Thursday, July 10, 2014

Dealing with the Drought

As those of us living in California continue to have to deal with the drought, I thought I'd share a few thoughts about tips for both saving water and for using the water we do use in ways that let us get the most out of our gardens.To conserve water:
1. Mulch, mulch mulch. This not only saves water but keeps weeds in check. I even use microbark on top of my larger pots. Mke sure to replenish mulch as it thins out.
2. Plant drought tolerant plants together. I know this sounds obvious but keeping these kinds of plants together means using less water. It also means they'll do better than being mixed in with plants that need more water.
3. Drought tolerant does not just mean natives. There are many great plants -- both perennials and annuals -- that are not endemic to our state.
4. Use vertical planting. You can make better use of your "valuable" space by planting in layers. Bulbs under the ground; low growing plants above them and then taller plants tucked into the same space. Having nutritious soil allows you to keep plants close together happy.
5. Use efficient forms of watering. Avoid sprinklers or any form of watering that disperses water in the air.
6. Use a deep watering method where possible. Deep watering = deeper roots = stronger plants and plants you can water less often, saving you water and time.
7. Do a little research (or ask your local nursery) for alternatives to plants that need regular water. You'd be surprised at the range of drought tolerant plants available these days.
8. All of this having been said, don't deny yourself the pleasure of having some of your favorite plants, just because they need regular water. Find other ways to save water around and inside your house.

Okay, now the photos. I want to remind those of you relatively new to the blog that I normally only take photos of plants in my garden that I hadn't taken last week. Or the week before that. Etc. So if you enjoy the photos (or the descriptions) you might want to check out older posts.

Magnolia grandiflora. I came out this morning and saw honey bees kind of rolling around dazed in the petals of my Southern magnolia. They were after the pollen on the fallen stamen but I don't think I've ever witnessed something like this before. They were completely oblivious to me and stayed in there for a good ten minutes.

When I saw this Zinnia I thought it looked like a fireworks display so I played around with the focal point and was able to achieve a near black background, simulating a night sky.

Schizostylis is one of the least appreciated of bulbs in my opinion. I mean, look at that color. It's vigorous too. Below is a shot of my Buddleja 'CranRazz.' Love that color and of course the bees do too.

Here's a shot of a cool new Bidens, B. Hawaiian Flare Orange Drop. Lovely pattern and just as tough as other bidens.

Although I wasn't able to get this shot in perfect focus, I thought a closeup of the tiny little flowers that make up an Eriogonum giganteum was an interesting shot. Flowers such as these, and the even tinier flowers on Ampelopsis (Porcelain berry vine) prove that bees can collect nectar from the very smallest of flowers.

Here's my gregarious Datura Blackcurrant Swirl, along with the orange flowering hawkweed and the light blue flowering Nigella.

Speaking of nigella, here's a closeup of one of its robin's egg blue flowers. Part of their charm is the feathery 'ruff' of leaves underneath and the distinctive developing seedpod on top.

Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy.' I love the waxy flowers on pineapple lilies and this year I'm getting an especially good show on this specimen. Another favorite destination for bees.

Delpinium chinensis 'Blue Butterfly.' My favorite delphinium! Here's a little tidbit about blue delphiniums. Breeders trying to create a true blue rose -- something as yet to be accomplished -- have tried crossing a purple rose with a blue delphinium, as the latter contains a compound especially strong in producing the color blue.

Teucrium 'Summer Sunshine.' I have to admit, the flowers are quite pretty, even though I'm growing this variety for its golden foliage.

Protea neriifolia 'Pink Ice.' Love this pot and can't wait for the protea to bloom. Next year perhaps?

Swainsona. This Aussie native is one tough and floriferous guy. Unstoppable really. I had to really hack it back this winter as it was overrunning the bed.

Though the flowers brown at the tips rather easily if they get any direct sun, they are nonetheless really interesting. To me they look like turtle's eggs. Their color and shape has led to this Alpinia 'Zerumbet' being called Shell ginger. 

My Sauromatum venosum has put out an especially large leaf shoot and leaf. Now the question is, will this Voodoo lily produce its famous foul-smelling spathe?

Wahlenbergia. This campanula relative likes sun and has an arching habit. Very sweet.

I didn't quite get what I was after with this shot but in the end I kind of like it. The unfocused flower has a kind of dreamy quality, half there and half not.

This is a new Viola that I took an immediate shining to. It's called V. 'Brush Strokes.' It does rather look like it's painted, n'est-ce pas?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Summer Shrubs

As we hit the beginning of summer and turn our attention away from spring annuals and towards new perennials, it's a good time to consider adding one or more summer shrubs. One of my favorites is a shrub that is only now becoming better known -- Tecoma x smithii. Many gardeners are familiar with Tecoma capensis (also known as Tecomaria capensis). Cape honeysuckle as it's commonly known is a vining shrub with brilliant orange narrowly tubular flowers. It can be a bit invasive. Not so much with T. x smithii, with its peachy-orange flowers, or T. stans, which showcases yellow flowers. These species feature much larger, widely flared tubular flowers that appear in bunches at the tips of branches. Starting in early summer and continuing into the fall, these semi-deciduous shrubs put on quite a show. The fresh green foliage provides the perfect backdrop for the flowers, giving the plant an almost tropical look. Very easy to grow, happy in full sun on the coast or in mixed sun and shade inland, this is one way to add dazzling color to your summer garden. See below for a photo of my Tecoma x smithii's first flowers. And here on the 4th of July are my garden's own floral fireworks.

This charming little Dahlia is titled Goldalia Scarlet and, well, it is a bit descriptive. I love the brilliant red petals offset by the light yellow tepals. It packs a lot of punch for a pint-sized plant.

Yes, another arum from my garden, this time Amorphophallus rivieri. It hasn't bloomed yet but it puts up a thicket of lush foliage and mottled stems. Showy enough in its own way.

I wanted another shot of my floriferous Begonia boliviensis but then realized that with the addition  of the miniature orchid, the Impatiens congolense and Begonia 'Gene Daniels' in the planter behind it that I have a little tropical theme going here at the base of my apartment stairs.

I love the spotted variegation of this Calamintha. I look forward to it taking over this little corner of my Shady Lane.

Plectranthus 'Troy's Gold.' This ciliatus type will stay low and spread. So many plectranthus and so little space ...

Nobody is growing Begonia 'Escargot' except Susan Ashley and that's a mystery. We can hardly keep this rex begonia in stock at our nursery. Mine over-wintered with a single leaf (the big one) but has now put out a new leaf. It gets its common name from the snail-like shape of its leaf.

Begonia 'Irene Nuss.' All photos are in three dimensions of course but sometimes the depth of field really stands out, as it does here. The panicle of pink flowers seem to float in their own dimension, making the viewer seem like they've donned 3-D glasses.

In the center is a Pteris cretica 'Green on Green.' Very similar to the albo-lineata only this variety has pale green ribs and darker margins. Same fantastic form.

Salvia patens. There have been many contenders but this royal blue salvia still makes the top ten list of the most beautiful true blue flowers. This specimen has found its "happy place" and is in year three. It's been blooming nonstop for two months and is still going strong.

So many sedums, this one S. 'Coppertone.' I just wrote an article on Sedums for Pacific Horticulture's Summer issue so check it out.

One of my favorite Crassulas (and that's getting to be quite a list). This dramatically spotted species is C. alba var. parvisepala. My specimen has retained its red spots throughout the year and it sports pinky-red flowers to boot.

People visiting my garden always want to know what this colorful Agastache is (especially since it sports different colors on one plant). It's A. 'Grapefruit Nectar' and though I'm not sure it smells like that citrus it does have a welcome fruity aroma. And as you can see, bees love it!

Speaking of bee favorites, Eriogonum grande rubescens is at the top of their list. I swear you could almost pet them while they're busy gathering nectar from these flowers and they'd barely notice. I call this bed Nectar Alley as besides the agastache and eriogonum it contains Trachelium and Scabiosa.

Speaking of the scabiosa, here it is. There's something about an extreme closeup that alters your relationship with a flower. Scabiosa flowers are such a common sight in gardens that it's very easy to take them for granted. This closeup makes you appreciate how spectacular they really are.

Speaking of the top ten list for true blue flowers, many would put true blue delphiniums on it. This is a less common species, D. chinensis 'Blue Butterfly.' The leaves are fern-like and it sends out flowers on slender multiple branches, rather than on a central stock. This offer of blue is breathtaking.

This green fly is mesmerized by my Pittosporum crassifolium.I know the feeling. I love its lime green foliage. Who says pittosporums have to be ho-hum?

Though my Eriogonum giganteum has large sprays of flowers set to open, I thought I'd photograph the base of leaves from which the spike arises. Not just for its silvery elixir but the way the leaves hold to a tight cluster around the stem.

Echinacea 'Hot Papaya.' Not everyone likes the double form of E. purpurea but I think they're fab. 

Wait, before you say "Eek, dandelion" this is not that foul beast. Instead it's a charming ground cover called Hieracium (Pilosella) aurantiacum. It forms a dense mat of very lush green, furry foliage from which summer flowers emerge on tall stems.

I'm getting quite the color variation on my Datura 'Blackcurrant Swirl.' Some come out deep purple and others a purplish-pink. Pretty fab either way.

Monardella villosa. My Coyote Mint is settling in very nicely in its new home.

Here's the subject of my attentions above, Tecoma x smithii. Love the color, which can be described as peachy, orangy or having apricot tones. Whatever the name, it sparkles in the sun.

Penstemon 'Schooley's Coral.' What?! When I first read the label I did a double take. Don't let the weird name put you off. This pinky-coral flower is a winner.

So, will I see my Puya  berteroniana bloom before I die? It could be close. Year eight and no blooms yet. So I hacked back the Cotinus above it and have now started a regular regimen of bloom fertilizer feedings.

Sometimes it's about the foliage. My Clematis armandii 'Snowdrift' is settling in and putting out a nice crop of glossy leaves that look nice framed against the gray stucco wall.

One of the most charming Fuchsias, F. 'Rose Quartet' has four pure white petals and then four, round dangling rose 'cups.' Very sweet.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

A Summer Cornucopia

After all the hard work of the spring, it's time to sit back and appreciate the fruits of all those labors. Working in the garden is very satisfying but it's easy to just keep plugging away and not take the time to savor.
A word about watering. This may be politically incorrect in this time of drought but giving your plants regular water makes a huge difference in how happy they are. That's also true when it comes to dry garden plants like Aloes, Agaves and palms. They can survive dry periods but they will look their best with a little deep watering once in awhile. You can also extend the life of your annuals with a bit of regular water. I try to find that happy middle ground by mulching nearly every bed, by hand watering or by using a fast trickle for trees, to make sure as little of the water as possible evaporates before getting to the roots. Abandon sprinklers all ye faithful!
Speaking of bounty, here are more photos from my garden.

For all you Arum fans, here's my Amorphophallus kiusianus beginning to open its sheaf of leaves. Arums are a most peculiar group of plants but those of us who like them, they are indeed beautiful and unique.

This Ampelopsis, which I'm training on my morning sun back yard fence, is one of my "Phoenix" plants. That is, they were once in danger of dying but have recovered and are prospering. They can be the sweetest "victories."

Red banana. I love shooting my red banana, especially the translucent qualities of its leaves. 

Elegia capensis. One of the more popular members of the Restios family, this rush looking Elegia will get taller and bushier. I couldn't for the life of me figure out where to put it so it sat in its gallon container, somehow surviving there for a whole year! It'll be much happier now.

Nicotiana Crimson Bedder and Rhodochiton. The nicotiana has gone crazy in its second year, taking over the spot it's in. Meanwhile the rhodochiton in the hanging basket is off and running.

It's not the ideal shot but my Thalictrum rochebrunianum is so pretty I wanted to include it. The most delicate of the Meadow rues, it seems to have a nobility about it.

War of the pollinator plants!!! Each of the three colorful plants here are valued destination points for pollinators. Hummingbirds and bees love the Agastache Tango on the left; bees, birds and butterflies are very fond of Eriogonum grande rubescens in the middle and bees and butterflies love the large heads of tiny purple flowers that the long blooming Trachelium caeruleum puts out. Along with the equally popular Helenium, I call this long slender bed Pollinator Alley.

This sunny bed is a favorite spot for a mix of annual and perennial color. 

Sometimes it's the unfurling of a flower that is the most captivating moment. Here an Arctotis 'Sunspot' is caught in the midst of opening, showing off a more intense color in its petals.

My Digiplexis threw up a towering spike which would have kept flowering for at least another month but since it was already producing smaller branches I pruned it off. Already I have seven new flowering branches. A force of nature.

Two Primadonnas. That would be the Orange Chiffon poppy on the left and the unopened Datura Blackcurrant Swirl on the right. I knew there'd be "trouble" planting those two divas together!

Salvia sclarea. This little known salvia has low-growing, rough textured foliage and long sprays of purple and white flowers. Tough and it self seeds.

The newest addition to my little Japanese Garden bed, this Cryptomeria 'Knaptonensis' has the most exquisite white foliage overlaying the bright green inner growth. It's a dwarf specimen, as are all the other conifers in this bed.

It's hard not to fall head over heels in love with Lilium regale. The flowers are huge, a sparkling white with yellow throats and they're fragrant! Case closed.

Speaking of falling in love, a yellow tiger lily? Yep. This Lilium citronelle is a member of the Tiger lily group. Love it!

I thought it might be interesting to take a photo of the "inside" of a Cotinus flower "head." Here you see the fine hairs lining the little pathways, with the dark dots being the actual seed capsules.

Look up red in the Gardener's dictionary and they may well be a photo of Mandevilla 'Giant Crimson.' It's such a saturated red that the camera has a bit of difficulty capturing it. 

Though this isn't the best picture of my Sphaeralcea incana, this Globe mallow has such pretty orange flowers that I simply couldn't resist.

If this flower looks familiar but you can't quite put your finger on it it's because you don't often see the white-flowering form of Catananche caerulea. Delicate and subtle but very cool.

Speaking of similar but different, this is a Salpiglossis 'Wild Grape.' It being a species salpiglossis explains the smaller and less showy flower. It will likely be more vigorous than its highly hybridized cousins.

No mystery what this is but honeysuckle still has a very pretty flower, its heavenly scent notwithstanding.

The flowers here almost look good enough to eat! They're Iochroma burgundy and the way they catch the sunlight really brings out the color.