Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Happy Solstice

It's hard to believe but we've nearly reached the summer solstice. Ostensibly the beginning of summer, here in the Bay Area it can mean nearly anything weather wise, though of course it does absolutely mean the longest daylight of the year. For those of us who like to be outdoors, this is 'one of our most favorite things.' I don't often stroll out in the garden at 8 pm but knowing I could is nice. It also means I have birds coming to my window feeders till past 9 pm. And to those of us for whom 'light therapy' is a real and tangible thing, the long days are really the very best blessing.
Those salutes accomplished, here are this week's photos. Lilies are ruling the day in my garden so they provide some of the visual highlights.

This new type of Hibiscus, H. longiflora HibisQs, is noteworthy for having its flowers stay open an astonishing 3-6 days, not the 1-2 of most Hibiscus. It is just in the testing phase here but hopefully we will see it on the market next year. This one is Adonis Pearl but they come in a host of bright colors too.

Speaking of bright colors, this Calceolaria calynopsis features bright red pocketbooks. It's a more compact species than the more familiar yellow-flowering C. mexicana.

Ornamental onions (Allium) take many forms. Here, this A. Red Mohican has a spherical head with dozens of tiny, half closed tubular flowers. This head is about 2" in diameter.

Here's the raspberry red lily that's part of my Summer Garden mix. It's an Asiatic type so not fragrant. Gorgeous color though. 

Lilium pardilinum. This California native lily is a type of Tiger lily - notice the recurved petals and prominent spotting. Though not always thought of as a destination for bees, in truth lilies are rich in nectar.

Lilium Triumphator. This huge trumpet lily is just awe-inspiring. 

The subtle colors on this tiger lily and not much spotting means that we're not in Kansas anymore, Dorothy.

My Centaurea Blue Diadem and Clarkia Salmon Princess were hugely successful this year. That golden-leaved shrub is my glorious Physocarpus Nugget. 

Begonia boliviensis hybrid. These begonias are amazingly durable and long blooming, not to mention an easy way to bring orange into ones garden.

The star of the lilies parade this year is my new Lilium martagon Claude Shride. This is one that I wrote the sign for Annie's Annuals and for that contribution they kindly gifted me a single bulb. Martagons don't always bloom the first year but luckily mine did and wow, it produced 11 buds. They assume a nodding form, with partially recurved petals. The photo below, where I lift up the flowers, shows some of the spotting closer to the center. Though only 3" across and not fragrant, martagons are still highly sought after by collectors and usually command a dear price.

Walkway bed, upper portion. Here you can see a few developing tiger lilies, the Gloriosa lily shoots and the developing patch of Helenium Mardi Gras. There's also a patch of Lotus jacobaeus, otherwise known as Black Lotus for the deep burgundy (almost black) flowers.

Though it's still filling out, here's the first flower head on my Trachelium Hamer Pandora. Nothing says 'purple' like this deciduous perennial. A real butterfly magnet. btw, have you ever wondered how butterfly got its name? Wiktionary has several ideas. The old English 'buterfleoge' literally translates as 'butter' and 'fly.' The Low German word 'botterlicker' means 'butter licker,' as it was thought that butterflies landed on and ate butter. But the funniest derivation by far is the Dutch 'boterschijte' which means literally 'butter-shitter.' Apparently a few ancient Dutch thought butterflies excreted a butter-like substance.

Silver foliage is always an attraction and this silver-leaved Tanacetum haradjanii is a real treat. Tanacetums are feverfews and the one most gardeners are familiar with is the golden-leaved variety. This species stays low and acts more like a ground cover.

My Sea Holly is slowly acquiring its metallic blue coloring but here a honey bee is interested in the center flower.

It took awhile but my Chantilly Purple snapdragon is finally hitting its blooming stride. That's a Clarkia Aurora next to it, providing a pretty salmon contrast.

These are the yellow lilies in that Summer Garden asiatic lily mix. Such a vibrant yellow.

Lower walkway bed. I've mentioned it before but this bed demonstrates that you can densely plant a narrow strip, with a little planning and some judicious trimming.

Trachelospermum asiaticum tricolor. The genus is the familiar star jasmine, while the species and variety indicate this is the multi-colored more low laying type. I rarely get the deep reds you see here and when I first looked, they almost seemed to be red butterflies alighting on the cream and green leaves.

Hakonechloa macra Aureola. Though you can grow this Japanese grass in the shade it seems to prefer the sun, which brings out its golden colors more.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The JPEGs and nothing but the JPEGs

Today I have so many photos to share - and I'm feeling a bit lazy in this heat - that it's all images and no text today. Except to hold up three fingers for the Warriors. Actually 3 1/2 fingers cause we all know that without Green being suspended during the '16 playoffs the Dubs would have won that year too.
And now the many and wonderful ways in which gardens (and Nature) are grand.

Everybody's favorite true blue Hydrangea (Nikko Blue). It was first introduced into the American market in 1932, making it one of the oldest Hydrangea cultivars in continuous supply here.

Papaver somniferum 'Lilac Pom Pom.' Grown from mail order seed, this breadseed poppy lived up to its billing. Huge fluffy lilac flowers much beloved by bees. A close-up of the flower is further down.

Lilium 'Golden Splendor.' THE find of my early blooming lilies. It's a Trumpet type, as you can see by its shape. Heavenly fragrant as most trumpets are. 

Eucomis 'Sparkling Burgundy.' Everyone should grow at least one pineapple lily (I've got five). This one features rich burgundy leaves and eventually waxy pink flowers scaling a sturdy flowering stem.

The other lily find this year is the golden form of a tiger lily (part of a mix). Notice however that this one has streaks not spots like most tiger lilies.

This Raspberry Summer Agastache has been a blooming machine, by far the most floriferous of any hummingbird mint I've grown. It always seems to be in bloom, which pleases the bees and hummers to no end.

I love the common name for this easy-to-bloom cactus - Peanut cactus. I guess that owes to its stubby fingers. It does like to bloom, especially if given a little water now and again.

Rhipsalis variety. Known as mistletoe cacti, the scientific name derives from the ancient Greek term for wickerwork, referring to the plants' habit. It is the largest and most widely distributed genus of epiphytic cacti.

A new CA native Brodiaea from Annie's Annuals, this B. 'Rudy' has proven to be a vigorous and colorful specimen.

Cynoglossum amabile. This Chinese Forget-me-Not offers up very delicate robins-egg-blue flowers on taller stems. It also prefers sun unlike regular forget-me-nots.

Epilobium canum. Better known as California fuchsia, this native high ground cover is happy as a clam poking its heads through my wrought iron railing. Another hummingbird favorite. 

Though the leaves are looking a bit peaked, there are steely blue flowers forming on my golden Sea Holly. One of those unique and 'fun to share with passersby' plants.

Here's the closeup of my Lilac Pom Pom poppy. Extravagant! 

I thought the unopened flower on my Magnolia grandiflora 'Little Gem' looked rather like a white tulip, don't you think? This evergreen southern magnolia works well in our climate.

A simple Alstromeria but pretty nonetheless.

Phylica plumosa. Here the furry, delicate new growth contrasts with the spent seedheads. Native to South Africa, it's one of THE softest plants you'll ever feel.

Though I accidentally wound up with the white form of Echium 'Blue Bedder,' the plant is doing the two things it does best - flower profusely and attract a million bees. I don't know how the bees find them (Echiums in general and this annual type especially) but I'm convinced they have a special radar for these flowers.

One last shot of my native Clarkia 'Salmon Princess.' It went wild this year and the bees have practically been living in it.

Although not the most inspiring photo, I've started a Sedum Lemon Coral in a hanging pot. It will soon fill out and spill over the front.

One of my oldest lilies, this Asiatic lily Honey Bee is still flowering. That's one of many fine attributes of lilies - their longevity.

One of the fun features of Love-in-a-Mist flowers is their seedpods. Here my Nigella African Bride is already producing the first of its distinctive seedheads. They are often used in dried flower arrangements. 

Clarkia amoena 'Aurora' and Snapdragon 'Chantilly Purple.' A nice color combination and when the annual clarkia is done the snapdragon will soldier on.

Though it's just starting to flower, this lesser known Calceolaria calynopsis is slowly finding its way into the trade. Unlike the more common yellow-flowering C. mexicana, this species likes the sun. 

One of my lily mixes planted this winter, the Summer Garden mix, first issued two canary yellow Asiatic flowers. This new color, a vivid raspberry, is nothing short of gorgeous!

There are of course many species Geraniums but this one, G. pratense Mrs. Kendell Clark, is one of the loveliest. It has delicate ribbing, which is shown off nicely in this back-lit shot.

My Euonymus japonicus aureo-marginatus is still going strong. It has formed clusters of tiny, tiny flowers but those have so far remained closed. They are reputed to be a pale green.

Here's my initial dwarf conifer bowl, containing Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Mariesii

and ‘Melody’ plus Cryptomeria japonica ‘Ryokogu Coyokyu’.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Wonderful Wide World of Plants

I've recently come across a tree that somehow illustrates to me the sometimes innovative and wacky ways certain plants evolve to protect themselves from enemies of one kind or another. Today, that would be the Ceiba speciosa, known as the Silk Floss tree, which hails from Brazil and the northern parts of South America. What is its aforementioned defense? Spines! Lots of them encircling the massive trunk, thick conical spines. You sometimes see spines on branches, even certain leaves, but rarely on the trunk (at least to this degree). Of course, if you're not concerned with eating the bark, the spines could be considered an attractive feature of this plant. It also has a fat trunk, making it a type of very large caudiciform. Surprisingly, the tree can do quite well in the milder regions of our Bay Area. Below are four photos, one of the tree in full glorious bloom, a closeup of the thorns, one showing its fat trunk and one of the cottony insides of the seedpod (from which the common name derives).
Then more photos of my garden. The stars this week are the first of my lilies coming into bloom. Enjoy!

Here is the Ceiba in full bloom. Spectacular!

I wasn't kidding about the thorns!

To we caudiciform lovers, this is one beautiful fat trunk!

A seedpod that is a sheep? Almost. The Ceiba seedpods contain a wooly, fluffy down.

Here's the first of my Brodiaea californica flowers. There aren't many native bulbs (especially those for sale) but this is one of them. This species has larger lavender flowers, rather than the more typical cup-shaped bluish-purple ones of the hybrids.

There's nothing quite like the pinkish-orange translucent color of Clarkia Aurora. Simply one of the most beautiful flowers in existence.

This new version of the popular rhoeas poppy, Papaver rhoeas 'Pandora' features rich burgundy tones, with some raspberry colors in there. Like most rhoeas poppies it's prolific. 

To the uninitiated,  tiger lilies are orange (with dark spots). Dig deeper and you find they come in a host of colors. My Tiger lily mix included this brilliant golden yellow color and the pale, almost salmon, orange variety below. I'd previously shared another variety from this mix that had deep red flowers.

Most Tiger lilies have nodding flowers and that's been true of this mix of colors.

Lilium Golden Splendor. This trumpet-type lily features the stiff, elongated flared petals typical of trumpet lilies. Beautiful and fragrant too.

Papaver somniferum 'Lilac Pom Pom.' I grew this variety from seed and it's now finally putting out its first flowers. The bees quickly found the flowers, which are rich in nectar. 

Here's another one of the Tiger lily varieties. Strangely, this one has very few spots. Maybe not a tiger at all?

This pretty short-stemmed lily is part of an Asiatic mix called Summer Garden. Asiatics offer a great variety of colors and patterns but alas are not fragrant.

This unusual looking lily is Lilium Lankongense. It's a turk's cap lily (L. martagon), only with pinkish-light purple colors. Martagons have heavily reflexed petals, as you see here. Though the flowers are smaller and aren't fragrant, their architectural look is quite appealing.

A dwarf, bush-type Wisteria? Count me among the skeptical until I found this W. 'Kofuji.' It's supposed to only get 2-3' tall. Notice the delicate leaves. Unique and charming.

Laburnum anagyroides. I've discovered with this Golden Chain tree that it likes a good amount of water in spring. Doing that really brought on its best bloom season ever. You can see its relation to the legumes family by the pea-like flowers.

How tough are Asclepias? This one self-seeded in my Pavonia pot and is almost crowding it out. It's in full bloom right now, drawing not only butterflies but bees as well to its colorful flowers. 

If I was going to 'evolve' into something floral, I might choose this ground morning glory relative (Evolvulus). Yes, that really is its name, though its lovely blue flowers will make you forget everything else about it. It comes back like clockwork each year, having spread a bit further each year. 

Japanese forest grass is a lovely description for this golden Hakonechloa. Despite its rep as a shade plant, it actually prefers a good amount of sun. That certainly helps to bring out its golden colors. 

Pieris japonica 'Flaming Silver.' You get a bit of the 'flaming' part with the pink new growth but there's also the subtle chartreuse tone of the lighter foliage.

This Echium Blue Bedder turned out to be the white flowering sport. It contrasts nicely with the lavender Scabiosa and since both plants are loved by bees, it's a sure fire destination.

Like many trees that get huge but have varieties that are much smaller, this Eucalyptus Moon Lagoon is said to only get to 6'. I love the color of its leaves and I got to put it in one of my favorite new pots. 

Here's another shot of my Lilium Golden Splendor that shows off a bit more of its trumpet-shaped form. Note the length of its stamen.

Salvia corrugata. The species name refers to the rough-textured leaves, a definite attraction, but the flowers are awfully pretty too.

One of the articles I'd like to write is 'Evergreen species of normally deciduous trees.' I just did a Chronicle column on the one evergreen dogwood (Cornus capitata) and here's one of the few evergreen Magnolias (M. grandiflora 'Little Gem'). Known as Southern magnolia for its natural home, it does well here in the Bay Area. It is different in two ways, being not just evergreen but a summer bloomer (most Magnolias bloom in late winter). As it turns out, bees adore the nectar that's produced by these flowers and like the little guy here, there always seem to be bees snooping about the flowers.

This strange plant with the tiny purple flowers is a Gomphrena decumbens. Most people are used to the little 'bedding' Gomphrenas  so seeing this species can come as quite the surprise. It can get 3' x 3' and it flowers pretty much nonstop from spring to late fall.

This simple but pretty flower belongs to Pavonia missionum. A careful look reveals it to be a member of the mallow family. This species is native to Argentina but does well in our Bay Area. 

Brodiaea 'Rudy.' Annie's Annuals is now growing this outstanding variety and it has delivered the goods in its first year.

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