Thursday, October 19, 2017

Fall Colors

Normally when we mention fall colors it's the deciduous trees offering their bright foliage in a picturesque display. But colors can be closer at hand, and to the ground, for many a gardener. Due especially to our warm fall weather, many brightly clothed perennials are still blooming away. Nuff said and now here is the proof in the pudding.

My reluctant Cuphea schumanii is finally hitting its blooming stride, making it one of the latest bloomers in this genus. As you can see, it was worth the wait!

I had to deal with the wandering branches on my Salvia horminum (viridis) to get a photo of its colorful bract. Those tiny flowers along the stem are the real flowers. I have yet to find a satisfactory explanation for why this species produces bracts separate from the flowers. Anyone? 

My Helichrysum bracteatum seems to bloom most of the year, even on this dwarf orange-blooming variety. This is the Helichrysum with the papery flowers, available in orange, red, yellow, pink and white. 

I may be one of the few gardeners who is growing Arugula for its flowers. I somehow find them ever-so-charming. Incidentally, Arugula grows like a weed and I've had to strip away an abundance of lower leaves to open up light for plants nearby.

Though not yet in bloom, I thought my Nicandra physalodes looked pretty enough in its hexagonal pot. This Solanum family member, affectionately known as Shoo-fly, grows quickly and offers up the prettiest lavender-colored flowers. 

Beschorneria albiflora. Though it's been an infrequent bloomer for me, the foliage on this hardy and drought tolerant Agave relative hailing from Mexico is reason enough to have it in my garden.

One last shot of my long blooming Tecoma x smithii. I like how it kind of looks like a globular world, with the front side in the sun and the back side in the shade. As it were rotating on some floral axis. 

Mums may be common but they are still lovely. Here a chartreuse variety is shown off nicely by a ginger-colored pot.

In my continuing attempt to provide a fuller view of the various areas of my garden, here's a photo of the main walkway leading back to the studio apts. On the left is a two foot wide planting bed and on the right is a slightly elevated cement shelf that holds  a row of pots. Proof that you can, if you choose, pack a lot of plants in a relatively confined space.

My 6 pack of Browallias are just now starting to grow and flower. Some may not know but this shade-loving plant is a member of the nightshade family (Solanaceae).

Arachinodes standishii. Squirrels dug up this newly planted fern but luckily I caught it in time and replanted. Heaped an especially good mat of shredded cedar mulch on top to discourage a repeat performance.

I've loved everything about my Aralia cordata 'Sun King,' including it producing clusters of little black berries. Not sure if the birds are taking any notice yet.

Another plant 'late' this year is my Caryopteris 'Hint of Gold.' Usually it begins blooming in early September. Meanwhile I get to enjoy the beautiful golden foliage.

Lots of carnations in bloom in my garden, including this unusual Dianthus x superbus Bearded.

The warm weather is encouraging my Calibrachoas to hang around and to continue blooming. This one is spilling out of a low redwood planter right at the entrance to our main walkway.

Part of the fall color in my garden are the many Mimulus in bloom. Here it's M. Jelly Bean Dark Pink. As with many perennials a little bit of regular water extends their bloom season.

Hebe andersonii variegata. This Hebe has been a bit slow to get going but is filling out nicely now. 

Mimulus Jelly Bean Gold. This 'rescue' mimulus was nearly dead when I brought it home but I've nursed it back to health. That goes to show you just how tough this genus is. 

Myrsine africanus variegata. This variegated African boxwood has also been kind of slow to establish but it has remained healthy and attractive. 

Everybody's favorite rex-type begonia, B. Escargot forms the distinctive curving shell pattern, with a dark green center, white center rib and a dark edge. So lovely!

Bonus points to those who can ID this flower. Extra points for getting its common name (Shaving Brush flower). Yes, it's Haemanthus albiflos. It makes a great bathroom plant, taking care of both the shaving and the flossing (albi-floss). Okay, bad joke. For some reason this white-blooming species of Blood flower is easier to coax into bloom than the red-flowering Haemanthus coccineus. Native to the Cape district of South Africa, Paintbrush lily is one of the most fascinating members of the Amaryllidaceae family.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

A New Fab Salvia

This week I wanted to share my discovery of a fabulous new Salvia on the market - Salvia libanensis. Since they've described it so well, I'll let Annie's Annuals introduce you to it. "A fantastically fuzzy, exceptionally rare and endangered WINTER-BLOOMING Salvia! Endemic to the Colombian Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains, where its habitat is being destroyed by deforestation, it grows to an impressive 9’ tall and wide with large (4-5” long), fuzzy, heart-shaped leaves. Produces 6” or longer, dense racemes of bright red 2.5” flowers held in fuzzy red calyxes that remain highly ornamental long after the flowers have dropped. The most impressive floral display occurs from Winter into Spring with occasional flowers appearing throughout the year. Provide excellent drainage and plant where it can receive protection from hot afternoon sun. Looks best with a good annual pruning to keep it more compact and bushy."
Now, not everyone will have room for this beauty but I imagine it can be kept to 4-6' with some pruning. It's dramatic blooms will certain be welcome in winter. Annie's has it for sale now in case you want to pick it up and Grand Lake Ace Garden Center has some too.
Here's a photo, courtesy of Annie's, to get your juices flowing.
And then more photos from my garden. I wanted to take a moment to share a few thoughts about the photos I take. I am not a professional photographer and I'm working with a nice but basic camera. As well, I'm not attempting to take a 'photo contest' type of photo of my plants. My goal is to show them as real plants, warts and all, in a natural setting. Certainly I'm trying to capture their beauty or some interesting feature, but very few will show the plant in an idealized fashion. And sometimes I take a photo of a particular plant so I can share a bit about it. In this case the photo is the jumping off point, a reference, to introduce it to readers.
Okay, on that note here's this week's 'bright spots.'

Here is what all the fuss is about with the Salvia libanensis. Eye-catching to be sure!

Speaking of another fab salvia that can get big, here's a shot of my S. elegans Golden Delicious as it begins to bloom. It makes a near solid 'wall' of golden foliage, from which bright red flowers explode like little firecrackers.

Begonia rex Escargot. Everybody's favorite rex-style begonia, this year my specimen produced a few especially large leaves. Though it does produce clusters of little pink flowers, with this begonia it's all about the foliage.

Ad infinitum bests describes the blooming period for Flowering tobacco plants. Here it's a Nicotiana grandiflora, one of the fragrant ones.

This sweet and unassuming flower is aptly called a Rain lily. It's a Zephyranthes, a type of bulbous perennial found throughout the Americas. Though it doesn't seem so at first glance, it's a member of the Amaryllis family. It responds to fall and winter rains, thus its common name.

Though my Tecoma x smithii is still producing clusters of peachy-orange flowers, here I wanted to show off the clusters of legume-like seedpods. It was one of the plants I featured in my Pacific Horticulture Magazine article on Interesting Seedpods.

Here it's a triple play of Begonias. On the left is the sprawling B. Gryphon, displaying green-ribbed silvery leaves. To its right is a B. Fannie Moser, featuring some of the darkest leaves in the begonia family. Finally, on the far right is a unique, some might say odd, Begonia Funky Pink. Nope, didn't make that name up. Not quite sure how it's 'bringing the funk' but there you have it.

Heliotropium 'Alba.' I just love the pop of the white flowers against the verdant green leaves. And the flowers are much more fragrant than on the purple variety.

This fabulous new Dianthus is called Cheshire Cat. It's one of the old 'bizarres' as they were called, which feature heavily speckling on the petals.

I include a photo of this simple Stock plant to remind everyone of the charms of this genus. There's nothing quite like the spicy scent it offers all through the fall and early winter. Did you know that this common plant is in the Matthiola genus and is native to the Mediterranean? It was named after Pierandrea Mattioli, an Italian botanist who cultivated Stock believing that it had medicinal value due to the fragrance. It doesn't but now we have its heady fragrance to enjoy.

Echeveria peacockii. I love the silvery patina on this sturdy succulent. It blooms readily but I almost like it better free of those distractions. While pretty with the sun shining on it, it has an eerie beauty on a cloudy day such as today.

I liked this new piece of art in part because it has the look of a tile mosaic sculpture. It isn't but the makers obviously had that in mind.

This colorful gecko was made by the same Haitian artists who make those lovely sculptures out of recycled oil drums. Not only that, it's a Fair Trade business, meaning that all of the money goes to the artists themselves. Although this is clearly a gecko, the bright colors seem more in keeping with a chameleon.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Mystery Month

I always think of October as the Mystery Month here in the Bay Area. On any given day or in any given week, the temps can be in the 80s or in the low 50s. Sunny or, occasionally, rainy. Seemingly always windy. We humans can protect ourselves from the weather but our gardens alas cannot. Then again they're generally tougher than we are. Good thing.
October in our gardens is also sort of a grab bag. Some late summer blooming plants like Mimulus are still in bloom. It's the season for Salvias so there's plenty of those around to bring home or enjoy in our gardens. The same holds for Dahlias and Hibiscus, two colorful fall bloomers. Then again some early winter bloomers are already making their presences known. I see buds on most of my camellias; my late fall/winter blooming Canarina canariensis has its first flowers and the first of my winter blooming South African bulbs, Ferraria crispa, has sent up shoots. It does seem that it's especially during the fall that the dividing lines between the seasons is especially blurred.
Okay, enough philosophizing. Here are this week's photos.

Our walkway to the back apts, with a narrow planting strip on the left side, has made for an interesting planting arrangement. In the foreground is the succulents and/or winter bulbs display table. Beyond it is a golden Duranta, a Salvia elegans Golden Delicious and a red-flowering Abutilon. I have to keep trimming them so they don't spill over the walkway. 

Pink Floyd fans rejoice. This dark-leaved Dahlia is named 'Dark Side of the Sun.' It's opened its first simple orangish-red flower, with many more to come.

Easy to grow, drought tolerant, a prolific bloomer and popular with bees? Sounds like the perfect plant and I tend to think this Wahlenbergia 'Blue Cloud' is just that.

No shrinking wallflower this, my Hibiscus 'Cherie.' Brassy golden-orange flowers light up its corner of the garden.

Salvia 'Ember's Wish.' Following in the very popular footsteps of Salvia 'Wendy's Wish' this hybrid Salvia has lovely raspberry-coral colored flowers. 

Justicia fulvicoma.  This Mexican Plume flower, alternately called Mexican shrimp plant, is a tough little customer and blooms over a long period in the late summer and fall. Colorful red bracts eventually sprout two-lipped golden-orange flowers. A favorite of hummers.

Speaking of orange, the first of my bell-shaped Canarina canariensis flowers has appeared. I thought I'd take a shot of its interior, to show off its interior ribbing and the interesting center ring. Endemic to the Canary Islands off the North African Atlantic coast, this bulbous perennial in the Campanula family has slowly found its way into the trade. 

One look at this pretty, variegated plant and you're probably thinking "I want one." But what is it? It's a Leucothoe fontanesiana 'Rainbow.'  Early season creams, greens and pinks are replaced by plum-purple color in winter. A great shade plant that features a graceful arching habit.

Not the best photo, in part because this Tricyrtis 'Gilty Pleasure' (yes, Gilty) hasn't found a home in the ground yet and is very young. Purple-spotted flowers really pop against the golden foliage. 

I wasn't after a 'dark' shot here but in looking at this photo of my Clematic 'Belle of Woking' flower, with the Thunbergia Arizona Red next to it, almost has the faded elegance of a Peter Greenaway film.

This spiky but somewhat nondescript guy is my Puya mirabilis. It's suppose to bloom much faster than other puyas but we'll see. This is still year one.

To paraphrase the White Rabbit "You're late, you're late!" That would be my Bessera elegans, a bulb that normally blooms in July or August but this year waited until end of September. Better late than never for this Coral Drops plant?

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Fall into Spring

So, the riddle goes, "When does Fall = Spring?" And the answer for us gardeners is - "When buying bulbs." Yep, it's time to buy spring blooming bulbs and in doing a little research I came across a fabulous Iris called Iris dardanus. The first photo here is one taken from the web. It belongs to the
Regeliocyclus group, which are known for their extravagant colors and large flowers. These irises feature an Aril spot, a striking, dark signal in the middle of the fall. If the photo looks like a bearded iris, that's because this species is related to that grouping. Consider your interest in bulbs officially stoked.
Today's garden photos reflect the late summer period, one of transition in many a garden. Of course, you could rightly say that the gardens are always in transition but I think you know what I mean. That said, let's go to the monitor ...

Iris dardanus. As they say, a picture is worth 1000 words. Simply a gorgeous iris. 

Celosia Sunday Wine Red - the flower. One last shot of this celosia, which has far exceeded my expectations (and taken over the bed it's in).

Abutilon variety. This peach-flowering abutilon is just now starting to bloom, having started as a young pup in a 4" pot.

Cunonia capensis. Here's what the fuss is all about with this Butterknife tree. The bottlebrush-like flowers are a good 10" long and comprised of hundreds of tiny alabaster-colored flowers. Well worth the four year wait!

I keep a journal of when plants bloom in my garden and where that comes in handy is having the facts instead of the typically faulty human memory as to when a certain plant bloomed last year. Case in point, my Tecoma Bells of Fire. I always think it's a summer bloomer but in fact it waits till fall to bloom.

Mimulus Jelly Bean Scarlet. Such a deep red and as with all of the Jelly Bean series, a prolific bloomer. 

Nodding over the above mimulus is a Salvia guaranitica Black and Blue. The guaraniticas feature black as black bracts and various shades of purple for the flowers.

Riddle me this, riddler. Which group of plants feature not its flowers, nor its leaves? Why caudiciforms of course, where the fat and/or twisting trunks are the main attraction. Here's my Cussonia natalensis which despite its small size already has a caudex on display.

Cooks will recognize this plant as Arugula and despite its culinary uses, I'm growing it for its verdant foliage and highly decorative flowers. 

Trichostema lanatum. Which is to say, Wooly Blue Curls. I always think that this CA native's common name would be a great name for a rock band circa the mid-60s. 

If you look closely you'll see this Chinese piece of pottery is actually a cat. She's sunning herself in the herb bed, steps away from the catmint.

Couldn't resist including a shot of a new orchid I brought home. 

Begonia Irene Nuss. This variety of cane begonia has perhaps the largest and showiest of flowers in this group. 

Speaking of caudiciforms, here's my Pachypodium lealii v. saundersii (easy for me to say).  When it eventually blooms those flowers will be white, providing a nice contrast to the shiny green leaves.

Cuphea schumannii. This vigorous larger cuphea has vivid orange flowers with purple 'ears.' It too blooms later than I think it does, and later than some of the Cuphea llavea hybrids. Not technically a cigar cuphea, the flowers are about double the size of the true cigar cupheas.

I planted this Calceolaria mexicana rather late but I'm hoping it will self-seed for next year. It's a great plant for shade.

This mercury glazed vase has made itself at home in the garden, almost to the point that it looks as if it sprouted in that spot. 

Speaking of plants for part shade, looks like my Persicaria amplexicaulis will be happier in morning sun and not in midday heat. It's grown for its foliage, though it does have spires of tiny star-shaped red flowers.
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