Thursday, November 16, 2017

With a Little Help From Our Friend

Today's rain may cause motorists some problems and those working outside headaches but it is certainly welcomed by our gardens. There is no substitute for the life force that rain brings. A good soak like we're getting today penetrates the soil and nourishes both our plants roots as well as the beneficial organisms in the soil. And for those with bulbs in their garden, the rain stimulates new shoots to pop up. Of course the rain also cleans the air. There's nothing quite like walking out in the garden after a rain.
Today's photos cover a wide spectrum, with diverse groupings such as shrubs, succulents, bromeliads, flowering perennials and fall trees making an appearance.

Unlike most Japanese maples, whose fall leaves turn a bright red, Coral Bark maples offer a stunning display of gold. Here's my 3 year old tree offering up a wonderful fall show.

One more shot of my spotted Billbergia and its vivid flowers. From this angle it looks for all the world like an exploding star. I urge all of you who haven't explored the world of bromeliads to do so. Tough. Easy to care for. Colorful. 

For some, air plants are just ... well ... air plants. They are of course another type of bromeliad (Tillandsia) and their variety is something to behold. Here's a less common one - T. tectorum. It's really like nothing else out there, with its silvery-white slender branches.

Art is a great way to both add color to your garden and in the case of animals invoke their spirits. Although this new acquisition is listed as a gecko, his colors make him look much more like a chameleon.

I'm a lover of caudiciforms (Fat plants) and this new addition is a Pachypodium lealii v. saudersii. He's still a baby so hasn't undergone the swelling on the lower trunk that's representative of many caudex plants.

"When at first you don't succeed ..." I had no luck growing Canarina canariensis before but the second time is the charm. This Canary Island's bulb likes a dry summer and leafs out in the late fall. It's quick to add its distinctive orange bell-shaped flowers and this year mine is producing a good crop. I'm so glad I wasn't discouraged by my initial failure as the flowers are so lovely.

Beauty Berry bush (Callicarpa) is a familiar sight in winter gardens, being a plant that produces purple berries that often cling to leafless branches this time of year. Here's a white flowering variety, already despite its diminutive size (4" pot) producing a good crop of berries. It's
Callicarpa japonica leucocarpa and is hard to find in the trade.

Although most people buy Nicandra physalodes for its pretty purple flowers, it also produces highly decorative seedpods. They resemble closed, nodding paper lanterns, with a distinctive upper black blush. 

Hebes are still one of the better kept secrets in the world of shrubs. Compact and offering surprising variety of form, they can be used in a great number of ways. Here's a H. hinerua I've put in a decorative yellow pot. I love its soft, bright green foliage and bushiness.

Dogwoods are another great way to add fall color to your garden. This Cornus florida turns a deep red in the late fall before dropping its leaves. For those who may not already realize this, the color comes from the tree pulling the nitrogen in its green leaves back into the main body of the tree. That leaves a red color that indicates leaves about to fall.

Whether you call this color red, hot fuchsia or ?? this stock plant is making a bold statement. Vivid colors and a spicy fragrance are this fall and winter annual's calling card.

I thought the dappled light on my Salvia libanensis made for an attractive photo. It has grown quickly and time will tell whether it blooms in its first year and if so whether it does indeed bloom in the winter.

Hibiscus have such dramatic styles that it's fun showing them off in a photo. I'm still waiting for my Hibiscus schizopetalus to bloom, a species that has one of the longest styles of any flower.

Though I'm still waiting for my Caryopteris Hint of Gold to bloom, it has retained its burnished golden foliage. Here the leaves are reaching out for more sun, through a patch of Iris confusa.

Azalea Mangetsu. This is one of the latest blooming Azaleas I know of. It's just now producing its first pink-rimmed white flowers. This is one tough customer, having survived not one, not two but three attacks of thrips.

The Pelargonium that Ate Oakland! Well, almost. My P. crispum variegatus Lemon just keeps growing and spreading out. One of THE most fragrant plants you'll ever smell.

Phyllitis scolopendrium. Better known as Hart's Tongue fern, it's one of the simple or broadleaf ferns. I love its lime-green colors and wavy margins. Kind of looks like a sea star who just kept growing arms.

Has anyone seen my lipstick ... plant? It's not always easy to get this houseplant to flower but a little fertilizing seems to have done the trick. If this plant were outside, hummers would love it. For now that love will have to come from me.

I've always loved batik and this is a new addition that I've hung in front of a kitchen window. Those are two dragonflies.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Winter approaches

Fighting a cold today so this lede will be brief. It does seem that even in the Bay Area, famous for its late falls, we are starting to see the beginnings of winter. Rains coming this week; colder nighttime temps and the first snow in the Sierras. Those of us lucky enough to live near water, with its milder temps, can still enjoy a lot of late fall color in our gardens. Such is the case for mine. Here are a few of the plants still in bloom, either defying the changing of the season or fall blooming shrubs coming into their own.

One of those plants defying the season is my Begonia Calypso. It has rugged, textured leaves and as you can see, pink kissed, ruffled yellow flowers. 

Okay, okay to the average viewer, this is just a pot of green shoots. But to bulb lovers like myself, this is very exciting news. This one of my many Lachenalias, one I divided last year, spacing out the individual bulbs so they'd have their own space to grow. December flowers to follow.

Nicandra physalodes (Shoo-fly plant) grows quickly, flowers quickly and kind of gets big before you can say 'Wait a minute.' All part of the charm for this Solanum family member. Very pretty lavender open-faced flowers complement the serrated green leaves nicely.

Euonymus japonicus aureo-marginatus. Whew, that's a mouthful. Wintercreepers as they are known might be thought of as the Rodney Dangerfields of the nursery business. They just get no respect. They're workhorses, adapt to many environments and almost always look good.

An odd photo, compositionally, but this Pelargonium 'Raspberry Twizzle' flower just happened to be sticking out near the boundary of the fence. Included the photo in part because I like typing the words Raspberry Twizzle.

Thunbergia Arizona Red. The variety name makes this plant sound dangerous ("Don't mess with Arizona Red!") and in a way it is. It's gradually taking over the entire length of the fence. That's okay, that's what I want it to do.

One last hurrah for my Begonia 'Illumination Apricot.' This flower has even more orange in it so I guess you could say that this plant is going out in a blaze of glory.

Though Dianthus are sometimes thought of as a summer bloomer, they tend to bloom well into the fall and given sun and mild temps they can bloom till nearly Christmas. 

Here I thought that the coral blooms of Justicia fulvicoma were set off nicely by the silver foliage of Teucrium 'Gwen.' But it does make me wonder, which Gwen out there is blushing after having a plant named after her?

It took awhile but my Salvia horminum is finally adding more and more flowers. So here's a little way you can trip up your gardening friends. Ask them "Aren't the purple flowers on this Salvia pretty?" When they concur, you can say (modestly of course) "Well, those aren't the flowers actually; they're the bracts." This plant is an oddity, with its tiny flowers along the stems separate from the much larger bracts at the tips of the branches. 

These handsome new leaves belong to a member of the Arum family, in this case Arum pictum. The leaves certainly are reason enough to grow this ground cover but it's the burgundy spathes that for many are the real show.

This plant has a name as long as the alphabet (Cotyledon orbiculata var. orbiculata) but that shouldn't stop you from adding it to your garden. It positively glows in the sun with a milky turquoise color plus there's the pink rim. 

Caudex lovers may recognize this 'baby.' It's Brachychiton rupestris, otherwise known as Queensland Bottle Tree. I say baby because the photo below shows it as a full grown tree. It can get to 40' tall with the fattest part of the trunk getting to 6' in diameter! Of course it won't reach that height in a gallon container haha. For a caudiciform it can grow relatively quickly so that's the good news.

It may only be November 8th but my XMas cactus wants to start showing off its lovely coral colors right away. Tough as nails and very reliable, XMas cactus are one of my favorite cacti.

I had a wonderful surprise in doing my weekly walk through yesterday - my white-spotted, dark-leaved Billbergia had sprouted not one but three new flowers. Like most billbergias, the flower is composed of long pink or red bracts, then a fistful of tubular flowers with reflexed petals at the tip. Here the tubes are white and the petals a deep blue. The lower photo shows one of the reflexed petals.
Billbergias, sometimes known as Queen's Tears, are one of the showiest bromeliads out there. And one of the most reliable yearly bloomers.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Summer/Not Summer

Those studying climates will tell you that our northern California climate is best described as having two seasons - the dry season and the wet season. It's almost always dry from May to October but that period can sometimes stretch from late February to November, as it did for many years in the recent drought. This is relevant information for gardeners and especially for those who have planted gardens less reliant on additional human watering. It is especially relevant for local wildlife, who depend on the seasonal rains to help stimulate growth of their preferred foods. Rains also affect pollination of plants, in that delayed precipitation may alter when a certain plant blooms. And that may mean that pollinators arrive too early or too late for this key function.

 Here's a new Salvia, S. subrotunda (great species name!). It has small but very pretty reddish-orange flowers. So many salvias, so little space ...

One of a kind? Almost. This is a sport off another popular Azalea, discovered by Kenny at Moraga Garden Center and nurtured now for 3 years. The parent plant was solid purple; this sport is, as you can see, white with purple streaks. 

Besides the charming orchid-pink flowers, Oxalis hirta features petite, crinkled, lime green leaves. A real charmer that pops up in the late fall.

We're always telling Ace Garden Center customers that basil is an annual, dying off when the weather gets cold. That's not true for this African Blue basil as it's a perennial. And that means you can let it flower, which you most certainly want to do as the flowers are a magnet for bees!

There are so many pretty colors these days for Dianthus. Plus they are so hardy, drought tolerant and adaptable.

Rudbeckia 'Chim Chiminee.' One of the 'quill' rudbeckias, here's a side view that shows off the narrow tubular petals. Rudbeckias are also a must stop for bees and butterflies.

Okay, here is today's quiz. Do you know what this flower is? Hint: it's a bulb from Mexico. Second hint: it's sometimes called Coral Drops. Yep, it's Bessera elegans, one of the prettiest flowers out there. I've turned this one over to show off its cream ribs but normally they nod, looking like little parasols. 

I only take a picture of this tiny Bouganvillea 'Raspberry Ice' because, well, I bought this in a 3" container!! It was in with our bonzai plants, not sure why, but I'm going to try to grow it out.

My collection of Mimulus are all still blooming, including this light yellow selection from Susan Ashley. Prolific bloomers, very drought tolerant, beloved by bees, Mimulus aurantiacus types are nearly the perfect plant.

Big and super green, one might not at first glance realize that this is a succulent. It's Senecio barbertonicus, one of the 'bush' senecios. It can get 4-6 tall and wide. Mine's grown quickly. And it does flower, with clusters of small bright yellow flowers.

Correas are also one of those nearly perfect plants in my opinion. Here's my C. 'Wyn's Wonder,' notable not only for its variegated foliage and eye-catching orchid-pink tubular flowers but for its lower, semi-spreading habit. One can even use it as a high ground cover, as I'm doing in this bed. Correas can take some shade but generally are happier in mostly sun.

Primula obconica Libre Purple. Obconica primroses have larger leaves which are a lighter green. The flowers tend to be more in the pastel range although this purple has lots of color.

Most people are buying stock for the spicy fragrance but the colors are pretty fab too.

Here's another ID quiz. Do you know who 'I' am? The answer may surprise you. It's a Persicaria, but not the species with the burgundy foliage that's more common in nurseries (P. microcephala). This is P. amplexicaulis. It features subtle veining to the leaves and maroon-red flowers. Incidentally, Persicarias are commonly called Knotweeds.

Lastly, here's a picture of Albuca spiralis taken from the web. Although mine has begun producing the lovely green-ribbed yellow flowers, the stems aren't as curly as is normal and this photo does a better job of showing that off.
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