Friday, October 17, 2014

Wet and Dry

People who study California's climate don't talk in terms of spring, summer, fall and winter. More accurately they quantify our climate as having a wet season and a dry season. Normally for us the wet season starts in late November or early December and continues through to April. That's followed by the dry season that rarely gives us more than a smattering of precipitation. Our predictably dry summers makes it even more imperative to have rain (and snow) in the winter and early springs months. Gardeners are understandably concerned and are going strong for drought tolerant perennials and succulents. Add bulbs to that list, especially spring blooming bulbs which are stimulated by spring rains and then can survive the summer dry spell by going dormant.
Here are a few more photos from my fall garden.

Looking at this broad-leaved succulent always makes me mysteriously hungry. Oh, yeah, it's a Kalanchoe 'Flapjacks.' Pass the butter and maple syrup.

Speaking of curious succulents I'm not sure what this little guy is but it's bloomed for the first time and the flowers sure are cute. I'm thinking it's a Euphorbia of some kind, given the red-centered chartreuse flowers.

What do you see here? "Umm, a bunch of green leaves" you might answer. It's my Edgeworthia chrysantha, otherwise known as a Paperbush because the Chinese used to use the peeling bark as a kind of parchment. It will soon shed its leaves and then the hard, tightly held little flower clusters will come into view.

A simple shot of one of my favorite Dianthus (love the color) but something happened in the shooting and I wound up with a murky background. Sort of neat though.

Although this Cupressus variety doesn't have Icicles in its title (it's a Blue Pyramid) I still think the silvery foliage resembles a network of icicles. Now I need to find a spot for it in my Japanese garden ...

Can you guess what this is? Sometimes a closeup photo can hide its subject's identity. It's a stock. People plant them for their peppery fragrance but Iwhat made me take this guy home was its color. 

Kudos to those who can ID this golden shrub. It's the little known Duranta 'Gold Mound.' My specimen's one purpose in life is to drive me crazy. It goes deciduous but doesn't reappear until July. Then it does nothing much until September. Finally it makes a little growth spurt but by that time it's too late and having only gotten to a foot wide and six inches high it goes deciduous again. Then it repeats.

I couldn't resist another photo of my Deppea splendens. Although it's surprisingly resilient, it just seems like one of those tropical plants that you have to fuss over and pray to the plant gods that it will somehow survive the winter. Nope. It's ticking along quite nicely thank you very much.

Here's another photo of a newly emerged Camellia 'Winner's Circle' flower. As I mentioned, this Nuccio's variety is so new that not even Nuccio's has a photo of it posted. When I googled it, the two photos I'd taken of it were the only ones on the web. So, here's a third.

My winter shrubs ain't waiting for the invitation to arrive; they're crashing the party now. That includes my Rhododendron 'Sappho.' Here's its first bud. I've discovered that it may be a repeat bloomer and if so that might explain a few fall flowers. 

For a little change of pace, thought I'd share a photo of my back yard bench. I bought it for its lovely tree design.

This begonia looks an awful lot like a B. Irene Nuss but my friend Ann, who gifted it to me, and I think it's something different. Very similar though, down to the handsome scalloped leaves and large sprays of pink flowers.

Pteris cretica albo-lineata and Fuchsia 'Rose Quartet.' One of my favorite ferns beside one of my favorite smaller fuchsias. They have found their 'happy place' at the foot of my stairs.

Here's another plant ID that may stump some, especially without the benefit of the flowers. It's an Oxalis, labelled as O. carnosa but I'm thinking it's something else. One of its distinctive features is that makes these six inch globes of petals, from which sprout yellow flowers in the late fall.

Alyogyne hakeafolia. This is the so-called Yellow alyogyne and is related to hibiscus, which you can see from the flower. That red 'spiral' is a red limn at the base of each of the five petals. And this species has a pronounced stamen and nectary, making it one of the more beautiful members of the Malvaceae family.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Just bulb baby, bulb

The title is a bad humorous reference to the Oakland Raiders' legendary owner Al Davis, whose motto was "Just win baby." And yes, it is already the season to be buying and planting bulbs. With the exception of the bulbs that need to go in the fridge for those of us in mild zones (tulips, crocus, hyacinths), pretty much everything else but daffodils can be planted now. That would include iris of various kinds (bearded, Dutch, Louisiana types), Freesia, Sparaxis, Ixia, Scilla, Anemones and the like. This group doesn't need a winter experience and fall is a great time to plant them.
Speaking of bulbs, we're on the cusp of the season for South African bulbs. Many of you know that this area has the richest concentration of bulbs found anywhere in the world. The breadth and variety is dazzling. Many of the hybridized Gladiolas have as their parentage S. African (SAF) species. South Africa is also home to Freesias, Amaryllis, Ixias, Sparaxis, Babianas, Crocosmias, Lachenalias, Moraeas and Watsonias, just to name the common ones.
Often, the first ones to pop up are the Lachenalias, known as Cowslips. I noticed that my L. tricolor has just sent up shoots.That's my cue to take the various SAF bulbs that I still have in 4" pots and move them from their summer-dry location out to the display stand and begin watering them again. SAF bulbs can be a source of winter joy, flowering as they do from early November through end of April. It's one of the few things that I look forward to about winter.
But fall it is still and there are many plants blooming in my garden. Here are a few new things that are showing off their true colors.

Although mums are a common fall plant I happen to really like this color so tucked one in a  sunny bed along a pathway. Good fall colors and so cheerful.

Fall and winter is a great time for succulents, as many of them bloom in the cooler months. Here's a little Cotyledon 'Elisae' with its simple red and green flowers. I like the nodding form and reflexed petals.

Pelargonium sidoides. This delicate geranium has brilliant, tiny magenta flowers but distinctive and attractive leaves even when not in bloom.

Speaking of Pels as they're known to lovers of this genus, here's a hybrid called 'Raspberry Twizzle.' 

Silene uniflorus. This commonly used ground cover is nonetheless very attractive, especially the variegated leaf form and sports these curious "bladder" flowers. 

There are the drought tolerant mimulus types and then the water loving ones. This red variety is one of the latter but I only give it a little at a time so I don't feel too bad. 

Silene 'Starfish.' Couldn't resist another photo of my starfish silene. I think it gets its name from the five "arms" and the markings on each of them.

Felicia amelloides. If ever a genus was aptly named it's Felicia, meaning happy or blessed. Indeed this tough little shrub puts out an almost endless supply of cheerful blue flowers and is drought tolerant too.

I thought my Datura Blackcurrant Swirl was done blooming for the year but nope, it was merely a momentary pause. On top of the fabulous color of this double datura, it features the blackest stems you'll ever see on a plant.

My Aussie native Ozothamnus 'Silver Jubilee' has put its first tiny cream-colored flowers. Not showy but it looks fab with the silvery foliage.

Here's a botanical quiz. Name a honeysuckle whose flowers offer no fragrance. Pictured above is Lonicera sempervirens, an East coast honeysuckle that indeed is not fragrant. That's okay, it offers such fabulous colors that it is easily forgiven for its olfactory shortcomings.

This be a simple Mother fern but since it's come back from the dead and they're so beautiful anyway, I thought it worth a photo. My little feline friend in the background thinks so too.

Here's a closer look at my Mosaic tile kitty. She's a beauty and she's always on the prowl.

Though I wasn't fast enough to photograph the first flower this year on my Camellia 'Winner's Circle' I couldn't resist snapping it anyway. This is a preview for what looks to be a fabulous show on this brand new variety. It's so new I couldn't find any photos of it on the web last year. It's acquiring more of the promised coral shades this year and this first flower was huge.

Here's another shot of my Porcelain berry vine, doing better than I expected it to do this year. Dig the speckles on the blue berries especially, which gives it its common name.

Though this isn't my photograph I just had to grab a photo off the web of my Parochetus africana. It's a deciduous ground cover that reappears this time of year, offering the sweetest little blue flowers.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fall Splendor

What's that old saying? Fall would be my favorite season if it wasn't followed by winter. We are lucky in the Bay Area, getting to enjoy a lengthy fall season and especially for those of us near the coast a mild winter. Right now, in the middle of a three day heat wave, I'd gladly take some cooler weather. And rain. Somehow our gardens march on, able to survive our crazy weather.
Speaking of tough plants, this is the time of year for salvias. There are so many great ones, it's hard to keep up. I have a dozen different ones in my garden, the latest (yet to be planted) is the exquisite S. splendens 'Sao Borja.' First you have the rich burgundy colored flowers and then, surprise, this salvia likes some shade. It's native to the higher elevations of Brazil and so likes cooler temps. It's a bit frost tender so will need to be protected. It grows quickly, getting to 6' in a single season.

This little glass bird is a new addition to my garden. He's keeping a lookout in the back yard that is also my bird sanctuary. I'm curious to see if any real birds will take an interest. "No answer?" they tweet. "Ahh, you must be the strong, silent type."

Azalea 'Mangetsu.' It's just now coming into its blooming season. I bought this variety many moons ago at Moraga Garden Center and now I'm not sure anyone is selling it anymore.

One last shop of my trippy Sunrise Serenade morning glory. Talk about hot pink ...

My Begonia 'Calypso' was a late starter but it's in full bloom mode now. Calling it a showoff only encourages it.

What's that expression? "A weed is only a plant you don't want in your garden." I did indeed plant this purple form of Campanula punctata a few years back and now it's self seeded throughout the entire bed. What you don't see from this angle is the spotting inside the throat, a pattern I once described as a dusting of confectioner's sugar.

Finally a good shot of these colorful guys, a Portulaca mix. 

Here's a shot of my neighbor's Black and Brown Boar tomato plant that I've been caring for. Great color and yummy too.

Although it's still in the foliage stage, my new Protea neriifolia 'Pink Ice' is already showing the characteristic pink spines on the leaves. The flowers on most neriifolias are spectacular and Pink Ice is no exception. Can't wait.

What's more exciting -- watching paint dry or waiting for one's Puya to bloom? Hmm, let me think about it. Gimme a minute. Nope, can't say which sends more shivers down my spine. This Puya is in year eight with nary a bloom. I'm going to have to eat more health foods so I can live long enough to see it bloom.

My Tecoma x smithii keeps pumping out the gorgeous peachy-orange blooms. Fabulous.We have a specimen of the yellow-flowered Tecoma stans at the entrance to our Grand Lake Ace nursery and it's been in continuous bloom since early July.

Plectranthus coleoides. This lovely, ground cover type plectranthus has made itself happily at home under a fir tree, where not a whole lot else has prospered.

It may be just a New Guinea impatiens but this one has the loveliest rose-pink flower and it's doing a good job of bringing interest to a somewhat dark & shady bed.

Still a great many people's favorite salvia, S. patens has the richest blue flowers of just about any plant. If once upon a time, a single rare tulip in Holland was worth enough to single-handedly buy you a house (it was), then this exquisite blue flower must be worth something special.

Reason number 27 why people love Haworthias. This H. obtusa has translucent tips that sparkle in the sun. Fab green color too. Almost looks yummy enough to be a cool dessert on a hot day.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

After the rain ...

For those of us in the Bay Area, the early morning rain was a real blessing. I only wished I'd woken up early enough to see it. Walking outside the air was so fresh and the garden seemed especially happy. Hopefully this was just the appetizer and more serious rainfall is on the way.
Here are more photos from the garden. It continues its march toward the fall, proceeding to the music only it can hear.

Found these mushrooms up in a shady part of my garden. They're a curious kind, with flat, disc-like heads and quite white. Don't know that I've ever seen them before. What's that Alice? One kind makes you small and one kind ...

Tricyrtis 'Lemon Lime.' I haven't had much luck growing this variety. It always seems to poop out before blooming but I do have a couple of flowers on it right now. A very handsome toad it is.

Speaking of toad lilies, here's one that comes back faithfully every year, more prolific each succeeding year.

For those wondering what all the fuss is about with the rare South American shrub Deppea splendens, here's an idea. Coppery-red calyxes sprout golden tubular flowers on the thinnest, wiriest stems possible. It will eventually make a large shrub but mine is still a very modest size. It's so anxious to make a good impression that we've had specimens in 4" pots produce their first flowers!

Fuchsia 'Nettala." Here you get to see the "dancing dolls," the four cup-shaped petals that dangle below the upper recurved sepals. Someone even described them as square dancers doing a do-si-do.

My Tropical Corner is continuing to evolve. That's fire ginger in the foreground, a red banana behind it and black bamboo in the background. Still waiting for the macaws to arrive ...

Heliotropium arborescens 'Alba.' As I've often mentioned, this variety is substantially more fragrant than the purple kinds. And longer lived. Whether the fragrance smells like vanilla or talc powder to you, it's a one of a kind fragrance.

Speaking of Ones-of-a-kind, I nominate this Viola 'Brush Strokes.' I've never seen that kind of "painted" pattern on a viola before.

'Quick, freeze ' thought the gecko and he has yet to move in the two years since. Cagey guy. That's the ever vigorous Dicentra scandens tickling his backside.

Pelargonium crispum 'Variegated Golden Lemon' Crispum indeed! And, yup, it does earn its lemon moniker, exuding a very sweet lemon fragrance.

Let me introduce you to ... the color red.Yowza, it simply doesn't get any redder than this Mini-Famous Double Scarlet calibrachoa. As the saying goes, so red that light just falls into it.

Many will recognize this variegated ground cover -- Silene uniflora. Good for cascading, for rock gardens, even for hanging baskets. Tough little guy too.

Gold stars all around for those who recognize this odd little plant. Hint: it's a ground cover form of a native, fragrant shrub. Yes, it's Monardella macrantha and its flowers are at this young stage bigger than the plant itself! Monardella villosa, known as Coyote Mint, is a CA native found all over northern and central California. This decumbent form is also endemic to the state and its calling card is its extravagant sprays of red flowers.

Of course everyone knows this guy. Just kidding. Hemizygia? I'd never heard of it until two years ago and even its nomenclature is under dispute. It's related to the Plectranthus genus and that's about as definitive as we're going to get. Sure is pretty though.

This was one of those "what-the-heck" shots and it sort of works. The silver foliage is from my sprawling Centaurea gymnocarpa plant and the flower from a nearby Salvia canariensis (which oh by the way also has silvery foliage).

Here's that show-off Zinnia State Fair with my glorious Caryopteris 'Hint of Gold' in the foreground. Nice combo.

My unassuming Hebe speciosa has kind of taken over this corner of my walkway and it takes virtually no attention at all.

Here's another shot of my curiously named Bidens 'Hawaiian Flare Orange Drop,' which gets first prize for longest and oddest common name. Still, it has an awfully pretty flower for a bidens.

I was going for the surreal with this photograph and, well, I sort of got it. It's a Heavenly Blue morning glory but it could just as easily be a spaceship from the alien race living on the third moon of Jupiter. It just sort of hovers in space and the throat looks it might open up to reveal a portal to another dimension. Okay, time to cut back on the Sci-fi ...

Speaking of curious common names, here's another photo of my fab Portulaca ' Fairytales Cinderella.' I'm not making these names up. I'm just reading them off the grower's tags. I think maybe they have waaay too much time on their hands.

Though the blooms are tiny and unassuming, there's something sweet about Calamintha flowers. My cats certainly think so.

Though this isn't my photo I came out this morning to find that my Iris pallida variegata had produced a flower. That was exciting news as it hasn't bloomed in three years and it's late in the season to boot. Ahh, another reminder that gardens march to their drummer. Of course, besides the lovely color, the flowers are known to smell like grape soda. And so they do.
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