Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What drought?

So were the previous five years of drought just a dream or has the last three months been just a reverie we'll wake up from. And now the Oroville dam is close to flooding out a huge population in NorCal, all the reservoirs are overflowing and sump pumps are suddenly in demand. Even our gardens aren't sure what the heck is going on. Spring rains are great for gardens, to a point. Too much water, like too much of anything, isn't good for our gardens either.
Still, the rains are certainly a blessing for spring bulbs and many of mine are appearing earlier than in past years. Ditto for my deciduous shrubs, which the rains have spurred to leaf out especially early.
Right about now though even our plants are hoping for a stretch of sun.
So here a few photos of new developments in the garden.

The two pots of pink flowers are from my collection of Lachenalias. Though they weren't tagged, I think the one on the right is L. rubida. It's one of the earlier blooming species.

Tillandsia tectorum + Aeonium Schwarzkopf. I love the contrast of silver and black. BTW, don't you think the Aeonium variety's name would be a great candidate for a spelling contest?

The little train that could. That's how I think of this dwarf Helichrysum bracteatum (Paper flower). It just keeps flowering through thick and thin. Some flowers just make you like them, don't you think?

I love photographing my Phylica plumosa in all kinds of light. This morning they remind me of furry jellyfish floating to the surface.

Two of my favorite shrubs. That's Westringia 'Wynyabbie Highlight' on the left and Grevillea Penola on the right. Both are very durable and bloom in late winter and early spring. 

My Calluna 'Firefly' has been especially colorful this winter. The small purple flowers are almost an afterthought when they appear. Callunas are a type of heather, which if you see the full size photo you can better appreciate.

Remember those 'Got milk?' commercials. This time of year one might change that to 'Got Quince?' That is, flowering quince (Chaenomeles). Here's my C. 'Kurokoji' with a backdrop provided by my Wooly bush. I love the blood red color of its flowers. It's almost as if the shrub really does have blood coursing through its veins and some has bled out onto its flowers.

My amazing Aloe striata (Coral aloe) already has two new nestled flower spikes. I swear, it's a blooming machine. Hummers love aloe flowers, another reason to add one or two to your garden.

Although this bed is a bit messy, it's the pretty lavender flowers here that are the subject. They're Iris confusa 'Chengdu,' better known as bamboo iris. It took a couple years to get established but now it's putting out a good amount of petite, lightly fragrant blooms. It's a tough plant too, doing equally well in sun or light shade, in moist or dry conditions. 

Speaking of tough, it doesn't get much more resilient than Chasmanthe bicolor. This vigorous South African bulb pops up in late winter and puts up a seemingly endless number of flowering spikes. The flowers are small, two-lipped red and yellow. People often mistake this plant for a Crocosmia, which also hails from South Africa. Both are members of the Iris family (Iridaceae).

Teucrium fruticans 'Gwen.' To rework that old phrase (two kinds of people), there's two kinds of Teucriums in this world, the lower ground cover types and the taller ones. T. fruticans belongs to the latter. Gwen is a dwarf variety, only getting to two feet not 4-6.' Still, it has all the virtues of a T. fruticans - lovely silvery foliage, pretty lavender flowers and it's just as drought tolerant and long-lived.

Nandina domestica. Here's a headline - "Nandina domestica goes wild!" You see, domestic(a) goes wild. It's a sort of joke you see. Okay, moving along. Actually though it doesn't go wild, this shrub is vigorous and will spread out. Here it's showing some of the lovely coppery new foliage that is part of this evergreen shrub's charm. Another tough customer plus it produces berries for the birds.

Scrophularia calliantha variegata. This species has the largest flowers of any figwort (though that's still only 1/2"). Most people buy this variety for the lovely variegated foliage (as I did). It can handle some shade though if it gets too much it will be straggly. It sends up tall flowering stems dotted with small but curious red flowers.

Abelia 'Kaleidoscope.' This multi-colored evergreen shrub is a four season delight. Spring foliage is a bright green and yellow. These colors mute a bit in summer when little bell-shaped pink flowers appear. The flowers continue on into the fall, which is when the leaves suddenly add red and orange tones. It's an abelia so it's tough.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Summer is Here

Okay, not summer summer but the summer blooming bulbs have arrived in local nurseries and garden centers. You may not feel like shopping for summer bulbs when it's 45 degrees out but this is the best time and will offer the widest selection. Besides the Big 3 - Gladiolas, Dahlias and Lilies - there are Begonias, Calla lilies, more Freesias and Sparaxis, Crocosmia, sweet-smelling Tuberosa (Polianthes)  and many more. And with the exception of the Dahlia tubers, which don't like cold wet soil conditions now, the rest of the summer bulbs can be planted straight away.
One nice thing about bulbs is that you can 'hide' them under existing plants or in planting them in an open spot leave room for some other lower growing plant that they can pop up through. To me they are like long lost friends that return unexpectedly in spring (or summer). No effort on our parts needed. So, we get the double pleasure in the next month - enjoying the early spring-blooming bulbs while we plant the new summer bulbs. All our other gardening should be so easy!
Here are the first photos of my garden in the new year. While it is still mostly dormant, there are always little things going on. And of course it has loved all the recent rain.

Leucospermum variety. This is actually my neighbor's bush but as its first flowers are beginning to open I couldn't resist sharing it. Of all the Protea family members, Leucospermums are my favorite. 

Leptospermum lanigerum. This silver-leaved New Zealand tea tree is more about the soft, downy foliage than the little white flowers. It is growing surprisingly fast, much to my delight. It's supposed to top out at ten feet so we'll see.

Speaking of attractive silver foliage, you get that in spades with Geranium harveyi. Not widely known, this beauty looks good cascading out of its bright blue pot. No flowers yet but that's okay. It's the foliage that caught my eye.

Beschorneria albiflora. Beschornerias are great landscape plants, getting to a generous size and featuring wide, strap-like leaves. The foliage is appealing to me, a good thing while you're waiting for the tall arching stems filled with waxy red and green tubular flowers. 

Kalanchoe 'Chocolate Soldier.' I've been pleasantly surprised at how well my ground-planted succulents have held up in all our rain. Kalanchoes grow a little more quickly than many succulents and the variety in leaf form is quite amazing ("Wait, that's a Kalanchoe?")

The yin and the yang. Here a bright red primrose shares a bed with my newly planted Myrsine africana variegata. Myrsines are known as African boxwoods, which I always thought was a bit of a stretch comparison wise. Myrsines generally have smaller rounder leaves (usually a glossy green), providing to me a more pleasing look.

Finally a decent photo of my Melianthus pectinatus! This dwarf African honey bush has finally settled in and is in bloom right now. As you can see, it has much smaller, more delicate leaves than the more common M. major. Perfect for a smaller space and you still get that great peanut butter aroma from the leaves.

Somehow, a few years on from discovering the beauty of ferns, I suddenly have 25 different ones in my garden. The newest, not yet planted, is this Dryopteris koidzumiana (Japanese Wood fern). The new growth offers beautiful burnished ginger tones and a classic 'fern' look. You may be familiar with its better known cousin - Dryopteris erythrosora (Autumn fern).

The Bidens that ate Oakland. My B. HI Flare Orange Drop has kind of gone crazy in this hanging basket but its hard not to like the delicate foliage and those groovy flowers.

Couldn't resist this shot of my Pieris japonica 'Flaming Silver.' A lovely salmon-colored new leaf has appeared, kind of a 'more to come in early spring' sentinel. 

Here are two shots of my Billbergia 'Hallelujah,' which has for the first time put out its flower 'spears.' The reddish-pink sheath is the bract and then it sends out the off-white flowers with the purple tips. I know there must be some way of predicting when bromeliads will bloom but I haven't discovered it. For me the blooming is always a major event.

For some reason this Euphorbia 'Glacier Blue' looks more like a painting than a photograph. Maybe it's the soft colors or the perfect geometric composition. No matter. Beauty is beauty.

Although the sun somewhat washed out this shot I'm including it to say that you can grow this Goldfish houseplant outdoors. As you can see, it's prospering. And if you want you can tell a friend "Hey, did you know that goldfish can fly?" Then return their puzzled gaze with "Yeah, my hanging goldfish plant has little orange flowers that look like they're flying."

Though this Mother Fern is perhaps the most common of all ferns it's still beautiful nonetheless. I'm choosing to grow mine outdoors and it's found a home in a part-morning sun location.

Although I've displayed several shots of my beautiful Camellia reticulata 'Frank Hauser,' I thought a side-angle view was interesting. You see the depth of the flowers and get a different take on its wavy petals.

Okay, no beauty awards for this shot of my Begonia 'Wild Pony' but two things. First I rooted this from a cutting and it immediately took hold. Second it has stayed evergreen. This is a variety you grow for the textured almost crinkled foliage. Can't wait to see how big it gets.

A photo of a bare tree? Yes and no. It's my Magnolia 'Butterflies' and it won't be long till it bursts into bloom. You may already have seen some mature Magnolia soulangianas in bloom. BTW, magnolias are one of the oldest trees on our planet. 

There's soft and then there's soft. The foliage on this Phylica plumosa is just unbelievably silky soft. It's one of many South African plants in my garden.

I love this little Fabiana imbricata violacea. A member of the Solanaceae family, it is native to Chile. The funny thing is, it almost looks more like a heather than something related to a Potato vine or a tomato.

It's sweet pea season so I've planted one of the new Annie's Annuals varieties in this ceramic pot, positioned so it can climb on the wrought iron railing.

Here's a closeup of the stand underneath the pot. Yep that's an elephant, guarding the entrance to the steps!

Callistemon viminalis. Callistemons are bottle brush trees or, in this case, a shrub. This species tops out at 6-8' tall and wide, making it easier for those of us with limited space to grow one in a pot.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Poppies 'N Peas

You may be sitting in your house, looking out at the rain or the cold and wondering "What the heck is there to plant in my garden right now?" It's a legitimate question. And here's a legitimate answer: breadseed poppies and sweet peas. It's somehow fitting that two of the most colorful and engaging flowers should arrive in January, just in time to cheer us up. No worries about rushing things, this really is the time to plant these guys. Everybody knows sweet peas but for those who may not be acquainted with Annie's Annuals, as the saying goes "You ain't seen nothing yet." They have over the years produced an intoxicating variety of these sweet-smelling annuals. Look for four new ones this year - two brilliant red varieties (Future Shock and Lynda's Blush), a rich purple variety (Paradox) plus a charming purple-splashed white variety (Nimbus).
Though breadseed poppies have their own fan club - if any plant should have a fan club it's breadseed poppies - there are still a few people apparently living in outer Siberia who haven't heard of them. There's an easy way to remedy that and that's by posting photos of some of the more notable ones. Okay, with permission from the kind folks at Annie's, here are some photos of these P 'N P's, with a few comments where appropriate. For those wanting to check out one or more of these flowers here's the Annie's link

Lathyrus 'Blue Vein.' One of the more intriguing sweet peas, with varying shades of orange, red and purple, with the veining more obvious than in some sweet peas.

 Lathryus 'North Shore.' A lovely mix of blues, purples and lavenders. For some reason this variety reminds me of some of the Bearded irises I've seen. That's high compliment indeed for a sweet pea.

Lathyrus 'Blue Shift.' This unique variety actually changes color, starting off a rich violet-purple, then transitioning into lovely blue tones.

 Lathyrus 'Future Shock.' This new variety also changes color, from coral orange to cherry red, finally adding hints of purple in the veining. No shock here, just plenty of eye candy.

Lathyrus 'Gwendoline.' You can't go wrong with the lovely pink-edged white flowers of this fragrant variety. One of the more ruffled varieties to boot.

Perhaps this year's most intriguing new entry, even down to its name (Nimbus). Undulating petals have a picotee edging and prominent purple veining. The word nimbus is defined as "a luminous cloud or a halo surrounding a supernatural being or a saint" and either could apply to this beauty!

There's purple and then there's purple. As a New Yorker might say "We got your purple right here!" Another new offering, Lathyrus 'Paradox' has color (and fragrance) to spare. Not only that, it's a petite charmer, only growing to three feet tall.

Orange sweet peas are uncommon but this Lathyrus 'Prince of Orange' really crushes it (Orange Crush, got it? Okay back to the photos).

No slouches in the blooming department, breadseed poppies come in two basic forms - single and double (there are also a few semi-doubles). Here's one of the doubles (also known as Peony-style), Black Peony. The peony-style poppies have an almost inexhaustible number of petals and well, a style of their own. They can get so heavy, they'll actually bend the branch down a bit. 

Papaver 'Danebrog.'  Like the touchstone of some major cultural event (fill in yours), everybody remembers the first time they encountered a Danebrog poppy in bloom. One is likely to gape with open mouth and wonder whether the sight is real. Oh, yeah. Fire engine red and pure snow white next to each other and then the fringed petals.

I used to kid a co-worker who was prone to being, ahh, voluble that someone had named a poppy after her. "Really?" she gushed and then I showed her this flower. Indeed it is named Drama Queen and the reason for that becomes obvious at first glance.

There are some pretty amazing breadseed poppies but this Flemish Antique may take the grand prize. Just impossibly gorgeous, with seemingly a million petals and then the speckling. And each flower is slightly different from the other.

The poppy that launched a thousand others. This 'Lauren's Grape' was one of Annie's first breadseed poppies and that rich color has meant it has remained popular to this day. 

Look up orange in the Visual Dictionary (not a real thing but it should be) and you'll see a photo of this Orange Chiffon poppy. Just impossibly supra-orange and when back-lit it positively glows. I grow it every year.

Is white a color? Some say no but then they haven't seen this Persian Princess poppy. Whiter than snow and ruffled, it seems to be its own galaxy around which everything turns.

There are many, many breadseed poppies but I'll end with this lovely Raspberry variety. I bet if you asked ten people what type of red it is you'd get ten different answers. It seems to be all reds rolled into one and that's part of its charm.
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