Friday, November 23, 2012

Fall beauty

We Bay Area gardeners may not have the stands of maples and other Eastern trees turning bright golds and reds in the Northeast but our extended Indian summer is providing a glorious end to the calendar year. Like the proverbial snake circling round to bite its tail, many of us have summer plants still putting on a show even as certain late winter plants such as camellias bud up or even open their first flowers. Here, the changing of the seasons is more of a continuum rather than a sharp delineation as experienced in more northern climes.
One way we mark the changing of the seasons here is by the arrival of winter birds. Robins have arrived, as have the first of the warblers. It won't be long before woodpeckers and flickers arrive and if we're lucky phoebes and juncos. The goldfinches have returned in numbers, remembering where the nyjer seed feeder is. Here are a few more photos of my late fall garden, top to bottom:

Little Babe variegated camellia. I love its marbling of soft pinks and creamy whites.
Cornus florida. Beautiful flowers in spring and brilliant fall color. What's not to love about dogwoods.
Elegia capensis. One of the S. African restios. I love its textures and I have yet to experience it in its mature form.
Justicia. This tropical plant has managed to survive our winters, offering vibrant red bracts and lavender flowers.
Christmas cactus. An unusual, lovely peach colored specimen that I now leave outdoors year round.
Faucaria. Known as Tiger Jaws, I love its 'toothy' leaves. It's also one of the most reliable, and quickest, blooming succulents.
Magnolia stellata. This 'finger' magnolia is budding up and I couldn't resist photographing it in this stage.
Oxalis species. Lovely patterning of light on this rich, mint green foliage. One of my favorite oxalis species.
Aeonium escobarii. One of the largest of the aeoniums, this one is finally coming into its own.
Eryngium planum 'Jade Frost.' So pretty, even before it sends up the stem of pale purple spiky flowers.
Echinacea purpurea. One look at the central disks on this coneflower and you know why its a popular destinacea for bees and other nectar seeking pollinators.
Pansy 'Blueberry Thrill.' In a word, Wow!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Kindest Cut

As we head into winter and our planting winds down, it's appropriate that our garden efforts turn to cleanup and pruning. Many consider pruning a last resort, when a particular shrub or tree is in real trouble but in fact regular pruning can be a most beneficial treatment. This "kindest cut" is an important aspect of plant health. As deciduous trees, especially fruiting trees, go dormant that is the time to clear out any tangled or crossing branches to create more interior space. This holds true for trees such as dogwoods and maples. Deciduous shrubs such as hydrangeas benefit from being pruned back after they lose their leaves. Hydrangeas can easily become overgrown or leggy so a hard pruning can benefit their overall health. Other shrubs such as sambucus (elderberry) benefit from a winter pruning in much the same way.
Sometimes pruning is simply cleaning up. For certain clematis that sprout on new wood, once they lose their leaves you can cut them back to the ground. Make sure they aren't varieties that sprout on old wood, like Clematis tangutica. Even evergreen shrubs benefit from yearly pruning. Large shrubs like camellias can become too dense and need thinning out from time to time. Without proper circulation and access to light, some of these evergreen shrubs may be more prone to thrips. Anyone that's dealt with thrips knows how destructive they can ne.
It isn't just trees and shrubs that benefit from a haircut. Certain perennials also like regular pruning. Larger perennials or sub-shrubs like lavender, rosemary, salvia, caryopteris and heliotrope benefit from pruning. They can easily get woody; the pruning stimulates healthier new growth. Always try to prune when the plant is not flowering. Certain grasses also benefit from a winter haircut, most notably pennisetums. Cut them right down to the base. Come spring they'll flush out new growth and look like you expect them to do.
If you have any questions at all about pruning, consult your nearest nursery professional.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Slo-mo hibernation

Unlike other parts of the country where the cold and snow can appear unannounced within a week's time, the Bay Area experiences a slow motion slide into a period of hibernation for many denizens of our gardens. 80 degree days are followed by 55 degree days and I can almost hear my plants saying "Make up your friggin' mind!" That said, my own garden is sliding into a late, late fall, with the summer blooming plants now having given up the ghost finally and the true fall bloomers still wearing their fancy threads (soon to be packed away). I came back a week up in Canada to discover many of my South African bulbs having sprouted, much to my delight. I have so many that it now occupies in my mind it's own season. It's especially wonderful as this December to April season presages (and overlaps) the other spring bulb bloomers. It's almost like going on vacation to somewhere warmer, indulging in a natural beauty before our own spring rolls around.
That said, here are a few more photos of things in bloom or just showing off, taken on this 6th day of November. Call it a little sanity before the election mess arrives tonight. Photos are:

Isoplexis. For some reason I just love this plant and its hooded rusty flowers.
Lampranthus. Ice plants may be common but that doesn't mean they aren't showy & fabulous.
Commelina coelestis. This vivid blue flower may be small but it gets many votes for the prettiest blue of any flower out there. Vigorous and spreading, it's managed to get a toehold under my fir tree.
King protea. For some reason this plant has been so late it's almost circled around to next year. I'm still hopeful this flower bud will open. Till then I get to enjoy its glorious geometry.
Salvia canariensis. Lately I've been into fuzzy foliage and this salvia is one of the best.
Grevillea rosmarinifolia dwarf. This spreading grevillea is beginning to bloom and well, what can I say, I'm a sucker for grevilleas.
Agastache Grapefruit Nectar. I know I've posted a photo before but I simply adore the rainbow of colors on this super fragrant agastache.

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