Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Native annuals

As we are about to hit the spring equinox, it seems like a good opportunity to mention a number of California native annuals that are now at your local nursery. For me, they divide themselves into four groups. You have the Blues, you have the CA poppies, you have the yellows and then last but not least you have the vast array of Clarkias. Start with the blue-flowering native annuals, always a popular color. That would include everybody's favorite blue, Nemophila menziesii, better known as Baby Blue Eyes. It's a prolific bloomer and along with the other three Nemophilas (Penny Black, Baby 5 Spot and Snow White) are a great way to add petite charm to a sunny spot. Then there's the blue Phacelias, better known as CA Bluebells, most notably P. viscida and P. campanularia. The former is an upright, multi-branching plant with inky blue flowers, while the latter is a low growing, cascading species with royal blue flowers. Add in Gilia capitata, Blue Thimble flower, and you've got four true blue selections.
Everyone knows the orange CA poppy but there are also ones known as Rose, Apricot and Golden Chiffon, as well as Red Chief, Purple Gleam and Alba White.
For yellows, there's the evocatively named Tidy Tips (Layia), Sunflakes (Camissonia), Meadow Foam (Limnanthes), Cream Cups (Platystemon), Blazing Star (Mentzelia) as well as the fragrant Madia elegans.
And finally, there's more Clarkias than most of us have room for in our gardens. My favorites are C. Aurora and C. Salmon Queen. And did you know that there's a Clarkia for shade? That would be C. concinna (Pink Ribbons). Rather than the typical round, open cup-shaped petals of other Clarkias, it has interesting finger-like petals.
So, there you have it, a cornucopia of wonderful natives just waiting to create a splash in your garden.
And now, today's photos.

Clivia miniata. Tough as nails, no special care, batches of orange flowers in late winter. What is not to like?

Arisaema nepenthoides. Here's a shot of the back side of the spathe, showing off the beautiful patterning and spotting. Notice too the blotch patterns on the stalk. Easy to understand why so many people love Arums.

Echeveria pulvinata. It's the fuzzy leaves on this colorful Echeveria that are the main attraction, though it does readily produce clusters of vivid red flowers.

I planted this purple Triple G sweet pea in front of the golden-leaved Physocarpus 'Nugget' for the delightful contrast. The sweet pea has already attached itself to the steps railing as I had intended. Last year's sweet pea bloomed heavily in this same spot.

Though not in bloom yet, the twisting, textured leaves of this Begonia Wild Pony are reason enough to photograph it. 

Here are two of the aforementioned spring native annuals. This Phacelia campanularia is just getting started but already has its first royal blue flowers. 

Baby Blue Eyes features those robins-egg-blue flowers, a piece of blue sky brought to earth. BTW, the term California native isn't a euphemism; many of these 'wild flowers' are found throughout the Bay Area, including Baby Blue Eyes and Phacelias in the East Bay hills.

Osteospermum Blue-eyed Beauty. One of 3 African daisies (the other two being Gazania and Arctotis), Osteos are hardy and vigorous ground covers. This single plant from a 4" container has spread out to cover a three foot diameter. They are winter and spring bloomers.

I've spoken often of the charms of species tulips and here's one of them, a Tulipa clusiana Chrysantha. Sometimes called Lady tulips for the slender upright form, they like other species tulips naturalize easily in your garden.

For those of you not familiar with Banksia roses, here's a yellow-flowering variety. They are a climbing rose, featuring masses of small white or butter yellow flowers. Very charming! (And I'm not a rose person).

Kalanchoe variety. Not sure if this is Chocolate Soldier but if not it's a close cousin. It features soft, sort of fuzzy leaves that are tipped in brown. 

Not a bottlebrush tree (at least not THE bottlebrush tree - Callistemon) this Cunonia capensis does feature flower spikes that look and feel a lot like a bottlebrush. They belong to different families so the resemblance of the flowers is deceptive. In any case, bees and hummingbirds love the flowers.

Physocarpus Amber Jubilee. This amber-leaved Ninebark is a beauty. It's newer so has leafed out a bit later than my front yard P. 'Nugget.' Tougher than they look, Physocarpus are a great smaller-sized shrub to add to a sun/part sun location.

Gladiolus 'Lemon Moon.' This South African glad is one of the prettiest around. The photo doesn't quite show off the attractive chocolate spotting in the throat of the flower.

These orange snapdragons took awhile to get established from a six pack but they seem to be hitting their stride now. I planted them on top of a newly built bed that houses a lot of bulbs. A little color before and during the bloom season for the bulbs. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

All weather all the time

Yep, it's sort-of-spring (yes, that's an actual season here in the wacky Bay Area). Meaning, spring for two hours, then back to winter, then who knows what. Not good for commercial crops but our gardens seem to be able to handle the roller-coaster weather. Mine is responding to the rain especially. Even with SOS (sort-of-spring), it's time to get out in the garden. Prep the soil, yank out weeds and do a little D&S (Dreaming & Scheming) as to which new plants you might add to your garden.
Here's a few photos from my SOS garden.

I love Arisaemas (Jack-in-the-Pulpit) and here's my A. nepenthoides starting to unfurl its spathe. A very exciting time for Arum fans.

Helleborus 'Amethyst Gem.' Here's a better shot of the double Lenten Rose. Lovely and prolific!

Everybody loves Dutch iris and here's one showing off the richest purple colors.

Nemesias may be common but they're a way to add quick and inexpensive color to the garden.

Not sure why this Dutch iris is named 'Apollo' but it's a pretty pale lilac and yellow color. 

Ranunculus. These early spring bulbs may have a short bloom season but they make up for that with large flowers sporting vivid colors.

My Chantilly Bronze snapdragon keeps on flowering, rain or shine, warm temps or cold, through the indignity of Trump tweets ... The Chantilly series seems an especially vigorous one and my specimen has been in continuous bloom since last July.

Tulip or not to tulip. Yes, this bright fellow is a tulip, one of the species types (T.
vvedenskyi Tangerine Beauty). Whew, say that real fast ten times! It turned out to have a larger yellow center than the photo showed when I ordered it. Fine by me. Vivid!

Phlomis fruticosa. This hardy low growing sage has firmly established itself now and has begun to open masses of golden yellow flowers.

Westringia Wynyabbie Highlight. The variegated form of Westringia, it's now slowly adding delicate lavender-colored flowers. An Aussie native, it's tough as nails and adaptable to a variety of conditions, though it does prefer sun.

Calothamnus villosus. A rather unique and sometimes hard to find plant, this is one of those plants that sprouts flowers along the stems, not at the tips of leafy branches. Flowers look delicate but are waxy and slightly stiff. 

Luculia pinceana. A winter through spring bloomer, this highly fragrant shrub wants a bit of relief from the hottest part of the day.

Daffodil variety. So many wonderful daffodils out there and one of their most appealing characteristics is that they are perhaps the fastest to bloom from when the shoots first appear, sometimes in as little as 2-3 weeks.

Ferraria crispa var. nortieri. Anyone who reads this blog knows I'm a big fan of Ferrarias. Cream-colored varieties are hard to come by so I'm glad to have this beauty in my garden.

Helleborus 'Silver Dollar.' This is turning out to be a very prolific bloomer, even its first season. Love the foliage too.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

A pre-spring garden

Sometimes transition periods in our gardens can be the most interesting. One of those is certainly winter to spring. Although in the milder zones of the Bay Area this transition isn't as dramatic, there's still a noticeable change coming out of the colder months. Despite our weather being all over the map recently, things are progressing. And of course, as we are tantalized with spring days like today, we begin to want spring to finally get here even quicker. But that's one nice thing about a garden with a great selection of plants. There's always something that whispers 'Spring is almost here.'

Lachenalia variety. The last of my collection to bloom, this sweet lavender-colored one is showing off its colors.

You want red? I got your red right here buster! This vibrant Echeveria gibbiflora is just about the richest red I've ever seen on this species. I'm hoping it will hold onto its color in warmer weather.

The first of my Escholtzia maritima (CA poppy). Many, many more to come, especially if we get some sun. This is one of the few CA poppies that's a perennial.

It may seem late for Calendulas but this C. Bronzed Beauty is a later blooming variety, starting in March and blooming through June.

Here and below are different colors of Sparaxis. I tell Ace customers that Freesias, Ixias and Sparaxis are kind of the holy trinity of colorful, tough, colonizing, spring blooming bulbs. 

Here's my Phlomis fruticans, filling up with flower buds and about to put on quite the show. You can treat them like salvias - they love the sun, they're very drought tolerant, they bloom over a long period and bees and butterflies like them.

This strange looking 'tower' is the bloom spike on my Kalanchoe 'Fantastic.' For some reason it has sat unopened for a good month. Waiting for warmer weather, perhaps?

Magnolia 'Alexandrina.' It's taken my specimen awhile to bloom but it's finally starting to reward my efforts. This is your classic 'tulip' magnolia. 

Speaking of Magnolias, here's example A of why people love M. stellatas. Look at those rich white, finger-shaped petals, here backlit by the sun. Wonderful!

I went a little crazy on the species tulips this year. Here's a new one T. bakeri 'Lilac Wonder.' It's a saxatilis type, with the signature two tone colors. These flowers are a really good size. Guess they're happy.

I know it's hard to see, but this white-flowering Ornithogalum's flowers are nestled within an inch of the white gravel. They're supposed to eventually reach 4-6" tall. 

Here's my vigorous Ferraria crispa 'Dark Form.' Or as I call it, my 'Chocolate Ferraria.' Love the deep maroon color and then of course the moss green crinkled edges. To paraphrase those Sara Lee commercials "Who doesn't not like Ferrarias?"

Okay, not the best photo but I'm excited to capture the first of my Helleborus 'Amethyst Gem' flowers. It's a double speckled variety that last year bloomed for a full three months.

Clematis armandii 'Snowdrift.' For my money, the most fragrant of all the C. armandii varieties. Plus the pure white flowers and the handsome leaves.

Here's a new piece of art I just added to my garden. I'm calling it my ceramic egg. It's about 15" tall and maybe 8" wide. Hey, it's almost Easter, right?

Here's the first of my Leucospermum 'Veldfire' flowers. Sensational!

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Not 8 but Ninebark

I thought I'd take a moment today to extol the virtues of one of my favorite shrubs, Physocarpus opulifolius, also known as Ninebark. This deciduous shrub, native to the east coast, is out here in the milder zones, nearly a four season plant. It is one of the few shrubs that's a quadruple threat. That is, all four aspects of its cycle offer something to the eye. In early spring it leafs out quickly, offering either mint green, plum, amber or golden foliage, depending on the variety. In short order, clusters of Spirea-like white flowers appear, attracting hummers and butterflies. These are followed by showy, dark red seedpods that are almost more of a feature than the flowers. Certain songbirds will come calling to harvest the seeds. Finally, as the shrub goes deciduous in late fall, one has the exfoliating bark. As the shrub ages, the bark will peel not just once but multiple times, leading to its common name.
Ninebarks are tough shrubs, able to deal with temperatures down to 0 degrees F. That doesn't stop them from doing well in milder climates. The beauty of their foliage, the sweetly decorative clusters of tiny white flowers, the highly ornamental seedpods and finally the peeling bark, all of this makes Physocarpus one of the best garden shrubs.
Here are a few photos from the web. All of these are P. opulifolius varieties.

Physocarpus 'Diabolo.' Here it's the plum colored foliage that's the real appeal

Physocarpus 'Festivus Gold.' There are several golden-leaved varieties. I have the 'Nugget' variety in my garden.

Physocarpus 'Ginger Wine.' A lovely range of colors, from ginger to dark red to burgundy.

Physocarpus 'Amber Jubilee.' One of the more glorious colors available with Ninebarks. Positively glows in the sun.

Physocarpus green-leaved variety. I included this picture to not only show you the color of the straight species but the beginning of the seedpods.

Physocarpus variety. Here's a closer look at the waxy seedpods. They will eventually split and spill out the seeds.
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