicles but the elongated seedpods from my Lilium philippinense flowers. Very curious looking, no?

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Patience, grasshopper

I am not a patient person and that extends to gardening. I can be the person watching the proverbial pot, waiting for it to boil. I once found an engraved stone in a garden shop that sums up my gardening persona - "Grow Dammit." That said, I have learned through the years to be more patient with my plants/beds/garden. I give my plants what is hopefully optimal conditions but I have learned that some plants just take their time. To state the obvious, a plant's timetable is directly affected by temperature, amount of light and moisture, condition of the soil and its ability to fight off disease and insects. If it's a cool spring like we had this year, that's going to delay plants that need sun and heat. On the other hand, all that rain made my shrubs and trees go into overdrive. I tell customers this all the time but sometimes it can be a matter of 'Do as I say, not as I do.' I am learning. Slowly. And as we all know, the hard won battles can be the sweetest. You've stuck with it, not given up hope, kept the faith, paid attention to what is going on with the plant, nurtured it and in the end, success!
And now photos of a few of the successes, some that came easy and some where I was the 'grasshopper.'

I thought the patterned sun on my Heliotropium 'Alba' gave it a mysterious look. This shrub is tougher than it looks and after deadheading gets down to the business of blooming again.

Not the most elegant shot of my Sophora prostrata 'Little Baby' but this shot gives you a hint of its delicate beauty. This is a small tree/shrub that should be better known. As the variety name suggests, this is a dwarf form.

Helleborus argutifolius Pacific Frost.Though it's the 'off season' for hellebores, the foliage on this variety looks attractive year round. Lenten roses are one of the great versatile plants for the garden.

Okay, last shot of my Portulaca 'Rio Scarlet.' I just love that color and here it's matched up with my equally colorful Ipomoea 'Sunrise Serenade.'

Mirabilis jalapa. Though the yellow flowers aren't open, I thought the little bursts of gold against the green gave this specimen an interesting look. There isn't anything easier to grow in the world than Four O'Clocks and they self-seed like crazy. Oh and they grow quickly and flower readily. Other than them bringing you waffles in bed, how much more can you ask of a plant?

Celosia argentea Sunday Wine Red. A little time in the sun was all it took to get this Celosia to acquire that marvelous color. This is the 'real' celosia, not the tiny bedding ones you see in garden centers which are hybrids. Did you know that Celosia seeds are edible?

With my zoom lens on the fritz, this is as close as I could get to my Vigna caracalla, better known as Snail vine. That common name owes to the purple and white corkscrew flowers. If you can get close enough to the flowers to smell, they have a wonderfully heady fragrance.

As the saying goes - "What?" As in, what is this a shot of? It's a spent stalk of my gorgeous Lilium Flore Pleno (a double form tiger lily). Those black "berries" are called bulbils and it's one of the way that certain lilies self-propagate. Once they begun to form tiny roots, they can be 'harvested' and used to grow new lilies.

One of my favorite Salvias is S. guaranitica 'Black and Blue.' I'm not alone in loving that intense purple color and the characteristic black bracts (say 'black bracts' real fast ten times). It's fast growing, quick to bloom and of course popular with hummingbirds. 

Quick, name the ten plants that have the softest foliage. One of them would surely have to be Phylica plumosa. Soft doesn't even do justice to how silky this South African's foliage is. Easier to grow than its reputation, it really just needs good drainage and lots of sun.

Blechnum gibbum 'Silver Lady.' This New Zealand native is often referred to as a shorter tree fern. It can reach a still considerable size of 4-6.' It's one of the so-called "shuttlecock" ferns, a shuttlecock being the thing that badminton players hit. Alternately, it can be considered to have a vase form. Any way you describe it, it's a beauty.

I show the glowing Bouvardia ternifolia not only for its scarlet beauty but as an example of the virtues of pruning. It had gotten straggly last year so in November I pruned it back hard. It took awhile but it eventually began to sprout new leaves, which became branches, which became flowering branches! With its tubular red flowers, it's a hummer favorite.

Speaking of red and hummers, my Epilobium canum is enjoying a prolific bloom season. The bees find it irresistible too. California fuchsia as it's known, is drought tolerant and long lived, if it's given good drainage and adequate sun.

My Aralia cordata 'Sun King' would be a terrific addition to any part shade garden even if it never bloomed. But if you look closely, you can see sprays of tiny green flowers. These will eventually turn a creamy white color, followed (if I'm lucky) by black berries.

My Impatiens congolense (syn. niamniamensis) has outgrown its container (thus the straggly growth) but that hasn't stopped it from blooming prolifically.

Though Nicotianas are thought of as shade plants, that hasn't stopped my N. grandiflora from reaching out to grab as much sun as it can in this otherwise filtered sun bed.

Speaking of white, my Mandevilla laxa flowers are about as pure and as intense as white gets. A perfect addition to any white or moon garden, especially since the flowers are sweetly fragrant.

Speaking of 'shade or sun,' this Hakonechloa macra aureola, often used in shady beds, is in my garden planted in quite a bit of sun. So far so good. More sun is thought to bring out more of the golden colors, while in shade the greens have more of a presence.

Being a lover of true blue flowers, I never get tired of photographing my Evolvulus. Related to ground morning glory (Convolvulus, which as you can see is virtually the same word), it slowly spreads and has, for me, filled in densely.

Though a zoom lens could have provided a closeup of this Manulea altissima's flower, I mostly include this photo to introduce this little know plant to readers. This South African perennial's claim to fame is its unique fragrance, described as sweet and sour at the same time. I've smelled mine and, well, it's a bit more on the sweet side but there's an undertone that's a bit wrinkly to one's nose.

There's something I love about Hunnemannia fumariifolia flowers. The pure lemon yellow petals? The frilly orange centers? Incidentally, someone loved double letters in naming this plant. The genus has two sets of 'n's' and the species has back to back 'i's'.

I love peach and apricot tones and this lovely Hibiscus 'Cherie' has that in spades.

Deppea splendens. Splendid indeed, this now extinct native of Chiapis Mexico has the most amazing flowers, appearing in bunches like the most delicious fruit. Mine has prospered more now that I've moved it into a bit more sun.

Amorphophallus konjac. This arum family member has yet to mature enough to form its spectacular flower/spathe but here the backlit leaves have a beauty all their own.
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