Thursday, April 19, 2018

Spring, is that you?

Well, after fitful starts and stops, it seems like spring is finally here. I want to use this intro to introduce a new plant I've discovered. It's Arenaria Lemon Ice (photo below). Commonly known as Sandworts, given they are often found in sandy or rocky environs, the Lemon Ice variety of this sun-loving ground cover offers very pretty, lightly ruffled lemon flowers, sitting atop finely textured green foliage. It's always fun to discover a new treasure. Now the photos!

Arenaria Lemon Ice (from the web). Sweet, sweet flowers.

Iris douglasii. Everyone's favorite CA native iris. Slow to establish but hardy and now a nice colonizing addition to a woodland bed.

Though still growing, here's my rare Arisaema ringens. Unlike most Jack-in-the-Pulpits, it has a wide thick spathe. It's a bit late this year, though I'm not sure as to why.

Chamaecyparis lawsonii Van Pelt's Blue. One of my favorite varietal names (I wonder who Van Pelt is or was?). In any case, this false cypress has nearly reached its full height of 6-8 feet. Love the color.

Helichrysum Ruby Clusters. Yes this is a Helichrysum and no those ruby clusters aren't the flowers, but rather the pink buds that the yellow flowers will eventually emerge from. 

My Physocarpus Amber Jubilee is much fierier in year two than in its inaugural season. It displays an eye-catching range of colors, from chartreuse to golden to amber to orange to fiery red.

Hard to believe that this Japanese maple was once a young sapling. Like most maples, it leafs out in a hurry.  There's something elegant and stately about the larger Japanese maples.

I'm still waiting for my Ribes aureum to flower (and potentially fruit). Forget what you know about the most popular flowering currants when you're considering this Ribes. The foliage is different, the flowers are yellow (not pink, red or white) and it produces yellow fruit (not red). Thus its common name Golden Currant.

Fallopia japonica variegata. This charming deciduous perennial likes some shade. It goes completely dormant then returns in late spring. The small white flowers are less of an attraction than the interesting foliage.

Choisa ternata. Of the three most common 'mock oranges' (Philadelphus, Pittosporum tobira and Choisya), for me the clear winner is this intensely sweet smelling vigorous evergreen shrub. Easy to grow, sometimes a repeat bloomer in the fall and pest and disease free, well, case closed.

Here's a close-up of my Viburnum plicatum. Love the ridged leaves, as well as the flat cymes of Hydrangea-like flowers. 

Begonia Gene Daniels. I like the way the light brings forward the dark red undersides of the leaves, almost as if there are glowing embers behind them.

Dwarf lilac. This Syringa meyeri Palibin has all the charms of a lilac bush, only in a dwarf package. I hadn't expected it, however, to bloom this early, especially during our cool spring.

Trachelium Hamer Pandora. That's a lavender Scabiosa in front and then the purple-leaved Throatwort in the rear. It will eventually produce large sprays of tiny intensely purple flowers.

My favorite plant of 2017, Fabiana imbricata violacea. Not a heather but a member of the Solanaceae family, it nonetheless sports masses of ultra-cool tubular purple flowers that remind many of heathers.

Callistemon viminalis. This dwarf bottlebrush has finally settled in and now is ready for a full flowering season.

Berberis 'Orange Rocket.' Umm, not orange but a very lovely blood red. The spring color will gradually fade to a dark green but for now I get to enjoy these rich tones.

My unstoppable Aloe striata is blooming again, this year with three strong flowering stems.

Pulmonaria officinalis. From Wikipedia "The scientific name Pulmonaria is derived from Latin pulmo (lung).[1] In the times of sympathetic magic, the spotted oval leaves of P. officinalis were thought to symbolize diseased, ulcerated lungs, and so were used to treat pulmonary infections."

Despite this Cistus McGuire's Gold being listed as a sun lover, when I moved it into dappled sun it was much happier. It's rebounded and now in its third third it's looking much happier.

My front yard bed, with Maritime CA poppy in the foreground and the deep blue flowers of Phacelia campanularia in back.

Hebe speciosa's common name, Showy Hebe, is well deserved. My specimen is just starting a new bloom season. Bees adore hebes and this species is no exception.

My Cussonia natalensis lost all its leaves, making this caudiciform lover a bit nervous, but look, it's starting to leaf out again. Phew! I swear, some of us gardeners are worse than helicopter parents!

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Days Ahead

April is such an unpredictable month weather wise in the Bay Area - Oakland had hail this morning for crying out loud - that it's hard to know how our gardens will respond. It has also been unseasonably cool here in the usually ahead-of-schedule milder Bay Area zones. Of course that hasn't stopped plants from doing their thing, especially spring annuals. Now is a great time to add spring natives such as Phacelias, Gilias, Tidy Tips, Meadow Foams, native Lupines, Nemophilas (Baby Blue Eyes, Penny Black and Baby 5-Spot) and of course the various colors of CA poppies.
Here are this week's photos, representing a cross-section of my garden.

Viburnum plicatum. One of the most beautiful of all Viburnums, it features ridged lime-green leaves and hydrangea-like flat cymes of pure white flowers. C'est magnifique!

Athyrium. Better known as Japanese Painted fern, this deciduous but hardy and reliable fern is a real stunner. Colors range from an eggplant purple to a silvery hue. Not fussy and oh so pretty.

Trachelospermum asiaticum. Sometimes known as Tricolor jasmine, this colorful scrambler can be used as a ground cover or staked to climb a short trellis. Slow growing but worth the wait.

Clematis Niobe (above and below). My favorite Clematis for its velvety rich tone, this clematis is also very reliable.  The rich burgundy really stands out against the sea of green foliage.

Aechmea fulgens. Aechmeas are one of the easiest bromeliads to grow and also one of those that most readily produce pups (new babies). A. fulgens sends out a spike of orange tubular flowers tipped in purple. Beautiful!

Not the showiest flower I know but Allium unifolium makes up with charm what it lacks in the size of its flowers. There are a great many ornamental onions and they fall into certain groups. One group has sprays of tiny flowers, such as with this A. unifolium and the A. cernum below. Another, the Globe alliums, have large balls of tiny flowers that rise 2-4' above the ground. Then there are what I call the 'Exploding' alliums, A. cristophii and A. karataviense, the former known as the Star of Persia, in part because it hails from Turkey. Their flowers do indeed look as if they're exploding out from the flower cluster's center.

There's nothing quite like the inky blues of Phacelia viscida. Plus the nectary at the center is a lovely pattern. Enlarge the photo or better yet download a closeup of the flower and zoom in on the nectary. I'm a fan of true blue flowers and several Phacelias fill the bill.

To paraphrase Sara Lee "nobody doesn't like sweet peas." Here's the Triple G, a new variety being grown by Annie's Annuals. The deepest purple!

Here's the other true blue Phacelia, P. campanularia. A lighter blue and all things considered one of the bluest blues in the flower world. Bees love 'em too.

I think this delightful double Daffodil was part of a mixed bag of double varieties. It's become one of my favorites. 

Fabiana imbricata violacea. That's quite a mouthful for the heather-like sub-shrub. Despite its appearance it's part of the Solanacea family, hailing from Chile and Argentina. In summer it bears masses of pale violet flowers,blooming over a long period.

Leucospermum 'Veldfire.' I've written about this specimen aplenty so here the photo will suffice. BTW, bees and butterflies love these flowers.

Meadow Foam (Limnanthes douglasii). One of my favorite common names and quite apt, as the numerous flowers and lacy foliage seem to spill out in an endless fountain.

Ladybird poppy (Papaver commutatum). Everybody's favorite red poppy, Ladybirds are prolific bloomers, with one plant producing dozens upon dozens of flowers.

This daffodil was part of a Trumpet mix and I like the clean look of it. 

Another shot of my Exbury hybrid deciduous Azalea. Oranges, reds or golds, what's not to like?

Fuchsia autumnale. This trailing fuchsia boasts Autumn colors - reds, pinks and golds, all shown off in in combos unique to each leaf. 

Tritonia lineata. This delicately colored but hardy South African bulb is easy to grow and multiplies in your garden.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The 'Disappearing' Azalea

What you might ask is a 'disappearing' azalea? That would be one of the Exbury deciduous azaleas that have become increasingly popular over the last decade. For these azaleas, it's all about color. Where most evergreen azaleas offer colors in the white, pink and red spectrum, Exbury azaleas offer a glorious range of yellows, golds, ambers, peaches, oranges and coral-reds. In the spring, these shrubs are literally ablaze with color, creating spectacular shows of color, especially since they are sun lovers.
I have three varieties in my garden, one a coral-red, one a bright orange and the other one with peach tones. Today's photos offer up shots of coral-red and the peach specimens. Like certain other shrubs/trees, Exbury azaleas produce their flowers just in advance of the leaves. That fact only intensifies the display.
Okay, here are the photos.

Azalea Exbury hybrid. Here's the red flowering variety, showing off its brilliant colors. 

Azalea Exbury hybrid. And here is the multi-colored peach one. It has more orange tones on the ribs and at the ends, with more gold in each flower's throat. 

Speaking of oranges, there's nothing quite like Clivia miniata for vibrant orange colors. They are shade lovers of course and are perfect for ground or pot, as they like to be a bit root-bound. 

I was trying to get an angle on this Arisaema thunbergii var. urashima to show off its whip cord. Some Jack-in-the-Pulpits feature this thin, curling appendage coming out of the top of the spathe and this species is one of them. Here, the spathe shows a less distinctive ribbing than on others, including the A. nepenthoides shown further on in this post.

This ever changing bed in my front yard has been converted into an herb bed, with Thyme, Oregano, Arugula (now gone), Nepeta, Lemon Balm and Agastache (Hummingbird mint). Within are daffodils (now in bloom), with Babianas and Lilies to come. The bed contains the golden-leaved ninebark (Physocarpus Nugget), a purple sweet pea and now a host of nasturtiums that have self-seeded. Those flowers are edible as well so I guess they're a good fit for this bed.

Dutch Iris 'Bronze Beauty.'  The lower 'falls' show a lovely bronze color initially then age to a purplish-brown. Dutch iris are one of the easiest bulbs to grow and they can last 3 or 4 years or more.

Here is your classic purple Dutch iris. They always look prettier in a stand, where they can exhibit a fuller show of color. 

Can you ID this flower? First clue is that it's a bulb. No? Second clue is that it's a lily. You'd really have to be a lily expert to ID it, especially since it's one of the few lilies I know of that has this rounded, semi-double form. It's L. 'Apricot Fudge.' And, umm, somebody was maybe hungry when they named it?

Daffodils are one of the easiest bulbs to grow and though they're not always the longest lasting bulbs, especially in our mild winters here, they sure are cheerful!

Speaking of that old adage 'Don't name a variety of bulb when you're hungry,' this species tulip T. clusiana 'Taco' might have been better served (served, get it?) by a less food-ish name. They sure are lovely though.

Though the flowers are small on Salvia melissodora, they're both pretty and very fragrant. Not for nothing is this sage known as 'Grape-scented sage.' Sometimes those writing about plants take liberties when it comes to fragrance but these flowers do smell very strongly of a sweet grape smell. 

I swear you could set your clock by the regularity of my Aloe striata blooming. Every March and April, right on schedule, it puts out huge sprays of orange tubular flowers much beloved by hummers.

Here's another picture of my Banksia rose, now a bit more in bloom. Delicate flowers but a sturdy climber.

Baby Blue Eyes with my Chantilly Bronze snapdragon. Bees love them both so it's a one stop destination for them.

My various Mimulus are getting an early start in blooming this year. Here's my M. Jelly Bean Gold. The Jelly Bean series seem to be especially floriferous.

The recent sun has helped a lot of my Leucospermum Veldfire flowers to burst into bloom.

Phacelia campanularia. Normally this CA Bluebell stays lower and sprawls but this specimen has decided to be more upright for now.

Ixia hybrid. Corn lilies are one of the easiest bulbs to grow and naturalize readily. Which is a polite way of saying that once you plant them, you'll never get rid of 'em.

Here's the aforementioned Arisaema nepenthoides. You can see that the striping is much more pronounced here than on the above A. thunbergii var. urashima. It's taller too, getting to two feet. 

Scilla peruviana. Another type of bluebell, this bulb produces loads of bluish-purple nodding bells in spring.

Chaenomeles 'Cameo.' An unusual color for a flowering quince, this salmon beauty offers up delicate colors on a very sturdy plant.

It's not often that the seedpods are more colorful and/or interesting than the flowers but that's the case with Melianthus pectinatus. This much smaller species of the African honeybush has waxy, colorful seedpods.

Kalanchoe Fantastik. The flowers on this Kalanchoe aren't so much showy as curious. The small, almost closed flowers form a tight cluster up and down the 2' high spike. They're cream on the outside and a delicate yellow on the inside.

I'm guessing that Nasturtiums are polyamorous. They seem to cross pollinate with any other one close by so that you somehow wind up with a whole range of color combinations.

Physocarpus 'Amber Jubilee.' A pretty, coppery variety that looks good against my stucco wall.

Tulipa clusiana Chrysantha. This species tulip, known commonly as Lady tulip, offers charming flowers that are pink on the outside and yellow on the inside. Like other species tulips they naturalize in your planting bed.

So, yes, it's true. Bees do love Scabiosas. That's certainly true of bumblebees, which are the generalists of the bee family. They'll collect nectar from nearly every flower. BTW, it is indeed a myth that heavy bumblebees shouldn't be able to fly (duh, they do). Here's an explanation from a science page. "Bees fly by rotating their wings, which creates pockets of low air pressure, which in turn create small eddies above the bee’s wing which lift it into the air and, thus, grant it the ability to fly."
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