Sunday, August 26, 2012

Autumn Delights

As we approach Labor Day, the first sign that fall is around the corner, my thoughts turn to the upcoming season. We are fortunate in our Mediterranean climate to enjoy a long balmy autumn and that opens up a wider range of plants to add to our gardens. Golds, oranges and reds are traditional fall colors and there's plenty to choose from in that palette. Consider adding the later blooming Day of the Dead marigolds, which come in an orange and a sunny golden yellow. These taller marigolds, to 4', add vibrant colors to a sunny bed. Fall is rudbeckia season and there is a wide selection in colors. Not just golds but also chocolate browns, dark reds and even a greenish gold.
It's also a great season for Mexican Hats (Ratibida), a vigorous, clumping perennial. I had one in a sunny bed that bloomed nearly non-stop for three years before I pulled it when I redesigned that bed. It features gold and reddish-brown colors and is very cheerful. Fall is also the time for Heleniums, which add vibrant red & gold tones to a sunny bed. Beloved by bees, my H. 'Mardi Gras' is always filled with nectar hunting bees.

Echinaceas are around now and wow there are some pretty fabulous new colors on the market these days. Not just the traditional pink or white but a number of orange, red and apricot colors. There's nothing quite like a successful stand of coneflowers to add pizazz to a sunny spot. Fall is also salvia season and if you're looking to add purples and blues to your garden there are a million salvias from which to choose. And if you're a natives fan, this genus offers a dozen different native varieties covering the color spectrum.

Autumn is also the time for fall blooming vines. The choices are endless, whether you select one of the better known evergreen vines such as red trumpet vine, perennial morning glory, pink jasmine, pink or white bower vine (Pandorea) or one of the many varieties of passion flower vine.
There's a host of less common but sensational vines as well. Cobaea, known as Cup & Saucer vine, produces rich wine-colored cup-shaped flowers. The flowers on the aptly named Porcelain berry vine (Ampelopsis) may be tiny and not showy but the berries that follow are the most sensational turquoise color. Kennedia nigricans offers vivid black and gold flowers that one has to see to believe. There are several fall blooming clematis, including the vivid blue flowering C. Roguchi. For a smaller vine, there is Asarina. With its delicate leaves and cheerful pink, purple or white flowers, it makes a great selection for a potted climber. Lastly, there is Mandevilla, offering up vivid red or pink flowers. It will bloom up till nearly Christmas time in milder zones.

For more of a look into the subject of fall vines, check out my feature article in the Sunday September 2nd S.F. Chronicle Home & Garden section.

Okay, what are you waiting for? Autumn is nearly here and nurseries are stocking up!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Summer Harvest

Summer harvest means something entirely different to flower gardeners. It's often a time when we see the fruits of our late spring labors. Or in some cases, when perennials or summer blooming bulbs treat us with colorful floral displays. Garden work doesn't stop -- there's still lots of trimming, dead-heading and fertilizing to do -- but we can pause to reap the dividends of our hard work (no worrying about the ups and downs of the stock market; these dividends are comforting and reliable).
So, here are a few more flowers who've decided to share their bounty with passersby and neighbors. Descriptions are top to bottom.

Mandevilla (red). I'm not sure I've ever seen a more saturated red color on any flower. Ever.
Lilium Schehezerade. Talk about telling stories. This fabulous lily has a new one ever year!
Phylica plumosa. This elegant S. African shrub is notoriously difficult to grow but worth the effort. Here I capture the first beginnings of its indescribably beautiful downy flowers.
Delphinium chinensis. Talk about beautiful. Isn't this the most gorgeous blue?
Mimulus variety. One of the water loving but oh so pretty monkey flowers.
Lotus Amazon Sunset. Though common, I love this plant and it seems to do better as we get closer to fall.
Salvia vanhouttei. Van what? It may have a funny name but this Annie's salvia has rich, wine red flowers. Here's a bud about to open.
Origanum 'Pilgrim.' Not as showy perhaps as Kent Beauty but such a rich burgundy color.
Sedum x Adolphii. A showy, larger sedum also from Annie's. Summer has burnished its golden hues.
Tricyrtis. Who doesn't love the intricate patterns of toad lily flowers. They're like miniature modern art paintings.
Amorphophallus. This voodoo lily is pretty fab, including its mottled stems.
Leycesteria formosa. The golden-leaved variety is simply a knockout and the flowers remind me of little pagodas, as one will drop below the other in a long dangling chain.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fall prep

As the summer progresses and autumn appears on the horizon, I find my garden is in transition. Okay, it's always in transition but I find this particular segue a curious and maddening one. Clearly spring is gone and so are the spring annuals. Working in the nursery business offers a window on the odd summer period. Spring is clearly the busiest season. Fall brings families back from vacation and, for some, the desire to swap out spring annuals for ones that will bloom during the fall & winter season. Even winter has its own definitive identity, as gardeners add evergreen shrubs and begin preparing for our early spring here in the Bay Area. But summer? Our business drops off in July & August as gardeners work with what they've already planted. It's not that there aren't interesting plants first appearing in these months but they tend to be less common perennials. That said, this is the prime season for salvias, rudbeckias and gaillardias.
Then again, summer can be a time to enjoy the fruits of your spring labors, especially if you've chosen to plant a wide variety of flowering plants, giving you the pleasure of something always in bloom. So, here's a few more photos of my garden, in its mid-August clothes. They are, top to bottom:
Variegated porcelain berry vine. I love the foliage, giving me something to enjoy before the fall blue berries dazzle.
Tricyrtis. Who can resist toad lilies, with their dramatic speckling?
Jasminum 'Fiona Sunrise.' Brilliant golden foliage, even if this shot doesn't quite capture it.
Gloriosa lily. Aptly named, there's nothing quite like this charming summer lily.
Campanula latifolia. This tall, sun loving campanula seems popular with bees!
Plumbago auriculata. What can you say? Robin's egg blue flowers & tough as nails.
Swainsona. Currently the star of my Australian natives bed, it's a magnet for bees. I'm giving it a bit more water than it absolutely needs but the result is lush growth and masses of flowers.
Cynoglossum. I love blue and nothing is richer than this "Chinese ForgetMe-Not."
Bulbine frutescens. Hard to resist this mighty mite and the colors are so cheerful.
Clematis tangutica seedheads. It's a tough choice as to which is the best part of this summer blooming clematis, the canary yellow flowers or the sparkling seedheads?
Asarina Joan Lorraine. I'm an asarinas fan and there's no denying the charm of this variety's rich purple flowers.
Begonia rex 'Escargot.' A new B. Rex from one of our local growers, Susan Ashley. As that Dentyne commercial woman says "Fabulous!"

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