Friday, April 26, 2013

Plant of the Week

I'd meant to do a Plant of the Week entry on a regular basis but working full time, writing my Chronicle column as well as the occasional feature, plus caretaking my own extensive garden, hasn't left me with a lot of energy to do so. However, there are plants that will never make it into my column simply because they're so hard to find. One such plant is Lupinus pilosus. Annie's Annuals made it available to the public a single time and it looks as if that will be it for this year. Too bad. It's the most beautiful lupine I've seen to date. A photo appears below, only somewhat adequately displaying the rich cyan blue tone of its flowers. I usually shy away from lupines as snails love them, sometimes climbing over the Sluggo to get to them. I took a chance on this one and it escaped that fate. It has only produced its first few flowers but that color and the luminous, silver-edged leaves make this my discovery of the year so far. My apologies in advance if this description makes you want to run out and buy it. All I can suggest is to see if Annie's has any left for sale to the public. I'll keep posting photos of my specimen so those of you who take a shining to it can follow it vicariously.
Meanwhile here's a few more photos from my garden. My 18-55 mm lens gave out on me yesterday so until the new one arrives I'm without a camera. So just nine photos here  and the last three were taken with my zoom lens, meaning I had to stand 10-15 feet away and try to get the focus just right. Thus, those photos aren't quite up to my modest standards. From top to bottom:

Lupinus pilosus. This photo will give a sense of the beauty of the flower. More photos to follow.
Shell turtle. One of the finds from my Half Moon Bay trip, this ceramic turtle has shells and barnacles attached to it. Kind of cute.
Cosmos Double Cranberry. Another shot of this fab new cosmos. I still haven't quite captured its beauty.
Front Yard color. This is mostly the Rhoeas poppies, Echium Blue Bedder, and an exuberant purple sweet pea.
Laburnum. I've taken a surreal delight to how floriferous my laburnum is after four years of not blooming at all. Maturity or has the more frequent deep watering done the trick?
Drosanthemum 'Pele.' It's amazing to me that this S. African succulent isn't better known. I mean, c'mon, LOOK at those flowers. And they're silky soft.
Clematis Belle of Woking. The first of the zoom lens shots, it doesn't quite pop but that soft lavender color and the double form still carry the day.
Papaver Single Black. It's a rich burgundy, as evidenced here, but who's quibbling about its name when this gorgeous breadseed poppy begins to bloom.
Exbury hybrid Red Hot x Orange. I was going to write a column on these fabulous deciduous azaleas but when I checked I'd already covered them in a column years back. I almost said heck I'll write a new column on them. For those not familiar with Exbury azaleas, they offer the richest reds, oranges, peaches and golds and are sun lovers. When they're planted in a stand and are ablaze in color there's nothing like them.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Go South Young Man

I just returned from a refreshing trip to Half Moon Bay, one of my favorite areas. Nurseries galore, interesting art shops and of course the ocean. Funny, for living practically on its doorstep, I don't often get to the beach. Gardening can be an all encompassing world, especially when it's your day job, when it's also your weekend job and a large garden you're trying to keep up with. Getting away is always good; getting away to a bit of paradise like HMB is especially good. Mind you, having one day not two to do home stuff left me far less time to do gardening projects and the weeds are re-growing but c'est la vie!
Here are a few more photos of my spring garden, plus a couple HMB shots to open. From top to bottom:

Half Moon Bay. This shot is taken from the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. It was low tide so I got to spend a little time at the tide pools.
Half Moon Bay. The hillside was covered with ice plants, making for a pretty, sloping floral carpet.
Epipactis gigantea 'Serpentine Night.' The dark form of CA stream orchid. I need to find a home for it, a place where it can naturalize and show off its spring colors.
Cosmos Double Cranberry. A new variety from Annie's, it has the richest hue of any double I've seen.
Rhoeas poppies. Each flower is beautiful but a stand of them is much more so.
Leucospermum 'Veldfire.' I keep telling myself, no more Veldfire photos, but the flower is so stunning that I can't help myself. For me, this is Exhibit A for why Pincushions are at the top of the Proteaceae family.
Phacelia minor. Nothing minor about this vigorous CA Bluebell. Somewhat distinct within the genus for its true tubular flowers, it's an especially vigorous species. Last year it nearly overran everything in my 'blue' bed so I've given it its own pot this year.
Aquilegia Leprechaun Gold. Although the variegated foliage is the main attraction to this columbine, the double, pleated flowers exude an old world charm.
Laburnum anagyroides. A better photo of the simple but lovely Golden Chain tree flowers. I was thrilled to have the tree finally start coming into its own this year.
Centaurea Blue Diadem. Sometimes a photo is the best way to appreciate the stunning beauty of flowers. You may not know this but the cornea only takes in 40% of the visual information of an object we look at. The brain fills in the rest. A photo captures 100% of the info and then when the computer screen offers an illuminated version of the object, sometimes the view is more dramatic. Like here.
Penstemon 'Raven.' Though I didn't plan it this way, the fir tree here provides a woodsy backdrop for this penstemon (thus quoth the Raven).
Spaeralcea munroana. One of my favorite plants, the soft textured foliage and pretty, one inch rosy flowers make this my favorite mallow. Tough too.
Echium wildpretii. For my dime, the most stunning of all the echiums (and that's saying something). I think it's partly the vertical flowering spike, and the flower color, although the silvery foliage of the rosette is pretty great too.
Choisya ternata 'Sundance.' All the great things about Mexican Mock Orange and golden new foliage. I rest my case.
Viburnum opulus. Now in its fifth year, my Snowball viburnum is finally coming into its own. It's in a narrow, west-facing strip I call The Jungle, as the shrubs there are somewhat left to their own devices and have acquired a 'wild' look.
Iochroma coccinea. Another Jungle denizen, this has become my favorite Iochroma. Mine doesn't go completely deciduous, it has a much longer bloom season than I. cyanea and it doesn't get as huge as other species.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Spring Glory

My nursery manager said yesterday that we might have just witnessed our biggest day of the year, sales wise, and that may be true. That's a sign of spring fever, both for vegetable and flower gardeners. With the perfect weather, we all want to be out in the garden, getting our hands in the soil, be that preparing a bed, planting or even weeding. And of course there is a bounty of plants to choose from, especially for flower gardeners, There are so many annuals available now, native or non-native, that one is hard pressed to decide which ones to not bring home.
Here are a few more photos of my garden as it opens its arms to welcome spring.

Rhododendron CA Blue. I thought thrips had got this Sonoma Hort selection but it has recovered and has bloomed for the first time. The hard fought victories are always the sweetest!
Lonicera sempervirens. I know honeysuckles are vigorous but this species seems to bloom 8-9 months out of the year.
Adiantum raddianum 'Ocean Spray.' Lovely new growth on this less common maidenhair fern.
Maianthemum. A lovely and vigorous deciduous ground cover for shade. I got mine from Cal Flora but I'm surprised it's not more commonly available.
Sambucus 'Madonna.' A beautiful elderberry that doesn't get too huge. I cut it back to the ground last winter and that didn't stop it from springing forth with lush new growth.
Canary Creeper. Though it's not in bloom yet, this unique nasturtium looks to climb on anything it can find, in this case a windchime.
The garden guardians. Okay, maybe not guardians as they run whenever a stranger approaches but my black cat Jet especially loves being out in the garden with me and will wait patiently by the door, knowing I'm about to head out into the garden on my days off.
Beschorneria sp. 'Queretaro.' This small-sized species is about to unfurl its flowers. A favorite stop for hummingbirds.
Clematis 'Belle of Woking.' This variety is interesting for two reasons. It's a full double type, with an amazingly high petal count, and it starts out nearly white before coloring in to lovely lavender shades.
Golden Feverfew. The subject of an upcoming Pick of the Week column, this petite perennial is a great way to add gold to your garden. Here, pink scilla flowers peek through.
Sweet pea. This one has proved to be vigorous, almost too much so, as it is nearly smothering other plants in a sunny front yard bed.
Halimium sp. Happy now that it's finally in the ground, this little known shrub is one half of the parentage for the popular Halimiocistus shrub.
Penstemon 'Raven.' I almost killed this plant so to have it back vigorous for the first time is very satisfying.
Papaver rhoeas 'Falling in Love.' This silky, semi-double poppy looks wonderful when catching the sun.
Ixia 'Buttercup.' Though most people's experience with corn lilies is through buying packages of mixed color hybrids, there are some lovely individual colors out there. This is one of my faves.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Natural World

The sudden arrival of a pair of Hooded orioles to my hummingbird feeder this morning served as a reminder that our gardens aren't simply something we create for our enjoyment (and that of friends/family/neighbors). They are part of the natural world, even if we're smack dab in the middle of the city (as I am). Our gardens provide valuable habitats for not only birds but other wildlife, even down to shy salamanders that tend to hide under flowerpots. Taken as a whole, city gardens can provide green zones that allow for more productive foraging by bees, butterflies and all. These visits may not make us forget we're in the city but it does give us a fuller experience of nature in our little corner.
The rain a week ago followed by the warmth of the last few days has sent forth an explosion of color in my garden. Here are a few 'moments-in-time.'

Viburnum plicatus. I've somehow managed to dwarf this specimen and still keep it happy.
Geranium phaeum. There aren't many flowers you would describe as "matte" as opposed to glossy but the subtle purple flowers of this species geranium are incredibly lovely.
Rhododendron 'Sappho.' Last week I shot the bud; here's a shot of the flowers. As mentioned, I've brought this specimen back from the dead, so even the few flowers coming this year are a blessed event. And that color!
Choisya ternata. This plant loves its location (morning sun) and has gone crazy with blooming. A favorite with the bees.
Back Yard house wall bed. The choisya, Black Magic camellia, Rhodie Luna Freckles (getting ready to bloom), Fuchsia boliviana 'Alba,' Camellia reticulata 'Frank Hauser' (done blooming), Viburnum tinus and lavender rhodie.
Kalanchoe 'Chocolate Soldier.' Everybody's favorite kalanchoe.
Kalanchoe houghtonii. Called "Mother of Millions" for it's prolific self seeding, I already have starts coming up in the same small pot. Nice flowers though.
Sedum x adolphii. This 'Golden sedum' was slow to get established but has really found its stride. One of a kind color and tough.
Trachelospermum asiaiticum. Look up 'slow' in the dictionary and you'll see a photo of this plant. Which is strange for a jasmine but for the first time this year it's at least getting some wonderful spring color. Sort of a coppery-mustard.
Front yard pots. The shrubs-in-pots collection here includes: Eriogonum giganteum; Leucospermum 'Veldfire'; Banksia ericifolia and Salvia africana-lutea.
Front yard (wider view). More of the front yard plants, including the lowest bed.
A shot of the front bed, capturing the burgundy sweet pea, Phacelia viscida and the yellow & white Dutch iris.
Phacelia campanularia. Possibly the bluest of all the CA Bluebells and certainly the one possessing the loveliest foliage.
Petunia 'Papaya.' A new petunia and I just love the coral orange color. Papaya indeed!
Babiana. Not sure which one this is but I'm a big babiana fan and they tend to reward those with patience.
Aquilegia 'Leprechaun Gold.' Lovely variegated foliage and then old-timey double purple flowers.
Laburnum anagyroides. It's a mystery to me why Golden Chain trees aren't massively popular. First off, the foliage is indescribably lovely and then panicles of wisteria-like golden flowers appear in late spring. Fragrant too.
Isoplexis chalcantha. If I were to recommend two less common shrubs to someone who wanted something indestructible, long blooming and lovely, this Isoplexis and Incarvillea arguta would be near the top of my list. You couldn't kill this plant if you tried and with a little water it goes nuts blooming. Flowers are a little foxglove-like (it belongs to the same family) but oh that color. Hummingbirds love it too.
Tillandsia Abdita. So many tillandsias, so little time ...
Golden feverfew with pink scilla. Nothing quite does "gold" like Tanacetum parthenium aureum. Little pink scilla flowers poking through offer a sweet contrast.

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