Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Sedona's Beauty

I've just returned from a week in Sedona, visiting a friend. For those who have been lucky enough to visit this area, you know all about the famous red rock formations and the high desert beauty. We did three distinctive day trips that I will share here over three weeks' posts. I start today with our walk in Oak Creek Canyon, a National Parks area just north of Sedona. Here steep canyons have been carved out by Oak creek and where the creek hosts a great variety of riparian trees and other plants. This creek and the nearby Verde river are the only year round water sources in this area and because of the desert-like conditions elsewhere, they are particularly refreshing habitats to visit. So, here are a few photos of that walk. Please excuse the quality of the photos. My point and shoot camera has trouble focusing when viewing a visually complex scene.

Our particular hiking path takes one first through an open meadow, filled with abandoned apple trees. The photos above and below give two views of this area, the second showing the ever present cliffs.

As mentioned above, the source of water encourages the growth of a variety of colorful deciduous trees. The day of this walk, October 24th, we encountered quite a bit of fall color. They covered the complete spectrum - golds, oranges and reds. Conifers still covered areas further away from the water, especially pine trees.

The canyon cliffs are never far away. This photo gives you an idea of how steep they can be. It's a testament to the tenacious nature of conifers that they can gain a foothold in such craggy conditions. 

If one goes deep enough into the canyon the trail eventually skirts these over-arching red rock walls. Very striking and geologically curious. The next five photos show different locations along this one stretch. I was able to gain a foothold on the rock, in order to get these closeups, and still stay dry!

Finally, I used the full extent of my zoom to catch a closeup of a far off rock formation, perched on a nearby hilltop. It almost looks like a human structure, a cairn of sorts, but in fact it's a natural formation.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Exploring Through Gardens

Every garden has its own beauty, from the simplest to the most sweeping. That's the power of gardening to me, that the humblest garden can be life affirming and satisfying. Whether you spend an hour a week in your garden or have the time (and passion) to practically live in it, the garden gives back in so many ways. I often tell gardeners coming into our nursery that gardening magazines are all well and good with their lovely photos of elaborate designs but that doesn't have to be you. Follow your own heart. That said, there is something to be said for being adventurous, for trying new things, be that with a fresh look at design or by exploring new plants. I used to work in the book business, at a book wholesaler, and one of the joys of the job was surveying new titles that arrived in our New Releases room. Similarly, working at a nursery allows me to see new varieties or entirely new genera as they first arrive. You don't need that advantage; gardeners can simply spend a little time at their local nursery, peruse the aisles, even ask the people there What's new?
It's that kind of curiosity that got me in the 'mess' that I'm in today, having a 'one of everything' garden. I could certainly put my garden on one or more of the tours (as friends have suggested) but I'm afraid my garden wouldn't neatly fit into any current tour's theme. Maybe I'll change my mind in the future. In the meantime, I have the luxury of sharing my garden via photos in this forum. So here are this week's windows onto one collector's garden.

I have gotten to appreciate succulents more than ever during my ten years at Grand Lake Ace nursery. I am currently enamored with gray and silver tones, a few of which are displayed here.

If this were a painting, would this be called 'Blue Pot with Butterflies'? Of course that's a nemesia in the pot and the butterflies here are cloth ones but it does have a rather painterly effect, n'est-ce pas?

Although I'm not a big fan of mums, I do like this coppery-orange color.

Here's a bit better photo of my new Salvia 'Love and Wishes.' BTW, look for my article on Salvia 'Amistad' in this coming Sunday's Chronicle (10/23). This new salvia is also mentioned. 

Winter is a great time for Protea family members. Here's my fabulous Leucospermum 'Veldfire,' already greening up in preparation for late winter blooming. The silver bush in front is the CA native Eriogonum giganteum. 

This pretty clover-like Oxalis is O. latifolium. It's a summer dormant, winter flowering type and I love the contrast between the lime green leaves and the orchid pink flowers.

Look, up in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's ... well, my Tecoma x smithii. It's used a street tree for support and climbed a good twelve feet. There are dwarf varieties of Tecomas but this cross is clearly a full sized one.

Last week I presented a photo of my Solanum 'Jalisco,' where the flower buds had yet to open. Here you can see that the first of them have begun to open, revealing the yellow stamen.

Impatiens congolense. This plant has its own mind as to when it flowers, though in recent years it's choosing to bloom later in the season. 

Here's a photo of my rain lily flower, now fully open. Though I'm not big into white flowers, I do love the simplicity of this flower and the fact that its flowers literally pop up overnight once the rains come.

I finally was able to get a decent photo of my Hibiscus trionum's flower. Though the flowers are smaller than most other hibiscus, it produces great numbers of them.

I've now learned to prune back my Luculia pinceana in the summer, before it enters its fall and winter bloom season. I'm too late this year as it's getting an early start. I've written quite a bit about this plant in the past and it's no exaggeration that it's one of the MOST fragrant plants on this sweet earth. And for some reason I love the fact that the eventual flower first appears as a little round pink ball.

African boxwood may not ring a bell for many gardeners but this resilient shrub - Myrsine africana - is a lovely specimen. This variegated form won't get as large as the straight green specimen but hopefully will be just as hardy.

Finally, in honor of my recent article on Curious Seedpods in Pacific Horticulture magazine (Fall 2016 issue), here's a new favorite of mine. This waxy seedpod belongs to Cassia phyllodinia. But you knew that, right? Seriously I'd never heard of this Cassia species until it showed up in our nursery. I'm a big fan now.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Before the Rains

While it may not be the great flood, the forecast rains this weekend in the Bay Area is certainly welcome news to gardeners. It isn't just the precipitation itself but rather the prana that the rain brings to both plants and the air. There's no doubt that gardens benefit more from natural rain than the water coming out of our hoses. In any case, the rain will freshen the air, clean the streets and mean we'll be able to skip watering this weekend.
October is often a transition time in our gardens. Summer flowers are fading but winter shrubs such as camellias have yet to begin blooming. Vines are prominent now, as are fall-blooming shrubs such as Salvias. For those of us with diverse gardens, there's always a bit of wonder to discover.
Today's photos reflect that diversity, with a mix of later perennials, some shrubs showing color and some Passiflora vines in bloom. October is also a "preview" period for an assortment of bulbs, the earliest ones already poking their heads up.

Faucaria. The so-called Tiger Jaws is one of most readily blooming succulents. Here's one of its yellow flowers just starting to close. I love the rubbery 'leaves' and how nonchalant it is. It grows, it flowers. Repeat.

Lunaria annua 'Rosemary Verey.' The dark-spotted form of the 'money plant' appreciates being in some sun, which seems to bring out more of the darker blotching. This is one of the plants I chose for my Interesting Seedpods in the Fall 2016 issue of Pacific Horticulture magazine. The wafer-thin seedpods look like coins, thus the common name.

It wouldn't be autumn without Rudbeckias so here's a shot of my Autumn Colors variety. 

Where the rudbeckia is all bright colors and a showoff, this Abutilon palmeri offers soothing, silvery-gray tones. The leaves are felty, adding another dimension of softness. There is color here though, as the flowers are a saturated golden yellow.

Speaking of my recent articles, my next SF Chronicle column will be on Salvia 'Amistad.' This recent addition is a real showstopper. I also mentioned a few similar varieties and one was this beauty - S. 'Love and Wishes.' It's a version of the well know S. 'Wendy's Wish.' Dark bracts and vivid burgundy flowers make for a real show.

Teucrium fruticans 'Gwen.' This new variety of the popular Germander is just beginning to bloom. T. fruticans is a tall, upright species, so good for adding some structure to a planting bed. It maintains its silvery foliage throughout the year.

Another shot of my ever evolving Aussie natives bed, with the front sidewalk-facing area populated by succulents. 

There's nothing quite like the blues offered by certain conifers. Here's it's a Cupressus glabra 'Blue Pyramid.' It's taken up temporary residence in my Dwarf Conifers bed.

Okay, so who am I? First clue is that these are flowers not berries. Got it? It's Solanum sp. 'Jalisco.' This variety was brought up from Jalisco Mexico and is proving quite vigorous. It is supposed to be long blooming and the flowers lightly fragrant, reminding some of Heliotrope. 

Begonia fans will recognize these flowers. In this case they belong to B. Irene Nuss, one of the showiest of all cane begonias. That's as much for the foliage as for the flowers, though there's no denying the beauty of these pink and white temptations.

Another shot of the fabulous Passiflora 'Oaklandii.' Love the color and even though the filaments are largely absent, the size of the flowers and the fact that the petals and tepals are the same rich color makes this variety a keeper.

I once thought this Calceolaria calynopsis was fragile but this specimen is proving more durable than expected. Pinching off spent flowers has brought on a new wave of blooms. 

This morning glory - Ipomoea 'Sunrise Serenade' - is unlike almost any m.g. I've seen, in part because the flowers have a ruffled, almost double petal form. Unique and vivid, always a great combo.

Hunnemannia fumariifolia. Hunny what? you may ask. This little known poppy is a real charmer. Related to CA poppies but bigger (it gets to 2' tall and wide), it features finely dissected bluish-green foliage and vivid yellow flowers.

Buddleja 'Cran Razz. This guy is just now putting out its first flowers, obviously later than is the usual case for Butterfly bushes. Then again it's always had a mind of its own.

Kalanchoe 'Elk Antlers.' This new variety of Kalanchoe does sort of look like antlers. So many Kalanchoes, so little time ...

Kudos to those who can ID this very particular and unique flower. If your answer was Haemanthus albiflos then you get today's gold star. This genus has the name 'blood lily' due to the H. coccinea having red flowers but here the albiflos has white 'shaving brush' flowers ('albi' signifies white).

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Nodding Clematis

The title of this blog doesn't refer to a clematis that's nodding off (Do clematis dream of electric sheep?) but rather to a group of Clematis species whose flowers are bell-shaped or tubular. They resemble small down-turned bells (thus the nodding reference) and they are early fall bloomers. Which means this is their time of year. I just brought home one of these types, a Clematis integrifolia hybrid called 'Roguchi.' I've posted a photo of my new arrival. These types don't get as large as most other clematis so they're a good choice for a trellis or scrambling up an arbor. These charming plants are a reminder that there are often exceptions to a genus's usual flowering season.
And now the photos.

Clematis integrifolia 'Roguchi.' Though not the ideal shot, here's a photo of my newly arrived clematis. Integrifolia hybrids want a bit more sun that many clematis so make sure to allow for that.

Euphorbia characias 'Glacier Blue.' "Is it cold in here or is that a Glacier Blue euphorbia?"  I love the cool tones on this variety and it's great for lightening up a shady spot. That said, many Euphorbias, including this variety, can take a fair amount of sun in milder climates (where it doesn't have to deal with 100 degree days).

Echeveria gibbaflora decora. This outstanding Echeveria offers up white and gray tones and will eventually, like most gibbafloras, make rosettes comprised of large leaves. This is a 4" pot specimen so still a modest size.

Here are two shots of the singular Dianthus chinensis var. heddewigii. As you can see below, each flower is layered with ruffled petals and bordered in white. Very striking, especially given the eye-catching maroon color. My specimen went mostly dormant then returned in June. As you can see it's making up for lost time.

Coming at ya! This shot of my Calibrachoa 'Superbells Spicy' seems to be reaching out to shake your hand. Love those colors!

Senecio barbertonicus. Gardeners naturally think of most succulents as being small, slow-growing plants. This senecio is the exception. San Marcos Growers says "It is described as one of the largest of the finger leaved Senecios (to 5' tall and wide) and its green coloration easily distinguishes it from the other finger leaved plants with gray leaves in the Senecio talinoides group, such as Senecio mandraliscae and S. serpens."

Though the light is diffused, here's a shot of my new Phlomis fruticosa. This Jerusalem sage is one tough customer and here I've added it to my 'Yellow' bed. Like many sage-like plants it has a very pleasing scent.

Epilobium canum. I took this photo because I wanted to show the plant's fluffy seedpods. That's something we don't normally think of when talking about this California fuchsia but here they are, in great numbers because, well, where there are a ton of flowers there are a lot of seedpods.

Fuchsia 'Golden Gypsy.' The leaves didn't stay golden but the flowers are exceptionally pretty. It's happier now that I've moved it into more sun.

Dianella tasmanica 'Yellow Stripe.' I haven't always had the best luck with dianellas but this one is prospering. That'a bed of Plectranthus 'Troy's Gold' underneath it.

Normally it's the flowers that are the main attraction for begonias but this Angelwing variety shows off some dramatic spotting on its leaves and is pretty enough on its own.

Here's my Gazania 'Nahui.' I almost lost this guy during the late spring but it has finally bounced back, is healthy and beginning to flower.

Gaillardias may be common but that doesn't mean they aren't beautiful. Plus they're a bee and butterfly magnet and are in bloom easily half the year. This one is G. 'Arizona Sun.' 

Heliotropium arborescens alba. I was after the deep contrast offered by the momentary sun on just a part of the plant, giving it almost a painted look. Not a perfect shot but the leaves especially really jump out.

Speaking of paintings, this composition could be 'Still life with Begonia Nonstop Salmon.' Though in truth there's nothing 'still' about this begonia. It has more than earned its name 'Nonstop.' And given its small stature the large and endless blooms are especially impressive.

Chocolate anyone? That would be Cosmos atrosanguineus, better known as Chocolate cosmos. Love that deep, almost dried blood red color and of course the aromatically enticing fragrance.

Lepechinia hastata. In baseball, they talk about a five tool player (one who does everything very well). In gardening one might call the 'perfect' plant a four tool plant -- beautiful, tough, fragrant and with year round appeal. Such is the case for this 'Pitcher sage.'

Aloe deltoideodonta 'Sparkler.' This spotted aloe is one tough customer, having survived being buried by weedy grasses, getting at times too little or too much water and being in more shade than it would prefer. Incidentally this species name derives from the Greek letter Delta, which means triangular.

My newly planted Delosperma 'Jewel of the Desert Ruby' is finally getting a toehold. My intention is for it to both spread and cascade over the sides of the metal tub.

Felecia amelloides variegata. Felicias (Blue daisies) are surprisingly tough sub-shrubs once they get established. My specimen is a little late on the blooming this year but then again like some other plants which prefer warm weather, they are just now kicking into blooming gear with the recent warm weather.

"He's baaaack!" That would be my enthusiastic Asarina erubescens 'Bridal Wreath' after I hacked it back in June. There are two common Asarina species, the delicate-leaved scandens (Joan Lorraine, Sky Blue) and the larger, velvety-leaved erubescens. Both are vigorous, late summer to late falling blooming vines. 

And lastly there's my 'Be patient, more patient, finally!' Passiflora 'Coral Seas.' Here you see the fully opened flower that's beginning to fade and to its right one of richer hue that's about to open. This species is one of the hardiest ones and performs well in the cooler regions of the Bay Area (where other Passifloras may suffer).
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