Friday, February 22, 2013

Just bulbs, baby

To paraphrase the Raiders Al Davis ("Just win baby"), 'Just bulbs, baby.' This is the time of year when those of us who have a collection of bulbs are reminded of our bounty as first shoots appear then slowly one after another bulb begins to bloom. It may surprise some gardeners that many of our most popular bulbs originate in South Africa. That list includes freesias, gladiolas, watsonias, ixias, babianas and sparaxis. One of the earliest S. African (SAF) bulbs to bloom is the cowslip genus, Lachenalia. Hardy and amazingly diverse in terms of flower color, even foliage, these showy bulbs made it hard not to keep adding new ones to one's collection. Add in colorful Harlequin flowers (sparaxis), Corn lilies (ixia), Baboon flowers (babiana), moraeas, homoglads and Star of Bethlehem (ornithogalum) and you've just scratched the surface. Perhaps the most unique, some would say bizarre, of the SAF bulbs is Ferraria. Even the most common Spider iris as they are sometimes known, F. crispa, looks like something from another planet. Wild colors and extensively crinkled petal edges have led some to compare them to underwater starfish. However they're described, I find them incredibly beautiful and delightful. Some are even fragrant. In the photos below, I've included a shot of my F. crispa ssp nortieri, which is a rich reddish brown with dark green crinkles. So enjoy the photos. IDs and descriptions follow the photos. Don't forget to click on the photos to enlarge them. They're much more dramatic in larger format.

Iris Harmony. A little dwarf iris that looks cool nestled down in its foliage.
Ferraria crispa ssp nortieri. Fabulous chocolate center and crinkled edges. Nothing like them!
My dwarf conifer bed. After planting the conifers, I went looking for rocks and found some with moss and lichen for the aged look I was after. Then in a bit of kismet, I found the last Japanese-style piece of statuary in our Ace nursery and so brought it home. Just waiting on the ground cover now.
Sphaeralcea munroana. One of the best kept secrets in the nursery biz, this absolutely beautiful, low growing mallow not only has the prettiest rose-colored flowers but the most attractive foliage of all mallows. Tough to boot.
Sparaxis villosa. Simple and pretty, this tiny sparaxis makes up in charm what it lacks in size.
Sparaxis elegans. A much showier (and larger) sparaxis. Love that color!!!
Camellia 'Winner's Circle.' This guy is teasing the hell out of me. It's getting larger, and more colorful, as it progresses. With no available photos on the web, I may be the first person to post a photo of this new Nuccio's variety!
Camellia Jury Yellow. There aren't many yellow camellias and I was very pleased to find that in year two this camellia is showing a bit more color in its center.
Ribes sanguineum Claremont. Everyone knows this flowering currant but it's one of my faves. Vigorous, showy (in late winter!) and fragrant, what else do you want?
Tropical Corner Buddha. Still hasn't said a word but still doing its serene thing.
Lachenalia mutabilis. Thanks to Mel for gifting me this lovely lachenalia. A prolific bloomer and I love its milky blue colors!
Echeveria sp. Though it's in my neighbor's yard, couldn't resist photographing this brilliant red echeveria.
Eccremocarpus. Can't believe I once found this petite vine difficult to grow. I can't stop my current specimen and it's still flowering well past its usual stopping point. Sometimes the gardening Gods just smile on you.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tempting Fate

The question that Bay Area gardeners are asking themselves is: are we tempting fate by buying and planting early spring plants? It is after all mid-February and if we don't think that's still winter, the East coast might have something to say about that. Still, it's hard not to get a bit of spring fever when temps are up in the 60s and there are blue skies up above. And of course nurseries are tempting us with colorful spring plants like sweet peas, all manner of poppies, nemophilas like Baby Blue Eyes and the overachieving nemesias and million bells. So ignore the news, don't talk to your relatives in Canada and the Midwest and get out in your garden.
Here are a few flowers in my mid-February garden, doing their best as forerunners.

Lachenalia mutabilis. I'm a sucker for blue flowers.
Jelly Bean sedum. Just about the coolest sedum ever! And well named, don't you think?
Lachenalia tricolor. Definitely the show-off in my lachenalia collection. The first to bloom and the brightest colors. Enough to make PT Barnum proud.
Hebe speciosa. I'm a hebes fan and this species is the real workhorse in my garden.
Primrose 'Sunrise.' One of the delicate Primlet series, the colors here are more like a glowing sunset!
Nemesia Cranberry. You want red? Well, I got yer red right here, boasts this vigorous nemesia.
Temple + dwarf conifer. Had to take a shot of my new statuary, located in my Japanese-themed dwarf conifer bed.
Magnolia grandiflora. Although way too early for a full flowering, I had to capture the glistening alabaster tone of this tight bud.
Alyogyne hakeafolia. This less common Blue Hibiscus bush had pale yellow flowers. It took a bit of a hit in the freeze but it's already bouncing back with new flower buds and this one early flower.
Camellia reticulata 'Winner's Circle.' I've watched this bud progress with some anticipation as it's the plant's first ever flower. The variety is so new that even its grower, Nuccio's, doesn't have a photo of it on their website. No one else does either apparently.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Of Cranes & Sunsets

This post is a detour from my posts about gardening but in keeping with a larger theme of nature. Some friends and I made a trip out to a nature preserve south of Sacramento last Friday, to watch the arrival of Sandhill cranes. While we didn't see them arrive in great numbers, there were many beautiful cranes already in the fields and marshes. We did however have the fantastic experience of watching literally thousands of Greater white-fronted geese arrive, honking and gabbing as they finally plopped to the ground. To cap the day, we were treated to the most amazing sunset we'd seen in years. Here are a few photos from that day. The photos aren't all in perfect focus as I was using a large zoom lens and I didn't have a tripod with me to steady the camera. But the feel of the day will hopefully come through.

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