Thursday, June 20, 2013

Happy Solstice!

I'm always a bit conflicted at the summer solstice. We've arrived at the longest days of the year, which for gardeners carries its own delight. To be able to be out in the garden till 8 pm if one chooses is a pleasure. On the other hand, soon the days will start inexorably to grow shorter. Sigh. In the spirit of embracing the moment, here are more photos from my early summer garden. I keep thinking 'Well, spring is over so the garden will be slowing down any day now' but each week I do my walk through I find buckets of new things going on. This week's delights included discovering that almost overnight my orange masdevallia has a half dozen flowers about to open. Yea! My second year ampelopsis (Porcelain berry vine) is much happier this year and is filled with tiny white flowers, offering the promise of exquisite blue berries in the late summer. My cheerful Canary Creeper nasturtium is now bursting with bright yellow flowers and to its right, the Mandevilla laxa is blooming away, its large white flowers offering an intoxicating fragrance. I discovered that one of my new additions, Filipendula ulmaria 'Aureum,' not only has sprays of delicate white flowers but they're also fragrant. The bees are going crazy as usual in my Helenium patch, the showy Cuphea Vienco is back better than ever and the vigorous Passiflora 'Blue-eyed Susan' is filling up with flower buds. It's currently my favorite passion flower vine -- that vivid blue! -- though the simple P. citrina is as lovely as ever this year.
Here are the photos. Enjoy!

Petunia 'Phantom.' Apart from the beauty of the flower, this plant has bittersweet memories for me. We had a cat named Phantom at Grand Lake Ace nursery where I work who was the sweetest, friendliest, most laid back cat ever.  

Clematis integrifolia. Love this vivid blue color and the bell-shaped flowers. I used to think it finicky but in year two it has settled in nicely.

Amorphophallus kiusianus. I love the patterning that many aroid stalks possess. This one is especially pretty.

Ampelopsis. Here's a photo of the previously mentioned porcelain berry vine. Though not in perfect focus, it still shows off the lovely variegation and cute clusters of tiny flowers.

Fuchsia boliviana 'Alba.' When I finally heard that the fruit (seed capsules) this fuchsia produces were edible I kept waiting for mine to 'ripen,' not realizing that in the alba variety, the fruit stays this off-white color. Someone wrote that the fruit sort of tastes like kiwi and I agree.

Fuchsia Autumnale. Though prone to fuchsia mite, this guy puts out beautifully colored foliage every spring.

Thalictrum rochebrunianum. This shot, of the flowers reaching out for the sun, makes them look a bit like a flock of tiny birds, hovering over the walkway.

Mandevilla laxa. I kept trying to take a shot of this plant but the flowers are so blindingly white that it kept throwing off the camera's attempt to balance the colors and they came out dull or dark. This shot is far from perfect but it does show off the pristine white color. Plus there's that heavenly scent.

Sarracenia species. This shot was meant to show off the intricate veining in this American pitcher plant. It's not an ideal shot but is sort of interesting nonetheless.

Gladiolas. This glad was supposed to be a deep purple and, umm, that's NOT a deep purple. Not purple at all. What, the photo on a bulb's packaging isn't accurate? I'm shocked I tell you, shocked!

Sedum 'Jelly Beans.' I'm loving my little jelly beans sedum, with its uber shiny foliage.

Speaking of the camera not always being to handle a great disparity in color between the foreground item and the background (on the Auto setting that is), check out this Scabiosa ochroleuca. This was a sunny morning, shooting the flower against a wooden fence. Wow, so not what I was expecting. Then again, wow, the flower looks like it just paid a thousand bucks for a great "head shot," to help it land a starring role in the next big movie.

I thought that my plant of the year, the exquisite Lupinus pilosus, was done blooming but here it is putting out more flowers. It looks swell beside the gold scyphanthus. Nothing like blue & gold.

My exuberant Helenium 'Mardi Gras' is in full bloom and swarming with nectar seeking bees.

Cuphea Vienco. This deciduous cuphea has returned looking better than ever. Such a striking color, set off by two silver-leaved plants nearby.

Lotus 'Flashbulb.' The easiest plant to recommend for a hanging basket or to cascade over a low wall, this colorful plant can also be used as a ground cover. Like little dancing flames over a green sea.

Where the glads were pictured as purple but were really hot pink, this Salpiglossis is called Kew Blue but is in reality a vivid velvety purple. Mon dieu!

Here's my yellow Alyogyne (A. hakeafolia) again, showing off two unopened flowers. It's much happier now that it's in the ground.

Speaking of bees, they seem to love my Eryngium planum. This little guy was so engrossed in collecting nectar that he gave me time to focus.I see all manner of bees in my garden, not just the common honey bees.

My median strip that houses the Alyogyne. It's meant to feature golds and reds, accomplished with the inclusion of the day lilies, a yellow flowering magnolia (M. Butterflies), yellow flowering bidens and the rock rose relative Halimium lasianthum.

Speaking of unintended but beautiful surprises, this shot of my Lilium regale came out with the petals looking positively creamy. Very lovely!

Salvia patens. Nothing beats this species for the richest of blue colors and it helps that the flowers are quite large for a salvia. I wasn't sure mine would return from going deciduous but it's back and offering its royal blue delights.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Beguiling Begonias

Count me as someone who used to ignore begonias, that is until I discovered just how varied and beautiful, even spectacular, begonias can be. Yes, I knew about the wonderful colors of tuberous varieties and I have those in my garden. Discovering cane begonias opened my eyes to a wider world, that group containing such gems as B. 'Irene Nuss.' There are the Angelwings types, which feature dramatically spotted leaves. Then there are the Rex begonias, with their fabulous reds & silvers. One of the most curious hybrids in this latter group is B. Escargot. One look at its spiraling leaves and you immediately get its common name. My mind turned to begonias this week as my B. rex 'Escargot' is looking better than ever, along with the sensational Begonia 'Sparkler,' which looks to be a B. boliviensis hybrid. Same fabulous reddish-orange tubular flowers. Speaking of orange, my completely charming B. sutherlandii is starting to bloom, producing its first orange-sherbert flowers. It's a low growing, petite tuberous type. This is all to say I've become a bit of a fan of begonias, that much misunderstood garden "staple."
So, here are a few photos of my begonia collection and other photos of my mid-June garden.

Begonia sutherlandii. Utterly charming and sort of unassuming. Not as showy as some but makes up for it with a one of a kind flower color and its spilling habit.

Begonia 'Sparkler.' This B. boliviensis hybrid IS showy, in fact, it's in-your-face showy. And prolific. This shot is from last year but this year it's back to its old tricks, blazing with color.

 Begonia 'Escargot.' Simply one of the coolest plants found in our neck of the woods. Why it has the nautilus shape is Nature's own secret but no one ever mistakes it, that's for sure.

Begonia rex variety. Here's a more conventional rex hybrid, with its intricate patterns and silver dusting.

Fuchsia variety. Though prone to the dreaded fuchsia mite, this guy has battled back and is producing some of the largest flowers among common cascading hybrids. They look cool when they're in their pure white unopened phase, as well as when they're open.

Two calibrachoas, the left being a mini-double type and the one on the right a new selection called Lemon Slice. Pleasing color combination to the eye.

Cuphea Vienco Burgundy. Wasn't sure this one would return -- it was late -- but here it is in all its blazing glory.

Echinacea 'Hot Papaya.' I know what you're thinking -- "That's an echinacea!!?" Yep. It's a new double variety now available in the trade and damned if it doesn't look some underwater crimson jellyfish! Wild.

Okay, three guesses what this is. Nope, not that. Nor that. It's a closeup of sunflower buds. I was aiming for this look (kind of otherworldly) but sometimes a shot doesn't come out as planned. We don't normally think of sunflowers as having this much down but then closeups reveal a whole other level of reality.

Catananche 'Amor White.' Not as easily found as the purple Cupid's Dart, this white variety has its own charm. Papery flower buds add to its intrigue.

Bromeliad species. Not even the owner at The Pond Place near Petaluma knew the exact identity of this guy. But it's sent up a new flower spike and I can't wait to see those spectacular orange flowers again.

Davallia mariesii. Better known as Squirrel's Foot fern (related to Rabbit's Foot fern), this lovely fern not only has dense, delicate foliage but curious hair-lined creeping rhizomes that look an awful lot like tarantula legs to this eye. My favorite fern.

 Ten guesses what ... No, I won't make you guess. It's Amorphophallus kiusianus and if the genus name sounds vaguely familiar that's because its more famous species mate is A. titanum, known affectionately as Corpse flower. The latter is thought to possess the largest flower on earth (actually the spathe & spadix combo). A. kiusianus is of course much smaller but almost as cool. It can take them a long time to bloom but I was lucky that mine did so in my first year of owning it.

Tropical corner. Another shot of my evolving tropical corner, which contains a red banana, three gingers, two cannas, a black bamboo and the ever sprawling Hydrangea quercifolia.

Helenium Mardi Gras. It's not uncommon to see a bee on one of this long blooming plant's flowers. I'm just not usually in the right place at the right time.

 Leucophyta brownii. Curiously known as Cushion bush, this singular small bush is a real delight.

And now announcing her Highness 'Lady Granville!' Dianthus Lady Granville that is, one of my favorite carnations. Maybe I'm just hungry while gardening but it often looks exactly like Raspberry Swirl ice cream!

Speaking of food, shrimp anyone? Well, not exactly but this Justicia brandegeeana is sometimes commonly called Shrimp plant. Hmm, where's my cocktail sauce? 

Iochroma 'Burgundy Wine.' The same plant as the purple iochroma but with a lovely burgundy bloom. Like I. cyanea, it grows so quickly you can practically pull up a chair and see it grow.

Thalictrum rochebrunianum. My favorite meadow rue and though I couldn't quite get this shot in perfect focus (the flower is so small), it's kind of a cool shot, especially the soft focus on the unopened flowers.

Cestrum aurantiacum. Mine has gotten huge (forget 10' tall, mine is probably 20') but when it's filled with tiny orange star-shaped flowers it's awe-inspiring.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Post party

Last Sunday I hosted a garden party at my humble abode and though the weather was on the cool side it seemed to come off very well. The lead up to the event meant a furious round of weeding, trimming, deadheading and planting (whew!!) but all that work was worth it. I now have that rare event for ambitious gardeners: a moment of rest when the garden is looking its best. And of course there are long term benefits, as the looming event forced me to work on neglected areas and retire certain plants that I'd been procrastinating about. Here are a few photos of the mid-June garden.

This 'fragrance bowl' was  done for the party. In the back is lemon verbena, spilling over the front is Yerba Buena and off to the right is Plectranthus amboinicus, known as Cuban oregano for its heady fragrance.

Platycodon grandiflorus. I love these 'balloon flowers,' as they're known. They make these little 'alien' heads then pop open to produce lovely purplish-blue flowers. They are still used to this day in Chinese herbal remedies.

Calceolaria paralia. This little known 'pocketbooks' or 'ladyslipper,' as the genus is known by,  produces tall spikes of fantastic creamy yellow flowers that are a bit rounder than the common C. mexicana.

Scyphanthus elegans. Here's another shot of one of my favorite flowers. It's a great plant if you want a small climber. It'll latch onto nearly anything close at hand and with delicate foliage you hardly notice, it allows the flowers to really shine.

Calibrachoa 'Lemon Slice.' Just a sweet, cheerful flower!

Chrysocephalum 'Silver Fox.' This lovely plant is known as Common Everlasting for its long bloom season. Once classified as Helichrysum apiculatum, it's the latest addition to silver foliage plants I'm slowly adding to my garden.

Agastache 'Red Fortune.' My new favorite agastache, sturdy, pretty & fragrant.

Buddleja 'Ellen's Blue.' I don't have room for a full-sized butterfly bush so added this dwarf variety. Same large cones of fragrant flowers, still popular with butterflies and bees but it only gets 3-4' tall.

Nigella. This shot of Love-in-a-Mist turned out sort of interesting, as if one were looking through a forest of underwater kelp or a small tree-filled forest.

Cotinus 'Royal Purple.' Also intriguing is this shot of my smoke bush. It's a wonderful plant to photograph when backlit (or in this case front lit) as you get such interesting textures.

Cuphea ignea. Love this little 'cigar plant.' Tough little guy too.

String of bananas + Sedum 'Jelly Beans.' This was a new addition for the party. I had both succulents but finally decided to make a cascading hanger out of them. 

Hebe speciosa. Although I hadn't intended this design (stop me if you've ever heard a gardener say this before!), the way the hebe has grown up and around the mailbox turned out rather well.

Eryngium planum. I swear, I cut this back nearly to the ground only a month ago and it's already blooming again! This variety has soft flowers, not the prickly ones we're used to with other 'Sea Holly.'

Adenanthos sericeus. My wooly bush has grown much faster than I anticipated and not only did I have to trim it, I had to trim other plants around it in my Australian native shrubs bed.

Goddess statue. Thanks to Sylvia for gifting me this wonderful statuary. She's nestled next to the ornamental quince and just to the front and left of the wooly bush.

Japanese dwarf conifer bed. This bed required a massive weeding to get it cleaned up before the party and now it looks pristine. Well, okay 'too' pristine. I think I may just use the leaf bits falling from the fir tree above to serve as the carpet for this bed, in place of planting ground cover. I'm going for the natural look here.

Hollyhock 'Halo Cerise.' Love the color on this variety and even though it's supposed to get 5-6' tall, it's begun blooming at 18."

  Puya. This was another massive pre-party weeding effort and a tricky one given how incredibly thorny this plant is. I'm now eight years in and waiting for it to bloom for the first time.

Front walkway. A quick look at the unusually clean walkway leading to the back yard. Lots of work has gone into the left side especially, pulling out old shrubs and planting with a certain scheme in mind.

 Brodiaea 'Blue Mix.'I love this simple little California native bulb. It's part of my Shady Lane bed.

Amorphophallus rivieri. Can't believe I actually worried that this plant would not return. It's already huge. The question is: will it flower this year?

Round ceramic ball + Australian violets. I finally found a good location for this new addition to my collection of garden art. I think it looks right at home amongst the lush Australian violets.

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