Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Not So Fast

For those of us in the Bay Area, that early February tease of spring has been followed by a cold spell that has commercial growers a bit nervous. That includes wineries, worried about tender leaf buds getting hit by the freeze. Most of us have had to take stock of what be tender in our own gardens and cover those at night. And we're having to cover ourselves as well, back to wearing four layers. But that's what we've come to expect in the Bay Area as far as weather. Anything. Good thing our plants are resilient. One tip for near freezing temps - water your plants. That helps to insulate the roots against the freezing temps.
And now here are a few winter garden photos. As usual it's a mix of shrubs, the first bulbs, succulents and a few winter perennials.


Leucospermum Veldfire. As you can see, it won't be long before this Protea family member will be in bloom. Here the fuzzy heads are a sign that the orange and yellow pincushion flowers are not far off.


Ipheion 'Wisley Blue.' Ipheions are one of the easiest bulbs to grow and one of the first to bloom. Their pale blue flowers are a welcome sight in late winter and they easily naturalize. 


Speaking of easy to grow bulbs that naturalize, Sparaxis are near the top of my list. One of many colorful bulbs native to South Africa, these days it's easiest to find the multi-colored hybrids available in packages at your local garden center. 


Dutch iris 'Apollo.' It may be hard to see but the upper standards are a pale violet color, nicely offsetting the sunny yellow falls. This is the first, an early herald of spring to come.


Gloxinia sylvatica Bolivian Sunset. So unlike the hybrid gloxinias that people grow as a houseplant that it might as well belong to a totally different genus. Has cute little 'firecracker' flowers that appear in early spring. It's supposed to be durable too, though this is its first year so we'll see.


Here is an Ipheion mix that I just planted this winter. As you can see it's a mix of whites, blues and pinks. 


My Physocarpus 'Nugget' (with its golden foliage) continues to leaf out at a record pace. Once this shrub makes its mind up to leaf out, it wastes no time.


Here is my neighbor's Leucospermum, a good month ahead of mine. Her specimen is very, very happy and is huge. It's also facing south and on a bank so it really captures the sun's warmth. 


Melaleuca incana. There's something about those super soft fuzzy flowers that's so delightful. Plus I love the subtle butter yellow color. I thought hummers would be interested but so far its honey bees that are loving them.


Who you calling a 'Pig's Ear'? Well, you, Cotyledon orbiculata var. orbiculata. That's its common name, though don't ask me why. My specimen has slowly spread out and is holding its own against the much bigger Aloe striata behind it.


Could you say that my Ferraria crispa dark form is 'pregnant'? In a way yes, as it's about to pop open its buds and unfurl those crazy weird crinkled flowers. Though some have trouble with this South African bulb, once established they're incredibly vigorous.


Holy Crinum, Batman!! Okay, got a little carried away but then again gardeners do tend to get carried away where Crinums are concerned. This member of the Amaryllidaceae family produces familiar looking large white or pink flowers. This is C. moorei 'Rosea.' Can't wait for it to bloom!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Clematis armandii

Every once in awhile I like to use this space to write about a favorite plant, especially one that people may not always have heard of. Clematis armandii is one of those plants. The buzz about this plant is its fragrance. As in, not sort of fragrant, or only fragrant between 6:30 and 6:45 pm but 'no doubt about it, sweet, heady, any time of day' fragrant. Plus, pure white, star-shaped flowers. By the hundreds. Did I mention that it's sun-loving and evergreen? So, not your grandmother's Clematis. Why nurseries don't have a 'drive-through hut' where they're selling this Clematis to whoever pulls in is beyond me.
Okay, we now return you to your regular gardening blog programming ...
Here are new photos from my garden, as it bungy cord jumps between winter, summer and spring. No question that last week's warm weather helped to push things ahead.


The new kid on the block, this Camellia 'Anticipation' variegated almost looks more like a peony than a camellia. Love the ruffles and the variegation in dark pinks, light pinks and whites.


Speaking of Camellias with variegated flowers, here's my C. Francie L. variegated. There's been quite the variation in colors, with some, like this flower, having a lot of white and others mainly pink. This is one of the open habit Camellia reticulata hybrids.


Wonga Wonga vine, otherwise known as Pandorea pandorana. Completely different than the more familiar bower vine Pandoreas, with their much larger flared white or pink tubular flowers, this species produces masses of these nodding rusty-orange flowers. 


Here's the same specimen. It has now climbed to the very top of my neighbor's conifer and is blooming its heart out. A very fast grower and one that appreciates some sun.


Here is the aforementioned Clematis armandii. This is the Snowdrift variety, which to my nose is by far the most fragrant. I like the simplicity of the white flowers and the deep green leathery leaves.


Here's another shot of my Azalea plant , 'born' as an accidental sport. Each flower has unique patterns of white and pink, making each 'unveiling' a lovely surprise.


My Physocarpus 'Nugget' obviously felt it was warm enough to start leafing out. Whenever it does do so (a bit different each year), it goes about leafing out with great gusto. Believe it or not it will be in bloom in less than a month.


This is obviously a Freesia (speaking of deliciously fragrant flowers) but one with a story. The Freesias you buy in your local garden store are hybrids. And sometimes hybrid bulbs can revert to their species form. Such is often the case with Freesias and here's a clump that's done just that. So, not quite as showy in the color department but oh so sweet smelling.


Under the category 'Just tell me when to stop,' this Helichrysum bracteatum has been blooming pretty much continuously for two years. Go figure. 'Hel' in Latin means 'sun' and this plant certainly fits the bill.


Helleborus x sternii 'Silver Dollar.' The x sternii hellebores feature distinctive silvery leaves, stay low, and showcase flowers that are a bit more muted than some of the H. orientalis hybrids. The label describes their color as 'creamy green' and that's sort of true. Lovely!


Just a reminder that yes, Freesias do bloom in a wide range of wild colors. Got orange? Yep.


There's nothing quite like Chrysocephalum apiculatum for providing low growing, silvery foliage. Quick, is this a California native or not. If you said native, why you'd be wr-, oops, correct! It would certainly make the Top Ten list of CA natives most people have never heard of. Tough as nails too.


There aren't many yellow-flowering Magnolias and depending on the year this M. 'Butterflies' is pale yellow like we see here or a more vibrant yellow. Despite the fact that this tree historically was pollinated by beetles, I've noticed that bees, especially honey bees, are very fond of the pollen.


Aloe striata. My Coral aloe has once again sent up a thick, multi-branching flower spike. I just thought this angle made the cluster look quite architectural.


I sometimes think that flower buds, being that they often possess the most concentrated color, are the most alluring stage of that flower's eventual opening. Certainly true for this Magnolia Black Tulip.


I still haven't positively ID'd this Lachenalia but it's one of the most striking in my collection. Not only does it have the vibrantly colored flowers but both the wide leaves and very sturdy flower stems are spotted.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Procession

For some reason this morning the word 'procession' comes to mind in thinking about this unusually warm sunny weather we're having this last few days. Procession in this case having to do with the advent of bulbs sending up shoots, the first of the deciduous shrubs beginning to leaf out, the first of the spring native annuals showing up in garden centers and more. Procession can be viewed as a kind of anticipation, which brings its own joy. Sometimes the promise of spring is every bit as sweet as spring arriving.
So consider today's photos a kind of visual 'procession.' One garden inching ever closer to the full-on glory of spring.


Speaking of bulbs, Lachenalias are usually one of the very first to bloom. Here's a new shot of my L. tricolor, one of the hardiest and most prolific of the cowslips. In a perfect world, Lachenalias would be as readily available as its S. African cousins Freesias and Sparaxis. 


Gazania 'Nahui.' I love the double form of this African daisy, as well as that rich orange color. 


Part of the 'Procession' is the winter appearance of Magnolia trees. Here's my M. 'Butterflies,' starting to open its first creamy-yellow flowers. This variety is a cross between M. acuminata (seed parent) and M. denudata (pollen parent) and has become many people's favorite yellow magnolia.


This unidentified Lachenalia not only has spotted leaves but spotted flower stems as well. They're sturdy, thrusting upwards at a nearly vertical angle, making it a bit different than most cowslips.


The Snap that won't stop. The Chantilly series of snapdragons are known for being hardy and long-blooming and that's the case for my A. Chantilly Bronze. It's been in continuous bloom since last June.


Leucadendron variety. This is my neighbor's Leucadendron and I couldn't resist including it in with this week's photos. What the casual gardener assumes are the 'flowers' (red tips) are actually bracts.


Many gardeners know that to say Magnolia doesn't even come close to hinting at the variety in this genus. This is a M. stellata 'Royal Star' and as you can see the narrow flower petals like more like fingers than the typical cup shape of M. soulangeana types. Did you know that Magnolias are one of the oldest plants on earth? Wikipedia says: "Magnolia is an ancient genus. Appearing before bees did, the flowers are theorized to have evolved to encourage pollination by beetles. To avoid damage from pollinating beetles, the carpels of Magnolia flowers are extremely tough. Fossilized specimens of M. acuminata have been found dating to 20 million years ago and of plants identified as belonging to the Magnoliaceae family date to 95 million years ago."


Not your mother's African Honey bush. Nope this is Melianthus pectinatus, a dwarf form with more finely dissected leaves and much, much smaller flowers. The flower buds are bright red, then open to become a rusty orange color. The leaves still have that distinctive peanut butter smell.


Iris confusa Chengdu. Also known as Bamboo iris, it produces loads of these pale violet, lightly fragrant flowers in spring.


Melaleuca incana. Just beginning its bloom season. There are two curious things about these flowers to me. First, the buds look an awful lot like little pine cones. It took me two years to even realize this is where the flowers emerge from. And when they do emerge, they seem to be doing their best to imitate bottlebrush flowers, only much smaller and a soft yellow. One of my favorite plants.


Iris reticulata. This short-stemmed species Iris features vivid purple colors and though the flowers don't last long, they don't disappear quite as quickly as Dutch iris flowers.


Ribes aureum. This yellow flowering, red berry-producing species has yet to bloom for me but it's off and running this year so I'm optimistic!


Speaking of Magnolias that have a different look, this M. 'Black Tulip' flower doesn't open any further than what you see here, making it different than M. soulangeana flowers that splay open.


The year's first Freesia. To quote Jackie Gleason "How sweet it is!"


There's nothing quite like Phylica plumosa for the look and the softness of its flowers. Silky. Not as difficult to grow as its reputation has led some to believe. Lots of sun + good drainage = a happy specimen.


 Chaenomeles Fuji. One of the prettiest of the flowering quince.



Osteospermum Blue-eyed beauty. No blue eye but a beauty to be sure.


One final shot, more in the sun, of my Bamboo iris.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Winter Gardens

Today's photos are a 'snapshot' of one winter garden but also a reminder that there are many types of winter gardens. Some of these are very cultivated, with that person's particular interest in plants showing itself in her or his choices, and some are wilder, a reflection perhaps of plants found in their natural ecosystem. I sometimes get asked as a nurseryman what is the right way to plant a garden. I tell them that apart from choosing appropriate plants given the light conditions and allowing for mature sizes, the choices and overall design is of their making. Yes, there are design recommendations that have some validity to them but a garden should, environmental issues aside, please its caretaker. While landscaping one's yard in one fell swoop has its appeal, there's also something to be said for letting it develop organically. And there are advantages to the latter approach. It's not uncommon for ones tastes to change over time. Building your garden a little at a time allows for these evolving tastes.


For sheer petal count, not much can top Camellia reticulata Bill Woodruff. If you didn't know better, you'd swear it was a peony and a pretty full one at that. Reticulatas are the 'Queens' of the camellia world, known for their wavy petals and rich colors.


Camellia Lila Naff. I was trying to get a backlit shot of this dreamy camellia and the sun only partially cooperated. Still, the luminescent coral color is lovely.


One last Camellia.  After almost losing this C. reticulata Francie L Variegated to thrips last year, it has rebounded enough to have half a dozen flower buds. Here's its first pink and white flower. I love the fact that the flowers on variegated varieties are all slightly different. It's like a roulette wheel, spinning, spinning and it stops on ... THIS color combination.


One last shot of my amazing Canarina canariensis. I swear, I should do a column on plants that die the first time you try them, die the second time too but then go crazy on the third try. That was the case with me growing this intriguing Canary Islands deciduous bulbous perennial.


Nothing says 'lemon-scented' like Pelargonium crispum Variegated Lemon. I swear, the foliage smells more intensely of lemons than lemons do! Love it.


This Agastache Raspberry Summer flowering stem is tilting sideways so it looks kind of funny to this eye. Then again you really see the individual tubular flowers. One of the great hummingbird and bee plants, and long blooming in our milder zones, Agastache is near the top of the list of my favorite plants.


Nope, this plant definitely doesn't give me the heebie-jeebies. It's an Hebe ochracea EC Stirling and it's one of the so-called whipcord hebes. I love that fine, needle-like foliage and the orangish-chartreuse color. Good things do indeed come in small packages sometimes.


One more shot of my rare Abelia species 'Chiapas.' As mentioned before, it features three unique qualities for an Abelia - it cascades, it features lavender-purple flowers and those flowers are sweetly fragrant. Too bad it's largely disappeared from the trade.


Sometimes you really DO need to read the label. It wasn't until year four of my Melianthus pectinatus doing poorly that I went back and read the label. 'Likes regular moisture.' Ahh. The extra H2O has really livened up the plant, especially during its growth season in the winter. 


Although people of course grow Arugula for the leaves, it's the simple 'flag' (four corners) white flowers that appeal to me. A prolific bloomer, it's bloomed continuously since early October and has yet to let up. 


Speaking of Abelias, here's my A. 'Kaleidoscope.' This variegated form is the one people ask for in our nursery and the multi-colored foliage is the reason why. Like all Abelias, it's a tough shrub, able to handle a variety of situations.


This unknown Lachenalia variety looks to be a L. aloides of some sort. Rosy-red tubes are tipped in green. 


Antirrhinum 'Chantilly Bronze.' This snapdragon from Annie's has performed beyond my expectations. It blooms heavily, I cut it back, it regrows then starts blooming again. And I've discovered that bees adore snapdragons. So, it's all good.
 
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