Thursday, May 30, 2013

Nature or Nurture?

It occurred to me this morning as I was taking stock of what was new in my garden, a garden that includes natives as well as many colorful non-natives, that whether we think about it or not, we gardeners are faced with our own "nature or nurture" dilemma. On the nature side is a group of plants that includes natives and Bay Friendly plants. That is, they are "natural" to our region. On the nurture side are plants imported from other regions that we "nurture" to do well in our gardens. For those of us near the Bay, that is in mild zones, we are blessed with the opportunity to grow a lot of 'nurture' plants, even for some of us, tropical plants. There is of course vigorous debate as which is the best course to take. I don't hold a strict view on that issue. I like having lots of natives in my garden but wouldn't want to restrict myself to just that group. In that light, here are more photos of my garden, taken today. Is it really almost June?

Begonia Escargot. Yes it flowers but you want this beauty for its largish, snail-shaped leaves. We can never keep it in stock at Ace and it always draws an exclamation -- "Escargot!"

This shot of my vigorous Incarvillea arguta caught a nice bit of filtered sun lighting. Sometimes you "see" the shot and sometimes you just get lucky.

Marrubium species. File this lovely horehound under the "never heard of it but it's darn pretty" category. Is it just me or does it remind you of a purple flowering phlomis (textured & felty leaves, flowers appearing in whorls)?

Calceolaria paralia. A new 'Pocketbook' that Annie's Annuals is growing. Lovely & vigorous, with rounder slightly larger flowers than the common C. mexicana. Rather than multi-branching, it sends up several tall flowering spikes.

Platycodon grandiflorus. I love Balloon flowers and one of my favorite things about them is that when they're in their pre-open form they look like little aliens from the X-Files (the 'dimples' are the alien's eyes). Then poof they open into these beautiful veined purple flowers.

Helenium Mardi Gras + Clarkia Aurora + Petunia Papaya. This is a great angle to see the lovely Papaya petunia framed by the exuberant  colors of the clarkia and helenium.

Dianthus 'Chomley Farran.' I have no idea who or what Chomley Farran is but this older variety is one of the so-called "Bizarres," carnations with vivid striping. Chomley is actually more purple than what the photo shows here, as the sun somewhat faded the purple background.

Sphaeralcea grossularifolia. Globe mallows really should be better known, they're so lovely. This is one of the upright types; I've previously posted photos of my prostrate S. munroana. I love the sherbert orange color of this species.

Cerinthe major. I know, I know, experts warn you against planting this vigorously self-seeding plant but I did anyway this year. Lovely glaucous foliage and one-of-a-kind flowers.

Lilium trebbiano. The picture showed a green flower and both years it's come up this yellow color so I'm just trying to go with the flow and enjoy its beauty.

Echinacea Summer Sky + day lilies. I don't know how I managed to have trouble growing echinaea in the past but this specimen has been blooming nonstop since August. I have a E. Hot Papaya and E. Primadonna Deep Rose beside it that are coming along.

Agastache Red Fortune. I've become a bit of an agastache junkie (is there a 12 step program for that?) but the fragrances, which vary from fruity to those that have a hint of anise, are only one good reason to grow them. I have five in this bed and they are proving to be vigorous.

Cuphea ignea.The "cigar" cuphea is a favorite for many gardeners, proving that good things do come in small packages. I have it growing up through a honeysuckle bush and it's holding its own.

Begonia rex 'Salsa.' Hard to resist rex begonias, even though they're not the hardiest of begonias. 

Asarum maximum. This unique wild ginger, known in the trade as Panda-face ginger, has one of the truly odd flowers in the floral kingdom. Sort of rubbery, with the background being a deep maroon that can look almost black in the shade, and then the pinkish-cream blotches, it's unlike anything else I can think of.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Spring Bounty redux

Gardens have a way of surprising us. We think we know them but they have a way of magically reinventing themselves from season to season, year to year. We put in lots of thought and sweat into them, with a desired result in mind. But part of the fun is seeing what they do to surprise us.
That musing aside, here are more photos, taken yesterday.

Osteospermum 'Coral Sands.' A new 3-D osteo. I love the color combo. Can't wait for it to fill out.

Canary Creeper. I love how it threads itself in and out of the lattice. So cheerful and the yellow flowers are said to resemble canaries, thus its common name.

Choisya 'Sundance' & Agastache foeniculum. This bed has become a bit of a golden lane, as it also holds a yellow brugmansia, a golden leycesteria and the yellow variegated elderberry, Sambucus 'Madonna.' The choisya has remained a rich gold so I guess it's getting enough morning sun.

Ampelopsis. The variegated form of Porcelain berry vine is finally taking hold. The variegation is so pretty, and unique, that I can't imagine anyone buying the non-variegated form.

Fuchsia procumbens. People plant this creeping fuchsia for its delicate leaves but it does indeed flower. As you can see, the flowers are very small but they are intricate, very pretty and are followed by bright red fruits.

Brugmansia Charles Grimaldi. Hard to believe I almost killed this plant a number of years ago. It was in too much sun so dug it up and moved it to its current morning sun location and it's now an unstoppable force.

Ledebouria socialis. This bulbous perennial from S. Africa isn't well known but it's so lovely. Attractive spotted leaves are the main attraction but it also produces sprays of tiny dangling flowers. I came up against the closeup limits of my camera in isolating the flowers but it does provide a glimpse.

Golden sedum & Pussy Ears. One of my favorite sedums and it keeps expanding. To its left is a succulent known as Pussy Ears (Cyanotis somaliensis), alluding to its fuzzy foliage. Its small purple flowers aren't showy but add a dash of color to the succulent bowl.

Sarracenia variety. This Pitcher plant is one of many so-called carnivorous  plants, due to it trapping and digesting small insects. I love the chartreuse color of this one.

Dicentra scandens. It's a mystery to me why no one is selling this plant anymore, as it's an exceptionally pretty bleeding heart. And much more vigorous than other bleeding hearts. It returns faithfully each year and now that I finally have it in the ground, it's prospering.

Brodiaea californica. This native brodiaea makes up in charm what it lacks in showiness. 

This double form, mini calibrachoa has proven itself surprisingly vigorous. It's made a lovely waterfall of delicate lavender flowers, greeting garden visitors at the main entryway leading back to the rear garden.

Lilium Honey Bee. Always the first of my many lilies to bloom, this cheerful lily offers a rich palette of golds and dark reds.

Clarkia 'Aurora.' One of my favorite clarkias, this guy took its time to flower but is now rewarding all who visit it with an abundance of coral-pink flowers. A favorite of bees.

Petunia Papaya. Right opposite the clarkia is this vigorous and lovely petunia. And yes, somewhere under there is foliage and a pot!

Tweedia caerulea. I love the original botanical designation -- Oxypetalum. Quite a mouthful and Tweedia rolls off the tongue so much more easily. There's nothing quite like that color, sort of a robin's egg blue, plus being a member of the milkweed family, it has those large cornucopia-shaped seedpods.

Tweedia, cynoglossum & Centaurea gymnocarpa. I love the combo of blues and silvers. I hadn't planned the locations but now I'm keeping it for the complementary look.

Satureja mimuloides. Many of you have heard of Yerba Buena (the subject of a recent Pick of the Week column). Well, this is a species mate that likes more sun and has by comparison larger and showier flowers. Some have compared them to Zauschnaria (syn Epilobium). Like other Satureja species (including culinary savory) the leaves have a decided fragrance.

Cotinus Royal Purple. I swear, when these plants are in full bloom, as mine is right now, they are just jaw-droppingly spectacular. Good thing we have photos cuz words couldn't hope to do it justice.

Clematis HF Young. After nearly killing this plant, and despite it being planted in an inhospitable median strip, this large-flowered clematis has finally gotten established. Lovely.

Dahlia 'Coupe de Soleil.' A new addition to my garden, the colors on this short dahlia are just sensational. Long may it prosper!

Schizanthus grahamii. Not one of the less showy hybrids, this species hailing from Chile offers vivid magenta flowers with a veined golden central petal. Called Butterfly flower for its appearance, not its ability to attract them, it forms a small shrub and blooms prolifically.

Epipactis gigantea. I always laugh when I think of this stream orchid's species name, given how small the flowers are (.75 in). Still, when you see a closeup photo of the flower, as I managed to capture here, the flowers are indeed very showy and orchid-like. Plus it's a CA native.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

May riches

May might well be the most fantastic month for flower gardeners in the Bay Area. We still have spring annuals in bloom; deciduous perennials have reappeared, deciduous shrubs are blooming and those of us with bulbs such as iris and lilies are beginning to experience their show. Clematis are putting on a show and other early vines such as passifloras are beginning to bloom. I think of it as an overlapping period, with late spring rubbing shoulders with early summer. The weather isn't too hot yet we're in our sun-drenched dry season. In that light, here are a few photos to demonstrate my garden's recent reverie.

Iris louisiana Anne Chowning. A new, favorite iris, with vivid saturated reds and a splash of gold.

Hymenocallis (Ismene) 'Sulphur Queen.' One of the showiest bulbs, with a flared yellow cup and green ribs. Fantastic.

Ixia monadelpha. The shot didn't come out right, proving the auto setting can't always correct for a low light situation, but I love the "mood" of this shot.

Scyphanthus elegans. I'll admit to being crazy about this flower and it scrambles nicely in a contained area.

Moraea ramosissima. A less common moraea which, while simple, has its own charms. It took its time blooming, the other moraeas having bloomed in March and early April.

Cynoglossum amabile. A "tall" forget-me-not and I certainly did not! Bluer-than-blue.

Cephalaria gigantea. This aptly named scabiosa cousin can get very tall, to six feet, and has large pincushion-like blooms.

Drosanthemum bicolor. Still a best kept secret, dew flowers offer vivid colors and the softest, silkiest flowers imaginable.

Verticordia plumosa. Speaking of best kept secrets, not many have heard of this Aussie native. Colorful and tough (much like many gardeners, oui?)

Iris louisiana 'Pastiche.' I'm thrilled that this Louisiana iris has returned, back with its full color after a few pale years. These kinds of irises are my favorites right now -- large flowers, colorful, tough.

Clematis purpurea plena elegans. An uncommon clematis I found at Sonoma Hort last year. This particular flower hasn't opened all the way but you get an idea of its ruffled form. Plus, love that color!

Tradescantia 'Sweet Kate.' No truth to the rumor this spiderwort was named for Prince William's wife but it is a real keeper nonetheless. Gold & purple are royal colors I've heard.

Sambucus  canadensis. This is said to be one of the best fruiting elderberries. Not showy but it does feature verdant foliage and large heads of pure white, star-shaped flowers.

Plectranthus zuluensis. People are getting to know plectranthus as tough, shade-tolerant workhorses. Here's a closeup of the flowers that demonstrates that they can be showy too.

Aristolochia fimbriata. This pint-sized Dutchman's Pipe has pretty little flowers but I find the foliage equally charming.

Hebe evansii. Again, with many hebes it's the flowers that make the show but this Evans hebe has rich maroon new growth that is the real show for me.

Isoplexis isabelliana. The subject of this coming Sunday's Pick of the Week column, this fabulous sub-shrub IS all about the flowers. Related to (and once classified under) digitalis (foxglove), the rusty apricot flowers offer an otherworldly color all summer and fall.

This shot features the interesting color combination of the canary yellow scyphanthus, the pinkish-lavender of the double calibrachoa and the vivid purplish-blues of Lupinus pilosus. Long may they prosper!

Lupinus pilosus. I've included a few photos of what is so far my plant of the year  but this shot is taken looking straight down on the flower, providing a unique and entrancing view.

Tweedia caerulea. It's a mystery to me why nobody is growing this milkweed member anymore (thanks to Barb for keeping it going!). Fabulous color, felty grayish-green leaves, interesting seedpods. Mine survived the winter and is now filled with flower buds about to burst.

 Papaver 'Thelma Crawford.'This fabulous breadseed poppy isn't as well known as many others but you may be scratching your head as I am as to why that's so. Lit by the sun, the color is simply sensational.

Front yard. Here's a shot of my ever evolving front yard. It's where I throw caution to the wind and group all manner of colorful and intriguing plants together.

Passiflora 'Blue-eyed Susan.' Currently my favorite passion flower vine. And why not? That color is vivid and it's proving to be prolific. I laughingly call it my "Ex-girlfriend" plant, as there was indeed a blue--eyed Susan in my past who I was very much in love with.

A corner of the front yard bed, showing the combo of Satureja mimuloides on the left, Dianthus barbatus on the right, showing off its dark red flowers and the beginning of a purple salvia peeking out from the exuberant marmalade bush.

Physocarpus 'Coppertina.' I can never quite seem to capture the beauty of this copper-leaved ninebark. This is as close as I've come.
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