Monday, May 30, 2011

May garden photos

As we sputter toward a sort-of-spring/summer, with days more reminiscent of March than almost June, our gardens soldier on. I find that perennials planted a few years back can more easily cope with the cooler and less sunny conditions and they're the ones that are in bloom, mysteriously beating spring annuals to the flowering punch. In that light, here are some flowers that are putting on a show in my garden these days.

Top left: Houttuynia tricolor: I love the colors on this deciduous, moisture-loving ground cover but now keep it in a pot so it can't take over a plot
2nd line left: Phacelia viscida: One of the prettiest of all CA bluebells!
2nd line right: My Leucospermum 'Veldfire' came into its own this year, producing at least two dozen flowers. Probably the most gorgeous of all pincushion plants.
3rd line left: I grow Canary Creeper every year, loving its cheerful and curious flowers and mint green foliage.
3rd line right: This unopened flower bud on a bearded iris just seemed too silky to pass up taking a photo of. It proves that sometimes flowers can be just as attractive unopened as when they do open.
4th line left: Isoplexis canariensis isn't well known and that's too bad. They have beautiful colors, are tough and hummingbirds love the tubular flowers.
4th line right: Ahh, the simple but under appreciated Love-in-a-Mist! A close-up photo really shows what a cool flower they actually possess.
Bottom line left: My vigorous marmalade bush (streptosolen) is already in full bloom, attracting bees and hummers alike. Voted #1 showiest plant by garden passersby!
Bottom line right: Helenium is supposed to be a late summer/fall blooming plant but my H. Mardi Gras never got that email. One of my favorites.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Sweet Smell of Success

Fragrance is always an important part of any gardening experience. There are the reliable fragrant plants, the roses and the lavenders, but it's a long, enjoyable list of flowers that offer us an olfactory treat. I want to sing the praises of two lesser known heavenly fragrances today -- Heliotropium arborescens 'Alba' and Iris pallida albo 'variegata.' Most of us are familiar with the purple heliotrope, with its sprays of bright purple flowers, but the white flowering variety is so much more fragrant it's hard to believe they're the same plant. Some say vanilla, some say talc powder! but whatever your association, the perfume is very noticeable. My specimen has been blooming nearly non-stop these last two years, catching my attention as I pass it on the walkway.
The striking white and grayish-green Iris pallida is both lovely to look at (and vigorous) and heavenly to smell. It has a distinctive "grape" smell and has to be one of the most fragrant plants found in any garden. I keep thinking 'I'm only rememebering that it smells so sweet" and when the next flower opens, there it is again, that knock-your-socks-off intoxicating fragrance. It's somehow fitting that such a sweet smell should emanate from one of the hardiest of all irises!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

New blog updates

I wanted to let regular (or occasional) visitors to this site know that I'll be making a more concerted effort to post more regularly. In that light, I'll be sharing more spontaneous thoughts on the varied world of gardening, including relevant experiences in my role as a nurseryman. This will include brief 'bios' on plants that I don't choose to write about in my SF Chronicle Pick of the Week column; experiences in my own garden; ideas for improving one's experience of gardening as well as what needs to be done in the ever changing seasons. Some of the entries may be short -- working full time, having a large garden to tend to and writing for Chronicle takes up a lot of my time -- but hopefully the increased frequency of blog entries will mean there's always something new on the site when you come to take a look. Feel free to write me with your suggestions.
What's on my mind on this unusually cool, rainy Oakland morning is that climate change doesn't only affect the macro world of global weather patterns, it also affects the micro worlds of our gardens. More than anything, plants respond to the specifics of daily weather. We've had an unusually cool and wet spring and that has meant two things for our gardens: many of our flowers (or veggies) are behind schedule, coming into bloom (or in the case of deciduous perennials popping above ground) much later than normal. Not only that but it will be sunny and warm for a few days, encouraging an explosion of growth, then cool again, confusing the plants and leading to uneven performance. The second consequence of this cool, wet spring is disease problems. We've had more people than usual come into Grand Lake Ace asking how to treat a myriad of problems with their plants. A good month of dry warmer weather will solve many of these problems.
But you can't stop Nature. Despite the less than ideal conditions, our gardens are bursting into bloom, offering a cornucopia of wonderful sights & smells. This year my exuberant marmalade bush is smothered in vibrant orange & peach colored blooms, making for a spectacular show that people out for walks in my neighborhood get to enjoy. And that's one of the wonderful benefits of gardening, isn't it, sharing our gardens with others.

Monday, May 2, 2011

More Spring photos

Photos are as follows:
Top line: Two views of bearded iris 'Joyce Terry. Very fragrant!
2nd line: Canary Creeper nasturtium; Rhododendron 'Seaview Sunset'
3rd line: Two S. African bulbs. The ultra weird & cool Ferraria crispa; Lachenalia species
4th line: Calceolaria 'Kentish Hero; the rare Passiflora membranacea with unusual leaves.
5th line: Interesting Iris fulva (front view); Chamelauchium (Wax flower shrub - a new favorite)
6th line: Fremontadendron. Close-up on left; view of prostrate form on right
7th line: Burgandy-leaved eucomis (pineapple lily); Aquilegia Leprechaun Gold
8th line: Baby Blue Eyes; Sugar Plum breadseed poppy (peony type)
Bottom line: Ruby Creeper arctotis (fab color!); Iris Autumn Princess (unusual colors for a Dutch iris)
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