Thursday, July 18, 2019

Back to Eden

Well, after last week's detour into the Ruth Bancroft Garden, I return to familiar ground this week with photos of my summer garden. It's nearly at its peak with a ton of things in bloom. It makes going out in the garden a continual adventure. There's always something new. This week I'll let the photos do the talking. Then next week, I'll share my recent trip to Tilden Botanical Garden, now Regional Parks Botanical Garden. A friend and I went this last Tuesday and I took lots of photos.

Lilium Mister Cas. One of my very favorite lilies! Love that honey-orange throat.

My Mina lobata is just beginning to bloom, showcasing its progression from deep red through orange to yellow to almost white.

Helenium Mardi Gras. Comes back reliably every year, blooms its hert out, attracts a ton of bees and is so pretty!

I love how my Moluccella laevis (Bells of Ireland) has a tendency to sway in all directions. Here it's reaching out over the sidewalk to grab more sun. 

Salvia guaranitica Black and Blue. One of my favorite salvias, with that unbeatable connection of bright green textured leaves and vivid bluish-purple flowers. 

Catananche caerulea (Cupid's Dart) and Agastached Red Fortune. A very pretty combo.

The first time I grew a Viscaria it died within 2 weeks. Not sure what happened bu last year this V. Blue Pearl went wild on the blooming and the one started this year looks to do the same.

Mr. Old Reliable. That's my Eriogonum grande var. rubescens, in full bloom now. As with the other CA buckwheats they are a premier pollinators plant.

Borage may be common and self-seed like crazy but it does have the prettiest star-shaped blue flowers. 

There's nothing quite like Lilium Black Dragon flowers. That vivid red; the raised black spots; the lime green centers. Just fabulous.

Lilium Montego Bay. This year's crop came out a bit more red and not an orangy pink as they were last year. Still very pretty.

Mimulus Valentine. Love the saturated red color on this sticky monkey flower! Mimulus are one of those plants that does best with benign neglect.

Right in the middle is my Lobelia fulgida, one of the red-leaved lobelias. Offsets well with everything else green around it. 

Here's the front yard bed I call the Sun King bed, a Beatles reference for all you Abbey Road fans.

Origanum Xera Cascade. This new ornamental oregano being grown by Annie's Annuals is similar to the popular Kent's Beauty only with even longer cascading bracts. 

Lilium Giraffe. My favorite of the 25 lilies in my garden, this variety new this year just seems to glow!

Though tiger lilies can take many forms, here's what the classic tiger lily looks like. This one is part of a Tiger lily mix.

Dwarf bedding asters may be common but they do add lovely bright colors to a bed.

Calibrachoa Rose Chai. This variety in the Mini-famous double series is delicate pink and has proven to be tougher than it looks.

Although this looks like a regular Hibiscus flower, it's part of a new line called HibisQs. This one is H. HibisQs Adonis Pearl. They have been self-selected to get larger flowers and ones that stay open much longer than the typical hibiscus.

Neoregelia Morcon. If you look closely at the center you'll see that this bromeliad is putting forth its first purple flowers. 

The toad lily in the front pot is Tricyrtis Zulu Flame. It has yet to flower but the speckled foliage holds my attention.

Begonia acetosa. This thick-leaved variety is a rich red on the bottom, as can be seen here. 

Begonia Gryphon. Another plant that has yet to bloom but I added it to my garden for the foliage.

The star of the show this year is my Curcuma Bicolor Wonder flowering for the first time! Just fabulous illuminated pink and white colors. 

And one last Begonia, this one Angel Glow. Love the colors and the ways in which the leaves twist and turn.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Ruth Bancroft Gardens

I finally made my first visit to the iconic Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek last week. A world renowned national treasure, this 3.5 acre garden is filled with a dazzling array of succulents and dry garden plants from around the world. The latter group includes a dazzling sampling of Agaves and Yuccas. I took photos that day so thought I'd share them here.

Agave species. These huge silvery agaves greet the visitor near the entrance. Their size and color make them an eye-catching specimen. This may be A. franzosinii.

As mentioned, there are many yuccas in the garden and here is one in bloom. Unidentified but one of a group of tall yuccas.

Puya coerulea var. monteroana. Hailing from central Chile, the dramatic flowers on this clumping plant attract local hummingbirds. Below is a photo of the huge clump it has formed in the Garden. Very drought tolerant and adaptable to different environments.

Salvia pachyphylla.With lovely burgundy bracts and purple flowers, this native sage found growing in the mountains of Southern California is also known as Blue Flame or Giant Purple sage. Usually a neat 2' x 2' it can make itself at home in any dry garden bed.

Jubaea chilensis. Known as Chilean Wine palm, this relatively cold hardy palm has a trunk that can span 4-6' in diameter. It tops out at 80' tall. The common name owes to the sugars found within its trunk being fermented by locals to make wine.

You'd be forgiven for exclaiming surprise at this plant's ID. It's a Grevillea petrophiloides 'Big Bird.'  Known as 'Pink Pokers' for its tufts of pink flowers that rise above the foliage (see photo below), it forms a 4-6' high bush and like most Grevilleas is very drought tolerant. Native to Australia.

This unusual Aloe (A. woodii) has fuzzy cream-colored flowers that rise in slender candelabras above the leaves. 

This wide angle view is of a bed near the back end of the Garden. Hopefully it helps to give an idea of the scale of the Garden.

Ponytail Palns (Beaucarnea recurvata) may be a charming little houseplant but in the wild they can get huge. Mature specimens feature especially fat trunks, making this an easy to grow caudiciform. Below is the whole plant with its signature 'mophead' of leaves. 

There was plenty of sculpture in the garden, in advance of a summer show. Here my friend takes a moment's pause on a metal bench fashioned out of an old car. 

Sometimes recent plantings give the effect of the plants having just popped out of the ground, as is the case here with these blue agaves.

Several Agave species send up tall, architectural flower spikes. I'm not 100% certain but I believe this spike is from an Agave parrasana. It takes awhile to bloom but is well worth the wait.

This bed of low growing succulents reminded me of an Exhibitor's display at a SF Garden Show, where they used succulents to simulate an 'underwater garden.' Surprisingly, many succulents do remind one of things like sea anemones, starfish etc.

Arctostaphylos 'Ruth Bancroft.' This accidental hybrid has matured into a fantastic tree and on this visit the bark had shed its outer layer, leaving a smooth and brilliant reddish-brown skin.

Here's more of the sculpture found throughout the garden.

This Grevillea 'King's Fire' was in bloom on our visit, much to our mutual delight. 

No one seems to know what this semi-succulent ground cover plant is but it was in bloom throughout its many occurrences in the garden. It features delicate sprays of tiny lavender flowers. Charming.

Brachychiton species. This may be a B. rupestris but in any case it too is a caudiciform, here showing off its fattening trunk. 

These fan palms have yet to be identified by my sources but they are certainly one of the striking beauties in the Garden.

Timing is everything. We arrived at the right time to see this Erythrina x bidwillii in full bloom. Hardy for a Coral tree, it doesn't get too big (8'x10') and as you can see, gets nice and bushy. A real showstopper!

Here's another Brachychiton and here you see more easily the fat trunk. 

We were lucky to be at the Garden when the Chilopsis linearis trees were in bloom. Featuring 'pretty-in-pink' snapdragon-like flowers, it makes for quite a summer show. Called Desert Willow for its narrow willow-like leaves, this southwest U.S. native is very drought tolerant.

Opuntia species. Prickly Pear cactus is very easy to ID, with its flat paddle-like leaves. They can over time get huge, as evidenced here, and of course have exotically beautiful flowers and edible fruit.

The Ruth Bancroft is famous for their Parkinsonia trees. The selection 'Desert Museum' is featured throughout the garden. They were were in full glorious bloom on the day we visited. Delicate yet sturdy, they are showy even at a distance.

Here's another mystery Agave with a mammoth flower spike. It reminds me of a Dr. Seuss plant and the flowering spike a multi-level treehouse!

Athanasia species (probably A. acerosa). This handsome shrub, with its Euryops-like foliage, makes a bold statement in the Garden. This South African native, sometimes called Coulter bush, offers needle-like silvery foliage and in late spring flat cymes of bright yellow flowers.

We aren't sure of the species but this Eucalyptus plant already has flat leaves that are a fantastic silver color. 

And a South African bulb to end our 'visit.' It's Cyrtanthus obliquus. This Amaryllis family member has large, downward facing tubular flowers, held in small clusters. Fantastic!

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