Sunday, January 29, 2012

Spring in January?

Those of us living in the Bay Area are enjoying what amounts to an early spring. My garden features three groups of plants right now. First, my camellias are all in bloom now, with the C. Black Magic and C. reticulata 'Frank Hauser' the real stars. Second, a number of my Australian shrubs are beginning to flower, making for an interesting late winter show. Lastly, I have plenty of bulbs up, with early crocus and lachenalia already in bloom. So much for 'winter dormancy.' Here are a few photos taken yesterday.
Top line: The exuberant and prolific Lachenalia tricolor. Probably the most colorful one in my collection.
2nd line left: Schizostylis. This bulb just keeps putting out flowering spikes. Supposedly a fall bloomer but it hasn't stopped.
2nd line right: Chanomeles 'Kurokoji.' Blood red flowers on this ornamental quince. Great winter color, here backlit by a morning sun.
Bottom left: Melaleuca incana. This tough Aussie shrub puts out fat little bottlebrush-like blooms.
Bottom right: Helleborus 'Tutu.' This semi-double hellebore features nectaries that have become petaloid, creating a sort of inner halo. Gorgeous.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Wonder of Camellias

I'm what you would call a collector, with over 700 species and/or varieties of flowering plants in my humble garden. I'm always keeping my eye open for new and unusual plants, even if that means leaving them in pots. Sometimes however you come back to the tried and true and 2011 was the year I discovered the joys of camellias. I already had a well established C. Silver Waves in my garden but then I came across a fabulous new one called Black Magic (which I did a column on). Sporting blood red flowers of a waxy feel, it's definitely one of the stars of my garden. Then I discoverd Camellia reticulata hybrids, which feature unusually large flowers, often with wavy-edged petals, which is the case with my C. Frank Hauser and its luscious pink blooms. Both are in bloom now.
I have since branched out and added a small flowering charmer called Buttermint, one called Little Babe variegated, a semi-dwarf that features variegated pink & white flowers and Jury's Yellow, whose calling card is a buttery yellow interior.
What's great about camellias is that generally they are the toughest of the four main shade shrubs (azaleas, rhododendrons, hydrangeas and camellias), with very little that goes after them. They can take the most shade of the four, though ideally they prefer morning sun, and can tough out different kinds of soils.
So, count me as a camellia convert. Now, where do I find room to situate them all?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

A few winter gems

Photos from top to bottom:
Top left: Lachenalia viridiflora
Top right: Birdbath + Ceratostigma plumbaginoides
2nd line left: Lotus in hanging basket
2nd line right: Agastache 'Grapefruit'
3rd line left: Puya berteroniana
3rd line right: Scabiosa species
Bottom line left: Double form lavender calibrachoa
Bottom line right: Haworthia

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The value of water

It goes without saying that gardens of all kinds need water in order to flourish. Even 'dry' gardens need some. This time of year we aren't normally thinking about watering our gardens, letting Mother Nature take care of that. However, when we hit a prolonged dry spell like we're in, we need to take up the slack. Here are two things about watering you may not be aware of.
Tip 1. Watering your annuals and deciduous perennials past their usual season will actually prolong their life, sometime for up to two months. I discovered this quite by accident but now choose on occasion to extend certain plants' lives or stave off their dormancy.
Tip 2. This tip may fall under the heading of 'duh' but spring blooming bulbs are triggered to send up shoots by winter rains (and of course warming temperatures in some cases). In a dry winter, I've discovered I need to take up the slack for the absence of rain. This means watering the bare ground under which the bulbs are nestled. Using bark mulch on top of these beds will help to avoid soil runoff. Think of yourself as "Mother's" little helper.
What's up in your garden? I have the first Dutch iris, sparaxis, freesias and ixias, as well as the reliable ipheions and snowdrops. And just today I saw the first crocus poking their heads up!
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