Thursday, July 21, 2016

Come a Little Bit Closer

The subject line is a Fleetwood Mac song reference for all you Christine McVie fans out there but it's also fitting for this post. I've been without my Nikon D40 camera for awhile now as two successive lens have gone awry and then I just wound up buying a Nikon Coolpix camera. It's an auto and it can't pick out a small object to perform its auto-focus function. I do have a zoom lens for my D40 however and today I took it out in the garden. The main problem is having to be at enough of a distance for the manual focus to focus properly and I don't possess the steadiest hands (I'm also without a tripod now). So keeping steady enough and eye-balling the manual focus is tricky and I got to the point of getting too frustrated so I stopped. I did however have some success today so here are the fruits of my labors. I love to shoot close-ups of individual flowers and that's what this set is.
Incidentally, for those of you who are on my friends list that I send the blog link to, there are two entries today so make sure to read the one that follows this entry.

Here's our 'butter yellow' Scabiosa mentioned in the following post (which has an intro on Pincushion flowers). S. ochroleuca is a vigorous little mid-summer to fall bloomer. The flowers aren't as large as other species but that color is so sweet.

Gloriosa lily. There's another photo and description in the following post but this is one of my favorite lilies and this shot caught it illuminated by the sun.

Cuphea Vienco. This variation on the Bat-faced cuphea has six 'ears' instead of two but has a similar purple 'snout.' Colorful and vigorous!

Here's a close-up of my Agastache foeniculum Golden Jubilee. The spikes are comprised of dozens of tiny purple flowers that the bees and hummers both love.

Scabiosa causcasia 'Fama Blue.' There's another shot in the following entry but my zoom let me get a closer look at this one flower.

Digiplexis 'Illumination Flame.' A closer shot of the hooded flowers. This close-up makes the golden throats even more apparent, contrasting nicely with the rosy-red exteriors.

Cuphea schumanii. This hard to find Cuphea's flowers are the same shape as C. ignea, only larger. It also features sturdier stems and definitely possesses an upright habit.

Over the years I've taken lots of photos of my exuberant Helenium 'Mardi Gras.' Here's one that captures a honey bee foraging for nectar, a common event on this plant.

There's a shot in the next post that captures the foliage of this Begonia Mocha Orange plant. Here I wanted to capture the brilliance of the orange flower, not an easy task for a camera as the color is so saturated.

Dudleya gnoma. Yes, as in Gnome. That's due to this being a dwarf variety. 

Lovers of true blue flowers know this plant, the bluest of all the Salvias (S. patens). It has one of the largest flowers in the genus as well, so good all around.

Tried to get a bit of back lighting on this Petunia. It looks as much painted as grown.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Scabiosas, sometimes known as Pincushion flowers due to their domed flowers, are one of those garden 'staples' that nonetheless are often overlooked. The common foot high lavender-colored varieties only hint at the diversity of this genus. They can range in height from 6" to four feet, with colors that include bluish-lavender, pink, red, dark burgundy, butter yellow or even white. One thing these varieties all have in common is their being a magnet for butterflies. Besides the common hybrids, there are the tall S. atropurpureas, which can easily reach three feet and produce intense red or burgundy flowers in great numbers. For something softer, there's the low mounding S. ochroleuca, with its butter yellow blooms. Like the bluish varieties but want something taller? Check out S. caucasia 'Fama Blue,' with its especially large bluish-lavender flowers. And just when you're sure you've seen everything, along comes Scabiosa 'Black Pom Pom.' Not only does the flower promise to be something eye-catching but the crimped foliage is one of a kind.
All of this proves that what's old can indeed be new again.

Scabiosa caucasia 'Fama Blue.' Here's our 'leading lady,' just beginning its bloom season. You get an idea how elevated the flowering stems are, waving in the breeze with their floral wares.

Petunia Supertunia Honey. I love how this petunia offers a range of colors, from yellows, to apricots to peaches. 

Gloriosa lily. To those in the know, just Gloriosa and nowhere is a plant more aptly named than with this vigorous lily. Though it can be finicky mine seems to have settled in and is very happy. 

Everybody's favorite orange-blooming shrub, Marmalade bush (Streptosolen) is slow to establish but once it gets going it's unstoppable. Pass the scones ...

Here are the first pink fuzzy flowers on my Helichrysum 'Ruby Clusters.' Dense silver foliage and little clusters of flowers that sprout like mushrooms? Yes please.

Calibrachoa 'Spicy.' A new Million bells, with orange tones and a dark eye.

Going for the gold? Yes, with this Caryopteris 'Hint of Gold.' It has loved this sunny location, with just a bit of midday shade provided by a Magnolia 'Butterflies.' Soft pale purple flowers will soon complement the gold tones.

If you look closely you'll see many upright spikes on this Campanula primulifolia, which are about to burst into bloom. One of the tall, sun-loving bellflowers, this one is my fave due to those rigid flowering spikes and masses of starry purple flowers.

There's red and then there's RED. The latter is on display with this Bouvardia ternifolia. It was suffering a bit so I hacked it back hard last winter and it has really responded. 

Dwarf Conifer bowl. It contains two Chamaecyparis obtusas -‘Mariesii and ‘Melody’ plus a

            Cryptomeria japonica ‘Ryokogu Coyokyu.’

Laurentia axillaris. One of my favorite plants, the aptly named Blue Stars really starts getting going in mid-summer.

Tillandsia tectorum - my so-called Silver Spider - and to its right the red-spotted Crassula alba v. parvisepala, which is getting ready to bloom (upper right).

Begonia 'Mocha Orange.' Love the dark foliage on the this begonia and the intense orange flowers as well.

Mystery fern. Still haven't figured out the identity of this mystery fern. Love its look through, the dense fronds and the way they radiate out at different angles.

Finally a picture of my mature Japanese maple in the back yard. It's now a fixture  in my yard and is a great habitat tree for birds.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Say it with Me - Isopogon

Most people are familiar with the 'Big 5' of the Protea family -- Protea, Leucodendron, Leucospermum, Grevillea and Banksia. One member far less known is Isopogon. Native to sandy forests and woodlands in southwestern parts of Australia, this drought tolerant evergreen shrub is one curious shrub. The genus contains 35 species, including the most commonly available one, I. formosus. The botanical name Isopogon is derived from the Greek ('Iso' means equal and 'pogon' means beard, a reference to the hairs surrounding the fruit). 'Formosus,' a common species term, means 'beautiful' in Greek.
I. formosus is considered to be one of the more spectacular species, with its large clusters of deep mauve or pink flowers that resemble fireworks. They appear at the tips of the branches in late winter to early spring, followed by spherical seed pods that remain on the plant for an indefinite period. Plants can easily reach six feet high and three wide. The growth is dense - thick might be an apt description - giving this shrub a distinctive look. As with all Protea family members it needs good drainage and an absence of phosphorous added to the soil.
And now the photos.

Isopogon formosus. Here's a newly acquired specimen, still in its gallon pot but already a good size. Although I don't have room in Aussie natives bed for it, I've decided to keep it in a pot right beside this bed. Inclusion by proxy? I'll have to be careful to avoid repeating what happened to my shrub Ozothamnus last year. It managed to plug the drain hole with its taproot and without the proper drainage it went downhill so quickly that by the time I caught it, it was too late. Ahh, lesson learned.

The bottom of my apt stairs includes a little alcove that now houses a sprawling Rhipsalis (upper left), a new Coleus and in front of it an Asarina procumbens.

I like Asarums, here it's an A. maximum, for their large heart-shaped leaves. This species hails from China, which may help explain why it's called Panda Face ginger.

Though the sun sort of washed out this shot a bit I've kept it just to introduce this new begonia to readers. It's called 'Funky Pink.' It's a semi-trailing interspecific type and can handle a good amount of sun. It's comparable to the Nonstop series or the B. boliviensis varieties, so blooms over a long period before going winter dormant.

Lunaria annua 'Rosemary Verey.' This spotted variety of the so called 'Money plant' (owing to its coin-like seedpods) is a 4 season plant. Interesting foliage until it blooms; pretty clusters of pink flowers; followed by those distinctive, almost translucent seedpods. It can reach 3' so forms a good-sized bush. In mild climates like here it can take a good amount of sun. Inland, morning sun is best.

By the time I finally got around to potting up my 4" pot of Oregano 'Kent Beauty' it had already begun producing those distinctive pink bracts. The uninitiated tend to think these are the flowers but no, eventually plants will produce tiny pink flowers.

Stachys albotomentosa. If this name doesn't ring a bell, maybe its common name will - 7Up plant. Yes, as in the soft drink. Damn if the leaves don't smell like 7Up! That alone is worth having this Lambs Ears relative in my garden but it does also produce these pretty coral flowers in summer.

One nice thing about pots is that you can remove spent annuals and replace them with new ones. My Anagallis monellii had finally run its course so I've put a yellow and purple Torenia in its blue pot.

If one is paying attention, gardens will gradually provide you with all manner of useful information. Books and grower info may provide a general guide but it isn't until you grow that plant in your own specific micro-climate that you truly discover what it likes or what kind of flowering schedule it adheres to. Exhibit A for me this year is my Tecoma Bells of Fire. My Tecoma x smithii has been in bloom for nearly a month but this reddish-orange variety is just now beginning to blossom. So noted!

I've been pleasantly surprised by my Ageratum houstonianum. Not only is it a prolific bloomer but it has more than filled out the large pot I situated it in. I thought it would be a butterfly plant but the bees seem to like it as well.

Another shot of my ever evolving sidewalk bed. Again, it's an example of how densely you can plant a limited space bed.

Although it's still very small, I've included this photo of my Solidago 'Little Lemon.' Solidagos (Goldenrods) are a CA native, a sun lover and a great way to add vertical golds to a bed. This variety is a dwarf, so will only get 18-24" tall.

Pelargonium crispum 'Variegated Golden Lemon.' This 'pel' has exceeded my expectations, being prettier, more fragrant and just plain exuberant than I expected. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Dig that Digiplexis!

What do you get when you cross a fox with a canary? It's of course a trick question. In this case, the 'fox' is a foxglove (Digitalis) and the canary is Isoplexis, found in the Canary Islands. Ahh, those in the know will say, you're talking about that award-winning cross of the two plants - Digiplexis. Indeed I am. It created a minor sensation when it was introduced in 2012 and it made its American debut in 2013. Last year was its coming out party and the first entry, Digiplexis Illumination Flame, was so popular that new varieties have appeared. That would be Illumination Raspberry and Berry Canary, with rumors of  others on the way. Here are three things to know about this showy perennial.
First, unlike foxglove, it's a sun lover. That's great news for many gardeners who have more sun than shade in their gardens. Secondly, because the flowers are infertile each one stays open for a much longer time than those of foxgloves. And the bloom season is much longer, typically 4 months as opposed to two months for foxgloves (though deadheading foxgloves prolongs this a bit). Thirdly, Digiplexis varieties are heavy feeders and need regular water. This later point sometimes gives customers pause at our nursery but it's better to know going in that these plants will never be drought tolerant. Still, I feel their beauty is enough to make me bend my preference for low water denizens in my garden.
Okay, now the photos.

Digiplexis Illumination Flame. The original and to many still the champ. Mine has just now begun to flower for the year. These plants respond to warm weather, another difference from their Foxglove cousin.

Speaking of vibrant colors, there's no shortage of that with Helenium 'Mardi Gras.' I've had this specimen for six years now, so it's proven that it's ready for the long haul. It's a well known bee magnet and on sunny days the bees are all over the flowers.

Agastache foeniculum 'Golden Jubilee.' The soft and fuzzy purple flowers are just now beginning to emerge on this standout hummingbird mint.

Proof that milkweeds (Asclepias) will self seed with regularity is evidenced here, with a seed having taken root in my Pavonia pot. They look good together so I've left them to cohabit. My Pavonia missionum has finally hit its stride in year three and benefited I think from a vigorous pruning last winter.

Calluna 'Firefly.' Now if I had four heath plants in my garden, could I call them Heathers? Okay, that's an oblique movie reference but this Calluna is indeed in the heather family. Its new growth has turned a fiery red, with flowers soon to follow.

My Pineapple lily (Eucomis) is proceeding very nicely. Like many plants with flowering stalks, it's the lower flowers that open first, gradually moving up the stalk.

Epilobium canum. My CA fuchsia has begun to bloom, reaching through the cast iron railing to grab more of the east-facing sun. Though this plant is very drought tolerant, a bit of regular water will make it bloom more profusely.

Ageratum houstonianum. Unlike the little bedding Ageratums, this species one will get two feet tall and produce masses of those foamy lavender flowers. A favorite of butterflies.

Plumbago auriculata. There's nothing quite like the big clusters of robins-egg blue flowers of this shrub plumbago. Tougher than nails and so drought tolerant that cities plant them along roadsides, it will survive and even prosper under difficult conditions.

So many Plectranthus, so little space. Here's a P. coleoides variegata. It's happy as a clam in a bed it shares with lilies and a Passiflora citrina. That's proof that this genus can take some sun.

In the foreground is a Crassula arborescens that's sent up some bloom spikes. The tubular flared flowers are a bit larger than many other succulents that produce clusters of these tubular blooms.

I'm posting a photo of my Lonicera japonica (honeysuckle) to demonstrate that one can prune a vine so that it takes the form of a shrub. As you can see, it's filled in densely and I'm about to get loads of fragrant yellow and white flowers.

Foliage can be just as intriguing as flowers of course and here this Amorphophallus kiusianus is about to unfurl a leaf cluster. I just like the look of it, seeming here almost like a leafy vegetable.

Ampelopsis. My variegated Porcelain Berry vine has gone to town this year in the blooming dept. That's going to mean a parade of bees as they really love the tiny white flowers. Of course the real show will be the late summer/fall berries. Though it's getting no afternoon sun, it's somehow overcome that deficiency to thrive along my back yard fence.

I thought the way the foliage on my Acer 'Beni Maiko' was back lit by the morning sun looked pretty so here it is. This variety of Japanese maple is interesting. The new growth is a vivid red, that's followed by the splattered red and green you see here. The leaves will age to a darker green then put out that blazing red color in late fall that is characteristic of so many maples.

Finally, a new shot of my Impatiens congolense. This species has been renamed I. niamniamensis but I like the old name. Especially since the plant's common name is Congo Cockatoo. In any case, it produces these curious waxy red and yellow flowers during the summer and fall, much to the delight of those who grow it.
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